On March 19, 1945, the Soviet Union declared that it intended to abandon the Soviet-Turkish Treaty of Friendship and Neutrality of 1925 since it “no longer corresponded to the international situation and there was a need for its serious improvement.”
During WWII, Turkey led a pro-German foreign policy. In 1940, Ankara concluded a trade agreement with Germany, and on June 18, 1941, a pact on “non-aggression and friendship” was signed between them. Turkish Prime Minister Saracoğlu did not conceal that “he as a Turk really wanted Russia to be destroyed.”
In the fall of 1942, Turkey concentrated a large number of troops on the Soviet-Turkish border, which forced Stalin to deploy the 45th army and other armed groups there.
After the defeat of the German army in the Battle of Stalingrad, the Turks were forced to revise their plans. On February 23, 1945, Ankara declared war on Germany, though Turkey wouldn’t take part in the war.
Turkey’s behavior and its hostile policy towards the Soviet Union did meet its consequences. Already in the spring of 1945, Stalin had a firm intention to denounce the Moscow and Kars treaties of 1921 and occupy the eastern border areas of Turkey (Kars, Ardahan, and Surmalu) in favor of the Armenian SSR and the Georgian SSR.
The war was not yet over when, on March 19, 1945, the USSR declared its intention to denounce the Soviet-Turkish treaty of 1925 we mentioned above. After this news, the Armenians’ faith in the return of Armenian territories after the war was reassured.
In the Armenian Diaspora, people began to speak more confidently about the return of Armenian lands and about organizing new repatriation. The meeting of Archbishop Gevorg Chorekchyan with Stalin on April 9, 1945, played an important role in the spreading and strengthening of these sentiments.
During the meetings of the leaders of the Ally countries after the defeat of Germany in WWII, questions raised by the Soviet Union on the Black Sea straits and Armenian territories in Turkey were discussed among other topics.
During the Soviet-Turkish negotiations in June 1945 in Moscow, the USSR put forward both the demand for revising the status of the Black Sea straits (the Montreux Convention of 1936) and the demand for the return of Kars and Ardahan.
The refusal of Turkey did not give Stalin any grounds for concern. Stalin believed that he was free to commit acts against his neighbors, and he sought to resolve controversial issues with them through bilateral negotiations and threats.
Well aware that the attack of the Soviet troops was possible at any time, the Turks dismantled their border positions and moved the troops into the interior in July 1945. With this step, the Turks also wanted to show that its attitude towards the Soviet Union was not hostile.
At the same time, Turkey turned to the West for help. Due to this, Stalin’s claims were discussed by the leaders of the Ally countries during the Potsdam Conference held from July 17 to August 2, 1945.
The United States and the United Kingdom, seeing how Stalin consistently turned the countries of Eastern Europe into an appendage of the Soviet Union, did everything possible to counter his plans.
At this time, Soviet troops were also present in Iran, and for the Soviet Union, there was a real opportunity for expanding the Soviet borders and spreading its influence towards the south.
On July 16, 1945, a meeting between the foreign ministers of the USSR and the UK, Vyacheslav Molotov and Anthony Eden, took place. Eden informed Molotov that the Turks had visited him in London and that he had shown interest in demanding that Turkey return the Armenian lands.
Molotov replied: “In 1921, the Turks took advantage of the fact that the Soviet Union was weak and took away part of Soviet Armenia. The Armenians of the Soviet Union feel offended. Bearing in mind this fact, the Soviet government raised the question of the return of the territories belonging to the USSR by legal means.”
At the same time, Molotov justified the need for the return of the Armenian lands by the fact that “these territories do not belong to the Turks.”
The discussion of the issue continued in a similar fashion during the Stalin-Churchill-Truman meeting in Potsdam in 1945.
During the meeting on July 23, Stalin declared: “The point is to restore the borders that existed before the First World War. I imply the Kars region, which still is part of Armenia, and the Ardahan region, which was part of Georgia.”
Stalin’s statement that the Ardahan region was part of Georgia came as a surprise to the Armenians.
In December 1945, naturally, at the request of the Kremlin, Georgia made territorial claims to Turkey. Two Georgian academicians, S. Janashia and N. Berdzenishvili, published an article entitled “About our legal demands on Turkey” in the Tbilisi magazine “Kommunist” (December 14, 1945). On December 20, this article was fully published in the official newspaper of the USSR Central Committee “Pravda.”
“Justifying their territorial demands on Turkey, Georgian scholars ended their article as follows: ‘The Georgian people must get their lands back which they have never refused and cannot refuse. We imply the regions of Ardahan, Ardvin, Olti, Tortum, Spera, Baberd, Gyumushkhan, and the districts of East Lazistan, that is, we imply only a part of the lands taken from Georgia.’”
On October 24, 1947, during the meeting of the UN Political Committee, USSR envoy Andrei Vyshinsky on the Turkish envoy Selim Salbury’s question on “whether the USSR really continued to make territorial claims to Turkey” answered: “Kars and Ardahan are Georgian territories, and it will be fair if they go back to Georgia.”
This crazy statement of Vyshinsky was published by the Soviet newspapers “Izvestia” and “Pravda” on October 28.
Under the conditions of obvious pressure and dissatisfaction of the Armenian diaspora, on November 25 of the same year, Vyshinsky said in the Soviet 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 must give these lands to those to whom they belong. “
After the establishment of NATO in 1949 and the accession of Turkey to this military bloc in 1952, the Soviet authorities attempted to remove Turkey from the influence of the West by first appeasing and then even pleasing it.
In May 1953, in an official telegram received by Ankara, the USSR Foreign Minister Molotov informed the Turkish authorities about the renouncement of the territorial claims by Armenia and Georgia. Consequently, the Kremlin finally abandoned its territorial claims against Turkey.