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[Ukrainian Statehood in the Twentieth Century: Historical and Political Analysis. Kyiv: Political Thought, 1996. pp. 207-218.]

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Ukraine in Turkish Foreign Policy

Mykola NESUK (1-2), Nataliya KSIONDZYK (3-4)



1. Turkish-Ukrainian Contacts During World War I


Turkey begins to genuinely understand the importance of Ukrainian problem during World War I, when the idea of Ukraine's liberation with the help of the Quadruple Alliance countries finds full support and syppathy on the part of leading Turkish politicians.

Well before Turkey's entry into the war the Union for the Liberation of Ukraine (SVU) issued an address to the Turkish people. This address is the first official document in modern Turkish-Ukrainian relations. Ukraine and Turkey were described as allies against the common enemy, Russian autocracy.

The SVU statement evoked a response in Turkey. The press commented on harassment suffered by Ukrainians under the Russian yoke. The newspaper Tarjiman-e-Haqiqat stated that all the Ukrainian people could only preserve their language and nationhood if they enjoyed the kind of rights granted by Austria-Hungary.1

The Union for the Liberation of Ukraine enthusiastically received news of Turkey's going to war. The dream of Turkish troops landing in the North Caucasus and on the Black Sea coast of Russian Ukraine took clear shape, including the participation of Ukrainian volunteers in a Turkish expeditionary corps to initiate a national uprising in Southern Ukraine and the Kuban. /208/

To establish contacts with Turkish and Bulgarian official and unofficial circles, representatives of the Supreme Ukrainian Council and the SVU were sent to Sofia and Constantinople. Delegates of the Supreme Chief Ukrainian Council L. Tsehelsky and S. Baran met the leading Turkish politicians Enver Pasha and Talaat Bey. The latter supported the aspirations to create on the ruins of a defeated Russia an independent Ukraine as a defensive wall against Russian invasion of the Balkans and Mediterranean.2

The SVU group in Constantinople was instrumental in disseminating information about the Ukrainian question in Turkish provinces. "The intelligent Turks have been completely carried away by the Ukrainian cause", a correspondent of the Visnyk SVU (SVU Herald) reported in the spring of 1915. "On coming across a Ukrainian, all of them begin to talk about Ukraine, about the liberation struggle of Ukrainians and sincerely wish them to free themselves from Moscow's grip."3

The greatest achievement of the SVU mission in Constantinople was the declaration by Interior Minister Talaat Bey, one of Turkey's three actual leaders, published on November 24, 1914. In late October 1914 the Tasfir-i-Efikiar in its article "A new Nation" maintained that the formation of a Ukrainian state would be a great service to the world and mankind.

Talaat Bey stated that the Sublime Porte as well as the Cabinets in Berlin and Vienna recognized the necessity of Ukraine's liberation from Russian domination; after Russia's defeat the Ottoman government would be ready to help the Ukrainian people establish an independent state. The Union for the Liberation of Ukraine was recognized as the national organ of Ukrainians residing in Russian Ukraine.

The political consequences of Talaat Bey's declaration would be difficult to overstate. It was the first official document in international relations which recognized the right of the Ukrainian people to create an independent state. The Talaat Bey declaration is as important for Ukrainian history /209/ as the Balfour declaration is for the history of the Jewish people and state of Israel.

The Young Turks' newspaper Jeune Turque (in French) noted that "The interests of the Ukrainians are closely bound up with Turkey's. The Ukrainian state desired by Ukrainians would separate Russia from the Black Sea. The creation of a non-Russian Slavic state would free Turkey from the policy of intrigues and antics pursued by the Russian autocracy which strives to dominate Constantinople and the straits."4 A successful liberation struggle of the Ukrainian people and Ukraine's breaking away from Russia were seen as delivering a powerful blow on Russia's traditional policies and relieving Turkey of the danger threatening it in the past two centuries.

The SVU delegation had one more task in Turkey: to lay down the conditions for forming a Ukrainian military unit which would land together with the Turkish troops in Kuban or northern Black Sea region, in the area of Odessa, to kindle the Ukrainian population's national liberation movement against the oppression of tsarist Russia.5

The uprising in the Caucasus and Kuban was being prepared by a special German-Turkish committee which was also exploring the possibility of involving Ukrainian envoys whose activities also extended to the organization of an uprising in the Russian Black Sea Fleet.6

The SVU representatives discussed in Constantinople the questions of Turkish-Ukrainian cooperation with the confidantes of Turkey's war minister Enver-pasha. It was envisioned that a small Ukrainian unit supported by a sizable Turkish force would try to trigger off a revolutionary movement in Ukraine after landing somewhere on the Russian Black Sea coast.7

However, in November 1914 Enver-pasha, while supporting in general such an operation, named as its condition absolute supremacy on the Black Sea, which was practically unattainable. Taking account of the real correlation of forces on the Russian-Turkish front and the anti-Turkish senti-/210/ments of most residents in Kuban and Ukraine, there were no chances of a successful operation. Both at ther land and sea theaters of war the initiative was gradually passing over to the Russian troops. Besides, if the Ukrainian representatives had arrived in Northern Caucasus in the Turkish landing force trains, they would have been thought of as representatives of an occupational enemy army.

