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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 April 2016


Similar to ruling elites in Western Europe, the Ottomans were preoccupied with foreign “public opinion” regarding their state. Historians have devoted attention to Ottoman state efforts at image building abroad and, to a lesser degree, related attempts to influence the European mass press. Yet, an in-depth study of this subject is lacking. This article turns to one of the prime, though largely neglected, actors in Ottoman foreign policy making: the sultan's diplomats. Through a case study of Ottoman envoys to Belgium, it demonstrates how foreign “press management” evolved and was adapted to shifting domestic and international political circumstances. Increasingly systematic attempts to influence Belgian newspapers can be discerned from the reign of Abdülhamid II onward. Brokers between Istanbul and “liberal” Belgium's thriving newspaper business, Ottoman diplomats proved essential to this development. Ultimately, however, Ottoman efforts to counter Belgian (and European) news coverage of the empire had little impact and occasionally even worked counterproductively, generating the very Orientalist images they aimed to combat in the first place.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2016 

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Authors' note: We express our gratitude to Henk de Smaele, Marnix Beyen, Wannes Dupont, Erol Baykal, and three anonymous IJMES reviewers for their insightful comments on earlier versions of this article. We also thank Sinan Kuneralp, who kindly shared his notes for two of his forthcoming studies, and Marc D'Hoore of the Royal Library of Belgium, who helped us to obtain digital copies of the newspaper cartoons reproduced in this article. Finally, thanks to the Research Foundation–Flanders (FWO) for financial support.

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21 These letters were published on 3 February 1850 and 29 July 1851, respectively.

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24 Names of Ottoman officials are transliterated according to modern Turkish orthography.

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27 Diran to Fuad Pasha, 13 and 27 January 1859, BOA, HR, Siyasi Kısım (hereafter SYS) 225/2–3.

28 Anckaer, “België en het Ottomaanse Rijk,” 503.

29 Diran to Fuad Pasha, 3 March 1859, BOA, HR.MTV 299/40, and 10 November 1859, BOA, HR.MTV 299/45.

30 Anckaer, “België en het Ottomaanse Rijk,” 503n2409.

31 Letter to Fuad Pasha, 13 February 1860, BOA, HR.SYS 225/6.

32 Van den Dungen, Milieux de presse en Belgique, 34–37.

33 Letter to Diran, [n.d.] 1860, BOA, HR.SYS 225/6.

34 Pasha, Fuad quoted in Ottoman Diplomatic Documents on “The Eastern Question” (hereafter DDEQ), vol. 2, The Cretan Uprising, 1866–1869, ed. Kuneralp, Sinan (Istanbul: Isis Press, 2010), 164Google Scholar.

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36 Forthcoming study by Sinan Kuneralp on the history of the Ottoman Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Istanbul: Isis Press); Sartorius, La petite presse bruxelloise, 150–51.

37 Letter to Fuad Pasha, 18 August 1859; Fuad to Diran, 12 October 1859; Diran to Fuad, 19 January 1860, BOA, HR.SYS 225/4–5.

38 Delbecke, Perswetgeving en persmisdrijven, 221.

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43 Letter to Safvet Pasha, 10 October 1876, BOA, HR.SYS 225/1.

44 See, for example, internal note of the Press Bureau, 18 September 1875; and Safvet Pasha to Karatodori, 3 October 1875, BOA, HR.SYS 225/1.

45 Letter to Raşid Pasha, 5 January 1876, BOA, HR.SYS 225/1.

46 18 October 1875, quoted in DDEQ, vol. 7, The Balkan Crisis, 1875–1878, ed. Kuneralp (2013), 130.

47 Van den Dungen, Milieux de presse en Belgique, 140–41.

48 Letter to Âsım Pasha, 9 July 1884, BOA, HR.SYS 225/25. Midhat was murdered in that year on the order of Abdülhamid. Finkel, Caroline, Osman's Dream: The Story of the Ottoman Empire, 1300–1923 (New York: Basic Books, 2007), 500501Google Scholar.

49 Karatodori to Said Pasha, 13 September 1892, BOA, HR.SYS 225/68; Karatodori to Sava Pasha, 29 May 1880, BOA, HR.SYS 225/22.

50 Letter to Âsım Pasha, 9 July 1884 and 20 August 1885, BOA, HR.SYS 225/25-26; letter to Said Pasha, 29 October 1889, BOA, HR.SYS 225/43; letter to Tevfik Pasha, 22 April 1896, BOA, HR.SYS, 226/26.

