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Table of Contents
Cause of The Ottoman Dynasty to Decline.
Intrinsic Weaknesses of The Ottoman Dynasty.
Government and Administration..
The Fall of The Ottoman Empire.
Machinations of External European Powers and Evaluation of Turkish Rule.
This report aims to identify what caused the Ottoman dynasty to decline. It will assess both intrinsic weaknesses and also the machinations of external European powers. It will also evaluate the alleged Arab resentment of Turkish rule and the competition with Shiite forces that opposed Sunni Ottoman hegemony. Ottoman has been the largest and powerful empire in history which was inspired by Islam. The empire was most successful at the time of Suleiman who had ruled for forty-six years. However, the empire was faced with a very drastic decline in 1571 after it lost the battle of Lepanto (Topal 2017). The further decline was accelerated by World War I. However, the empire had experienced a great transformation in between the golden age and the time of the decline. This period was referred to as the Tanzimat which was a period during which the Ottoman Empire was reorganized and reformed starting from the early eighties. The main idea of the transformation was to bring about development in the empire through tax revenue collection for military support to ensure complete control of its territory and prevent colonization by the powerful nations. The reformations made became the major root of Ottomanism among the majority ethnic groups in the empire which led to the formation of nationalist’s movements (Evrensel and Minx 2017). One main attempt of the reformations was to bring together non-Muslims and non-Turks and incorporate them into the Ottoman social believes and norms. They were to get the liberty to allow them to exercise the equal right to the Turks. External as well as internal wrangles are considered to be some of the main factors that contributed to the decline of the Ottoman Empire. For example, Sultan Suleiman disagreed with two of his immediate successors, who were later executed. This weakened the government, a factor that contributed to the decline of the empire. As such, weakening of the empire’s economy, poor governance by some of the rulers, lack of military training, intense corruption, as well as the high influence of power led to the decline of the Ottoman Empire (Reynolds 2016). This report will provide an in-depth analysis of the Ottoman Empire decline, with a lot of focus on the factors that were very instrumental in the decline of the Empire.
Ottoman Empire was a Turkish empire that existed between the period of 1299 to 1923 through the control of an extensive region in Southeastern Europe, West Asia, and certain regions of North Africa (Sariyannis 2018). Ottoman Empire consisted of many provinces and states, some of which later got absorbed into the empire while others operated independently. The empire also had control over other regions that were not part of the empire (but which sought allegiance to the Sultan of the empire) such as certain islands of the Atlantic Ocean. The Ottoman Empire, therefore, controlled a lot of land in the Mediterranean region and acted as a neutral trading block to both the Eastern and Western worlds. Its collapse happened under the imperial monarchy, after which it was taken over by Turkey when it became a republic. The Ottoman Empire rose into dominance through conquest wars such as the battle of Kosovo which paved way for the empire’s expansion into Europe. The battle of Nicopolis also saw the empire expand into other regions of the European continent but later, other conquests such as the battle of Ankara, the conquest of Constantinople, and the invasion of Otranto expounded the empire even further into neighboring territories. However, the empire experienced a period of stagnation and reform which saw some part of the empire’s territory revert to previous regimes such as the reversion of Balkans to Austria (Sariyannis 2018). Many factors have been found for the collapse of the Ottoman Empire; among them, environmental pressures, administrative challenges, financial constraints, and the likes but this report identifies the rise of nationalism as the main cause for the collapse of the empire.
The decline of the Ottoman Empire was instigated by the lack of government control since most of the leaders were bent on changing the government. However, such changes would not have been possible given that the influence of power hindered innovation and change. In addition, the rulers during this period put a lot of emphasis on art and sociology, as opposed to military power, economics, and government (Temel 2018).
