The Collapse of Ottoman and Austria-Hungarian Empires: Patterns and Legacies

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Organized by the Turkish Studies Project at the University of Utah, the Ludwig Boltzmann-Institute for Social Science History and the Institute for East European History at the University of Vienna

  • 16-17 January, 2014, Vienna
  • Location: Institute for East European History (University of Vienna), Spitalgasse 2/Hof 3 (Campus), 1090 Vienna      

THURSDAY, January 16

 

16.00-16.30     Welcome Address by Philipp Ther

                        Institute for East European History/University of Vienna

 

Organizer’s Welcome, Hakan Yavuz (University of Utah) and Tamara Scheer (Ludwig Boltzmann-Institute for Social Science History)

 

16.30-18.00     Panel 1: World War I: From Imperial Persistence to Dissolution

 

Chair Prof. Oliver Schmitt (Institute for East European History/University of Vienna)

 

Erik-Jan Zürcher (Leiden University), “The Odd Man Out, or Why there was No Regime Change in the Ottoman Empire at the End of World War I”

 

Justin McCarthy (University of Louisville), “Military Causes for the Destruction of the Ottoman Empire”

 

Iris Rachamimovs (Tel Aviv University), “Internalizing Imperial Collapse: At what point in World War I did the A-H Empire appear moribund to its Citizens?”

 

18.00-18.15     Coffee Break

 

18.15-19.15     Keynote Address Isa Blumi (Georgia State University)

“The Occupation Effect: The Consequences of Occupation Regimes in the Balkan Territories of both the Habsburg and Ottoman Empires, 1916-1925”

 

19.15-21.00     Reception

 

 

 

 

FRIDAY, January 17

 

09.00-10.30     Panel 2: Austria-Hungarian Ambiguities: Towards Collapse and its Perception

 

Chair Prof. Gerhard Botz (Ludwig Boltzmann-Institute for Social Science History)

 

Tamara Scheer (Ludwig Boltzmann-Institute for History and Society) “The Hope for Unification and the Fear of Disintegration: The Effect of Multilingualism in the Habsburg Army (1868-1918)”

 

Arnold Suppan (Austrian Academy of Sciences), "Was Austria-Hungary Condemned to Fail?"

 

Nancy M. Wingfield (Northern Illinois University), “Morals and Morale on the Home Front: The Decline of the Cisleithanian Austria”

                                                                                                      

10.30-10.45     Coffee Break

 

10.45-12.15     Panel 3: Balkan Wars and Paths of Radicalization

 

Chair Prof. Erik-Jan Zürcher (Leiden University)

 

Siegfried Mattl (Ludwig Boltzmann-Institute for History and Society), “A Prelude of Doom: The Empire and the Balkan Wars”

 

Maurus Reinkowski (University of Basel), “Hapless Imperialists, Resentful Nationalists: Trajectories of Radicalization in the Late Ottoman Empire”

 

Ramazan Hakki Oztan (University of Utah), “Foreign Intervention and Young Turk Mindset: Christianity as Marker of Disloyalty?”

 

12.15-13.30     Lunch

 

13.30-15.00     Panel 4: Nation State and Other Possibilities: Concepts and Transfers

 

Chair Prof.Justin McCarthy (University of Louisville)

 

Zafer Toprak (Bogazici University), “The Quest for Wilsonian Principles: The Demise of the Ottoman Empire and the Concept of a Nation State in Turkey”

 

Alp Yenen (University of Basel), “The Austro-Hungarian Model and Turkish-Arab Relations in Late-Ottoman History”

 

Maureen Healy (Lewis & Clark College), “Austrian Economic Visions in the
Orient, 1900-1930”

 

15.00-15.15     Coffee Break

 

15.15-16.45     Panel 5: Ottoman Collapse and its Conflicting Trajectories

 

Chair Prof. Maurus Reinkowski (University of Basel)

 

Hakan Ozoglu (University of Central Florida), “Substituting the Empire: Views of U.S. Diplomats on the Collapse of the Ottoman Empire and Rise of the Turkish Republic”

 

Mehmet Arisan (TED University), “Yakup Kadri Karaosmanoglu and the Republican Manifestation of the Imperial Loss: The Emergence of an Elusive National Subjectivity”

 

