Rise of nationalism in the Ottoman Empire

The rise of the Western notion of nationalism under the Ottoman Empire eventually caused the breakdown of the Ottoman millet concept. An understanding of the concept of the nationhood prevalent in the Ottoman Empire, which was different from the current one as it was centered on religion, helps us to understand what happened during the decline of the Ottoman Empire.


Ideas of nationalism began to develop in Europe long before they reached the Ottoman Empire. Some of the first effects nationalism had on the Ottomans had a lot to do with the Greek War of Independence. The war began as an uprising against the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. At the time, Mehmet Ali who was a former Albanian mercenary, was ruling Egypt quite successfully. One of his biggest projects was creating a modern army of conscripted peasants. The Sultan commanded him to lead his army to Greece and put a stop to these uprisings. At the time, nationalism had become an established concept in Europe and certain Greek intellectuals began to embrace the idea of a purely Greek state. Most of Europe greatly supported this notion, partly because ideas of Ancient Greece mythology were being greatly romanticized in the Western world. Though the Greece at the time of the revolution looked very little like the European view, most supported it blindly based on this notion.

Mehmet Ali has his own motives for agreeing to invade Greece. The Sultan promises Ali that he would make him Governor of Crete, which would increase Ali's status. Ali's army had considerable success in putting down the Christian revolts at first, however before too long the European Powers intervened. They endorsed Greek nationalism and pushed both Ali's army and the rest of the Ottoman forces out of Greece.

The instance of Greek Nationalism was a major factor in introducing the concept to the Ottomans. Because of their failure in Greece, the Ottomans were forced to acknowledge the changes taking place in the West, in favor of Nationalism. The result would be the beginning of a defensive developmentalism period of Ottoman history in which they attempted to modernize to avoid the Empire falling to foreign powers. The idea of nationalism that develops out of this is called Ottomanism, and would result in many political, legal, and social changes in the Empire.


The 1877–1878 Russo-Turkish War dealt a decisive blow to Ottoman power in the Balkan Peninsula, leaving the empire with only a precarious hold on Macedonia and the Albanian-populated lands. The Albanians' fear that the lands they inhabited would be partitioned among Montenegro, Serbia, Bulgaria, and Greece fueled the rise of Albanian nationalism. The first postwar treaty, the abortive Treaty of San Stefano signed on March 3, 1878, assigned Albanian-populated lands to Serbia, Montenegro, and Bulgaria. Austria-Hungary and the United Kingdom blocked the arrangement because it awarded Russia a predominant position in the Balkans and thereby upset the European balance of power. A peace conference to settle the dispute was held later in the year in Berlin.


Main article: Arab nationalism
Soldiers of the Sharif of Mecca carrying the Arab Flag during the Arab Revolt of 1916–1918.

Arab nationalism is a nationalist ideology that arose in the 20th century[1] mainly as a reaction to Turkish nationalism. It is based on the premise that nations from Morocco to the Arabian peninsula are united by their common linguistic, cultural and historical heritage.[1] Pan-Arabism is a related concept, which calls for the creation of a single Arab state, but not all Arab nationalists are also Pan-Arabists. In the 19th century in response to Western influences, a radical change took shape. Conflict erupted between Muslims and Christians in different parts of the empire in a challenge to that hierarchy. This marked the beginning of the tensions which have to a large extent inspired the nationalist and religious rhetoric in the empire’s successor states throughout the 20th century.[2][3]

A sentiment of Arab tribal solidarity (asabiyya), underlined by claims of Arab tribal descent and the continuance of classical Arabic exemplified in the Qur'an, preserved, from the rise of Islam, a vague sense of Arab identity among Arabs. However, this phenomenon had no political manifestations (the 18th-century Wahhabi movement in Arabia was a religio-tribal movement, and the term "Arab" was used mainly to describe the inhabitants of Arabia and nomads) until the late 19th century, when the revival of Arabic literature was followed in the Syrian provinces of the Ottoman Empire by discussion of Arab cultural identity and demands for greater autonomy for Syria. This movement, however, was confined almost exclusively to certain Christian Arabs, and had little support. After the Young Turk Revolution of 1908 in Turkey, these demands were taken up by some Syrian Muslim Arabs and various public or secret societies (the Beirut Reform Society led by Salim Ali Salam, 1912; the Ottoman Administrative Decentralization Party, 1912; al-Qahtaniyya, 1909; al-Fatat, 1911; and al-Ahd, 1912) were formed to advance demands ranging from autonomy to independence for the Ottoman Arab provinces. Members of some of these groups came together at the request of al-Fatat to form the Arab Congress of 1913 in Paris, where desired reforms were discussed.


