Military Review

How Turkish national liberals led the Ottoman Empire to collapse


Having made a coup, the Young Turks at first preferred not to take official power into their own hands. Almost the entire central and local government apparatus was kept. Only the most compromised officials were removed from the office and the representatives of the court, who were the most hated by the people, were arrested. At the same time, the sultan himself, who was recently represented by the Young Turks as the main culprit in the country's disasters, the “bloody tyrant and despot”, was quickly whitewashed and made a victim of poor surroundings, intrigues of courtiers and dignitaries (the old concept of “good king and bad boyars”). Apparently, the Young Turks believed that Abdul Hamid II would accept the loss of power. In addition, they liquidated the Sultan's secret police and dismissed the army of many thousands of scammers.

At the same time, the Young Turks actively strengthened their organizational base. In many cities of the Ottoman Empire, departments of the “Unity and Progress” movement were created (in October, the party of the same name was created). Sultan tried to resist. Already 1 August 1908, the Sultan Abdul-Hamid II issued a decree, which noted the right of the supreme power to appoint not only the great vizier (vizier), but also military and naval ministers. Sultan tried to regain control of the armed forces. The Young Turks rejected this decree. Sultan was forced to relinquish the right to appoint security officials. He also appointed Kamil Pasha, a great vizier, who had a reputation as an anglophile. This suited the Young Turks, who at that time were oriented toward Britain. The new government was under the complete control of the Young Turks. Under their pressure, the cost of maintaining the sultan's court was sharply reduced, and the staff of the court was sharply reduced. These figures speak well about how aimlessly money was spent in the Port: the sultan deprived 270 of adjutants from 300 and 750 of cooks from 800. After that, the monarchy in the Ottoman Empire began to be decorative.

The Young Turks did not undertake any radical measures that could really strengthen the Ottoman Empire. Thus, at the last party congress in October 1908, the acute agrarian issue was avoided, that is, the interests of the overwhelming majority of the population were not taken into account. The most acute national question, which undermined the foundations of the empire, was still resolved in the spirit of Ottomanism. Thus, the Ottoman Empire approached the First World War as an extremely weak, agrarian power, within which there were many contradictions.

Moreover, Turkey was destabilized by major foreign policy defeats. In 1908, the Bosnian crisis began. Austria-Hungary decided to use the internal political crisis in the Ottoman Empire to develop its foreign expansion. October 5 1908 Vienna announced the annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (previously the question of the identity of Bosnia and Herzegovina was in a “frozen” state). At the same time, taking advantage of the acute crisis in the Ottoman Empire, the Bulgarian prince Ferdinand I declared the annexation of Eastern Rumelia and declared himself king. Bulgaria became officially independent (the Third Bulgarian Kingdom was created). East Rumelia was established after the Berlin Congress 1878 of the year and was an autonomous Turkish province. In 1885, the territory of Eastern Rumelia was annexed to Bulgaria, but remained under the formal suzerainty of the Ottoman Empire.

Turkey suffered two defeats at once. The leaders of the Young Turks opposed the aggression of Austria-Hungary, organized a boycott of Austrian goods. The troops stationed in the European part of Turkey began to be put on alert. The press launched an information war against Austria-Hungary and Bulgaria, they were accused of aggression and the desire to start a war. In a number of cities, protest rallies against the actions of Austria-Hungary and Bulgaria were held.

How Turkish national liberals led the Ottoman Empire to collapse

Demonstration on Sultanahmet Square in Constantinople during the Young Turk Revolution

Counterrevolution and the overthrow of Sultan Abdul-Hamid II

The pro-Sultan forces decided that the moment was convenient for seizing power. The Young Turks were accused of being responsible for the failure of foreign policy. October 7 The 1908 of many thousands, led by mullahs, moved to the Sultan's palace, demanding the abolition of the constitution and the restoration of Sharia. Simultaneously, performances in support of the Sultan were held in other places. The instigators of these protests were arrested.

