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Beyond the European stage of 14-18; The other Great War in the Muslim world

Julie Andurain (d’) et Cloé Drieu
p. Vol 141, 11-33

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  • 1 We would like to thank Marc Aymes, Mehmet Beşikçi, Xavier Bougarel, Raphaëlle Branche, Nathalie Cla (...)

1This issue1 focuses on the First World War with a study covering a vast area of the Mediterranean and Muslim worlds, from the eastern limits of the Maghreb to the Mashriq, from the Arab and Anatolian regions of the Ottoman Empire to the Turkic and Persian-speaking regions, from Central Eurasia to the Caucasus. So different are the histories and political systems of each of the territories studied, so large is the space encompassing the empires themselves as well as their borders that it is neither customary nor easy to approach the subject of war in these regions of the world from such a broad perspective.

2Our purpose is innovative in that it seeks to compare the issues of the Great War developed in Western Europe with those that prevail in the Muslim world today, to renew them using the historiographical perspectives allowed by Global History (Strachan, 2003, Neiberg, 2005, Kelleher Storey, 2010), and to confront them with other European issues, including social and cultural approaches to the Great War. It is an attempt to better understand how these territories - the Ottoman Empire, the Russian Empire, the French and British colonial empires - interacted with each other during the conflict, how a new world order imposed itself after the war because of the global transformation of the world. Our position consists in looking at what is happening at the margins of the empires to better grasp, in an iterative movement, the evolutions and decision-making at the central level. The broader geographical framework thus requires a transcultural vision; it invites us to synergize the evaluations by cultural areas that have developed dynamically in recent years.

3This raises many questions, including the relevance of the use of "14-18", a chronological reference used to designate the period of war in Western Europe. To these empires, whose perspectives are reversed, it seems indeed irrelevant to reason within a temporality of four years. The widening of geographical and chronological horizons indeed raises the question of the modalities of declaration of war, the processes of march towards the war, obviously that of the place of civilians in the conflicts, that of the perception of the war and conflicts, and finally, that of the difficult exits from war, which often lead to entries into new phases of violence of another nature. Drawing inspiration from the work of European researchers who have reflected on the European war as a continuum of fifty years (Traverso, 2007, Soutou, 2011, Nolte, 2011), and building on, among other things, the issues raised by War Studies and Peaces Studies that define the war in terms of "great wars", "small wars", "asymmetric wars" or "revolts", we attempt to broaden the debate and show that the First World War in the Muslim and Mediterranean worlds must be revisited as an object.

4The point is to show that the space of war cannot be limited either to the centrality of power in capitals or to the study of frontlines, and also to bring the calendar of war into the regions studied on the scale of empires, in other words on the world scale. With the Colonial Turn in the 1980s (De Moor et al., 1989, Cooper, 2005), the historiography on empires has indeed been considerably enriched over the past decade. Pressed by the Subaltern Studies, and later by the Postcolonial Studies, the Colonial and Imperial Studies have been deeply renewed, particularly since the 2000s (Laurens, 2009, Surun, 2012, Singaravélou, 2013, Gerwarth and Manela, 2014). All these studies tend to show that we must rethink colonialism and imperialism by observing diverse societies with the same eye, by focusing on margins, marginalized and minority populations, to better understand the centrality of power. A decentered perspective makes it possible to better understand the difficulties of the central power on the one hand, and appreciate more astutely the differences, compromises and resistances within the different populations (Bayard and Bertrand, 2006, Burbank, 2012). These comparative or trans-imperial research axes have produced a research that highlights the co-construction phenomena of empires and nations, shows the ways and means of intra-imperial circulation, and the heterogeneous, open character of empires. They have already proved relevant in applied studies of Asia and Africa (Liebau 2010, Bertrand 2011, Andurain 2016).

5The imperial fact must therefore be taken into account as a whole while relying on more localized research on the functioning of societies and institutions at war. Between the affirmation of the British and French empires and the disappearance of the great Ottoman and Russian continental empires, the warning signs of the world-wide conflict that was the Great War are traceable in the imperial rivalries of the late nineteenth century. Surely, they played a major role in the destabilization of the planet and in the aftermath of the First World War, in the reconfiguration of a world centered on the nation rather than the empires.

  • 2 For the most recent productions, see the dossier on the geographies of the First World War in the A (...)

