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Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Fall of the Ottoman Empire

Tulips and Kaiser Wilhelm Fountain
Tulips and Fountain

On Remembrance Day, this is a post about the Fall of the Ottoman Empire as a result of World War I…

Dolmabahçe Palace on a Binge

For a long time, the Ottomans no longer raided neighbouring states during annual campaigns to benefit the treasury.  Sultan Ahmed II was the last to wage a campaign and he did not fare too well.  

To improve morale and national pride, Sultan Ahmed II spent millions on one of the most famous and beautiful mosques in the world, appropriately named Sultan Ahmed Mosque but better known as the Blue Mosque. 

Dolmabahçe Sarayı
Dolmabahçe Palace on a Binge
Between the years 1843 and 1856, Sultan Abdülmecid I built the Dolmabahçe Palace.  The post Bosphorus on a Budget, Palace on a Binge discussed how the $1.5 billion Palace bankrupted the Ottoman Empire. 

Ottoman finances were further depleted due to the costs of the Balkan Wars in 1912-13. 

The Kaiser Wilhelm Fountain

Fountain in the Hippodrome

By the turn of the 20th century, the Ottoman Empire was under threat.  The Ottomans lost a war with Russia in 1878 in which the Russians supported nationalist movements in the Balkans and Caucasus.  Bulgaria, Serbia and Montenegro freed themselves of 500 years of Ottoman rule.  The United Kingdom took over Cyprus (which landed in more conflict later).

The British and French wanted to divide the Ottoman Empire between them. For that reason, the Ottomans sought an alliance with Germany.  The German Fountain ("Kaiser Wilhelm Fountain") an octagonal domed fountain in neo-Byzantine style, which was constructed by the German government in 1900 to mark the German Emperor Wilhelm II's visit to Istanbul in 1898, is located at the northern entrance to the Hippodrome - Off to the Races  area, right in front of the Blue Mosque.

Neo-Byzantine Dome
It was constructed to commemorate the second anniversary of German Emperor Wilhelm II's visit to Istanbul in 1898.  Think of it as how to flatter your sultan into an alliance with Germany.  It was built in Germany, then transported piece by piece and assembled in its current site in 1900.  The neo-Byzantine style fountain's octagonal dome has eight marble columns.

Ribbed Roof Holds
Golden Mosaics Better
The dome's interior is encrusted with gold mosaics made famous by the Byzantine artists.  As described in Chora Church's Amazing Mosaics, the gold is gold leaf sandwiched between two layers of clear glass.  The extensive use of gold evoked the spiritual splendour of the Kingdom of God.

There are eight monograms in the arch stonework and they represent the political union of Abdülhamid II and Wilhelm.  In four of these medallions, Abdülhamid II’s tughra is written on green background, and in other four Wilhelm’s symbol, "W" is written on a Prussian blue background.  In addition, over the "W" there is a crown and below it an "II". 

Water not Oil

The Emperor's primary motivation for visiting the Ottomans was not water, it was oil.  The Germans wanted to construct the Baghdad Railway, which would run from Berlin to the Persian Gulf and the oilfields in Mosul – part of Iraq now but part of Ottoman Empire then. 

The Ottomans lost a big battle in the Balkan War in 1912 leading to the loss of 85% of their European territories.  As World War I loomed, the Ottomans sought protection but were rejected by Britain, France, and Russia.  That was because the British and French had designs on the Middle Eastern part of the Ottoman Empire.  They made the secret Sykes–Picot Agreement defining their proposed spheres of influence and control in the Middle East.
School Kids in the Hippodrome

Austria-Hungary occupied Bosnia and Herzegovina as a result of the 1878 conflict ending their dream of independence.  This is significant as Austria-Hungarian Emperor Franz Josef's assassination in Bosnia supposedly triggered World War I.  This was not the real cause of World War I but that was the view then and something still taught in school.  The real reason was the desire for resources and territory by the imperial powers.

Ottoman Kaş
Ottoman Kaş

The Ottomans finally formed an alliance with Germany that committed them to support Germany during World War I.  This led the 17,000 ANZAC  troops (Aussie and Kiwi Army Corps) to attack Gallipoli in Turkey. Even though the Turks suffered higher casualties, they successfully defended the Dardanelles Strait and thus Istanbul. 

During World War I, the western Allies and especially Britain, had promised Greece territorial gains at the expense of the Ottoman Empire.  But Germany lost and this led to the dismantling of the Ottoman Empire and the birth of modern Turkey as described in the post Tracing Your Talisman in Kaş. 

How interweaved we are.  So as we reflect on Remembrance Day, let us remember that World War I was fought to make certain countries richer and more powerful but also lead to the birth of a new country, Turkey.  
Next Post:  almost the end