World & Indian History

How did Turkey get the title of "Sick Man of Europe"?

The Ottoman Empire, historically and colloquially known as the Turkish Empire, was an empire that used to rule much of Eastern Europe, Western Asia, and Northern Africa between the 14th and early days of the 20th century until it broke into pieces after the end of the First World War. 

The Ottoman Empire came into prominence with the degradation of the reign of the Seljuq Dynasty, which lost badly due to the invasion of Mongols. Osman bin Ertugrul bin Gündüz Alp (Ruling era 1299-1324) established the empire in Anatolia (modern-day Turkey) in 1299. 

The name of the Ottoman Empire was derived from Osman bin Erturul bin Gündüz Alp (Osman Gazi or Osman 1). In 1345, the Ottoman Empire invaded Eastern Europe, sweeping through the Balkan region ( modern-day Albania, Macedonia, Slovenia, Greece, Serbia, Montenegro, and others ). The empire flourished in the fifteenth century during the reign of "Suleiman the Magnificient ( 1520-1566 )" when it destroyed the Byzantine Empire and conquered its capital, Constantinople (today's Istanbul). 

The Ottoman forces employed new weapons called "harquebus" to make the Ottomans one of the first gunpowder empires, and as a result, they conquered a significant part of Europe and Africa and promoted the Islamic faith. The empire reached its peak in the late seventeenth century, thanks to advanced warfare and armaments, but it eventually fell apart after signing the "Treaty of Lausanne (1923)," the final accord that ended World War One.

What caused The Empire to fail?

The empire began to crumble after experiencing extraordinary expansion in the 14th and 15th centuries. The defeat at the "Battle of Lepanto (1571)," a naval engagement between the allied Christian forces of the Holy League and the Ottoman Turks in the waters off southwestern Greece, was an enormous setback for the Ottomans. 

A century later, the empire failed to siege Vienna (1683). That was the pivotal fight in the empire's future expansion towards Western Europe, as well as the crucial battle in demonstrating the empire's military prowess, which was suffering against internal resistance. 

Since the empire grew to be one of the largest in history and became multi-ethnic, the empire's grip began to erode for a variety of reasons. 

One of the primary reasons for the empire's demise was nepotism and corruption. In the mid-16th century, the empire saw the rise of "devshirme," a class of personnel selected from among Christian adolescents over the Turkish Nobility. 

As a result, they practically lost all of their authority, position, and power. In consequence, many of the timars, appointed by the Sultan during the time of Ottoman days to collect taxes and maintain troops locally, formerly assigned to notables to support the spahi cavalry were seized by the devshirme and transformed into great estates. 

The empire gradually dried up tax revenues gathered through a system, and the backbone of the empire's economy began to erode as a result of the growth of local rulers and their collection of taxes. 

Under such circumstances, it was unavoidable that the Ottoman administration would be unable to address the empire's increasingly serious difficulties. Furthermore, the Dutch and British totally closed the ancient international trade routes through the Middle East in the late 16th century, which was the heart of business for Ottoman business to do business with South Asia, causing economic hardships. As a result, the Middle Eastern provinces' prosperity has plummeted. 

These conditions were aggravated by rapid population expansion in the 16th and 17th centuries, which was part of a broader population increase in much of Europe at the time. 

Seeing these challenges and the empire's steady degeneration during the 18th century, Sultan Salim 3 (1789-1807) attempted European-style reform but failed. 

Turkey became the "Sick man of Europe" 

Sultan Selim 3 established a new European-style army known as the Nizam-Cedid (New Order), as well as a new treasury known as the Rad-Cedid (New Revenue). 

The Empire suffered from internal revolts, the most notable of which was the Serbian Revolt of 1904, and they were at war with Russia from 1806 to 1812. 

Furthermore, Napoléon Bonaparte's Egyptian Expedition in 1798-1799 added to the difficulties. The anarchy in the region became uncontrollable for the empire. 

Successive Ottoman kings attempted to reform the system which was initiated by Salim 3 but failed to reverse the empire's collapse. The empire had numerous difficulties, including a shortage of finances and well-trained personnel. 

Furthermore, those reforms were rejected by the empire's extremist conservative religious groups. External influence from major European countries, continuing hostilities, and the rise of nationalist movements across the empire all hampered reform efforts. 

As the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire became imminent to the European powers, they then engaged in a power struggle to defend their military, geopolitical, and commercial interests within Ottoman borders. 

This conflict, known colloquially as the "Eastern Question," had been a source of anxiety for European powers since the late 18th century. Because they had no notion of what would happen if the Empire split apart and what their future trajectory would be.

At that time, Tsar Nicholas of Russia told the British minister in St. Petersburg, Sir George Hamilton, in 1853, "We have on our hands a sick man, a very sick man." It will be a huge misfortune, I tell you, if one of these days he slips away from us before all required arrangements have been made." 

This is how Turkey got the title called the "Sick Man of Europe."

The European countries, on the other hand, did not agree on these "arrangements" proposed by Tsar Nicholas, because they each had different interests and aims regarding the Ottoman Empire. 

Following the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire, the European interests and goals became clear, and they were primarily concerned with the region's energy sources. After the disintegration of the empire, Turkey became a secular state under the Presidency of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.  

But now, in today's time, the country's current hardliner President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has a dormant desire to restore the Ottoman Empire to its former glory, which is nearly unachievable in the present geopolitical system because the globe is governed by law and order rather than anarchy.

Also Read: Quagmire of Israel-Hamas War: The USS Thomas Hudner Shoots Down Several Drones Launched By Iranian-Backed Yemeni Houthis 

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