The Ottoman Empire experienced some changes in the government and its way of administration which was, in fact, one of the major reasons for the decline of the empire. The sultanate administration failed during that period. Previously, the sultanate was a very strong institution from which the sultan was expected to point out a successor. However, the sultanate became weak with time and since it was the stronghold of the empire, it had a strong contribution to its decline (Temel 2018). Although the great Suleiman had led the empire into great success during its golden age, he later became weak and this resulted in his less involvement in the affairs of the empire as he was getting old. In addition, he was executed by some of his successors leaving the sit for Selim II who, had no experience in running the state (Kanin 2019). He generally neglected his governing responsibilities and rather paid much attention to personal matters such as physical pleasures. However, during the transformation, governance and administration changed completely to strong and central monarchies across the empire. Constitution reforms were also done during this period. A parliament was formed which had representatives from all the provinces to allow all citizens to take part in the running of the state through their representatives who acted as their voices. Local governments were formed too and the sultan was deprived of his powers which were described as a dictatorship. Electric administration was introduced for diplomatic purposes (Kanin 2019).
Initially, the Ottoman's military unit simply consisted of several tribesmen but later became complex as the empire advanced. The whole process of modernization in the empire was initiated by the military where the sultan of the time getting rid of the Janissary corps that existed before and instead he formed a modern army for the empire. The modern army was even given then the name of the new order to describe the change. The army also began recruiting foreigners and started training its officers in western countries through foreign experts on the field (Kanin 2019). The officers sent for training came back and formed the young-Turks organization which was inspired by the education they got in the European countries. These transformations contributed largely to the expansion of the empire as internal territories and as part of the European continent. However, the power of the military to control the empire's deals with the European countries later declined. However, the empire became unable to sustain and maintain the military following economic distractions. However, shortly after, the Ottoman air force was established which was one of the world's greatest organizations in combat aviation. This was followed by establishments of pilots and planes for the military officers which enabled the empire to organize its flights for its officers (Duindam 2016). An air academy was also established and it increased the rate at which the military advanced on the aviation program. The number of people enrolling in the military increased as specialized programs for training was being developed.
The Ottoman government had established an economic policy that focused on the development of Bursa which led to the expansion of capital and other commercial centers. The economic policy of the empire was initially based on the societal concept where the empire had the goal to expand its resources by extending its ruler's power to other states. The empire's main aim was to obtain revenue for the empire and to keep the social and traditional norms intact as well (Langlois 2018). Ottoman had the most developed treasury organization which acted as a body through which training and development of professionalism could be achieved. Due to its geographical location, the empire used its powers to control the link between the west and the east. It prevented the route between the two regions especially where the export of certain economic goods would cause great risks to the economy of the empire. The Ottoman also took control over the Vasco da gamma route to enable the state to have easy access to trade and market links. Soon the economy of the empire had extended to several continents around the world. The Anglo-Ottoman treaty opened the doors for the empire to engage in creates markets in England and France (Ceba Herrero and March Noguera 2019). Besides improving commercial routes, the empire also ensured increased cultivation of land as well as engagement in international trade. These concepts led to the improved economic functioning of the state. The economic and political interests went hand in hand during these transformations.
The Ottoman Empire is considered one of the strongest and powerful empires in history. Its successful fights and raids led to the expansion of the empire, gaining a lot of wealth and power. The influence of power affected the governance of the empire, and with time, it became impossible for the sultan to concentrate on the general governance of the empire. For this reason, the empire became weak following its overdependence on forces outside the empire, as well as a decline in power and knowledge (Kerr and Germani 2018). Such a state played a significant role in encouraging people to move to other parts of the world. Thus, the government weakened further because there was no effect between the government and its people. For this reason, people’s loyalty was directed to the leaders they chose as opposed to the sultan of the Ottoman Empire. As such, the sultan of the Ottoman Empire lost significance as time went by.
