The shooting that took place in Turkey, killing Russian Ambassador Andrej Karlov, brought up several similarities between the functionality of the primary power structures in Russia and Turkey. President Vladimir Putin of Russia and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey are both elected officials who maintained power in similar manners; the post-election, pseudo-participatory, experience of reelection in both countries were both followed by constitutional amendments that have been gradually altering the role of president. The functions thereof, seem to reflect more of an authoritative agenda with the increased disregard for human life in the wake of the struggle for power on an international level.
The trend of international actors turning a blind eye to the lives of citizens in the name of maintaining power and displaying dominance has taken a toll on political culture — particularly in Turkey and Russia. The assassination of Ambassador Karlov and the coinciding words of the shooter, “Don’t forget Aleppo,” serves as a representation of an act of desperation to counter the mindless destruction taking place at the hand. However, it is the imposed reactions that are “required” of the nation's inhabitants by the main authority and decision makers. It is such ideology of either Erdogan or Putin that shapes the political actions that follow.
These actions have their implications on both a domestic and international level; in the case of Turkey and Russia, the authoritative favoring of capital dominance, as opposed to the life of man. The interpretation of political opinions of the two head of states in Turkey and Russia may lead to further international gloom with the undermining of a functional democracy. It seems, however, that the disregard for human life is not the main goal for Putin or even Erdogan. Talks of ceasefire and a call for peace agreements as a proposal of Russia show that there may be something more than military assault.
The power of an individual’s interpretation that is imposed upon an entire population can be foundational in shaping the nation’s opinions on its own government and the rest of the world. Political culture in the field of comparative politics is defined as the opinion of the population of the given country towards the leading figures in domestic politics and of the government. Media coverage and communication is key in informing of a public, thus giving a platform to formulate opinions thereof.
For instance, the televised comments of Putin’s meeting in the Kremlin expressed confidence that the attack last week on the Russian ambassador was done with a governmental agenda backed by the intention of Erdogan to dissolve ties between Russia and Turkey. There was a haunting implied concern of the shooter for the atrocity in Aleppo. As such, the accusation from Putin that this shooting was an action to dissolve any attempt for peace in Syria is questionable. It is important to note that the tensions between Russia and Turkey sparked since the Russian airspace trespassing in Turkey last fall. Many decrees of the Turkish and Russian leaders have been more inclined the interest to preserve power within the presidential position.
On the other hand, Turkey’s leader Erdogan is confident that the seed of the attack rooted from Fethullah Gulen, an exiled Turkish cleric. A man who Erdogan accused of stewing the military coup this July, Gulen was widely condemned by Erdogan for endorsing emancipative values that undermine the government’s authority. This entire motion of blaming the underdog and imposing umbrellas over the nature of their actions continues to lead the rulers toward this mutated truth.
Thousands of members of the Gulen Movement were arrested this summer after being accused of inciting the military backfire. However, it was the great pushback that Erdogan followed with that demonstrated his intolerance of ideas branching from the upholding of his regime. A commonality of a vulnerability of democracy upon inspection over a veiled autocracy can also be drawn with the president.
With Putin assuming that the action of the Turkish assassin was in hopes to dissolve any forward movement with Syria negotiations as well as in anti-terrorism, he makes several implications about the nature of his interests. Firstly, that the truest form of Democracy may not be the priority. In the call to crackdown on fighting terrorism which takes that shape of a machine that has been killing civilians as a justification for the hopelessness of violence. When human rights are so deeply violated as is the case of Aleppo, democracy is lost and claiming its observance after having instructed the obliteration of innocent civilians — all in the name of power.
Consideration of human rights in the overall process of constitutional change to grant more power to Erdogan and Putin are undermined. Prospective thoughts regarding potential changes in behavior in terms of the destruction of Aleppo are skewed in this light. To allow and endorse the continuation of mass killings in the name of security leaves a sour taste in the mouth.
However, there may be an alternate motive to the national “opinions” imposed by the two leaders, despite the fact that they are dangerous for human rights. At this point, the legitimacy of the state of democracy in Turkey and Russia may be reaching its end when the life of an individual is Syria in the hand of a foreign government. In addition, the measures taken to destroy another country’s civilization tell a lot about the willingness of the leader. Both Turkey’s and Russia’s leaders strike a chord with the fight against terrorism; for this, it seems that they also have a similar methodology in attaining this.
However, a beacon of hope shines through, as Turkey and Russia have agreed to a ceasefire, along with this a suggestion of a ‘political resolution’ in Syria. The fact that the agreement entails the downfall of a relentless leader shows that the communication of this to the governed, is essential in a process toward truth and even efficacy. The Turkish Shooter may have disrupted a nation, but his actions may have also incited governmental change. As the imposed opinion of the leaders onto the people entail ceasefire, the evolution of truth may be coming back to objectivity. Most importantly, however, is the fact that throughout the outcry against destruction in Syria, voices and events must have been heard from the top to bring about the agreement from earlier this week.
Despite the hope coinciding with the talk of a ceasefire, there has been a long drawn out pattern of disregard for agreements, so one should be wary before coming to any conclusions regarding the nature of the future result. The similarity in undermining truth to beget a self-interested path of government between Russia and Turkey brings up many questions about the legitimacy of the proclaimed democracy. Not only do the imposition of falsehoods or opinions on a public bring about fault lines in an authentic democracy, but bit by bit, the residue of falsehood resonates deeper into a collective recognition of corruption.
The power of knowledge is so immense, that it just takes accumulation to take the foundation out from under a system. While Erdogan and Putin continue to push the limits of manipulation, it is only a matter of time that the world will truly know when the veil of democracy crumbles.
Political Science Writer
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