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Accepted Paper:

The Ottoman-Ukrainian Relations and Visions of (Post)Imperial Order on the Black Sea from the Occupied Istanbul: Sovereignty and International Trade, 1918-1922.  
Azat Bilalutdinov (Columbia University)


On February 9, 1918 the Ukrainian People’s Republic established in the tumultuous months following the February Revolution, signed a peace treaty with the Central Powers in Brest-Litovsk. Shortly thereafter, the parties exchanged diplomatic missions. Mykola Levits’kyi, a lawyer and member of the Ukrainian delegation in Brest-Litovsk assumed the position. His tenure did not last long though, as three other representatives succeeded him one after within three and a half years. This instability mirrored volatile political situation in Ukraine which had to deal with occupation by the Central Powers, the short-lived Hetmanate and the advance of the Red Army. The Ottoman Empire was experiencing massive political turmoil as well. Unofficial, after the Mudros Armistice of 1918, and then official occupation of Istanbul by the Entente powers proclaimed in March 1920 meant that the Ottoman government had to reconcile their (geo)political aspirations with the occupiers.

Based on the sources from the Ottoman, Russian, British and French archives and published materials on the diplomacy of the Ukrainian People’s Republic, this paper explores the Ukrainian and Ottoman projects of political and economic future for the postwar Black Sea region. Both of them to varying degrees aimed at leaving Russia under whichever rule out of the scheme. The Ukrainian diplomats saw the Black Sea trade as a crucial factor in sustaining the war effort against the Bolsheviks and, more importantly, dreamed of constructing a broader alliance to deny the Russia access to the Black Sea. Even though, some barter trade of fuels from the Ottomans in exchange of Ukrainian grain actually did take place, more ambitious longer-term plans did not materialize, primarily because the Entente occupation regime in Istanbul was betting on the prospect of unified Russia under the Whites. This paper contributes to decentering the historiography and mass culture portrayal of the Russian-Ottoman encounter which for the period in question has been overly preoccupied with the Whites’ exodus to Istanbul, and contributes to the growing body of literature that looks into the collapse of the Romanov and Ottoman empires from the perspective of non-dominant groups and within a broader international context.

Panel HIST13
Sovereignity, Defence, and Mobility in 20th Century Eurasia
  Session 1 Thursday 6 June, 2024, -