Treaty of Sèvres

The Treaty of Sèvres (French: Traité de Sèvres) in 1920 was designed to liquidate the Ottoman Empire and virtually abolished Turkish sovereignty. Sèvres was imposed by the Allies of World War I on the Ottoman Empire. It was one of a series of treaties[3] that the Central Powers signed with the Allied Powers after their defeat in World War I. Hostilities had already ended with the Armistice of Mudros. The treaty was signed on 10 August 1920, in an exhibition room at the Manufacture nationale de Sèvres porcelain factory[4] in Sèvres, France.[5]

Treaty of Sèvres
Treaty of Sèvres 1920.svg
Partitioning of Ottoman Turkey according to the aborted Treaty of Sèvres
Signed10 August 1920
LocationSèvres, France
ConditionRatification by Ottoman Empire and the four principal Allied Powers.
Signatories1. Principal Allied Powers[1]

2. Central Powers
 Ottoman Empire
DepositaryFrench Government
LanguagesFrench (primary), English, Italian[2]
Treaty of Sèvres at Wikisource
The Ottoman delegation at Sèvres comprising the three signatories of the treaty. Left to right: Rıza Tevfik Bölükbaşı, Grand Vizier Damat Ferid Pasha, the Ottoman education minister Mehmed Hâdî Pasha and ambassador Reşad Halis.
Damat Ferid Pasha signs the Treaty of Sèvres.
A 1927 version of the map used by the Grand National Assembly of Turkey

The Sèvres treaty marked the beginning of the partitioning of the Ottoman Empire, and its dismemberment. The terms it stipulated included the renunciation of most of the territory not inhabited by Turkish people and its cession to the Allied administration.[6] The ceding of Eastern Mediterranean lands saw the introduction of novel polities, including the British Mandate for Palestine and the French Mandate for Syria and the Lebanon.[7]

The terms of the treaty stirred hostility and Turkish nationalism. The signatories of the treaty were stripped of their citizenship by the Grand National Assembly led by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk,[8] and this ignited the Turkish War of Independence. In that war, Atatürk led the Turkish nationalists to defeat the combined armies of the signatories of the Treaty of Sèvres. The subsequent Treaty of Lausanne in 1923 saw the establishment of the Republic of Turkey.

Summary of the TreatyEdit

Signed between Allied and Associated Powers and Ottoman Empire at Sèvres[9]
Parts Articles
I The Covenant of the League of Nations 1-26
II Frontiers of Turkey 27-35
III Political Clauses 36-139
IV Protection of Minorities 140-151
V Military, Naval and Air Clauses 152-207
VI Prisoners of War and Graves 208-225
VII Penalties 226-230
VIII Financial Clauses 231-260
IX Economic Clauses 261-317
X Aerial Navigation 318-327
XI Ports, Waterways and Railways 328-373
XII Labour (Part XIII of Versailles Treaty) 374-414
XIII Miscellaneous Provisions 415-433

Parties to the TreatyEdit

George Dixon Grahame signed for the UK, Alexandre Millerand for France, and Count Lelio Bonin Longare for Italy. One Allied power, Greece, did not accept the borders as drawn, mainly due to the political change after the 1920 Greek legislative election, and never ratified the treaty.[10] There were three signatories for the Ottoman Empire:

  1. Ex-Ambassador Hadi Pasha,
  2. Ex-Minister of Education Rıza Tevfik Bölükbaşı,
  3. Second secretary of the Ottoman embassy in Bern, Reşad Halis.

The Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic was not a party to the treaty because it had negotiated the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with the Ottoman Empire in 1918.

The Treaty of Versailles was signed with the German Empire before the Sèvres treaty, and it annulled German concessions in the Ottoman sphere, including economic rights and enterprises.

Also, France, Great Britain, and Italy signed a secret "Tripartite Agreement" on the same date.[11] The Tripartite Agreement confirmed Britain's oil and commercial concessions and turned the former German enterprises in the Ottoman Empire over to a Tripartite corporation.

