Why the Ottoman Empire’s Siding with Germany in 1914 Terrified the British

Why the Ottoman Empire’s Siding with Germany in 1914 Terrified the British

This article is an edited transcript of The Sykes-Picot Agreement with James Barr, available on Our Site TV.

Historian James Barr explains the Sykes-Picot Agreement, 100 years after it was signed.

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In 1914, the Ottoman Empire was struggling to modernise itself. As a result when it went to war against Britain, the world’s mightiest naval power, as well as their French and Russian allies, it was a very poor decision.

So why did they do it?

The Ottomans had done their utmost to stay out of the war. They had tried in the run-up to war to use the Germans to fight the British and the French whilst they stayed back and picked up the pieces afterwards, but in that they failed.

They ended up throwing in their lot with the Germans and the German price for supporting Ottoman Turkey was to get them into the war. The Germans also persuaded the Ottomans to declare a jihad, or a holy war, against their British and French enemies.

In this fascinating discussion with Dan Snow, Cambridge University’s Dr Kate Fleet takes us on a tour of the hugely successful and long lasting empire, and questions how we should view its legacy in the modern era.

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Why were the British so afraid of this?

This declaration was a huge threat to British-Asia. Britain had about 60 to 100 million Muslim subjects. In fact, the British used to call themselves the world’s greatest Muslim power at that point. But the British were terrified that these mostly Sunni Muslims would rise up, obey the Sultans’ call and launch a series of revolts in the wider empire.

They feared they would then have to divert troops away from the Western Front – away from the place where they would ultimately defeat the Germans. They would have to divert troops away to fight wars in the Empire.

In fact, the British used to call themselves the world’s greatest Muslim power at that point.

Britain had spent the last 200 or 300 years desperately trying to keep the Ottoman Empire together. It had spent a huge amount of time trying to protect and stabilise the Ottoman Empire, and even in 1914 they still had a naval mission advising the Ottomans on how to modernise their navy.

The British didn’t fully give up on the Ottomans until the very last moment, but there had been signs earlier on that they were beginning to change their position.

While Enver was the de facto leader of the pro-war faction in the ‘Young Turk’ government, he was opposed by the Prime Minister, Sait Halim, who was convinced that the empire’s best option was to remain neutral. He was outraged that Enver had overstepped his remit as Minister for War by signing the secret defence treaty with Germany. But in the political battle that followed, Sait was outmaneuvered. Enver gained the crucial support of Cemal Pasha, the Minister of Marine (responsible for the Ottoman Navy), and Talât Pasha, the Minister of the Interior (responsible for the paramilitary Jandarma – a 40,000-strong force modelled on the French gendarmerie).

Also in Enver’s favour was pro-German sentiment in the Ottoman Army, at least among its officers. This reflected the close professional contact between the Ottoman and German officer corps. Since the first German military mission to the Ottoman Army after the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–8, German officers had often been attached to the army in an advisory or training role and some of the best Ottoman officers had attended staff colleges in Germany. Ottoman officers admired the German Army’s professionalism and traditions, and, like many foreign observers at the time, were convinced that it was the best in the world.

By the same token, the Royal Navy was clearly the world’s pre-eminent naval power, and a British military mission was helping modernise and develop the Ottoman Navy. Unfortunately for the British, the navy was the junior service in the Ottoman military hierarchy. To make matters worse, on 5 August, a day after declaring war on Germany, the British government decided to requisition two Ottoman battleships nearing completion in British shipyards for wartime service with the Royal Navy. The decision aroused anger across the Ottoman Empire, as the ships had already been paid for by public subscription.

A few days later the German battlecruiser SMS Goeben and the light cruiser SMS Breslau appeared off the Dardanelles, after evading the French and British fleets in a daring dash through the Mediterranean. They requested passage through the straits to Constantinople. After delicate negotiations – and over Sait’s objections – they were allowed to proceed. A week later the two warships – complete with their German crews – were officially ‘transferred’ to the Ottoman Navy and renamed the Yavuz Sultan Selim and Midilli. The British refused to recognise the transfer unless the German crews were removed, and the Royal Navy blockaded the entrance of the Dardanelles to enforce this demand.

This rapid escalation in tension quickly led to the withdrawal of the British mission to the Ottoman Navy. In late August, General Liman von Sanders, head of the German military mission to the Ottoman Empire, was appointed commander of the Ottoman First Army (whose remit included the Gallipoli Peninsula). Rear-Admiral Wilhelm Souchon, the German naval commander of the Goeben and Breslau, was appointed by Cemal Pasha to command the Ottoman Navy. Although the Ottoman Empire was still ostensibly neutral at this point, Cemal then appointed German Vice-Admiral Guido von Usedom as ‘Inspector-General of Coastal Defences and Mines’. Von Usedom’s job was to help the Ottoman Army strengthen the coastal defences along both the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles. He arrived in Constantinople on 19 August with a specialist military team of 500 German officers and men. These actions did not go unnoticed in the Allied capitals.

The pro-war faction in the Ottoman government knew that the Germans wanted to bring the empire into the war as quickly as possible. Through such blatant manipulation of the military mission arrangements in favour of Germany, Enver, Cemal and their supporters were clearly signalling where their sympathies lay. By provoking an increasingly belligerent response from the Allied powers, they made it harder for Sait to argue the case for continued neutrality.

