28 December 2006
Question: How do you pay tribute to a giant?
Answer: You try.
And that’s what I am doing… Just trying to do justice to the enormous volume of scholarship this man put out and his life-long love of facts, unearthing them, and spreading them. . . Below, please find little known facts about this man’s life (source: Bilkent University, Ankara, Turkey) and his works. This article is by no means a complete coverage of Professor Shaw’s works, but it is a good start. I hope and wish others kept building on what is presented here to create a more complete picture of this remarkable scholar. Without further ado, I present to you:
PROFESSOR STANFORD J. SHAW
Stanford J. Shaw was born in the St. Paul Hospital, St. Paul, Minnesota at 2:15 a.m. on the morning of May 5, 1930. His parents were Belle and Albert, who had immigrated to St. Paul from England and Russia respectively in the early years of the twentieth century. Stanford Shaw and his parents moved to Los Angeles, California in 1933 because of his father's illness, and they lived there until 1939, first in Hollywood, where Stanford went to Kindergarden, and then in Ocean Park, a community on the shore of the Pacific Ocean between Santa Monica and Venice, where his parents operated a photographic shop on the Ocean Park pier. The family went back to St. Paul in 1939, where Stanford went to the Webster Elementary School. After his parents were divorced. Stanford went with his mother to Akron, Ohio during World War II, where he went to elementary school. Stanford and his mother remained there until she married Irving Jaffey and moved back to St. Paul. Stanford then attended Mechanic Arts High School in St. Paul, where he graduated in 1947, one out of only five students from a student body of 500 who went to college.
He went on to Stanford University, where he majored in British History under the direction of Professor Carl Brand, with a minor in Near Eastern History, under the direction of Professor Wayne Vucinich. He received his B.A.at Stanford in 1951 and M.A. in 1952, with a thesis on the Foreign Policy of the British Labour Party from 1920 until 1938, based on research in the Hoover Institution at Stanford.
He then studied Middle Eastern history along with Arabic, Turkish, and Persian as a Graduate Student at Princeton University starting in 1952, receiving his M.A. in 1955.
Subsequently he went to England to study with Bernard Lewis and Paul Wittek at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London and with Professor Hamilton A.R. Gibb at Oxford University.
Following this, he went to Egypt to study with Shafiq Ghorbal and Adolph Grohmann at the University of Cairo and Shaikh Sayyid at the Azhar University, also doing research in the Ottoman archives of Egypt at the Citadel in Cairo for his Princeton Ph.D. dissertation concerning Ottoman rule in Egypt. Before leaving Egypt, he had a personal interview with President Gamal Abd al-Nasser, who arranged for him to take his microfilms of Ottoman documents out of the country. In 1956-7
He studied at the University of Istanbul with Professors Omer Lutfi Barkan, Mukrimin Halil Yinanc, Halil Sahillioglu, and Zeki Velidi Togan, also completing research on his dissertation in the Ottoman archives of Istanbul. There he was helped by a number of staff members, including Ziya Esrefoglu, Turgut Isiksal, Rauf Tuncay, and Attila Cetin, and in the Topkapi Sarayi archives, where he was provided with valuable assistance and support by its Director, Hayrullah Ors and studied with Professor Ismail Hakki Uzuncarsili.
He received his Ph.D. degree in 1958 from Princeton University with a dissertation entitled “The Financial and Administrative Organization and Development of Ottoman Egypt, 1517-1798”, prepared under the direction of Professor Lewis Thomas and Professor Hamilton A.R. Gibb, which was published by the Princeton University Press in 1962.
Stanford Shaw served as Assistant and Associate Professor of Turkish Language and History, with tenure, in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and in the Department of History at Harvard University from 1958 until 1968, and as Professor of Turkish history at the University of California Los Angeles from 1968 until his retirement in 1992.
Afterwards he was recalled to teach Turkish history at U.C.L.A. between 1992 and 1997 before going to Bilkent University as Professor of Ottoman and Turkish History starting in 1999.
