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Ottoman Empire is among the most fascinating periods in the history of civilization, and it remains the subject of scholarly study because of the impact it had on the world, and continues to have today.
The empire began around as a medieval state in the late 13th Century around what is now known as Turkey; the region had largely been unaffected, either socially, militarily or economically by the social progress in the rest of Europe. Hence, this empire was largely frozen in time, according to www.infoplease.com.
The Ottoman Empire began modestly enough, with many small Turkish states bonding together in Asia Minor following the disintegration of the Seljuk Turks' empire.
And it is important to note that Turkey's domination over Africa's northern areas was not entirely well defined, and the Ottoman Empire did not really have permanent, clear-cut borders; rather, the empire was more of a military administration over a vast region of diverse cultures and geography.
And when it was at its peak of power and influence in the Middle East and Africa, between the years 1683 -- 1699, the Ottoman Empire controlled an area which includes these nations today:
Hungary, Yugoslavia, Croatia, Bosnia, Albania, Macedonia, Greece, Romania, Moldova, Bulgaria, southern Ukraine, Turkey, Georgia, Armenia, Iraq, Kuwait, Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, Jordan, eastern and western Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain, eastern Yemen, Egypt, northern Libya, Tunisia, and northern Algeria.
The early structure of political and military power in the Ottoman Empire
The successor to the thrown -- prior to the emergence of Ahmad I in 1603 -- was "habitually contested by all the sons of the deceased sultan," which is a corrupt and barbaric style of administration, but must be understood to gain a perspective into this era; in addition, it was the patriotic duty of the victor " ... To kill his rivals in order to restore order."
Turkish Military: The first place the Turks occupied in Europe was Gallipoli
According to Theodore Spandounes (Nicol, 1997), the first place that the Turks occupied in Europe was Gallipoli; and the ruler of the Turks, Orhan, " ... went on to lay siege to Constantinople" (20). When Orhan had taken Constantinople, John Paleologo (son of a deceased sultan) "then entered the palace and paid Orhan all that he had promised" (20) for the taking of Constantinople. And this was how it worked in the 14th century, as the Ottoman Empire was taking shape.
The growth and expansion of Russia from the 18th Century onwards
Migration is always one of the negative products of war (McGowan, 1994), and the many wars fought by (against) the Ottoman empire sent hundreds of thousands scurrying for greener and more peaceful pastures. Migrations were in part set off by the expansion and growth of Russia in the 18th Century. Russian expansion and growth during the 18th, 19th and 20th Centuries caused a tremendous upheaval in countries where Russia came marauding into previous peaceful settlements, and also where Russia and the Ottoman Empire forces clashed in bloody and long wars.
The Ottoman war against Russia in 1768, a resumption of previous wars, caused "new waves of migration" (648), and were "followed by others still later, caused by the provincial chaos which prevailed in the final two decades of the period (1792-1812)."
These late 18th Century migrations -- including the northward migration of the Serbs, and the migration of peasants into Habsburg territory driven by the "harsh Russian occupation during the war of 1736 -- 39" -- immediately affected the "Serbs, the Albanians, the Bulgarians, the Greeks, the Tartars and the Arab villagers of the Syrian periphery," according to Bruce McGowan, former U.S. Consulate in St. Petersburg, Russia.
But of all the civil upheaval and migrations occurring during that period, the "single greatest surge of migration during the eighteenth Century," McGowan writes on page 650, "was up to 200,000 Tatars emigrated out of the reach of the Russians." Many of the Tatars settled on the western shore of the black Sea, in the Dobruja province.
And meantime a "deluge" of Christians -- most likely, according to McGowan, Slavs and Greeks -- were driven towards Azov by the Russians, around 1778. The Russians had driven the Christians and Tatar nation out, and the Tatar peoples -- who once had posed a threat as a force inside Russia -- survived, according to McGowan, "only as a diaspora" (650) (diaspora: an ethnic or cultural group scattered far from their homeland).