But as the weeks dragged by, Enver grew impatient. On 25 October 1914, without consulting any of his ministerial colleagues, he ordered Admiral Souchon to take the Ottoman fleet, including the German-crewed ships, into the Black Sea to attack the Russians. The fleet carried out surprise raids on Theodosia, Novorossisk, Odessa and Sevastopol, sinking a Russian minelayer, a gunboat and 14 civilian ships. On 2 November, Russia declared war on the Ottoman Empire. France and the British Empire, Russia’s wartime allies, followed suit on the 5th. Enver Pasha had succeeded in bringing the Ottoman Empire into the First World War on the side of the Central Powers, Germany and Austria-Hungary. Whether he would be as successful in achieving his principle war aim – pan-Turkic expansion into Central Asia at Russia′s expense – was another question.

Why Turkey hasn't forgotten about the First World War

Ottoman Imperial Archives, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 and adapted from the original (link no longer available).

Turkey would be a different entity today, had it not been for the First World War. Co-author of the British Council report, Remember the World as well as the War, Anne Bostanci, highlights the effects of the war on Turkey and why especially the younger generation 'remembers'.

Remembering a world war, by definition, must be about remembering the whole world's involvement and losses – not just how it affected our own country or part of the world. Understanding the First World War also involves learning how it still affects our own country and other countries, and relations between countries.

'Turkey' was 'European'

Today, many people tend to think of 'Europe' as more or less synonymous with the EU, plus a few non-EU countries such as Switzerland and Norway. But there is an argument that this wasn't always how people understood 'Europe'. In the Age of Empire, the argument goes, none of the other ‘great’ European powers – e.g., the British, French, Russian or Austro-Hungarian empires – would have taken issue with counting the Ottoman Empire as one among them, both in positive and negative terms regarding alliances and rivalries.

The Ottoman Empire’s entry into the First World War, as a result of a complex web of secret alliances between the European powers, can be characterised as part of the European origins of the war. But, just like the involvement of all other European empires, it meant that parts of the world well beyond Europe were drawn into the conflict.

Turkey suffered heavy losses during the First World War

While the extent of the Ottoman Empire was, by 1914, reduced (in the past it had included large parts of North Africa, South Eastern and Eastern Europe, the Middle East and the Arabian peninsula), its territory still spanned large parts of the Middle East and Arabia, which came to be heavily affected by the First World War.

The Ottoman army (just under three million conscripts of Turkish, Arab, Kurdish and other backgrounds) fought the British in Egypt, Palestine, Arabia, Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq) and Persia (today’s Iran). Of all these encounters, the defeat against Ottoman forces at Gallipoli in particular has made a lasting impression on Britain, as well as Australia and New Zealand due to the heavy losses they incurred. It is also remembered as one of the most significant battles of the conflict in Turkey.

Overall, the total number of combatant casualties in the Ottoman forces amounts to just under half of all those mobilised to fight. Of these, more than 800,000 were killed. However, four out of every five Ottoman citizens who died were non-combatants. Many succumbed to famine and disease, but others died as a result of population transfers and massacres, including at least one million Ottoman Armenians, whose deaths are still subject to significant debate in Turkey and internationally today.

'After' the First World War, the Ottoman Empire was broken up

When the war ended for some countries in 1918-19, it did not for Turkey: the First World War led straight into the Turkish War of Independence (1919-1923). This, together with the secret wartime agreements between the British and the French to divide up the Ottoman territory amongst themselves, sealed the fall of this formerly formidable empire, and led to the creation of the Turkish republic – reduced primarily to the former empire’s Anatolian heartland – under Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

Turkish collective memory of this period is coloured by these events. It lost its status amongst the great empires and, with it to some extent, its role in Europe. And it felt betrayed by the British who had, during the war, formed secret alliances with Ottoman Arabs to stir up revolts against their Turkish imperial rulers and entered into the secret Sykes-Picot Agreement in 1916 with the French, to take control of much of the empire’s former territory.

Perceptions of the First World War and the UK in Turkey today

It is therefore no surprise that British individuals and organisations operating in Turkey, such as the British Council, sometimes encounter a degree of mistrust or resentment. In the British Council’s seven-country survey on knowledge and perceptions of the First World War, the figure of Turkish respondents stating that Britain’s role in the First World War influenced their opinion of the UK in a negative way was high compared to other countries (34 per cent compared to, for instance, six per cent in France).

Young people in Turkey are very aware of the consequences of the First World War

On the surface, the findings from this survey look like the UK and Turkey put similar weight on the importance of the First World War. Just over half of British respondents (52 per cent) said it was one of the three most important international events of the past 100 years, compared to just under half of Turkish respondents (49 per cent).

However, in the UK, a higher proportion of the middle and older age groups (35+) selected it, while in Turkey more young people (especially in the 15-34 age bracket) placed the First World War in the top three international events of the past century.

Many young Turks feel their country's role in World War One is misunderstood

The survey also reveals that 90 per cent of Turkish respondents felt that their country is still affected by the consequences of the First World War. What's more, at 30 per cent, more than twice the proportion of Turkish compared to UK respondents felt that their country’s role in the First World War is often misrepresented and misunderstood in global history. Again, it was the youngest age group (15-24) who were the most likely to feel that their country had been misrepresented and misunderstood, at seven percentage points above the figure averaged across all age groups (i.e., 37 per cent).

Finally, less than ten per cent of UK respondents are aware of the Sykes-Picot Agreement mentioned above, whereas the figure for Turkish respondents is higher than 40 per cent. Knowledge of this agreement, too, is most widespread in the youngest age group – where almost half of respondents knew about it (49 per cent).

It's in the UK's interest to understand that Turkey is not likely to forget

Discussions in the UK rarely touch on these facts about the First World War, but in view of these findings, it would be naïve to hope that collective memory in Turkey will conveniently move away from them. They still have the power to colour Turkish people's perceptions of the UK in a negative way, and they are likely to continue to do so.