The United States, having refused in the Senate to assume a League of Nations mandate over Armenia, decided not to participate in the partitioning of the Ottoman Empire.[12] The U.S. wanted a permanent peace as quickly as possible, with financial compensation for its military expenditure. However, after the American Senate rejected the Armenian mandate, its only hope was its inclusion in the treaty by the influential Greek prime minister, Eleftherios Venizelos.[13]

Non-territorial provisionsEdit

Original map from 1920 illustrating the Treaty of Sèvres region

The treaty imposed a number of territorial losses on Turkey. It also had a number of provisions that applied to the territory recognised as belonging to Turkey.

Financial restrictionsEdit

The Allied Powers were to control the Ottoman Empire's finances. The financial control included approving and supervising the national budget, implementing financial laws and regulations, and totally controlling the Ottoman Bank. The Ottoman Public Debt Administration (instituted in 1881) was redesigned to include only British, French, and Italian bondholders. The Ottoman debt problem dated back to the time of the Crimean War (1854–56), during which the Ottoman Empire had borrowed money from abroad, mainly from France. Also the capitulations of the Ottoman Empire, which had been abolished in 1914 by Talaat Pasha, were restored.

The Empire was required to grant freedom of transit to persons, goods, vessels, etc., passing through her territory; and goods in transit were to be free of all customs duties. Future changes within the tax system, the customs system, internal and external loans, import and export duties, and concessions could not be implemented without the consent of the financial commission of the Allied Powers. To forestall the economic re-penetration of Germany, Austria, Hungary, or Bulgaria the treaty demanded that the Empire liquidate the property of citizens of those countries living within its territories. This public liquidation was to be organized by the Reparations Commission. Property rights of the Baghdad Railway passed out of German control.

Military restrictionsEdit

The Ottoman Army was to be restricted to 50,700 men; the Ottoman Navy could only maintain seven sloops and six torpedo boats; and the Ottoman State was prohibited from creating an air force. The treaty included an inter-allied commission of control and organisation to supervise the execution of the military clauses.

International trialsEdit

The treaty required determination of those responsible for the Armenian Genocide. Article 230 of the Treaty of Sèvres required that the Ottoman Empire "hand over to the Allied Powers the persons whose surrender may be required by the latter as being responsible for the massacres committed during the continuance of the state of war on territory which formed part of the Ottoman Empire on August 1, 1914." However, the inter-allied tribunal attempt to prosecute war criminals as demanded by the Treaty of Sèvres was eventually suspended; and the men who orchestrated the genocide escaped prosecution and traveled relatively freely throughout Europe and Central Asia.[14]

Foreign Zones of Influence in TurkeyEdit

France (Zone of Influence)Edit

Within the territory retained by Turkey under the treaty, France received Syria and neighbouring parts of Southeastern Anatolia, including Antep, Urfa and Mardin. Cilicia including Adana, Diyarbakır and large portions of East-Central Anatolia all the way up north to Sivas and Tokat were declared a zone of French influence.

Greece (Zone of Smyrna)Edit

The expansion of Greece from 1832–1947, showing in yellow territories awarded to Greece by the Treaty of Sèvres but lost in 1923

The Greek government administered the occupation of Smyrna from 21 May 1919. A protectorate was established on 30 July 1922. The treaty transferred "the exercise of her rights of sovereignty to a local parliament" but left the region within the Ottoman Empire. According to the provisions of the treaty, Smyrna was to be administered by a local parliament, with a plebiscite after five years to vote on whether Smyrna's citizens wished to join Greece or remain in the Ottoman Empire. This plebiscite would be overseen by the League of Nations. The treaty accepted Greek administration of the Smyrna enclave, but the area remained under Turkish sovereignty. To protect the Christian population from attacks by the Turkish irregulars, the Greek army expanded its juridiction also to nearby cities creating the so called "Smyrna zone".

Turkish nationalist leader Mustafa Kemal demanded that the Turks fight against the Greeks trying to take the land that had been held by the Ottoman Empire and given to Greece in this treaty. This started the Greco-Turkish War (1919–1922), which resulted in a Turkish victory.

