Sabancı Üniversitesi


HIST Webinar: Ümit Kurt


“Robbing the Armenians: Local incentives behind the Armenian Genocide in Ottoman Aintab”



(Polonsky Academy, Van Leer Jerusalem Institute)

MARCH 10, 2021



 Meeting ID: 937 8044 7531

Abstract: One of the cornerstones of the wartime campaign against Armenians in the Ottoman Empire was the confiscation of their properties and wealth, which were subsequently transferred to Muslim elites and used in reshaping the domestic economy as well as covering wartime expenses. These were among the radical practices of the CUP (Committee of Union and Progress) regime aimed at nationalizing the economy. First, many businesses and properties were transferred to state institutions. Second, a smaller but substantial number of firms were transferred to “reliable” Muslim individuals and social institutions. Even more significant than the transfers themselves was the fact that these extraordinary measures were coupled with a set of laws, regulations, rules, and decrees that created a legal basis for a more systematic campaign against the movable and immovable properties of Armenians. In this capital transfer, we see that genocide also created the circumstances to enable “the complete fulfilment of the established policy of ethnic domination through expropriation.” Economic dispossession was far from a process carried out “from above” by means of the simple execution of CUP orders. If the process of the economic exclusion of Armenians is to be described fully, a regional historical analysis is necessary. This paper will explore how the process of economic destruction directed at the Armenians of Aintab—present-day Gaziantep—was implemented. Shifting focus from state to society, thereby prioritizing the local roots of mass violence in the making, this work will highlight the crucial role played by local elites and provincial notables, actors who prospered under the new social and political conditions through the acquisition of Armenian property and wealth.

Bio: Ümit Kurt is a historian of the late Ottoman Empire with a particular focus on the transformations of the imperial structures and their role in constituting the republican regime. His research and teaching are grounded on theories of state and class, social identity and ethnicity. He received his MA from Sabancı University in 2008 and his PhD from Clark University in 2016. Since then, he has held a number of postdoctoral positions at Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University and in the Armenian Studies Program at California State University, Fresno. Currently, he is a Research Fellow at the Polonsky Academy in the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute and teaches in the department of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is the author of Antep 1915: soykırım ve failler (İletişim, 2018), co-author of The Spirit of the Laws: The Plunder of Wealth in the Armenian Genocide (Berghahn Press, 2015) and editor of Armenians and Kurds in the Late Ottoman Empire (The Press at California State University, 2020). His forthcoming book, The Armenians of Aintab: The Economics of Genocide in an Ottoman Province, will be published in April 2021 by Harvard University Press. Ümit Kurt is the winner of the 2021 Discovery Early Career Research Award of the Australian Research Council. He is also the Vice Executive Secretary of the International Network of Genocide Scholars (INoGS).