Turkish War of Independence

1918 Jan 1


Moudros, Greece

In the summer months of 1918, the leaders of the Central Powers realized that World War I was lost, including the Ottomans'. Almost simultaneously the Palestinian Front and then the Macedonian Front collapsed. First on the Palestine Front, Ottoman armies were soundly defeated by the British. Taking command of the Seventh Army, Mustafa Kemal Pasha accomplished an orderly retreat across hundreds of kilometers of hostile territory to escape from superior British manpower, firepower, and airpower. Edmund Allenby's weeks long conquest of the Levant was devastating, but the sudden decision by Bulgaria to sign an armistice cut communications from Constantinople (İstanbul) to Vienna and Berlin, and opened the undefended Ottoman capital to Entente attack.

With the major fronts crumbling, Grand Vizier Talât Pasha intended to sign an armistice, and resigned on 8 October 1918 so that a new government would receive less harsh armistice terms. The Armistice of Mudros was signed on 30 October 1918, ending World War I for the Ottoman Empire. Three days later, the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP)—which governed the Ottoman Empire as a one-party state since 1913—held its last congress, where it was decided the party would be dissolved. Talât, Enver Pasha, Cemal Pasha, and five other high-ranking members of the CUP escaped the Ottoman Empire on a German torpedo boat later that night, plunging the country into a power vacuum.

The armistice was signed because the Ottoman Empire had been defeated in important fronts, but the military was intact and retreated in good order. Unlike other Central Powers, the Ottoman Army was not mandated to dissolve its general staff in the armistice. Though the army suffered from mass desertion through out the war which lead to banditry, no mutinies or revolutions were threatening the country's collapse like in Germany, Austria-Hungary, or Russia. Due to the Turkish nationalist policies pursued by the CUP against Ottoman Christians and the dismemberment of the Arab provinces, by 1918 the Ottoman Empire held control over a mostly homogeneous land of Muslim Turks (and Kurds) from Eastern Thrace to the Persian border, though with sizable Greek and Armenian minorities still within its borders.

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