"Opinion & Analysis from RIA NOVOSTI"


MARCH 2008

Russia says no link between British Council and TNK-BP arrests

NATO fighters scramble again to intercept Russian Bear bombers


Russia criticizes U.S over Kosovo military aid

Belarus advises U.S to halve number of diplomats in Minsk

Russia's MIG-29K fighter makes maiden flight

Russian automaker AVTOVAZ to produce off-road vehicles in Eygpt

Russia hit by tank crisis

Concessions that Medvedev can not afford to make 19.03.08

American oil to flow through Russian pipes






Russia is Turkey’s most important neighbor. Trade, business, and the considerable Russian colony in the cities are the most obvious signs of this, but there is of course an enormously important historical side. For centuries, perhaps ever since Ivan the Terrible conquered Kazan in 1552, ‘the Turks’ (Tatars, then Ottomans) were mostly on the defensive as against their great northern neighbor. There followed a long history of retreat, culminating in the catastrophe of the First World War and its aftermath. The retreat was turned round in 1923, when modern republican Turkey emerged, as it happened, in alliance with the Bolsheviks, with whom it shared a number of enemies then. Even, for a time, the ‘modernization project’ (as it might now be termed) was rather similar, not least as far as the iconography was concerned; there was also economic cooperation.  

   After the Second World War, the two countries were in different camps, but the collapse of Soviet Communism made for new possibilities. It soon appeared that Turkish contractors had a very good understanding of Russia and were extremely active there. We may expect that Russia’s relations with her most go-ahead southern neighbor will also take on an electric quality. Turkey, for all her recent financial vicissitudes, has become, again a power with which business may be done- her foreign trade turnover, for instance, is now within respectable distance even of Russia’s. A new spirit of co-operation has already been displayed over energy matters. There are also very good turcologists in Russia. Can we, however, argue that this new spirit is similarly reflected, within Turkey, on the cultural and educational side? Unfortunately, not: one effect of Turkey’s estrangement from the Ottoman past has been neglect of its historical northern rival.  

   Yet there is great deal in common between the two countries, whatever the animosities of the past. Whatever relevance this might have for Turkey, there is a school of thought within Russia that dwells on the Tatar, or Turkic connection. It emerges that one third of the nobility of the Russian (Tsarist) Empire were of Tatar origin. There is in Turkey a somewhat parallel school, arguing that the early Ottoman Empire took on the inheritance of Byzantium, which was of course also profoundly influential in Orthodox Russia. And both countries have a rather similar tangential relationship with the West – which is feared, despised, imitated in a somewhat similar cocktail in both countries, though the Russians, having started conscious westernization earlier, were able to withstand the West on more even terms at a considerably earlier date. At all events, far from being the polar opposites that might emerge from a superficial reading of history, Turkey and Russia have a great deal in common.


Bilkent University Center for Russian Studies and Its Mission

Bilkent University Center for Russian Studies, associated with the Department of International Relations, is the only institution in Turkey offering a comprehensive program for Turkish and foreign academics and professionals for studying the past and present of Russia and related areas. It was officially founded by Professor Norman STONE in May 1998, although intensive research and instruction on Russia and the Soviet Union has been conducted within the Department of International Relations since the early 1990’s. As of 2007 eight professors and instructors are affiliated with the Center for Russian Studies. Currently seventeen graduate students (most of whom are also research assistant) are enrolled in the program. The director of the Center for Russian Studies is Hakan KIRIMLI, Associate Professor at the Department of International Relations.  

   Our Mission is to conduct research and to train future scholars and other professionals sharing an interest in the history, politics and culture of Russia, by which is meant all peoples inhabiting the current territory of the Russian Federation as well as former subjects of the Soviet Union and the Russian (Tsarist) Empire. Obviously, this indicates a vital focus on Slavic and Turkic peoples, and several others in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia. Bilkent University is the leading academic institution in Turkey. Its outstanding library is connected through the most up-to-date methods with libraries throughout the world, and it already boasts a significant Russian (and of course Turkish) collection. All this, along with a wide range of academic departments relevant to our mission, provides us with an excellent basis for our studies.  

   Bilkent University Center for Russian Studies offers an MA and a PhD program. These programs aim to equip young academics with basic and advanced training in issues concerning Russia and other related areas as a requirement for further studies. While special emphasis is given to the history and culture of the lands and peoples at issue, the students are also expected to have a sufficient understanding of contemporary developments. The program includes intensive courses on Russian language and literature. Teaching of other relevant regional languages may also be included in our program when necessary. Although our programs at both MA and PhD levels are academically intensive, students from the military, government, or the private sector are also welcome.  

   Bilkent University Center for Russian Studies grants a limited number of scholarships on a competitive basis annually. Scholarships range from tuition waivers to specially-defined research assistantships. Depending on the availability of funds, some multinational companies and international organizations may also offer grants. Further, travel grants will be available for intensive summer language study in Moscow or St.Petersburg, which is highly encouraged. Center for Russian Studies will also help facilitate travel to Russia for students wishing to conduct research there.   

   Above all, the Bilkent University Center for Russian Studies provides a setting for Turks, Russians, and citizens from ex-Soviet countries to meet through conferences, concerts, summer schools and other cultural events, in an atmosphere conducive to improving social and cultural relations.