We follow Semih Gökatalay through the “Lausanne Gate”, exploring how trade fairs in Izmir and Ankara served to celebrate Lausanne as the economic liberation of Turkey.

Article 28 of the Lausanne Treaty abolished the capitulations, a raft of trade concessions to foreign powers which had become a symbol of the Ottoman Empire’s alleged subjugation by the time they were unilaterally abolished by the Young Turks at the start of World War One. [1] With the Ottoman defeat, however, the Allied Powers regained their capitulatory rights. Their abolition was top priority for the Kemalists, and contributed to the Turkish delegation’s decision to leave Lausanne in February 1923. Their complete removal featured prominently in popular commemorations of Lausanne. [2] This was nowhere more evident than in the displays and pavilions erected for early Republican-era trade fairs.

Such efforts gained increased momentum in the 1930s, with the government viewing state intervention as necessary to industrialize the country during the Great Depression. The Kemalists utilized a variety of gatherings, ranging from school exhibits and local expositions to nationwide fairs, to broadcast economically nationalist messages to a wide public. Lausanne’s role in these propaganda efforts was largely political. Exhibits contrasting the Lausanne and Sèvres treaties served to highlight Turkey’s gains at Lausanne as well as the economic achievements of contemporary Turkey. [3] 

The Lausanne Pavilion took centre stage at the 1934 Ankara Exhibition

The Treaty of Lausanne took centre stage at the 1934 Exhibition of National Industry held in Ankara, which opened on 29 October, the eleventh anniversary of the Republic. The Lausanne Pavilion housed half of the exhibition, with the other half devoted to the Business Bank (İş Bankası). The Lausanne pavilion compared the Turkish economy before and after the treaty. [4] It visualized the Turkish economic history of the last two centuries with the help of pictures, maps, and infographics. [5] According to Burhan Asaf [Belge], a leading member of the Kemalist intelligentsia, the Lausanne Pavilion was “an ideological exhibition to propagate the Kemalist reforms”. [6] He hoped officials would repackage the pavilion’s displays in book or postcard form, for distribution across the country. [7]

The pavilion promoted economic nationalism as a civic duty for all adults. According to Hakimiyeti Milliye, the government-owned newspaper, infographics were designed so that “even citizens who cannot comprehend economic matters” would grasp the sharp contrast between the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the rise of Republican Turkey. [8] Similarly, Türk Sözü regarded the pavilion as a “school” (mektep) where citizens could be educated about the difference between “dependent Ottoman economy” and the “independent Turkish economy” secured at Lausanne. [9]

Other journalists heralded elaborate displays of dioramas that told the story of the Turkish economy after the treaty. [10] The first display was a map of the Ottoman Empire of 1682, one year before the Battle of Vienna, which led to substantial territorial losses of the empire. The following display illustrated the “educational, fiscal, and legal captivity” of the empire, portrayed as the result of capitulations and the “inability of Ottoman sultans.” The last displays were dedicated to the death of the “Sick Man of Europe” and the birth of modern Turkey. [11] Kemalists saw the great potential of children for their propaganda efforts. After visiting the pavilion, Mustafa Kemal [Atatürk] wanted it to open to school children and other young people. [12]


This invocation of the Treaty of Lausanne reached its climax with the Izmir Fair of 1938, which intellectuals and politicians alike identified with Lausanne and the end of the capitulations.[13] The idea of a fair at Izmir went back to 1923 when the Izmir Economic Congress was taking place. [14] In 1936, the main entrance to the Kültürpark (where the Fair took place) was named “Lausanne,” which has remained as a potent symbol of the fair and an Izmir landmark to this day. Although there were a number of issues which the 1923 treaty had not resolved to the Kemalists’ satisfaction, the presentation of Lausanne as a victory in economic terms would have been inconceivable without such popular exhibitions.



[1] Feroz Ahmad, “Ottoman Perceptions of the Capitulations 1800–1914,” Journal of Islamic Studies, 11(1) (2000), 1-20; Mehmet Emin Elmacı, İttihat Terakki ve Kapitülasyonlar (Istanbul: Homer Kitabevi, 2005), 11.

[2] The day lost its importance after the Democratic Party came to power in 1950. For details, see Gurbet Gökgöz, “Belleklerden Silinmeye Yüz Tutan Bir Gün: Lozan Sulh Bayramı,” Çağdaş Türkiye Tarihi Araştırmaları Dergisi 10, no. 22 (2011): 95-114.

[3] Vakit, 26 November 1933, 7.

[4] Savaş, 10 August 1934, 2.

[5] Savaş, 16 August 1934, 1.

[6] Burhan Asaf, “Yarı-Siyasî,” Hakimiyeti Milliye, 29 October 1934, 11.

[7] Burhan Asaf, “Bu Yılın Sergisi,” İktisat ve Tasarruf, November-December 1934, 23.

[8] Hakimiyeti Milliye, 31 October 1934, 5.

[9] Türk Sözü, 1 November 1934, 2.

[10] Burhan Asaf, “Yarı-Siyasî,” Hakimiyeti Milliye, 5 November 1934, 3.

[11] Son Posta, 8 November 1934, 12.

[12] Yeni Mersin, 12 November 1934, 1.

[13] Yeni Mersin, 22 August 1933, 3; Niğde, 9 July 1934, 3; Zonguldak, 24 July 1935, 4; Taha Toros, “İzmir Sergisi Açılırken,” Adana Ticaret Gazetesi, 21 August 1937, 1; Haber, 25 August 1938, 1.

[14] It met between 17 February and 4 March 1923 in Izmir. The decisions taken during this Congress were often seen as a promulgation of the economic policies of the new government (Feroz Ahmad, The Making of Modern Turkey (London: Routledge, 1993), 94).

Further reading

Gurbet Gökgöz, “Belleklerden Silinmeye Yüz Tutan Bir Gün: Lozan Sulh Bayramı,” Çağdaş Türkiye Tarihi Araştırmaları Dergisi 10, no. 22 (2011): 95-114. [Turkish]

Zeynep Kezer, Building Modern Turkey State, Space, and Ideology in the Early Republic (Pittsburgh: the University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015).

Biray Kolluoğlu-Kırlı, “The Play of Memory, Counter-memory: Building İzmir on Smyrna’s Ashes,” New Perspectives on Turkey 26 (2002): 1-28.

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