100 years ago, 29-30 in October 1914, the Ottoman Empire launched a war against Russia. The German-Turkish fleet under the command of Rear Admiral Souchon, without declaring war, attacked the Russian Black Sea shores. The enemy attacked Sevastopol and the Russian fleet stationed there, shelled Novorossiysk, Feodosia and Odessa, mined the Kerch Strait. It was a provocation with the aim of calling the Russian government to war. 2 November 1914, the Russian Empire declared war on Turkey.
The position of the Ottoman Empire on the eve of the First World War
The “sick man” of Europe has long been in a severe crisis. It was especially difficult for Turkey at the beginning of the 20th century. It seemed that only one strong blow was needed to destroy the Ottoman Empire, rotten through and through.
At the end of the 19th century, the process of turning the Ottoman Empire into a semi-colony of the great Western powers was completed. Turkey was one of the most backward agrarian countries, whose economy and finances were controlled by the West. Large land tenure was combined with small-scale land use. The peasantry bore almost the entire burden of the tax burden, giving borrowers and usurers up to 30-40% of the crop. In some places even primitive corvee remained. At the same time, agriculture was under the control of Western capital. Things reached the point that Istanbul and a number of other major coastal cities received grain and flour from abroad. Foreign capital had a monopoly on the production and export of Turkish tobacco, controlling entire rural areas. Foreign capital acted as an organizer and master of production, and was interested in the semi-feudal dependence of the peasantry, extremely cheap labor.
The industry under the rule of the sultans Abdul-Hamid II (1876 - 1909) and Mehmed V (1909 - 1918), despite the immense natural wealth of the empire, was in a miserable condition. The mining industry was seized by foreign companies, mainly British and French, which received concessions for the development of mineral resources. Due to the privileges of the concessions and the extremely cheap labor force, foreign entrepreneurs received huge profits that did not fall into the Turkish treasury. There were almost no steel-making and engineering industries in Turkey. At the beginning of the century, 3 million pounds of ore were mined in the Ottoman Empire, but around 100 thousand pounds remained for local consumption. The rest was exported and processed at foreign enterprises. Metals returned in the form of finished goods. So, at the end of the 19th century there were only 5 foundry and iron workshops and the entire 6 sawmills throughout the entire Turkish Empire. In fact, Turkey was an agrarian, raw semi-colony of the West.
In the empire there were several dozen small enterprises in the food, cloth, cotton, carpet, etc. industries. In addition, there were several military enterprises in Istanbul. Most of the enterprises were concentrated in the capital and several large coastal cities. The remaining areas of the empire actually had no industry, dispensing with medieval artisan workshops. At the same time, almost all of any significant enterprises were in the hands of foreign capital or the comprador bourgeoisie. At the beginning of the 20th century, only about 15% of industry was in the hands of the national bourgeoisie. There was also a significant share of the foreign bourgeoisie (Jews, Greeks, Armenians, etc.), which, to avoid corruption and national pressure, devastating taxes and duties, took the citizenship of a foreign power. As a result, most of the capital was not delayed in Turkey, the income derived from the country's natural wealth, the brutal exploitation of the working population went to the West, or into the pockets of a small group of comprador bourgeoisie.
Back in 1881, the Ottoman Public Debt Administration was established, which, with the help of its own administrative apparatus, received government taxes and duties in various parts of the empire to service the Ottoman state debt. The "Administration" included representatives from Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Bank and local major lenders Porta. In 1908, its number increased to 10 thousand people. The whole occupation administration, sucking all the juice out of the country. Moreover, this unit was listed in the Turkish service, the contents of the treasury. Later, foreigners received revenues from the tobacco and salt monopolies, the collection of alcohol and stamp duty, the right to collect state tax in a number of regions and cities, etc. In fact, foreigners began to fully control the finances of the empire. Foreign banks controlled the finances of Turkey. The case went to the establishment of a financial international institution that would replace the Ottoman financial institution. This process was stopped only by the war and the collapse of the empire.
