The End? The Ottoman Day of Armistice

Thursday, January 4, 2018: 3:50 PM
Columbia 8 (Washington Hilton)
Mustafa Aksakal, Georgetown University
In early October 1918, the Ottoman government signaled Washington that it was ready to negotiate an armistice, in the hope that Wilson's “self-determination” might define its future. When this attempt was met with silence, Istanbul dispatched Major-General Charles Townshend, a British commander captured at Kut in 1916, to initiate armistice negotiations. On October 26, the Ottoman delegation boarded the British ship Agamemnon, anchored in Mudros harbor not far off the southern end of the Straits. Four days later, the two sides signed a twenty-five point armistice. This paper offers an analysis of the armistice and the reactions it elicited. It also considers the significance the armistice for a war-torn population devastated by four years of mass conscription, hunger, and ethnic violence. At least three million Ottomans, or twelve percent of the empire’s total population, mostly civilians, had perished. While the public at first cherished the war's end, opposition quickly stirred to the armistice terms. The arrival of Entente troops in Istanbul, amidst celebrations by the city’s Christian population, generated hostility. By November 11, the wartime leaders Cemal, Enver, and Talat, had all fled the country and a special court to try them had been set up. Newspapers published sensational stories from the trial and rumors concerning the upcoming peace settlement. This paper is based on Ottoman archival material, parliamentary debates, trial records, newspapers and contemporary publications, and diaries and memoirs.