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Islam and Soviet Heritage

The territorial division of the former USSR and the Russian Federation simplifies the use of the Islamic factor against Russia.

It is well known that after its failure to export the revolution to Western Europe, the Bolshevik government counted on the "arousing East." One of the instruments of the "new course" was the creation on the territory of the former Russian empire of Moslem regions, autonomies and union republics, according to Solzhenitsyn, among other things, in order "to please Turkey, the bosom-friend of the Soviets." In particular, a national-territory formation, called the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic, was created quite artificially, for the sake of exporting the revolution to the East.

Right after the creation of the Azerbaijan SSR Russia lost Kare and Ardagan, the Surmalinsky district and part of Eastern Armenia, annexed to it in accordance with the Gyulistansky and Turkmenchaisky treaties. In 1920 the red Russia gave the kemalist Turkey 10 million gold rubles, nevertheless Turkey didn't follow "the path of the global revolution." In 1936 in Montreaux, Turkey signed an agreement on the straits, which infringed upon Russia's interests. During World War II Hitler promised to assist Turkey in the creation of a Turkic state around the Caspian Sea and in the Crimea. It was the defeat of the German armed forces near Stalingrad that kept Turkey from directly siding with Hitler in his military operations against the USSR. In 1944 Turkey broke off its diplomatic relations with Germany, and in February of 1945 even declared war on it, without, however, firing a single shot. In 1952 Turkey became member of NATO, seeing the USA as its patron, at whose disposal it put its territory for the deployment of nuclear forces.

As everybody knows, the Bolsheviks recognised the right of nations to self-determination and broke all the agreements of the tsarist and provisional governments. Immediately independent states started to emerge on the outskirts of the former empire. It should be noted, though, that all of them were occupied by Germany, Turkey, France, Britain, and the USA. By the summer of 1918 the Soviet government lost three quarters of the territory of tsarist Russia. 

In the three months after the October revolution the Soviet government recognised the independence of the Grand Finnish Princedom, annexed to Russia in 1809. It used to be an autonomous region within the Russian Empire. The Soviets recognised the independence of the Baltic republics. They were annexed to Russia in 1721 following the Nystad peace treaty. The Bolsheviks declared the treaty of 1814-1815, signed by Russia, Prussia and Austria on the division of Poland to be unjust. Three republics, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia, were created in the Transcaucasus.

In 1918 Rumania captured Bessarabia, while Germany seized part of Byelorussia. A Far-Eastern democratic republic was created in the Far East.

In 1921 the Bolsheviks signed the Rizhsky and Moskovsky treaties. In accordance with the Rizhsky treaty the whole of Western Byelorussia went to Poland, while according to the Moskovsky treaty the Kars region in Western Armenia with its districts and the Kars fortress, which later became the base of the Turkish threat to Russia in the south, went to Turkey. At the same time, in accordance with "the British-French-Russian secret agreement of 1915 the Turkish Black Sea straits and Constantinople were to go to Russia, while according to the agreement of 1916 Russia was supposed to get the north-eastern part of the Ottoman Empire - Armenian regions - Erzerum, Trapezund as well as south-eastern Van, Bitlis and part of Kurdistan to the south of Van and Bitlis" (Yu. Barsegov. Geopolitical threat to Russia from the South. M., 1996).

In 1920-1921 Soviet power was established in the Transcaucasus. In 1922 Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia created the Transcaucasian Federation. Later Russia, Ukraine, Byelorussia and the Transcaucasian Federation formed the Soviet Union. In 1925 Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan joined the USSR, in 1929 Tadjikistan joined it, too. Kyrgyzia and Kazakhstan belonged to the RSFSR as autonomies at that time. In 1936 the USSR was already comprised of 11 republics. 

In 1939 the reunion of the Western Ukraine with the Ukrainian SSR and of the Western Byelorussia with the Byelorussian SSR took place. As a result of the war, the Finnish borders were extended from Leningrad northwest. They were extended westwards also owing to annexation of the Baltic countries by the USSR in 1940. Rumania returned Bessarabia, captured in 1918. The territory of Northern Bukovina, inhabited by the Ukrainians, went back to the USSR. In accordance with the documents of the Yalta and Potsdam conferences Eastern Prussia (the Kaliningrad region) and Petsamo went to the USSR. Japan returned the Southern Sakhalin and the Kurils. Tuva joined the USSR. In 1945 the Transcarpathian region was joined to the Ukraine.

