Diasporas’ Identity in the Mass Media: Formation of the Turkish Diaspora

Political Communication, Media and Society

Yana Volkova

Odessa I. I. Mechnikov National University

E-mail: volkova.yana.od@gmail.com

Abstract. In the recent years, the term ‘Turkish Diaspora’ raised its head both in mass media, in academic papers and in political discourse. This is a reflection of a global trend of states to create and engage with their Diasporas in order to achieve political goals. The article aims at revealing an official approach of the Turkish state towards the Turkish Diaspora in the modern times and to trace its evolution throughout history. The elaboration of the Turkish Diaspora construction and engagement policy became possible due to the breakthrough in information technologies and mass media, which serves as one of the key tools in the complicated process of constructing a Diaspora identity. Within this context, the aim of the article is to compare the Turkish official approach towards its Diaspora with the language of the Turkish media and to analyse the different techniques that are being used in the mass media to shape the Turkish Diaspora.

Key words: Diaspora, Turkish citizens, Turks abroad and related communities, the mass media.


In the age of information, the mass media has entered the world of politics having become an inalienable part of international relations. Information space has become a new arena of political competition. The ability of mass media to shape public opinion and to exert control over population convert it into a key tool both in domestic political struggles and in foreign policy. Information technologies and mass communication has become an integral part of everyday life of people all over the globe, shaping their lifestyles and their identities. This tendency has sparked the researcher’s interest in the roles played by the mass media in different political phenomena.

The purpose of this study is to reveal how Turkish Diaspora creation and engagement policy is reflected in the Turkish mass media. The following tasks were indicated to achieve this goal:

  • to indicate the contemporary meaning of the term Turkish Diaspora in Turkish mass media and to analyze the discourse on it;

  • to trace the origin of the term Turkish Diaspora in Turkish media and the process of its evolution;

  • to compare the meaning of the term Turkish Diaspora in the media and in Turkish political and scientific discourse and to reveal how the official position of the state towards Turkish Diaspora is reflected in Turkish media;

  • to reveal the interrelation between Turkish Diaspora discourse in Turkish media with Turkish foreign policy aims, particularly, what role the mass media plays in Turkish Diaspora construction and engagement policy.

The research is based on an extensive literature survey on the principles of Diaspora construction, particularly the role of the media in this process, and on Turkish Diaspora and Turkish Diaspora engagement policy. In the second stage of the research, an analysis of the content of the most popular Turkish news agencies, newspapers and web-portals such as TRTHaber, Haberler, Timeturk, Milliyet, and Sabah was conducted.

The literature on the question can be divided into 4 sections. The first block of literature aims at revealing a constructivist approach to the nature of nations and Diasporas and consists of theoretical underpinning of studies of nationalism (Gellner, Anderson, Tishkov, Brubaker, and Schiller). The second block of literature reveals the principles of Diaspora construction policy and Diaspora’s engagement, and the role of the mass media in constructing Diaspora identity (Adamson, Gamlen, Waterburry; Saunders, Glukhov, and De Cillia, R., Reisigl, M., & Wodak R). The third block is dedicated particularly to the Turkish diaspora and aims at revelling current scientific discourse on the matter (Aksel, Aydin, Calicioglu, Kaya and Kentel, Okyay, Ucar, Ulusoy, Unver, and Yurtnac). The last block is presented by news articles from abovementioned internet resources that serve as examples and illustrate the provisions of the theoretical block.

Diaspora is notoriously ambiguous and controversial term. Not going into details about current debates about the term, Diaspora can be generally understood as a part of a nation that live outside the borders of the home nation-state. Diaspora studies as they deal with national identities inextricably intertwine with the studies of nationalism, particularly in its constructivist branch represented by such prominent names as Gellner, Anderson, and Tishkov. Contrary to a previously dominant primordial approach which considers ethnicity as biological characteristic of individual, the research is based on the constructivist approach that views nations as intellectual constructs. According to this approach, the process of creating nations and nation-states is a natural outcome of the industrialization process in late 17th century. It is based on the advent and development of communication technologies that helped bound population together under the idea of a common nation. B. Anderson particularly emphasizes the role of the printing press in the origin of such notions as nation, nationalism and nation-state. [1] Print media stimulated development of national languages and created a feeling of national unity in every person that he/she belongs to one common nation. Having emerged after the Peace of Westphalia (1648) the system of nation-states quickly spread across Europe and beyond the continent. Before this period the population was united in religious or communal terms. Stemming from the fact that nations are mental constructs (using the term of Anderson ‘imagined communities’), Diasporas are also to be understood as mental constructs.

Just like the printing press triggered the development of classical nationalism in the late 17th century, nowadays, new media – television and the internet – stimulated the development of a new type of nationalism that targets Diasporas – long-distance nationalism. [2] Whereas classical nationalism united the whole population within one state under the idea of a common nation, long-distance nationalism and Diaspora construction policy stipulates the idea of a common nation outside state borders. The aspects through which the mass media strengthen the link between home state and its migrants/diasporas may be summarized as follows:

1. World-wide internet access and social networks enable migrants/diasporas keep in permanent contact with relatives and friends in their homeland.

2. The mass media help keeping Diaspora/migrants within the information field of the home state, shaping their public opinion in the necessary direction. Particularly, an access via the internet to national online news agencies and satellite television with national channels enables them to be aware of the latest news and activities that are taking place in their homeland. Migrants are able to get information from official agencies of the home state, which transmit the homeland’s vision of current events in politics, economy, culture, etc.

