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LUCIS What's New Lecture

Ottoman Christians in Dr. Resid’s Balıkesir Notes: Towards the Radicalization of the Unionist Demographic Policies

Thursday 14 March 2019
Free to visit, drinks after
What's New?! Spring Lecture Series
Cleveringaplaats 1
2311 BD Leiden

Soon after his appointment as a governor (mutasarrıf) to Karesi (in Northwestern Anatolia) in 1913 following the Unionist seizure of power with the Bâb-ı Âlîcoup earlier in the same year, a prominent Young Turk, Dr. Mehmed Reşid Şahingiray embarks on a fact-finding mission in the region. His aim was to collect information and make assessments for the central committee of the Committee of Union and Progress. His fact-finding mission was one of the few others conducted again by important Unionists during the same time period. These fact-finding missions seem to have aimed at collecting all sorts of information about the peoples, physical structures and natural resources of the regions. Dr. Reşid’s travel notes named as Balıkesir Notları (Balıkesir Notes)constitute an important example of such documents. The year 1913, at which Dr. Reşid’s notes were written, was a crucial turning point for the Ottoman Empire and the Unionists. The former entered into an almost constant period of warfare that would essentially end in 1922 and the latter were radicalized, brought to almost absolute power and reshaped the entire Ottoman society during their tenure.  

Dr. Reşid’s notes present a vista into the mindset of a Unionist who would soon play a very central role in the formulation and execution of demographic engineering policies against the non-Muslims of the Ottoman Empire. Although Dr. Reşid is mostly known for his role in the atrocities against Ottoman Armenians during the Great War this particular travel notes talk about a region where a considerable amount of the population were Ottoman Orthodox Christians, or Rum. Dr. Reşad’s perception of these Ottoman Orthodox Christians, and Greeks in general, provide us with a snapshot of the Unionist mindset that will soon affect the lives of hundreds of thousands of Ottoman Christians in the ousting of 1914. This presentation contextualizes this primary source and critically studies it in order to demonstrate the radicalization of the Unionist mindset against the Ottoman Christians (particularly the Orthodox communities and Greeks) following the rather turbulent period after the Balkan Wars.

About Emre Erol

Emre Erol is an assistant professor of history at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at Sabancı University (Istanbul). He completed his Ph.D. at Leiden University’s department of Middle Eastern Studies and his M.A. (history) and his undergraduate studies (social and political sciences) at Sabanci University. His doctoral dissertation is published as a book titled The Ottoman Crisis in Western Anatolia/Turkey’s Belle Époque and the Transition to a Modern Nation Stateby I.B. Tauris in 2016. He worked at the University of Leiden and taught a variety of courses between 2009 - 2016. He worked in the department of Middle Eastern Studies, the International Studies and the International Honours College of Leiden University at The Hague (LUC). He taught courses in the fields of history, area studies, political science and philosophy. His main areas of interest are the late Ottoman history, modern Turkish history, migration and capitalism in the Eastern Mediterranean, comparative Area Studies and nationalisms. He is involved with research projects and freelance consulting in addition to teaching.

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