To the 15th century

Ancient Anatolia: to the 11th century AD

Anatolia, linking Asia and Europe, has a long and distinguished record as a centre of civilization - from one of the world's first towns (Catal Huyuk), through the successive periods of Hittites and Trojans, Ionians and Lydians, Romans and Byzantines.

But the region acquires its present identity and name, as Turkey, more recently - with the arrival of Turkish tribes to confront the Byzantine empire in the 11th century AD.

Byzantines and Turks: AD 1064-1071

In 1064 the Seljuk Turks, under their sultan Alp Arslan, invade Armenia - for many centuries a disputed frontier region between the Byzantine empire and neighbours to the east. Alp Arslan follows his success here with an attack on Georgia, in 1068. These acts of aggression prompt a response from the Byzantine emperor, Romanus IV Diogenes.

The armies meet in 1071 at Manzikert, near Lake Van. The battle, a resounding victory for the Seljuks, is a turning point in the story of the Byzantine empire. Within a few years there are Turkish tribes in many parts of Anatolia. Some of them are bitter enemies of the Seljuks, but the Seljuks are now the main power in this borderland between Islam and Christianity.

Throughout the 12th and 13th century Anatolia is in turmoil. Turkish tribes fight among themselves. The Byzantines try to recover their land. Crusaders, passing through and from 1204 occupying Constantinople, complicate the picture.

But the new and overriding feature is that Anatolia is now largely occupied by Turks. This fact enters the languages of the period. In addition to its many other names, the region begins to be referred to as Turkey - the land of the Turks. The new identity survives the arrival of the Mongols in the 13th century and the end of the Seljuk dynasty in the early 14th century. By then another Turkish tribe, the Ottomans, are making their mark.

Seljuks and the sultanate of Rum: 11th - 13th century AD

Rum, meaning Rome, is the word used by the Turks for Byzantium (whose officials still describe themselves as Romans, in keeping with the origins of the Byzantine empire). Pressing deep into Anatolia, after the victory at Manzikert in 1071, the Seljuks reach Konya in the following year and Nicaea, much closer to Constantinople, in about 1080. They make Nicaea their capital until it is recovered by the Byzantines during the first crusade, in 1097. In 1099 Konya, strategically placed in the centre of Anatolia, becomes the Seljuk capital.

The Seljuks describe their new territory, at the heart of the old Byzantine empire, as the sultanate of Rum.

Throughout the 12th and 13th century Anatolia is in turmoil. Turkish tribes fight among themselves. The Byzantines try to recover their land. Crusaders, passing through and from 1204 occupying Constantinople, complicate the picture.

But the new and overriding feature is that Anatolia is now largely occupied by Turks. This fact enters the languages of the period. In addition to its many other names, the region begins to be referred to as Turkey - the land of the Turks. The new identity survives the arrival of the Mongols in the 13th century and the end of the Seljuk dynasty in the early 14th century. By then another Turkish tribe, the Ottomans, are making their mark.

The Ottoman Turks: 13th - 14th century AD

During the 13th century, when many Turkish emirates are being established in Anatolia, a petty chieftain by the name of Ertughrul wins control over a limited area around Sögüt, between Ankara and Constantinople. He is succeeded in about 1285 by his son Osman, whose name is a Turkish version of the Arabic Othman. Through Osman, seen later as founder of the dynasty, his people become known as the Ottoman Turks.

Most of the Turks of Anatolia live in a style in keeping with their origins, as fierce nomads of the steppes. Riding out to war is their everyday activity. But they are also keen Muslims. They see themselves as ghazi, an Arabic word for warrior but with religious connotations.

Turks setting out on a ghaza (armed raid) are indulging in an expedition of plunder but also in a jihad (holy war). It is a potent combination. The enfeebled Byzantine empire to the west of their territory - crippled, ironically, by the Christian Fourth crusade - provides the Ottoman Turks with a natural target.

Progress is at first slow. The Ottoman horsemen lack the equipment to take fortified Byzantine towns. Instead they plunder the surrounding countryside, effectively strangling their victims into submission. Bursa, the first important Byzantine stronghold to the west, falls to them in 1326, the year of Osman's death.