3. The Internet and television shape the public opinion of the national population within the home state about the Diaspora. Simply by using the term ‘Diaspora’ in the headlines or main body of news articles the public becomes aware of the very existence of the Diaspora, co-ethnics, and kins who live outside home-state’s borders. Media broadcast and transmit speeches of state officials that maintain the discourse about the dispersed nation, whose members live all over the world but have a common home.

Nevertheless, a number of questions remains unresearched. How do the members of a Diaspora know that they are the Diaspora? What factors shape their Diaspora consciousness and their ties with the homeland? And what is the role of the mass media in it? The process of construction of a Diaspora’s identity involves different actors and a wide range of sophisticated methods. The first step in this process is an act of official denomination, i.e. to name a particular social group ‘Diaspora’. This act of naming is an exertion of symbolic power, which is, according to P. Bourdieu, the power of a state to assert what a thing or a person is, in other words, an expression of a state’s official point of view. The words, the names not only express social reality (‘Diaspora’ in the given case) but construct it. In this sense, the symbolic power can be described as “the power to make things with words”. [3] With regard to the Turkish Diaspora, it can be stated that the process of its construction took place when Turkish political leaders started to utilize this term in their speeches. Therefore, political rhetoric, particularly the terms, which are used to describe this type of population, would be the first subject of analysis. This rhetoric is broadcasted to population via national media; therefore, the terms would be transmitted in it as a direct or reported speech of a political leader. However, the question is whether the media use the same terms to describe daily, routine events connected to this population, which take place without any direct link to Turkish official political structures.

The second subject of analysis will be general discourse. The idea of a specific Diaspora becomes reality through particular discourses continually launched in political, scientific and media fields and disseminated through mass communication, education system, cultural activities, etc. The key cementing element of the Diaspora discourse is the idea of a common homeland – be it a real country or an imaginary place, a myth of a common origin, an idea of a common history, language, culture, religion, etc. Whereas homeland doesn’t mean a place where the person was born, it is understood as a political entity that, through its name or doctrine, proclaims itself a homeland. These messages are actively transmitted to the population by the mass media; that is why the mass media is considered to be a pivotal tool for creating and maintaining Diaspora identity. Therefore, discourse in the Turkish media will be analyzed with regard to such issues as 1) Turkey as a homeland 2) one dispersed nation 3) common ancestors 4) common language 5) common religion 6) cultural affinity, etc.

Analyzing the Turkish Diaspora strategy and the role of the mass media in it, it should be noted that this process is not a unique case. Nowadays, many countries expand their sphere of influence through their Diasporas. As Tishkov argues, throughout history, and particularly in the modern period, a ‘Diaspora’ is not merely a social group; it is politics and even geopolitics. [4] In the recent decades, there has been a rapidly growing interest in Diasporas among politicians and among researchers. Diasporas have smoothly entered international relations and often are researched as elements of soft power and public diplomacy. Over the past decades Turkey’s awareness and ties with its Diaspora have seen an enormous increase. This link between Diasporas and international relations is well illustrated in the case of the Turkish Diaspora, which was officially proclaimed by the former chairman of the Diaspora institution YTB Kemal Yurtnac as “public diplomacy” and “soft power” in international politics. [5] This element of soft power, the presence of Turkey via its Diaspora across the world is eloquently expressed in the motto of the Turkish main institution on Diaspora – YTB: “Wherever we have a citizen, kin or relative, there we are”. [6]

Turkey’s construction of its Diaspora is a relatively recent phenomenon. Until the year 2000, Turkey’s approach was based on the term ‘Turkish emigrants’, not on ‘Diaspora’, which was reflected in the press. Previously, the term ‘Diaspora’ in Turkey in the language of media was used mainly for Armenians. Turkish researcher M. Ucar argues that in Turkish popular understanding when the word ‘Diaspora’ is used, for instance in a newspaper, the Armenian Diaspora comes to mind first. [7] It is not surprising as it is the Armenian Diaspora that is one of classical diasporas, the most famous, the oldest, and well-rooted, along with Jews and Greeks. Turkish negative connotation to it is explained by the historical hostility between Turks and Armenians. It is remarkable that the term Diaspora in Turkish media even nowadays is frequently being used to describe particularly the Armenian Diaspora. For instance, the article in Timeturk “The Diaspora comes to invest in Turkey” (2009) describes the plans of Armenians to invest in Turkey. [8] It eloquently illustrates this fact as it is suggested that a reader, having read the headline, where the term ‘Diaspora’ is used without designation of ethnicity, associate it with the Armenian Diaspora, not with the Turkish Diaspora or any other countries. Apart from associations with the Armenian Diaspora the term is also associated with Greeks, Jews and different groups supported by the West with an anti-Turkish lobby [9]. Therefore, the concept of the Diaspora in Turkey, in the light of the historical events and as a result of the activities of the Diasporas of neighbouring countries had been used with a negative highlight and almost became synonymous with the terms risk / threat.

