United States of Turkic World: Turkey's Ideological & Strategic Bridge in Eurasia

Turkey's Ideological & Strategic Role in Eurasia and OTS

In the complex landscape of global geopolitics and regional alliances, Organizations play a crucial role in promoting peace, stability, and economic development. The Organization of Turkic States (OTS), formerly known as the Turkic Council, is an intergovernmental body aimed at promoting cooperation and solidarity among Turkic-speaking nations, focusing on cultural, historical, and economic collaboration. It has gained prominence recently. 

The Organization of Turkic States was established on October 3, 2009, through the signing of the Nakhchivan Agreement by Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkey, during the 9th Summit held at Nakhchivan in Azerbaijan. The founding members of the Organization of Turkic States include Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkey. The vision of the Turkic Council, now the Organization of Turkic States, is to create a United States of the Turkic World, focusing on enhancing cultural and historical ties, fostering economic partnerships, facilitating political discussions, and participating in humanitarian and social cooperation. It aims to establish an ideological connection among Turkic people in Eurasia under Turkey's leadership, a mission that began after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Turkey's proactive approach in fostering trade relationships with Central Asia, despite the absence of common borders, has led to significant economic benefits for both sides.

At the 8th summit in Istanbul on November 12, 2021, the Cooperation Council of Turkic Speaking States, also known as the Turkic Council, changed its name to the Organization of Turkic States (OTS).

Turkey positions itself as the ideological and strategic bridge connecting the United States of Turkic World through hosting the Cooperation Council of Turkic-Speaking States summit in Istanbul.
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons, 8th Summit of Cooperation Council of Turkic-Speaking States

The OTS, comprising Turkic-speaking nations from various parts of the world, focuses on enhancing cooperation, strengthening cultural ties, and promoting economic growth among its member states. This article explores the history, objectives, achievements, and challenges of the Organization of Turkic States, highlighting its significance in today's interconnected world.

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Turkic Ethnicities Across Eurasia: From Altai to Anatolia

The Turkic peoples are diverse ethnic communities living across West, Central, East, and North Asia, and parts of Europe. They all speak languages from the Turkic language family. The Turkic language originated in Central-East Asia, possibly in regions like the Altai-Sayan, Mongolia, or Tuva. Initially, Proto-Turkic speakers were likely both hunters and farmers, but they eventually became nomadic herders, tending animals such as sheep and horses.

Historically, Turkic groups have exhibited diverse physical appearances and genetic backgrounds due to interactions with neighboring peoples. These interactions included Iranians, Mongolians, Tocharians, Uralic peoples, Yeniseian peoples, and others.

Various ethnic groups have joined the Turkic peoples through language adoption, cultural assimilation, conquest, intermarriage, or religious conversion. Despite their differences, Turkic peoples share common cultural traditions, genetic history, and historical experiences.

Some of the well-known modern Turkic ethnic groups include the Altai people, Azerbaijanis, Chuvash people, Gagauz people, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz people, Turkmens, Turkish people, Tuvans, Uyghurs, Uzbeks, and Yakuts.

The expansive reach of the First Turkic Khaganate in 576 CE, spanning from the Altai Mountains to the Black Sea, reflects the early foundations of the broader Turkic world.
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Ethnic Map Of The Fırst Turkıc Khaganate

A study combining linguistic, genetic, and archaeological evidence has traced the roots of language groups, including Japanese, Korean, Turkish, and Mongolian, to millet farmers in northeastern China around 9,000 years ago.

The First Turkic Khaganate: From Manchuria to the Black Sea

The First Turkic Khaganate, also known as the First Turkic Empire, was a dominant Turkic kingdom led by Bumin Qaghan and his brother Istämi, members of the Ashina clan of the Göktürks. This empire emerged in medieval Inner Asia, taking over the Mongolian Plateau following the fall of the Rouran Khaganate. It expanded swiftly across Central Asia, becoming the first transcontinental empire in the region, stretching from Manchuria to the Black Sea.

Although the Göktürks spoke Old Turkic, their initial official writings and coins were in the Sogdian language. This empire was where the name "Türk" was first used for political purposes, and the Old Turkic script was developed in the early 6th century.

The 626 CE map of the Eastern Turkic Khaganate illustrates the historical geopolitical influence and territorial control of the Turkic peoples across the Mongolian Plateau.
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Eastern Turkıc Khaganate Map

However, in 603, the Khaganate disintegrated due to conflicts and internal strife, resulting in the creation of two separate entities: the Eastern Turkic Khaganate and the Western Turkic Khaganate. The Eastern Turkic Khaganate was conquered by the Tang Empire of China in 630, followed by the Western Turkic Khaganate in 657 through military campaigns. In 682, the Second Turkic Khaganate emerged, but it lasted only until 744 when it was overthrown by the Uyghur Khaganate.

