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Down with Turkey! Russia's sudden movement to expunge all things Turkish

Source: Meduza
Photo: Vitaly Timkiv / TASS / Scanpix

Relations between Russia and Turkey have deteriorated dramatically since the Turkish Air Force shot down a Russian Su-24 in Syria on November 24. In response, Vladimir Putin has issued an executive order banning the hiring of Turkish workers. Russia also suspended Turks' ability to travel to Russia without visas. Russian tourist agencies are now banned from selling holiday packages to Turkey, and all chartered flights to the country must be cancelled. On December 1, the Russian government issued a list of newly restricted or banned Turkish goods, applying mostly to vegetables, fruits, poultry meat, and salt. In the meantime, various Russian administrative departments have begun running checks on Turkish citizens, for example, at exhibitions, higher-education establishments, and construction sites. Some deputies have proposed a ban on Turkish TV series, Turkish construction workers, and students from Turkey. Meduza presents a brief overview of Russia's new anti-Turkey campaign. 

Detainments and Checks

Turkish citizens have been subject to mass inspections conducted by Russian state agencies, according to the news agency Mediazona. In several regions, the Federal Migration Service (FMS) and FSB (Russian Federal Security Service) are carrying out checks of construction sites. At a construction site managed by the Turkish company Mebe in the Moscow suburb of Khimki, 400 people were detained. All were checked for involvement in the dissemination of extremist literature. In Moscow, at a site near the Dobryninskaya metro station, FMS officers carried out a search for architects and engineers with Turkish citizenship. The raid resulted in 20 people being detained.

The FMS Regional Office has issued reports on the detainment of Turks for several days now. In Kuban, 39 attendees to an agro-industrial exhibition have been detained. In North Ossetia, 16 Turks were detained and expelled from Russia.

The Federal Service for Drug Control (FSKN) has also joined the fight against Turkish nationals. FSKN officers raided a dormitory at Saratov State University and found four Turkmen who had used drugs. 27 Turkish citizens have been sent for medical examination for confirmation.

Not only are Turks suspect, but even the word “Turkish” has become problematic in Russia. For example in Saratov, a cafe named "Turkish Tandoor" was scheduled for inspection. This prompted the cafe's owners to cover up the word "Turkish" on their store sign. The establishment is now called simply "Tandoor."

"Turkish Tandoor" covers the first word of its name.

There were even reports that Michael Turetsky, the leader of the music grouo Turetsky Choir, planned to change his last name in response to the conflict with Turkey, though he later said it was only a joke.

Potential New Bans

State Deputies at various levels have thought up still more ways to exact revenge upon the Turks. At a meeting of the State Duma, Communist Deputies Valery Rashkin and Sergei Obukhov asked Education Minister Dmitry Livanov to deprive Turkish students of their free education quota. In their opinion, state funds are better spent on educating Iranians, Syrians, and other nationals of friendly Middle Eastern countries. The two Deputies believe this will “sober Ankara.”

Without specifying how he hoped to implement it, Moscow City Duma Deputy Yevgeny Gerasimov proposed a ban on broadcasting Turkish shows on Russian television. Since 2012, Russian stations have aired "Magnificent Century," a Turkish TV series about Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. The latest installment was aired in February this year. “Viewers of the Domashny channel look forward to the next part in the popular series, 'Magnificent Century: Sultan Kösem.' The channel is airing the show exclusively in 2016,” writes Ponedelnik, a news publication.

A State Duma Deputy from the political party "A Just Russia," Dmitry Ushakov, said the government had to exclude Turkish company ICA, which is building a highway in St. Petersburg. “For its work in the construction project, ICA earns multi-billion dollar revenue, which then goes to Turkey and its national budget, which includes [funding for] the Turkish military,” Ushakov said. In Krasnoyarsk, prosecutors have begun checking the legality of at least Turkish company's real estate on the embankment of the Yenisei.

The Head of the Duma Property Issues Committee, Sergei Gavrilov, said it would be good to transfer the Cathedral of St. Sophia in Istanbul to the Russian Orthodox Church (the Museum of Hagia Sophia is presently located there).

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The anti-Turkish campaign has affected not just Turks, but also Russians. The newspaper Fontanka reports that travelers at the Russian-Finnish border carrying Turkish visas in their passports were asked to give details about why they'd gone to Turkey, which cities they'd visited, and so on. When the travelers asked why they were being asked such questions, the border guards reportedly said nothing and "only smiled."

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