The collapse of the Ottoman Empire and survival strategies of Christian communities in Greater Syria

Author: Sotiris Roussos

Publication: Contemporary Levant

DOI: 10.1080/20581831.2021.1881719

Published online: 24 February 2021

The millet system compartmentalised religious communities into different sociopolitical environments under the overarching Ottoman imperial realm. However, during the nineteenth century, state transformation and crisis and the global re-allocation of political and economic power led to the exacerbation of ethnoreligious conflicts. Facing the collapse of the Ottoman imperium and the threat of extinction, the Greek Orthodox, Assyrian, Chaldean and Syrian Orthodox communities developed five survival strategies. The first was co-optation by state authorities; the second, protection of the Great Powers; the third armed resistance and the creation of autonomous enclaves; the fourth was that of exodus; and the last was to integrate themselves into Arab nationalism, lowering the banner of religion and becoming strong advocates of an Arab national identity encompassing Muslims and Christians alike. This paper aims to present a comparative approach to these strategies in the period from the beginning of the twentieth century to the formation of the Mandates.

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