Stanford Shaw was founder and first editor of the International Journal of Middle East Studies, published by the Cambridge University Press for the Middle East Studies Association, from 1970 until 1980.
He is the author of numerous books and articles:
History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey (2 volumes, Cambridge University Press 1976-1977),
Between Old and New: The Ottoman Empire under Sultan Selim III (Harvard University Press),
The Budget of Ottoman Egypt (Mouton and Co. The Hague),
Ottoman Egypt in the Age of the French Revolution (Harvard University Press),
Ottoman Egypt in the Eighteenth Century (Harvard University Press),
The Jews of the Ottoman Empire and the Turkish Republic (Macmillan, London, and New York University Press, 1991),
Turkey and the Holocaust (Macmillan, London and New York University Press, 1992), and
The Turkish War of National Liberation, 1918-1923, to be published by the Turkish Historical Society in 3 volumes in 1999.
He is an honorary member of the Turkish Historical Society (Ankara), recipient of honorary degrees from Harvard University and the Bogazici University (Istanbul), and a member of the Middle East Studies Association, the American Historical Society, and the Tarih Vakfi (Istanbul).
He also has received a Medal of Honor (Liyakat Madalyasi) from the President of Turkey and medals for lifetime achievement from the Assembly of Turkish-American Associations (ATAA) and from the Research Centre for Islamic History, Art and Culture (IRCICA) at the Yildiz Palace, Istanbul.
He has received two major research awards from the United States National Endowment from the Humanities as well as fellowships from the Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Fulbright-Hayes Committee.
Professor Shaw had been conducting research for monographs which would deal with the Ottoman home front during the Great War of 1910-1923, and the Turkish home front during World War II.
Testimony to the formidable scope and depth of his knowledge about the Turkish and Middle Eastern history, the following are the courses Prof. Shaw gave during his last academic year at Bilkent University of Ankara, Turkey:
IR 462 WAR AND DIPLOMACY: THE OTTOMAN EMPIRE 1800-1923
A study of Ottoman relations with the Great Powers of Europe from Bonaparte's invasion of Europe until the establishment of the Turkish Republic. The course will emphasize Ottoman involvement in the Wars resulting from the French Revolution, the Muhammed Ali and near Eastern crises of 1821-1833 and 1839-1841, the Crimean War, the Near Eastern Crisis of 1875-1878 and Treaty of Berlin, and the diplomatic and military aspects of the Tripolitanian War, the Balkan Wars, World War I, and the Turkish War of National Liberation. Credit units: 3.
POLS 429 HISTORY OF THE OTTOMAN EMPIRE 1808-1918
This course deals with the political, economic and social structure of late Ottoman empire. It investigates different ways in which the state-society relations were regulated in Ottoman Empire. Credit units: 3.
HIST 535 ABDULHAMID: REFORMER OR REACTIONARY
The development of Ottoman government and society during the reign of Sultan Abdulhamit II (1876-1909), with special attention to the role he played in completing the work of the Tanzimat reform movement carried out earlier in the 19th century, while at the same time suppressing many of the political and social ramifications of reform. Credit units: 3.
HIST 554 TURKISH WAR OF NATIONAL LIBERATION
The Turkish War of National Liberation, 1918-1923. A study of means by which the Turks achieved their independence and established the Turkish Republic in the face of foreign occupation following World War I, with special emphasis on the political, economic and social movements in Turkey during the war, the structures, organizations and operations of the Istanbul and Ankara governments, as well as relations between them, the destruction and massacre inflicted by the invading armies, and the movement and settlement of Muslim and non-Muslim refugees during the war. Credit units: 3.
A vast array of books and essays are still in the process of being compiled. Even this incomplete list gives a pretty good idea about the enormous reach of his research and scholarship:
AUTHOR Shaw, Stanford J. (Stanford Jay), 1930-
TITLE Turkey and the Holocaust : Turkey's role in rescuing Turkish and European Jewry from Nazi persecution, 1933-1945 / Stanford J. Shaw.