Between 1768 and 1812, there were three wars between Russia and Turkey, causing chaos and more migrations of ethnic peoples. Russia, meantime, was occupying Rumanian provinces, and as Bucharest recovered from the worst of Russian repression during that occupation, approximately 200,000 Bulgarians crossed over into the Rumanian provinces. A good many of those refugees, McGowan suspects (650), continued into "the newly conquered Russian territories where they crossed paths with the retreating Tatars."
The second of the three Russo-Turkish wars drove many Bulgarians into Thrace and Macedonia, which was bad timing for the Bulgarians, since "the newly risen warlords of Ottoman Europe (the ayans) were locked in a [two-decade-long] struggle for dominance." Newly arrived peoples, forced out of their homeland, could not have been pleased to be in the cross-fire of brutal Ottoman warlords, to paraphrase McGowan.
On page 682 McGowan discusses the primitive peasant conditions in Rumania in the 18th Century, in part due to the "harsh Russian occupation in the late 1730s" -- who required far more work out of peasants than the Ottoman's 12 days of servitude:
'In winter they [peasants under Ottoman in Rumania] retire to cells underground, easily kept warm by means of a little fire made of dried dung and some branches of trees." Each family -- men, women, children -- "are all heaped together; and their respective beds consist of one piece of coarse woolen cloth ... "
Egypt (because of cotton) begins a move away from the Ottoman Empire
Meanwhile, between 1798 and 1882, the cultivation of cotton brought capitalism to Egypt, which brought revenue into Egypt, with which to defend its claim to autonomy from the Ottoman Empire (Richards, 1987). It also helped initiate Egypt into the Western economic milieu -- further distancing Egypt from the "old ways" of doing things in the Ottoman Empire.
Moreover, the coming of capitalism and cotton resulted in peasant land loss in Egypt, because cotton required more capital than wheat (it required more water than wheat, and digging canals was expensive), and the "increased tax burden" was more than many peasants could afford (238).
Where does Russia come into this picture? Russian expansion into the Caucasus "inhibited the flow of Mamluks, and [Egypt] ... chose conscription [for his army] because its goals and the prevailing political constraints gave him little choice."
Demands pressed upon the Ottoman state -- and Russian expansion -- led to a further weakening of Ottoman
As many European nations made strides toward a more progressive, modern approach to government and social change, and as the Ottoman state continued to refuse to change, the Ottoman Empire would slowly lose its power, and find itself capitulating to treaties and policies other nearby states elected to enforce.
In fact, by the mid eighteenth century, "increased European demand for Balkan production of cotton, grains, maize, cattle, and tobacco led the European states to press upon the weakened Ottoman state their demands for further commercial concessions" (Wallerstein, et al., 1987) (91). The Ottoman monopoly of trade in the Black Sea -- once a key military, economic and geopolitical trump card in the Ottoman deck -- ended with the Treaty of Kucuk Kaynarca in 1774, which in fact opened the Straits to the Russians, among the main adversaries of the Ottoman world.
The Kucuk Kaynarca treaty was indicative of the fact that foreign ambassadors and consuls were now, in the late 18th Century, able to procure from Ottoman "privileges such as tax exemptions for non-Muslim Ottoman subjects" (92). And indeed, things were slipping badly for the Ottoman Empire even by the middle of the 18th Century, when imports to the Empire were greater than exports out of the Empire, according to Wallerstein.
The combination of the old-fashioned "tax-farming" -- and the resulting weakened state controls on production -- plus the ever-increasing list of "concessions to foreign merchants ... created a set of centrifugal forces that undermined the basic authority" of the Empire.
The separatists' movements in the Balkans and in the Middle East resulted from the forced openness of the Ottoman Empire, an openness that occurred in the tide of the European world economy. And what was the response of the Empire to lands seceding from the Empire, lands that had been "annexed through military occupation and had been controlled militarily at the zenith of the Ottoman expansion"? The response was a series of "political measures seeking to recreate Ottoman centralism on an imperial scale," which, according to Wallerstein, "proved to be largely ineffective."
When the economy began to show serious signs of faltering…[continue]
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