I recently blogged about the reception that the formerly Muslim Serbian filmmaker Emir Kusturica got from some Turkish politicians at a film festival in Turkey earlier this month, causing him to withdraw from the festival. A day or two later, a festival participant named Majkl Neuensvander was mistaken for Kusturica and beaten up. (Emir Kusturica lookalike assaulted and hospitalized in Turkey — link is in Serbian.)

While we’re back on the topic of Turkey, meanwhile, I have a chance to follow up on my recent postings on the Ottoman Empire reestablishing itself over the Balkans. There was a very good short piece last week by Balkans analyst Ioannis Michaletos, titled “Turkey’s Reach in Kosovo,” whose clincher paragraph is the final one:

The long-term strategy of Turkey is to gradually “adopt” Kosovo under its sphere of influence, along with the rest of the Albanian populated areas in the Western Balkans. If one adds the already existing strong attachments of the Bosnian Muslims with Turkey and the increased influence of Turkey into the Muslim minorities of Bulgaria, Greece, FYROM and Serbia, then a wider image appears, whereby the “Islamization” process in the Balkans is gradually being promoted by a combination of business activities, political initiatives and last but not least, considerable intelligence operations that are in tune with [an] “Islamic-Balkan” vision as it is being presently formed in Ankara and in Istanbul.

The preceding 12 paragraphs of the piece are also worth cross-posting, so here they are:

The Turkish foreign policy over the last few years has witnessed a dramatic shift, that promotes its “Ottoman legacy” and especially in the Balkan region, where it already influences a considerable segment of the Muslim population. Moreover its increased cooperation with Syria and Iran, further highlights Turkish moves since there is always the likehood of an eventual clash between Turkish ambitions and the rest of the regional political actors that will most certainly have an impact on the Balkan political scene.

Turkey in Kosovo specifically forms a “soft power policy” aiming at promoting the Albanian ambitions, so as to have a strong base in a strategic point in the region. That obviously means, that any clash between Turkey and NATO for instance over the close relationships of Ankara with Teheran, will reflect in the Balkan affairs with possible upturns, even the probability of a conflict in an area full of ethnic animosities and vicious competition between various state interests.

An outline of the main Turkish initiatives and strong-points in Kosovo is presented below, by bearing in mind that developments in a distant field (Middle East) could have a direct consequence in the domestic Kosovo affairs within the short-term period.

An influential factor in Kosovo apart from the Albanian majority & the Serbian minority is Turkey through the 40,000 strong Turkish community. The first Turkish settlers arrived in Kosovo Metojia after the legendary battle of Kosovo in 1389, and soon became the ruling class of the Province. Its presence nowadays is not more than 1.5% of the population; nevertheless Ankara found a way of entering the Kosovo quagmire and demands a role through the use of the Turkish populous there.

In fact the Turkish side refers to Kosovo as a land of minorities and not only of the Serbian one. Various well-informed forces monitor an increased attention by Turkey and a pressure towards USA to accept a wider role for Turkey in Kosovo. Even though the other minorities – Excluding Serbs- are more numerically: Roma (40,000), Bosniaks (30,000), Gorani (50,000); they don’t have the backing of a large state, as Turkey and steadily a third player is emerging in the Kosovo scene.

The Turkish minority mainly live in Prizren (15-29%) and Mitrovice (14%). The village of Mamuša north of Prizren was the only settlement in Kosovo with a Turkish majority, according to the last legal census of 1981. It had 2752 people, with Turks making up around three-quarters of that number.

There are three Turkish political parties in Kosovo:

Turkish Public Front- under the leadership of Sezai Saipi

Turkish Democratic Union- under the leadership of Erhan Köroğlu, centered in Pristina

Kosovo Turkish Democratic Party (KTDP) – under the leadership of Mahir Yağcılar, centered in Prizren (the only registered Turkish party of Kosovo)

There are also two cultural and artistic Turkish associations in Kosovo: Right Way (Doğru Yol) and Truth (Gerçek). The purpose of these two associations is to keep the Turkish culture alive in Kosovo.

Kosovo Turks have their own schools in every educative level. In Prizren, Mamusha, Pristina, Gnjilane, Djakovica and Vucitrin, there are 3 kindergartens, 11 primary schools, 6 colleges and the Pristina University where approximately 2,500 Turkish students attend lectures. A substantial number of them eventually study in Turkey at a graduate level along with Muslim-Albanian students via scholarships by the Turkish educational system.

Turkey was one of the first countries to recognize the self-proclaimed independence of Pristina and there are 4 Members of Parliament of Turkish origin in the local government. Also, in the Priznen town a TV station named Yeni Donem was created in 2006 by Turkish developmental aid, whilst other networks such as: Radio Priznen, TV BESA and TV Pro have special programs in the Turkish language.

Further, Turkish newspapers in Kosovo include: Our Voice (Sesimiz), the official newspaper of KTDP, Your Environment (Cevren) since 1973, Avalanche (Cig), Bird (Kus) since 1974, Pearl (Inci).

The Turkish state has in various periods supported the organizations Al Muhajiroun-Kosovo Support Council, as well smaller scale NGO’s in the educational sector. In the political front individuals such as: Ergun Zoga, Celalettin Olmezcan, Enver Tali, Deniz Baykal, Tuna Koc, have assisted the creation of high-level bonds between the political and business forces of Pristina and Istanbul. In the latter which is the most important city in Turkey and in the Balkans, the majority of the Kosovo-Albanians residents in Turkey are based and there are numerous organizations which receive strong assistance by the Turkish state. It is from Istanbul where the bulk of Turkish investment and hand-outs is being transferred to Kosovo and in other Balkan regions such as Bosnia, Bulgaria, Albania and FYROM.

One of the main Turkish establishments in Kosovo with substantial influence is the Turkish business union (TIKA) that was greatly enchased in both material and political base by the Metin Kilic, andAgmagan Demirer, who since 2003 have formed an extensive network of Kosovo Albanians who act as the soft power outreach of Turkey in the region. […]

To close, this is from a related 2001 analysis of the Macedonia conflict by historian Carl Savich, which I re-read this week but is no longer linkable:

In July, 1997, the Albanian mayor of Gostivar raised an Albanian and Turkish flag over the town. These unconstitutional provocations signaled a desire to create a Greater Albania and a return to the Ottoman Turkish Empire status quo, when Albanians converted to Islam and thereby gained privileged positions that allowed them to take over the lands of the subhuman rayah and kaurin and to dominate and control the Orthodox Slavic populations, the Christian cattle. When the police intervened to remove them, rioting resulted in Gostivar and Tetovo which left three people dead…