The Ottoman Sultans

· 1299-1326 : Osman I
· 1326-1359 : Orhan I
· 1359-1389 : Murat I
· 1389-1402 : Bayezit I
· 1403-1421 : Mehmet I
· 1421-1451 : Murat II
· 1451-1481 : Mehmet II
   the Conqueror
· 1481-1512 : Bayezit II
· 1512-1520 : Selim I
· 1520-1566 : Süleyman I
   the Magnificent
· 1566-1574 : Selim II
· 1574-1595 : Murat III
· 1595-1603 : Mehmet III
· 1603-1617 : Ahmet I
· 1617-1618 : Mustafa I
· 1618-1622 : Osman II
· 1622-1623 : Mustafa I
· 1623-1640 : Murat IV
· 1640-1648 : Ibrahim I

Tuğra of Mahmut II

Coat of Arms of the
Ottoman House

· 1648-1687 : Mehmet IV
· 1687-1691 : Süleyman II
· 1691-1695 : Ahmet II
· 1695-1703 : Mustafa II
· 1703-1730 : Ahmet III
· 1730-1754 : Mahmut I
· 1754-1757 : Osman III
· 1757-1774 : Mustafa III
· 1774-1789 : Abdülhamit I
· 1789-1807 : Selim III
· 1807-1808 : Mustafa IV
· 1808-1839 : Mahmut II
· 1839-1861 : Abdülmecit
· 1861-1876 : Abdülaziz

· 1876 : Murat V
· 1876-1909 : Abdülhamit II
· 1909-1918 : Mehmet V Reşat
· 1918-1922 : Mehmet VI Vahdettin
Birth of the Ottoman dynasty (1299-1923) : about 1300, when the Mongols withdrew from Anatolia, they left behind them small Seljuk emirates and tribes led by chieftains. These newly arrived Turcomans were known as “gazis”, meaning "warriors of the faith". One of these chieftains was Osman, the founder of the "Osmanli" (Ottoman) dynasty. In 1299, Osman declared the independence of his beylik from the Seljuk Sultanate of Rum and he laid the foundations of a gazi state whose major mission was military conquest. His successor, Orhan I, who established the "Divan" (Council), was the first ruler to use the title of sultan since it had been left vacant with the extinction of the last Seljuk sultan in 1308. Orhan I took Bursa (1326) where he established the first Ottoman capital.
In a short time, the Ottomans started a vertiginous expansion of their domains, and undertook the annexation of the beyliks (Turkish emirates) which was achieved in the beginning of the 16th century.

Osman I

Expansion of the Empire : in 1353, by taking Gallipoli, for the first time the Ottomans got a foothold in Europe, blockading the Strait of the Dardanelles. In 1365, Adrianople was taken by Murat I and became their second capital under the name Edirne. In 1376, Murat I established the janissary corps (see below). In 1389, he captured Sofia and Serbia at the Battle of Kosovo. Proclaimed sultan on the battlefield upon his father's death, Bayezit I, known as “Thunderbolt”, achieved the conquest of Bulgaria and Serbia. In 1397, he laid the first siege to Constantinople (1397) which was lifted in 1400 upon the arrival of Tamerlane (Timur Lenk) who had founded a Turkish empire in the East, and who overran Anatolia, trying to restore and become allied to the emirates annexed by the Ottomans. He captured Bayezit at the Battle of Ankara (1402) who, forced to follow his victor, died (a suicide according to some accounts) in captivity in Aksehir. After eight months spent in Anatolia, Tamerlane went back to Samarkand (he died in 1405 when he was about to invade China), leaving behind him two of the sultan's sons who gave themselves over to merciless fghts for the succession to the throne.

Bayezit proclaimed sultan - miniature

After a period of interregnum (1403-1413), Mehmet I, emerged as the winner, restored the Ottoman power in Anatolia and had good relations with Emperor Manuel II. When Murat II succeeded to his father in 1421, war started again between the Turks and the Byzantines.

