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Ottoman Empire

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The Sublime Ottoman State
Ottoman Empire
Osmanlı İmparatorluğu
دولت عالیه عثمانیه
Devlet-i Aliyye-i Osmâniyye
Ottoman flag
Coat of arms of Ottoman Empire
Coat of arms
'Motto: 'دولت ابد مدت
Devlet-i Ebed-muddet
("The Eternal State")
Anthem: (various)
Ottoman Empire at its peak in 1683.
Ottoman Empire at its peak in 1683.
CapitalSöğüt (1299–1326)
Bursa (1326–1365)
Edirne (1365–1453)
Constantinople (1453–1922)
• 1281–1326 (first)
Osman I
• 1918–22 (last)
Mehmed VI
Grand Viziers 
• 1320–31 (first)
Alaeddin Pasha
• 1920–22 (last)
Ahmed Tevfik Pasha
• Founded
July 24 1923
16805,500,000 km2 (2,100,000 sq mi)
• 1856
• 1906
• 1914
• 1919
CurrencyAkçe, Kuruş, Lira
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Seljuk Sultanate of Rûm
Byzantine Empire
Despotate of Epirus
Despotate of Morea
Empire of Trebizon
Mamluk Sultanate
Hafsid Sultanate
Kingdom of Tlemcen
Today part of Turkey

The Ottoman Empire existed between 1299 and 1923. It controlled the regions from Balkans to Arabia and from Black Sea to North Africa. It was founded as a small tribe and became a major power in 16th century. Its capital was Constantinople (now Istanbul).

The Ottomans originate from the Turkic tribes that escaped from Mongol invasion around 1250. It was formed as a chiefdom in modern-day Bilecik. The Ottomans quickly captured vast territories around Balkans and Anatolia and they conquered Constantinople in 1453.

Ottoman society was multicultural, with Muslims, Catholics, Orthodoxs and Jews. The religious groups had autonomy under the millet system. Until 19th century, most non-Muslims did not join the army and paid an exemption tax (jizye). Christian boys were recruited to the Ottoman army with devşirme system. They were trained to become loyal soldiers and administrators for the Sultan.

With the capture of Levant and Egypt in 1517, the Empire controlled Mediterranean trade routes. This provided a great source of income during the 16th century but became unprofitable with the discovery of Americas. In the 17th century, long wars with Austria, Poland, Russia and Iran weakened the state, and the Empire.

In the beginning of the 18th century, Ottoman society enjoyed relative peace. There was rich cultural activity during what is now known as Tulip period. Between 1735 and 1792, the Ottoman Empire fought wars against Russian Empire and lost the control of the Black Sea.

After the French Revolution of 1789, Christian minorities began independence movements. In the 19th century, the Ottoman Empire implemented military, economic and social reforms. Britain, France and Russia partitioned the remaining Ottoman territories in Africa and the Balkans.

In the 20th century, the Ottoman Empire allied with the German Empire and joined the Central Powers. The government surrendered in 1918 with the armistice of Mudros and signed the Treaty of Sèvres in 1920. Turkish nationalists, who disliked the treaty, started a civil war against the monarchy and the invading armies. The civil war ended in 1923 with the Treaty of Laussane, and the Turkish Republic was proclaimed.

Rise, 1299-1448

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The Ottoman Empire was founded by Osman I in 1299. His son, Orhan, fought against the Byzantine Empire and captured the city of Bursa in 1324. In the late 1300s, the Ottomans began consolidating power in the Balkans. Sultan Murad I defeated Serbia in 1389 at the Battle of Kosovo. He died at the battle, and his son Bayezid I took control. At the 1396 Battle of Nicopolis, he defeated a large crusade of the Christian kingdoms. But Bayezid was deposed by Tamerlane at the Battle of Ankara in 1402. His absence led to a civil war, which is known as the Fetret period (Ottoman Interregnum). Mehmed Çelebi defeated his brothers and got the throne. His son, Murad II, besieged Constantinople, but was unsuccessful because of a rebellion in Anatolia. He won a war against the Karamanids in 1423 and also against a large Christian alliance of Hungary, Poland, and Wallachia at the Battle of Varna in 1444. John Hunyadi, a Hungarian general, tried defeating the Ottomans but lost at the Second Battle of Kosovo in 1448.

