World War I was a turning point in many aspects of world history. Historians claim, with good reason, that nothing is the same since 1918, mostly because of the new division of old empires such as the Russian and Ottoman Empires, who met their end during that period. At the beginning of the 19th century, the latter was nicknamed the ”sick man of Europe” and in that century there were many unsuccessful attempts to ”cure the sick man by fire and steel”. The Ottoman Empire involvement in World War I proved to be devastating and after 1918 the once great empire was divided among allies. From the Ottoman Empire’s fall, a new independent country emerged, after hundreds of years of foreign rule. This new country was Armenia. In the first post-war years, after consistent advocacy for the new independent and internationally recognized state, the Armenian requests were granted through the treaty of Sèvres, even though it was generally regarded as a treaty imposing worse conditions than the one signed in Versailles.

The Ottoman Empire ceased all hostilites on October 30 1918, by signing an armistice on the HMS Agamemnon, in Moudros Harbor, on the island of Lemnos, situated in the Aegean Sea. The signatories were the Ottoman Minister of Marine Affairs, Rauf Bey, and the British Admiral Somerset Arthur Gough-Calthorpe. As part of the armistice’s conditions, the Ottomans surrendered their remaining garrisons outside Anatolia and granted the Allies the right to occupy the forts controlling the Straits of the Dardanelles and the Bosphorus, as well as any Ottoman territory, “in case of disorder” or if a threat to security occurs. The Ottoman army was demobilized and all ports, railways and other strategic points were made available for Ally use. In the Caucasus, the Ottomans had to retreat towards the pre-war borders with the Russian Empire. Following this armistice, the occupation of Constantinople and the partitioning of the Ottoman Empire started. Nevertheless, it took the Allies (Great Britain, France and Italy) 15 months of negotiations in order to establish which territories they will each get.[1]

In the Ottoman Empire, Armenians were most numerous in 9 vilayets: Van, Bitlis, Mamuret-ul-Aziz, Diarbekir, Erzerum, Sivas, Aleppo, Adana and Trebizond. Out of these nine, only in the first five were they a majority of the population. After the outbreak of World War I, the Ottoman governement offered the Armenians a greater autonomy if they agreed to fight for the Central Powers. Soon after the Armenians refused the offer, the Ottoman government started persecuting notable Armenians as well as their settlements across the Ottoman Empire, which in the end resulted in a genocide. The escalation of the Russian revolution and the incessant advancing of the British army in Mesopotamia and Palestine, as well as the revolt in Arabia contributed to the weakening of the Ottoman defences. Armenians managed to found an independent state in the Russian Armenia on  May 30 1918. They continued to wage war against the Ottomans, but they were less succesful and soon, due to the Treaty of Batumi, they had to restrain themselves from attacking the Ottoman territory and to respect the Brest-Litovsk Peace Treaty. After the signing of the Armistice of Moudros, most of the Ottoman army was demobilized, which left a power vacuum in the regions that Armenia sought to acquire.[2] [3] [4]

Among the “big four“ at the Paris Peace Conference, the American president, Woodrow Wilson, advocated the independence of small nations, in which Armenia was included. During the conference, Boghos Nubar and A. Aharonian sent a memorandum in which they demanded the recognition of an independent Armenian State formed by the union of 7 vilayets and Cilicia, membership in the League of Nations, war reparations and a mandate over Armenia governed by one of the Allies. But even before the memorandum, on  December 10 1918, during a session of the American Senate, senator Lodge proposed a resolution in which he demanded the recognition of Armenia’s independence encompassing the territory of 7 vilayets and Cilicia. Later on, on May 24 1920, Woodrow Wilson appealed to the Congress in order for it to authorize an American mandate over Armenia, with delimited boundaries of the new state within the Turkish vilayets of Van, Bitlis, Trebizond and Erzerum. That plan never came to fullfillment because the congress rejected it primarily for financial reasons (the estimated expense for the first five years was 750 million $) and the danger of a long term involvement in the Eastern matters question.[5] [6] [7]

Nevertheless, after the conferences of London in February and San Remo in April, where the terms of the final partition of the Ottoman Empire were finally arranged, on August 10 1920, in the French city Sèvres, the treaty which brought about the end of the “sick man of Europe“ was signed by Great Britain, France, Italy, Greece and Japan. Greece occupied the entire European part of the Ottoman Empire and the city of Smyrna in Asia Minor, Italy received the region of Antalya under governance, France was given permission to occupy the coastal region of Adana and Syria and the British were allowed to occupy the Southwestern part of Asia Minor. The Northeastern part was ceded to the independent Armenian state. In comparison, the Treaty of Sèvres had much more severe terms than the Treaty of Versailles had for Germany. Ironically, the same treaty guaranteeing independence  for Armenia ignited a war of independence in Central Turkey, which led to the founding of the new Turkish secular state which managed to defeat the French, the British and the Greeks and expelled them all from Asia Minor. Later on, the Armenian raids on Turkish territory caused a Turkish offensive with devastating consequences for Armenia, since all the territories they had gained through the Treaty of Sèvres were lost and Armenia was narrowed to a smaller territory in the Caucasus. Soon after the defeat from the Turkish army, Soviet Russia invaded the rest of the independent Armenia and annexed it to the Soviet Union, which resulted in the end of the Armenian independence for the next 67 years.[8]

Injustice is considered to be very easily recognisable and easy to judge, but in long wars and between numerous peace agreements it is difficult to see a martyr or a protagonist in the story. In Armenia’s case, the larger part of its history is filled with wars and bloodshed and suffering. After the Armenian genocide in the first years of World War I and the self-proclaimed independence at the end of the world conflict, Armenia was looking forward to a future as an independent state. However, the scission of the former Ottoman territory between the Allies caused an injust peace agreement in which the Turkish nation was divided and downgraded: but despite it all, they managed to regain the lost territories. Armenia didn’t recognize the potential enemy, which resulted in a new war and the loss of even more lives, its destruction as an independent state and the re-emerging of the Armenian question.

[1] Terms of the armistices concluded between the allied governments and the governments of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Turkey, His Majesty’s stationery office, London, 1919 [2] Viscount Bryce, The treatment of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire 1915-16, G. P. Putnam’s sons, New York & London, 1916 [3] Group of authors, The case of Armenia, The Armenian national union of America, 1919 [4] Dixon-Johnson, C. F., The Armenian question. Its meaning to Great Britain, Nutt & co., Leeds, 1914 [5] Marshall Brown, Philip, The mandate over Armenia, The american journal of international law, vol. 14, 1920 [6] The Armenian question before the Peace Conference. A Memorandum Presented Officially by the Representatives of Armenia to the Peace Conference at Versailles, on February 26th, 1919 [7] James W. Gerard et. al., America as mandatory to Armenia, 1920 [8] Treaty between the principal Allied and associated powers and Greece. Signed at Sèvres, August 10, 1920, His Majesty’s stationery office, London, 1920.