In previous articles, it was told about the situation of various communities of Christians and Jews in the Ottoman Empire, the evolution of the situation of people who refuse to practice Islam, and the independence of the countries of the Balkan Peninsula. In the next two we will talk about the last years of the Ottoman Empire and the painful birth of a new state - the Republic of Turkey.
The last years of the Ottoman Empire
The weakness of the Ottoman Empire, which Nicholas I called the "Sick Man of Europe" in the middle of the 1830th century, was no longer a secret. On this map, you can see how Turkey lost its possessions since XNUMX:
This weakness was especially evident at the beginning of the 1911th century, when the Ottoman Empire suffered two defeats in wars with by no means the most powerful opponents. The first such war was the Italo-Turkish 1912-XNUMX. (in Italy it is called Libyan, in Turkey - Tripolitan). The Italians then seized from the Turks two Libyan provinces (Cyrenaica and Tripolitania) and the Dodecanese archipelago (including the island of Rhodes).
Italian airships bomb Turkish positions in Libya
4 days before the end of this war, a new one began - I Balkan (September 25, 1912 - May 17, 1913), during which the former Rumelian Sandjaks of the Ottomans (Bulgaria, Serbia, Montenegro, Greece) quickly defeated the previous masters, literally placing Turkey on knees.
Bulgarian artillery during the Balkan wars
By the way, it was after the start of the First Balkan War - in October 1912, that Vasily Agapkin (the future senior conductor of the Dzerzhinsky division and colonel of the Soviet army), who sympathized with the "brothers", head trumpeter of the reserve cavalry regiment, wrote the famous march "Farewell of a Slav."
Cover of the first edition of The March of the Slav
In the circumstances of a permanent crisis, Turkey's entry into the war against Russia in October 1914 (and, therefore, against all Entente states) was a disaster for this country. The fact that this war turned out to be fatal for three more great empires (Russian, German and Austro-Hungarian) can hardly serve as a consolation.
In the German cartoon below, the Ottoman Empire appears as a giant who laughs at the attempts of its neighbors to attack it:
Alas, the real situation was exactly the opposite. For Turkey, the war ended in de facto surrender.
On October 31, 1918, the Mudros Truce was signed on board the British ship Agamemnon (after the name of the port city on the island of Lemnos).
The terms of this agreement turned out to be more than humiliating. Under the control of the Entente, the Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits with all their fortifications were transferred, which the allies were never able to capture during the bloody Gallipoli operation, which lasted from February 19, 1915 to January 9, 1916 (this was described in the article Battle of the Straits. Allied Gallipoli operation). The Turkish army was to be demobilized, and the warships were to be transferred. Turkey was ordered to withdraw its troops from Persia, Transcaucasia, Cilicia, Arabia, Eastern Thrace and the coastal regions of Asia Minor. British, French, Italian and Greek ships entered the harbor of Constantinople - "Allied squadron of the Aegean Sea": 14 battleships, 14 cruisers, 11 gunboats and monitors, 17 destroyers and auxiliary ships.
The forts in the straits were occupied by the British, Greek troops were brought into Smyrna, the Italians occupied southwestern Anatolia, and the French occupied Cilicia.
The terms of the "truce" were so shameful and humiliating for the Ottoman Empire that the leaders of the Turkish delegation did not dare to return to Constantinople.
Already on November 1, 1918 (the day after the signing of the Mudross Armistice), the British newspaper "Times" triumphantly stated:
Access to the Straits will give us not only power over the Black Sea, but also the best opportunity to influence Russian affairs. While the Black and Baltic Seas are closed to our fleet, our sea power cannot influence the future of Russia. Siberia, Murmansk - an inconvenient back door at best. But when the British fleet is in the Black Sea, the front door is open. The close rule of the Allies over the Black Sea will sound the death knell for the rule of the Bolsheviks in Russia.
The Entente ships entered the harbor of Constantinople on November 18, 1918, and on November 23, the English cruiser "Canterbury" arrived in Sevastopol. Two days later, it was joined by four battleships (two British, one French and one Italian), two cruisers and nine destroyers.
Now do you understand why Lenin and the Bolsheviks so willingly cooperated with Ataturk and helped him restore the sovereignty of his country and control over the Straits? And how important are good relations with Turkey, Crimea and Sevastopol for modern Russia? But more on that later.
The commander-in-chief of the allied forces in the Balkans was Louis Félix Marie François Franche d'Espere, in the future the High Commissioner of France in the South of Russia (on March 25, 1919, upon learning of the approach of the Red Army, he fled from Odessa to Sevastopol, leaving the White Guard allies). Imitating Sultan Mehmed Fatih (the Conqueror), Espere solemnly rode into Constantinople on horseback, which provoked the indignation of the Turks, but the Greeks, Armenians and Jews greeted him with flowers and applause - very soon they would have to regret it.
Constantinople was controlled by the Entente army of 49 soldiers and 516 officers, supported by 1759 military and auxiliary ships of various ranks.
These troops were withdrawn only 5 years later - in 1923, when the army of Mustafa Kemal approached the city - already Gazi, but not yet Ataturk.
