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The struggle of turkey during world war i

This paper aims to reconsider the two main causes of these extended effects: Meanwhile, the Wilsonian principles, which were declared towards the end of the war, bred numerous conflicts among rival nationalisms and the peace conferences failed to find viable solutions to the demographic problems created by the CUP policies.

In contrast, they fostered numerous military-diplomatic crises. This paper will in the end overtake briefly the military-diplomatic crises bred by the aforementioned causes: The Kemalist secular-nationalist discourse which dominates Turkish historiography 2 connects the post-1918 crises to the Peace Conferences and ignores the effects of the Great War, describing the Turkish War of Independence and Turkish nationalism as a reaction to the Peace Conferences as well as the occupation of the motherland in 1918.

In other words, as The struggle of turkey during world war i historiography brings forward some parts of the story and suppresses others, it misses the complete and true process. Without these population policies, called demographic engineering, a great part of the conflicts between 1919-1939 could have been averted and most importantly, a republic with radically different frontiers and populations could have been born.

However, new research paints a rather different picture. According to Mustafa Aksakal, the Unionists decided to throw their lot in with Germany to save the Empire from certain dismemberment. They believed that even if they had remained neutral, their Empire was bound to be dismembered and would especially be defenseless against Russia Aksakal, 2010. However, Britain and France had promised to safeguard Ottoman independence and territorial integrity as long as the Empire remained neutral.

For the full text, see. All non-Muslims, especially the Armenians along with Rums Ottoman Greeks and Eastern Christians; even non-Turkish Muslims, were subjected to expulsion and resettlement in order to create a new Anatolia with more homogenous and loyal communities.


The coded telegram dated 21 August 1915 was a turning point in this process. With an order sent to all provinces, the then minister of the interior requested the settlement of Turks to all depopulated non-Muslim villages. In other words, this order was the start of a Turkish national struggle, a demographic struggle, still under the blanket of the empire: The war, or to put it more boldly, the defeats in the war, had rendered the population policies vital.

The rights of guarantorship granted to Russia in the 1914 Reform Agreement were universally believed to let Tsardom intrude deep into Anatolia, thus allowing the Russians to destroy the Ottoman Empire under the pretext of reforming Armenia. Kurds were placed into the Turkish speaking provinces while the Turks were parceled to the Kurdish speaking ones. On the other hand Cemal Pasha, commander of the Fourth Army in Syria, set out to exile some prominent Arabs together with their families, into Anatolia allegedly for sedition.

He also had taken precautions to expulse the Jewish settlers from Palestine; most of these were old aged, formerly Russian subjects. Wilsonian Principles 9The 14 principles presented by the US President Thomas Woodrow Wilson 1856-1924 in the house of Congress on 8 January 1918, defined the post-war redesign of the globe.

The twelfth principle had decisive ramifications for Great Britain and France — the two Entente partners that had struck a deal to dismember the Ottoman territories — as well as the Ottoman government and the minorities themselves.

  • The territories inhabited by an Ottoman-Muslim majority united in religion, race and aim formed an indivisible whole, but the fate of the territories inhabited by an Arab majority that were under foreign occupation should be determined by plebiscite;
  • The Greeks landed near Smyrna in mid-May 1919, and bloody fighting erupted between them and local Turks;
  • What he saw persuaded him — and subsequently his chiefs — that the Arabs were a genuinely important potential military asset against the Turks;
  • It was, however, not possible to keep the northwestern borders intact because Armenian militants who accompanied the Russian army remained to continue fighting and perform acts of ethnic cleansing;
  • Turkey and the War, London 1917;
  • It soon became clear that there would be plenty of time to regret at leisure.

The Turkish portion of the present Ottoman Empire should be assured a secure sovereignty, but the other nationalities which are now under Turkish rule should be assured an undoubted security of life and an absolutely unmolested opportunity of autonomous development [. Germany and the Ottoman Empire had surrendered on the condition of their full implementation. Ottoman Turks were also of the opinion that the conferences were unfair, punitive and revanchist affairs; which is why they refused the decisions taken by the Peace Conferences, especially the Sevres Treaty.

