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Ottoman Empire - WWI, Decline and Definition

Ottoman Empire - WWI, Decline and Definition

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The Ottoman Empire was one of the mightiest and longest-lasting dynasties in world history. This Islamic-run superpower ruled large areas of the Middle East, Eastern Europe and North Africa for more than 600 years. The chief leader, known as the Sultan, was given absolute religious and political authority over his people. While Western Europeans generally viewed them as a threat, many historians regard the Ottoman Empire as a source of great regional stability and security, as well as important achievements in the arts, science, religion and culture.

Origins of the Ottoman Empire

Osman I, a leader of the Turkish tribes in Anatolia, founded the Ottoman Empire around 1299. The term “Ottoman” is derived from Osman’s name, which was “Uthman” in Arabic.

The Ottoman Turks set up a formal government and expanded their territory under the leadership of Osman I, Orhan, Murad I and Bayezid I.

In 1453, Mehmed II the Conqueror led the Ottoman Turks in seizing the ancient city of Constantinople, the Byzantine Empire’s capital. This put an end to 1,000-year reign of the Byzantine Empire.

Sultan Mehmed renamed the city Istanbul and made it the new capital of the Ottoman Empire. Istanbul became a dominant international center of trade and culture.

Mehmed died in 1481. His oldest son, Bayezid II, became the new Sultan.

Rise of the Ottoman Empire

By 1517, Bayezid’s son, Selim I, brought Syria, Arabia, Palestine, and Egypt under Ottoman control.

The Ottoman Empire reached its peak between 1520 and 1566, during the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent. This period was marked by great power, stability and wealth.

Suleiman created a uniform system of law and welcomed different forms of arts and literature. Many Muslims considered Suleiman a religious leader as well as a political ruler.

Throughout Sultan Suleiman’s rule, the empire expanded and included areas of Eastern Europe.

What Countries Were Part of the Ottoman Empire?

At its height, the Ottoman Empire included the following regions:

  • Turkey
  • Greece
  • Bulgaria
  • Egypt
  • Hungary
  • Macedonia
  • Romania
  • Jordan
  • Palestine
  • Lebanon
  • Syria
  • Some of Arabia
  • A considerable amount of the North African coastal strip

Ottoman Art and Science

The Ottomans were known for their achievements in art, science and medicine. Istanbul and other major cities throughout the empire were recognized as artistic hubs, especially during the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent.

Some of the most popular forms of art included calligraphy, painting, poetry, textiles and carpet weaving, ceramics and music.

Ottoman architecture also helped define the culture of the time. Elaborate mosques and public buildings were constructed during this period.

Science was regarded as an important field of study. The Ottomans learned and practiced advanced mathematics, astronomy, philosophy, physics, geography and chemistry.

Additionally, some of the greatest advances in medicine were made by the Ottomans. They invented several surgical instruments that are still used today, such as forceps, catheters, scalpels, pincers and lancets.


Under Sultan Selim, a new policy emerged, which included fratricide, or the murder of brothers.

When a new Sultan was crowned, his brothers would be imprisoned. When the Sultan’s first son was born, his brothers and their sons would be killed. This system ensured that the rightful heir would take the throne.

But, not every Sultan followed this harsh ritual. Over time, the practice evolved. In the later years, the brothers would only be put in prison—not killed.


A total of 36 Sultans ruled the Ottoman Empire between 1299 and 1922. For many of these years, the Ottoman Sultan would live in the elaborate Topkapi palace complex in Istanbul. It contained dozens of gardens, courtyards and residential and administrative buildings.

Part of the Topkapi palace included the harem, a separate quarters reserved for wives, concubines and female slaves. These women were positioned to serve the Sultan, while the men in the harem complex were typically eunuchs.

The threat of assassination was always a concern for a Sultan. He relocated every night as a safety measure.

The Ottoman Empire and Other Religions

Most scholars agree that the Ottoman Turk rulers were tolerant of other religions.

Those who weren’t Muslim were categorized by the millet system, a community structure that gave minority groups a limited amount of power to control their own affairs while still under Ottoman rule. Some millets paid taxes, while others were exempt.


In the 14th century, the devshirme system was created. This required conquered Christians to give up 20 percent of their male children to the state. The children were forced to convert to Islam and become slaves.

Although they served as slaves, some of the converts became powerful and wealthy. Many were trained for government service or the Ottoman military. The elite military group, known as the Janissaries, was primarily made up of forced Christian converts.

The devshirme system lasted until the end of the 17th century.

Decline of the Ottoman Empire

Starting in the 1600s, the Ottoman Empire began to lose its economic and military dominance to Europe.

Around this time, Europe had strengthened rapidly with the Renaissance and the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. Other factors, such as poor leadership and having to compete with trade from the Americas and India, led to the weakening of the empire.

In 1683, the Ottoman Turks were defeated at the Battle of Vienna. This loss added to their already waning status.

Over the next hundred years, the empire began to lose key regions of land. After a revolt, Greece won their independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1830.

In 1878, the Congress of Berlin declared the independence of Romania, Serbia and Bulgaria.

During the Balkan Wars, which took place in 1912 and 1913, the Ottoman Empire lost nearly all their territories in Europe.

When Did the Ottoman Empire Fall?

At the start of World War I, the Ottoman Empire was already in decline. The Ottoman army entered the war in 1914 on the side of the Central Powers (including Germany and Austria-Hungary) and were defeated in October 1918.

Following the Armistice of Mudros, most Ottoman territories were divided between Britain, France, Greece and Russia.

The Ottoman empire officially ended in 1922 when the title of Ottoman Sultan was eliminated. Turkey was declared a republic on October 29, 1923, when Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (1881-1938), an army officer, founded the independent Republic of Turkey. He then served as Turkey’s first president from 1923 until his death in 1938, implementing reforms that rapidly secularized and westernized the country.

Armenian Genocide

The Armenian Genocide was perhaps the most controversial and damning event associated with the Ottomans.

In 1915, Turkish leaders made a plan to massacre Armenians living the Ottoman Empire. Most scholars believe that about 1.5 million Armenians were killed.

For years, the Turkish government has denied responsibility for a genocide. In fact, it’s illegal, even today, to talk about the Armenian Genocide in Turkey.

The Ottoman Legacy

After ruling for more than 600 years, the Ottoman Turks are often remembered for their powerful military, ethnic diversity, artistic ventures, religious tolerance and architectural marvels.

The mighty empire’s influence is still very much alive in the present-day Turkish Republic, a modern, mostly secular nation thought of by many scholars as a continuation of the Ottoman Empire.


The Ottoman Empire, BBC.
History, TheOttomans.org.
Ottoman Legacy in the Turkish History, Turkey.com.
8 Things You Need to Know About the Mass Killings of Armenians 100 Years Ago, CNN.

Ottoman Empire - WWI, Decline and Definition - HISTORY

Ottoman history from 1566 -1792 has been described as ”The Decline of Faith and State.” To Ottomans, " decline ” meant dislocation of the traditional order hence, ” reforms " to check or reverse " decline " meant restoring the old order which had produced the Golden Age of Suleyman the Magnificent.” At times decline was checked but only temporarily. Decline was not only slow, gradual, interrupted, lasting rnore than three centuries, but also it was relative only to its own Golden Age and to the remarkable progress of its Christian European neighbors.

It is easier to describe decline than to explain it. Some developments which the Ottoman Empire did not take part in gave Europe its relative superiority.

[ 1 ] Its 16th-10th c. commercial expansion overseas enriched Western Europe to the detriment of the Ottomans.

[ 2 ] The West improved agricultural methods while technology and industry advanced rapidly, all tied to the new scientific experimentation and rationalist attitudes stemming from the Renaissance and Reformation and culminating in the Enlightenment only weak echoes of these events reached the East before 1800.

[ 3 ] Strong, centralized, national monarchies or bureaucratic empires appeared not only in Western Europe but also along the Ottoman frontiers in Central and Eastern Europe just when centrifugal forces were weakening the previously centralized Ottoman bureaucratic empire.

[ 4 ] A prosperous,enterprising bourgeoisie on the Western model failed to appear in the Ottoman Empire to back up the ruler the wealthy bourgeoisie which did exist was small and composed largely of either non-Muslim merchants and bankers, who were not acceptable as the sultan’s allies, or bureaucrats, who were a part of the "establishment ” anxious to protect their own interests and often resisting change.

