1. The Background of the Campaign


 

 

1.1 Turkey at the beginning of the 20th century

 

 

At the beginning of this century, Turkey was still the big Ottoman Empire.

In general, it was composed of the actual Turkey together with extensive possessions in the Balkans and the Dodekanesos. Apart from that, there were the coastal regions of the Arabian subcontinent : in the west this meant Israel, Syria, part of Arabia and Yemen. In the east the Turks ruled over the Persian Gulf, Iraq and the Emirates.

Although the enormous size of these possessions had once been the foundation for the power of the state, it was also the factor that ultimately led to the decline of the empire. Through its uncontrolled growth over the centuries, the state had become a mixture of cultures, languages and religions that lacked any form of cohesion and progressively became more difficult to control.

Still, under Sultan Abdul Hamid, the empire had managed to keep its status and stability over a period of thirty relatively calm years. One element that had been important here, was the clever way in which Turkey made skilful use of the competition between England and Russia, who both wanted to extend their influence in the region.

When, at the beginning of the 20th century, these two started making diplomatic moves to better their mutual interests through a more intense cooperation, the role of Turkey as a buffer between the two became less relevant and gradually the decline of the empire set in. Constantinople became a beehive of diplomatic activity, while the unity of the country itself was increasingly threatened by internal differences and a growing political tension. Maintaining a centralised government became more and more difficult and different parts of the empire slid into a state of latent, and sometimes acute, anarchy.

The big Ottoman Empire was still big, but it was rapidly becoming a giant on clay feet.