Italy (Zone of Influence)Edit

Italy was formally given possession of the Dodecanese Islands (already under Italian occupation since the Italo-Turkish War of 1911–1912). This was done despite the Treaty of Ouchy according to which Italy should have returned the islands to the Ottoman Empire. Large portions of Southern and West-Central Anatolia, including the port city of Antalya and the historic Seljuk capital of Konya, were declared an Italian zone of influence. Antalya Province had been promised by the Triple Entente to Italy in the Treaty of London,[15] and the Italian colonial authorities wished the zone to become an Italian colony under the name of Lycia.[16]

Territorial provisionsEdit

Date States
Square miles (km²)
1914 Ottoman Empire 1,589,540 km2 (613,724 sq mi)
1918 (Sèvres Treaty)
Ottoman Empire
453,000 km2 (174,900 sq mi)
Wilsonian Armenia
160,000 km2 (60,000 sq mi)
350,000 km2 (136,000 sq mi)
370,000 km2 (143,000 sq mi)
260,000 km2 (100,000 sq mi)
91,000 km2 (35,000 sq mi)
190,000 km2 (75,000 sq mi)

Zone of the StraitsEdit

1920 map of Western Turkey, showing the Zone of the Straits in the Treaty of Sèvres

A Zone of the Straits was proposed, to include the Bosphorus, the Dardanelles and the Sea of Marmara. Navigation was to be open in the Dardanelles in times of peace and war alike to all vessels of commerce and war, no matter under what flag. This in effect would lead to internationalization of the waters. The waters were not to be subject to blockade, nor could any act of war be committed there, except in enforcing the decisions of the League of Nations.

Free ZonesEdit

Certain ports were to be declared to be of international importance. The League of Nations insisted on complete freedom and absolute equality in treatment at these ports, particularly regarding charges and facilities, to ensure that economic provisions in commercially strategic places were carried out. These regions were to be called "free zones". The ports were Istanbul from San Stefano to Dolmabahçe, Haidar-Pasha, Smyrna, Alexandretta, Haifa, Basra, Trabzon, and Batum.


Eastern Thrace (up to the Chatalja line), the islands of Imbros and Tenedos, and the islands of the Sea of Marmara were ceded to Greece. The waters surrounding these islands were declared international territory and left to the administration of the "Zone of the Straits".


The Kurdistan region, including Mosul Province, was scheduled to have a referendum to decide its fate.

There was no general agreement among Kurds on what the borders of Kurdistan should be, because of the disparity between the areas of Kurdish settlement and the political and administrative boundaries of the region.[17] The outlines of Kurdistan as an entity were proposed in 1919 by Şerif Pasha, who represented the Society for the Elevation of Kurdistan (Kürdistan Teali Cemiyeti) at the Paris Peace Conference. He defined the region's boundaries as follows:

The frontiers of Turkish Kurdistan, from an ethnographical point of view, begin in the north at Ziven, on the Caucasian frontier, and continue westwards to Erzurum, Erzincan, Kemah, Arapgir, Besni and Divick (Divrik?); in the south they follow the line from Harran, Sinjar Mountains, Tel Asfar, Erbil, Süleymaniye, Akk-el-man, Sinne; in the east, Ravandiz, Başkale, Vezirkale, that is to say the frontier of Persia as far as Mount Ararat.[18]

This caused controversy among other Kurdish nationalists, as it excluded the Van region (possibly as a sop to Armenian claims to that region). Emin Ali Bedir Khan proposed an alternative map which included Van and an outlet to the sea via Turkey's present Hatay Province.[19] Amid a joint declaration by Kurdish and Armenian delegations, Kurdish claims to Erzurum vilayet and Sassoun (Sason) were dropped, but arguments for sovereignty over Ağrı and Muş remained.[20]

Neither of these proposals was endorsed by the treaty of Sèvres, which outlined a truncated Kurdistan, located on what is now Turkish territory (leaving out the Kurds of Iran, British-controlled Iraq and French-controlled Syria).[21] The current Iraq–Turkey border was agreed upon in July 1926.

Article 63 granted explicitly full safeguard and protection to the Assyro-Chaldean minority. This proviso was dropped in the Treaty of Lausanne.


The First Republic of Armenia, with the western borders defined by Woodrow Wilson

Armenia was recognized as an established state. (Section VI "Armenia", articles 88-93). By Article 89 "Turkey and Armenia, as well as the other High Contracting Parties agree to submit to the arbitration of the President of the United States of America the question of the frontier to be fixed between Turkey and Armenia in the vilayets of Erzerum, Trebizond, Van and Bitlis, and to accept his decision thereupon, as well as any stipulations he may prescribe as to access for Armenia to the sea, and as to the demilitarisation of any portion of Turkish territory adjacent to the said frontier."

