The Ottomans went to Anatolia, essentially today's Turkey, on the frontier of the Byzantine Empire. Often they would cross the water to Europe, paid to fight for Christian rulers. Later, acting for themselves, they occupied the Balkans. In 1453, they captured Constantinople, now Istanbul, and with it the remains of the Byzantine Empire. At their zenith, the Ottoman armies fought their way to the gates of Vienna.
The Turks prospered on their captured wealth, so in the 19th century, when they stopped expanding, they started to retreat. The decline opened up enticing prospects for Europe's great powers, which expected to annex strategically important territories. The Ottoman Empire had settled the Balkans and the Middle East; these were the land bridges that joined Europe, Asia and Africa. But the European powers were surprised when the indigenous European subjects of the empire -- including Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria -- won independence for themselves.
After World War I, Britain and France, by defeating the Ottoman Empire, won control of the Arab lands, and with it, a tantalizing bauble: the likelihood that vast deposits of oil might be found there.
The Europeans and their American business partners hoped to establish stable and friendly regimes. After they redrew the borders in the early 1920's, Britain and France introduced a state system, and sought to supply political guidance too. But the system did not endure. Instead, the area grew more turbulent and unsettled.
Looking back, it is clear that many characteristics of the Middle East, some of which President Bush would like to change, were shaped by the five centuries of Ottoman rule. The United States may preach and practice secular politics, but it would have difficulty imposing secularism on the Middle East. It was taught to put religion first by its Turkish rulers, which defined the empire as a Muslim country, not a national one. The importance of religion in the Middle East is a legacy of the sultans who were also caliphs.
The empire also encouraged its perhaps two dozen ethnic and national groups to maintain their separate identities. It is no wonder that they are constantly feuding today -- the Ottoman ghosts never far away.Continue reading the main story
Дэвид кивнул. - В следующем семестре я возвращаюсь в аудиторию. Сьюзан с облегчением вздохнула: - Туда, где твое подлинное призвание. Дэвид улыбнулся: - Да. Наверное, Испания напомнила мне о том, что по-настоящему важно.