Sèvres Syndrome

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The Sèvres Syndrome (Turkish: Sevr Sendromu)[1][2][3] refers to a popular[4][5] belief in Turkey that some outside forces,[6][7] especially the West,[8][9] "is conspiring to weaken and carve up Turkey."[10] The term originates from the Treaty of Sèvres of the 1920s, which partitioned the Ottoman Empire between the Kurds, Armenia, Greece, Britain, France, and Italy, leaving a small unaffected area around Ankara under Turkish rule; however, it was never implemented since it was left unratified by the Ottoman Parliament and due to Turkish victory on all fronts during the subsequent Turkish War of Independence.[11] Turkish historian Taner Akçam describes this attitude as an ongoing perception that "there are forces which continually seek to disperse and destroy us, and it is necessary to defend the state against this danger."[12]

This belief is often described as a conspiracy theory.[13][14][15]


Danish political scientist Dietrich Jung describes the terms as "the perception of being encircled by enemies attempting the destruction of the Turkish state," and asserts that it remains a significant determinant of Turkish foreign policy.[16] The term has been used in the scope of the Kurdish conflict in Turkey,[17] accession of Turkey to the European Union in 1987 by Turkish nationalist circles[18] and the recognition of the Armenian Genocide. Historian Nick Danforth wrote in 2015 that “Sèvres has been largely forgotten in the West, but it has a potent legacy in Turkey, where it has helped fuel a form of nationalist paranoia some scholars have called the ‘Sèvres syndrome’”.[19]

According to Armenia's former foreign minister Alexander Arzumanyan there is an "irrational fear in Turkey regarding the Treaty of Sèvres, which unites liberals and radical [nationalists] alike".[20]


According to Fatma Müge Göçek, the literature of Sèvres Syndrome highlights three development stages of the "syndrome":[21]

  • "the initial contemporaneous impact of the Sèvres Treaty on state and society in the form of fear and anxiety"
  • "negotiation during the radical Westernization of the Turkish Republic which is spearheaded by the military and the RPP; internal and external enemies are defined during this stage"
  • "the institutionalized syndrome becomes radicalized as ultra-nationalist parties try to systematically exclude such perceived enemies from the Turkish body politic"

Foreign policy of Turkey[edit]

In 2019, hailing Turkey's willingness to once more project power across the Mediterranean, Erdogan said “Thanks to this military and energy cooperation, we overturned the Treaty of Sèvres”.[22]

According to a Le Monde article, the opening date of Grand Hagia Sophia Mosque for worship was not a coincidence, as 24 July marked the 97th anniversary of the Lausanne Treaty. "In the minds of Erdogan and his far-right partners who rallied after the failed coup, it is a matter of foiling the trap of a 'new Treaty of Sevres'".[23]

In a column responding to the Le Monde piece, İbrahim Karagül, editor-in-chief of Yeni Şafak, suggested that the Western media wasn't “wrong” in spotlighting the weight of Sèvres on Turkey's newly assertive foreign policy.[24]


In 2015 Devlet Bahçeli, leader of the far-right Nationalist Movement Party, compared the agreement between the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) and the Turkish government in the scope of the Kurdish–Turkish peace process to the Treaty of Sèvres. Bahçeli claimed the agreement "will lead to the collapse of the Turkish Republic and has vowed to resist it."[25]