PUBLISH INFO New York : New York University Press, 1993.
DESCRIPTION xiii, 423 p. : ill. ; 25 cm.
NOTES Includes bibliographical references (p. -327)
SUBJECTS Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945) World War, 1939-1945 --Jews --Rescue --Turkey. Jews --Turkey --History --20th century. Refugees, Jewish --Turkey. Jews, Turkish --Europe.
AUTHOR Shaw, Stanford J. (Stanford Jay), 1930-
TITLE The Jews of the Ottoman Empire and the Turkish Republic / Stanford J. Shaw.
PUBLISH INFO New York : New York University Press, 1991.
DESCRIPTION xiii, 380 p. : ill. ; 24 cm.
NOTES Includes bibliographical references (p. 302-344) and index.
SUBJECTS Jews --Turkey --History. Turkey --Ethnic relations. OCLC # 23081900. ISBN 0814779247 : LCCN 91-6927.
AUTHOR Shaw, Stanford J. (Stanford Jay), 1930-
TITLE History of the Ottoman Empire and modern Turkey / Stanford Shaw.
PUBLISH INFO Cambridge ; New York : Cambridge University Press, 1976-1977.
DESCRIPTION 2 v. : maps ; 25 cm.
NOTES Includes indexes. Bibliography: v. 1, p. 302-324.
CONTENTS v. 1. Empire of the Gazis: the rise and decline of the Ottoman Empire, 1280-1808.--v. 2. Reform, revolution, and republic
AUTHOR Shaw, Stanford J. (Stanford Jay), 1930-
TITLE Between old and new; the Ottoman Empire under Sultan Selim III, 1789-1807 [by] Stanford J. Shaw.
PUBLISH INFO Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press, 1971.
DESCRIPTION xiii, 535 p. illus., port. 25 cm.
SERIES Harvard Middle Eastern studies 15.
NOTES Bibliography: p. 488-509.
SUBJECTS Turkey --History --Selim III, 1789-1807. OCLC # 131955. ISBN 0674068300. LCCN 74-131465
. AUTHOR Shaw, Stanford J. (Stanford Jay), 1930-
TITLE The budget of Ottoman Egypt 1005-1006/1596-1597, by Stanford J. Shaw.
PUBLISH INFO The Hague, Mouton, 1968.
DESCRIPTION viii, 234 p. facsims. 25 cm.
SERIES Columbia University. Publications in Near and Middle East studies. Ser. A, 12.
NOTES Includes bibliographical references.
AUTHOR Husayn Afandi, fl. 1798-1813.
TITLE Ottoman Egypt in the age of the French Revolution. By Huseyn Efendi. Translated from the original Arabic, with introd. and notes by Stanford J. Shaw.
PUBLISH INFO Cambridge, Distributed for the Center for Middle Eastern Studies of Harvard University by Harvard University Press, 1964.
DESCRIPTION ix, 198 p. 21 cm.
SERIES Harvard Middle Eastern monographs ; 11.
NOTES Bibliography: p.183-187.
SUBJECTS Egypt --Politics and government --640-1882. Egypt --History --French occupation, 1798-1801. ADD AUTHORS Shaw, Stanford J. (Stanford Jay), 1930-
AUTHOR Shaw, Stanford J. (Stanford Jay), 1930-
TITLE The financial and administrative organization and development of Ottoman Egypt, 1517-1798.
PUBLISH INFO Princeton, N.J., Princeton University Press, 1962 [c1958]
DESCRIPTION xxxiii, 451 p. fold. maps, tables. 25 cm.
SERIES Princeton Oriental studies, v. 19. NOTES Bibliography: p. 405-414.
AUTHOR Gibb, H. A. R. (Hamilton Alexander Rosskeen), Sir, 1895-1971.
TITLE Studies on the civilization of Islam / by Hamilton A. R. Gibb ; edited by Stanford J. Shaw and William R. Polk.