Turkey's Strategic Move Post-Soviet Union Collapse:

Following the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, five countries where Turkic languages were spoken—namely, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan—became independent and sovereign nations. Turkey was among the first to acknowledge the sovereignty of these new republics. Turkey aimed to establish influence in these Turkic nations and fill the strategic void left by the Soviet Union's collapse.

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The concept of a forum for Turkic-speaking countries emerged in the early 1990s, based on shared historical roots, ethnic ties, and linguistic similarities. The first Summit of the Heads of Turkic Speaking States was held in Ankara in 1992, attended by the presidents of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. This initial meeting was followed by a series of subsequent summits.

In light of these circumstances, the concept of forming a regional organization for Turkic-speaking countries gained momentum. In 2009, the Turkic Council, also known as the Cooperation Council of Turkic-Speaking States (CCTS), was formed in Nakhchivan, Azerbaijan, by signing the Nakhchivan Agreement. Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkey were the founding members of this organization. In 2020, Uzbekistan became a full member of the council, further enhancing its regional influence and presence.

Political Unity and Cooperation: The Foundation of Strategic Steps

In 2012, at the 2nd Summit in Bishkek on August 23, the Turkic Council adopted its official flag, which was subsequently raised on October 12 of the same year. The flag combines symbols from the four founding member states: the light blue colour of Kazakhstan's flag, representing the traditional Turkic turquoise; the sun from Kyrgyzstan's flag; the star from Azerbaijan's flag, and the crescent from the Turkish flag.

Uzbekistan declared its intention to join the Cooperation Council of Turkic-Speaking States on April 30, 2018, and officially applied for membership on September 12, 2019. Since late 2018, Hungary has been an observer with the possibility of seeking full membership, and Turkmenistan was granted observer status in 2021. In November 2021, the organization changed its name to the Organization of Turkic States. In 2022, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus joined the organization as an observer member.

In 2020, Emine Ceppar, the Deputy Foreign Minister of Ukraine, who is of Crimean Tatar heritage, expressed Ukraine's interest in becoming an observer in the organization. Crimea, the homeland of the Crimean Tatars, is presently under Russian control.

The broad geographic spread of Turkic languages across Eurasia underscores the historical reach and cultural influence of the Turkic peoples.
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Turkic Language Map

On 3rd May 2021, the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan formally applied for observer status. However, after the Taliban took over Afghanistan in August of that year, the status of their application for observer status is uncertain.

The Organization of Turkic States (OTS) strengthens political solidarity among Turkic nations through regular high-level meetings, consultations, and coordinated decision-making. They collaborate on key issues, initiate joint projects, and advocate for shared interests globally. This fosters unity and mutual support among member states, strengthening political solidarity.

Turkic Council's Vision: A United States of the Turkic World

The Turkic Council was founded on a set of principles and objectives aimed at promoting cooperation and solidarity among its member states. It is an intergovernmental body with the overarching goal of promoting extensive collaboration among Turkic nations. The organization aims to create a United States of the Turkic World.

The Turkic Council concentrates on enhancing cultural and historical ties, fostering economic partnerships, facilitating political discussions, participating in humanitarian and social cooperation, and advocating for common interests among its member countries. This encompasses the celebration of cultural heritage, the reduction of trade barriers through free trade agreements, the development of transportation networks, the organization of cultural exchanges, the enhancement of educational cooperation, and diplomatic outreach efforts to raise awareness of Turkic culture and history worldwide.

Turkic States Alliance: A Growing Challenge to Iran, China and Russia's Supremacy

The Organization of Turkic States (OTS) has emerged as a significant player in the geopolitical landscape, aiming to strengthen ties among Turkic states and promote regional cooperation. With its vision (Turkic World Vision - 2040), the OTS envisions a united front, focusing on cultural, historical, and economic collaboration.

Recent developments include the acceptance of Turkmenistan as a full member and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus as an observer. Additionally, initiatives such as the Turkic Investment Fund and the Common Alphabet Commission have been established to boost economic growth and cultural unity.

The organization also emphasizes political dialogue and joint action, with member states addressing regional issues collectively. This encompasses issues such as the Afghanistan crisis, conflicts between Azerbaijan and Armenia, unrest in Kazakhstan, and tensions along the Kyrgyz-Tajik border. Additionally, the OTS aims to counter China's influence in Central Asia by improving regional connectivity.

