In the shadow of the predecessor: why has Ankara withdrawn its diplomat from Tatarstan?

The Consul General of Turkey in Kazan has unexpectedly announced his resignation, although six months are left until the end of his two-year term

The Consul General of Turkey in Kazan made an unexpected statement at the briefing on trade cooperation between Tatarstan and Turkey on 11 July. Ahmet Sadık Doğan announced his resignation referring to the expiring two-year term of office. However, in fact, this period is going to finish only in January 2020, and the diplomat is leaving in the coming weeks. What is behind the Ankara's decision to withdraw the diplomat, how its contribution is assessed in our republic and who can replace him — read more details in the material of Realnoe Vremya.

Return to Turkey

The conversation with journalists about the development of trade and economic relations between Tatarstan and Turkey ended with the sensation — the Consul General of Turkey in Kazan Ahmet Sadık Doğan unexpectedly announced his resignation.

“I would like to say goodbye to you because my term in Kazan has ended. I'm going back to Turkey in a few weeks. This is a surprise for you,” the consul general joked, noticing the reaction his words provoked in the press. “I am sure that the next consul general will contribute to the development of both Russian-Turkish and Tatarstan-Turkish relations. Kazan and Tatarstan are very important to us. It is a great honour to be a Consul General and a Turkish diplomat in Russia.”

Ahmet Sadık Doğan added that Russia is an important partner for Turkey and his country appreciates cooperation with it: “I have always supported the development of these relations and am very proud to have worked in this position.” At the same time, the consul general noted how important it was to carry out this work particularly in Tatarstan:

“The importance of Tatarstan for us lies primarily in our close cultural and historical ties. The relations with Tatarstan as a subject of the Russian Federation make an important contribution to the development of relations between Turkey and Russia as a whole. So I'm leaving with a very pleasant experience.”

Early resignation

Doğan added that during his work he was lucky to visit other regions, he called Russia “a very strong and powerful country”. He highlighted the Volga region for the wealth of natural resources, developed agriculture, but the best impressions, he said, he has from the level of education, culture and art. Answering the question about plans for the future, the diplomat said that he was returning to Ankara — to the foreign ministry.

Ahmet Sadık Doğan made it clear that he knew his successor but did not name him to the press until his candidacy was agreed with the host country. So, the final word belongs to Tatarstan?

“That’s not exactly so, this is a joint agreement with the Russian foreign ministry, we are only one of the parties, while due to diplomatic obligations the name is not announced,” official representative of the Kazan Kremlin Lilia Galimova told Realnoe Vremya.

Doğan took the post of Consul General of Turkey in Kazan on 15 January 2018, that is less than two years ago, and returns to Ankara ahead of schedule. The consul general himself explained this requirement of the legislation of his country — Turkish diplomats are forbidden to be abroad for more than five years. Taking into account his work in the diplomatic mission in Bulgaria to Tatarstan, this term has already been expired, he says. In Sofia, he was the first adviser to the Turkish Embassy from 2014 to 2017.

“Turkey is one of our most reliable partners today. And, of course, the figure of the consul general plays an important role in building diplomatic and business ties. We are grateful to Mr Doğan for his personal involvement in strengthening our relationship. This consistent work has been carried out since the establishment of the Consulate General of Turkey in Kazan, since 1996. The indicators of foreign trade turnover with Turkey are evidence of active joint work. By the end of 2018, it reached 313,9 million USD. The volume of foreign investments from the Turkish Republic amounted to 46 million USD, direct investments out of which — 23 million USD,” the Kazan Kremlin commented to our publication on the work of the Turkish diplomat.

“He failed to fully integrate into our environment”

It is noteworthy that the Turkish laws did not prevent the predecessor of Doğan — Turhan Dilmaç — from working in Russia for eight years: first at the embassy of his country in Moscow (2010-2014), then at the Consulate General in Kazan (2014-2018). What is really behind the early resignation of the current consul general? He himself made some strange diplomatic wording about his resignation:

“We always support the development of our relations, always work in this direction and do not deviate from the goal. But if you cannot achieve the goal, you need to change not the goal, but the work plan — then everything will turn out.”

Orientalist Azat Akhunov notes that the Turkish foreign ministry, appointing and removing different people in different diplomatic missions, takes into account the opinion of diplomats and local elites. He does not exclude that the current consul general of Turkey himself asked to reassign him to a new place. It is possible that either Ankara or Kazan could be dissatisfied with his work.

