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Entangled Revolutions: The Russian Factor in the Young Turk Movement

Elke Hartmann

This project focuses on the protagonists of the Young Turk movement in the late Ottoman Empire, i.e. the political opposition movement against the Ottoman sultan Abdülhamid II. (r. 1876-1909), which included activists of different ethnic, social and religious backgrounds united by their common goal of establishing a constitutional regime, which was achieved in 1908. Many of these Young Turks—Tatars and Armenians alike—came from the Caucasus and Transcaucasus, the Crimea or the Volga-Ural region, but were active as journalists and revolutionaries on both sides of the Russian-Ottoman border. The project investigates how their Russian background—their education as well as their individual and collective experiences of Russian Tsarist rule—influenced these political actors' thinking and actions. It explores their specific hopes and expectations regarding the Ottoman Empire given their Russian background. It further examines what impulses they brought back to their Russian-ruled regions of origin. This overall question is to be examined regarding four aspects: First, the Tatar and Armenian revolutionaries’ transimperial networks and mobility across the Ottoman-Russian borders and beyond to European and North African places of exile. Second, probing the intellectual history, the impact of their Russian origin—personal contacts, reading histories, education, experiences or events—on these protagonists’ political thinking and priorities as well as their geographical framework of reference, which possibly differentiated them from their comrades originating from within the Ottoman Empire. Thirdly, concerning political practice, possible adoptions of Russian-inspired modes of political organisation, style or self-representation, as well as mutual relations and interactions between the various groups (Ottoman or Russian Turks/Tatars and Ottoman or Russian Armenians). Fourth, the influences of the encounters and experiences in the Ottoman Empire on the ideas of the commuters or returnees to the Russian realms. The main sources for the study will be the writings of the Young Turk protagonists themselves: on the one hand their memoirs and exchange of letters, and, more importantly, on the other hand their numerous writings published in the newspapers they founded and directed, printed in Russian, Ottoman, Armenian, Tatar, Azeri and French.