The Ottoman Empire
Troops of the Osmanli Dynasty, which gave its name to the Ottoman Empire, moved rapidly into southeastern Europe, defeating Serbian forces at the battle of Kosovo in 1389. Although they were temporarily halted when the Mongol forces of Timur occupied part of Anatolia in the early fifteenth century, in 1453 Ottoman forces captured Constantinople, the last outpost of the Byzantine Empire. The Ottomans renamed Constantinople Istanbul and made it the capital of a new empire and the seat of Sunni Islam as well as Greek Orthodoxy. Under Süleyman the Magnificent (ruled 1520–66), the empire expanded across North Africa to Morocco, farther into southeastern Europe, and across the Middle Eastern regions of Kurdistan and Mesopotamia. However, after Süleyman’s death the empire began showing signs of decay. The Ottoman navy lost the key Battle of Lepanto to Spanish and Portuguese forces in 1571, and succession struggles shook Istanbul.
Under the leadership of the Köprülü family, the empire made its final push into Europe in the seventeenth century. The siege of Vienna, which was lifted in 1683, marked the farthest extent of Ottoman penetration into Europe. In the years that followed, a multinational European force drove Ottoman troops southward and eastward, forcing the empire to cede substantial territory in Europe in the Treaty of Karlowicz (1699). In the early eighteenth century, Russian Tsar Peter I initiated a long-lasting goal of Russian foreign policy, to gain access to warm-water ports at the expense of the Ottoman Empire. During the next two centuries, Russia fought several wars to diminish Ottoman power. In 1774 the Treaty of Kuchuk-Kaynarja gained Russian ships access to Ottoman waterways. By the nineteenth century, the Ottoman Empire had become known as “the sick man of Europe.” The decay of its vast holdings and the nationalist forces that were unleashed in the empire were central issues for all European governments.
In 1832 the European powers forced the Ottoman government to recognize Greek independence after a decade-long Greek guerrilla war. However, Europe also recognized the need to avoid the complete destruction of the empire. In the Crimean War of 1854–56, France and Britain sided with the Ottoman Empire against Russia, which lost the war and ceded some of its power in southeastern Europe. In 1878 the Treaty of Berlin established the independent states of Bulgaria, Romania, and Serbia from former Ottoman territory. In the same period, Britain took possession of Cyprus and Egypt, and France occupied Algeria and Tunisia, further diminishing Ottoman holdings.
Internal conditions also deteriorated in the nineteenth century. Under pressure from the West, between 1839 and 1876 the Ottoman government undertook a series of reforms, collectively known as Tanzimat. Dissatisfaction with reforms stimulated the Young Ottoman movement, which sought Western-style reforms, including secular government and closer relations with Europe. However, in the late 1870s Sultan Abdül Hamid II stifled the reform movement and established a repressive regime. Meanwhile, the empire’s financial and geopolitical positions worsened.
In the early 1900s, reformist groups remained active under the repression of Abdül Hamid II. In 1907 the Committee of Union and Progress, better known as the Young Turks, united under military officer Mustafa Kemal, who later took the name Atatürk, “father of the Turks.” Between 1909 and 1912, European powers took advantage of a weak Ottoman government to occupy or liberate most of the empire’s remaining territory in southeastern Europe. In 1912 the First Balkan War deprived the empire of territory in Macedonia and Thrace. In 1913 these losses led to the overthrow of the government by Enver Pasha, who headed a dictatorial regime of Young Turks during the ensuing war period. The empire regained some European territory during the Second Balkan War of 1913.
When World War I broke out in Europe in 1914, Enver Pasha’s alliance with Germany caused Britain, France, and Russia to declare war on the Ottoman Empire. In early 1915, mass deportation of the Armenian population led to the slaughter of as many as 1 million Armenians. Atatürk defeated a British amphibious landing at Gallipoli on the Dardanelles later that year. However, in 1916 a successful British campaign cut through the empire’s Arab territory, capturing Damascus in 1918. After the empire had suffered numerous defeats, a provisional Ottoman government sued for peace with the Allies.
Source: (CIA Fact Book)