However, it is important to remember that Turkey, with its comparatively young citizens who hold these memories, has been identified by the UK government as strategically important in a number of sectors: education, energy, trade, and security, to name just a few.

Only if we develop an understanding of countries like Turkey and their perspective of the First World War, can we understand the conflict’s true contemporary relevance for the UK. It is not only right to learn about the world’s experiences and perceptions of a world war. It is also in the UK’s interest to do this.


Download this lesson as Microsoft Word file or as an Adobe Acrobat file.
Listen as Mr. Dowling reads this lesson.

Mr. Donn has an excellent website that includes a section on World War I and World War II.

The Central Powers of World War I are shown in yellow. Austria-Hungary declared war in July 1914. Germany followed a month later. Turkey and Bulgaria joined the conflict in 1916. This cartoon from the British magazine Punch, describes Russia releasing the “dogs of war” on the Ottoman Empire as the European policeman looks on.

2 Answers 2

It is very hard to answer in depth such a broad question. Only general suggestions can be made I think.

The similarity between the two is limited: Japan was not a multi-ethnic, multi-religious empire extending on three continents.

The Japanese institutional unity, robustness and coherence was arguably greater, no matter the feudalistic aspects, which were present in the Ottoman empire anyway, and which partially remained typical for Japan no matter the modernisation.

Japan had followed an intentional and systematic isolationist policy during Tokugawa period between 1603 and 1868 that is, its isolationism was conscious, controlled, political, intentional (as well as geographical), rather than cultural and accidental that was decided in a logic of competition with the West that included from the beginning the possibility of switching between the two options of isolation vs. integration for the Ottoman the process was different.

When the evidence of Western technological superiority became obvious in the nineteenth century, Japan was thus able to reverse its course in contradiction with the previous stance, but based on reasons that were not alien to the previous course of action. The Ottoman had never been confronted with that logic, they never tried to avoid integration, they had been an expansionist Islamic empire with no national identity in the nineteenth century sense. The reform in its case meant more than choosing between two options, but represented an in-depth transformation that involved the confrontation with a crisis of identity.

I think the problem of crisis of identity stays as the greatest difference between the two, involving mainly the national/nationalistic aspect.

The comparison between the two may be tempting now, that is between post-Atatürk Turkey and Japan but Turkey is the result of the collapse of the Ottoman, and the violent invention of a national identity (in the context of a World War and even of a civil war that involved ethnic cleansing and extermination) that in Japan was taken for granted.

And there is also the religious and cultural aspect which is even more complicated if not impossible to explain, concerning mostly the capacity of Japan to adapt to the industrial era. That is suggested in other answer(s) already posted here, but the "essence" or cause of that capacity is very debatable. Religious aspects can be put forward, but it is very hard to be sure they are decisive. I would mention for the sake of contrast Emmanuel Todd's anthropological theory that correlates Japan's (as well as Germany's) industrial success (and authoritarianism) to a specific type of basic family structure.

Ottoman Empire signs treaty with Allies

On October 30, 1918, aboard the British battleship Agamemnon, anchored in the port of Mudros on the Aegean island of Lemnos, representatives of Great Britain and the Ottoman Empire sign an armistice treaty marking the end of Ottoman participation in the First World War. Though the Ottoman Empire—in a period of relative decline since the late 16th century—had initially aimed to stay neutral in World War I, it soon concluded an alliance with Germany and entered the war on the side of the Central Powers in October 1914. The Turks fought fiercely and successfully defended the Gallipoli Peninsula against a massive Allied invasion in 1915-1916, but by 1918 defeat by invading British and Russian forces and an Arab revolt had combined to destroy the Ottoman economy and devastate its land, leaving some six million people dead and millions more starving. As early as the first week of October 1918, both the Ottoman government and several individual Turkish leaders contacted the Allies to feel out peace possibilities. Britain, whose forces then occupied much of the Ottoman territories, was loath to step aside for its allies, particularly France, which according to an agreement concluded in 1916 would take control of the Syrian coast and much of modern-day Lebanon.

In a move that enraged his French counterpart, Georges Clemenceau, Prime Minister David Lloyd George and his cabinet authorized Admiral Arthur Calthorpe, Britain’s naval commander in the Aegean Sea, to negotiate an immediate armistice with Turkey without consulting France. Though Britain alone would engineer the Ottoman exit from the war, the two powerful Allies would continue to grapple over control in the region at the Paris Peace Conference, and for years beyond. Negotiations between Calthorpe’s team and the delegation from Constantinople, led by the Ottoman Minister of Marine Affairs Rauf Bey, began at 9:30 on the morning of October 30, 1918, aboard the Agamemnon. The Treaty of Mudros, signed that evening, stated that hostilities would end at noon the following day. By its terms, Turkey had to open the Dardanelle and Bosporus straits to Allied warships and its forts to military occupation it was also to demobilize its army, release all prisoners of war and evacuate its Arab provinces, the majority of which were already under Allied control. Bey and his fellow delegates refused to paint the treaty as an act of surrender for Turkey—later causing disillusionment and anger in Constantinople—but in fact that is what it was. The Treaty of Mudros ended Ottoman participation in World War I and effectively—if not legally—marked the dissolution of a once mighty empire. From its ruins, the victors of the First World War attempted to use the post-war peace negotiations to create a new, more unpredictable entity: the modern Middle East.

2 Answers 2

First and foremost, the dire situation of the Ottoman Empire was not a reason not to join the war, but mostly a cause for joining it.

