Providing Services and Bargaining Over Loyalty

The Crimean War and the Armenian Elite in the Ottoman Empire

  • Yaşar Tolga Cora Department of History at Boğaziçi University
Keywords: Ottoman Empire, Crimean War, non-Muslims, Armenians, Ottoman army, borderlands, politics of notables, military provisioning


Legislative developments concerning the civic and religious rights of the Christian and Jewish communities in the Ottoman Empire in the nineteenth century have been examined widely. The focus has been on the developments following the Crimean War, and particularly the Reform Edict (Islahat Fermanı) of 1856 and the role European powers’ demands directed at the Ottoman Empire – their wartime ally and the new member of the “Concert of Europe” – played in these developments. This article questions this Eurocentric view by shifting the focus from European pressure as the main moving force behind the changing relations between Christian subjects and the Empire to the domestic dynamics of the Empire by examining the Armenian elite’s participation in Ottoman war efforts. It argues that the role the elite played in the borderlands throughout the war period, including provisioning of the army and ensuring the loyalty of local communities, provided them with the political leverage to negotiate and eventually enhance their position in the imperial hierarchy in the years following the war. The article highlights the wartime developments as crucial factors behind political and legislative changes and the construction of the modern Ottoman state in the second half of the nineteenth century.

Author Biography

Yaşar Tolga Cora, Department of History at Boğaziçi University

Yaşar Tolga Cora is currently an assistant professor in the Department of History at Boğaziçi University (Istanbul, Turkey). He received his PhD from the University of Chicago in 2016 and he was a postdoctoral fellow on the Armenian Studies program, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor in 2017. His research is on the social and economic history of the late Ottoman Empire, with a particular focus on Armenian communities, and life narratives of Ottoman Armenians. He co-edited The Ottoman East in the Nineteenth Century: Societies, Identities and Politics.

How to Cite
Cora, Y. T. (2019). Providing Services and Bargaining Over Loyalty: The Crimean War and the Armenian Elite in the Ottoman Empire. Archiv orientální, 87(3), 421–444. Retrieved from
Research Article