893.00/12–946: Telegram

The Ambassador in the Soviet Union (Smith) to the Secretary of State

4348. We have read Ward’s summary of Sinkiang situation and despatches from British Consul at Tihwa28 on same subject, including one covering his visit to Ining (copies are being forwarded by pouch29).

In reading Ward’s report we are struck anew by similarity between Sinkiang and Iranian Azerbaijan situations (Embassy 1850 [1890], June 15). In both Central Government was oppressive and corrupt in dealing with subject racial groups. There consequently existed ample causes for spontaneous revolt and genuine demands for autonomy. Altho Soviet army occupied Azerbaijan and not Sinkiang and tempo of developments in former has been more rapid, Soviet policy towards both appears to us to be substantially same. It is a policy of political rather than military subjugation.

In Azerbaijan genuine native discontent was surreptitiously encouraged by Soviet agents of same or related race to rebels; local elements subservient to USSR were organized to capture and retain, under concealed Soviet direction, control of insurrection; local autonomy was demanded, but it was to be an autonomy within framework of Iranian state; rebels retained control, however, over their armed forces and their tax collections. Policy in short was to maintain “correct” relations with Central Government while using Azerbaijan as one of instruments to disrupt and ultimately capture Central Government. Parenthetically it may be said such a policy seems admirably suited to situations such as exist in Iran, China, Iraq, Afghanistan, and before long India. Principal risk to such policy is that Central Government, incapable of instituting genuine sweeping [Page 1221] reforms, takes next most effective step—as Qavam30 now appears to be doing—challenging rebels in a manner designed to force USSR to show its hand. Ward’s and Graham’s reports reveal that many of same symptoms of Soviet policy which appeared in Azerbaijan were present in Sinkiang. Now this may be purely coincidental. But we doubt it.

We doubt it because for compelling, ideological, nationalistic and strategic reasons USSR is incapable of maintaining a benevolent neutrality towards events in Sinkiang (Embassy’s 96, January 1031). It must seek ultimate control over that province, first as an “autonomous” province in Chinese Republic, later perhaps as an “autonomous” state like Mongolian People’s Republic and possibly much later as an integral part of USSR like Tannu Tuva. Therefore, USSR must through its own agents and obedient local elements direct course of rebel movement towards realization of Soviet objectives. As Kremlin’s Sinkiang policy appears to be geared to slow penetration and consolidation, it is better able than in Azerbaijan to conceal its activities.

Perhaps one of surest indicators of Soviet control would be identification among Turki leaders of Soviet trained personnel. They are not likely to be in conspicuous posts, excepting interior affairs, secret police and propaganda. Attitude of Turki delegation in Nanking negotiations may also give clues of Soviet direction. Finally, we venture to suggest that Department may consider it desirable, if it has not already done so, to furnish Nanking and Tihwa with several of Tabriz’s very able despatches of past winter and spring analyzing Azerbaijanian object lesson.

Dept repeat to Nanking.

  1. Walter Graham.
  2. Despatch No. 603, December 10, not printed.
  3. Ahmad Qavam, Iranian Prime Minister.
  4. Vol ix, p. 116.