The Ottoman Empire entered the war due to their attack against the Russian fleet, but that attack was not decided by the Government as a whole but by a faction of officers. If the Government had had complete control over the military, it could have stopped them. The weakness of the Government allowed the pro-war faction to throw the Empire into the war.

Now, apart from this technicality, let's try to see the rationale 1 of that faction:

The Ottoman Empire did not need to triumph over industrialized powers . It only needed to help some industrialized powers (Germany) to win over others (France, UK, Russia) 2 . Note that even smaller powers (Bulgaria, Romania) joined the war when it looked like the tide was favorable.

Since the Crimean War, the Ottoman Empire had kept its independence (even at the cost of most of the European part of it) due to the balance of power in Europe. The war was going to shatter that balance of power, and the Empire was still too weak to resist whoever would win the war if they wanted to take over the straits (Russia) or take away Irak or Palestine (UK) or worse. Neutrality had its own risks, too.

About which side to chose, it was pretty clear.

For centuries Russia had been pushing for an exit to the Mediterranean through the Bosphorus in the past France and (mainly) the UK had countered that as part of the Big Game but now they were together with Russia.

The UK supported Egypt, who was a former Ottoman province, and also had a foothold in Kuwait.

OTOH, neither Germany nor Austria-Hungary had any objective that affected the Ottoman Empire (being focused in Russia and English and French colonies). And relationships with Germany were good due to economical and military interchanges.

In Autumn 1914, the Germans had severely beaten the Russians at Masurian Lakes and Tannenberg, and occupied a significant portion of the most industrialized regions of France. The "this war will be over by Christmas" motto was still believed and German victory seemed to be, if not imminent, very probable.

And, to be fair, the Ottoman Empire did not did that bad itself. While some of them were helped by the overconfidence of Entente officers and politicians, the Ottoman did inflict some severe defeats to their enemies (Gallipoli, Kut). It did lose some ground to the Russian and British armies, but kept fighting and resisting almost until the end of the war.

1 There are often other motives (like internal politics), not all of them completely rational (personal and organizational rivalries, prejudices, etc.) that can also influence decision making, but those are harder to pinpoint.

2 As Mussolini said when he declared war on France and UK despite being completely unprepared: "I only need a few thousand dead so that I can sit at the peace conference as a man who has fought." And, if you are in the winning side, that is not as absurd as it sounds (Romania was completely defeated yet it was later awarded large territorial gains).

Machiavelli opined in "The Prince" that if there were two powerful combatants, and you didn't join one of them, you would end up the "prey of the victor." If you pick a side and it wins, you will share in the spoils. If your side loses, "you become companions of a defeated fortune that may rise again." More to the point, Turkey was strategically placed, being able to offer or deny access to Russia via the Dardanelles, and that was all the "weapon" she needed.

When war broke out, with the British and the Russians on the same side, Turkey was torn between her historical friendliness toward Britain and her traditional hatred toward Russia. It was basically neutral toward Germany, and had a distrust of the Austrians and the Italians. But Italy dishonored its alliance with Germany (and later joined the British side), and Austria was fighting the Russians, and sometimes "the enemy of my enemy is my friend."

The Germans looked like they were winning, when Turkey entered the war in late October, 1914. They had raced across northern France before being stopped at the gates of Paris. In the east, they had just slaughtered two Russian armies near Tannenberg and the Masurian Lakes.

The "last straw" affected the Turkish navy, which had heretofore been pro-British because it used mainly British built ships. A naval minister named Winston Churchill held back two battleships, purchased by Turkey, for Britain's own use. The Germans sent two smaller ships, one of them a battlecruiser, escaped from Austrian ports, across the Mediterranean to Constantinople, and made them a gift to the Turks for use against the Russians in the Black Sea. This last act swung public opinion to the side of Germans, and caused Turkey to enter the war on Germany's side.

Political Activities [ edit | edit source ]

1915 [ edit | edit source ]

The Constantinople Agreement on 18 March 1915 was a set of secret assurances, which Great Britain promised to give the Capital, and the Dardanelles to the Russians in the event of victory. ⎢] The city of Constantinople was intended to be a free port.

During 1915, British forces invalidated the Anglo-Ottoman Convention, declaring Kuwait to be an "independent sheikdom under British protectorate."

Capitulations and public debt, 1915 [ edit | edit source ]

10 September 1915 was an important date for Ottoman Economy. An institution that undermined Ottoman sovereignty was the Capitulations, or extraterritorial privileges enjoyed by foreigners residing in the Empire. ⎣] When the Capitulations were first established it was supposed that foreign assistance could benefit the Empire. Capitulations stipulated that the privileges were based on religion, and intercourse of the Christian world with the Muslim world was founded upon different principles. Privileges were based on religion is against free market values. The Muslim business was challenged against non-Muslim in international exchanges as the market was not free from any intervention by government.

