Courtesy Reuters

The Eastern Question in Modern Dress

FOR many years preceding 1914 the international scene was dominated by the so-called Eastern Question--the question of what should be done to reform the Ottoman Empire, or (the real rub) to distribute its possessions when it fell apart. The Ottoman Empire fell apart in due course, and what remained of Turkey became a small Republic of some 14,000,000 souls, located in Asia Minor and concerned exclusively with its own affairs. Of the two major contenders for the prize, the Austro-Hungarian and Russian Empires, the former disappeared totally and the latter was changed into the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, by definition and by proclamation immune to the imperialist sin of grabbing territory. The Eastern Question ceased to exist. And for a quarter of a century Turkey played but a secondary rôle in international affairs.

After the First World War relations between Russia and Turkey, based on the Russo-Turkish Treaty of 1921, were friendly. Both countries found themselves to some extent isolated and were able to render each other useful services. But Turkey made no concessions to the Soviet Union in regard to her internal politics; the friendship rested on the understanding that the Turkish Communist Party would be rigorously suppressed. Nor did these good relations prove an obstacle to the eventual rapprochement between Turkey and the West; as things turned out, the Soviet Union found herself in a position where assistance from the despised bourgeois nations was decidedly useful.

With the end of the Second World War, however, all this changed. The victorious alliance in its turn dissolved. The Soviet Union abruptly ceased to be an ally of Turkey's Western associates and became their enemy. And the heirs of Lenin began to fold foreign lands to the bosom of Mother Russia with a length of arm that Alexander III or Nicholas II never knew.

Turkey had to make a choice and she made it without hesitation. She did not for a moment seek to attenuate the bonds linking her to the West, but

Loading, please wait...

Related Articles

This site uses cookies to improve your user experience. Click here to learn more.