After the fall of Bursa the Ottoman advance quickens. Nicaea yields in 1331 and Nicomedia in 1337. In that direction a narrow neck of land leads directly to Constantinople, but the Ottomans prefer a roundabout route. In 1354 they cross into Europe at the other end of the sea of Marmara, capturing Gallipoli. Eight years later Adrianople falls to them, severing the main route westwards from Constantinople.

A stranglehold is being applied to the Byzantine capital itself, but the Turks look first for plunder in an easier direction. They continue westwards into the Balkans, where their successes prompt the formation of the formidable Ottoman fighting force known as the janissaries.

The Turks in the Balkans: AD 1389 - 1402

A victory at Kosovo in 1389 brings Serbia under Ottoman control as a vassal state. The Ottoman sultan Murad I dies on the battlefield of Kosovo and is succeeded by his son Bayazid I, whose name Yildirim ('Thunderbolt') reflects his early military successes. The Slav kingdom of Bulgaria is fully occupied by 1393. In the following year Bayazid begins the long expected blockade of Constantinople. A Hungarian army marching as a crusade against the Turks is heavily defeated at Nicopolis in 1396. Meanwhile the sultan campaigns south into Greece. But then the Balkans and Constantinople are given a sudden reprieve.

Bayazid is confronted by a major threat in Anatolia - the arrival of Timur.

The Battle of Ankara: AD 1402

After destroying Baghdad in 1401, Timur turns his attention to Anatolia. He finds that several emirs are willing to side with him against the Ottoman Turks. Bayazid's armies have been extending the Ottoman empire to the east as well as the west. But his victims to the east have been fellow Muslims, not Christians. There is resentment to be tapped, not that Timur needs much in the way of assistance.

Bayazid meets the threat near Ankara, where his army is heavily defeated. Captured in the battle, he dies as Timur's prisoner in 1403 (legend later provides the indignity of an iron cage).

Shifts of fortune: from AD 1402

The Ottoman domain shrinks drastically after Bayazid's defeat and capture by Timur in 1402. The many small emirs of Turkey reassert their independence, as do the Balkan states. The three sons of Bayazid are left with only the family's central territories round the southern and western sides of the sea of Marmara. They fight each other in a civil war which is won by the youngest, Mehmed I, in 1413.

From this unpromising position, the son and grandson of Mehmed (Murad II and Mehmed II, whose combined reigns span nearly seventy years) achieve an astonishing recovery for the Ottoman state - posing an ever greater threat to the Byzantine empire.

Murad patiently reasserts control over much of western Anatolia, and makes equivalent headway in the Balkans. Serbia is brought back into the Ottoman fold (Murad marries a Serbian princess in 1433). Much of Bulgaria also is recovered. A strong counter-attack down the Danube in 1443 by an army of Hungarians and Poles is at first successful, until the Ottoman Turks win a decisive victory at Varna in 1444.

This steady process is continued by Murad's son, Mehmed II.

Mehmed II conquers Athens and almost the whole of the Greek peninsula in 1458-60. He then engages in a prolonged war with Venice, winning many valuable ports along the Adriatic coast. In 1463-4 he captures Bosnia where a large number of nobles convert to Islam, unlike neighbouring Serbia which remains largely Greek Orthodox - a distinction with resonance in more recent history. By the time of Mehmed's death, in 1481, Anatolia has also been recovered. Even regions north of the Black Sea are vassal states.

But the achievement which gives Mehmed his title of Fatih (Conqueror), and his secure place in history, has been his capture in 1453 of Constantinople.

Fall of Constantinople: AD 1453

A month after his twenty-first birthday, in April 1453, Mehmed II applies to Constantinople the stranglehold which has been a tacit threat for nearly a century, ever since the Ottoman capture of Adrianople (Edirne in its Turkish name) in 1362. He initiates a tight blockade of the city by both sea and land.

The inhabitants, as often before, place their faith in their immensely strong city walls. Only on the harbour side are these walls vulnerable, and the harbour (the long creek known as the Golden Horn) is protected by a great chain preventing enemy ships from entering. But the young sultan has an answer to that.

At dawn, one Sunday morning in May, the defenders on the walls are surprised to see Muslim ships in the harbour. During the night they have been dragged on wheeled carriages, on a temporary wooden roadway, over a 200-foot hill. Over the next few days cannon are moved into place, including one 19-ton bombard. At sunset on May 28 the attack begins. Every bell in the city rings the alarm. Santa sophia is full of people praying and singing Kyrie Eleison (Lord, have mercy).

