An International and Collaborative Research Programme

Seminar Session: June 26, 2023: Mehmet Osmanli

Deliberation and Autocratic Mentality in State Society: A Reading in İzzet Pacha al-Abed’s Diaries

June 26, 2023. 16h00-18h00 (Berlin Time). Registration:

There have always been different points of view about the nature of Sultan Abdülamid II’s handling of the issue of constitutional rule, but these points of view agree that he suspended the constitution for three long decades, and the argument always put forward by him was that “the people are not prepared for such a constitutional process.” But doesn’t the democratic process come with experience? There is no doubt that presenting criticism of such a situation falls between two complex cases, the first being anachronism, and the second being far from opinions that are closer to his ruling circle.

In this discussion, I seek to present Sultan Abdülhamid II’s personal views on the issues of authoritarianism (Mutlakiyet?) in government and the centralization of decision-making, as well as the autocratic nature and degree of deliberation he envisioned for governance. This will be through dialogues that took place between him and his Kâtib-ı Sâni (second secretary) in the ruling Yıldız Palace, Arap İzzat Holo Pacha. But as an “Ego-document”, how can it be dealt with despite the many “caveats”? What is the degree of credibility of İzzet Pacha in his diaries when he presents this view about this issue?

How did the Sultan see his constitutional functions? And his relationship to the Vükelâ (Representatives/ministers)? And the nature of the secretary’s criticism of him when he goes “home and is alone”? There is no doubt that a source close to the sultan who presented and criticized his views would constitute a new kind of understanding of that era. Either he confirms the research findings of different researchers, denies them, or even adjusts their destination. The view of the rest of the bureaucracy of the system of government and its relation to the Meşrutiyet (constitutional) of governance cannot be overlooked, and it is not only possible to rely on this source for sure as well, but it is a prelude to reconsidering the constitutional issue and its relationship with the ruler and the ruling regime, of course.

It must be emphasized that İzzet Holo Pacha’s diaries was recently discovered (in 2010), and then was printed (as a scanned version of the Ottoman Turkish, not a translation into modern Turkish) in 2019, so it may contain information that may be considered new, and therefore the importance of talking about this subject comes.

Mehmet Osmanli is a PhD researcher in modern Ottoman history at Pamukkale University. He is interested in studies of the philosophy of history and modern historiography. He is also a translator (Arabic, Turkish, Ottoman and English), specialized in the Ottoman bureaucracy and the Ottoman regime during the Tanzimat period. His research activities include studies on the Ottoman bureaucracy as well as on the Iraqi revolution of the twenties and the migration of Jews to Palestine. He translated the book Between Two Worlds: The construction of the Ottoman state by Turkish historian Cemal Kafadar from English into Arabic as well as the diaries of İzzet Holo Paşa al-Abed from Ottoman to Arabic.

Cite this blog post
Nora Lafi (2023, June 21). Seminar Session: June 26, 2023: Mehmet Osmanli. The Historicity of Democracy. Retrieved June 19, 2024, from

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