Its modern day heir Turkey is robust and willing to flex its muscles beyond its borders.
The collapse of the Soviet Union saw the emergence of several new independent states in central Asia with strong Turkic linguistic and cultural ties - Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, which Turkey has sought to reach out to not least because of their energy resources.
Only last week Turkey and Azerbaijan agreed a $7 billion deal for a Trans-Anatolian natural gas pipeline to carry natural gas across Turkey to Europe, bypassing Russia.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's strategy is based on leveraging Turkey's geographical location bordering the Balkans, the Mediterranean, the Middle East and central Asia.
His twin-track approach is to continue to engage with the West through Nato membership and entreaties to join the European Union, while increasingly looking south and east.
Erdogan's response to the 2011 Israeli commando attack on the Mavi Marmara aid ship to Gaza, which saw several Turkish citizens shot dead, was largely rhetorical. But it did raise his profile in the eyes of many in the Islamic world.
He was accorded a spectacular hero's welcome on his visit to Egypt in September 2011 following the fall of Mubarak.
He became almost a role model of moderate democratic Islam across the Arab world as corrupt and ineffectual dictatorships began to topple during the Arab Spring.
But Erdogan is an unlikely flag-bearer for democracy.
His Justice and Development Party has roots in a series of right-wing Islamic political formations that were frequently banned from the 1970s through to the 1990s by the country's dictatorial authorities for breaching the secular constitution.
Erdogan himself was a student cadre in the 1970s of the right-wing National Salvation Party and at the time even penned a play entitled Maskomya - a Turkish acronym for Masons, communists and Jews - the stereotypical enemies of the far-right.
Learning from the mistakes of his predecessors, Erdogan has avoided head-on clashes with the Turkish army's high command. He has preferred to chip away gradually at its authority.
It was estimated that in 2009 10 per cent of Turkey's generals and admirals were either in jail or under investigation for plots against his government.
He has steadily undermined the country's secular constitution and positioned his party as an Islamic version of Europe's right-wing Christian Democrats - solid, moral and conservative.
But he has also courted the more radical Islamic groups, defending Hamas and meeting with prominent figures in the Muslim Brotherhood from several Arab countries.
Erdogan's AKP is largely funded by what the Turks call "yesil sermaye" or green money, a reference to the many Islamic business benefactors and entrepreneurs who back the AKP and the widely held suspicion that considerable sums come from the Gulf states.
Turkish President Abdullah Gul worked for the Islamic Development Bank in Jeddah for almost a decade and is considered particularly close to the Saudi regime. Like Erdogan he was also a right-wing student activist in the '70s.
If you appreciated this article then please consider donating to the Morning Star's Fighting Fund to ensure we can keep developing your paper.