The Study of the Human Past

“An Examination of Muslim Albanian Politics during the Greek Revolution (1821-1826)”

Ilicak Şükrü

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Summary of the Research Proposal

There are almost 50,000 archival documents related to the Greek Revolution in the Ottoman State Archives (OSA) in Istanbul, however, scholarly research based on these sources remains extremely limited. In all these documents, the Sublime Porte’s efforts to mobilize the Muslim Albanian provincial magnates-cum-warlords against the Greek insurgents stand out as a central theme. Having exhausted its pool of military manpower in its fight against the provincial magnates (the ayans) in the decade prior to the Greek Revolution, the Ottoman central state was literally at the mercy of Albanian warlords and mercenaries for the suppression of the Greek uprising until the advent of the Egyptian forces in 1825. Yet, the Albanians followed their own survival instincts and agendas, and their averseness to put on a united Muslim front against the Greeks proved to be another failure of the Sublime Porte’s already crumbling system of imperial allegiances. There are innumerable documents in which the Ottoman administrators assessed the Albanian counteraction as the chief impediment to the suppression of the Greek insurrection. Historians’ reluctance to grant the Albanians of the early 19th century the qualities of a people capable of pursuing its own interests—as opposed to being a mere agglomeration of mercenary tribes—has largely prevented a clear understanding of their key role in the Greek Revolution.

The proposed research will explore the ways in which the actors of the post-Tepelenli order shaped the course of the Greek Revolution, putting special emphasis on the Muslim Albanian element. Making extensive use of severely understudied Ottoman archival material, the research will follow the careers of the bewildered Albanian warlords endeavoring to find their place between the Greek revolutionaries fighting for independence and the agents of the Ottoman central state trying to reestablish imperial authority.

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H. Şükrü Ilıcak was born and raised in Ankara. On the trail of rebetiko music, he has developed a serious interest in Greece when he was in college. He decided to pursue an academic career and specialize in the so-called Ottoman “Three Nations,” namely the Greeks, Armenians and Jews. He continued his studies in Turkey, Greece and the US. He received his PhD degree from Harvard University in 2011, with a dissertation entitled “A Radical Rethinking of Empire: Ottoman State and Society during the Greek War of Independence (1821-1826)”. His dissertation investigates the Greek War of Independence as an Ottoman experience, exploring in particular how Sultan Mahmud II (1808-1839) and the central state elite tried to make sense of and reacted to the rapidly changing world around them.

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