Serpil Atamaz (TOBB University), “Conflicting Interpretations of the Past and Competing Visions of the Future: Early Republican Responses to the Collapse of the Ottoman Empire”

 

16.45-17.00     Coffee Break

17.00-18.30     Panel 6: Book Discussion

 

Hakan Yavuz and Isa Blumi (eds), War and Nationalism: The Balkan Wars 1912-1913 and Their Sociopolitical Implications (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2013)

 

Tamara Scheer, “Minimale Kosten, absolut kein Blut!”: Österreich-Ungarns
Präsenz im Sandžak von Novipazar (1879-1908)
(=Neue Forschungen zur
ostmittel- und südosteuropäischen Geschichte 5, Frankfurt et al. 2013)

 

Hakan Yavuz (editor), Isa Blumi (editor), Erik-Jan Zürcher (contributor), Gül Tokay (contributor), Serpil Atamaz (contributor), Tamara Scheer (contributor)

 

18.30-19.00     Concluding Remarks

 

Hakan Yavuz (University of Utah), Tamara Scheer (Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Social Science History)

 

19.00-22.00     Dinner

 

 

 

 

Sponsors

 

Turkish Studies Project, University of Utah

Ludwig Boltzmann-Institute for Social Science History

Institute for East European History, University of Vienna

Turkish Historical Society, Ankara

 

ABSTRACTS

 

Erik-Jan Zürcher (Leiden University), “The Odd Man Out, or Why there was No Regime Change in the Ottoman Empire at the End of World War I”

 

There are many interesting grounds for comparison between the way the Republic of Austria emerged from the ruins of empire and the process through which the Republic of Turkey succeeded the Ottoman Empire. One might argue that, in the immediate aftermath of World War I, Austrians – or rather the Germans of the Habsburg Empire – and Turks were left in possession of part of the core area of the empire with a large part of its central bureaucracy and army. Where others inherited limbs, they inherited the head and heart of the empire, so to speak.  Even though their only option (after the rejection of the Austrian plebiscite on unification with Germany) was nation building within the new borders of a much smaller state, they could not do so by redefining the old empire as an oppressive force or an “occupation” in the way that Czechs, Croats, Greeks or Arabs could.
Although this depicts a certain similarity in the immediate post-war situation of Turkey and Austria, on the other hand he political developments were very dissimilar: in Austria well organized and experienced political parties, notably the Social-Democrats, managed to fill the power vacuum that was left when the imperial regime collapsed. In Turkey, the imperial regime did not collapse in the same way (while Emperor Karl simply left in 1918, Sultan Memed VI stayed on the throne or another four years) and representatives of the YoungTurk regime that had ruled the country since 1913 managed to retain power in most of te country.
In my paper I should like to investigate the similarities and dissimilarities between the Austrian and the Turkish case, both in terms of “regime change” ad in that of the search for a new “national identity”.

 

Justin McCarthy (University of Louisville), “Military Causes for the Destruction of the Ottoman Empire”

 

One of the themes of the conference is discussion of the question, “Why do empires collapse?” In keeping with that theme, this paper does not attempt to portray a history of the Ottoman demise. Rather it considers whether military factors were the fundamental reason for the dissolution of the empire—points for discussion.

In considering the social, economic, and political causes of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, it is easy to lose sight of cause of the collapse. That cause was primarily military. It is doubtful if the Ottoman Empire would have collapsed through any process of bureaucratic muddle or civil war. Indeed, the term “collapse” is inappropriate, implying as it does an internal cause for an empire’s dissolution. The empire “collapsed” only in the way a building collapses after it is hit by an artillery shell. It is more accurate to speak of the destruction of the Ottoman Empire, rather than its collapse.

Traditional analyses of the end of the Ottoman Empire have treated military loss as the result of internal dynamics in the Empire. In the past, it was common to attribute the fall of the Ottoman Empire to moral causes: The Ottomans were in “decline” because of their differences from Western religious and cultural values. Polygamy, harems, corruption, and even inherent indolence of the ruling class were held to have led to the Ottoman demise. Later historians more accurately considered the effects of economic imperialism and internal economic factors--a lack of Western-style development that the Ottomans shared with most of the world. Yet these factors, especially and obviously economic imperialism, depended on real and threatened military intervention.