On May 29 1453, Mehmet II conquered Constantinople and pronounced that the city would be the last capital of the Ottoman Empire. In 1461, the harbours of the Black Sea, partly under Genoese control, fell as well as Trebizond where the Comneni had maintained their dynasty. Mehmet II also extended and reinforced his predecessors' conquests in the Balkans (Serbia, Bosnia and Herzogovina, Albania 1456-1467) and seized the Crimea (1475).

Mehmet II The Conqueror
entering Constantinople - Zonaro

The "devsirme" : Murat II and Mehmet II the Conqueror developed the "devsirme" (established by Murat I), a system of recruiting young Christian males between eight and seventeen years old, who were going to be converted to Islam and owe absolute allegiance to the sultan. Brought before the sultan, they were selected according to their qualities and physique. The best of them we sent to the palace school where they received the best available education in the high Islamic tradition. The elite was destined for the highest offices in the Empire, which could open the way to the supreme position of grand vizier (sadrazam) at the head of the government and military. Those not selected for the palace school received a more basic education marked with folk Islamic culture. Most of them were trained to serve the Ottoman army, forming the sultan's elite infantry corps called the Janissary Corps .



Mehmet II

The janissaries (in Turkish “yeniçeri”, meaning new soldier) composed the first Ottoman standing paid army (1376), replacing Turcoman tribal levies whose loyalty could not always be trusted. They became the Ottoman dynasty's tremendous instrument of conquest and power. The janissaries' training and daily life were regulated by a strict discipline (they were not allowed to marry) but in return for their loyalty and devotion they were granted privileges like good living standards, a respected social status, exemption of taxes, a share of the booty during campains, pensions for those retired or invalidaded... They were fervent Moslems and had privilegiate relations with the mystic order of the Bektasi Dervishes. With time, the janissaries became a powerful institution and influenced the government's policies. The
huge cauldron used to make pilaf rice had a special symbolic significance for the janissaries who, whenever they demanded a change in the sultan's Cabinet or the head of a Grand Vizier, would overturn it (the expression "overturning the cauldron" is still used to indicate a rebellion in the ranks). The janissaries defended their own interests, obtaining higher wages and the lifting of celibacy obligation. By late 16 th century, the importance of the “devsirme” diminished after free Muslim Turkish males were allowed to enroll, and janissaries had started to enroll their own sons, making membership to the corps largely hereditary. By the beginning of the 18 th century, the devsirme system was finally abandoned. From the 17 th century, the janissaries engaged in palace coups, deposing, sometimes violently, sultans and elevating to the throne another one of their choice. In peace time they could work as law-enforcers or as tradesmen, developing a social and family life. As a result, their effectiveness as combat troops decreased. They revolted each time attempts were made to reorganize and modernize the army. Their last revolt occured on June 14 1826, but the next day Sultan Mahmut II abolished the corps and had 6,000 janissaries massacred in their barracks. The others were imprisoned or banished and their possessions were confiscated.

The relatively peaceful reign of Bayezit II (1481-1512) was marked by a few expeditions in the Aegean Sea against the Greek harbours still held by the Venetians (fall of Lepanto in 1499, Modon and Coron in 1500). Ships were sent in order to aid the Moslems and Jews of Spain harassed by the Inquisition Court. The Moslems were conveyed to the coasts of North Africa where the Ottomans established bases. The Jews were conveyed to Istanbul and Salonika which had been captured in 1430.
The great conquests started again under Selim I (1512-1520), known as “the Cruel”, who eliminated his brothers in order to secure his sole authority. The holy war on the Shiite Safavid dynasty come to power in 1501 in Persia, and the Çaldiran Victory enabled the annexation of Eastern Anatolia (Armenia, region of Diyarbakir). Owing to the campain he led between 1515-1517, Selim I made the Empire the first Muslim power: he crushed the Mamelukes at Merdj Dabıq near Aleppo, capturing Syria, Palestine. The Battle of Ridaniyeh led to the fall of Cairo and the annexation of Egypt as well as the Hijaz where the two holiest cities of Islam, Mecca and Medina, are located. Having won the title of "Protector of the Holy Places" Selim I and his successors took advantage of this position to add the title of Caliph to that of Sultan.
Selim I also managed to prevent Portugal to establish a monopoly over the spice trade, as Portuguese fleet had began to shut down shipping routes between India, southern Arabia and Egypt that supplied the Ottoman spice trade.