Foreigners had secured many privileges or "capitulations" that they could not be brought under local jurisdiction, but were subject only to the codes of justice of their own countries, administered through their own consular courts. ⎤] As a result, almost all the business of the country was in the hands of non-Ottoman citizens – Armenians, Greeks, Jews, Italians, French, Germans, and English, which were under non-Ottoman (local) jurisdiction. Wherever mines have been developed, railroads or irrigation works constructed, foreign capital and foreign brains have been chiefly responsible. This system produced an environment in which the citizens of the Empire stayed poor, and the standard of education for this group never increased. And so it would, if it were not that foreigners occupy a privileged position in the country. ⎤] In fact, citizens of the United Kingdom, Italy, France, Germany, and Austria-Hungary were in many respects in a separate class from Ottoman citizens, whether Turks, Greeks, Armenians, or Jews. The Empire also perceived the capitulations as a reason for corruption. Officials, representing different jurisdictions, sought bribes at every opportunity, withheld the proceeds of a vicious and discriminatory tax system, ruined every struggling industry by graft, and fought against every show of independence on the part of Empire's many subject peoples. A citizen of any of the great powers was practically exempt from the payment of income taxes and several other kinds of taxes to which the Turk was subject. He was immune from search, could secure passports from his own consul, and could be tried in courts of his own nationality. All these special privileges together constituted a body of privileges known as "Capitulations." ⎥]

On 10 September 1915, Interior minister Talat Pasha abolished the "Capitulations". On 10 September 1915 Grand Vizier Said Halim Pasha annulled (Vizer had the authority on annuls) the Capitulations, which ended the special privileges they granted to foreign nationals. The capitulation holders refused to recognize his action (unilateral action). ΐ] The American Ambassador expressed the Great Power view:

The capitulary regime, as it exists in the Empire, is not an autonomous institution of the Empire, but the result of international treaties, of diplomatic agreements and of contractual acts of various sorts. The regime, consequently, cannot be modified in any of its parts and still less suppressed in its entirety by the Ottoman Government except in consequence of an understanding with the contracting Powers. ⎣]

Beside the capitulations, there was another issue which evolved under the shadow of capitulations. The dept and financial control (revenue generation) of the empire was intertwined under single institution, which it's board was constituted from Great Powers rather than Ottomans. There is no sovereignty in this design. In fact, the Public Debt could and did interfere in state affairs because it controlled (collected) one-quarter of state revenues. ⎣] The debt was administered by the Ottoman Public Debt Administration and its power extended to the Imperial Ottoman Bank (equates to modern central banks). Debt Administration controlled many of the important revenues of the empire. The Council had power every financial affairs. Its control even extended to determine the tax on live stock in districts. Ottoman public debt was part of a larger schemes of political control, through which the commercial interests of the world had seek to gain advantages that may not be to Empire's interest. The immediate purpose of the abolition of capitulations and the cancellation of foreign debt repayments was to reduce the foreign stranglehold on the Ottoman economy a second purpose — and one to which great political weight was attached — was to extirpate non—Muslims from the economy by transferring assets to Muslim Turks and encouraging their participation with government contracts and subsidies. ⎦]

1916 [ edit | edit source ]

The French-Armenian Agreement of October 27, 1916, was reported to the interior minister Talat Pasha which agreement negotiations were performed with the leadership of Boghos Nubar the chairman of the Armenian National Assembly and one of the founder of the AGBU.

1917 [ edit | edit source ]

In 1917 the Ottoman Cabinet considered maintaining relations with Washington after the United States had declared war on Germany on 6 April. But the views of the war party prevailed and they insisted on maintaining a common front with their allies. Thus, relations with America were broken on 20 April 1917.

Diplomacy with new Russia, 1917 [ edit | edit source ]

The 1917 Russian revolution changed the realities. The war devastated not only Russian soldiers, also the Russian economy was breaking down under the heightened strain of wartime demand by the end of 1915. The tsarist regime’s advances for the security on its southern borders proved ruinous. ⎧] The tsarist regime desire to control the Eastern Anatolia and the straits (perceived as underbelly), but underbelly created the conditions that brought about Russia's own downfall. Unable to use Straits disrupted the Russian supply chain. Russia might survived without the Straits, but the strain was the tipping point for its war economy. ⎧] This question was left to Soviet historians: “whether a less aggressive policy toward the Ottoman Empire before the war would have caused Istanbul to maintain neutrality or whether Russia later might have induced Istanbul to leave the war, [lower-alpha 5] the outcome of tsarist future would be different. ⎧] Nicholas's inept handling of his country and the war destroyed the Tsar and ended up costing him both his reign and his life.

Enver immediately instructed the Vehib Pasha, Third Army, to propose a ceasefire to Russia’s Caucasus Army. ⎨] Vehib cautioned withdrawing forces, as due to the politics in Russia — neither Russia’s Caucasus Army nor Caucasian civil authorities give assurance that an armistice would hold. ⎩] On 7 November 1917 the Bolshevik Party led by Vladimir Lenin over threw the Provisional Government in a violent coup plunged Russia into multitude of civil wars between ethnic groups. The slow dissolution of Russia’s Caucasus Army relieved one form of military threat from the east but brought another one. Russia was a long time threat, but at the same time kept the civil unrest in his land at bay without spreading to Ottomans in a violent. On 3 December the Ottoman foreign minister Ahmed Nesimi Bey informed the “Chamber of Deputies” about the prospects. Chamber discussed the possible outcomes and priorities. On 15 December Armistice between Russia and the Central Powers signed. On 18 December Armistice of Erzincan signed. The Bolsheviks’ anti-imperialist formula of peace with no annexations and no indemnities was close to Ottoman position. Bolsheviks position brought a conflict with the Germany's aimed to preserve control over the East European lands it occupied and with Bulgaria’s claims on Dobruja and parts of Serbia. In December Enver informed the Quadruple Alliance that they would like to see the 1877 border (Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878)), pointing out that the only Ottomans lost territory and 1877 boarder was Ottoman territories inhabited by Muslims. ⎪] Ottomans did not pushed 1877 position too hard, scared to fall back to bilateral agreements. On the other hand, Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Bulgaria clearly stood behind on the pulling back the Ottoman and Russian forces from Iran. ⎫] Ottomans wanted Muslim Iran be under its own control. Ambassador to Berlin, Ibrahim Hakki Pasha, wrote: “Although Russia may be in a weakened state today, it is always an awesome enemy and it is probable that in a short time it will recover its former might and power. ⎪]