The probability of such developments was forecast by the SVU leader A. Skoropys-Yeltukhovsky in his analysis of the situation on December 20, 1914. The SVU leadership makes a conclusion that the Kuban population's awareness is not high. That is why they should be assured that the action planned in Constantinople will be carried out to serve the interests of the Ukrainian people rather than those of the Turks.

The people's masses should understand that there are objective prerequisites for building a Ukrainian state and vigorously use every opportunity to attain the goal set. The Ukrainians should be convinced that it is in the interests of Austria-Hungary, Germany and Turkey to work for the creation of a Ukrainian state as a buffer between them and Russia. This, according to A. Skoropys-Yeltukhovsky, should allay the Ukrainians fear of being used in the war as cannon fodder only to be left to their fate after Russia's defeat. The awareness of vital interests binding Ukraine and antiRussian allied states could have become a powerful method of anti-Moscow propaganda in Ukraine.8

But real possibilities of Ukrainian-Turkish partnership, especially in the war situation, turned out to be limited. As early as 1915 Turkey's dismal military failures frustrated any chances and hopes of its pursuing a vigorous foreign policy.




2. Turkish-Ukrainian Relations in 1918-1921


In accordance with Article 8 of the Brest Peace Treaty, additional agreements were concluded between the Ukrainian People's Republic (URP) and individual states of /211/ the Quadruple Alliance. A Ukrainian-Turkish accord was sighed in Brest-Litovsky on February 12, 1918. The agreement announced null and void all the laws, regulations and orders issued on the territory of each party under the martial law. Some of the articles settled the questions of repatriation of POWs and internees and material indemnities. Mutual privileges were provided for. In view of the absence of any treaty basis for their relationships, the URP and Turkey agreed to conclude a consular convention as well as some other bilateral documents.9

The Brest Peace Treaty was instrumental in turning Turkey from Ukraine's enemy into its ally. It was just at that time that news about agitation for annexing Odessa to the Ottoman Empire appeared in some Turkish newspapers. The claims were hailed by a group of Turkish politicians who, with references to historical, economic and geographic factors, tried to justify Turkey's claims on Odessa which ceased to be part of the empire only 120 years ago.10 However that policy line failed to acquire significance.

M. Levytsky, the first Ukraine's ambassador to Constantinople, dealt with such political problems as the Crimea issue, the Bessarabia and Balkan questions, relations with Persia (an opportunity of contacts with Persia's representative in Turkey). He was especially concerned by events in the Caucasus. Consatantinople was visited by representatives of the Northern Caucasus who sought support in creating a separate Muslim state. Applying to the Turkish side for help, they laid claims on the whole Northern Caucasus, up to the Kuban River, thus trying to annex a part of the Kuban Cossacks' territory.11

Generally, Ukrainian-Turkish relations in the time of the UPR started on a constructive note. Mutual orientation to support and partnership can be testified to by the work of Turkey's Ambassador to Kyiv Akhmed Mukhtar-Bey.12 That trend persisted in the time of the Directory.13 /212/




3. Soviet Ukraine in Turkish Foreign Policy


On acquiring an essentially different state status after the disintegration of the Osman Empire, Turkey faced an acute problem of freeing itself from essential dependence on the Entente nations and consolidation its own international position.

In the situation of intensified Turkey's blockade in 1920, the Kemal-Pasha government naturally sought contacts in the northern direction where he expected to gain not only moral, but also material and military support. Under the circumstances, a change in political regime could negligibly influence strategy. As early as March 15, 1921, the Moscow Treaty on friendship and fraternity was signed between Turkey and Soviet Russia, and on October 13 of that year, the Kara Treaty with republics of the Soviet Transcaucasia. Late in 1921, an extraordinary Ukrainian mission, headed by member of the All-Ukrainian Central Executive Committee and the Council of People's Commissars of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic Mykhailo Frunze visited Ankara. He handed over a large sum of money to the Turkish government. On January 2, 1922, the Treaty on friendship and fraternity was signed between Turkey and Ukraine. Speaking on January 3, 19-22, at the reception after the signing of the treaty, Chairman of the Great National Assemble M. Kemal-Pasha noted: "Turkey and Ukraine are the nations closest to each other. Likewise is friendship between the peoples of these countries."14

