Partition of the Ottoman Empire

Partition of the Ottoman Empire


The division of the Ottoman Empire was a geopolitical event following World War I and the British, French, and Italian capture of Constantinople in November 1918. After the Ottoman Empire joined the Ottoman–German Alliance, the partitioning was planned in numerous agreements established by the Allied Powers early in World War I, most notably the Sykes-Picot Agreement. The Ottoman Empire, which once encompassed a vast accumulation of lands and peoples, was split into numerous new states. In terms of geopolitics, culture, and ideology, the Ottoman Empire was the most influential Islamic state. Following the war, the Ottoman Empire was partitioned, resulting in the dominance of the Middle East by Western countries like Britain and France and the birth of the modern Arab world and the Republic of Turkey. The Turkish National Movement led to resistance to these powers. Still, it did not spread widely in the other post-Ottoman nations until the post-World War II period of rapid decolonization. The creation of protectorates in Iraq and Palestine, as well as the proposed partition of Syria along communal lines, are thought to have been part of a larger strategy to maintain Middle East tension, necessitating the role of Western colonial powers (at the time, Britain, France, and Italy) as peace brokers and arms suppliers. The French Mandate for Syria and Lebanon, the British Mandate for Mesopotamia (later Iraq), and the British Mandate for Palestine, subsequently split into Mandatory Palestine and the Emirate of Transjordan (1921–1946), were all given by the League of Nations. The Sultanate of Nejd (today's Saudi Arabia) was permitted to acquire the Ottoman Empire's territories in the Arabian Peninsula, which became the Kingdom of Hejaz and the Mutawakkilite Kingdom of Yemen. On the western coasts of the Persian Gulf, the Empire's territories were either acquired by Saudi Arabia (al-Ahsa and Qatif) or remained British protectorates (Kuwait, Bahrain, and Qatar) and became the Arab States of the Persian Gulf. Following the Ottoman government's total collapse in 1920, its delegates signed the Treaty of Sèvres, which divided much of modern-day Turkey among France, the United Kingdom, Greece, and Italy.

Before the pact could be approved, the Western European countries were compelled to return to the negotiation table by the Turkish War of Independence. In 1923, the Grand National Assembly of Turkey and Western Europeans signed and approved the new Treaty of Lausanne, which superseded the Treaty of Sèvres and agreed on most territorial problems. The dispute between the Kingdom of Iraq and the Republic of Turkey over the former province of Mosul was eventually settled in 1926 under the auspices of the League of Nations. The Sykes-Picot Agreement divided Greater Syria between the British and the French. With Italy and Russia, further secret agreements were reached. The Balfour Declaration spurred the international Zionist movement to strive for a Jewish state in Palestine. While a member of the Triple Entente, Russia had wartime commitments that barred it from taking part in the division of the Ottoman Empire following the Russian Revolution. The Treaty of Sèvres recognized the new League of Nations mandates in the region and Yemen's independence, and British authority over Cyprus.


The Western powers had long assumed that they would ultimately gain dominance in the territory claimed by the Ottoman Empire's weak central authority. Because of its important location on the way to Colonial India, Britain anticipated protecting the region. It saw itself as involved in a fight with Russia for imperial power known as The Great Game. These powers reached many dual and triple agreements as a result of their divergent postwar objectives.

French Mandates

  • Syria and Lebanon were given French protectorate status (thinly disguised as a League of Nations Mandate). However, French rule was faced with armed opposition almost immediately; thus, France split the Mandate region into Lebanon and four sub-states to fight Arab nationalism.
  • The mandate of Lebanon: Greater Lebanon was the term given to a French-created region. It was a forerunner of modern-day Lebanon. It existed from September 1, 1920, through May 23, 1926. The League of Nations required that France cut its territory out of the Levantine continent to provide a "haven" for the Maronite Christian community. In 1943, the Maronites were granted self-rule and stable status in independent Lebanon. The French intervention on behalf of the Maronites began with the Ottoman Empire's capitulations, which took place from the 16th to the 19th century. When Youssef Bey Karam launched a Maronite rebellion in Mount Lebanon in 1866, a French-led naval force came to assist, threatening the governor, Dawood Pasha, at the Sultan's Porte and transporting Karam to safety.

