[WORLD WAR I / RUSSIA / PROPAGANDA] "Hürriyetperver Rus donanmasi tarafindan Osmanli milletine ilân" [i.e. The proclamation for the Ottoman nation by the Russian navy]

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RUSSIAN NAVAL FORCES, Sevastopol, 1917.

Original lithographed proclamation on thin paper. (40x29 cm). In Ottoman script (Old Turkish with Arabic letters). 35 lines on one page. Heavily stained paper, slightly chipped extremities, overall a good copy.

Extremely rare copy of this superb lithographed propaganda proclamation by the Russian naval forces, distributed to the "libertarian Ottoman nation", probably in Ottoman cities like Sinop, Trabzon, and Constantinople, against the Germans during World War I, written on July 5, 1917, in Sevastopol. It's printed from the original manuscript copy in a primitive riq'a script, translated into Ottoman script by probably the Russian army. Although the year is written as Hijri (1333) in the document, the day and month are specified as Gregorian. No signature.

Interesting propaganda text in this proclamation prepared by the Russian government during the July Days and in a very complicated period between the February Bourgeois Democratic Revolution and the iconic October Revolution in 1917, against the counter-propaganda activities of Germany (such as Tovarish) and other Allied Powers during World War I. The text, translated into Ottoman Turkish, briefly tells that "the Russian nation is freed from the captivity of the tsars and has chosen to live in peace with soldiers, workers and peasants altogether" and the Ottoman nation and army should not cooperate with Germany. The document, prepared in the days when Russia's Galician Offensive began, predicts that the Russian army will undoubtedly be victorious on this front and that later also libertarian America will join the war on the side of the Allied Powers.


The defeats and losses at the battlefronts of the First World War, not least mounting economic pressures and food shortages at home, steadily reduced the authority of the tsarist government. When Nicholas II abdicated on 15 March 1917, the creation of a provisional government failed to stabilize the situation. A wave of political activity followed across Russia. Unsurprisingly, Sevastopol did not remain immune from such developments. On 19 March elections for a soviet (council) of deputies took place in the city. At the same time, sailors’ committees were formed on the ships of the Black Sea Fleet, commanded by Vice Admiral Alexander Kolchak.

Alexander Vasilyevich Kolchak (1874 -1920) was an Imperial Russian admiral, military leader, and polar explorer who served in the Imperial Russian Navy and fought in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905 and the First World War. During the Russian Civil War of 1917-1922, he established an anti-communist government in Siberia - later the Provisional All-Russian Government - and became recognized as the "Supreme Leader and Commander-in-Chief of All Russian Land and Naval Forces" by the other leaders of the White movement from 1918 to 1920. His government was based in Omsk, in southwestern Siberia.

Bending to the demands of the crews, on 13 May Kolchak ordered the renaming of battleships with imperial names such as Imperator Alexander III, which became the Volya (Will). By the early summer, discipline within the Black Sea Fleet was fast breaking down. On 20 June a delegation from the United States navy, headed by Rear Admiral James H. Glennon, visited Sevastopol, an important port of call on a tour of naval bases to determine how best to support the Russian war effort against Germany.

This American support on June 20, probably, reflects the content which included the American sympathy in the document. In this situation, this document might be prepared by Kolchak and his supporters around him.

The complete English translation of the text is below (the Turkish transcription is at the end of the description):

Proclamation to the Ottoman nation by the libertarian Russian navy:

This dreadful warfare, which has been going on for three years has shed the blood of the nations and destroyed their properties. Is this necessary? The Russian nation is freed from the captivity of the sultans (tsars). Russia declares these principles to all nations of the world via its own government and via assemblies (Soviets) of soldiers, peasants, and workers: Russia will not do injustice to the other nations; It only aims to work for peace that contains justice. The Russian nation, by showing the fidelity of its own declaration, suddenly gave freedom to Finland and other nations living in Russia, in particular, she gave up on Poland and Istanbul which had been promised to her. However, since the Black Sea and the Dardanelles Straits are the gates of Russia, the necessary guarantee should be given to Russia that the enemy dreadnoughts will not attack us and our merchant ships will be able to pass. Due to Italo-Turkish War and the Balkan Wars, Straits were closed down by Turkey which made Russia lose millions of rubles. However, it is possible to easily agree on this case with Turkey. Because after giving up Istanbul, there was no reason left for a war to continue between Russia and Turkey. Germany took hold of the whole Ottoman government into its own hands by luring the Ottoman government into this war and by doing so even captured Istanbul. Germany's aim is to subordinate Turkey to German rule by means of the Baghdad Railways. It will only serve the interests of German rule. About Germans, we have no intention of entering their homeland nor attacking them, or taking their land. But Germans should get their hands off Turkey and Russia! Your and our enemy are common. It's Germany! In that case, drive all German soldiers and officers out of Turkey. Then we can live as good neighbors. Now, only the governments of Germany and Austria-Hungary, are trying to take over the world. Therefore all nations and especially libertarian America might also join the war against Germany.

