The motto of the Ottoman Empire was: Devlet-i Ebed-müddet ("Eternal State"). Over the centuries, this state has grown with new territories, reaching its maximum size at the turn of the XVI-XVII centuries.
Sick man of Europe
However, the laws of historical development are inexorable, and since the end of the XNUMXth century this state was in a state of permanent crisis. Attempts at modernization, undertaken by some sultans (Ahmed III, Mahmud I, Mustafa III, Selim III, Mahmud II, etc.), met with resistance in archaic Turkish society and did not have much success. Torn apart by internal contradictions, the Ottoman Empire suffered military defeats and lost region after region.
On the eve of the Crimean War, Russian Emperor Nicholas I, in a conversation with British Ambassador Seymour, aptly noted:
"Turkey is the sick man of Europe."
This aphoristic stamp was almost officially used by diplomats from different countries until the complete collapse and disintegration of this empire. Which is reflected in numerous cartoons. At this time (during the Bosnian crisis), Turkey silently watches as Austria-Hungary drags Herzegovina to itself, and Russia - Bulgaria:
And this is how Great Britain and Russia persuade Turkey to conclude an alliance with one of these countries:
And here Sultan Abdul Hamid II, watching Nicholas II and British Prime Minister Robert Gascoigne-Cecil help the Japanese Emperor Meiji feed the Chinese Empress Tsixi with cannonballs from the International Pill Box, rejoices:
“Glory be to Allah, we found another“ sick person ”! Maybe they'll lag behind me a little. "
On the map below, you can see how its provinces fell away from the Ottoman Empire.
Anger at Gentiles
Failures angered the Ottomans - both rulers and ordinary Turks. And more and more often this anger was directed at the Gentiles.
Once upon a time, the tolerance of the Ottomans made life in this empire attractive even for Christians and Jews, who (according to the Qur'an) were considered not pagans, but “People of the Book” (“ahl-ul-kitab”), having the status of “protected (“ dhimmi ”) ... As a result, on the territory of the Ottoman state, non-Muslim communities, called millets, were formed - Jewish, Armenian-Gregorian and Greek-Orthodox.
The sultans and rulers of the Sanjaks, as a rule, did not insist on the adoption of Islam by Christians and Jews. The fact is that the presence of non-Muslim subjects for the Turkish rulers was economically profitable: they were additionally charged a poll tax (jizye), land tax (kharaj), military taxes (on the grounds that non-believers did not serve in the army). In addition, officials had the right to involve the "infidels" in the construction of fortresses, roads and bridges and (if necessary) use their horses. It is not without reason that all communities of people who did not profess Islam in the Ottoman Empire were called the word "reaya" ("flock", "flock"). Christians were also called "kafirs" ("infidels"), and Jews - "yahudi".
A Muslim had the right to marry a woman of a different religion and, of course, could have non-Muslim slaves. The "unfaithful" could not have a Muslim in his service and marry a Muslim woman. But all these restrictions did not seem too burdensome against the background of what was happening in Europe, engulfed in religious wars, inquisition processes, and Jewish pogroms.
Jewish communities in the Ottoman Empire
Jews lived in Asia Minor since the XNUMXth century BC. e. Attempts to Christianize them, undertaken by some Byzantine emperors, were unsuccessful. The Ottomans, whose state one after the other included regions with Jewish communities (Jews lived, for example, in Gallipoli, Ankara, Edirne, Izmir, Thessaloniki; under Murad I, the Jews of Thrace and Thessaly also became subjects of the Ottomans), on the adoption of Islam by the Jews, as we already said, did not insist.
Sultan Orhan, who captured the city of Bursa in 1326 (which became the second capital of the Ottoman state), allowed the Jews who lived there to build a synagogue.
In addition to the Jews who permanently lived in the permanently expanding territory of the Ottoman state, Jews from other countries actively moved here. Thus, two groups of Ashkenazi arrived in Turkey in the second half of the XIV century: from Hungary in 1376 and from France in 1394. New waves of European Ashkenazi settlers were noted in 1421-1453.
In 1454, Chief Rabbi Edirne Yitzhak Tsarfati appealed to his European co-religionists with an appeal for resettlement to the Ottoman lands. This letter contained the following words:
“I have heard of suffering, more bitter than death, which befell our brothers in Germany as a result of tyrannical laws, forced baptism and expulsion that occur daily. Teachers, friends and acquaintances, I, Yitzhak Tsarfati, proclaim to you that Turkey is a land in which there is no flaw and where everything will be good for you. The road to Turkey is the road to a better life ... The benefits of this land and the kindness of its people are nowhere to be found in Germany. "
This appeal was heard and triggered a new flow of migrants.
After the conquest of Constantinople in 1453, Sultan Mehmed II (whose mother was a Jewish concubine brought from Italy), in order to "dilute" the Greek population of the new capital, ordered people of other origins and religions to be resettled to this city, including many Jews.
