22/6/1919 Kemal launches Turkey’s national resistance

In May the Turkish government sent Kemal, hero of the Gallipoli campaign, to oversee the demobilisation of Turkish troops, as required by Turkey’s armistice with the Allies. However Kemal has instead began to form a network of nationalist army officers who are determined to resist the partition of their country. Turkish nationalists are now resigned to the loss of the Ottoman Empire’s Arab lands, but they fear that the recent Greek and Italian landings in western Anatolia signal that the Allies are intent on dividing up the Turkish heartland, something that they find unconscionable.

As the British become aware of Kemal’s activities, they press the Turkish authorities in Constantinople to rein him in. Eventually the Sultan’s government gives in. Today Kemal receives an order to cease his activities and return to Constantinople. But Kemal does not obey. Instead he resigns from the Ottoman army and summons a congress of like-minded nationalists to assemble at Erzurum. In his determination to preserve the Turkish nation, Kemal is now in revolt against the Ottoman Empire.


Kemal and other nationalists (Wikipedia: Turkish National Movement)

17/6/1919 Turkey’s prime minister fails to charm the Paris Conference

The Allies are waiting to see whether the Germans will finally accept the peace terms, with Foch ready to invade Germany if they fail to do so. In the meantime, the work of the Paris Conference continues. Today the Allied leaders hear Damad Ferid Pasha, the Turkish prime minister. He attempts to ingratiate himself with the Allies by laying all the blame for Turkey’s entry into the war and the terrible massacres of the Armenians onto the Ottoman Empire’s three leaders in 1914, Enver, Talaat and Djemal (all of whom have conveniently fled into exile). It would be wrong, he says, to punish the Turkish people as a whole for their crimes. Accordingly he rejects any talk of dismembering the Turkish Empire.

The Turkish prime minister’s presentation does not have a positive effect on the Allies. Lloyd George see Ferid Pasha’s speech as little more than a joke, while Wilson declares that he has “never seen anything more stupid”; he states that he is now in favour of Constantinople being taken from the Turks. The Allies moreover are determined that there will be a reckoning for the crimes committed against the Armenians; the Turkish people will have to accept responsibility for the actions of their leaders.


Damad Ferid Pasha (Wikipedia)

19/5/1919 Rising nationalist sentiment in Turkey

The Greek landing at Smyrna has caused disquiet in Turkey. Following on from Italian landings elsewhere and indications that the Allies are planning to create independent Armenian and Kurd states, the occupation of Smyrna has led to fears that the Allies are intent on completely dismembering Turkey, not just detaching it from its empire in the Middle East. As a result, nationalist sentiment is now building throughout the country. This has led to the authorities in Constantinople halting the trials of those accused of massacring Armenians during the war.

Although Turkey was soundly defeated in the recent war, some are preparing to take up arms once more in defence of their country. One of these is General Mustafa Kemal, who became a national hero following his actions in the Gallipoli campaign. The Turkish government has sent Kemal to the Anatolian interior to oversee the demobilisation of Turkish forces in line with Allied demands. However, when he arrives today in Samsun he begins to make contact with other disaffected army officers, seeking out those who are willing to join him in a struggle for Turkish independence, even if it means pitting themselves against the Ottoman Sultan in occupied Constantinople.

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Mustafa Kemal arrives in Samsun (Sabah: Bandırma Vapuru)

15/5/1919 Greek troops land in Smyrna

Without authorisation from the Paris Conference, Italian forces have landed in the Turkish city of Antalya, using it as a base to occupy Bodrum and Marmaris. They are also rumoured to be thinking of landing in Smyrna.

Smyrna has large Greek-speaking population. Venizelos, the Greek prime minister, is close to Britain’s Lloyd George and has been making the case for its cession to Greece. He talks of attacks on Greeks in Smyrna’s vicinity by the Turks and cites the natural affinity with his country of the city’s Greek population.

The Americans are not generally supportive of Turkey being carved up among the Allies, but Lloyd George is very insistent that Smyrna should go to Greece. In the end, Wilson agrees, if only to prevent the troublesome Italians from occupying the port. The Allies authorise a Greek landing in Smyrna, over the objections of Henry Wilson, the British army’s chief of staff, who warns that they may be starting another war whose outcome is uncertain.

Greek troops land in Smyrna today. They receive a warm welcome from the city’s Greek citizens. Initially there is something of a carnival atmosphere, but as the day wears on the mood turns ugly. Some Turkish troops are beaten to death when they try to surrender. Inter-communal rioting breaks out and the town descends into an orgy of violence and looting, with disorder quickly spreading into the countryside around the city.

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Greek troops in Smyrna (Wikipedia: Turkish War of Independence)

10/4/1919 Glimmers of justice for the Armenians as the butcher of Yozgat goes to the gallows

During the war the Turkish authorities attempted to exterminate the Armenian population of the Ottoman Empire, either by violent murder or by sending them on death marches to inhospitable desert regions where they could be left to die of hunger and thirst. Now Turkey has been defeated and its capital is under Allied occupation. It will be some time before the Allies agree a peace treaty with the Ottoman Empire, but in the meantime they are pressuring the Turks to pursue those who directed and perpetrated the mass killing of the Armenians. The main architects of the slaughter (the ruling triumvirate of Enver, Djemal and Talaat) have by now fled the country but persons lower down the chain are now beginning to face justice.

In trials, prosecutors are able to demonstrate that the mass murder was not accidental but directed from the centre by Enver, Djemal and Talaat, who are convicted and sentenced to death in absentia. Today justice catches up with the first of their subordinates. Mehmed Kemal was the lieutenant governor of Yozgat, responsible for the murder of thousands of Armenians. Today after his conviction by a Turkish court, he is hanged in Constantinople. Calthorpe, head of the Allied occupation of Constantinople, hopes that this is a sign that the Turkish authorities are now committed to pursuing the murderers of the Armenians. However Kemal’s funeral turns into a nationalist demonstration, with mourners hailing Kemal as a martyr to the British.

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The trial of Mehmed Kemal (I think) (Aravot: Turks continue commemorating Armenian Genocide murderers: Conference in Turkey on ‘The Armenian Question and Governor Kemal Bey’)

The Karalian family in Yozgat, before the war (Houshamadyam: a project to reconstruct Ottoman Armenian town and village life)

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.

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Greek ambitions (Wikipedia: Megali Idea)

13/11/1918 Constantinople occupied

In 1915 an Allied fleet attempted to sail through the Dardanelles and then on to Constantinople, thereby opening a naval trade route to Russia and perhaps knocking Turkey out of the war. That attempt failed, setting the stage for the disastrous Gallipoli campaign. At the armistice of Mudros however the Turks agreed to the occupation of their capital. Today an Allied fleet sails unmolested to Constantinople and lands troops in the Sublime Porte. This is the first enemy occupation of Constantinople since the Fall of Byzantium in 1453.

As a show of strength, Allied aeroplanes fly over Constantinople. Allied troops also parade through the city accompanied by marching bands, where they receive a warm welcome from the city’s Christian inhabitants.
One aim of the Allies is to bring to justice the perpetrators of Turkey’s campaign of extermination against the Armenians of Anatolia. Unfortunately Turkey’s leaders in the war and the main architects of this campaign, Enver, Talaat and Djemal, have all fled the country to Germany, so the Allies will only be able to deal with persons lower down the chain of command.


Greek armoured cruiser in the Bosporous, by Likourgos Kogevinas (Wikipedia)

Allied troops in Constantinople, with Pera Palace Hotel in the background (Wikipedia)