This time, our soldiers are attacking the enemy in Galicia and going forward in the name of freedom and peace for all nations. We and our allies will not lay down our arms until Germany puts an end to this invasive policy. And in any case, Germany will be defeated.

O Turks! Why do you support Germany!? Break your ties with Germany. Get rid of Germans. At that time the peace and justice that everyone looking for with great impatience will bring inspiration and happiness to all nations.

Sevastopol, July 5, 1333 [AD 1917].


During WW 1, in 1917, as early as April, an Austro-Hungarian and German attack on the Stokhid bridgehead found the Russians little inclined to fight. The leaders of the Provisional Government were patriotic enough to see what a German victory would mean for Russia, and they were also conscious of Russia’s obligations toward the Western Allies. Some, such as the foreign minister Pavel Milyukov, still hoped to achieve Russia’s main national war aim -namely, control of the Turkish straits. Others, such as Aleksandr Kerensky, who became minister of war in May 1917, dreamed of inflaming patriotism by means of a victorious offensive. This was something for which, indeed, both the Western governments and visiting delegations of the French Socialists and of the British Labour Party were pressing.

The so-called Kerensky Offensive was launched on June 18 (July 1, New Style), 1917, in eastern Galicia, with Brusilov in command. It began with a spectacular advance against the Austro-Hungarian forces but was halted within days as German reinforcements came up and Russian troops refused to leave their trenches. As Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin said, the Russian soldiers had “voted for peace with their legs.” The last weeks of the month saw the catastrophic rout of the Russians, and the Germans advanced through Galicia and into Ukraine, halting at the Zbruch River.

Although the Russians performed dismally during the Kerensky Offensive, a Czechoslovak brigade fought well against the Austrians at Zborov, and a Polish cavalry regiment distinguished itself at Krechowce. After the fight at Zborov, the organization of an independent Czechoslovak army in Russia was approved by Kerensky (the Czechoslovak Legion, which had numbered only about 800 men under the tsarist regime, had already been increased to four regiments since the March Revolution). On October 9 the commander in chief of the Russian army, Gen. Nikolay Dukhonin, agreed that the Czechoslovak army should be under French command and should be used only against Austria-Hungary and Germany. Numbering about 30,000 men, the new army was to be transported to France for the Western Front, but the outbreak of the Russian Civil War complicated its departure. The Czechoslovak Legion responded by taking possession of the 6,000-mile-long (nearly 10,000-km-long) Trans-Siberian Railway in an ultimately successful effort to reach the port of Vladivostok and board ships for home.

The Germans had halted their advance into Ukraine, but they struck again in the north, taking Riga on September 3, 1917, and occupying the greater part of Latvia. Although they did not yet enter mainland Estonia, they landed in October on the offshore islands Ösel (Saaremaa) and Dagö (Hiiumaa), thus securing access to the Gulf of Finland. After the collapse of the Kerensky Offensive, with anarchy increasing in Russia, nationalist forces, some of which had already appeared in April 1917, became visibly stronger as the leaders of Russia’s oppressed groups demanded territorial autonomy and, later, full independence.

The Finnish parliament on July 18, 1917, took upon itself the powers that the Russian emperor had formerly exercised in Finland and then, on December 6 (after the Bolsheviks’ November Revolution in Russia), proclaimed Finland’s complete independence. Soviet Russia somewhat hypocritically recognized this declaration on January 4, 1918. In Estonia, a provisional government was formed on October 12, 1917, and independence was proclaimed on November 28. In Latvia, where a national conference at Riga had claimed complete political autonomy on July 30, 1917, the situation was subsequently confused by the military presence of the Germans, but nevertheless, a Latvian assembly at Valka set up a National Council the following November. For Lithuania, under German occupation since the autumn of 1915, a National Council met at Vilnius in September 1917.

