17 Nisan 2014 Perşembe

Emergence of Middle East, "Intro" by Professor Asher Susser

Middle East Conflict

1. Intro:
1.1. What and where is the Middle East?
1.2. What is the Modern Era?
1.3. The Middle East in 19th Century
1.3.1. The Structure of Society
1.3.2. The Economy
1.3.3. The Politics
1.4. The Changing Balance of Europe
1.5. The Eastern Question

1. Intro

1.1. What and where is the Middle East?

Welcome to this first opening lecture of our course on the Emergence of the Modern Middle East.

I am Professor Asher Susser from Tel Aviv University. And this is going to be a course about the modern Middle East, which means the last 200 years or so of the history of this region, from the early 19th century and to the Arab Spring of the last few years.

Our first lesson today is on the Middle East in the modern era. That requires us first to talk a bit about what is the Middle East. And the other, what is it exactly that we mean by the modern era?

The term Middle East is not self-evident. If you look at this region from the main cities of the Middle East, from Istanbul, from Cairo, or from Tel Aviv, this is not the middle or the east of anything. The term Middle East is a term created by people who looked at the Middle East fromsomewhere else. It is the Middle East if you're looking at this region from Paris, from London, or from Washington.

If you're looking at the region from outside, it is that Middle East, which is on the way to the Far East. So what that means is, that this is a term that was created by foreigners. But even though the term was created by foreigners, all the peoples of the Middle East use this term to describe the region in which they themselves live.

In Arabic, in Turkish, in Persian, in Hebrew, this region is called by the Middle Eastern people the Middle East, even though it is a term of foreign creation. The term was actually created by an American naval historian, Alfred Thayer Mahan, who used it in an article and
popularized the term in 1902.

The fact that the term created by a foreigner has been adopted by the local peoples, is an indication of the enormous effect that foreign nations, foreign powers have had in the creation of this modern Middle East, as we call. Time, time is defined in this region, according to the Gregorian Western calendar.

There are Muslim and Jewish calendars, yet day to day life in the countries of the Middle East is not governed by these Muslim or Jewish calendars, but rather by the Gregorian Western Christian calendar. So, both time and space in the Middle East have been defined by outsiders.

Again, a reminder of the enormous influence that outsiders have had in the creation of this modern Middle East. So, where is it, exactly?

This modern Middle East. What are the countries that are included in the Middle East? Normally, although there are various definitions of what exactly the Middle East is, most would go along with the definition thatthe Middle East includes all the Arab countries.

That is, from Morocco in the west to the countries in the gulf, like, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. And the non-Arab countries, of which there are three: Turkey, Iran, and Israel.

If we look at the state structure of the Middle East, any map of the Middle East showing us where the borders of the different countries are. We can see that, for a very large degree, this is the patchwork of foreigners. That imperial powers often sat with rulers and created states where states had not existed before.

Countries were created with new identities that did not yet actually exist. In fact, in the Middle East, it is much more appropriate to speak of state-nations rather than nation-states. In Europe, it was very common for nations like the French or the Germans to create states that represented their national linguistic and territorial identity. But in the Middle East, states were created before nation-states existed.

Thus, we have countries like Jordan, for example, or the territory of Palestine as defined after the first World War, where these were totally new creation. There were no Palestinian people or Jordanian people when these states were created.

Nor Syrian or Lebanese or Iraqi people when their states were created. But with time, with the existence of these states, nations did emerge with a particular territorial identity. Thus, you do have, after the creation of Palestine, after the creation of Jordan, after the creation of Iraq, and after the creation of Syria, for example, the emergence of people who do have Palestinian, Jordanian, Syrian, or Lebanese identities. These are state-nations rather than nation-states.

Nations that came into being after the creation of the state. Not the creation of states that came into being after the formation of the nation, which is the more typical European example. Peoples in the Middle East, for centuries upon centuries, identified themselves collectively. Not by the states in which they lived, not by the territory that they inhabited, and not by the language they spoke, but by their religious belief.

Collective identity was about religion, not about territory and language. And it was only after the dramatic long standing impact of the West that identities began to shift and to emerge towards a more European style territorial or linguistic identity.

This modern Middle East, this Middle East changing under the impact of the west in the 19th century, went through very important periods of reform. Firstly, the reform of the Ottoman Empire in the middle of the 19th century, a set of reforms which changed the empire  very significantly. A modernizing and centralizing reform that was known collectively as the Tanzimat, the reorganization of the Ottoman Empire. In this confrontation, in this meeting with the West, we have another movement in the latter part of 19th century of Islamic reform.

