Lausanne’s Legacy: Lord Curzon, a Peace Treaty and a Century of War


by way of Francis Owtram

A cartoon of the signing of the Treaty of Lausanne, by way of Hungarian artists Emery Kelèn and Alois Derso. Supply: The Lausanne Mission

The Treaty of Lausanne (signed 23 July 1923) formally ended the conflict between the Allies (Britain, France, Greece, Italy, Japan, Romania and Yugoslavia) and Turkey [now known officially as Türkiye/the Republic of Türkiye].

It used to be the overall treaty concluded on the finish of the First Global Conflict and its results stay in position to at the present time. The respectable identify is the ‘Treaty of Peace with Turkey’, however it may be argued that by way of suppressing sure aspirations, specifically of the Kurds, it ushered in a century of war.

From Sèvres to Lausanne

For Turkey it marked a shift from the dictated peace of the 1920 Treaty of Sèvres – which might have lowered Turkey to a rump of territory in Anatolia – to a peace by which the Republic below its chief Mustapha Kemal Atatürk joined the membership of countries as an equivalent sovereign state unencumbered by way of arduous Capitulations and humiliating criminal prerequisites at the remedy of foreigners.

The Armistice of Mudros, Lord Curzon and the Mosul Query

Signed on the finish of the First Global Conflict, the Armistice of Mudros (30 October 1918) had ostensibly caused a ceasefire between the British and Ottoman armies however the former raced ahead to occupy Mosul on 14 November 1918.

This left town and province of Mosul – and its purported huge oil wealth – in British fingers. The Mosul query used to be born: will have to the Mosul vilayet be a part of Turkey or the brand new nation of Iraq? The inclusion of Mosul used to be a key level within the Nationwide Pact Mission authorized by way of the Turkish Parliament, which had additionally been authorized within the ultimate days of the Ottoman Parliament.

It used to be envisaged that this query may well be resolved on the Lausanne convention. The top of the British delegation used to be the Overseas Secretary and previous Viceroy of India, Lord Curzon. He used to be adamant in regards to the significance of preserving Mosul below British affect and resisted Turkish makes an attempt to settle the topic on the convention. Curzon asked a paper from J E Shuckburgh of the India Workplace on arguments in opposition to leaving Iraq, level 6 of which used to be: ‘By way of leaving the rustic we will lose the risk of controlling the advance of what might turn out to be some of the nice oil fields of the longer term. The good thing about preserving an oilfield below British affect is an issue on which the Admiralty can have one thing to mention.’

As a substitute, the query of Mosul used to be passed over to the League of Countries, which, below a committee headed by way of a Belgian, dominated that Mosul will have to be a part of the brand new British-controlled mandate of Iraq. In 1926, the Brussels Line used to be drawn because the boundary of Iraq, and Iraq agreed to pay Turkey 10 in step with cent royalties on Mosul’s oil sources for 25 years.

Curzon’s intuition became out to be prescient as oil in huge amounts used to be came upon in Kirkuk in 1927, which became out to be a supply of war for the Kurds and Iraq for many years to return.

The Peoples Left At the back of by way of the Treaty of Peace with Turkey

The delegates who convened from 1922-23 had been notable for who used to be absent: Syrians and Palestinians tried to wait however had been excluded, whilst no Armenian, Persian [Iranian] or Kurdish delegation used to be invited. The British negotiator, Lord Curzon, didn’t even deign to fulfill the consultant of the Sharif of Mecca, who had fought on Britain’s facet within the conflict.

The Greeks of Smyrna: From Asia Minor to Nea Smyrni

Crisis had befallen the Greeks of Smyrna [Izmir]. Having thrown off Ottoman rule within the Greek Conflict of Independence (1821), the Greek military were inspired by way of the British High Minister, Lloyd George, to try to rewrite historical past and recapture lands in Asia Minor. Constantinople [Istanbul] used to be the capital of the Byzantine Empire ahead of it used to be conquered by way of the Ottomans in 1453. To start with a hit, the Greek forces had been became again by way of a Turkish army revived below Atatürk.

A map produced by way of the British Conflict Workplace in 1916 of Izmir, western Turkey and surrounding land and sea spaces, utilized in negotiations throughout the Treaty of Sèvres (1920). Supply: British Library Qatar Virtual Library

The Treaty of Lausanne permitted as a fait accompli that the Greek inhabitants of Smyrna used to be pushed into the ocean because the Turkish forces incinerated their houses, forcing them to rebuild in Athens in a district referred to as Nea Smyrni (New Smyrna). Below the phrases of the Treaty, large obligatory inhabitants exchanges at the foundation of faith and ethnicity came about between Greece and Turkey.

The Armenians: Conflict, genocide and struggling

Even supposing the time period genocide used to be now not coined till 1944, the tried extermination of the Armenian other people, tradition and society that came about between 1915–16 throughout the First Global Conflict is now extensively permitted (out of doors of Turkish state narratives) because the Armenian genocide, when ladies and kids had been marched into the Syrian desolate tract to die. This tragedy additionally created a limiteless collection of Armenian and Assyrian refugees, however the Armenians had been to not download a sovereign state till the cave in of the Soviet Union.

Left At the back of at Lausanne: The Kurds and their quest for an impartial state

British imperial strategists thought to be the convention a good fortune: they reasoned that they had accomplished the most productive they might in tough cases. For the Kurds, alternatively, Lausanne dashed their hopes. The adaptation between the articles of the defunct Treaty of Sèvres, which explicitly envisaged spaces of Kurdish autonomy and an impartial state, and the Treaty of Lausanne the place any point out of a Kurdish fatherland is totally absent, is marked.

Related sections on Kurdistan within the Sévres Treaty of Peace with Turkey, signed 10 August 1920 however by no means ratified. Supply: British Library Qatar Virtual Library

For Turkey, Lausanne may well be portrayed because the end result of a victorious revival instigated by way of Atatürk, the Turkish hero of Gallipoli. Then again, for lots of the peoples of the post-Ottoman area the effects of the Treaty of Lausanne nonetheless resonate painfully a century later. For the Greeks it ended their irredentist dream of retaking Constantinople and made greater than one million refugees. For the Palestinians it cleared the path for the lack of their land; for Armenians and Assyrians it used to be no repayment for his or her enjoy of displacement and genocide. As for the Kurds it drove a stake via their aspirations for statehood and saved up war for the century to return.

Dr Francis Owtram

Honorary Analysis Fellow, Institute of Arab and Islamic Research, College of Exeter

Additional studying

Kristian Coates-Ulrichsen, The Heart East within the First Global Conflict (Hurst, 2014)

Jonathan Conlin and Ozan Ozavci (eds) They All Made Peace – What’s Peace? The 1923 Lausanne Treaty and the New Imperial Order, (Ginko, 2023)

The Lausanne Mission – the New Heart East, 1922-23

Francis Owtram, ‘Oil, the Kurds and the Force for Independence: An Ace within the Hollow or a Joker within the Pack’, in A. Danilovich (ed) Iraqi Kurdistan in Heart East Politics (Routledge, 2016)

Francis Owtram, ‘The State We’re In: Postcolonial sequestration and the Kurdish quest for independence for the reason that First Global Conflict’, in Michael Gunter (ed) The Routledge Manual at the Kurds (Routledge, 2018)

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