Academic journal article Journal of Economics & Management

Polish-Turkish Relations in the 19th and 20th Centuries: The Struggle for Independence and Modernization

Academic journal article Journal of Economics & Management

Polish-Turkish Relations in the 19th and 20th Centuries: The Struggle for Independence and Modernization

Article excerpt


2014 marked the 600th anniversary of the establishment of Polish and Turkish mutual diplomatic relations. The centuries following 1414 saw decades of close relations between the nations interrupted by sporadic warfare, leading up to a new level of cooperation in the 18th century. One common threat throughout, uniting the interests of the Ottoman Empire and the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland, was a shared concern of Russian imperialism. After the peace treaty in 1699 at Karlowice, which ended Polish-Turkish military conflicts until 1918, several Turkish-Russian Wars broke out, including World War One and the Turkish-Bolshevik War.

Krakow's cemetery contains a tomb of Turkish soldiers who fought against Russia on Polish territory in 1916-1917, on the side of the Central Powers. Likewise there are many burial sites in Turkey where Polish patriots sought refuge from Russian persecution and tried to win support for independence in the 19th century Ottoman Empire. These symbols speak of a strong mutual history.

Issues connected with Polish-Turkish relations in the 19th and 20th centuries have yet to be subjected to broader analysis. In regards to the 19th century, the predominant themes were Turkey's presence in the Polish struggle for independence, coupled with Poles' active engagement with Turkey in her wars with Russia1. One of the major monographs that thoroughly analyzes Poland and Turkey in the interwar period was written by D. Chmielowska. To expand the subject to the whole of the 19th and 20th centuries it is essential to examine legal acts, memoirs and reports as well as archived public records. This work uses the most appropriate chronological methodology to relate the history of this unique international partnership, and goes on to consider the opportunity provided by the 2014 anniversary. It is not a comprehensive analysis, but aims to provide insight into the subject and open the field to further research.

Turkey was the only country, along with Switzerland, which did not recognize the partition of Poland. At diplomatic meetings of the Ottoman Court, the sentiment was voiced with the pithy announcement: "The Polish envoy has not arrived". The Polish National Government had its legal representatives in Turkey during the uprisings in 1830-1831 and 1863-1864. After the fall of the January Uprising of 1864 Marian Langiewicz, one of the leaders of this revolt, fled to Turkey. He found a resting place at a cemetery in Istanbul. The national poet Adam Mickiewicz who came to Istanbul with the idea of forming a Polish Legion - a military unit of the Polish Army - eventually passed away there as well. He spoke of Polish-Turkish relations simply: "In times when no other country objected to Polish repressions from hostile neighbors, the only friendly people were the Turks. We grant Turks friendship, as they have not buckled to our enemies and have not accepted the Polish partition".

Another organization with high hopes for Polish sovereignty was Hotel Lambert, led and financed by Prince Adam Czartoryski. Hotel Lambert established a diplomatic mission in Istanbul in the 1840's to support Turkey as an anti-Russian force. At the same time they aimed to reconcile with Turkey the Slavic nations of the Baltic States, where Czartoryski's movement conducted their Anti-Russian agitation [Chwalba 2001, pp. 293-294].

Worthy of special note is the Polish colony of Polonezkoy established on the initiative of the Prince, which upon his death adopted the name Adampol in commemoration. This small village was not only a safe haven for Polish immigrants, but also a hub for the political activity of Polish immigration up until the 20th century. To this day Polish traditions are being practiced there [Dopierala 1983].

Poles not only sought refugee status at the side of the sultan, but often stood ready to fight the Russian occupants together with the sultan's army. Józef Bem (Murad Pasa), a leader of the November Uprising, worked his way to a high position in the Ottoman Army and died defending his second fatherland from nomadic Arabs [Chudzikowska 1990]. …

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