The recently improving relations between Turkey and Balkan nations have increased Balkan interest in Turkey; however, people in the Balkans do not have good access to information about the country, and a Croatian diplomat has stepped in to fill this gap.
The consul general of the Republic of Croatia in İstanbul, Amir Muharemi, is one Balkan citizen who has personal experience with this gap, and he has now contributed to the literature on Turkey in his native language, Croatian, with a newly released book, “Turska: Uvod u povijest, unutarnju i vanjsku politiku” (Turkey: Introduction to History, Internal and External Affairs).
Muharemi first studied Turkish foreign policy in 1995 as a postgraduate student. His book includes his observations and vast knowledge gained as a diplomat who worked in two Turkish metropolises -- İstanbul and Ankara. The book is a resource for Croatian readers who wish to learn about the history and politics of Turkey.
In 1995, at the time of the conclusion of the Bosnian War, Muharemi was still a university student while he worked for the Croatian Ministry of Defense. On a professor's advice, he worked on Turkish politics.
“At the time, Turkey was not such an interesting country,” he said in an interview with Today's Zaman, adding that it was impossible to find any academic research on Turkey in Croatian. He traveled to İstanbul to find books and articles about Turkish foreign policy.
Muharemi told of the many stores and libraries he visited in search of articles and papers written on his area of study. It took days for him to copy the material he found in the libraries.
Later, he returned to Zagreb with a wealth of material. Having realized the shortcomings of academic research on Turkish foreign policy in his native language, he intended to write a book, but his interest in Turkey receded after he began working as the principal clerk to the Croatian president. He was later appointed to the Croatian representative office at the UN. In 2001, he was sent from New York to Ankara and the post of ambassador, and he returned to his studies on Turkey. He became the Croatian consul general in İstanbul in 2005 at his own request.
Muharemi has spent the last year-and-a-half writing his book, which he describes as a good place to start in a region where people are still prejudiced against Turkey, a bias rooted in the Ottoman domination of the Balkans. He says the Balkan nations and Turkey must get to know each other, and his book serves this purpose by introducing Turkey to his homeland of Croatia.
The 300-page book relates events from the eras of the Seljuks and the Ottomans, the two Turkish states to precede the Republic of Turkey. He focuses on the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) and includes the “Nutuk” (Great Speech) authored by the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, explaining the birth of the republic.
He also provides readers with a list of references for further reading on the history and foreign policy of Turkey.