When Fatih Sultah Mehmet II. conguered the Byzantine capital in 1453, the Ottoman state became the strongest of the time. The tolerant approach taken by Fatih Sultan Mehmet II toward other religions and to the adherents thereof became a tradition accepted by his successors. Following the capture of Istanbul, the Orthodox Church was freed from obedience to the Catholic Church and granted its independence.
On the other hand, the technical superiority of the Ottoman army began to be evident during the reign of Selim I. The Ottomans has added, in addition to the major part of east Anatolia, the lands considered holy in the Islamic world-Mecca and Medine and their territories.
The brightest period of the Ottoman State was during the reign of Sultan Suleyman (1520-1555) when the boundaries of the Empire spread from the outskirts of Vienna to the Persian Gulf and from the Crimea to an expanded north Africa as far as Ethiopia.
The Ottoman empire continued to acquire territory until the middle of the 17th century. In 1683, it suffered its first major defeat in the siege of Vienna.
As the losses of land and sought continued, the Ottoman Empire sought salvation in a series of reform movements and established education institutions taking after the western institutions which had shown great developments after the Renaissance.
The declaration of the "Tanzimat" Reform movement in 1839 is considered a major link in the chain of modernization events which had continued unabated since the beginning of the 17th century.
The Tanzimat Decree is considered to be a kind of constitution which gave Turkey the means to enter road to contemporary civilization.
The principles inherent in the Tanzimat Reform Decree thereby laid the basis for the constitutional regime of modern Turkey and the realization of secularism.
Despite many internal problems and disturbances during the reign of Abdülaziz (1861-1876) the effects of westernization in society became even more evident. Namık Kemal, Ziya Pasha, Mustafa Fazıl Pasha and his friends published the newspaper "Hürriyet" (Freedom) in London in the year 1864. The literary themes of the newspaper later gave way to political issues. Although it is because of these trends that the first constitution was promulgated under the leadership of Mithat Pasha in 1876, Sultan Abdülhamid II (1876-1909) used the Ottoman-Russian war (1877-78) as an excuse to dissolve Parliament and effectively put an end to this constitutional period. The Ottoman empire entered the First World War in 1914 on the side of the allied powers.
The Ottoman State emerged defeated from the war, together with its allies, and was compelled to sign the Mudrow Armistice on October 30, 1918. Also among the terms of the armistice was a provision that the cocupying powers might occupy areas deemed to be of strategic importance; the powers started therefore to occupy Anatolia on November 1, 1918 according to these terms.
On May 15, 1919, the Greeks occupied Yzmir. A national resistance movement commenced. In many areas of the country the Society For Defence of Rights (Müdafaa-i Hukuk) started to spring up, and the military arm of the society, called the Kuvayi Milliye. Started to take action.
The resistance movement was, until Mustafa Kemal landed at Samsun, sporadic and disorganized; under his leadership the resistance became cohesive, its forces progressively turned into an organized army and the movement became a full scale war of independence.
The First World War and the Mondros Cease-Fire Agreement
The Ottomans joined the First World War in 1914 as a result of fait accompli. During the war, the empire suffered a loss of four hundred thousand casualties and being defeated by the Allies, signed an armistice at Mondros on October 30, 1918. Following this armistice, the Ottomans were forced to sign the Sevres Treaty on August 10, 1920 which aimed at dividing the lands of the empire.
The Turkish nation in protest to the Mondros Armistice and the Sevres Treaty started its War of Liberation under the command of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. After the victory, the Turkish Grand National Assembly in Ankara abolished the office of the Sultan on November 1, 1922, thus ending 631 years of Ottoman rule in the world.
Efforts to Disintegrate the Empire
The Ottoman Empire collapsed on October 30, 1918, when the Mondros Armistice was signed, after the Ottoman state and its allies had lost the Great War. The treaty had very severe terms some of which were: The Straits of the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles would be open to the ships of the Entente Powers; Turkish military fortifications would be occupied; the Ottoman Army would be demobilized; Turkish warships would be surrendered to the Entente Powers; all means of comunication and ammunition stores would be controlled by the Entente Powers; all Turkish institutions and transport could be used by the Entente Powers. Article 7 of the Treaty, which was the most intolerable of all, stated "In the event of a situation threatening their security, the Entente Powers have the right to occupy any area of strategic importance". According to this, the Entente Powers could occupy the country when they wished. In fact, after a short period, the Entente Powers began to occupy the country for trivial reasons. The occupation began on November 1,1918. They first landed their troops at Mosul, Iskenderun, the Straits of the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles, then they occupied various parts of Anatolia and Thrace. Meanwhile, England had proposed that the straits would have an international stutus; some Arab and Armaneian regions would cede from Turkey and a small part of land would be left to the Sultan with Konya or Bursa as the capital. In accordance with this, the Entente Powers had Greek troops landed at Izmir on May 15, 1919, under the protection of their own battleships. With this incident, the Ottoman State actually collapsed, and its legal existence was to be determined at the peace conference according to the wishes of the Entente Powers.
Shortly after the Mondros Treaty, many organizations and societies appeared which were against national independence. Besides such pro-Ottoman and caliphate societies as the "Sulh ve Selameti Osmaniye Firkasi (Peace and Ottoman Salvation Party), the "Teali Islam Cemiyeti" (Moslem Promotion Society), the "Hürriyet ve Itilaf Firkasi" (Liberty and Entente Party), there were other societies of the minorities such as the "Mavrimira" and the "Pontus Society". Their subversive activities during the First World War continued after the Treaty in order to prevent Turks from establishing a Notional State in Anatolia.