The Ottoman Empire (Ottoman Turkish: دولت عليه عثمانیه, Devlet-i ʿAlīye-i ʿOsmānīye), also historically known in Western Europe as the Turkish Empire or simply Turkey, was a state that controlled much of southeastern Europe, western Asia and northern Africa between the 14th and early 20th centuries. It was founded at the end of the 13th century in northwestern Anatolia in the town of 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 most of Southeast Europe, parts of Central Europe, Western Asia, parts of Eastern Europe and 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 of these 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 centre of interactions between the Eastern and Western worlds for six centuries. The empire continued to maintain a flexible and strong economy, society, and military throughout the seventeenth and much of the eighteenth century. However, during a long period of peace from 1740 to 1768, the Ottoman military system fell behind that of their European rivals, the Habsburg and Russian Empires. The Ottomans consequently suffered severe military defeats in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, which prompted them to initiate a comprehensive process of reform and modernisation known as the Tanzimat. Thus over the course of the nineteenth century the Ottoman state became vastly more powerful and organised, despite suffering further territorial losses, especially in the Balkans, where a number of new states emerged. The empire allied with Germany in the early 20th century, hoping to escape from the diplomatic isolation which had contributed to its recent territorial losses, and thus joined the World War on the side of the Central Powers. While the Empire was able to largely hold its own during the conflict, it was struggling with internal dissent, especially with the Arab Revolt in its Arabian holdings. During this time, major atrocities were committed by the Ottoman government against the Armenians, Assyrians and Pontic Greeks.
The occupation of part of the Empire's territory by the Entente Powers in the aftermath of the World War resulted in civil unrest. The Turkish Civil War led to the emergence of the Republic of Turkey in the Anatolian heartland and the abolition of the Ottoman monarchy.
Name[edit | edit source]
History[edit | edit source]
Dissolution (1908–1924)[edit | edit source]
The 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. Young Turks movement members once underground established their parties. Among them “Committee of Union and Progress,” and “Freedom and Accord Party” were major parties. On the other end of the spectrum were ethnic parties which included Poale Zion, Al-Fatat, and Armenian national movement organized under Armenian Revolutionary Federation. Profiting from the civil strife, Austria-Hungary officially annexed Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1908. The last of the Ottoman censuses was performed in 1914. Despite military reforms which reconstituted the Ottoman Modern Army, the Empire lost its North African territories and the Dodecanese in the Italo-Turkish War (1911) and almost all of its European territories in the Balkan Wars (1912–1913). The Empire faced continuous unrest in the years leading up to the World War, including the countercoup of 1909, the 31 March Incident and two further coups in 1912 and 1913.
The Ottoman Empire's participation in the World War began with the Ottoman surprise attack on the Russian Black Sea coast on 29 October 1914. Following the attack, Russia and its allies, France and Britain, declared war on the Ottomans. There were several important Ottoman victories in the early years of the war, such as the Battle of Gallipoli and the Siege of Kut.
In 1915 the Ottoman government started the extermination of its ethnic Armenian population, resulting in the death of approximately 1.5 million Armenians in the Armenian Genocide. The genocide was carried out during and after the World War and implemented in two phases: the wholesale killing of the able-bodied male population through massacre and subjection of army conscripts to forced labour, followed by the deportation of women, children, the elderly and infirm on death marches leading to the Syrian desert. Driven forward by military escorts, the deportees were deprived of food and water and subjected to periodic robbery, rape, and systematic massacre. Large-scale massacres were also committed against the Empire's Greek and Assyrian minorities as part of the same campaign of ethnic cleansing.
The Arab Revolt which began in 1916 turned the tide against the Ottomans on the Middle Eastern front, where they initially seemed to have the upper hand during the first two years of the war. In the overall war effort, the CUP was convinced that empire's contribution was essential. Ottoman armies had tied down large numbers of Entente troops on various fronts, keeping them away from theatres in Europe where they would have been used against German and Austrian forces. Moreover, they claimed that their success at Gallipoli had been an important factor in bringing about the collapse of Russia, resulting in the revolution of April 1917. Hopes were initially high for the Ottomans that their losses in the Middle East might be compensated for by successes in the Caucasus Campaign.
The Armistice of Avesnes was signed on 6 September 1918, and squashed the Ottoman government's hopes under the terms of the Treaty of Lausanne. This treaty, as designed in the conference of Lausanne, returned to the Ottomans the Aegean Islands and recognized the boundaries set by the treaty with Russia. However, the occupation of Mesopotamia and independence of Hejaz led to the establishment of a Turkish national movement. Damat Ferid Pasha pledged to suppress such movements and through the Sultan secured an official fatwa from the Sheikh ul-Islam declaring them to be un-Islamic. But the nationalists steadily gained momentum and began to enjoy widespread support. In an effort to neutralize this threat, the Sultan agreed to hold elections, with the hope of placating and co-opting the nationalists. To his dismay, nationalist groups swept the polls, prompting him to again dissolve parliament in April 1920. Under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Pasha (later given the surname "Atatürk"), a military commander who had distinguished himself during the Battle of Gallipoli, the Turkish Civil War was waged with the aim of resolving the issues left open in the Treaty of Lausanne and restoring constitutional order. By 13 October 1922, the civil war was over, with Mustafa Kemal Pasha becoming Grand Vizier on 1 November.
In 1921, diplomatic representatives led by Bekir Sami Bey met with the Entente Powers at the Conference of London. The Treaty of Sèvres was signed on 24 July 1923, between the representatives of the Entente and Ottomans. Mustafa Kemal Pasha introduced many radical reforms with the aim of founding a new secular state from the remnants of the Ottoman system. The sultanate was abolished on 3 March 1924, and the last sultan, Mehmed VI (reigned 1918–24), left the country on 19 March.