This article explores Ottoman and Turkish political history over the last two hundred years in three “resets”. The resets here are seen as twenty-year periods of major upheaval and transformation, during which the state-appropriating factions, under constant state of emergency, neutralize any actor that limits state power and stifle the pluralistic elements of society, which eventually bring about cultural change. In the first two resets, i.e. those of 1810-1830 and 1910-1930, Greece and Russia played a central role. The current tense relations between Greece and Turkey, whose third reset began in the second half of the 2010s, make the “reset” analysis all the more relevant.

  • The first reset began after the Treaty of Bucharest in 1812 and ended with the disappearance of regional rulers (ayan) and janissaries.
  • The Greek Revolution began in the middle of an era of fundamental destruction and transformation, during which the old had been demolished, but had not yet been replaced by something new.
  • By 1828 the revolution had been largely suppressed. If in 1829 the Russians had not occupied Edirne, directly threatening the Ottoman throne, Sultan Mahmud II would have never accepted the establishment of an independent Greek state.
  • The second reset began with the Young Turk Revolution in 1908 and ended with the founding of the Turkish nation-state after one of the greatest disasters and transformations that has ever taken place in the Ottoman Empire/Turkey.
  • In the second reset Russia/the Soviet Union took the side of the Turks. Mustafa Kemal’s movement would have had no hope of success without Soviet support.
  • Thus, Greeks and Turks experienced the idiosyncrasy of having waged their wars of liberation – that is, the founding events of their modern history – against each other, a hundred years apart, and, moreover, both of these founding events having succeeded thanks to the intervention of Russia/the Soviet Union.
  • The third reset began with the AKP (Justice and Development Party) and its leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, attempting to abolish the republic from the second half of the 2010s.
  • Although at the moment Erdogan seems to be seeking the “great pretext” he needs in the Kurdish regions, we cannot predict what will happen in Greek-Turkish relations and whether or not Greece will play a role in the third reset.

You may read the Policy paper by H. Şükrü Ilıcak, Postdoctoral Researcher at the Institute for Mediterranean Studies, here. (in Greek)