6While not pretending to be exhaustive due to the chosen axes and its general economy, this issue contributes to the dynamism of research on the history of this "other Great War"2 by focusing on the complex, heterogeneous Muslim and Mediterranean worlds. . The eleven articles that make up the dossier revolve around three themes. The first one concerns space. Beginning with the space of the maritime and land margins of the Ottoman world and the Russian world. Authors like Julie d'Andurain, Renaud Dorlhiac and Fabrice Jesné or François Dumasy have sought to determine the modes of action of the Western powers, exercised either by defining or redefining territories, or by taking over populations. Cloé Drieu, on the other hand, tries to show how the colonial province of Turkestan was fractured by war and conscription for labor battalions. But space also applies to the city, a relevant scale for reading the way societies at war live. Elena Chiti observed the war from Alexandria, and Falestin Naïli-Shehadeh focused on the daily life of the city of Jerusalem reflected in the records of its municipal council. Danielle Ross, for her part, considered the social transformations at work in the context of war through the eyes of women. She studied articles from Suyumbike, one of the first women's magazines published in Kazan between 1914 and 1917, to determine how Tatar Muslim women lived the war and pursued their emancipation. A second theme concerns the time frame of the war and post-war and the issue of the chronological limits to be retained in order to understand the first world conflict, which limits are far from being confined to the 1914-1918 period. Elena Chiti, for example, insists on the fact that intellectuals in Alexandria felt the premises of war as early as 1911, while Fuat Dündar analyzed the consequences of the First World War and the peace conferences on the conflicts and tensions experienced by Anatolia until the late 1930s. With the Eastern Legion, the French army auxiliary body created in November 1916, Taline Papazian shows that military training was intended to obtain benefits in the exit from war negotiations. Finally, the last theme of the issue is that of Islam and Muslims in the war. Guillemette Crouzet shows that in the Persian Gulf, the repercussions of the "jihad made in Germany", that is to say, the Muslim propaganda supported by Kaiser Wilhem so as to weaken the margins of the Ottoman Empire, have indeed crystallized the fears of the British, still anxious to protect the Route to India. As for Salavat Iskhakov, he focused on Tatar and Bashkir Muslims and underlined their loyalty and allegiance to the Russian State and its army, in which they served during the Russo-Japanese war and during the First World War; with the February 1917 revolution, claims of territorial autonomy developed.

7As each article may deal with two or three of the themes mentioned above, we chose to structure the purpose of this introduction along three axes: that of multi-ethnic spaces endangered by the war, that of the duration of the conflict and, finally, that of Pan-Islamism and the effects of the instrumentalization of Islam by jihad in the war.

Multiethnic spaces endangered by the war

8The question of spaces and scales is crucial here as it reflects the diversity of the regions considered. Above all, it is important to define more precisely the geographical framework envisioned in this dossier and what is meant by "Muslim and Mediterranean worlds". Immense territories located at the crossroads of Europe, Asia and Africa, extending over two - Ottoman and Russian – empires, these Muslim worlds are partly surrounded by maritime areas – the Mediterranean Sea, the Black Sea, the Caspian Sea, the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean with the Persian Gulf - which are not enough to set their limits. The populations considered are mainly, though not entirely of Moslem religion and culture, and diverse ethnic and national origins. From a political perspective, diversity is the norm. Indeed, the Ottoman Empire and the Russian Empire extended their respective sovereignties over areas geographically very far apart, and they had imposed their power in varying ways. Just before the Great War, some of the Ottoman spaces had already reached a form of autonomy (Egypt, the Lebanese mountain), others had a semi-colonial status (Mashrek, Yemen), while some margins had been absorbed by the European colonial powers (Algeria, Tunisia on the one hand, the Persian Gulf on the other). In the Russian Empire, Turkestan was an entirely conquered colonial space in the late nineteenth century unlike the Tatar and Bashkir Muslim world, which had been in existence for centuries and whose men had served as soldiers since 1872.

9Threatened with fragmentation by external or internal forces during the period of the Great War, the Ottoman Empire and the Russian Empire were both actors and spectators of the European imperialist race. The "Eastern Question" posed by the Western powers (Frémeaux, 2014) involved all the territories concerned by strategic logic not only territorial (Russia’s access to the warm seas), but also maritime (control of the Route to India for the English and the Straits Question) that structured the whole of this "Great Game" dear to Rudyard Kipling (Laurens, 1991). These pre-1914 territorial and maritime challenges forced multi-ethnic continental empires to find, or at least seek, means of internal and external cohesion and to obtain guarantees of loyalty from minority populations in terms of religion or ethnicity (Christians, Jews, Kurds, Arabs in the Ottoman Empire, Muslims in the Russian Empire).