1. The Diaspora of Turkish citizens

Migration of Turkish citizens from Turkey preconditioned the process of formation of the Turkish Diaspora of citizens. Since the formation of the Turkish Republic in 1923 until nowadays migration has been taking place due to various reasons and to various destinations. Despite the geographical dispersion of Turkish citizens around the globe particular attention is paid to Turkish citizens in Europe due to their significant concentration and political weight. A massive wave of emigration from Turkey to European countries occurred in the 1960s, when Turkey signed bilateral labour recruitment agreements with such countries as the Federal Republic of Germany (1961); Austria, the Netherlands and Belgium (1964); France (1965); and Sweden and Australia. While the interest of the latest was to fulfil the post-war labour shortage, Turkey economically benefited from emigrants’ remittances and export of surplus labour power, as well as from social transfer of knowledge and know-how. This population in the Turkish media was referred to as ‘Turks abroad’ or ‘expatriates’ (Yurdışı Türkler or gurbetçiler in Turkish). Since then, despite the subsequent changes in political approach, the term has never left the language of Turkish media. The article in Haberler “Expatriates in Germany collected money and made a fountain in their quarter” dated by 23.12.2019 is among the recent examples that illustrate this. [10]

Despite the fact that migration was supposed to be temporary, soon it became clear that emigrants tend to stay in Europe. Firstly, this tendency was negatively perceived by Turkey, which made attempts to facilitate voluntary returns. As staying for a long period in a foreign country usually requires refusing from Turkish citizenships and taking citizenship of the host country, in order to “save” its citizens Turkey introduced a law on dual citizenship in 1981. Thereby, the number of Turkish citizens who have also obtained the citizenship of a host country has increased significantly. [11] Turkey’s position towards this population at that time was reflected in the Turkish Constitution of 1982, where they were referred to as ‘Turkish citizens working in foreign countries’. The Constitution also stated that it was desirable for migrants to come back to their homeland: “The Government takes measures to ensure family unity of the Turkish citizens working in foreign countries, to educate their children, to meet their cultural needs and to provide social security, to protect their link to the motherland and to facilitate their coming back”. [12] However, as D. Aksel argues, by the 1980s, the fact that Turkish migrants would permanently reside in Europe has become an accepted fact by the Turkish state and public opinion: “The change in perception from distant workers to migrant workers, Turkish citizens abroad and even to minorities in Europe can be read from the language used in the parliamentary debates and newspapers of the period.”. [13]

The period after 1990s marked a transformation from perceiving emigrants as “Turkish citizens working in foreign countries” to so-called ‘Euro-Turks’ (Avrupalı Türkler in Turkish). Turkey’s interest to Turks in Europe at that time was caused not only by their contribution to Turkish economy but bear a political aspect. Within the context of Turkey’s efforts to enter the EU, Turkish citizens in Europe started being perceived as a bridge between Turkey and Europe. Turkey started facilitating their function as a political lobby of Turkish interests in different European structures and emphasize the European identity of Turkish emigrants. In his speech Turkish president R. Erdogan marked this transformation: “We call our brothers, who set up life on this land, set up business and see their future here, no longer as expatriate, as European. Because Europe which was a bitter homeland yesterday has become your new homeland and second homeland today”. [14] To achieve this aim and to deepen cooperation between Turkey and Turkish migrants in Europe, Turkey launched the process of institutionalization of Turkish policy towards its citizens abroad. In order to monitor the problems faced by Turkish citizens abroad, Advisory Committee for Turkish Citizens Living Abroad (Yurtdışında Yaşayan Vatandaslar Danışma Kurulu) and High Committee for Turkish Citizens Living Abroad (Yurtdışında Yaşayan Vatandaşlar Üst Kurulu) were founded under the Prime Ministry in 1998. Nevertheless, Turkey still didn’t call Turkish citizens that immigrated to work to Europe a ‘Diaspora’.

The situation has changed since the Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi – AKP) came to power in Turkey in 2002. Since 2000 not only has Turkey launched the process of discursive construction of a Turkish Diaspora but developed the necessary institutional mechanisms to do it. This was caused by general changes in the foreign policy of Turkey. Following the new foreign-policy doctrine of A. Davutoglu, which was expounded in his famous work “Strategic depth” [15], the AKP persisted in Turkey’s active stance on the international arena. Their idea was that Turkey, due to its unique geo-strategic location and history, should have a greater say in world politics. [16] Although this new approach has a lot of manifestations, we will highlight only those aspects that deal with the research question.

First of all, creation and engagement with the Diaspora was necessary due to Turkey’s urge towards becoming one of world’s leading economies. Turkey considers its Diaspora one of the main resources that helps Turkey to reach its aim to become a global actor and to enter the first 10 economics of the world. [17] Following this aim, Turkey facilitated further institutionalization of its policy towards its Diaspora. In 2007, the World Turkish Business Council (DTIK) was created within the framework of the Foreign Economic Relations Board of Turkey (DEİK). The economic aspect of this Turkey-Diaspora cooperation was emphasized by the term ‘entrepreneurial Diaspora’. The official page of DTIK provides the following explanation of its aims: “The purpose of the DTİK […] is to gather successful and entrepreneurial Diaspora of Turkish businesspeople and Turkish professionals at the helm of decision-making mechanisms of highly influential international corporations under a single platform.” [18] The Congress also formed the committees of DTIK, which reflect the scales of its activities: European Region, America, Eurasia, Africa-Middle East-Gulf, and Asia Pacific committees. The main goal for such platforms as DEIK and DTIK is to make the Turkish Diaspora one of the most effective Diasporas in the world. The basic pillar of its strategy is to make the Diaspora maintain its ties with their homelands, native languages and self-cultures, at the same time actively taking part in the social, economic, cultural and political life of the countries they reside in. The efforts of DTIK to convert the term ‘Diaspora’ from negative into positive meaning are remarkable. As B. C. Çalıcıoğlu argues, it was during the World Turkish Entrepreneurs Congress (organized by DTIK) held in 2009, when the term ‘Turkish Diaspora’ was first used in a positive sense by the head of DEIK-DTIK M. Rifat Hisarcıklıoğlu. The article “Diaspora strategies in the world the proposals towards Turkey” for the first time elaborates the term ‘Diaspora’ in a positive sense and emphasizes the necessity to utilize it in Turkish interests. [19] Since that time, the term has started to be used generally and in a positive sense more often. Particularly, due to the state’s efforts the ‘Turkish Diaspora’ is becoming a synonym to ‘Turkish citizens’, gradually replacing it. The recent article in “Timeturk” journal entitled “7-milyon Turkish Diaspora” (30.11.2019) equalise all Turkish citizens to Diaspora, explaining that the number of Turkish citizens living abroad reaches 7 million. Particularly, most of them – 1.8 million – live in Germany. [20] The term Diaspora in this article, however, is used not instead of, but along with such terms as expatriates, Turks abroad (Yurdışı Türkler in Turkish) and Turkish citizens.

