chapter  9
17 Pages

Armenian labour migration to Istanbul and the migration crisis of the 1890s

ByFLORIAN RIEDLER

The importance of the migration experience for the Armenian community in the past and present is widely acknowledged. This is more so because of a central event in modern Armenian history, the extermination of the Ottoman Armenians in 1915 with its deplacements of populations, streams of refugees and new diasporas, that can be integrated into the narrative of migration. Yet, here a very specific form of migration is brought to the foreground, namely unfree or forced migration. The distinction between unfree and free migration has been identified as one of

the most fundamental and enduring distinctions in migration studies. Although research on the former category tends to view migrants as victims of outside forces, in the latter category the motivation of migrants and the general economic circumstances of migration are more open to consideration. The archetypical figures of these two categories are, on the one hand, the refugee and, on the other hand, the labour migrant. Only exceptionally have studies on the social reality of migration come to appreciate the fact that, in many situations, different forms of migration can blend into each other very easily. This happens at the level of the individual migrant and his or her motives to migrate; it also happens at an institutional level, with the authorities’ reactions and policies towards different groups of migrants.1