Western capital completely satisfied the internal disintegration of the Ottoman Empire, in which dignitaries, major feudal lords, and the highest Muslim clergy ruled. The dominance of the court camarilla, the corruption of bureaucrats, and the unrestrained arbitrariness of officials, including the clergy, determined the inner situation of the empire. A feature of the bureaucratic apparatus, including officers, was an extremely low level of education and culture. So, in the 1898 year, even among the ministers there was not a single person with a higher education. Everywhere there was a treasury, arbitrariness and corruption. All officials, from high dignitaries to small local managers used their position to enrich themselves. In educational institutions there was severe censorship and oppression of the clergy, who suppressed education, science and culture.
At the same time, the stability of the empire undermined the national liberation struggle. The authorities responded with brutal terror, inciting national and religious hatred. The ideology was based on Pan-Islamism and Pan-Turkism. The uprisings literally drowned in blood. To maintain the integrity of the empire, an enormous intelligence, gendarmerie and police apparatus was formed. A thousand-strong army of scammers was formed. To suppress the uprisings, they used irregular cavalry (Hamidia - "owned by Hamid"), which attracted Kurds and Karapakhs. Wild horsemen were terrifying in many parts of the empire, especially in the east. So, in 1894-1896. a terrible massacre of Armenians was organized in Western Armenia. This slaughter shook the whole world. About 300 thousand people were brutally murdered. Hundreds of cities and villages were devastated by the Sultan's army, irregular formations, police and religious fanatics.
Armenians made up a significant part of the empire's population and during the wars with Russia favored the Russians, especially in Western Armenia, where people hoped to join the Russian Empire. Since the 1880-s, Istanbul began to pursue a policy of genocide. If before the massacre occurred on a case by case basis, now the genocide has become a state policy.
Sultan Abdul-Hamid II not only used the policy of "divide and rule", inciting religious fanatics to Christians, but also adopted the aggressive ideology of pan-Islamism. In the Ottoman Empire, ideologues multiplied, explaining the need to unite all Muslims and Turks under the auspices of the Caliph, who was the Ottoman sultan. This ideology has become one of the prerequisites for the participation of Turkey in the First World War.
At the same time, the increasing influence of foreign powers on Turkey continued. Traditionally, a strong influence on Istanbul was in England and France. However, at the beginning of the 20th century, the German Empire began to supplant them, which gradually put control of the Turkish armed forces under its control. The Turkish government considered that the Germans represent the “lesser evil” and tried to use Germany to strengthen the army and economy, to weaken the influence of other foreigners. Germany needed the resources of the Ottoman Empire and an ally to put pressure on Britain and Russia. Through the Turkish territory it was possible to go to the Suez Canal and the Persian Gulf.
The Armenian question, the struggle in Macedonia and Thrace, the uprising of the Cretan Greeks was a bargaining chip in a big game. These events were usually used by great powers to increase their influence on Porto. In essence, Ports policy was defined in European capitals. So, in the 1897, the Turkish-Greek war began, which arose because of the uprising of the Greeks in Crete. The Ottomans were able to defeat the Greeks, but the great powers forced Porto to sign such a treaty, which led to the loss of Crete. In Crete, autonomy was declared under the “patronage of Europe” and a “peacekeeping contingent” landed. Most of the Muslims were forced to leave the island. Crete joined Greece after the second Balkan war, at the end of the 1913 year.
Sultan of the Ottoman Empire Abdul-Hamid II
Sultan Mehmed V
Young Turkish Revolution
The loss of economic and political independence, the chain of defeats in foreign policy and the loss of territories, the cultural influence of the West on the educated part of Ottoman society led to the emergence of a wave of protest. Bourgeois-liberal ideas led to the emergence of the political movement of the Young Turks, who succeeded the “new Ottomans.”