10The difficulty in apprehending the societies of the Muslim and Mediterranean worlds therefore lies in the spaces considered, and also in the multiethnic character of the latter; the exacerbation of ethnic tensions caused by the war (Robson, 2016) and the instrumentalization of the Muslim fact contributed to their implosion during the war. Let's begin with a small mapping of the frontlines to show why we must set the context beyond the European stage. The Western - more precisely the European - Front appeared as a primary frontline for a long time, before the importance of the Eastern Front was reconsidered (Tunstall 2010, McMeekin 2011, Sumpf 2014). During the same period, the Ottoman Empire and its territories were seen as secondary frontlines. But authors have recently demonstrated the specificities of an "Ottoman Front" (Rogan, 2015) - that is to say the whole of the frontline zones located on the Ottoman territory -, the importance of the war on the Ottoman society and particularly on mobilized soldiers (Erikson, 2001; Beşikçi, 2012). The Ottoman space was naturally a territory of convergence of imperial conflicts (Morrow, 2004), a crossroads where all the great powers at war confronted one another while the French and British empires found a form of reassurance through mandates (Méouchy and Sluglett, 2004). This Ottoman Front was broken down into multiple combat zones: the critical Caucasian frontline (Reynolds, 2011, Arslan, 2011), the Dardanelles in 1915-1916 (Schiavon, 2014), the Mediterranean frontline with Suez, Sinai, Palestine and Syria and more generally the Eastern Mediterranean; the Persian Gulf frontline (Basrah, Qourna, Abadan) and Mesopotamia (Monnier, 2016). In addition to the land frontlines were the maritime frontlines which, in some cases, created new spaces. We could even expand the scope of the debate to include the gradual emergence of economic issues related to the control of traffic routes, particularly maritime traffic or rail traffic (McMeekin, 2010). Finally, oil-related issues, notably the Abadan refineries for the British, became central to the conflict (Auzanneau, 2015). This "Ottoman Front" was therefore nothing minor; with at least 2.5 million deaths on the Ottoman side, even up to 5 million according to some authors, the country lost nearly 20% of the Empire's population by the mere fact of war (Aksakal, 2010; Ulrichsen, 2014), James Gelvin (2011) even up to a proportion of 25%.

11In various and multiple ways, the Ottoman Empire and the Russian Empire at war need to be apprehended in terms of an essentially plural violence directly caused by war or brought about by war. Violence in the battles, but also violence against civilians, who were either displaced by force, or had to flee from frontline areas or endured agricultural disasters, famines and epidemics. A look at the daily life of war is necessary to grasp whether or not the populations participated in the war effort, how they understood the conflict (Wooward, 2006). Affected by restrictions of all kinds, they suffered greatly from hunger and starvation (Fawaz, 2014). In the governance of cities, a great deal of effort was made during the conflict to maintain sanitation before, during and after the war (McArthur-Seal, 2014). In this issue, Falestin Naïli-Shehadeh studies the ways and means of urban governance in Jerusalem between 1914 and 1917 based on little-known documents such as the registers of the city council and "self-narratives" by inhabitants of the city. She clearly showed how the municipality of Jerusalem supported the development of an administration to face the health and humanitarian crisis. Elena Chiti also reports on these problems of daily governance, cleanliness, and also poverty in the city of Alexandria through literary texts.

  • 3 Bruno Elie's translation of the memoirs of Faik Tonguç, a Turkish officer retained in Russia (Tongu (...)

12The principle of diversity and dispersion of populations, their spread over a vast territory did not help create political unity; on the contrary, it led to a growing stigmatization of minorities, perceived more and more like a fifth column, likely to turn against the central power or at least undermine it. Thus, even if the mass displacements of people were nothing new in the history of the Russian and Ottoman empires, they became systemic with the First World War. As Cloé Drieu wrote in her article, as early as September 1914 in the Russian Empire, the so-called "suspicious" civilian populations, of Jewish and German origin, were displaced from the Western and Baltic regions of the Russian Empire turned frontline zones until the end of 1916 (Werth, 2004: 194-195, Gatrell, 1999: 22-26). This logic of homogenization of territories and displacements, even destruction of "suspicious" populations, reached a climax with the implementation of genocidal processes against Armenians, massacres and ethnic cleansing that go beyond the mere question of the intentionality of the act (Bozarslan et al., 2016, Hellot-Bellier, 2014, Sigalas and Toumarkine, 2008). "Demographic engineering" is what Fuat Dündar explored and developed in this dossier, by associating the issue with a reflection on time and duration of the war, because the consequences of population movements, massacres and genocides did not stop in 1918. They were the direct consequence of identity splits that preceded major battles and uprisings like Sarıkamış and Van, which gave the government led by the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) arguments to justify violence, and they continued to affect demographic policies until the late 1930s. From this perspective, the conflicts in the Caucasus appear as a turning point in the war (Johnson, 2016); by provoking the dispersion of populations, they accelerated the final collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the social reconfigurations within the framework of new dynamics. Other populations were obviously affected by forced displacements and participated in the disintegration of the two great continental empires such as the German, Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman prisoners of war retained in the Russian Empire who had to return, with great difficulty and very slowly after the 1918 peace treaties3; the deserters of the Russian army (a massive phenomenon after the February 1917 revolution) and the Ottoman army (Beşikçi, 2015); or war refugees who fled massively and quite far from conflict zones (Gatrell, 1999).

