Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Ottoman Empire

The Ottoman Empire (Ottoman Turkish: دولت عليه عثمانيه Devlet-i Âliye-i Osmâniyye; literally, "The Sublime Ottoman State"), also sometimes known in the West as the Turkish Empire. At the height of its power in the 16th and 17th centuries, its territory included Anatolia, the Middle East, parts of North Africa, and much of south-eastern Europe to the Caucasus. It comprised an area of about 5.6 million km² (though if adjoining territories where the empire's suzerainty was recognised, dominated mainly by nomadic tribes, are included it controlled a much larger area). The empire interacted with both Eastern and Western cultures throughout its 624-year history.

In the 16th and 17th centuries, the Ottoman Empire was among the world's most powerful political entities, with the powers of eastern Europe constantly threatened by its steady advance through the Balkans, the Kingdom of Hungary and the southern part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Its navy was also a powerful force in the Mediterranean. On several occasions, the Ottoman army invaded central Europe, laying siege to Vienna in 1529 and again in 1683 in an attempt to conquer the Habsburg domain, and was finally repulsed only by great coalitions of European powers at sea and on land. It was the only non-European power to seriously challenge the growing influence of the West between the 15th and 20th centuries, eventually becoming an integral part of European balance of power politics, hence blurring the distinctions.

The dissolution of the empire was a direct consequence of World War I, when the Allied Powers defeated the Central Powers in Europe as well as the Ottoman forces in the Middle Eastern theatre. At the end of the war, the Ottoman government collapsed and Ottoman territory was divided among the victorious powers. Subsequent years saw the creation of new states from the remnants of the Ottoman Empire, the Republic of Turkey among them. The new republic declared most of the former ruling elite, including the Ottoman Dynasty, persona non grata. In 1974, after 50 years, the Grand National Assembly of Turkey granted the right to re-acquire Turkish citizenship to the descendants of the former ruling dynasty, (Ertuğrul Osman V, head of the House of Ottoman, repatriated in 2004).


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