Until Tanzimat reforms were established, the Armenian millet was under the supervision of an Ethnarch ('national' leader), the Armenian Apostolic Church. The Armenian millet had a great deal of power - they set their own laws and collected and distributed their own taxes. During the Tanzimat period, a series of constitutional reforms provided a limited modernization of the Ottoman Empire also to the Armenians. In 1856, the Hatt-ı Hümayun promised equality for all Ottoman citizens irrespective of their ethnicity and confession, widening the scope of the 1839 Edict of Gülhane.

To deal with the Armenian national awakening, the Ottomans gradually gave more rights to its Armenian and other Christian citizens. In 1863 the Armenian National Constitution (Ottoman Turkish:"Nizâmnâme-i Millet-i Ermeniyân") was the Ottoman Empire approved form of the "Code of Regulations" composed of 150 articles drafted by the "Armenian intelligentsia", which defined the powers of Patriarch (position in Ottoman Millet) and newly formed "Armenian National Assembly".[4] The reformist period peaked with the Constitution, called the Kanûn-ı Esâsî (meaning "Basic Law" in Ottoman Turkish), written by members of the Young Ottomans, which was promulgated on 23 November 1876. It established freedom of belief and equality of all citizens before the law. The Armenian National Assembly formed a "governance in governance" to eliminate the aristocratic dominance (Amira) of the Armenian nobles by development of the political strata among the Armenian society.[5]

Bosnian muslims

Main article: Bosnian uprising

The Ottoman Sultans attempted to implement various economic reforms in the early 19th century in order to address the grave issues mostly caused by the border wars. The reforms, however, were usually met with resistance by the military captaincies of Bosnia. The most famous of these insurrections was the one by captain Husein Gradaščević in 1831. Gradaščević felt that giving autonomy to the eastern lands of Serbia, Greece and Albania would weaken the position of the Bosnian state, and the Bosnian muslims. The situation worsened when the Ottomans took 2 Bosnian provinces and gave them to Serbia, as a friendly gift to the Serbs. Outraged, Gradaščević raised a full-scale rebellion in the province, joined by thousands of native Bosnian soldiers who believed in the captain's prudence and courage, calling him Zmaj od Bosne (dragon of Bosnia). Despite winning several notable victories, notably at the famous Battle of Kosovo, the rebels were eventually defeated in a battle near Sarajevo in 1832 after Gradaščević was betrayed by Herzegovinian nobility. Husein-kapetan was banned from ever entering the country again, and was eventually poisoned in Istanbul. Bosnia and Herzegovina would remain part of the Ottoman empire until 1878. Before it was formally occupied by Austria-Hungary, the region was de facto independent for several months.


Hristo Chernopeev's band (in 1903), which will be part of march to Constantinople in deposing the Countercoup (1909)

The rise of national conscience in Bulgaria led to the Bulgarian revival movement. Unlike Greece and Serbia, the nationalist movement in Bulgaria did not concentrate initially on armed resistance against the Ottoman Empire but on peaceful struggle for cultural and religious autonomy, the result of which was the establishment of the Bulgarian Exarchate on February 28, 1870. A large-scale armed struggle movement started to develop as late as the beginning of the 1870s with the establishment of the Internal Revolutionary Organisation and the Bulgarian Revolutionary Central Committee, as well as the active involvement of Vasil Levski in both organisations. The struggle reached its peak with the April Uprising which broke out in April 1876 in several Bulgarian districts in Moesia, Thrace and Macedonia. The barbaric suppression of the uprising and the atrocities committed against the civilian population increased the Bulgarian desire for independence. They also caused a tremendous indignation in Europe, where they became known as the Bulgarian Horrors. Consequently, at the 1876–1877 Constantinople Conference, European statesmen proposed a series of reforms. However, the sultan refused to implement them and Russia declared war. During the war Bulgarian volunteer forces (in Bulgarian опълченци) fought alongside the Russian army. They earned particular distinction in the epic battle for the Shipka Pass . Upon the end of the war the Treaty of San Stefano was signed and Bulgaria was granted autonomy.