On 22 December 1917, the first meeting between Ottomans and the Bolsheviks, the temporary head Zeki Pasha, until Talat Pasha's arrival, requested of Lev Kamenev to put an end to atrocities being committed on Russian-occupied territory by Armenian partisans. Kamenev agreed and added “an international commission should be established to oversee the return of refugees (by own consent) and deportees (by forced relocation) to Eastern Anatolia. The battle of ideals, rhetoric, and material for the fate of Eastern Anatolia opened with this dialog . ⎪]

The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk represented an enormous success for the Empire. Minister of Foreign Affairs Halil Bey announced the achievement of peace to the Chamber of Deputies. He cheered the deputies further with his prediction of the imminent signing of a third peace treaty (the first Ukraine, second Russia, and with Romania ), Halil Bey thought the Entente to cease hostilities and bring a rapid end to the war. The creation of an independent Ukraine promised to cripple Russia, and the recovery of Kars, Ardahan and Batum gave the CUP a tangible prize. Nationalism emerged at the center of the diplomatic struggle between the Central Powers and the Bolsheviks. Empire recognized that Russia’s Muslims, their co-religionists, are disorganized and dispersed to come out as an entity in the future battles of ideals, rhetoric, and material. Thus, the Ottomans mobilized the Caucasus Committee to make claims on behalf of the Muslims. ⎬] Caucasus Committee had declined Ottoman earnest requests to break from Russia and embrace independence. The Caucasian Christians was far ahead in this new world concept. Helping the Caucasian Muslims to be free, like their neighbors, would be the Ottomans’ challenge. ⎬]

1918 [ edit | edit source ]

In the overall war effort, the CUP was convinced that Empire's contribution was essential. Ottoman armies had tied down large numbers of Allied 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. They had turned the war in favor of Germany and her allies. ⎭] Hopes were initially high for the Ottomans that their losses in the Middle East might be compensated for by successes in Causes Campaign. Enver Pasha maintained an optimistic stance, hid information that made the Ottoman position appear weak, and led most of the Ottoman elite believe that the war was still winnable. ⎮]

Diplomacy with new states, 1918 [ edit | edit source ]

Ottoman policy toward the Caucasus evolved according to the changing demands of the diplomatic and geopolitical environment. ⎯] What was the Ottoman premise in involving with the Azerbaijan and the North Caucasus? The Empire’s leaders, in the parliament discussions through out 1917, understood that Russia’s collapse presented a historic window of opportunity to redraw the map of the Caucasus. They were convinced, however, that soon enough Russia would recover and reemerge as the dominant power in the region and shut that window.

The principle of “self-determination” become the criterion, or at least in part, to gave them a chance to stood on their feet. ⎰] The Bolsheviks did not regard national separatism in this region as a lasting force. Their expectation was whole region come under a “voluntary and honest union” [lower-alpha 6] and this union bearing no resemblance to Lenin’s famous description of Russia as a “prison house of peoples.” ⎱] Lenin's arrival to Russia was formally welcomed by Nikolay Chkheidze, the Menshevik Chairman of the Petrograd Soviet.

Ottoman's did not see a chance of these new states to stand against new Russia. These new Muslim states needed support to be emerged as viable independent states. In order to consolidate a buffer zone with Russia (both for the Empire and these new states), however, Ottomans needed to expel the Bolsheviks from Azerbaijan and the North Caucasus before the end of war. ⎲] Based on 1917 negotiations, Enver concluded that Empire should not to expect much military assistance from the Muslims of the Caucasus as they were the one in need. Enver also know the importance of Kars—Julfa railroad and the adjacent areas for this support. Goal was set forward beginning from 1918 to end of the war.

The Empire duly recognized the Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic in February 1918. This preference to remain part of Russia led Caucasusian politics to the Trebizond Peace Conference to base their diplomacy on the incoherent assertion that they were an integral part of Russia but yet not bound ⎯] The representatives were Rauf Bey for the Empire, and Akaki Chkhenkeli from the Transcaucasian delegation.

On May 11, a new peace conference opened at Batum. Treaty of Batum was signed in Batum between the Ottoman Empire and 3 Trans-caucasus states — First Republic of Armenia, Azerbaijan Democratic Republic and Democratic Republic of Georgia on June 4, 1918.

The goal was to assist Azerbaijan Democratic Republic at Battle of Baku, then turn north to assist the embattled Mountainous Republic of the Northern Caucasus and then sweeping southward to encircle the British in Mesopotamia and retake Baghdad. ⎰] The British in Mesopotamia already moving north, with forty vans (claimed to loaded with gold and silver for buying mercenary) accompanied with only a brigade, to establish a foothold . At the time Baku was under the control of the 26 Baku Commissars which were Bolshevik and Left Socialist Revolutionary (SR) members of the Baku Soviet Commune. The commune was established in the city of Baku. In this plan, they expected resistance from Bolshevik Russia and Britain, but also Germany, which opposed the extension of their influence into the Caucasus. ⎰] Ottoman's goal to side with Muslims of Azerbaijan and MRNC managed to get Bolsheviks of Russia, Britain and Germany on the same side of a conflict box at this brief point in the history.

Diplomacy with new states

Winding down toward the armistice, 1918 [ edit | edit source ]

İkdam on 4 November 1918 announcing Enver, Talat, Cevdet left the country.

