Turkey and Poland

March 8 2015

Turkey in 1914 is sailing in those shoal waters in which Poland foundered in 1795, and if she wishes to avoid Poland’s shipwreck, she must promptly lighten her draught by throwing overboard all superfluous cargo. We shall have eased her course considerably by relieving her of that solid bullion, the Territory of the Straits; but she must reconcile herself to making jetsam of less cherished but bulkier properties as well, if she is finally to clear the reefs and make the open sea.

Four years and some months later, at Versailles, Toynbee and Harold Nicolson argued against the proposal to place Constantinople and the Black Sea straits under international control. Memorandum of April 15 1919, quoted in McNeill:

“We question whether peace would not in the end be served by some less elaborate, if more drastic idea, that is, by cleaving Europe from Asia, and by giving Greece Constantinople and the European shores of the Straits and the Sea of Marmara, and by leaving Turkey in Anatolia and on the southern and eastern side of the water.”

Their proposals were ignored, but the Treaty of Sèvres’ terms for Constantinople were undone by the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923. Eastern Thrace (and Smyrna, both occupied 1919-22) passed from Greek, and Constantinople and the Straits from British, French and Italian, hands back into Turkish.

I’ll write a comprehensive summary of plans for the partitioning of Turkey, and of Allied interventions there, in another post.

Nationality and the War, Dent, 1915

William McNeill, Arnold J. Toynbee, A Life, New York, OUP, 1989

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