Treaty of Sèvres
The terms of the armistice signed by the Young Turk government were so monstrous that the leaders of this party, led by Enver Pasha, fled to Germany on the night of November 3, 1918. Former top leaders of the state Talaat Pasha, Ismail Enver (Enver Pasha), Jemal Pasha, Behaetdin Shakir and some others were accused of involving Turkey in the war, organizing the Armenian massacre and sentenced to death in absentia by the decree of the Ottoman Empire on December 16, 1918 executions.
But Turkey no longer had the strength to resist. And therefore, on August 10, 1920, a peace treaty was signed in the city of Sevres, which not only eliminated the imperial possessions of the Ottomans, but consolidated the dismemberment of this country and the loss of a number of indigenous territories of Asia Minor.
The victors left Turkey with a small section of European territory around Constantinople and part of Asia Minor without Cilicia. Turkey's African possessions were transferred to Great Britain and France, the Dodecadenes Islands (part of the Southern Sporades archipelago) to Italy, a new state was created on the territory of Turkey - Kurdistan, and even the capital, Constantinople, was transferred under international control.
Signing ceremony of the Treaty of Sevres:
Excessive and excessive demands of the winners caused an explosion of indignation in all strata of Turkish society, and the Turkish Grand National Assembly, which proclaimed itself the only legitimate authority in the country, refused to ratify the treaty. Mustafa Kemal Pasha and his supporters, who were at the head of the new parliament, began to look for allies to fight the Entente and found them in the new Soviet Russia.
Mustafa Kemal seeks allies
On April 23, 1920, the Grand National Assembly of Turkey was convened in Ankara, the chairman of which was elected Mustafa Kemal - a combat general, a participant in the Italo-Turkish (1911), Balkan (1912-1913) and World War I, who was born in Soluni (Thessaloniki), and began to study military affairs in the city of Monastir (Macedonia).
Mustafa Kemal. Kemal - "Smart" is a nickname he received at school for his academic success. And for military operations against British troops on the Galipoli Peninsula in April 1915, he was nicknamed the "Savior of Constantinople"
On April 25, a provisional government was created here, which decided that the orders of the Sultan and his officials were no longer subject to execution.
On April 26, Kemal turned to V. I. Lenin as the head of the Russian government with a proposal to establish diplomatic relations and a request for help in the struggle "against imperialist governments." As a result, two agreements were signed: "On cooperation" (August 24, 1920) and "On friendship and brotherhood between the RSFSR and Turkey" (March 16, 1921).
People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs of the RSFSR G.V. Chicherin and the representative of the government of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, Yusuf Kemal-bey exchange the texts of the signed Treaty of Friendship and Brotherhood. Moscow, March 16, 1921
But what happened at that time on the lands of the former Russian Empire?
Armenia in 1918-1920: troubles with neighbors
After the collapse of the Russian Empire, the Georgians decided to profit from Armenia at that time, who seized the Lori region in the north of this country.
Georgia signed a treaty with Germany on May 16, 1918, hoping that the German occupation would prevent the Ottomans from seizing their territory. Since the Dashnaks were guided by the Entente countries, the German authorities demanded that the Georgians block the railway connecting Armenia with Russia and the port of Batumi, which caused famine in this country. In October 1918, clashes between Armenians and German and Georgian units began, on December 5 they escalated into a full-fledged war, during which the Armenian army occupied many settlements of the disputed region.
On January 17, 1919, the Supreme Council of the Entente decided to transfer the northern part of the Lori region to Armenia, the southern part to Georgia, but after the start of the Armenian-Turkish war, Georgia occupied the entire territory.
In 1918-1920. there were also bloody clashes between Armenians and Azerbaijanis. In 24 villages of the Shemakha district, 17 thousand Armenians were killed, in 20 villages of the Nukha district - 20 thousand Armenians. Armenians were also massacred in Agdam and Ganja. Azerbaijanis and Kurds moved to the territories that were previously inhabited by Armenians.
In Armenia, the Dashnaks (members of the Dashnaktsutyun party) and the troops under their control "cleared" the Novobayazet, Erivan, Echmiadzin and Sharuro-Daralagez districts from Azerbaijanis. Clashes also took place in Nagorno-Karabakh, which the Armenians usually call Artsakh. In the Russian Empire, it was part of the Elizavetpol province, part of which was inhabited by Armenians (about 35% of the total population), part by Azerbaijanis (who were then called "Caucasian Tatars" - almost 56%). Kurds (up to 4,7%), Russians (1,11%), Udins (1%) also lived here. The number of people of other nationalities (Germans, Lezgins, Tats, Jews, some others) was less than 1 percent.
Elizavetpol province. Currently, the city of Elizavetpol is called Ganja
Now Azerbaijan claimed the entire territory of this province, the Armenians living in Nagorno-Karabakh wanted independence or the annexation of their lands to Armenia. We will talk more about this in an article dedicated to Operation Nemesis, during which some high-ranking Turkish officials were killed, who were responsible for organizing the massacres of Armenians in 1915, as well as the leaders of Azerbaijan, involved in the massacre of Armenians in 1918-1920.
