Eurasia's discontent: Soviet and Turkish anti-Westernism in the interwar period

Samuel J Hirst, University of Pennsylvania


This dissertation is an analysis of encounters between the Soviet Union and Turkey in the years between the First and Second World Wars. While bilateral relations play an important role, the scope is wider than that of a diplomatic history; the dissertation places elements of the political culture of each country in a broad, transnational context. Perched on the edge of the European continent – and frequently excluded from European conversations – Soviets and Turks repeatedly adopted a joint anti-imperialist posture in the aftermath of the First World War. The elites of both the Soviet Union and the Turkish Republic struggled with their own imperial inheritances, but they also objected together to an external imperialism which they located in the West. The one unshakable alliance of the early Soviet Union – paradoxically, with nationalist Turkey – grew not only out of formal ideological dogmas, but also from a shared geography and shared experience of struggle with Europe. The Soviet-Turkish relationship was both more and less than an alliance between states. Partnership was never formalized in diplomatic terms, yet it gave rise to remarkable outcomes. The first five-year plan outside the Soviet Union was developed in Turkey with Soviet assistance, while high-profile experiments in cooperative film- and music-making also arose along the Moscow-Ankara axis. In contrast to previous historians who have dismissed Soviet-Turkish rapprochement as mere opportunism, I argue that interwar interactions had political meaning for their participants, a meaning that reflected a deeply rooted discontent with the West, one with particular geographic connotations. When Soviets and Turks spoke explicitly about what united them, they sometimes even referred to a space called Eurasia. Eurasia seemed for a moment a viable geopolitical and cultural entity, something it is becoming again in the 21st century. My conclusions point to an ideological flexibility among Communist Soviets and Republican Turks that will be of interest to historians who study either country, as well as to scholars interested in the history of imperialism, European international relations, and transnationalism.

Subject Area

Middle Eastern history|Modern history|Russian history

Recommended Citation

Hirst, Samuel J, "Eurasia's discontent: Soviet and Turkish anti-Westernism in the interwar period" (2012). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3509072.