51 Geppert, “The Public Challenge to Diplomacy,” 143–44.

52 Stanard, Matthew G., Selling the Congo: A History of European Pro-Empire Propaganda and the Making of Belgian Imperialism (Lincoln, Neb.: University of Nebraska Press, 2012), 32CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

53 Karatodori to Aleksandros Karatodori Pasha, 25 July 1879, BOA, HR.SYS 229/35; Willequet, Jacques, “La légation d'Allemagne, la presse et les milieux de presse bruxellois entre 1887 et 1914,” Revue belge de philologie et d'histoire 36 (1958): 391CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

54 Davison, “Newspaper Press,” 365; Findley, Carter V., Ottoman Civil Officialdom: A Social History (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1989), 227–28CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

55 Willequet, “Les milieux de presse bruxellois,” 402, 430–31.

56 See for example, Karatodori to Nurî Bey, 3 March 1898, BOA, HR.SYS 226/42.

57 Thomas Reyntjens, “Diplomatieke sociabiliteit: Een Osmaans diplomaat tussen het hof en de salons (1875–1900)” (BA thesis, Universiteit Antwerpen, 2013).

58 Cioeta, Donald J., “Ottoman Censorship in Lebanon and Syria, 1876–1908,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 10 (1979): 171Google Scholar. However, foreign periodicals could and did escape the Hamidian censor through the foreign post offices, which operated throughout the empire. Yosmaoğlu, “Chasing the Printed Word,” 27–30.

59 Information deduced from some complaint letters to Karatodori, written by the paper's staff and director. We treat this issue in more detail later in the article.

60 See, for example, letter to Said Pasha, 6 April 1890, BOA, HR.SYS 225/51.

61 See, for example, Karatodori to Said Pasha, 20 July 1889, BOA, HR.SYS 225/40; and Karatodori to Arifi Pasha, 20 December 1882, BOA, HR.SYS 225/24.

62 Said Pasha to Karatodori, 30 May 1892, BOA, HR.SYS 225/59.

63 Letter to Said Pasha, 15 June 1892, BOA, HR.SYS 225/65.

64 We could not locate this newspaper article.

65 Letter to Said Pasha, 17 November 1888, BOA, HR.SYS 225/34.

66 Karatodori to Said Pasha, 25 October 1888, BOA, HR.SYS 225/33.

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69 See, for instance, Karatodori to Said Pasha, 13 July 1889, BOA, HR.SYS 225/41.

70 Letter to Said Pasha, 17 November 88, BOA, HR.SYS 225/34.

71 See, for example, Karatodori to Said Pasha, 30 August 1888, BOA, HR.SYS 225/28; and Aristarki Bey to Said Pasha, 30 December 1889, BOA, HR.SYS, 225/48.

72 For an account, see Renault, François, Lavigerie: L'esclavage africain et l'Europe (1868–1892) (Paris: E. de Broccard, 1971)Google Scholar.

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74 The letter is dated 24 August 1888 and was published two days later.

75 The letter is dated 26 August 1888 and was published two days later.

76 L'Indépendance belge, 31 August 1888.

77 The letter is dated 29 August 1888 and was published two days later.

78 Karatodori's reports to Said Pasha on 16 and 26 August, 2 September, 17 October, and 13 November 1888, and Said's reply on 25 September 1888, BOA, HR.SYS 225/29.

79 For an account, compare Miers, Suzanne, Britain and the Ending of the Slave Trade (London: Longman, 1975)Google Scholar, 236ff; and Chatelet, “België en de slavenhandel,” 63–210.

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83 La Réforme, 17 March 1890.

84 L'Indépendance belge, 22 March 1890.

85 Karatodori to Said Pasha, 16 March 1892, BOA, HR.SYS 225/57; Karatodori to Said Pasha, 12 June 1892, BOA, HR.SYS 225/64.

86 Boyar, “Abdülhamid II and the Press.”

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89 Deringil, Well-Protected Domains, 139.

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91 Bloxham, Donald, The Great Game of Genocide: Imperialism, Nationalism, and the Destruction of the Ottoman Armenians (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), 51CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Raymond Kévorkian estimates a number of 200,000. See his The Armenian Genocide: A Complete History (London: I. B. Tauris, 2011), 11.

92 For a historiographical discussion, see Dennis, Brad, “The Debate on the Early ‘Armenian Question’ 1877–1896: Strengths, Weaknesses, Lacunae and Ways Forward,” Middle East Critique 20 (2011): 271–89CrossRefGoogle Scholar. A majority of scholars refer to structural social-economic explanatory factors. See Grigor Suny, Ronald, “Writing Genocide: The Fate of the Ottoman Armenians,” in A Question of Genocide: Armenians and Turks at the End of the Ottoman Empire, ed. Suny, R. G., Göçek, Fatma Müge, and Naimark, Norman M. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), 1541CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Dinçer, Sinan, “The Armenian Massacre in Istanbul (1896),” Tijdschrift voor sociale en economische geschiedenis 10 (2013): 2045CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Cf. McCarthy, Justin, Arslan, Esat, Taşkıran, Cemalettin, and Turan, Ömer, The Armenian Rebellion at Van (Salt Lake City, Utah: University of Utah Press, 2006), 5477Google Scholar.