After World War II the USSR failed to return the Russian part of Western Armenia and to take control over the straits. "In 1921, Molotov said, the Turks took advantage of the weakness of the Soviet state and took away part of Soviet Armenia. ...As of the straits, the Soviet government has declared for a long time that the Montreaux convention doesn't suit us" ("The Soviet Union at International Conferences in the Period of the Great Patriotic War, 1941-1945" M. Politizdat, 1954). The USA and Britain took the side of Turkey due to long-term geo-strategic considerations.

Seda Vermisheva in her work "Tectonics of External and Internal Borders of the USSR" (Library of Russian-Armenian initiatives Centre, M., 1997) focuses especially on the deliberate Turkic-Moslem tendency in the state-territorial structure of the USSR. And it is hard to argue with this point of view of Vermisheva.

The decision to create the RSFSR was made simultaneously with the declaration of Soviet power. The realisation of the idea started in 1918. Territories with more or less compact habitation of indigenous ethnicities were granted autonomy status on different legal levels. When the titular nation was determined for a certain territory, the number of its representatives were not taken into account, the fact of historical habitation was more important.

The national-state formations, created in the USSR, comprised: Adygeya, Altai, Bashkortostan, Buryatia, Daghestan, Ingushetia, Kabardino-Balkaria, Kalmykia, Karachayevo-Cherkessia, Karelia, Komi, Mari El, Mordovia, Yakutia, Northern Ossetia, Tatarstan, Tuva, Udmurtia, Khakassia, Chechnya, Chuvashia and the Jewish autonomous region. A number of national areas were created on the basis of nationality - Buryatsky, Komi-Permyatsky, Nenetsky, Dolgano-Nenetsky, Ust-Ordynsky, Khanty-Mansiisky, Chukotsky, Evenkiisky, and Yamalo-Nenetsky.

At the early stage Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzia, and Kara-Kalpakia were members of the RSFSR with an autonomous status. Later Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzia were given a union republics status and Kara-Kalpakia received an autonomous status within Uzbekistan.

From the very beginning national formations were given a higher status than that of the Russian regions. It was done in accordance with Lenin's saying: "Internationalism should mean not merely the observance of formal equality, it should also imply inequality, which would balance the superiority of a bigger nation, that has developed in real life".

In Vermisheva's opinion, the North Caucasian region was and still is the most complicated one from the point of view of establishing inner borders on the territory of the RSFSR.

The accession of the North Caucasus territory to the Russian Empire began in the first decade of the nineteenth century, when in 1810 Ingushetia voluntarily joined Russia. But the process of voluntary joining of the North Caucasian peoples to Russia was broken by the Chechens. The war spread all over the Northern Caucasus and lasted for 50 years.

After the collapse of the Russian Empire the Gorskaya (Mountainous) Republic, oriented to Turkey, was established in the North Caucasus. Later the Gorskaya autonomous republic within the RSFSR was formed, which later disintegrated into autonomies - those of Daghestan, Chechnya, Ingushetia, Adygeya, Balkaria, North Ossetia and others. After the deportation of the Chechens, Ingush, Karachais and Balkars during World War II, their territories were inhabited by other nations and were included into other administrative structures.

The process of territorial disintegration was very painful in Central Asia and present Kazakhstan: the borders of historical habitation of different nationalities were too vague there.

In 1924 the territories of the former Turkestan province ruled by a governor-general, as well as those of the Khiva and Bukhara khanates were included in the then created Turkmen autonomous republic within the RSFSR with its capital in


At the same time two union republics, the Turkmen and the Uzbek ones, were created on the territory of the Turkmen autonomy. They were outside the framework of the RSFSR. The same changes took place on the territories inhabited by other nationalities of the region - the Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, Tajiks, Kara-Kalpaks, Badakhshans.

