History, Culture, Politics, and Travel in the Balkans, Turkey, and Cyprus

Erdogan Fans Flames by Threatening to Convert Hagia Sophia into Mosque

Earlier this week, I published an op-ed in Greek Reporter on the proposal by Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, to convert the Hagia Sophia back into a mosque. The Hagia Sophia, which was the primary Byzantine Orthodox cathedral in Constantinople (modern Istanbul) before being converted into a mosque by the Ottomans in 1453 following the conquest of Constantinople, was turned into a museum by the first president of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in the 1930s. For more on the current situation, see the op-ed here.

The Historical Memory of Constantinople, 567 Years After the Fall

To commemorate the 567th anniversary of the end of the Byzantine Empire, I published an article with Greek Reporter on May 29, the day Constantinople finally fell to the Ottomans. If you are interested in learning more about how the Byzantine Empire and Constantinople have been viewed by subsequent generations of Romaioi and Greeks, please see the article here.

“To the triumphant Ottoman Turks, glorious Constantinople, that greatest of prizes, was now theirs. For the descendants of the Byzantines, or the Ρωμαίοι (Romaioi, or Romans) as they called themselves, the long, lingering memory of the lost city, which at times reached a fever pitch of progonoplexia, or an obsession with our ancestors, had just begun . . .”

North Macedonia

With the agreement to rename Macedonia to North Macedonia earlier this month, I published an article on what is to come next in Le Monde diplomatique.

This is a follow up on my article on the negotiations between Greece and Macedonia regarding the name change back in March.

Turkey, U.S., and Kurds in Syria

I recently published the second in a two-part discussion series with Turkish scholar Polat Urundul. Please read and enjoy!

Part 1: Turkish-American Relations and the Kurdish Thorn of Syria

Part 2: To Avoid a Syrian Quagmire: Turkish-American Compromise and Cooperation

Turkish Reverberations from Afrin

On March 18, Turkish-backed Syrian rebels occupied the Kurdish-held city of Afrin. While Turkey initially entered into the conflict in Syria for the purpose of uprooting the Islamic State, following the fall of its de facto capital, Raqqa, Turkey has shifted its attentions to the Kurds of northern Syria. The capture of Afrin not only creates a power shift in Syria, but also creates reverberations across Turkey’s domestic and foreign relations. Continue reading “Turkish Reverberations from Afrin”

Of Culture & Çay: A Visitor’s Guide to Istanbul

This guide is a comprehensive collection of advice based on my experiences studying abroad in Istanbul, Turkey for 10 weeks. I hope it is helpful to anyone that plans on visiting the wonderful city!

Of Culture & Çay: A Visitor’s Guide to Istanbul



The Ethnic Backgrounds of Byzantine Emperors

The Byzantine Empire was extremely cosmopolitan. Inside its borders lived Greeks, Armenians, Syrians, Cappadocians, Pahlagonians, Germans, Isaurians, and many others. Nonetheless, Byzantines identified as Roman, a supra-ethnic form of identity that was continued from the Roman Empire. But while this Roman identity may have bound Byzantines together, ethnic identities and divisions still existed. Byzantine primary sources are replete with references to specific ethnicities inside the Empire, such as “Armenians” and “Isaurians.” Byzantine emperors were no different than their subjects in this respect; they were an ethnically diverse cadre of rulers.

Some Byzantine emperors were never ethnically identified in primary sources. In other cases, historians used terms that could refer to both a geographic or ethnic origin. It is not an easy task to delineate the ethnic origins of the Byzantine emperors. In the following paragraphs, I will try to lay out the ethnic origins of the 90 Byzantine emperors (not counting Basiliscus, Mezezius, Artabasdos, Michael IX, Andronikos IV, John VII, or Andronikos V, all of which were short-lived usurpers or junior emperors). Continue reading “The Ethnic Backgrounds of Byzantine Emperors”

Kosovo’s Progress Toward International Recognition

It is now nine years since Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in the final step of the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia. In 2012, the number of UN member states that recognized Kosovo’s independence became a majority. Currently, Kosovo has been recognized by 57.5% of UN members (111 out of 193).

Flag of Kosovo

Continue reading “Kosovo’s Progress Toward International Recognition”

In the Footsteps of Rome: Byzantine Conceptions of Imperialism

Byzantine Eagle Outside of Constantinople Patriarchate Colossus
Double-Headed Eagle, Symbol of the Late Byzantine Empire, at the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople | Colossus

When we think of empires, size is often what first comes to mind. Empires are big not only in geographical extent, but in power and number of people, often composed of many different ethnicities. But there are two sides to the coin for being an empire: what outsiders consider a state and what that state considers itself. Despite early reluctance to accept its imperial mantle during the Republic, Romans eventually developed and accepted an idea of themselves as masters of an empire. Its neighbors, however, had long before recognized Rome’s imperialism.

But what of Rome’s successor, the Byzantine Empire? By the time Constantinople fell in 1453, Byzantium was just a shadow of former Roman glory, territory, and might. But until the end, the difference between Rome and Byzantium was that Byzantium had no doubts as to its imperial nature but as time went on, its neighbors did. Continue reading “In the Footsteps of Rome: Byzantine Conceptions of Imperialism”

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