Vol. 5, No. 3 (February 01, 2012)

Russian-Turkish relations between the Sovietization of Azerbaijan and the Sovietization of Armenia

PART I (B). Halil-Pasha’s Program: 
A “Monroe Doctrine” for Asia 

Jamil Hasanly, Dr.*
Professor of History
Baku State University

Approximately a month later, on June 22, G. Chicherin noted in his report to the Politburo of the Central Committee of the RKP(b) that, “we must finally speed up the realization of our plans in Turkey.” [1] And when B. Mdivani, the Soviet representative in the Caucasus, reported a week later about the appearance of Turkish units in Nakhchivan, the Russian Peoples Commissariat of International Affairs felt compelled to become more active in relation to the Kemalists.  On the one hand, in Moscow, this was taken as “a turning point of the entire policy of the lesser Asian Turkish nationalists,” and on the other, they assessed it as “an act of a specific detachment conducting its own policy” under the influence of Musavatists who were struggling against the Soviets. [2] 

It is indicative that in this indefinite situation, G. Chicherin attempted with all his efforts to ward off the advance of the Red Army which had seized Azerbaijan into Armenia and thus wrote to V. Lenin: “The advance of the Turks forces us to refrain from the further advance of this plan [the plan of attack on Armenia].  The Revolutionary Council of the Republic categorically insists that we limit ourselves to what we already have, namely the defense of Baku.” [3] G. Chicherin advised to delay the handing over of arms to the Kemalists until Moscow had received a report from Eliava from Ankara.  And only after this would the Soviet promise of arms to the Turks be fulfilled.  G. Chicherin was concerned that those arms could—directly or indirectly—be used against the Soviets.

In the summer of 1920 after his brief arrest in Lithuania, Enver-Pasha returned to Moscow.  In those very same days, Cemal-Pasha with several Ittihadists also arrived in Russia from Berlin.  What did Enver-Pasha want from Moscow?  In the first place, Enver-Pasha had followed very attentively the processes taking place in Anatolia and—in the course of his Moscow conversations—did not conceal that if the Ankara government of Mustafa Kemal-Pasha “does something like the Sevres Treaty, and for example hands over Izmir to the Greeks, then [Enver’s] sword, dagger, pistol, name, and leadership would be directed against this government.”  If the allies had been able by various means to push Turkey against Moscow, then, in their turn, the Russians would have been ready with Enver-Pasha’s help to destroy the new Turkey.

And it was in this that the value of Enver-Pasha for Russian foreign policy consisted.  Enver-Pasha was a strong means in the hands of Moscow for forcing the Kemalists to join in an alliance with the Bolsheviks.  Russian diplomacy intended to use Turkey in the person of Enver-Pasha and the Young Turks against the Entente.  The Bolshevik leaders thought that they would be able to navigate cleverly between the green and red banners of the Turks [the colors of the Ottoman Empire and Kemalist Turkey].  However, Enver-Pasha recognized perfectly well that the ideals of Turanism, which were grounded in Islam, hardly squared with the ideals of “the proletarian revolution,” something which made the Bolshevik’s approach into a purely Russian policy, and indeed, it is difficult to imagine that these ideals could co-exist for long.  When he was unexpectedly asked in Moscow whether “it was accidental that he was not an imperialist,” Enver-Pasha, who had chosen Soviet Russia as an ally, with a sad face noted that, “he was in fact an imperialist; the only question was in the dimensions of the empire.” [4] 

The Ottoman leaders were perfectly well informed about the attitudes of the Russians toward Azerbaijan, regardless of their political coloration.  They remembered all too well that already in 1918 when Talat-Pasha spoke at the Berlin talks about the recognition of the independence of the Caucasian republics, Russian Ambassador Adolf Ioffe declared that in relation to Georgia and Armenia this would involve no problems, but the independence of Azerbaijan could only be recognized conditioned on the preservation of the Baku district in Russian hands. [5] At the time of talks in Berlin with the prime minister of Turkey, the Russian ambassador noted that the Soviet government—out of a love of peace—could tolerate the violation by the Ottoman Empire of the conditions of the Brest Treaty or Istanbul’s recognition of the independence of the Caucasus republics not recognized by Russia, but Moscow could not sit still for the seizure of Baku because that would create “a shift in the attitudes of the Russian people which understood very well all the importance of Baku for Russian industry and trade.” [6]

The second interesting moment connected with the arrival of Enver-Pasha was related to Germany who also very much wanted to use his unofficial mediating services.  Berlin hoped to enlist the Bolsheviks’ support in the restoration of the 1914 borders.  General Hans von Zekt, one of the influential German commanders, sent via Enver-Pasha a proposal to the Bolshevik government of Russia: If the Russians could help the Germans restore the borders of 1914, then Germany would unofficially transfer arms to the Bolsheviks and support in the interests of the Russians an anti-Polish uprising.  On this account, G. Chicherin wrote to V. Lenin: “Enver says that the Entente already now is promising Germany the borders of 1914 if they provide help to the Poles against us.  This appears to us to be a diplomatic lie.  As to the acquisition of arms from Germany, we have already begun negotiations without any compensation, but Enver suggests that this agreement does not mean anything if von Zekt does not agree.  In my opinion,” Chicherin continued, “we cannot support the simple return of Polish localities to German control.  We also do not intend to conquer Poland.  We can only do one thing.  In the case of a European conference, we can by diplomatic means support the holding of a plebiscite in the disputed territories of the former eastern parts of Germany.  Enver awaits an answer.” 

