[P4957] The Great Fear of 1895: Armenian Reform, Rumor and Violence across the Ottoman Empire

Created by Umit Kurt
Sunday, 11/19/17 8:00am


In the fall of 1895 mass violence between Muslims and Christians erupted throughout the Ottoman realms. This contagion of violence, presaged by fearful rumors, spread swiftly across the breadth of the Empire. Within the course of three months, tens of thousands of people were dead, many killed by their former neighbors. Until recently, the mid-1890s have been relatively neglected in the scholarship of the late Ottoman Empire. This is particularly striking given the critical importance of those years for the history of the Empire. We will examine how mass imprisonment, violence, and radicalization, coupled with the threat of European intervention, created an era of crisis that threatened to tear the Empire asunder. Despite certain broad patterns, such as concentration of power in the hands of Sultan Abdülhamid's Palace System, there were differences that varied from one locale to another. Our panel proposes to investigate this massive history of violence from the vantage point of four localities across the Ottoman Empire: Crete, Aintab, Bitlis and Trabzon. Each episode of violence gave rise to different questions. In Crete, the news and rumors originating from Anatolia precipitated an episode of inter-religious strife which spiraled out of control in 1895. To what extent did these rumors provide a background for the European intervention that terminated the Ottoman administration on the island? Meanwhile, in Bitlis, in the mountainous eastern part of the Empire, the violence was carried out in a strikingly organized fashion. Many observers wondered, in the aftermath of that violence, what role was played by missionaries from the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM). In Aintab, in the southern reaches of the Ottoman Empire, it is critical to account for the consent and popular participation of large numbers of people. To what extent was that participation viewed as duty to the sovereign? Finally, in Trabzon, on Black Sea coast at the northern edge of the Ottoman Empire, the massacres were carried out fairly early. Were the massacres here linked to an earlier dramatic attempted assassination of an unpopular Ottoman official? Underlying all of these episodes of violence were the complex web of local relationships that determined how rumors of earlier episodes of violence, borne by word-of-mouth and telegraphs, were interpreted.


Society for Armenian Studies (SAS)





Edhem Eldem

(Bogazici University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Discussant;

Umit Kurt

(Harvard University)
Umit Kurt received his doctoral degree from Holocaust and Genocide Studies Program in the History Department of Clark University. He has written extensively on confiscation of Armenian properties, Armenian Genocide, mass violence, late Ottoman history,...
Panel Participating Role(s): Organizer; Presenter;

Ugur Pece

(Bard College)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Owen Miller

(Emerson College)
Panel Participating Role(s): Organizer; Presenter;

Emre Can Daglioglu

(Clark University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;