Endgame of Empires: Post-Imperial Transitions, Incomplete Transformations and Imperial Legacies

Call for Papers, deadline 30 August 2024

New York University Abu Dhabi, 21 April 2025

“Endgame of Empires” aims to explore from a global perspective the collapse of the Ottoman and Romanov empires and the reconfiguration of their imperial politics in new settings across the Middle East and Eurasia. Whereas national and nationalist histories framed this transition as a clean break from the imperial past in the inevitable rise of nation-states as “natural” units of modern international order, “Endgame of Empires” seeks to underline that post-imperial transitions were as messy as earlier imperial forms of statecraft and the legacies of multi-ethnic pre-war societies lingered and assumed new forms.

Were the tumultuous process of imperial collapse and post-imperial transition in the post-Ottoman Middle East, and Balkans or the fledgling Soviet republics in any way comparable, linked, or overlapping? How resilient were imperial frameworks, and how did institutional, economic, and social transformations work? Did post-imperial transitions change the lived experience of actors – from merchants to militants, from intellectuals to workers – and how did they react to their changing life worlds? Centering the collapse of these two major multi-ethnic land empires, “Endgame of Empires” will bring together scholars from all across the world to explore and consider new global connections and comparisons.

Building on ongoing scholarly discussions on post-imperial transitions and trans-imperial connections, this conference invites convergences between disparate academic debates. Vibrant scholarly debates have been taking place around empire-to-nation transitions in various area studies and sets of historiographies. For instance, Cyrus Schayegh argued that the first decade of new states in the Levant was a “long Ottoman twilight.” Hasan Kayalı emphasized the longevity of the empire and “incidental” aspects of new states in the post-Ottoman Middle East. Terry Martin’s now classic study reframed the emergence of national polities within the Soviet Union with the concept of “affirmative action empire.” Alfred Rieber has explored long-term historical, cultural, geographic, patterns of rule in Russian and Soviet foreign policy. By fostering discussion among scholars interested in connections and parallels of post-imperial transitions in the Middle East and Eurasia we aim to raise questions about the globally interconnected nature of imperial decline, nation-state formation and lingering legacies of imperial past.


The goal of “Endgame of Empires” is to offer a global history of imperial collapse and post-imperial transition. Imperial legacies and their repercussions remain a hot topic. Whereas the neo-Ottomanist ambitions rising from Turkey ensured that Ottoman heritage remained a vibrant topic of discussion in the last decade, the war in Ukraine has rekindled interest in the legacies of the Russian and Soviet empires and their significance. Exploring post-imperial transitions in these interrelated contexts allows us to appreciate the political work of the legacies of these empires today. 

Accordingly, we aim to foster a scholarly conversation with four main research questions:

a.          What were the legacies of the Russian and Ottoman empires in the immediate aftermath of imperial collapse?

b.         How did the transition transform the lives of workers, peasants, migrants, and revolutionaries?

c.          What were some of the long-term institutional legacies of empire across Soviet and post-Ottoman space?

d.         How was the transition from imperial to post-imperial statecraft reflected in the new sciences (environmental, physical, and social) that emerged in Soviet and post-Ottoman states?

The conference will take place at New York University Abu Dhabi in the week of April 21, 2025.

We encourage applications from PhD candidates and Early Career Scholars.

A limited amount of funding is available for travel and accommodation.

Conference papers will be the basis for a special issue of peer-reviewed articles.

To apply, please send a short abstract (300 words) and a short bio (one paragraph) to endgameofempires@gmail.com by August 30, 2024.