tv Ottoman Empire After World War I CSPAN December 8, 2019 11:04am-12:01pm EST
came home" next discusses his book, which looks at the impact of world war i on ordinary ottomans. and details the factors leading to the fall of empires -- the empire and the war's aftermath. the national world war i museum and memorial in kansas city, missouri host of the talk as part of their annual symposium. >> ladies and gentlemen, welcome back to the national world war i museum and memorial in kansas city, missouri. were so pleased you're joining us for our symposium, "1919 peace?" that should have sounded there is a question mark at the end of it in case it didn't. we are thrilled to have you here on site and thrilled to have you all join us either online or via tv, because we know that these conversations are essential to
not only understanding history but understanding our present. which this speaker absolutely is going to be addressing all of those things. dr. akin is an associate professor at tulane university, where he specializes in the late ottoman empire and republican turkey. his book, "when the war came home" examines the ottoman empire's catastrophic experience of the first world war and analyzes the impact of the war on the civilian population and was named the 2018 choice award for outstanding academic title. he is the co-editor of the ottoman empire middle east section of the 1914-19 18 online international encyclopedia of the first world war. if you have not use that as a resource yet, you really need to take a look at it. that 1914-1918 encyclopedia is
spectacular with global contributors, many of whom you have seen on the stage today, and on the stage if you have been here before. do check that out. thank you for the work you have put into that. he is currently working on a monograph about the ottoman empire's postwar years. if you prefer to take your knowledge and set of in book form but via a good bit of your listening, you should also check out some podcasts he has on ottoman history. you can put his name into any of your favorite places to get your podcast, and listen to some great conversations. i highly suggest that as well. you'll find out how great he is to listen to in just about 10 seconds. this afternoon, he will speak to
this ongoing research and explore the ottoman moment and its dramatic impact on the ethnization of the ottoman empire. please put your hands together. [applause] >> good afternoon. thank you for this great introduction and thank you camille for the work you put into this and my thanks in the av booth. thank you everyone for this great museum. it is great maybe for the exception of the chilly weather, but i am from new orleans. i have the excuse to say that. today, what i want to talk about is the ottoman empire and the
aftermath of the great war. to be able to understand this crucial moment in the ottoman empire and to understand middle eastern history better and get a better grasp of it, we first turn our attention to the ottoman great war experience. here we go. it's not easy to be the first speaker after the lunch break but i'll try to make it interesting. for the ottoman people, the 10 long years between 1912 and 1922, it was a period of crisis which was in conflict. the wars of 1912 and 1913, the first world war from 1914 through 1918, and then the turkish war of independence in 1919 and 1922, and exhausted the empire's capital, leaving millions of people dead, wounded and captive.
millions of other were widowed, orphaned and grieved. it was a much larger scale than the conflict that preceded and followed it. it's four years from october 1914 to october 1918. the hope of regaining the territories lost in the previous conflict is the most valuable, but also the empire's last promise in africa, to the cold war against italy in 1911, 1912. more importantly, achieved full economic independence brought the ottomans into the war.
the utilization by the government that the war would spread to ottoman territories and that the empire cannot survive such a massive conflict on its own. it drove them into a search for an alliance in europe. to their credit, they did everything in their power and capacity to approach great britain, france, and even russia, their archenemy, and propose them to accept the ottomans into their alliance. for them, the ottoman empire was a liability. germans told it the other way around. the ottomans signed the treaty of alliance with germany a 1914. -- on august 2, 1914. that same day they declare mobilization in ottoman turkish. after three months of neutrality, the ottoman empire finally entered the war on october 29, 1914 on the side of the great powers.
this is a fact you are familiar with. it is slightly misleading. because bulgaria by that point in 1914 was not part of the alliance. i am learning -- ok. this was an alliance of three in the beginning, germany, austria, hungary, and the ottoman empire. after september 1915, after the bulgarians joined the alliance, they became an alliance. [laughter] dr. akin: over the next four years, the ottomans would find the world war. you can guess which one the ottomans are. they confronted the russians.
