Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Hatay in History

Back when Hatay used to be the part of the Turkish-Syrian border everyone paid attention to, I thought it would be interesting to write up some of the things I discovered during my ill-fated effort to do research on the region's experience during the 1940s. Fortunately, I was able to join forces with Noga Malkin, who knew all about what was going on there now from her work with refugees in the region, and we put together an article on Hatay covering the past, present and future. Among other things, it discusses the status of refugees in Turkey, as well as the inescapable rumors of a special referendum in 2039 that could return the province to Syria. The article also serves as an opportunity to finally post this great map of Hatay (full size here) which Kerim Bayer sent me ages ago. When compared to a modern map, this one also shows, among other things, that the current province of Hatay is not the exact territory of the Sanjak of Alexandretta that became part of Turkey in 1939. Rather, the current Turkish province was extended to include some areas north of the former border to as to make the population of the territory as a whole more Turkish. 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Chaldiran at 500

Given my ongoing fascination with the 500th anniversary of the conquest of Istanbul, I am excited to publish a guest post today from my friend Gennady Kurin about the commemoration (and non-commemoration) of the 500th anniversary of the Battle of Chaldiran in Iran. Gennady is currently a doctoral student at Cambridge researching Ottoman-Safavid relations. This cool Chaldiran graphic, designed by Mehdi Fatehi, can be seen at full size here.

The Five hundredth anniversary of the Battle of Çaldıran and how the Ottoman-Safavid conflict has shaped the Middle East.

The Middle East is rapidly changing. Yet, many crises the region is currently facing and the realities it lives with remain largely misunderstood. Here is an attempt at shedding some light on the past and the present of Turkey, Iran and everything in between as well as contextualizing some key factors determining the policies of these states, and showing how the shared history is used in constructing counterproductive political discourses.

Five hundred years ago on the 23rd of August, on a plain in northwestern Iran, today merely sixty kilometers from the Turkish border, a battle was fought inaugurating more than a century-long conflict between the Ottoman Empire and its eastern neighbor – the Safavid state. The immediate consequences of this battle and the many wars that followed were not just changes in the political landscape and redrawing of state borders. The religious and ideological dimensions of this clash have reshaped the Middle East, laid the foundations of some contemporary conflicts and can be said to have created Turkey and Iran as we know them today. Thus, anybody interested in the history and politics of this region can and should understand it in the context of the Ottoman-Safavid struggle.

While the world is passively watching the developments in Iraq and Syria and the Western countries are trying to decide what their policy towards the Islamic State should be, it is in fact Turkey and Iran that are key to finding long-term solutions to some of the problems the region is now facing. Having a history of military and religious-ideological struggle these two countries, willingly or not, seem to be slipping into another potentially very dangerous conflict with their support for either Sunni or Shi’a factions. And just like the ultimate outcome of this early modern sectarian conflict the current crisis is very unlikely to bring about anything other than chaos and destruction. This text should serve as an introduction to a series of articles about the conflict and how it has reshaped the region in question.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

First (Copied) Ottoman Map of America

So I've already had to disappoint a few people who've written in about our Ottoman map of America by telling them that while this is, of course, an "Ottoman perspective" on the US, that has it's limits. The Ottomans weren't sending their own surveyors over, and this map was most likely based almost entirely on British sources. As the original draft of our Slate article on the map explained, in a paragraph that was unfortunately cut:

Information for early Ottoman maps of the new world was generally taken from the works of European cartographers, while by the later 19th century a number of Ottoman atlases were often purchased directly from British map-makers like George Philip & sons in London, who produced maps specifically for the Ottoman market.
 But I still had no idea just how closely the maker of this map had borrowed from European works until Juan Blanco was kind enough to write in and point me to the original from which Mahmoud Raif Efendi seems to have quite clearly worked. Above is British cartographer William Faden's 1796 map of the United States. What's fascinating is that almost all the text on the Ottoman version seems to be a direct translation of Faden's with the exception of the name of the United States of America. Fadden, of course, labels it the United States, while the Ottoman version calls it the Republic of the English People, or İngliz Cumhurunun Ülkesi.

Seeing how much the Ottoman cartographer copied directly from the British original makes those few points of departure all the more interesting. If anyone has any thoughts on what he did with Florida or what happened to the prominently marked "Western Territory" let us know.

Trans-Can Trucker

In addition to being an Ottoman History blog, Afternoon Map has also long aspired to be one of the leading Canadian Cartography Portals on the web. With that in mind, and, in part, to remind our readers of an earlier era where there was actually something worthwhile on the internet, we our devoting today's post to Trans-Canadian Trucker a cross-country (choose-your-own) adventure game slash Canadian coming of age story that takes you from Halifax to Vancouver in pursuit of some salt cod and maybe romance. Our only advice, before you choose your rig, is to make sure you stop at Tim Horton's...

Seriously. Play Trans-Canadian Trucker

The Other Side of WWI

To balance out our anti-German fear-mongering, not to mention our favorite maps showing the Ottoman Empire as a German colony, it seemed only fair to share this map offering a German perspective on World War One. Here are all the colonies of all of Germany's enemies in nice bright colors (though of course none of Germany's colonies are on there). I would love to know what this actually says. In any case it's hard to escape the conclusion that Germany really was missing out.

From Sotirios Dimitriadis: "The redress of injustice will be the foundation of a lasting peace" Lloyd George, January 5, 1918. According to the statement by Lloyd George, we can demand the following colonies from the Entente.

[In red:] The success of the 8th War Bond reflects the gratitude of the Homeland for the great victories in the West.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


Erdogan recently made the news in the US with some comments about Lawrence of Arabia. Many Americans seem shocked that people in Turkey don't remember Lawrence as fondly as we do. But Erdogan, not surprisingly, is far from the first person in Turkey to to express such sentiments. Consider the 2006 movie Eve Giden Yol, which served as the slightly over the top Turkish response to Lawrence of Arabia. There was this fantastic scene of Lawrence visiting the tomb of Salahaddin, as well as a slightly different take on blowing up trains full of Turkish soldiers. But way before any of this was a remarkable obituary published on the occasion of Lawrence's death in the May 23, 1935 issue of the magazine Akbaba. Editor Yusuf Ziya Ortac, it should be noted, had some problematic political views of his own, but in these choice words for Lawrence he was echoing the thoughts of many in Turkey who had seen his post-war legend grow. Some highlights:

Istanbul is famous for its beauty, Ankara its will; Paris its liveliness, Viena its operas, Switzerland its Sanatoriums and England is famous for Lawrence.

In the deserts during the Great War the Turkish army's most feared microbe was him.

In Lawrence's death the world's gain is as great as England's loss. Now it is more possible for nations to love each other and work together for peace.

Lawrence's death. As with any great joy it isn't easy to believe the good news.

If Lawrence is really dead... in that case people face a new fear: the fear of the hereafter.

Below, Araplı Lawrence (left) from Eve Giden Yol

Perhaps the most ridiculous thing about all of this is that if anyone deserves credit for being the Lawrence of modern day Syria, it is undoubtedly Erdogan, who's spent the past three years supporting an Arab revolt. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Was Your City's Major Diplomatic Achievement a Bust? Probably.

Today's map is a work in progress, we encourage readers to write in and suggest more cities and treaties. Some of these are clearly judgement calls, but the basic idea should be clear. A few cities are known for meaningful and lasting diplomatic achievements. Most are known for treaties that failed spectacularly.