Armistice of Mudros

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HMS Agamemnon on an earlier visit to Mudros during the Dardanelles campaign in 1915

The Armistice of Mudros (Turkish: Mondros Mütarekesi), concluded on 30 October 1918, ended the hostilities, at noon the next day, in the Middle Eastern theatre between the Ottoman Empire and the Allies of World War I. It was signed by the Ottoman Minister of Marine Affairs Rauf Bey and the British Admiral Somerset Arthur Gough-Calthorpe, on board HMS Agamemnon in Moudros harbor on the Greek island of Lemnos.[1]

As part of several conditions to the armistice, the Ottomans surrendered their remaining garrisons outside Anatolia, as well as granted the Allies the right to occupy forts controlling the Straits of the Dardanelles and the Bosporus; and the right to occupy "in case of disorder" any Ottoman territory in case of a threat to security. The Ottoman army including Ottoman airforce was demobilized, and all ports, railways, and other strategic points were made available for use by the Allies. In the Caucasus, the Ottomans had to retreat to within the pre-war borders between the Ottoman and the Russian Empires.

The armistice was followed with occupation of Constantinople and subsequent partitioning of the Ottoman Empire. The Treaty of Sèvres (10 August 1920) followed the armistice, but this treaty was never ratified due to the Turkish victory at the Turkish War of Independence.

Background[edit]

World War I took a chaotic turn in 1918 for the Ottoman Empire. In Syria, the Ottomans were steadily pushed back by the British over 1918, culminating in the fall of Damascus in October. However, the collapse of the Russian Empire allowed the Ottomans to regain ground in Eastern Anatolia as the Russian armies deserted, and even push into formerly Russian-controlled Caucuses with an only-Turkish "Army of Islam." The Caucasus Campaign put the Ottomans at odds with their ally Germany; Germany had been hoping to work with the new Soviet government and to buy the oil from the Caucuses oilfields, but the Ottomans wanted to continue to fight Russia and to take the oil for themselves. Still, the Turkish armies advanced far into Central Asia, gathering supporters as far away as Tashkent, on the eastern side of the Caspian Sea. Additionally, with the change in the Russian government, chaos spread in Persia, as the Russo-British favoring government of the Shah lost authority outside of the capital. Hopes were initially high for the Ottomans that their losses in the Middle East might be compensated for by successes in Central Asia. Enver Pasha, one of the most influential members of the Ottoman government, maintained an optimistic stance, hid information that made the Ottoman position appear weak, and led most of the Ottoman elite believe that the war was still winnable.[2]

Developments in Southeast Europe quashed the Ottoman government's hopes. The Macedonian Front, also known as the Salonika campaign, had been largely stable since 1916. In September 1918, the Allied forces (under the command of Louis Franchet d'Espèrey) mounted a sudden offensive which proved quite successful. The Bulgarian army was defeated, and Bulgaria was forced to sue for peace in the Armistice of Salonica. This development undermined both the German and Ottoman cause simultaneously - the Germans had no troops to spare to defend Austria-Hungary from the newly formed vulnerability in Southeast Europe after the losses it had suffered in France, and the Ottomans suddenly faced having to defend Constantinople against an overland European siege without help from the Bulgarians.[2]

Grand Vizier Talaat Pasha visited both Berlin, Germany and Sofia, Bulgaria in September 1918, and came away with the understanding that the war was no longer winnable. With Germany likely seeking a separate peace, the Ottomans would be forced to as well. Talaat convinced the other members of the ruling party that they must resign, as the Allies would impose far harsher terms if they thought the people who started the war were still in power. He also sought out the United States to see if he could surrender to them and gain the benefits of the Fourteen Points despite the Ottoman Empire and the United States not being at war; however, the Americans never responded, as they were waiting on British advice as to how to respond which never came. On October 13, Talaat and the rest of his ministry resigned. Ahmed Izzet Pasha replaced Talaat as Grand Vizier. Two days after taking office, he sent the captured British General Charles Vere Ferrers Townshend to the Allies to seek terms on an armistice.[2]

Negotiations[edit]

