December 24, 2016
The article investigates the internationalist activities of a Turkish nationalist during his Swiss exile at the outset of the postwar settlements in early 1919. Reşit Saffet, a devoted Young Turk and Ottoman diplomat on leave, moved in the internationalist milieus in Berne while his agenda remained utterly nationalist. Drawing on pan-Turkic, pan-Islamic, anti-imperialist, socialist, and Wilsonian ideas, he adapted his rhetoric to the internationalist conferences he attended; he thus sought to disguise and to defend his otherwise discredited nationalist cause on these global stages. The article traces Reşit Saffet’s internationalist activities as a strategy to engage with the ‘Paris moment’ and the Ottoman question beyond official politics and governmental discourse. In a time when Ottoman diplomacy was in deadlock as a result of the Empire’s exclusion from the peace conference and Reşit Saffet’s career faced an unknown future in the face of the Ottoman collapse, internationalism seemed a promising option. The case illustrates the increasingly blurred border between state diplomacy and non-governmental influence, and thus questions exclusively state-centered approaches. It reveals the appeal and potential held by civil society internationalism, not only for Western pacifists and socialists, but also for anti-imperialist nationalists confronted with the disappointment of the ‘Wilsonian moment’.