In addition, Enver-Pasha advised G. Chicherin that the national-revolutionary parties of all Muslim countries including Egypt, Tunisia and Algeria had agreed to form a single center in Berlin and that they wanted to conclude a mutual assistance treaty with Soviet Russia in order to support the policy of the Bolsheviks in the East.  Further G. Chicherin wrote that “they want to receive help from us in terms of money and other means, including for example the opening in Moscow of a school for future terrorists, and the like.  I indicated to him that our common principle is the support of national-revolutionary movements, but that the concrete form and object of assistance must be considered separately in each particular case.  Enver therefore called here three or four representatives of these parties.” [7] 

Playing a double game, the Bolshevik leaders who had met with Enver-Pasha in Moscow in the first days of June 1920 also responded to the letter from Mustafa Kemal-Pasha of April 26.  In his response of June 4, Peoples Commissar G. Chicherin reported that the letter of Mustafa Kemal with its proposal to take part in the struggle against international imperialism which threatens both countries had been received by the Soviet government, which viewed with satisfaction this information about the basic principles of the foreign policy of the new Turkish government headed by the Grand National Assembly of Turkey in Ankara.  The Soviet government expressed the hope that diplomatic negotiations would allow the Grand National Assembly on the one hand and Armenia and Persia on the other to establish precise borders on the basis of justice and the self-determination of peoples.

At the same time, G. Chicherin clearly indicated that the Soviet government at any moment was ready to respond to a call from the interested parties to take upon itself the role of mediator in disputes.  And finally, the peoples commissar of international affairs of Soviet Russia proposed to immediately establish diplomatic and consular representations for the development of fraternal relations between Turkey and Russia.  As we see, a large part of the issues enumerated in G. Chicherin’s letter were not mentioned in the April 26 letter of Mustafa Kemal-Pasha.  Everything was simple: by such a diplomatic means, the government of the Bolsheviks made an attempt to return to the provisions of the decree “On Turkish Armenia” of January 11, 1918.

Without waiting for a response from Turkey, Soviet Russia on June 8, 1920 named its diplomatic representative to Ankara.  In connection with this, the Politburo of the Central Committee of the RKP(b) agreed to satisfy the request of the Peoples Commissariat of Foreign Affairs about the dispatch of Comrade Eliava as the diplomatic and military representative to the Turkish National Government of Kemal-Pasha.  At the same time, the Politburo took a decision to provide military and financial assistance to the government of Mustafa Kemal.  On June 28, G. Chicherin reported to the Politburo of the Central Committee of the RKP(b) that the provision of military and financial assistance to the government of Mustafa Kemal, the dispatch of an ambassador to Turkey, and the decisions of the Politburo about providing assistance to Iran and Afghanistan show that “our policy in the east is defined if not by the direct assistance with armed forces against the Entente, then in any case with the help of arms and gold.  On the basis of these decisions, the Central Committee has made corresponding declarations and promises which must be carried out.” 

Further, G. Chicherin wrote: “It is necessary to give Turkey immediately the military assistance we have promised, for any delay after such promises will force Mustafa Kemal to look at us as babblers and deceivers and what is more essential, this could undermine revolutionary Turkey.  Although such help is relatively small even in light of our limited resources, it will have both practical and moral importance.  However, despite the decisions taken by the Politburo, we cannot obtain arms.  The policy that takes a decision today but fails to fulfill its promises on the day to follow, which today promises help but fails to provide it tomorrow discredits us and undermines our enormous authority and influence in the East.” [8] 

Given the seriousness of this document, the Politburo—on June 29—assigned the deputy chairman of the Revolutionary Military Council and member of the Council of Labor and Defense Ye. Sklyansky and Deputy Commissar for Foreign Affairs L. Karakhan to come to an agreement—literally on the next day—on the issues of Turkey and Afghanistan.  On June 30, the Politburo directed G. Chicherin to issue an order that “Russian military units will not advance further into Armenia in order to avoid provoking a Turkish attack.” [9] 

In reality, this question was resolved after the occupation of Azerbaijan, when L. Karakhan in a telegram dispatched on May 11, 1920 warned Ordzhonikidze that V. Lenin had given an order not to hurry with the spreading of Soviet power beyond the borders of Azerbaijan.  He wrote at that time, “First, in order to strengthen Azerbaijan, but from the other point of view, as a result of immediate necessity, it is better to put things off in view of the serious tasks on the Western front and the necessity of taking care when considering our international situation.  In fact, Armenia does not represent an immediate interest for us, while it can bring along with it many uncertainties.  One should not cross the borders established with it by old Azerbaijan or occupy disputed territories by ultimatum, but rather resolve disputed issues by peaceful means, for example, by a mixed commission of both states under our chairmanship.  You are close to the situation and know the complexity of relations in the region and the possibility of Turkish involvement.  If the result of our advance were new tensions, this would seriously harm us in England and America and therefore we propose to limit ourselves to Azerbaijan. [10] 