Over time, the proportion of the Jewish population in Constantinople reached 10%. The religious leaders of the Jews in Constantinople had equal rights with the Greek and Armenian patriarchs. Soon this city became one of the main European centers of Jewish learning and culture.
In 1492, under the eighth Sultan Bayezid II, the ships of the Kemal Reis squadron evacuated to the territory of the Ottoman state a part of the Sephardic Jews expelled from Spain by the "Catholic monarchs" Isabella and Ferdinand. Bayazid commented on the famous Edict of Granada with the words:
"How can I call King Ferdinand wise if he enriched my country, while he himself became a beggar."
Another version of this phrase is as follows:
"Is it not because Ferdinand is revered as a wise king, because he put in a lot of efforts to ruin his country and enrich ours?"
It is believed that about 40 thousand people arrived from Andalusia to Turkey, and about the same number later moved from Portugal and Sicily.
In 1516 Palestine was conquered by the Ottomans. There were also large Jewish communities in Damascus, Baghdad, Beirut, Aleppo and other cities captured by the Turks.
The attitude towards Jews in the Ottoman Empire often depended on the personality of the ruler who came to power.
For example, Suleiman I the Magnificent refused the offer of his son-in-law and Grand Vizier Rustem Pasha to expel Jews from the country and, in general, patronized them. When in 1545 in Amasya some Jews were accused of ritual murder of non-Jewish children and adding their blood to matzo, this sultan declared:
“Since this community pays me taxes, I do not want any of its members to suffer from attacks or injustice. Any such claims will be considered in the Sultan's court, and will not be considered anywhere else without my direct order. ”
Relapses of these accusations, called "blood libel", happened more than once, and even in 1840 Sultan Abdul-Majid I was forced to publish a firman prohibiting the persecution of Jews for such cases in Turkey.
But Murad III was remembered for the persecution of the Jews, who, according to some authors, were saved from mass beating in 1579 only by a large sum of money presented either to the mother of this Sultan and the commander of the Janissary corps, or to Murad himself. His great-grandson Murad IV executed the head of the Jewish delegation from Thessaloniki in 1636.
As for interethnic friction, oddly enough, most often Ottoman Jews entered into conflicts not with Muslims, but with Greeks and Armenians. And even during the Second Greco-Turkish War of 1919-1922. many of the Jews suffered precisely from the "Europeans." But excesses sometimes occurred with Muslim neighbors. So, in March 1908, the Arabs staged a Jewish pogrom in the city of Jaffa.
5 deputies of Jewish origin
What niche did the Jews occupy in the Ottoman Empire? There were many good gunsmiths among the Jewish settlers. Thanks to them, the rearmament of the Ottoman army took place in a short time, which, as a result, under Selim I and his son Suleiman I, became one of the most advanced in the world. The Jew Sinan Pasha was a comrade-in-arms and one of the successors of the great corsair and Ottoman admiral Khair ad-Din Barbarossa: he was called the "Great Jew from Smyrna." One of Sinan's sons also became a Turkish admiral.
The Sephardic brothers, David and Shmuel ibn Nakhmias, expelled from Spain, already in 1493 opened a printing house in the Constantinople region of Galata, which printed books in Hebrew.
Among the Jews, there were also traditionally many jewelers, glassblowers (especially many of them settled in Edirne), merchants, usurers, translators and doctors. It is known that representatives of three generations of the Sephardic Hamon family were the physicians of four Ottoman sultans - Bayezid II, Selim I, Suleiman I and Selim II. Shlomo ben Natan Ashkenazi was the physician of Sultan Murad III.
Kiera (a Jewess who independently conducts trade) Esther Khandali from a wealthy Sephardic family was a close friend of Nurbanu Sultan, the wife of Selim II (son of Suleiman the Magnificent), holding a position close to the head of her personal chancellery. Nurbanu was a Venetian and through Esther she kept in touch with her homeland. Esther held the same position under the Greek woman Safiya, the beloved concubine of Murad III. However, some believe that this kiera began her court career even during the reign of the famous Khyurrem Sultan - Roksolana (which, by the way, some authors call not a Slav, but a Jew).
The Jewish merchant Joseph Nasi, who supplied wine to Selim II (one of whose nicknames was "The Drunkard"), became a confidant of this sultan, competing with the Grand Vizier Mehmed Sokkola in his influence over him.
The portrait of Joseph Nasi has not survived, so the audience of the series "The Magnificent Century" saw him as such a young dandy.
Under Ahmed III, the doctor and diplomat Daniel de Fonseca played an important role, and under Selim III, Meir Ajiman became the banker of the divan (in fact, the minister of finance). During the reign of Abdul-Majid I, two Jews (Bkhor Ashkenazi and David Karmonu) became members of the Divan (government of the country).
At the turn of the 1887th and 5th centuries, about half a million Jews lived on the territory of the Ottoman Empire. It is known that in 2010 17 deputies of Jewish origin were elected to the parliament of this country. The Jews of the Ottoman Empire were generally sympathetic to the Young Turk movement, but after the victory of the republican forces in Turkey, the position of the nationalists strengthened. The number of anti-Jewish protests increased. The new authorities began to pursue a policy of Turkicization of the Jews, which caused the outflow of the Jewish population from the country. In September XNUMX, only about XNUMX Jews lived in Turkey.