PUBLISH INFO Boston : Beacon, 1968, c1962.
DESCRIPTION xiv, 369 p. ; 21 cm. NOTES Includes index. Includes bibliographical references.
ADD AUTHORS Shaw, Stanford J. (Stanford Jay), 1930-
AUTHOR Gibb, H. A. R. (Hamilton Alexander Rosskeen), Sir, 1895-1971.
TITLE Studies on the civilization of Islam / by Hamilton A.R. Gibb ; edited by Stanford J. Shaw and William R. Polk.
PUBLISH INFO Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, 1982, c1962.
DESCRIPTION xiv, 369 p. ; 23 cm.
NOTES "Articles ... drawn from a wide variety of publications over a span of nearly four decades." Chapter 12: "Reflections on Arabic Literature", in Arabic. Includes index. Bibliography: p. -357.
SUBJECTS Civilization, Islamic.
While there are many, covering multitude of aspects of Turkish history, I will attempt to give you a taste of Professor Shaw’s brilliant and voluminous work with the following randomly chosen sample of his essays. If I can have some time, I promise you to bring some revealing correspondence, heretofore unpublished, between Professor Stanford J. Shaw and Samuel A. Weems about Armenian terrorism and propaganda. That should be fun! But right now, I am swamped… If I could only have some more time!
THE OTTOMAN HOLOCAUST
By Professor Stanford J. Shaw
Professor of Modern Ottoman History, Bilkent University, Ankara, Turkey
Professor Emeritus of Turkish History, University of California Los Angeles
Lecture delivered to the
Ermeni Iddiaları ve Azerbaycan Gerçeği I. Uluslararası Sempozyumu,
sponsored by the Atatürk Araştırma Merkezi, 5 May 2005, Ankara, Turkey
From 1911 to 1923, the Ottoman Empire and the people of Turkey participated in five long, hard, and destructive wars. These were the Tripolitanian War/Trablusgarb Harbı/Türk Italyan Harbı (1911-1912), the two Balkan Wars (1912-1913), World War I (1914-1918), and the Turkish War of National Liberation (1918-1923). To most Turkish people who lived through that era, these wars were really only one, the Seferberlik, or period of mobilization, which went on continuously throughout these years..
During these wars, the entire infrastructure of life in the Ottoman Empire was destroyed. Fields were left barren and uncultivated; roads and railroad lines were destroyed and their equipment wrecked; harbors and quais were blown up by repeated bombing, and many of the people living nearby were killed; Istanbul and the other great cities of the empire were partially destroyed by bombing, bombarding and great fires. The entire nation, thus, was for all practical purposes destroyed. One of the greatest miracles of Atatürk’s leadership during and after the Turkish War of National Liberation was the manner in which he was able to raise the Turkish people from this wreckage and lead them to revive and reconstruct what became the Turkish Republic.
In the midst of all this destruction, no fewer than 30 percent, one third, of all the people who lived in the Ottoman Empire at the start of the war died. In the war zones, Macedonia and Thrace, western Anatolia, northeastern Turkey and southeastern Turkey, that percentage was as high as sixty or even seventy percent, much higher than any other country that was involved in these wars. No-one was counting, so it is very difficult to give actual figures, but perhaps no fewer than four million people died in the lands of the Ottoman Empire during these wars, and these were people of all races and religions, all ethnic origins, they were Muslims, Jews and Christians, they were Turks and Armenians, Arabs and Greeks, and many more.
Some of these deaths were most certainly caused by massacre. Bandits and nationalist terrorist bands roamed the countryside killing everyone who did not do what they wanted or did not share their national dreams. The Izmit peninsula alone had over 200 Greek bands roaming and killing between Izmit and Haydarpaşa, and between the Gulf of Izmit and the Black Sea. There were hundreds more Greek bands roaming the coasts of the Aegean and Mediterranean seas. There were Armenian and Greek bands killing and robbing along the Black Sea coast, the Greeks in the western Black Sea area that they called Pontos, the Armenians in the eastern Black Sea, between Samsun and the Caucasus. In the rest of Thrace and Anatolia there were Greek, Serbian, Rumanian, Bulgarian, Turkish, Laz, Circassian, Armenian, and other bandit groups that ravaged, stole, and killed.