Unlike the economic aspect of the Diaspora-Turkey cooperation, which existed in previous times but was enhanced by the AKP, the political utilization of the Turkish Diaspora was a totally new phenomenon. A surge of interest in the Turkish Diaspora in the media arose in the context of its participation in home elections. External voting, which became one of the instruments of domestic political competition, caused the trans-nationalisation of political party programmes. Moreover, it is to be considered an effective tool to create and strengthen the Diaspora as it stimulates citizens’ involvement into Turkey’s domestic political affairs. External voting, which is a popular phenomenon all over the world, had been practicing in Turkey since 1980s. However, non-resident Turkish citizens at that time could vote only at the polling stations at the borders. It was only in 2012 when Turkey provided external voting for Turkish citizens residing abroad and introduced the right to vote at certain places arranged by the Turkish embassies in their countries of residence. Since then, there have been election campaigns specifically targeted the citizens abroad and the needs of the Diaspora were addressed in the programmes of political parties. The AKP in particular has used this newly emerging overseas constituency to gather more votes. In this context, there has been an increase in politicians visiting Europe to address large communities of Diaspora members. Visits of Turkish leaders with the Diaspora members, however, weren’t often met warmly by the host-state’s authorities and external voting has become a highly contested terrain. AKP’s referendum campaigns in 2017 provoked diplomatic crises with Germany and the Netherlands. Turkey had to cancel planned meetings of Erdogan with Turkish citizens in Europe in order to agitate them to vote in favour of the proposed amendments to the Turkish Constitution that envisaged, among others, transmission from a parliamentary to presidential republic. It should be noted, however, that the meeting of Turkish officials with Diaspora members was not a reason for deterioration per se. Turkish electoral campaigns in foreign countries took place against the background of general deterioration relations between Turkey and the EU in line with the dissatisfaction of Western states with Turkish foreign policy. The meetings with Diaspora electorate served as an opportune pretext.

Thus, the beginning of the new century marked the process of ‘Diasporization’ of Turkish emigrants and the gradual creation of a ‘Diaspora of citizens’.

2. Diaspora of kin communities

Another track of the ‘Diasporization’ process is taking place regarding different social groups, which are citizens of other states, but which in Turkey are referred to as co-ethnics and kins. This understanding of the Turkish Diaspora is based on ideological pillar of Pan-Turkism and Neo-Ottomanism.

In Turkey’s political agenda, an idea of the union of all Turkic peoples has become particularly relevant after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Since that time Turkey has put forward different initiatives that enhance collaboration with the newly-independent Turkic States – Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Particularly warm are Turkey’s relations with Azerbaijan, which are evolving with the principle of “one nation, two states”. The institutionalization process in this direction started much earlier than in the case of ‘Diaspora of citizens’. Turkish International Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) which aim is to conduct economic, social and cultural activities to mobilize co-ethnics has been operating since 1992. Later, in 2007, The Yunus Emre Institute was founded to promote Turkish culture and language. The process of constructing the Diaspora identity of this population is based on discourse that is transmitted through such institutions and the mass media about the cultural, linguistic, religious commonality of these people. In this regard, the article in Haberler under the title “Turkish Diaspora meets in Baku” is of particular interest. It highlights a forum held by DEİK/DTİK in Azerbaijan in October 2012 that brought together a large number of Diaspora representatives from Kazakhstan, Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Kyrgyzstan. At the meeting, the Turkish president R. T. Erdogan gave a speech, in which he expressed the Diaspora discourse on one dispersed nation across state borders by repeating the slogan “two states – one nation” for Turkey and Azerbaijan and suggesting developing it into “six states – one nation” (meaning the other Turkic states). He also clearly sent the message of cultural unity: “We are all a big family of 300 million people and we all speak the same language, practice one religion, and have one history, culture and civilization”. The president went forward using the central notion of the Diaspora concept – an idea of external homeland: “I know that our brothers Kazakhs, Kyrgyzes, Uzbeks, Tajiks, and Turkmens perceive Turkey in the same way, like their home”. [21] The fact that mass media broadcasts these messages inside and outside of Turkey and these words are being heard by millions of target population is of great importance in the context of their ‘Diasporization’.