All of Russian Poland had been under German and Austro-Hungarian occupation since the summer of 1915, and, in the hope of winning the Poles to their cause and of forming a Polish army to fight Russia, the occupying Central Powers had promised, on November 5, 1916, to create an independent monarchy there. The Poles had received this promise with skepticism, though they were not displeased that the war should have forced the Central Powers to make a move toward internationalizing “the Polish question,” which France and Great Britain had hitherto treated as an exclusively Russian domain. After Russia’s provisional government on March 29, 1917, recognized Poland’s right to independence and territorial unity, Józef Piłsudski, who had fought at the head of the Polish Legions on Austria-Hungary’s side against imperial Russia, refused to raise a Polish army against the new Russia. While the German appeal to the Poles failed completely, a Polish army was successfully formed in France (June 4, 1917), under the political authority of the Polish National Committee headed by Roman Dmowski. In the course of the year, two Polish army corps were organized in Belorussia (Belarus) and in Ukraine by Poles mobilized in the Russian army.

Events in the south were also serious. The Ukrainian National Congress met in Kyiv in April 1917 and elected a Central Rada (“Council”), which proclaimed Ukraine an autonomous republic on June 23 and a sovereign country on January 22, 1918. To the southwest of Ukraine, the ethnically Romanian people of Bessarabia had set up their own National Council in April 1917. They had to be reticent about its ultimate purpose-namely, political union with Romania-because Romania and Russia were still formally allies against the Central Powers and because there were Russian forces in adjacent Moldavia. To the far southeast of European Russia, meanwhile, the Georgians, the Armenians, and the Azerbaijanis were also preparing for national independence. They formed their Council of Transcaucasian Peoples at Tbilisi on April 22, 1917, but its task was complicated by competing nationalisms, local territorial disputes, and the threat of Turkish invasion. (Source: Britannica).


The Ottoman Empire came into World War I as one of the Central Powers and entered the war by carrying out a surprise attack on Russia's Black Sea coast on 29 October 1914, with Russia responding by declaring war on 5 November 1914. Ottoman forces fought the Entente in the Balkans and the Middle Eastern theatre of World War I. The Ottoman Empire's defeat in the war in 1918 was crucial in the eventual dissolution of the empire in 1922.

The Ottoman's entrance into the war greatly increased the Triple Entente's military burdens. Russia had to fight alone in the Caucasus Campaign but fought with the United Kingdom in the Persian Campaign. Enver Pasha set off for the Battle of Sarikamis with the intention of recapturing Batumi and Kars, overrunning Georgia, and occupying north-western Persia and the oil fields. Fighting the Russians in the Caucasus, however, the Ottomans lost ground, and over 100,000 soldiers, in a series of battles. 60,000 Ottoman soldiers died in the winter of 1916-17 on the Mus-Bitlis section of the front. The Ottomans preferred to keep the Caucasus militarily silent as they had to regroup reserves to retake Baghdad and Palestine from the British. 1917 and the first half of 1918 were the time for negotiations. On 5 December 1917, the armistice of Erzincan (Erzincan Cease-fire Agreement) was signed between the Russians and Ottomans in Erzincan that ended the armed conflicts between Russia and Ottoman Empire. On 3 March, the Grand vizier Talat Pasha signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with the Russian SFSR. It stipulated that Bolshevik Russia cede Batumi, Kars, and Ardahan. In addition to these provisions, a secret clause was inserted which obligated the Russians to demobilize Armenian national forces.

From 14 March to April 1918 the Trabzon peace conference was held between the Ottoman Empire and the delegation of the Transcaucasian Diet. Enver Pasha offered to surrender all ambitions in the Caucasus in return for recognition of the Ottoman reacquisition of the east Anatolian provinces at Brest-Litovsk at the end of the negotiations. On 5 April, the head of the Transcaucasian delegation Akaki Chkhenkeli accepted the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk as a basis for more negotiations and wired the governing bodies urging them to accept this position. The mood prevailing in Tiflis was very different. Tiflis acknowledge the existence of a state of war between themselves and the Ottoman Empire.