they fought against the british imperial and french forces. most famously at the dardanelles. they fought the british again in palestine and the swiss canal zones and in mesopotamia. but also ottoman troops saw combat in european theaters of war to support their wartime allies germany, and austria and hungary. in macedonia and romania. to the surprise of allies and enemies, the ottoman army prove to be more resilient than expected. although its size and strength
diminished throughout the four years of the war as a result of casualties and a high rate of desertions, it maintained the war until the very end and no one expected that. throughout the war, the ottoman empire was able to tie down large enemy contingents. diverting them from european theaters of combat. they fought successful battles and scored remarkable victories. such as the defense of the dardanelles, one of the most important turning points in the history of the first world war. it is lesser-known but still important, a siege in 1916, and surrender of the 13,000 strong british indian division. the largest and most
embarrassing for the british until 1942. this was not enough to win the war. number one, it was very heavy on -- it took a heavy toll on the ottomans in terms of human and material losses. at the beginning of the great war, the ottoman empire was estimated to be 19 to 20 million people. out of the 2.9-three mobilized into the armed forces, foreign -- forces, i want to pause a little bit here. the empire that did not have evolved industry, it did not have an efficient transportation system, and human resources basically, this is an enormous
feat. mobilizing so many men and keeping them on the battlefield for four years of war was enormously difficult. everyone struggled with that, but especially ottomans because of what i detailed, it was extremely difficult. the home population suffered the impacts of the difficulty. of the 2.9 million of soldiers mobilizing into the armed forces, the empire would suffer 770,000 fatalities. as you can see in this chart, most of them are from epidemics and other diseases. 750,000 are wounded and as you see here, 300,000 were seriously wounded.
you don't know anything about these people. in that sense, the research of the ottoman's great war is a mystery. how did families survive the war? you don't know. you cannot find a single sentence in the literature about the ottoman great war, you cannot find anything about them. 250,000 and did up and four in -- ended up in foreign captivity, mostly in russia and egypt, but also in places like india and burma. many did not return to the ottoman empire. the gigantic loss of human capital had enormous social consequences for the whole population. the states that were established
in the region following the demise of the ottoman empire, this is not the subject of our talk today. i'm not going to talk about socialism in the ottoman empire. but let me give one interesting example that i hope you find interesting. this is a map that shows the ratio of widowhood according to the 1927 census. even after a full decade, after the war, in the ottoman empire, the number of widows reached 50%. that's an enormously high number. this is despite the fact of the problematic nature of the census with the young republic not strong enough to take a consensus.
still, by 1927, enormously high numbers of widows throughout the empire. this sort of misleads you. the numbers could not be that low. this was an indicator of the young republic's weakness in taking census in those remote areas of the republic. by the time the guns fell silent in october of 1918, ottoman society was completely traumatized. the casualties truly devastated the infrastructure, voluntary and involuntary displacement, ethnic cleansing.
most of the empire came under comprising today's syria, iraq, jordan, israel and palestine, it came under occupation, mostly by the british. in 1918, the warships crossed the straits which they did not cross during the war. they reached the imperial capital, his temple, or constantinople. the end of the war launched the empire into a painful period of instability and uncertainty. the leaders that had ruled the empire during the war fled the
country in a german submarine in 1918. they left behind a largely discredited but still intact organization. the collapse of the wartime regime and the arrival of importantly, the global spread of national self-determination energized the empire's minorities as never before. each had aspirations of self-determination. a series of short lived mostly ineffectual governments struggled to navigate this complicated sociopolitical landscape. all the while, they strove to have a defensive strategy to convince the peacemakers in paris to salvage the occupied
parts of the empire. one of the major communities of the empire, the ottoman greeks, and to them self-determination mend union with mainland greece. you can see the propaganda posters printed in 1920. it shows the gentleman on the , this is aorner famous greek prime minister. he is at a peace conference, there were economic arguments, but most importantly return of self-determination to make territorial claims on western anatolian coastlines. the ottoman greeks constitute a sizable minority.
