Professor Onur Yildirim

Curriculum Vitae

Onur Yildirim completed his undergraduate studies at the History Department at the Middle East Technical University, Ankara and went on to study at the State University of New York at Binghamton. Having received his master's degree in History, he then attended Princeton University where he completed his PhD studies at the Department of Near Eastern Studies and the Program in Hellenic Studies. His dissertation explored the Turco-Greek Exchange of Populations on the basis of Greek and Turkish archival materials. The dissertation was later published as "Diplomacy and Displacement: Reconsidering the Turco-Greek Exchange of Populations, 1922-1934". In addition to his research on the Turco-Greek Population Exchange, he also carry out research on Ottoman social and economic history. His research generally tends to document and analyze the struggles of ordinary people for survival against state violence. In that respect, he has conducted extensive research on the students of the sixteenth-century Anatolia, the artisans of the eighteenth-century Istanbul and the minorities and refugees of the twentieth-century Turkey and Greece. I is currently a professor and teaches global economic history at the Department of Economics, Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey.

Research project at the Kolleg

My project explores the intellectual aspects of the Turco-Greek Exchange of Populations as a world historical event. During the first decade of the Population Exchange, many Greek intellectuals, consisting of bureaucrats and scholars, set out to appropriate and recreate the past in order to explain and legitimize what they considered as the historical foundations of their nation-state. They committed themselves to the realization and furthering of the nationalist agenda of the Greek state, which was based essentially on the promotion of ethnic and religious homogeneity at the expense of pluralistic national frame. In this respect, Greek scholarship chose to "remember" the Population Exchange as part of a series of tragic events encapsulated by the term 'Asia Minor Catastrophe.' As they retold the story of the defeat, the refugees provided them with the most visible evidence to back up their narrative. Their politicized endeavor took the form of conceptualizing the Population Exchange as a tragedy to be endured by the larger Greek society, strengthening the ties between its diverse elements and contributing to the re-constitution of a homogenous nation. They furthered the discussion by considering the handling of this whole event by the Greek state as a success story and regarded it as a testimony to the vitality of Greek statecraft. Their state-sponsored publications sought to illustrate, often through selective quotations, the quality of Greek statecraft in absorbing over a million displaced individuals as well as the contributions of the latter to the socio-economic and cultural development of Greece. Thus the interwar Greek scholarship created a powerful discourse on the Exchange of Populations that would hold sway on the collective memory of the nation. Perhaps the most dramatic consequence of this discourse was that by stripping the event (e.g. Population Exchange) of its human dimension and historical realities, it presented the Population Exchange as a weapon of choice to many 'state-builders' across the globe to rid themselves of their "unwanted" minorities. This project explores the interwar Greek scholarship with a special emphasis on the careers of the intellectuals and bureaucrats. In that respect it analyzes the information about the family and educational backgrounds, and professional experience of these people and finally document their formal and informal affiliations with the Greek state prior to, during, and after the Exchange of Populations

Main areas of research

  • Turco-Greek Exchange of Populations
  • Forced Migrations
  • Historiography
  • Ottoman Social and Economic History
  • Comparative History 

Positions and memberships

  • Member of the Association for the Study of Nationalities (ASN), 2008-present 
  • Member of the Scientific Board of the Daedalos Institute of Geopolitics, Nicosia, Cyprus, 2007-present
  • Member of the Executive Committee of International Association of Ottoman Social and Economic History (IAOSEH), 2008-2011