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Romania and Turkey in the interwar period

Romanians and Turks have known each other for hundreds of years, the first contact being established in the second half of the 14th century.

Romania and Turkey in the interwar period
Romania and Turkey in the interwar period

, 05.02.2024, 14:00

Romanians and Turks have known each other for hundreds of years, the first contact being established in the second half of the 14th century. Following the expansion of the Ottoman Turks, who laid the foundations of a vast empire, the first Romanian-Turkish military conflicts date back to 1369. At that time, an army of the Romanian prince Vladislav Vlaicu participated alongside the army of King Ludovic I of Hungary in a battle against the army of the Ottoman sultan Murad I. For half a millennium, until 1878, the Romanian Principalities were vassals of the Ottoman Empire, being influenced by Turkish culture and civilization. After the conflict of 1877-1878 that led to Romania’s independence, the two countries restored normal relations. Today, Romania and Turkey have a military and economic alliance strengthened by the strategic partnership signed in 2011. In the interwar period, Romania and Turkey were partners in the Balkan Entente alongside Yugoslavia and Greece, an anti-revisionist security architecture.



At the launch of the second volume of Romania-Turkey diplomatic relations documents, 1938-1944, Özgür Kâvanci Altan, the Turkish ambassador in Bucharest, spoke about the importance of the historical tradition of relations between the Turkish-Ottoman and Romanian worlds and about the good diplomatic ties between Romania and Turkey in the interwar period.



Özgür Kâvanci Altan: Turkey and Romania have always been very close, they have been neighbors and allies just like today. It is about a time when we were allies, there were very strong relations between our countries, our leaders were very close, the foreign ministers were good friends. I must say that I was surprised by the finesse of the diplomacy of that period, of its manners of expression. But, at the same time, I am not surprised by the depth of relations because it is 146 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between Romania and Turkey. I think it’s a unique relationship because we have a history that goes back 146 years. When Romania gained its independence from the Ottoman Empire, the latter recognized it almost immediately, it was the second country to do so. From that moment on, it was a relationship that was based on the understanding of cooperation.



There is no doubt that one of the most important achievements of the two diplomatics, Romanian and Turkish, was the establishment of the Balkan Entente in the years between the two World Wars. All of Europe and the Balkans in particular continued to be a hot spot, despite the terrible carnage of the WWI years. This led countries that wanted to preserve the Versailles Peace Treaty system to form an alliance and make security commitments.



Historian Ionuț Cojocaru outlined the process that led to the establishment of the Entente or the Balkan Entente in the mid-1930s: It has been 90 years since the establishment of the Balkan Entente. It was a project designed by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, to establish a Balkan union, which was not a bad project. In 1930, the Balkan conferences took place: the first was in Athens, the second in Istanbul in 1931, another one in Bucharest in 1932, one in Thessaloniki in 1933, and in 1934 the Balkan Understanding was established in which Turkey also participated. There were agreements with the Soviet Union and Turkey informed the Soviet Union about this project. The relations between Romania and the Soviet Union were frozen at that time and Romania was trying to get closer to the Soviet Union, through Turkey.



The foreign policy of anti-revisionism and regional security alliances was well thought out, but the Balkan Entente did not have time to create the necessary mechanisms for operation and reaction. Ionut Cojocaru: Both Romania and Turkey were newly established states, they followed a defensive, anti-revisionist policy. In the third decade, anti-revisionism grew a lot, and with the outbreak of WW2, alliances and relations shifted somehow. This brings us the certainty that alliances work during peace and are redefined when a conflict begins.



The Munich Agreement of 1938 and the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact of 1939 concluded by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, Europes two totalitarian systems, shattered regional alliances and caused Romania and Turkey to find themselves in opposite camps in during WW2. Ionut Cojocaru: Turkey’s advantage during WW2 was that it had a certain stability and Mustafa Kemal was followed at the helm of the country by Ismet Inönü. He is the one who negotiated in Lausanne the treaty that legally recognized the establishment of the Republic of Turkey. The Lausanne negotiations gave Ismet Inönü a clear perspective regarding negotiations and the understanding of how much Turkey had fought and how many people it had lost to enter WW2. This path has placed Romania in one sphere of interests, and Turkey in another.



Being in opposite camps even after WW2, Romania and Turkey have maintained friendly relations.

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