how Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is reviving the Treaty of Sèvres syndrome


Signed a hundred years ago, on August 10, 1920, the Treaty of Sèvres was supposed to organize the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire at the end of the First World War. Although null and void it has remained as a plague in the collective Turkish unconscious. Sèvres’s humiliation served as a catalyst for the resistance movement led by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, a dissident general of the Ottoman army who organized a national government in Ankara.

The victories won by the Kemalist forces against the French, Greeks and Italians in the Greco-Turkish war of 1919-1922 forced the occupiers to negotiate a new treaty, signed in Lausanne on July 24, 1923. In opposition to Sèvres, Lausanne symbolizes victory over Western forces, regained honor, national combat. A secular Turkish state then succeeded the Ottoman Empire.

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  • Before the Treaty of Sèvres

Territorial losses of the Ottoman Empire

Dismantling and sharing of territories

  • After the Treaty of Sèvres

Turkish negotiation and territorial gains

The Mediterranean, a space where Turkey intends to play an increased role

By rekindling the trauma of Sèvres, like many others before him, President Erdogan puts his finger on a phobia embedded in the Turkish imagination. That of the disintegration, the dismemberment of the nation by internal and external enemies, mostly Westerners. He says it over and over again, this is always an existential threat. Interventions in Syria and Libya, maneuvers in Greece’s maritime zone … the Turkish president is stepping up stunts and expansionist acts.

Sources: Dorothée Schmid, “Turkey: Sèvres syndrome, or the war that never ends”, Foreign politic, 2014 ; Didier Ortolland, Jean-Pierre Pirat, Geopolitical Atlas of the Oceans, Technip, 2017;; The world

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