“Armenia And Georgia Have No Territorial Claims Against Turkey” – The Background Of Molotov’s Famous Statement

During WWII, Turkey pursued a pro-German foreign policy. In 1940, Ankara concluded a trade agreement with Germany, and on June 18, 1941, a non-aggression pact was concluded between the two counties.

Turkish Prime Minister Şükrü Saracoğlu also did not hide the fact that “he, as a Turk, was keen to destroy Russia.” In the fall of 1942, Turkey concentrated military force on the Soviet-Turkish border, which in turn forced Stalin to deploy the 45th army and other units there.

After the defeat of the German army on the Stalingrad front, the Turks were forced to reconsider their plans. On February 23, 1945, Ankara declared war on Germany, although it would not take any military part in the war.

Turkey’s hostile policy towards the USSR was not left without consequences. Already in the spring of 1945, Stalin decided to annul the Moscow and Kars treaties of 1921 and take away the eastern borderline regions of Turkey – Kars, Ardahan, and Surmalu.

The war was not over yet when on March 19, 1945, Stalin announced his intention to denounce the Soviet-Turkish treaty of 1925 “on friendship and neutrality” because it did not correspond to the new situation and required serious improvement.

In the Armenian Diaspora, people began to confidently talk about the return of Armenian lands and the imminent repatriation. The spread and strengthening of these sentiments were facilitated by the meeting of Archbishop Gevorg Chorekchyan with Stalin on April 9, 1945.

After the defeat of Germany in World War II, the USSR’s claims against Turkey over the Black Sea straits and the Armenian question were discussed during the negotiations of the leaders of world powers.

In June 1945, during the Soviet-Turkish negotiations in Moscow, Stalin raised the question of revising the Montreux Convention (1936), as well as the return of the Kars and Ardahan Provinces.

Well aware that the invasion of Soviet troops could occur at any time, the Turks left their borderline positions and moved the troops inland in July 1945. At the same time, they addressed the West for support.

Stalin’s demands were also discussed by the leaders of the Allied countries at the Potsdam Conference in July-August 1945.

On July 16, 1945, during a meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the USSR and the UK, the British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden informed the Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov about the visit of the Turkish delegation to London, and he himself showed interest in the question of the return of the Armenian lands raised by Stalin.

Molotov’s response was as follows: “In 1921, the Turks took advantage of the fact that the Soviet Union was weak and took away part of Soviet Armenia. As a result, the Armenians of the Soviet Union felt insulted. Given this circumstance, the Soviet government raised the question of legally returning the lands belonging to the Soviet Union.”

Molotov also substantiated the need to return the Armenian lands, assuring that they did not belong to the Turks.

The discussion of this issue continued in Potsdam during the meetings between Stalin, Churchill, and Truman. At a meeting on July 23, Stalin stated: “The point is to restore the borders that existed before WWI. I mean the Kars Province, which was part of Armenia, and the Ardahan Province, which was part of Georgia.”

Stalin’s words about the belonging of Ardahan to Georgia came as a surprise to all Armenians.

The US and the UK, seeing how Stalin was consistently turning the countries of Eastern Europe into political and economic appendages of the USSR, did everything to interfere with his plans. At that time, Soviet troops were also located in Iran, which provided a real opportunity Soviet expansion.

In the meantime, Turkey took advantage of the situation, taking on the role of the southern barrier on the path of Soviet expansion and saving itself from the seemingly inevitable territorial losses.

In December 1945, Georgia, naturally by the order of the Kremlin, presented territorial claims against Turkey. Georgian academicians Simon Janashia and Nikoloz Berdzenishvili published an article titled “About our legal claims against Turkey” in the Tbilisi newspaper “Communist” on December 14, 1945. On December 20, this article was fully published in the newspaper “Pravda”, the official mouthpiece of the Central Committee of the CPSU.

“Justifying” their claims against Turkey, Georgian scholars concluded their article as follows.

“The Georgian people should get back their lands which they have never given up and were not going to give up. We imply the areas of Ardahan, Artvin, Alti, and East Lazistan – that is, only a part of the lands taken from Georgia.”

On October 24, 1947, during a meeting of the UN Political Committee, the representative of the USSR Vyshinsky, answering the question of the Turkish representative Selim Salber about whether the USSR would continue to make territorial claims against Turkey, said: “Kars and Ardahan are Georgian territories, and it would be fair if they were returned to Georgia ” This crazy statement made by Vyshinsky in October 1947 was published in the newspapers “Pravda” and “Izvestia”.

Already on November 25 of the same year, as a result of Diaspora’s discontent and obvious pressure from the Armenians, Vyshinsky said at the USSR Consulate in New York: “I did not say that Kars and Ardahan belong to Georgia. I also did not say that they belong to Armenia. I said that the Soviet Union should give Kars and Ardahan to the one to whom they belong. “

After the formation of the NATO Alliance in 1949 and immediately after Turkey joined it in 1952, the Soviet Union changed its policy towards Turkey. The USSR decided to remove Turkey from the influence of the West and again switched to a policy of appeasement.

As a result, on May 30, 1953, USSR Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov officially said: “Armenia and Georgia renounce their territorial claims against Turkey. Therefore, the Soviet Union no longer has territorial claims against Turkey.”

Arshaluis Zurabyan

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