Turkey. A country in the Near East that occupies the peninsula of Asia Minor (Anatolia; 97 percent of the country’s territory) and a small corner of the Balkan Peninsula. It is bounded by the Black Sea, Aegean Sea, and Mediterranean Sea, and shares boundaries with Georgia and Armenia (formerly with the USSR), Iran, Syria, Greece, and Bulgaria. It covers an area of 783,356 sq km and in 2021 had a population of 84.68 million. Turkey is Ukraine’s neighbor to the south across the Black Sea. Until after the First World War it was identified with the Ottoman Empire, the multinational polity in which it played a dominant role. In some periods Turkey bordered directly on Ukraine or controlled sections of Ukrainian territory (particularly the southern steppe). Turkish vassal-states, such as the Crimean Khanate (see Crimean Tatars), Moldavia, and Transylvania, were southern neighbors of Ukraine over the centuries. Turkey never controlled Ukrainian-inhabited territories for any extended period of time (with the exception of Bukovyna, which was part of the Ottoman-controlled Moldavia principality in the 16th to 18th centuries).
Turkey played an important role in the history of Ukraine. The rise of the Cossacks was in part a reaction to Turkish expansion in Southern Ukraine beginning in the late 15th century. Once the Ukrainian Cossacks were established as a force in their own right, they occasionally sought to balance the power and territorial aspirations of Poland and Muscovy through alliances with Turkey. The (Islamic) Ottoman conquest of the Byzantine Empire was a critical factor in the development of Moscow’s sense of mission as the Third Rome, the pre-eminent force of Orthodoxy that later was to subsume Ukraine. After the incorporation of Ukrainian lands into the Russian Empire the struggle against Turkey, now undertaken within an imperial context, became a popular cause among Ukrainians. In 1918 Turkey recognized the Ukrainian National Republic as a signatory of the Peace Treaty of Brest-Litovsk and established diplomatic relations with it. For several years after the inception of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic Turkey maintained separate economic and cultural relations with it.
To the mid-17th century. Over several centuries nomadic Turkic tribes worked their way westward from Outer Mongolia to Central Asia and beyond. Having adopted the Islamic faith, the Turks coalesced around the Seljuk dynasty and began to develop a territorial base in the Middle East. By the 12th century they had pushed forward in Byzantine-controlled Anatolia (present-day Turkey). The ruler of one of the numerous semi-independent principalities (emirates) within the Turkish realm, Osman (late 14th to early 15th century), began expanding his holdings and created the nucleus of what was to become a powerful empire (Osmanli to the Turks, Ottoman in the West). The Ottomans took over many former Byzantine lands, including Asia Minor and the southern Balkans, in the 14th and 15th centuries. They finally took Constantinople in 1453, renamed it Istanbul, and turned it into the capital of their empire. In the 16th century they seized Wallachia, Moldavia (including Bukovyna), Transcaucasia, and the countries of the Near East. From the 1470s on Turkey began to control the northern Black Sea coast. In 1475 it took the Genoese colonies in the Crimea (Kaffa, Balaklava, Sudak, and Kerch). In 1478 the Crimean Khanate recognized the suzerainty of Turkey; that development allowed the Turks to establish military bases in Akkerman (1484), Kiliia (1484), Ochakiv (1480s), and Izmail (early 16th century) and control the Black Sea.
In the late 15th century the Crimean Tatars began a 200-year campaign of raids on Ukrainian territories, independently or jointly with the Turks, in pursuit of booty and slaves. The slaves were sold either in the large market of Kaffa or in Turkey, particularly Istanbul. The Turks themselves first attacked Ukraine in 1498–9 (jointly with the Tatars) to punish King Jan Olbracht for interfering in Turko-Moldavian affairs. They plundered Podilia and Galicia and advanced as far as Peremyshl.
With the rise of the Zaporozhian Sich in the middle of the 16th century the Cossacks mounted an organized resistance to the Turks and Tatars and staged retaliatory naval raids on Turko-Tatar centers in Southern Ukraine, such as Ochakiv (1589), Akkerman (1594, 1601), Kiliia (1602, 1606), Izmail (1609, 1621), and Kaffa (1616). In the 17th century the Cossacks began organizing large campaigns against Turkish cities. They captured Varna in 1604, Trabzon in 1614 and 1625, and Sinop in 1614 and even attacked Istanbul in 1615, in 1620, and three times in 1624.
