Jamil Hasanli, D.Sc. (Hist.), professor, Baku State University, deputy of Milli Mejlis (parliament) of the Azerbaijan Republic (Baku, Azerbaijan).


Part II

The Rise of Pro-American Sentiments in Turkey

On 8 January, 1946 Prime Minister of Turkey Shukri Sarajoglu met American Ambassador Edwin Wilson to discuss the situation on the eve of the upcoming First Session of the U.N. General Assembly. He pointed out that Moscow radio and the press, the territorial claims of Armenia and Georgia, as well as the Communist press in Turkey engaged in Communist propaganda might undermine the Turkish government. It surprised him that the Soviets, who ought to know Turkey better, should have made such mistake. Their activities resulted in the Turks becoming completely united against Soviet demands. Soviet tactics against Turkey were thrown off balance by the reaction here, making the U.S.S.R. unsure of what to try next… The prime minister said he was sure that the Soviets would not abandon their aims regarding Turkey but would only postpone any action until until they judge favorable opportunity presented itself.1

The First Session of the U.N. General Assembly opened in London on 10 January, 1946. Attended by U.S. Secretary of State James Byrnes, Deputy People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs of the Soviet Union Andrey Vyshinskiy, and UK Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin, it generated stronger hope that the new organization would be an instrument of peace. Foreign Minister of Turkey Hasan Saka headed the Turkish delegation. On 17 January he was received in London by Secretary of States Byrnes who voiced his concern about the Soviet intention to set up military bases on Turkish territory and in the Dardanelles. The Turkish minister, in turn, informed his American colleague that his country had not received any official requests from Moscow and added that six months earlier the Soviet Union had formulated the conditions on which it was prepared to renew the 1925 treaty: the Soviet Union wanted the Kars and Ardahan provinces back as well as a discussion of the regime of the Straits. When asked about the ethnic composition of the provinces, the Turkish minister said that the people in Kars and Ardahan were Turkish, spoke Turkish, were entirely satisfied with the democracy of the Turkish government and there was no such situation as obtained in (Iranian.—J.G.) Azerbaijan where the inhabitants were of different racial stock from the capital and the country of which they were a part and where there had been previous claims for better treatment than they had been receiving from the Central Government of Persia.2

On 4 February Acting Foreign Minister of Turkey N. Sümer met Soviet Ambassador to Turkey S. Vinogradov, who asked for friendly support in bridling the anti-Soviet campaign in the Turkish press. When talking about Soviet-Turkish relations, the ambassador wanted to know why the Turks had never tried to improve them. N. Sümer explained that this could be done if Turkey’s sovereignty and independence were respected and asked whether the Soviet Union still insisted on its demands relating to the eastern provinces and the bases in the Dardanelles. The Soviet ambassador explained that the territorial issue was important while the question of the Straits was of “vital” importance for his country. The Turkish minister pointed out that a Soviet base in the Straits would have violated Turkey’s sovereignty, which was unacceptable. He deemed it necessary to add that since the territorial issue was not “vitally” important, the Soviet Union could have withdrawn its claims to the eastern vilayets. The Soviet ambassador, in turn, explained that the claims had been formulated by the Armenian S.S.R. and that under the Constitution the central government had to defend the interests of the union republics. He closed the meeting with: “The U.S.S.R. had made a new treaty with Poland rectifying the previously agreed frontier between the two countries and there is no reason the same thing should not be done regarding Turkey.” Later, when analyzing his talk with the Soviet ambassador, N. Sümer concluded that the Soviet Union would not drop its claims to the eastern territories and the Straits.3

On 25 February, at the second meeting, the Soviet ambassador confirmed that if Turkey wanted an alliance with the U.S.S.R. it could achieve it on the conditions formulated in June 1945. N. Sümer argued that Turkey had not requested an alliance and still did not want it; it wanted friendly and confident relations and therefore attached great importance to a new treaty at no lower a level than the 1925 treaty. At this point S. Vinogradov put on the table a new idea that had not figured either at the talks or during correspondence: “Turkey can be more than compensated elsewhere” (territorial compensation for the territories identified by Viacheslav Molotov which Turkey was expected to return to Armenia). N. Sümer answered resolutely: “Turkey will neither cede territories nor annex territories.”4

The information bulletin of the U.S. Department of State dated February 1946 gave much space to the Turkish problem. Earlier, on 27 February, James Byrnes, in a classified letter to Edwin Wilson, had asked for his comments on the bulletin’s Turkish part. However, the letter and the bulletin reached the addressee too late, on 18 March. The American ambassador disagreed with the bulletin’s conclusions; he disagreed with many when it came to the possibility of Soviet bases in the Straits and territorial claims. In fact, earlier he had repeatedly informed his superiors that the development of air power during World War II made bases in the Straits unnecessary. He wrote to the U.S. State Secretary: “The real Soviet objective towards Turkey is not a revision of the régime of the Straits, but actual domination of Turkey. In the vast security belt of the Soviet Union which extends from the Baltic to the Black Sea, Turkey constitutes a sole gap. Turkey maintains an independent foreign policy and in particular looks to the Western democracies for guidance and assistance. This the Soviet Union is unwilling to tolerate. The Soviet objective, therefore, is to break down this present independent Turkish government and to establish in its place a vassal or “friendly” régime in Turkey, which will complete the security belt of subservient countries on Russia’s western and southern frontiers and put an end completely to Western influence in Turkey.”5

