THIS WEEK IN ARMENIAN HISTORY
Prepared by the Armenian National Education Committee
July 24, 1923: Signature of the Treaty of Lausanne
It has been frequently said that the Treaty of Lausanne marked the burial of the Armenian Cause, even though neither Armenia nor Armenians were mentioned there.
This peace treaty signed in the Swiss city officially ended the state of war that had existed between Turkey and Great Britain, France, Italy, Japan, Greece, Romania, and Serbia (which had become the Kingdom of Yugoslavia after 1918) since the onset of World War I. It replaced the Treaty of Sèvres (August 10, 1920), which had been signed between all those parties and the Ottoman Empire but had been rejected by the Turkish national movement led by Mustafa Kemal (Atatürk), as a reaction to the defeat of Turkey and the significant loss of territories. After defeating the Republic of Armenia in the September-November 1920 war and provoking the loss of its independence under a Soviet regime, crushing Greece in the so-called “war of independence,” achieving the ethnic cleansing of Greeks and Armenians from Asia Minor and Cilicia, and abolishing the sultanate in November 1922, the forthcoming Republic of Turkey—proclaimed in October 1923—was able to dictate favorable terms to the Allies.
The Treaty of Lausanne was signed as an outcome to the Conference of Lausanne (November 1922-February 1923, April-July 1923). It ended the conflict and defined the borders of the modern Turkish state except for its border with Iraq. Turkey gave up all claims to the remainder of the Ottoman Empire and in return the Allies recognized Turkish sovereignty within its new borders. The treaty came into force in August 1924. Interestingly, the U.S. Senate refused to ratify it in 1927.
The treaty, composed of 143 articles, led to the international recognition of the sovereignty of the new Republic of Turkey as the successor state of the defunct Ottoman Empire. From a legal standpoint, it only partially replaced the Treaty of Sevres with new clauses regarding Eastern Tracia (the area of European Turkey) and the Greek-Turkish frontiers. The lobby of both the Delegation of the Republic of Armenia, chaired by Avetis Aharonian, and the Armenian National Delegation, presided by Boghos Nubar pasha, was unable to maintain the clauses of the Treaty of Sevres relative to Armenia. However, the Treaty of Lausanne stayed silent about the section on Armenia of the Treaty of Sèvres, which was regulated by the arbitral award of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson in November 1920. Article 16 of the Treaty of Lausanne established:
“Turkey hereby renounces all rights and title whatsoever over or respecting the territories situated outside the frontiers laid down in the present Treaty and the islands other than those over which her sovereignty is recognised by the said Treaty, the future of these territories and islands being settled or to be settled by the parties concerned.
“The provisions of the present Article do not prejudice any special arrangements arising from neighbourly relations which have been or may be concluded between Turkey and any limitrophe countries.”
The Treaty of Lausanne also contained a section (articles 37 to 45) about the protection of the rights of minorities (Moslem and non-Moslem) in the Republic of Turkey. Their continuous and documented violation over the decades became a highlight of modern Turkey and led to the migration of most remaining members of those minorities, particularly Greeks and Armenians among others.