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This movement, operating underground and from exile, was originally constituted in as a multi-ethnic coalition of activists who shared a common demand for the restoration of the constitution. Yet even before it came to power, the CUP split over the question of how a truly reformed Ottoman Empire p.

But the slogan merely begged the question: was this to be a culturally and linguistically assimilationist identity that utterly erased all internal divisions or a loosely civic one that allowed for the simultaneous cultivation of diverse ethno-religious traditions and communal autonomies? For a majority of the Turkish speakers of Muslim background in the CUP, it was self-evident that Turkish identity should form the core ingredient in any Ottomanist recipe. In the wake of a questionably conducted parliamentary election in , further turmoil ensued, culminating in a putsch organized by a group of military officers belonging to the CUP.

This placed the soon-to-be notorious, authoritarian triumvirate of Enver Pasha, Talat Pasha, and Jemal Pasha firmly in the political saddle, where they were to stay to the end of the First World War. Foreign powers responded to the revolution by grabbing yet more Ottoman territories in the Balkans and North Africa. From a very dispassionate, ethno-strategic perspective, the Balkan losses could be seen as a potential gain for the Ottoman Empire.

They came as the culmination of a long-drawn-out process that left the empire shorn of territories whose populations were largely Christian with some notable exceptions, such as parts of Bosnia-Herzegovina and newly independent Albania. To be sure, there were still millions of Armenians and Greeks in Anatolia and Constantinople, as well as various Christian minorities in the Arab Middle East, and small pockets of Jewish population throughout including the still tiny, but growing, Zionist settlement in Palestine, of which more below.

But Muslim demographic preponderance within the empire was now greater than ever, and, especially in the eyes of some Arab politicians and publicists, this religious streamlining held forth the possibility of making the dream of Ottomanism a reality. That is, their common Islamic heritage could bind Arabs and Turks and Kurds, to the extent that anyone was paying attention to them in a common civic identity, allowing an effective refounding of the empire on the basis of some form of popular sovereignty and shared religio-cultural heritage.

By the same token, Arab advocates of p. Such a system would allow the Arabs to enjoy a considerable degree of home rule in their native provinces while gaining equal access with Turks to positions of power at the centre. In public, the Young Turks still spoke the inclusive language of Ottomanism, while periodically resorting to Islamist and jihadist propaganda when it served their purposes notably during World War I.

But in their private deliberations and in various aspects of their public policy, they behaved ever more obviously like Turkish nationalists. Arab dissent took open political form in the safety of British-controlled Cairo, where advocates of federalization founded the Ottoman Administrative Decentralization Party at the end of It should be noted that at this stage these remained tiny conspiratorial organizations consisting of a few score members. In November , as the CUP triumvirate brought the Ottoman Empire into the war against the Allies, the gloves came off on the domestic front as well.

Within a year, the Young Turk regime had launched a carefully planned anti-Armenian ethnic-cleansing campaign that rapidly assumed genocidal qualities and proportions.

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Somewhere in the range of , to over a million Armenian men, women, and children were murdered or allowed to die amidst their forced transportation from eastern Anatolia to the Syrian desert. This process reached its culmination after the war with the forced transfer of some , Muslims and 1. This exercise in mutual ethno-religious cleansing received largely retroactive international sanction under the terms of the January Greco-Turkish Convention that was incorporated into the July Treaty of Lausanne between p. In Mesopotamia Iraq , the grinding war of attrition between the Ottoman army and the British-commanded and largely Indian-manned invading force made life very difficult for the population at large.

In the western parts of the Fertile Crescent, Ottoman military requisitions and the Allied blockade contributed to a devastating famine that took hundreds of thousands of lives. Any possibility of a general uprising was ruthlessly preempted by Jemal Pasha, who took personal command of the region.

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His public hangings in Beirut and Damascus in and of thirty-three Arab activists on charges of illicit communication with the enemy were to be commemorated in later years as a defining moment in the birth of Arab nationalism—a collective martyrdom from which subsequent generations of freedom fighters could draw inspiration.