A Greater War… A war of at least ten years

13The question of the displacement of populations, which extends well beyond the two dates of 1914-1918, thus refers us to that of the chronology of the First World War in the Muslim and Mediterranean worlds. One of the objectives of this dossier is to restructure this chronology. As such, we found it useful to draw inspiration from European issues on entries into the war. In this volume, we addressed the issue of recruitment and loyalty of soldiers as well as perceptions and representations of war (Becker, 1977). When and how did the people’s frame of mind enter the war? Did the war mark the end of a world, the beginning of another century in the Middle East as it did in Europe (Cochet, 2014)? What marked the end?)

14Before the official outbreak of the war in Europe on August 1, 1914, the rumblings of the First World War were already widely felt in these territories, including in the Ottoman Empire, even if some continued to describe it as a "Garden of Eden" (Roosevelt, 1919). For some military historians who have addressed the issue, the two dates of 1914-1918 are not questioned (Moberly, 1929), but for other historians specializing in the First World War in these Mediterranean and Muslim worlds, it is obvious that it should be read as a moment in which conflicts were amalgamated with one another, mixing both land claims and identity issues (Nevakivi 1969, Andrew and Kanya-Forstner 1981, Fromkin 1989; Strachan 2014).

15The axes then diverge according to the sources used. While for some, generally working from European sources, it did begin in 1914, researchers who reason from sources of the Ottoman period have a different opinion. Based on Alexandrian Arabic literary sources, Elena Chiti's article shows, for example, how the city of Alexandria apparently entered into war as early as 1911. The city lived to the rhythm of the Ottoman Empire, not to that of a hypothetical Egyptian nation, and the testimonies collected show that the 1911 Italian invasion of Tripolitania appears to be the real moment of entry into the war. Muslim solidarity was coupled with a strong sense of imperial piety. Elena Chiti thus concurs with the opinion of other researchers who see in the young-Turkish revolution of 1908, and even more so in the three consecutive wars that followed (Tripolitania and Balkan Wars), the beginning of this other Great War (Bozarslan, 2013; Rogan, 2015, Aksakal, 2010, Besikçi, 2012).

16For those whose research is based on military sources it is clear that marches to war can be identified even earlier. Whether they use strategic overhaul or actual arms race as signs, historians today can reconstruct precisely several moments of dramatic changes: 1904 for the defenders of a new British strategy involving both India and Palestine (Popplewell 1995, Bardet 2010); 1904-1905 with the Russo-Japanese war that mobilized unprecedented human and military masses: respectively 1.3 and 1.2 million men for Russia and Japan. In itself, this “World War Zero” was a major break for the States and also for the Muslim populations, from Central Eurasia, especially from Egypt, who saw in the defeat of a great Christian power against an Asian power, a sign of emancipation and liberation from the colonial yoke (Steinberg et al., 2005: IX, Marks, 2005). The date of 1907 is finally used by historians who envision the confrontation of empires as the starting point of an imperial strategy (Frémeaux, 2014, Johnson, 2016). As for the Eastern Mediterranean and based on the example of the contours of Greater Syria, Julie d'Andurain shows, in this issue, that the action of the powers was expressed before the war, from 1912, in the form of lobbying aimed at defining the coveted territory. While the semantic construction is based on questionable geographical constructions, it does contribute to the formation of a cartographic tool that can be used in the negotiation of war aims. In the same way, François Dumasy shows us that the weakening of Italy in Libya, thus the slowing down of the imperialist race, began with the war, whereas the colonial structure established in 1912 encountered obvious difficulties in the recruitment of the troop in particular. Libya also appeared as a laboratory for recreating local identities and affiliations, particularly between 1915 and 1919.

