2019-02-03

Why Putin's chief ideologue writes about Turkey, deep state and Kemalist six arrows?

By Roman Shlyakhtin

Aide to the President of Russia decided to use Turkish political tradition. While trying to find Russia's place between East and West one inevitably has to look south for inspiration.

The article of Vladislav Surkov titled Long State of Putin, which is vigorously discussed in the media and social networks, contains references to many symbols and ideological constructions. Some of them are known to the Russian public, others are an invention of the author himself. At the same time, drawing its ideological forms, designed to explain historical and state-forming role of Vladimir Putin, Surkov more than once wove into them terms from the Turkish political history - in particular, by mentioning the ideology of the six arrows of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, as well as the so-called "deep state ". Turkey is not a country from which it was previously fashionable to draw political samples. And the emergence of Turkish concepts in an article devoted to Putin and his state is hardly a mere whim for Surkov.

However, first of all, we need to explain what terms Surkov used in his artile actually mean. Modern Turkey is a country with a complex ideology in which different parties and politicians adhere to different views. Among them are the left (the Kurdish party), and the nationalists, and moderate Islamists. Of the entire diversity of political spectrum, Surkov chose the image of the “six arrows” of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. What are these arrows and who are they aimed at?

The story will have to start from afar. The image of a beam of arrows has long been present in the epic of the ancient Turkic Oguz tribes. The section of the Turkic steppes between the sons of the first forefather ancestor is explained through him. Later the same image appears in the legends of the Mongols, in a form that is already more familiar to us. According to the legends, Genghis Khan decided to demonstrate to his sons the need for peace between the Mongols and suggested that they first break a bunch of arrows and then break them one by one.

In many ways, this ancient legend is similar to the common European wisdom about the unbreakable bundle of brushwood (to which the symbol of Roman fascias ultimately goes, which became the emblem of fascism). However, in modern Turkey, it was decided to use it at the sunset of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and gave it its own interpretation. In 1927, the first president of the republic decided to reformat the party of his supporters (the People’s Party). At the congress, the party defined for itself the “four arrows” of ideology — republicanism (commitment to the republic), nationalism, nationality and secularism. Shortly before Atatürk’s death, two more were added to these arrows - statism (respect for the state) and reformism (readiness for reform). These six “arrows” formed the basis of Atatürk’s political testament, and also became part of a new constitution of the Republic of Turkey. The Turkish name of the constitution - anayasa - is related to the term "Yasa", which was called the law of the Mongols in the era of Genghis Khan. Atatürk's six arrows appeared not only in the Constitution, but also on the coat of arms of the People's Party (1931), which consisted of six upward white arrows on a red field. At the end of the 20th century, these arrows changed direction and now look from the bottom left corner of the logo to the right.

Surkov mentions Ataturk’s six arrows alongside the Fifth Republic, founded by de Gaulle, and the United States, which, in the author’s opinion, rest on the experience of the founding fathers. Apparently, the former deputy head of the presidential administration tried to find a place for his former patron among state leaders who are considered the founders of some modern political regimes, and such that do not cause too inconvenient questions. For example, he chose not to mention Mao Zedong or Fidel Castro, who also fall under the required conditions. Turkey, along with Atatürk and the Six Arrows, was more successful. And the fact that the symbol connotations are wider and some part of Surkov’s audience six arrows will remind of Genghis Khan - well, that’s the fate of more or less of all Eurasian connotations, especially on Russian soil.

Another story in another term, which Surkov uses in his article, is the “deep state”. The author specifically mentions that the reasoning about deep state that is popular today in America, that is a group of elites who, without declaring itself loudly, actually controls all political processes, the concept has roots in the Turkish concept of "derin devlet" as its starting point - it can be translated as “inner state”. Indeed, in the 1970s , moderate Turkish Islamists, who were skeptical about Atatürk’s legacy, especially his fourth “arrow” of secularism, called their opponents within the state apparatus the “inner state”  - first of all this applied to the Turkish military. It was assumed that senior officers are interconnected with something more than a military oath, and in the end it is they who solve the most important issues in the country. 

Against the background of democratization and the many of Turkey’s accession to the European Union in those years, the arguments about the conspiracy looked anachronistic - and in 2007, Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in an interview with a television channel that he still doesn’t know if there is an “internal state” or not. It did not prevent the same moderate Islamists with Recep Erdogan to establish themselves in power at the beginning of the 21 century. Against the background of democratization and the many of Turkey’s accession to the European Union in those years, the arguments about the conspiracy looked anachronistic - and in 2007, Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in an interview with the television channel that he still doesn’t know if there is an “internal state” or not .

However, in Surkov’s article, this strictly conspiracy ideology for internal use is used as a starting point for his innovative ideological construction - the “deep-seated nation”, which, according to the adviser to the president of Russia, “is always on your mind and out of reach”. Just as in the concept of a “deep state”, a variety of meanings can be put into a “deep nation”. However, even if the “deep state”, according to Erdoğan, is hard to tell if it exists or not, one wonder if the “deep nation” is really out there? Given the conspiratorial roots of the original design, people are encouraged to think that they are the true and only ruler of the state, but the ruling itself happens in a very imperceptibly manner.

However, not only interpretations speak a lot, but the very fact of the presence of similar Turkish ideologies in the article is meaningful. Vladislav Surkov, in his own way, is trying to create a new ideology outside the confrontation between East and West. Focusing on Istanbul and Ankara (and not on far and incomprehensible Beijing) continues the long Russian tradition of searching for knowledge in the south, in Constantinople, Istanbul, and now in Ankara. In conditions when the Moscow and Constantinople patriarchs quarreled over Ukraine, such a look in the direction of the Bosphorus and on to the Anatolian Plateau looks especially remarkable. Vladislav Surkov, perhaps, wants to put himself on a par with the author of "The Word of Law and Grace" by Metropolitan Hilarion, who is considered the first Russian thinker. Like Hilarion, Surkov talks about the grace that is inherent in the Russian people, However, if Hilarion has Christian grace to be given to all nations, then Surkov has it in Russia alone and comes from Gumilev's non-Christian passionarity

Arguing about the need for a direct contact between the people and the ruler, Surkov sounds like the author of the XVI century, Ivan Peresvetov, who, in The Tale of Magomet (Muhammed) Tsar, presented the Ottoman Empire almost as an ideal state. While Peresvetov writes about the importance of troops, to whom "the sovereign is strong and glorious," Surkov praises the "brutal design of the power frame". Like Peresvetov, the addressee of Surkov's message is not named. However, it is obvious that it should be sought at the very top of the pyramid of power. A spokesman for the Russian president, Dmitry Peskov, has already said that the article will be sent for familiarization to Vladimir Putin. 

“The article is complex, it requires reflection,” Peskov explaing to journalists. “It’s such a personal approach, a personal world view. Surkov has experience that is difficult to overestimate.” “Based on this experience, he has every right to judge,” the Kremlin representative said. In response to the question of whether there are supporters of the views set out by Surkov, Peskov said: "Definitely there." “Are there any positions that can cause controversy and debate? Of course, there are some, too,” he added. “But, probably, it is hardly subject to discussion that the article will be interesting to many and that it is very informative and deep.”

Peskov has spent several years in diplomatic work in Turkey and knows firsthand about the “deep state” and the “six arrows”.

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