Table Topics “Ideologies, Geopolitics and the Search for New Allies during the Cold War”
Ideologies, geopolitics and the search for new allies during the Cold War will be the topic that Zaur Gasimov (Orient-Institut Istanbul) and Jens Boysen (Deutsches Historisches Institut Warschau) will focus on at their table. The new global alliances of the Cold War that were deeply influenced by ideological reasons and (cultural) diplomacy efforts will be central to the discussion.
The Cold War, while being essentially Eurocentric, in time made the two “northern” ideological blocs break this mold by searching new allies in the “global South”. Jens Boysen argues that those allegiances were needed for geopolitical, economic but also political and ideological reasons as both Capitalist democracy and Communism claimed a universal/global mission. Accordingly, both sides tuned their ideological settings in such a way as to facilitate the association of newly independent countries worldwide. As a result, the Cold War, and notably the superpowers, supported decolonization which at least initially was a rather painful process for the West European colonial powers. For it meant that the bloc’s – read: the USA’s – global posture was strengthened at their cost; but the bipolar conflict left them with no choice. In the Soviet bloc, this problem was absent at least with a view to overseas colonies. This fact was exploited by Communist propaganda to construct a “natural community of interest” between the “progressive” Socialist camp and (anti-West European) national liberation movements worldwide. This claimed ‘moral superiority’ also served to raise the self-esteem of the comparatively backward east European countries vis-à-vis the West; and indeed, many experts from those countries, whether Communist-minded or not, engaged in development policy in the “global South” which was seen as a mission wholly different from earlier European colonialism. Still, like their Western counterparts they were also tools of the superpowers’ race for global leadership.
Zaur Gasimov will focus on Turkey, Iran and further the Arab Middle East which were traditionally the desired zone of influence for the Soviet Union. Moscow supported the National Movement launched by Mustafa Kemal in the Eastern Anatolia in the early 1920s and backed the anti-Western mood in the whole region in the following years. The Soviet Universities attracted thousands of young Arabs as well as leftist activists from Turkey. Moscow’s own ‘South’ was designed to become a model for the Muslim societies. The Soviet leadership organized regularly excursions for the Middle Eastern politicians and journalists through Azerbaijan and Central Asia. Caused by the Soviet territorial claims, Turkish-Soviet relations were heavily damaged after the WWII. Ankara joined the NATO and Iran under the Shah regime conducted a pro-Western foreign policy. In the Soviet Union, anti-Turkish and anti-Iranian turns started not only in the official rhetoric but also in the humanities and particularly in the history-writing. The case of the Soviet Azerbaijan was exemplary for this development: The centuries of entangled Persian-Turkish-Azerbaijani history, common Islamic heritage and shared folk customs were questioned and finally neglected by the local Academy of Sciences and other history-writing institutions since the 1940s up to the Perestroika. Ottomans, Persia and Arabs obtained negative images in the school textbooks and public discourse both in the Soviet Caucasus and in the Central Asia.