17Other researchers chose to look at the Mediterranean conflicts as the true warning signs, not of the conflict itself, but of the final disintegration of the Ottoman Empire, with two convergent analyzes: one focusing on Italy's colonial inclinations in Tripolitania, the other on the Balkan wars. In fact, these two series of conflicts were quite similar, in their objects as in their developments. An indirect consequence of the Entente cordiale of 1904, the Italian-Turkish war (September 1911) was to complete the colonial dismemberment in the Mediterranean. It was no longer about diplomatic negotiation; it was about taking by force territories belonging to the Ottoman Empire. From this point of view, the Italo-Turkish war marks for many researchers the beginning of a “ten-year war” (Picaudou 1992, Aksakal 2010). For others, it was the starting point of a late Italian colonial conquest between 1911 and 1915 (Labanca, 2002). At the same time, the researchers studying the Balkan wars saw a connection between an Ottoman Empire surrendering North African provinces (Treaty of Ouchy, October 18, 1912) to be able to engage in the first Balkan war (October 1912 to May 1913) against Montenegro, Bulgaria, Serbia and Greece, territories that consider themselves as part of Europe rather than the Ottoman Empire (Horel, 2014). The way of apprehending these conflicts, giving up one province to preserve another, is proof that the thought process opposing the centrality to the margins is already at work in the minds of the Young Turks. In 1913, at the end of the two Balkan wars, the Ottoman Empire had lost 80% of its European territory and 16% of its population (Aksakal, 2010). Afflicted on the inside, weakened on its margins, the Ottoman Empire had already partly entered into a war, no longer for the survival of the Empire, but for that of the Turkish people.

18On the other hand, the entry into the war may have occurred later in some cases, as Cloé Drieu evokes in this issue: if Turkestan, for example, participated in the war from 1914 by supplying raw materials and foodstuffs for the army, it is the July 1916 revolts against conscription into labor battalions that made people feel like they were entering into war, either because they were directly confronted with military violence (repression) associated with war violence, or because they actually took part in the war by being assigned to the labor battalions for war support. 1916 was another significant moment in the history of the First World War in the colonial or peripheral spaces of empires which, as Keith Jeffery (2014) argues, partly broke under the economic pressures and interventionism of administrations. This was evidenced by revolts in Algeria (Meynier, 1981), French West Africa (Saul, 2001, Michel, 2003) and New Caledonia (Bensa, Goromoedo and Muckle, 2015), and in the Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire. Finally, somewhat relatedly, 1916 was also an important moment in the history of the Armenians as Taline Papazian points out in this issue: the Legion d'Orient,(Eastern Legion) an auxiliary body of the French army created in November of that year in order to support the conquest of Cilicia by France, envisioned, through the activism of Boghos Nubar, President of the Armenian National Delegation, the possibility for Armenians to weigh in the negotiations of the exit from war and to argue in favor of an autonomous national home under French administration. It was indeed about crediting military commitment with political value and projecting oneself into the post-war period.

19Thus, the issue of entries into the war mirrors that of exits from the war all the more obviously since most historians agree that the war did not end in 1918 (Strachan, 2014 Mc Meekin, 2015), but in 1923 and perhaps even 1924, the year that signaled, for the Ottoman Empire both the ratification of the Treaty of Lausanne and the disappearance of the caliphate. The idea of a long-term conflict (about ten years) also prevails among historians of the Russian Empire in their effort to understand how the logics of violence intertwine to define a historical continuum of wars and terror between the Russian empire and the USSR (Holquist 2002, Sanborn 2014). In 1917, the Great War caused two revolutions (February and October - which took place in March and November 1917, due to a gap of 13 days between the Julian calendar used in the Russian Empire and the Gregorian calendar). Those civil wars, even if they basically ended around 1923, did not result in pacification of societies who suffered waves of repression and Stalinist terror in the 1930s. The theme of "exits from the war" well developed in France (Cabanes, 2004, Audoin-Rouzeau and Prochasson, 2008, Frémeaux and Battesti, 2014) is now partially appropriated by historians of the Ottoman and Russian worlds, albeit with questions. Thus, as Fuat Dündar points out in his article, the November 11 armistice is not a significant date for the spaces we are studying; a few conferences are not enough to establish peace and appease the populations in a lasting way. For two main reasons: first, the "demographic engineering", in other words the forced displacements of populations, orchestrated by the Committee of Union and Progress, destabilized the old Ottoman Empire durably and, second, the application of the Wilsonian principles expected by populations simply didn’t occur. While the effects of the Great War were felt until 1939, Fuat Dündar emphasizes that the historians of Turkey globally accept the date of August 23, 1923 as the end of the war, when the period of occupation of Istanbul by the English, the French and the Italians ended.

