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The Ottoman Empire and World War I, Sarajevo, 16-20 May 2012‏

Turkish Studies Project Conference III
The Ottoman Empire and World War I
16-20 May 2012
Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina

The Turkish Studies Project at the University of Utah and the University of
Sarajevo are delighted to announce a jointly-organized three-day conference
to examine the causes and the short and long-term socio-political impact of
World War I (WWI) on the post-Ottoman spaces and on the formation of the
modern nation-states. This conference is the third in a series initiated by
the Turkish Studies Project at the University of Utah. The first conference,
with a thematic focus on the Berlin Treaty of 1878, was held in April 2010,
and an edited volume of the conference papers was published in August 2011.
A second conference on the impact of the Balkan Wars took place in May 2011,
and an edited volume is now being prepared for publication. Next year’s
conference, the last in the series, will address the WWI and its short and
long-term implications for the post-Ottoman spaces. The papers presented
and discussed at this conference will be peer-reviewed and edited for
publication. The conference will address the following broad themes in the
context of the Ottoman empire: mobilization, ethnic/civic/religious
nationalism, mass education, public opinion, modernity, modern warfare,
(counter)insurgency, decision-making processes under war conditions, popular
legitimacy, nation-building, re-colonization, and memory.

The International System and the Major European Powers
The first section of the conference will focus on the following questions:
what were the major characteristics of the balance of power before WWI? How
does neo-realism or constructivism explain the breakdown of the system? Did
ideational factors such as religion, race, or ideology play any role in the
alliance formation? Was the war inevitable or a war of choice? Was it
possible for a multi-ethnic and multi-religious empire survive within an
international system based on the (ethnic) national state? What was the
impact of the principle of self-determination on the Ottoman state? Why did
the major European powers use their resources to promote “rights and
liberties” in the Ottoman domain but vehemently suppressed the same
principles in their own colonial domains? What were the policies of the
major European powers toward the Ottoman state over reforms? This section
will consider key factors and principles in the international system leading
up to WWI, and identify its particular bearing on the Ottoman empire:
• The assassination of the Austrian Archduke and heir apparent, Franz
Ferdinand, by a Serb, Gavrilo Princip, in Sarajevo, triggering tensions that
led to an Austro-Hungarian invasion into Serbia, which activated its
alliance with Russia.
• The German failure to reach a renewal of its agreements with Russia,
or get Britain to join its alliance with Austro-Hungary and Italy in the
late 19th century, leading to the Triple Entente between Britain, France and
Russia in 1907 in light of German naval expansion at sea.
• The unilateral Austrian annexation of Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1908,
causing an embarrassment for Russia and adding incentive for a more
aggressive approach.
• Russia’s interest in seeing the Ottoman empire dissolve due to its
interest in access to the Mediterranean through control of the Black Sea and
critical straits (Dardanelles, Bosphorus), leading the Ottoman empire to
side with Germany and finding itself in conflict with the British and the
• The German support of pan-Islamism, and its impression that the
caliph would be in a position to lead a global Muslim insurrection against
Britain and Russia, creating a miscalculation of force.
• The questions surrounding the reasons for which the Ottoman empire
entered WWI: How was the Ottoman decision-making influenced by the
capitulations, diplomatic isolation, the forced Armenian reforms of 1914,
and the Russian demands? Was there room for human agency considering the
structural conditions in the decision to enter war? Was going to war a
national struggle for survival, as Ottoman intellectuals perceived it
following the defeat in the Balkan Wars, and an expression of hope to
protect what was left in Anatolia and Syria/Iraq, or did the empire have a
choice to remain neutral and was acting out of ambition to gain lost
• The Aftermath of WWI, which left a persistent legacy in terms of
shaping memory, institutions, frontiers and political positions, involves
significant residual effects on the post-Ottoman landscape.

The Balkans
• What do Balkan historiographies tell us about the causes and
consequences of the War? What types of questions are raised? What were the
legacies of the Balkan Wars (1912-1913) Did these political legacies turn
into instrument of mobilization and desire for revenge? What were the
dominant intellectual discourses in the Balkans on Islam, the Ottoman empire
and the Turks?
• The Balkan decision-making, analyzing the channels through which
voices were articulated, with an emphasis on intellectual discourse and the
public sphere.
• The Balkan Muslims, considering their significance for the Austrians
who sought to have them embrace Austrian occupation and administration of
former Ottoman territory such as Kosovo and Shkoder, and their position in
the midst of the new waves of religious and ethnic cleansing that shaped
politics in the region.

