Greek Orthodox Citizen Soldiers under the Ottoman Banner
Experiencing and Surviving the Great War
The Great War proved to be an unpleasant and traumatic experience for many Greek Orthodox citizen soldiers called to fight under the Ottoman banner. Although many served dutifully in arms or otherwise, few had self-legitimized their conscription. Regardless, the denomination of minority citizen soldiers by the Ottoman military authorities led to their mass assignment to unarmed positions, which could mean their transfer to the labor battalions, and possibly their death. Most Greek Orthodox were aware of labor battalions’ harsh conditions, and their transformation into killing grounds for the Armenian citizen soldiers. Based on grassroots sources such as diaries, memoirs, and interviews, I demonstrate that this discriminatory war policy was not systematic, as several recruits were later trained and armed during the war, and I argue that a new contractual relationship emerged for those skilled and literate Greek Orthodox through which they could successfully negotiate their skills to avoid the labor battalions and, thus, have greater chances of surviving the war.
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