The third track of the Turkish Diaspora construction and engagement policy is different to Muslim communities in the territories of former Ottoman Empire, citizens of foreign countries. The theoretical platform for Turkish policy towards this type of population is the concept of ‘accidental Diasporas’ introduced by R. Brubaker. According to the researcher, accidental Diasporas come into being as a result of the transformation of imperial territories into nation-state territories. [22] In contrast to Diasporas of migrants, these Diasporas spring up without any movement of people and usually against their will. Indeed, in the aftermath of the First World War, millions of people appeared to be in minority status within the newly formed states after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. This population probably won’t have become the object of scientific interest but for A. Davutoglu, who developed the unofficial doctrine of Neo-Ottomanism. AKP attempted to revive historical ties with former Ottoman territories by means of strengthening relationships with Muslim communities abroad. The key uniting components or shaping their Diaspora identity are the idea of a common homeland – the Ottoman Empire and thus Turkey as its successor, a dispersed nation as a result of its collapse, and common religion. In this regard, along with TIKA and the Yunus Emre Institute, a crucial role is played by the Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet), which helps to maintain and develop a Muslim component of identities of the target population abroad.

A breakthrough in Turkish policy towards these three types of populations abroad happened with the foundation of the Presidency for Turks Abroad and Related Communities (YTB) in 2010. First of all, it introduced a term ‘Turks abroad’ (Yurtdışı Türkler in Turkish), which mainly refer to Turkish citizens around the globe, and ‘Related Communities’ (Akraba topluluklar in Turkish), which describes a broad range of people connected to Turkey in many possible ways. The report on YTB’s activities in 2018 shed light on the contemporary official approach of the Turkish state towards what should be considered a Turkish Diaspora: “The main body of the Turkish Diaspora in its traditional meaning consists of Turkish citizens that live abroad and are called ‘Citizens Abroad’. Turks abroad are also referred as ‘Diaspora of Citizens’ or ‘Citizens who live Abroad’. ‘Citizens Abroad’ embraces those people that along with Turkish citizenship have citizenship of another country. The following explanation was provided to the term ‘brother communities’, which in Turkish sounds like kardeş topluluklar. ‘Brother communities’ are people who are close to Turkey in terms of culture and history, and whose material and moral values may strengthen relations with Turkey. They are called ‘Diaspora of brother communities’. [23]

However, in the Turkish mass media these two terms – ‘Diaspora of brother communities’ and ‘Diaspora of citizens’ are used only in the context of citation of official speeches of politicians or describing the activities of YTB. Another important observation is that despite solid political and theoretical framing the term ‘Turkish Diaspora’ still hasn’t been fixed in public opinion and apart from citations of Turkish official leaders generally hasn’t been adopted by the Turkish media. The modern approach is well-illustrated in the news article “Turkish President Erdogan met with Turkish citizens in London”. During his official visit to London on the occasion of the Summit of NATO leaders in December, 2019, Turkish president met not only with Turkish citizens but with Muslim communities as well and made a speech that targeted this population. Along with such term as ‘Turkish citizens’ Erdogan utilize term ‘Diaspora’. Talking about Turkish community in Great Britain Erdogan recognizes the weak sides of Turkish Diaspora in Great Britain as “a weak political and civil dimension”, while stressing that: “Today, comparing to 15-20 years earlier we have much more effective and organized Diaspora” [24]. The fact that his speech targeted both Turkish citizens and Muslim population in Great Britain illustrates the flexibility and malleability of the term Diaspora, Turkish attempts to incorporate a wide range of people into the sphere of its sot power.

It should be noted that despite the fact that significant steps have been made in this direction, in Turkey there is still no consensus on the meaning of ‘Turkish Diaspora’. Turkish politicians, frequently appealing to the population abroad, are using the terms ‘Diaspora’, ‘brothers’, ‘co-ethnics’, ‘kins’, etc. interchangeably. Due to the subjective nature of these terms, the issue of Turkish Diaspora is very controversial. On the one hand, politicians follow a general strategy of creating a Turkish Diaspora via such processes as symbolic nomination, discourse creation and institutionalization. On the other hand, Turkish political leaders use the terms cautiously, trying not to mar Turkey’s relation with the states, where this population resides. The absence of a common approach on the Turkish Diaspora in Turkey is reflected in the same situation in the mass media, where different terminology is being used in this regard: ‘Turkish Diaspora’, ‘Turkish citizens’, ‘Turks abroad’, ‘Turks in Europe’, ‘European Turks’, ‘brothers’, ‘co-ethnics’, etc.


Turkey’s approach towards the Turkish Diaspora has undergone major transformations. Historically, the term ‘Diaspora’ in Turkey had negative connotations due to the historically problematic relations between Turks and such classical Diasporas as the Armenian, Greek and Jewish. In the age of information, many countries of the world have initiated different strategies of creation of their Diasporas and launched programs of closer cooperation with them. Turkey’s policy in this direction started in the 1960s when massive waves of Turkish workers went from Turkey to Western European countries. Turkey’s interest at that time in its migrants was very low and limited to economic income from the migrants’ remittances. In the language of the mass media they were called expatriates and the general discourse highlights the temporal character of Turkish migration and encouragement of migrants’ quicker return to homeland. The second period of Turkey’s policy towards co-nationals began in 1990th and was stimulated by profound political changes on the international arena with the end of the Cold War. Turkish migrants took roots in European countries and started being treated by Turkey as a bridge between Turkey and the EU. A new term was designated to stress their European identity – Euro-Turks. Simultaneously with this process, the collapse of the USSR at that time paved the way to Turkish initiatives aimed at closer engagement with the population of newly formed Turkic republics. The media broadcasted the discourse on brotherhood and linguistic, historical and cultural commonality between Turks in Turkey and their ‘brothers’ not only in Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan but within other non-Turkic states.

