Treaty of Sèvres
Mary Stone | May 14, 2023
The Treaty of Sevres (28 July
It was signed between the victors of World War I (the Presiding and Allied Powers)1 and the defeated Ottoman Empire, in Sevres, France.
The Treaty of Sevres finalised the end of the Ottoman Empire with the division of its territories,2 the birth of the state of Turkey and the return to Greece of the claimed territories.
The Treaty of Sevres – in the part referring to Greece – contained in writing the concessions of the Turkish territories as formulated at the Paris Peace Conference, with the main one being the transfer of most of Eastern Thrace and the wider region of Smyrna to the Greek government and the Greek army.
On the Greek side, King Alexander’s proxies and signatories of the Treaty were Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos and the extraordinary envoy and plenipotentiary Athos Romanos, while on the Turkish side the signatories were General Mehmed Hâdî Pasha, Senator Riza Tevfik Bölükbaşı and Rechad Haliss Bey
The ratification of the Treaty did not take place in any Parliament (not even in the Greek Parliament), since Mustafa Kemal, with the victories of his army, managed to annul the Treaty in practice.After the Greek parliamentary elections of November 1920, the defeat of the Liberal party and the personal crushing of Eleftherios Venizelos, the Allies were no longer willing to cooperate with the successor government and the resurgent King Constantine. Greece proceeded alone with the Asia Minor campaign until its end.
The borders of the two states were finally settled by the Treaty of Lausanne.
They are ceded to Greece:
“The city of Smyrna and the territories described in Article 66 shall remain under Ottoman rule. Turkey shall transfer to the Greek Government the exercise of its sovereign rights over the city of Smyrna and the territories mentioned. In token of this sovereignty, the Ottoman flag shall be permanently hoisted on the outside of a fortress of the city, designated by the Allied Powers.”
The Greek government will be responsible for the administration of the city, which will be staffed by its own civil servants, will maintain the necessary military forces to maintain order and security, while a local Parliament will be established in which all nationalities of the city will be represented, the representatives of which will be elected after elections organised by the Greek government.
Greece may maintain a customs line within the boundaries of the Smyrna area.
After five (5) years the local Parliament, by a resolution by a majority of its members, may request the League of Nations that Smyrna and its environs be incorporated into the Greek Kingdom.
On the same day (28 July
The Mudros Armistice Treaty – the act that ended hostilities between the Entente and the Ottoman Empire – was signed on board the British warship “Agamenmon”, in the bay of Mudros, Lemnos, on 18
From this Council finally emerged, in addition to the League of Nations, the Peace Treaties of Versailles, with the now dissolved German Empire, of Saint Germain, with the Austrian side of the also dissolved Austro-Hungarian Empire, of Trianon, with the Hungarian side of the also dissolved Austro-Hungarian Empire, of Neuilly 4 with the Kingdom of Bulgaria and finally of Sevres with the dissolved Ottoman Empire.
In his first personal presentation of the Greek positions to the “Council of Ten” on 21 January
After Venizelos’ two-day discussion with the Council, the latter decided to set up a specialized committee to study Greek questions – “…the questions raised by Mr. Venizelos’ statements on the subject of Greece’s territorial interests will be sent for a preliminary examination to a committee of experts, consisting of two representatives for each of the Great Powers: United States of America, British Empire, France and Italy. The Commission is authorized to consult the representatives of the peoples concerned, …”. This commission, after having talked to all the interested parties and visited the disputed territories on the spot, completed its report (21 March) and presented its findings to the “Council” (30 March 1919). However, no final decision was taken.
The last decision of the Paris Peace Conference regarding Greek claims was the (disputed) mandate and permission of the Council of 4 (which had replaced the Council of 10) to occupy the wider area of Smyrna militarily. On 2 February.