However, external influences, particularly from Russia and China, may complicate the OTS's goals. Moscow exerts influence over several member states, which could obstruct harmonization efforts, while China's regional interests might face challenges. Internal issues involve worries about Ankara's leadership and possible nationalist ambitions within Turkic populations.

While OTS officials downplay concerns and stress cooperation, the organization's 2040 vision and the statements of political leaders suggest broader ambitions. Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev has called for a more extensive Turkic world, raising questions about interference in other states' affairs. Additionally, some Turkish officials see the OTS as a potential counterbalance to China in the region.

Initiated by President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the Extraordinary Summit of the Heads of State of the Organization of Turkic States in Ankara in March 2023 highlights Azerbaijan's integral role within the expanding United Turkic World.
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons, Turkic States gets underway in Ankara, March 2023

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Iran is frequently perceived as a barrier to the development of Turkic states due to historical rivalries and geographical factors. Traditionally, Iran has seen itself as a regional power and has aimed to exert influence over neighboring Turkic states, which has sometimes resulted in tensions and competition for dominance. 

Geographically, Iran's strategic location in the region allows it to potentially interrupt or influence trade routes and energy resources that are vital for the development of Turkic states. These factors have led to a complicated relationship that can impede the progress and cooperation among Turkic nations.

Turkey Calls for Unified Turkic Alphabet to Boost Regional Cooperation: 

At the Organization of Turkic States (OTS) summit in Susha, Azerbaijan, on July 6, 2024, Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan urged for the adoption of a unified alphabet among Turkic nations to strengthen regional ties and prevent global power rivalry. The OTS includes Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkey.

Fidan emphasized the need for alphabet unity, noting that Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Uzbekistan use the Latin alphabet, while Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan still use Cyrillic. He called for a stronger institutional framework within the OTS to enhance cooperation in connectivity, energy, finance, trade, defense, and technology.

Highlighting the importance of supporting Turkish cultural and identity initiatives globally, Fidan proposed establishing liaison offices and appointing embassies to expand the OTS's reach. He also called for increased trade with Turkish Cyprus to end its isolation, urging support for Turkish Cypriot rights.

Addressing the Azerbaijan-Armenia peace process, Fidan praised Azerbaijan's commitment and criticized Western powers for favoring Armenia. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev recently expressed optimism about a peace deal, citing ongoing border demarcation efforts.

Turkic States Boost Defense: Move Away from Western and Russian Alliances

On March 6, 2024, Azerbaijan reiterated its commitment to the Organization of Turkic States (OTS) under President Ilham Aliyev. The OTS, which includes Turkey, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan, with Turkmenistan, Hungary, and Turkish Cyprus as observers, is becoming a key platform for regional cooperation. Aliyev emphasized the organization's importance in connecting the Turkic world and dismissed alternative alliances with the West or Russia.

The ceremony represents a symbolic display of unity and cooperation among Turkic-speaking nations, underscoring their collective effort to strengthen geopolitical influence and regional integration in Eurasia.
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons, New building of Secretariat of OTS

In recent developments, the OTS has made significant strides in defense cooperation. On February 28, 2024, Kazakhstan ratified a defense treaty with Uzbekistan, enhancing bilateral military relations. Additionally, Turkish defense companies ASELSAN and ROKETSAN are expanding operations in Azerbaijan, and Kazakhstan is set to produce Turkish unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) starting in 2024. These initiatives highlight the tangible benefits of OTS collaboration in strengthening regional security and defense capabilities.

The integration of Turkish defense industry assets within OTS member states underscores the organization’s growing influence. Despite the need to carefully manage relations with external powers like Russia and China, the OTS is emerging as a formidable force in Eurasian geopolitics. The member states' increased focus on mutual security and strategic alignment marks a significant shift in regional dynamics, positioning the OTS as a central player in shaping the security architecture of the Turkic world.


The formation of the Organization of United Turkic States was a major moment in Turkic history, symbolizing unity among Turkic nations. This alliance established the foundation for enhanced cooperation in Eurasia, fostering economic integration, cultural exchange, and political solidarity. The Organization became a symbol of strength and mutual support, advancing the interests of Turkic peoples globally and working together towards a brighter future rooted in their shared heritage and common goals. 

In summary, the OTS is emerging as a significant force in regional politics, with the potential to disrupt current power dynamics in Central Asia. While the organization emphasizes cooperation and cultural ties, its broader ambitions may impact the interests of major players like China and Russia, making it a key player to watch in the evolving geopolitical landscape.