Mustafa Kemal also had pointed it out in his first speech at the national assembly start of 1920. But most poignantly, the conferences produced radical, unrealistic and inapplicable decisions in direct violation of the self-determination principle because their aim was to punish the vanquished rather than restoring peace.

They had distorted the principle of self-determination to salvage their secret Sykes-Picot Treaty of 1916 as much as they could.


To the two Entente partners, the priority was to punish Germany and the Ottoman Empire rather than to implement Wilsonian principles. Worse, only some and not all the Ottoman minorities were invited to the conference while even the invited were subjected to a hierarchy. In the Sevres conference, only the Armenian delegation was accorded official participant status while other minority representatives had to accept being heard only by the sub-committees.

Because by that time the victorious powers had demobilized most of their soldiers, they lacked any coercive instrument to impose the implementation of the treaty. Linked to that, because Greece and Armenia were among its signatories, the Rums and Armenians were to become open targets.

Map board Frontier Drawing instead of Plebiscite 16Plebiscite, the ideal method to implement the self-determination principle, was decided for just a few locations and in most them was not applied Smyrna being prime example. The clash of this reality and the extravagant nationalist demands had created an insoluble situation. All minorities were united in their desire to secede from Ottoman domination on the basis of the twelfth principle, however no consensus was achieved about the exact location of borders; the territorial demands were intersecting.

For example, the territory claimed by the Syriacs was right in the middle of where the Arab, Armenian and Kurdish demands crisscrossed. Moreover, due to the lack of coercive military power to realize them, most were to remain on paper only and triggered new conflicts. The Pact was an ethno-political program, which determined the policy against minorities esp.

According to the Pact, a plebiscite was unnecessary in the territories held by the Ottoman armies by the time the armistice of Mudros was signed, because the population behind these borders was predominantly composed of Muslim Ottomans.

On the other hand, the right for self-determination in the Arab territories beyond the armistice borders was fully the struggle of turkey during world war i For the Turkish version of the Pact see Hab. The territories inhabited by an Ottoman-Muslim majority united in religion, race and aim formed an indivisible whole, but the fate of the territories inhabited by an Arab majority that were under foreign occupation should be determined by plebiscite. The problem of resettlement had come to be seen as a political project on the basis of Wilsonian principles and not as a humanitarian issue.

According to the Armenian so.

Return of the Properties and Reparations 18 About the official position regarding the resettlement of expellees, see Atanur, 1994: Economic restitution was naturally a vital prerequisite for demographic restoration; the exiles at once needed to get back to their homes and regain their livelihoods to restart their lives; however these prospects generated a great fear in the The struggle of turkey during world war i population.

One of the reasons which precluded the return of the properties was an ongoing famine and the necessity to find new areas for settling down Muslim refugees. Thus, one of the reasons for the popular support to the Kemalist movement after 1919 was the unwillingness to hand back these seized properties. They also wanted to punish the Ottoman Empire because of its participation in the war, an event which had considerably multiplied their losses in men and material.

Continuity between CUP and the Kemalist Movement 20 This continuity in fact, deserves a greater number of scholarly reviews to see its effect not only. A considerable number of Kemalists were CUP members and had filled important offices both in the war and in the peace conferences. The number of WWI veterans among the early republican elites, civil or military, was very high.

Both the two first presidents until 1950 and all chiefs of the general staff up to 1966 had seen military service in the WWI. Moreover, both factions agreed that the newly arising Turkish nation could only be forged in war and their concept of Turkish identity was highly militaristic.

They were accompanied by problems aggravated because of the peace conferences but managed to stay on the legal ground by accommodating the Wilsonian principles. Despite the Lausanne Peace Treaty 1923 solved the problems of population and territory on the international level; a number of diplomatic-military conflicts were not to be fully resolved until 1939.

The expulsion and dispossession policy against the Rums provided Venizelos a perfect pretext, legitimizing his Greater Greece Megali Idea project both in domestic and international politics.

