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Publisher's Summary

“In human life, you will find players of religion until the knowledge and proficiency in religion will be cleansed from all superstitions, and will be purified and perfected by the enlightenment of real science.” (Mustafa Kemal Atatürk) 

The long agony of the “sick man of Europe”, an expression used by the tsar of Russia to depict the falling Ottoman Empire, could almost blind people to its incredible power and history.

Preserving its mixed heritage - coming from both its geographic position, rising above the ashes of the Byzantine Empire, and the tradition inherited from the Muslim conquests - the Ottoman Empire lasted more than six centuries. Its soldiers fought, died, and conquered lands on three different continents, making it one of the few stable multi-ethnic empires in history, and likely one of the last.

Thus, it’s somewhat inevitable that the history of its decline is at the heart of complex geopolitical disputes, as well as sectarian tensions that are still key to understanding the Middle East, North Africa, and the Balkans.

Despite it all, the Ottoman Empire would survive for over 200 more years, and in the last century of its life, it strove to reform its military, administration, and economy until it was finally dissolved. 

Years before the final collapse of the empire, the Tanzimat (“Reorganization”), a period of swiping reforms, led to significant changes in the country’s military apparatus, among others, which certainly explains the initial success the Ottoman Empire was able to achieve against its rivals. 

Similarly, the drafting of a new Constitution (Kanûn-u Esâsî, basic law) in 1876, despite it being shot down by Sultan Abdul Hamid II just two years later, as well as its revival by the “Young Turks” movement in 1908, highlights the understanding among Ottoman elites that change was needed and their belief that such change was possible.

The fall of the Ottoman Empire set the political and geostrategic scene of the new Middle East. In 1920, two years after the end of the war, the region was already experiencing growing instability. The issues and trends that would plague the region until today were growing. On April 4, Arab riots broke out in Jerusalem, fueled by the growing hostility against the Zionist movement. The British passivity would convince one of the Jewish leaders Vladimir Jabotinsky (the future founder of the Israeli right-wing), of the strategic necessity of a strong Jewish military as the core of the future state.

Just two weeks later, in Turkey, the Grand National Assembly in Ankara set the foundation of the Turkish state, opening the way for several years of reforms. In Iraq, a Shiite revolt broke out in the south, as locals demanded the creation of an Islamic state.

The British compromise was to place Faisal, the son of Sharif Hussein and a Sunni, on the throne. His father, meanwhile, was embroiled in a conflict with a local tribe, the Ibn Saud, that sought to carve a new kingdom in the Arabian Peninsula.

More broadly, the long decline of the “sick man of Europe” fostered the emergence of nationalistic and ideological movements that are still key to any understanding of the Middle East today. The compatibility between the Islamic religion and culture and Western reforms were first discussed within the Ottoman Empire, and they are still up for debate today. Abdul Hamid’s pan-Islamism, while its results at the time remain limited, still resonates within the Muslim world and can still be seen as a viable rival to the region’s various nationalistic aspirations.

©2020 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

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  • Anonymous User
  • 26-01-2021

Good Book

Fast paced, covers rise of Mustafa kemal. He was prepared for it
Narrattion was good. Good job

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  • YunusTheOptimist
  • 29-07-2020

good listening

This book helps to understand Atatürk and his life.

it could be longer than what it is

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