Selim I

Admiral Piri Reis, an important navigator and cartographer who, in 1513, drew a map of the coasts of America discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1492, took part to the Campain of Egypt. In his "Treatise on Navy", he discribed and drew maps of the Mediterranean coasts, the course of the Nile and the city of Cairo.



The reign of Süleyman I (the longest in the Ottoman Empire, from 1520 until 1566 when he died while on campaign in Hungary), known as Süleyman the Magnificent, saw the apogée of Ottoman power. The sultan was also called “Kanuni ” the lawmaker, because he organized the state and society making numerous laws. Under his reign, the Empire was the first power in Central Europe as well as the Mediterranean and Orient, and acted as an arbiter in western Europe between Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and Francis I of France, with whom a treaty was signed in 1536, conceding commercial privileges to the French in exchange for an alliance against the Habsburgs. Süleyman fought thirteen campains, conquired Belgrad (1521), Rhodes (1522), brought a great part of Hungary into subjection following the Battle of Mohacs when Buda and Pest were captured (1526), but also unsuccessfuly besieged Vienna (1529). His duel with Tahmasb Shah, the rival Persian Safavid dynasty ruler, provoked three important campains ending with the Peace Treaty of Amasya (1555) which ensured the possession of Eastern Anatolia, Azerbaidjan, Tabriz and Bagdad to the Empire. He also established Ottoman naval supremacy in the Mediterranean by taking Algier and Tunis (1535). Barbaros Hayrettin Pasha (Barbarossa Khayr al-Din Pasha), who was a Turkish corsair reigning over Algier, became Great Admiral of the Turkish fleet in 1534 and defeated Charles V's armada at the Preveze naval battle (1538). The end of Süleyman's reign was marked by continual fights with Charles V for the possession of Hungary, and his failure facing the Knights of Malta (including many of the Knights released after the sultan's victory over Rhodes) who were cutting off Ottoman sea routes.


Süleyman the Magnificent
Miniature - the Belgrad Campain

The artistic apogée : in the 16th century, under the reign of Süleyman, a pleiad of artists of all kinds appeared: architects, glass artists, ceramists, calligraphists, miniaturists, silver and goldsmith... If sculpted decorations declined since the Seljuk period, on the contrary inside wall decoration increased with the use of the beautiful Iznik and Kütahya tiles. Mosques grew in number, especially with the works of the great architect Sinan. Sinan was born a Greek Orthodox Christian in Ağırnaz, a village near Kayseri in about 1490. He entered his father's trade as a stone mason and carpenter. In 1512, according to the devsirme system, he was enrolled in the Ottoman army. Following a period of schooling and rigorous training, Sinan became a military engineer, participated in many campaigns and started to build bridges and fortifications.


Because of his exceptional talents, in 1538 he was appointed "Mimarbasi", Chief of the Imperial Architects, a post he held under three sultans: Süleyman the Magnificent, Selim II and Murat III. Until his death in 1588, Sinan built over four hundred buildings such as mosques, palaces, hospitals, hammams, schools, medreses, caravansarais, granaries, fountains, aqueducts.
Sinan's three most famous works are: the sehzade Mosque which he regarded as the work of an apprentice, the Süleymaniye Mosque which he regarded as the work of a mason, and the Selimiye Mosque which he regarded as the work of a master.
The Türbe of Sinan is situated behind the Süleymaniye Mosque.

