Hagia Sophia - a trial balloon: what are the consequences of turning the museum into a mosque
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Hagia Sophia - a trial balloon: what are the consequences of turning the museum into a mosque

16 July , 09:53
Having broken such an important part of Ataturk’s legacy as the status of Hagia Sophia, Erdogan gives a signal - if necessary, he can reconsider the other foundations of the Republic of Turkey as well.

Turkish expert Timur Akhmetov and journalist Kirill Krivosheev commented on the website of the Carnegie Moscow Center the scandalous decision of President Erdogan to return the status of a mosque to the famous Hagia Sophia temple.

The authors believe that this step of the Turkish president is deeply symbolic, and means that from now on this country is ready to revise the document of any age, whether it concerns the islands in the Aegean, Cyprus, Syria and even the Bosphorus and Dardanelles.

Meanwhile, as Erdogan strengthens his power with all his might, including zeroing out the presidential term in a referendum, things are getting worse and worse, the lira is falling, prices and taxes are rising, and the coronavirus pandemic is also detrimental. And all this background of some international successes, mainly military ones.

This is because Erdogan needs to constantly confirm his own legitimacy, to go "from one great goal to another." And the transformation of Hagia Sophia into a mosque is from the same series, because the name of Erdogan is unwittingly, but already inscribed in history, and completely bloodless.

In addition, in addition to raising his own rating by this step, Erdogan also tried to quarrel between the opposition, since the question “a mosque or a museum?” Is, in fact, an analogue of the Russian “whose Crimea?”.

However, the opposition did not split and was not distracted from the struggle against autocracy, but on the contrary: both secular Kemalists and conservatives said that an architectural monument with a 1500-year history should not become the object of political games and a victim of the situation.

From a legal point of view, the argument for revising Atatürk’s decision on the Sofia Museum is simple. According to Islamic traditions, if a wealthy Muslim can donate an entire building (a school, a bakery, a mosque) to charity, and he gives it to some kind of foundation - waqf (wakfu). Vacuum property is considered inalienable even after the patron’s death, and the income from it goes to public needs.

When Sultan Mehmed II the Conqueror conquered Constantinople in 1453, Hagia Sophia was just military booty, which he turned into a mosque and transferred to waqf - for his subjects. There have been many such waqfs in the history of Turkey, so a special commission was created at Ataturk to eliminate them.

So today's plaintiff stated that the transformation of Hagia Sophia into a museum in 1934 is contrary to the will of the Sultan from the 15th century, that is, illegally. Although before the courts even refused to consider such cases - about waqfs...

And although in Russia, deputies and the Russian Orthodox Church appealed to the Turkish authorities not to reconsider the decision of the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, a friendly conversation between Putin and Erdogan on July 13 showed that Hagia Sophia would not have any effect on relations between Moscow and Ankara.

Most likely there will be a compromise with UNESCO. The Turks will somehow hide the Christian mosaics for the duration of their prayers, without destroying them, and everyone will be satisfied.

The point is different: changing the status of Hagia Sophia is not a challenge to Russia, but to Greece, as the heiress of the Byzantine Empire, which Ataturk, according to Erdogan, has made many concessions. For example, on the map of the Aegean Sea, you can see that the tiny islands one kilometer from the Turkish coast and a hundred from the Greek belong to Greece, which is very inconvenient for Ankara and constantly provokes scandals. So, having done away with Hagia Sophia, Erdogan may well begin revising other international agreements imposed by Turkey, including the redistribution of the Mediterranean shelf, and Turkey’s control over the Bosphorus and Dardanelles, no matter how frightening it may sound. Erdogan already showed his attitude to such agreements when, quite recently, Turkish border guards broke a part of the fortifications on the border with Greece with a bulldozer to give refugees access to the Schengen zone...

And this is not to mention the fact that within the country itself the law "On insulting the memory of Ataturk", holy for modern Turkey, can be repealed, or criminal liability for adultery, or the legalization of polygamy, which actually already exists in some areas, may be introduced....

Meanwhile, the West will puzzle over what to do with Erdogan, and Erdogan will gain political points and bargain for concessions. The status of Hagia Sophia is a trial balloon along this path, the authors conclude.

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