Russia and Turkey: Restless Partners? Interview with Russian expert Ivan Starodubtsev

Ivan Starodubtsev is a well-known Russian political scientist, businessman and expert on Turkey, and has lived and worked in this country for a long time. His name, as a specialist in Turkey, is often found on the pages of the newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets, and he is a regular guest on the program “From Two to Five” on the radio station “Vesti FM” and on the main Russian television channels.

Ivan Starodubtsev’s blog (in Russian):

You can find his latest book, for example, here:


Dear, Ivan! Let’s start with, perhaps, the most recent events: in Turkey a referendum on the constitution of the republic was just held. What does this mean for Turkey now?

As it was to be expected, the referendum took place in a dense political struggle, and the result turned out with a minimal margin in favor of the constitutional reform initiated by the alliance of the ruling party and the nationalists.

After the incident in November 2015, relations between Russia and Turkey deteriorated significantly: how can we now describe Russian-Turkish relations?

I think that the best way the current Russian-Turkish relations can be characterized with the phrase “selective partnership”, when the parties cooperate in the field of coincidence of interests and, if possible, try not to cross each other in other spheres.

How do ordinary citizens in Turkey look at Russians in general? And what do they think about Putin?

Attitudes toward Russians in Turkey are generally positive, although it must be said there have been various anti-Russian marches too, like the one called “Hands off ”. This slogan is generally followed by a list of areas from where Russia should take her “hands off”- Syria, Crimea, Caucasus, etc. Putin is a strong leader and, at least, he is respected in Turkey. And some look at him with undisguised sympathy.

What is “new Ottomanism”? And how does this relate to pan-Turkism? How does Turkey try to influence the former Soviet republics?

New Ottomanism is the same outward-looking policy as Pan-Turkism, but with a wider reach. Both in ethnic and religious terms. Turkey is building special political and trade-economic relations with the former republics of the USSR, primarily from among the countries of the Caucasus and Central Asia.


Your book is called “Russia-Turkey: 500 Years of Restless Neighborhood”. Does this mean that the national interests of Russia and Turkey can by definition only be conflicting?

By no means, because we have a number of areas where our interests coincide. This relates both to the implementation of major projects in the economic sphere, and in ensuring regional security.

In Europe Erdogan has been more and more under attack as of late, and European newspapers began to write that the Turkish economic miracle had failed – all because of Erdogan. Do you think the era of the Turkish economic boom has ended? What are the prospects for the Turkish economy?

The Turkish economy began to slow down since 2011 and whether it will return to the trajectory of dynamic growth remains under question. The answer to it will largely depend on which direction the country will take under the new constitutional order, after Recep Tayyip Erdogan not too convincing victory in the referendum of April 16.

Ivan, thank you very much for the very interesting conversation.

Русская версия

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