Diaspora Politics: Turkey’s New Balkan Ambassadors
A few steps from the wooden Ottoman fountain that looms over Bascarsija square in central Sarajevo, shoppers in a Turkish grocery store browse tea, spices and Turkish delight.
Murat Ozkaya, the store's owner, considers himself a trailblazer. The former stockbroker from the eastern Turkish city of Malatya built his business after falling for a Bosnian woman and moving to Sarajevo 12 years ago to marry her.
Back then, most migration between the two countries went in the opposite direction. But in the decade since he opened his shop — along with several other businesses, including a Turkish textiles store — he has watched Turkish immigration to Bosnia and Herzegovina take off.
"Our population is growing; many are coming," said Ozkaya, sipping a Turkish coffee at a café in Sarajevo's old town, not far from his grocery store. "I sincerely hope that one of us will enter [Bosnia's] parliament one day. I hope that Turkey will have policies to support this."
Across the Balkans, a rising number of Turks are putting down roots in places that were once pins on the map of the Ottoman Empire. Many are drawn by opportunities for enterprise, investment, education or love. Others have rediscovered ancestral links to nations on Turkey's doorstep.
Whatever their motives, members of this new diaspora bring Turkish language, culture and values to their adopted homelands. They are the everyday faces of a more assertive Turkey, a century after the collapse of Ottoman rule.
Analysts say the opportunity to mobilise Turks abroad to pedal soft power is not lost on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose increasingly authoritarian rule at home has put him at loggerheads with Western powers and made Ankara's hopes of joining the European Union look...