The League of Nations, White Russian Refugees and Constantinople, 1920-22

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During the early 1920s, Turkey's population was in uproar. Armenians and Greeks were moving out, while Turks were moving in from Greece. But Turkey also played host to large numbers of Russian refugees, especially the members of General Wrangel's counter-revolutionary army which numbered over 100,000 souls and which was ejected from the Crimea in November 1920. This paper discusses how Wrangel's army lived in camps around Constantinople and Gallipoli. In particular it shows how the League of Nations provided humanitarian relief for these refugees and also supervised the re-settlement of the former soldiers to other countries in Europe (for instance Yugoslavia and Bulgaria). The paper will also discuss the amazing measures which the League undertook to supervise the repatriation of thousands of ordinary Russian soldiers to southern Russia (especially the Cossack regions). As will become clear, League of Nations officials drawn from the British civil service and British Army played particularly important roles in ensuring that the difficulties experienced by Wrangel's army did not turn into a humanitarian disaster.


Keywords: Refugees, Russia, 1920s, League of Nations, Constantinople, Humanitarian
Stream: History, Historiography
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: , Humanitarian Endeavour in the Black Sea Region. The League of Nations, White Russian Refugees and Constantinople, 1920-23.


Martyn Housden

Reader in Modern History, Department of Social Sciences and Humanities, University of Bradford
Bradford, West Yorkshire, UK

Having written extensively about the history of the Third Reich (e.g. Hans Frank, Lebensraum and the Holocaust. Palgrave, 2003; Neighbours of enemies? Germans, the Baltic and Beyond. Rodopi. In press. With John Hiden), I am attempting to research some of the constructive political developments of the 1920s. An important part of my project involves studying humanitarian initiatives pursued by the League of Nations. The League's work with refugees, which was carried out under the auspices of Fridtjof Nansen, is a particularly important focus for my work.

Ref: H08P0137