The Ottoman empire join WWI because of their personal interests and welfare, or so they thought. The history reveals all the positives and negatives of the alliance between Germany, Austria, Hungary, and the Ottoman empire.
World War I ended in flames for some empires, and some came out victorious. Here we read through the history pages of World war I and why Turkey or the Ottoman Empire joined World War I.
Why Did the Ottoman Empire Join WWI
To understand the participation of the Ottoman empire in World War I. It is important first to understand the background of the empire and the war. World War I did not start overnight. It had a lot of factors and plots that led up to this gruesome event that lasted for years and caused massive casualties on both sides.
The Ottoman empire was moving towards the end of its rule when the war broke out. The empire joined hands with Germany in good faith and assurances of victory, but the tables turned on them. Let us look at the condition of the Ottoman Empire before World War I.
The Ottoman Empire: Before the WWI
The Ottoman empire was founded by Osman I. He gathered various nearby tribes of Sogut, Anatolia under religion. From humble beginnings, the tribes came together and formed one of the world’s most famous empires, The Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman Empire reached its peak from 1481 to 1566, when the empire expanded to the nearby territories and gained much popularity.
Through trade and agriculture, the Ottoman empire went from poor tribes to a fully developed kingdom with a massive army and economy. Its controls over various sea and land routes connected Europe with Asia. As the trading routes were under the Ottoman empire, Europe and Asia had no choice but to open trading channels with and through the Ottoman Empire.
The Ottoman empire also took up the Liberal trade policy, which opened the empire for imports. This greatly enhanced its relationships with nearby territories and countries. With a high number of importing and exporting deals and treaties being signed, the Ottoman Empire became the hub of trade.
Many countries were looking to form allies with the empire. In exchange for their loyalty and services in time of need, the allied countries offered trade and routes in addition to their loyalty and services in time of need.
World War I
The world war originated in Europe on 28th July 1914. The war broke out between some of the most powerful countries of that time. On one side, there was Germany and Austria-Hungary.
In the opposition were Great Britain, Russia, Italy, and Japan. These developed countries were fully loaded with the latest weapons, artillery, manpower, and sheer will to win the war.
World War I was dubbed the Great War and the “war to end all wars.” The war brought in many casualties from both sides. There was a lot of damage done, and the war was still at its peak. The war was fought for four years. One can only imagine the destruction, panic, mayhem, and loss that the people on the spot felt.
Germany had around 1,900,000 on-foot soldiers, and Austria-Hungary had 450,00. Even combined, the total number of manpower from this side was way less than that of the other side, with Russia and Japan contributing the most men.
Germany needed allies, and it gained the Ottoman empire as one. Many historians regard this alliance as the death of the Ottoman empire. They also see the decision of siding with Germany in WWI as the most unforeseen decision of the Ottoman Empire.
The Ottoman-German Alliance
At the start of WWI, the Ottoman empire wished to stay neutral in the matter. They sided with none and kept quiet from their side. But in August of 1914, the Ottoman entry into WWI on the side of Germany was seen.
Germany manipulated the Ottoman empire into joining them, or did the Ottoman empire willingly join their site?
Let’s find out.
The Ottoman empire was declining internally before the start of WWI. The new and young leaders of the empire could not deliver as well as the older leaders did.
Germany saw this as an opportunity. Looking at a comparatively weakened military of the Ottoman empire, Germany offered its services in case any trouble ever came the empire’s way. In return, the Ottoman empire had to do the same.
When Did the Ottomans Join WWI
The German diplomats convinced the young rulers and policymakers of the Ottoman empire. In August of 1914, the vizier of the empire, Said Halim Pasha signed a secret treaty with Germany. According to this treaty, the empire will come to Germany’s aid in case of an escalation in the war, and Germany would do the same.
This alliance is dubbed one of the greatest successes of German wartime diplomacy. Germany assured the Ottoman empire of its success. The biggest advantage Germany would have in the war was its geographical position, which made the traveling and positioning of troops relatively easy. The railroads and naval routes aided in quick actions.
Lastly, the German army was very disciplined and well equipped. They had acquired some of the most advanced and had never been used before weapons. Keeping in mind all the positives and their best interests, the Ottoman empire sided with Germany and Austria-Hungary.
The Ottoman Empire and the WW1
As the alliance between the Ottoman Empire and Germany was secret, Germany took full advantage of the fact. Germany directed the empire’s army to plan surprise attacks on the naval convoys of the British and the Russian armies. The convoys of the Allies used the Mediterranean sea for advancing into Europe, and the Ottoman empires seized their ships and soldiers by surprise.
This angered the Russians. Russia declares war on Turkey on 29th October 1914. Now the Ottoman empire was a clear target in World War I.
The Outcome of the War
The Allies, Great Britain, Japan, Russia, and France, won World War I after a fight of four years. The war ended on 11th November 1918. The war changed the course of the World.
Some of the major changes that took place because of the war are as follows:
- European economies collapsed
- New territories were drawn
- More than 8.5 million lives were lost
- International Organizations were formed
- Nationalism was on the rise
The countries that sided with the Central Powers, Germany, and Austria-Hungary, faced the same fate. Their economies clashed, their people were dying from hunger, trade was highly affected, and in some cases, their name from the map of the Earth was removed.
The Ottoman Empire: After the WWI
The Ottoman Empire was destroyed after World War I. The sultanate was butchered, and now only the people remained. Its territories were breached and divided among powerful countries like Germany, France, Russia, and Great Britain. When the empire sided with the Central Powers, it had no idea that this war would remove the name of their empire from the world map.
The Ottoman Empire lost its control over the sea routes from where major of its trade took place. The Sultan was killed, and the people were left without a leader.
Many external powers came and looted the empire off of its wealth. It was chaos. As Germany promised, it did not come to the empire’s help as it was somewhat in the same condition.
The Ottoman empire was laid to rest. In 1923, Mustafa Kamal Ataturk laid the foundation of the Independent Republic of Turkey. He was an army officer in world war 1. Due to his efforts and ideology, the people of the fallen Ottoman empire got their land and rights back.
The initial reasons for the Ottoman Empire to join World War I were unclear at first. It had no issues with any participating countries, nor was the empire so strong that it could help someone win any war, let alone defend its borders. But the Ottoman Empire joined World War I and sided with Germany to increase its diplomatic relations and bring in fundings for its empire if the Allies had won.
Fate was not on their side, and the Allies lost the World War. The empire was dissolved, and its territories were given to other countries until Mustafa Kamal Ataturk founded the independent Republic of Turkey and reunited the people under one banner.
- Ferguson, Niall (2006). The War of the World: Twentieth-Century Conflict and the Descent of the West. New York: Penguin Press. p. 177. ISBN 1-59420-100-5.
- Fromkin, David (2009). A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East. Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-8050-8809-0.
- Francesco Pongiluppi (2015). The Energetic Issue as a Key Factor of the Fall of the Ottoman Empire. in “The First World War: Analysis and Interpretation” (ed. by Biagini and Motta), Vol. 2., Newcastle, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, pp. 453–464.
- Shaw, Ezel Kural (1977). History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey. New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-21280-4.