The term ‘Turkish Diaspora’ was used for the first time and the discourse on the ‘Turkish Diaspora’ started being shaped at the beginning of 2000, when the Justice and Development Party came to power in Turkey. Turkey has developed an extensive Diaspora strategy which aims at creation powerful and effective Turkish Diaspora that will serve in the interest of the Turkish state. The work on this target is based on three basic tracks: strengthening ties with Turkish citizens all over the globe, Turkic people and Muslim minorities on the territories of the former Ottoman Empire. The mass media, however, rarely appeal to the ‘Turkish Diaspora’ terminology while describing the everyday news regarding either of these populations. These people are usually described as ‘Turkish citizens’, ‘Turks abroad’, ‘Turks in Europe’, ‘European Turks’, ‘brothers’, ‘co-ethnics’, etc. More frequently ‘Turkish Diaspora’ is being used while citing direct speeches of political leaders or describing corresponding political events.

Modern discourse on the issue in Turkish mass media is characterized by active transmission to population of the idea of unity of one dispersed nation, of Turkey as a common homeland to all its members, religious, linguistic, historical and cultural commonality of the target population with the Turkish. In this regard, a more detailed picture on the reflection of Turkish diaspora construction policy in Turkish mass media can be gained with the narrowing of the subbject of the research and employment of quantitative methods.


[1] Anderson, B. (1991). Imagined communities: reflections on the origin and spread of nationalism. New York: Verso.

[2] Schiller, N. G. (2005). Long-distance nationalism. In Ember M., Ember C.R., and I. Skoggard (Eds). Encyclopedia of Diasporas. Boston, MA: Springer.

[3] Bourdieu, P. (1979). Symbolic Power”, Critique of Anthropology, 4: 77.

[4] Тишков, В. (2003). Реквием по этносу: Исследования по социально-культурной антропологии. Москва: Наука, 449. [Tishkov, V. (2003). Rekviem po etnosu: Issledovaniia po sotsial’no-kul’turnoi antropologii. Moskva: Nauka, 449].

[5] Yurtnac, K. (2012). Turkey’s New Horizon: Turks Abroad and Related Communities, SAM Papers, 3: 1-10. http://sam.gov.tr/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/SAM_paper_ing_03.pdf. Retrieved on 10.12.2019.

[6] Yurtnac, K. (2012). Turkey’s New Horizon: Turks Abroad and Related Communities. SAM Papers, 3: 1-10. http://sam.gov.tr/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/SAM_paper_ing_03.pdf. Retrieved on 10.12.2019.

[7] Uçar, M. (2014). Dışarıda Bir Türkiyeli Diaspora Kimliği Oluşturmak Mümkün mü. https://www.academia.edu/11538126/. Retrieved on 10.12.2019.

[8] Diaspora Türkiye’ye yatırıma geliyor. (2009). Timeturk. https://www.timeturk.com/tr/2009/10/09/diaspora-turkiye-ye-yatirima-geliyor.html. Retrieved on 12.12.2019.

[9] Uçar, M. (2014). Dışarıda Bir Türkiyeli Diaspora Kimliği Oluşturmak Mümkün mü. https://www.academia.edu/11538126/. Retrieved on 12.12.2019.

[10] Gurbetçiler, Almanya’da aralarında para toplayıp mahallelerine çeşme yaptırdılar. (23.12.2019). Haberler, https://www.haberler.com/gurbetciler-almanya-da-aralarinda-para-toplayip-12744718-haberi/, Retrieved on 15.12.2019.

[11] Aksel, B. D. (2013). Kins, Distant Workers, Diasporas: Constructing Turkey’s Transnational Members Abroad”. Turkish Studies, 15(2): 205. DOI: 10.1080/14683849.2014.926233.

[12] Türkiye Cumhuriyeti Anayasası (1982). https://www.mevzuat.gov.tr/MevzuatMetin/1.5.2709.pdf, Retrieved on 15.12.2019.

[13] Aksel, B. D. (2013). Kins, Distant Workers, Diasporas: Constructing Turkey’s Transnational Members Abroad”. Turkish Studies, 15(2): 204. DOI: 10.1080/14683849.2014.926233.

[14] Erdoğan: Yurt dışında yaşayan her bir kardeşimiz, Türk milletinin temsilcisidir. (16.12.2019). Haberler.com. https://www.haberler.com/erdogan-yurt-disinda-yasayan-her-bir-kardesimiz-12724538-haberi/. Retrieved on 15.12.2019.

[15] Davutoğlu, A. (2001). Stratejik Derinlik. Istanbul: Küre Yayınları.

[16] Aydın, Y. (2014). The New Turkish Diaspora Policy. SWP Research Paper. https://www.swp-berlin.org/fileadmin/contents/products/research_papers/2014_RP10_adn.pdf. Retrieved on 15.12.2019.

[17] Çalıcıoğlu, B. C. (2014). Dünyada Diaspora Stratejileri Türk Diasporası için Öneriler. A. İsina (Ed.), Türk diasporası ve Türk dünyası, (pp. 79-86). Istanbul: TASAM, 80.

[18] World Turkish Business Council. DEIK. https://www.deik.org.tr/special-purpose-business-councils-world-turkish-business-council. Retrieved on 15.12.2019.

[19] Çalıcıoğlu, B. C. (2014). Dünyada Diaspora Stratejileri Türk Diasporası için Öneriler. A. İsina (ed), Türk diasporası ve Türk dünyası. (pp. 79-86). Istanbul: TASAM.