Numéros à paraître

One of the declared reasons of this expedition was the repatriation of the Rums expulsed to Greece in 1913-14, and to the Anatolian interior in 1914-18 periods.

The reason for the Greek intervention into the Pontus Black Sea region — passed into Turkish historiography as the Pontus Rebellion —was similar. These problems became main reasons for the Turco-Armenian conflict in the Caucasus against the Armenian Republic and in Cilicia against the Armenian elements in the French occupation forces.

Provoked by the victors during the peace conferences, the Armenian Republic launched a military campaign towards Erzurum, thus triggering a short conflict with tragic ramifications. On the international level, the conflict came to a close with the Treaties of Gyumri with the Armenian government in 1920 and Moscow with the USSR in 1921.

However, Turkish-Armenian tension has continued ever since and 1915 casts its long shadow in the form of the genocide debates. This demand, which was never before voiced out, was purely utilitarian and had very heavy consequences for this small, defenseless community. What happened in reality was an unnamed population exchange.

Because of this, Turkey had come to the brink of war with Great Britain and had serious problems with both Iraq and the League of Nations. While Ankara claimed sovereignty over Mosul on the basis of the National Pact, Britain had argued that, according to the Wilsonian principles, Mosul belonged to Iraq because the majority of population was Kurdish.

Despite coming to the brink of war, Ankara and London managed to limit their conflict to a proxy war conducted over some Kurds and Nestorians. The Mosul dispute ended when Turkey relinquished its claims with a treaty in 1926 Minorsky, 1998; Kaymaz, 2014.

Britain's legacy to the tortured Ottoman Empire

About 30 Kurdish uprisings did happen in the 1920-38 period within a large territory and a high level of violence. However, in my opinion, the political and military developments in the 1914-1920 period were more fundamental.

Predominantly Kurdish territories of Anatolia were also the geography where WWI was most destructive in social, economic and demographic terms. The vacuum created in these regions by the destruction of the Armenians was the primary cause of long-term instability.

But most importantly, the Kurdish question had for the first time emerged as an international problem in the peace conferences.

It was when a demand for Kurdistan was put forward, accompanied by maps and censuses, decisively molding Kurdish nationalism into its modern form. Kurds were of the opinion that it was a betrayal of the National Pact and a deliberate measure to keep them divided. One major exception however, was the province of Alexandretta with its predominantly Turkish population.

Some minor border incidents happened; France and Syria disputed Turkish claims in the League of Nations, but eventually a short lived republic was declared and recognized at Alexandretta in 1938. Upon an internationally recognized plebiscite which voted in favor of reunion with Turkey, the province was annexed in 1939.

  • There they supported the Christian Armenians who were taking revenge upon the Muslim Turks, while educated Turks were mysteriously disappearing;
  • But most poignantly, the conferences produced radical, unrealistic and inapplicable decisions in direct violation of the self-determination principle because their aim was to punish the vanquished rather than restoring peace.

Local Armenian population and other opponents of the republican regime chose to flee into Syria Pekesen, 2006: Perhaps due to the orderly resolution of its territorial issues, Turkey remained a non-belligerent state in the Second World War Shields, 2012; Ada, 2005. Conclusion 37The article aimed at evaluating the ramifications of the WWI in a broader perspective in order to understand the long-term consequences of the Great War and peace conferences upon the conflicts in post-1918 Anatolia.

The tensions and conflicts in Iraq, Syria and Turkey, continuing and revolving around the Kurdish question since 1919; Israel-Palestine conflict, confessional conflicts in Iraq and Syria, Turkish-Armenian tensions, Azeri-Armenian territorial disputes; all these ethnic and territorial problems have their direct roots in the Great War. Even today, the events of WWI and the debates in the peace conferences are still the central material for much of the nationalist demands and rhetoric.

The memoranda, territorial demands, maps and statistics presented in the peace conferences constitute the arsenal of post-war nationalisms in the region; most of these movements still speak on the basis of the publications from that era.