Developments in Southeast Europe quashed the Ottoman government's hopes. In September 1918, the Allied forces under the command of Louis Franchet d'Espèrey mounted a sudden offensive at the Macedonian Front, which proved quite successful. Bulgaria was forced to sue for peace in the Armistice of Salonica. This development undermined both the German and Ottoman cause simultaneously - the Germans had no troops to spare to defend Austria-Hungary from the newly formed vulnerability in Southeast Europe after the losses it had suffered in France, and the Ottomans suddenly faced having to defend Istanbul against an overland European siege without help from the Bulgarians. ⎮]

Grand Vizier Talaat Pasha visited both Berlin, and Sofia, in September 1918, and came away with the understanding that the war was no longer winnable. With Germany likely seeking a separate peace, the Ottomans would be forced to as well. Grand Vizier Talaat convinced the other members of the ruling party that they must resign, as the Allies would impose far harsher terms if they thought the people who started the war were still in power. He also sought out the United States to see if he could surrender to them and gain the benefits of the Fourteen Points despite the Ottoman Empire and the United States not being at war however, the Americans never responded, as they were waiting on British advice as to how to respond which never came. On October 13, Talaat and the rest of his ministry resigned. Ahmed Izzet Pasha replaced Talaat as Grand Vizier.

Two days after taking office, Ahmed Izzet Pasha sent the captured British General Charles Vere Ferrers Townshend to the Allies to seek terms on an armistice. ⎮] The British Cabinet were eager to negotiate a deal. British government interpreted that not only should Britain conduct the negotiations, but should conduct them alone. There may be a desire to cut the French out of territorial "spoils" promised to them in the Sykes-Picot agreement. Talaat (before resigning) had sent an emissary to the French as well, but that emissary had been slower to respond back. The British cabinet empowered Admiral Calthorpe to conduct the negotiations, and to explicitly exclude the French from them. ⎮] The negotiations began on Sunday, October 27 on the HMS Agamemnon, a British battleship. The British refused to admit French Vice-Admiral Jean Amet, the senior French naval officer in the area, despite his desire to join the Ottoman delegation, headed by Minister of Marine Affairs Rauf Bey. ⎮]

Unknown to both sides, both sides were actually quite eager to sign a deal and willing to give up their objectives to do so. The British delegation had been given a list of 24 demands, but were told to concede on any of them except allowing the occupation of the forts on the Dardanelles as well as free passage through the Bosphorus the British desired access to the Black Sea for the Rumanian front. Prime Minister David Lloyd George also desired to make a deal quickly before the United States could step in according to the diary of Maurice Hankey:

[Lloyd George] was also very contemptuous of President Wilson and anxious to arrange the division of Empire between France, Italy, and G.B. before speaking to America. He also thought it would attract less attention to our enormous gains during the war if we swallowed our share of Empire now, and the German colonies later. ⎮]

The Ottomans, for their part, believed the war to be lost and would have accepted almost any demands placed on them. As a result, the initial draft prepared by the British was accepted largely unchanged the Ottomans did not know they could have pushed back on most of the clauses, and the British did not know they could have demanded even more. The Ottomans ceded the rights to the Allies to occupy "in case of disorder" any Ottoman territory, a vague and broad clause. ⎮] The French were displeased with the precedent French Premier Clemenceau disliked the British making unilateral decisions in so important a matter. Lloyd George countered that the French had concluded a similar armistice on short notice in the Armistice of Salonica which had been negotiated by French General d'Esperey, and that Great Britain (and Czarist Russia) had committed the vast majority of troops to the campaign against the Ottomans. The French agreed to accept the matter as closed.

On 30 October 1918, the Armistice of Mudros was signed, ending Ottoman involvement in World War 1. The Ottoman public, however, was given misleadingly positive impressions of the severity of the terms of the Armistice. They thought its terms were considerably more lenient than they actually were, a source of discontent later that the Allies had betrayed the offered terms. ⎮]

The Ottoman Empire - demise of a major power

For 600 years, the Ottoman Empire was a superpower. This two-part documentary tells the story of how this vast empire vanished in less than a century.

The Ottoman Empire extended across three continents and the seven seas. Over the hundred years from Greek independence in 1830 to the Balkan Wars of 1912 and 1913, the Ottoman Empire withdrew from Europe for good after a presence in the Balkans lasting almost 500 years. The shared past is often downplayed by national historians, but the Balkan states are strongly influenced by the complexities of Christian, Muslim and Jewish peoples living together, says Mark Mazower from Columbia University. It was more of a ‘side by side’ existence based on the Ottoman Empire’s "millet” system, where non-Muslims enjoyed the protection of the sultan but had to pay special taxes in return. Over the course of the 19th century, the region’s religious identities slowly became clear national ones people now saw themselves as Serbs, Greeks, Armenians and Bulgarians. This rising nationalism, along with attempts by the major European powers to get their hands on the region’s resources and the inability of the Ottoman Empire to implement reforms, brought about the end of Ottoman rule in Europe. Using rare picture and film footage and with contributions by international historians, this two-part documentary analyses the last century of the Ottoman Empire and tries to understand its demise.

For six centuries, the Ottoman Empire was a superpower that stretched across three continents - and was home to the three major monotheistic religions. But the empire was brought to its knees in less than a century.