  1. ^ Alpay, Şahin (7 July 2009). "'Sevr Sendromu' nedir ve neden azar?". Zaman (in Turkish). Archived from the original on 25 December 2013. Retrieved 25 July 2013.
  2. ^ Altınok, Melih (19 June 2012). "Yeni Sevr sendromu da bu mu". Taraf (in Turkish). Archived from the original on 13 September 2013. Retrieved 25 July 2013.
  3. ^ Çandar, Cengiz. "Nabucco imzası 'Sevr sendromu'nun defin belgesidir". Radikal (in Turkish). Retrieved 25 July 2013. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  4. ^ Uslu, Nasuh (2004). Turkish Foreign Policy In The Post-Cold War Period. Hauppauge, N.Y.: Nova Science Publishers. p. 15. ISBN 9781590337424.
  5. ^ Abramowitz, Morton (2000). Turkey's Transformation and American Policy. New York: Century Foundation Press. p. 141. ISBN 9780870784538. Previously rarely raised, Sevres became a common word in the Turkish political lexicon in the 1990s.
  6. ^ Kuzmanovic, Daniella (2012). Refractions of Civil Society in Turkey. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. p. 46. ISBN 9781137027917. The Sèvres Syndrome presents a narrative foreign powers and consistently pursuing a hidden agenda when it comes to Turkey, an agenda that entails wanting to destroy the Turkish nation and undermine its sovereignty.
  7. ^ Phillips, David L. (2004). Unsilencing the Past: Track Two Diplomacy And Turkish-Armenian Reconciliation. Berghahn Book. p. 42. ISBN 9781845450076.
  8. ^ Kieser, Hans-Lukas (2006). Turkey Beyond Nationalism: Towards Post-Nationalist Identities. London: Tauris. p. 232. ISBN 9781845111410. The fear of conspiracies directed toward Turkey by international actors is often referred to as the "Sevres Syndrome". It is the belief that the international community, and in particular the Western world, aspire to revive the terms of the Sevres Treaty imposed on the Ottoman Empire after the end of the First World War and basically divide up Turkey into smaller ethnic states.
  9. ^ Hale, William (2012). "The Alliance Under Stress, 1991-9". Turkish Foreign Policy, 1774-2000. Routledge. ISBN 9781136238024. External link in |chapter= (help)
  10. ^ Göçek 2011, p. 105.
  11. ^ Göçek 2011, p. 116.
  12. ^ Akçam, Taner (2005). From Empire to Republic: Turkish Nationalism and the Armenian Genocide. London: Zed Books. p. 230. ISBN 9781842775271. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  13. ^ Guida, Michelangelo (2008). "The Sèvres Syndrome and " Komplo " Theories in the Islamist and Secular Press". Turkish Studies. 9 (1): 37–52. doi:10.1080/14683840701813994. S2CID 144752641.
  14. ^ Nefes, Türkay Salim (2013). "Political Parties' Perceptions and Uses of Anti-Semitic Conspiracy Theories in Turkey". The Sociological Review. 61 (2): 247–264. doi:10.1111/1467-954X.12016. S2CID 145632390.
  15. ^ "Turkey: A Conspiratorial State of Mind | Eurasianet". eurasianet.org. Retrieved 27 November 2020.
  16. ^ Jung, Dietrich. "The Sèvres Syndrome: Turkish Foreign Policy and its Historical Legacies". The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Retrieved 23 July 2013.
  17. ^ Kizner, Stephen (7 December 1998). "Turks See Throwback to Partition in Europe's Focus on Kurds". New York Times. Retrieved 24 July 2013. With the Sevres treaty dead, most of the world forgot it. Turks, though, did not. Many are convinced that the world is still plotting to dismember Turkey. They see every claim for regional or cultural autonomy, including those put forward by Kurdish nationalists, as means to this end. Turkish historians and sociologists call this belief the Sevres syndrome.
  18. ^ Göçek 2011, p. 109.
  19. ^ Forget Sykes-Picot. It’s the Treaty of Sèvres That Explains the Modern Middle East. By Nick Danforth, 10.08.2015, Foreign Policy
  20. ^ Ուրվագիծ 24 February 2015 (starting at around 25:00). YouTube (in Armenian). Kentron TV. 24 February 2015. իռացիոնալ վախ Սևրի դաշնագրի նկատմամբ, որը համախմբում է լիբերալներից մինչև ռադիկալներ Թուրքիայում:
  21. ^ Göçek 2011, p. 110.
  22. ^ A century-old treaty haunts the Mediterranean. By Ishaan Tharoor, Washington Post, August 10, 2020
  23. ^ Cent ans après, la revanche d’Erdogan sur le traité de Sèvres. Par Marie Jégo et Allan Kaval. Le Mond. 31 juillet 2020
  24. ^ A century-old treaty haunts the Mediterranean. By Ishaan Tharoor, Washington Post, August 10, 2020
  25. ^ "MHP leader says Kurdish peace process will 'ruin' Turkey". Today's Zaman. 2 March 2015.


  • Göçek, Fatma Müge (2011). The Transformation of Turkey: Redefining State and Society from the Ottoman Empire to the Modern Era. London: I.B.Tauris. ISBN 9781848856110.