eventually he managed to charm the peacemakers into granting greece several areas including smirnov, which happened to include my own hometown. untilymore because, but 2004. meanwhile, the armenians aimed to establish a large, independent armenia. at the end of the war, tens of thousands of survivors of the armenian genocide returned to their towns and villages in the ottoman empire to reclaim and reestablish their lives that have been destroyed. these developments are happening at the level of everyday life but also higher, triggered deep anxiety among ottoman turks who were the democratic majority. the turks new they could count
on very few supporters in paris. in their minds, the war would have lasted much shorter if the ottomans had remained neutral. the peacemakers, much more were also furious at the ottomans for wartime treatment of non-muslim minorities, especially armenians. during the war, the government was engaged in ambitious demographic engineering projects, able to act freely without foreign interference, they had total control of
jurisdiction in law enforcement. they had a monopoly on violence. while all villages in world war i practiced population politics through deportation resettlement, none of these were as destructive as the policies for the ottoman empire's long-established armenian community. during and after the war, the genocide was publicized in western europe and the u.s. the armenians plight and growing some of these of laypeople and the statesman elected, before and after the war, they were a number of publications that were very popular, and movies as well.
many examples of literature in the u.s. and europe. this created a deep and widespread some of the for the armenians. for the peacemakers, the long record of the government, the wartime massacres, demonstrated the ottoman turks's incapacity to properly administer a multiethnic population. they said you cannot do it, just give it up. but what does that mean? although they sensed the anger and contact direct it toward -- and contempt directed towards them, the ottomans still harbored hope that fundamentally reform could have a new informational system based on principles that would allow them a dignified place postwar. that the ottoman turks like many others, they pinned their hopes
of preserving the empire's historic integrity on this plan laid out by president wilson. after all, wilson had promised them such dignity in the draft of his 14 points. for those who are not familiar, the famous 14 points -- maybe not as famous as the other points but still famous, there was part of the ottoman empire but other nationalities which are not under turkish law should be part of opportunity and of development. and the dardanelles should be permanently opened as a free passage to the ships and commerce of all nations under international guarantees.
for the ottoman turks, the 12 points indisputably recognized turkish sovereignty. it was seen as wilson's personal commitment to the turkish portions of the empire. yet, there was a problem because it did not define the borders of the turkish portion. like many other points, it was a very vague statement. and it did not provide criteria to determine that. are result, the empires wide-ranging. if you go through the archives of great britain and france you'll see even the smallest minorities of the ottoman empire reach out to the peace conference to claim autonomy or assert rights for themselves.
all of them, especially the major communities of the empire, engaged in a protracted war of words, deploying principles of self-determination and government against one another. expectedly, the ottoman minorities embrace the second part of the class and use the peace conference to further claims for autonomy and separation from the empire. the ottoman turks on the other hand seized on the first part. in a short span of time, they became very proficient at speaking in rhetoric against greek and armenian territorial claims. what is fascinating for me is
that this process was not coordinated by the government or any other central body. for six months between november 18th and may of 1919, there was a remarkable rising activism. this activism was manifested and the emergence of hundreds of local clubs and civil society organizations. this in the former province of the empire acting outside the , control of the authorities. they embraced self-determination. they collected material, drew up maps and statistics, and produced historical and economic arguments. i call this fascinating process .
is really unprecedented, peace makers to the great dismay of the turks the conference sanctioned and the esult of long discussion and mostly because of the dislike of italians sanked the greek occupation in may 1919. this represented a dramatic turning point in the twilight years of the empire, the most important turning point which came after the six months. the conference approved confirmed the otmon's worst fears that the peace makers had decided to partition the empire and including to their great dismay the turkish portion.
here, in this interesting picture this is arguably the most important female personality of the 20th century otmon empire. he was a feminist, liberal nationalist and also a great ovel writer. and vocal against the occupation. this was from protest meetings which hundreds of thousands attended. cannot read, here he writes the principle number 12. so in all of these -- and these and later protests, turks referred to the 12-point over and over again.