The British Cabinet received word of the offer, and were eager to negotiate a deal. The standing terms of the alliance was that the first member approached for an armistice should conduct the negotiations; the British government interpreted that to mean that not only should Britain conduct the negotiations, but should conduct them alone. The motives for this are not entirely clear, whether it was the sincere British interpretation of the alliance terms, fears that the French would insist on over-harsh demands and foil a treaty, or a desire to cut the French out of territorial "spoils" promised to them in the Sykes-Picot agreement. Townshend also indicated that the Ottomans preferred to deal with the British; he did not know about the American contact, nor did he know that Talaat had sent an emissary to the French as well, but that emissary had been slower to respond back. The British cabinet empowered Admiral Calthorpe to conduct the negotiations, and to explicitly exclude the French from them. They also suggested an Armistice rather than a full peace treaty, on the belief that a peace treaty would require the approval of all of the Allied nations and be too slow.[2]

The negotiations began on Sunday, October 27 on the HMS Agamemnon, a British battleship. The British refused to admit French Vice-Admiral Jean Amet, the senior French naval officer in the area, despite his desire to join; the Ottoman delegation, headed by Minister of Marine Affairs Rauf Bey, indicated that this was acceptable as they were accredited only to the British, not the French.[2]

Unknown to both sides, both sides were actually quite eager to sign a deal and willing to give up their objectives to do so. The British delegation had been given a list of 24 demands, but were told to concede on any of them except allowing the occupation of the forts on the Dardanelles as well as free passage through the Bosphorus; the British desired access to the Black Sea for the Rumanian front. Prime Minister David Lloyd George also desired to make a deal quickly before the United States could step in; according to the diary of Maurice Hankey:

[Lloyd George] was also very contemptuous of President Wilson and anxious to arrange the division of Turkey between France, Italy, and G.B. before speaking to America. He also thought it would attract less attention to our enormous gains during the war if we swallowed our share of Turkey now, and the German colonies later.[2]

The Ottomans, for their part, believed the war to be lost and would have accepted almost any demands placed on them. As a result, the initial draft prepared by the British was accepted largely unchanged; the Ottomans did not know they could have pushed back on most of the clauses, and the British did not know they could have demanded even more. Still, the terms were largely pro-British, and close to an outright surrender; the Ottomans ceded the rights to the Allies to occupy "in case of disorder" any Ottoman territory, a vague and broad clause.[2]

The French were displeased with the precedent; French Premier Clemenceau disliked the British making unilateral decisions in so important a matter. Lloyd George countered that the French had concluded a similar armistice on short notice in the Armistice of Salonica which had been negotiated by French General d'Esperey, and that Great Britain (and Czarist Russia) had committed the vast majority of troops to the campaign against the Ottomans. The French agreed to accept the matter as closed. The Ottoman educated public, however, was given misleadingly positive impressions of the severity of the terms of the Armistice. They thought its terms were considerably more lenient than they actually were, a source of discontent later that the Allies had betrayed the offered terms during the Turkish War of Independence.[2]

Aftermath[edit]

The Armistice of Mudros brought hostilities to an end between the Allies and the Ottomans, for a time. However, incursions by the Italians and Greeks into Anatolia in the name of "restoring order" soon came close to an outright partition of the country. The Treaty of Sèvres in 1920 would officially partition the Ottoman Empire into zones of influence; however, the Turkish War of Independence would see the rejection of the treaty by the remnant forces of the Ottomans, who would eventually take control of the Anatolian peninsula. The Ottoman holdings in Syria, Palestine, and Arabia stayed as distributed by the Treaty of Sèvres; the modern nation of Turkey's borders were set by the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Karsh, Efraim, Empires of the Sand: The Struggle for Mastery in the Middle East, (Harvard University Press, 2001), 327.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Fromkin, David (2009). A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East. Macmillan. pp. 360–373. ISBN 978-0-8050-8809-0. 

Literature[edit]

  • Laura M. Adkisson Great Britain and the Kemalist Movement for Turkish Independence, 1919–1923, Michigan 1958
  • Paul C. Helmreich From Paris to Sèvres. The Partition of the Ottoman Empire at the Peace Conference of 1919–1920, Ohio 1974, S. 3–5, der gesamte Vereinbarungstext befindet sich auf S. 341f.
  • Patrick Balfour Kinross Atatürk : a biography of Mustafa Kemal, father of modern Turkey, New York 1965
  • Sir Frederick B. Maurice The Armistices of 1918, London 1943

External links[edit]

  • "Mudros Agreement: Armistice with Turkey (October 30, 1918)" (full text (English)), volume 6, German History in Documents and Images, German Historical Institute, Washington, DC (www.germanhistorydocs.ghi-dc.org)