The Ottoman Cataclysm

The demise of the Ottoman Empire and its complex ethnic, religious and social fabric in the 1910s is not only a defining event in the history of the Middle East and Europe, if not of global history. It is also a period of massive destruction, human suffering, and squandered opportunities for peace. We hence have proposed the term "cataclysm" to highlight both the destruction and the new beginnings witnessed in this period. The demise, not of the empire, but of Ottomanity as a non-sectarian, secular and inclusive notion of citizenship and identity continues to haunt the societies and political institutions in the Middle East and the Balkans to this date. Despite the growing critical literature on the final years of the empire a hundred years ago, we can still not speak of a comprehensive historical narrative of the Ottoman Cataclysm.

Initiated by the Stiftung Forschungsstelle Schweiz-Türkei (Research Foundation Switzerland-Turkey) in Basel in 2012, this project cluster has been designed to study the catastrophic and seminal Ottoman 1910s in an integrative perspective.

Up to now three conferences have been organized in the framework of this project cluster:

  • The Ottoman Cataclysm: Its Beginnings, Basel, 17-19 October 2013
  • The Ottoman Cataclysm. Interconnected geographies, mobilization and the road to total war (1913-1915), Zurich, 16-17 June 2014
  • Ottoman Cataclysm: Total War, Genocide and Distant New Futures in the Middle East (1915-1917), Zurich, 28-31 October 2015

A publication of the first two stages of the project "Ottoman Cataclysm", co-edited by Hans-Lukas Kieser, Kerem Öktem and Maurus Reinkowski, has been published as World War I and the End of the Ottomans: From the Balkan Wars to the Armenian Genocide, London: I.B. Tauris 2015.