Under Selim II, the invasion in 1570 of Cyprus, which was the last Christian stronghold in eastern Mediterranean, led to the formation of an alliance between pope Pius V, King Philip II of Spain and the Republic of Venice. On October 7 1571, the Ottoman fleet was defeated for the first time at Lepanto naval battle (at the mouth of the Gulf of Patras) by the Holy League
(which disintegrated at the death of the Pius V) commanded by Don Juan of Austria. Among the wounded allied combatants was the famous Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes who lost the use of his left arm. Only Commander Kiliç (Uluç) Ali Pasha succeeded to escape and bring back to Istanbul eighty seven ships, fourty two of which composed his own squadron. The Lepanto disaster, where a hundred and fourty two vessels were destroyed, marked the end of Turkish naval supremacy in Mediterranean, although early in June 1572, Kiliç Ali Pasha took again the lead of the fleet reconstituted with two hundred and fifty ships.

Lepanto naval battle

Ottoman practices of succession: according to the Ottoman system, and that of their Turkish ancestors, each individual in the hereditary line, brothers and sons, were equally entitled to the crown. Ottoman princes, called Şehzade, were sent off to the provinces (sanjaks) in the company of their tutors to learn the business of government. When a sultan, or Padishah , passed away, the crown fell to the most worthy successor, in fact almost always the eldest son, although the heirs often fought for the sultanate. In order to obviate rebellion or rival claims to the throne, in 1512, Selim I established the practice of killing the brothers of the sultan and their sons (careful to leave at least one alive as a possible successor) by having them strangled with a silk lace. In 1603, Ahmet I put an end to this practice. As the sultans still distrusted their loyalty, they locked their brothers in the harem of the palace. They lived in luxury but in isolated conditions and many of them became fat and lazy, addicted to alcohol, or went mad. No wonder that those who happened to be assigned to rule, made bad sultans. In addition, the sultans gave up leading their armies during military campains and abandoned the practice of training their sons by sending them to the provinces. Instead, princes were kept in a special place in the palace called " kafes" (the "cage"), where they generally spent their days in idleness among the women of their harems. As a result, when they came to the throne they had no practical experience in governing. After the reign of Süleyman the Magnificent, there was sometimes a lack of candidates who were of age to assume the sultanate. Under such circumstances, power had to go somewhere. During the period known as "the Sultanate of the Women", when the political impact of the harem was strongly felt, the mothers (Valide Sultan) of young sultans exercised power in the name of their sons; on the other hand, the janissaries slowly took over the military and administrative posts in the government and passed these offices on to their sons, mainly by bribing officials.

igns of the beginnings of the decline of the Empire appeared from 1579, due to interdependent factors such as ineffective sultans manipulated by their mothers, wives and grand viziers, fight for power, revolts of the janissaries whose influence in the affairs of State increased continually, corruption...

War against Austria was started again by Murat III. In 1606, the Peace of Svitvatorok, which stipulated that the Emperor and the Sultan were of equal status, was signed by Ahmet I following the Ottoman military failure, but also because a mobilization of the army was necessary to put down the Celali uprisings in Anatolia. These popular uprisings against excessive taxation levied by feudal lords, threatened the State and caused large-scale destruction of the countryside and the towns.

Ahmet I
Young and inexperienced Osman II, who attempted to make deep reforms, was the first sultan deposed and killed by the janissaries who put on the throne Mustapha I for the second time, then in 1623 Murat IV, while he was still a child. His mother, Sultana Kösem, supported by the grand vizier, exercised power but corruption, internal troubles and rebellions in the provinces increased day by day. Seizing power in 1632 through a coup d'état, Murat IV got rid of the influence of the harem and ruled with an iron hand, restoring peace and public order.
The Safavid Persians, taking advantage of the unstable situation, recaptured Bagdad in 1624. In 1638, the recapture of Bagdad by Murat IV put an end to a war with Iran that lasted for fifteen years. In order to commemorate his victories in Iraq and Armenia, the sultan built the Bagdad Kiosk (1638–39) and the Revan Pavilion (1635–36) in Topkapi Palace.

