Turkey’s Erdogan – Friend or Foe to the West? Part 3

The Ottoman Myth

Is it the intention of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to restore, once again, the lost Islamic greatness and Caliphate through Turkish demographic domination of the European lands that the Ottoman Empire once held?

The Ottoman Empire was a Muslim state that existed in various forms between 1299-1923. It survived for more than 600 years, coming to an end in 1922 when it was replaced by the Turkish Republic and various successor states in southeastern Europe and the Middle East. When Mehmed II the Conqueror led the Ottoman Turks to seize the ancient Eastern Roman city of Constantinople in 1453, he ended the 1,000 year reign of the Byzantine Empire and its 800-year resistance against Muslim armies. The city is now known as Istanbul and marks the geographical crossing point between Europe and the Middle East. Because of its location at the point where the continents of Asia and Europe meet, Anatolia – Turkey – has been a major junction for people migrating or conquering since the beginning of civilization.

Once encompassing most of southeastern Europe to the gates of Vienna, the Ottoman Empire comprised of present-day Hungary, the Balkan region, Greece, and parts of Ukraine; portions of the Middle East now occupied by Iraq, Syria, Israel, and Egypt; North Africa as far west as Algeria; and large parts of the Arabian Peninsula. Ottoman domination revived the sentiment of lost Muslim greatness under the Islamic Caliphate, reaching its pinnacle under Selim I and his son Suleiman the Magnificent in the 16th century, when the Turk armies advanced through the Balkans and Hungary into Austria. Defeat at the Battle of Vienna, where victory would have allowed the Turks to conquer Europe unhindered, led the Ottoman Empire further into decline and they used the concept of the Caliphate as an instrument of statecraft as Europe gained economic and military dominance.

The Ottoman Empire lost key regions of land during its downfall when Greece won independence in 1830 after a revolt, the Congress of Berlin declared the independence of Romania, Serbia, and Bulgaria in 1878, and losing nearly all their conquered territories in Europe during the Balkan Wars in 1912 and 1913. The Ottoman Turks entered the First World War in 1914 on the side of the Central Powers that included Germany and Austria-Hungary and were defeated in 1918. Under a treaty agreement, most Ottoman territories were divided between Britain, France, Greece, and Russia. The Ottoman Empire officially ended in 1922 when the title of Ottoman Sultan was eliminated. Turkey was declared a republic in 1923 and the Caliphate was abolished in 1924.

The Ottoman Empire was replaced by a significantly smaller country simply known as Turkey and several smaller nations were born out of land in the Middle East, including the states of Iraq, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and the idea of Palestine. At this time, the al-Saud family, which seized Ottoman territory in Arabia and the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, began the region’s transformation.

Albania became an independent nation for the first time in over 400 years. The Armenian Genocide laid the ground for the more-homogeneous nation-state that eventually became the Republic of Turkey. The Turkish government denies recognition of the Genocide and contends that, although atrocities took place, there was no official policy of extermination implemented against the Armenian people as a group.