Red apple is a model of Turkish nationalism –


Turks develop their conception of the promised land

It may have been noticed recently that Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan quite often uses the slogan “Hedefimiz Kızıl Elma”, which means “The red apple is our goal”. The permanent author of Realnoe Vremya, Bulat Nogmanov, discusses the specifics of this complex model of Turkish nationalism in his column.

“We are moving towards this”

We can begin to answer the question of how the Turkish administration reads this expression by saying that the red apple in Turkish mythology symbolizes an unattainable ideal that moves away from you as you approach it, so it becomes more attractive.

Moreover, the red apple is a multi-faceted concept which, depending on the circumstances, symbolizes Turkish nationalism, all the important goals and tasks for the Turkish state that must be achieved, the territory that must be seized, the idea of creation of the state, the union of the Turkish world, sometimes even world supremacy.

What is the historical basis of the concept of red apple and what does this concept mean for contemporary Turkey?

The slogan “The red apple is our goal” has been cultivated in the collective consciousness of a Turkish layman for the past two years or so. People became interested in the “apple” when Sultan Abdul Hamid II, the main hero of Payitaht Abdulhamid Popular historic TV series have mentioned it on TV screens. The second mention was before the start of Operation Olive Branch in Afrin in Syria when a journalist asked one of the Turkish soldiers, “What is your goal? “, And he replied,” The red apple “. During these days, Erdoğan said when speaking about the operation to Afrin: “Yes, we have a ‘red apple’, and we are heading towards it”. Explaining these words to the public at that time, Turkish President Ibrahim Kalın’s press secretary claimed that the “red apple” was the achievement of the goal where all citizens of the Turkish Republic would live in peace, l harmony, well-being and independence.

People became interested in the “apple” when Sultan Abdul Hamid II, the main hero of the popular historical television series Payitaht Abdulhamid, mentioned it on television screens. Photo:

The Communications Directorate of the Republic of Turkey has published Red apple clip in August 2020 by the 949e anniversary of the victory at the Battle of Manzikert where the chain of events takes place including the victory at the Battle of Manzikert, the conquest of Istanbul, the conquests of the Ottoman Empire in Europe, the attempted coup d’etat of July 15, 2016 as well as references to Hagia Sophia, which recently became a mosque, were shown in color.

Historical context

There is no precise data on when exactly the concept of the red apple arose. However, there is a beautiful legend related to Ergenekon ancient Turkish epic that the red apple symbolizes the escape from Ergenekon and the discovery of the lost house.

In Turkish culture, the color red is associated with gold, high value and wealth, while the apple symbolizes the mystical fruit, the source of well-being, wealth and health. However, there is a version that the red apple is a kind of red ball symbolizing the relationship between the sun and the moon. This ball named muncuk was hung from the flagpole and indicated the victory, the rule or the objective to be achieved. Also, before the campaign against the Khazars, the Oghuz Turks meant that the red apple was the golden ball above the tent on the Khazar khan that they had.

In Turkish state traditions, the red apple signified the idea of ​​taking control of other ethnicities and states from the Turks.

The epic inscriptions of Oghuz and Orkhon mention it. The ancient Turks believed that the khagan should rule not only the Turks but also the whole world. All the conquests were made during this period with this conviction. The Turks assumed that the Creator had given the Turks the power to rule the world. This belief in the concept of the red apple can also be traced back to the state traditions of the Huns, Heavenly Turks as well as the Selçuks.

There is no precise data on when exactly the concept of the red apple arose. However, there is a beautiful legend related to the ancient Turkish epic of Ergenekon that the red apple symbolizes the escape from Ergenekon and the discovery of the lost house.

During the Ottoman period, the red apple became a symbol of the Jihad that the empire was waging against Western countries. The legend of the red apple was particularly widespread among the Janissaries and served to maintain their fighting spirit. After the conquest of Istanbul by Mehmed Fatih, the European cities that the Ottoman Empire wanted to own were called the red apple. Ottoman compositions of the 16the century indicates where the conquest of Belgrade or the siege of Vienna were described as long awaited winning the red apple by Suleiman the Magnificent.

At the beginning of the 20e century, after the Italo-Turkish and Balkan wars, the symbolism of the red apple was seized by Turkish nationalists who united under the Party of Union and Progress. Key party ideologue Ziya Gökalp united the idea of ​​the red apple with Turan’s ideals, gave it new meaning, although only his collection of verses was named Red apple. For Gökalp himself, the red apple was only the name of the ideal that was not tied to a certain place, however, for some writers of this period, it was firmly associated with the territories of Turan.

After the establishment of the republic, many nationalists or so to speak the pro-Turkish creative circles in Turkey attempted to revive the concept of the red apple and through the prism of verses and works by authors such as Ömer Seyfettin, Nihal Atsız, Ragip Sevki Yesim and others, it continued to gain new meanings.

In contrast, we should mention that Western scientists have other theories about the origin of the “red apple”. According to one of them, the “red apple” has Byzantine roots. So, before the conquest of Istanbul, a monument to Emperor Justinian on horseback with a large golden ball in his hand was placed in front of the Saint Sophia Cathedral. The emperor won the victory thanks to the cross fixed on the ball. Here, many readers may hint at the image of Russian tsars on the throne with scepter and orb in hand. In 1317 the ball somehow fell from the hands of Justinian, the church patriarchate immediately saw this as the end of the Byzantine Empire. However, the darling ball has been put back in place. The situation repeated itself a century later, and it was again seen as a sign of the coming death of the empire, and more than 30 years later, the Turks indeed conquered Istanbul. The monument to Justinian has been demolished.

The version is interesting, of course, and it can certainly be aligned with the story of the Apple of Eden which became the reason Adam and Eve were kicked out of Heaven or the bone of contention when hapless Paris gave the golden apple to the bad goddess or related to Japanese mythology and the adventures of Susanoo-no-Mikoto and so on.

Equestrian statue of Justinian, 1430. Source:

Contemporary meanings

From this brief review, we see that the concept of the red apple has acquired new meanings and meanings throughout Turkish history. It is also relevant today when Turkey’s leadership often uses the rhetoric of the Ottoman padishahs when addressing its citizens with a Turkish-Islamic accent. In this regard, we can note some interesting observations:

  • In the concept of the red apple, a parallel can be drawn between the Turkish-Islamic orientation of the concept itself and the strategic coalition of the Nationalist Movement Party (MNR) and the Justice and Development Party (AKP). If the first meets the needs of the nationalist part of society, the second meets the expectations of its religious and conservative layers. From this point of view, the rhetoric of the ruling coalition is built quite organically in contemporary Turkish reality;
  • Turkish activity in the Middle East, the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, the Caucasus, North and Central Africa in recent years also organically coincides with the idea of ​​Turkish domination in the world or with part of its leaves at least now;
  • We have to remind you that the original meaning of the idea of ​​the red apple was escape from Ergenekon, salvation and the search for home. In this context, the concept of the red applique can be seen as a certain protection of internal values ​​against external threats and as a liberation from external dependence. And the discovery of large gas fields in the Black Sea, which can help free Turkey from Russian gas dependency, can comfortably be linked to it. Recall that about 68% of the gas supplied to this country is of Russian origin.

By Boulat Nogmanov

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