The Cossacks could not stop Tatar and Turkish slave raids. The majority of the captives became forced laborers, galley slaves, or domestic workers. Young women and girls became concubines, and strapping boys were trained as Janissaries. A few Ukrainians attained success and prominence among their captors; for example, Roksoliana became the principal wife of Sultan Süleyman I Kanuni and a major power behind the throne. Notwithstanding such exceptions a harsh fate usually awaited Ukrainian captives, and the evils of Turkish enslavement was a major theme in the Ukrainian dumas.
Until the mid-17th century the Ukrainians maintained a largely antagonistic relationship with Turkey. In spite of their geographic proximity the two did not engage directly in trade, and only minor cultural influences passed between them (most notably the Turkisms that entered the Ukrainian language). The antagonism was made stronger when the Cossacks emerged as the self-styled defenders of Ukrainian Orthodoxy. Hetman Petro Konashevych-Sahaidachny considered combating the Muslim world to be the primary duty of Cossacks and attempted to organize an anti-Ottoman coalition. At the Battle of Khotyn (1621), for example, a 40,000-strong Cossack force under the command of Sahaidachny was a decisive factor in the victory, which proved a major setback for the Ottoman Empire. Hetmans Mykhailo Doroshenko (in 1625–8) and Taras Fedorovych (1630) continued the anti-Turkish policy and conducted further successful naval attacks.
The Cossack state. With the establishment of the Ukrainian Cossack Hetman state Ukraine’s relations with Turkey took a dramatic turn: they were guided now by the interests of a nascent state and realpolitik rather than territorial defense, religious ideology, and adventurism.
The earliest approaches were made by Hetman Bohdan Khmelnytsky in the wake of a tentative anti-Tatar agreement between Muscovy and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth arranged by Adam Kysil in 1647. Seeking an ally against Poland, Khmelnytsky signed a treaty with the Crimea in late 1647 or early 1648 that enabled him to mount his large-scale offensives. A Ukrainian diplomatic mission headed by Colonel Filon Dzhalalii (himself of Turkish origin) traveled to Istanbul in 1648 and concluded a treaty with the Ottomans that recognized Ukraine as a sovereign state and forbade the Crimean khan to plunder Ukrainian territory. Later the sultan signed a naval convention with the Zaporozhian Host, which set out the terms of trade between Turkey and Ukraine. The Ukraino-Turkish alliance was sundered by Crimean opposition, notably that of Khan Islam-Girei III, whose demand that Tatars be given the exclusive right to ‘oversee northern Ukrainian affairs’ was accepted by Sultan Mehmed IV.
Direct negotiations with Turkey resumed only in 1650, when Turkey offered to make Ukraine its protectorate—a vassal-state similar to Moldavia or Wallachia. Despite opposition from the Ukrainian nobility (Adam Kysil) and the clerical hierarchy (Sylvestr Kosiv) Bohdan Khmelnytsky accepted Turkey’s offer in 1651. The agreement was never fully implemented, however, and it proved generally unpopular. Moreover the Tatars proved to be unreliable allies, and Khmelnytsky found himself in increased political isolation as his plans for a Cossack-Moldavian alliance (even union) fell apart. Consequently, he reoriented himself and Ukraine to Muscovy with the Pereiaslav Treaty of 1654. Certain provisions of the treaty prohibited independent relations between Ukraine and Turkey, but those relations continued uninterrupted. A new Ukraino-Turkish agreement was signed the following year.
Relations and agreements with Turkey in the ensuing years followed a familiar pattern as a succession of hetmans looked to Turkey for assistance, particularly in times of need: Ivan Vyhovsky (1659), Pavlo Teteria (1670), Petro Doroshenko and Yurii Khmelnytsky (especially after the Treaty of Andrusovo in 1667), and Ivan Briukhovetsky (1668). Doroshenko’s initiative had the greatest significance, when he established an alliance with Turkey (recognizing Ottoman suzerainty) and launched a joint military campaign with the Turks. The subsequent Buchach Peace Treaty of 1672, concluded with Poland on 5 October, ceded Podilia to the Turks and Bratslav voivodeship and southern Kyiv voivodeship to the Cossacks under Turkish protectorship. Doroshenko’s shaky hold on the territory ended with his resignation in 1676, at which time the Turks replaced him with Yurii Khmelnytsky. Khmelnytsky’s rule proved unsatisfactory to his Muslim overlords and they executed him in 1681 and replaced him by the Moldavian hospodar G. Duca. That year the Ottomans concluded the Treaty of Bakhchesarai with Muscovy, which recognized the basic delineation of Ukrainian territories and gave the Turks the Right-Bank Ukraine’s possessions they had obtained in 1672. Those lands, now largely depopulated by the ongoing fighting during the Ruin, were taken back by Poland in 1699. The Ottomans did not commit major resources to that part of the empire, in the wake of their defeat in 1683 near Vienna (a battle in which an important role was played by the Ukrainian Yurii Frants Kulchytsky).
