During the 19th century, the continuing threat of foreign conquest was compounded by the rise of nationalism among the non-Turkish peoples of the Empire who fought for their independence. Greece was the first country to do so in 1829, and revolts followed by Serbs, Bulgarians, Albanians, and Armenians from eastern Anatolia. The Ottoman survival was due not so much to its own strength, but to European disagreement on how to divide the spoils, which is historically known as the ‘Eastern Question’.
Ottoman ruling class responded to this crisis by trying to establish Western – style reforms through a reform movement (1839 – 1876) known as Tanzimat (Turkish ‘reorganization’). Devised and initiated by Mahmud II and culminated with the rigid autocracy of Abdülhamit II (1876 – 1909), the Tanzimat modernized the Ottoman Empire by expanding the scope of government in all aspects of the country’s life, overlapping the autonomous millets and guilds they had previously monopolized most of the government functions. A new administration was created and a strong centralized bureaucracy was set up in the Army, following Western guidelines.
The secular education and justice systems were overhauled to staff the new administration; Public works, carried out on a large scale, modernized the physical structure of the Empire with the construction of new cities, roads, railways and telegraph lines, in addition to the establishment of modern farming methods, which also contributed to the Ottoman revitalization. Another of the measures adopted consisted in suppressing the existing minorities within the Empire. This policy resulted in the death of hundreds of thousands of ethnic Armenians between 1894 and 1923. (The Turkish government rejects that the policy of the Ottoman Empire towards the Armenians had a genocidal nature, arguing that the majority of the Armenians who died were during World War I, so their death was caused by the armed conflict itself, or disease and famine consequence of it).
Establishing these Tanzimat reforms involved solving numerous economic, political and financial problems. The newly industrialized European states preferred to keep the Ottoman Empire as a cheap source of raw materials and a market for their products. With the use of capitulation treaties – by which, as of the 16th century, the sultans allowed Europeans to live and work within the empire’s domains according to their rules and laws, and under the control of their own rulers – the Europeans prevented the Ottomans from limiting foreign imports and avoided competition with their own industries, that on the other hand were booming. Since the Ottomans depended on capital and technology from foreign industries, the Europeans were also able to weaken and destroy all attempts at industrial development.
The Empire requested loans from European banks that in the last years of the regime were destined to pay more than half of the interest. The authoritarianism of the new and modern bureaucracy developed a broad opposition movement.
A group of intellectuals and liberals known as the Young Turks then began to demand a limit to the power of the ruling class and the bureaucracy, in order to reinforce the rights of the people. Oppressed by the Tanzimat leaders, the Young Turks had to go into exile, where they published their demands in books and pamphlets that were sent to the Empire through foreign post offices that, being protected by capitulations, were free from government control. Ottoman. At the same time, the newly independent Balkan states began to organize large-scale revolts to occupy Macedonia, where the population was almost completely divided between Muslims and Christians.
In Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria secret societies who fought to secure their claims through terrorist actions that significantly damaged the ability of the Ottomans to maintain control of the state were established. Finally, the deaths of the main leaders of the Tanzimat movement around 1870, put the autocratic government structure that they had created in the hands of politicians who resumed the government’s corrupt regime, a measure that inspired the Tanzimat in the first instance.
Coup d’etat and constitution
At this time of international crisis, the threats of war against Russia and Austria and the constitutional aspirations of a group of reformers, caused that, after a short reign, Sultan Abd al-Aziz was dethroned in 1876. A Constitution was promulgated that established a bicameral representative Parliament that met in 1877, but was soon dissolved by the war with Russia, which imposed the Treaty of San Stefano (1878), by which the Ottoman Empire lost its European dominions, except Istanbul.