By dawn the Turks are in the city. The last Byzantine emperor, Constantine XI, has died in the fighting.

Mehmed, the sultan, goes straight to Santa sophia to hear a proclamation from the pulpit - that there is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet. The great church, for many centuries the most magnificent in Christendom, now begins its career as a mosque. And Constantinople gradually acquires a new name; the urban area, widely referred to in everyday Greek as eis tin polin (in the city), becomes Istanbul.

The Ottoman army is allowed Three days of pillage (a depressing convention of medieval warfare), but Mehmed keeps it under tolerable control. He has acquired a capital for his empire. He intends to preserve and improve it.

In an honourable Muslim tradition, he plans a multicultural and tolerant city. The population is much reduced, after decades of fear and uncertainty, so Mehmed brings Greeks from the Aegean (soon another part of his domain) to revive the place. The Greek Orthodox patriarch is left in charge of his flock. And when the Jews in spain are expelled, in 1492, many of them come to Istanbul where it is official policy to welcome them.

Mehmed launches into a busy building programme, founding several mosques and beginning Topkapi Sarayi in 1462 as his own palace. Constantinople, transformed into Istanbul, is set to be a great imperial centre again. It has exchanged one empire for another, Byzantine for Ottoman.

16th - 18th century

Suleiman the Magnificent: AD 1520-1566

The heyday of the Ottoman empire is the long reign of Suleiman I, great-grandson of Mehmed ii. His Christian enemies know him even during his lifetime as 'the Magnificent', recognizing his Conquests on land and the Turkish might at sea (which enables Muslim corsairs, under Turkish patronage, to dominate the Mediterranean and seize the Barbary coast). At the same time magnificence is reflected in the buildings added to Istanbul and Edirne by Suleiman and his architect, Sinan.

Within Turkey the epithet for Suleiman is Kanuni, 'the Lawmaker', in recognition of his efforts to turn his growing empire into a just and well-administered domain.

Sinan: 16th century AD

The career of Sinan, Turkey's most distinguished architect, provides an intriguing example of the blend of cultures in this great Muslim empire which has displaced a very ancient Christian one.

Sinan is born in 1489, son of a Christian stonemason in one of the Turkish provinces. As a young man he is taken, as part of the human tax imposed on the Christian communities, to serve the sultan as one of the janissaries. He prospers in his new profession, rising to high rank in the army. He becomes particularly well known for the military bridges and fortifications which he constructs.

From about 1535, when Sinan is in his late forties, his career changes direction. The sultan, Suleiman I, puts him to work on civil projects. In the remaining years of a long life, Sinan is astonishingly productive. His buildings are said to include 79 mosques, 34 palaces, 33 public baths, 19 tombs, 62 schools and 12 caravanserais.

Whatever the truth about such broad claims, the more important fact is that Sinan's best buildings are masterpieces. Three in particular stand out. Two are in Istanbul - the Sehzade mosque (completed in 1548) and the mosque of Suleiman I (1550-57). The mosque of Sultan Selim in Edirne (the Ottoman capital before the Capture of constantinople) is completed in 1575.

Each of these mosques is the centrepiece of a broader religious institution. The outstanding example is the complex of Suleiman I in Istanbul. In addition to the mosque itself, with its courtyard for worship, Sinan's buildings here include schools, hostels, kitchens, a hospital, shops, a wrestling ground and a Turkish bath.

In each complex of this kind the central architectural feature is a great dome above the internal part of the mosque. Unlike the Domes of india or Persia, Sinan's do not have a high profile when seen from outside. Instead they emerge gently from an embracing cluster of smaller domes and half domes.

This treatment of a cluster of domes reveals another link between Christianity and Islam in Turkey. The dominant building of Istanbul, situated close to the sultan's Topkapi palace, is the great mosque which was once the central church of the Byzantine empire - Santa sophia.

This ancient Christian building is Sinan's inspiration. His adaptation of it sets the pattern for Turkish mosques, as is seen today in Santa sophia's younger neighbour. Between 1609 and 1616 a superb mosque in Sinan's style is built beside Santa sophia, almost as a twin. It is the mosque of Sultan Ahmet, designed by Mehmed Aga and now widely known, from the tiles of its interior, as the Blue Mosque.

Pampered heirs: 17th century AD

In both Turkey and Persia a major change is made in royal protocol during the first half of the 17th century. The development is the same in each place, and it has a profound effect on future sultans and shahs.

