The Last Ottoman Generation and Interwar Europe

With the fall of the Ottoman Empire a centuries-old political player on the European scene disappeared for good. It was not the only empire to fall at the hands of the Great War: the Habsburg Empire, the Russian Empire and the German Kaiser Reich all fell apart, while the Paris Peace Conference ushered in a new era of nation states. Even the Middle Eastern territories of the Ottoman Empire, though in many ways simply the spoils of war of the French and British Empire, were embedded in a post-war international regime monitored by a new international organization – the Mandates System of the League of Nations – and imagined as a way for the new territories to develop into proper nation states under the benevolent guidance of supposedly more civilized western democracies. Yet, Ottoman political, economic, cultural networks and institutions did not go away – the afterness of the Empire was profound. A last Ottoman generation would be propelled into all manner of new positions, maneuvering between the new world of nation states and the lingering imperial webs.

This workshop proposes to study these lingering webs of the empire and its last generation, through the lives of a handful of Ottoman subjects who navigated a new Europe. It proposes that Ottoman structures and identities were significant in shaping the trajectories of these lives, and that an important part of European history is lost, if we do not take this afterness seriously. The workshop is structured around eight papers, each taking offset in a specific person to shed light on an aspect of interwar Europe. Taken together they are meant to present a first mosaic of how the lasting effects of the Ottoman Empire and the economic, cultural and political laboratory of interwar Europe intertwined – thus bringing together two important strands of literature, and filling the gap between them. 


  • Mogens Pelt (Associate Professor, Saxo Institute, University of Copenhagen)
  • Isa Blumi (Stockholm University; Visiting Associate Professor, Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies, University of Copenhagen)
  • Haakon A. Ikonomou (Postdoc, CAS, Aarhus University)


Wednesday 5 December (room 12-3-07)

Panel 1 (13:00-15:30)

Chair: Isa Blumi

Transferring Ottoman Experience and Networks into Interwar Europe: The Case of Bodosakis Athanasiadis
Mogens Pelt (University of Copenhagen)

Claimed by Turkey as subjects? The Ottoman Arab diaspora, foreign passports, and contested repatriation rights at the close of empire, 1918-1925
Stacy Fahrenthold (UC Davis)

About Love. About Cosmopolitanism. About Europe. Aspasia Schoenwald (1891-1954) and her conjunctures between Smyrna and Munich
Simone Egger (Alpen-Adria Universität)

15:00-15:30 – coffee and snacks

Panel 2 (15:30-18:00)
Chair: Mogens Pelt

Thanassis Aghnides between Empire and Nation State: Hybridity as Capital in the League of Nations Secretariat
Haakon A. Ikonomou (Aarhus University)

Biography of Violence: Naum A. Tufekchiev (1864-1916) and the Making of a Radical in Late Ottoman Europe
Ramazan Hakki Öztan (Université de Neuchâtel)

‘Charles’ and Léopold Kallinos: Retracing Belgium’s Influence in Post-Ottoman States through the Lives of Two Dragomans
Houssine Alloul (Universiteit Antwerp)

Thursday 6 December (room 12-3-07)

Panel 3 (9:30-12:00)

Chair: Haakon A. Ikonomou

Writing 1920s Istanbul into the Jazz Narrative
Carole Woodall (Colorado State University)

Fan Noli: Albanian State-building, culture and networks in interwar Balkan
Isa Blumi (Stockholm University)

The Swiss Experience of Late-Ottomans. Tracing the Forgotten Political Activists of the Levant in Interwar Switzerland
Sarah Djavid Khayati (University of Basel)