Ottoman period in the history of Armenia
Armenia was conquered by the Ottomans in the 1431th century - under Sultan Selim II. But the Armenians lived in Constantinople even before the Turkish conquest. The first Armenian church (of St. Sarkis) in this city was built in the middle of the XIV century. In XNUMX, the church of St. George the Illuminator was erected in its place.
Sultan Mehmed II Fatih, after the conquest of Constantinople, in order to create a kind of counterbalance to the large Greek population of this city, began to resettle people of a different religion to the new capital - Muslims, Jews and Armenians, who, although they were Christians, did not obey the Greek patriarch. In 1461, in order to further weaken his influence, Mehmed II issued an edict according to which the Holy See of the Armenian Patriarchate was established in Constantinople.
The building of the Armenian Patriarchate, Istanbul, modern photography
The power of the Armenian patriarchs extended to Christian communities that were not included in the so-called "Byzantine millet" (the community of Greek Orthodox Christians of the Ottoman Empire). They were Georgians, Albanians, Assyrians, Copts and Ethiopians who professed Christianity. Bishop Hovakim (Hovagim) of Bursa became the first patriarch of the Armenian Church. In the years 1475-1479. Armenians actively moved to Constantinople from Crimea, in 1577 under Murad III - from Nakhichevan and Tabriz.
In the Ottoman Empire, the Armenians, who had the status of “protected” (dhimmis) and “reliable nation” (Millet-i Sadika), managed to preserve their identity, culture and language. In addition to Armenia proper, the Armenians constantly lived in Constantinople, in Cilicia, in the Van, Bitlis and Harput vilayets.
Of course, the life of ordinary Armenians in this empire cannot be called easy and carefree. However, representatives of this nation were part of the cultural and economic elite of the Ottoman state. In the 18th century, 16 of the country's XNUMX largest bankers were Armenians. There were many Armenians among doctors, jewelers and merchants.
Armenian Jeremiah Kemurchyan founded a printing house in Constantinople in 1677, where books were printed in Armenian and Arabic. Topkapi, Beylerbey, Dolmabahce, Beshiktash and Yildiz palaces were built under the leadership of Armenian architects.
Some Armenians have reached quite high government posts, becoming ministers and ambassadors of the Ottoman Empire in Christian countries.
Under Sultan Abdul-Hamid II, three Armenians in turn were his personal treasurers.
According to the 1914 census, 1,5 million Armenians lived in the Ottoman Empire. At that time, there were 47 Armenian churches in Constantinople (over 3 thousand throughout the empire) and 67 schools.
The Armenian Dadiani family controlled the military industry of the empire, and Galust Sarkis Gulbenkian was the main financial advisor to the Turkish government and the director of the National Bank of this country, one of the founders of the Turkish Oil Company.
Armenian pogroms. And in Karabakh
According to some reports, as early as 1918, up to 80% of industry and trade in the Ottoman Empire were controlled by subjects of Armenian origin, which caused discontent among the indigenous Turks. Yes, and the authorities of this country did not completely trust the Armenians, suspecting them of sympathy for geopolitical opponents. These suspicions and animosities intensified especially with the outbreak of the First World War.
Armenian pogroms began at the end of the 1894th century under Sultan Abdul-Hamid II (in 1896-1899 and in 1902). Other outbreaks of violence were recorded in Adana in 1909 and 1915, where (in addition to Armenians) Assyrians and Greeks also suffered. As you know, everything ended with a large-scale massacre of Armenians in XNUMX.
Russian soldier over the skulls of Armenians killed by the Turks in the village of Sheikhalan, 1915
And in 1918-1920, large-scale and bloody interethnic clashes took place in areas of mixed residence of Armenians and Azerbaijanis - in Baku, Nakhichevan region, Karabakh, Zangezur, the former Erivan province. In the Shemakha district, then 24 thousand Armenians were killed in 17 villages, in the Nukhinsky district - 20 thousand Armenians (in 20 villages). A similar situation was noted in Agdam and Ganja. The Armenian army and the Dashnaks, in turn, “liberated” and “cleared” the Azerbaijanis from the Novobayazet, Erivan, Echmiadzin and Sharur-Daralagez districts.
Later, by the decision of the Dashnaktsutyun party, Operation Nemesis was carried out, during which some high-ranking Turkish officials responsible for organizing the massacres of Armenians in 1915, as well as the leaders of Azerbaijan, involved in the massacre of Armenians in 1918-1920, were killed.
Operation "Nemesis" and its heroes will be discussed in one of the following articles. We will also talk about the Armenian-Azerbaijani clashes of 1918-1920, the Turkish-Armenian war of 1922.
And next time it will tell about the situation of the peoples professing Christianity in the European part of the Ottoman Empire.