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251 The Idea of an East­ ern Fed­ er­ a­ tion An Al­ ter­ na­ tive to the De­ struc­ tion of the Ot­ to­ man Em­ pire John A. Mazis It is clear today, with the ben­ e­ fit of hind­ sight, that the idea of an East­ ern fed­ er­ a­ tion, the vol­ un­ teer union based on equal­ ity of the var­ i­ ous peo­ ples of the Bal­ kans and An­ a­ to­ lia, was ­ doomed from the start. The late nine­ teenth and early twen­ ti­ eth cen­ tu­ ries, when this idea ­ emerged, were char­ ac­ ter­ ized by ris­ ing na­ tion­ al­ ism and at­ tempts, or ­ rather hopes, of break­ ing down great em­ pires and creat­ ing na­ tion ­ states. While this sen­ ti­ ment was wide­ spread in cen­ tral and East­ ern Eu­ rope, it was more pro­ nounced in the Bal­ kans, where wars (Greek-Turkish in 1897 and the two Bal­ kan Wars in 1912–13), up­ ris­ ings (the Ilin­ den re­ volt), and guer­ rilla war­ fare (Mac­ e­ do­ nia, 1903–8) kept the pe­ nin­ sula in a con­ stant state of war.1 If the idea of coop­ er­ a­ tion among the peo­ ples of the Bal­ kans in gen­ eral ­ sounds im­ pos­ sible, the peace­ ful co­ ex­ is­ tence as equal part­ ners of Turks and ­ Greeks under the same pol­ ity ­ sounds even more ­ farfetched . The two peo­ ples found them­ selves in the oc­ cu­ pier/sub­ ject role for over four cen­ tu­ ries, and since the suc­ cess­ ful Greek re­ volt and the Ion Dragoumis, circa 1914. (from the personal collection of John Mazis) The Idea of an Eastern Federation 253 crea­ tion of the mod­ ern Greek state their re­ la­ tions have been an­ tag­ o­ nis­ tic at best, hos­ tile at worst, but sel­ dom, if ever, “nor­ mal.” That sen­ ti­ ment was par­ tic­ u­ larly ­ present among the ­ Greeks, who, after all, had been the (mostly) un­ will­ ing sub­ jects of the Ot­ to­ man Em­ pire and the ones who found them­ selves after their in­ de­ pen­ dence liv­ ing in a small and vul­ ner­ able state, want­ ing to ex­ pand at the ex­ pense of the Ot­ to­ man Em­ pire but at the same time feel­ ing threat­ ened by it.2 The fact that the peo­ ple of the Bal­ kans and the Turks sel­ dom ­ agreed on any­ thing ­ should not be ­ viewed as an in­ sur­ mount­ able ob­ sta­ cle to their coop­ er­ a­ tion. Such coop­ er­ a­ tion did occur from time to time due to out­ side pres­ sures or ­ threats.3 Noth­ ing il­ lus­ trates bet­ ter the need for re­ gional coop­ er­ a­ tion, but also the depth of en­ mity among those in­ volved, than the way the var­ i­ ous ­ states ­ treated each ­ other’s peo­ ple in times of war or how they ­ treated each other using war as an ex­ cuse.4 The gen­ o­ cides at the hands of the Ot­ to­ man state and those of the early Re­ pub­ lic of Tur­ key, of Ar­ me­ ni­ ans, ­ Greeks, and As­ syr­ ians high­ light both the need for a multi­ eth­ nic East­ ern fed­ er­ a­ tion based on equal­ ity of its mem­ bers, but also one of the main rea­ sons that the East­ ern Idea re­ mained just an idea and never came to frui­ tion.5 The im­ per­ fect trea­ ties that ­ brought the First World War to its close had as their re­ sult, among many oth­ ers, the re­ draw­ ing of the maps of Eu­ rope and the Mid­ dle East as well as the de­ struc­ tion of the Ger­ man,­ Austrian-Hungarian, Rus­ sian, and Ot­ to­ man Em­ pires.6 While end­ ing four em­ pires ­ created many hard­ ships and fu­ ture prob­ lems for the peo­ ple in­ volved, ar­ gu­ ably the dis­ ap­ pear­ ance of the Ot­ to­ man Em­ pire left a more last­ ing leg­ acy. With the col­ lapse of Ot­ to­ man rule, the po­ lit­ i­ cal­ makeup of the Mid­ dle East and the east­ ern Med­ i­ ter­ ra­ nean basin ­ changed for...


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