Following the decline of the Ottoman Empire, the Ottoman Law lost meaning among most countries. As such, most of the countries under the Ottoman rule started enforcing their laws. Such a move was a clear indication that the empire had lost control of its law, and its governance. Another factor that contributed to the decline of the Ottoman Empire was the reluctance and weakening of the empire’s military forces (Jariwalla and Wolfson 2019). At the time of the golden age of the Ottoman Empire, the empire’s military forces were considered the strongest in the region. Strength and power had led to successful raids and capture of different territories. However, such commitment on the side of the forces was attributed to the fact that the reigning sultan motivated the officers through the provision of high salaries and other incentives. For example, individuals in the army were not restricted to a given religion since joining the military forces was based on one’s merit. In addition, the empire had a section of the military forces that comprised of special and strong men who received special training. However, the fall of the Ottoman’s rule was characterized by intense corruption among the military forces, as well as a lack of necessary training for the forces (Mansfield 2019). For this reason, the forces lacked the necessary knowledge in weapon technology and innovation. As such, the military forces became entirely weak.
The weakening of the economy in the Ottoman Empire was also very instrumental in its decline. At the time of the empire’s golden age, the Ottoman was known for economic power. This situation was largely attributed to the rapid expansion of the empire that was characterized by a lot of wealth and power. This situation led to the independence of the Ottoman, as far as food and other necessary resources were concerned (Shafir 2018). For this reason, big cities under the Ottoman Empire, such as Istanbul, gained trade significance since they were some of the largest trading points. However, west countries interfered with the independence of the Ottoman Empire by making trading agreements with several countries. As such, most of the countries over-relied on the west, following the weakening of the Ottoman’s economy. The weak economy led to an increase in external trade, as well as influence.
Primarily, the decline of the Ottoman Empire can be largely attributed to the decline of the Sultanate. According to the Ottoman Law, the Sultanate was considered a strong organization that ensured leadership succession. However, there was a gradual weakening of the sultanate over time. During the late years of Suleiman’s rule, the Ottoman Empire became weak following the reluctance of the sultanas far as state affairs were concerned (Barkey 2018). The weakening of the empire during this period was contributed immensely by the execution of two of the possible successors of Suleiman after they differed with him. Suleiman became so much inclined to physical pleasures at the expense of governance, a factor that contributed to the sultanate decline.
The restriction of Sultans' brothers in the harem denied them the competence needed to ensure the success of the Ottoman Empire. In addition, the empire had abandoned one of its traditions, whereby sons of the empire would be trained on matters related to governance. As such, most of the successors of the sultans were incompetent and contributed to weakening the empire's governance structures as opposed to strengthening them (Empire 2017). This can be attributed to the lack of governance skills and knowledge, as well as an increased level of corruption of the government officials and the military forces. Intensified corruption and lack of concern for the military officials affected the unity of the military forces, and eventually became weak following overreliance on old-fashioned fighting methods. For this reason, it was easy for other empires and countries to defeat the Ottoman's military forces. Eventually, the Ottoman Empire declined (Aslan 2018).
Although the Ottoman Empire is historically known to be under much of Turkish influence, its existence was not primarily defined by ethnic representation, but the language and religious orientation. In spite of the fact that Turkish descendants constituted a greater part of the population and started the empire in the first place, it did not take long for the Turkish rulers to note that, for the empire to utilize the enormous human potential that lay within its borders, they had to assimilate the inhabitants from their native languages into the Turkish culture. This was necessary because the inhabitants had diverse potential. For example, the Greeks were well endowed with administrative and managerial expertise; the Armenians were endowed with mercantile and trade skills and the Balkans captives made good soldiers. Initially, all these ethnic subgroups thought of themselves as Turkish and often identified with the Turkish language (Shaw and Yapp 2016). During the onset of the 19th century, there was a great nationalism wave that swept across Europe and left with it traces of the movement in the Ottoman Empire as well. Considering many of the inhabitants of the Ottoman Empire were vassals of certain external countries (which were captured by the Ottoman Empire), many of them started to search for their independence. For instance, many people who hailed from small cities and towns in Italy started thinking of themselves as Italians while pondering on the concept of establishing Italy as a country, with its own unique identity and governance structure. Italianism was therefore seen as a viable concept among its previous inhabitants, instead of the initial perception as just a geographic identity. These sentiments were also expressed by inhabitants from Germany and subsequent years saw the unification of various inhabitants from common ascension like the Italians and Germans (Menchinger 2020).
