Key documents, maps of Turkish history in Paris exhibit

Key documents, maps of Turkish history in Paris exhibit

Key documents, maps of Turkish history in Paris exhibit

At a time when there is talk about how Syria could be divided into zones of influence between Russia and United States, the authentic document of a secret agreement signed during the World War I dividing the Middle East among European powers will be exhibited at a museum in France. 

The exhibition, which will open its doors on Oct. 5 at the Musee de l’Armee (Army Museum) will be highly interesting, especially for Turkish visitors, as it has the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Empire at its center. 

In addition to the Sykes Picot agreement, the secret accord between France and the United Kingdom for the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire, the ratification letter of the Treaty of Lausanne by the newly founded Turkish Republic will also be exhibited. A restoration work was done on the seal by the directorate of Diplomatic Archives of the French Foreign Ministry and most certainly is seeing daylight for the first time since 1923. 

Called “A l’est la guerre sans fin, 1918-1923” (In the east war without end) the exhibition comprises of 250 items from 15 countries that include documents of treaties as well as maps that have shaped the east of Europe after the World War I. It has been organized to mark 100 years since the end of the First World War. 

“For a lot of our citizens, the Great War ended in November 1918,” said Diplomatic Archives Director Herve Magro. 

This is a project about an episode of history less known to the French public, he said in our conversation last month that took place in the center of the diplomatic archives of the foreign ministry situated in a Parisian suburb. 

“Yet, we are talking about a turning point in world history; the dissolution of two empires, the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman, which have marked our continent and its environment, and which still continues to do so to this day,” he said. 

The exposition tries to give the keys to contextualize and make the mechanisms of this disintegration understandable for the public, according to Magro, who added that the war did not end during the peace conference or the treaties that were signed in Paris

“On the contrary, by redrawing frontiers of a continent with the argument of giving people their right to self-determination; by having the newly created League of Nations try to solve thorny issues due to the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, peace treaties have sometimes led to new sources of conflict. In the Orient, after the conclusion of the Treaty of Sevres in Aug. 10, 1920, which was not ratified by most of its signatories, the conflict restarted.” 

The Sykes-Picot Agreement, the exchange of letters, as well as the annexed map that divided the Arab lands under the Ottoman Empire including Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine under French and British zones of influence, will certainly be among the highlights of the exhibition. 

Next to the Sykes-Picot Agreement, which has played a key role in shaping Turks’ negative perception of Europe, the Turkish ratification letter of the Treaty of Lausanne, which effectively “killed” the Sykes-Picot Agreement, also has high historic value. 

As France was the country of deposit, the ratification document was sent to Paris and no doubt, the seal has been opened for the first time since 1923. Magro said experts were called in for some restoration intervention. 

The exhibition, which invites visitors on its website to walk in the “traces of Lawrence of Arabia,” will remain open from Oct. 5 to Jan. 20 next year. It is an exhibition indispensable to rediscovering history and better understanding the world today, says its website. 

The diplomatic archives, which have been a key contributor to the exhibition, also have the very first documents sent by the founder of the Republic Mustafa Kemal, carrying his signature in the Latin alphabet, before he took on the name Atatürk.