In the middle of March 1946 some periodicals informed their readers that the U.S. Department of State was prepared to ensure Turkey’s and Iran’s territorial integrity. Admittedly, the United States was prepared to obey the U.N. Charter which meant that it guaranteed assistance to Turkey and Iran in case of aggression as specified by this international instrument. This gave the Turkish and Iranian leaders more confidence.6 March 24, 1946 was an important date in the Iranian and Mid-Eastern developments. Washington and the New York U.N. Headquarters were very much concerned with the question of Soviet withdrawal from Iran: it was on this day that Stalin and Chief of the General Staff A. Antonov signed the order on pulling the Soviet troops out off this country.7

The U.S.S. Missouri which arrived in Istanbul on 6 April, 1946, caused a sensation comparable to the Soviet withdrawal from Iran. The Mediterranean cruise was prepared well in advance, preparations started on 6 March; two weeks later, on 21 March, the ship left New York while the world was gradually sinking into a crisis, with Turkey suffering under Soviet pressure. The official version of the visit—the battleship brought home the mortuary urn of late Turkish Ambassador to the United States Mehmet Münir Ertegün who had died in 1944—duped nobody. This was a clear demonstration of America’s support of Turkey; the U.S.S. Missouri brought special representative of President Truman Alexander W. Weddell and a group of journalists to Turkey. The journalists were received by Prime Minister Sarajoglu who assured them that his nation was worthy of the honor of being called “friends of the United States.” The Turks earned this by their loyalty during World War II. When asked about a Soviet military base in the Straits and the Soviet territorial claims, he answered that the United States was prepared to protect his country against any threat.8

The visit of the U.S.S. Missouri to the Straits, by which Washington openly demonstrated its support of Turkey, and, on the whole, the much stronger American presence in the Middle East did not catch the Soviets unawares. Soviet Ambassador to the United States K. Novikov described it as a “military-political demonstration against the Soviet Union.”9 The Turkish government stood firm in the face of the mounting Soviet pressure. President Inönü, Prime Minister Sarajoglu, Foreign Minister Saka, General Secretary of the Foreign Ministry F. C. Erkin, and other officials assured the nation that Turkey would resolutely reject all Soviet demands and would not yield to Soviet pressure.

In April-May 1946 the Armenian and Georgian foreign ministries issued documents that indirectly confirmed that their territorial claims had failed to inspire the world. Nearly all the responses to the articles of Georgian academicians and contributions by K. Charkviani were negative; the Georgian territorial claims were taken for part of a vast Soviet expansionist plan.10 For subjective reasons the foreign press was less unanimous about the Armenian territorial claims. In May 1946, Foreign Minister of the Armenian S.S.R. S. Karapetian, on instructions from the U.S.S.R. Foreign Ministry, gathered and collated addresses of foreign Armenian societies, letters, and telegrams, as well as foreign responses to Armenia’s territorial claims. Copies were sent to the U.S.S.R. Foreign Ministry and First Secretary of the CC Communist Party of Armenia G. Arutinov.11

The world did not side with the Soviet Union; the Turks resolutely and unanimously rejected the Soviet Armenian and Georgian claims. In the spring of 1946 Moscow tried another tactic: the Kurdish question. On 5 May, 1946 the Soviet embassy in Ankara sent an 11-page-long report to the Soviet Foreign Ministry that went back to the ancient sources of what was called the Kurdish issue.12 The classified document echoed in the press: on 15 June, 1946 the Trud newspaper of the Soviet trade unions carried an article by I. Vassiliev entitled “Sushchestvuet li v Turtsii kurdskiy vopros? (Is there a Kurdish Question in Turkey?)

The Americans naturally could not miss it; American Ambassador to the Soviet Union Walter Smith wrote to the Secretary of State: “Political offensives by U.S.S.R. against Turkey having made little or no progress on Armenian and Georgian issues, a new offensive appears to be opening on another front—Turkish Kurds.”13 A more careful analysis of the documents reveals that the Soviet Union was much more far-sighted than the American ambassador presumed and nurtured far-reaching strategic aims. This is confirmed by a vast (33 pages) memo “Kurdskiy vopros i iranskie kurdy” (The Kurdish Question and the Iranian Kurds) compiled in December 1946 by the Department of the Near and Middle East of the Soviet Foreign Ministry. One of the sections “The Kurds and Turkey” pointed out: “Back in the late 19th century the Czarist government exploited the Kurdish movement to weaken the Ottoman Empire. It stirred up discontent with the Turkish government among the Kurds and bought their support with money and lavish promises.”14

In the spring of 1946, the American special services, which had become convinced that Soviet expansion in the Middle East was possible rather than probable, submitted their own suggestions to the White House. On 23 July, 1946 the Central Intelligence Group of the United States presented it own classified report entitled “Soviet Foreign and Military Policy,” a highly eloquent document that pointed out, in particular, that the Soviet Union intended to create “friendly” regimes in Greece, Turkey, and Iran to draw them into its security zone. The local circumstances were quite favorable, wrote the authors, yet the Soviet Union, fearing a possible response from the U.K. and the U.S., refrained from taking active steps.15

Time confirmed the forecasts; the document urged the United States to more actively support Turkey against the Soviet threat.

