Treaty of Sèvres

Treaty of Sèvres

The Ottoman Empire was a powerful empire controlling vast territories in Europe, Asia and Africa. Before the First World War the Ottoman Empire’s economy was severely depressed. Per annum inflation amounted to 300%. The Empire’s financial system was dependant on external creditors and had a large foreign debt. Moreover, the country has just come out of the Second Balkan War. That is why the Ottoman Empire refrained from engaging in the First World War for some time. Initially, it declared neutrality, but later signed a secret Turkish and German union treaty and proclaimed general mobilization. But, taking into account its geopolitical location at the crossroads of Europe, Asia and Africa, a choice had to be made. In particular, the Straits Bosporus and Dardanelles, the Suez Canal and Baghdad railway were of strategic importance. 

Diplomatic efforts and military activities of the German Empire were more convincing for the Ottoman Empire than English and French. Furthermore, the Russian Empire was looking forward to this war, because it had claims to Constantinople and the straits.

On October 29, 1914 two Turkish destroyers entered port of Odessa and sank the vessel Donets and on the same day the German battle cruiser Goeben flying the flag of the Ottoman Empire, conducted bombardment of Sebastopol. The Ottomans carried out military actions against the Entente powers. The Ottoman Empire fought on  several fronts, in particular, Caucasus, Persian (against Russian army), Syrian and Palestinian, South-Arabian, Iraqi (against British army), Galician and Balkan (against the Entente and its allies).

Treaty of Sèvres

Initially, on October 30, 1918 an agreement on cessation of hostilities was signed in Moudros harbour on the Greek island of Lemnos. The Armistice of Mudros was signed by the Ottoman Minister of Marine Affairs Rauf Bey and the British Admiral Somerset Arthur Gough-Calthorpe. As part of several conditions to the armistice, the Ottomans granted the Allies the right to occupy forts controlling the Straits of the Dardanelles and the Bosporus. In January 1919 the Ottoman Empire lost its holdings in Armenia, Syria, Palestine, Arabia and Mesopotamia.

The Treaty of Sèvres, concluded on 10 August 1920, followed the armistice and ended the hostilities in the Middle Eastern theatre between the Ottoman Empire and the Allies. The harsh terms the Treaty of Sèvres stipulated included the renunciation of all non-Turkish lands that were part of the Ottoman Empire, as well as parts of Turkish land, to the Allied powers. Palestine and Iraq were transferred to the United Kingdom, Syria and Lebanon – to France. Turkey lost its territories in the Arabian Peninsula and Northern Africa, recognized Britain’s annexation of Cyprus, transferred the Dodecanese (Southern Sporades) to Italy and the Gallipoli Peninsula – to Greece, Egypt became a British protectorate. The Zone of Straits was planned to be fully demilitarize and assigned to the custody of the special commission. Turkey also lost its ancestral lands in Asia Minor and Kurdistan. The terms of the treaty brewed hostility and nationalistic feeling amongst Turks.

National liberation movement under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal

The national liberation struggle began earlier than the Treaty of Sèvres was signed. On 19 May 1919, Mustafa Kemal, a Turkish army officer, arrived to Anatolia, the part of the county that wasn’t occupied.  His first goal was the establishment of an organized national movement against the occupying forces.

From 23 July to 4 August 1919 the Erzurum Congress was held, chaired by Mustafa Kemal. The Congress discussed the questions of defending the territories of Anatolia from intrusion of the foreign powers and establishment of Greek and Armenian states on its territory. Also on the first day of the proceedings, the delegates elected Mustafa Kemal as chairman of the Congress. The Congress played a fundamental role in forming of the provisional government of Turkey.

The Sivas Congress (4-12.09.1919) was an assembly of the Turkish National Movement. The main requirements were the following: the country’s complete independence, preservation of Turkish territories within the Armistice line, withdrawal of all occupying forces, and right of Turkey to self-development without foreign intervention. Moreover, a new Representative Committee was formed. The Committee was chaired by Kemal. In fact, there were two governments in the country.

On 16 March 1920 with the consent of the Sultan, English troops occupied Istanbul. The Parliament was dissolved. Mustafa Kemal had been declared criminal.

In response Mustafa Kemal called for a national election to establish a new Turkish Parliament seated in Ankara – the “Grand National Assembly” (GNA). On 23 April 1920, the GNA opened with Mustafa Kemal as the speaker; this act effectively created the situation of diarchy in the country. Kemal cancelled all Sultan’s and his government’s orders.

Kemal and his supporters won war against Greeks and in 1921-1922 situation in Turkey got completely out of hand of European countries. In 1922-1923 during the Conference of Lausanne the purpose of Mustafa Kemal, the leader of Turkey, was the negotiation of a treaty to replace the Treaty of Sèvres. On 24 July 1923 the Treaty of Lausanne was signed. According to it, Turkey regained Izmir, Eastern Thrace, the Gallipoli peninsula and Turkish part of Armenia and Kurdistan


The military casualties of the Ottoman Empire in World War I were the following: 771,844 military casualties killed in action, 61,487 were missing in action, 466,759 were perished from diseases and epidemics and 500,000 were absent without leave.

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