Soviet Union–Turkey relations

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Soviet Union-Turkey relations
Map indicating locations of Turkey and Soviet Union

Turkey

Soviet Union

Soviet Union–Turkey relations were the diplomatic relations between the Soviet Union and the Republic of Turkey.

Background[edit]

History[edit]

Early cooperation with Turkish revolutionaries[edit]

The Ottoman government was party to the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk signed between the Bolshevik government of Russia and the Central Powers on March 3, 1918; the treaty became obsolete later the same year. Russian Bolsheviks and the Soviet government headed by Vladimir Lenin, who emerged victorious from the Russian Civil War by 1921, viewed the Turkish revolutionary (national) movement under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal as congenial to their ideological and geopolitical aspirations. The Lenin government abdicated the traditional claims of the Russian Empire to the territories of Western Armenia and the Turkish Straits.

The Soviet supply of gold and armaments to the Kemalists in 1920–1922 was a key factor in the latter's successful grab of power in an Ottoman Empire defeated by the Triple Entente and their victory in the Armenian campaign and the Greco-Turkish War (1919–1922).[1]

Russian Embassy in Istanbul. Ottoman postcard

The Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic was the second state to formally recognize the Kemalist government of Turkey in March 1921—after the Democratic Republic of Armenia which signed the Treaty of Alexandropol with the Turkish revolutionaries on 2 December 1920. The Treaty of Moscow signed on 16 March 1921 between the RSFSR's Lenin government and the government of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey (the Sultanate was still nominally in existence) followed bilateral treaties that the Moscow government concluded with Persia and Afghanistan earlier the same year (apart from those with the states on the territory of the former Russian Empire); on the same day, in London, the RSFSR signed a trade agreement with the United Kingdom, which was hailed as "of principal consequence" by the Pravda newspaper.[2]

Treaties of trade and cooperation[edit]

Under the Treaty of Moscow,[3] the two governments undertook to establish friendly relations between the countries; under Article II, Turkey ceded Batum and the adjacent area North of the village of Sarp to Georgia (Kars Oblast went to Turkey); Article III instituted an autonomous Nakhchivan oblast under Azerbaijan's protectorate; under Article V, the parties agreed to delegate the final elaboration of the status of the Black Sea and the Straits to a future conference of delegates of the littoral states, provided that the "full sovereignty" and security of Turkey and "her capital city of Constantinople" are not injured. The Treaty of Moscow was followed by an identical Treaty of Kars signed in October 1921 by the Kemalists with Soviet Armenia, Soviet Azerbaijan and Soviet Georgia, which formed part of the Soviet Union after the December 1922 Union Treaty.

The GNAT diplomatic note dated October 24, 1922, demanded that the Russian government terminate the operations by the Soviet Trade mission in Turkey until a trade agreement was signed;[4] such agreement was concluded on March 11, 1927.[5]

On 16 December 1925, the Turkish government withdrew its delegation from Geneva, thus leaving the League of Nations Council to grant a mandate for the disputed region of Mosul to Britain without its consent; Kemal countered the diplomatic reverse[6] by concluding a non-aggression pact[7] with the USSR on 17 December the same year. The pact was subsequently amended and prolonged and was prolonged again for another 10 years on November 7, 1935.[8]

According to Georges Agabekov, a senior OGPU defector, Turkey was until 1930 viewed by the Soviet secret police and espionage agency as a friendly power, yet cooperation proposals on the part of Turkey's police and intelligence were declined.[9]

Growing tensions over territory[edit]

The first serious tensions in the countries' bilateral relations emerged during the negotiations that led to the signing of the Montreux Convention in July 1936, whereunder Turkey regained control over the Straits which it was allowed to remilitarize:[10] the Stalin government believed that Turkey had "vacillated" and even "come out against the USSR's legitimate and substantiated proposals".[11]

While Turkey officially remained neutral during World War II until 23 February 1945, the USSR viewed Turkey's continued relationship with Nazi Germany, whose warships were allowed passage through the Straits,[12] as inimical to itself.[12]

On 19 March 1945, the USSR's Foreign Minister Molotov advised Turkey's ambassador in Moscow that the USSR was unilaterally withdrawing from the 1925 Non-Aggression pact.;[13] the decision was explained by asserting that "due to the deep changes that had occurred especially during World War II" the treaty did not cohere with "the new situation and needed serious improvement."[14] When the Turkish government enquired on what conditions a new agreement could be concluded, it was informed by Molotov that in addition to bases in the Straits, the Soviet Union claimed a part of eastern Turkey, which was assumed to refer to the districts of Kars, Artvin and Ardahan, which the Russian Empire (and the short-lived DRA) had held between 1878 and 1921.[15]

In his congratulatory message to Stalin dated May 16, 1945, Turkey's prime minister Şükrü Saracoğlu called Stalin "the famous leader to whom I am personally committed"; in response he received a one-line message of terse acknowledgement.[16]

Turkish alignment with NATO[edit]

At the Potsdam Conference (July 1945), Stalin demanded a revision of the Montreux Convention; Britain and the U.S. agreed with the Soviet demand that the Straits should always be open to the warships of the Black Sea powers and, in principle, remain closed to those of outside powers, but further Soviet demand that the Soviet Union should be allowed to join in the defence of the Straits was rejected by Turkey, with the backing of the West.[15]

In March 1947, with the proclamation of the Truman Doctrine, the U.S. underwrote the frontiers of Turkey (as well as Greece) and the continued existence of non-communist governments in the two countries.[15]

Turkey sought aid from the United States and joined NATO in 1952. The USSR and Turkey were in different camps during the Korean War and throughout the Cold War.

References[edit]

  1. ^ В. Шеремет. Босфор. Moscow, 1995, p. 241.
  2. ^ Pravda. 20 March 1921, № 60, p. 1.
  3. ^ Документы внешней политики СССР. Moscow, 1959, Vol. III, pp. 597-604.
  4. ^ Документы вешней политики СССР. Moscow, 1961, Vol. V, pp. 635-636.
  5. ^ Документы вешней политики СССР. Moscow, 1961, Vol. V, pp. 763.
  6. ^ John P. Kinross. Atatürk: a biography of Mustafa Kemal, father of modern Turkey. New York, 1965, p. 464.
  7. ^ Документы вешней политики СССР. Moscow, 1961, Vol. VIII, pp. 739-741 (The Treaty's text).
  8. ^ Документы вешней политики СССР. Moscow, 1961, Vol. VIII, pp. 813.
  9. ^ Агабеков. Г. П. У. Записки чекиста. Berlin, Strela, 1930, pp. 218-219.
  10. ^ Mango, Andrew. Turkey. Thames and Hudson, London, 1968, p. 63.
  11. ^ БСЭ, 1st ed., Moscow, Vol. 55 (1947), col. 378 ff.
  12. ^ a b БСЭ, 1st ed., Moscow, Vol. 55 (1947), col. 381.
  13. ^ БСЭ, 1st ed., Moscow, Vol. 55, (1947), col. 382.
  14. ^ Внешняя политка Советского Союза в период Отечественной войны. ОГИЗ, 1947, Vol. III, p. 146.
  15. ^ a b c Mango, Andrew. Turkey. Thames and Hudson, London, 1968, p. 69.
  16. ^ Внешняя политка Советского Союза в период Отечественной войны. ОГИЗ, 1947, Vol. III, p. 545.