Islam and war: the jihad issue

  • 4 This reflection is based on the article by Adeeb Khalid (2005) that defines pan-Islamism in the his (...)

20In order to complete this introduction and place the territories and populations living in these Muslim and Mediterranean worlds at the heart of our study, we must address the essential question of a presumed unity of these regions, by the mere fact that they are "Muslim". Indeed, it is necessary to question this alleged feeling of Muslim solidarity by exploring what pan-Islamism and Islam really represented in the war, taking into account another key moment of the First World War, that of the proclamation of the jihad in October 1914. Associated with the history of the Ottoman Empire, pan-Islamism is a complex, trans-imperial historical phenomenon, specific to the “era of empires” (Hobsbawm, 2007), revolving around a Muslim identity yet going beyond simple religious, spiritual or mystical practices. In order to better understand this phenomenon and see how the issue of jihad relates to it, we must consider three dimensions of pan-Islamism that operate according to their own logic, interact with each other, or oppose or on the contrary ignore each other.4

21Thus, the first dimension of the pan-Islamist phenomenon may be measured based on what happened in the Ottoman Empire taking into account Islam and the political recourse to religious motives both as an instrument of unification and mobilization of Ottoman Muslims (Turks, Arabs, Albanians and Kurds, or Shiites), and as a diplomatic card - which was used by Germany during the Great War - to protect and reach the Muslim populations of colonies and protectorates of other empires. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the Ottoman Empire enjoyed a special aura among Muslims as the only major non-colonized Muslim power; this dimension of pan-Islamism responded, in a way, to European imperialism at a time when colonization was accelerating. This Ottoman "pan-Islamism" paralleled both Abdülhamid's “caliphal policy” and an intellectual and liberal movement in the late 1860s advocated by the Young Ottomans, who aspired to create a "union of Muslims" (Ittihad- i Islam) - regarded as a reformist, progressive movement to safeguard the Empire - that would counterbalance Pan-Slavism (Ittihad-i Slav) and Pan-Germanism (Ittihad-i Cermen) (Georgeon, 2015 and 2017). By considering the position of other empires (Russian, French and British) - as she did in this issue – Guillemette Crouzet was able to define precisely a second dimension of pan-Islamism, that of a potentially subversive danger vis-à-vis the colonial order, a threat both internal (in Muslims dominated territories) and external with the Ottoman Empire, Persia or Afghanistan (Bessmertnaia, 2006). Finally, a third and last dimension is that of a trans-imperial movement of reflection and thought of modernity in Islam, among populations living at the border of the Ottoman Empire (like Egypt for example) and among Turkic-speaking populations within the Russian Empire, the Tatars being at the forefront of the movement through the publication of newspapers (Bennigsen and Lemercier-Quelquejay, 1964, Khalid, 1998, Dudoignon, 1997). Danielle Ross's article in this issue provides an innovative insight into a newspaper for and about Muslim women: the war and the departure of conscripted husbands accelerated the reflection begun by reformists on the emancipation of women; it was completed, a few years later, albeit with violence, by Soviet policies, in the Tatar and Bashkir worlds and Central Asian world as well (Kamp, 2006, Tuna, 2015, Khalid, 1998).

  • 5 One hundred million under British rule, 20 million under French domination and 20 million under Rus (...)
  • 6 This vision is based on the publication of the Dutch orientalist Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje (1915) (...)
  • 7 We should also note the works of Michael Pesek, available online though not all are published:: htt (...)
  • 8 Cloé Drieu is very grateful to François Georgeon for emphasizing this aspect (see also Georgeon, 20 (...)

