The best books about the roots of anti-democracy in Turkey and the Middle East

Why am I passionate about this?

My encounter with young refugees and former political prisoners from Turkey in Basel in the early 1980s decisively oriented me as a future historian toward the Middle East. My studies led me to discover the end of the Ottoman Empire and the post-1918 efforts to bring peace and a new order, both globally and nationally, as a highly under-researched, but essential topic.


I wrote...

When Democracy Died: The Middle East's Enduring Peace of Lausanne

By Hans-Lukas Kieser,

Book cover of When Democracy Died: The Middle East's Enduring Peace of Lausanne

What is my book about?

When Democracy Died recounts how the eight dramatic months of the Lausanne Conference concluded more than ten years of war and genocide in late Ottoman Turkey. The resulting treaty in 1923 was not a peace in which no one lost out, but a deal between Western national empires and Turkish ultranationalists regrouped in Ankara. Not only did this treaty liquidate the Ottoman Empire, but it marked also the end of the League of Nations' project of democratic self-determination and security for small peoples, notably Armenians and Kurds. The Lausanne Treaty was crucial in shaping the modern Middle East, and modern dictatorships in Turkey and Interwar Europe, namely Germany.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of They All Made Peace - What Is Peace? The 1923 Treaty of Lausanne and the New Imperial Order

Hans-Lukas Kieser Why did I love this book?

This volume makes clear that without knowing the Lausanne Conference we cannot understand how the Middle East became the crisis-ridden hotspot it is today.

Carefully prepared, this is a reader-friendly history book with an excellent introduction. Its main theme is the challenge of world peace after the First World War which was followed by wars in Anatolian Turkey.

In Lausanne, diplomacy endorsed victorious ultranationalism and dictatorship. It gave factually up the League of Nations’ project of international peace by law, not force.

Twenty experts develop a rich variety of perspectives on the pivotal moment that was the 1922-3 Lausanne Conference for Europe and the Middle East. 

By Jonathan Conlin (editor), Ozan Ozavci (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked They All Made Peace - What Is Peace? The 1923 Treaty of Lausanne and the New Imperial Order as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The 1923 Treaty of Lausanne may have been the last of the post-World War One peace settlements, but it was very different from Versailles. Like its German and Austro-Hungarian allies, the defeated Ottoman Empire had initially been presented with a dictated peace in 1920. In just two years, however, the Kemalist insurgency turned defeat into victory, enabling Turkey to claim its place as the first sovereign state in the Middle East. Meanwhile those communities who had lived side-by-side with Turks inside the Ottoman Empire struggled to assert their own sovereignty, jostled between the Soviet Union and the resurgence of empire…


Book cover of Curzon: The Last Phase, 1919-1925: A Study in Post-War Diplomacy

Hans-Lukas Kieser Why did I love this book?

Although partisan and perspectival (pro-British), this book offers invaluable insights into the “Lausanne moment.”

Its author was an insider of the post-Great War Paris conferences and the final Conference of Lausanne. Based on contemporary notes of the author and further material, this book is a main source for the research on the Lausanne Near East Peace Conference.

By Harold Nicolson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Curzon as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In Harold Nicolson's own words 'This study of Lord Curzon represents the third volume of a trilogy on British diplomacy covering the years from 1870 to 1924. The first volume of that trilogy was a biography entitled Lord Carnock: A Study in the Old Diplomacy. The second volume was a critical survey of the Paris conference called Peacemaking, 1919.' All three volumes are reissued in Faber Finds.
Curzon himself, not a modest man it must be admitted, rated highly the work of his final years. In his 'Literary Testament' dictated only a few hours before his death he said, 'As…


Book cover of The Guardians: The League of Nations and the Crisis of Empire

Hans-Lukas Kieser Why did I love this book?

I highly appreciate this book. Based on meticulous historical research, it has contributed to rethinking and reappraising the long widely disqualified League of Nations.

The failure of the League of Nations’ peace project had been sealed at the Lausanne Conference a hundred years ago, and the League’s Covenant did no longer figure in the Lausanne Treaty. But the need of a convincing global and democratic peace project is today no less topical than it was after the Great War, before the rise of the Nazis.