Murat IV

The internal situation deteriorated again under Ibrahim I as the janissaries gained authority. Under Mehmet IV, in the second half of the 17th century, two efficient grand viziers, the Köprülüs (the father, Mehmet Pasha, was succeeded by his son Fazil Ahmet Pasha ), redressed the situation in a spectacular way. With the capture of Ukraine from Poland, the victories won against the Venetian navy and the conquest of Crete (1668), the Köprülü revived the vigor and pride of the Ottoman Empire. Their successor, Kara Mustafa Pasha of Merzifon, following the failure of the second siege of Vienna in 1683, was executed by Mehmet IV's order during the Ottoman army's retreat.

The Ottoman Empire in the 17th century
1686 - 1792 – Decline of the Ottoman Empire : the end of the 17 th century and the beginning of the 18 th century were marked by a succession of military setbacks. After evacuating Hungary in 1686, the Ottomans signed the Treaty of Carlowitz with Austria (1699) ratifying the loss of Transylvania: the Empire was forced for the first time to relinquish territory. Süleyman II, Ahmet II and Mustafa II had to face a new adversary, Russia which allied itself with Austria. Peter the Great (1682-1725) started the conquest of the Crimea, at the time a possession of the Ottomans who counterattacked. War broke out, but their defeat and the Treaty of Prut (1711) halted for some time the Russian attempts for an openining onto the Black Sea. With the Treaty of Passarowitz (1718), the Empire lost, in favor of Austria, new territories, including Belgrade, which were partly recovered with the Treaty of Belgrade (1739).
Under Ahmet III, after a period of lull corresponding to the artistic Tulip Period (Lale Devri 1718-1730), war, raging again, brought victories to the enemies of the Empire. Mahmut I started hostilities again in Caucasus, but peace was signed with Persia in 1746. Under Abd-ül-Hamit I, the State suffered and economic crisis and had to face the repeted assaults of Russia which became the main adversary of the Ottomans who offered to make peace. With the Treaty of Kaynarca (1774), Russia won access to the Black Sea and Straits, which was a major step to its expansionism policy. Russia also obtained the right to examine the fate of the Orthodox populations of the Empire, that were numerous in the Balkan regions. A few years later in 1783, Russia annexed the Crimea. From 1787 to 1792, war started again between Russia and the Ottoman Empire which suffered even more losses.
Caftan with a design of tulip
First attempts towards modernization were made, from the end of the 18th century and during the 19th century, by enlightened sultans such as Selim III (1789-1807) who opened new military schools and reorganized the military with the help of French instructors, but failed to replace the Janissaries who overthrew him. Mahmut II (1808-1839) abolished the Janissary Corps (1826) opposed to any kind of reforms, having a large number of them killed. He reorganized the army modeled after the new military institutions in the western countries, introduced European clothing and replaced the traditional turban by the fez. Ministries were established instead of the Divan. In spite of all this, Mahmut II had to face difficult challenges all along his reign.

Mahmut II wearing fez
and European clothing
In 1798, Napoleon Bonaparte occupied Egypt and the Ottomans did not regain control of the province until 1801, after Mehmet Ali Pasha was sent to resist the French army. He became Ottoman governor (viceroy) of Egypt, managed to become virtually independent of the Ottoman sultan, and even exterminated the Mameluk leaders (1811). Mahmut II had promised to make him governor of Syria in exchange for his intervention in the Greek revolts. After Mehmet Ali's fleet was sunk at Navarino (1827) by the British, French and Russians, the sultan refused to hand over the province. Mehmet Ali invaded Syria and Asia Minor (1831) but threatened by the Europeans, he was forced to desist. In a compromise arrangement, Mahmut II acknowledged Mehmet Ali as hereditary sovereign of Egypt.