The Soviet Plans Related to the Straits and Their Failure

On 7 August, 1946 the Soviet Union presented a note to the Foreign Ministry of Turkey entitled “O Konventsii Montre po Chernomorskim prolivam” (On the Montreux Convention Regarding the Regime of the Straits) that said that the events of the last war had clearly demonstrated that the regime of the Black Sea Straits no longer met the security interests of the Black Sea powers and did not envisage conditions which would prevent their use for aims hostile to the Black Sea powers. The note drew attention to the fact that on several occasions German and Italian warships had passed through the Straits, which proved, the note stated, that the regime was no longer reliable and that Turkey was responsible for this.16 The same day, the Soviet Union, through its embassies in London and Washington, informed Britain and the United States about the note. Foreign Minister of Turkey Hasan Saka likewise informed the American and British ambassadors in Istanbul about the Soviet note.17

The mounting Soviet pressure increased the frequency of Turkish consultations with the Americans and Brits. On 15 August, General Secretary of the Turkish Foreign Ministry Feridun Cemal Erkin familiarized Edwin Wilson with the first version of his country’s response to the Soviet note. The Turks used all the available facts to reject all the accusations about the alleged violations of the Convention during wartime and stated that they would never admit the claims that cast doubts on the competence of the Turkish government. They were not prepared to let other countries ignore the Convention as a whole. The same day, the American ambassador mailed the draft and a detailed report about his talk with Erkin to the Secretary of State. Deputy Secretary of State Dean Acheson sent a secret telegram to James Byrnes in Paris to inform him that the meeting of the foreign affairs, military, and naval departments had resulted in a memorandum about Turkish-Soviet relations. He added that President Truman approved of the suggested political course. The memo said, among other things: “In our opinion the primary objective of the Soviet Union is to obtain control over Turkey. We believe that if the Soviet Union succeeds in introducing into Turkey armed forces with the ostensible purpose of enforcing the joint control of the Straits, the Soviet Union will use these forces in order to obtain control over Turkey…. In our opinion, therefore, the time has come when we must decide that we shall resist will all means at out disposal any Soviet aggression and in particular, because the case of Turkey would be so clear, any Soviet aggression against Turkey. In carrying this policy our words and acts will only carry conviction to the Soviet Union if they are formulated against the background of an inner conviction and determination on our part that we cannot permit Turkey to become the object of Soviet aggression.”18

On 19 August, the American government gave its answer to the Soviet proposals to the Soviet Chargé d’Affaires in Washington Fedor Orekhov, in which Dean Acheson wrote: ““This Government has given careful study to the views expressed by the Soviet government in its note to the Turkish government… The fifth proposal set forth in the note of the Soviet Government was that Turkey and the Soviet Union should organize joint means of defense of the Straits. It is the firm opinion of this Government that Turkey should continue to be primarily responsible for the defense of the Straits. Should the Straits become the object of attack by an aggressor the resulting situation would constitute a threat to international security and would clearly be a matter for action on the part of the Security Council of the United Nations.”19

On 21 August, after consultations with the political circles of Turkey and the United States, the British government also responded to the Soviet note. The British preferred to pass over in silence the first three points to concentrate on points 4 and 5. London deemed it necessary to remind everyone that it was recognized at the international level that countries outside the Black Sea region were also concerned with the regime of the Straits, therefore the British government could not accept the proposal that in the future the regime would be left to the discretion of the Black Sea countries and Turkey alone. As for Point 5, said the British document, the British government believed that Turkey had every right to defend the Straits on its own.20

The next day, 22 August, the Turkish government announced its position, a product of careful consultations with Britain and the United States. Under Art 29 of the Montreux Convention and according to the wishes of the sides to the Convention and the United States, the Turkish government did not object to a conference designed to revise the Convention. The Turkish note agreed with points 1 to 3 but offered serious objections to points 4 and 5. Point 4, said the note, testified that the Soviet Union intended to put the regime of the Straits on a new basis limited to Turkey and the Black Sea countries, which ran counter to the revision procedure and the Convention’s structure and undermined its continued existence. It should remain in force until at least 1956, said the note. The Turks insisted that this approach betrayed the Soviet Union’s intention to downplay the involvement of the other sides to the Convention; they, however, as equal members had the right to take part in the talks. Turkey dismissed Point 5 by saying that it obviously pursued the Soviet Union’s aim of using the regime of joint defense of the Straits in its interests.21

