Vol. 4, No. 16-17 (September 01, 2011)

Pax Turcica Institute: A platform for Turkic advocacy and research

Javid Huseynov, PhD
Director General
Azerbaijani-American Council (AAC)

Over a century ago, the idea of Turkic unity contributed to the liberation of Turkic-speaking subjects of the Russian Empire and to the establishment of a modern Turkish Republic in the Ottoman heartland.  Such Turkic idealism also formulated the success of the first Azerbaijani democracy in 1918 (Altstadt 1992, p. 708) and promoted the development of national consciousness among the Turkic peoples of Central Asia in 1920s.  The fall of Soviet Union in 1991 and the emergence of five newly independent Turkic states opened avenues for reviving the old ideals of unity; and while the classical definition of Turkism no longer has a role, the forces of globalization and networking have offered new opportunities for a conceptual redefinition of Turkic solidarity.  The growing cooperation of Turkic expatriate communities in third countries is an important part of this process. 

In the representative democracies of the West, émigré communities often wield a significant influence over bilateral relations between their homelands and place of residence as the cases of the Jewish, Greek and Armenian communities in the United States demonstrate. 

Up to now, Turkic-American communities have played a relatively smaller role, the result of both their shorter histories and the diversity of their national interests.  Nevertheless, as ever more members of these diasporas recognize, cooperation among them is essential—for advancing the interests of Turkic-Americans as a whole, on one hand, and facilitating ties between the United States and the Turkic nations, on the other—and that conviction lies behind the establishment of the Pax Turcica Institute (PTI).

Although formally registered only in 2011, the Pax Turcica initiative dates back to 2008, when a group of Turkish and Azerbaijani community leaders and scholars called for the creation of a unified Turkic-American research and advocacy platform.  The idea was not to create another supra-grassroots organization, but rather to facilitate working relations and the networking of existing Turkic-American organizations and communities.  The choice of the title was not incidental.  The term Pax Turcica (or “Turkic peace” in translation from Latin) dates back to 16th century, to the period of tranquility, tolerance, cooperation, prosperity and reform following the largest Ottoman expansion into the European heartland under Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent (Lamb 1956).
Given its mission, the Pax Turcica initiative has flourished through the cooperation of various Turkic organizations, including the Assembly of Turkish-American Associations, the Turkish Coalition of America (TCA), the Azerbaijan Society of America (ASA), the Azerbaijani-American Council (AAC), and the Uzbek Initiative.  In addition, PTI also engages several non-Turkic organizations interested in cooperation.  For example, Pax Turcica’s most recent action campaign in support of Turkey and Macedonia was held in collaboration with the United Macedonian Diaspora (UMD), the leading grassroots organization of Macedonian-Americans. [1] 

The First Pax Turcica Conference held in May 2009 at Columbia University was the first and so far the only academic grassroots event that brought together scholars, community leaders, diplomats, and students from Turkish, Azerbaijani, Uzbek, Kazakh, Tatar, and Kyrgyz communities.  Apart from that, it was the only all-Turkic conference co-hosted by the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) at Columbia University. [2] Subsequently, PTI organized—in cooperation with TCA, ATAA, ASA—another conference on the history of Jewish communities in the Turkic world at the Center for Jewish History in New York. [3] More recently, Pax Turcica—together with ATAA and AAC—organized Khojaly memorial presentations at the George Washington University (GWU) [4] and the University of Toronto (UofT), [5] and held a US Census Workshop in Washington, DC.  And last year, Pax Turcica supported the major issue of the first Turkic magazine Birlik, issued at the University of California, Berkeley. [6] That same year, AAC issued the Pax Turcica US Postal Service-approved stamp to raise awareness of Turkic heritage in the 2010 US Census. [7]

In 2011, the Pax Turcica initiative made a big step forward by institutionalizing and
engaging in Turkic-American grassroots advocacy.  For this reason, the organization acquired a market-leading Capwiz online advocacy system and launched its first letter campaign in February, one dedicated to the 19th anniversary of the Khojaly massacre. [8] PTI Capwiz ability allowed the Pax Turcica Institute to build a nationwide grassroots membership, which now counts in thousands, and to more consistently represent the Turkic communities and organizations in the U.S. Congress, government and local media.  In the past six months, PTI—in cooperation with ATAA, ASA, and AAC—launched 15 different action campaigns, including the “March 31—Day of Soyqirim, the Azerbaijani Genocide,” “April 23—Turkish National Sovereignty and Children’s Day,” opposing each of the five anti-Turkish bills—House Resolutions 304, 306, 2587, 180, and Senate Resolution 196—introduced in Congress during 2011.  Within those six months, over 20,000 letters were sent to members of Congress and other public officials—with dozens of responses being received every week—and more than ten articles were published in the US media. [9] The latter represents a major achievement for less than 180 days of activity.

