A disaster for the Ottoman Empire (August 10, 1920) - History Key

A disaster for the Ottoman Empire (August 10, 1920)

For about three centuries, the Ottoman Empire was a huge stake for the great powers. Since the “sick man of Europe” diminished its military power and the continuous withdrawal of their troops from Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries, the interest of the great powers become divergent regarded to the future regional organization. At the beginning of WWI, the Ottoman Empire had internal problems and was forced to align with one of the belligerent camps.

Terek Cossacks under Nikolai Baratov, Russian Caucasus Army
Terek Cossacks under Nikolai Baratov, Russian Caucasus Army © M.M.Klevzov, L.K.Klevzova/ Image Source: Wikipedia

The Sick Man

Although with some important victories in the early years of war, the Ottoman Empire was unable to obtain the decisive victories. However they responded with the Armenian massacre and at the end of the war they were forced to accept the armistice.

After signing the armistice, Mustafa Kemal attempted to put into practice a nationalist ideology in Istanbul, but due to the lack of tools, Kemal started his ideology in Anatolia. In there he established the first resistance group called “Mudafaa I Hukuk” which means “defending the country”.

Prominent nationalists at the Sivas Congress. Left to right: Muzaffer Kılıç, Rauf (Orbay), Bekir Sami (Kunduh), Mustafa Kemal (Atatürk), Ruşen Eşref Ünaydın, Cemil Cahit (Toydemir), Cevat Abbas (Gürer)
Prominent nationalists at the Sivas Congress. Left to right: Muzaffer Kılıç, Rauf (Orbay), Bekir Sami (Kunduh), Mustafa Kemal (Atatürk), Ruşen Eşref Ünaydın, Cemil Cahit (Toydemir), Cevat Abbas (Gürer) © Image Source: Wikipedia

The Ottoman issue required a complex settlement mechanism, given that the interest of the several great powers collided for those regions. For instance, three of them were allies in WWI: Italy, France and UK. The importance of those regions was also discussed in London (February 1919) and San Remo (April 1920).

What’s in it for me?

Despite the differences between France and UK, the representatives of the great powers have succeeded to find a way by which all the powers could gain the former Ottoman legacies, avoiding the further disputes. This “mechanism” was reflected in the Treaty of Sevres on August 10, 1920, but it was considered by the Turks as a criminal act.

Ataa celebrates the 90th anniversary of the Lausanne Peace Treaty
Ataa celebrates the 90th anniversary of the Lausanne Peace Treaty © Image Source: s3.amazonaws.com

The Treaty of Sevres was part of the Treaty of Versailles and basically established the borders of Turkey and made a clear dividing of the territories: the new Turkish state lost the region of Smyrna in favor of Greece, Adalia in favor of Italy and Cilicia to the detriment of France. At the same time the straits were demilitarized and neutralized.

Map illustrating the partitioning of Anatolia according to the Treaty of Sèvres (1920) after World War I
Map illustrating the partitioning of Anatolia according to the Treaty of Sèvres (1920) after World War I © User: Str1977/ Image Source: Wikipedia

On the territory of the new Turkish state “rebels” started to create their autonomous regions such as Armenia and Kurdistan. The treaty also contained political, economic and military conditions. Therefore, on the political level, the Turkish government was forced to accept religious minorities. The economical level, the commercial relations that had been terminated during the war, it will be restored and also Turkey will not pay compensations and reparations after the war, even it was on the losing side. Regarded to the military conditions, Turkish army had to become only an internal security force, with the staff up to 50,000 people.

The treaty was considered a disaster by the Turks and it was never ratified by the Grand National Assembly of Turkey. At the level of the collective mentality it was a trigger for a nationalist movement.

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