The struggle is not over. Sultan and his entourage were still hoping to take revenge. They could hope for support 20-th. guards divisions in the capital and other parts, as well as reactionary clergy, which could raise a crowd. The country passed the election to the Chamber of Deputies. Young Turks have got the most - 150 seats from 230. Ahmed Riza Bey became chairman of the chamber. Sessions of the House began on November 15, 1908, and almost immediately became an arena of struggle between the Young Turks and their opponents. The Young Turks tried to keep control of the government. At the same time they lost support among the masses. The non-Turkish peoples of the empire understood that the Young Turks are planning to solve the national problems on the basis of the great-power doctrine of Ottomanism, continuing the policy of the Ottoman sultans. The revolution brought nothing to the peasants. They both were in servitude, and remained. Macedonian peasants, suffering from a three-year crop failure, refused to pay taxes. Hunger began in a number of areas in Eastern Anatolia.

General discontent led to a new explosion. Soon there was a reason for the uprising. 6 April An unidentified uniformed officer in Istanbul killed the well-known political opponent of the Ittihadist journalist and editor of the Ahrar party (Liberals, the party of Prince Sabaheddin, who was previously one of the Young Turks groups) Hasan Fehmi-bey. Istanbul was filled with rumors that the journalist was murdered on the orders of the Young Turks. 1909 April Fahmi Bey's funeral turned into 10-th. a protest demonstration against the policies of the Young Turks. Supporters of the Sultan did not spare the gold and with the help of fanatics from the clergy and officers dismissed by the Young Turks organized a conspiracy.

On the night of 12 on April 13, a military rebellion began. He was started by the soldiers of the Istanbul garrison led by non-commissioned officer Hamdi Yashar. Ulamas with green flags and retired officers immediately joined the rebels. Quite quickly, the rebellion swept the European and Asian parts of the capital. The massacre of the Young Turks began. The Istanbul Ittihadist center was crushed, as were the Young Turk newspapers. Telegraph communication of the capital with other cities of the empire was interrupted. The hunt for the leaders of the Young Turk party began, but they managed to escape to Thessaloniki, where they created a second center of government. Soon almost all of the capital’s units were on the side of the rebels, the fleet also supported the Sultan’s supporters. All government buildings were occupied by supporters of the Sultan.

The conspirators moved to the parliament and forced to collapse the Young Turk government. The rebels also demanded to observe Shari'ah, expel the Young Turks leaders from the country, remove officers who graduated from special military schools from the army and return to the service officers who did not have special education and received the rank as a result of long service. The Sultan immediately accepted these demands and announced an amnesty for all the rebels.

In a number of cities of the empire, this uprising was supported and bloody clashes took place between supporters and opponents of the Sultan. But in general, Anatolia did not keep the counter-revolution. The radical monarchists, the reactionary clergy, the big feudal lords, and the big comprador bourgeoisie did not arouse the enthusiasm of the people. Therefore, the response of the Young Turks who settled in Thessaloniki proved to be effective. The Central Committee of "Unity and Progress", which met almost continuously, decided: "All parts of the army stationed in European Turkey were ordered to immediately move to Constantinople." Thessaloniki and Adrianople army corps became the core of 100-thousand. "Army action", faithful to the Young Turks. The Ittihadists supported the Macedonian and Albanian revolutionary movements, which still hoped for revolutionary changes in the country and did not want the victory of the counter-revolution. Local organizations of the Young Turks in Anatolia also supported the Young Turkish government. They began to form volunteer units that joined the “Army of Action”.

Sultan tried to start negotiations, but the Young Turks were determined to be uncompromising. On April 16, the Young Turks launched an offensive against the capital. Sultan again tried to start negotiations, calling the events of April 13 a “misunderstanding.” Young Turks demanded to give guarantees to the constitutional structure and freedom of work of the parliament. On April 22, the fleet sided with the Young Turks and blocked Istanbul from the sea. 23 April, the army began the assault on the capital. The most stubborn battle broke out on April 24. However, the resistance of the rebels was broken, and 26 April the capital was under the control of the Young Turks. Many rebels hanged. About 10 thousand people sent to the link. 27 April Abdul-Hamid was deposed and deprived of the dignity of the Caliph. He was taken under escort to the area of ​​Thessaloniki, to the Allatini villa. Thus, the 33-year reign of the “bloody sultan” ended.

A new sultan, Mehmed V Reshad, was raised to the throne. He became the first constitutional monarch in stories Ottoman Empire. For the Sultan left the formal right to appoint a great vizier and Sheikh ul-Islam (the title of the highest official on Islam). The real power under Mehmed V belonged to the central committee of the Unity and Progress party. Mehmed V did not possess any political talents, the Young Turks completely controlled the situation.

