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600 Years of Polish-Turkish Diplomatic Relations

The 600th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Poland and Turkey in 2014 is an opportunity to celebrate this event and recall the centuries-long mutual contacts between the two countries. In 1414 King Ladislas Jagiello sent two envoys to Sultan Mehmed Çelebi – Skarbek from Góra and Gregory the Armenian – on a mission to mediate between Hungary and Turkey. The mission was successful. This historical date is worth highlighting since Poland was the first European country to establish permanent diplomatic relations with the then Ottoman Empire.

For nearly 300 years – from the rule of Ladislas Jagiello to the Treaty of Karlowitz in 1699 – Polish- -Turkish relations alternated between periods of war and peace. However, throughout the whole history of mutual relations, the periods of peace were significantly longer than the periods of war. Poles will always remain deeply grateful to Turkey for not recognising the partitions of Poland. What is widely known from those times is the ceremonial welcome of foreign envoys at the court of the Sultan – the chamberlain, who was to announce the arrival of the envoy of Poland, after a long time of waiting would declare: “The envoy of Poland has not arrived, he got stuck on the road”.

The 19th century began a new chapter in friendly relations between Poles and Turks. It was then that Turkey provided asylum for droves of political exiles and refugees seeking to escape the draft to the Russian army. The largest wave of emigration to Turkey coincides with the defeat of the January and November uprisings as well as the end of the Hungarian revolution of 1848-49. Thanks to their knowledge, military training and technical education, Poles became engaged in the modernisation of various spheres of Turkish life (one should mention here Józef Bem, Marian Langiewicz, Władysław Kościelski, Władysław Zamoyski and Michał Czaykowski). This period of friendly Polish-Turkish relations that lasts to today has left a much stronger stamp in the social consciousness of Turks than the earlier period of conflict and wars.

Tadeusz Majda