Nate Sullivan holds a M.A. in History and a M.Ed. He is an adjunct history professor, middle school history teacher, and freelance writer.
You might know a thing or two about World War I. For example, you may know that it was the first major war to involve aircraft. You might also know that the assassination of Austro-Hungarian Prince Franz Ferdinand and his wife sparked the war itself. We hear a lot about Germany, Russia, France, Great Britain, and the United States, but did you know that the Ottoman Empire also fought in World War I?
The Ottoman Empire History
Let's discuss some context briefly. First of all, we need to remember that the Ottoman Empire was a Muslim state that existed in various forms between 1299-1923. The Ottoman Empire was centered in the Turkey and Southeastern Europe, and for centuries its capital was Constantinople, or what is now Istanbul. The Ottoman Empire expanded throughout the Middle Ages but experienced decline throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, with it frequently being referred to as 'the sick man of Europe' by commentators as well as its rival empires. Its involvement in the First World War finalized its demise.
World War I
When World War I broke out in 1914, the Ottoman Empire allied itself with Germany, Austria-Hungary, and the other states who made up the Central Powers. The Central Powers fought against the Allied Powers, composed of France, Russia, Great Britain, and eventually the United States.
Ottoman involvement in World War I began at the Battle of Odessa in October 1914, when the Ottoman navy attacked the Russian Black Sea fleet and Russian-controlled port city of Odessa. This prompted Russia and the other Allied Powers to declare war on the Ottomans.
The Ottomans had made a fateful mistake by entering the war. Perhaps they were convinced the Central Powers would emerge victorious and felt it was an opportunity to gain land and power. In any case, it didn't turn out the way they hoped. Although they achieved a major victory at the Battle of Gallipoli in 1916, the war brought disaster. Internal strife and revolts plagued the empire, contributing to its crumbling. The fate of the Ottoman Empire was tied to the fate of the losing Central Powers.
The Fall of the Ottoman Empire
As early as 1915, the Allies had been planning on dismembering the Ottoman Empire. Under the Constantinople Agreement, which was a secret agreement between Allied Powers, it was decided that in the event of a victory, the city of Constantinople and other sections of the Ottoman Empire would be given to Russia. This never came to fruition as communist revolution broke out in Russia, leading to Russia's early withdrawal from World War I. Similarly, the Sykes-Picot Agreement, ratified in 1916, proposed a plan for the partition of the Ottoman Empire.
On October 30, 1918, the Armistice of Mudros was signed between the Ottoman government and the Allies, bringing an end to hostilities in the the region. British, French, and Italian forces occupied the capital city of Constantinople and many other areas of the Ottoman Empire. In the aftermath of the war, the Allies continued to negotiate what would become of the centuries-old empire.
Meanwhile, Turkish nationalists resented both the Ottoman Empire and the forces of foreign occupation. A Turkish nationalist movement broke out, leading to the Turkish War of Independence between 1919-1923. At the end, Turkish nationalist forces achieved their goal. They secured independence and brought into existence the Republic of Turkey. With emergence of this state, the Ottoman Empire was no more.
Let's take a couple of moments to review what we've learned. The Ottoman Empire was a Muslim state that existed in various forms between 1299-1923. The Ottoman Empire joined the Central Powers in World War I, which were made up of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and the other states allied to them. They fought the Allied Powers, which were composed of France, Russia, Great Britain, and eventually the United States. The Ottomans began their involvement in World War I at the Battle of Odessa in 1914, when the Ottoman navy attacked the Russian Black Sea fleet and Russian-controlled port city of Odessa.
Although the Ottomans won the Battle of Gallipoli in 1916, their involvement in World War I ultimately proved disastrous. Under the Constantinople Agreement, a secret agreement between Allied Powers, it was decided that in the event of a victory, the Ottoman capital of Constantinople and other sections of the Ottoman Empire would be given to Russia, but this never ended up happening.
In 1918, the Armistice of Mudros was signed between the Ottoman government and the Allies, bringing an end to hostilities in the region. Meanwhile, a Turkish nationalist movement broke out, leading to the Turkish War of Independence between 1919-1923. This war led to the creation of the Republic of Turkey and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.
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