>> Monday, December 28, 2009
This was the hardest paper I wrote and it was for my Ottoman History class. The question was: "In 1900 few areas of the world were not controlled by European states. The Ottoman , Empire was a territory desired by Europeans. The Empire stood on the crossroads of important trade routes, holy sins for Christianity, and regions rich in agricultural and mineral wealth. How did European designs manifest in the empire and how did the Ottomans respond? How then did the Ottomans survive for so long against European imperialist interests?"
1st I do not understand it. 2nd they did not last in the 1900's they died off in the early 1900's. 3rd Did not know if I should or should not talk about the 1800's and if I do should I go back as far as the Crimean war or just the Russo-Turk war. 4th (which was the biggest problem) as a Muslim I just wanted to say IMAN and the QADR of Allah!!!!
In 1900’s Europeans controlled most of the world. The Ottoman Empire was a territory desired by the Europeans and they took many actions to further their interest in the Ottoman territory. This paper will discuss what actions the Europeans took, how did the Ottoman Empire respond and why
did the Ottoman Empire survived for so long against European imperialist interests.
By the 1900’s Europe had an economic strangle hold on the Ottoman Empire. However this stronghold started to take place by the end of the 1800’s. In 1877-78 the Ottomans lost a war against the Russians. Russia was very close to the capital and hence Ottomans were forced to accept the Treaty of San Stephano on March 3, 1878. The treaty gave Russia a large piece of eastern Anatolia and Bessarabia. Also under the treaty a Great Bulgaria was to be created, spanning from the Black Sea to Albania and from Aegean to the Danube. Russia believed that this new state would be dependent on Russia, giving Russia some control over the Balkans. However through the intervention of Great Britain, Austria and Bismarck’s Germany, Russia was not able to gain all that it hoped for. On July 13, 1878 through the Treaty of Berlin, Bulgaria was reduced in size and Southern Bulgaria became Eastern Rumelia and was still under the Ottomans. The Empire also kept the central and southern Balkans and Albania. However, Austria took Bosnia and the Empire was forced to give up Cyprus to Great Britain for their help in the Congress of Berlin. Great Britain ended up being a major beneficiary of the congress because of the land gained by them.
There were other losses of land but they were by name only because they only been nominally a part of the Ottoman Empire. Examples are France occupying Tunisia in 1881 and the British occupying Egypt in 1882. However a major loss because of European intervention was in 1899 when the Empire won a war against Greek invaders on the southern Macedonian border. Europeans intervened and even though the Ottomans won the war they did not gain anything.
During all this Abdulhamit was building railways and telegraph tracks that helped the empire but he also built great palaces and mosques. However Russia had almost brought the Ottomans to financial ruin because of the past war. Added to the cost of war was the excessive borrowing of money by Abdulhamit’s successors. All this caused the empire to need to borrow money. Europeans at first resisted helping the Ottomans because of the empire’s useless expenditures such as building luxurious palaces but at the end Europeans decided to strike a deal with the Ottomans because they were concerned if they did not then the Ottomans would turn to Russia. Europe liked neither the Ottomans nor the Russians but to the Europeans according to Lord Stratford de Redecliffe in 1875, the Ottoman Empire was the lesser of two evils. Abdulhamit proclaimed the Decree of Muharrem in 1881. He had to either give into the Europe’s conditions or the Ottoman Empire would die.
Through the arrangement set in the Decree of Muharrem the Ottoman debt was forgiven by 50 per cent, this was in exchange for European banks creating the Public Debt Administration and having state revenue go there. This meant much of the money that would go to the Ottoman government went to the Public Debt Administration. In 1903 however some of the money was remitted. By 1913 the Ottoman Empire had more officials working in the Public Dept Administration than teachers in Ottoman schools.
Furthermore after the Decree of Muharrem the Ottomans did not stop borrowing money. In fact borrowing money was now easier. Before Ottomans would only receive half of the loan that they asked for and would have to pay the full sum back and interest on the full sum. Now much of the debt due to the “discount” rates was cut because of the Decree of Muharrem. This was because the Public Debt Administration guaranteed investors would make a profit. It loaned money to build railways but also put a tax on sheep in certain regions so the investors would still gain a profit if the railroads failed to make one. The Public Debt Administration could also use the military to collect such taxes. The ability to tax and use the military gave Europe insurance that the Ottomans would pay the debt or Europe would at least benefit if the Ottomans could not pay the debt.
The European designs taking place in the Empire was that Europe was taking land from the Ottomans, by intervening in the Ottoman Empire’s foreign policy such as when they intervened and cause the Ottomans to gain absolutely nothing after the war with the Greeks and that Europe held the Empire’s debt.
