A long history of mutual enmity is exacerbating tension between Turkey and Russia. Leaders in both countries are apt to view their current hostilities through the prism of a bitterly contested imperial past.
“There is a good old, nasty feeling between those countries,” observed Turkish historian Ayhan Aktar of Istanbul’s Bilgi University. “There have been over the centuries several military encounters, [and] Turkey lost all of them. And then there was the Cold War against [the] Soviet Union, but for Turks it was always the Russians.”
Over the past 500 years, Russians and Turks have fought 12 wars, the first in 1568 over the Astrakhan khanate, located where the Volga River flows into the Caspian Sea. The last was during World War I, a conflict that hastened the collapse of both empires.
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Dorian Jones is a freelance reporter based in Istanbul. Elizabeth Owen is EurasiaNet’s Caucasus/Turkey news editor in Tbilisi.