In April 1918, the Ottoman 3rd Army finally went on the offensive in Armenia. Opposition from Armenian forces led to the Battle of Sardarapat, the Battle of Kara Killisse, and the Battle of Bash Abaran. On 28 May 1918, the Armenian National Council based in Tiflis declared the First Republic of Armenia. The new Republic of Armenia was forced to sign the Treaty of Batumi. In July 1918, the Ottomans faced the Centrocaspian Dictatorship at the Battle of Baku, with the goal of taking Armenian/Russian/British occupied Baku on the Caspian Sea. (Wikipedia).


"Hürriyetperver Rus donanması tarafından Osmanlı milletine ilân:

Üç seneden beri devam eden bu dehşet-i muharebe-i umum milletlerin kanını su gibi akıttı, mallarını mahvetti. Buna lüzum var mıdır? Bu kere Rus milleti padişahların esaretinden kurtulup yabancı toprak (?) ve hiç kimseye haksızlık etmeyeceğini, yalnız adalete muvafık bir sulh için çalışmakta olduğunu kendi hükümet ve asker ve amele ve köylü vekilleri meclisleri tarafından umum devletlere alenen beyan etti. Hiçbir devletin ecnebi toprağını zapt etmemeyi ve her milletin serbest olarak hangi devletin hakimiyeti sürse onu intihab etmesi şartıyla bu sulh-ı akd olunmayı Rus milleti kendi beyanatının sadahatini göstererek birden (?) Finlandiya ile vesair Rusya’da yaşayan milletlere hürriyet verip (?) alelhusus Polonya’dan ve kendisine vadedilmiş olan İstanbul’dan vazgeçti. Mamafih Karadeniz ve Çanakkale Boğazları Rusya’nın kapısı olduğundan düşman drednotlarının mürur [i.e. geçiş] ve bize hücum etmeyeceğine ve bizim ticaret gemilerimize bu kapının kapatılmayacağına dair Rusya’ya lazım gelen kefâlet verilmelidir. Zira İtalya [i.e. Trablusgarp] ve Balkan Muharebeleri ve Boğazlar’ın Türkiye tarafından kapatılması zararı milyonlara (?) mal oldu. Bununla beraber yine bu hususun Türkiye ile kolay anlaşmak mümkündür. Zira İstanbul’dan vazgeçtikten sonra Rusya ve Türkiye arasında (?) hiçbir sebep kalmadı. Zira o zaman Rusya, Almanya’nın taht-ı hükümete (?) esasen Almanya, Türkiye’yi bu muharebeye mücelleb (?) edip bütün Osmanlı hükümetini kendi eline alarak İstanbul’u dahi zapt etti. Bağdad Demiryolu vasıtasıyla Türkiye’yi Almanya taht-ı itaatine alması ve müstemlekât haline getirip sırf kendi istifade etmesi Almanya maksadıdır. Almanlar, memleketlerine girip onlara da taarruz etmek ve toprak almağa niyetimiz yoktur. Fakat Almanlar, Türkiye ve Rusya’dan ellerini çeksinler! Sizin ve bizim düşmanımız birdir. Almanya’dır! Şu halde umum Alman asker ve zabitanı ve memurini Türkiye’den def ediniz. O zaman sizin ile iyi komşu olarak yaşayabiliriz. Şimdi hayatta yalnız (?) olarak Almanya ve Avusturya hükümetleri bahususi Almanya fikr-i istilasıyla bunun dünyayı taht-ı hükümet (?) adına almağa çalıştığından umum milletler ve bilhassa hürriyetperver Amerika da ona karşı muharebeye karışabilir.

Bu defa bizim askerimiz Galiçya’da düşmana hücum ederek umum milletlerin hürriyet ve sulhu namına (?) ileri gitmektedirler. Almanya’nın bu istilacı politikasına nihayet verene kadar biz ve müttefiklerimiz terk-i silah etmeyeceğiz. Ve herhalde de Almanya mağlup olacaktır.

Ey Türkler! Almanya’yı ne sebeple muhafaza ediyorsunuz!? Onunla alakayı terk ediniz. Alman’ları tard ediniz. O zaman herkesin sabırsızlıkla beklediği umum milletlere feyz ve saadet verici adalet ve insaniyet üzerine (?) bir sulh kalacaktır!

Sivastopol, fî 5 Temmuz 1333 [1917]."