Some discussion points, among others:

  • More than any other cause, the Ottoman loss in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78 led to the Ottoman demise.
  • Notwithstanding the effects of poor financial policies, major causes for the lack of Ottoman development were the need for great military expenditure, loss of tax base through war, and war reparations.
  • The Ottomans were more than capable of dealing with nationalist revolution, except insofar as revolutionaries were supported by outside military threat.
  • Policies of the CUP Government immediately before World War I appear to have economically and politically contributed to the Ottoman demise. They can only be understood in the light of losses in the Balkan Wars, and lessons learned in those wars. This includes the “buy Turkish” program, the harassment of Greeks in Western Anatolia, and the CUP’s change of attitude toward Armenian revolutionary parties.
  • Given the military, economic, and demographic preponderance of its enemies, there is the question of whether the Ottoman Empire could possibly have survived, despite any political, economic, or social development.

All these issues are well known to historians. The question is whether the military factors have been given proper weight in analyzing the destruction of the Empire.

 

Iris Rachamimovs (Tel Aviv University), “Internalizing Imperial Collapse: At what point in World War I did the A-H Empire appear moribund to its Citizens?”

 

The Irish feminist theologian, Mary Condren, suggested twenty years ago viewing World War I-- and prolonged modern warfare in general--as secular festivals. In this she meant that wartime should be understood in certain respects as a "time out of time" when "the restraints governing civilization are released and the social order is inverted" until the end of the war. Two Austro-Hungarian WWI memoirists, Aladár Kuncz and Paul Cohen-Portheim, expressed this understanding in the phrases, respectively, "[I] had lost all sense of time "and "time stood still". Yet, the underlying assumption of the festival paradigm is that secular time resumes its historical progression at the end of the festival (i.e. wartime) and that the existing order aims to reestablish itself "in a more secure form."

The aim of this paper is twofold: First, to argue with regard to the Habsburg Monarchy during WWI that in the minds of historical participants the paradigm of "festival time" did not completely supplant the notion of "secular time". These two temporal notions co-existed in tension on a daily basis, one suggesting a return to the old order after the war, while the other hinting at an unequivocal break with the past. Second, to focus the attention on the years 1916-1918 and attempt to identify the point in time when Austro-Hungarian recruited citizens realized that the empire was collapsing irrevocably. To do so this paper will analyze one group of recruited citizens i.e. Austro-Hungarian Prisoners of War interned in enemy countries. The paper relies on a large collection of letters written by POWs and Civilian internees as well as on camp newspapers, diaries and memoires.  

  

Isa Blumi (Georgia State University) “The Occupation Effect: The Consequences of Occupation Regimes in the Balkan Territories of both the Habsburg and Ottoman Empires, 1916-1925”

 

While largely understudied to date, those regions in the western Balkans inhabited by Albanian speakers were afflicted by World War I in distinctive ways. The subsequent parceling out of these former Ottoman and Habsburg administered lands to satiate the needs of neighboring political and economic elite introduced a unique set of consequences for Albanian-speakers and the regimes that occupied these areas during World War I. While this paper will cover the battles between armies and the residual horrors accompanying war—famine and forced migration—in order to demonstrate how these material manifestation of imperial collapse became the twentieth century reality for most Albanians, this paper will argue that a violence that rips apart these regions have an equally dramatic impact on the manner in which the regimes occupying the area would transform with the sudden turn of fortunes after 1916. With Habsburg, Ottoman (and Bulgarian) administrations beginning a process of folding to new military defeats after 1917 in the Balkans, this paper will suggest the resulting chaos invariably transformed these imperial administrations as they retreated from the region. At its theoretical heart, this paper wishes to suggest the manner by which locally administered regimes adapted to the shifting fortunes of larger imperial patrons influenced the manner Habsburg and Ottoman regimes interfaced with new constituencies arising from these contested geographies inhabited by a politically scattered population. As these “Albanians” faced a future increasingly decided by outsiders charged with occupying Albanian lands under a new, often hostile ambition, the relationship former partners at the local and regional level—Habsburg, Ottoman (and Bulgarian) administrators with locals—the nature of Occupation at crucial moments took on a crucial dynamic of productive tension. Crucially, these occupations often required considerable collaboration with selected local intermediaries, some of whom became the dominant political actors in Albanian lands for much of the 20th C, in large part because of these short-term adjustments taken by departing Habsburg and Ottoman officials in what would soon-become occupied Albania, Macedonia, and Kosovo.

