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Byzantine heritage in contemporary Turkey: Research features and political significance

Journal: RUDN Journal of Sociology (Vol.23, No. 1)

Publication Date:

Authors : ; ; ;

Page : 89-99

Keywords : Byzantine heritage; Turkey; Russia; politics of memory; identity; Hagia Sophia;

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The article considers the politics of memory of the Turkish government in relation to the Byzantine heritage in the country and the reaction of the states whose historical narrative and identity are associated with the Byzantine Empire’s legacy. The article is based on a wide range of sources in Turkish, Greek, English and Russian. The authors believe that the Turkish policy of Islamization and the ideology of neo-Ottomanism, which are implemented by the ruling AK Party under the leadership of the President R.T. Erdogan, lead to the gradual dismantling of the remaining Byzantine heritage, which was proved by the transformation of the Monastery of the Choir and the Hagia Sophia into mosques. Turkish society, except for a few dissidents many of whom have already left the country, does not show interest in the history of Byzantium and perceives the policy of the ruling party quite pragmatically, according to the opinion polls. The international reaction to the decisions of the Turkish leadership was quite restrained and in general did not focus on Byzantium and its role in history. Thus, European politicians and researchers criticized mainly the anti-Western idea of Erdogan’s actions and rhetoric, while Greece fears mostly the revival of Ottoman imperialism and considers the Byzantine legacy as a part of Hellenism. The authors conclude that it was Russian society that defined the policy of Erdogan as the destruction of the Byzantine heritage of the Eastern Orthodox civilization (primarily due to the position of the Russian Orthodox Church), which made the Russian political leadership discuss this issue at the highest level. Moreover, in the international dimension, Ankara’s consistent policy to dismantle the Byzantine heritage affects the image and ideology of the Russian state to a greater extent than that of Greece, which is determined by the sustainable perception of Russia as the successor of the Byzantine tradition.

Last modified: 2023-03-17 07:33:20