History of Turkey

Situation at the end of the Ottoman Empire (1300-1923)

For centuries the Ottoman Empire claimed a major European power role politically, militarily and economically alongside the Holy Roman Empire, France and England. In its heyday in the 16th and 17th centuries, the Ottomans ruled from Asia Minor the Balkans, important parts of Arabia with its holy places, and large parts of North Africa.

Since the 18th century, the military and economic superiority of the Europeans grew through technological advances in the course of industrialization. The High Porte (seat of the Sultan in Istanbul) increasingly indebted to the European powers. Because the duty-free import of western goods and textiles was allowed at the same time, the Ottomans further destroyed their underdeveloped manufacture.

A modernization of the country seemed inevitable. The tanzimat-i hayriye begin with an edict of reform that guaranteed all Ottoman subjects the security of life, property and honor and was thus revolutionary(literally: charitable ordinances). The aim of Sultan Adbülhamid II was to streamline the state apparatus, modernize the army and education system, increase economic efficiency and create a unified administration for the provinces. Students of engineering and warfare were sent to Europe, and cannon experts and military strategists were brought from Europe to the Ottoman Empire. Only the political and philosophical foundation of European industrialization and the individualization associated with it were not adopted.

According to cheeroutdoor, an internal Turkish opposition movement, the Young Turks, wanted far-reaching reforms, which were not supported by the sultan, who in turn tried, with the help of informers, to suppress the internal resistance movements.

Towards the end of the 19th century, the Ottomans owed their survival to their weakness. The major European powers were eager to ensure that the respective enemy could not gain control of the sick man on the Bosporus. The conflict between Russia and England played a major role in this. Russia wanted control of the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles and thus access to the Mediterranean.

Ataturk as a military

The First World War (1914-1918)

On the side of the German Reich and Austria-Hungary and Bulgaria, the Ottoman Empire entered World War I under the leadership of the triumvirate Enver Pascha, Talat Pascha, Cemal Pascha. Opposed to them were the Entente powers France, England, Russia, Serbia, later Italy (1915), Portugal, Romania, Greece, Japan and the USA (1917).

The systematic expropriation, arrest, displacement and murder of 1.5 million Christian Armenians also took place during this period. The German allies knew about the crimes against humanity. These were accepted with approval; the common goal should not be questioned. Silence as an answer. The Turkish side still does not recognize the extent and intent of the massacre, despite the documents available. The term “genocide”, confirmed internationally, is rejected.

At the same time in 1915, the officer Mustafa Kemal Pascha, later called Ataturk, earned great military service in the Battle of Gallipoli, when the Ottoman troops were able to repel an attack by British, New Zealand and Australian troops.

Struggle for a sovereign state and establishment of the Republic of Turkey

The defeat and surrender of the Ottoman Empire was sealed in the 1918 armistice of Mudros. As a result, the parliament was dissolved, Istanbul was occupied by the British as the seat of the Sultan, Anatolia was divided among the victorious powers and the Aegean was seized by Greek troops. The Treaty of Sèvres provided for the division of large areas of the former world empire among the victorious powers, the remainder being given semi-colonial status. In §62-64 the option of an independent or autonomous Kurdistan from Turkey is established, whose territory is to be located in the region east of the Euphrates, south of Armenia, in northern Syria and Mesopotamia. However, the peace treaty was not implemented.

Military conflicts in the form of a Greek offensive with British support followed in Western Anatolia. The leadership in Ankara initially increased military resistance in the east against Armenian and Russian claims. Then in 1921 Ottoman troops were relocated to Western Anatolia, which in 1922 inflicted their decisive defeat on the opposing forces.

The Treaty of Sevres is considered to be one of the triggers of the Turkish liberation struggle (57min16).

The Mudanya Armistice ended the Turkish War of Liberation in 1922. In 1923, the Treaty of Lausanne established the territorial borders of Turkey and regulated the status of the Armenian, Greek Orthodox and Jewish minorities. The Kurds, who fought alongside the Ottoman army in the liberation struggle and made up the largest minority in the country, were not mentioned in the treaty. There was no longer any talk of a separate state; their territory was divided between Turkey, Iraq and Iran. In this respect, the Sevrès and Lausanne negotiations are both a dream and a trauma for the Kurdish population and anticipate the subsequent conflicts in Turkey and the region.

In October 23, 1923 Ataturk proclaimed the republic and became its first president.

Second World War and admission of German exiles

Ismet Inönü, Ataturk’s successor in the highest office of the state, managed to keep Turkey out of the war for a long time by agreeing to a non-aggression pact with Germany. It was not until 1944 that Turkey entered the war, rather symbolically, on the side of the Allies.

During this time, however, ethnically and politically persecuted German refugees were accepted during the Nazi dictatorship (e.g. Ernst and Edzard Reuter, Paul Hindemith, Eduard Zuckmayer). These contributed significantly to the construction of the new republic. According to the Turkish self-image, this is another anchor point for the close relations between Germany and Turkey.