Then there were the invading armies. The Russian army occupied eastern Turkey during World War I, far beyond the areas of Kars, Ardahan and Batum which had been left to them by the Treaty of Berlin in 1878. There was a great deal of killing there at that time. Even the Russian generals reported back to Moscow their extreme displeasure that the Armenian soldiers in the Russian army were killing Turks and Kurds. This was not because the Russians cared about Turks and Kurds. It was because the Armenian attacks were causing resistance to the Russian occupation. The Russian government did not want resistance, because they wanted to make eastern Turkey into a colony inhabited by Cossacks, in order to raise more food for southern Russia. There was an Armenian guerilla army in eastern Turkey after the Russians left due to the Bolshevik Revolution. It was composed of seven units of what they called ‘volunteers’ led by General Antranik and other Armenian officers, some of whom had been Ottoman subjects. These ‘volunteer’ guerilla armies ravaged eastern Turkey, killing and ravaging as the other bandit groups had done. These massacres were reported by many British and American officers who were in eastern Turkey at the time. The Greek army that invaded Izmir and western Anatolia ravaged the countryside during 1919 and 1920 in order to either kill or drive out the Turks so that Greece could get the Paris Peace conference to award western Turkey to Greece on the grounds that all the inhabitants were Greek. This was reported by the historian Arnold Toynbee in a series of articles published at the time in the Manchester Guardian and then summarized in his monumental book, The Western Question in Greece and Turkey. It also was reported by two investigation commissions, one an International Commission headed by the Commander of the American Fleet in the Eastern Mediterranean who had become American High Commissioner in Istanbul, Admiral Mark Bristol; the other was sent by the International Red Cross under the direction of Maurice Gehri. The French army that occupied southeastern Turkey following World War I bombarded Turkish towns and villages in order to force the Turks to accept French occupation. It also brought with it the Armenian Legion that went around the countryside and massacred thousands of Turks. This was reported by the officers of the French Army who pleaded with the French Prime Minister to disband the Armenian Legion, which they did after thousands of Turks had been killed. This was reported in a book written by the French army and published by the French military archives. It was related most recently by a retired American military officer, Robert Zeidner, in his Ph.D. dissertation which was just published by the Türk Tarih Kurumu. It was also discussed in some detail in my own book, From Empire to Republic, a History of the Turkish War of National Liberation, which also was published by the Türk Tarih Kurumu. Like the Russians, the French tried to stop the massacres, and for the same reason, not because they cared about Muslims but because the attacks were causing Turkish resistance to French rule, which the French had hoped to turn into a French colony to produce food and textiles. There were more such events, but those were the main ones.