[20] “7 milyonluk diaspora”. (1.12.2019). In Timeturk. https://www.timeturk.com/yurt-disindaki-turk-vatandaslarinin-sayisi-7-milyona-ulasti/haber-1312269

[21] Türk Diasporası Bakü’de buluştu. (15.10.2019). Haberler.com. https://www.haberler.com/turk-diasporasi-baku-de-bulustu-12528435-haberi/. Retrieved on 12.12.2019

[22] Brubaker, R. (2000). Accidental Diasporas and External “Homelands” in Central and Eastern Europe: Past and Present”. IHS Political Science Series, 71: 1-19. https://www.ssoar.info/ssoar/bitstream/handle/document/24655/ssoar-2000-brubaker-accidental_diasporas_and_external_homelands.pdf?sequence=1. Retrieved on 12.12.2019.

[23] Yurtdışı Türkler ve Akraba Topluluklar Başkanlığı (2018). YTB 2018 yılı idare faaliyet raporu. https://www.ytb.gov.tr/kurumsal/faaliyet-raporlari. Retrieved on 17.12.2019.

[24] Cumhurbaşkanı Erdoğan Londra’da Türk vatandaşlarıyla buluştu. (5.12.2019). TRTHaber.com. https://www.trthaber.com/haber/dunya/cumhurbaskani-erdogan-londrada-turk-vatandaslariyla-bulustu-444663.html. Retrieved on 19.12.2019.


  1. 7 milyonluk diaspora”. (1.12.2019). Timeturk. https://www.timeturk.com/yurt-disindaki-turk-vatandaslarinin-sayisi-7-milyona-ulasti/haber-1312269. Retrieved on 15.12.2019.

  2. Abadan-Unat, N., Çıdam, V., Çınar, D., Kadirbeyoğlu, Z., Kaynak, S., Özay, B. & S. Taş (2014). Voting behaviour of Euro-Turks and Turkeys presidental elections of 2014. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/314207827_Voting_Behavior_of_Euro-Turks_and_Turkeys_Presidential_Elections_of_2014. Retrieved on 25.12.2019.

  3. Adamson, F. (2012). Constructing the Diaspora: Diaspora identity politics and transnational social movements. In Lyons, T. and P. Mandaville (eds.). Politics from afar. Transnational Diasporas and networks, 25-45. London: Hurts&Company.

  4. Aksel, B. D. (2013). Kins, Distant Workers, Diasporas: Constructing Turkey’s Transnational Members Abroad. Turkish Studies, 15(2): 195-219. DOI: 10.1080/14683849.2014.926233.

  5. Anderson, B. (1991). Imagined communities: reflections on the origin and spread of nationalism. New York: Verso.

  6. Aydın, Y., (2014). The New Turkish Diaspora Policy. SWP Research Paper. https://www.swp-berlin.org/fileadmin/contents/products/research_papers/2014_RP10_adn.pdf. Retrieved on 25.12.2019.

  7. Bourdieu, P. (1979). Symbolic Power. Critique of Anthropology, 4: 77-85.

  8. Brubaker, R. (2000). Accidental Diasporas and External “Homelands” in Central and Eastern Europe: Past and Present”. IHS Political Science Series, 71: 1-19. https://www.ssoar.info/ssoar/bitstream/handle/document/24655/ssoar-2000-brubaker-accidental_diasporas_and_external_homelands.pdf?sequence=1. Retrieved on 15.12.2019.

  9. Cumhurbaşkanı Erdoğan Londra’da Türk vatandaşlarıyla buluştu. (5.12.2019). TRTHaber.com. https://www.trthaber.com/haber/dunya/cumhurbaskani-erdogan-londrada-turk-vatandaslariyla-bulustu-444663.html. Retrieved on 17.12.2019.

  10. Çalıcıoğlu, B. C. (2014). Dünyada Diaspora Stratejileri Türk Diasporası için Öneriler. In A. İsina (ed), Türk diasporası ve Türk dünyası, (pp. 79-86). Istanbul: TASAM.

  11. Davutoğlu, A. (2001). Stratejik Derinlik. Istanbul: Küre Yayınları.

  12. De Cillia, R., Reisigl, M. & Wodak, R. (1999). The discursive construction of national identities”. In Discourse & Society, 10(2): 149-173. http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0957926599010002002. Retrieved on 14.12.2019.

  13. Diaspora Türkiye’ye yatırıma geliyor (2009). Timeturk. https://www.timeturk.com/tr/2009/10/09/diaspora-turkiye-ye-yatirima-geliyor.html, Retrieved on 11.12.2019.

  14. Erdoğan: Yurt dışında yaşayan her bir kardeşimiz, Türk milletinin temsilcisidir. (16.12.2019). Haberler.com. https://www.haberler.com/erdogan-yurt-disinda-yasayan-her-bir-kardesimiz-12724538-haberi/. Retrieved on 18.12.2019.

  15. Gamlen, A. (2006). Diaspora engagement policies: What are they, and what kinds of states use them? Centre on Migration, Policy and Society Working Paper 32. Oxford: University of Oxford.

  16. Gellner, E. (1983). Nations and nationalism. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

  17. Glukhov, A. (2016). Construction of national identity through a social network: a case study of ethnic networks of immigrants to Russia from Central Asia. AI & Society, 32(1): 1-8. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/291184899_Construction_of_national_identity_through_a_social_network_a_case_study_of_ethnic_networks_of_immigrants_to_Russia_from_Central_Asia. Retrieved on 19.12.2019.