Hermes o Logios, Greek literary magazine of the 18th and 19th centuries

With the decline of the Eastern Roman Empire the pre-eminent role of Greek culture, literature and language became more apparent. From the 12th century onwards with the territorial reduction of the Empire to strictly Greek speaking areas the old multiethnic tradition, already weakened, gave way to a self-consciously national Greek consciousness and a greater interest in Hellenic culture evolved. Byzantines began to refer to themselves not just as Romans (Rhomaioi) but as Greeks (Hellenes). With the political extinction of the Empire it was the Greek Orthodox Church and the Greek speaking communities in the areas of Greek colonization and emigration that continued to cultivate this identity through schooling as well as the ideology of a Byzantine imperial heritage rooted both in the classical Greek past and in Roman Empire.[6]

The position of educated and privileged Greeks within the Ottoman Empire improved in the 17th and 18th centuries. As the empire became more settled, and began to feel its increasing backwardness in relation to the European powers, it increasingly recruited Greeks who had the kind of academic, administrative, technical and financial skills which the larger Ottoman population lacked. Greeks made up the majority of the Empires translators, financiers, doctors and scholars. From the late 1600s Greeks began to fill some of the highest offices of the Ottoman state. The Phanariotes, a class of wealthy Greeks who lived in the Phanar district of Constantinople, became increasingly powerful. Their travels to other parts of Western Europe as merchants or diplomats brought them into contact with advanced ideas of the Enlightenment notably liberalism, radicalism and nationalism, and it was among the Phanariotes that the modern Greek nationalist movement matured. However, the dominant form of Greek nationalism (that later developed into the Megali Idea) was a messianic ideology of imperial Byzantine restoration, that specifically looked down upon Frankish culture, and enjoyed the patronage of the Orthodox Church.[7]


The system of administration introduced by Idris remained unchanged until the close of the Russo-Turkish War of 1828–29. But the Kurds, owing to the remoteness of their country from the capital and the decline of Ottoman Empire, had greatly increased in influence and power, and had spread westwards over the country as far as Angora.

After the war the Kurds attempted to free themselves from Ottoman control , and in 1834, after the Bedirkhan clan uprising, it became necessary to reduce them to subjection. This was done by Reshid Pasha. The principal towns were strongly garrisoned, and many of the Kurd beys were replaced by Turkish governors. A rising under Bedr Khan Bey in 1843 was firmly repressed, and after the Crimean War the Turks strengthened their hold on the country.

The Russo-Turkish War of 1877–78 was followed by the attempt of Sheikh Obaidullah in 1880–1881 to found an independent Kurd principality under the protection of the Ottoman Empire. The attempt, at first encouraged by the Porte, as a reply to the projected creation of an Armenian state under the suzerainty of Russia, collapsed after Obaidullah's raid into Persia, when various circumstances led the central government to reassert its supreme authority. Until the Russo-Turkish War of 1828–1829 there had been little hostile feeling between the Kurds and the Armenians, and as late as 1877–1878 the mountaineers of both races had co-existed fairly well together.

In 1891 the activity of the Armenian Committees induced the Porte to strengthen the position of the Kurds by raising a body of Kurdish irregular cavalry , which was well-armed and called Hamidieh after the Sultan Abd-ul-Hamid II. Minor disturbances constantly occurred, and were soon followed by the massacre of Armenians at Sasun and other places, 1894–1896, in which the Kurds took an active part. Some of the Kurds, like the nationalist Armenians, aimed to establish a Kurdish country.


Main article: Zionism

Zionism is an international political movement; although started outside the Ottoman Empire, Zionism regards the Jews as a national entity and seeks to preserve that entity. This has primarily focused on the creation of a homeland for the Jewish People in the Promised Land, and (having achieved this goal) continues as support for the modern state of Israel.

