The Treaty of Lausanne, signed at the Lausanne Conference 1923–1924 between the Ottoman Empire and the victorious Allied countries of WWI, the Third French Republic, the British Empire, the Kingdom of Italy, the Empire of Japan, the Kingdom of Romania, the Kingdom of Serbia, and the Kingdom of Greece, was the second attempt by the two sides to end hostilities after WWI.
Earlier, the Allied powers, in the Treaty of Sevres, signed in 1920, took huge chunks of the Ottoman Empire for themselves. The majority of territories whose population was not Turkic were ceded to the Allied Powers.
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The cessation of Eastern Mediterranean territories, the British mandate on Palestine, and the French mandate on Syria and Lebanon ignited the spark of Turkish nationalism in the country and resulted in the Turkish War of Independence (1919–1923).
The Treaty of Lausanne finally ended the Turkish War of Independence. The belligerents could loosely be grouped into three warring sides, with their supporters proactively supporting one side or the other, whom they believed supported their motive or cause.
(a) The Ankara government represented the Turkish nationalists, who were actively supported by,
1. The Green Army Society, led by an Ottoman guerilla leader, Ethem the Circassian
2. Russian SFSR
3. Ukraine SSR
4. Azerbaijan SSR
5. Bukharin PSR
7. France (which supported Turkey after the Ankara Agreement of 1921)
8. The Indian Khilafat Movement
9. The Arab Kingdom of Syria
10. The Syrian Alawite revolt of Shaikh Saleh
11. The short-lived Kingdom of Kurdistan after the fall of the Ottoman Empire
(b) While victorious Allies who did not want a unified and sovereign Turkey after WWI and against whom Ankara or the then Nationalist government of Turkey waged their War of Independence were:
1. France (before the Ankara Agreement of 1921)
2. The Kingdom of Greece
3. The eight French federated colonies, collectively known as French West Africa
4. Armenian legion, jointly raised by France and Britain
5. French Algeria
6. French Morocco
7. French Tunisia
8. The United Kingdom
9. British India
10. The First Republic of Armenia (war stopped after the Treaty of Moscow and the Treaty of Kars 1921)
1!. The Democratic Republic of Georgia (war stopped after the Treaty of Moscow and the Treaty of Kars 1921)
12. The Ottoman Empire in Istanbul.
(c) Some of the separatists and rebels who fought against the then Ankara or the Nationalist government were:
1. The ethnic Pontic Greeks revolted, fought, and fled from the Nationalist government of Turkey for their genocide.
2. The Kurds revolted like the Pontic Greeks did and fought against their ethnic cleansing by the then-nationalist government of Ankara.
3. The Green Army of the Circassian Ethem which had earlier very faithfully and loyally supported and fought for Turkish independence, ultimately clashed with the Ankara government, which declared its leader Ethem, the Circassian, to be a traitor.
He joined hands with the Greeks, which is not supported by many scholars and historians, fled, and died in Jordan. The Turkish Grand National Assembly also revoked his citizenship.
The Turkish War of Independence was mainly a series of military campaigns waged against five war fronts, namely:
1. Greece, on the western side
2. Against Armenia on the eastern side
3. Against France on the southern front before the Ankara Agreement of 1921
4. The Istanbul Front
5. Quelling the internal revolts and insurgencies against the former Ottoman Empire and the then-new Ankara Nationalist government
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This war, which was a result of the unfair treatment meted out to Turkey after WWI through the Treaty of Sevres, was finally ended by the new Treaty of Lausanne on July 24, 1924, after both sides exchanged their ratifications to this treaty.
The Treaty of Lausanne
The 17 parts and 143 articles of this Lausanne Treaty imposed some very binding limitations on Turkey. Almost all aspects of Turkey as a state and nation were defined, elaborated, and fixed in this treaty.
- Turkey was guaranteed its independence by adopting a republican form of government.
- The Turkish Straits, a vital link between Asia and Europe through the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas on the western side of Turkey, and the Black Sea on the northern side of Turkey, connecting via the Bosporus Strait and the Dardanelles or the Gallipoli Strait, which passes through the Marmara Sea, was regulated by the Convention specially made for this purpose.
- Trade capitulations granted by successive Ottoman Sultans to different continental powers were abolished in this treaty. In this way, they create an opening for them to fill the Turkish markets with their products and dominate them with their developed industries.
- Moreover, the protection and exchange of populations, of the Greek Orthodox Christian minority in Turkey and the Muslim minority in Greece—were also guaranteed.
Part 3, Article 72 of the Lausanne Treaty
- This part of the treaty imposed severe economic and trade restrictions on Turkey. All properties, rights, and interests that once belonged to Turkey were stripped away. They were now at the German, Bulgarian, Hungarian, and Austrian governments’ disposal. The new nationalist Turkish government that came into existence after this Lausanne Treaty has no sway over these properties, rights, or interests either.
