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The Ottoman Empire (1299-1923)

The Ottoman State was founded by Osman Bey. Osman Bey ascended to power with the unanimous consent of the Oghuz chiefs on the borderland and succeeded in uniting the Turkish Beyliks in Anatolia in a short period of time. The Ottomans, after conquering Bursa and making it the capital, crossed over to Rumelia; during the reign of Orhan Gazi and Sultan Murat Khan I, took control of most of the Balkans. Edirne was conquered in 1362, and the capital was moved from Bursa to Edirne. Fatih Sultan Mehmet (Sultan Mehmed the Conquerer) conquered İstanbul in 1453, bringing the Byzantine existence to an end, and this event concluded the Medieval Age, allowing the New Age to begin.

The Ottomans fought the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Spaniards, the Papacy, Britian, Poland, Safavids and the Karamanids in the east and southeast. They established a world empire spanning three contenents, whose existence would last until the 20th century. Yavuz Sultan Selim conquered Egypt ensuring that the “Caliphate”would be Ottoman. During the reign of Sultan Suleyman the Magnificient, the boundaries of the empire streched from the Crimea in the North to Yemen and Sudan in the South, and from Iran’s interior and the Caspian Sea in the east to Vienna in the northwest, and the entire North Africa to Algeria in the southwest.

From the last quarter of the 16th century on, the Empire started to lose its economic and military superiority over Europe. Moreover in the 19th century, nationalist movements broke out in Ottoman territories, instigated by Russia and some European states. The Christians breaking off from the empire founded independent states. The reform efforts throughout the 19th century were of no use. The first constitution in a western sense, proclaimed during the First Constitutional Monarchy (1876), which coincided with the reign of Abdulhamid II, did not help. The constitutional monarchy period which commenced with along with the constitution prepared by intelluctuals called the “Young Turks” and imposed on Sultan Abdulhamid II came to an end when the emperor dissolved the parliament under the pretext of the 1877-1878 Ottoman-Russian War.

The Committee of Union and Progress, which was formed by a group among the Young Turks, (Jeune Turcs) forced the reproclaimation of the constitutional monarchy (1908)and later seized power by quashing the March 31st rebellion. The defeats experienced in the Tripoli War (1911-1912) against the Italians and in the Balkan War (1912-1913) paved the way for a single-party dictatorship of the Union and Progress. The Ottoman Empire entered World War I (1914-1918) hastily as an ally of Germany, which brought about the end of the Empire. Following the signing of the Mondros Armistice after the war, France, Italy, Britian and Greece started invading Ottoman land in a period that extented to the War of Independence.

Ottoman Culture and Civilization:

The Ottoman Empire left behind a splendid cultural heritage and at the same time it made significant contributions to the history of civilization by embracing the cultural, artistic and scientific heritages of all preceding Turkish and non-Turkish nations. Valuable works of art were produced in artistic branches such as architecture, stone and woodcarving, china making, ornamentation, miniature painting, calligraphy and bookbinding. The Empire, influential in world politics for centuries, treated its citizens of various religions, languages and nationalities in a vast geography justly and tolerantly. The Empire allowed the nations within its border to preserve their languages and cultures by ensuring freedom of faith and conscience.

The History of the Republic of Turkey

Organization of the State and the Reforms

After the National War of Independence was won and the Lausanne Treaty was signed, the first step Mustafa Kemal took was to merge the Anatolia and Rumelia Associations for Defense of Rights established during the war into the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and assume its chairmanship. The aim of the Republican People’s Party, was to modernize the country and to introduce the western system, institutions and lifestyle, which were adopted as a model.

The Republic, regarded as the most important reform, was proclaimed on October 29th, 1923. The leader of the national struggle, Mustafa Kemal, was unanimously elected the first president of Turkey. İsmet Pasha (İnönü) was appointed as the first prime minister. Four months after the declaration of the republic, TGNA abolished the Caliphate and also decided to expel the members of the Ottoman Dynasty (March 3rd, 1924).

In order to achive a modern pattern of a nation and society it was necessary to separate religious and state affairs, and provide freedom of faith and conscience for individuals. In this connection the Ministry of Shariah and Foundatios was abolished, and instead the Directorate of Foundations, attached to the Prime Minister’s Office was established. With the Unification of Education Law, the religious school system and dual education structure was brought to an end, and all schools as well as educational matters were unified under the Ministry of National Education. Under the Judicial Organization Law of Shariah Courts were replaced by secular courts. Under the Hat Law promulgated on November 25th, 1925, the turban and fez were banned and the “hat” became the national headwear. The dervish lodges and convents and also turbehs were closed and the titles of tariqah (sect) were abolished on November 30th, 1925. The international hour and calender systems were adopted on December 26th, 1925. Furthermore, on February 17th, 1926, the “Turkish Civil Code” as adopted replacing the Mecelle code and the Shariah laws, which were the foundation Stones of the Ottoman law. In line with these moves, the Code of Obligations, the Criminal Code and the Commercial Code were also reformulated in accordance with contemporary principles.

The prohibition of polygamy and putting divorce issues under the jurisdiction of only the courts constituted the first important steps in women’s rights. The women were granted suffrage and the right to hold Office in municipalities by 1930 in village councils by 1933 and in the TGNA by 1934, was before many European countries.

A new Turkish alphabet was prepared by the Ministry of National Education and the law envisaging the use of the Latin script was approved by the TGNA on Novembwe 1st, 1928. Universal weights and measurement units began to be used in 1931.

The Surname Law was enacted on June 21st, 1934. Mustafa Kemal, the founder of the modern Turkish Republic, was given the surname “Atatürk” (Father of Turks) by a separate law 5 months later.

The clause in the Constitution stating, “The religion of the state is Islam” was repealed in 1928 by an amendment. The Turkish Historical Society was established in 1931 and the Turkish Linguistic Society in 1932. And in 1937, the secularity of Turkey was added to the Constitution as a clause.