The deposition by Selim III of the pro-Russian governors of Moldovia and Walachia led to the Russo-Turkish War of 1806–1812. In 1821, the Greek War of Independence began. Mahmut II having refused an armistice demanded by Britain, Russia, and France, their allied fleets defeated the fleet of Mehmet Ali, but only Russia, however, declared war in 1828. Defeated, the Ottomans accepted the Treaty of Adrianople by which Russia was granted more territory on the Black Sea, Serbia attained its autonomy in 1829, and Greece its independence in 1830.
The Crimean War : Russia, whose major ambition was to capture Constantinople and control the Straits, tried to obtain more concessions from the Ottomans, but the Empire was supported by France and Britain who needed its survival for the international political balance. When Russia's claim to guardianship of the Holy Places in Palestine was turned down by France and the Ottoman government, in July 1853 Russia retorted by occupying the Ottoman vassal states of Moldavia and Walachia. In October, the Crimean War broke out when the Ottomans declared war on Russia. When the Russians sank the Ottoman fleet at the naval battle of Sinop, Great Britain, France and Piedmont, concluding that Russian expansion had to be halted, intervened militarily in March 1854. Austria remained neutral, but by threatening to enter the war on the Ottoman side, forced Russia to evacuate Moldavia and Walachia. Tsar Alexander II's accession to the throne and the capture of Sevastopol by the allied troops led to peace negotations. They resulted in the Treaty of Paris (February 1856) that recognized the independence and integrity of the Ottoman Empire and made the Black Sea neutral and closed to all warships.

The Ottoman bankruptcy and public debt: the Empire emerged from the war economically exhausted. The financial situation was disastrous, corruption generalized, public revenue was partly mortgaged to the benefit of the administrators of the Ottoman Debt who represented its foreign creditors. Britain, France and Austria having invested a great deal of resources in the Crimean war, and not wishing to come to the aid of the faltering Empire again, sent businessmen and administrators to reform and rebuild the economy. But the Empire was struck by the impact of western capitalism of the time. After the Vienna stock market crashed on May 9 1873, taking with it the economy of Europe, the money and loans from abroad stopped flowing into the Ottoman capital and the government entered a financial crisis. By this time, the Empire was known as "the sick man of Europe". An agreement was reached in 1881, setting up the Public Debt Administration consisting of Ottoman and European representatives. This arrangement subjected the Ottomans to foreign financial control from which they failed to free themselves, in part because of continued borrowing.
The "Tanzimat" reform period, which lasted from 1839 to 1876, saw great changes: under Abdülmecit ( 1839-1861) two decrees, one in 1839 the other in1856, containing an important program of civil reforms known as "Tanzimat", were issued. A national bank was created; administration was modernized; justice was partially secularized; all citizens were proclaimed equal before the law with no discrimination of the religion.

Dolmabahçe Palace built under Abdülmecit
Abdülaziz (1861-1876) was the first sultan to travel to Europe. Invited by Napoleon III, in June-July 1867 he attended the World Exhibition in Paris. He then visited Queen Victoria in London, Wilhem I in Prussia, Franz Joseph I in Vienna. Within the framework of the Regulation for Public Education, a modern free compulsory education system was established for all children until the age of twelve. In September 1868, the famous Ottoman Imperial Lycée of Galatasaray was opened. French was the main language of instruction, most of the teachers were foreign, and the student body included members of all religious communities. In addition, numerous private schools were established by the religious minorities and foreign missionaries.


The construction of a railroad was started to (the Orient Express) and within Anatolia (Aegean region). But the fact that Abdülaziz spent a great deal of the money coming from the loans from European banks on the imperial family's account, building and furnishing kiosks and palaces to rival the ones in Europe, was his ruin. Under his reign, the Liberal Party was formed by Mithat Pasha , the leader of the revolution, who deposed the sultan.