A new Turkey's leadership was quick in forgetting the foundations of bilateral ties laid down in the first post-war years and readily answered bolshevist advances. Thus, the Ankara Treaty on friendship and fraternity became another important milestone in the good-neighborly relations between Ukraine and Turkey. It provided for establishment of diplomatic and consular relations, formed the legal basis of /213/ their political alliance and initiated active partnership in commercial, economic and cultural spheres.15

The Ankara Treaty, along with the Moscow and Kara Treaties, was of great significance for further development of the independent Turkish state and manifested a breakthrough in the diplomatic and economic blockade by the Entente nations. In addition, the treaties worked considerably for the military success of the Turkish patriotic forces. But later on the treaty failed to play a great role in Ukrainian-Turkish relations which actually lost full-fledged interstate essence.

As early as in early and mid-1920s, Turkish-Ukrainian trade relations were rather intensive. Ukrainian official circles granted Turkish merchants the right of free entry to Ukraine at any time and conduct commercial operations at great fairs organized in the 1920s.16 Turkish vessels could enter Ukrainian Black Sea and Azov ports without special visas of Soviet representatives in Turkey. A sizable portion of Turkish export to the USSR passed just through Ukrainian ports. In 1925 in Kharkiv the Ukrainian-Oriental Trade Chamber was founded with its branches in Kyiv and Odessa. The Chamber facilitated foreign trade by various Ukrainian organizations. According to the data of the People's Commissariat for Trade of the Ukrainian Socialist Soviet Republic, Turkey was the major trade partner of Ukraine: in 1926-1927 the share of Ukraine's foreign trade with Turkey accounted for 45% of the overall Ukraine's foreign trade. According to the statistics of the USSR's Main Customs Board, in the same period Ukraine's share was about 35% of the USSR's total export to Turkey.17

An important role in the development of Ukrainian-Turkish relations, scientific contacts and cultural tics was played by the All-Ukrainian scientific association of orientalists founded in January 1926. It focused its activities in the political-economic and historical-ethnological directions. Many studies were devoted to Turkey, to its economy, policy, history and language. It was just that association, along /214/ with the Turkological Commission headed by Academician A. Krymsky and some other public and culture figures, that in the late 1920s and 1936s kept up a dialog between the two countries through contacts with Turkish colleagues.18

Later on, Stalin's isolationism and World War II led to a practically complete degradation of Ukrainian-Turkish relationships. Only in the 1960-1980s, when relations between the Soviet Union and Turkey were normalized and considerably improved, Turkey's economic, scientific-technological and cultural ties with Ukraine intensified. But they did not have any political overtones and could not be developed independently by the two nations.




4. Restoration and Development of Bilateral Relations at the Present Stage


Real bilateral relations began to be restored only when the USSR was in a deep crisis, and preconditions emerged for Ukraine's becoming independent. The first documentary evidence of this became the 1989 Protocol between the Turkish Republic and the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic on the development of economic and trade relations.

In the spring of 1991, Turgut Ozal, the then President of the Turkish Republic, came to Ukraine on an officfal visit. On March 13, 1991, the President met with the Chairman of the Ukrainian Parliament. The leaders of the two countries adopted a joint statement and signed the Declaration on principles and goals of relations between the two nations. Specifically, the Declaration noted: "Proceeding from the mutual intention to continue good traditions laid down by the Treaty on friendship and fraternity of January 2, 1922, Ukraine and Turkey declare about their desire to develop mutually beneficial cooperation in political, economic, ecological, scientific-technological, informational, cultural, humanitarian and other spheres."19

The Ukrainian side emphasized its desire to support /215/ the Turkish President's initiatives on creating a zone of the Black Sea cooperation as one of the ways of developing integration processes in Europe. In this respect, the Declaration manifested willingness of the two countries to work jointly for environmental protection, primarily of the Black Sea, and elaboration of a corresponding ecological convention. The visit also resulted in signing documents on cooperation in the spheres of telecommunications and culture, and an understanding was reached on establishing the Ukrainian-Turkish Association for foreign economic and trade relations. On November 20, 1991, ten days before the All-Ukrainian referendum on independence, Turkey announced about establishing consular relations with Ukraine.