British Mandates

The British were given three mandated provinces, with one of Sharif Hussein's sons, Faisal, appointed as King of Iraq and another of Hussein's sons, Abdullah, given a throne in Transjordan. Mandatory Palestine was placed under direct British control, and the Jewish community was permitted to grow with British protection at first. In 1932, another British ally, Ibn Saud, established the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on the Arabian Peninsula.

The Mandate for Mesopotamia

Mosul was ceded to France in the Sykes-Picot Agreement in 1916 and then to the United Kingdom under the Clemenceau–Lloyd George Agreement in 1918. In the 1920s, Britain and Turkey fought over the sovereignty of Mosul, a former Ottoman province. Mosul was part of the British Mandate of Mesopotamia when the Treaty of Lausanne was signed in 1923, but the new Turkish Republic claimed the area as part of its ancient core. In 1924, a three-person League of Nations commission visited the region to investigate the situation. In 1925, it advised that the area stay connected to Iraq and that the UK retain the mandate for another 25 years to ensure the Kurdish population's autonomy. Turkey rejected this verdict.

Nonetheless, on June 5, 1926, Britain, Iraq, and Turkey signed a treaty that mostly mirrored the League Council's judgment. As a result, Mosul remained under the British Mandate of Mesopotamia until 1932, when Iraq gained independence at King Faisal's request. However, the British kept military bases and transit rights for their soldiers in the nation.

The Mandate for Palestine

During the First World War, Britain made three distinct but potentially consistent declarations about its plans for Palestine. First, in exchange for Arab cooperation throughout the War, Britain had promoted the formation of a unified Arab state encompassing a vast region of the Arab Middle East through British intelligence officer T. E. Lawrence. Second, the 1917 Balfour Declaration bolstered Jewish aspirations for a homeland. Finally, the British offered the Hashemite dynasty lordship over most of the region in exchange for their help in the Great Arab Revolt via the Hussein–McMahon Correspondence. The Arab Revolt, which Lawrence helped organize, ended in British forces under General Edmund Allenby defeating Ottoman forces in the Sinai and Palestine Campaign in 1917 and conquering Palestine and Syria. For the rest of the War, the region was controlled by the British. Third, the Versailles Peace Conference, which founded the League of Nations in 1919, gave the United Kingdom sovereignty of Palestine. Herbert Samuel, the first High Commissioner in Palestine, was a former Postmaster General in the British government who was influential in writing the Balfour Declaration. During the San Remo Conference in Italy in 1920, Britain was given the League of Nations mandate over Palestine. In 1923, Britain gave over a part of the Golan Heights to the French Mandate of Syria in exchange for the Metula region.

Independence Movements

The Arabs declared an independent kingdom in Damascus when the Ottomans left. Still, they were too weak militarily and economically to fight the European powers for long, and Britain and France quickly regained control. As a result, Iraq, Syria, and Egypt gained independence throughout the 1920s and 1930s, though the British and French did not legally leave the region until after World War II. The competing forces of Arab nationalism and Zionism, on the other hand, created a situation in Palestine that the British were unable to settle or extract themselves. Moreover, the emergence of Nazism in Germany gave the Zionist goal for a Jewish state in Palestine a new urgency, resulting in the Israeli–Palestinian conflict.

Arabian Peninsula

The Arabs were able to create many separate nations on the Arabian Peninsula. Hussein bin Ali, the Sharif of Mecca, founded the Kingdom of Hejaz in 1916, while the Emirate of Riyadh became the Sultanate of Nejd. The Kingdom of Nejd and Hejaz was established in 1926, while Saudi Arabia was established in 1932. In 1918, Yemen's the Mutawakkilite Kingdom gained independence, while the Arab states of the Persian Gulf became de facto British protectorates with considerable internal autonomy.


Based on a combination of wartime pledges, military acts, secret agreements, treaties, British, Italians, the Russians, French, Greeks, Assyrians, and Armenians all asserted claims to Anatolia. All save the Assyrians would have had their demands granted under the Treaty of Sèvres. Thus, Armenia was to be given a large portion of the east, known as Wilsonian Armenia, extending as far south as Lake Van and as far west as Mush, Greece was to be given Smyrna and the surrounding area (and most likely would have gotten Constantinople and all of Thrace, which was administered as an internationally controlled and demilitarized territory), and Italy was to be given control over the south-east. By contrast, the Treaty of Lausanne renounced all agreements and geographical annexations.