Franz Joseph and Ferdinand take away the Turkish lands from the helpless sultan. Cover Le Petit Journal from 18 October 1908 g.

Young Turkish Mode

Having defeated the old "dragon", the young Young Turk "dragon", in fact, continued his policy. Modernization was superficial. Taking power into their own hands, the Turkish national liberals quickly broke with the masses, forgot populist slogans, and very quickly established such a dictatorial and corrupt regime that they even surpassed the feudal clerical sultan's monarchy.

Only the first actions of the Young Turks were useful for society. The influence of the court camarilla was eliminated. The personal funds of the former sultan were requisitioned in favor of the state. Sultan's power was severely limited, and the rights of parliament expanded.

However, almost immediately, the parliament passed a law on the press, which placed the entire press under the full control of the government, and the law on associations, which placed the activities of social and political organizations under the public police supervision. The peasants did not receive anything, although earlier they were promised to liquidate the ashar (tax in kind) and the buy-out system. Large feudal land tenure and the cruel exploitation of peasant farms were fully preserved. Ittihadists only carried out a series of partial reforms aimed at the development of capitalism in agriculture (this did not alleviate the situation of the masses, but led to the development of the economy), but these reforms were also interrupted by the war. The position of the workers was no better. A law was passed on strikes, which practically prohibited them.

In this case, the Young Turks took the problem of the modernization of the armed forces seriously. The military reform was carried out according to the recommendations and under the supervision of the German General Colmar von der Goltz (Goltz-Pasha). He has already participated in the modernization process of the Turkish army. From 1883, Goltz was in the service of the Ottoman sultans and was in charge of military schools. The German general accepted the Constantinople military school with 450 students and for 12 years increased their number to 1700, and the total number of cadets in Turkish military schools grew to 14 thousand. As an assistant chief of the Turkish General Staff, Golts drafted the draft law, which transformed the recruitment of the army and issued a number of basic documents for the army (conscription rules, mobilization regulations, charters of field service, internal service, garrison service and the conduct of serf war). From 1909, Golts-Pasha became vice-chairman of the Supreme Military Council of Turkey, and from the beginning of the war he became adjutant of Sultan Mehmed V. In essence, Golts headed the military operations of the Turkish army until his death in April 1916.

Golts and the officers of the German military mission did a lot to strengthen the power of the Turkish army. German companies began to supply the Turkish army with the latest weapons. In addition, the Young Turks reorganized the gendarmerie and the police. As a result, the army, the police and the gendarmerie became powerful strongholds of the Young Turkic dictatorship.

Colmar von der Goltz (1843 — 1916)

The extremely acute nature of the Ottoman Empire took the national question. All hopes of non-Turkish peoples for the revolution finally collapsed. The Young Turks, who began the political path with appeals to the "unity" and "brotherhood" of all the peoples of the Ottoman Empire, once in power, continued the policy of brutally suppressing the national liberation movement. In ideology, the old Ottoman doctrine was replaced by equally rigid concepts of Pan-Turkism and Pan-Islamism. Pan-Turkism as a concept of unity of all Turkic-speaking peoples under the supreme rule of the Ottoman Turks was used by the Ittihadists to implant radical nationalism and justify the need for external expansion, the revival of the former greatness of the Ottoman Empire. The concept of pan-Islamism was needed by the Young Turks to strengthen the influence of the Ottoman state in countries with a Muslim population and to fight the Arab national liberation movement. The Young Turks launched a campaign of enforcing weaning of the population and began to ban organizations associated with non-Turkish ethnic goals.

Arab national movements were suppressed. Opposition newspapers and magazines closed down, leaders of Arab national socio-political organizations were arrested. In the fight against the Kurds, the Turks have repeatedly used weapon. Turkish troops in 1910-1914 Kurdish uprisings in Iraqi Kurdistan, Bitlis and Dersim (Tunceli) were severely crushed. At the same time, the Turkish authorities continued to use wild mountainous Kurdish tribes to fight other nations. The Turkish government relied on the Kurdish tribal elite, which received large revenues from punitive operations. The Kurdish irregular cavalry was used to suppress the national liberation movement of Armenians, Laz and Arabs. Kurdish punishers used and suppressed uprisings in Albania in the 1909-1912 years. Istanbul several times sent large punitive expeditions to Albania.