After all I have said so far, one would think that most of the deaths that took place in the Ottoman Empire during these twelve years of war were caused by massacre, killing by bandits, tribes, and armies, but that is not so. During these wars, from 1911 to 1923, at least four million refugees entered the Ottoman empire in flight from persecution and massacre in the provinces of the Ottoman Empire that had been taken over by Christian states during the nineteenth century. They came from Greece, from Bulgaria, from Serbia, from Rumania, from the Crimea, from the Caucasus, from Egypt and Libya, Tunisia and Algeria, and from other places. These refugees were the survivors of massacres in which several million Muslims and Jews were killed outside the Ottoman Empire by the newly independent Christian national states or by the imperial occupying powers, Russia and Great Britain and France. These refugees came with nothing but the clothes on their backs and for some, carts full of family members and personal possessions. They tramped for days, weeks, months along the roads suffering from inclement weather, from lack of food, clothing, fuel, everything. They often joined the defeated Ottoman armies that were retreating while suffering from the same conditions. At the same time, amidst the chaos that was taking place within the Ottoman empire and the arrival of these thousands of refugees, thousands more people were being deported from Anatolia, moving along the roads under very similar conditions, many to camps in the same districts in which they had always lived, some to other provinces away from the war zones. I liken the situation in the Ottoman Empire at this time to a boiling pot, with thousands of people moving in as refugees and thousands moving out as refugees, in chaotic conditions, with the railroads and other means of transportation not operating, with bandits everywhere, with food lacking even in the cities, let alone in the countryside, with primitive sanitation conditions. It is not surprising therefore, that these refugee movements led to famine and hunger and disease: cholera, typhus, smallpox, almost every epidemic disease known to mankind spread rapidly among the refugees and deportees, killing thousands of people along the roads. And they brought these diseases with them into Istanbul and the other cities to which they came as they entered what was left of the Ottoman Empire. As a result, thousands of city people also became ill and died. I think it is safe to say that among the millions who died during the wars that went on from 1911 to 1923, seventy percent or even more died, not from massacre, but from famine, hunger and disease, and these also were people of all religions and ethnic origins. This is why I feel that this period should be referred to as the Ottoman Holocaust, rather than by any other more limited term which tries to place responsibility on one group or another.
Who was responsible for all of this? In my opinion no single group or government can be held entirely responsible, but all share responsibility.
First of all, the government of the Ottoman Empire, which at that time was led in fact by the Minister of War and Başkumandan Vekili, Enver Pasha. The Ottoman government was responsible for getting the Ottoman Empire into a European war for which it was not at all prepared. The Ottomans had a far smaller population and economic base than any other of the participants on both sides. It was far weaker. Its army had just been largely destroyed, its home front destabilized and devastated by the very conditions that I have just described during the Balkan Wars. Even the countries that the Ottomans tried to ally with did not want them to enter the war. On the side of the Triple Entente, the British, the French and even the Russians tried to convince the Ottoman government to remain neutral in World War I, though they did so because they wanted to first concentrate on defeating Germany and Austria-Hungary before they turned to their real desire, which was to break up the Ottoman territory and divide its territory among themselves. The Russian Foreign Minister Sazonov above all others in St. Petersburg, tried to carry out this policy. He used every means to avoid war with the Ottomans while Russia built up its navy in the Black Sea and army in southern Russia and the Caucasus, until Russia was ready to attack it and achieve its goals of conquering Istanbul and the Straits in order to secure control of the waterways that led from Southern Russia to the Mediterranean and the open seas and to extend Russian domination in eastern Anatolia in order to settle the Cossacks and grow grain to feed the hungry masses of the Caucasus and Russia. The Ottoman leaders were, however, determined to enter the war because they had been so isolated during the previous half century when Christian states had occupied important parts of the Ottoman Empire like Egypt and Tunisia and Algeria and most of the European possessions of the Empire. Since the Triple Entente did not want to ally with the Ottomans, and in fact did not want the Ottoman Empire to enter the war at all, the leaders of the Ottoman government they turned to Germany and Austria-Hungary, who came to form what was either called the Triple Alliance or the Central Powers. But the situation with them was the same as it was with Britain, France, and Russia. Even most German military and diplomatic leaders did not want to ally with the Ottoman Empire. They rightly felt that despite the efforts of Minister of War Enver Paşa to revive the Ottoman army after the Balkan Wars, less than one year had elapsed, and it simply was not ready to fight once again. They understood that the Ottoman Empire did not have the money to carry out its Mobilization. It was virtually bankrupt as a result of the money it had spent to modernize the army and navy after the Balkan Wars. Enver Pasha at this time even told the Russian ambassador that the Ottoman army would not be ready to fight a European war for at least five years. The German Ambassador in Istanbul, Hans von Wangenheim, shared the same opinion, not only because of Ottoman military weakness, but also because he saw how the Ottoman home front had collapsed due to the strains of the Balkan Wars and felt the same thing would happen again. He said that if the Ottomans allied with Germany, Germany would have to pay most of the cost. He repeated his objections to bringing the Ottoman Empire into the European War even after the Ottoman alliance with Germany and Austria was signed on August 2, 1914. It was only because of Emperor Wilhelm II’s dream of using an Ottoman alliance to raise the Muslims of the empires of the British, French and Russians in revolt against their governments in support of the Ottoman Caliph that the German military and diplomats were forced to accept the alliance with the Ottomans. It was only after Russia gained a number of important successes against the Germans and Austrians in Poland and Galicia and the French and British defeated Germany at the Battle of Verdun on the western front in France near the start of the war that the German military came around to the idea that the Ottomans could be useful allies by diverting the Entente eastward, the Russians to defend themselves in the Caucasus, and the British to defend the Suez Canal and Egypt, which were the lifeline to its Empire in Asia from which it was getting thousands of soldiers and supplies. The Ottoman Government therefore agreed to an alliance with Germany and Austria-Hungary even though the Empire was not really prepared to participate in the war.
