Villain or Hero? Shifting Views of Abdülhamid ii and His Era in Republican Turkey

In: Turkish Historical Review
Ioannis N. GrigoriadisAssociate Professor, Department of Political Science and Public Administration, Bilkent University, Ankara, Turkey,

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Narratives and representations of the past in the present sometimes tell us more about the present than the past itself. Views of Ottoman history have varied in republican Turkey, according to political and ideological circumstances. The era of Sultan Abdülhamid ii has remained one of the most contested ones. While classic republican Turkish historiography has identified the Hamidian era with Oriental despotism, blamed it for the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, but exonerated it for the killings of Armenians, recent historical interest in the era has been revisionist. Some scholars offer a more balanced evaluation of the Hamidian period, while other approaches move to the opposite extreme, aggrandizing Sultan Abdülhamid ii and his era and also pointing to alleged Young Turk treason. These approaches have coincided with a re-evaluation of the ideological foundations of republican Turkey and the re-emergence of a cult of personality in mainstream Turkish politics.

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