THE "question of the Straits" has been the basis of Turkey's relations with the Powers for almost two centuries. The Ottoman Empire, founded in Anatolia in the fourteenth century, was carried into Europe by Suleiman, the son of the second Sultan. The point which Suleiman chose for crossing into Europe was the Dardanelles, the narrow strait about 40 miles long and between one-and-a-half and four miles wide which runs from the Sea of Marmora to the Aegean. Both banks of the Dardanelles have been in Turkish hands ever since. Having established themselves on European soil, the Turks took Adrianople and moved their capital there in 1367. Istanbul still continued for a century to be the capital of the rapidly declining Byzantine Empire; and through this period its conquest was the foremost aim of the Sultans. They realized their ambition in 1453, thus securing control of the Bosphorus, the strait 21 miles long and between half and one-and-a-half miles wide running from the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmora.
In this manner the whole length of the waterway from the Black Sea to the Aegean came into Turkish hands. By the further conquest of the Crimea, on the northern shore of the Black Sea, the Turks a few years later made that sea into a Turkish lake, and it continued as such until the signing of the Treaty of Kainarji in 1774.
During these three centuries, from 1475 to 1774, the problem of the Straits did not exist and the Ottoman Empire established the rule of excluding all foreign ships from the "virgin waters" of the Black Sea.
It was not until Catherine II of Russia conquered and definitely took over the northern shores of the Black Sea that the Turkish monopoly of trade in that region was broken. This came about because the Ottoman Empire joined Poland in a war on Russia and suffered a crushing defeat. The Treaty of Kainarji, mentioned above, which put an end to that war, forced Turkey to recognize the independence of
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