The Armenian issue was not resolved either, as the world community and the Armenian public expected. Young Turks not only prevented the implementation of long overdue and expected reforms aimed at resolving administrative, socio-economic and cultural issues in Western Armenia, but they continued the policy of genocide. The policy of fomenting hatred between Armenians and Kurds continued. In April, 1909, the Cilician massacre took place, the massacre of the Armenians of the wilayas Adana and Allepo. It all began with spontaneous clashes between Armenians and Muslims, and then turned into an organized slaughter, with the participation of local authorities and the army. About 30 thousand people became victims of the massacre, including not only Armenians, but also Greeks, Syrians and Chaldeans. In general, during these years, the Young Turks set the stage for a complete solution of the “Armenian issue”.

In addition, the national question in the empire aggravated the final loss of European territory in the process of the Balkan wars 1912-1913. Hundreds of thousands of Balkan Muslims (muhajirs - "immigrants") left for Turkey in connection with the loss of territories in Eastern and Southern Europe by the Ottoman Empire. They settled in Anatolia and Western Asia, which led to a significant predominance of Muslims in the Ottoman Empire, although in the middle of the XIX century non-Muslims, according to some estimates, were about 56% of its population. This mass resettlement of Muslims prompted the way out to the Ittihadists: replacing Christians with Muslims. In the conditions of war, this resulted in a terrible slaughter, which claimed millions of lives.

The arrival of the Balkan Muhajirs in Istanbul. 1912

Italo-Turkish war. Balkan Wars

Before its entry into the First World War, the Ottoman Empire experienced a serious shock as a result of the Tripolitan (Libyan or Turkish-Italian War) and the Balkan Wars. Their emergence was triggered by the internal weakness of Turkey, which the neighboring states, including those formerly part of the Ottoman Empire, viewed as prey. Over the ten-year rule of the Young Turks in the country, the 14 governments were replaced, there was a constant internal party struggle in the Ittihadist camp. As a result, the Young Turks could not solve economic, social issues, prepare the empire for war.

Italy, re-created in 1871, wanted to become a great power, expand its small colonial empire, and look for new markets. The Italian invaders had a long preparation for war, beginning to conduct diplomatic preparations for the invasion of Libya in the late XIX century, and the military from the beginning of the XX century. Libya was presented to the Italians as a country with a lot of natural resources and a good climate. In Libya, there were only a few thousand Turkish soldiers who could be supported by the local irregular cavalry. The local population was hostile to the Turks and friendly to the Italians, initially saw liberators in them. Therefore, the expedition to Libya in Rome was seen as an easy military walk.

Italy gained the support of France and Russia. Italian politicians had planned that Germany and Austria-Hungary would also not oppose and protect the interests of Turkey, which they patronized. Italy was an ally of Germany and Austria-Hungary on the basis of a treaty of the year 1882. True, the attitude of Berlin to the actions of Rome was hostile. The Ottoman Empire had long been associated with Germany by military-technical cooperation, close economic ties, and operated in line with German policy. However, Russian diplomats were no joke about the German emperor knowingly: if the Kaiser has to choose between Austria-Hungary and Turkey, he will choose the first one, if the Kaiser will have to choose between Italy and Turkey, he will still choose the first one. Turkey was completely politically isolated.

28 September 1911, the Italian government sent an ultimatum to Istanbul. The Turkish government has been blamed for keeping Tripoli and Cyrenaica in a state of confusion and poverty, and for preventing Italian enterprises. Italy announced that it was going to “take care of the protection of its dignity and its interests” and would begin the military occupation of Tripoli and Cyrenaica. Turkey was asked to take measures to ensure that the event passed without incident and withdraw its troops. That is, the Italians became impudent, not only they were going to occupy the lands of others, but also offered the Ottomans to help them in this matter. The Young Turkish government, realizing that Libya could not be defended, announced through Austrian mediation that it was ready to surrender the province without a fight, but with the condition that the formal Ottoman rule be preserved in the country. Italy refused, and September 29 declared war on Turkey.