Anatolia: After the ethnic cleansing of Muslims and Turks in the Balkans,
the question was: will Ottoman Empire be confined to Anatolia or will it
disappear? This section will focus on the following four key questions: (a)
how did the loss of the Balkans and the treatment of Muslims shape public
opinion before the War? How did war conditions shape the policies of the
Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) towards the non-Muslim minorities? (b)
More specifically, was the fate of the Armenian community reflective of
advance planning and organization on the part of the CUP? Had the
deportation been part of the CUP’s intentions before the First World War, or
was it the option of last resort exhausting efforts to cooperate with the
Armenians? What were the major faultlines within the Armenian community? In
short, if Ottoman war policies in fact evolved in response to the changing
conditions of the war, were there incremental radicalization policies
against the Armenian communities? In a stricter sense of causality-to what
extent was the decision to deport the Armenians a function of Turkish
nationalist ideology, or was it a response to security concerns? (c) How did
ordinary Muslims gel mobilized? What was the dominant public attitude
towards the state policies in early 1915? To what extent did other factors
such as epidemic disease and hunger affect the calamities in Anatolia? (d)
Did the war lead to a rebirth of a new nation with institutions? What
explains the ottoman army snail pace movement in Anatolia? When and how
did the empuire’s Muslim elite define Anatolia as the new homeland? How did
the historiography of the War come to be shaped in the Turkish Republic, and
how did the narrative about the War start being disseminated among the Turk?
  The consequences of the loss in the Balkans and the ethnic cleansing
of Turks there, in terms of their influence on public opinion in Anatolia
before the war and the attitudes there toward non-Muslims minorities,
especially with the decision to deport.
The leadership of the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP),
examining the extent to which it was in touch with realities on the ground
in Anatolia, and whether this leadership captured and represented the hearts
and thoughts of the Muslims in the land.
The security concerns in Anatolia, looking at the degree to which
fears of collapse in light of the changing conditions of the war may have
led to radicalizations of policies against the Armenian communities as
defense mechanism.
The Turkish nationalist ideology, evaluating the role it played in
setting Armenians apart, and whether it has a causal relationship with their
fate, and exploring the measure of religious sentiments involved in Turkish
national identity.
• Comparability, juxtaposing the Armenian episode with the Greek,
Albanian, Circassian, and Kurdish cases during WWI.
  The considerations behind the military decisions made in Anatolia,
seeking to explain the Ottoman army’s “snail pace” movement in Eastern
Anatolia, Enver Pasha decision to launch the Sarıkamış front against Russia,
and the role of the Teşkilât-ı Mahsusa before and during the war.

Caucasus (Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia)
  The Caucasian perspective, forming an understanding of the factors
that led to WWI and its implications through Caucasian historiographies and
the curriculum of these nation-states, and determining the predominant
discourse in such works.
  The Russian perspective, looking for ties between the environment
created with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the development of
Caucasian “national historiographies,” and identifying the Russian policy in
the Caucasus during WWI.
• The Ottoman perspective, examining the sense of threat created by
its perception of Russian strategy, the social and psychological reasons for
the Ottoman fear of Russia, and the impact this fear had on Ottoman war

Arab Provinces
• What do Arab historiographies tell us about the causes and
consequences of the WWI? The Arab perspective, studying the existing
material on the experience of WWI through the manner in which the war is
taught in Arab nation-states, and through Arab historiographies, to the
extent that a unified methodological theme may be found in these works.
• The degree of Arab loyalty to the Ottoman empire, inquiring whether
the policies of the CUP toward the Arabs had a considerable influence on the
unfolding of the war, and, in case the Arab disillusionment with the empire
had not already passed the point of repair, whether sufficient effort was
invested in getting the populations of the Arab provinces to support the
Ottoman cause.
• The plans for the region, recognizing the impact of different
visions for the region on the eve of WWI, be it Western political and
economic interests, the embryonic Arab nationalist movement, or the
increasing Jewish immigration to Palestine.
• The consequences of WWI, examining the changes in the region
following the conclusion of the war, in terms of the Western attempt to sort
between competing interests and shape the map of the Arab Middle East post
Ottoman rule, and the role the state-system play in the region’s

The organizers will provide accommodation and meals for the duration of the
conference but we would be grateful if you could approach your own
institution in the first instance to cover travel costs. If travel cost
cannot be obtained from scholar’s home institution, the conference will
provide partial support for travel. Participants should plan to arrive at
Sarajevo airport on May 16. The conference will begin on the morning of May
17, and end in the late afternoon of May 20.

Please reply to this e-mail as soon as possible, simply informing us whether
or not you will be able to attend. Then, we would like to receive the title
of your paper and a 250 word abstract by December 15th, 2011, and a first
draft by March 15th, 2012; this will enable us to put the papers on a
dedicated website before the conference starts. The papers will be edited
and published in the course of 2013. We very much hope that you will be
able to participate.

M. Hakan Yavuz (University of Utah); Edin Radusic (University of Sarajevo) Mehmet Hacisalihoglu (Yildiz Teknik Universitesi)