By Susan Pedersen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Guardians as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

At the end of the First World War, the Paris Peace Conference saw a battle over the future of empire. The victorious allied powers wanted to annex the Ottoman territories and German colonies they had occupied; Woodrow Wilson and a groundswell of anti-imperialist activism stood in their way. France, Belgium, Japan and the British dominions reluctantly agreed to an Anglo-American proposal to hold and administer those allied conquests under "mandate" from the new League of Nations. In the end, fourteen mandated territories were set up across the Middle East, Africa and the Pacific. Against all odds, these disparate and far-flung…


Book cover of In the Land of Blood and Tears: Experiences in Mesopotamia During the World War (1914-1918)

Hans-Lukas Kieser Why did I love this book?

This is a personal account from the decade preceding the Lausanne Treaty.

Jakob Künzler and his wife were stationed in the Swiss Hospital in Urfa, Mesopotamia, and witnessed the destruction of the Armenians at close hand. As disturbing as is Künzler’s sober report, at the same time it is a declaration of love for a turbulent land of different languages, religions, and the people who live there.

By Jakob Künzler,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked In the Land of Blood and Tears as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Presents information regarding the Armenian massacres in Urfa, Ottoman Turkey during the World War (1914-1918). the fate of the Armenian widows and orphans as well as author's description of his work in the German Orient Mission hospital, deportations of the Armenians as well as the Kurds, requisitions of the Armenian property by the Turkish government officials and citizens.


Book cover of Butterfly of the Night

Hans-Lukas Kieser Why did I love this book?

This very impressive documentary novel tells the true story of a Kurdish mother and child surviving famine after the massacre of Kurdish Alevis in Dersim, Turkey.

Most scholars today consider the 1937-8 military campaign in that region in Northeastern Anatolia a genocide. It was the last one in a series that accompanied the making of the post-Ottoman Turkish nation-state, whose birth the Lausanne Treaty had certified in 1923.

By Haydar Karataş, Caroline Stockford (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Butterfly of the Night as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Haydar Karataş, the author, of Gece Kelebeği - Perperık-a Söe (Butterfly of the Night) now lives in exile in Zurich. The book's child-narrator, his mother, was swept up in a series of tragic historical event in the mountainous region of Dersim in Northeastern Anatolia. Dersim (renamed Tunceli in 1935). The area was 90 km east-west and 70 km north-south and, in the 1930s, it had a population of nearly 80,000 people, most of them involved agriculture.

Dersim was at odds with the politico-cultural landscape of 1930s Turkey, whose leaders wanted "a country with one language, one mentality, and unity of…


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Returning to Eden

By Rebecca Hartt,

Book cover of Returning to Eden

Rebecca Hartt Author Of Rising From Ashes

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Idealistic Storyteller Teacher Mother Seeker

Rebecca's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Looking for clean romantic suspense with spiritual undertones?

Look no further than the Acts of Valor series by Rebecca Hartt. With thousands of reviews and 4.7-5.0 stars per book, this 6-book series is a must-read for readers searching for memorable, well-told stories by an award-winning author.

A dead man stands on her doorstep.

When the Navy wrote off her MIA husband as dead, Eden came to terms with being a widow. But now, her Navy SEAL husband is staring her in the face. Eden knows she should be over-the-moon, but she isn’t.

Diagnosed with PTSD and amnesia, Navy SEAL Jonah Mills has no recollection of their fractured marriage, no memory of Eden nor her fourteen-year-old daughter. Still, he feels a connection to both.

Unfit for active duty and assigned to therapy, Jonah knows he has work to do and relies on God, who sustained him during captivity, to heal his mind, body, and hopefully his family.

But as the memories lurking in his wife's haunted eyes and behind his daughter's uncertain smile begin to return to him, Jonah makes another discovery. There is treachery in the highest ranks of his Team, treachery that not only threatens him but places his new-found family in its crosshairs.

Returning to Eden

By Rebecca Hartt,

What is this book about?

Presumed Dead, Navy SEAL Returns Without Memory of His Ordeal in the Christian Romantic Suspense, Returning to Eden, by Rebecca Hartt

-- Present Day, Virginia Beach, Virginia --

A dead man stands at Eden Mills' door.

Declared MIA a year prior, the Navy wrote him off as dead. Now, Eden's husband, Navy SEAL Jonah Mills has returned after three years to disrupt her tranquility. Diagnosed with PTSD and amnesia, he has no recollection of their marriage or their fourteen-year-old step-daughter. Still, Eden accepts her obligation to nurse Jonah back to health while secretly longing to regain her freedom, despite the…


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