Abdulhamit’s response to the debt he inherited was to appeal to Europe that if the Empire went bankrupt it would benefit no one and in turn Europe decided to reschedule the debt. Abdulhamit accepted the terms of the Decree of Muharrem because his other option was to let the Empire fall to Europe like Egypt did to England in 1882. Furthermore the Decree of Muharrem allowed the Empire to borrow money to pay off old loans. Abdulhamit’s response to invasions such as when Austria seized Bosnia-Herzegovina and when the Bulgarians took Eastern Rumelia or the Armenian rebellions in the 1890’s was to resist the temptation of war. Abdulhamit did not go to war because any intervention against the Ottoman Empire by Europeans would be disastrous. This helped the Ottomans survive longer. Furthermore the building of telegraphs and railroads helped the Ottomans fight as well as they did in World War I.
Abdulhamit banned the first attempt at constitutional rule. He also used secret police and actually damaged effective government to keep power for himself. This and the Empire’s financial problems and its military not receiving enough money partly because foreign banks were paid before soldiers eventually led to another response. The Young Turks revolution began in 1889 with the creation of the CUP. On July 23 1908 Abdulhamit restored the constitution. The Young Turks were concerned with social and economic reforms and the influence of Europe on the Empire. Their focus was to develop the Empire militarily and economically and they also accepted the fact Christian minorities had their own nationalism and hence put forth a Turkish nationalism. Furthermore they wanted democracy or a constitutional government and not a government that was based on Islamic creed like the Ottoman Empire traditionally was. Stratford de Redcliffe wrote in 1876, “Their administrative institutions are based on a creed the principles of which, in their nature unchangeable, obstruct the progress of that social development by which nations increase their strength and secure the respect of their neighbors,” which would make one believe that this new government would be successful in dealing with Europeans. However despite the attempts of the Young Turks to make the empire better by changing the form of government that should lead to progress and recognizing Christian minorities they eventually started to face troubles. In April 12 1909 a counter revolution was staged. Furthermore unlike Abdulhamit who avoided war at all costs with Europe the Young Turks were invaded by Italians and lost the Tripolitanian war which in turn made the Empire lose Libya, the last African territory on October 5, 1911.
Before the Young Turks the sultan had final say on everything, the parliament government had different views and did not initiate much reform because they kept arguing instead of taking action. The Young Turks stepped into power without knowing how to deal with separatists tendencies. Furthermore Abdulhamit knew how to deal with Europe but The Young Turks believed that a more representative government would cure all the problems the Empire had with Europe. Furthermore leaders of the revolution were taking powers from government organizations and giving it to party centers. This caused a one party dictatorship. Halide Edib gives the example of Russia where the Union and Progress was copied. The Russian Unionist told Halide nothing new happened in Russia and they had added the Cheka that does not possess governing capacity. Basically all national groups were represented in this new parliament but there was no harmony and different ideals started to clash with one another.
The Ottoman responses to European designs were two fold. In the late 1800’s the response of Abdulhamit was cunning and shrewd diplomacy. In the 1900’s the response was the reforms led by the Young Turks that improved the military. Young Turks were able to change an army that was defeated in 1912 against Bulgaria and Greece to be able to stand up against Russia and Great Britain in 1914. A response that both Abdulhamit and the CUP had was construction and development. Abdulhamit constructed railways and telegraphs but also squandered money building palaces, while the CUP modernized Istanbul and built streets and sewers and extended telephone, gas and electric lines. However the Young Turks were not able to improve railways, highways or other enterprises except for the military because most of their reforms were cut short due to World War I.
Why did the Empire last for so long? The responses of the Empire allowed it to last so long. Abdulhamit was able to obtain more loans from Europe because most of Europe feared Russia. He basically played off on their fears. He also knew how to pick between a bad deal and a worse deal. The Young Turks started to make social, political and most importantly military reforms. A lot of the modernization and economic changes however was cut short because of World War I.
 Justin McCarthy, The Ottoman Turks (Addison Wesley Longman), 306-307
 Ibid., 307
 Ibid., 307-308
 Viscount Stratford De Redcliffe, The Eastern Question: Turkish Finiance, 4-5
 McCarthy, Ottoman Turks, 308
 Ibid., 310
 Ibid., 308-310
 Ibid., 307
 Justin McCarthy, The Ottoman Peoples and the End of Empire, (Arnold 2001), 28
 Kern, Notes, November23
 Ibid., 27
 McCarthy, Ottoman Turks, 316
 McCarthy, End of Empire, 27-30
 Viscount Stratford De Redcliffe, The Eastern Question:The True Meaning of the Eastern Question, 11
 McCarthy, Ottoman Turks, 320-321
 Ibid., 321
 Halide Edib, Memoirs of Halide Edib: The Constitutional Revolution of 1908, 266
 Ibid., 267-268
 Ibid., 271-272
 McCarthy, Ottoman Turks, 323
 Ibid., 323