AFP reports: They have been mocked for looking like extras from a low-budget historical drama and criticised for having only the most tenuous connection with reality.
But the 16 costumed warriors included by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the honour guard for visiting dignitaries and representing various Turkic empires going back over two millennia serve a serious purpose.
Commentators say Erdogan wants to impress on his own public, and outsiders, that Turkey is a great power with a heritage that goes well beyond the modern republic founded in 1923 to the Ottoman and earlier great empires.
“The president has been mobilising these elements of the past,” said Ilter Turan, professor of political science at Istanbul Bilgi University, pointing to a plan by Erdogan to make Ottoman Turkish language lessons compulsory in schools.
“This symbolism appears part of this package,” he told AFP.
The figures represent the 16 purported states of Turkic history from the Xiongnu confederation in today’s Mongolia in the 2nd century BC to the Ottoman empire, taking in the Mughal empire, Timurid empire and a host of lesser-known states along the way.
The problem is that such an idea of simple historical continuity, linking states from the early days of nomadic Turkic peoples in southern Siberia to their migration into Anatolia and Europe, has never been widely accepted. [Continue reading…]