- Likewise, the areas that were detached from the former Ottoman Empire or by the present Lausanne Treaty from Turkey would be in full control of the above four governments. Their liquidation or any other decision about their future would be communicated and paid properly, if liquidation was carried out, to the Reparation Commission of the Peace Treaty.
- The private companies of Turkish individuals were given immunity from these punitive actions. Moreover, the Turk government would have no power to challenge or alter these measures of the Allied powers.
The Treaty is unjust for Turkey
President Erdogan was the second president to visit Greece after a 65-year lull. President Celal Bayar was the first Turkish president who visited Athens in 1952.
President Erdogan visited Greece in 2017. Where he met the then-Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos and called the Lausanne Treaty of 1923 was very unfairly drawn upon Turk people.
He called for the amendment in the Treaty to get the Dodecanese islands in the Aegean Sea for his country, a group of 12 islands known for their beaches, medieval-style churches, and castles, with a total area of 2714 square kilometers lying near the coast of Turkey.
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However, the Greek President and media rejected this demand of the visiting Turkish President by saying that the Lausanne Treaty is complete and does not need to be altered or changed for anything else.
One reason that may be quickly put forward for this Aegean Sea dispute is the differing personal or national interpretations and explanations of maritime law by the two disputing countries that suits their national interests.
The revival Ottoman Empire
The recent cutthroat presidential elections in Turkey, in May 2023, were seen by many quarters as a make-or-break process both for Turkey and the political party of President Erdogan, the Justice and Development Party of Turkey.
Whose maneuvers and demeanor in the political realm are viewed both domestically and internationally as the resurgence of the Neo-Ottoman Empire.
Converting Hagia Sophia into a Grand Mosque in July 2020, his visit to Sultan Salem’s tomb, which is considered the founding father of the great Ottoman Empire, gives a glimpse of what is in the mind of President Erdogan of the 21st century.
This is essentially a move away from the Kemalist ideology of the country, which focuses on secularism and the West rather than the East and Islam.
To cultivate relations and go deep with other Muslim countries of the world, plus to act as a patron-in-chief of all those states that were once parts of the old great Ottoman Empire. And to be a bulwark of Turks and Turkic traditions, culture, and interests all around the world.
Erdogan passion for Ottoman glory
If weighed in the present realistic political scenario of sovereignty and nation-state scale, there are almost none, or at least zero chances for President Erdogan and Turkey to revive and restore the Ottoman Empire that passed a hundred years ago.
At least we would not be able to see Sultan Tayyip Erdogan sitting on the throne of the Ottoman Caliph either in Istanbul or in Ankara with his courtiers standing in two rows on either side at his service. Time machines only exist in movies!
Likewise, there are fewer chances for Turkey to create a commonwealth of former Ottoman nations in the manner of the British Commonwealth of Nations or like the Russian Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and give its patronage to them as the successor state of the Ottoman Empire. But the chances of success for such notions are almost zero, if not a dead sure failure!
One possibility that could be viable and has the chance of success and applicability for Turkey is to increase its influence in the Muslim world in general and in the states and areas once in the realm of the Ottoman Empire in particular by providing economic, technical, and financial assistance in different fields that would definitely bolster both its role and value in the Muslim world as a real leader and true successor of the former Ottoman caliph.
But the real challenge in pursuing this strategy would come from Saudi Arabia, and Iran, which have seen themselves as the traditional leaders of Muslims, though the two belong to opposite schools of thought in Islam.
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Riyadh would not cease its leading position so easily for Ankara, as the most holy places and shrines are in Saudi Arabia.
While Iran, due to its long-standing tussles with Arab countries and its anti-US and anti-West stance, would not easily give space to President Erdogan and Turkey for this new paradigmatic shift from the traditional Kemalism of the country to the leader and role model of the Muslim Ummah.
Mysteries about the Lausanne Treaty
Conspiracies and suspicions are hot cakes in politics; they find their buyers even before they are cooked.
The same is the situation with the Turkish people, who claim that the Treaty of Lausanne will expire in 2023, after the completion of one hundred years. And that after the expiration of the “secret articles” of this treaty, Turkey would then be allowed to have its petroleum ( in Black Sea) and boron by mining these valuable resources for itself.
Which was otherwise forbidden to Turkey by the Lausanne treaty. Thus, Turkey will become a rich and powerful country like its predecessor, the great Ottoman Empire. These and other conspiracies and misperceptions are common parts of Turkish politics and folklore.
The reality is that the Treaty of Lausanne is a multilateral treaty signed by many states with their own share of rights and responsibilities.
Moreover, the Treaty does not stipulate an expiration date for itself. It could not be unilaterally revoked, changed, or trespassed on by Turkey either. Any one-sided changes, alterations, or amendments in this treaty by any of its signatories may spark new political and diplomatic crises that may even lead to new conflicts among them.