Armenians In The Sevres Treaty And The Lausanne Conference

Treaty of Sévres, which was signed upon the defeat of Ottoman Empire, gave new hopes to Armenians. In this treaty it was provided that Armenia would be recognized as a free and independent country, and its borders would be determined by US President Wilson. However, there was no provision concerning Armenians in the treaty of Lausanne dated July 24, 1923, which made the Treaty of Sévres invalid and founded the Turkish Republic.

As a result of the success of Turkish advanced operations on the East Anatolia Front towards the end of 1920, The English representative Lord Robert Cecil in the League of Nations submitted a motion in order to improve the life conditions of Armenians, to take necessary precautions to protect the Armenians in Turkish territory against so-called dangers and to create an environment which would not change according to rules and time; upon this a Plenary Meeting was held. In this meeting it was decided that one of the states would be assigned to find immediate solutions to the Armenian Problem and to settle the conflict between Armenians and Turks by coming to an agreement with related governments, also a committee would be formed to prepare a report on this issue.

A conference was held in London on February 27, 1921. In this conference Bogos Nubar and Aharunyan, two of the Armenian representatives, made a speech. Both Armenian representatives insisted that the Sévres Treaty should remain in force and they gave several reasons for this. Armenian representatives demanded autonomy for Cilicia. The French representative stated that it would be hard to change the situation in Cilicia; however, French Government would give the necessary importance to the minority there. The summary of the Article 9 concerning Armenians and determined in the Conference was as follows:

" The promises given to Turkish Armenians until today lead to the right to establish an Armenian home in East Anatolia; for its realization the Board of the League of Nations gave some privileges to Armenians and they were in compliance with their decision about the suitable territory."

In London Conference, the word of "home", the meaning of which was not clear, was used instead of "free and independent Armenian State" used in the Treaty of Sévres. This different word was created by American missionaries referring to the kind of settlement, in order to provide autonomy for Armenians under the administration of the Turkish government. On September 21, 1921 the League of Nations decided that the "home" had to be independent of Turkey.

Armenian representatives opposed the decision about "home"; they defended the idea of founding an independent, united and integrated Armenian State. The foreign affairs ministers of Britain, France and Italy came together in Paris in 1922. They discussed the Armenian land, which the London Conference in March 1921 decided to establish. The decision of the League of Nations would be adopted. However, before that date, on March 16, 1921 the Treaty of Moscow; on October 13, 1921 the Treaty of Kars between Turks and Caucasian Republics; on October 20, 1921 the Treaty of Ankara with French Government were signed. It was understood that Cilicia would be left to Turks.

Lord Curzon said that " the majority in Cilicia was Muslims and Turks , therefore Cilicia could be left to Turks" in the House of Lords in April 1921. This situation was protested during the Peace Conference in Paris on behalf of the minorities in Cilicia.

British, French and Italian Ministers of Foreign Affairs held a meeting in Paris on March 26, 1922. The rights of Armenians given in the Treaty of Sévres were abolished and the project of founding a national Armenian land, instead of an independent Armenia, was put forward during London Conference for the first time. England suggested that this national land (home) should be founded in Cilicia, but France suggested that it should be founded in East Anatolia. The decision below was made in the meeting:

" The position of Armenians should be taken into consideration due to the disasters they faced and the favors they had done to the allied states during the war. Therefore, it is requested that the League of Nations help to find a national home in order to protect Armenians and to find a solution to their problem."

So the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Allied States who gathered in Paris gave up their demands stated in the Peace Treaty of Sévres and the London Conference and transferred the issue to The League of Nations .

The victory of Turkish armies started, on August 26, 1922 on the Western Front and ended on August 30, 1922 with the Battle of Dumlupinar. The treaty of Mudanya was signed on October 11, 1922. The representatives of the Government of Turkish Republic were invited to a peace conference which would be held in Lausanne, Switzerland on October 28, 1922 by Entente Powers.

The Armenian Issue was discussed among "the issue of minorities" in Lausanne. The summary of the articles put forward in favor of minorities were as follows:

a. Providing some rights for the minorities in Turkey about language, religion and similar matters and inspection of these rights by The League of Nations

b. Christians' being excused from military service, in return for this they would pay some amount of money

c. Keeping the privileges related to religion and sect exactly the same

d. Granting general amnesty for minorities

e. Recognizing the freedom of transportation

f. Allowing Armenians who had immigrated to the other countries return their to old houses

g. Giving Armenians land in East Anatolia and Cilicia

In the meeting dated December 13, 1922 of Lausanne Conference, about the protection of minorities, Lord Curzon, English representative, said that:

"Now I will talk about Armenians. These deserve to be taken into consideration due to the guarantee given to them about their future, but not due to the cruelties which they faced through several generations, which horrified the modern world.

