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In the interwar period, Britain, Germany, and the US were more prominent than Turkey as international references for Soviet culture. But, when Turkey figured in mainstream international news, Soviet caricaturists did turn their eyes south. The three cartoons below reveal contradictions that were characteristic of the Soviet approach to Turkey, contradictions that were in part a product of the general Soviet orientation towards the West. On the one hand, all three drawings are explicitly pro-Turkish and anti-imperialist, targeting Western and in particular British imperialism; on the other hand, the artists readily embraced Orientalist symbols to depict Turkey.

The Players at Lausanne.jpg

The first cartoon dates from the beginning of the Lausanne Conference, and it reflects Moscow's hopes that the Soviet and Turkish delegations could work together against their Western counterparts. 

Georgii Chichern and İsmet Pasha look on as the other diplomats squabble, with the caption imagining Chicherin's whisper, "When they finish fighting, we will have the trump card in our hands." İsmet Pasha did not wear a fez in Lausanne. 

Mikhail Chermenykh, "The Players at Lausanne," Krokodil (24 December 1922). 


The caption identifies the figure as a "bourgeois Englishman" in İstanbul. He thinks to himself, "How nice we have it in Turkey! The minarets and the fezzes are Turkish, but the oil and the laws are ours!"

This second cartoon also dates from the Lausanne Conference, from a moment when the Turkish delegation was fighting against Western attempts to maintain the Capitulations (hence the reference to laws). The allusion to oil invokes the British desire that Mosul be allocated to Iraq. 

Ivan Maliutin, "National Self-Determination," Krokodil  (25 February 1923). 


The third cartoon is from a moment when the League of Nations was reviewing British and Turkish claims to Mosul, and hence there is again an allusion to oil in the panel on the left. The more immediate context, identified by the caricaturist in the upper right corner, is a British protest against the Soviet economic threat in Turkey (at this time, Soviet economic "penetration" was limited to the sale of basic manufactured goods). 

On the left, the caption identifies the man with a pipe as an "Englishman in Turkey," who, with oil in the background, says to an upset man in a fez, "If you give us combustibles, you will receive our friendship."

On the right, the caption identifies "The USSR in Turkey," represented by a man offering matches and coal, saying, "If you are our friend, you will receive combustibles."

Iulii Ganf, "Whose Propaganda is More Explosive?," Krokodil 122 (March, 1925). 

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