See also: Wilsonian Armenia and First Republic of Armenia

British Mandate of IraqEdit

The details in the treaty regarding the British Mandate of Iraq were completed on 25 April 1920 at the San Remo conference. The oil concession in this region was given to the British-controlled Turkish Petroleum Company (TPC) which had held concessionary rights to the Mosul Province. British and Iraqi negotiators held acrimonious discussions over the new oil concession. The League of Nations voted on the disposition of Mosul, and the Iraqis feared that, without British support, Iraq would lose the area. In March 1925, the TPC was renamed the "Iraq Petroleum Company" (IPC), and granted a full and complete concession for a period of 75 years.

British Mandate for PalestineEdit

The three principles of the British Balfour Declaration regarding Palestine were adopted in the Treaty of Sèvres:

ARTICLE 95: The High Contracting Parties agree to entrust, by application of the provisions of Article 22, the administration of Palestine, within such boundaries as may be determined by the Principal Allied Powers, to a Mandatory to be selected by the said Powers. The Mandatory will be responsible for putting into effect the declaration originally made on 2 November 1917 by the British Government, and adopted by the other Allied Powers, in favour of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.

French Mandate for Syria and LebanonEdit

The French Mandate was settled at the San Remo Conference. Comprising the region between the Euphrates River and the Syrian Desert on the east, and the Mediterranean Sea on the west, and extending from the Nur Mountains in the north to Egypt in the south; comprising an area of territory about 60,000 sq mi (160,000 km2) in size with a population of about 3,000,000, including the Lebanon and an enlarged Syria, which were later reassigned under a League of Nations Mandate. The region was divided under the French into four governments as follows: Government of Aleppo from the Euphrates region to the Mediterranean; Great Lebanon extending from Tripoli to Palestine; Damascus, including Damascus, Hama, Hems, and the Hauran; and the country of Mount Arisarieh. Faisal ibn Husayn, who had been proclaimed king of Syria by a Syrian National Congress in Damascus in March 1920, was ejected by the French in July of the same year. The following year he became king of Iraq.

Kingdom of HejazEdit

The Kingdom of Hejaz on the Arabian Peninsula was granted international recognition. It had an estimated area of 100,000 sq mi (260,000 km2), and a population of about 750,000. The biggest cities were the Holy Places of Makka, with a population of 80,000, and Medina, with a population of 40,000. Under the Ottomans it had been the vilayet of Hejaz, but during the war became an independent kingdom under British influence.

Fate of the TreatyEdit

The terms of the Treaty of Sèvres imposed on the Ottoman Empire were far more severe than those imposed on the German Empire by the Treaty of Versailles.[22][23] France, Italy, and Great Britain had secretly begun planning the partitioning of the Ottoman Empire as early as 1915. The open negotiations covered a period of more than fifteen months, beginning at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919. They continued at the Conference of London, and took definite shape only after the premiers' meeting at the San Remo conference in April 1920. The delay occurred because the powers could not come to an agreement which, in turn, hinged on the outcome of the Turkish national movement. The Treaty of Sèvres was never ratified and following the Turkish War of Independence, most of the Treaty of Sevres signatories signed and ratified the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923 and 1924.

While the treaty was under discussion, the Turkish national movement under Mustafa Kemal Pasha split with the monarchy based in Constantinople,[24] and set up a Turkish Grand National Assembly in Ankara in April 1920.

On 18 October, the government of Damat Ferid Pasha was replaced by a provisional one under Ahmed Tevfik Pasha as Grand Vizier, who announced an intention to convene the Senate to ratify the Treaty, provided that national unity was achieved. This required seeking the cooperation of Mustafa Kemal. The latter expressed disdain for the Treaty and started a military assault. As a result, the Turkish Government issued a note to the Entente that the ratification of the Treaty was impossible at that time.[25]

Eventually, Mustafa Kemal succeeded in his fight for Turkish independence and forced most of the former wartime Allies to return to the negotiating table.

Aside from Mustafa Kemal's armed opposition to the treaty in Anatolia, Arabs in Syria were unwilling to accept French rule, the Turks around Mosul attacked the British, and Arabs were up in arms against British rule in Baghdad. There was also disorder in Egypt.

