The Great War is finished. Germany layed down its arms
and signed the armistice, November 11, 1918, in the
clearing of Rethonde. Guillaume II abdicated. The French
soldiers remain mobilized until the signature of the treaties.
The president of the United States, Woodrow Wilson, proposed a 14-point program for world peace:
A free, open-minded, and absolutely impartial adjustment of all colonial claims, based upon a strict observance of the principle that in determining all such questions of sovereignty the interests of the populations concerned must have equal weight with the equitable claims of the government whose title is to be determined (point V).
A general association of nations must be formed under specific covenants for the purpose of affording mutual guarantees of political independence and territorial integrity to great and small states alike. the installation of a "League of the Nations" which aims to ensure peace (point XIV).
In spite of these great principles, the victorious
governments have priority concern: to rebuild the devastated
areas, to start again their economies which were durably weakened by the
absence of the killed or wounded young men, to reward the effort of their people for war.
The Ottoman empire, sick since many years, very badly
lived the war. Allied with Germany, it is side of the losers.
The Young Turks who had seized the power at the time of the
Revolution of 1908, are in escape. The Sultan is alone vis-a-vis
to the winners. He cannot assume all the errors and cruelties of
the escaped Young Turks, particularly the massacres and the massive
deportations of Armenians. He is ready to accept anything.
From the Caucasus to Cilicia, there is the country of the Armenians. They had lived there for many centuries, when the Turks arrived, in the 11th century. Helped by the winners, they dream to remake Great Armenia. The League of the Nations requires of France to help them to establish a colony in Cilicia.
France for a very long time has had good relationships to the Turks and the Armenians. With the French National Assembly, the deputies accept this mission which obtained the agreement of all, including Sultan. They vote a budget which holds account of the economic situation of France, and of the restricted needs for Cilicia: some soldiers to maintain the order while gendarmes are recruited on the spot, and French administration restarts agriculture.
They are soldiers of class 18 (men born in 1898) coming from metropolis, Black Africa or the Maghreb. At the beginning, all occurs well. But little by little the Turks raise the head. They do not accept the humiliating presence of the foreign troops on what they regard as their territory. Moreover, the return of the Armenians, badly prepared, worries them. A General still poorly known, Mustapha Kemal, take the head of rebellion. And it is against French troops, too very few, little equipped, incompetent to safeguard Armenians, that he gains the first victories of the War of Independence, in the last massacres of Armenian civilians.
Painful birth of modern Turkey!
Elie, my grandfather, has been a soldier in the 412th RI, regiment from metropolis. I propose to you to make knowledge with him, and to discover his history.