The tension caused by the Soviet note forced the head of the American law-enforcers and the Joint Chiefs of Staff to discuss the situation around the Straits. Secretary of War Robert Patterson, Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal and his deputy George Kennan, and Admiral William Leahy sent a memorandum to Dean Acheson in which they deemed it necessary to point out: “Soviet participation in defense of the Turkish Straits would project Soviet military power into the area vital to the Turks. Even though Soviet military privileges and forces within Turkey were nominal, the Soviets have a tremendous capability to reinforce in days or hours a bridgehead within the country… It is believed this situation would so soften the Turkish attitude toward Russia as to soon result in reducing Turkey to a satellite Soviet State. Strategically, Turkey is the most important military factor in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East. She is one of the few national entities and the only nation now possessing … a firm resolution to oppose the apparent Soviet policy of expansion in this area.”22

The Soviet leaders could not accept the Turkish response to their note of 7 August; having analyzed everything they decided to respond with another note that gave a wider interpretation of its earlier proposals. On 21 September, Viacheslav Molotov presented a draft copy that expanded on the exclusive situation of the Black Sea countries to Stalin for approval. On 24 September the note was published. It said that the Soviet side, having carefully studied the Turkish reply of 22 August to the note of 7 August, remained convinced that the Montreux Convention did not suit the security interests of the Black Sea countries; more than that, it did not create conditions for a successful rebuff of hostile actions against these countries that involved the Straits. The note expressed satisfaction with the fact that the Turkish side had accepted, even if with reservations, the first three points. The rejection of the last two, though, said the note, caused concern and created the need to dwell on them in more detail.23

The Soviet government did not limit itself to severe criticism of the Turkish note of 22 August. It went on to say that Turkey’s rejection of the very possibility of joint defense of the Black Sea countries cast doubts on the sincerity of the Turks’ earlier statements about their desire to restore friendly relations with the Soviet Union. More than that: they insulted the U.S.S.R. with their suspicions. The Soviet government remained convinced that the Straits’ security could be achieved only through joint efforts; it went on to say that this would not infringe on Turkey’s rights—it would promote its interests since joint Soviet-Turkish defensive measures would be much more efficient that Turkey’s alone.24

Turkey needed a week to think over the nuances of its reply. First, there was no reason to respond immediately, second, it would be wiser to speak after the U.S. and Britain had offered their opinions; third, even if Ankara accepted the first three points, it would be wiser to avoid issues at the international conference that might undermine the country’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.

Early in October the U.S. Department of State came forward with its reply to the Soviet note, which had been carefully discussed by President Truman and James Byrnes. It turned out that the Americans were not so much intent on defending Turkey as on putting the Soviets in their place. On 9 October U.S. Ambassador Smith handed over his country’s reply to the Soviet note. The British note followed suit; the document that Maurice Peterson transferred to Vladimir Dekanozov said in part that under the Potsdam Agreement issues should first be discussed directly between each of the three governments and Turkey. The U.K. government stated that this stage had been completed by an exchange of opinions, therefore, continued direct correspondence lacked purpose and meaning. The British government, however, confirmed its agreement to convene a conference with American involvement, but without Japan, to revise the Montreux Convention.25

On 18 October, 1946 the Turkish Foreign Ministry handed over, contrary to its initial intention to respond laconically, a fairly long note. It regarded the proposal related to joint defense of the Straits as contradicting its sovereign rights and security: if realized it would have forced Turkey to share its sovereignty with its companion. The Turkish note pointed out that the Turkish government wondered why the Soviet Union’s right to defend itself should be realized on Turkish territory by infringing on Turkey’s sovereignty.26 This finally convinced the Soviet leaders that a bilateral agreement with Turkey was impossible; they also knew that an international conference on the Straits would be premature.

The Soviet-Turkish confrontation told the United States that it should revise its Mid-Eastern policies. On 21 October Loy Henderson, Director of the Office of Near Eastern and African Affairs of the U.S. Department of State, supplied a secret memorandum that pointed out, among other things: “We have heard the Turks are about to present us with a request for arms which, presumably, the British cannot or will not supply them. We do not know what the Turks want, but we are concerned lest a refusal on our part to provide them with any combat equipment under any circumstances … might be interpreted as a lack of determination to back our policies to the hilt… By its geographical position, Turkey constitutes the stopper in the neck of the bottle through which Soviet political and military influence could most effectively flow into the eastern Mediterranean and Middle East.” The document said further: “Fortunately, Turkey appears to be itself firmly determined to resist present and future Soviet pressure… The Turkish government and people are united with regard to foreign policy. There does not exist in Turkey the cleavage of public opinion which makes it difficult for Greece, Iran, China and other to defend their positions. Furthermore, alone among Near and Middle Eastern states, Turkey possess a relatively effective military force which could render difficult the task of an aggressor, even if it were the Soviet Union.”27

