Gürol Baba, Jay Winter, “The Wilsonian Moment at Lausanne, 1922–1923”, Journal of Modern European History, 2022, Vol. 20(4) 536–553
Using Turkish, British, French, and Australian archival records, this article examined the background and diplomatic strategies of the Turkish delegation at the Treaty of Lausanne and its selective understanding of self-determination, excluding non-Turkic and non-Muslim people in Anatolia from the ‘self’ that has the right to determine its national existence. It also explored the reasons why the Allies acknowledged this exclusion in the Treaty of Lausanne of 1923. The article borrowed from Erez Manela’s interpretation of the ‘Wilsonian moment’ to frame these diplomatic and political developments and to show how and why the democratic intent of Wilson’s idea of self-determination vanished in the framing of the Peace Treaty of Lausanne in 1923.
In addition to its examination of the administrative and political background of the Turkish Grand National Assembly and the role of Mustafa Kemal in it, the article also discusses the formation of the Turkish Delegation to Lausanne, a subject unexplored in the historical literature. The article also discussed how the imperial necessities of Britain and France ruled the Lausanne Conference, in which the Great Powers choose peace over justice. These imperatives of imperial power helped Turkey’s representatives achieve their domestic and international objectives. That trade-off between recognizing Turkish sovereignty and consolidating imperial power also created the relative stability of the Treaty of Lausanne. The argument of the article was that the Treaty of Lausanne applied Wilson’s vision of self-determination very selectively. Although the original rhetoric of this vision was a pathway to democratic government, Lausanne created and legitimized an ethnically homogenous and authoritarian regime in Ankara, still in power today.
Could you tell us about the inspirations of this article and your collaboration with Jay Winter?
The primary inspiration for this research was to collaborate with Jay. With Jay’s insight, we presented Turkey’s path to the Peace Conference at Lausanne, and its achievement of international recognition of its sovereignty, in terms of what is now known as the Wilsonian Moment, that is the seizure and manipulation of the Wilsonian idea of self-determination for the purposes of establishing the Turkish Republic.
What is something you learned in the process of writing this article?
The article enabled me to provide a conceptual framework for the transition from the Ottoman empire to the Turkish Republic in the early 1920s.
What made you interested in studying this subject?
This subject is essential in providing an interpretation of the rise of the Turkish Republic which departs from the still powerful tradition of nationalist historiography, focusing on the role of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk as the father of the nation.
What are your next projects?
We are currently working on the next article of our series elaborating on the normalization of socioeconomic life in Turkey after 1922.
We are also working on a book project aiming to offer a new, more sophisticated and more intelligible understanding of the birth of the Turkish Republic. It charts the birth of the Republic in terms of a radical break with both the Ottoman Empire and the political party, the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) that led the country to its defeat and capitulation in 1918. The project will present the birth of the Republic as a complete departure from the past in three domains: ideology, institutions, and what we call the ‘imaginary’ or the cultural foundation of the new nation.
Gürol Baba has his BA degree from Marmara University, Department of Political Science and International Relations, Turkey. He had his first MA degree from the Çanakkale Onsekiz Mart University, Graduate School of Social Sciences, Turkey, and his MPhil and PhD degrees from the Australian National University, Canberra at the Research School of Humanities. He is a Professor at the Social Sciences University of Ankara, Political Science Faculty, Department of International Relations. Dr Baba’s research areas are the International History of the post-First World War, the History of the early Turkish Republic, the International History of the Modern Middle East, South Asian and South East Asian Regional Affairs, Australian Foreign Policy, and Turkish Foreign/Defence Policies.
Jay Winter is the Charles J. Stille Professor of History Emeritus at Yale University. He is a specialist on World War I and its impact on the 20th century. Previously, Winter taught at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the University of Warwick, the University of Cambridge, and Columbia University. In 2001, he joined the faculty of Yale. Winter is the author or co-author of 25 books, including Socialism and the Challenge of War; Ideas and Politics in Britain, 1912-18; Sites of Memory, Sites of Mourning: The Great War in European Cultural History; The Great War and the Shaping of the 20th Century; Rene Cassin and the rights of man, and most recently, War beyond words: Languages of remembrance from the Great War to the present. In addition he has edited or co-edited 30 books and contributed 130 book chapters to edited volumes. Winter was also co-producer, co-writer, and chief historian for the PBS/BBC series The Great War and the Shaping of the 20th Century, which won an Emmy Award, a Peabody Award and a Producers Guild of America Award for best television documentary in 1997. He has received honorary doctorates from the University of Graz, the University of Leuven, and the University of Paris.