- The Soviet Union inherited tsarist Russia's interest in and sometimes influence over Kurdistan. During the Cold War, many in the West believed that the Kurds offered a possible fifth column to facilitate Soviet expansion into the Middle East. In retrospect, however, this Soviet role was largely exaggerated because the Soviets usually calculated that supporting the regional governments in which the Kurds lived would prove more useful. Certainly among the great powers, Great Britain played a much more important historical role regarding the Kurds. In more recent years, the United States has inherited this position.Early in its history, the Soviet Union signed a Treaty of Friendship with Kemalist Turkey. The resulting relationship gave invaluable aid to both fledgling states and certainly helped Turkey to suppress its Kurdish population. At one time or another the Soviet Union also gave important support to Iraq and Syria, to the detriment of their Kurdish populations.On the other hand, it is true that the Soviet Union was the only foreign backer of the ill-fated Mahabad Republic of Kurdistan in 1946 and also offered a home to the exiled Mulla Mustafa Barzani from 1947 to 1958. Indeed, Barzani was for a time called the Red Mulla, a title that proved ludicrous, however, given his subsequent career. During the 1920s, the Soviet Union also housed a Red Kurdistan in Lachin, but this experiment was dropped by the end of the decade.Joseph Stalin exiled many Kurds to central Asia during the 1930s and 1940s. Some claim that as many as 1,000,000 largely assimilated Kurds now live in various parts of the former Soviet Union. Although most experts list considerably smaller figures, probably at least 200,000 Kurds presently inhabit the area.The communist party's organizational style influenced (and still does) that of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), and even the more conservative Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) with terms such as politburo and central committee. Although it is true that the PKK began life as an avowedly Marxist party, as to some extent did even the PUK, in the long run little should be assumed by such organizational titles other than they were at the time the fad.
Historical Dictionary of the Kurds. Michael M. Gunter.
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