In Turkey it has been an official policy of state for each new sultan, on achieving power, to kill his brothers and nephews. Without a system of primogeniture, the crown goes to the strongest among the candidates within the ruling family. Once a winner has emerged, this drastic measure is a way of ensuring an untroubled reign. The sultan Mehmed III, winning power in 1595, murders his unusually large family of nineteen brothers.

In Persia this principle of violence is not enshrined in law, but in practice the result is similarly brutal. Shah Abbas, ruling in the early 17th century, blinds and imprisons his deposed father, his two brothers and one of his sons.

Shah Abbas in Persia and his contemporary, Ahmed I, in Turkey independently put in place a more merciful system. Abbas decrees that in future all royal princes will live in the harem, out of harm's way, until such time as the ruling shah dies. Ahmed's solution in Turkey is similar, but each prince here is to have a pavilion of his own in a walled garden (the merciful Ahmed was five, in 1595, when his father killed his nineteen uncles).

The result is the same in both empires. Less royal blood is shed but the standard of leadership declines. Sultans and shahs, previously on the battlefield from their teens, learning the harsh ways of the world, now emerge in a state of sheltered ignorance to take up the responsibilities of power. The politics of the harem impinge upon, and sometimes even replace in importance, the politics of the real world (see Harems and Eunuchs).

In Persia the Safavids retain the throne for a century after this change. In Turkey the royal line survives three times as long, to the end of the Ottoman empire. But the heyday of each dynasty has passed.

Threat from the north: 17th century AD

From the establishment of the Ottoman empire, in the 15th century, Turkey has confronted a large imperial power to the west (Austria) and another to the east (Persia). From the 17th century there is pressure also from the north.

During the early 17th century the Russian empire expands at astonishing speed eastwards through Asia. Now, in the last decade of the century, a Russian emperor becomes determined to win access to both the Baltic and the Black Sea. Of the two, Peter the Great focuses first on the Black Sea region - where the local Tatar khan has the Turkish emperor in Istanbul as his overlord.

Azov: AD 1695-1696

Peter's first military campaigns indicate vividly the character of the man. He is irked, like his predecessors, by Russia's lack of a port on any sea (except the White Sea in the north, frozen for much of the year). He selects the fortified town of Azov as a suitable target. If he can take this from the Crimean Tatars, it will give him access to the sea of Azov and thus to the Black Sea. As the Tatars are Muslim vassals of the Turks, he will also be striking a blow for Christendom.

In the summer of 1695 he leads a large Russian army to the south. For two months they besiege Azov without success. By the end of November the young tsar is back in Moscow.

Peter's reaction to this total failure is characteristic. He organizes a rapid and astonishing response, gathering some 26,000 craftsmen and labourers in and around Voronezh. This is a town in a forested region on a tributary of the river Don, which reaches the sea at Azov. During the winter of 1695-6 Peter's labourers fell trees, drag them to new timber yards, saw them into planks and assemble them into ships. The tsar, in whose childhood the pleasures of carpentry and boating have featured prominently, now toils in the yards alongside his work force.

By April two warships, four fire-ships, twenty-three galleys and many smaller boats are ready for launching.

In mid-May the tsar and his fleet set off downstream towards Azov. This time, when they reach the fortress, Russian naval power prevents Turkish relief from arriving by water. In July Azov surrenders.

This brilliant revenge for last year's failure gives Peter more ambitious ideas. He decides to visit the most powerful European nations to enlist support against the Turks. At the same time he will be able to oberve at first hand details of western technology which may be of use to Russia. The proposed expedition becomes known as the Grand Embassy.

Peter the Great's proposal for concerted action against the Turks stands little chance of success in a western Europe obsessed with preparations for local hostilities (the War of the spanish succession, the Northern war). His response is to divert his own efforts to the Baltic.

The Turks recover Azov in 1711. They lose it to Russia again in 1739, but apart from this incident they remain relatively untroubled by Russia's imperial ambitions until the second half of the 18th century. By that time the fortunes of war are going increasingly against Turkish interests.

Russo-Turkish wars: AD 1768-1792

Russia's interest in reaching the Black Sea, attempted but not lastingly achieved by Peter the great, is furthered in two wars at the end of the 18th century. A conflict of 1768-74 brings Russian successes in several battles and leads to important concessions. Russia gains fortresses to west and east of the Crimean peninsula, together with the right to maintain a fleet in the Black Sea.