The Soviet Foreign Ministry was frantically looking for an advantageous conclusion to the Straits Crisis. On 10 December, 1946 Ambassador Vinogradov sent a memorandum to Moscow in which he warned against an international conference in the format suggested by America, Britain, and Turkey. He believed that the Soviet Union would be in the minority and would be unable to resolve the Straits and Black Sea security issue to its advantage.28 On 25 January, 1947 the ambassador systematized his proposals. His memos were marked by his obvious desire to push Turkey aside. He pointed out that it would be enough to reach an agreement with the U.K. and U.S. to ban warships of the non-Black Sea countries from the Black Sea. He went on to say that if the Soviet Union deliberately turned its back on Turkey and addressed its old allies, if it started talks on the Straits without Turkey, Turkey would be very much concerned with the possibility of American and British concessions to the Soviet Union. The trepidations, the ambassador went on, would be increased by the political repercussions of the denounced 1921 treaty, Turkish domestic problems, and induced economic disintegration.29 Later, when President Truman, in March 1947, touched upon the Turkish question, Vinogradov’s memo was revived. On 25 March, he, together with Deputy Foreign Minister Ya. Malik, asked Molotov to speed up the discussion of these proposals.30

S. Vinogradov was replaced in the Soviet diplomatic mission in Ankara with Chargé d’Affaires ad interim P. Yershov. Later, on 16 February, 1948, the Politburo appointed A. Lavrishchev ambassador to Turkey.31 On 29 March, 1948 the Politburo of the CC All-Union Communist Party (B) confirmed the document presented by the Soviet Foreign Ministry entitled “Ukazania poslu v Turtsii” (Instructions for the Ambassador to Turkey), Point 4 of which said that the Soviet ambassador should limit his answer to possible Turkish inquiries about the Soviet position on the Straits to reference to the notes of 7 August and 24 September, 1946.32 This was the last important Soviet document on the Straits.

The Aggravating “War of Nerves”

Early in 1947 the Soviet Union urged Syria to go to the U.N. Security Council on the question of Hatay (Alexandretta) to exploit it as a new lever of pressure on Turkey. The preliminary talks were held in great secrecy in January 1947 in Ankara between Soviet chargé P. Yershov and the Syrian ambassador. On 26 January, having discussed this information supplied by Yershov, Vladimir Dekanozov instructed the Soviet chargé to inform the Syrian ambassador that if his country went to the Security Council, the Soviet Union would back it.33

The Soviet Foreign Ministry, very much interested in fanning the conflict between Syria and Turkey, prepared, without waiting for Syria’s response, a vast document about the Sanjak of Alexandretta and Cilicia that justified the need to transfer the question to the U.N. Security Council. I. Samylovskiy, head of the Mid-Eastern Department of the Soviet Foreign Ministry, sent an “instructive letter—memo on Sanjak of Alexandretta and Cilicia to Soviet chargé in Turkey P. Yershov, Soviet diplomatic representative in Egypt A. Shiborin, Ambassador to Syria and Lebanon D. Solod, and Soviet Ambassador to Iraq G. Zaytsev. He informed the diplomats that recently the foreign press had been spreading information that Syria would transfer the question to the U.N. Syria did not confirm this yet, wrote Samylovskiy, but “in view of the exceptional importance of the issue, I ask you to supply your comments on the present document as well as any considerations you may have on this question.”34

The postwar balance of forces and Britain’s much weaker position first betrayed themselves in the way Turkey and Greece were treated. On 24 February, 1947 the British ambassador to the United States handed over notes to the State Department in which the British government announced that it could no longer extend economic and military aid to Greece and Turkey in the old amounts and asked the United States to shoulder this mission. A special committee headed by Dean Acheson immediately set down to business. It discussed in detail all the possible variants of Britain’s withdrawal from the program and America’s possible unwillingness to take up the project.35 On 27 February, the U.S. State Secretary sent President Truman a memorandum based on a meeting with the secretary of war and secretary of the Navy that said: “The Russians by conducting a war of nerves, have kept the entire Turkish army mobilized with the resulting drain upon the economy of that country, which it cannot long support under its present antiquated economic structure.”36

President Truman treated the memo seriously; the same day he announced that Greece and Turkey would continue receiving economic and material assistance. He asked Congress to allocate $150 million for Turkey out of the $400 million allocated for foreign aid. The American president said: “At the present moment in world history nearly every nation must choose between alternative ways of life. The choice is too often not a free one. One way of life is based upon the will of the majority… The second way of life is based upon the will of the minority forcibly imposed upon the majority. I believe that it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressure…We must assist free people to deal with their destinies in their own way… I therefore ask Congress to provide the authority for assisting Greece and Turkey.”37 This statement later became known as The Truman Doctrine. On 22 May, 1947, Congress, after discussing the issue on 22 April in the Senate and on 9 May in the House, passed the Law on Assistance to Greece and Turkey. The next day the president signed the law, which made military aid to Turkey official.

The Turkish press wrote that by extending its aid to Turkey America was not merely announcing its willingness to defend Turkey but was also demonstrating that it was ready to defend itself and all other countries against “Bolshevist and Slavic aggression” because, wrote Turkish journalists, “America’s true border runs across Turkey and Greece.”38

The Turkish political circles noted with great satisfaction that the Soviet press had changed its attitude for the first time to The Truman Doctrine by writing that no one was threatening Turkey; the Turkish politicians, however, had little trust in this and wanted the “Soviets to drop their territorial claims to Turkey’s eastern vilayets and the Straits.”