Despite the fact that the sultan and his henchmen brutally crushed any manifestation of free-thinking and resistance, having organized a real espionage mania in the country, when people were seized by the slightest manifestation of discontent, the political movement gradually matured into a revolution. The core of the movement was the officers, the most educated part of the population and having the opportunity to get acquainted with European culture and the achievements of advanced thought. The movement also included representatives of the multi-ethnic intelligentsia and students of military and civilian schools.
So, back in 1889, the cadet of the military medical school Ibrahim Temo created a secret group whose goal was to save the homeland from tyranny. This cell has established contacts with like-minded people in other educational institutions in Istanbul. Emerged revolutionary cells and abroad. In France, such a group was led by the son of a prominent official, Ahmed Riza Bey. In 1892, a group in the military medical school was opened. But they didn’t take it seriously, the students even got the opportunity to continue their studies.
In 1894, a leaflet was issued on behalf of the Ottoman Society for Unity and Progress. They called for a joint struggle of all the peoples of the empire with despotism. The movement increased its influence in the army and naval among officials and cadets of military schools. The authorities took this more seriously and responded with repression. Many were exiled, others fled abroad. However, the ittihadists' cells (from the word "ittihad" - "unity") continued their subversive work. A Central Committee was established. The charter of the movement aimed at ensuring justice, equality and freedom, the country's progress and liberation from foreign bondage. The most important task was to restore the constitutional order in the country.
In Europe, pamphlets were printed and distributed around Turkey that branded the bloody regime of Abdul-Hamid II. Sultan was called "mean" and "insane" and even "follower of the devil." In emigration began to publish dozens of newspapers in Turkish, which cursed the regime of "snake and scorpion." The most significant newspapers were published in Paris, London, Geneva and Cairo. Brochures and leaflets that were secretly distributed throughout the Ottoman Empire were also admitted. Ittihadists believed that constitutional reforms would save the country from disintegration and division between the great powers. They hoped that through reforms it was possible to save the dying Ottoman Empire, to renew it. The movement was not united, it was torn apart by contradictions and disputes over the future of the country. The peculiarity of the movement was its multinational composition, among the revolutionaries were Turks, Albanians, Greeks, Armenians, Jews, Arabs, Kurds, etc. In general, revolutionaries were united only by hatred of the sultan.
The first congress in Paris was held only in 1902 year. But he did not lead to unity. So, there were two main groups. The Society of Progress and Unity, Ahmed Riza, advocated the unity of the empire, the preservation of the Ottoman dynasty, the unity of all the peoples of Turkey and against interference in the affairs of foreign countries. The Society of Personal Initiatives and Decentralization, headed by Prince Sabaheddin, argued that foreign powers could intervene and advocated a significant decentralization of administrative control and the granting of greater powers to local authorities.
Internal splits and unsuccessful conspiracies uncovered by the authorities, new waves of links led to a decline in the movement. A new rise occurred against the background of the revolution in Russia 1905-1907. The leaders of the Young Turks called for "taking an example from the magnificent ideas of the Russian revolution." Sultan, on the other hand, strengthened censorship in order to stop the appearance of reports about the actions of revolutionaries in Russia. Especially Abdul-Hamid feared rebellion in the navy. At this time, many officers joined the Young Turk movement. Authorities responded with mass arrests; more than 200 people were arrested, including 5 generals.
In 1906-1907 in the army and navy there were several speeches against the authorities. Speeches against the authorities occurred in a number of major cities. The government even made concessions in a number of places. So, in Erzerum, some taxes were abolished. A revolutionary situation began to take shape in the country. The authorities were able to bring down the revolutionary wave in Anatolia, but in the capital the ranks of the revolutionaries only got stronger. In 1906, a new secret Ottoman Freedom Society was established in Thessaloniki, which gained significant influence among army officers. In 1907, it merged with the Society for Progress and Unity. The new movement was called the Ottoman society of progress and unity. It had two centers: the outer - in Paris and the inner - in Thessaloniki. The committee in Thessaloniki actively promoted and recruited new members in army units located in European Turkey. At the same time, a rapprochement with national parties and groups - the Armenian national-bourgeois parties and groups, the Macedonian liberation movement.