 

TamaraScheer (Ludwig Boltzmann-Institute for History and Society) “The Hope for Unification and the Fear of Disintegration: The Effect of Multilingualism in the Habsburg Army (1868-1918)”

 

For centuries the Habsburg Army had been characterized by its multilingual and multiethnic soldiers, NCOs and officers. This did not change in the “age of nationalism” throughout the 19th century. New facettes were added with the constitutional era (1867) and the compromise with Hungary. One was that citizen soldiers after the introduction of common conscription got the right to be educated in their mother tongue. Another was that two different programs where set up in the two halves of the empire: a policital nation building process with one official language in Hungary and in the Austrian half a program of taking into account the languages of the peoples in public. The Habsburg army which after the compromise had remained the only institution with responsibilities in both halves took over the Austrian constitutional principle.

Three “types” of languages occurred in the Habsburg (k.u.k.) army. The language of command and the service language (Dienstsprache) between higher military institutions. Both had been German and of higher reference and therefore a symbol for nationalistic policy especially between Vienna and Hungary. This one which affected the everday life of the conscripts had been the so called regimental language (also called Nationalsprache or Soldatensprache). If a group of speakers achieved 20% of a regiment their language had been stipulated as regimental language. All in all there had been 11 different languages, most of the regiments had been multilingual. Officers when transferred to a regiment had to learn the respective language(s) in about three years.

The military leaders certainly hoped that an education in mother tongue helps to calm down national aspirations and to raise Habsburg loyalty and common we-feeling. Actually the opposite happened. The system of regimental languages added to the (civil) national debate another facete.

1. In the Austrian and Hungarian parliaments the regimental language became part of the demands of the nationalist politicians. But it was not exclusively a struggle from below to the top, therefore of the peoples languages against German, but also a dispute of regional struggles for power: Ruthenian against Polish, Slovene against Italian.

2. The regimental languages had been an additional apple of discord between imperial and Hungarian policy. Hungarian politicians declared that they oppose the magyarisation process. Contemporaries wrote that the Habsburg army was e.g. for a Slovak or Romanian peasent the first place in his Hungarian motherland where he recognized that his language helds rights.

3. When enlisted in the army recruits had been asked about their language knowledge. They had not been asked about their ethnic belonging. Nevertheless, in the military statistics the language knowledge of the recruits had been interpreted with their ethnic belonging. The same happened with the officers, who were asked for their language of daily use. Many answered with German as it was the common language between officers and the service language. Therefore in the statistics much more Germans appeared. In Bosnia-Herzegowina Bosnian regiments for a long time knew Croat and Serbian language only. Therefore Muslim Bosnians demanded that they do not want to “become” Serbs or Croats while serving.

This paper shows that granting national (or minority) rights – for this case – led into disintegration. It did not happen in the minds of the bulk of the population who served almost calm in the army until 1918 but because it became part of the bureaucratic structure, and the political debate.

 

Arnold Suppan (Austrian Academy of Sciences), "Was Austria-Hungary Condemned to Fail?"

 

....

 

Nancy M. Wingfield (Northern Illinois University), “Morals and Morale on the Home Front: The Decline of the Cisleithanian Austria”

 

Historians seeking the major causes for the collapse of the Habsburg Monarchy have long focused on military losses and national conflict. In contrast to these traditional interpretations, my paper analyzes the wartime decline of the Monarchy through the lens of deterioration of Austrian society. Building on the work of Maureen Healy, Rudolf Kučera, and others, I argue that the military-state inability to control the civilian population was among the many indicators of societal and state breakdown in Cisleithanian Austria under the exigencies of total war.