Moreover the Turks grant Russia the right of protection over all Christians within the European parts of the Ottoman empire. The meaning of this is rather vaguely specified, but it will give the Russians a useful pretext for future intervention in the Balkans.

The Tatar khan ruling the Crimea is declared in the same treaty of 1774 (that of Kuchuk Kainarji) to be independent of Turkey. Catherine the Great takes this as a pretext for annexing his valuable Crimean peninsula in 1783, a period when Russia is at peace with Turkey.

War breaks out again in 1787. Again Russia prevails. A treaty signed in January 1792 at Jassy leaves the northern coast of the Black Sea in Russian hands from the Dniester river to the Kerch Strait. Having won a role in the Baltic in the early part of the century, Russia now also has access to the Mediterranean through the Black Sea. Meanwhile valuable new acquisitions have again been made in the Baltic region, at the expense of Poland.

19th century

The Eastern Question: 19th century AD

The most insoluble and dangerous topic of European diplomacy during the 19th century acquires a broad name - the Eastern Question. It refers to the danger posed by the weakness of the Ottoman empire, with the sultans in Istanbul proving unable to control the vast empire assembled by their more warlike ancestors.

The 'Porte', also known as the 'Sublime Porte', becomes a familiar element in western diplomacy during the century. It is the term conventionally used for the Turkish government, being a translation into French of the phrase used by the Turks themselves for the 'lofty gateway' which gives access to the sultan and his officials.

The intrinsic danger in the Eastern Question is not the internal threat posed to the sultans. It is the risk of war between the western European powers (Britain, France, Austria, Russia and subsequently Germany) as each nervously tries to ensure that none of the others gains any advantage from the potential crumbling of Turkey.

The greatest fear in western Europe is that Russia, Turkey's nearest neighbour, will continue the process (begun successfully during the 18th century) of expanding south in the Black sea region and will possibly even reach Istanbul - a gateway of immense strategic importance between the Balkans and Asia.

Russia is closely involved in the two Balkan liberation movements of the early 19th century, in Serbia and Greece. Russian imperial ambitions in this area benefit from a cloak of idealism. The majority of Christians living under Ottoman rule are Orthodox rather than Catholic. As the leading Orthodox power, Russia can claim a natural right to their protection - a fact recognized by Turkey in the 1774 treaty of Kuchuk kainarji.

The weakness of the Ottoman empire (a state described by the tsar Nicholas I in 1844 as 'the sick man of Europe') provides constant opportunity for western involvement. And the presence of Christians offers a permanent pretext to take an active interest in Turkish affairs.

To add to these other elements, there is one all-important means of achieving power in the region. It derives from the geographical features linking the Mediterranean and the Black sea. A narrow strait, the Dardanelles, gives access from the Aegean to the sea of Marmara. Another narrow strait, the Bosphorus, leads on past Istanbul and into the Black sea.

Warships can pass through these channels only by agreement with Turkey or by controlling the banks on either side. Yet the freedom to do so is a major strategic advantage. The Straits become the military and the diplomatic focal point of the Eastern Question.

The Straits Convention: AD 1841

In 1833 Russia wins a hidden advantage over the other European powers. In a secret clause of a treaty signed at Unkiar Skelessi the Turks grant an eight-year agreement that in a crisis the Straits will be closed to all warships except those of Russia.

By the time the eight years are up, Russia is more concerned to ensure peace in the region than to gain an advantage. Like the other western European powers, the tsar feels that the safest course is to prop up the sick man of Europe rather than risk dismemberment. The result of this consensus is the Straits Convention, agreed in London in 1841 between Britain, France, Prussia, Austria, Russia and Turkey.

There are two main agreements in the Straits Convention. One is that no nation's warships will pass through the Straits in time of peace. This is a major concession by Russia, since it is much more important for her ships to be able to get out of the Black Sea and into the freedom of the Mediterranean than for those of any other nation to make the opposite journey. Indeed only by this route can Russia's Baltic and Black Sea fleets make contact.

The other important clause in the convention is that no nation will seek to have exclusive influence within the Ottoman empire.

In the general spirit of goodwill in 1841 the Russian tsar, Nicholas I, informs the Austrians that he sees the Danube as a dividing line between them. His interests are only in the Danubian principalities north of the river. The rest of the Balkans, down to the Adriatic, he regards as their concern.