22With more than 240 million Muslims, including 140 million living in the French, German, British or Russian Western empires in 19145, Islam and jihad acted as strategic resources for potential destabilization in the first world conflict. Pan-Islamism as a threat was no longer a means of intimidation, as it had been during the Hamidian era; it had become a geopolitical reality by 1914. In this respect, let us recall that the vision of a “jihad made in Germany”, and a Germany that would manipulate the Ottoman Empire and the Caliphate to serve exclusively its own war purposes, has long marked the historiography of this particular moment of the Great War6. First, because Germany was not the only country trying to take advantage of Islam; the same is true, for example, of Italy in Albania between 1915 and 1920. The article written by Renaud Dorlhiac and Fabrice Jesné for this issue shows us how the Italians made demands on the Muslims of Albania to be able to justify their occupation of the Epirus province. Secondly, authors such as Mustafa Aksakal as of 2011, Mehmet Beşikçi (2012 and 2016) and Şükrü Hanioğlu (2016) insist that the Ottoman were actually the first to exploit Islam, thus minimizing the weight of Germany’s hold. Indeed they criticized the Orientalist vision of some historians who view the Ottoman Empire as a State incapable of deciding for itself, although Germany did in fact play a significant role in the proclamation of 1914, as did the Committee for Union and Progress (Zürcher, 2016, Aksakal, 2016)7. It is important to understand that the jihad officially proclaimed by the Ottoman political and religious authorities was a novelty in 1914, yet it had contributed to mobilization efforts undertaken earlier by the Ottoman Empire, in the name of Islam and for internal purposes. Indeed, jihad was not officially proclaimed during the 1876 wars against Serbia and Montenegro, or against the Russian Empire in 1877-78, or during the Tripolitania war against Italy in 1911 or even during the Balkan wars8. In these wars, however, officers were able to invoke jihad, locally and verbally, to motivate the troops to fight; this "jihad" was a response to a military necessity on the ground and a convenient rallying cry for both regular and irregular troops (Beşikçi 2016, Aksakal 2016).

23The process leading to the proclamation of jihad is complex because it involves several religious and political authorities of the Ottoman State. It was completed on November 11 and November 14, 1914: the decision was first deliberated, then prepared as a fatwa endorsed by the Seyhülislam (the highest religious authority in the Ottoman Empire), signed by 29 personalities representing the main religious leaders and approved by the Sultan, then sent to the Chamber of Deputies, to be finally presented at a ceremony with the political, religious and military dignitaries of the Ottoman Empire on November 11, 1914 and proclaimed publicly on November 14 in the mosque of Mehmed the Conqueror in the district of Fatih in Istanbul (Aksakal, 2011: 185-186). There is little information on the way the text was circulated and distributed (in writing or orally) or on the supports used. In the Ottoman Empire, the text was simplified and translated into everyday language, often displayed on posters (Zürcher, 2016: 21). In the Shiite areas of the Ottoman Empire that did not recognize the caliphate, mentions of the institution were largely obliterated (Hanioğlu, 2016: 120). Distribution required other means of mediation, such as sending Ottoman and German agents; propaganda efforts were also made in German camps (the Wünsdorf-Zossen camp near Berlin, for example) to reach Muslim prisoners of the Russian, French and British armies, with little success (Rogan, 2015: 232, Fogarty, 2014) .

  • 9 As early as 1782 the muftiyat of Ufa was created, which became the spiritual assembly of Orenburg i (...)
  • 10  From the Arabic word ghazi, it is an armed struggle without legal religious decision (without fatw (...)

24The current historiography of the First World War in the Maghreb, in the Middle East and as far as Central Eurasia, has rapidly come to the conclusion that the proclamation of jihad was a failure in the sense that it did not result in numerous desertions or massive protests in colonial areas, that remained loyal to the central State at the beginning of the war (Rogan 2015, Khalid 2005, Fogarty 2014, Iskhakov 2003, Monnier 2016). This was clearly the case of these Muslims who remained loyal to the Russian Empire, as detailed by Salavat Iskhakov who related a history of the conscription of Tatars in the Russian army, over a period from 1904 to 1917. Recruited by means of universal conscription, and representing 1 / 6th of the military forces, these Muslims who had been faithful to the Empire expected the February revolution to bring them the emancipation they had been promised; after the October Revolution, they claimed at the Peace Conference the right to self-determination from which they have been deprived. Their loyalty can be explained by several factors. First the Russian State had, since Catherine II, institutionalized a "Muslim clergy" with the creation of spiritual Assemblies, numbering four in 19149, which gradually undermined the caliphate legitimacy. Second, loyalty was also the position of Muslim reformists, in the Tatar and Central Asian worlds, who widely advocated compromise and never considered secession as a political solution. Finally – this is only a theory - it can also be presumed that the proclamation of jihad, if and when it reached the territory of Central Asia as such, did not happen upon the same dissenting, rural, tribal Islam that had inflamed anti-colonial revolts in 1898 (in Andijan) and in 1916. In fact, the concept of "jihad" as such was relatively irrelevant to define the armed struggle against an “infidel” power, itself based on the notion of ghazavat10. Indeed this was the term used in Central Asia by the insurgents, before and after 1914, in their fight against the colonial instances, then again against the first Soviet institutions during the anti-Soviet guerilla war known as the "Basmachi revolt", that Enver Pasha, former Ottoman War Minister, tried to unify between 1921 and 1922, among others under the flag of jihad this time.

