Mogens Pelt’s project – University of Copenhagen

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Mogens Pelt’s project

Greek” Young Turks and Visions of an Orthodox-Ottoman Empire 1876–1950, falls within the chronological unit Empire and Nation States in Post-Ottoman Times 1870–1950. Its starting point is that the last decades of the Ottoman Empire saw the rise of two non-national but multiconfessional projects which aimed at modernization based on the preservation of the state framework of the Ottoman Empire. One had its origin in the centre of the empire, with the state elite, and is the subject of Abdullah Simsek’s study as part of the project, while the other, which Mogens Pelt wants to explore, developed in the largest non-Muslim community, the Greek Orthodox.This arose in a context where the government endeavoured to create a shared Ottoman identity based on equality between the country’s Muslim and non-Muslim citizens in a state under the leadership of the Ottoman Sultan. The aim was community across confessions and popular support for the Ottoman state.

The project culminated after the revolution of the Young Turks, with the introduction of a constitution in 1908 and the holding of a series of elections to the newly established Ottoman parliament in the years 1908 to 1912. These efforts are known as Ottomanism. Advocates of the Greek-Orthodox project recognized Ottomanism as a valid marker of pan-Ottoman community and believed that it made sense to talk of all the citizens of the Ottoman Empire as a united people in a shared Orthodox-Ottoman Empire – the “Eastern Empire”. At the same time, there was such a strong faith in the new constitution and the parliamentary process that it created a firm belief that the Greek Orthodox community had the necessary strength and dynamism to affect the development of both state and society. The project was also formulated as a response to what was called the national alternative, that is, the policy that looked to a Greek national state, regarding a Greater Greece as a natural state framework for Greek Orthodox people in the Ottoman Empire. It is remarkable that the project for the Eastern Empire also developed after Greece’s triumph in the Balkan Wars of 1912–13.

After the Greek-Turkish population exchange in 1922–23 (comprising over 1.5 million people) and the formation of the Turkish national state, the project was reformulated to recommend the formation of a Greek-Turkish federation as the most natural form of state formation. In other words, this was a project that actively rejected the nation state and regarded the multiconfessional and ethnically mixed empire as the preferred starting point for political and social modernization based on parliamentarism, confessional equality and individual freedom.

The aim of the study is to investigate the interaction between the projects to establish Ottomanism and the Eastern Empire, the significance of parliamentarism and liberal values as ideologies and tools for the development of the new empire, the interplay between the vision of the Eastern Empire and its confessional hinterland, and the impact of the project on the post-Ottoman world, especially in Greece after 1923.

The results of the study will be issued as two separate contributions to the publications of project, and together with the monograph In the Service of the Sultan and the Greek State: The Transformation of the Eastern Mediterranean from Multiethnic Empire to Nation States Reflected through the Life of Bodosakis-Athanasiadis this is what Mogens Pelt expects to produce during the project period.