               Among the indicators of the home front’s increasing militarization as the army high command expanded its reach into civilian society was the military’s attempt to control the bodies of women suspected of participating in commercial sex. This owed to the high command’s obsession with the spread of venereal disease because of its deleterious effect on army strength. Thus it sought stricter regulation of prostitutes and those assumed to be prostitutes. These concerns led to expanded attempts to control working-class women. Limitations on female employment in pubs and inns predated the war, when some women had been placed under physicians’ regimes similar to those of prostitutes. During wartime, however, the military sought the examination of female—and, even, male—factory workers for venereal disease. But, working-class women were not the only subjects of state scrutiny. In addition to alleged flashers, sexual predators, raids on the home front caught up drunken soldiers on leave, drunken workers on a night out, and many women alone in public, while police regularly attempted to control the morals of local civilians. Control of the home front population proved even more elusive than it had in peacetime not least because there were fewer vice and security police to be marshaled to supervise a civilian population on which more limitations had been placed.                                                                                                                                 

               Loose morals reflected flagging morale and the breakdown of civilian life at home before the military’s defeat on the fighting front. Because the situation varied throughout Cisleithania, I analyze a variety of local examples. In addition to the imperial capital, Vienna, they include Czernowitz, Lemberg, and Trieste, as well as several smaller cities that demonstrate the varied ways, in which the military, responding to variables that included the anonymity of large cities, proximity to the front, and national composition of residents, inserted itself into civilian life in its failed attempt to control civilian morals even as civilian morale flagged owing to ongoing deterioration of the home front.

               Following the Monarchy’s collapse in 1918, among the bureaucratic-legal mechanisms that survived were some of the authoritarian limitations that had been placed on civilians, especially on “wayward women,” as a threat to wartime society. Ongoing civilian-military cooperation in the immediate wake of the war represents an important, but seldom discussed continuity between the successor states and the prewar Monarchy. They also set a precedent for some of the non-democratic behavior in 1930s Habsburg Central Europe.

 

Siegfried Mattl (Ludwig Boltzmann-Institute for History and Society), “A Prelude of Doom: The Empire and the Balkan Wars”

 

In my presentationI will dealwith the analysisof the Balkan Wars1912/13bythree renownedjournalists.Based on thecoverage of the warby ColinRossforGermanand by Leon Trotsky for Russian newspapers, a contemporarySymptomatology ofthe crisisof the Ottoman Empire will be restored.This findings will be mirroredin the commentsof KarlKraus in his journal"Die Fackel" on the manifoldmanifestations ofparalysis of theHabsburgmonarchy in confrontation with the policies of “great powers” during the war.

 

Maurus Reinkowski (University of Basel), “Hapless Imperialists, Resentful Nationalists: Trajectories of Radicalization in the Late Ottoman Empire”

 

The history of modern Turkey will remain incomprehensible without understanding the great Ottoman-Turkish transformation in the early twentieth century. Late Ottoman and early Turkish history culminate in the period of 1912-1922: The two Balkan wars, World War One and the subsequent fight for establishing an independent Turkish national state are a pivotal period where historical events dramatically culminate and violence reaches unprecedented levels. Indeed, the Ottoman Empire has to tell a story of radicalization and violence from the late nineteenth century onwards it had not known before.

            This contribution endorses the assumption that there is a trajectory of radicalization in the late Ottoman Empire culminating in the extremely violent period 1912-22, but strives to avoid an overly teleological interpretation or a too narrow focus on the years 1914-5. A plea for extending the temporal and spatial focus is being made: On the one hand, one has to look for inherent processes of internal Ottoman radicalization in the periods preceding the Young Turks, and on the other hand, one has to take heed of the Ottoman Empire’s most diverse and often contradicting experiences in dealing with issues of ethnicity, confessionalism and nationalism.

            The task is to explain the transformation from (the Ottoman) empire to the (Turkish) nation-state and to ascertain to what extent the politics of the nation-state were anticipated in the policy of the late imperial state. However, in order to contextualize late imperial Ottoman history we will have to look for early trajectories of radicalization but also for forgotten and marginalized pathways leading to the ecplise of the Ottoman Empire.

            This contribution endeavours therefore to qualify the contention of an abrupt Ottoman-Turkish radicalization from 1912-5 onwards in two respects: It is argued here that the Ottoman reform policy (Tanzimat) in the middle of the nineteenth century was indeed meant to be a rational policy, but was heavily ambiguous – in its measures and results. Furthermore, one would fail to understand late Ottoman history in its complexities and ramifications if it were put exclusively in the context of exarcerbated ethnic and national conflicts. Not only the temporal focus has to be widened, also the spatial perspective has to be extended in order to make allowance for Ottoman imperial experiences in other realms.

 

Ramazan Hakki Oztan (University of Utah), “Foreign Intervention and Young Turk Mindset: Christianity as Marker of Disloyalty?”