Building upon the annual Congressional testimonies by ASA and AAC, the PTI also
pioneered its 2011 action campaign regarding foreign assistance by focusing on the direct U.S. aid to the occupied Karabakh region of Azerbaijan.  The PTI campaign letter argued that the US aid was initially intended by Congress for all victims of the Karabakh conflict, but for the last several years, under the influence of the Armenian-American lobby, US aid was directed only to Armenians in the occupied Karabakh, depriving displaced Azerbaijanis of any help.  Moreover, the amount of this aid allocation was elevated from 3 million USD to 8 million USD, while the actual consumption in the occupied Nagorno-Karabakh never exceeded 2 million USD.  Hence the aid allocation was simply a big waste of US taxpayer dollars with a view to satisfying the whim of a single special ethnic interest group.  In July 2011, within just five months of the PTI advocacy efforts, House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs omitted the wording and amount of direct aid to Nagorno-Karabakh in the FY 2012 budget proposal.  This is not a final victory until the full House Appropriations Committee vote (and some might argue that the omission was due to the reduction of overall budget spending), but the developments show that the Turkic community is being heard and Pax Turcica is proud of its role in this effort. 
In the coming months, PTI will focus on actively engaging Turkic communities to raise awareness of their issues in local constituencies.  This may be a challenging task, especially in areas with major influence of Armenian-American ethnic interest groups.  But it is a key to building an equally influential community that can overcome such obstacles.  For instance, in 2008, AAC became the first Azerbaijani-American grassroots organization to organize a community visit to California State Assembly and to observe the Azerbaijani flag rising to honor AAC delegation in California Senate chambers.

PTI also plans to expand its activity on the academic front by organizing educational programs at major U.S. and Canadian universities throughout the year.  In past, PTI group partnered with Turkish and Azerbaijani student associations at George Washington University, University of Toronto, University of California Berkeley, University of California Irvine, and Columbia University.  These partnerships will be taken to a qualitatively new level via the Pax Turcica academic grassroots network.  Finally, PTI also works to build partnerships with Tatar, Kazakh, Uyghur and Kyrgyz communities and organizations in the US in order to expand the range of focus of its advocacy. 


Altstadt, Audrey L. (1992) The Azerbaijani Turks: Power and Identity under the Russian Rule, Hoover Press.

Lamb, Harold A. (1956) Suleiman, the Magnificent: Sultan of the East, Doubleday.


[1] See http://forum.kajgana.com/threads/... [17 July 2011] (accessed 16 August 2011).

[2] See http://uzbekinitiative.groupsite.com/calendar/event/2009/5/16/114170 and http://news.day.az/politics/157601.html (both accessed 16 August 2011).

[3] See http://news.day.az/society/182749.html (accessed 17 August 2011).

[4] See http://www.news.az/articles/society/8740 and http://en.trend.az/news/karabakh/1836899.html (both accessed 17 August 2011).

[5] See http://az.trend.az/news/karabakh/1835603.html (accessed 17 August 2011).

[6] See http://www.news.az/articles/society/7494 (accessed 17 August 2011).

[7] See http://en.trend.az/news/society/1621090.html (accessed 17 August 2011).

[8] See http://en.trend.az/news/karabakh/1824261.html (accessed 17 August 2011).

[9] See http://www.mycentraljersey.com/article/20110722/NJOPINION0201/307220021/
Opposes-resolution-on-Turkish-genocide; http://www.sunherald.com/2011/07/19/3283925/congress-cannot-rewrite-turkish.html; http://www.grandcoulee.com/articles/2011/07/21/opinion/letters/doc4e26ff92199ab
509375312.txt; http://www.press-citizen.com/article/20110625/OPINION05/106250331/
Is-U-S-offending-a-long-time-ally-; and http://www.sonomanews.com/Web-2011/Celebrating-Azerbaijan/ (all accessed 17 August 2011).