Thanks to the support of Great Britain, Abdülhamit II obtained that the Treaty of San Stefano was revised in the Congress of Berlin of 1878, by which the Empire recovered its Thracian and Macedonian provinces. It was then that liberal reforms were implemented that aimed to create a relatively modern and prosperous state. However, in the face of continuous European threats, the sultan suspended the parliament and established, in 1878, a highly autocratic government. All kinds of opposition were suppressed and government power was centralized in the palace. Abdülhamit established several economic measures that favored financial stability, but the harsh political repression led to the organization of a new liberal opposition movement led by the Young Turks, and which had the support of young army officers.
The sultan was forced to reestablish the Constitution and Parliament, whose seats were practically monopolized by the Young Turks after the 1908 elections. The success of a new constitutional regime was immediately undermined by various disasters abroad: Austria annexed Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria occupied eastern Rumelia, and terrorist actions continued in Macedonia and eastern Anatolia.
Abdülhamit and his followers blamed these disasters on the new constitutional regime and attempted a counter-revolution in April 1909. The Parliament was dissolved and many of its members were arrested, but the Macedonian army, dominated by the young Turks, returned to Istanbul, put down the counter-revolution and dethroned the sultan. After these events, the Ottoman sultans remained on the throne but their governing power was null.
The regime of the young Turks
According to THERELIGIONFAQS, the first years of the Young Turks period (1908 – 1918), constituted the most democratic stage in Ottoman history. The Constitution and Parliament were restored and various political parties were organized; the strongest was the Union and Progress Party, founded and led by the Young Turks.
Reforms of this group, which arrived in all aspects of social life, culminated in the secularization of schools and courts Muslims and extending the vote to women during the First World War.
The modern state apparatus created by the Tanzimat movement was democratized and industry and agriculture developed significantly, in addition to the introduction of new budgeting techniques. The first of the Balkan Wars caused the most authoritarian sector to triumph within the Union and Progress party, which imposed a triumvirate in the government, led by Enver Bajá. The triumvirate managed to take advantage of the dissensions between the victorious states in the first Balkan War to recover, in the second of these wars, the small territory that today is European Turkey.
At the outbreak of World War I the triumvirate in the government tried to avoid any kind of participation in it, but the Germans offered to recover the lost provinces in Europe and the Turkish warships confiscated by the British, so Turkey entered the war in 1914. The Turkish Armed Forces played an important role in the Gallipoli campaign, in which they captured an entire British expeditionary force in Kut-al-Imara, Iraq. However, the campaign across the Sinai Peninsula with the purpose of gaining control of the Suez Canal and Egypt, was not so successful, provoking British intervention to lead an Arab revolt in the territories under Turkish rule. With the help of the Arabs, British forces invaded Syria from Egypt and occupied southern Anatolia just as the war ended. Enver Pasha’s campaign in the Caucasus at the beginning of the war was put down by the Russians to a lesser extent than by the revolts in the eastern provinces; later, the Russians invaded eastern and central Anatolia in 1915 and 1916, at which point the campaigns would come to an end when in 1917 the Russian Revolution broke out. The destructive effects of these foreign invasions caused internal unrest, famine and disease. More than six million people of all faiths (which was a quarter of the total population) died, and the economy collapsed.
Occupation and war of independence
After the surrender, the Turkish government came under the authority of the allied occupation forces, led by the British. By the Treaty of Sèvres, signed in August 1920, the territory that remained in Turkish hands included part of central and northern Anatolia, while zones of French and Italian influence were established, the independence of Armenia and access to autonomy were authorized. from the Kurdish Cultural Region, the straits zone was internationalized and Greece got Thrace and the region around Smyrna (Izmir). The Greek army occupied Izmir in 1922 and extended its action into southwestern Anatolia with Allied support.
In reaction to the peace treaties and the invasion of Greece, a Turkish nationalist movement emerged in Anatolia under Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. During the Turkish War of Independence (1918 – 1923) Atatürk expelled the Greek, English, French and Italian occupation forces and managed to sign the Treaty of Lausanne (1923) according to which the Turkish areas of eastern Thrace and Anatolia would be part of a single state. After this victory, the republic with capital in Ankara was proclaimed and in 1923 the sultanate was abolished.