The territory inhabited by the Kazakhs, joined the Russian Empire in 1731-1846. This territory joined the RSFSR in 1920 under the name of the Kara-Kyrgyz autonomous region (later-autonomous republic). Part of the lands of the Syr-Daryshskaya and Semerechensk regions, inhabited mainly by the Kazakhs, became part of this autonomous republic in 1924-1925. After that this territory got its name - Kazakhstan. It retained its autonomous status within the RSFSR. But in 1936 Kazakhstan obtained the status of a Union republic, which resulted in the reduction of RSFSR territory and in changes of its borders' configuration.

The territory, inhabited by the Kyrgyz, joined Russia in 1840-1860. After the establishment of Soviet power there, the status of this territory changed several times - from an autonomous region within Kazakhstan and later within the RSFSR - to an autonomous republic within the RSFSR. From 1936 Kyrgyzia was known as a Union republic.

In 1924 the Tajiks, the oldest nationality in Central Asia, obtained autonomy within the Uzbek SSR. In 1925 the special Pamirs region was formed on the basis of the Kara-Kyrgyz and Tajik parts of the Pamirs, which was later renamed the Gorno-Badakhshan autonomous region. In 1929 the Tajik autonomous republic was transformed into a Union republic. The Gorno-Badakhshan region obtained the status of an autonomy within the Tajik SSR.

The formation of the statehood of the nationalities inhabiting Central Asia and Kazakhstan was carried out solely in the interests of the Turkic-speaking nations of this region - the Kazakhs, Uzbeks, Kyrgyz, Turkmen, Kara-Kalpaks. The historically compact habitation of a Russian ethnicity was ignored in Central Asia, and in Kazakhstan in particular. There were no Russian autonomies of any level created in Central Asia.

There were five such autonomies in two of the three Transcaucasian republics: in Georgia and Azerbaijan.

Georgia was the first to join the Russian Empire (in 1801). As a result of the Russian-Persian war in 1804-1813 some of the Persian territories were annexed to Russia: Karabakh (centre of Shusha), the territories, belonging now to Azerbaijan (Bakinskoye, Gyandzhinskoye, Shekinskoye, Shirvanskoye, Kubinskoye, and Talyshskoye khanates) and the southern part of Daghestan (Derbentskoye khanate). Their accession to the Russian Empire was confirmed in the Gyulistansky treaty of 1913.

Abkhazia's voluntary inclusion in the Russian Empire (in 1810) was the next one chronologically. Before 1864, Abkhazia had a status of autonomy within Russia: the Military district of the Russian Empire and the Sukhumi military district. Later Persian Eastern Armenia, the Yerevan and Nakhichevan khanates, were annexed to Russia according to the Turkmenchaisky treaty (1828). Immediately the Armenian region within Russia was created on the basis of these territories.

Some regions of western Armenia, Kars, Ardagan, Erzerum, Bayazet, were joined to Russia in the course of the Russian-Turkish wars. However, many of the victories of the Russian military were reduced to nothing by the Congress of Berlin in 1878, which recognised Russia's right only to Kars, Ardagan and Artvii with their districts as well as Batum with part of its region. However, in the period from 1801 to 1878 Russia replaced Turkey and Persia in the Transcaucasus.

A number of factors underlie the acuteness and tragedy of the national conflicts in the Transcaucasus. According to Vermisheva, one of them can be explained by the fact that nations, inhabiting the Transcaucasus (the Abkhazians, Armenians, Georgians, Ossetians), unlike other younger nationalities of the Soviet Union had had their own statehood and territorial borders, fixed both in historical documents and national consciousness, long before they became part of the Russian Empire.

It led to bloody clashes in 1918. Then the Transcaucasian Seim, by demand of the German and Turkish commands, made the decision to dissolve the Transcaucasian democratic republic and create on its territory independent states: Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan, which had never had its own statehood, was meant to become another Turkish republic with an outlet to the Caspian Sea and Central Asia and was to absorb native Armenian territories.

The same scheme has been carried out in Yugoslav Bosnia, where a Moslem-Croatian Federation with an outlet to the Adriatic Sea was created. The Turkish state in Cyprus belongs to the same type of Islamic expansion.

The national-state division of Transcaucasian territory took place under the influence and with the participation of Britain, Germany and Turkey. These countries, in the situation when Armenia was weakened by genocide and Russia was not present in the region, besides their own, pursued the ends of Azerbaijan. Then the fight of the indigenous Armenian population for the territory of their millennial historical habitation was the centre of the main tension in the region.