This unity worked for certain people but it acted counter-progressive for certain groups such as the Austro- Hungarian descendants. This huge nationalistic wave was further fanned by the fact that the rulers of the Ottoman Empire never forced any of their inhabitants to adopt the unique Turkish identity. In so doing, many people such as the Arabs and Balkans retained their own identities. For example, the Arabs retained their Muslim religion and the Balkans retained their unique faith, which was also different from their rulers. Other regions within the empire such as those inhabited by the Greeks and the Serbians still had memories of how they enjoyed their autonomy before the rise of the Ottoman Empire; further increasing the prospects of nationalism (Antov 2017). These factors led to the continued growth of nationalist movements and certain European powers like Russia, Germany and England encouraged the same movement because they desired the fall of the Empire. This movement dented the power of the empire because thereafter, the Balkan wars emerged with the aim of liberating the Balkans from the Ottoman rulers. The war later took another direction because the Balkans turned on their neighbors because of territorial disputes. To counter this revolution, the Ottoman rulers formed a resistance movement called the IMRO which engaged the Balkans in war and at times, in very brutal violence which earned the Ottoman rulers the title of "Bloodthirsty Turks" (because their wars were extremely bloody and lethal) (Castellani 2016). The conquest later moved to the Ottoman capital which had prehistorically lived in peace, but after the advent of nationalism, the region was now characterized by Arabs, Greeks, Kurds, and the Armenian people. This revolution worsened just before the First World War when the Ottoman Empire found itself pulled into it because different nationalities started pushing for more representation within the empire (Menchinger 2020).
At this point, the Ottoman rulers planned genocide against the Armenians and this greatly tarnished their image in the eyes of the world; a fact that remains unsolved in the present-day Turkish republic. Currently, there is a huge cloud of resentment by the Armenians over the Turkish people and although the term "genocide" has been outlawed in Turkey, the events that transpired during the massive killings of Turkish revolutionists remain very clear. Though many observers hold divergent opinions over the occurrence of the Armenian massacre, many hold the opinion that the killings were not intentional because the Ottoman rulers were only trying to counter increased resistance within its borders. After all, the Armenians were siding with their enemies in territorial wars (Rauf 2016). The war was further worsened by poor planning and unreliable soldiers on the Turkish side but regardless of these divergent opinions, it remains very clear that injustices of epic proportions took place; considering the Armenians were initially loyal servants of the Ottoman rulers. After the wave of nationalism took center stage in Ottoman politics, a number of effects were felt throughout the economy, puncturing the social fabric of the empire. Compared to the massive killing of Armenians by the Ottoman authorities, a less atrocious, but of equal magnitude displacement occurred when the Greeks and Turks decided to make their countries mono-ethnic. This event saw the massive expulsion of people from both countries, despite the fact that Greeks who were expelled from turkey probably never spoke the language or seen the place in the first place. In the same regard, the Turks who were expelled from Greece had their forefathers live in the country since pre-historical days (Sariyannis 2018). These two groups were then forced to seek habitation elsewhere; amid strangers. During this time, the Ottoman Empire had already died and was under turkey’s leader, Ataturk, who had at the time expelled Greek army men who’d planned to take over certain regions of the Byzantine Empire. During the rule of Ataturk, Turkey had already given in to the concept of nationalism but it adopted a milder form of the concept when compared to its neighbors (because the then ruler said that whoever identified himself or herself as Turkish and spoke the Turkish language, was to be regarded as Turkish).