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94 Gürpınar, Ottoman Imperial Diplomacy, 143–44, 148–49.

95 Tim Puttevils, “‘Les massacres d'Arménie’: België en de Armeense massamoorden (1894–1896)” (MA thesis, KU Leuven, 2006), 47–76.

96 Eeno, Romain Van, “Pers 1873–1914,” in Algemene geschiedenis der Nederlanden, vol. 13, ed. Blok, Dirk P. (Haarlem: Fibula-Van Dishoeck, 1978), 107Google Scholar; Bertelson, Lionel, La presse d'information: Tableau chronologique des journaux belges (Brussels: Institut pour journalistes de Belgique, 1974), 86Google Scholar.

97 See Karatodori to Türkhan Pasha, 18 June 1895, BOA, HR.SYS 226/13; and Karatodori to Tevfik Pasha, 25 December 1895, BOA, HR.SYS 226/23.

98 De Bens, De pers in België, 33.

99 Puttevils, “België en de Armeense massamoorden,” 61–72, 107–8.

100 Letter to Tevfik Pasha, 25 January 1896, BOA, HR.SYS 226/24.

101 Tevfik Pasha to Karatodori, 3 November 1896, BOA, HR.SYS 226/34.

102 See, for example, letters to Said Pasha, 11 and 26 December 1894, BOA, HR.SYS 226/9–10; and letter to Türkhan Pasha, 20 June 1895, BOA, HR.SYS 226/14.

103 Telegram from Tevfik Pasha, 23 April 1896, BOA, HR.SYS 226/27.

104 The first complaint dated as early as 13 September 1892, BOA, HR.SYS 225/68.

105 See, for example, letter to Said Pasha, 20 February 1895, BOA, HR.SYS 226/13.

106 Letter to Karatodori, 4 October 1897, BOA, HR.SYS 226/40.

107 This according to the Belgian chargé d'affaires in the Ottoman capital, in a report to de Favereau, 23 November 1898, Archief van de Federale Overheidsdienst Buitenlandse Zaken, Brussels (hereafter ABZ), Correspondance politique-Turquie (hereafter CPT), vol. 3.

108 Godfried Smeets, “Belgische relaties met het Ottomaanse Rijk, 1876–1914” (MA thesis, KU Leuven, 1981), 84, 93.

109 Karatodori to de Favereau, 6 March 1897, and the latter's reply, ABZ, CPT, vol. 2.

110 Hanioğlu provides numerous examples in The Young Turks in Opposition. See, for example, p. 46.

111 For a detailed account, see Sofie Van Campenhout, “De Jonge Turken in België (1897–1909)” (MA thesis, KU Leuven, 2004), 48–85. On Rıza's paper, see Groc, Gérard, “La presse jeune-turque de langue française,” in Première rencontre internationale sur l'Empire ottoman et la Turquie moderne, ed. Eldem, Edhem (Istanbul: Isis Press, 1991), 433Google Scholar, 435–36, 438, 440.

112 Van Campenhout, “De Jonge Turken in België,” 78.

113 Quoted in Reyntjens, “Osmaans diplomaat tussen hof en salons,” 21. Our translation.

114 Van Campenhout, “De Jonge Turken in België,” 84–85; Hanioğlu, The Young Turks in Opposition, 113; Groc, “La presse jeune-turque,” 435.

115 Groc, “La presse jeune-turque,” 435.

116 Letter to Tevfik Pasha, 4 September 1900, BOA, HR.SYS 227/7.

117 See Karatodori's correspondence with Tevfik Pasha between 4 September and 21 December 1900, BOA, HR.SYS 227.

118 Deringil, Well-Protected Domains, 140.

119 For instance, in late 1900 some CUP members in Britain founded a satirical journal with the sole intent of extorting money from Istanbul; they effectively sold it. Hanioğlu, The Young Turks in Opposition, 154.

120 Van Campenhout, “De Jonge Turken in België,” 86–87; Karatodori to Tevfik Pasha, 17 October 1900, BOA, HR.SYS 227/11.

121 See telegrams from Tevfik Pasha on 12 September and 2 and 10 October 1900, BOA, HR.SYS 227.

122 Letter to Tevfik Pasha, 21 December 1900, BOA, HR.SYS 227/10.

123 In an account by Le Petit Bleu, 20 November 1900, a newspaper clipping of this article is preserved in ABZ, Dossiers de presse (hereafter DP), 104.

