Friday, February 15, 2019

FSB Reportedly Setting ‘Turkish Departments’ to Combat Pan-Turkism among Russia’s Turkic Peoples

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 14 – Two telegram channels, Nezygar and Kremlyovsky bezBashenik, report that the FSB is planning to set up special “Turkish departments” in its Economic Security Service to combat pan-Turkism, an effort in which the Presidential Administration is also involved.

            “The goal is the neutralization of the work of the Turkish special services toward the establishment of a single Turkic state” given that “Turkey has finally become a center of the Islamic world,” the former says, and that Ankara has already established close ties with Kyiv, a worrisome development from Moscow’s point of view.

            And it is doing so, the latter reports, because of what some in Moscow see as “the ineffectiveness of the Service for the Defense of the Constitutional Order in the struggle with terrorism “inside Turkey itself,” IdelReal journalist Ramazan Alpaut recounts (

            Moscow worried not only about the spread of terrorism but also about Turkey’s promotion of pan-Turkist ideas in the North Caucasus and the Middle Volga, Nezygar continues.  “Turkic-language peoples of Russia live mostly in such regions as Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, Chuvashia, Bashkortostan, Kabardino-Balkaria, Daghestan, Karachayevo-Cherkessia and other regions of the North Caucasus.”

            “To one degree or another,” the telegram channel continues, “the ideas of pan-Turkish have penetrated everywhere, but at various levels and various amounts. Many say that they exist most strongly among young members of Tatar elites.”

            Rakhim Rakhimov, an independent analyst, says that he views these reports as “disinformation.” Turkey does not have the significant influence among the Turkic peoples of Russia that such efforts suggest.  He suggests that the reports are intended as a warning to Turkey not to ally itself with Ukraine. 

            It is also possible, Rakhimov says, that there are anti-Turkish groups within the Russian elite who are not happy with Moscow’s rapprochement with Ankara.

            Another expert, Osman Pashayev of the UA-Krym television company, says that he does not think that Turkey is currently actively promoting pan-Turkist ideas in Russia.  There may be some in Turkish elites who would like to do so, he says; but such an effort certainly is not settled state policy. At most such reports are a warning to Ankara and to regional elites.

            According to Alpaut, Turkey appears to have responded to this already, with an article suggesting that Moscow is seeking to “marginalize” the Muslim population of the Russian Federation (

            That article reflects both the historical intertwining of Islamic interests and pan-Turkish ideas and the current interest in Ankara in presenting itself as the defender of the Faith.  Those two factors may also help to explain why Moscow is nervous and why the telegram channel reports are true even if they are based on a misreading of what is happening on the ground.

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