Although its origins are earlier, the movement became better organised and more closely linked with the imperial powers of the day following the involvement of the Austro-Hungarian journalist Theodor Herzl in the late 19th century. The movement was eventually successful in establishing Israel in 1948, as the world's first and only modern Jewish State. Described as a "diaspora nationalism,"[10] its proponents regard it as a national liberation movement whose aim is the self-determination of the Jewish people.


The national awakening of the Macedonians can be said to have begun in the late 19th century; this is the time of the first expressions of ethnic nationalism by limited groups of intellectuals in Belgrade, Sofia,[11][12][13] Thessaloniki and St. Petersburg.[14] The "Macedonian Question" became especially prominent after the Balkan wars in 1912–1913 and the subsequent division of the Ottoman Macedonia between three neighboring Christian states, followed by tensions between them over its possession. In order to legitimize their claims, each of these countries tried to 'persuade' the population into allegiance. The Macedonist ideas grew in significance after the First World War, both in Kingdom of Yugoslavia and among the left-leaning diaspora in Kingdom of Bulgaria, and were endorsed by the Comintern.


Fighting between the Ottoman and Eterists in Bucharest

The movement, which was started about the same time by the Pandur leader Tudor Vladimirescu, as a mainly anti-Phanariote revolt encouraged by local boyars and the Filiki Eteria, soon acquired an anti-Greek tendency. The Eteria had occupied Moldavia and shared in Wallachia's administration with Tudor himself; Vladimirescu was assassinated after a major disagreement with his upper-class supporters, including Eterists.

The Ottomans intervened to reestablish tutelage, effectively destroying the Eterist structure in the Danubian Principalities; faced with the betrayal of Phanariote rulers, who had identified with the cause of Greek nationalism, and assured that an administration by locals would remain loyal vis-a-vis Imperial Russian intervention, Sultan Mahmud II consented in 1822 to the nomination of two native boyars, Ioan Sturdza and Grigore IV Ghica as hospodars of Moldavia and Wallachia.


Orašac assembly - beginning of the First Serbian Uprising in 1804.

Serbian national movement represents one of the first examples of successful national resistance against the Ottoman rule. It culminated in two mass uprisings at the beginning of the 19th century, leading to national liberation and establishment of the modern Serbian state and Montenegro. One of the main centers of this movement was the Belgrade Pashaluk (Turkish: Belgrad Paşalığı), which became the core of the reestablished Serbian national state.

A number of factors contributed to its rise. Above all the nucleus of national identity was preserved in the form of the Serbian Orthodox Church which remained in one form or another autonomous throughout the period of Ottoman occupation. Adherence to Orthodox Christianity is still considered an important factor in ethnic self-determination. Both of these entities preserved links with medieval Kingdom of Serbia keeping the idea of national liberation alive.

The other group of factors stem from regional political events during the period of Ottoman rule, the 17th and 18th centuries in particular. At the turn of the 19th century the region of Belgrade Pashaluk had a relatively recent experience of Austrian rule, as a result of Treaty of Passarowitz. Although the territory of northern Serbia was reverted to Ottoman rule according to the Treaty of Belgrade, the region saw almost continuous warfare during the 18th century. As a result, the Ottomans never established full feudal order in the Belgrade Pashaluk. Free peasants owning small plots of land constituted the majority of population. Furthermore, most of the leaders of future armed rebellions earned valuable military knowledge serving in Austrian irregular troops, Freikorps. The proximity of the Austrian border provided the opportunity of getting the needed military material. Serbian national leaders could also count on financial and logistic support of fellow Serbs living in relative prosperity in Austrian Empire.

The immediate cause for the start of the First Serbian Uprising was mismanagement of the province by renegade Janissary troops which managed to seize power in Belgrade. However fueled by initial success the rebellion quickly grew to a fully fledged war of national liberation, with clear aim to spread armed struggle to other Ottoman regions inhabited by Serbian population.

Though ultimately unsuccessful, this First Serbian Uprising paved the way for the Second Serbian Uprising of 1815, which eventually succeeded in Serbia.