 

The nation-state formation in the Balkans often resorted to the following pattern: the nationalist elites utilized the local problems that the Ottoman state failed to address in their fight against the Ottoman Empire by mobilizing the larger populations and eventually trying to secure Great Power intervention to attain state-hood, a phenomenon that became widely characteristic of European politics from the nineteenth century onwards thanks to the improvements in communication technologies that further expanded methods of espionage as well as means of public opinion formation. The Ottoman state utilized similar methods in its struggle against Czarist Russia and Austria-Hungary by utilizing Circassians and Polish revolutionaries but its actual capacity to do so was needless to say significantly limited. My study examines how this pattern of nation-state formation in the Balkans by recourse to foreign intervention came to shape the later policies of the Young Turks vis-à-vis those who cultivated separatist aspirations, whether Armenian or Greeks. Just as the activities of Christian missionaries in Japan reduced Christianity to a marker of disloyalty in general terms, I argue that the Young Turk policies, particularly after the Balkan Wars of 1912-13, began to see Christianity as a mere marker of disloyalty since it often became the target of foreign intervention.

 

Zafer Toprak (Bogazici University), “The Quest for Wilsonian Principles: The Demise of the Ottoman Empire and the Concept of a Nation State in Turkey”

 

As the result of the Balkan War the intellectual milieus in Istanbul began to cherish the idea of a nation state. This was part of the idea emanating from populism which became vocal first of all in Salonika, then in Istanbul in the wake of the Young Turk Revolution. The rise of Turkism barrowing the idea of French solidarism and Russian populism gained ground and the Ottomanism was challenged as the concept of nationhood replaced the multi-ethnic concept of empire. This idea became vocal as the Ottoman Empire lost the Balkan War. Anatolia became the heartland of the Empire and could meet the future requirement of territoriality of the nation state. As the Ottoman entered the Great War, nationality become more and more apparent. However the Arab lands were still part of the Ottoman Empire. The new concept of the state can then be based on the majority of Turks and Arab, a new nation state relying on two nations, i.e. a kind of confederation. Ziya Gökalp, the ideologue of the Union and Progress worked on this project. A confederation of the nations under the same state apparatus could be a panaceas for the crumbling Ottoman state . The remaining ethnic nationalities could be classified as minorities and keep their own identities or integrate themselves in one of the main major nations, i.e. Turkish or Arab. This utopia lost ground as the Arabs revolted against the Ottoman State.          

In the aftermath of the Great War, as the Paris Conference of 1919 debated key decisions by the victorious Allied powers, Woodrow Wilson, in his Fourteen Points, had called for "a free, open-minded, and absolutely impartial adjustment of all colonial claims." Equal weight would be given to the opinions of the colonized peoples and the colonial powers. So many smaller nations and colonies held their breath, waiting to see how their fates would be decided. Among those nations now paying close attention to Wilson's words and actions were the nationalist leaders of disparate non-Western societies, among others Ottoman State, Egypt, India, China, and Korea. Wilsonian principles had an important impact among Ottoman intellectuals in Istanbul as as they founded a society for Wilsonian Principles. Wilson's words did in fact help ignite political upheavals in several countries. 1919 Revolution in Egypt, the Rowlatt Satyagraha in India, the May Fourth movement in China, and the March First uprising in Korea challenged the existing international order still hoping a peaceful solution for their fate. This was not the case for Turkish nationalists. The Ottomans were never subjugated. They had a state tradition for so many centuries and they were never convinced on a benevolent policy on the part of the Allies as they witnessed the partitioning of their land as the result of Paris Peace Conference. The rapid disintegration of the Wilsonian promises left a legacy of disillusionment and facilitated the spread of revisionist ideologies and movements in these societies; future leaders of Third World liberation movements - Mao Zedong, Ho Chi Minh, and Jawaharlal Nehru, among others - were profoundly shaped by their experiences at the time. The Anatolian nationalist movement was an exception. Although a kind of "mandate" regime was brought on the table, Anatolian nationalists, mainly due to Armenian question, never trusted to Wilson's peace concept. Therefore they distanced themselves from Wilsonian Principles and waged their own independence war against Western Allies.

