Thursday, June 23, 2016

A History of the Ottoman Empire from 1923 to Today

We are excited today to be posting a new map and a new article related to the the nationalization of Ottoman history in Modern Turkey. As discussed in the article "A History of the Ottoman Empire from 1923 to Today," rival ideological movements in Turkey were laying claim to the Ottoman past well before the AKP and their Islamist predecessors did so with such enthusiasm over the last few decades.  This map, published BakiƟ press in 1956, was part of a series of colorful charts and images prepared by teachers Avni Altiner and Hurrem Atayer to illustrate Ottoman history for children. What makes it interesting, I think, is how it visually nationalizes the Ottoman past, geographically re-centering it around a disproportionately large Anatolia. As in much of the rhetoric from the era, Ataturk's defense of Gallipoli and Fatih's conquest of Istanbul are presented side by side, for “It was the Istanbul Fatih took that Ataturk saved twice, once by stopping the enemy at Canakkale, once by driving him back after Dumlupinar. At each end of Istanbul’s five-century existence as a Turkish city is a great Turk." Moreover, in this map, the Empire's Middle Eastern holdings appear foreshortened, allowing for a greater emphasis on campaigns in the Balkans and against the Russians in the Caucasus. Scholarship today often presents "neo-Ottomanism" as an alternative to traditional Turkish nationalism. I hope both this map and this article help reveal that for much of Turkish history, a secularized and westernized version of the Ottoman Empire served a much more traditional role in nationalist historiography: a symbol of pride and military prowess, basically Turkey, just a bit bigger and more powerful.