In Erivan, which is now one of Soviet Republics, there is an Armenian Government. As I heard their population is 1.250.000. Because of great numbers of immigrants coming from various regions, the country is over-populated and cannot accept any immigrants. On the other hand, Armenians in Kars, Ardahan, Van, Bitlis, Erzurum were harmed.

When the French withdrew from Cilicia, Armenian people living there followed the French army due to fear. Now they live in Iskenderun, Aleppo, Beirut and along the Turkish border of Syria scattered here and there. In my opinion, the number of Armenians living in Anatolia was three million previously but now there remained 130.000. Most of them immigrated to the Caucasus, Russia, Iran, and the other neighboring countries.  I think it would be necessary to add special articles in the treaty concerning the protection and the security of Armenians who would be in large numbers in Anatolia and Thrace in the future.

Now I will mention the demands of both Armenians and their sympathizers in order to found an Armenian land. It is so natural that Armenians want to live in their own land. The territory of Armenia Republic would not be sufficient for them. Because of this, the Armenians living in Turkey demand the land in either Northeast or Southeast of Cilicia. Circumstances make it impossible to realize those demands now when compared to the past. However we would be pleased to find out the thoughts of Turkish representatives on this issue."

Lord Curzon demanded that a sub committee be formed to examine the issue in detail and to explain their views on it. M. Barer and Marki Garoni expressed their thoughts about the same principles.

Ismet Inönü, the chairman for the Turkish delegation, made a statement about other issues with detailed documents, and then emphasized especially the following matters:

"Turkish people and Turkish government always tried to settle the rebellions and reacted to them when their patience came to an end. The reasons for the evil actions Armenians are faced with in Turkey, were their own atrocities. Adana events in 1909 and rebellions provoked in many towns of Anatolia during the First World War were the continuation of the same horrible tragedy. As it is understood from the events mentioned here, unless the non-Muslim subjects of the Ottoman Empire misused the good will of the administrators of the country where they lived in peace and wealth, for hundreds of years, Turks never denied their rights. The Jewish community who has never complained about any inhuman treatment of the Turkish government and people is an example which proves for the tragic events that happened. Armenians and Byzantine Greeks were responsible. Therefore, history emphasizes that the two principle factors of the minorities issue should be borne in mind.

Firstly, foreign political influences by some states emerging with the desire to interfere with the domestic affairs of the country under the cover of protecting the minorities, and hence the creation of the desired disorder with provocation and riot; secondly, domestic political factors which emerge after the tendency the minorities concerning their freedom in order to found an independent state.

When we consider Armenians: the relations which were consolidated with the treaties between Turkey and the Armenian Republic, removed the possibility of a siege by the Armenian Republic. On the other hand, Armenians who decided to stay in Turkey should take into account the necessity of living as decent citizens. As a result, the representatives of Turkish Grand National Assembly think that:

a. First of all, improvements in the life conditions of minorities in Turkey depends on the removal of all the provocation caused by all foreign interference.

b. In order to reach this target, firstly, it is necessary to exchange Turks and Byzantine Greeks.

c. The best guarantee for the reliability of the minorities which are excluded from the mutual exchange measures and for reforms, was the legal guarantee provided by Turkey for all the communities who have given up the duties to be undertaken by Turkish citizens."

As Armenians' problems were not dealt with in the Treaty of Lausanne, disappointed representatives of the Armenian delegation made speeches about the policies to be followed. Then, although the efforts of the Entente powers in favor of Armenians did not conclude in constructive results, a decision was taken about following the political principles to repeat those efforts at the right time. Armenian representatives delivered a declaration to participant countries while leaving Lausanne.

"Due to the explanations by the committees in Lausanne Conference and the peace treaty project published in newspapers, Armenian representatives understood that the Entente Powers had left the Armenian issue to its fate. We would like to put forward the position of Armenians has become worse because their problem remained unsolved.

During the Treaty of Versailles, the Treaty of Sévres, London Conference in 1921, Paris Meetings in 1922 some decisions were taken in order to save the minorities from the Ottoman Empire and provide a land for Armenians. No decision was made concerning to standing by the promises and commitments given in Lausanne to Armenians who were recognized as a war factor by allies during the war and an ally after the war. Under these circumstances, we, the Armenian representatives, on behalf of the Armenian people ask you to take a decision to find a solution for our troubles to obtain our rights and justice. We state that such a peace would not last long in the East.

A. Aharonyan, the chairman of Armenian Republic Commission, applied to The League of Nations on August 9, 1923, and said that existence of Armenians hadn't been recognized in the Peace Treaty of Lausanne and thus claimed that the Armenian issue should be included in the agenda of The League of Nations. Furthermore, they sent a protest letter to the representatives of Allied States on August 9, 1923 and complained that they were not considered in the Peace Treaty of Lausanne and that the treaty ignored Armenians; they claimed that this treaty would not help them gain their rights and obtain justice so they announced that they were opposed to the treaty.


Uras, Esat, Tarihte Ermeniler ve Ermeni Meselesi, Istanbul, 1987, p. 422-438