Abdülhamit II (1876-1909) succeeded Murat V who was in turn shortly deposed because of his insanity. Mithat Pasha, as grand vizier, secured the promulgation of the first Turkish constitution (1876-77). But the external and domestic crises early in his reign convinced the sultan that only strong, centralized government could rescue the empire from collapse. Abdülhamit II soon dismissed Mithat Pasha, dissolved the parliament and replaced it by a strict absolutism. The sultan lived in virtual isolation in the Palace of Yildiz and would only see a few trusted advisors. Harsh internal measures were taken, including bureaucratization of the government, the establishment of a secret police organization and a system of censorship. The sultan who led a life of religious observance, unlike his predecessors in the 19 th century, presented himself as the chief protector of the Moslems and developed a Pan-Islamic policy.

The Russo-Turkish War of 1877–78
broke out as a result of the anti-Ottoman uprisings in Hercegovina and Bosnia (1875) followed by Bulgaria and Sebia, territories of the Balkans whose population was mostly Slav as were the Russians. Concerned by the increasing Russian influence, the European great powers convened the Congress of Berlin to revise and alter the desastrous Treaty of San Stefano of 1878, to which the Ottomans had been forced by Russia, and which deprived the Empire of most of their European territories. As a result, Russia acquired Ardahan, Batum, and Kars in northeastern Anatolia; Romania (Walachia and Moldavia), become independent, was forced to cede South Bessarabia to Russia in return for the Dobruja; Serbia and Montenegro became also independent; Bosnia and Hercegovina passed under Austro-Hungarian administration; Greater Bulgaria was reduced to an independent principality in the north, and the Ottomans regained possession of Eastern Rumelia (formerly Southern Bulgaria which was annexed again by Bulgaria in 1885) and Macedonia. Britain was allowed to occupy and administer Cyprus in return for a pledge to defend the Ottomans against Russia.
Otto von Bismarck was the one who forced many of the major concessions upon Russia. This led to close Germano-Turkish relations. The visit of Kaiser William II to Istanbul strengthened the ties between the Empire and the Germans who saw economic interests and became the chief providers of weapons and training to the Ottoman army.

Abdülhamit II's reign saw further territorial losses, including the loss of Tunisia to the French in 1881, and Egypt to the British in 1882. In 1897, the Greeks declared war on the Ottomans following an insurrection in Crete and the proclamation by the rebels of union with Greece. Defeated, Greece asked for European intervention. As a result, Greece was forced to pay war indemnities but Crete gained its autonomy and thousands of Muslim refugees from Crete and Greece fled to western Anatolia.

The Revolution of the Young Turks was provoked by the implacable brutality of despotic Abdülhamit, known as “the red sultan”, and the intensifying internal repression. A liberal opposition movement, the "Young Turks Party" mainly composed of intellectuals and army officers, organized as the "Committee for Union and Progres". The Young Turks started a revolution (1908) to compel the sultan to restore the 1876-77 constitution and parliamentary government. In 1909, with the complicity of the sultan, an attempt by a conservative Muslim group to a counter-revolution led the Young Turks to depose Abdülhamit.

Abdülhamit's brother, Mehmet V, succeeded to the throne, but it was Enver Pasha (he formed a triumvirate with Talat and Cemal Pashas) who virtually held power. He suppressed all opposition parties and by 1914 controlled practically all the seats in the parliament as well as all ministries, establishing an authoritarian regime.

The success of the Young Turks opened the way for a series of profound changes. Efforts were made towards modernization with a particular attention given to urbanization, industry, agriculture, secularization of the state as well as emancipation of women (opening of schools to women and progresses made in women's rights).

