Ozkan’s essay explores the Ottoman road reform of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in the context of the reconstruction process of the Trabzon-Bayezid road in northeastern Anatolia. One of the goals of the road reform was to make provinces accessible to the capital city of Istanbul. The state also wanted to facilitate agriculture and commerce. Apart from these general concerns, many aspects of the Trabzon-Bayezid road project related to local needs and demands rather than the central government’s desire to modernize the country. These needs gave rise to both collaboration and tension among a variety of actors at local, provincial, and regional levels. These conflicts in turn gave birth to various struggles related to many political, economic, and social aspects of the road’s construction. These struggles sometimes lasted for decades and were eventually appeased through peaceful means while in other cases they ended up in violent rebellion. No matter what form they took, however, during this process Ottoman subjects gradually developed an understanding that acknowledged their rights as citizens of a modernizing state. Hence, road construction in the long run contributed to the political modernization of the empire and helped the locals actively contribute to the decision-making process. This observation in turn may enable scholars to develop a social perspective of the political processes within the empire that is usually regarded as an arena in which only the Western-educated elites of Istanbul were active.
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Fulya Ozkan; Winding Road to Modernization: Trabzon-Erzurum-Bayezid Road in the Late Ottoman World. Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 1 May 2014; 34 (1): 191–205. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/1089201X-2648659
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