Resurrected Serbia would eventually become a center of resistance to Ottomans, actively supporting liberation movements in neighboring Christian lands, especially Bosnia, Bulgaria and Macedonia. Serbia would go on to fight a series of, largely successful wars with Ottoman empire culminating in the First Balkan War of 1912.


Pan-Turkism emerged with the Turanian Society founded in 1839 by Tatars. However Turkish nationalism was developed much later in 1908 with the Turkish Society, which later expanded into the Turkish Hearth[15] and eventually expanded to include ideologies such as Pan-Turanism and Pan-Turkism. With the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, the Turkish populations of the empire which were mostly expelled from the newly established states in the Balkans and the Caucasus formed a new national identity under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal along the Kemalist ideology.

Turkish revolutionaries were patriots of the Turkish national movement who rebelled against the partitioning of the Ottoman Empire by the Allies and the Ottoman government in the aftermath of the Armistice of Mudros which ended the Ottoman Empire's participation in World War I; and against the Treaty of Sèvres in 1920, which was signed by the Ottoman government and partitioned Anatolia among Allies and their supporters.

Turkish revolutionaries under the leadership of Ataturk fought during the Turkish war of independence against the Allies supported by Armenians (First Republic of Armenia), Greeks (Greece) and the French Armenian Legion, accompanied by the Armenian militia during the Franco-Turkish War. Turkish revolutionaries rejected the Treaty of Sèvres and negotiated the Treaty of Lausanne, which recognized the independence of the Republic of Turkey and its absolute sovereignty over Eastern Thrace and Anatolia.

See also


  1. 1 2 Charles Smith, The Arab-Israeli Conflict, in International Relations in the Middle East by Louise Fawcett, p. 220.
  2. Christians and Jews in the Ottoman Arab World, Bruce Masters, Cambridge
  3. http://au.encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_781536069_2/Arab_Nationalism.html
  4. Richard G. (EDT) Hovannisian "The Armenian People from Ancient to Modern Times" page 198
  5. Ilber Ortayli, Tanzimattan Cumhuriyete Yerel Yönetim Gelenegi, Istanbul 1985, pp. 73
  6. Encyclopædia Britannica, Greece during the Byzantine period (c. AD 300–c. 1453) > Population and languages > Emerging Greek identity, 2008 ed.
  7. Ροτζώκος Νίκος, Επανάσταση και εμφύλιος στο εικοσιένα, pages 131-137
  8. McManners, John (2001). The Oxford illustrated history of Christianity. Oxford University Press. pp. 521–524. ISBN 0-19-285439-9. The Greek uprising and the church. Bishop Germanos of old Patras blesses the Greek banner at the outset of the national revolt against the Turks on 25 March 1821. The solemnity of the scene was enhanced two decades later in this painting by T. Vryzakis….The fact that one of the Greek bishops, Germanos of Old Patras, had enthusiastically blessed the Greek uprising at the onset (25 March 1821) and had thereby helped to unleash a holy war, was not to gain the church a satisfactory, let alone a dominant, role in the new order of things.
  9. "Greek Independence Day.". www.britannica.com. Retrieved 2009-09-09. The Greek revolt was precipitated on March 25, 1821, when Bishop Germanos of Patras raised the flag of revolution over the Monastery of Agia Lavra in the Peloponnese. The cry “Freedom or Death” became the motto of the revolution. The Greeks experienced early successes on the battlefield, including the capture of Athens in June 1822, but infighting ensued.
  10. Ernest Gellner, 1983. Nations and Nationalism (First edition), p 107-108.
  11. Д. Т. Левов. Лоза, Свобода, ВИ/786, Софиja, 13. 04 1892, 3.
  12. †Лоза#, месечно списание, издава Младата македонска книжевна дружина, Свобода, VI/774, Софија, 18. 02 1892, 3.
  13. mk:За македонцките работи
  14. К.П.Мисирков, „За Македонцките работи“, јубилејно издание, Табернакул, Скопје, 2003
  15. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-01-23. Retrieved 2008-03-22. (1912)


This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 11/30/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.