The First World War was noted not only for its horrific physical destruction and tremendous financial ruin, but for the first time the overall and systematic international propaganda became one of the most effective means of the warfare. As was noted by George G. Bruntz, “in no other war in history has propaganda played so important a part as in the world conflict of 1914-1918,” adding that among the principal tools of the First World War propaganda were the shattering the faith of the military, preparation for the overthrow of the imperial governments and the propagation of the feeling of ‘profound depression’.1 In this respect, the Ottoman wartime propaganda, spread through its periodical press did not make an exception at all, while, on the contrary, being able to engage the religion through Islamic and Pan-Islamic appeals as well as nationalism and even supra-nationalism, presents a very interesting and thoroughly unique phenomenon.
In doing so, the Ottoman wartime propaganda duly employed, as elaborated in the following parts of this work, the basic and advanced tools of the current total war propaganda techniques, including the so-called psychological warfare targeting the enemy morale,2 the caricature and leisure reading,3 as well as the manipulation of the official reports of the General Staff.4 However, the Ottoman wartime propaganda targeted not only the Entente powers, but often fought against domestic obstacles, thoroughly imposing censorship5 and even eradicating Socialist and Anarchist movements,6 sometimes even in the Russian Empire. But nevertheless, the main target of the Ottoman wartime propaganda was the Tsarist State, whose ‘cult of the offensive’ was so vigorously propagated in the Ottoman press, for which the classical propaganda tricks of ‘secret preparation’ and the ‘preventive’ nature of the war were duly employed.7
Despite the existence of numerous academic works partially or thoroughly based on the information provided by the Ottoman periodical press of the period around the First World War, most of them have a rather limited thematic, geographic or linguistic scope. Some of them focus on a certain journal, like the work by Irmgard
Farah on the German press and propaganda activities in the Ottoman Empire prior to and during the First World War,8 based almost exclusively on the publications in Osmanischen Lloyd, which naturally, although briefly, referred to the Russian policies towards the Ottoman State as well.9 Most of the works which directly deal with the Russian Empire and policies usually based on certain publications of a limited group, whether non-Muslim10 or Muslim,11 or cover a limited geographic area.
In this respect, the elaborate work by Volker Adam on the Russian Muslim emigrants in Istanbul and the reports in the Ottoman periodical press on Russia and Central Asia on the eve of the First World War might be considered as the forerunner of this present research. Besides, in addition to the Ottoman periodicals thoroughly used by the author, the work presents an impressive analysis of the Muslim press of the Russian Empire.12 Among the general works on the Ottoman propaganda during the First World War, an impressive research by Erol Koroglu on the Ottoman wartime propaganda and its role in the Turkish nation-building process13 deserves special mention. Not confined to the periodical press and the context of the Russian Empire, his work elucidates the ideological, cultural and sentimental backgrounds of the Ottoman wartime propaganda, placing special emphasis on the current literary developments.