The Soviet leaders were enraged by the fact that America included Greece and Turkey in its security sphere and by America’s intention to extend economic and military assistance to them. The Soviet Foreign Ministry was instructed to prepare its proposals relating to the part of The Truman Doctrine dealing with Turkey. On 25 March, Ya. Malik and S. Vinogradov sent Molotov their proposals on the personnel issue: they believed that the Soviet embassy in Ankara and the General Consulate in Istanbul should be staffed with special agents who would study the situation in Turkey and report to the Center. They also advised that the vacancies of the military and navy attaches should be promptly filled. In addition, they recommended that the central press and journalists write a series of publications exposing America’s expansionist policies in Turkey and the Middle East.39

The Truman Doctrine stirred the Soviet Union into action: it turned to the left forces and Armenian organizations in the United States it controlled. On 19 April, 1947 Soviet General Consul in the United States Yu. Lomakin sent a secret letter to Vyshinskiy in which he informed the Soviet top figure that the National Council of American-Soviet Friendship, the Progressive Citizens of America organization, the American-Slavic Congress, the Armenian National Committee of America, and several church organizations were launching a grandiose campaign against aid to Turkey. The Armenian communities of the United States regarded President Truman’s aid as a direct threat to the Armenians. According to the general consul, the Armenian National Committee called on all Armenian organizations to organize protest rallies; individually, Armenians showered congressmen and senators with demands to stop aid to Turkey.40

Andrey Gromyko, Deputy Foreign Minister of the U.S.S.R and Soviet Permanent Representative of the U.N. Security Council, described Truman’s address to Congress as aggressive and provocative. In his statement to the Security Council, he referred to Greece as an allied country that had suffered a lot from occupation and was, therefore, entitled to foreign aid. “As for Turkey,” he said, “you cannot say the same about it. It has no right to this aid; it cannot be described as a country that suffered because of war. Its territory was not occupied. It did nothing to help the allies in their struggle against Hitler’s Germany… In the struggle against the strong and ruthless enemy of the democratic countries Turkey was not with them.”41 On 12 June, 1947 Pravda carried an article by G. Vershinin “K amerikanskim planam ‘modernizatsii’ Turtsii” (On the American Plans for “Modernizing” Turkey”) that substantiated the accusations Andrey Gromyko had earlier presented to the Security Council. Despite the negative forecasts of Soviet experts, The Truman Doctrine served as the turning point of Turkey’s foreign policy. The country, which had lived through the horrors of war on its own, was no longer alone.

On 16 February, 1948, after a two-year interval, the Politburo of the CC All-Union Communist Party (B) appointed A. Lavrishchev ambassador to Turkey. V. Zorin informed Turkish Ambassador Faik Zihni Akdur about this. On 29 March, the Politburo approved the “Instructions for Ambassador to Turkey” drafted by Viacheslav Molotov. The first point said: “In view of the fact that the present Turkish government intends to turn the country into an Anglo-American military bridgehead against the Soviet Union and the new Balkan democracies, the Embassy of the U.S.S.R. in Turkey should not demonstrate any intention of improving relations with the country. The Turkish government should not be led to believe that the newly appointed Soviet ambassador to Ankara means better Soviet-Turkish relations or the Soviet government’s retreat from its position in relation to Turkey and its current policies.” Point five recommended sounding out Turkey on the political treaty issue; should the question of the Soviet-Turkish border arise, the answer should be laconic: the issue “is still pending.” Point seven instructed the ambassador to closely observe American and British policies in Turkey and inform the Soviet Foreign Ministry about the progress of the Marshall-Truman plan.42 The Soviet ambassador and other diplomats were warned against other than official relations with the Turkish leaders; answers to Turkish enquiries about the Soviet-Turkish relations should be strictly non-committal.

The expansionist policies the Soviet Union pursued in 1945-1947 turned Turkey into America’s strategic partner; it was this country that served as a testing ground for the Cold War. New archival documents prove beyond doubt that the Turkish crisis continued until Stalin’s death.

On 30 May, 1953 Molotov invited Turkish Ambassador Faik Hozar to the Foreign Ministry “to make a statement about Soviet-Turkish relations in the name of the Soviet government.” He then proceeded with the following: “The governments of Armenia and Georgia deem it possible to abandon their territorial claims on Turkey for the sake of good-neighborly relations, stronger peace, and security. The Soviet government has revised its previous position on the Straits. It believes that security of the Soviet Union in the region of the Straits can be ensured on conditions equally acceptable to the Soviet Union and Turkey. The Soviet government confirms that the U.S.S.R. has no territorial claims on Turkey.”43