The Ottomans were more conscious of the dislocations in their own traditional system :

[ 1 ] Leadership : 17 sultans after Suleyman ( from1566 to 1789) were, with few exceptions, men of little ability, training, or experience, and some were incompetent, even mentally defective their average rule of 13 years was less than half that of the first 10 sultans. This was no accident! Mehmed III died in 1605 leaving two minor sons as the only direct male survivors. The elder, Ahmet I, spared the life of his brother, Mustafa, but kept him secluded in a special apartment in the harem of Topkapi Palace. The Sitva Torok treaty with Austria (1606) should have been a wake-up call for the Ottomans. It was a negotiated compromise rather than a grant of peace dictated by the sultan in it, the Hapsburg monarch finally was recognized as the sultan’s peer, as " Emperor” (Padishah rather than simply King of Vienna.” Mustafa I’s accession in 1617 marked the end of ”succession by military contest and the practice of royal ” fratricide,” replaced by confinement of princes in the palace and succession by the eldest male of the imperial family. Not only were most inexperienced and incompetent, many were minors under the influence of the Queen Mother (Valide Sultan) and harem favorites, giving rise to palace cliques and intrigue. For several decades in the first half of the17.th century, women of the palace exercised such influence that the period is called " The Sultanate of the Women "

[ 2 ] Bribery, purchase of office, favoritism, nepotism : Promotion by merit, long the hallmark of Ottoman administration, became less common. Corruption spread to the provinces where an official would buy his office, then squeeze more taxes from the populace to reimburse himself. There were frequent shifts in judicial as well as civil officials, with justice also sometimes for sale. In the mid-to-late 17th c., the great Koprulu family of viziers attempted to root out corruption and improve administrative and military efficiency. They were temporarily successful in arresting " decline " through traditional reforms, and in 1663 Ottoman forces besieged Vienna for the second time. But in the 17th c., the Ottomans were confronted by an extended arc of opponents, Venice, Austria, Poland, Russia, and Iran, often obliged to confront several at once. In 1699, after defeat by a coalition of all Central and East European powers, the Ottomans accepted mediation, negotiated peace, and, by the Treaty of Karlowitz, for the first time gave up territories in the Balkans. The shrinking of Ottoman frontiers had begun.

[ 3 ] Military : The devshirme was abandoned ( just when is uncertain ) sons of janissaries were admitted to the corps, then other Muslims and imperial slavery became a legal fiction.” Provincial janissaries sometimes acted as semi-autonomous local rulers, while in Istanbul they become a disruptive force, often in collaboration with artisans / craftsmen and students. The provincial cavalry army was made obsolete by musket-armed European troops, requiring the Ottomans to increase their standing infantry and equip them with firearms. This required money. The military fief system was all but abandoned and replaced by tax-farming. The heavy tax burden was responsible in part for revolts in Anatolia, abandonment of farm lands, and depopulation of villages thus the empire experienced a decline in tax revenues despite higher taxes.

[ 4 ] Economics : The Ottoman Empire suffered from severe inflation, as did all of Europe, as New World silver flooded in. This, together with debased coinage, fueled corruption. By the 17th c., Europeans and consolidated their control of new sea trade routes, by-passing the Middle East and diminishing the transit trade through Ottoman lands. Asian spices were shipped directly to Europe, and wars with Iran interrupted the silk trade. European manufactured goods flowed in, undercutting local handicraft products and enriching Levantine merchants. The Ottoman Empire’s unfavorable trade balance resulted in an outflow of gold, while European states demanded more favorable trade treaties ( ”Capitulations" ) and were guilty of blatantly abusing them.

[ 5 ] Intellectual decline--Selim and Suleyman’s 16th c. victory over Safavid Shi’ism so consolidated Sunni orthodoxy that Muslims in the Empire were not forced to engage in intellectually challenging and stimulating conflict as Catholics and Protestants were in Europe. Muslim scholars became intellectually conservative and resistant to new ideas convinced of the superiority of Muslim / Ottoman civilization, they were seemingly oblivious to the advances being made in the infidel West. Meanwhile, the Ottoman religious establishment gradually became infiltrated by the Sufi orders, producing a new sort of symbiosis which gave greater strength to conservative religious” elements.

In the18th c. more wars and losses resulted in another attempt at reforms. The Tulip Period ( 1718-30 ) marks the first conscious borrowing of European culture and art. During the mid-century interlude of peace on the European frontiers, Ottoman political authority was further diffused. Provincial notables and governors barely heeded orders from Istanbul. Levantines and Phanariot Greeks enjoyed enormous prosperity and influence. The Muslim religious elite reached the apex of their power. In the last quarter of the century, Catherine the Great resumed Russian expansion southward her ” Greek Scheme " aimed to put her grandson, Constantine, on the throne of a neo-Byzantine Empire with its capital at Constantinople. Her first war ended in the Treaty of Kuchuk Kaynarca (1774) by which the Ottomans gave up the Crimea, the first time they had lost territory inhabited primarily by Muslims. In 1789, during the second war with Catherine, Selim lll became sultan and initiated a reform program called the New Order, (Nizam-i Cedid) with emphasis on military and fiscal reform. But Selim’s failure to prevent Napoleon’s invasion of the rich Ottoman province of Egypt in 1798 revealed to Europeans as never before that the balance of power had now shifted decidedly in their favor.

The Imperial reforms begun by Selim III were taken up again in the early decades of the 19th.c. by Sultan Mahmud II. They aimed at curbing provincial autonomy and achieving political centralization and modernization through Western-style military, administrative, and fiscal reforms. But European intervention in the Greek struggle for independence signaled the beginning of the modern " Eastern Question ” (Simply put : Who would divide the spoils when the Ottoman Empire collapsed ? ). To counter this, the Tanzimat period (1839-76) saw reforms center around a new concept of justice (adalet): equality before the law for all Ottoman subjects, Muslim and non- Muslim alike. This concept was fundamental to the prevalent ideology of the Tanzimat, Ottomanism ( patriotism but not yet nationalism). In the 1850s-60s, intellectuals known as the New Ottomans” engaged in a liberal critique of Tanzimat policies with emphasis on fatherland (vatan), freedom (hurriget), and constitutionalism. The Tanzimat reforms culminated in the constitution and parliament of 1876, but the 1877-78 war with Russia and the Treaty of Berlin, by which most of the Ottoman lands in Europe were lost and the European powers laid claim to spheres of influence in the Middle East, allowed Sultan Abdulhamid II to bring an end to " liberalism” and proceed with reforms under an autocratic- regime. By the 1880s Germany under Kaiser Wilhelrn had replaced France and Great Britain as friend and military advisor of the Ottoman Empire, and new ideologies were challenging Ottomanism. Abdulhamid embraced Pan-Islamism his opponents, known collectively as Young Turks, were drawn to a secular Ottoman pseudo-nationalism and some to Pan-Turkism.

The Hamidian despotism was ended by the Young Turk Revolution(1908-09) and replaced by constitutional, parliamentary government under the Young Turk Committee of Union and Progress. Their policies reflected a growing sense of Turkish nationalism. But in the five years preceding World War I, two Balkan wars and a war with Italy, which had invaded Libya, brought the military element of the Young Turk movement to the fore and resulted in the domination of the Istanbul political scene by the Young Turk Triumverate ( Enver, Talat, and Jemal Pashas) . Under their leadership, the Ottomans entered World War I on the side of Germany. The victors dictated the peace to end all peace at Paris in 1919. With even the heartlands of the Empire partitioned and Istanbul occupied by the victorious allies, the Turks of Anatolia under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk) rejected the terms of the dictated Treaty of Sevres. Again they took up arms, fought successfully for their independence, and --- bringing to an end the 600 + year-old Ottoman Empire –- negotiated the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923 which granted international recognition to the boundaries of the new Republic of Turkey

The Ottoman Empire: Islam's shining beacon

By the early sixteenth century, the Ottoman Empire contained one of the most powerful and culturally advanced civilizations in the world. From its beginnings as a small state founded in 1299 in the modern nation of Turkey, the Ottoman Empire expanded dramatically over the years. In 1453 the Ottomans captured Constantinople, thus destroying the last remnants of the Byzantine Empire (a section of the Roman empire that ruled from c. 330 ce to 1453 ce in Asia and the Middle East), and in 1516–1517 they had captured much of the modern Middle East, including the regions (later nations) of Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, and Syria. By the early seventeenth century the Ottoman Empire had expanded to include most of northern Africa and southeastern Europe, including the modern nations of Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, and the Balkan states (Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia, Macedonia, Slovenia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina).

Heading the Ottoman Empire was the sultan, or emperor, who descended from the founder of the empire, Osman I (1259–1326). The sultan wielded immense power in the empire. In addition to being the sultan, he was also honored with the title of caliph, a title that made him the political and religious leader of the Muslims, or followers of the Islamic religion (which believes in Allah [God] and accepts Muhammad as the chief and last prophet of Allah). Most Turks were Muslims, as were the vast majority of people living in the Middle East, and they looked to the caliph as their leader. While the Ottoman Empire was officially a Muslim state, its rapid expansion placed it in control of areas with large populations of Christians and smaller populations of Jews. "Remarkably this polyethnic [many ethnicities] and multireligious society worked," wrote Benjamin Braude and Bernard Lewis in their Christians and Jews in the Ottoman Empire: The Functioning of a Plural Society. "The legal traditions and practices of each community, particularly in matters of personal status—death, marriage, and inheritance—were respected and enforced throughout the empire. . Opportunities for advancement and prosperity were open in varying degrees to all the empire's subjects." Though they did not receive all the rights of Muslims, religious minorities enjoyed a much greater quality of life under Muslim rule than did similar minorities in Europe at the time.

