''When will a Tatar restaurant open in Turkey? We want it very much''
Realnoe Vremya’s interview with Consul General of Turkey in Kazan Ahmet Sadık Doğan
Consul General of Turkey in Kazan Ahmet Sadık Doğan arrived in the capital of Tatarstan two and a half months ago. However, during this time, the diplomat had the time to meet with officials of Tatarstan and neighbouring regions, held a cultural event and gave an interview to Realnoe Vremya's correspondent. In a talk with our journalist, the Turkish ambassador told about his first talk with representatives of Tatarstan authorities. He also shared his vision of the development of bilateral relations between Turkey and the regions included in his consular district. Doğan also mentioned problematic questions that he inherited from Turhan Dilmaç.
''The reception was very warm''
Mr Doğan, what has already been done during this short time since your appointment to Kazan?
Firstly, I would like to express my respect for Realnoe Vremya's readers – it's a very good and quality newspaper. It's a great honour for me to work here, in the Republic of Tatarstan of the Russian Federation. Two and a half months have passed since my appointment. We've had meetings with officials of the republic. Apart from Tatarstan, the republics of Bashkortostan, Chuvashia, Mari El, Mordovia and Samara Oblast are included in our consular district. Here we will work to strengthen our trade and economic and cultural links – it's the main task of the consulate general. And here I'm glad that everybody meets halfway, help us in different issues.
You've been in Russia for two and a half months. Where did you work before Kazan?
Right before being appointed to Kazan, I worked in the Embassy of Turkey in Sofia (Bulgaria), earlier I had worked in foreign representative offices in Kazakhstan (Almaty, Astana), embassies in Ukraine (Kyiv), Great Britain (London).
Judging by our first talk, you've learnt Russian well. How long have you been learning the language of Tolstoy and Pushkin?
I didn't learn the Russian language in any educational establishments, academic courses. It's my own effort.
Are you also going to improve your Tatar skills?
I also try to learn Tatar, this is why I take private classes. As a person speaking Turkish, I understand Tatar. We have many common words, similar grammar. So I think it will be easy to learn Tatar. I like to learn languages wherever I go.
Have you ever maybe done science?
I did scientific research earlier. After I graduated from the department of international relations, I studied criminal law. Now, unfortunately, there isn't a chance to continue the academic activity, neither is there time. Moreover, I would like to have such a possibility. Now all efforts are concentrated on the main work, of course. For instance, there is a desire to study international relations or criminal law further. I'm interested in the history of the region, I love to read about the culture of people, countries. All this knowledge enrich us.
I didn't learn the Russian language in any educational establishments, academic courses. It's my own effort. I also try to learn Tatar, this is why I take private classes
What instructions did your predecessor Turhan Dilmaç give you when you arrived in Kazan?
Indeed, when one consul general hands over his power to another one, he gives him some information. So was it here, he told about the contacts that were established, the work that is done, so that it will be possible to develop these areas further. We always keep in touch with the previous colleague. Every consul general works conserving the continuity and adding something himself.
You were sent here in winter. What do you think of Russian frost?
It doesn't concern me a lot. We, in general, got used to frost, this is why we don't feel discomfort. People here are open, good-natured, the welcome is warm – it's enough for us.
During this time, you've already had meetings with the officials of the republic – president Rustam Minnikhanov, State Adviser Mintimer Shaimiev and others. How was the first contact?
Assuming our responsibilities in a region, we, first of all, meet with officials. The authorities of the region in the person of the president of Tatarstan give great importance to cooperation between Tatarstan and Turkey. The president and I share the opinion that the cooperation of Tatarstan and Turkey makes a big contribution to the relationship of the Russian Federation with our country by noticeably enriching it. Officials of the republic pay great attention to trade and economic relations. I would like Turkey to know more about Tatarstan products and Turkish products to be known in Tatarstan. Tourism, especially health tourism, is also very important for us. Developing relations of twin cities are important. We discussed it all with the president. The president assured us that Tatarstan competent bodies would support the activity of the consulate general by all means.
We also met with Chairman of the Tatarstan State Council Farid Mukhametshin. Deputies received us very warmly, what we thank them for. Later we participated in the celebration of Nowruz together with Mr Mukhametshin. Mr Mukhametshin said he pays attention to cultural and social diaspora here. We provide him information on what we will do in this area further. We also opened an exhibition of Tatarstan artist Polina Ilyushkina Welcome, Nowruz, Spring Holiday! The summer tourist season is opening in Turkey, and our exhibition is dedicated to it. The artist depicted many tourist regions of our country on her paintings. As a consulate general, we will continue supporting Tatarstan art workers. We will also support charity initiatives. This exhibition is our first event of this kind. We feel deep respect for Mr Shaimiev as a state activist and social leader who has rich experience.