On July 2, 1920, G. Chicherin communicated to Sergo Ordzhonikidze that a shortage of forces did not allow the seizure of more territories than had been occupied as of that day.  He wrote that “our forces occupy Shusha and Jabrail and we have to refuse to occupy Nakhchivan and Julfa.  Tell the Azerbaijani government that we are forced by circumstances to limit ourselves to the occupation of Shusha and Jabrail and do not have in fact the opportunity to move our forces further.  This has been indisputably established by the Revolutionary Military Council of the Republic.  Please, communicate to the Baku government about the impossibility for us at present to occupy Nakhchivan and Julfa and point to the objective causes which have forced us to limit ourselves to the military status quo.” [11] 

In another telegram sent to G. Ordzhonikidze on the same day, G. Chicherin reported that he had begun talks with the Turkish national center and noted that “we need a territorial contact and must conclude an agreement with Armenia to that effect, so that—through it—we have an opportunity to realize this contact … We consider an accord with it the sole means to guarantee us the possibility of influence on Asia Minor affairs.” [12] 

As can be seen, G. Chicherin wanted to resolve all problems through negotiations concerning the transfer of Nakhchivan to Armenia.  Following the above mentioned actions, the Politburo of the Central Committee of the RKP(b) confirmed the Instruction to the members of the Revolutionary Military Council of the Caucasus Front and the diplomatic representatives in Georgia, Armenia and Turkey, the project of which G. Chicherin had prepared. This document declared that Turkey promised not to block free communist propaganda; in light of general political situation and in view both of the arrangement of power in the world and the military position of Russia, [Moscow’s representatives] are to explain to military units in Georgia, Armenia and Turkey that at the present time, they must not try to overthrow the governments existing there. [13]  

At the same time, on July 2, 1920, Peoples Commissar of International Affair G. Chicherin, taking advantage of the fact that the Soviets’ “respected friend and trusted man” Halil-Pasha was returning to Turkey, sent a letter via him to Mustafa Kemal-Pasha, in which he expressed the respect of Soviet Russia for the revolutionary government of Turkey after having noted that on a series of questions the interests of the Soviet and Turkish governments correspond.  In fact, this letter was not so much an expression of sympathy to the government of Turkey as an indication of “trust” to Halil-Pasha.  Mustafa Kemal-Pasha responded to this letter only on November 29, and at that time, he expressed his firm certainty that the day was coming when Western workers on the one hand and the enslaved peoples of Asia and Africa on the other would unite against international capital. 

* The article originally appeared, in Russian, in Russia’s Regnum News Agency at http://www.regnum.ru/news/1438182.html#ixzz1Xevxl1D3. 


[1] Communication of G. Chicherin to the Central Committee of the RKP(b), 22 June 1920, from the collection of documents of the Political Documents Archive under the President of Azerbaijan Republic (hereafter PDA PAR). 

[2] Letter of G. Chicerin to V. Lenin, 29 June 1920, from the collection of documents of the PDA PAR.

[3] Letter of G. Chicherin to V. Lenin, 29 June 1920, from the collection of documents of the PDA PAR. 

[4] Arthur Ransome, Meeting with Enver-Pasha in Moscow, 25 July 1921, from the collection of documents of the Russian State Archive of Social-Political History (hereafter RSASPH). 

[5] Telegram of A. Ioffe to V. Lenin and G. Chicherin, 21 September 1918, from the collection of documents of RSASPH.  

[6] Report by A. Ioffe to V. Lenin and G. Chicherin, 22 September 1918, from the collection of documents of RSASPH. 

[7] Report of G. Chicherin to V. Lenin, 16 August 1920, from the collection of documents of the Foreign Policy Archive of Russian Federation (hereafter FPA RF). 

[8] G. Chicherin to the Politburo of the Central Committee of the RKP(b), 28 June 1920, from the collection of documents of RSASPH. 

[9] Protocol No. 24 of the session of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the RKP(b), 30 June 1920, from the collection of documents of RSASPH. 

[10] Telegram of L. Karakhan to G. Ordzhonikidze, before 11 May 1920, from the collection of documents of the RSASPH.

[11] Telegram of G. Chicherin to G. Ordzhonikidze, 2 July 1920, from the collection of documents of RSASPH.

[12] Telegram of G. Chicherin to G. Ordzhonikidze, 2 July 1920, from the collection of documents of RSASPH.

[13] G. Chicherin to N. Krestinsky, Instruction to the Revolutionary Military Council of the Caucasus Front.  Copies to Narimanov, Kirov, Legran, and Eliava, 4 July 1920, from the collection of documents of RSASPH.