Expansion, 1453-1571

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Mehmed the Conqueror conquered Constantinople on May 29, 1453. He also subjugated Albania and expanded tolerance for the Orthodox Church. Mehmed continued his expansion, followed by his son Bayezid II. Selim I conquered Egypt and the Levant, which were ruled by the Mamluks, in early 1517. He also defeated the Safavid Persians at the Battle of Chaldiran in 1514. The Ottomans were at odds with Portugal over their expansion as well. Suleiman the Magnificent, Selim's son, captured Belgrade and most of Hungary after the Battle of Mohács in 1526. His Siege of Vienna was repulsed by the Holy Roman Empire in 1529. Transylvania, Wallachia, and Moldavia became tributary states to the Ottoman Empire soon afterwards.

In the east, the Ottomans captured Baghdad from the Safavids and partitioned the Caucasus with them. Meanwhile, Suleiman allied with Francis I of France over their mutual hatred of the Habsburgs. That led to Ottoman activity in the Mediterranean, where Rhodes, Tunis, Algiers, and Tripoli were captured. Barbarossa Hayreddin led the Ottoman advance. In 1566, Suleiman died.

Stagnation, 1572-1683

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The Ottomans lost the Battle of Lepanto in 1571 by Philip II of Spain and his Holy League. The Ottomans recovered by capturing Cyprus from the Republic of Venice. The defeat shattered the myth of Ottoman invincibility. The Ottomans suffered many defeats under Murad III in the next 30 years. The Long War with the Austrian Empire ended a in stalemate, and the Safavids invaded the eastern Ottoman provinces. Murad IV recaptured Iraq and the Caucasus from Persia. The "Sultanate of Women" became an nickname for the Ottoman Empire after the consorts Kösem Sultan and Turhan Sultan became important in the empire and sometimes made even economic decisions in the Sultan's place. The Grand Vizier also took a greater role under the leadership of the Köprülüs. Crete was captured from Venice, and southern Ukraine was captured from Poland.

Decline, 1699-1792

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In 1683, Grand Vizier Kara Mustafa Pasha carelessly opened up the empire to attack when he attacked Vienna and laid siege to the city. The Austrians, Poles, Russians, and Venetians all attacked the Ottomans back in the Great Turkish War. Austria and Poland attacked the overstretched Turks in Hungary and Transylvania while Russia hammered Crimea and eventually captured it from the Turks. Venice settled to attack Greece, which was entirely under Ottoman Turkish occupation. The warring sides signed the Treaty of Karlowitz, which ceded Hungary and Transylvania to Austria, Podolia (southern Ukraine) to Poland, Morea (southern Greece) to Venice, and Azov (a Black Sea port) to Russia.

Russia and Sweden went to war, and the Ottomans got involved by retaking Azov and then making peace. Austria, Russia, Venice, and the Ottomans would go to war several times. By 1739, the Ottomans had retaken the Morea and Serbia. In the 1740s and the 1750s, the Ottomans began to modernize their military. In the 1760s, the Ottomans went to war with Russia again. Russia took over Crimea in 1783 and claimed that Orthodox Christians living in the Ottoman Empire were under Russian protection. Selim III continued modernizing the military, but the elite Janissary corps troops revolted. Napoleon attacked Egypt but was repulsed by the Anglo-Turkish armies.

Dissolution, 1804-1923

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Serbia revolted and gained nominal independence in 1815, but it remained a vassal of the Ottoman Empire. Greece won its independence after a long war of independence from 1821 to 1829. The al-Saud family revolted in 1811 with the support of the Wahhabi sect. Egypt under Muhammad Ali then almost captured Constantinople, but the Russians repulsed them. The Egyptians settled with the Levant, and the Ottomans tried to retake it but were soundly defeated. The Ottomans was called the "sick man of Europe" because of their incompetence in international affairs.

