The Ottoman Empire Essay

Role of European Powers in Contributing Weakness of the Ottoman Empire

In this paper is dedicated to Ottoman Empire, to explanation why its powers were declining, as well as drawing weak and strong sides of it. I will explain how European powers, wars and expansion contributed in the weakness of the powerful Empire and in the conclusion I will summarize all important issues regarding the contribution.

1. Introduction
In order to obtain the full picture on how European powers contributed the weakness of Ottoman Empire, it is necessary to understand the situation that was in Ottoman Empire over centuries and analyze its consequences.

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In the early 16th century world trade was moved from the Mediterranean Sea and from the routes between East and West, because of the piratical violence that flourished in those sea territories and significantly hurt economies connected with trade. Muslims had always been world traders, and after that, other countries were sailing other ways leaving Muslims without profits. It is essential to mention that in the beginning of the 16th century Ottoman Empire was one of the greatest world empires, was ruled by the sultan, who was also commanding the military. There was a theocratic order in the empire and sultans were striving to the Islam advance through military means. The main source of wealth had been loot from conquests. Ruling powers were almost not interested in developing empire’s economy or use scientific approaches in advancing agriculture. The situation in Europe was absolutely different, as European middle class merchants were looking for raw materials, new markets and profits, while Ottoman middle class was oppressed by sultans, as was seen as a threat to their authority. Ottoman society was very much concerned with its traditions, and Muslim scholars were remaining conservative, as they were sure that the Empire will keep the superiority, as said in Koran. So, Ottoman Empire was not striving towards modernization and obtaining new knowledge holding to religious traditions.

In the same century Ottoman Empire was experiencing substantial growth of population, and many people were moving to towns, causing unemployment levels to rise. Those, who hadn’t found the job were seeking for answers in religious organization, but found not more then spiritual relief.

Sultan’s government at that time sold the task of collecting taxes, and since then it was tax collector who decided who much tax should be paid. As wars and military expansion were the only source of wealth for the Empire for many years, rulers started to demand more taxes from merchants and entrepreneurs in order not to feel the lack of means for luxury life of authorities. Corruption and favoritism were very spread, and official positions were simply bought to obtain the right to collect the desired amount of taxes. The Ottoman Empire at the period had four layers- the mullahs, the army, the farmers and the merchants. As the society was deeply dissatisfied with the corruption, there were many rebellions taking place, but they were always crushed.

There also no export of goods in the Empire and the economy suffered big losses.

The military was also suffering great changes. Ottoman rulers still believed that education is unnecessary to those who led armies, and therefore it didn’t matter who would lead the army- the military professional or an amateur. Ottomans were not studying military craft and didn’t keep up with changes in weapon, believing that God’s power would be their greatest weapon and protection in battles. Decline of military power was very much stipulated by the weakness of political leadership, as there was not paid enough attention to the education of sultans.

So, it becomes clear that in 16-17th centuries, the Ottoman Empire was losing its power and laid the foundation to the further decline and consequent fall.

2. Contribution of European Powers to the Weakness of the Ottoman Empire
“The Ottoman Empire was… vulnerable to many pressures. Spread over a vast area stretching from the borders of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the west to the Russian Empire, Persia and the Arabian peninsula in the north and east and, to the south, Egypt and north Africa, it contained many subject peoples and many diverse regions. Fighting a rear-guard battle against nationalist independence movements within its borders and European imperial ambition from without them, the Empire had, by the turn of the century, one trump card. This was the general desire of the European Powers for it to survive as a political entity, for its total disintegration was a worse alternative.” (Kent, 1996)

In the 19th century, Ottoman history became dominated by European expansion and wars, as Europeans at that time were violently fighting for territories, which were some Europeans, but mostly non-European. It was the most rapid and frenetic annexation of the territories the human history had ever seen. The result of those events was constant weakening of the Ottoman Empire and subsequent loss of the Empire and dynasty itself.

There were several serious wars and rebellions which contributed to the weakness of the Ottoman Empire, bu the most crucial for Ottoman history appeared the Crimean Was in the middle of the 19th century along with Balkan wars and rebellions.

Crimean War of 1854-1856 was the first major Ottoman War and it was brought with Russia. It was not initiated by Ottomans, but by European powers, as Russia’s primary interest was obtaining new territories. For the previous two centuries, Russia was slowly, but constantly annexing Muslim states in Central Asia. And finally in the 1854 it appeared to be near the Black Sea. Russians were very interested in obtaining Ottoman territories of Moldavia and Walachia, but still they needed the significant reason for breaking up the war. And the reason was found: Ottomans has granted Catholic France and not Orthodox Russia to protect Christian places on the Holy Land. Russian side, however, was not viewing itself as the conqueror and destructor, but as the savior. This is what Sicker wrote in 2001 regarding that issue: “The tsar, also, was not opposed in principle to the preservation of the Ottoman Empire intact, as he had clearly demonstrated in the recent crisis between the Porte and Muhammad Ali. He was, however, quite convinced that the Ottoman Empire was so inherently corrupt that it was beyond salvation. Since it was bound to collapse sooner or later, he wanted to be sure that Russia would be in a position to maximize its share of the spoils. In the meantime, it was in Russia’s interest to maintain Turkey as a weak buffer state, which at a minimum helped provide for security of access to the Turkish Straits and the Black Sea. But his approach to dealing with the overall “Eastern Question” was obviously ambivalent, primarily as a result of his basic distrust of France. In the tsar’s view, France continued to represent the embodiment of social revolutionary ideas and he therefore sought to align Russia with Britain, Austria, and Prussia in a conservative entente directed against the threat he saw emanating from and inspired by Paris.”1