War of Armenia and Turkey
But the main troubles for independent Armenia were ahead. Its rulers took the terms of the Treaty of Sevres too literally and hoped too much for the help of the Entente states, which almost led to another national catastrophe, and only Russia's help again saved the Armenians from another massacre.
Everyone in Turkey was especially outraged by the claims of the Kurds (whom Kemal later ordered to call "mountain Turks") and Armenia, supported (more in words) by the leaders of the Entente countries. The Armenian leaders, who did not adequately assess the situation, confidently pushed their country towards war with Turkey.
At that time, delegations of these countries were in Moscow, and the People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs of Russia G. Chicherin suggested that the Armenian delegation transfer the resolution of the Armenian-Turkish dispute to Moscow. However, the new Armenian government was fully oriented towards the Entente countries. Ambartsum Terteryan, a member of the Armenian delegation at the talks in Moscow, later wrote:
There was a fear that any untimely attempt at rapprochement with Soviet Russia would inevitably lead to the loss of economic and political support for the allied forces.
Meanwhile, British Prime Minister David Lloyd George spoke about the prospects of military assistance to the Armenians:
If the Armenians cannot defend their borders, then ... there is no benefit from such a people, and not a single union state will be ready to help them, even with one battalion.
In addition, oil was produced in Baku, and therefore the British flirted with the new authorities of Azerbaijan, not paying special attention to their friendly relations with Turkey, which fought on the side of Germany.
On September 24, 1920, the war between Turkey and Armenia nevertheless began, and Armenia turned out to be the attacking party. The Treaty of Sevres was supposed to come into force on August 10, but the Armenians did not want to wait and at the end of June they began to occupy Turkish territories in the Oltinsky district (the boundaries of which US President Wilson had not even had time to determine). Another Armenian army moved towards Nakhichevan. Both of these armies were defeated. None other than O. Kachaznuni, the leader of the Dashnaktsutyun party and the Prime Minister of Armenia, recalled that the soldiers of his troops fled to the villages. As Lloyd George believed, for the Armenians this adventure ended with a crushing defeat, and only at the request of the Soviet government did the Turkish army stop a few kilometers from Erivan. On the night of December 2 to 3, 1920, the Alexandropol Peace Treaty, humiliating for Armenia, was concluded (now the city of Alexandropol is called Gyumri). Hovhannes Kajaznuni, member of the Dashnaktsutyun Party and Prime Minister of Armenia in 1918-1919, recalled:
The Treaty of Sevres dazzled our eyes, fettered thought, eclipsed the awareness of reality. Today we understand how we would have won if in the fall of 1920 we came to a direct agreement with the Turks on the Treaty of Sevres. But then we did not understand this. The fact, and the unforgivable fact, was that we did nothing to avoid war. On the contrary, they themselves gave an immediate reason for it.
Soviet period in the history of Transcaucasia
The Alexandropol Treaty of Armenia with Turkey was annulled immediately after the Red Army units entered Yerevan on December 4, 1920. Red commanders and commissars were very serious people, they put things in order in the areas they occupied very quickly - without wordy speeches, long meetings and long resolutions. Therefore, very soon, both Armenians and Azerbaijanis were forced to abandon the mutual massacre, not without regret.
According to the new Moscow Treaty of March 16, 1921 (its terms were confirmed by the Kars Treaty of December 13 of the same year), Turkey returned to Russia the previously captured Batumi, Nakhichevan and Alexandropol (Gyumri), leaving behind the Kars region.
On March 12, 1922, Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan became part of the Transcaucasian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic with the capital in Tbilisi (the first head was Sergo Ordzhonikidze), which existed until December 5, 1936 and, along with Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, became a co-founder of the USSR (agreement from December 30, 1922). And on December 5, 1936, Armenia became a republic within the USSR.
Map of Armenia according to the Servian Peace Treaty, the Republic of Armenia (1918-1920) and Soviet Armenia in the background historical Armenia
The inept and unwise policy of the last general secretary of the USSR M. Gorbachev led to a new aggravation of the situation in the places where Azerbaijanis and Armenians live together. Pogroms began in Sumgait (February 27-29, 1988) and Baku (January 13-14, 1990), Armenians were expelled from Ganja (November 1988), Goranboy (Shahumyan) and Khanlar regions of Azerbaijan (January 11, 1990 g.). During the bloody war that began over Nagorno-Karabakh, by 1994, Armenian troops occupied approximately 20% of the territory of Azerbaijan. In September 2020, hostilities resumed, and the Azerbaijani army (not without the help of Turkey) managed to take a fairly convincing revenge for the defeat in the first war.
In the next article we will return to Turkey, which was dying after the defeat in World War I, which had to fight not only with Armenia, but also with Greece. It will tell about the Second Greco-Turkish War, the abolition of the Ottoman Sultanate and Caliphate and the birth of the Turkish Republic. And also about Soviet economic and military assistance to the new Turkish state and how Mustafa Kemal became “Gazi” and “Ataturk”.