3/2/1919 Carving up Turkey

As a defeated power, the Turks are going to have to accept the loss of their empire in the Middle East. The exact shape of arrangements there is still up for grabs, as there is a welter of contradictory agreements in place between Britain, France, the Arabs, and Zionist Jews. More worryingly for the Turks, Allied eyes are also turning towards their Anatolian heartland. Venizelos, the leader of Greece, presents his country’s claims to the Paris Conference today. He argues that his country should be granted much of European Turkey and also much of Anatolia’s Aegean coast. He cites the Greek inhabitants of these regions and the ancient links they have to Hellenic culture. While he is at it, he also claims much of Albania, but he is careful not to antagonise the British by advancing claims on Cyprus. And he avoids appearing too greedy by not making any explicit claims on allied-occupied Constantinople itself.

Venizelos’s claims receive a favourable hearing from the Allies, with Lloyd George particularly enthusiastic. The British prime minister has formed a warm relationship with Venizelos himself, but he also sees a strong Greece as a useful British ally in the Eastern Mediterranean. His military men are less enthusiastic, warning that an attempt by the Greeks to establish themselves in Anatolia may well provoke a determined Turkish reaction. Their warnings go largely unheeded.

The one Allied power that is signally unimpressed by Greek claims is Italy. Italy’s leaders also want to take over Albania and they are eyeing up some of the same Anatolian coastal areas as the Greeks. Graeco-Italian relations are further complicated by the Italian occupation of various Greek-speaking islands in the Aegean.

The Allies are also trying to assert their power within Turkey, not just in the occupied zone but beyond it. Here their goal is to have those responsible for atrocities against the Armenians or Allied troops arrested and tried. However this is all proving a bit difficult. The Allies can arrest people in the occupied zone, but beyond that the Turkish authorities are reluctant to do the Allies’ bidding. Calthorpe, Britain’s high commissioner in Constantinople, reports that the Turkish Sultan fears for his own safety if he cooperates too readily with Allied attempts to prosecute war criminals. Nevertheless, the British continue to insist to the Turks that there must be justice for the terrible crimes that were committed.

image source:

Greek ambitions (Wikipedia: Megali Idea)

One thought on “3/2/1919 Carving up Turkey

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.