1) The Ottoman government also must be blamed for bringing in large numbers of German officers, ostensibly to assist the Ottoman army, but who in fact with a very few exceptions were destructive and contributed very little, since they despised Muslims, hated Ottomans, and did everything they could to make the Ottoman officers they were supposed to advise into their servants. What they did do was to get the Ottomans to undertake two offensives, into the Caucasus and into Egypt, both of which came to disaster because they were carried out for German objectives and German interests, not those of the Ottoman Empire.
2) The second blame must be attached to the martial law authorities who governed the Ottoman Empire during the war, who ran its administration. One sees how much everything was run by the martial law authorities by going through the archives of the Başbakanlık Arşivi in Istanbul, where almost everything concerning internal administration is lacking since it all is in the archives of the Genelkurmay Başkanlığı, which ran the country through a system martial law/Idare-i Örfiye. The martial law authorities during World War I, just as in the Balkan Wars, administered the country first and foremost for the benefit of the armed forces. Production of food, coal, and other essentials dropped considerably because men were conscripted for the army regardless of their role in farming and production. Labor was left to men who were too old or young to fight and to women, who simply could not produce anywhere as much as had been produced before by able bodied men. The Ottoman government tried to replace the men who were conscripted with labor battalions/Amele Taburları. These were composed of men who for one reason or another were not conscripted into the army together. They also included men released from prisons, prisoners of war, and even some women. They also included Armenians and Greeks who were excluded from the regular armed forces because they could not be trusted. But these labor battalions could not match the strength and energy of the men they were replacing. They also suffered from large scale desertion of men who fled for the most part into Russia, where they often joined the Russian army and provided it with information about the best routes for invasion. The result of conscription without consideration of the results was a lack of coal for the cities, for industry and for the railroads as well as serious shortages of food. This in turn limited the railroads to military usage, so they could not be used to transport what food and fuel that was produced and that the army did not take to the cities where it was needed, and so on. People therefore lacked sufficient food and fuel and clothing. This situation resulted in the same sort of rapid collapse of the home front that had happened in the Balkan Wars, and with the same results, the Ottoman army finally lost its ability to fight on. The Ottoman armies fought bravely and very well on eight fronts during World War I. Considering the fact that this took place only a year after it had collapsed near the end of the Balkan Wars, the recovery of the Ottoman army was amazing, and was a tribute to the administrative ability of Enver Paşa as well as the qualities of the soldiers themselves. This has been written about in two excellent books by a retired American Colonel, Edward Erickson, one called Defeat in Detail, about the Ottoman Army in the Balkan Wars, and the other Fight and Die, about the Ottoman army during World War i. But once again, as in the Balkan Wars, it was the collapse of the home front that ultimately sapped its strength and condemned it to suffer defeats during the last two years of the war.