An analysis of the archival documents confirms that by insisting on its claims to Turkey the Soviet Union created big problems for itself. Later, at the June 1957 Plenum of the CC CPSU, First Secretary of the CC CPSU Khrushchev, who revised Stalin’s course and was engaged in the struggle against the group of G. Malenkov, V. Molotov, and L. Kaganovich, opened an offensive against Molotov: “After the bourgeois revolution we had close and friendly relations with the Turks… We defeated the Germans and became giddy with success. The Turks were our comrades, our friends, but we wrote a note in the hope that they would give us the Dardanelles. They were no fools. The Dardanelles are more than Turkey, there are several states there. We just sent the Turks a note that we were annulling the treaty of friendship and spat in the Turks’ face. Now we are saying all kind of words to them, but they are only asking why we spat, we obviously meant something by that. Why did we do this? It was stupid. We lost friendly Turkey and now have American bases in the south that threaten our south.”44

Molotov’s statement of May 1953 and Khrushchev’s speeches of the mid-1950s were not enough to bring relations with Turkey back to normal. The fear the country had lived through in the latter half of the 1940s and early 1950s still lingered. After a lot of friction the first signs of possible Soviet-Turkish rapprochement appeared in the 1960s.

The death of the Soviet Union opened a new era in the relations between Turkey and the Russian Federation and other post-Soviet states. Having lived through the bitter Cold War years, in the 1990s Turkey became one of the principal members of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Council, one of the largest trade partners of Russia, a good neighbor of Ukraine and Georgia, and a strategic ally of Azerbaijan.

[1] For the beginning, see: The Caucasus & Globalization, Vol. 2, Issue 4, 2008.