There were some sporadic peasant uprisings, but the overwhelming majority of Arab notables, officials, and army officers either remained genuinely loyal to the Ottoman cause or dared not express their dissent throughout the bulk of the war years. Only a tiny minority defected across Allied lines to join the rebellion that had broken out in the Hejaz.

The Hejaz was a province running along the western coast of the Arabian Peninsula.


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Its significance in the Arab and Muslim worlds was out of proportion to its population and economic resources, for lying within its boundaries were the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. Its rulers had long been accustomed to functional autonomy within the Ottoman Empire. The outbreak of war between the British based in Egypt and the Ottomans created an opportunity for Hussein and his sons Feisal — and Abdullah — to try and break free from the Ottoman yoke.

A handful of Arab officers belonging to these two societies managed to desert from the Ottoman army and make their way to Cairo. Here they joined like-minded political exiles in meeting with British officials and talking up the potential for a massive Arab uprising against the Ottoman Empire if only the British provided a little aid. The outgrowth of this nexus of communications was the famous —16 correspondence between Sir Henry McMahon, British High Commissioner in Egypt, and Hussein, in which the former undertook to provide support for a general Arab uprising that would begin with the revolt of the Hejaz.

Why the New Nationalists Are Taking Over - POLITICO Magazine

With the help of British liaison officers such as T. It would be a stretch to call Hussein a nationalist.


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  4. He tended to think in terms that were on the one hand provincial and on the other pan-Islamic. In his Arabic-language propaganda, he emphasized religious themes, denouncing the Young Turks as Godless secularists and promising to restore legitimate Islamic rule to the territories that came under his authority.

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    Ibn Saud came to power at the head of an Arabian tribal confederacy that derived its ideological cohesion, such as it was, from Wahhabi fundamentalist Islam rather than Arab nationalism. In any case, the Ottoman Empire was slowly and painfully conquered by British-commanded forces; it did not collapse.

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    That said, there is no question that an influential minority among urban Arab elites did take up the idea of national self-determination wholeheartedly and enthusiastically, eagerly embracing the possibilities that Wilsonian doctrine seemed to hold forth. The writings and teachings of Arabists such as Rashid Rida see above and the wartime political activism of the secret societies had helped lay the ideological and organizational foundations for an Arab nationalist movement.

    Popular forces demanding empowerment also burst forth on the political scene, now that the old order had been summarily swept away. A further complication was the occupation of most of the region by British forces and their French allies, who had been allowed by the British to establish a foothold in what was to become Lebanon and who had their eyes firmly set on Syria, where the British had promised them a sphere of influence in the secret Sykes-Picot agreement.

    A wave of resentment and unrest was triggered across the Middle East. The nominal Egyptian ruler was now titled sultan and later king, instead of khedive. Here as elsewhere in the Middle East and the colonial world at large, the end of the war amidst Wilsonian proclamations raised expectations of national self-determination.

    Continued political turmoil induced the British in to renounce the protectorate and allow the Egyptian king to declare independence, subject to major restrictions. Although Zaghlul held office as prime minister briefly in , British concessions fell far short of the substantive and complete independence for which he and his supporters were holding out. It should be noted that, during much of this period, Egyptian nationalism did not emphasize its linguistic affinity with the other Arabic-speaking societies of the Middle East. Only towards the end of the interwar years did the potential advantages of mutual cooperation in the context of a pan-Arab nationalist movement become increasingly attractive to Egyptian nationalists.

    Iraqi oil production, begun in , remained firmly in the hands of the misleadingly named Iraq Petroleum Company, which was jointly owned by British, French, Dutch, and American firms, to the exclusion of Iraqi participation. The Syrian example can serve as a case study illustrative of the confusion surrounding the meaning and significance of Arab nationalism during its formative years.

    Within the territory roughly corresponding to present-day Syria, Feisal sought to establish his rule under the protection of British occupation forces and with the help of British subsidies. Yet on the domestic front alone, the challenges he faced were overwhelming. The urban notables who dominated much of Syrian society and local politics did not take kindly to the Hashemite claim to leadership of the Arab world.

    As far as most of them were concerned, these upstart Hejazis with their rag-tag Bedouin army had a less legitimate claim to power than the Ottomans they were seeking to replace. Some urban-notable clans were willing to climb onto the Hashemite bandwagon as a means of reconsolidating their local power. Feisal sought to legitimize his aspirations by arranging elections in to a Syrian National Congress. Locally elected popular committees, loosely affiliated with a Higher National Committee in Damascus, constituted rival claimants to authority as the Syrian National Congress proved increasingly ineffectual.

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    By March , when Feisal was proclaimed King of Syria in the face of imminent British withdrawal and a mounting French threat, he had become little more than a figurehead leader. One month later, the Allied Supreme Council, meeting at San Remo, agreed on the final terms of a Middle Eastern territorial partition, confirming French control of Lebanon and Syria, while leaving Palestine including what was soon to be carved out as Transjordan and Iraq to the British. Feisal, who had vainly opposed military resistance as futile, fled the country.

    The British soon compensated him by naming him King of Iraq, while his brother Abdullah became the Emir of Transjordan. The entire arrangement was given a fig leaf of legitimacy in the form of League of Nations mandates, which formally obliged the British and French to guide the populations of these territories towards eventual full independence with some ambiguity in the case of Palestine.

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    The mandatory authorities were officially accountable to the League, to which they were obliged to submit periodic progress reports. The fundamental hypocrisy of these arrangements notwithstanding, the Wilsonian facade took on a life of its own to the extent that it helped awaken expectations of national self-determination among the political elites and segments of the popular p.

    To return to our Syrian example, what nation was it that was seeking self-determination—a Syrian nation or the Syrian segment of a larger Arab whole? Were Christians and members of non-Sunni Muslim sects such as Druze and Alawites to be considered equal members of the nation or tolerated minorities? Who was to determine the answers to such questions—urban notables, religious authorities, urban masses, rural insurgents, Westernized intellectuals? A burgeoning historiography has highlighted how hard it was then and remains today to provide clear-cut answers to any of these questions.

    At the same time, with the larger framework of the Ottoman-protected Islamic ummah gone, they had to find new sources of legitimacy. Hence the emergence in the late s of the National Bloc, a political coalition led by Muslim urban notables who claimed to speak for the Syrian nation in the face of French occupation. In brief, the leaders of the National Bloc were ready to speak the democratic-populist language of nationalism and self-determination when it suited them, while continuing to wield power along lines of social segmentation and rigid hierarchy.

    It should be noted that such secular nationalists, even when of Christian background, tended to acknowledge the importance of Islam as a civilization in whose creation and cultural heritage Arabs of all faiths could take common pride. Only when the last institutional vestige of the time-honoured pan-Islamic frame of reference had disappeared did nationalism remain as the only ready-to-hand source of legitimacy for those seeking to gain or retain power in Syria. This uprising originated among the Druze sectarian minority in the south, but rapidly spread to other parts of the country.

    Not until were the last embers of resistance stamped out by a ruthless French counter-insurgency campaign. Nonetheless, Provence concedes that the only common goal shared by the various sectarian, social, and regional elements of the uprising was the determination to oust the French from Syria.

    Nationalists in other Middle Eastern territories faced analogous dilemmas in the face of deep social, sectarian, ethnic, and tribal cleavages and in light of the tensions among pan-Islamism, pan-Arabism, and state patriotism.

    There was no Russia communist party: only none Russians had a communist party only the non-Russian republics had their own communist system. But nationalist behaviour is not just means to, and the nationalist ideal is not just a rationalization of, non-nationalist goals: the ideal can be an end in itself and can be the most rational means for pursuing that end. That is to say, nationalist behaviour may also be the rational response of bona fide nationalists — individuals with a sincere and strong belief in the nationalists ideal — to opportunities to pursue their goals.

    Brubaker also makes the common mistake of 2 overlooking the roles of momentum, improvised reactive actors , a search for immediate responses for challenges political opportunism and power dispositions in the Soviet State. BUT Tishkov, does not think it was inevitable. Western tautology: the law of collapsing Empires.