the mission which was sent to antollia to answer to assert in the public opinion about the possible mandate found out that all the people ranging from the mple peasants to the people, from tirkish nationalists to kurds, everybody's perfectly profission in speaking estoneion. during their stop in as ram, eastern antollia, they he were met with these kinds of signs. long live article 12. or this one. two soldiers again holding the rinciples number 12. the sense of cautious occupation, the sense of cautious optimism that had per
vaded the opt mon public opinion before the occupation gave way to dissolutionment and hopelessness. dramatically changed circumstances on the ground, coupled with the deep anxiety bout the empire disillusion. generated an intense debate over the future of the empire and prompted a range of responses from the otmon turks. public opinion was energized and deeply divided by the essential question of how to escape from imperial devise in he face of difficulties. a number were proposed. what was was the idea of accepting a great power mandate. it was for most as a means of ding the empire, and any attempts to partition.
those were advocated and the numbers were not really small, especially the influence of these people, they were all major journalists, intellectuals, were advocating for an american mandate. those who advocated for bringing the empire under a believed that the people could achieve self-security only by accepting into great power protectional. for many the only power this could provide that could play this perfect role was the united states. an american mandate would not only ensure the empire's integrity but also bring ability and progress to this war-torn conflict save it from the institution and last but not least frustrate the minorities' claims of autonomy.
in contrast, those who favored an american mandate, a small but influential group of intellectuals and politicians emerged as ardent supporters of the british mandate or protection. they denounced an american mandate. they asserted that only a great power with a long history of friendship with the otmon empire and models in general could do this efficiently. for them there was only one country, one way forward could play such a role, great britain. for them the recent anminty had only been brief interludes of a long long relationship. since those who have instigated this, the unionists, had fallen from power, they believed that the british would eagerly resume their amicable
relationship with the empire if the otmon's appealed for their support. although the system would in clude through the league of nation they dismissed it as being a little more than colonial rule. yet many of these skeptics still admired, still after so many things, they still admired president wilson and the united states as a benevolent and disinterested power. rather than abomb nate the framers the majority of turks including the leadership of the tion of the resistant moment
slowly, a resistant movement s developing, continued to oppose the framework. this great occupation cemented the idea among them that merely embracing the principle, the record, no matter how passionate and articulate it was, would not suffice to the il the ambitions and decline of the air mainians. they realized the need to go beyond historical arguments as were done before the greek occupation. they realized these are not enough any more so the situation is much more serious on the ground. they need to do something else. they needed to come up with a different solution again within the ruberic. they realize they need to show that there was a significant public support behind the claims because the some of the
claims were dismissed, the expression of only a couple of people, only a small minority. the nation realizing at this moment they need to show that this is actually the concept in this way. they are again -- it is against the claims. it was a whole lot more people they argued, much of the group of intellectuals and politicians who were against it. they were all against these they tried to show. a rare effect that wilson often equated such determination with the concept of the government and popular surrounding, the emerging from the very beginning from the first days on represented itself as the personifyication of the conscience and determined self-. in this self-determination, who is actually the self?