The Italian fleet landed troops. Italian 20-th. the expeditionary corps easily occupied Tripoli, Homs, Tobruk, Benghazi and a number of coastal oases. However, the easy walk did not work. Turkish troops and Arab cavalry destroyed a significant part of the original composition of the occupying corps. The combat capability of the Italian troops was extremely low. Rome had to bring the number of the occupying army to 100-thousand. a man opposed by several thousand Turks and about 20 thousand Arabs. The Italians could not control the whole country, having solid ground only in some coastal ports. Such a semi-regular war could drag out for a long time, causing exorbitant costs for Italy (instead of the wealth of the new colony). Thus, instead of the initially planned budget in 30 million lire per month, this “walk” to Libya cost 80 million lire per month for a much longer period of time than expected. This caused serious problems in the country's economy.

Italy, to force Turkey to conclude peace, stepped up its fleet. A number of Ottoman ports were bombed. On February 24, 1912, in the battle of Beirut, two Italian armored cruisers (Giuseppe Garibaldi and Francesco Feruchchio) attacked under the command of Rear Admiral di Rivel without loss, destroyed two Turkish warships (the extremely outdated battleship Auni Allah and the destroyer) , as well as several unarmed transports. By this, the Italian fleet eliminated the phantom threat from the Turkish fleet to the Italian convoys and secured complete supremacy at sea. In addition, the Italian fleet attacked the Turkish fortifications in the Dardanelles, and the Italians occupied the Dodecanese archipelago.

Italian cruisers fire on Turkish ships near Beirut

The situation inside the country also sharply worsened. Political opponents of the Young Turks staged a coup in July 1912. He was led by the Freedom and Consent Party (“Hurriet ve Itilaf”), created in 1911, which included many former ittihadists. She was supported by the majority of national minorities who were cruelly persecuted by the Young Turks. Taking advantage of the failures in the war with Italy, the Ilyafists began a wide propaganda campaign and succeeded in changing the government. In August, 1912, they also achieved the dissolution of the parliament, where the majority was for the Young Turks. At the same time, an amnesty was announced to the political opponents of the Ittihadists. The ittihadists were crushed. The Young Turks did not intend to give in and again moved to Thessaloniki, preparing for a retaliatory strike. In October, 1912, the new government, was led by the Ithleafist Kamil Pasha.

Turkey was finally forced to capitulate by the war in the Balkans. In August, the next uprising of 1912 in Albania and Macedonia began. Bulgaria, Serbia and Greece decided to use the advantageous moment, and add pressure to Turkey. The Balkan countries mobilized their armies and started a war. The reason for the war was the refusal of Istanbul to grant autonomy to Macedonia and Thrace. September 25 (October 8) Montenegro 1912 of the year declared war on Porte. 5 (18) October 1912 of the year Turkey was declared a war by Serbia and Bulgaria, the next day - Greece.

October 5 The 1912 of Ushi (Switzerland) was a preliminary secret, and the October 18 of 1912 in Lausanne was the official peace treaty between Italy and Porto. Tripilania (Trablus) and Cyrenaica (Benghazi) provinces became autonomous and received governors appointed by the Ottoman Sultan in agreement with the Italians. In fact, the terms of the agreement were about the same as those proposed by Turkey at the beginning of the war. As a result, Libya became a colony of Italy. True, the colony did not become a "gift." Italy had to carry out punitive operations against the Libyan rebels, and this struggle continued until the expulsion of the Italian troops in 1943. Italians promised to return the Dodecanese islands, but kept them under their control until the end of the Second World War, after which they went to Greece.

The war in the Balkans also ended in a complete collapse for Turkey. The Ottoman army suffered one defeat after another. In October, 1912, the Turkish troops retreated to the Chataldja line, near Istanbul. 4 November Albania declared independence and went to war with Turkey. December 3 Sultan and the government requested a truce. A conference has gathered in London, but negotiations have failed. The great powers and the victorious countries demanded large concessions, in particular the granting of autonomy to Albania, the elimination of Turkish rule on the islands in the Aegean Sea, the cession to Edirne (Adrianople) of Bulgaria.

