Top positive review
Extensive research delivers classy narration
Reviewed in India on 17 April 2017
The Ottoman Empire was a multinational and pluralist empire spanning 6 centuries. Even at the onset of the First World War, the empire controlled around 2.4 million square km of area that includes modern day Turkey and most of the Middle East. The Islamic caliphate ruled empire was dominated by the Turks and also includes Arabs, Kurds, Greeks, Armenians and other ethnic minorities. During it’s prime , it surpassed even European power both in terms of military strength and wealth. Why and when the empire of such magnitude started to wane? What were the stimuli that caused its downfall? What were the flash-points? The lookout for these answers pulled me towards this book.
The 17-18th century is an era which coincided with technology and enlightenment advancement. The benefit was reaped by European power and they left Ottoman Empire far behind. In the last few centuries, Ottoman Empire had lost significant territories to others. They lost almost every war with their Eastern neighbour Russia and with its territories too. In the year 1911, they fail to prevent Italy from annexing Libya. In 1912, the Balkan League comprising of Serbia, Montenegro, Greece and Bulgaria waged a war on the Empire with the objective of driving them away from Europe. It was a major fiasco for the Empire. The morale and confidence of military was in tatters.
Still, what bought them to the war ? First and foremost, it was Russia’s territorial ambition. In Ideal circumstance, the Empire would have relied on Britain or France to keep Russia in Check. Now neither of the two nations can be counted on as they along with Russia are allies in Triple Entente. In trouble time, the Empire needed a strong friend to counteract them and it turned out to be Germany. The empire’s entry into the war was an acquiesce , resulting out of this alliance driven by circumstances. With more than 7500 miles of border and coastlines spanning Black Sea, The Persian Gulf, The Red Sea and the Mediterranean, the Ottomans presented their enemies with many points vulnerable to Allies attack. This was further exacerbate by nascent Arab revolt, where sizable numbers turned against them.
Despite odds and colossal damage, the stultifying Ottoman forces surprisingly were able to thwart Allied forces and the war extended to 4 years. However, they ended up on the defeated side, gaining nothing from the tenacity. The war imposed greater hardship and bought greater despair. The upshot of the War is the creation of modern Middle East, divided under British or French dominion. The empire hold on Balkan region dwindled to naught.
One of the gruesome and horrifying event has been genocide which was perpetrated by the Ottoman force on hapless Armenians in Anatonia ; allegation being disloyalty and treason. There were deep seated antipathy towards the Armenians. Males from 12 onwards were killed within sight of horrified womenfolk in smaller town. While in larger town, they were killed at a location where murder could not be witnessed by foreigners. The survivors were escorted out of the town under armed guard, where they faced robbery and wholesome massacre. Sick and elderly were killed as they fell behind. Though the death has been presented as negligence due to war ,but the fact is that top military brass were involved in the shenanigans. The genocide has left an indelible mark on the history and still etched on mind of Armenian generation that followed.
The key subjects which did not find a mention in the review here includes , The rise of Young Turks , How Germany bolstered Empire army, Call for jihad to bring Muslims to Ottoman side, menace of flies, Russian withdrawal from war after Tsar was overthrown, unhygienic condition of trances, Arab revolt, contribution of Australian, New Zealand and Indian forces to Allied victory . Also excluded are episodes of humanity showed by both the sides. The Ottoman soldiers occasionally used to throw raisins , hazelnut and almonds to enemy side while invaders reciprocated with cans of fruits of jam. The book is all about infantry, cavalry, artillery , and everything related to war front. The events were placed chronologically and the author has been through giving with facts. It’s not easy to hold on to readers attention, even for history buffs , to such war chronicles. The author proves otherwise. The book has managed to answer every questions that I had in mind prior to reading it. This is a decent but painstaking job done on an egregious subject. The research done is commendable. There is so much to write on the subject that even shortening the review has been a difficult task.