Co-presented by CCSMSC and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Centre for Hellenic Studies: 

The Anti-Armenian Riots of 1895–1896: An Anatomy of Mass Violence and Intercommunal Conflict in the Eastern Provinces of the Ottoman Empire

by Edip Golbasi

Monday, 28 November 2016, 11:30 AM - 1:00 PM

Academic Quadrangle 6229.

This paper explores the immediate context, dynamics, and participants of the anti-Armenian riots of 1895-96, which took the lives of thousands of Armenians, while several tens of thousands of Armenians had to convert to Islam in order to escape certain death. The lack of original research and misguided yet persistent assumptions still dominate scholarly understandings of these episodes of collective violence. In fact, the existing historiography tends to conceptualize the anti-Armenian riots of 1895-96 as a premeditated official policy in an attempt to annihilate or reduce the Armenian population. In addition, for scholars who argue that the Armenian genocide was the epitome of a policy of extermination already penned out in the late 19th century, the 1895-96 massacres are a mere episode leading up to 1915. In contrast to such narratives that simplify the complex sociopolitical dynamics of intercommunal strife, this paper highlights the preconditions that contributed to the genesis of a violent sociopolitical climate in the Ottoman eastern provinces. Stripping these violent events of their mythical character, my paper demonstrates that the responsibilities of state actors in the outbreak of the anti-Armenian riots go beyond the simple question of whether they grew out of a central plan. Moreover, unlike the existing narratives that focus merely on the complicity of the Ottoman government in the mass killing, it underlines the importance of the collective and anonymous nature of the violence. By refraining from the idea that the perpetrators were simply criminal figures who had only been tempted by external forces, i.e. the central and local government, and that their act of mass killing was completely predetermined, my paper explores the agency and background motivations of those who participated in the riots.