The Ottoman Tanzimat period brought reform. Conscription was introduced. A central bank was formed. Homosexuality was decriminalised. The law was secularised. The guilds were replaced with factories. The Christian part of the empire became much more advanced than the Muslim part, and that divide created tension. In the 1850s, the British and the French helped the Ottomans during the Crimean War. The Ottoman debts led to a state of bankruptcy, and the European countries began providing loans and controlling the finances of the empire. The Ottomans began wars against Russia over Bulgarian independence. At the 1878 Congress of Berlin, Romania, Serbia, and Montenegro gained complete independence. Bulgaria remained a vassal of the Ottoman Empire. The British took Cyprus, followed by Egypt in 1882.

In 1908, the Ottomans underwent a revolution by the Young Turks. Due to the revolution, Abdul Hamid II abdicated, and Mehmed V was instated. Bulgaria gained independence, and Austria invaded and conquered Bosnia that same year. In 1912, the Ottomans lost Libya to the Italians. The ensuing Balkan Wars saw the Ottomans lose all of their European territories except eastern Thrace to a coalition of Balkan Christian states which included the combined forces of Serbia, Montenegro, Greece, and Bulgaria. The newly independent Bulgaria managed to conquer Edirne and reach a few kilometres from the capital Istanbul which they threatened. The Second Balkan War allowed the Ottomans to attack Bulgaria in conjunction with Romania, Serbia, Montenegro, and Greece and therefore recover Edirne and most of eastern Thrace. Their victory meant little since the unrest continued, with a 1909 countercoup to the Young Turk coup, followed by three countercoups.

In 1914, although they were utterly disorganised, the Ottomans attacked Russia and declared war. Britain and France went to war with the Ottomans, and World War I had come to what remained of the Ottoman Empire. The Ottomans performed better than had been expected early in the war. They won the Battle of Gallipoli, partly because of the incompetence of the British and French commanders. They did not do so well against the Russians in the Caucasus sector and the majority of eastern Anatolia was conquered by Russia who installed an Armenian puppet state. The Ottomans won the Battle of Kut against the British during the Middle Eastern campaign though Iraq was lost later. In 1915, Armenians, Assyrians, Greeks, and others were targeted, and many as 1.5 million people were killed. The Ottoman Empire fell soon after the Arabs revolted in 1916 with British help. Sinai, Palestine, Iraq, Syria, and eventually Anatolia itself fell. The Ottomans surrendered in 1918. Istanbul was occupied by British, French, Italian and Greek troops who began entering the city in November 1918. Many parts of the Ottoman Empire in western Anatolia were occupied by Greece. Southeast Anatolia was occupied by France and southwest was occupied by Italy. The First Republic of Armenia occupied most of eastern Anatolia.

Ottoman military commander Mustafa Kemal Pasha decided to resign from the Ottoman army and gathered up a Turkish resistance force to push the occupying Allied armies out of Anatolia. Mustafa Kemal decided to set up his base of operations in Ankara. The Turkish War of Independence was a military campaign by the Turkish National Movement under Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, which led to the foundation of the modern Republic of Turkey.[3]

In 1923, the Ottoman Empire formally ceased to exist.

Succession policies

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Rukiye Sabiha Sultan’s wedding day in 1920, left to right: Fatma Ulviye Sultan, Ayşe Hatice Hayriye Dürrüşehvar Sultan, Emine Nazikeda Kadınefendi, Rukiye Sabiha Sultan, Mehmed Ertuğrul Efendi, Şehsuvar Hanımefendi.

The empire was a hereditary monarchy and followed a Turco-Mongol tradition in which all men in the leader's family could become rulers.[4] The ruler's title was Sultan and was used in front of the name (for example, "Sultan Süleyman"). The title of Sultan was also used for the wives and the daughters of the monarchs but it was used at the end of the name (for example, Hürrem Sultan"). In the early years of the empire, shahzadahs, the sons of the Sultan, were sent to different parts of the empire (Sanjaks) to get experience of governing. Later, they might be candidates for the Sultanate and the Caliphate.

After Ahmed, the system changed. In the new system, the Sultan would keep his male family members locked in a small apartment called a kafes from which they would never be able to see the outside world and take power from him. Sometimes, a new Sultan would kill his male family members to make sure that no one else could be leader.

