Drs. Ozan Arslan and Hüseyin Oylupınar

Monday, December 5, 2016 | 4:00 p.m.
Harvard University
CGIS-South, Belfer Case Study Room 020
1730 Cambridge Street
, Cambridge, MA


In the fall of 1914, the Ottoman Empire joined forces with the Central Powers of Austria-Hungary and Germany against the Entente Powers of Britain, France and Russia in the Great War. Of numerous battlegrounds, the war on the Eastern [European] Front extended for 900 miles from the Baltic to the Black Sea, and stood among the most important in determining the fate of the belligerents. Due to its strategic location and its scale, the Eastern Front has been extensively studied. However, not many, even professional historians, know that Ottoman Turks took an active part on this East European battlefront. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that even fewer would know that this was an occasion of significant Ukrainian-Turkish contact that took many forms and played out on various levels.
The Ottoman elite 15th Corps was sent to Galicia (an Austrian province with a partly Polish but more heavily Ukrainian population) in response to urgent German requests for assistance in early summer 1916 due to the alarming Russian offensive. Until August 1917, Ottoman troops fought with tenacity against Russian forces invading Galicia and contributed to the stabilization of the Central Powers’ front, though with heavy losses on the frontline located in today’s Ternopil oblast of Ukraine. 

Ukrainians and Turks had for centuries interacted closely in complex historical contexts. In the modern period, the service of Ottoman soldiers on the Eastern Front provided an opportunity for renewed contacts between Turks and Ukrainians. However, this episode of World War I has not been studied by historians.  In their ongoing research, Drs. Hüseyin Oylupinar and Ozan Arslan examine Ottoman objectives on the Galician Front; the Ottoman Turkish relations with the Union for the Liberation of Ukraine and the military units of the Ukrainian Sich Riflemen; everyday life of Ottoman troops, reactions of the local population to their presence, and the imprint of this Turkish encounter on the Ukrainians.


Ozan ArslanOzan Arslan is lecturer of Diplomatic History and Turkish Foreign Policy at the Department of Political Science and International Relations of Izmir University of Economics, and an alumnus of the universities of Dokuz Eylül (BA) and Bologna (MA), and received his PhD from Montpellier III in Military History and Defense Studies. He has been visiting researcher at the Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia (IASA) of the University of Tokyo (2012) and visiting fellow at the New Europe College Bucharest - Institute for Advanced Study (2014-2015). His research interests include late Ottoman diplomatic, military and naval history; history of Turkish foreign policy; and the history of the Caucasus.

Huseyin OylupinarHüseyin Oylupınar’s research interests focus on Ukrainian identity and collective memory, Turkish Ukrainian relations, Crimea and Crimean Tatars. He received his PhD in History and Cultural Studies from the University of Alberta, with a dissertation focusing on Cossack identity in independent Ukraine. Oylupınar’s fieldwork was conducted in areas of the historical Hetmanate and the Zaporozhian Cossacks. In 2013 he extended his fieldwork to Crimea and researched Crimean Russian Cossacks and their interaction with Crimean Tatars. In 2015 Oylupinar held a Shklar and Ukrainian Studies Fund Fellowship at the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute. His publications in these fields have appeared in Turkey and Ukraine, as well as the United States and Canada. 

Co-presented with Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute and
Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Harvard University