''We would like our president to visit Tatarstan''
The previous consul general's working time coincided with the uneasy period of aggravation of relations between Russia and Turkey. Do you think our countries managed to reach the pre-crisis level?
As it's known, Mr Putin was in Ankara from 3 to 4 April where an away session of the High-Level Russian-Turkish Cooperation Council took place. There was created a basis for big investments in power engineering: the two presidents laid the foundation of Akkuyu nuclear power plant. The investment project is estimated at more than $20 billion. The nuclear power plant will cover 10% of the country's energy needs. We've talked about these areas more in recent time. Our President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan noticed a very important thing: Russian-Turkish relations passed the exam, and this exam was successful. The events that happened only forged our links. We got out of this situation stronger and more powerful. We think the bright future of our relations will be reflected in different spheres of our cooperation.
Undoubtedly, we would like our president to visit Tatarstan. However, competent bodies mutually decide when to plan such high-level visits
Could you tell if the trade relations or tourism reached that level?
Big progress is seen in trade and economic relations, the volume of external economic cooperation grows. 4,7 million of Russian tourists visited Turkey last year. This digit is supposed to be bigger this year, at least, it's what we want. We hope relations will only strengthen and develop in all spheres.
Won't Russian tourists be afraid of going to Turkey where, as far as we remember, there was an attempted coup, terrorist attacks took place almost every week?
Safety conditions for Russian tourists are provided, otherwise we wouldn't achieve such indicators as 4,7 million of Russians who came to Turkey, and the number of booked hotel rooms wouldn't increase this year.
Are any visa restrictions expected?
Our visa regime is quite liberal. And there aren't and there won't be any problems for the Russian tourist in this respect.
You said Putin had recently visited Ankara. Can we expect Erdoğan in Kazan in the short run?
Undoubtedly, we would like our president to visit Tatarstan. However, competent bodies mutually decide when to plan such high-level visits. We receive Tatarstan officials in Turkey with pleasure. We hope such visits will continue in the future.
I'd like to wish a successful championship. We understand what an important event it is. And if citizens of Turkey will come to watch matches, it's a good opportunity for Kazan to become more recognisable
So does it mean that Erdoğan will watch football on TV?
As we started to talk about football, I'd like to wish a successful championship. We understand what an important event it is. And if citizens of Turkey will come to watch matches, it's a good opportunity for Kazan to become more recognisable.
Are you going to Kazan Arena stadium to support your favourite team?
Yes, I would like to watch matches.
''External trade turnover with Tatarstan is $250-300 million''
Mr Doğan, how is Turkish business represented in the other Volga cities included in your consular district? Are there maybe any statistics?
The overall Turkish investments in Russia total more than $10 billion. A bit more than $2 billion of them are in Tatarstan. About $500 million are Efes and Ruscam's investments in Ufa (Bashkiria). When you look at these indicators, you understand the investments aren't small. Moreover, we need to augment paces. When foreign investors come to Turkey, investments of foreign companies, in fact, are considered Turkish. And we provide the best conditions and necessary support to these companies like we would do this for our companies. We consider foreign investments as ours. We're convinced the attitude is the same here. I told about indicators in tourism earlier. External trade turnover with Tatarstan is $250-300 million. Of course, we wish growth.
Millions of Russians, as you said, go on holiday to Turkish resorts. Are Turks ready to come here as tourists?
We would like it very much. But the visa regime for Turkish citizens needs to be simplified to increase the turnover of mutual trips.
Turkish cuisine is very rich and diverse. We wish our cuisine to be here as widely spread as possible. At the same time, it would be good to see return moves
Are Turkish restaurateurs who were quite numerous in the 1990s and early 2000s going back to Volga Federal District cities?
We also would like them to be present, as it's also part of investments. Turkish cuisine is very rich and diverse. We wish our cuisine to be here as widely spread as possible. At the same time, it would be good to see return moves. In this respect, I will ask you a question: when will a Tatar restaurant open in Turkey? We want it very much.
Could you share your plans for the next year? What areas would you like to improve in your work?
There is going to be a busy year. The schedule is tight. As I said, 2019 is declared Bilateral Culture and Tourism Year in Russia and Turkey, this is why a big number of events in Kazan and Moscow are planned. Visits of delegations of businesspeople are constantly paid, different meetings take place. Yunus Emre Cultural Centre opened in Moscow. We would also want to open a cultural centre here to organise big events. We would be able to hold big concerts, recitals on a big platform. It all requires hard work. I want to strengthen our cultural and humanitarian links. It will be possible to do it all on the basis of mutual understanding. The corresponding high level of our relations gives us big hopes.