The USSR disintegration and creation of independent Ukraine put new tasks before Turkey and opened up new prospects. On March 5-6, 1992, Turkey's Foreign Minister Kh.Cetin made an official visit to Kyiv, during which the Protocol on consultations in foreign policy matters was signed. And in May 1992 Ukraine's President L.Kravchuk came to Turkey on an official visit, the first in the history of bilateral relations, during which the Treaty on friendship and partnership between Ukraine and the Turkish republic was signed.

The two sides confirmed "their obligations within the framework of all documents signed earlier and now efficient acts, especially the Treaty on Friendship and fraternity between Ukraine and Turkey of January 2, 1922. The Treaty of May 4, 1992, laid down the foundation for a comprehensive bilateral cooperation in political, economic, cultural and other spheres. It provides for development of direct ties between enterprises as well as close cooperation in the fields of environmental protection, science, technology, communications and informatics, tourism and sports. It was noted that "the sides agree to conduct consultations with a view of coordinated development of their relations and exchange of opinions on international and regional matters". Particular attention is attached to partnership in the Black Sea /216/ region on the basis of the Declaration on the Black Sea economic cooperation, signed on June 25, 1992, in Istanbul by eleven countries of the Black Sea region and stating mutual obligations of the member-countries to gradually lift constraints on the flow of capital, goods, services and people. The agreement provides for the development of infrastructure as well as maximum encouragement of business partnership.20

Proceeding from international commitments, Ukraine and Turkey also agreed on close cooperation within the framework of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe and in the UN bodies.

The conceptual approach of the Turkish government to constructing strategies in the region lies in that the policy of balancing between Russia and Ukraine can be shifted to the Ukrainian side, if the latter will, in its turn, work in that direction, too. Russia is a country whose policies are difficult to prognosticate for a number of geopolitical, national, ethnic and social reasons. Ukraine demonstrated its desire to maintain peace and security not only within its borders but also in the whole region, and its policies are easier to foresee and may be more in line with Turkey's national interests.

One of the major tasks, set by Turkey before itself, is to assist newly independent states in their transition to market economy. One of the reasons for this is that all those countries are its neighbors. "The first reason is our own interests: we want to have problem-free neighbors, we want them to stand on their own feet and advance along the lines on their own. We want only to help in the process". The Turkish President named Ukraine "one of Turkey's powerful neighbors" among the top priority neighbors.21. Addressing Ukraine's Parliament on May 31, 1994, Turkey's President said, in particular: "Turkey attaches importance to being Ukraine's reliable friend, useful neighbor and serious economic and trade partner, and it works in this direction. We are pleased to see that Ukraine, too, extends to us its hand /217/ of friendship and partnership with similar feelings and intentions."22

Another reason of Turkey's special interest in its northern neighbors is a Turk, or, in the case of Ukraine specifically, Crimean Tartar factor. As Turkey's President noted, the Crimea is the homeland of "our brethren."23 Turkey deems it not only its duty, but also the duty of other countries, to render them assistance. And if now hundreds of thousands of Crimean Tartars have returned to the Crimea, then today this is a problem not only for Ukraine, which is not in a position to solve it on its own, but also for all civilized nations.

In connection with the 50th anniversary of the deportation of the Tartar population from the Crimea, Turkey's President pointed out in his address: "Our Tartar brethren ... are a great branch of the Turkish nation, they have occupied their place among those who wrote Ukraine's history, and they are the strongest bridge of friendship between Turkey and Ukraine". The Turkish side gratefully acknowledged the efforts of Ukraine's government in bringing Crimean Tartars back to their historical homeland and expressed its readiness to help solve their housing problems.24 Turkish organizations and companies on the peninsula intensify their activities in economic and humanitarian fields.25 In general, the Crimean issue is very high on the agenda of Turkey's foreign policy regarding Ukraine.




* * *


The first steps of Turkey and Ukraine along the road of developing independent bilateral relation in a new historical situation demonstrated their mutual interest and intention to achieve an essentially new level of inter-state partnership. This is testified by the fact that Ukraine's and Turkey's positions on a wide range of burning problems are quickly becoming ever closer. Their solution can play an important part in economic, social and cultural life of the two coun- /218/tries. Further intensification of contacts between them has in fact formed a new vector in their foreign policy courses, which can radically change priorities in international orientations of Near and Middle Eastern, and Central and East European countries.







1 Herald of the Union far the Liberation of Ukraine (Vtsnyk SVU) (Vienna, 1914: in Ukrainian) part 2, p. 9.

2 K. Levytsky, The History of Galidan Ukrainian Liberation Struggle Since the 1914-1918 World War (Lviv, 1929), p. 11.

3 Vtsnyk SVU, 1915, parts 15-16, p. 9.

4 Vtsnyk SVU, 1915, parts 9-10, p. 17.

5 A. I. Skoropys-Joltuchovskyj, Ezwagungen bezuglich der Konstantinopel der Aktion und der Verlegung des Sitzes des Prasidiums des Bundes nach Konstantinopel (Wien, 20. Dezember 1914), HHSt. A.PA 903 Kr. 8b. Ausfertigung.

