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File 3579/1916 'Turkey: the future of Constantinople' [‎71r] (150/530)

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The record is made up of 1 volume (259 folios). It was created in 5 Sep 1916-27 Mar 1919. It was written in English and French. The original is part of the British Library: India Office The department of the British Government to which the Government of India reported between 1858 and 1947. The successor to the Court of Directors. Records and Private Papers.


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> 12
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1. Constantinople, in which term is included the Straits of the Dardanelles and the
Bosphorus, derives its strategic importance from its dual capacity of (a) a land bridge
and, (b) a sea passage.
In its former capacity it will always provide, as it has in the past, a route for waves
of invasion between Europe and Asia. In its latter capacity it gives access to the main
door of Russia and to an important line of advance on India.
2. To realize the above it is merely necessary to make a cursory examination of
history. On the collapse of the Byzantine Empire the resultant wave of invasion carried
the Turks across the causeway of Constantinople to the gates of Vienna, as well as
into Southern Russia as far as Poland and Tzaritsin. The subsequent decline of the
Turkish Empire produced a gradually increasing vacuum in the Near East, dammed by
the Balkan bridgehead. This may now be said to be complete, owing to the final
collapse of Turkey in the present war as a Great Power.
There have been two notable attempts to fill this vacuum whilst in process of
formation : (a) The Russian tide, the first appearance of which was the advance on the
Black Sea inaugurated by Peter the Great. This was seriously penetrating the
Turkish Empire until it was brought to a standstill by (b) The Germanic tide, the set of
which is marked by the action of Bismarck and Lord Beaconsfield when they secured the
amendment of the treaty of San Stefano by that of Berlin.
3. The ebb of Turkey and the combined pressure of these rival Germanic and
Russian efforts forced into being the block of Balkan States which in 1914 represented
the western bridgehead of Constantinople, and it was, at least partly, the Germanic
assault on Serbia which caused the present war.
4. The above historical sketch shows sufficiently the importance of
Constantinople as a land communication between Europe and Asia.
o It has been mentioned that the original Turkish invasion, after reaching the
Bosphorus, crossed the Black Sea into Southern Russia, and when the Russian tide
first set towards the Black Sea the action of Peter the Great in the formation of the
Russian Navy brings into historical prominence the importance of Constantinople as a
sea passage. Of this the importance has also been accentuated in the present war by
the Dardanelles campaign. The failure to open the Straits may be said to have been
one of the main causes for the present state of Russia. Had the other Entente powers
been able to maintain communication with Russia through the Black Sea it is probable
that there would have been no collapse of Russia and that she would now be a great
organized power in being.
5. Though the above two attempted invasions of Asia Minor by the land and sea
passage through Constantinople have failed, the law of the vacuum is inexorable, and
unless the autochthonous states of Arabia, Armenia and Trans-Caucasia can satisfy
this vacuum, we must face an inevitable flow of invasion from Europe into Asia Minor.
What form this invasion will take it is early to prophesy, but the Germanic
population of Europe still numbers 90,000,000, French ambitions have been
re-awakened, and above all, a powerful and ambitious Slavic State in the name of
Greater Serbia is being formed. Perhaps we have the most to fear from the last
named for it does not seem that Bulgaria alone will be able to stand between this State
and Constantinople, and the present policy of Italy tends to alienate Greater Serbia
from the Entente. At the same time the inability of the Entente to give practical
help to Russia during the war and since the revolution may well result in an anti-
Entente orientation of Russian policy in the future..
Therefore, from the broadest point of view the importance of Constantinople to
an Empire such as ourselves, with great interests in the East, is clear, and it is there
that any future naval expansion based on a reconstructed Russia must be tnrottled.
(B18/502) 150 12/18 H&S 6690wo

About this item


The volume contains papers regarding the future of Constantinople [Instanbul]. It includes: India Office The department of the British Government to which the Government of India reported between 1858 and 1947. The successor to the Court of Directors. minute papers; copies of correspondence between the Foreign Office and Sir George Buchanan, HM Ambassador at Petrograd [St Petersburg], and other British diplomats; draft telegrams from the Secretary of State for India addressed to the Viceroy of India; correspondence between the India Office The department of the British Government to which the Government of India reported between 1858 and 1947. The successor to the Court of Directors. and the Foreign Office; and other papers. Some of the correspondence is in French.

Issues discussed in the papers include: whether the Constantinople Agreement, concluded between the British, French and Russian governments in March 1915 (under the terms of which Constantinople and the Straits of the Dardanelles would be annexed to the Russian Empire), should be made public; the possible effect upon Muslims in India of the announcement of the agreement; and the question of the re-conversion of the St Sophia [Hagia Sophia] mosque in Constantinople into a Christian church.

The volume includes a divider which gives the subject number, the year the subject file was opened, the subject heading, and a list of correspondence references by year. This is placed at the back of the correspondence.

Extent and format
1 volume (259 folios)

The subject 3579 (Turkey: the future of Constantinople) consists of one volume, IOR/L/PS/10/623.

The papers are arranged in approximate chronological order from the rear to the front of the volume.

Physical characteristics

Foliation: the foliation sequence for this description commences at the first folio with 1, and terminates at the last folio with 259; these numbers are written in pencil, are circled, and are located in the top right corner of the recto The front of a sheet of paper or leaf, often abbreviated to 'r'. side of each folio. The front and back covers, along with the two leading and two ending flyleaves have not been foliated.

Written in
English and French in Latin script
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File 3579/1916 'Turkey: the future of Constantinople' [‎71r] (150/530), British Library: India Office Records and Private Papers, IOR/L/PS/10/623, in Qatar Digital Library <> [accessed 18 November 2019]

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