The tenures of Ivan Mazepa and Pylyp Orlyk as hetmans saw the last independent diplomatic efforts dealing with the Ottoman Empire. In the initial phase of his hetmancy (pre–1700) Mazepa was outspoken in his anti-Turkish sentiment, and Ukraine participated in anti-Turkish campaigns. Mazepa personally commanded victorious military actions against Turkish fortifications on the lower Dnipro River. After 1701 Mazepa sought a reconciliation with Turkey and assistance for his effort to break free of Moscow. His defeat at the Battle of Poltava in 1709 ended those efforts. Mazepa and Kost Hordiienko then sought asylum in the Ottoman realm. Orlyk led a joint military action with Ukrainian, Tatar, and Turkish forces in Right-Bank Ukraine against Russian forces in 1711. In 1712 he sought to revive a union with Turkey. Turkey recognized his title to Right-Bank Ukraine but did not offer him the support he needed to wrest the territories from Polish control. In 1722 Orlyk was interned at Salonika. He lived out his days (until 1742) in the Ottoman Porte, vainly expecting assistance for his designs on Ukraine. His gradual disillusionment became evident in the growing anti-Islamic sentiment evident in his writings.
18th to 20th centuries. Ukrainians took part in the various struggles related to the Russo-Turkish wars, which in the 18th century (1735–9, 1768–74, and 1787–91) resulted in the expulsion of Ottoman forces from Southern Ukraine. In 1774 the triangle between the Dnipro River and the Boh River was wrested from Turkish control, and the Crimean Khanate was made independent of Turkey (under the Peace Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca). After the destruction of the Zaporozhian Sich in 1775, some Cossacks petitioned Turkey for refuge and were granted a settlement near the mouth of the Danube River in northern Dobrudja. There they established the Danubian Sich, which was active as an organized military unit until 1828. In 1783 Russia annexed the Crimean Khanate, and in 1791 (under the Treaty of Iaşi) it acquired the territory between the lower Boh River and the Dnister River. That development effectively ended Turkey’s presence on the northern Black Sea littoral. The Ottomans’ last (albeit indirect) holding in Ukrainian territory, Bukovyna (under the vassal-state of Moldavia), was annexed by Austria in 1774 while Turkey was engaged in hostilities with the Russian Empire.
During the 19th century the Russo-Turkish wars continued, in 1806–12 (with the annexation of Bessarabia by the Russian Empire), in 1828–9, in 1853–6 (the Crimean War), and in 1877–8 (the Balkan campaign). Ukrainians sided almost universally against the Turks, particularly in the Balkan campaign. Even before the beginning of hostilities Ukrainian volunteers took part in the struggle of the South Slavs (Serbs and Bulgarians) against Turkish domination. Ukrainians gathered considerable financial support for that cause and organized a medical-relief effort in the region.
On the side of Turkey, however, Polish (or Polonized Ukrainian) émigrés, notably Adam Jerzy Czartoryski, led an anti-Russian movement in the mid-19th century that was partially sponsored by Turkey. Michał Czajkowski, a participant in the Polish Insurrection of 1830–1, emigrated to Istanbul in 1848, converted to Islam, and convinced the Porte to organize Cossack formations in the Turkish forces with Ukrainian volunteers from northern Dobrudja. Those units were active in the Crimean War and until 1861.
During the First World War Turkey fought on the side of the Central Powers against the Russian Empire. In November 1914 the Turkish interior minister met with a delegation from the Union for the Liberation of Ukraine (SVU) and promised support for the Ukrainian independence movement. Mariian Melenevsky headed an SVU mission in Istanbul, which published a pamphlet intended for Turkish servicemen (Asker), and Ukrayna, Rusya, Türkiye, Magălemer mecmu’asi (1915), a handbook of general information.