However, today, Turkey has found itself at crossroads when dealing with people who live within its borders and don’t want to be associated with the Turkish culture or language (Seton-Watson 2017). With increased nationalist movements in the empire, the once multifaceted millet movement under the Ottoman Empire disintegrated into autonomous entrants. Social amenities like schools hospitals and churches were built with exclusive ownership of different nationalities, thereby moving religious groups out of the wider Ottoman leadership (Haas 2018). The Ottoman millet system thereafter crumbled under this movement as more autonomous identification was sought, with the identification of inhabitants under religious lines; coupled with predominant elements of ethnic nationalism. This movement could also not contain the religious differences that existed within the Ottoman Empire, especially after the Armenians expressed their wish to be liberated from the Ottoman rule because they felt a Muslim regime could not effectively govern their largely Christian population. This prompted the Armenians to grant them more independence and therefore the setup of religious administrative units kicked off. The decline of the empire greatly dented the economy of the region considering new trade routes were no longer passing through the Ottoman territory (Sariyannis 2018).
Initially, the empire harbored most trade routes between Europe and Asia because it stood at a strategic point between the two continents. Since most nationalities embraced the idea of nationalism to a great extent, the once homogenous nature of the Ottoman economy was no longer there. In other words, there was a loss of expertise because initially, different nationalities rallied behind the Ottoman leadership in establishing the dominance of the Ottoman economy in the region. Internal wrangles thereafter ensued and the economic momentum that was once witnessed by the empire could no longer be sustained. The numerous wars being fought within the empire’s territory also greatly affected the economic development of the area because more energy was being directed at internal fighting and in making assertions of territorial control, such that, little resources were put into innovation and development (Ceba Herrero and March Noguera 2019). This fact also partially caused the decline of the empire because the once superior goods from the Ottoman Empire could no longer compete with European goods which were produced from innovative industrial practices during the industrial revolution. The empire’s economy was therefore severely dented and its goods were rendered ineffective and obsolete. The rise of nationalistic movements also left the wider Arabian world vulnerable to European influence because in the past, certain regimes from France and Britain had considerable interest in the Arab world and the existence of the Ottoman Empire meant that such regimes had to bypass the Ottoman leadership to deal with the Arab world (Evrensel and Minx 2017).
The fall of the empire was quite a relief for the European powers because their power could be felt much more strongly now that the Ottoman leadership was no longer in existence. For instance, the domination of the British greatly increased after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. From the increased nationalistic movements and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the level of warfare increased among the nations involved because most countries found an increased need to cement their superiority over other nations. For instance, the Baton wars were primarily necessitated by nationalistic movements. However, as nationalism ravaged the Ottoman Empire, it left with it a trail of nation-states that developed their own identities along ethnic, and language lines (Shafir 2018). The nationalistic movement of the 19th century essentially brought among the first emergence of nation-states which had their own political, economic, and social systems. One of the most notable outcomes of the nationalistic movements from the Ottoman Empire was the emergence of the First World War which was largely based on national superiority. The Ottoman Empire tried to defend Germany in the conquest but idealistically, the already formed autonomous units already had different ideologies of their own and instead chose to fight alongside other countries of their own choice as well (Jariwalla and Wolfson 2019).
The level of warfare, therefore, increased to a great extent and nation after the nation were exerting their influence on the global map. This fact even led to the scramble of colonies across the world because nations were after building their profiles through the acquisition of more colonies globally. Politically, states that broke away from the Ottoman Empire found themselves realigned on nationalistic lines. This became the new frontier where politicians marshaled their support from because political parties that advocated for nationalistic agendas found favor among voters. This also created a status of less critiquing for the existent political systems because so long as the political system had a nationalistic agenda, everyone would be okay with it (Shafir 2018). An increased sense of intolerance among regions that broke away from the Ottoman Empire was also noted after nationalism entrenched itself. People who never shared a common nationality with the majority; or those who opposed the political system which the majority of the people identified with, found themselves on the receiving end of nationalistic conflicts. Such was the level of conflict noted between Greece and Turkey because they expelled each other’s nationals from their own countries. The same was also exhibited when the Turks carried out a form of ethnic cleansing exercise on Armenians who opposed their current political system. Also, Greece which was part of the Ottoman Empire found it increasingly difficult to grant territorial powers to Macedonia for trade purposes because it thought Macedonia was going to claim a portion of its Northern territory. Such was the kind of aggressiveness that shaped international politics as a result of nationalism. Nationalist forces, therefore, became the new attitude among breakaway nations, even though their language or religious inclinations never changed in the first place (Sariyannis 2018).