Sergey Sazonov, the Russian Empire's Foreign Minister, told British and French Ambassadors George Buchanan and Maurice Paléologue in March 1915 that a lasting postwar settlement required Russian control of "the city of Constantinople, the western shore of the Bosporus, the Sea of Marmara, and the Dardanelles, as well as southern Thrace up to the Enos-Media line," and "a part of the Asiatic coast between the Enos and Media lines." The Constantinople Agreement was made public in November 1917 by the Russian newspaper Izvestiya to win Armenian support for the Russian Revolution. The revolution, on the other hand, essentially put a stop to Russian intentions.

United Kingdom

The British sought control of the Marmara straits, which led to the Occupation of Constantinople, which lasted from November 13, 1918, to September 23, 1923, with French help. The soldiers departed the city after the Turkish War of Independence and signed the Treaty of Lausanne.


Italy was to acquire all of southwestern Anatolia, except the Adana area, including İzmir, under the 1917 Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne Agreement between France, Italy, and the United Kingdom. In 1919, however, Greek Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos secured authorization from the Paris Peace Conference to invade İzmir, thereby nullifying the agreement's stipulations.


The French gained Hatay, Lebanon, and Syria through the secret Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916 and indicated an interest in a portion of South-Eastern Anatolia. The St. Jean-de-Maurienne Agreement of 1917 between France, Italy, and the United Kingdom gave France the Adana area. During the Franco-Turkish War, the French army held sections of Anatolia, including coal mines, railways, the Black Sea ports of Zonguldak, Karadeniz Ereğli, and Constantinople, Uzunköprü in Eastern Thrace, and the province of Cilicia, from 1919 to 1921. After the Armistice of Mudanya, the Treaty of Ankara, and the Treaty of Lausanne, France finally withdrew from these regions.


If Greece joined the Allies, the western Allies, notably British Prime Minister David Lloyd George, promised Greece territorial gains at the expense of the Ottoman Empire. Eastern Thrace, the islands of Imbros (Gökçeada) and Tenedos (Bozcaada), and areas of western Anatolia surrounding the city of İzmir were among the promised domains. After Constantine I of Greece was exiled in May 1917, Greek Prime Minister Eleuthérios Venizélos returned to Athens and joined with the Entente. Greek armed troops (split between monarchy supporters and Venizélos supporters) began participating in border combat operations against the Bulgarian army. In the same year, the Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne Agreement between France, Italy, and the United Kingdom promised İzmir to Italy. Venizélos lobbied hard for an expanded Hellas at the 1918 Paris Peace Conference, based on wartime promises, that would include the small Greek-speaking community in far Southern Albania, the Orthodox Greek-speaking community in Thrace (including Constantinople), and the Orthodox community in Asia Minor. Despite Italian resistance, Alexander secured authorization for Greece to take İzmir from the Paris Peace Conference in 1919.

South West Caucasian Republic

The South West Caucasian Republic was founded on Russian territory in 1918, following the Armistice of Mudros, which saw Ottoman soldiers retreat to the pre-World War I line. It had a theoretically autonomous interim government located in Kars, led by Fakhr al-Din Pirioghlu. On April 19, 1919, British High Commissioner Admiral Somerset Arthur Gough-Calthorpe invaded Kars, dissolving its parliament and detaining 30 members of its administration after violence broke out between Georgia and Armenia. He annexed the province of Kars to Armenia.


In World War I, Armenians in Russia formed a provisional administration in the Russian Empire's southwest. Thus, the frontiers of Armenia were finally defined by military battles between Turks and Armenians during and after the War.

