Islam as a potent political force is a relatively new item on the international agenda: Yet for the Soviet Union, Islam has long been an issue. As far back as 1917, Lenin addressed a special appeal to the "Toiling Muslim Peoples of the East" and in 1918 the new Soviet government established a Commissariat on Muslim Affairs. In the early 1920s, the new Soviet government became involved diplomatically with Iran, Turkey and Afghanistan, and since then, Moscow has maintained a consistent interest in the contiguous Muslim countries. In the post-World War Π period, the Soviet Union established a very large stake in the Middle East-Persian Gulf region. Nonetheless, prior to the late seventies, the question of Mam as a factor in international relations was assiduously downplayed.