It was at this time that Abkhazia's and South Ossetia's opposition to Georgia began.

After the collapse of the Russian Empire, Abkhazia began to create its state system together with highlands' nations of the North Caucasus.

By the time the Georgian Republic was created (May 26, 1918), Abkhazia was part of the Gorskaya republic (established on May 11, 1918). (Abkhazia is another object of Turkey's deep concern as through the Black Sea this region connects it to the Transcaucasus and North Caucasus). The same year Georgian Mensheviks captured Abkhazia.

In 1921 Soviet power was established both in Abkhazia and Georgia. However, even after that, the creation of statehood there was being carried out in a peculiar way, among others, due to the influence of such subjective factor as pressure from Stalin and Ordzhonikidze. Abkhazia was considered a Union republic and exercised the rights inherent to this status. But at the same time it was not part of the USSR as an independent subject. Under pressure of Stalin and Ordzhonikidze, "contractual" (confederate) relations were established between Georgia and Abkhazia, and till 1931 Abkhazia was called a "contractual" republic. In 1931 its status was reduced by Stalin's decree: Abkhazia was joined to Georgia as an autonomous republic.

The territory, inhabited by the Adzhars, was passed to Russia from Turkey in 1878 (the Batum region). Bordering on Turkey, Adzharia became the arena of active military operations between Russia and Turkey during World War I. After the February revolution in Russia, Turkish troops captured Batum. The Turks, Germans and British occupied this port in turns. After the British had left the region, power in Batum was passed over to Mensheviks, who soon, in their turn, passed it to the Turks. On March 18, 1921 Soviet power was established on this territory. Its establishment, though, was preceded by the conclusion of the Moskovsky treaty between the RSFSR and Turkey on March 16, 1921. In accordance with this treaty, Russian parts of Western Armenia (the Kars and Ardagan districts), whose Armenian population was slaughtered, as well as Nakhichevan, were passed over to Turkey. The Turks, in their turn, left Batum. In the summer of 1921 the Adzharian autonomous republic was created on the territory of the Batum region. Simultaneously it was included into the Georgian SSR.

The territory of Ossetia was divided. Its portion to the north of the Greater Caucasus became part of the Gorskaya autonomous republic within the RSFSR in January of 1921. The part of Ossetia to the south of the Greater Caucasus was united with the Georgian SSR as the South-Ossetian autonomous region. As a result the Georgian SSR, with three national-state formations within its structure - Abkhazia, Adzharia and South Ossetia - emerged in the western part of the Transcaucasus under Soviet power.

Armenia and Karabakh were left face-to-face with Turkey.

The political results of this unequal opposition manifested itself in the provisions of the Moskovsky treaty between the RSFSR and Turkey, signed on March 16, 1921. According to this treaty, 26,589 square km. of the territory of the Russian Empire (the Karsky, Ardagansky, Kagyzmansky, and Artvinsky districts; as well as the southern part of the Batumsky district and the Surmalinsky district of the Erivan province) were allotted to Turkey. The Surmalinsky district (3,458 square km.) had never belonged to the Ottoman Empire. The frontier went along the Akhuryan River. A special clause was included in the treaty, according to which the Nakhichevan region was to be turned into "an autonomous territory under the protectorate of Azerbaijan, provided that Azerbaijan didn't cede the protectorate to a third state." (Documents on the USSR Foreign Policy. Vol. 3, pp. 598-599). It should be noted here that after the conclusion of the Turkmanchaisky treaty between Russia and Persia in 1828, the territories of the Nakhichevan and Yerevan khanates comprised the Armenian region of tsarist Russia.

From 1923 the accession of Nakhichevan, Armenian territory, to Azerbaijan with the status of an autonomous republic was formalised. It meant that Turkish pressure aimed at Soviet Russia, not only determined the external border of the USSR and Turkey, but also the inner borders between the Armenian and Azerbaijan SSR in favour of the latter.

Karabakh, being the territory of historical habitation of the Armenians, suffered the same fate.