At the height of its power and influence, the Ottoman Empire was perhaps the most advanced civilization on earth. It had a vast system of government capable of collecting taxes and raising armies to face its foes. It had a stable religious culture, with millions of faithful believers. During the Middle Ages (c. 500–c. 1500 ce), when learning and the arts had largely disappeared from Europe due to the fall of Greek and Roman civilizations and the creation of smaller kingdoms focused on survival and warfare, Muslim citizens of the Ottoman Empire preserved Greek learning and philosophy, and they created great mosques (religious temples) and works of art. In the early years of the Ottoman Empire, Muslims generally looked down on those from the West as barbarians who followed a fallen religion and had a more primitive society. However, as European cultures advanced during the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries, interactions between Ottomans and Europeans improved. Muslims offered Westerners agricultural items such as cotton, sugar, and citrus fruit they introduced paper-making techniques they had learned from the Chinese, allowing the more rapid spread of printed books and they shared their superior knowledge of mathematics, chemistry, and other sciences.

The sultan Suleyman I (1494–1566) ruled from 1520 to 1566, and the Ottoman Empire maintained its strength well into the seventeenth century. By the late seventeenth century,

Ottoman Empire - WWI, Decline and Definition - HISTORY

Throughout Islamic history, empires rose and fell for 1400 years. The Umayyads, Abbasids, Mamluks, Mughals, and Ottomans are just some of the major dynasties of Islam that rose to prominence, achieved a golden age, and eventually fell and were only remembered in the history books. Ibn Khaldun, in his brilliant book on historiography, The Muqaddimah, states that “dynasties have a natural life span like individuals” and that “it [a dynasty] grows up and passes into an age of stagnation and then into retrogression.” The insightful words of Ibn Khaldun in 1337 hold true for the history of the last great Muslim empire – the Ottoman Empire.

The Ottoman Empire began as a small state of Turkish sultans in Anatolia (present-day Turkey) in 1300. By 1453, they were a force to be reckoned with, controlling land in Europe and Asia, with a capital at Istanbul. By the mid-1500s, the empire had reached its zenith under Sultan Süleyman. At that time, it was by far the most powerful and largest empire in Europe, and also controlled North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, and parts of Persia. However, as Ibn Khaldun stated, this dynasty would eventually go into a time of stagnation, and finally decline. This post will analyze two factors that helped bring about the decline of the Ottomans from the 1500s through the 1800s – a weak and ineffective government and economic stagnation.

At its height in the mid-1500s, the Ottoman Empire controlled North Africa, Southeast Europe, and the Arabian Pensinsula

From the birth of the Ottoman state under Osman Gazi through its period of unrivaled power in the mid-1500s, the center of the Ottoman Empire was always the sultan. The Ottoman Empire was a dynastic one, so when a sultan died, his son would become the new sultan. These early sultans all took great pride in their jobs and had a central role in the direction of the empire. Sultans oversaw governmental meetings, hired and fired officials, and personally led military campaigns to the edges of the empire.

However, there was one aspect of the sultanate that was never fully formalized – succession. The early years of the Ottoman Empire were beget by numerous civil wars, as sons would fight each other for power after their father had died. Usually it was not much of a problem, as the sultans would make it clear which of their sons they preferred. At other times, however, wars within the empire lasted for years and were horribly destructive to the power of the empire.

Seeking to solve this problem, Sultan Ahmed I (reigned 1603-1617) instituted a new system for choosing sultans. Instead of a sultan’s sons being governors within the empire until their father died, they would stay at the palace in Istanbul until their time came. In most cases, they actually were not even allowed to leave the palace. This essentially made them prisoners until they became sultans.

Sultan Ahmed I began a new system for picking sultans in the 1600s

While the intentions of Ahmed I were probably righteous, the effects of his policy were disastrous. Instead of sultans coming to the throne with experience in governance and policy, they were usually ignorant of anything but the pleasures of palace life. They were completely incompetent as rulers of a powerful empire. The 300 year old tradition of sultans being the powerful, resourceful, and able leaders of the Ottoman State was over. To give some context, the Ottoman sultans saw their job primarily as the commander-in-chief of the army. All Ottoman sultans led their armies into battle and saw that as a central aspect to their job. However, Sultan Murad IV was the last Ottoman sultan to lead his army into battle in 1638.

Despite their inexperience and incompetence, Ottoman sultans were still officially in charge of the empire. Thus, without education and knowledge of how to run an empire, they still had the power to direct the government. The result of this was a long period of complete administrative instability. Viziers (ministers) were appointed and fired at the whim of the sultan, leading to great difficulty in policies ever being put into place. Also, since experience and talent were no longer seen as necessary by the Ottoman sultan himself, those hoping to advance in civil service were not promoted based on skill. Instead, bribery and favoritism wreaked havoc on the Ottoman government.

With the rise of incompetent officials in the central Ottoman government, a process of decentralization began. Local governments gained more autonomy and showed less respect for the government in Istanbul. On a practical level, this meant less tax revenue sent to the central government, which meant a weaker government and military in general. All this occurring during the rise of the empires of Europe such as England, France, Russia, and Austria.

Going hand-in-hand with the political decline of the empire was its economic decline. Traditionally, one of the major sources of income of the Ottoman Empire was booty gained in war. As the empire reached its maximum size in the mid-1500s, that source of income dried up. Because of the empire’s large size, foreign nations were further and further away from the capital, making campaigns against those nations very expensive. So expensive, in fact, that it didn’t make economic sense to keep expanding.

Another economic aspect that affected the empire staring in the 1600s was inflation. In the 1500s and 1600s, Western European nations like Spain, England, and France were exploring and conquering the New World across the Atlantic. Their conquests brought them huge quantities of gold and particularly silver, particularly to the Spanish from Mexico. The Ottoman economy was based on silver. Coins were minted in silver, taxes collected in silver, and silver to government officials paid in silver. The huge influx of silver coming from America drastically devalued the Ottoman currency according to the economic laws of supply and demand.

These statistics show how bad inflation was in the 1500s and 1600s in the Ottoman Empire. In 1580, 1 gold coin could be bought for 60 silver ones. 10 years later, in 1590, it would take 120 silver coins to buy one gold. And in 1640, it took 250 silver coins in order to buy one gold one. This inflation caused prices across the empire to rise, hurting average citizens and the empire as a whole.

As this process of economic stagnation and decline continued throughout the 1600s and 1700s, the central government had to look for new sources of income. At the same time, European nations were gaining the upper hand over the Ottomans militarily, politically, and economically. As a result, a new policy of economic capitulations and concessions began. Capitulations were agreements between the Ottoman government and certain European governments (usually the French), giving the Europeans control over an entire industry within the Ottoman Empire in exchange for a one-time payment and/or diplomatic support. Because of the relative weakness of the Ottoman Empire compared to European nations, the Ottoman government had to enter into these agreements.

The negative side effects of these agreements were devastating. For example, in 1740, the Ottoman Empire entered into an agreement with France that gave French citizens the right to travel and trade in any part of the Ottoman Empire. With cheaper and better goods, they were able to start to push out local Ottoman merchants, hurting the economy in general. In addition to economic concessions, the capitulations also meant a loss of sovereignty for the Ottoman government. In that same agreement, the French were given full jurisdiction over their own citizens and all Roman Catholics in the Ottoman Empire. In effect, what this meant is that the Ottoman government had no authority to enforce laws on any of those people, even if they are with the empire’s borders.

The capitulations of the 1700s and 1800s were one of the biggest reasons for the decline of the Ottoman Empire during this time. This series of humiliating contracts put the empire in a position of subservience to European nations, which referred to it as the “Sick Man of Europe”.

Religious Changes – The Tanzimat

From the very beginning of the Ottoman Empire in the early 1300s, Islam had been the basis of the state. The Ottomans built on the Islamic government traditions of the Seljuk Empire of the Middle Ages which prided itself on being the defender of Islam in its time. The Ottomans saw themselves in the same light. As the empire grew and expanded through the centuries, the Ottomans formalized their position as the defenders of Islam, with the sultans taking on the title of khalifah (caliph) of the Muslim world. The law of the land was the Shariah, the religious laws of Islam passed down through Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) in the deserts of Arabia in the 600s.

In the late Ottoman Empire, however, things began to change. With the political and economic rise of Europe in the face of Ottoman decline that was discussed in part 1, questions began to be asked about the direction of the Ottoman Empire. Many people within the government of the empire began to think that in order to become more powerful like the Europeans, the Ottoman Empire needs to become more like European nations.

