Stephan Rindlisbacher

Between Proclamations of Friendship and Concealed Distrust: The Turkish-Soviet Border Commission, 1925–1926

  • History

Opposing the treaties signed after the Paris Peace Conference, the Soviet state and the nascent Turkish Republic saw themselves as potential allies. The Treaties of Moscow and Kars in 1921 were the legal expressions of this. Among other things, both signatory powers agreed that a bilateral commission would demarcate their newly established mutual border in the South Caucasus. This article provides insights into the daily work of the Joint Turkish-Soviet Border Commission that met, after repeated delays, from March 1925 to September 1926. Based on the minutes of this commission stored in the National Archive of Armenia, it explores the following questions: Who were its members? What was its daily business? What sort of challenges occurred and how were they dealt with? This allows us to place this commission in context. Even though the Commission members stuck publicly to the terms of friendship and cooperation, they had conflicting geopolitical interests. Potential conflicts were deliberately silenced. Furthermore, regional representatives from the Transcaucasian Federation (on the Soviet side) or from the Kurdish minority (on the Turkish side) were marginalised in the decision-making processes. After one and a half years, the Commission was able to demarcate the bilateral border. From this perspective, its work was a success. The boundaries established in 1925/26 still exist today, separating Turkey from the three South Caucasian republics.

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