Before Soviet power was established in the Transcaucasus, Karabakh was repeatedly exposed to aggression on the part of Azerbaijan with Turkey's active military participation. However, Karabakh managed to fight back all the encroachments with the help of Armenia. On July 5, 1921 the decision to join Karabakh to Azerbaijan was taken by a party body, consisting of 10 people. Its population was 95% Armenian and it connected further development of its statehood with Soviet Armenia. Kirov and Ordzhonikidze were of the same opinion, though they failed to defend it in the end. The union of the major part of Nagorny Karabakh with Azerbaijan as an autonomous region was formalised in 1923. The remainder of Karabakh, alongside its flat country territory, was joined to Azerbaijan with the status of administrative districts.

Thus the new national-state formation - the Azerbaijan SSR, comprising the major part of Nagorny Karabakh (4.4 thousand square km) and the Nakhichevan region (5.5. thousand square km) - was established. Besides, some other Armenian territories, in particular those of Karabakh flat country lands, were enclosed within Azerbaijan's borders. As a result, Azerbaijan had a territory of 86.6 thousand square km.

The territory of Armenian historical statehood and habitation, annexed to Turkey and Azerbaijan, totalled some 34.9 thousand square km.

The Armenian territories, passed over to Turkey and Azerbaijan, though insignificant in size, are highly important strategically.

Kars and Ardagan were situated geographically in such a way, that their annexation opened an outlet to the Transcaucasus for Turkey and meant an imminent threat to Russia in the south. Azerbaijan's jurisdiction over Karabakh and Nakhichevan would allow it to capture, under certain circumstances, the narrow Megrinsky district of Armenia, only 46 km wide, which cuts (drives a wedge) into the Turkic solid ethnic formation. It is this district that hampers somehow the direct connection of Turkey with Azerbaijan and further with Central Asia. The strategic importance of the Megrinsky district also lies in the fact that the land frontier of Armenia (which is also open to its strategic partner - Russia) and Iran is passing there, i.e. it is the outlet to the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean.

The annexation of Nakhichevan to Azerbaijan increased the threat of pressure of the Turkish-Azeri forces on the northern border of Iran, which passes along the Iranian provinces inhabited by the Azeris. By the way, Turkey bought in good time a small (10km) portion of land from Iran, thus ensuring itself a common frontier with the Nakhichevan autonomy. Later Armenia and Karabakh were artificially separated by the creation of the Kurd autonomy in the Lachinsky district. After its liquidation, a 12 km strip of land (the so-called Lachinsky corridor) separated Armenia from Karabakh.

Two nations, which used to personify the Christian make-up of the Caucasus as well as pro-Russian orientation - the Armenians and Ossetians - found themselves separated. It means that Turkish geopolitical strategy was consistently being carried out in the Transcaucasus. The separation of North and South Ossetia, of Armenia and Karabakh presupposed the strategy of cutting off the Transcaucasus from Russia.

Indeed, the shortest way from inner Russian territories to the Transcaucasus, which depends neither on Azerbaijan, nor on Abkhazia constantly changing its orientation, lies through North and South Ossetia. The Megrinsky region of Armenia is assigned a very important role in strategical schemes of panturkism. If this territory were captured, the Transcaucasian geopolitical area would be enclosed by Turkey and Azerbaijan in the south-east and south-west.

During territorial-administrative reforms in the USSR no Russian autonomous formations were created in the enclaves of historical habitation of the Russians in the Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Moldavia and the Baltic countries. At the same time authorities contrived to create the most favourable conditions for Turkic-speaking tribes and nationalities on the territory of the USSR. Turkic union republics - Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzia, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenia, as well as autonomies within the RSFSR - Bashkiria, Tataria, Yakutia and others - were artificially established.

The total area of these territories amounts, according to the roughest calculations, to 9.4 million square km (of which 4.1 million square km now belong to independent states and 5.3 million square km belong to Russia), which is 12 times as big as the territory of modern Turkey. The "quality" of the above- mentioned Armenian territories, annexed to Turkey and Azerbaijan, ensures, under favourable circumstances, the union of the Turkic-Moslem nations of the former Russian empire and the USSR into a single whole.

The Bolsheviks' stake on the revolutionary nature of the Turks and Moslems of the Middle East turned out to be erroneous. The "revolutionary nature" of the Moslems is usually of confessional, not political character. It is this Bolshevik heritage that is being used by the USA now. In other words, Bolsheviks themselves softened considerably their southern saddle...

What is modern Russia confronted with at its southern frontiers?


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