 

Alp Yenen (University of Basel), “The Austro-Hungarian Model and Turkish-Arab Relations in Late-Ottoman History”

 

Both the Habsburg and Ottoman empires were multi-ethnic empires challenged by ethno-religious identity politics. However, they have dealt very differently with multi-ethnicity. While Habsburg became Austria-Hungary, a dual monarchy with separate governments and institutionalized minority identities, the Ottoman Empire moved from the millet system to a unitary civic Ottoman identity with a centralist government. Nevertheless, both Empires did not survive World War I or its aftermath. In their places they left new nation-states instead.    

The history of the late Ottoman Empire was long regarded as a one-way road from multi-ethnic empire to nation-states without alternatives. Thus teleological wisdom and methodological nationalism have been the driving force behind various scholarly surveys on ‘the decline,’ ‘the collapse,’ and ‘the end’ of the Ottoman Empire as well as on ‘the emergence,’ ‘the awakening,’ and ‘the making’ of the post-Ottoman nation-states. The Ottoman Empire has been analyzed as “a realm of competing nationalisms” doomed to be a victim of nationalism. Revisionist studies reveal, nevertheless, that nationalism in the late-Ottoman history has been overemphasized at the expense of other political factors – especially among Ottoman Muslims, where Islam and the Caliphate was an important factor in keeping mutual loyalties.

Beginning from the lost of the Balkan territories, the Ottoman Empire was suddenly more Muslim than ever before – leaving the Turks and Arabs as the most numerous groups. Within this context of the Balkan trauma one finds also the first discussions about the adoption of the Austro-Hungarian model in form of a Turkish-Arab empire and later after World War I in form of a federation. Though this discourse was only one among many in times of crisis, it still tells a great deal about the impact of the historical context on identity relations between Turks and Arabs before, during, and after World War I.

In this paper I argue that once the historical context of Turkish-Arab relations in the late Ottoman Empire is approached without the restrictions and preconditions of teleological wisdom and methodological nationalism, a more nuanced and colorful picture appears. Hereby the discourse about the Austro-Hungarian model is a demonstrative case because it shows the development of a marginalized discourse throughout different historical contexts, where Arab and Turkish actors discussed, planned, and desired alternative ways of living under one political entity – an option which was soon lost and (made) forgotten.

 

Maureen Healy (Lewis & Clark College), “Austrian Economic Visions in the
Orient, 1900-1930”

 

This paper examines what Anatolia was, or might have been, in the Austrian imagination before and after World War I. Anatolia was one of many zones classified as “Orient” in the Österreichische Monatschrift für den Orient. In the prewar period, the region attracted attention of Habsburg officials and private business interests. Both hoped to capitalize on economic opportunities there, and both found something “deficient” in Austria’s outlook towards Turkey. Why, they asked, were Austrians not properly exploiting “unser natürliches Absatzgebiet?” Two cases from the prewar period reveal this frustration. The first case centers on the state (a colonial scheme) and the second, on the travails of traveling salesmen. One is high political, the other is an attempt to get a glimpse of Austrian-Turkish interactions “from below.” They are related in that each thought the other could be or ought to be doing more to promote Austrian presence in the Orient.

The paper consciously brackets out the war years, and the myriad ways that we might interpret the Habsburg-Ottoman military alliance between 1914 and 1918. Instead, it takes up Austrian state and private interests in Turkey in the 1920s. It reads a number of short-lived newspapers, Orient-Kurier, Levante and Austrian Exporter, that gave voice to a postwar optimism in certain business circles that Austria’s future prosperity lay in the Orient. Some postwar Austrians came to see Turkey not as an Absatzgebiet, but rather as an economic Eldorado, able to absorb Austria’s unemployed masses. In a twist on the concept of the Gastarbeiter, the paper follows Austrian laborers who in the 1920s sought their economic fortunes in Turkey.

 

Hakan Ozoglu (University of Central Florida), “Substituting the Empire: Views of U.S. Diplomats on the Collapse of the Ottoman Empire and Rise of the Turkish Republic”

 

This paper will deal with a significant transition period from the Ottoman to Republican regime between 1919 to 1927. These years coincide with the tenure of an American diplomat, Rear Admiral Mark Lambert Bristol, in the Ottoman Empire (later the Republic of Turkey.) In his capacity as the American High Commissioner, Admiral Bristol witnessed one of the greatest political events in world history—the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the emergence of modern Turkey.