In blaming the martial law authorities, I should also add the fact that they also failed to make proper arrangements to house and feed the millions of refugees that were entering the country or were being deported at the same time, resulting in a great deal of suffering and dying by all who were moving through the countryside in time of war and chaos, regardless of religion or ethnic origin.
3) The third, and to me the most important blame for all the deaths that took place as a result of starvation and disease, attaches to the foreign powers, and particularly to Great Britain. The British navy mounted a tight naval blockade against both the Ottoman Empire and Germany, and this blockade was very successful. The British blockade sought not only to deprive its enemies of materials of war. It also sought to starve Germany and the Ottomans into submission. British ships prevented the shipment of needed food to the Mediterranean ports of the Ottoman Empire which might well have provided enough to prevent the death by starvation and disease of no fewer than three million people. The British even went so far as to send small boats along the Ottoman coasts to shoot and kill cattle and sheep to add to the starvation of the people and force the Ottomans to give in.
The naval blockade mounted against Germany was so successful that German society collapsed at the end of the war, leading first to the rise of Communism in Germany, and then of Naziism. It could well have had the same result in Turkey had not Mustafa Kemal Atatürk led the Turkish national movement and established a Republic so strong that it prevented the conditions that came out of the war from enabling the Communists from triumphing during and after the Turkish War of National Liberation. The British blockade was carried out with the intention of killing enough Turks to force them to surrender. British and Russian spies also circulated among Armenians and Kurds and provided them with weapons and money to enable them to massacre each other as well as Turks. The French and Russian armies brought with them Armenian groups armed with French and Russian guns whose main purpose was to kill Turks and Kurds, which they did. These policies of the British, the French and the Russians caused the real genocide which took place during World War I. The Triple Entente thus was more responsible for genocide during the Ottoman Holocaust than any other group.
What conclusion have I reached from these considerations?
1. First and foremost, Turkey should not follow those who accuse her of crimes during World War I by limiting its studies and publications only to those aspects of the Ottoman Holocaust which the accusers wish to emphasize. The best defense is to present entire picture: the thousands, millions of refugees who were coming into the country as a result of massacre elsewhere; The destruction caused by robber and nationalist bands and invading armies; the famine, hunger and disease which carried off far more people than any massacres, however terrible those massacres were, and the fact that they were caused for the most part by enemy action.
2. Secondly, in order to do this, Turkey should make available to research the four major archives which up to this time have been neglected and not been produced for research:
i. The first is the well-known archive of the Turkish General Staff, the Genelkurmay Harb Tarih Arşivi. These have been partially open for some time, but it is very difficult to get permission to use them; and even more important but they do not have enough officers on their staffs to provide sufficient services for researchers. Not all the files are available for research. Researchers have not been allowed to make photographic copies of important materials. The catalogs of the archive have not been made available on the Internet, as the Başbakanlık Arşivi has done. Since this archive has most of the materials needed for the study of World War I, they should be made fully available, permission for research should be granted quickly, and all necessary research facilities should be provided.
ii. The archives of the Kızılay, the Ottoman Red Crescent organization, which treated refugees and deportees alike, providing them with what food and medical treatment it could organize, are essential and should be immediately catalogued and made available on a regular basis.
iii. The archives of the Aşair ve Muhacirin Müdürlüğü, the Department of the Ministry of the Interior which had the duty receiving, feeding, transporting and housing refugees and deportees, should be located and also opened for research. At the present time, no one seems to know where they are, and researchers therefore are not able to use them.
iv. The operational archives of the Teşkilat-i Mahsusa, the Special Organization established by the Ministry of War to carry out guerrilla and propaganda operations during the course of the war, and which was just as important as was the Ottoman army, have not yet been located. They should be located and made available for research.
Until these measures are carried out, the studies which are made of the Ottoman Empire during World War I will only be partial and unconvincing at best, and the world will not get a true picture of the terrible events of what went on in the Ottoman Empire during the wars which led to its destruction in the early years of the twentieth century.