These beliefs reached the level of the Ottoman sultan in the early 1800s. Soon, reforms meant to make the Ottoman Empire more European touched all aspects of Ottoman life. In 1826, sultan Mahmud II (reigned 1808-1839) instituted a clothing reform for all government officials. Instead of the traditional robes and turbans that sultans and government workers wore, they now dressed in European-style military clothes. Looking like the Europeans was not the only reform, however. Mahmud also abolished the ancient Janissaries, military troops that came from all parts of the empire. Instead, he began a new corps called the Nizam-ı cedid, which was recruited only from the empire’s Turkish citizens.

Mahmud II’s reforms only began the drastic changes that the Ottoman Empire would undergo in the turbulent 19th century. The changes would culminate in the Tanzimat reforms under sultans Abdülmecid in 1839 and 1856. “Tanzimat” means reorganization in Ottoman Turkish and that is exactly what these changes were: a complete reorganization of the Ottoman government. The Tanzimat were a series of laws that was meant to modernize the Ottoman Empire along European lines. The old system of a Shariah-based government was gone. Islamic laws and norms were gone from the government. The fair and equitable Islamic social structure of the empire was gone.

Sultan Abdulmecid I, who instituted the Tanzimat reforms

Keeping in mind the political and economic problems the empire faced from part 1 of this article, the Ottoman Empire certainly did need to reform. It was declining fast in power in comparison to Western European nations. However, the path the Ottomans took was to erase Islam from the political structure of the Ottoman state. During this time, Europe had mostly gotten rid of religious influence in politics. The French Revolution in the early 1800s separated church and state and created a secular society. The power of the Anglican Church in English politics was nowhere near its former power. The pope in Rome was merely but a figurehead. The overarching idea in Europe at that time was that if you get rid of religion in general, you will become more successful. The Ottomans copied this same formula.

Some of the changes included: secular courts replaced Islamic judges, a finance system based on the French model, legalization of homosexuality, factories replaced artisans guilds, enforcement of an “Ottoman” identity instead of unique cultural identities, and the reform of the educational system to be based on a science/technology curriculum instead of traditional subjects such as Quran, Islamic studies, and poetry. While there were many other reforms that were necessary and did not change the role of Islam in the empire, many of the new laws were aimed at removing Islam from public life. The Ottomans brought in people known as “French knowers” from Europe to come and reform their society.

European influence was even seen in architecture. Dolmabaçe Palace, built by Sultan Abdulmecid was meant to look like European palaces of that time.

This attempt to remove Islam from public life left many within the empire feeling as if their traditions were being marginalized in favor of European norms that did not fit in the empire. The role of teachers, shaikhs, and Islamic judges was suddenly marginalized. Large segments of the population opposed the Tanzimat’s efforts to redefine their lives. Islamic rebellions against the government began in places such as the deserts of Arabia (the First Saudi State), Bosnia, and Egypt. The Ottoman Empire had historically used Islam to unite the diverse peoples of its lands, but with the removal of Islam, that bonding agent was slowly breaking away the empire.

Sultan Abdülhamid II

In the middle of all these changes and reforms regarding the role of Islam came a new sultan in 1876: Abdülhamid II . While he was in favor of the parts of the Tanzimat that did not contradict Islam and actually did benefit the empire, he was vehemently against the decline of the role of Islam in the empire. Since 1517, the Ottoman sultans were also the caliphs of the Muslim world, in essence the official leaders and protectors of Muslims worldwide. Most sultans had recently played down their roles as caliphs. Abdülhamid on the other hand emphasized the Islamic aspects of his job.

In the late 1800s, Sultan Abdülhamid II attempted to bring back the Islamic character of the Ottoman Empire.

During his reign, Abdülhamid built the Istanbul-Madinah railway which make travel to the Hajj for pilgrims much easier. During his reign, Istanbul was made a center of Islamic printing, producing thousands of copies of the Quran for distribution around the Muslim world. In 1889, he established a “House of Scholars” whose purpose was to promote the Islamic sciences across the empire. Perhaps his most daring and notable defense of Islam and Muslims occurred when the Zionist leader, Theodor Herzl offered Abdülhamid II 150 million pounds in gold in exchange for the land of Palestine. Abdülhamid’s response was legendary:

™Even if you gave me as much gold as the entire world, let alone the 150 million English pounds in gold, I would not accept this at all. I have served the Islamic milla and the Ummah of Muhammad for more than thirty years, and never did I blacken the pages of the Muslims- my fathers and ancestors, the Ottoman sultans and caliphs. And so I will never accept what you ask of me.

Despite Abdülhamid’s best efforts, the rising tide of European secularism was too great to resist. In 1909, the Young Turks, a liberal secular group, overthrew Abdülhamid and installed his brother Mehmed V on the throne. Mehmed was to have no real power as the control of the empire was in the hands of a group of three Young Turks called the “Three Pashas”. Abdülhamid II was the last Ottoman sultan to exercise any real power over the empire. Just 13 years later the empire would be destroyed in the aftermath of World War One, and the caliphate destroyed 2 years later in 1924.

The Millet System

Before looking at how nationalism affected the Ottomans, we have to look further back, at how different nationalities originally were a source of strength for the Ottomans. After Sultan Mehmed II conquered Constantinople in 1453, he had a unique problem on his hands: how to deal with the sizable Christian minority within his realm. Islam has numerous rules about how to treat religious minorities and what kinds of rights they are accorded. Working within these rules, Sultan Mehmed established a system later known as the millet system (millet coming from the Arabic word ملة meaning “nation”).

Sultan Mehmed II established the millet system, giving religious freedom to minorities in the Ottoman Empire

According to the millet system, Christians within the Ottoman Empire were allowed to live much like they did before Ottoman rule. They were allowed to chose their own religious leaders, collect their own taxes, use their own language, and even to have their own courts where Christians were tried according to Christian laws, not Muslim ones. This type of a system was revolutionary at that time in Europe, where in Christian-dominated areas, there was no concept of religious freedom or minority rights.

Over time, the millet system would grow to include more than just one group of Christians. To accomodate all the different forms of Christianity within the Ottoman realm, each church was given its own millet, and allowed to run by its own rules. Jews were also allowed to have their own millet. During the reign of Mehmed II’s son, Bayezid II, thousands of Jews who were experiencing religious persecution at the hands of Spain’s Catholics were welcomed into the Ottoman Empire where they were given much more religious freedom than anywhere else in the world at that time.

With the millet system, different nationalities, ethnicities, cultures, and religions were allowed to thrive. People commonly think of the Ottoman Empire as a “Turkish” empire. This is far from the truth. While the sultans from the beginning to the end were Turkish, the general populace was a wide variety of peoples. People within the millets were able to rise up in society to prominent positions. In fact, many of the sultan’s viziers (ministers) came from Greek, Bosnian, Arab, or Persian backgrounds.

European Nationalism

In 1789, a revolution began in France that would alter world history. The French Empire, headed by a tyrannical king was shaken to its core. The revolution helped bring Enlightenment ideas to the forefront in Europe, such as natural rights, government by the people, and social contract theory. However, besides the political effects of the revolution, a much more important social one was taking form: nationalism.

In Europe, the concept of nationalism took the form of people being led by ethnically similar people. The large multi-national empires of the past, such as the Holy Roman Empire or the Spanish Empire were seen as inherently weak because of the numerous nationalities and languages within the empire. Ethnic/linguistic groups began to revolt. The goal of many of these groups was to be led by someone who has the same ethnicity and language as them. Thus for example, the Dutch of Holland rejected Spanish rule, as did the Italians in Sicily. Revolutions broke out across the European continent, based on the idea of establishing nation-states: countries that only have one nationality within them, and are ruled by someone of that nationality.

This rising tide of nationalism made its way into the Ottoman Empire as well. Although the millet system gave people their rights and allowed them to rule themselves, European nationalism dictated that the ethnic minorities of the Ottoman Empire should not have a Turkish sultan. Nationalism meant that they had to break free of the Ottoman Empire and be led by their own people.

Such an idea did not just arise on its own within the Ottoman Empire. As previously stated, the millet system provided a framework for different nationalities to have rights and freedom within the Ottoman realm. With this type of contentment, average people were unlikely to rise up against their Ottoman governors. To provide the backbone for such revolutions, the major European powers of the day – Britain, France, and Russia – stepped in.

Revolts Against the Ottoman Government

European powers actively encouraged nationalities within the Ottoman empire to revolt throughout the 1800s. For example, the Greek revolution of 1821-1832 was strongly encouraged by other European powers, who sought to undermine and weaken the Ottomans. Not all Greeks were in favor of independence, in fact the Orthodox Patriarch, who was chosen by the Greeks in accordance with the millet system openly denounced the rebels in favor of unity with the Ottomans. However, the Greek revolutionaries were heavily aided by the British, who sent their navy (along with the Russians and the French) to battle the Ottomans on behalf of the Greeks. With the political and economic strains that the Ottomans were already facing at that time, they were unable to defeat this intervention by Europe and Greece was proclaimed independent of the Ottoman Empire.

