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The 1913 Ottoman Military Campaign in Eastern Thrace: A Prelude to Genocide?

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This article argues that the leadership of the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) experimented with methods of mass expulsion for the first time during the Balkan Wars in 1912–1913. The success of these methods of mass violence contributed to their renewed application in World War I. Much has been written about the crimes committed against civilians by Serbian, Bulgarian and Greek armies in this period, but little about the Ottoman operations in Eastern Thrace in 1913. Neither European nor Turkish historiography has examined the issue closely, partly because the Ottoman campaign in Eastern Thrace was very short and of relatively little military significance, and partly because historians interested in the study of violence in the late Ottoman Empire have devoted their attention to the Armenian genocide, which began less than two years after the recapture of Thrace. And yet, it is during this brief period, from July to September 1913, that the Unionist leadership of the Ottoman Empire developed a very specific, new and systematic form of violence that would later be used against other Christian populations, including the Armenians. In this context, the 1913 Ottoman campaign is worth examining closely not just as an important aspect of the Balkan Wars, but also as a prelude to practices that would later be tragically used on a wider scale during World War I and World War II.
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Keywords: 1913; Eastern Thrace; Ottoman Empire; expulsion; population exchanges

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Nationalism Studies Program, Central European University, Budapest, Hungary

Publication date: January 2, 2019

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