A recent article in the Southeast European Times suggests that Turkey is embarking on an energetic looted cultural property restitution campaign which reflects a changing attitude, and a renewed appreciation within the country of the vast wealth of Anatolia's cultural heritage. Turkey's rise as a political and economic force on the world stage partly explains the campaign. With the shift in balance of power, Turkey now sees itself as a major regional power which increases their confidence in their ability to ask for things which perhaps they didn't have the confidence to ask for before.
The long-running dispute about the "Weary Herakles" has finally been brought to a resolution, but only after Turkey stepped up its attempts to get the looted half of the statue back a few years ago. Ankara is also targeting museums in Serbia, Germany, France, and half a dozen other countries, and has started playing tough.
In May, Germany's Pergamon Museum reluctantly agreed to return a 3,500 year-old Hittite sphinx after Turkish Culture Minister Ertugrul Gunay threatened to ban German teams from several archaeological digs in the country. Late last year, Ankara took the unprecedented step of revoking excavation licenses for three French and German teams that had been digging in Turkey for decades, in a move widely seen as a warning shot in the antiquities battle."This is a revolution," Gunay was quoted as saying in the New York Times following the sphinx agreement.Nora Seni, director of the French Institute of Anatolian Studies, believes that a new mindset is emerging regarding Turkey's wealth of historic sites and artefacts.
"The Turkish state was created by differentiating itself from the Ottoman Empire and all that came before it -- there was a taboo about discussing Byzantine culture," she said. But the Justice and Development Party government that came to power in 2002 brought with it a neo-Ottomanism that opened the door both to Anatolia's pre-Islamic, as well as its Islamic past, she argues. "Turkey is taking hold of its heritage," she said.
Alexander Christie-Miller, 'Turkey ramps up fight against antiquities smuggling' Southeast European Times, 28/07/2011