With the successful nationalistic revolt of the Greeks, other minorities within the empire were encouraged to revolt. The Tanzimat reforms that were discussed in post 2 also helped to strengthen nationalist revolts. The Tanzimat encouraged all people within the Ottoman Empire to submit to a single code of laws, instead of allowing them the right to live according to their own ethnic/religious rules. Thus, more revolts ensued. The Serbians continued armed revolt against the Ottomans throughout the 1800s, and were strongly supported by the Russians. Armenians throughout Anatolia also revolted and were also supported by the Russians. Even fellow Muslims, the Bosniaks began to fight for independence, both because of nationalistic ideas and as protest against the un-Islamic reforms in the Tanzimat.

Turkish Nationalism

Perhaps the most bewildering forms of nationalism during the decline of the Ottoman Empire was the nationalistic ideas of the Turks and Arabs. Since 1517, the Turks and Arabs had been intimately linked within the Ottoman Empire. Their cultures and histories mixed, explaining the huge amount of loan words from each other in both languages today. Both had a very large role within the Ottoman Empire, and should have had every reason to see it succeed. However, the rising tide of European nationalism affected them as well.

In response to the revolts of the Greeks, Armenians, Serbians, and others, the Turkish leaders in the Ottoman Empire needed to find a way to counter the effects of such revolutions. While Sultan Abdülhamid II’s solution was pan-Islamic solidarity and an “Ottoman” identity instead of a nationalist identity in the empire, many others began to think of the Ottoman Empire as a purely Turkish state. They promoted the ideas that Turkish pride should be emphasized in the same way nationalist pride was prevalent throughout Europe. Turks began to promote themselves throughout government, and exclude others. This policy was promoted by the same group (the Young Turks) that promoted secularism and a movement away from Islam throughout the 1800s.

World War One and Arab Nationalism

As a reaction to the rise of Turkish nationalism, some Arab thinkers and political leaders began to formulate ideas of Arab nationalism. They looked back at the Abbasid and Umayyad days when Arabs were the leaders of the Muslim empire and hoped to create something similar. In their view, the Ottoman Turks had hampered the progress of the Arab world and held them back.

By the time World War One began in the summer of 1914, the Ottoman Empire was nothing but a shell of its former self. Its former lands in Europe were now gone as the Greeks, Bulgarians, Serbs, and Bosnians were all either independent or under European control. All that was left was the predominantly Turkish lands of Anatolia and the Arab lands south of it, including present-day Syria, Iraq, Palestine, and Saudi Arabia.

Soldiers of the Arab Revolt. The (British designed) flag of the Arab Revolt went on to be the basis of modern nationalistic flags of many Arab countries.

In WWI, the Ottomans sided with the Germans and Austrians against Russia, France, and Britain. Due to Turkish nationalism, the army was almost entirely made up of Turks, with Arabs excluded. Because of this, the British saw an opportunity to further break apart the Ottoman state. The British offered the Arab governor of Makkah, Sherif Hussain, his own Arab kingdom if he sided with them and revolted against the Ottomans. The British sent the later (in)famous T.E. Lawrence (aka, Lawrence of Arabia) to Hussain to convince him to revolt, and provide him with huge amounts of money and weapons.

With British encouragment, a group of Arabs from the Hejaz (Western Arabian Peninsula, including Makkah and Madinah), revolted against their brothers in Islam and sided with the British. From 1914 to 1918, the Arabs harassed the Ottoman forces throughout the Arab world. Because of the Arab Revolt, the British were able to easily conquer Iraq, Palestine, and Syria from the Ottoman Empire. For the first time since 1187, the holy city of Jerusalem was under the control of Christian Europe, this time because of the help given to them by nationalistic Arabs.

Final Destruction of the Ottoman Empire

World War One did not go with for the Ottomans. Invaded by European powers and revolted against by the Arabs, the Ottoman Empire essentially ceased to exist by the time the war was over in 1918. An ultra-nationalist Turkish leader, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, took power in what was now known as Turkey, and declared it a purely Turkish state. Other nationalities were not welcomed in this new nation. In fact, huge population transfers occured between Greece and Turkey, with each expelling the other ethnic group from within its borders.

The Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916 divided up the Ottoman Empire among the British and the French.

In the Arab world, the British (of course) did not keep their promise to Sherif Hussain. They had simultaneously decided to divide up the Arab world between Britain and France. Arbitrary lines were drawn on the map to divide up the Arab world into new states called Transjordan, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestine. Zionist Jews were encouraged to settle in Palestine, creating a new Jewish state – Israel. Egypt continued under British domination to become its own nation, separate from the rest of the Arab world. What had once been the great Ottoman Empire was no more, it was replaced by numerous competing and disunited nationalistic states.


Like all empires throughout Islamic history and world history in general, the Ottomans did not last forever. They were the last great Muslim empire, finally ending just one generation ago. The reasons for their decline are many. Political corruption weakened them in the face of Europe’s rising power. Economically, many factors (both within and outside of Ottoman control) helped bring poverty and despair to the empire that was once the economic powerhouse of Europe. The Islamic character of the empire was lost. And finally, the European idea of nationalism dealt the empire its death-blow. The purpose of this series is not to languish on past failures and mistakes. It is to educate people, Muslim and non, to understand the mistakes of the past to help prevent the same mistakes in the future.

Why the Ottoman Empire rose and fell

One of the greatest empires in history, the Ottomans reigned for more than 600 years before crumbling on the battlefields of World War I.

Known as one of history’s most powerful empires, the Ottoman Empire grew from a Turkish stronghold in Anatolia into a vast state that at its peak reached as far north as Vienna, Austria, as far east as the Persian Gulf, as far west as Algeria, and as far south as Yemen. The empire’s success lay in its centralized structure as much as its territory: Control of some of the world’s most lucrative trade routes led to vast wealth, while its impeccably organized military system led to military might. But all empires that rise must fall, and six centuries after the Ottoman Empire emerged on the battlefields of Anatolia, it fell apart catastrophically in the theater of World War I.

Osman I, a leader of a nomadic Turkic tribe from Anatolia (modern-day Turkey), began conquering the region in the late 13th century by launching raids against the weakening Christian Byzantine Empire. Around 1299, he declared himself supreme leader of Asia Minor, and his successors expanded farther and farther into Byzantine territory with the help of foreign mercenaries.

In 1453, Osman’s descendants, now known as the Ottomans, finally brought the Byzantine Empire to its knees when they captured the seemingly unconquerable city of Constantinople. The city named for Constantine, the first Christian emperor of Rome, then also became known as Istanbul (a version of stin polis, Greek for “in the city” or “to the city.”

Now a dynastic empire with Istanbul as its capital, the Ottoman Empire continued to expand across the Balkans, the Middle East, and North Africa. Though it was a dynasty, only one role—that of the supreme ruler, or sultan—was hereditary. The rest of the Ottoman Empire’s elite had to earn their positions regardless of birth.

Under the reign of Süleiman the Magnificent, whose 16th-century lifetime represented the peak of the Ottomans’ power and influence, the arts flourished, technology and architecture reached new heights, and the empire generally enjoyed peace, religious tolerance, and economic and political stability. But the imperial court left casualties behind, too: female slaves forced into sexual slavery as concubines male slaves expected to provide military and domestic labor and brothers of sultans, many of whom were killed or, later, imprisoned to protect the sultan from political challenges.

At its height, the Ottoman Empire was a real player in European politics and was home to more Christians than Muslims. But in the 17th century, it began to lose its stronghold. Until then, there had always been new territory to conquer and new lands to exploit, but after the empire failed to conquer Vienna for a second time in 1683, it began to weaken.

Political intrigue within the sultanate, strengthening of European powers, economic competition because of new trade routes, and the beginning of the Industrial Revolution all destabilized the once peerless empire. By the 19th century, the Ottoman Empire was derisively called the “sick man of Europe” for its dwindling territory, economic decline, and increasing dependence on the rest of Europe.

It would take a world war to end the Ottoman Empire for good. Already weakened beyond recognition, Sultan Abdul Hamid II briefly flirted with the idea of constitutional monarchy before changing course in the late 1870s. In 1908, the reform-minded Young Turks staged a full-fledged revolt and restored the constitution.

The Young Turks who now ruled the Ottoman Empire wanted to strengthen it, spooking its Balkan neighbors. The Balkan Wars that followed resulted in the loss of 33 percent of the empire’s remaining territory and up to 20 percent of its population.