In December 1907, the second Young Turks Congress took place in Paris. A general program was formed. Turkey was silent about the future state system of Turkey, but said about the establishment of the constitution and the convening of parliament. The revolution began with Macedonia. Landlessness and land shortages, a huge tax burden, the arbitrariness and corruption of the Turkish administration, religious and national contradictions made this area a constant focus of national and anti-feudal speeches. The port drowned them in blood, but it became increasingly difficult to do, and the pressure of the great powers kept growing. The inability of Istanbul to resolve the Macedonian issue forced Russia and England to decide on the introduction of troops into the region to “maintain order”.
The Young Turks decided that this was an opportune time for an uprising to establish a constitution in the country and prevent foreign interference in the affairs of the country. The Paris Center recommended expanding recruitment among the military and youth, creating secret shock groups. The propaganda of the Young Turks in Thessaloniki, among the soldiers, junior and middle officers, was especially successful. Salary delays intensified general discontent in the military.
In the spring of 1908, a wave of riots swept through the military units. In the summer, the Sultan made changes in the command of the troops stationed in Macedonia, and ordered the arrests to begin at the Salonik garrison. However, this only intensified discontent. The revolutionary movement embraced almost all the officers. The military did not hesitate to express their discontent, saying that the government leads the country to death and foreign occupation. Local officials also joined the officers. In early July, the 1908 began an uprising. The first was the squad Niyazi Bey. Soon he was joined by detachments from other garrisons. Niyazi-Bey sent a letter to the Sultan, demanding an end to the repressions, the restoration of the 1876 constitution of the year, and the convening of parliament.
The Sultan tried to move the parts loyal to him against the center of the uprising, but their composition was propagated by the Young Turks. The head of the punitive expedition was killed. The non-Turkish population of Macedonia began to join the rebels. Macedonian and Albanian nationalist organizations supported the rebels. Army units one after another joined the rebels. The performance turned into a mass uprising. Sultan tried to throw against the rebels from Anatolia. However, all the battalions arriving in Thessaloniki refused to join against the European troops and the rebels. The rebels were supported by thousands of armed Albanians.
The authorities were forced to show flexibility. An amnesty was announced to arrested young Turks. Urgent money was found for the payment of salaries to the soldiers. But it was impossible to stop the revolution. In many cities of Macedonia, the Young Turks proclaimed the restoration of the 1876 constitution of the year. On July 23, the Young Turks in Edirne (Adrianople) promised to move the 2 Army Corps to the capital. The Sultan and the government accepted the demands of the revolutionaries. July 24 issued a decree of the Sultan to restore the constitution. The decree promised to convene a parliament. Rallies in support of the constitution swept through the cities of the Ottoman Empire. Political prisoners were freed from prisons everywhere. In Thessaloniki, Istanbul and other cities for several days, there were huge demonstrations. Muslims fraternized with Christians. It seemed that the spring of freedom had come.
July 25 Sultan issued a decree on the amnesty of all revolutionaries. About 80 thousand people were amnestied - prisoners and immigrants. However, the joy did not last long. It soon became clear that the Sultan was not going to give in, and the Young Turks were not democrats at all. Attempts by peasants in the Anatolia were suppressed by the local Young Turk committees with the help of gendarmerie. When the Albanians began to demand autonomy, the Young Turks threatened their former allies with artillery. The Young Turks, with the help of the army, suppressed the actions of workers and railway workers in Istanbul, Izmir, Izmit and other cities. It turned out that the Young Turks, in fact, continue the former imperial course. It was a top coup, not a radical revolution, radically changing the political and socio-economic image of the country.
Proclamation of the restoration of the constitution at the rally
To be continued ...