Every year, more than two thousand ships pass through the turkish straits of the Bosporus and the Dardanelles.
Every year, more than two thousand ships pass through the turkish straits of the Bosporus and the Dardanelles. The strategic importance of the historic straits is as great as ever. Continuing Turkish control is essential to the West -- as well as being vital to Soviet naval aspirations.
SYNOPSIS: A statue of Ataturk, the creator of modern Turkey, stand watch over the Bosporus at Istanbul. More then any other man this century, he's responsible for Turkish control of the waterway along with its companion strait, the Dardanelles. Ataturk fought Western attempts to control the straits and, in 1923, Turkish demands for a major role in governing the straits were accepted.
Today, the passage of each ship is governed by the 1936 Montreux Convention which bears the seal of long forgotten monarchs like the King of Bulgaria. The treaty effectively extended Turkish control.
Many of the ships are Soviet vessels, for whom passage from the Mediterranean to the Black Sea is vital. But free passage of civilian vessels is guaranteed to all nations, except in wartime, when the Turkish Government can close the waterway. Warships are a different matter. They must announce their passage eight days in advance and they must pass in daylight. In the case of submarines, they must be on the surface.
It wasn't always as easy to navigate the Bosporus. Here, at the narrowest point, Sultan Mehmet built the Rumeli Castle in 1452 and blocked access from the Black Sea.
For the next 300 years, only Turkish ships were allowed through the straits. It was only when the Ottoman Expire started to disintegrate that the world powers began their squabble for control.
But the strategic value of the straits is not much on the minds of Turks who gather at the water's edge for a beer. The Bosporus has been theirs for centuries -- and they take it for granted.