As World War I loomed, the Ottoman Empire entered into a secret alliance with Germany. The war that followed was disastrous. More than two thirds of the Ottoman military became casualties during World War I, and up to 3 million civilians died. Among them were around 1.5 million Armenians who were wiped out in massacres and in death marches during their expulsion from Ottoman territory. In 1922, Turkish nationalists abolished the sultanate, bringing an end to what was once of history’s most successful empires.

The Ottoman entry into World War I (28 July 1914) came in 11 November 1914, after three months and eight days of being neutral. The reasons for the Ottoman Sultan's entry is not entirely clear, not then, not after many years. Ώ] The Ottoman Empire was an agricultural state which had thrown itself into an industrialized war. ΐ] The economic resources of the empire were depleted by the cost of the Balkan Wars of 1912 and 1913

The great land mass of Anatolia was between the Ottoman army’s headquarters and many of the theaters of war. During Abdulhamit II reign civilian communications had improved, but the road and rail network was not ready for a war. ΐ] It took more than a month to reach Syria and nearly two months to reach Mesopotamia. To reach the border with Russia the railway was only 60 km east of Ankara, and from there it was 35 days to Erzurum. ΐ] Army used Trabzon port as logistical shortcut to east. It took less time to arrive any of these fronts from London than from Ottoman War Department, given the poor condition of Ottoman to British supply ships.

The Empire fell into disorder with the declaration of war along with Germany. On 11 November a conspiracy was discovered in Constantinople against Germans and the CUP, in which some of the CUP leaders were shot. This followed the 12 November revolt in Adrianople against the German military mission. On 13 November a bomb exploded in Enver Pasha's palace, which killed five German officers but missed the Enver Pasha. These events were followed on 18 November with more anti-German plots. Committees formed around the country to rid the country of those siding with Germany. Army and navy officers protested against the assumption of authority by Germans. On 4 December widespread riots took place throughout the country. On 13 December there was an anti-war demonstration by women in Konak (Izmir) and Erzurum. Throughout December the CUP dealt with mutiny among soldiers in barracks and among naval crews. The head of the German Military Mission Field Marshal von der Goltz had a conspiracy against his life.

The military power remained firmly in the hands of War Minister Enver Pasha, domestic issues (civil matters) on Interior Minister Talat Pasha, and an interesting point, CernaI Pasha had the control over Ottoman Syria singlehandedly. Α] Rest of the governance, provincial governors, ran their regions with differing degrees of autonomy. Α] An interesting case is Izmir Rahmi Bey behaved almost as if his region was a neutral zone between the warring states. Β]

War with Russia [ edit | edit source ]

Top: Destruction in the city of Erzurum Left Upper: Russian forces Left Lower: Wounded Muslim refugees Right Upper:Ottoman forces Right Lower: Armenian refuges

Ottoman's entrance into the war greatly increased the Triple Entente's military burdens. Russia had to fight on the Caucasus Campaign alone and in the Persian Campaign along with the United Kingdom. İsmail Enver Pasha set off for the Battle of Sarıkamış with the intention of recapturing Batum and Kars, overrunning Georgia and occupying north-western Persia and the oil fields. Fighting the Russians in the Caucasus, however, the Ottomans lost ground, and over 100,000 soldiers, in a series of battles. 60,000 Ottoman soldiers died in the winter of 1916—17 on the Mus—Bitlis section of the front. Γ] Ottomans preferred to keep the Caucasus militarily silent as they had to regroup reserves to retake Baghdad and Palestine from the British. 1917 and first half of 1918 was the time for negotiations. On 5 December 1917, the armistice of Erzincan (Erzincan Cease-fire Agreement) signed between the Russians and Ottomans in Erzincan that ended the armed conflicts between Russia and Ottoman Empire. Δ] On 3 March, the Grand vizier Talat Pasha signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with the Russian SFSR, (#Battles of ideals, rhetoric, 1917). It stipulated that Bolshevik Russia cede Batum, Kars, and Ardahan. In addition to these provisions, a secret clause was inserted which obligated the Russians to demobilize Armenian national forces. Ε]

Between 14 March – April 1918 the Trabzon peace conference held among the Ottoman Empire and the delegation of the Transcaucasian Diet. Enver Pasha offered to surrender all ambitions in the Caucasus in return for recognition of the Ottoman reacquisition of the east Anatolian provinces at Brest-Litovsk at the end of the negotiations. Ζ] On 5 April, the head of the Transcaucasian delegation Akaki Chkhenkeli accepted the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk as a basis for more negotiations and wired the governing bodies urging them to accept this position. Η] The mood prevailing in Tiflis was very different. Tiflis acknowledge the existence of a state of war between themselves and the Ottoman Empire. Η]

In April 1918, the Ottoman 3rd Army finally went on the offensive. In early May 1918, the Ottoman army faced with forces of Armenian National Council. The conflict led to the Battle of Sardarapat, the Battle of Kara Killisse (1918), and the Battle of Bash Abaran. On 28 May 1918, the Dashnaks of Armenian national liberation movement organized under Armenian National Council with the chairman Aram Manukian declared the Democratic Republic of Armenia. The new Republic of Armenia was forced to sign the Treaty of Batum.

In July 1918, Ottomans faced with the Centrocaspian Dictatorship at the Battle of Baku, with the goal of taking Baku on the Caspian Sea.

War in the Caucasus and Persia

War with Britain [ edit | edit source ]

February–April 1915, The Battle of Gallipoli

The British captured Basra in November 1914, and marched north into Iraq. Γ] Initially Ahmed Djemal Pasha was ordered to gather an army in Palestine to threaten the Suez Canal. In response, the Allies—including the newly formed Australian and New Zealand Army Corps ("ANZACs")—opened another front with the Battle of Gallipoli. The army led by Ahmed Djemal Pasha (Fourth Army) to eject the British from Egypt was stopped at the Suez canal in February 1915, and again the next summer. Γ] The canal was vital to the British war effort. The 1915 locust plague breaks out in the Palestine region, be exact the Ottoman military hospitals record the period as March–October 1915:

The expected, and feared, British invasion came not through Cilicia or northern Syria, but through the straits. Α] The aim of the Dardanelles campaign was to support Russia. Most military observers recognized that the uneducated Ottoman soldier was lost without good leadership, and at Gallipoli Mustafa Kemal realized the capabilities of his man if their officers led from the front. ⎗] The war was something from a different are, as the agrarian Ottoman Empire faced to industrialized forces, at silent predawn attacks in which officers with drawn swords vent ahead of troops and only the troops to shout their battlecry of "Allahu Akbar!" when they reached the enemy’s trenches. ⎗]

The United Kingdom was obliged to defend India and the southern Persian oil territory by undertaking the Mesopotamian campaign. Britain also had to protect Egypt in the Sinai-Palestine-Syria Campaign. These campaigns strained Allied resources and relieved Germany.

The repulse of British forces in Palestine in the spring of 1917 was followed by the loss of Jerusalem in December of the same year. Γ] The Ottoman authorities deport the entire civilian population of Jaffa and Tel Aviv, The Tel Aviv and Jaffa deportation, pursuant to the order from Ahmed Jamal Pasha on 6 April 1917. The Muslim evacuees allowed to return before long, At the same period the Balfour Declaration was being negotiated (published on 2 November 1917) in which the British Government declares its support for the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine. Ahmed Jamal Pasha effectively separates these groups. The Jewish evacuees returned after the British conquest of Palestine. ⎘]

The Ottomans were eventually defeated due to key attacks by the British general Edmund Allenby.

War in Mesopotamia, Sinai and Palestine and Gallipoli

Empire in home front [ edit | edit source ]

"Top:" The size of the stars show where the active conflicts occurred in 1915 "Left Upper:" Armenians defending the walls of Van in the spring of 1915 "Left Lower:" Armenian Resistance in Urfa "Right:" A seventy-year-old Armenian priest leading Armenians to battle field.

The war tested to the limit the empire’s relations with its Arab population. ⎙] In February 1915 in Syria, Cemal Pasha exercised absolute power in both military and civil affairs. ⎚] Cemal Pasha was convinced that an uprising among local Arabs was imminent. ⎙] Leading Arabs were executed, and notable families deported to Anatolia. ⎙] Cemal’s policies did nothing to alleviate the famine that was gripping Syria it was exacerbated by a British and French blockade of the coastal ports, the requisitioning of transports, profiteering and — strikingly — Cemal’s preference for spending scarce funds on public works and the restoration of historic monuments ⎙] During the war, Britain had been a major sponsor of Arab nationalist thought and ideology, primarily as a weapon to use against the power of the Empire. Sharif Hussein ibn Ali rebelled against the Ottoman rule during the Arab Revolt of 1916. In August he was replaced by Sharif Haydar, but in October he proclaimed himself king of Arabia and in December was recognized by the British as an independent ruler. ⎙] There was little the Empire could do to influence the course of events, other than try to prevent news of the uprising spreading, prevent it to demoralize the army or act as a propaganda for anti-Ottoman Arab factions. ⎙] On 3 October 1918 forces of the Arab Revolt enter Damascus accompanied by British troops, ending 400 years of Ottoman rule.