The government agreed to peace on such terms. This provoked violent protests in the capital and the province. The Young Turks immediately organized a counter-coup. 23 January 1913, the Ittihadists, led by Enver Bey and Talaat Bey, surrounded the High Porta building and rushed into the hall where the government meeting was held. During the clash, the Minister of War Nazim-Pasha and his adjutants were killed, the Great Vizier, Sheikh-ul-Islami, and the Ministers of the Interior and Finance were arrested. Kamil Pasha resigned. A Young Turkish government was formed. Mahmoud Shevket-Pasha, who used to be the Minister of War at the time of the Young Turks, became the Great Vizier.

Having regained power, the Young Turks tried to achieve a breakthrough in the fighting in the Balkans, but they could not. 13 (26) March fell Adrianople. As a result, the Port went on the signing of the 30 in May of 1913, the London Peace Treaty. The Ottoman Empire lost almost all European possessions. Albania declared itself independent, but its status and borders were to be determined by the great powers. The European possessions of Porta were mainly divided between Greece (part of Macedonia and the region of Thessaloniki), Serbia (part of Macedonia and Kosovo) and Bulgaria (Thrace with the Aegean coast and part of Macedonia). In general, the agreement had a lot of serious contradictions and soon led to the Second Balkan War, but already between the former allies.

Turkey in some way was in the position of the Russian Empire, it could not be fought in any way. The Ottoman Empire could still exist for some time, suppressing brutally national movements, relying on the police, gendarmerie, punitive irregular troops and the army. Gradually carry out reforms, modernize the country. Joining the war meant suicide, which, in fact, eventually happened.

Shooting Turkish infantry at Kumanovo

To be continued ...

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  1. Denis
    Denis 7 November 2014 07: 43
    Liberals always crash
    They can do just that.
  2. parusnik
    parusnik 7 November 2014 08: 14
    In February 1917, other liberals led the Russian empire to collapse, and in 1991 the Soviet empire .. and now they are working hard to break up Russia.
  3. Standard Oil
    Standard Oil 7 November 2014 09: 39
    In general, it is interesting to trace the activities of the liberals in power. Indeed, where they appear inevitably begins chaos and collapse. Even where it is customary to extol their alleged merits to the skies, in fact, they were achieved exclusively by authoritarian or totalitarian methods, just by the liberals who replaced them. was smart enough to calm down his reformatory itch and not touch anything with his dirty hands. In the same Turkey, in order to pull it out of the "swamp" and generally prevent its disappearance from the world map as an independent state, it took Ataturk's tremendous work, who acted by no means democratic methods, but he really brought him out of the very Middle Ages, for which he is still honored there, unlike Russia, in which it is customary to throw mud at its saviors, and while this is happening, nothing sensible from a country called the Russian Federation should be expected.
    1. ilyaros
      ilyaros 7 November 2014 12: 51
      The only question is, would Ataturk bring the country out of the Middle Ages and the swamp if it maintained the scale of the Ottoman Empire and its multinational composition of the population? Atatürk created a national state instead of an empire. It is doubtful that Turkey could develop normally, including not only Asia Minor, but also Arab regions with a completely different language and culture. Most likely, Yemen and other similar regions would act as a ballast hindering any socio-political and economic modernization of the Turkish state, if the empire remained ...
  4. gsg95588
    gsg95588 7 November 2014 10: 40
    It can be concluded: Liberals are universally dangerous for their incompetence.
  5. Alex
    Alex 7 November 2014 16: 36
    In some ways, Turkey was in the position of the Russian Empire; it was in no way allowed to fight. The Ottoman Empire could still exist for some time, suppressing brutally national movements, relying on the police, gendarmerie, punitive irregular troops and the army. Gradually carry out reforms, modernize the country. Entering the war meant suicide, which, in fact, eventually happened.
    Purely theoretically - yes, but only in reality, who will allow a weak state, and even with such a huge territory to calmly solve its problems until it becomes strong? That's just waiting for when it will be possible to cling.

    Here a thought flashed: Poland was not then, but what if it were? Also, probably this European hyena in Turkey seized, or would it hinder the distance? repeat
  6. voyaka uh
    voyaka uh 10 November 2014 00: 05
    The first time I hear that someone is saddened by the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.
    This medieval monster has long been asked to landfill.
  7. Misha
    Misha 25 January 2015 20: 25
    Quote: voyaka uh
    The first time I hear that someone is saddened by the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.
    This medieval monster has long been asked to landfill.

    At one time it was a pretty enlightened state)