25As for Erik-Jan Zürcher (2016: 24) he argued that the outwardly focused “German jihad” (desertion, massive protests in colonial areas) was a failure, contrary to the “Ottoman jihad”. Historians of the Ottoman Empire insist that religious motives, including jihad, have effectively mobilized non-Turkish Muslim populations (Shiites in particular) in the war effort, that they played an important role in maintaining the troop morale and in mobilizing society. This impact was nevertheless challenged by other forms of revolt, such as the Arab uprising of the Hashemites or that of the Senoussiya brotherhood in Libya.

26As a whole, the articles written for this issue, whether they deal with the multi-ethnic specificity of the spaces considered, the entries into and exits from the war or the place of Islam and jihad in the war, all echo contemporary issues, as close to us as the current war in Syria, that is profoundly changing the entire Middle East as well as today’s Europe. Let us recall, for example, Daesh fighters bulldozing the Sykes-Picot borders ... Therefore, reassessing the First World War, within a broader geographic and chronological context, makes more sense now than ever before.

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1 We would like to thank Marc Aymes, Mehmet Beşikçi, Xavier Bougarel, Raphaëlle Branche, Nathalie Clayer, Leyla Dakhli, Angelos Dalachanis, Richard Fogarty, Jacques Frémeaux, François Georgeon, Hubert Heyriès, Juliette Honvault, Marianne Kamp, Adeeb Khalid, Nicola Labanca, Vincent Lemire, Pierre-Jean Luizard, Roberto Mazza, Alexander Morrison, Claire Mouradian, Matthieu Rey, Eugen Rogan, Peter Sluglett, Nikos Sigalas, Alexandre Toumarkine, Mustafa Tuna and Arndt Weinrich for their contributions to this issue. We would also like to thank CETOBAC for their financial contribution.

2 For the most recent productions, see the dossier on the geographies of the First World War in the Annales (1/2016), the issue on the Great War in the Middle East of the International Journal of Middle East Studies led by Mustafa Aksakal (4/2014), as well as the collective work led by Andrew Tait Jarboe and Richard S. Fogarty (2014).

3 Bruno Elie's translation of the memoirs of Faik Tonguç, a Turkish officer retained in Russia (Tonguç, 2015) is worth mentioning.

4 This reflection is based on the article by Adeeb Khalid (2005) that defines pan-Islamism in the history of Central Asia by determining three dimensions: Pan-Islamism as an external policy of the Ottoman State (State Pan-Islam), pan-Islamism as a threat to the colonial order, and finally pan-Islamism as a "public space" of thought, reflection and modernity in Islam (Public Pan-Islam).

5 One hundred million under British rule, 20 million under French domination and 20 million under Russian domination (Rogan, 2015: 53-54)

6 This vision is based on the publication of the Dutch orientalist Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje (1915), and was conceptualized by Max Freiherr von Oppenheim, notably through the publication of the newspaper al-Jihad between 1915 and 1918 in several languages (Hanioğlu, 2016: 117 -118)

7 We should also note the works of Michael Pesek, available online though not all are published::

8 Cloé Drieu is very grateful to François Georgeon for emphasizing this aspect (see also Georgeon, 2017). The official jihad had been forgotten as an instrument from the Tanzimat (Hanioğlu, 2016: 118) and Abdülhamid was never in favor of it.

9 As early as 1782 the muftiyat of Ufa was created, which became the spiritual assembly of Orenburg in 1788; the Assembly of Tauri in Crimea was created in 1794; later, in 1872, the Sunni and Shiite Spiritual Assemblies were born in the Caucasus.

10  From the Arabic word ghazi, it is an armed struggle without legal religious decision (without fatwa).

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Julie Andurain (d’) et Cloé Drieu, « Beyond the European stage of 14-18; The other Great War in the Muslim world », Revue des mondes musulmans et de la Méditerranée [En ligne], 141 | juin 2017, mis en ligne le 01 décembre 2017, consulté le 25 juin 2018. URL :

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Cloé Drieu

Chargée de recherche Cnrs, CETOBAC

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Julie Andurain (d’)

Centre Roland Mousnier, Paris-Sorbonne

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