Before the World War, foreign financial interests in Turkey were principally of two sorts: I, those associated with the Ottoman Public Debt; and 2, those that grew out of a series of concessions involving chiefly railroads and ports. The first map on the opposite page shows the railroads as they are today, and though there have been many changes since 1914 it indicates the principal foci of transportation interests then as now. Placed close to the names of the seven principal ports are two rectangles, one shaded, the other open. They represent the exports and imports respectively, the sizes of the rectangles being proportional to the value of the trade. The statistics are for 1910-1911, just before the Balkan wars. The statistics for the seven chief ports are as follows:


  Imports Exports
Constantinople 31.48% 9.00%
Smyrna 10.87 20.60
Saloniki 10.64 5.04
Beirut 9.98% 4.66%
Haidar Pasha Total of 5.94%
Trebizond 2.24 1.28
Dedeagatch 1.65 1.82
Total value of exports in 1910-11   $80,000,000
Total value of imports in 1910-11   150,000,000

As a result of the Balkan Wars Saloniki and Dedeagatch were lost to Turkey. During the World War it was planned to parcel out large portions of Turkish territory among the principal Allies. Various treaties and agreements were signed to this effect: the London, Sykes-Picot, St. Jean de Maurienne, Sazonov-Paleologue, etc., sometimes called collectively the "Secret Treaties." The French and Russian zones took in the whole Armenian territory and traversed all rail and caravan routes across Anatolia. The British zones embraced Mesopotamia and strategic points in Palestine. The Italian zones encircled Smyrna. So much for early Allied agreements. Those of later date are embodied in the Treaty of Sèvres and the Tripartite Agreement, signed on the same day, August 10, 1920.

The territorial clauses of these treaties are illustrated in Fig. 2. Beneath the heavy lines that stand for proposed boundaries is a population density shading in four grades.[i] The solid lines represent the lines of the Treaty of Sèvres (except for the Persian boundary and the Russo-Turkish boundary of 1914 in the Caucasus); while the broken lines represent the Tripartite Agreement of Italy, France, and Great Britain (except for the line of the Armenian boundary shown by dots and dashes in the upper right-hand quadrant; on the Turkish side it is drawn as submitted by President Wilson on the invitation of the Treaty of Sèvres.)


Map 3 gives the boundaries in Thrace that have been projected or actually delimited during the past forty-odd years. No natural or ethnic divisions can really be found. Elsewhere in the Balkan peninsula two (or rarely three) powers have been in conflict over disputed territory, whereas in Thrace five groups of interests are in conflict. Greece has sought to encircle Constantinople and shut off Bulgaria from the Aegean as well as Turkey from Europe. Bulgaria has persistently sought a territorial and commercial outlet to the Aegean on the south. Turkey has resisted both Greece and Bulgaria. And in 1920 the Powers put into force a special régime for the Zone of the Straits that introduced a fourth group of interests. The trade of Russia gives her also a primary interest as a fifth power.

The positions of the various treaty lines are geographically interesting. The line of San Stefano followed natural features in western Thrace; in eastern Thrace it would have produced serious dislocations in the life of that time because it cut across the grain of the country owing to the absence of dominating natural features that run in an east-west direction. The Treaty of Berlin that superseded it put the line in a more natural position, in closer relation to minor watersheds northeast of Adrianople while still retaining the natural features of river (Arda) and mountain crest (Black Balkans) in western Thrace for a considerable distance. The Treaty of Constantinople between Bulgaria and Turkey (1913) provided for a frontier on the Maritsa River for a short distance above its mouth. It then ran west of north, cutting across drainage and relief in such a way as to encircle Adrianople at a distance, while it gave to Bulgaria on the border of the Black Sea a block of territory whose southern margin followed the Resvaja River. The changes stipulated by Bulgaria in 1915 as part of the price of her entry into the World War placed her frontier on the Maritsa River opposite Adrianople and also gave her ownership of the left bank of the Maritsa. The border of the Zone of the Straits and of the Constantinople zone of the Treaty of Sèvres on the north side of the Sea of Marmara took advantage of natural features only to a limited degree, for the special régime under which these two territories were to operate was itself designed to provide flexibility of frontier arrangements.


Map 4 shows the administrative divisions of Syria. The shaded area represents the zone of military occupation as established in 1920 and the line of dots the new boundary of the occupied area as laid down in the Angora Agreement with France, 1920. By the Treaty of Sèvres, Syria was to be established as an independent state, with France as a mandatory power for the time being. It is divided into four governments or territories: Aleppo, Alaouite, Great Lebanon, and Damascus. These have an area of 60,000 square miles and a population of about 3,000,000. There are ten principal towns with a population of about 1,000,000 and ranging in size from 14,000 (Zahlah in the Lebanon) to 250,000 (Damascus and Aleppo). Physically, the country is divided into four main north-south belts of climate and relief. Along the coast is a belt of mountains and plateaus, and just within them lies a long, dry valley that represents a sunken block of the earth's crust. Farther inland on the east side of the valley is a highland belt which has more rain; and then comes a semi-arid plateau that grades into the Syrian Desert.

(Maps prepared by American Geographical Society.)

[i]Both this map and that of population density are based on pre-war statistics and in many places the actual conditions today depart widely from those shown. Nevertheless such maps are of real value as showing where population established itself under stable conditions and where it is likely to resume its usual activities.

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  • ISAIAH BOWMAN, Director of the American Geographical Society, Editor of "The Geographical Review," Chief Territorial Specialist of the American Commission to Negotiate Peace, 1918-1919
  • More By Isaiah Bowman