The idea of an independent and united Armenia was the main goal of the Armenian national movement during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. ⎛] During the first year of the war Russia, armed Armenian insurgents fought against their own government in north-east Anatolia at the battlefield zone which were regarded as traitors. ⎜] The Armenians of Anatolia particularly exposed to Muslim resentment after Russian Armenians called on their Ottoman co-religionists to join the Russian army and "liberate" [lower-alpha 1] eastern Anatolia in November 1914. ⎞] The Ottoman government also faced difficulties on the home front (behind the battle zone), including Armenian rebellions in Anatolia (Zeitun, Van, Musa Dagh, Urfa, Shabin-Karahisar). In eastern Anatolia attacks on Ottoman government offices, on representatives of the government, and on Muslim civilians alike went on throughout the early months of the war and/with the war effort in peril on all fronts. ⎟] The Minister of the Interior Mehmed Talaat Bey with his order of April 24, 1915 requested arrest and detain at holding centers to be later court-martialed. [lower-alpha 2] Matters became alarming when in mid-May a Russian-Armenian army (not a reference to Russian Caucasian Army which had Tovmas Nazarbekian, Movses Silikyan, but the Armenian volunteer units that included Karekin Pastermadjian who was an Ottoman Deputy before the war [lower-alpha 3] ) reached to city of Van (in the article Siege of Van) driving out the garrison and massacring the population before setting up an Armenian government (in article Republic of Van). ⎟] The Armenians declared their own state, and Armenians congregate [lower-alpha 4] in a large group. ⎡] On 27 May the government passed the ‘Deportation Law’ (in article Tehcir Law), whereby the military authorities were authorized to relocate the Armenians. ⎟] From 1 June 1915 to 8 February 1916 (deportation) of Armenians from the region. Most academics define the deportations as the Armenian Genocide.

Ottoman Empire - WWI, Decline and Definition - HISTORY

The Ottoman Empire ruled a large portion of the Middle East and Eastern Europe for over 600 years. It first formed in 1299 and finally dissolved in 1923, becoming the country of Turkey.

Rise of the Ottoman Empire

The Ottoman Empire was founded by Osman I, a leader of the Turkish tribes in Anatolia in 1299. Osman I expanded his kingdom, uniting many of the independent states of Anatolia under one rule. Osman established a formal government and allowed for religious tolerance over the people he conquered.

Capturing Constantinople

Over the next 150 years the Ottoman Empire continued to expand. The most powerful empire in the land at the time was the Byzantine Empire (Eastern Roman Empire). In 1453, Mehmet II the Conqueror led the Ottoman Empire in capturing Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantium Empire. He turned Constantinople into the capital of the Ottoman Empire and renamed it Istanbul. For the next several hundred years the Ottoman Empire would be one of the largest and most powerful empires in the world.

When Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Empire, a large number of scholars and artists fled to Italy. This helped to spark the European Renaissance. It also caused the European nations to begin to search for new trade routes to the Far East, beginning the Age of Exploration.

Suleiman the Magnificent by Unknown

The Ottoman Empire began to decline in the late 1600s. It ceased to expand and began to face economic competition from India and Europe. Internal corruption and poor leadership led to a steady decline until the empire was abolished and the country of Turkey was declared a republic in 1923.

  • 1299 - Osman I founded the Ottoman Empire.
  • 1389 - The Ottomans conquer most of Serbia.
  • 1453 - Mehmed II captures Constantinople putting an end to the Byzantine Empire.
  • 1517 - Ottomans conquer Egypt bringing Egypt into the empire.
  • 1520 - Suleiman the Magnificent becomes ruler of the Ottoman Empire.
  • 1529 - The Siege of Vienna.
  • 1533 - The Ottomans conquer Iraq.
  • 1551 - The Ottomans conquer Libya.
  • 1566 - Suleiman dies.
  • 1569 - Much of Istanbul burns in a great fire.
  • 1683 - The Ottomans are defeated at the Battle of Vienna. This signals the beginning of the decline of the empire.
  • 1699 - The Ottomans give up control of Hungary to Austria.
  • 1718 - Beginning of the Tulip period.
  • 1821 - The Greek War of Independence begins.
  • 1914 - The Ottomans join the side of the Central Powers in World War I.
  • 1923 - The Ottoman Empire is dissolved and the Republic of Turkey becomes a country.

Religion played an important role in the Ottoman Empire. The Ottomans themselves were Muslims, however they did not force the peoples they conquered to convert. They allowed for Christians and Jews to worship without persecution. This kept the people they conquered from rebelling and allowed them to rule for so many years.

The leader of the Ottoman Empire was called the Sultan. The title of Sultan was inherited by the eldest son. When a new Sultan took power he would put all of his brothers into prison. Once he had a son of his own to inherit the throne, he would have his brothers executed.

Decline of the Ottoman Empire

The Decline of the Ottoman Empire
The decline of the Ottoman Turks Empire despite the interventions to save it has always attracted the attention of historians. The decline which started in the second half of the 19th century is believed to have been as a result of conflicting political and social aspect in the empire as well as the economic situation of the empire. This led to the dismissal of the ottoman rulers by the Europeans as competent rulers who could lead the empire to modernization. The empire was faced with rebellions from the people, corruption of the administrators, economic difficulties and military deterioration, and was as a result called the sick man of Europe.

Although there are a few recorded primary sources of data that can be used to explain the causes of the declining Ottoman Empire, historians have suggested that political, economic and social factors led to the decline. The political changes that took place in the leadership of the empire where intelligent and able dynasty of rulers was replaced by incompetent and misfit political and religious leaders led to the collapse of the government apparatus in the empire. The political and religious institutions became inefficient and lost their integrity. The most striking effect of the government collapse was the declining military power of the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman army lost the morale as well as courage which resulted into series of defeats. Since the 16th century, the army had become weak and the expansion of the empire was limited by Persian Empire and the Portuguese to the east and the Russian on the other side. The deteriorating military could not confront the armies of these monarchies which used unfamiliar techniques as opposed to the tradition Muslim war against the infidels (Lewis, p 112).

As opposed to the early political development in the Ottoman Empire, the change of leadership resulted into conservatism in the 19th century which led to stagnation as the rest of the.

Cited: Jaschke, Gotthard: "The Moral Decline of the Ottoman Dynasty" Die Welt des Islams, New Series, Vol. 4, Issue 1 (1955), pp. 10-14
Johnson, Robert: "The decline of the Ottoman Empire, c. 1798-1913: Robert Johnson puts the decline of a once-great Empire into an international context. (The Unpredictable Past)", History Review, (2005)
Lewis, Bernard: Some Reflections on the Decline of the Ottoman Empire, Studia Islamica, No. 9 (1958), pp. 111-127

Ottoman Empire - WWI, Decline and Definition - HISTORY

After a long decline since the 19th century, the Ottoman Empire came to an end in the aftermath of its defeat in World War I when it was dismantled by the Allies after the war ended in 1918.

Learning Objectives

Explain why the Ottoman Empire lost power and prestige

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • The Ottoman Empire was founded by Osman I in the 14th century and reached its apex under Suleiman the Magnificent in the 16th century, stretching from the Persian Gulf in the east to Hungary in the northwest and from Egypt in the south to the Caucasus in the north.
  • In the 19th century, the empire faced challenges in defending itself against foreign invasion and occupation it ceased to enter conflicts on its own and began to forge alliances with European countries such as France, the Netherlands, Britain, and Russia.
  • During the Tanzimat period of modernization, the government’s series of constitutional reforms led to a fairly modern conscripted army, banking system reforms, the decriminalization of homosexuality, and the replacement of religious law with secular law and guilds with modern factories.
  • The Ottoman Empire had long been the “sick man of Europe” and after a series of Balkan wars by 1914 was driven out of nearly all of Europe and North Africa.
  • The Second Constitutional Era began after the Young Turk Revolution (July 3, 1908) with the sultan’s announcement of the restoration of the 1876 constitution and the reconvening of the Ottoman Parliament. This marked the beginning of the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire.
  • The empire entered WWI as an ally of Germany, and its defeat and the occupation of part of its territory by the Allied Powers in the aftermath of the war resulted in its partitioning and the loss of its Middle Eastern territories, which were divided between the United Kingdom and France.
  • The successful Turkish War of Independence against the occupying Allies led to the emergence of the Republic of Turkey in the Anatolian heartland and the abolition of the Ottoman monarchy and caliphate.

