Sunday, March 29, 2015

Opening paragraphs...............................

Between 1908 and 1913, the Ottoman Empire faced grave internal and external threats.  Starting with the Young Turk Revolution in 1908, the political institutions of the centuries-old empire came under unprecedented strain.  Domestic reformers sought to bring the empire into the twentieth century.  European imperial powers and the newly emergent Balkan states went to war with the Turks in pursuit of Ottoman territory.  Armenian and Arab activists sought greater autonomy from the weakened Turkish state.  These issues, which dominated the Ottoman government's agenda in the years leading up to 1914, laid the foundations for the Ottoman Great War.

The aging Sultan Abdulhamid II convened his cabinet in a crisis session on 23 July 1908.  The autocratic monarch faced the greatest domestic threat of his rule in over three decades on the throne.  The Ottoman army in Macedonia - that volatile Balkan region straddling the modern states of Greece, Bulgaria, and Macedonia - had risen in rebellion, demanding the restoration of the 1876 constitution and a return to parliamentary rule.  The sultan knew the contents of the constitution better than his opponents.  One of his first measures on ascending the Ottoman throne in 1876 had been to promulgate the constitution as  the culmination of four decades of government-led reforms known as the Tanzimat.  In those days he was seen as an enlightened reformer.  But the experience of ruling the Ottoman Empire had hardened Abdulhamid from reformer into absolutist.

-Eugene Rogan,  The Fall Of The Ottomans:  The Great War in the Middle East

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