The women in his harem often sought greater status and influence, and the Sultan's mother could become a powerful political force in the Empire. Each mother in the harem would try to make her own son the next Sultan since they knew that he would probably be killed otherwise.[4]


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  1. Finkel, Caroline (2005). Osman's Dream: The Story of the Ottoman Empire, 1300–1923. New York: Basic Books. pp. 110–1. ISBN 978-0-465-02396-7.
  2. The Treaty of Sèvres (10 August 1920) afforded a small existence to the Ottoman Empire. The ending of the Ottoman Sultanate in November 1, 1922, did not end the Ottoman State, but only the Ottoman dynasty. The official end of the Ottoman State was declared through the Treaty of Lausanne (July 24, 1923). It recognized the new "Ankara government", not the old Constantinople-based Ottoman government, as representing the rightful owner and successor state. The Grand National Assembly of Turkey declared the successor state to be the "Republic of Turkey" (October 29, 1923) less than a month after its international recognition as a state.
  3. * Üngör, Uğur Ümit (2011). The Making of Modern Turkey: Nation and State in Eastern Anatolia, 1913–1950. Oxford University Press. p. 121. ISBN 978-0-19-965522-9. As such, the Greco‐Turkish and Armeno‐Turkish wars (1919–23) were in essence processes of state formation that represented a continuation of ethnic unmixing and exclusion of Ottoman Christians from Anatolia.
    • Kieser, Hans-Lukas (2007). A Quest for Belonging: Anatolia Beyond Empire and Nation (19th-21st Centuries). Isis Press. p. 171. ISBN 978-975-428-345-7. The Treaty of Lausanne in 1923 officially recognized the " ethnic cleansing " that had gone on during the Turkish War of Independence ( 1919 - 1922 ) for the sake of undisputed Turkish rule in Asia Minor .
    • Avedian, Vahagn (2012). "State Identity, Continuity, and Responsibility: The Ottoman Empire, the Republic of Turkey and the Armenian Genocide". European Journal of International Law. 23 (3): 797–820. doi:10.1093/ejil/chs056. ISSN 0938-5428. The 'War of Independence' was not against the occupying Allies – a myth invented by Kemalists – but rather a campaign to rid Turkey of remaining non-Turkish elements. In fact, Nationalists never clashed with Entente occupying forces until the French forces with Armenian contingents and Armenian deportees began to return to Cilicia in late 1919.
    • Kévorkian, Raymond (2020). "The Final Phase: The Cleansing of Armenian and Greek Survivors, 1919–1922". In Astourian, Stephan; Kévorkian, Raymond (eds.). Collective and State Violence in Turkey: The Construction of a National Identity from Empire to Nation-State. Berghahn Books. p. 165. ISBN 978-1-78920-451-3. The famous 'war of national liberation', prepared by the Unionists and waged by Kemal, was a vast operation, intended to complete the genocide by finally eradicating Armenian, Greek, and Syriac survivors.
    • Gingeras, Ryan (2016). Fall of the Sultanate: The Great War and the End of the Ottoman Empire, 1908-1922. Oxford University Press. p. 288. ISBN 978-0-19-967607-1. While the number of victims in Ankara's deportations remains elusive, evidence from other locations suggest that the Nationalists were as equally disposed to collective punishment and population politics as their Young Turk antecedents... As in the First World War, the mass deportation of civilians was symptomatic of how precarious the Nationalists felt their prospects were.
    • Kieser, Hans-Lukas (2018). Talaat Pasha: Father of Modern Turkey, Architect of Genocide. Princeton University Press. pp. 319–320. ISBN 978-1-4008-8963-1. Thus, from spring 1919, Kemal Pasha resumed, with ex- CUP forces, domestic war against Greek and Armenian rivals. These were partly backed by victors of World War I who had, however, abstained from occupying Asia Minor. The war for Asia Minor— in national diction, again a war of salvation and independence, thus in- line with what had begun in 1913— accomplished Talaat's demographic Turkification beginning on the eve of World War I. Resuming Talaat's Pontus policy of 1916– 17, this again involved collective physical annihilation, this time of the Rûm of Pontus at the Black Sea.