So, this war was the unique in the history of the Ottoman Empire, as it was not influenced by Ottomans itself. When France and Britain joined the war on the side of Ottomans, the war became European. Britain had the following interests in Ottoman Empire that they were willing to protect: “From the British standpoint, the preservation of the integrity of the empire served to help maintain the balance of power in Europe. It also afforded significant opportunities for the marketing of British manufactured goods because of the preferential customs duties provided for under the Capitulations agreement.” 2Finally the war ended not for the benefit of Russians and the Paris peace of 1856 was unfavorable to them. But primarily it had important consequences for the Ottoman Empire, as it realized itself being tightly controlled by European powers. The Crimean War can be called the war that initiated the decline of Ottoman helplessness and moral. And from the other side, Europeans were no longer envisioning Ottomans as equal rivals, but as the tool in reaching their objectives.

Even though many European countries were in some way contributing to the weakness of Ottomans, Russia was the most successful force. Russians were interested in several key territories of the Empire, and the only thing that making them constrain their interests, was balance European countries. Russia feared Germany and Austria, which were against Russia controlling Eastern Europe. The main target of Russian was Constantinople (Istanbul), because the control of the city would mean the control over the whole trade between Europe and Asia though the Black Sea. On the other side, Ottomans were strangle discouraged by dependency on European powers, old military state and overall situation in the Empire.

The year of 1875 was the one of starting great rebellions. Slavic people who were living in Bosnia and Herzegovina started the rebellion against Ottoman powers to gain independence and freedom. Montenegro and Serbia in some time joined the rebellion. In a year, the rebellion was spread on Bulgaria. It was the part of the political movement called Pan-Slavic movement, which was aiming to unite all Slavic nations (most of which were under Germany, Austria and the Ottoman Empire control) into the one political unity under Russia’s protection. As Russia was very interested in Ottoman strategic territories, it joined the rebellion and declared the war against Ottomans. The war had the bad influence on Ottomans and they were suing for peace in 1878. According to the concluded Peace Treaty, Ottoman Empire had to set free all Balkan provinces, including Bulgaria, Herzegovina and Bosnia. Russia also had taken many Ottoman territories as the compensation for the war. Gradually, Ottoman Empire was becoming weaker and weaker, by losing its power, influence and territories.

But it was the end of the capturing Ottoman territories. In 1911, France and Italy appeared to show their interest in Libya. Italian side was very much afraid that France could attack the Ottoman Empire, and as a result attacked first. Ottomans were defeated, and Italy obtained Dodacanese Islands and Libya. 3That appeared to be very inspiring experience for Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia and Montenegro that were expecting to gain control over all Ottoman provinces in the northern Greece, southern European coast of the Black Sea and Thrace. Ottomans again were easily defeated and driven back to the very borders of Europe. But before the ultimate decline of Ottoman strength, there was still one more last victory in the Ottoman history for the Bulgarian territories.

When Ottoman territories appeared in European hands, there began a conflict among European powers that eventually led to the World War I.

Finally, as a result of the European conflict and the Versailles Treaty of 1919, Ottoman Empire lost all their territories in Arabia, Mesopotamia, Syria and Palestine. And by the end of the year, Ottoman territories were reduced to Turkey only. Power of Ottoman came to its logical end. But it is important to mention that Russians hadn’t received control over Istanbul and Dardanelles.

In 1922 the Ottoman Empire officially came to an end and the Turkey was declared a republic.

3. Conclusion
In the conclusion I would like to say that territories and the power of Ottoman Empire were huge and overwhelming. But a series of internal and external influences made the power of Ottomans to substantially decrease. The internal forces that contributed to the weakness of the Ottoman Empire were poor political governance of the Empire, weak military forces, under-developed economy and narrow-minded political authorities that were not willing to use world experiences and approaches to leading countries and cared just for money, conquering and favored spread of corruption. But external reasons were far more dramatic and serious in contributing the fall of the Empire. European powers were envisioning Ottoman territories very attracted and therefore step-by-step they were fighting for them and finally reached their goals- the Ottoman Empire ended its existence.

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The Ottoman Empire Essay

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