By Pietro A. Shakarian, published in Origins: Current Events in Historical Perspective, Nov 13, 2017. Origins is published by the History Departments at The Ohio State University and Miami University
Russia’s cooperation with the Kurds of Iraq and Syria in the fight against ISIL has been widely publicized by the Western media. However, less well-known is the fact that Russia’s relations with various Kurdish groups date back almost two centuries.
Spread across the mountainous frontiers of Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria, the Kurds number approximately 30 million people. Although united in a struggle for civil and political rights, they comprise various tribal affiliations and speak different dialects. Most Kurds are Muslim (primarily Sunni, but also Shia). Some are adherents of the Yazidi faith, a religion that shares common elements with Christianity, Islam, and Zoroastrianism.
Russia’s southern expansion (from the 18th century on) in search of secure borders and natural resources brought it into contact with different Kurdish tribes. Since then, Moscow has maintained relations with Kurds both inside and outside of its borders. This history forms an important part of Russia’s relationship with the Middle East and underscores its unique position between Europe and Asia. Below are 10 of the most significant moments in Russian-Kurdish relations, from Pushkin to the Peshmerga…
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Origins: Current Events in Historical Perspective is published by the History Departments at The Ohio State University and Miami University.
Pietro A. Shakarian is a PhD candidate in Russian History at The Ohio State University in Columbus. His main interest is 19th and 20th century Russian and Eurasian history, with a focus on the history of the Caucasus region, particularly Armenia and Georgia. He has written analyses on developments in Russia and the former Soviet space for The Nation, Russia Direct, and Hetq Online.
Also by Pietro Shakarian:
A delicate balancing act: Russia, Turkey and the Kurds, analysis by Pietro A. Shakarian, published in Rethinking Russia, Nov 30, 2017