8 This goal was desirable because of Turkey's promise that the insurgent Russian ships could have cast anchor in Constantinople and hoist Turkish flags in a favorable situation. See Telegramm in Ziffem an Markfraf Pallavicini in Konstantinopel, nr. 602 (Wien, am. 9. Oktober 1914), HHSt. P. A. 902 Kr. 8b. Konzept.

7 See details: Privatschreiben des Grafen Hoyos an den Oberst Hranilovich, Armeeoberkommando (Wien, am 8. November 1914), Streng geheim. HHSt. A.P.A. 902 Kr. 8 b. Konzept. Provisorischer Bericht... (Wien, den 16. Desember 1914), HHSt. A.PA 903 Kr. 8 b. Ausfertigung. Kabinett des Ministers. Privatschreiben des Grafen Hoyos an Oberst von Hranilovish (Wien, am 14. November 1914), HHSt. A.PA. 902 Kr. 8 b. Konzert. Streng geheim. Chiffre-Telegramm des K.u.K /411/ Ministeriums des Aussem an Markgraf Pallavidni in Konstantinopel, Nr. 744 (Wien. 13. November 1914), HHSt. A.PA. 902 Liasse Kr. 8 b.

8 Al. Skoropys-Joltuchovskyi, Erwagungen bezuglich der Konstantinopler. Aktion..., HHSt. A.P.A. 903 Kr. 8b. Ausfeitigung.

9 The Ukrainian-Turkish Supplement to the peace treaty signed on February 9, 1918, in Brest-Litovsk between the Ukrainian People's Republic, on the one hand, and Turkey, Germany, Austria-Hungary and Bulgaria, on the other. Peace Treaty Between the Ukrainian People's Republic, on the one hand, and Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and Turkey, on the other (Kyiv, 1918: in Ukrainian), p. 14.

10 Nova Rada, 46, March 31 (18), 1918. (in Ukrainian).

11 Central State Archives of Ukraine, file 3766, op. I, case 111, sheet 5.

12 Central State Archives of Ukraine, f. 3766, op. I, spr. 114, ark. 22. Nova Rada, No 164, September 14 (1) 1918.

13 This brief period is associated, inter alia, with the activities of the new Ukrainian ambassador in Turkey Oleksandr Lototsky. "Turkey is Ukraine's as much natural ally in the South as Poland is in the West," thought Lototsky. See O. Lototsky, "In Constantinople," Proceedings of the Ukrainian Research Institute (Warsaw, 1939: in Ukrainian), XL, pp. 15-24.

14 I. Chernikov, "From the Depths of Centuries. On a Peace-Making Tendency in Ukrainian-Turkish Relations Against the Historical Background," Polityka i chas, 1994, 7, p. 82.

15 See the complete text of the treaty: Documents of the USSR Foreign Policy (Moscow, 1961: in Russian), V, pp. 9-14.

16 The fairs in Kyiv (Kontraktovy), Kharkiv (Khreshchensky) and Odesa.

17 "Ukraine and Turkey," Skhidny svit, 1929, 1-2, pp. 8-9 (in Ukrainian).

18 See details: I. Cheraikov, "...Decided to Strengthen the Best and Cordial Bilateral Relations Forever...." Potitika i vremya, 1992, 4, p. 39 (in Russian); "The Visit of a VUNAS Delegation to Turkey," Skhidny svit, 1929, 1-2, pp. 375385 (in Ukrainian).

19 Holos Ukrainy, 1992, October 21 (in Ukrainian).

20 Milliyet, 1992, 26 Haziran.

21 "Eurasia Today," Eurasian Studies, 1994, vol. I, 3, Fall-p. 102.

22 Sayin Cumhurlar kanimizin Ukrayna Parlamentosunda (Verkhovna RadaYuksek Sivyet) yapacaklare konusma (Kiev, 31 Mayis, 1994 Sail. Saat 10.00)

23 "Eurasia Today," Eurasian Studies, 1994, vol. I, 3, Fall-p. 107.

24 Sayin Cumhurlar kanimizin Ukrayna Parlamentosunda (Verkhovna Rada-Yuksek Sivyet) yapacaklare konusma (Kiev, 31 Mayis, 1994 Sali. Saat 10.00)

25 Vseukrainskie vedomosti, May 29, 1996 (in Russian).





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