The Legal Status of Russian Refugees in Turkey in the 1920s

15 June 2019

Kezban Acar

Following the October Revolution in 1917, a civil war broke out between the Bolsheviks and their opponents, who consisted mostly of officers and commanders of the Tsarist Army, Cossacks and aristocrats. There were also some peasants and non-Russian groups such as Kalmuks, Tatars and others. Even though the Russian Civil War took place from 1917 to 1925, the anti-Bolshevik groups began to leave Russia and migrate to other countries from the spring of 1919. The great majority of them, however, left Russia in November 1920, when the White Army faced defeat at the hands of the Bolshevik troops. Of these refugees, approximately 145,000–150,000 came to Istanbul, Turkey. Although their number was greater than the Ottoman government and the Allied Powers expected, both Ottoman officials and the Allied Powers accepted them. However, from the early 1920s a new government came to power in Ankara, which claimed to represent Anatolia, and to be the only legal power since it fought against the Allied Powers that either occupied different parts of Anatolia or supported the Greek Army. Since it aimed to create a new nation state, the Ankara government imposed a new nationality policy, affecting non-Turkish or more specifically non-Muslims in Turkey. This article, based on primary sources such as archival documents and newspaper articles and secondary sources, aims to explain the major aspects of this new policy of nationality and how the policy affected Russian refugees living in Turkey.

Russian Civil War, Russian refugees, the White Army, Wrangel, Istanbul, Ankara, Turkey, 1920s.
  1. For detailed information on the White Army, see Paul Robinson, The White Russian Army in Exile 1920–1941 (Clarendon Press: Oxford, 2002).
  2. В. В. Комин, Политический и идейный крах русской мелкобуржуазной контрреволюции за рубежом: учебное пособие, ч. 1 (Калинин: КГУ, 1977), 3–5.
  3. The Orient News, 10 January 1920, 1.
  4. С. С. Ипполитов и др., Три столицы изгнания: Константинополь, Берлин, Париж. Центры зарубежной России 1920-x-1930-x гг. (Москва: Спас, 1999), 6.
  5. Ibid.
  6. İkdam, 16 November 1920, 1.
  7. Л. Владимиров, Возратите их на родину! Жизнь Врангелецев в Галлиполи и Болгарии (Москва, 1924), 1–11.
  8. Русский Эмигрант, 1–14 декабря 1920 г., 8.
  9. Peyam-ı Sabah, 18 November 1920.
  10. İleri, 19 November 1920.
  11. İkdam, 19 November 1920.
  12. С. С. Ипполитов и др., Три столицы изгнания, 7.
  13. Русский Эмигрант, 1–14 Декабрь 1920 г., 8.
  14. Л. Владимиров, Возратите их на родину!, 12.
  15. С. С. Ипполитов и др., Три столицы изгнания, 8.
  16. Мирослав Йованович, Русская эмиграция на Балканах. 1920-1940 (Москва: Рус. Зарубежье : Рус. путь), 2005, 92.
  17. Е. И. Пивовар и др., Российская эмиграция в Турции, Юго-Восточная и Центральная Европа 20-х лет (гражданские беженцы, армия, учебные заведения): Учеб. пособие для студентов (Москва: РГГУ, 1994), 3.
  18. Robinson, The White Russian Army, 47.
  19. Véra Dumesnil, İșgal İstanbul’u (Le Bosphore Tant Aimé) [Istanbul under Occupation], trans. Emre Öktem (Istanbul: Istanbul Kitaplığı, 1993), 12.
  20. А. Слободской, Среди эмиграции (Мои воспоминания): Киев-Константинополь, 19181920 гг. (Харьков: Пролетарий, 1925), 58.
  21. Ibid., 66.
  22. Александр Ратиев, То, что сохранила мне память: Белая эмиграция в Болгарии. 19181945 (София: Изд. Софийского ун-та, 1999), 456.
  23. Слободской, Среди эмиграции, 58.
  24. For detailed information on this subject, see Kezban Acar Kaplan, “Beyaz Rus Mültecilerinin Gözünden Milli Mücadele ve Ankara Hükümeti ile Olan İlișkileri [Turkish Independence War from White Russians’ Perspective and Their Relations with Ankara Government],” TİD XXXII, no. 2 (2017): 297–325.
  25. For more information on the Russian Council, see Йованович, Русская эмиграция, 280–290.
  26. Зарницы, 23 мая 1921, 26.
  27. Erol Mütercimler, Kurtuluș Savașına Denizden Gelen Destek: Sovyetler Birliği’nden Alınan Yardımlar, Kuvâ-yı Milliye Donanması [Support from the Sea for the War of Independence: Aids Received from the Soviet Union, Navy National Forces] (Istanbul: Yaprak Yayınları, 1992), 275–277; С. С. Ипполитов и др., Три столицы изгнания, 29.
  28. Е. П. Серапионова, Российская эмиграция в Чехословацкой Республике, 2030-е годы (Москва: Ин-т славяноведения и балканистики РАН, 1995), 18; Йованович, Русская эмиграция, 121–122.
  29. “Beyaz Ruslar Türk Tabiiyetine Geçiyor” [The White Russians are Becoming Turkish Citizens], Cumhuriyet, 28 May 1927.
  30. “İhtida için Müracaat Çoğaldı” [Applications for Conversion to Islam Have Increased], İkdam, 10 February 1928.
  31. Cumhuriyet, 22 January 1928.
  32. “Beyazlar bir sene daha kalıyorlar” [The White Russians are Staying for One More Year], İkdam, 28 March 1929; Prime Ministry Archives of Republican Era (hereafter cited as PMARE), fund no. 030.10.00, folder no. 124. 885. 1.104.
  33. “Beyaz Ruslar” [The White Russians], İkdam, 31 January 1929.
  34. PMARE, fund no. 030.10.00, folder no. 124.886.4.
  35. Bülent Bakar, Esir Șehrin Misafirleri: Beyaz Ruslar [Guests of the Captive City: White Russians] (Istanbul: Tarihçi Kitabevi, 2012), 268.