Turkey in the Cold War: Anti-Communism, Political Islam, and Turkish-German Relations

Seminars and Colloquia

This presentation analyzed the impact of anti-communism on relations between the two NATO frontier countries of Turkey and the former West Germany, as well as on Political Islam in both countries.

The independent variable in this study is anti-communism, a doctrine that held sway both in Bonn (which had seen neighboring East Germany under Soviet occupation until the early 1970s) and in Ankara (which believed the USSR to be threatening Eastern Anatolia and the Straits). The dependent variables are Cold War-era relations between West Germany and Turkey and the presence of Political Islam in each country as an increasingly powerful political actor.

The research seeks to answer the following key questions: what role has Political Islam’s development amid the authoritarian, repressive Cold War climate in Turkey played in the increasingly authoritarian nature of the Islamist AKP during its 18 years in power? What kind of campaign did Political Islam—which viewed “Godless communism” as its number one enemy — wage against leftist movements, influential as they were among the working class, student groups, academia, and the press? How and in what domains did the Cold War-era political establishments in Bonn and Ankara partner with one another in their fight against communism?

Behlül Özkan is associate professor at the International Relations department of Marmara University in Istanbul. He is author of From the Abode of Islam to the Turkish Vatan: Making of a National Homeland in Turkey (Yale University Press, 2012).

Ayşe Çağlar, IWM Permananent Fellow, provided commentary and moderated the discussion.


Fellows Colloquia are internal events for the IWM Visiting Fellows and Guests.