The effects of nationalism after the Ottoman Empire can even be seen in the 21st century where different states still adopt a widely nationalistic attitude when relating to other nations (Shafir 2018). For example, certain countries in the Western European block have hindered companies from Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic from trading in their territories because of the threat these nations pose on their national superiority. Also in the pretext of preserving national heritage, certain governments such as Romania and Slovakia inhibit certain minorities in their country such as Hungarians from starting their schools and using their native language to teach students. Bulgaria is also oppressing the minority Turkish population from expressing themselves linguistically through cultural domination (Haas 2018). However, nationalism has not only affected nations that broke away from the Ottoman Empire because, across the world, certain countries like the US still adopt largely nationalistic policies in their political, economic, and social systems. For example, the US currently holds the opinion that for its economic prosperity to continue, and for the wellbeing of the country, a trade war needs to be waged against Japan; oblivious of the fact that many Americans live by trading with Japan in the first place. In Europe, The French government is trying to restrict the number of American films currently being shown in its media because they believe the American culture threatens its national heritage and culture. Such are the intrigues that characterized the fall of the Ottoman Empire, affecting the world today (Seton-Watson 2017).
Nationalism has been identified as the main concept which led to the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. In detail, the understanding of nationalism in the Ottoman Empire is much different from the concept of nationalism in today’s society because it was majorly built along religious lines, thereby explaining the intrigues that led to the collapse of the empire. The concept of nationalism in the Ottoman Empire was very complex because each group awakened to this concept differently and disintegration happened much faster. This is true because the Ottoman Empire arose based on regional integration, sourced from its expansive territory. The advent of nationalism in the European continent is therefore one of the most basic reasons why the empire collapsed. Through this event, the empire suffered economic, social, and political setbacks because the level of warfare increased, the economy plunged and the social fabric of the empire tore apart. The Ottoman leadership also found it difficult to contain the revolution and frantic efforts to reestablish the empire can be witnessed through its misguided efforts to carry out ethnic cleansing on the Armenians. Some of these actions still lie as unresolved issues even today. However, the Ottoman leadership gave in to the nationalistic uprising as different regions sought autonomy from the Empire. Such an uprising was difficult to stop considering previous Ottoman regimes let certain religious and native identities coexist within its borders. Many people, therefore, found it easy to revert to their nationalistic ideologies and since the empire was multifaceted, the movement spread fast and was uncontrollable. The Tanzimat period had very useful changes, especially in the economical and governance concepts. Other developments such as in revenue generation and service delivery by the state have been of great help in bringing equal civilization and modernization in all the communities. It was therefore a great move by the Ottoman society to realize that it had lagged and to accept help and modernization from the western nations. The social life of the Ottomans society as a whole changed to the better with the introduction of modern schools since quality education is the key to a better life. However, the governance and administration part of the empire can be said to control all the other aspects of the state especially those that came about following the transformation period. The military was equally important since it played a great role in providing people with the opportunity to explore resources without any problems. Whether nationalism did any good to the breakaway nations or not is debatable but it can be concluded that the nationalistic force that started in Europe significantly contributed to the collapse of the empire and defines international politics today. Also, the government and the military forces became very weak such that it lost control of its territory.
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