  18. Gurbetçiler, Almanya’da aralarında para toplayıp mahallelerine çeşme yaptırdılar. (23.12.2019). https://www.haberler.com/gurbetciler-almanya-da-aralarinda-para-toplayip-12744718-haberi/. Retrieved on 17.12.2019.

  19. Kaya, A. & Kentel, F. (2005). Euro-Turks. A bridge or a breach between Turkey and the European Union? Brussels: Centre for European Policy Studies.

  20. Oktem, K. (2014). Turkey’s New Diaspora Policy: The Challenge of Inclusivity, Outreach and Capacity. https://ipc.sabanciuniv.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/14627_Kerem%C3%96ktenWEB.18.08.pdf, Retrieved on 11.12.2019.

  21. Okyay A. S. (2015). Diaspora-making as a state-led project Turkey’s expansive Diaspora strategy and its implications for emigrant and kin populations (Doctoral dissertation). https://cadmus.eui.eu/bitstream/handle/1814/38044/2015_SelinOkyay.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y. Retrieved on 19.12.2019.

  22. Saunders, R. A. (2011). Ethnopolitics in Cyberspace: The Internet, Minority Nationalism, and the Web of Identity. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.

  23. Sırbistan’da ‘Türk Diasporası Kültür ve Dayanışma Gecesi’ (19.7.2019). Timeturk. https://www.timeturk.com/sirbistan-da-turk-diasporasi-kultur-ve-dayanisma-gecesi/haber-1138764. Retrieved on 16.12.2019.

  24. Schiller, N. G. (2005). Long-distance nationalism. In Ember M., Ember C. R., & Skoggard, I. (eds) Encyclopedia of Diasporas. Springer, Boston, MA.

  25. Türk diasporası 165 ülkede harekete geçirilecek. (13.11.2017). In Milliyet. http://www.milliyet.com.tr/siyaset/turk-diasporasi-165-ulkede-harekete-gecirilecek-2554195

  26. Türk Diasporası Bakü’de buluştu. (15.10.2019). In Haberler.com. https://www.haberler.com/turk-diasporasi-baku-de-bulustu-12528435-haberi/. Retrieved on 15.12.2019.

  27. Türkiye Cumhuriyeti Anayasası (1982). https://www.mevzuat.gov.tr/MevzuatMetin/1.5.2709.pdf. Retrieved on 17.12.2019.

  28. Uçar, M. (2014). Dışarıda Bir Türkiyeli Diaspora Kimliği Oluşturmak Mümkün mü. https://www.academia.edu/11538126/. Retrieved on 25.12.2019.

  29. Ulusoy, E. (2017). Diaspora Kavramı ve Türkiye’nin Diaspora Politikalarının Modern Teori Çerçevesinde Sosyo-Politik Bir Analizi. İnsan ve Toplum Dergisi, 7(1): 139-160, DOI: dx.doi.org/10.12658/human.society.7.13.M0167

  30. Ulusoy, E. (2016). Diasporayı yenıden düşünmek. Diaspora teorisi ve tarihsel bağlamda Türkiye’nin diaspora politikası. Ankara: Pegem Akademi.

  31. Unver, C. (2013). Changing Diaspora Politics of Turkey and Public Diplomacy. Turkish Policy Quarterly, 12(1): 181-189. http://turkishpolicy.com/Files/ArticlePDF/changing-diaspora-politics-of-turkey-and-public-diplomacy-spring-2013-en.pdf. Retrieved on 25.11.2019.

  32. Yurtdışı Türkler ve Akraba Topluluklar Başkanlığı. (2018). YTB 2018 yılı idare faaliyet raporu. https://www.ytb.gov.tr/kurumsal/faaliyet-raporlari, Retrieved on 19.12.2019.

  33. Yurtnac, K. (2012). Turkey’s New Horizon: Turks Abroad and Related Communities. SAM Papers, 3: 1-10. http://sam.gov.tr/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/SAM_paper_ing_03.pdf. Retrieved on 17.12.2019.

  34. Waterbury, M. A. (2010). Bridging the divide: towards the comparative framework for understanding kin-state and migrant-sent state Diaspora politics. In Bauböck, R. and T. Faist (eds.), Diaspora and Transnationalism: Concepts, Theories and Methods, (pp. 131-149). Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.

  35. World Turkish Business Council”. DEIK. https://www.deik.org.tr/special-purpose-business-councils-world-turkish-business-council. Retrieved on 15.12.2019.

  36. Тишков, В. (2003). Реквием по этносу: Исследования по социально-культурной антропологии. Москва: Наука. [Tishkov, V. (2003). Rekviem po etnosu: Issledovaniia po sotsialnokulturnoi antropologii. Moskva: Nauka].

Manuscript was submitted: 05.01.2020.

Peer Reviews: since 29.01.2020 till 15.02.2020.


Сп. „Реторика и комуникации“, бр. 43, Април 2020 г.

Rhetoric and Communications Journal, Issue 43, April 2020

Брой 43 на сп. „Реторика и комуникации“, април 2020 г. се издава с финансовата помощ на Фонд научни изследвания, договор № КП-06-НП1/39 от 18 декември 2019 г.

Issue 43 of the Rhetoric and Communications Journal (April 2020) is published with the financial support of the Scientific Research Fund, Contract No. KP-06-NP1/39 of December 18, 2019.