The Ottoman Empire was already comparatively weak when it entered the war on the side of Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1914. In 1915, Ottoman authorities started deporting or killing ethnic Armenians who lived in Anatolia - in what would become known as the first example of genocide in the 20th century. It was a demonstration of domestic power by a state that was falling apart. During the war, there was fighting in all corners of the empire, including Anatolia itself and the Arab majority provinces to the south. The empire’s attempts to maintain influence in its remaining Arab provinces must be viewed in this context. But Arab peoples were fed up with being governed by Ottoman administrators - and demanded national sovereignty. Britain and France took advantage of this discontent, and promised the Arab rulers independence. But the promise was hollow. The remaining territories of the Ottoman Empire were transformed into a collection of artificial nation-states. The creation of these states - including Syria,Transjordan, and Iraq - can be traced to the expansionist policies of Britain and France. As the victorious allies moved ahead with plans to partition Anatolia, Mustafa Kemal - a successful commander during the war - organized a national resistance movement. In 1922, the new Turkish parliament abolished the Ottoman sultanate, and proclaimed the creation of the Republic of Turkey. In 1923, Turkey and Greece agreed to a compulsory population exchange - which involved the deportation of more than one-million Greeks from Turkey, and about 400,000 Muslims from Greece.

Six Reasons Why the Ottoman Empire Fell [incl. Michael Reynolds, Mostafa Minawi] The Ottoman Empire was once among the biggest military and economic powers in the world. So what happened?

At its peak in the 1500s, the Ottoman Empire was one of the biggest military and economic powers in the world, controlling an expanse that included not just its base in Asia Minor but also much of southeastern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. The empire controlled territory that stretched from the Danube to the Nile, with a powerful military, lucrative commerce, and impressive achievements in fields ranging from architecture to astronomy.

But it didn't last. Though the Ottoman Empire persisted for 600 years, it succumbed to what most historians describe as a long, slow decline, despite efforts to modernize. Finally, after fighting on the side of Germany in World War I and suffering defeat, the empire was dismantled by treaty and came to an end in 1922, when the last Ottoman Sultan, Mehmed VI, was deposed and left the capital of Constantinople (now Istanbul) in a British warship. From Ottoman empire's remains arose the modern nation of Turkey.

What caused the once awe-inspiring Ottoman Empire collapse? Historians aren't in complete agreement, but below are some factors.

It was too agrarian.

While the industrial revolution swept through Europe in the 1700s and 1800s, the Ottoman economy remained dependent upon farming. The empire lacked the factories and mills to keep up with Great Britain, France and even Russia, according to Michael A. Reynolds, an associate professor of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University. As a result, the empire's economic growth was weak, and what agricultural surplus it generated went to pay loans to European creditors. When it came time to fight in World War I, the Ottoman Empire didn't have the industrial might to produce heavy weaponry, munitions and iron and steel needed to build railroads to support the war effort.

It wasn't cohesive enough.

At its apex, the Ottoman empire included Bulgaria, Egypt, Greece, Hungary, Jordan, Lebanon, Israel and the Palestinian territories, Macedonia, Romania, Syria, parts of Arabia and the north coast of Africa. Even if outside powers hadn't eventually undermined the empire, Reynolds doesn't think that it could have remained intact and evolved into a modern democratic nation. "The odds probably would have been against it, because of the empire's tremendous diversity in terms of ethnicity, language, economics, and geography," he says. "Homogenous societies democratize more easily than heterogenous ones."

The various peoples who were part of the empire grew more and more rebellious, and by the 1870s, the empire had to allow Bulgaria and other countries to become independent, and ceded more and more territory. After losing the losing the 1912-1913 Balkan Wars to a coalition that included some of its former imperial possessions, the empire was forced to give up its remaining European territory.

Its population was under-educated.

Despite efforts to improve education in the 1800s, the Ottoman Empire lagged far behind its European competitors in literacy, so by 1914, it's estimated that only between 5 and 10 percent of its inhabitants could read. "The human resources of the Ottoman empire, like the natural resources, were comparatively undeveloped," Reynolds notes. That meant the empire had a shortage of well-trained military officers, engineers, clerks, doctors and other professions.

Other countries deliberately weakened it.

The ambition of European powers also helped to hasten the Ottoman Empire's demise, explains Eugene Rogan, director of the Middle East Centre at St. Antony's College. Russia and Austria both supported rebellious nationalists in the Balkans to further their own influence. And the British and the French were eager to carve away territory controlled by the Ottoman Empire in the Middle East and North Africa.

It faced a destructive rivalry with Russia.

Neighboring Czarist Russia, whose sprawling realm included Muslims as well, developed into an increasingly bitter rival "The Russian empire was the single greatest threat to the Ottoman empire, and it was a truly existential threat," Reynolds says. When the two empires took opposite sides in World War I, though, the Russians ended up collapsing first, in part because of the Ottoman forces prevented Russia from getting supplies from Europe via the Black Sea. Tzar Nicholas II and his foreign minister, Sergei Sazanov, resisted the idea of negotiating a separate peace with the empire, which might have saved Russia.

It picked the wrong side in World War I.

Siding with Germany in World War I may have been the most significant reason for the Ottoman Empire's demise. Before the war, the Ottoman Empire had signed a secret treaty with Germany, which turned out to be a very bad choice. In the conflict that followed, the empire's army fought a brutal, bloody campaign on the Gallipoli peninsula to protect Constantinople from invading Allied forces in 1915 and 1916. Ultimately, the empire lost nearly a half a million soldiers, most of them to disease, plus about 3.8 million more who were injured or became ill. In October 1918, the empire signed an armistice with Great Britain, and quit the war.

If it weren't for its fateful role in World War I, some even argue that the empire might have survived. Mostafa Minawi, a historian at Cornell University, believes the Ottoman Empire had the potential to evolve into a modern multi-ethnic, multi-lingual federal state. Instead, he argues, World War I triggered the empire's disintegration. "The Ottoman Empire joined the losing side," he says. As a result, when the war ended, "The division of territories of the Ottoman Empire was decided by the victors."

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