Eleftherios Venizelos, however, in statements published in the newspaper Makedonia on 19 November 1919, summarised the results of the Summit as follows:
“Greece,” he said, “is perhaps the only country in which no national question has been definitively resolved. But I assure you that I am satisfied with the solutions which the Conference has in view. I firmly believe that the Turkey on which the Allied Powers will impose their will will be completely removed from Europe. And after the solution of the Turkish questions, the foundations will be laid for close co-operation between Greece and Italy in Asia Minor. As far as the Thracian question is concerned, it remains unsolved. But I emphasize: Greece deserves all of Thrace.”
On 28 July 1919 (five days after the official end of the Peace Conference) the Prime Minister of Greece and the Italian Foreign Minister, Tomazo Titoni, agreed “that the Dodecanese, except Rhodes, would be ceded to Greece, and Italy would support the Greek claims, slightly modified, on the issue of Northern Epirus, as well as its claims in Thrace and Asia Minor, except for the region of Aydinio. Greece, in return, was to relinquish her claims to the Aydinio Sandzaki and to support the Italian command in Albania and Italian sovereignty over the port of Vlora.(…)
The Conference of San Remo, Italy, which took place from 19 to 26 April 1920, was the last international conference on the partition of the Ottoman Empire before the final signing of the Treaty of Sevres.
At this conference, it was decided to cede Western Thrace to Greece, and to replace the Allied troops with Greek troops throughout Western and Eastern Thrace. The advance of the Greek troops started from Xanthi, which was already under military control.
As the time for the signing of the Treaty approached, the geopolitical aspirations of the Allied powers changed from their original positions.
In December 1919, during the Anglo-French conference in London to discuss in detail the terms of the Treaty of Sevres, French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau challenged the system of Commandments in Asia Minor, i.e. the Commandment to land Greek troops in Smyrna.
French politics, after the fall of the Clemenshaw government and the assumption of the Prime Minister’s office by Alexandre Millerand, became more pro-Turkish. In June 1920, the secretary general of the French Foreign Ministry stressed to the British ambassador in Paris that he doubted whether the French National Assembly would ratify the peace treaty to be concluded.
But Italian politics after the fall of the Orlando government (Vittorio Emanuele Orlando) and the assumption of the Prime Minister’s office by Francesco Saverio Nitti at the beginning of July 1920 was also radically changed.
On 18 July, ten days before the signing of the Treaty, the new Foreign Minister, Charles Sforza, told Venizelos that the change of circumstances made it necessary to modify the Venizelos-Tittoni agreement and told him that Italy would not abide by it. In the end, England’s insistence and at the same time threat that it would not sign the Agreement on the zones of influence of the Three Powers unless the Greek-Italian dispute was resolved led to a new compromise between Greece and Italy on the Dodecanese issue, which took the form of a separate treaty and was signed at the same time as the Treaty of Sevres.
England was the only Power that continued to support the Greek position. According to the well-known writer and eyewitness of the Asia Minor disaster, Dido Sotiriou “…Lloyd George continued to strongly support the continuation of the Greek presence in Asia Minor, a policy that was also based on an important strategic reason. It was important for Britain to exert constant pressure on Turkey in the Anatolian region to give in to British claims to the Middle East…”
Venizelos, worried by the information he was receiving, decided to travel again to Paris and London. In the talks he had in London on 6 March 1920, he encountered a negative atmosphere towards Greece. In his discussions with Winston Churchill, then Minister of the Army, and the Chief of the British Army Staff, General Henry Wilson, it became clear that Britain could not help Greece militarily in its operations in Asia Minor, and they even predicted the failure of the Greek campaign in the region.
General Wilson wrote: “Winston and I spent an hour with Venizelon this afternoon. We made it clear to him that neither in men nor in money, neither in Thrace nor in Smyrna would we help the Greeks, for we had undertaken more obligations than our small army could perform. I told him that he would destroy his country, that he would be at war for years with Turkey and Bulgaria, and that the drain in men and money would be too great for Greece. He said that he did not agree to a single word of what I had said.”
These reservations were reiterated at the San Remo Conference (which concluded the work of the Paris Conference on the peace treaty with the Ottoman Empire, to which Greece had not been invited). “Nevertheless, Venizelos seemed to be convinced that the imposition of the terms of peace was possible, provided that there was unbroken co-operation with Britain, in whose power he seemed to have unlimited confidence, whereas in reality it was quite limited.”
