“The Legacy of the Treaty of Sèvres (August 10, 1920) in the East Mediterranean“ Webinar Panel Discussion

Join us for EMBCA’S “Legacy of the Treaty of Sèvres (August 10, 1920) in the East Mediterranean“ Webinar Panel Discussion on Sunday, August 25, 2024 at 2 P.M. EST/ 9 P.M. EEST. The panel discussion will be Introduced and moderated by Lou Katsos EMBCA’s President. The distinguished panel , currently in formation , will include Author/ Independent Historical Researcher Stavros Stavridis.

The Treaty of Sèvres, signed on August 10, 1920, was a peace treaty that concluded World War I between the Allied Powers and the Ottoman Empire a member of the Central Powers in the war. It aimed to dismantle the Ottoman Empire and redistribute its territories, marking a significant turning point in Middle Eastern geopolitics and the decline of Ottoman influence.

Negotiated primarily by the Allied Powers, including France, Britain, and Italy, the treaty imposed territorial losses on the Ottoman Empire. The treaty recognized the independence of Armenia, Kurdistan, and Hejaz (now part of Saudi Arabia) and granted control over Constantinople (Istanbul) and the Dardanelles Strait to an international commission. Under the terms of Sèvres, Furthermore, the mandates of Syria and Lebanon were assigned to France, while Palestine and Iraq were given to Britain. Hellas was awarded Eastern Thrace, the islands of Imbros and Tenedos, and the administration of the Smyrna (Izmir) region, which was home to a substantial Hellenic population.

The treaty faced strong opposition within Turkey and its provisions were seen as humiliating and unacceptable by many Turks. The unpopularity of the treaty among the Turkish population was a significant factor in its eventual failure. The treaty was perceived as a diktat, imposed without fair negotiation, and as a betrayal by the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed VI, who had agreed to its terms. The widespread dissatisfaction with the sultan's acceptance of the treaty further fueled the nationalist movement and its push for a new, more favorable agreement. The treaty led to the Turkish War of Independence, a conflict that lasted from 1919 to 1923. The nationalists, under Kemal Atatürk's leadership, eventually repelled allied forces and abolished the sultanate, establishing the Republic of Turkey in 1923. Kemal and his followers, who led the Turkish War of Independence, vehemently opposed the treaty. They rejected the sultan's authority, established a new government in Ankara, and mobilized military and popular support against both the Allied forces and the sultan's administration in Istanbul.

Internationally, the geopolitical context played a critical role in Kemal’s success. The Allies were divided and had competing interests in the region. Britain, France, and Italy, the primary architects of the treaty, had different priorities and were unable to present a united front. During Turkey's War of Independence (1919-1923), Mustafa Kemal Atatürk received varying degrees of support from the Soviet Union, Germany, and France, each driven by their own strategic interests.

The Soviet Union was Atatürk’s most significant international supporter. The Bolsheviks, embroiled in their own civil war and seeking to weaken Western powers, saw the Turkish nationalists as a natural ally against imperialism. The Soviets provided substantial military and financial aid, including weapons, ammunition, and gold, crucial for the nascent Turkish forces. This support was part of a broader strategy to prevent the establishment of Western-dominated regimes in former Ottoman territories and to foster socialist revolutions in neighboring countries.

Germany, despite its defeat in World War I, also extended support to Atatürk. Many German officers who had served in the Ottoman Empire during the war remained in Turkey, offering military expertise and training to the Turkish nationalists and including related to the Christian Genocide of the period. Germany’s support was motivated by a desire to maintain influence in the region and counterbalance Allied powers, particularly Britain and France.

France’s support was more pragmatic and evolved over time. Initially part of the Allied occupation, France faced fierce resistance from Turkish forces in Cilicia. Realizing the unsustainability of their position, the French negotiated the Treaty of Ankara in 1921, withdrawing their forces and implicitly recognizing the nationalist movement. This shift aimed to preserve French economic interests and counter British dominance in the region.

In sum, Atatürk's success in the War of Independence was bolstered by the strategic support from the Soviet Union, Germany, and France, each driven by their own geopolitical interests and desire to curb Allied influence in post-war Turkey.

Ultimately, the Turkish War of Independence, led by Atatürk, and assistance by former “allies” resulted in the defeat of Hellenic forces who were asked initially by the allies to administer Asia Minor (to avoid Italy in doing so), and the establishment of the Republic of Turkey. The military successes of the nationalists forced the Allies to renegotiate, leading to the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923. This new treaty recognized the sovereignty of the Republic of Turkey and significantly revised the territorial and political terms initially imposed by the Treaty of Sèvres.

The resulting Treaty of Lausanne in 1923 nullified the territorial gains from Sèvres and mandated a population exchange between Hellas and Turkey, displacing around 1.5 million people. This upheaval had profound economic and social impacts on Greece, straining resources and reshaping demographics. Ultimately, the Treaty of Sèvres' promises led to short-term gains but long-term turmoil and reshaped Hellenic national aspirations and realities.

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