This attitude suggests a spirit of European cooperation but not much underlying respect for Ottoman rights. Nevertheless it preserves peace in the Balkans for more than a decade. Unrest during the revolutionary year of 1848 is suppressed by joint action between Russia and Turkey. But cooperation is disrupted from 1852, when the old issue of Christians within the Ottoman empire sets in train a process leading to the Crimean War.

The Holy Places: AD 1852

Of the many Christian sites within the Ottoman empire, by far the most significant are those in Palestine - in particular the church of the Holy sepulchre in Jerusalem and the church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

In recent decades, as a result of pressure from Russia, the Turks have granted custody of these churches to Orthodox priests, to the exclusion of Catholics. But early in 1852 Napoleon iii (starting a ten-year presidency of France) sees in this issue an opportunity to cut a dash on the international stage in the manner of his famous uncle, while at the same time pleasing his Roman Catholic constituents in France. He demands that the sultan (Abd-ul-Mejid I) restore Roman Catholic rights in the Holy Places.

Napoleon's demands provoke a strong diplomatic response from Russia. An emissary arrives in Istanbul to insist that the sultan follows the letter of the Kuchuk kainarji treaty, allowing Russia to protect all Christians in the Ottoman empire. This in turn alarms the western European powers, who fear that Russia is trying to re-establish a special and exclusive influence over Turkey in defiance of the terms of the Straits convention.

In a familiar pattern, small precautionary steps soon escalate into an increasingly dangerous mood of confrontation.

The steps to war: AD 1853-1854

News that Russia's Black Sea fleet has been put on alert at Sebastopol is followed, in June 1853, by the despatch of British and French fleets to a rendezvous just outside the Dardanelles. Early in July the Russians take the opportunity, as on so many previous occasions, of occupying the Danubian principalities of Moldavia and wallachia.

Intense diplomacy is undertaken to try and avert war, until the Turks themselves force the issue. In August the sultan announces that he will himself now care for the Christians in his empire, excluding even the Russians from this role. In October, sensing the chance of British and French support against his traditional enemy, the sultan takes a further step. He gives Russia two weeks to withdraw from Moldavia and wallachia. When they fail to do so, he declares war. The Crimean War has begun.

A Turkish army crosses the Danube in an attempt to liberate the principalities. The Russian fleet responds by destroying a Turkish squadron at Sinop on the southern shore of the Black Sea.

After several weeks of hesitation, Britain and France decide to send their warships through the Straits with the intention of confining the Russian fleet to its base at Sebastopol. They enter the Black Sea early in January 1854. This clear challenge to Russia is followed by an ultimatum that tsar Nicholas I must withdraw his armies from Wallachia and Moldavia. Receiving no response, Britain and France formally join Turkey's war against Russia in March 1854.

In spite of this, the early summer of 1854 is spent in continuing diplomacy. The allies are eager to involve Austria in their joint effort against Russia. They succeed to the extent that Austria, as the immediate neighbour of the principalities, demands in June that Russia withdraw from Wallachia and Moldavia. The tsar calls everyone's bluff by agreeing to do so. In August the Russian armies pull back, thus belatedly fulfilling the terms of the earlier British and French ultimatum.

There is no reason for the war not to end at this point except that the British and French governments, having whipped up public opinion, need a victory. They have already decided to destroy the Russian naval base at Sebastopol.

Balaklava and Inkerman: AD 1854

A British and French army lands near Sebastopol in September 1854. During the next eight weeks there are three battles with Russian forces, at the river Alma in September, at the allies' supply port of Balaklava in October and at Inkerman on the heights just outside Sebastopol in November.

Alma is an allied victory but brings little advantage in the central purpose of seizing the fortified port of Sebastopol. The other two battles are inconclusive, with very heavy casualties - Balaklava also being famous in British history for the disastrous Charge of the Light Brigade.

The failure of the allies to capture Sebastopol by the time of the engagement at Inkerman, in November, has a significant result. The British and French troops must dig in for a bitterly cold winter if they are not to be withdrawn in ignominious failure.

The recent heavy casualties and the harsh conditions begin a tale of horror which has often been matched in previous wars. But this time there is a difference. Recent advances in communication mean that the details of the war are available within days, in graphic detail, in British homes.