The most serious danger, however, for the practical annulment of the Sevres Agreement was the nationalist movement of Mustafa Kemal. Kemal’s Turkish nationalist movement, which was directed against both the Sultan and the victors of the World War, who had militarily occupied most of his country, was growing stronger by the day. The Turkish delegation took note of the text of the Treaty of Sevres on 28 April
At the Boulogne Conference, the Allies prepared the final text of the Treaty on 20 June 1920. There, Venizelos undertook to convince the Allies to allow him to eliminate Kemal’s army. “I told our two great Allies: “You have before you a Turkish leader, Mustafa Kemal, who has provoked the war, and seems little disposed to discuss peace with you. Let me use the thousands of men whom I keep idle in Smyrna. I undertake to make Mustafa Kemal less pro-war.” Venizelos will get the approval.
The final decisions on the terms of the Treaty as regards the Ottoman Empire were taken at the Spa Conference on 24 June 1920. The Turkish representatives refused to sign these terms. The Allies gave them a period of 10 days, i.e. until the day before the ceremony of the official signing of the Treaty, otherwise, if the Treaty is not signed under the terms set forth, the Allied Powers will take such measures as may seem to them appropriate in the circumstances.
On Tuesday 28 July 1920 everything was ready in the Hall of the City Hall of Sevres and everyone was waiting for the arrival of the Turkish diplomats. A few hours before the treaty was signed, the Turkish representatives announced that they had just learned that the Grand Vizier of Turkey had been assassinated and therefore, with the state headless, they could not assume the responsibility of signing. However, the Allied Powers made it clear to them that they would accept no pretext and no postponement. The Turkish delegation finally arrived at City Hall and signed first.
The Greek delegation led by Eleftherios Venizelos, Prime Minister, Nikolaos Politis, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Athos Romanos (Ambassador of Greece in Paris) accompanied by a large number of people, including Lambros Koromilas (Greece’s ambassador in Rome at the time), and Simeon Simeonoglou, (Greek deputy in the Ottoman Parliament) arrived at the Town Hall, cheered by a crowd of Greeks who had gathered there.
According to the newspaper “Embros”, Venizelos signed the treaties with three different pennies: the first of the main treaty was a gold-plated gift of the “Hellenic Club of Constantinople”, the second a gift of the Cretan club of Piraeus, “Omonia”, the third a gift of the students of the “Zappeion of Constantinople” and the fourth (of the Greek-Italian treaty) a gift of Georgios Zervos.
Immediately after the signatures Athos Romanos telegraphed to Athens:
Newspaper headlines reflect the euphoric mood that gripped Greece after the signing of the treaty: LONG LIVE THE TRUE AND GREAT AND INVINCIBLE GREECE! TROMERAL CONTRACTS EXPECTED FROM TURKEY IF IT DOES NOT FOLLOW THE TERMS OF THE PEACE TREATY (Macedonia, front page, 30 July)
THE PEACE SIGNED THE THIRD DAY BEFORE YESTERDAY AT 6 P.M. Mr. VENIZELOS ANGELON TO THE LION THE FIRST MOVEMENT OF THE FIGHT – ALL THE SIGNATURE SIGNATURES GREECE WINS FROM THE EARLIER TO THE EARLIER (Forward)
HAIL TO THE GREAT GREECE! ATHENS CELEBRATES THE SIGNING OF THE TURKISH TREATY THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE SINGING TO CHRISTIAN ANESTI TO THE SOUNDS OF MUSIC (Acropolis)
The Treaty of Sevres would prove tragically for the Greek side (the Asia Minor Catastrophe) that it was an empty letter.
The elections of 1920 would show Venizelos that the people – more pragmatic than himself – did not want the price he had to pay for the creation of “Greece of two continents and five seas”. The people are not interested…today they have abandoned the Great Idea…” . Venizelos will retire from both politics and the country, after the crushing defeat of his party and himself personally in the elections (he was not even elected as a member of parliament), and King Constantine will return to the throne. The change in the policy of our Allies due to the return of the King, but especially the rise and strengthening of Turkish nationalism and the strengthening of Kemal’s army, led to the failure of the Asia Minor campaign and the final abandonment of the Great Idea.