that creates a big problem. is it a community? is it ethnicity, nationality? who is that? that was a big problem that puzzled everyone around this time including the eastern europeans and many others in this process that followed the great war. the nationals represented themselves in the movement is the personifyication of a conscious and determined nation itself. did r, i would argue and not yet exist. ordinary ottomans were mostly ambivalent if not indifferent. nationals did not happen overnight. a matter of contingency. while claiming that they embodied turkish nation, they got engaged in a contentious
project. the extension of the public sphere to local mass meetings, protest campaigns, popular publicications, local congresses and finally the opening of the parliament in ankara. all for this purpose. it was this process of self-forming in the face of enormous international difficulties but especially in the face of the greek and air mainian encroachments that made an unprecedently high number of ordinary ottman's conscious about turblingish for the first time. a similar process was of course happening among the greeks and ar menions as well. and others as well. in the final months of 1919, however, at one point they said enough is enough. and this happened all the way so this is a
arsh thing that was imposed. so divided the empireamong of influence and also carved out armenian and kurdish provinces etc and left very little room, as you see here in our natale, very little for the turkish portions that describing 12 of the 14 points were was very much diminished here. the united states in the meantime had withdrawn into its
isolationist position. doctor product or talks about that, it was not isolationist but you understand we're. friends what's going place of the peace process. they were all ambitious about dividing and covering up the middle east. by hen, the nationalist movement, under the leadership of mustafa kemal pasaha and later the movement gained a an increasingly nationalist change with an anti christian change. is engaged in a policy of and ixing the empires. this policy of course ultimately sought to create new ethnographic realities on the ground. to make it practically impossible for greek and our media to
claim territorial sovereignty based on any part of an a chillier as a democratic ajority. the next three years, between 1920 and 22, would be characterized by massacres, pillage, violence, and forced deportation of the ottoman non muslims. it's not specific to the turkish nation in this period. the greeks in a significant portion of western and utterly out were doing the same thing. they were creating new democratic realities on the ground. they were expelling turks, committing massacres just to terrorize them, so they engaged in policies with similar if not more disastrous consequences for the impose muslims. that was the period between 1918 and 1922 in and
was equally disastrous, if not more disastrous than the great war. the dynamics significantly intensified under the conditions of the full blown war between the greek occupation army and the turkish nationalist forces. by the second half of 1920, the nationalists had managed to organize a second successful resistance movement in an utterly. three go for diplomacy, most notably they were buff by the both of ex. both victims were willing to combine with the nationalists against a common enemy imperialism. the extensive use of coercion and an intensive propaganda effort based on islamic oriented patriotism,
which came to dominate the nationalist rhetoric following the demise of the soviet moment. during the war of independence, nationalists (inaudible) had used policies experimented in world war i. many were commanders or politicians who served during world war one. they took the lessons of world war one very carefully and implemented most of the policies that had been experimented during the great work. some to an even more destructive agree degree. unlike in the previous conflict however, unlike in the first world war, these policies this time significantly contributed to the defeat of the enemy. the nationalist victory victory against the greek army marked the official end of ottoman
coexistence. the treaty of a low sun, signed in july 1923, stipulated the love of the largest force population exchange in history had till the second world war, approximately 900,000 argument christians and 800,000 greek muslims were forcibly resettled in our homeland most of them had never visited before. my great grandparents were among them. to conclude, despite the extensive devastation of the great war, i would argue the empire would have survived. and its religious coexistence could ave been reestablished. it was the destructive interplay between the international climate and local ambitions that irreversibly widened the gap between non muslims and the muslim majority. and dashed all these prospects for ever. this
interplay between the international and local dynamics that to the development of a sense of national consciousness among turks, arabs, kurds, armenians, creeks, and others. helping people of different ethnicities imagine themselves for the first time as communities with their own separate history, territories, practices, beliefs, and expressions for the future aspirations for the future. the poisonous climate created by these developments eventually contributed to the collapse of the empire in 1922, led to the widespread persecution of ottoman on muslims, and as i discussed, either muslims as well, and finally gave well to a deeply entrenched anti european, anti american sentiment among the muslim minority majority that is still dominate in the region today. therefore to be able to better understand what's going on in the middle east today,
once again we need to turn our attention to this crucial historical movement moment in the region. thank you. applause). as you may know we would love to open up the floor for questions. there are microphones on other side, so we'd invite you to come down and go ahead and ask away. fog and, if you are unable to come down to the microphone you can flag me and i will walk up to you. i'm blinded by these lights. you're first question is coming from drew ferguson. can you talk about memory in the army after 1920. how did the soldiers think about -- how to the turkish soldiers think about their comrades who had