Treaty of Paris: AD 1856

The siege of Sebastopol drags on painfully through the winter of 1854-5 and the following spring and summer. Eventually the Russians abandon the city, in September 1855. But the allied forces are in too weak a condition to puruse them northwards into Russia. With little achieved, but with another winter approaching, everyone is inclined to peace. Talks begin in Paris in February 1856.

The resulting treaty removes much of Russia's special position in relation to Turkey. The joint European powers will from now on safeguard both the Holy places and the Danubian principalities. The Straits convention of 1841 is restored, but Turkey and Russia alike are to be limited to minimal naval forces in the Black Sea (a restriction lifted in 1871).

Young Ottomans and Turks: AD 1876-1909

In the years after the Crimean War there are attempts at reform within the government of Turkey - sometimes briefly successful, but for the most part frustrated by a blend of incompetence and reaction on the part of the sultan Abdul-Aziz and his entourage.

The most successful reformer is Midhat Pasha, who in May 1876 persuades the cabinet to join him in deposing Abdul-Aziz. The sultan's nephew Murad, placed on the throne in his place, turns out to be insane and lasts only three months. Murad is succeeded in August 1876 by his brother, Abdul-Hamid II, whose reign lasts until 1909. But the events in the Balkans in this year of 1876 overshadow even these internal upheavals.

At the end of the ensuing Balkan wars, in 1878, the Congress of berlin grants either autonomy or full independence to many parts of European Turkey. At the same time other regions of the Ottoman empire are being taken out of Turkey's immediate control. Cyprus, for example, is placed in British hands in 1878. Egypt is moving in the same direction. The empire is visibly crumbling.

The chaos of these years, combined with the mood of the times elsewhere in Europe, prompts the creation of a secret revolutionary society. Calling themselves the Young Ottomans, the rebels agitate for constitutional government. They are openly involved in the peaceful coup of 1876 which topples Abdul-Aziz.

A constitution is set in place in 1876 but is suspended in 1878. The rule of the new sultan, Abdul-Hamid, becomes increasingly dictatorial. With censorship and repression on the increase, the Young Ottomans continue their secret activities. An offshoot, founded in Salonika in the 1880s, calls itself Ittihad ve Terraki (Union and Progress). Its members, with affiliated societies soon established elsewhere in Turkey, become known as the Young Turks.

The activities of the Young Turks are transformed from theory into effective political action in the summer of 1908 when officers of the Turkish army in Macedonia join the society in Salonika. Among their number is the young Mustapha Kemal, later better known as Atatürk.

In July 1908 these officers lead an armed uprising which is immediately echoed elsewhere in the empire. Before the end of the month the sultan agrees to restore the constitution of 1876, with immediate plans for an elected parliament in Istanbul. This concludes what has been a bloodless coup.

The sudden existence of a democratic assembly in Istanbul has repercussions elsewhere (including the Austrian annexation of Bosnia-hercegovina), and in 1909 an armed counter-revolution breaks out. It is successfully put down by the Young Turks, its only result being the deposition of the reactionary sultan Abdul-Hamid. He is replaced on the throne by his brother as Mohammed V.

20th century

A crescendo of war: AD 1911-1914

The new constitutional government in Istanbul is soon confronted by war on several fronts, as enemies circle for the next bite of the crumbling Ottoman empire.

Austria's unopposed seizure of Bosnia-Hercegovina in 1908 perhaps inspires the king of Italy with similar ambitions on the north African coast. In 1911 Italian forces occupy the Turkish provinces in the region now known as Libya. The small Christian countries in the Balkans also sense their chance. Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria, recently independent of Turkey, join forces in 1912 to extend their frontiers at the expense of their previous overlord.

Warfare has barely ceased in the Balkans when a much wider conflict erupts, from within the same region, in 1914. There is much debate in Turkey as to how the nation should be positioned in the coming world war. Russia and Italy (Turkey's oldest and most recent enemies) are allies, so it is inconceivable that Istanbul should side with them. Neutrality or support for the Central powers (Germany and Austria-Hungary) are the only options.

An event decides the issue. The Germans have lent two warships and their crews to the Turkish navy. After the outbreak of war, these ships shell Russian targets in the Black Sea. In retaliation Russia declares war on Turkey, in November 1914, followed the next day by France and Britain.

This History is as yet incomplete.
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