The new settlement of the Greek-Turkish border would take place in the Treaty of Lausanne – and this time Greece would be on the losing side.
1: The Powers That Be were: British Empire, France, Italy, Japan. Allied Powers.
2: The treaty stipulated the following: the Ottoman Empire surrendered the sovereignty of Mesopotamia (Iraq), Palestine and Transjordan to Britain through the British “Mandate”, Syria and Lebanon to France through the French “Mandate”, and accepted the inclusion of Anatolia in the sphere of influence of Italy. Hejaz (part of present-day Saudi Arabia), Kurdistan and Armenia would become independent states.
3: The Kingdom of Bulgaria surrendered first on 29 September 1918 with the Armistice of Thessaloniki, followed by the Ottoman Empire on 31 October with the Armistice of Mudros, the Austro-Hungarian Empire on 3 November with the Armistice of Villa Giusti and finally the German Empire itself signed the Armistice of Compiègne on 11 November of the same year.
4: Also of Greek interest.
5: Apart from the main treaty, on the same day the “Greek-Bulgarian Convention on Mutual and Voluntary Migration” was signed, according to which the exchange of the populations of the two countries took place.
- Συνθήκη των Σεβρών (Ελλάς – Τουρκία)
- Treaty of Sèvres
- κείμενο της συνθήκης, σελ. 6
- εφ. “Καθημερινή” https://anemourion.blogspot.com/2019/03/blog-post_800.html
- «[…]. Η Συνθήκη είχε ως αποτέλεσμα τη συσπείρωση του εθνικιστικού κινήματος του Κεμάλ και την κατάρρευση της σουλτανικής εξουσίας. Ο θρίαμβος της ελληνικής πλευράς δεν κατοχυρωνόταν από συμμαχικές εγγυήσεις και η Ελλάδα θα έπρεπε μόνη της να κατοχυρώσει ό,τι είχε κερδίσει στο πεδίο της μάχης και της διπλωματίας. Οι Τούρκοι, καθοδηγούμενοι από ένα μείγμα εθνικισμού, ανθελληνικής διάθεσης και του δόγματος της αυτοδιάθεσης των εθνών, ακύρωσαν όσα κατάφερε η Ελλάδα να επιτύχει με τη Συνθήκη των Σεβρών.[…]» https://www.offlinepost.gr/2020/07/27/%CE%B5%CE%BB%CE%BB%CE%AC%CE%B4%CE%B1-%CE%BA%CE%B1%CE%B9-%CE%B9%CF%84%CE%B1%CE%BB%CE%AF%CE%B1-%CF%84%CE%B9-%CE%B4%CE%B9%CE%B5%CE%BA%CE%B4%CE%B9%CE%BA%CE%AE%CF%83%CE%B5%CE%B9%CF%82-%CE%B5%CE%AF%CF%87/
- ^ The order and the categorization below are as they appear in the preamble of the treaty.
- ^ Wikisource:Treaty of Sèvres/Protocol
- ^ Category:World War I treaties
- ^ Editorialul din ziarul „The Times”, 30 ianuarie 1928
- ^ , Paul C. Helmreich, From Paris to Sèvres, Ohio State University Press, 1974, p. 320.
- ^ Lyal S. Sunga (1 ianuarie 1992). Individual Responsibility in International Law for Serious Human Rights Violations. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers. ISBN 0-7923-1453-0.
- Vertrag von Sèvres, Artikel 62 (Online-Dokumentation).
- Klaus Kreiser, Christoph K. Neumann: Kleine Geschichte der Türkei. Reclam, Stuttgart 2009, S. 379.
- Äußerung von Lloyd George in Gotthard Jäschke: Mustafa Kemal und England in neuer Sicht. In: Die Welt des Islams, Band 16 (1975), S. 166–228, hier S. 225.