Subsequent TreatiesEdit

In the course of the Turkish War of Independence, the Turkish Army successfully fought Greek, Armenian, and French forces and secured the independence of a territory similar to that of present-day Turkey, as was aimed at by the Misak-ı Milli.

The Turkish national movement developed its own international relations with the Treaty of Moscow with Soviet Russia on 16 March 1921, the Accord of Ankara with France putting an end to the Franco-Turkish War, the Treaty of Alexandropol with the Armenians, and the Treaty of Kars which fixed the Eastern borders.

Hostilities with Britain over the neutral zone of the Straits were narrowly avoided in the Chanak Crisis of September 1922, when the Armistice of Mudanya was concluded on 11 October, leading the former Allies of World War I to return to the negotiating table with the Turks in November 1922. This culminated in 1923 in the Treaty of Lausanne, which replaced the Treaty of Sèvres and restored a large territory in Anatolia and Thrace to the Turks. Under the Treaty of Lausanne France and Italy only had areas of economic interaction rather than zones of influence. Constantinople was not made an international city, and a demilitarized zone between Turkey and Bulgaria was established.[26]

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ The order and categorization below is as it appears in the preamble of the treaty.
  2. ^ Wikisource:Treaty of Sèvres/Protocol
  3. ^ Category:World War I treaties
  4. ^ Helmreich, Paul C. (1974). From Paris to Sèvres: The Partition of the Ottoman Empire at the Peace Conference of 1919–1920. Columbus, Ohio: Ohio State University Press. p. 320. ISBN 9780814201701. OCLC 694027.
  5. ^ "The Treaty of Sèvres, 1920". Harold B. Library, Brigham Young University.
  6. ^ TS0011.pdf
  7. ^ See: Sykes-Picot
  8. ^ "Ottoman signatories of Treaty of Sèvres - NZHistory, New Zealand history online". Retrieved 25 January 2017.
  9. ^ "The Peace Treaty of Sèvres".
  10. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-06-29. Retrieved 2007-05-16.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  11. ^ The Times (London), 27. Idem., Jan. 30, 1928, Editorial.
  12. ^ "Congress Opposes Armenian Republic; General Sentiment Is Against Assuming Responsibility for New Republic". The New York Times. April 27, 1920. pp. 2, 353.
  13. ^ Gibbons, Herbert Adams. "Venizelos". Political Science Quarterly. 36 (3): 519. doi:10.2307/2142304.
  14. ^ Power, Samantha. A Problem from Hell, p. 16–17. Basic Books, 2002.
  15. ^ "First World - Primary Documents - Treaty of London, 26 April 1915". Retrieved 25 January 2017.
  16. ^ Franco Antonicelli, Trent'anni di storia italiana, 1915-1945, Torino, Mondadori Editore, 1961. p. 25
  17. ^ Hakan Özoğlu, Kurdish Notables and the Ottoman State: Evolving Identities, Competing Loyalties, and Shifting Boundaries p. 38. SUNY Press, 2004
  18. ^ Şerif Pasha, Memorandum on the Claims of the Kurd People, 1919
  19. ^ Hakan Özoğlu, ibid p. 40
  20. ^ M. Kalman, Batı Ermenistan ve Jenosid p. 185, Istanbul, 1994.
  21. ^ Arin, Kubilay Yado, Turkey and the Kurds – From War to Reconciliation? UC Berkeley Center for Right Wing Studies Working Paper Series, March 26, 2015.
  22. ^ Isaiah Friedman: British Miscalculations: The Rise of Muslim Nationalism, 1918–1925, Transaction Publishers, 2012, ISBN 1412847494, page 217.
  23. ^ Michael Mandelbaum: The Fate of Nations: The Search for National Security in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, Cambridge University Press, 1988, ISBN 9780521357906, page 61 (footnote 55).
  24. ^ Finkel, Caroline, Osman's Dream, (Basic Books, 2005), 57; "Istanbul was only adopted as the city's official name in 1930.".
  25. ^ Current History, Volume 13, New York Times Co., 1921, "Dividing the Former Turkish Empire" pp. 441-444 (retrieved October 26, 2010)
  26. ^ Bendeck, Whitney. "Pyrrhic Victory Achieved." Lecture, Europe in the Total Age of War, Florida State University, Tallahassee, October 11, 2016.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit