One Hundred Years of the First World War

Supervised by: Dr. Richard Wittmann

Main collaborator: Fritz Thyssen Foundation

Duration: Since 2013

European and American research on the First World War has largely ignored the Ottoman battlefields and developments in the Ottoman region as well as in West Asia. As a consequence, the actual dimensions of this world war have not been adequately understood. The research focus of the OII aims to help foreground the Ottoman frontlines in global war research, to raise new questions, and to critically examine nationalist myths on the basis of current research.

This subject matter will be the emphasis of several research-oriented events in 2013–2018, such as the Thyssen lectures (2013–2018), the major Second World War conference in April 2014, along with additional planned and proposed conferences, including an international conference together with the Thyssen Foundation in 2018 and various publication projects. Research on individual aspects is a further important contribution of the Orient-Institut Istanbul to the international debate surrounding the causes, course, and impact of the war on the Ottoman territories and beyond. This includes the contribution of the OII to the Online Encyclopedia of the First World War, which involves A. Toumarkine as a section editor.

Publications on research area

Wittmann, Richard, Cora, Yaşar Tolga (Eds.). Fighting Under the Same Banner: Memories from the Ottoman Theater of the Great War. Archiv Orientální, 88(3). Prague: 2021.

Toumarkine, Alexandre; Öktem, Emre. „Will the Trojan War take place? Violations of the rules of war and the Battle of the Dardanelles (1915)”. International Review of the Red Cross. 2016. 1047–1064.

Toumarkine, Alexandre; Beşikçi, Mehmet. „Jay Winter ile bir Söyleşi: Cihan Harbi’ne Ulus-Aşırı bir Perspektiften Bakmak”. Toplumsal Tarih. 244, 2014. 42-47.

Toumarkine, Alexandre „L’invention permanente des soldats inconnus en Turquie“. François Cochet, Jean-Noël Grandhomme (Hrsg.). Les soldats inconnus de la Grande Guerre: la mort, le deuil, la mémoire. Saint-Cloud: Éd. Soteca 2012. S. 191-206.

Pera-Blätter on research area

Pera-Blätter 30: Michael Ursinus, Sarajevo, an Ottoman city of many names and disputed history. Bonn 2015.

Pera-Blätter 31: Oliver Janz, Der Erste Weltkrieg als globaler Krieg. Bonn 2016.

Pera-Blätter 29: Jay Winter, The trans-national history of the Great War. Bonn 2015.

Pera-Blätter 27: Erik Jan Zürcher, What was different about the Ottoman war? Bonn 2014.

Pera-Blätter 25: Gerd Krumeich, Der Erste Weltkrieg: Vom Krieg der Großmächte zur Katastrophe Europas. Bonn 2014.

International Conference: Not All Quiet on the Ottoman Front: Neglected Perspectives on a Global War, 1914–18

Supervised by: Prof. Dr. Raoul Motika and Dr. Alexandre Toumarkine, assisted by Gülayşe Öcal-Schiweck, MA

Event date: 04.08.–04.12.2014

Main collaborator: Tarih Vakfı

This major conference with some 80 lectures was organized jointly in 2014 with the Historical Foundation (Tarih Vakfı), an independent network of historians in Turkey, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War. The conference was aimed at setting new benchmarks for research on Ottoman theaters of war, especially in the area of new military history and with regard to the topics of war experience, war organization, as well as war discourse. The organizers thus sought to direct the focus of the conference to the Ottoman fronts in the north, east, and south, to mitigate national/nationalistic perspectives by way of a deliberate transnational orientation, and to privilege non-military historical aspects.

A full conference report by Zaur Gasimov can be found at:

Thyssen Lectures 2013–2018: The Great War Beyond National Perspectives

Supervised by: Prof. Dr. Raoul Motika and Dr. Alexandre Toumarkine

Event date: 2013–2018 (once or twice a year)

Main collaborator: Boğaziçi University, Sabancı University, Istanbul Bilgi University and Tarih Vakfı

Sponsored by: Fritz Thyssen Foundation

As one of the great catastrophes of the 20th century, the First World War led to the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and other multi-ethnic empires, as well as to the dissolution of the old political and economic order. On the occasion of the War’s centenary, the Orient-Institut Istanbul and the Fritz Thyssen Foundation, in cooperation with leading academic institutions of Turkey, explored the origins, the course, and the consequences of the “Great War” with an international series of lectures. The lecture series was also intended to shed new light on the development of states like the Republic of Turkey that emerged from the ruins of the war. As part of the Thyssen Lectures, nine internationally renowned world-war scholars will respectively hold lectures at one of Istanbul’s leading universities and at a university outside of Istanbul between 2013–2018. For this purpose, the OIl is working closely with Tarih Vakfı. The Fritz Thyssen Foundation’s financial support of this event format is helping the OII to become more integrated into the Turkish research community.

The following lectures have been held to date:

Thyssen Lectures I

Prof. em. Dr. Gerd Krumeich, Universität Düsseldorf

The First World War: From a War of the Major Powers to a Catastrophe in Europe

November 5, 2013, Dokuz Eylül University (Izmir)

November 7, 2013, Sabancı University (Istanbul)

Pera-Blätter 25

Thyssen Lectures II

Prof. Dr. Jay Winter, Yale University

Understanding the First World War: A Transnational Moment in Historical Study

April 10, 2014, Istanbul Bilgi University

Pera-Blätter 29

Thyssen Lectures III

Prof. Dr. Oliver Janz , Freie Universität Berlin

The First World War in a Global Perspective

November 3, 2014, Boğaziçi University (Istanbul)

November 4, 2014, Abant Izzet Baysal University (Bolu)

Pera-Blätter 31


Thyssen Lectures IV

Prof. Dr. John Horne, Trinity College, Dublin

A Colonial Expedition? The French Soldiers’ Experience at the Dardanelles

April 21, 2015, Bilecik Şeyh Edebali University (Bilecik)

1915 and the “Totalizing Logic” of the First World War

April 22, 2015, Sabancı University (Istanbul)


Thyssen Lectures V

Prof. Dr. Eugene Rogan, Oxford University

The Fall of the Ottomans: The Great War in the Middle East

November 30, 2015, Çukurova University (Adana)

Recruiting Prisoners: The Ottomans and the British in the First World War

  1. December 2015, Istanbul Bilgi University (Istanbul)

Thyssen Lectures VI

Prof. Dr. Jörn Leonhard, Universität Freiburg

Empires, Nation States and Global Violence: The First World War in Perspective

April 11, 2016 Bilkent Üniversitesi (Ankara)

April 13, 2016, Boğaziçi University (Istanbul)

Exhibition “Il est bon de respirer loin des balles et des canons”

Supervised by: Dr. Alexandre Toumarkine

Event date: 2014

Main collaborator: Institut français d’Istanbul

In cooperation with the Institut français d’Istanbul, the Orient-Institut Istanbul curated the exhibition “Il est bon de respirer loin des balles et the canons” (“It is easy to breathe far away from the bullets and the guns”), which was first shown at the Institut français d’Istanbul (IFI) and later in Bursa, Ankara, Bozcaada and Izmir. The exhibition deals with the experiences of French soldiers during the Battle of Gallipoli, which they wrote about in postcards. These documents allow for insights into the stories of ordinary soldiers, giving rise to an intimate portrait of their relations with their families and friends and their own perception of war.

Ottoman Painting and Painters During the First World War

Verantwortlich: Gizem Tongo-Overfield, M.A. (University of Oxford)

Unterstützt von: OII (Postdoc-Stipendium, 15.10.2015–15.04.2016)

World War I and the Armenian Catastrophe: The Politics of the Archive, Fiction and Auto-/ Biographies in Turkey

Verantwortlich: Dr. Hülya Adak (Sabancı-Universität Istanbul)

Unterstützt von: OII (Postdoc-Stipendium, 01.10.2011–30.05.2012)

Family Archive and Memoirs of Antoine Köpe

Supervised by: Prof. Dr. Raoul Motika and Dr. Alexandre Toumarkine in cooperation with Nefin Dinç (film director)

Duration: 2013 – 2019

As part of a larger project on the ten-volume memoirs of Antoine Köpe and his family archive, Prof. Dr. Raoul Motika and Dr. Alexandre Toumarkine are working together with documentary filmmaker Nefin Dinç. Born in Istanbul to parents of French and Hungarian descent, Antoine Köpe left behind a wealth of material about his war experiences, especially on the Palestinian front, but also on the occupation period in Istanbul. Nefin Dinç is producing a documentary film in consultation with R. Motika and A. Toumarkine, while the memoirs (written French) are being prepared for an edition by A. Toumarkine in collaboration with Elsa Gignoux. A monograph, several articles, and an exhibition at the Koç Research Center for Anatolian Civilizations (ANAMED) in 2018 are also being put together for this project.