124 The French diplomatic representative in Brussels to Delcassé, 18 January 1900, Archives Diplomatiques, Paris, Correspondance politique et commerciale-Turquie, 1.

125 Compare articles on Karatodori in Le Petit Bleu (18 November 1900), La Chronique (23 November) and Frankfurter Zeitung (29 November), ABZ, DP, 104.

126 See the press clippings in ABZ, DP, 104.

127 Le Soir, 18 January 1901.

128 Quoted in Sinan Kuneralp's forthcoming The Sultan's Envoys: A Biographic Guide to Ottoman Diplomats (1832–1922) (Istanbul: Isis Press).

129 Ibid.


130 Münir Bey to Tevfik Pasha, 3 June 1902, BOA, HR.SYS 227/20; General Tevfik Pasha (military attaché at the Brussels Legation) to Tevfik Pasha, 14 January 1906, BOA, HR.SYS 227/40.

131 Münir to Tevfik Pasha, 27 March 1905, BOA, HR.SYS 227/36.

132 Letter to Tevfik Pasha, 27 May 1902, BOA, HR.SYS 227/21.

133 Meuwissen, Eric, “‘Le Petit Bleu’ de Gerard Harry (1894–1908),” BTNG 15 (1984): 137–64Google Scholar.

134 See, for example, Tevfik Pasha to Emin Arslan Effendi, 5 February 1901, BOA, HR.SYS 227/14; and to Münir, 28 July 1903, BOA, HR.SYS, 227/29.

135 Tevfik to Ragıb Raîf Bey, 16 June 1908, HR.SYS 227/54; Ragıb Raîf to Tevfik, 21 May 1908, BOA, HR.SYS 227/52.

136 Ragıb Raîf to Tevfik, 14 July 1908, BOA, HR.SYS 227/55.

137 Letter to Tevfik, 3 June 1902, BOA, HR.SYS 227/20.

138 Münir Bey to Tevfik, 27 November and 4 December 1901, BOA, HR.SYS 227/17–18.

139 Mihran to Tevfik, 8 March 1904, BOA, HR.SYS 227/32.

140 Kuneralp, The Sultan's Envoys.

141 Hanioǧlu, M. Şükrü, Preparation for a Revolution: The Young Turks, 1902–1908 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 9Google Scholar.

142 Letter to Pasha, Tevfik, 15 November 1906, quoted in Ottoman Diplomatic Documents on the Origins of World War One (hereafter DDWW), vol. 4, The Macedonian Issue, 1879–1912, ed. Kuneralp, Sinan and Tokay, Gül (Istanbul: Isis Press, 2011), 170Google Scholar.

143 Laurent Therer, “‘L'Orient’: Trois années de la vie d'un journal ottoman en Europe” (MA thesis, Université de Liège, 2005); Hanioğlu, The Young Turks in Opposition, 68–69.

144 See, for example, Ragıb Raîf to Tevfik, 6 April 1907, BOA, HR.SYS 227/45.

145 Letter to Ferid Pasha, 29 July 1905, BOA, HR.SYS 227/38.

146 Erol Baykal, “The Ottoman Press, 1908-1923” (PhD thesis, University of Cambridge, 2012).

147 Yosmaoğlu, “Chasing the Printed Word,” 48, 31–47.

148 For examples, see DDWW, vol. 5, The Turco-Italian War 1911–1912, ed. Kuneralp.

149 Findley, Ottoman Officialdom, 227.

150 Letter to Mustafa Âsım Bey, 29 February 1912, BOA, HR.SYS 229/60.

151 See, for example, Esad Bey to Hakkı Pasha, 11 September and 7 October 1911, in DDWW, 5:113–14, 216–17.

152 Deringil, Well-Protected Domains, 139.

153 Letter to Âli Pasha, 8 July 1869, BOA, HR.SYS 220/40; letter to Safvet Pasha, 28 January 1869, BOA, HR.SYS 220/21. For Karatodori, see his report to Said Pasha, 13 July 1889, BOA, HR.SYS 225/41.

154 Letter to Raşid Pasha, 21 April 1876, in DDEQ, 7:359.

155 As recounted by Vehbi, Ali in L'Empire ottoman et l'Europe d'après les pensées et souvenirs du sultan Abdul-Hamid II (1876–1909): Réimpression de l'édition originale (1914), ed. Merad, Ali (Paris: Publisud, 2007), 220–21Google Scholar.

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