The Young Turks bringing
Mehmet V to power
Collapse of the Empire : the new government was plagued with external threats. In 1911-1912, Italy occupied Tripoli and Cyrenaica (Lybia), the last Ottoman tatters in Northern Africa, and also captured the Dodecanese Islands. Following a revolt of Abanian nationalists in Kosovo, Albania proclaimed its independence in 1912. Except for the east of Thrace, Imbros (Gökçeada) and Tenedos (Bozcaada) Islands located off the Dardanelles, the Empire's European possessions were lost during the two Balkan Wars (1912-1913) launched by Bulgaria, Serbia, Montenegro, and Greece which finally annexed Crete .
Because of close relations with Germany, the continuous enmity towards Russia and the loss of Ottoman territory in the Balkan Wars, in November 1914, Enver Pasha brought the Empire into World War I. Having taken Germany and Austria-Hungary's sides, the Turks shared the defeat of the Central Powers in spite of a victorious resistance, under the command of Mustafa Kemal, against the Anglo-French Dardanelles landings (1915). In 1914-1915 eastern Anatolia (Caucasus) was invaded by the Russians supported by Armenian volunteers. But Russia had to give up the war due to the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, and the Peace Treaty of Brest-Litovsk (March 3, 1918) insured the evacuation of the provinces of eastern Anatolia and the return of Ardahan, Batum, and Kars.
Mustafa Kemal Pasha
(standing in the center)
during the Dardanelles War
In 1917, the British captured Baghdad, Jerusalem and Damascus. Intelligence officer T.E. Lawrence (better known as Lawrence of Arabia) urged the leaders of Yemen, Hijaz and Palestine to rebel and coordinate their revolt to aid British interests.

With the Armistice Treaty of Moudros (30 October 1918), the Entente Cordiale Powers were given the right to occupy the entire Ottoman territory which they started to share: in 1918-19, the British occupied Mosul, then in southeastern Anatolia Kilis, Antep, Maras and Urfa which were given to the French who had already occupied Mersin and Adana. The Italians occupied the Aegean region, Mugla, Antalya, Burdur, Konya. The Greeks landed at Izmir on May 15, 1919.
Mehmet VI (1918–22), the last Ottoman sultan, capitulated to the Allies who occupied Istanbul on Mart 16, 1920. He consented to the extremely harsh Treaty of Sèvres which liquidated the Ottoman Empire and virtually abolished Turkish sovereignty.
After six centuries of existence, the Ottoman Empire had collapsed.

The Armenians : in 1894-1896, already backed up by Russia, nationalist revolutionary committees fomented riots which first aimed to bring the Ottomans to react to the violence and then to induce foreign powers to intervene. The repressions of the Ottomans caused the Armenians to start emigrating world-wide. During World War I, Russia, that had always dreamt of openings on the Mediterranean, invaded the eastern part of Anatolia. Under the pretext of a great united Armenia, Russia armed and led the Ottoman Armenians into rebellion. In spring 1915, Armenian revolutionary bands burnt villages populated by Moslems in the province of Van. They also seized Van and delivered the city to the Russian army. These events gave rise to Turkish reprisals with actions aiming at putting an end to the nuclei of revolt and to get the Armenians away from all areas where they might hamper and undermine the moves of the Ottoman army against the Russians or against the British. The Ottoman government took a decision fraught with consequences for both sides by transfering, until 1917, about 700,000 Armenians from the provinces of Van, Bitlis, Erzurum, from the districts of Adana, Mersin, Kozan, Maras, Iskenderun, Antakya, from the province of Aleppo, to central and eastern Syria and northern Irak.

pilogue: Modern Turkey's history begins with Mustafa Kemal, the leader of the Turkish nationalists, who refused to accept the terms of the Treaty of Sèvres and organized resistance. A rival government was formed in Ankara and the Grand National Assembly abolished the sultanate on November 1, 1922. The deposed sultan, Mehmet VI, fled on November 17, 1922 (he died in exile in San Remo on May 16, 1926 but was buried in Damascus). The next day he was deposed as caliph, in which capacity he was succeeded by his cousin, Abdülmecit. Following the proclamation of the Turkish Republic (October 29, 1923) the caliphate was abolished (Mart 3, 1924) and all members of the Ottoman House were exiled.