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Ottoman Empire recognized the United Dutch Republic long before anyone else

The history of Dutch – Turkish relations reviewed

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

Turkeye, the Netherlands? Where did you say? Never heard of it!

It is reasonable to assume that 99 percent of the population of the Netherlands has not heard of this place before or visited it. For centuries, this hamlet, Turkeye, was hard to reach and isolated from mainstream Dutch society. It still takes a significant effort to get this small hamlet which has a very surprising origin and refers to a very unique anecdote in Dutch history.

It is named after Turkey, which straddles the Bosphorus Strait, the divide between Europe and Asia, but is nowhere near the Netherlands. Yet it played a significant role in the 80-year war of independence (known to the Dutch as the Eighty Year’s Religious War and the other Europeans as the Dutch Revolt). In those times, Turkey was known as the Ottoman Empire and ruled by a Sultan. That the Dutch valued Turkey’s role as crucial can be determined from the fact that they plan to celebrate the Quadri-Centennial of Dutch-Turkish diplomatic relations in 2012, which suggests that its start in 1612 included formal recognition, although a more solid status as a country followed in 1648 when Spain conceded its loss in the Treaty of Münster (more widely known as the Treaty of Westphalia), which ended the war.

Informal ties between the Dutch and the Ottoman Empire go back a bit further, to October 1566. The connection was made through Joseph Nasi, a Jewish refugee who befriended Stadtholder Prince William of Orange (the Taciturn) in Antwerp. Prince William, who was appointed governor by Spanish king Philip II of Holland, Zeeland and Utrecht in 1559, experienced difficulties on account of Philip’s hard-line policies against heretics and the involvement of the Inquisition. Prince William had appealed many times to Spanish King Philip II to moderate the persecution, but when this proved unsuccessful, his opposition hardened with a very public speech in 1664. Joseph Nasi, who had fled from the Inquisition in Spain, now worked for the Ottoman Sultan and arranged for a letter promising the Netherlands financial and military support. This aid came through in 1574.

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