    • Levene, Mark (2020). "Through a Glass Darkly: The Resurrection of Religious Fanaticism as First Cause of Ottoman Catastrophe: The thirty-year genocide. Turkey's destruction of its Christian minorities, 1894–1924, by Benny Morris and Dror Ze'evi, Cambridge, MA, and London, Harvard University Press, 2019, 672 pp., ISBN 9780674916456". Journal of Genocide Research. 22 (4): 553–560. doi:10.1080/14623528.2020.1735560. S2CID 222145177. Ittihadist violence was as near as near could be optimal against the Armenians (and Syriacs) and in the final Kemalist phase was quantitively entirely the greater in an increasingly asymmetric conflict where, for instance, Kemal could deport "enemies" into a deep interior in a way that his adversaries could not..., it was the hard men, self-styled saviours of the Ottoman-Turkish state, and – culminating in Kemal – unapologetic génocidaires, who were able to wrest its absolute control.
    • Levon Marashlian, "Finishing the Genocide: Cleansing Turkey of Armenian Survivors, 1920-1923," in Remembrance and Denial: The Case of the Armenian Genocide, ed. Richard Hovannisian (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1999), pp. 113-45: "Between 1920 and 1923, as Turkish and Western diplomats were negotiating the fate of the Armenian Question at peace conferences in London, Paris, and Lausanne, thousands of Armenians of the Ottoman Empire who had survived the massacres and deportations of World War I continued to face massacres, deportations, and persecutions across the length and breadth of Anatolia. Events on the ground, diplomatic correspondence, and news reports confirmed that it was the policy of the Turkish Nationalists in Angora, who eventually founded the Republic of Turkey, to eradicate the remnants of the empire's Armenian population and finalize the expropriation of their public and private properties."
    • Shirinian, George N. (2017). Genocide in the Ottoman Empire: Armenians, Assyrians, and Greeks, 1913-1923. Berghahn Books. p. 62. ISBN 978-1-78533-433-7. The argument that there was a mutually signed agreement for the population exchange ignores the fact that the Ankara government had already declared its intention that no Greek should remain on Turkish soil before the exchange was even discussed. The final killing and expulsion of the Greek population of the Ottoman Empire in 1920–24 was part of a series of hostile actions that began even before Turkey's entry into World War I.
    • Adalian, Rouben Paul (1999). "Ataturk, Mustafa Kemal". In Charny, Israel W. (ed.). Encyclopedia of Genocide: A-H. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 978-0-87436-928-1. Mustafa Kemal completed what Talaat and Enver had started in 1915, the eradication of the Armenian population of Anatolia and the termination of Armenian political aspirations in the Caucasus. With the expulsion of the Greeks, the Turkification and Islamification of Asia Minor was nearly complete.
    • Morris, Benny; Ze'evi, Dror (2019). The Thirty-Year Genocide: Turkey's Destruction of Its Christian Minorities, 1894–1924. Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-91645-6. The Greek seizure of Smyrna and the repeated pushes inland— almost to the outskirts of Ankara, the Nationalist capital—coupled with the largely imagined threat of a Pontine breakaway, triggered a widespread, systematic four- year campaign of ethnic cleansing in which hundreds of thousands of Ottoman Greeks were massacred and more than a million deported to Greece... throughout 1914–1924, the overarching aim was to achieve a Turkey free of Greeks.
    • Meichanetsidis, Vasileios Th. (2015). "The Genocide of the Greeks of the Ottoman Empire, 1913–1923: A Comprehensive Overview". Genocide Studies International. 9 (1): 104–173. doi:10.3138/gsi.9.1.06. S2CID 154870709. The genocide was committed by two subsequent and chronologically, ideologically, and organically interrelated and interconnected dictatorial and chauvinist regimes: (1) the regime of the CUP, under the notorious triumvirate of the three pashas (Üç Paşalar), Talât, Enver, and Cemal, and (2) the rebel government at Samsun and Ankara, under the authority of the Grand National Assembly (Türkiye Büyük Millet Meclisi) and Kemal. Although the process had begun before the Balkan Wars, the final and most decisive period started immediately after WWI and ended with the almost total destruction of the Pontic Greeks ...
  4. 4.0 4.1 Anderson, Betty S. (2016). A History of the Modern Middle East. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press. p. 35. ISBN 9780804798754.

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