In the spring of 1916 the Russian imperial army, which included Ukrainians, captured eastern Anatolia (centered on Trabzon), which it held until 1918. After the February Revolution of 1917 a Ukrainian Hromada was established in Trabzon, which published Visti Ukraïns'koï hromady mista Trapezundu, edited by H. Khymenko. In September 1917 the Central Rada appointed M. Svidersky as commissar of the Trabzon district. Entrusted with Ukrainizing local military units, he organized a military congress there in October 1917. In early 1918 the imperial army evacuated the city, and the Ukrainians returned to Ukraine.
A Turkish delegation that included the grand vizier and the minister of foreign affairs signed the Peace Treaty of Brest-Litovsk on 9 February 1918, in which Turkey recognized the Ukrainian National Republic as an independent and sovereign state. The treaty was ratified in Turkey on 22 August 1918, and Ukraine and Turkey set up diplomatic missions. The head of the Hetman government’s mission in Istanbul was Mikhail Sukovkin (1918), and of the Directory of the Ukrainian National Republic, Oleksander Lototsky (1919–20) and Jan Tokarzewski-Karaszewicz (1920–1). Tokarzewski-Karaszewicz’s aides included Liutsii Kobyliansky and Volodymyr Mursky (who was later the envoy of the Government-in-exile of the Ukrainian National Republic in Turkey until 1935). The Turkish envoy to the Hetman government in Kyiv was A. Mukhtar Bey. Another handbook on Ukrainians, Ukrayna ve Türkiye (1919), was published in Istanbul. Mursky published his monograph Ukrayna ve istiklâl müca hedeler in 1930.
After the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic was established in January 1922, a treaty was signed with Turkey concerning political, economic, and cultural relations as well as ‘friendship and brotherhood.’ Soviet Ukraine, however, never had a permanent diplomatic mission in Istanbul, and from 1923, relations were conducted only on an all-Union level. In 1926 the All-Ukrainian Learned Association of Oriental Studies maintained direct contact with Turkey and devoted considerable attention to its culture. In 1928–9 a delegation of Ukrainian scholars (O. Hladstern, O. Samoilovych, Pavlo Tychyna, and V. Zummer) visited Turkey. In 1927–31 the association issued the journal Skhidnii svit (the last issue came out under the title Chervonyi skhid). After 1945 a Ukrainian Hromada was revived in Istanbul, headed by M. Zabillo. Diplomatic relations were once again established between Turkey and Ukraine after 1991.
Turkish-Ukrainian cultural relations were on the whole limited. There were some efforts on the part of Ukrainians to acquaint Turks with Ukrainian political and cultural concerns. Ukrainian writers translated or adapted Turkish folk or classical literature. Ukrainian publications on Turkish themes include studies by Mykhailo Drahomanov on Turkish anecdotes in the Ukrainian folk oral literature and by Ivan Franko on poems about the Russo-Turkish War of 1787–91; a grammar and basic language text by T. Hrunin (1930); Ahatanhel Krymsky’s translations of Turkish folk tales and songs (1890); Pavlo Tychyna’s translations of a variety of Turkish authors; and the anthology Opovidannia turets'kykh pys'mennykiv (Short Stories by Turkish Writers, 1955). There have been few Turkish translations of Ukrainian works. Some of Taras Shevchenko’s poems were translated by Krymsky and Nazim Hikmet, and translations of Tychyna’s works appeared in the Turkish journal Milliyet in 1928. In the 1970s and 1980s several books of Turkish literature were translated into Ukrainian by H. Khalymonenko.
Until 1931 Ahatanhel Krymsky headed the Turkological Commission of the All-Ukrainian Academy of Sciences, which published Istoriia Turechchyny (History of Turkey, 1924), Tiurky, ïkh mova i literatura (The Turks, Their Language and Literature, 1930), and other titles. Other Ukrainian scholars in the field at that time and since then include Lev Bykovsky, Vasyl Dubrovsky, O. Hanusets, Kh. Nadel, Omeljan Pritsak, O. Samoilovych, Ye. Zavalynsky, L. Hajda, and V. Ostapchuk. The painter Oleksa Hryshchenko worked in Turkey and published Deux ans à Constantinople (1930; Ukrainian trans 1961).
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[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 5 (1993).]