Administration for Western Armenia

In April 1915, Russia backed the formation of an Armenian temporary government led by Russian-Armenian Governor Aram Manukian, the commander of the Van resistance. The Armenian national liberation movement anticipated that Armenia would be freed from the Ottoman government to aid the Russian army. On the other hand, the Tsarist state had a secret wartime agreement with the other Triple Entente members concerning the future fate of various Anatolian areas, known as the Sykes-Picot Agreement. The Armenian revolutionaries made their ideas public in 1917 to win support from the Armenian people. In the meanwhile, as more Armenians moved into the country, the interim administration became more stable. In 1917, 150,000 Armenians were transferred to Erzurum, Bitlis, Muş, and Van provinces. Armen Garo (also known as Karekin Pastirmaciyan) and other Armenian officials demanded that the Armenian regulars in Europe be relocated to the Caucasus. The Russian revolution threw the front line in eastern Turkey into disarray. In December 1917, representatives from the Ottoman Empire and the Transcaucasian Commissariat reached an agreement. However, on the east front, the Ottoman Empire began to strengthen its Third Army. In mid-February 1918, battles erupted. Under intense assault from the Ottoman army and Kurdish irregulars, Armenians were compelled to flee Erzincan for Erzurum, then Kars, finally fleeing Kars on April 25. In response to Ottoman advances, the Transcaucasian Commissariat evolved into the short-lived Transcaucasian Federation; its collapse resulted in Armenians forming the Democratic Republic of Armenia on May 30, 1918. The Treaty of Batum, signed on June 4, decreased Armenia's territory to just 11,000 km2.

Wilsonian Armenia

During the year 1919, Paris Peace Conference was held, and the Armenian Diaspora and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation argued that Historical Armenia, the area that had remained outside the Ottoman Empire's control from 1915 to 1918, should be included in the Democratic Republic of Armenia. The Armenian Diaspora contended that Armenia had "the potential to dominate the area," based on Armenian dominance created after the Russian Revolution, based on the ideas in Woodrow Wilson's "Fourteen Points" speech. The Armenians also claimed that as Turkish residents moved to the western regions, the region's majority demographic became increasingly Armenian. "In the Caucasus, where, without mentioning the 150,000 Armenians in the Imperial Russian Army, more than 40,000 of their volunteers contributed to the liberation of a portion of the Armenian vilayets, and where, under the command of their leaders, Antranik and Nazerbekoff, they, alone among the Caucasus peoples, offer," said Boghos Nubar, president of the Armenian National Delegation. "The world expects them (the Armenians) to give every encouragement and help within their power to those Turkish refugees who may desire to return to their former homes in the districts of Trebizond, Erzerum, Van, and Bitlis, remembering that these peoples, too, have suffered greatly," President Wilson wrote. Congress agreed with his proposal to expand the Democratic Republic of Armenia into what is now eastern Turkey.


Georgia became an independent republic after the Russian Empire fell apart, and it attempted to retain control over Batumi, as well as Ardahan, Artvin, and Oltu, the Muslim Georgian-populated regions gained by Russia from the Ottomans in 1878. By June 1918, Ottoman armies had taken control of the contested areas, compelling Georgia to sign the Treaty of Batum. Georgia reclaimed Ardahan and Artvin from local Muslim militias in 1919 and Batum from the British administration of that naval city in 1920, after the Ottoman Empire fell. It claimed Oltu, which Armenia also challenged but never sought to govern it. In February–March 1921, Soviet Russia and Turkey launched a near-simultaneous invasion on Georgia, resulting in new territorial reorganizations codified in the Treaty of Kars, which kept Batumi inside the borders of now-Soviet Georgia while recognizing Ardahan and Artvin as portions of Turkey.

Republic of Turkey

Turkish resistance organizations led by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk drove the Greeks and Armenians out of Anatolia between 1918 and 1923, while the Italians never established a presence. In the 1920s, Turkish revolutionaries crushed Kurdish aspirations to gain independence. As a result, there was no way to satisfy the Treaty of Sèvres' terms when the Turkish resistance took control of Anatolia. Although the Armenian government had already collapsed due to a simultaneous Soviet invasion on December 2, the Democratic Republic of Armenia signed the Treaty of Alexandropol on December 3, 1920, before joining the Soviet Union, agreeing to the current border between the two countries. Following that, Armenia became an integral part of the Soviet Union. The Treaty of Moscow in 1921, in which the Bolsheviks gave Turkey the Adjara area and its capital city of Batumi in exchange for the formerly Turkish-occupied provinces of Kars, Iğdır, Ardahan, and Artvin, established these boundaries once again. On September 11, 1922, Turkey and the newly formed Soviet Union, along with the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic and the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic, ratified the Treaty of Kars, establishing Turkey's north-eastern border and bringing peace to the region, despite none of them being internationally recognized at the time. Finally, in 1923, the Treaty of Lausanne legally ended the wars and ushered in the current Turkish Republic.

Last updated: 2021-October-28
Tags: Ottoman Empire
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