Friday, January 16, 2009

Paris Peace, Versailles Treaty—Some Definitions

In historical and political writing as well as in journalism, we often hear the terms "Paris Peace" and "Versailles Treaty" used interchangeably. While usage often trumps "correctness" in our daily discourse and elsewhere, there is a good reason for all of us to differentiate between these two terms.

The Paris Peace of 1919 is what we call the settlement that consisted of five different treaties plus some other arrangements set up as late as 1924, but as a direct continuation of the treaty agreements. We might even say that dating the Paris Peace to 1919 is problematic, since several parts of the of the settlement, including two of the five treaties, were actually concluded in 1920. Further, various elements of the treaties of the Paris Peace were designed to be carried out in the future (settlement of reparation sums, for example, or the plebiscites on disputed borders). So the "1919" Peace of Paris was really set up over several years, though the Paris Peace Conference lasted, technically, from January 18, 1919 to January 21, 1920.

As far as treaties go, the results of Paris peacemaking were as follows. The Allies (leaving out Russia) signed separate treaties with each of the five Central Powers: Germany, Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria, and the Ottoman Empire (Turkey). The treaties are nicknamed after the French palace in which they were signed, and indeed in the twenties were often called the treaties of the Paris suburbs. They were:

Treaty of Versailles—Germany, 28 June 1919
Treaty of St. Germain—Austria, 10 September 1919
Treaty of Neuilly—Bulgaria, 27 November 1919
Treaty of Trianon—Hungary, 4 June 1920
Treaty of Sèvres—Ottoman Empire, 10 August 1920

Note that Austria and Hungary started the war as one country, or at least as components of the same empire, under the same monarchy. But the pressures of war led to their dissolution into separate pieces in the last days of World War I.

Note also two things about the treaty with the Ottoman Empire. First, that the Allied signatories did not include the United States. The USA had actually only signed on as an "associated" power, not an "allied" power in the first four treaties, since the close connection with European designs and problems was already a political problem. But the Treaty of Sèvres, for a number of reasons, was especially unpalatable, so the treaty with the Ottoman Empire was not put forward by the "Allied and Associated Powers." In the end, also, the Treaty of Sèvres would be renegotiated after the Turkish War for Independence and after new forces took charge of Turkey. All this resulted in a new treaty, the Treaty of Lausanne. But that is a story for much later.

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Design of a Violent Century by Hunt Tooley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.