Montreux Conference of 1936

Montreux Conference of 1936


a conference on the status of the Black Sea Straits, held from June 22 to July 21, 1936, in Montreux, Switzerland. Participating states included the USSR, Turkey, Great Britain, France, Bulgaria, Rumania, Greece, Yugoslavia, Australia, and Japan.

The conference was convened at Turkey’s initiative in order to revise the convention on the Black Sea Straits adopted by the Lausanne Conference of 1922–23. It was marked by a sharp debate provoked by Great Britain’s attempt to limit the right of passage of Soviet warships through the Straits under the pretext of “equality “between Black Sea and non-Black Sea powers. The work of the conference was complicated by collusion between the Turkish and British delegations.

The firm position of the Soviet Union prevented a breakdown of the Montreux Conference and ensured the adoption of negotiated decisions. On July 20, 1936, a new convention on the status of the Straits was signed at the conference, giving Turkey the right to remilitarize the Straits zone. The new convention retained for the commercial vessels of all countries the right to free passage through the Straits in peacetime as well as in wartime, but it established differentiated rules for passage by warships of Black Sea and non-Black Sea powers. In peacetime, Black Sea powers may sail warships of any class through the Straits, provided they notify the Turkish authorities in advance. But the warships of non-Black Sea powers are subject to substantial limitations according to class and tonnage; only small surface ships may pass through the Straits, and the total tonnage of such warships in the Black Sea at any one time may not exceed 30,000 tons. This tonnage limit may be raised to 45,000 tons in the event the Black Sea countries increase their own naval strength. Warships of non-Black Sea states may remain in the Black Sea no longer than 21 days.

Under the new convention, when Turkey is at war or considers itself under immediate threat of war, it may permit or prohibit passage through the Straits to any warship. In the case of a war in which Turkey is not involved, the Straits must be closed to the warships of any belligerent power. Also under the new convention, the international commission on the Straits, originally provided for under the Lausanne Convention, was abolished and its functions transferred to the Turkish government.

The decisions of the Montreux Conference represented in their time a step forward toward recognition of the rights of the Black Sea countries on the Straits question.


Sbornik deistvuiushchikh dogovorov, soglashenii i konventsii…, Issue 9. Moscow, 1938. Document no. 333.
Mezhdunarodnoe pravo v izbrannykh dokumentakh, vol. 1. Moscow, 1957. Pages 241–50.
Vneshniaia politika Sovetskogo Soiuza: 1946 g. Moscow, 1952. Pages 167–70, 193–202.
“K sovetsko-turetskim otnosheniiam.” Izvestiia, July 19, 1953.