Italo-Turkish War of 1911–12

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Italo-Turkish War of 1911–12


(the Tripolitan, or Libyan, War), an expansionist war undertaken by imperialist Italy with the connivance of other European powers, with the objective of wresting from the Ottoman Empire its North African provinces (Tripolitania and Cyrenaica) and turning them into an Italian colony.

Italy opened hostilities on Sept. 29, 1911. On Oct. 5, 1911, an Italian landing force occupied Tripoli and Horns. After the landing of an expeditionary corps of about 35, 000 men under General C. Caneva, Italian troops overcame the resistance of small garrisons (about 5, 000 men in Tripolitania and about 2, 000 in Cyrenaica) and detachments of the local population and occupied the cities of Tobruk (October 14), Derna (October 17), and Benghazi (October 21), as well as a number of coastal oases. Turkish troops withdrew to the south.

However, despite military and technical superiority and brutal punitive measures, attempts by Italian troops to penetrate inland failed because of armed resistance from partisan detachments of the local population and from volunteer detachments that had arrived from Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt, and other Arab countries. By the end of 1911, Italian troops held only a strip of territory along the coast of North Africa. The strength of Italian troops in Tripolitania and Cyrenaica had risen to 100, 000 by May 1912. In addition to launching new operations in North Africa, between April and October 1912, Italy began to bombard the Dardanelles (April and July)—a tactic that yielded no results—and occupied the Dodecanese Islands (May). However, during this period Italian troops never succeeded in capturing the interior areas of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica. Aircraft were used for reconnaissance and bombing for the first time in the Italo-Turkish War.

The intensified crisis in the ruling circles of the Ottoman Empire and the Balkan War that began in October 1912 forced the Turkish government to give up Tripolitania and Cyrenaica. On Oct. 15, 1912, a preliminary, secret treaty was signed in Ouchy, Switzerland, and on October 18 a public peace treaty was signed in Lausanne. The sultan promised to “grant” autonomy to the people of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica and to pull his troops out of these regions. However, at this time Tripolitania and Cyrenaica were in fact transformed into an Italian colony, which later became known as Libya. Italy promised to evacuate its troops from the Dodecanese Islands. (Nevertheless, the islands remained under Italian rule until the end of World War II, when they passed to Greece.) Turkey’s renunciation of its rights to Libya and the Dodecanese was formalized in the Treaty of Lausanne (1923). A people’s liberation struggle against the Italian colonialists in Libya continued until the Italian troops were driven out in 1943.


Lenin, V.I. “Konets voiny Italii s Turtsiei.” Poln. sobr. sock, 5th ed., vol. 22.
Kiseleva, V. I. “Diplomaticheskaia podgotovka Ushi-Lozannskogo mira 1912 g.” Trudy Moskovskogo Gos. istoriko-arkhivnogo instituta, 1958, vol. 12.
Iakhimovich, Z. P. Italo-Turetskaia voina 1911–1912gg. Moscow, 1967. (Contains a bibliography.)
Maltese, P. La terra promessa. Milan, 1968.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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