been there and had been there on the other side of that process. was there a conflict? how is it memorialized? what did you do with the fact that someone had been served loyally? i have a simple question for you. we don't know. (laughs) we don't know of both the duration but we don't know why especially at the level of coordination. the vast majority around this time was illiterate. according to the same census of 1927, the level of literacy among the other turks was higher of course as you can expect in the city population centers within the countryside and much more. more of these shoulders were peasant
boys and didn't know any of these legal documents. this is why they were for example in our media for example and the second problem that this is problematic that all of these memories which is a shame that is extensive in all of history that is conducted and probably ost important that the ationalist indignation process created a climate that has created absorbed all of these memories. those distinctions that the boy feel good about the soldiers and they weren't as brave as we are and got
lost. the individual memory was very difficult to recover. i wish i could give a better answer on the history of raphical problems. our second question is from the ther side of the room. you showed the casualty before on the screen. i was wondering, the why were the casualties so high? casualty of the troops? casualty of the leadership? or is it a central mean that nified the soldier to the wars that's a good question. first f all, the infrastructure is
sustained -- let's easy if i can go back. the infrastructure problems i mean let me show this one first. this map interestingly shows the rules f the empire which is listed and the burning road and goes all the way to the eastern manager erin and to the modern miscible team in. the most important war zone where do you ee anything here? this was the coldest and most difficult limate. the nearest station to front is 800 kilometers. so, the infrastructure problems you cannot -- this was a major war
zone. hundreds of thousands of other shoulders fought and how o establish the medical source there which is in the numbers we see. we see such a high number of diseases. especially in the first part of the war which would deal with these problems effectively. eventually the numbers of oldiers would decrease and had more efficient solutions. such a high number existed. so our reason is that. the other reason is the difficult climate or in the south in melbourne mia which is a part of these climates and is not possible to extend the resources of the oldiers.
is it also true that the informant of the war -- that prisoners weren't taken? they wouldn't treat the turkish prisoners that they wouldn't treat the iranians as well. it's much easier to kill your wounded? that probably happened as well. but i would not give too much credit to that explanation. you see a very high number of prisoners here so the most important reason in memoirs we don't encounter the mention of that. i would say especially infrastructure problems played a role in that sense.
our next question is from the ide of the room. could you speak to what we might call the rise and fall of kurdistan? hat's an interesting point. it constituted a significant minority in the empire and it was intended to aaliyah iran for the autumn in they always represented the problem because they were around those areas and they had their own social economic relations and their own tribal settings and they did not really and not to care about the autumn in authority and a lot of time they escaped from paying taxes because they could and. if you read the
ottoman documents about they are disobedient people., a politics i, mentioned at the beginning of my thought, it was directed toward non muslims especially arming years, as was the seven second side left a discussed of population politics as well. the engaged in a similar process population engineering towards turkey. millions, maybe more than that but certainly a very high number of courts were escaping from 1915, 1916, 1917, from eastern under 20 to the west. unionists took this opportunity once again the opportunity of the war, took this opportunity nd wanted to turn courage into obedient or effective citizens of the ottoman empire. how to
do that? to reset to separate them from the tribal the, tribal leaders, basically to scatter them around the empire. but some of these attempts for more successful but generally speaking, it was a hugely ambitious project. kurds in, he aftermath of the great war, like everyone else, came up with their own political ambitions. political ambitions of independence or autonomy within the ottoman empire. up to this point this mostly came from the more educated members f the kurdish community. the tribes, the more conservative sections of the kurdish, population remains loyal to the ottoman's. they realize that
the international political opinion favored at the armenians. they realized that if those projects off armenian independence or autonomy projects were implemented, that would mean the end of their own existence or would make it very difficult for them. so this is why they remained very closed and they fought side by side in the war off independence, the turkish war of independence, with the turks, against a conman enemy, against the non muslims, the greek occupying army. this of course follows a long history off a series of kurdish results. they felt betrayed by the young republic and basically claimed that we helped you to establish this country we, don't deserve any
place? the young republican what's clear about that in, no. if you continue to emphasize your ethnic identity, that no you don't. so in a long history of kurdish reforms followed the aftermath of the great won. the biggest one in 1925. it british a good to destroy those kinds of sensitive documents we cannot find anything in the british archives. but there. all the way after there was a long-standing period all the way to 1970s, 19 eighties, and the demands at the moment of kurdish autonomy once again emerged. so that was a basic rash course about the kurdish. you know the rest. that was a basic crash course about the kurdish movements. >> thank you very much. >> all right.