1 See: The Ambassador in Turkey to the Secretary of State. 09.01.1946, FRUS, Vol. VII, 1946, pp. 806-807. Back to text
2 See: The Secretary of State to the Acting Secretary of State. 18.01.1946, FRUS, Vol. VII, 1946, pp. 809-811; for more detail about the “Iranian Crisis,” see: J. Hasanli, At the Dawn of the Cold War: The Soviet-American Crisis over Iranian Azerbaijan, 1941-1946, Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, INC, Lanham, Boulder, New York, Toronto, Oxford, 2006. Back to text
3 The Ambassador in Turkey (Wilson) to the Secretary of State. 02.02.1946, FRUS, Vol. VII, 1946, p. 814. Back to text
4 The Ambassador in Turkey (Wilson) to the Secretary of State. 01.03.1946, FRUS, Vol. VII, 1946, pp. 817-818. Back to text
5 The Ambassador in Turkey (Wilson) to the Secretary of State. 23.03.1946, FRUS, Vol. VII, 1946, pp. 821-822. Back to text
6 See: E. Aliev to V. Dekanozov, 05.04.1946, State Archives of Azerbaijan Republic (SA AR), Record group 28, Inventory 4, File 49, sheets 147-148. Back to text
7 See: I. Stalin and A. Antonov to I. Maslennikov and A. Luchinsky. Copy to M.J. Bagirov, 24.03.1946, Central State Archives of Political Parties and Public Movements of the Azerbaijan Republic (CSAPPPM AR), Record group 1, Inventory 89, File 112, sheet 39. Back to text
8 See: Central State Archives of the Documents of Socio-Political Organizations of the Republic of Armenia (hereafter CSADSPO RA), Record group 1, Inventory 286, File 47, sheets 91-95; SA AR, Record group 28, Inventory 4, File 50, sheet 12. Back to text
9 “Pervoe pis’mo s ‘kholodnoy voyny’,” Mezhdunarodnaia zhizn’, No. 11, 1990, p. 152. Back to text
10 See: Archives of the President of Georgia (APG), Record group 14, Inventory 20, File 283, sheets 74-75; SA AR, Record group 14, Inventory 20, File 253, sheets 61-86. Back to text
11 See: S. Karapetian to G. Arutinov, 29.05.1946, CSADSPO RA, Record group 1, Inventory 26, File 47, sheet 119. Back to text
12 See: I. Samylovskiy to A. Aliev, Kurdskiy vopros. 22.05.1946, SA AR, Record group 28, Inventory 4, File 50, sheets 273-284. Back to text
13 The Ambassador in the Soviet Union (Smith) to the Secretary of State. 17.06.1946, FRUS, Vol. VII, 1946, p. 825. Back to text
14 Kurdskiy vopros i iranskie kurdy. 23.12.1946, Russian State Archives of Social-Political History (RSASPH), Record group 17, Inventory 128, File 988, sheet 229. Back to text
15 See: CIG, Office of Research and Evaluation, ORE 1, “Soviet Foreign and Military Policy,” 23 July, 1946, p. 66. Back to text
16 See: Nota SSSR—MID Turtsii. 07.08.1946, Foreign Policy Archives of the RF (FPA RF), Record group 06, Inventory 8, Folder 49, File 820, sheets 31-33. Back to text
17 See: The Ambassador in Turkey (Wilson) to the Secretary of State. 08.08.1946, FRUS, Vol. VII, 1946, p. 830. Back to text
18 The Acting Secretary of State to the Secretary of State at Paris. 15.08.1946, FRUS, Vol. VII, 1946, pp. 840–842. Back to text
19 The Acting Secretary of State to the Soviet Chargé (Orekhov). 19.08.1946, FRUS, Vol. VII, 1946, pp. 847-848. Back to text
20 See: Nota Velikobritanii—MID SSSR. 21.08.1946, FPA RF, Record group 069, Inventory 30, Folder 100, File 27, sheets 16-17. Back to text
21 See: Nota Turtsii—MID SSSR. 22.08. 1946, FPA RF, Record group 132, Inventory 32, Folder 118, File 26, sheets 23-24. Back to text
22 Memorandum by the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the Secretary of War (Patterson) and the Secretary of the Navy (Forrestal). 23.08.1946, FRUS, Vol. VII, 1946, p. 857. For more detail, see: E. Mark, The Turkish War Scare; M.P. Leffler, D.S. Painter, Origins of the Cold War. An International History, Routledge Taylor and Francis Group, New York, London, 2005, pp. 112-133; E. Athanassopoulou, Turkey-Anglo-American Security Interests, 1945-1952, Frank Cass, London, Portland, OR, 1999, pp. 35-60; J.L. Gaddis, The Cold War. A New History, The Penguin Press, New York, 2005, p. 28; V. Pechatnov, Stalin, Roosevelt, Truman: SSSR i SShA v 1940-kh gg. Dokumental’nye ocherki, Moscow, 2006, pp. 240-250, 339, 423. Back to text
23 See: V. Molotov to I. Stalin, 21.09.1946, FPA RF, Record group 06, Inventory 8, Folder 49, File 817, sheets 132-136. Back to text
24 See: Ibid., sheets 136-141. Back to text
25 See: Nota Velikobritanii—MID SSSR. Oktiabr’, 1946, FPA RF, Record group 06, Inventory 8, Folder 48, File 810, sheet 4. Back to text
26 See: Nota Turtsii—MID SSSR. 18.10.1946, FPA RF, Record group 132, Inventory 31, Folder 114, File 26, sheets 190-204. Back to text
27 Memorandum on Turkey Prepared in the Division of Near Eastern Affairs. 21.10.1946, FRUS, Vol. VII, 1946, pp. 894-896. Back to text
28 See: S. Vinogradov. Pamiatnaia zapiska. 10.12.1946 g., FPA RF, Record group 0132, Inventory 29a, Folder 286, File 1, sheets 30-32. Back to text
29 See: S. Vinogradov. Pamiatnaia zapiska. 25.01.1947, FPA RF, Record group 06, Inventory 9, Folder 73, File 1129, sheets 31-37. Back to text
30 See: Ya. Malik i S. Vinogradov to V. Molotovu. 25.03.1947, FPA RF, Record group 06, Inventory 9, Folder 69, File 1071, sheet 1. Back to text
31 See: Reshenie Politburo TsK VKP (b.) “O posle SSSR v Turtsii.” 16.02.1948, RSASPH, Record group 17, Inventory 3, File 1069, sheet 16. Back to text
32 See: Reshenie Politburo TsK VKP (B) “Ukazanie poslu v Turtsii.” 29.03.1948, RSASPH, Record group 17, Inventory 162, File 39, sheet 41. Back to text
33 See: V. Dekanozov—P. Yershovu. 26.01.1947, FPA RF, Record group 06, Inventory 30, Folder 287, File 2, sheet 1. Back to text
34 I. Samylovskiy—P. Yershovu, A. Shiborinu, D. Solodu, G. Zaytesevu. 18.04.1947, FPA RF, Record group 06, Inventory 30, Folder 287, File 2, sheet 20. Back to text
35 See: B. Kuniholm, The Origins of the Cold War in the Near East: Great Power Conflict and Diplomacy in Iran, Turkey, and Greece, Princeton University Press, 1980, p. 407. Back to text
36 Memorandum by the Secretary of State to the President Truman. 27.02.1947, FRUS, Vol. V, 1947, pp. 60-61. Back to text
37 [http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_sentury/trudoc.asp]. Back to text
38 Posol’stvo SSSR v Turtsii—MID SSSR. 23.04.1947, SA AR, Record Group 28, Inventory 4, File 84, sheets 10-11. Back to text
39 See: Ya. Malik i S. Vinogradov to V. Molotovu. 25.03.1947, FPA RF, Record group 06, Inventory 9, Folder 69, File 1071, sheet 1. Back to text
40 See: Sovetsko-amerikanskie otnoshenia. 1945-1948. Dokumenty,. ed. by G.N. Sevostianov, Moscow, 2004, pp. 415-416. Back to text
41 FPA RF, Record group 06, Inventory 30, Folder 287, File 2, sheet 85; Izvestia, 9 April, 1947. Back to text
42 See: Reshenie Poliburo TsK VKP (B). Ukazania poslu v Turtsii. 29.03.1948 g. RSASPH, Record group 17, Inventory 162, File 39, sheets 41-42. Back to text
43 Iz dnevnika V. Molotova. Priem turetskogo posla F. Hozara. 30.05.1953 g., FPA RF, Record group 0132, Inventory 36, Folder 324, File 5, sheets 11-13. Back to text
44 Vystuplenie N.S. Khrushcheva na 11-m zasedanii iiun’skogo (1957) Plenuma TsK KPSS. Russian State Archives of Recent History, Record group 2, Inventory 1, File 161, sheets 223-224. Back to text

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