“Sadık Doğan has failed to fully integrate into our environment,” emphasizes our interlocutor. “And perhaps, the appointment to Kazan was a burden for him, unlike for his predecessors. There were consul generals who worked for a year, and some remained for three terms.”

So, according to Akhunov, the previous consul general, Turhan Dilmaç, “took a fancy” to Tatarstan and were not eager to leave the region. Here, he established close ties with businessmen, cultural figures and authorities. When the Turkish-Russian relations soured, Dilmaç managed to save face and together with the leadership of the Republic of Tatarstan to keep the Turkish business in the region.

“Doğan for some time was in the shadows of his predecessor, of course, they were compared. He was expected to take independent steps. But anything noticeable wasn't made: for this, it is necessary to stay longer. In Russia, the projects are not implemented quickly — this is due to our bureaucracy. On his part, there was no desire to intensify cultural life: to come up with proposals for exhibitions, concerts, cooperation in the field of science. Year of Turkey was not so noticeable in Tatarstan. He was expected to make a breakthrough in business. Apparently, the process of adaptation has not been successful,” the expert found shortcomings in the work of the diplomat.

According to Akhunov, Kazan acted as a mediator between Moscow and Ankara. But since Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan solve all issues directly, the role of the Consulate General in the capital of the Republic of Tatarstan began to recede into the second place.

The cool wind of Bashkiria

The consular district of the Turkish representation in Kazan includes six regions of the Volga Federal District: Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, Chuvashia, Mordovia, Mari El and Samara Oblast. According to preliminary estimates, 3,500 Turkish citizens live here.

If with the leadership of Tatarstan Sadyk-Bey met quite often at different sites, then with the neighbouring Bashkiria it was not going so smoothly. So, at the end of last year, he paid his first official visit to Ufa. As the diplomat said in an interview with Realnoe Vremya after the arrival to Kazan, in the Bashkir capital he met with the business community of the republic, Chairman of the Central Muslim Spiritual Board Talgat Tajuddin, visited universities, the mosque, the sanatorium.

As for meetings with the leadership of the region, he talked only to Prime Minister Rustem Mardanov, who in those days left his post and moved to a new place of work in Yekaterinburg. As it turned out, appointed in Bashkiria “bashlyk” Radiy Khabirov, who at his time was trained in Turkey, did not find time to meet with the Turk that day.

“This is a diplomatic practice: consul generals meet with the heads of the regions that belong to their consular district. The consul general is always happy to meet with the top person of Bashkiria. The government of the republic is aware of this. I hope, next time it will be possible,” Doğan tactfully explained to our correspondent the situation.

Apparently, a meeting Khabirov has never taken place in the Volga Federal District over the year and a half, at least official one. On the information resources of the authorities of Bashkortostan, there is no mention of this. On the other hand, in recent years, the Chinese economic and political influence has become noticeable in Ufa, which cannot but bother the states that have been working in Ufa for a long time.

Turkish companies have successfully operated in the republic for many years, which were not closed even during the Russian-Turkish political tension. First of all, these are two plants — Ruscam (the production of glass packaging) and Efes Pilsner (brewing). In addition, in Ufa and other cities, there are Turkish medium and small businesses, which are represented in the production of textiles, food industry, catering, etc. Turkey buys the products of the petrochemical industry in Bashkiria. In turn, textiles and machine-building parts are supplied to the region. However, more than 70% of the turnover accounts for the exports from Bashkortostan.

The successor: one from the post-Soviet space, who knows Russian

Whom will Turkey appoint to Kazan? The current consul general and his predecessor worked in the post-Soviet space (Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan), are married to Russians and speak Russian. It is possible that Ankara will support this trend and appoint to Kazan a man who has previously worked in the CIS.

“Tatarstan and Bashkortostan are special regions that are important for Turkey,” Akhunov continues. “Therefore, here it is needed an active person, who should treat this land with love, understand the local population. There should be no arrogant attitude to the Tatars and Bashkirs — like to younger brothers. The leadership of Tatarstan is ready to support any projects of Turkey that will benefit the region and both countries if the republic is treated as an equal partner.”

Russia, which is under Western sanctions, needs foreign investment. The heads of regions are given the instruction to attract them. Turkey, according to the expert, is a good help in this matter. Therefore, President of Tatarstan Rustam Minnikhanov and Acting Head of Bashkiria Radiy Khabirov are interested in an active mediator from Ankara. The new consul general is expected to occupy a certain position among the local elites.

By Vasilya Shirshova, Timur Rakhmatullin