For the last two centuries, the Western colonialist countries have changed the world map in their favor. The great empires of the pre-modern world were torn into pieces after World War I, while Britain had already emerged as the empire that sun never sets way before WWI. From Canada to Australia, India to China and the Middle East to Africa, the flag of British colonialism flew almost all over the world. Due to the devastation brought about by World War II, British and French colonial empires gave way to the hegemony of the United States and Russia during the Cold War era.
While World War I brought an end to the Ottoman Empire, the Republic of Turkey was founded on its Anatolian lands – the heart of the fragmented empire. At that historical moment, there were no other independent Muslim countries other than Turkey and Afghanistan. Despite being the heir of a great empire, however, Turkey could only become a regional power gradually.
In order to understand the reasons behind this slow process of recovery, it is necessary to analyze the mentality of Turkey's state elite from a psychological perspective. Influencing all non-Western countries, this mentality could be designated as a learned, or rather a thought-out, despair connotating the predominance of a harmful self-distrust among the state elite.
During the last century of the Ottoman Empire, three major political movements competed with each other among the intellectual and political elite: Islamism, nationalism and Westernism. The founding political philosophy of the republic was based both on nationalism and Westernism. While the ruling state elite of the newly emerged republic identified with Western values, the Western colonial culture exercised its political power over Turkey through NATO.
During the one-party period, Turkey broke its connections with its Ottoman past. Renouncing its traditional values, Turkey became a factitious Western country. In his famous article “The Clash of Civilizations,” Samuel Huntington described Turkey as a "torn country," emphasizing the disparity between Turkey’s political and cultural institutions. During Turkey’s protracted and fruitless candidacy for the European Union, the country's political elite grasped the bitter truth that Turkey as a Muslim country would never be a Western state in the eyes of EU members.
After World War II, Turkey transitioned to a multiparty system. Feeling suffocated by a forced and formalist process of Westernization, the Turkish people brought the newly founded Democrat Party (DP) to power. Henceforth, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), Turkey’s founding political party, would never succeed in leading the people again.
On the other hand, the concept of Islamism emerged in the Ottoman Empire to unify Muslims. Due to the practical impossibility of this idea in the age of nation-states, Islamism evolved into opposition against the Western hegemony and as a way to safeguard the vision of a great Turkey.
A leading political figure in Turkey, former Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan claimed that Turkey would be a great state only if it could appreciate the true potential of its people who founded numerous states and empires over the course of history.
In the last decade, the Turkish economy has grown steadily, while Turkey's modernized military has become a leader in its region. Thanks to its successful struggle against terrorist organizations and the government’s proactive foreign policy, Turkey has gradually become a regional power in the Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s political leadership paved the way for the emergence of Turkey as a great country. Using both diplomatic and military means, Erdoğan has succeeded in influencing regional politics.