In this paper, I will highlight the seismic political shifts in Turkish history through the eyes of Admiral Bristol and several other minor American diplomats. Based exclusively on                           U.S. diplomatic correspondence, this paper will primary examine the rise of the Ankara government, abolition of the sultanate and Caliphate and the Kemalist reforms.   I will draw a great majority of my documents from the U.S. archival collections 867.00 (Internal affairs of Turkey). I will also utilize Admiral Bristol’s memoirs housed currently at the Library of Congress.

 

Mehmet Arisan (TED University), “Yakup Kadri Karaosmanoglu and the Republican Manifestation of the Imperial Loss: The Emergence of an Elusive National Subjectivity”

 

It is a known fact that the gradual dissolution of the Ottoman Empire caused an enormous complication about the questions of identity/self-definition and ideology in the minds of the ruling elite of the Empire. This period can be defined as the second half of the 19th century and the first decades of the 20th century. In this period various literary works appeared in the Ottoman Empire particularly amongst the western oriented elite of Istanbul. Although Yakup Kadri Karaosmanoglu is known as an ardent advocate of Kemalist Republicanism, he actually appeared as a writer on the brink of the Great War and wrote his two important novels “Nur Baba” and “Kiralık Konak” [Mansion for Rent] in the period of the Great War. However, it can be claimed that the themes in all of his novels reflects a despair emanated from an elusive loss as well as a manifest desire for power which its content is radically vague. In this sense, as the paper suggests, Yakup Kadri Karaosmanoglu’s literary narrative reflects the trauma of loosing an Empire “more than” an enthusiasm toward a rising new nation-state, which he is generally known to be representing. Furthermore, in the novels that he wrote about the war of independence and the foundation of the new republic, he surprisingly reflects a sense of radical disappointment rather than a sense of glory. It is rather a narrative of “complaint, frustration and discontent” rather than a celebration of Turkish republicanism and nationalism. As it can be discerned from a careful analysis of his novels, what marks this frustration and discontent is a strong desire for a somewhat transcendental and all-encompassing power, which he could never define or name it properly.

As being accepted as an intellectual and political forerunner of the Turkish Republican transformation as well as being a leading figure of the secular western oriented modernizing elite, the elusiveness in articulating a proper and well-defined modern nationalist identity and a clear republican-revolutionary ideology marks Yakup Kadri Karaosmaoglu as one of the most significant examples in detecting the internal paradoxes and vague points in the making of modern nationalist identity. Furthermore his narrative constitutes a very good example how the western oriented intelligentsia at the time of the demise of the Ottoman Empire and the early republican era was haunted by the fantasy of an imperial glory that exactly depended upon the transcendental and all-encompassing perception of political power which can be defined as the most enduring and effective remainder of the Imperial imagination.

 

Serpil Atamaz (TOBB University), “Conflicting Interpretations of the Past and Competing Visions of the Future: Early Republican Responses to the Collapse of the Ottoman Empire”

 

It is often forgotten that those who founded the Republic of Turkey were the same people who had been trying to prevent the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire for decades. Even though they were the main actors in the establishment and consolidation process of the Turkish nation state, these people spent the early parts of their lives as Ottomans and did everything in their power as military officers, intellectuals, and politicians to save the empire. That is why, in order to understand the anxieties, aspirations, ideals, and frustrations that shaped the transition period, it is necessary to know how these people responded to the loss of the empire. In this paper, based on their memoirs, writings in the press, and other published works, I will examine the ways in which some of the most prominent military, political, and literary figures of the 1920s and 30s dealt with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Analyzing the views of a selected group of people who represented different worldviews, such as Abdullah Cevdet, Yusuf Akcura, Halide Edip, Kazim Karabekir, Zekeriya Sertel, Refik Halit, and Yakup Kadri, I will try to answer the following questions: How did the leading figures of the early republic react to and came to terms with the empire’s collapse? How did they remember and chose to represent the Ottoman past? Which aspects of Ottoman heritage did they want to reclaim and reject? And how did they utilize the Ottoman legacy in their support of or opposition to government’s policies? My goal in this study is to recover the conflicting interpretations of the past and competing visions of the future that emerged with the fall of the Ottoman Empire, which contributed to the construction of a new nation, a new state, and a new narrative of Turkish history, but have later been forgotten due to their exclusion from the official historiography.