Key Terms

  • Tanzimat: Literally meaning “reorganization,” a period of reformation in the Ottoman Empire that began in 1839 and ended with the First Constitutional Era in 1876. This era was characterized by various attempts to modernize the Ottoman Empire and secure its territorial integrity against nationalist movements from within and aggressive powers from outside of the state.
  • Turkish War of Independence: A war fought between the Turkish nationalists and the proxies of the Allies – namely Greece on the Western front, Armenia on the Eastern, France on the Southern and with them, the United Kingdom and Italy in Constantinople (now Istanbul) – after some parts of Turkey were occupied and partitioned following the Ottoman Empire’s defeat in World War I. It resulted in the founding of the Republic of Turkey in the Anatolian heartland and the abolition of the Ottoman monarchy and caliphate.
  • Young Turks: A political reform movement in the early 20th century that consisted of Ottoman exiles, students, civil servants, and army officers. They favored the replacement of the Ottoman Empire’s absolute monarchy with a constitutional government. Later, their leaders led a rebellion against the absolute rule of Sultan Abdul Hamid II in the 1908 Young Turk Revolution. With this revolution, they helped to establish the Second Constitutional Era in 1908, ushering in an era of multi-party democracy for the first time in the country’s history.

Overview: The Ottoman Empire

The Ottoman Empire, also known as the Turkish Empire, was founded at the end of the 13th century in northwestern Anatolia in the vicinity of Bilecik and Söğüt by the Oghuz Turkish tribal leader Osman. After 1354, the Ottomans crossed into Europe, and with the conquest of the Balkans the Ottoman Beylik was transformed into a transcontinental empire. The Ottomans ended the Byzantine Empire with the 1453 conquest of Constantinople by Mehmed the Conqueror.

During the 16th and 17th centuries, at the height of its power under the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent, the Ottoman Empire was a multinational, multilingual empire controlling much of Southeast Europe, Western Asia, the Caucasus, North Africa, and the Horn of Africa. At the beginning of the 17th century, the empire contained 32 provinces and numerous vassal states. Some were later absorbed into the Ottoman Empire, while others were granted various types of autonomy during the course of centuries.

With Constantinople as its capital and control of lands around the Mediterranean basin, the Ottoman Empire was at the center of interactions between the Eastern and Western worlds for six centuries. The Ottomans consequently suffered severe military defeats in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, which prompted them to initiate a comprehensive process of reform and modernization known as the Tanzimat. The empire allied with Germany in the early 20th century and joined World War I with the imperial ambition of recovering its lost territories.

The Empire’s defeat and the occupation of part of its territory by the Allied Powers in the aftermath of World War I resulted in its partitioning and the loss of its Middle Eastern territories, which were divided between the United Kingdom and France. The successful Turkish War of Independence against the occupying Allies led to the emergence of the Republic of Turkey in the Anatolian heartland and the abolition of the Ottoman monarchy and caliphate.

Decline and Modernization

Beginning in the late 18th century, the Ottoman Empire faced challenges defending itself against foreign invasion and occupation. In response to these threats, the empire initiated a period of tremendous internal reform which came to be known as the Tanzimat. This succeeded in significantly strengthening the Ottoman central state, despite the empire’s precarious international position. Over the course of the 19th century, the Ottoman state became increasingly powerful and rationalized, exercising a greater degree of influence over its population than in any previous era. The process of reform and modernization in the empire began with the declaration of the Nizam-ı Cedid (New Order) during the reign of Sultan Selim III (r. 1789-1807) and was punctuated by several reform decrees, such as the Hatt-ı Şerif of Gülhane in 1839 and the Hatt-ı Hümayun in 1856. By the end of this period in 1908, the Ottoman military was somewhat modernized and professionalized according to the model of Western European Armies.

During the Tanzimat period, the government’s series of constitutional reforms led to a fairly modern conscripted army, banking system reforms, the decriminalization of homosexuality, and the replacement of religious law with secular law and guilds with modern factories.

Defeat and Dissolution

The defeat and dissolution of the Ottoman Empire (1908–1922) began with the Second Constitutional Era, a moment of hope and promise established with the Young Turk Revolution. It restored the Ottoman constitution of 1876 and brought in multi-party politics with a two-stage electoral system (electoral law) under the Ottoman parliament. The constitution offered hope by freeing the empire’s citizens to modernize the state’s institutions, rejuvenate its strength, and enable it to hold its own against outside powers. Its guarantee of liberties promised to dissolve inter-communal tensions and transform the empire into a more harmonious place.

Instead, this period became the story of the twilight struggle of the Empire. The Second Constitutional Era began after the Young Turk Revolution (July 3, 1908) with the sultan’s announcement of the restoration of the 1876 constitution and the reconvening of the Ottoman Parliament. This era is dominated by the politics of the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) and the movement that would become known as the Young Turks. Although it began as a uniting progressive party, the CUP splintered in 1911 with the founding of the opposition Freedom and Accord Party (Liberal Union or Entente), which poached many of the more liberal Deputies from the CUP. The remaining CUP members, who now took a more dominantly nationalist tone in the face of the enmity of the Balkan Wars, dueled Freedom and Accord in a series of power reversals that ultimately led to the CUP seizing power from the Freedom and Accord in the 1913 Ottoman coup d’état and establishing total dominance over Ottoman politics until the end of World War I.

The Young Turk government had signed a secret treaty with Germany and established the Ottoman-German Alliance in August 1914, aimed against the common Russian enemy but aligning the Empire with the German side. The Ottoman Empire entered World War I after the Goeben and Breslau incident, in which it gave safe harbor to two German ships that were fleeing British ships. These ships, officially transferred to the Ottoman Navy, but effectively still under German control, attacked the Russian port of Sevastopol, thus dragging the Empire into the war on the side of the Central Powers in the Middle Eastern theater.

The Ottoman involvement World War I in the Middle Eastern ended with the the Arab Revolt in 1916. This revolt turned the tide against the Ottomans at the Middle Eastern front, where they initially seemed to have the upper hand during the first two years of the war. When the Armistice of Mudros was signed on October 30, 1918, the only parts of the Arabian peninsula still under Ottoman control were Yemen, Asir, the city of Medina, portions of northern Syria, and portions of northern Iraq. These territories were handed over to the British forces on January 23, 1919. The Ottomans were also forced to evacuate the parts of the former Russian Empire in the Caucasus (in present-day Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan), which they had gained towards the end of World War I after Russia’s retreat from the war with the Russian Revolution in 1917.

Under the terms of the Treaty of Sèvres, the partitioning of the Ottoman Empire was solidified. The new countries created from the former territories of the Ottoman Empire currently number 39.

The occupations of Constantinople and Smyrna mobilized the Turkish national movement, which ultimately won the Turkish War of Independence. The formal abolition of the Ottoman Sultanate was performed by Grand National Assembly of Turkey on November 1, 1922. The Sultan was declared persona non grata and exiled from the lands that the Ottoman Dynasty ruled since 1299.

The Dissolution of the the Ottoman Empire: Mehmed VI, the last Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, leaving the country after the abolition of the Ottoman sultanate, November 17, 1922

Social unrest

Those conditions were exacerbated by large population growth during the 16th and 17th centuries, part of the general population rise that occurred in much of Europe at that time. The amount of subsistence available not only failed to expand to meet the needs of the rising population but in fact fell as the result of the anarchic political and economic conditions. Social distress increased and disorder resulted. Landless and jobless peasants fled off the land, as did cultivators subjected to confiscatory taxation at the hands of timariots and tax farmers, thus reducing food supplies even more. Many peasants fled to the cities, exacerbating the food shortage, and reacted against their troubles by rising against the established order. Many more remained in the countryside and joined rebel bands, known as levends and Jelālīs (Celâlis)—the latter fomenting what became known as the Jelālī Revolts—which took what they could from those who remained to cultivate and trade.

The central government became weaker, and as more peasants joined rebel bands they were able to take over large parts of the empire, keeping all the remaining tax revenues for themselves and often cutting off the regular food supplies to the cities and the Ottoman armies still guarding the frontiers. Under such conditions the armies broke up, with most of the salaried positions in the Janissary and other corps becoming no more than new sources of revenue, without their holders performing any military services in return. Thus, the Ottoman armies came to be composed primarily of fighting contingents supplied by the vassals of the sultan, particularly the Crimean Tatar khans, together with whatever rabble could be dragged from the streets of the cities whenever required by campaigns. The Ottoman army still remained strong enough to curb the most pressing provincial revolts, but the revolts proliferated through the centuries of decline, making effective administration almost impossible outside the major cities still under the government’s control. In many ways the substratum of Ottoman society—formed by the millets and various economic, social, and religious guilds and buttressed by the organization of the Ottoman ulama—cushioned the mass of the people and the ruling class itself from the worst effects of that multisided disintegration and enabled the empire to survive much longer than otherwise would have been possible.

Watch the video: Α Παγκόσμιος Πόλεμος (June 2022).


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