Islamic thinkers looking for ways and means to find a synthesis between Western science and philosophy and religion. A way of adopting Western style, a way of adopting Western philosophy, a way of adopting Western modernization, without losing the Islamic authentic identity of Middle Eastern society. We have the introduction, as a result of these movements of reform, of new ideas. Nationalism being one of the most important. 

Nationalism, that revolutionary idea which speaks about the sovereignty of man rather than the sovereignty of God. This was one of the most important revolutionary, ideological changes that took place in the Middle East in the 19th century and moving on into the 20th. At the end of the first World War in 1918, the Ottoman Empire, the great Turkish empire which had ruled the Arab lands for 400 years, came to an end. But one has to remember that this Ottoman Empire that ruled the Arab countries for 400 years was not seen by the Arabs as an imperial conqueror, but as a legitimate Muslim authority.

The fact that the Ottomans were Turks was not held against them. It was not seen as a Turkish occupation of Arab nations. It was a legitimate Muslim authority. Turkish Muslims ruling over Arab Muslims, and what was important was not the Turkish-ness or the Arab-ness of the peoples, but their Islamic religious belief. And the legitimacy of the Ottoman Empire was therefore never called into question until a very, very late phase of our story. The end of 19th and the early 20th century. And then, only partially, and not by all the Arabs as one. But it was called into question, this Turkish rule with the emergence of Arab nationalism. But with the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the creation of new states on the ruins of the Ottoman Empire, these new states and the state structure of the region served Western imperial interests.

Those of France and Britain above all else. And therefore, even though these states were created when Arab nationalism was already a factor in the Middle East, the states were created without much respect for the ideas of Arab nationalism, which spoke of the unification of the Arab speaking people. These states divided the Arabs into these imperial creations. Therefore, the Arab state order, as created after the first World War, was an Arab state order, which did not enjoy much legitimacy in the eyes of the Arab peoples  themselves. Arab nationalism fought against this imperial state creation. But Arab nationalism, even though it was a very popular movement through much of the 20th century. And it was a very popular movement because Arab nationalism was this brilliant traditional compromise between pure secularist national ideas and Islamic identity.

Arabism always contained an Is, important Islamic religious component. And by containing this Islamic component, Arab nationalism was this easier transition from Islamic identity to secular Arab nationalism. But as popular as Arab nationalism was, and it was very popular in the Arab world for much of the 20th century, Arab nationalism was a dismal failure in political practice. Most notably, Arab nationalism was a dismal failure in the conflict with Israel. 

The conflict with Israel, in which Israel, smaller, less populous than the Arab countries, defeated the Arabs twice in 1948 and then, perhaps more humiliatingly, in 1967. These wars with Israel and the defeat of the Arabs by Israel in these wars serve as a kind of monument to Arab failure to effectively meet the Western challenge. And as this kind of monument to Arab failure, Israel finds it extremely difficult to be accepted by the Arab world around it. In the aftermath of the 1967 war, politics in the Middle East were governed by two dominant trends, even though the two trends were contradictory eh, to each other. The one was the final acquiescence of the Arab states in the colonial state order.

Finally, the Arab states, realizing the failure of Arab nationalism, came to terms with the Arab state structure. It was now more legitimate to speak about the Egyptian states. And the Egyptian states, [FOREIGN] as the French called it, state interest. As the other Arab states like Jordan and Syria, and the Palestinians too. Less was said about Arab nationalism, and more was said about state interest. But challenging this acquiescence in the colonial state order and the political status quo was the radical Islamic revival, which filled the vacuum that had been left by Arab nationalism. And on the one hand, we see the radical Islamic revival. And on the other hand, the territorial state and the existing regime in conflict with each other in many of the Arab states, from the far west north Africa all the way to the gulf.

This radical Islamic revival essentially  is looking at the modernization process of the last 150-200 years in an effort to promote an alternative route to modernity. It is mistaken to see the Islamic revival as opposed to modernity. It is not opposed to modernity, but it is an Islamic effort to find a pathway to modernity within the framework of an Islamic cultural and legal framework. 

1.2. What is the Modern Era?

Now we come to another question.

What is the modern era? Where do we start? And why do we start where we start? 

It is very common and customary in the writing of Middle Eastern history to start the modern era in 1798. Why 1798?

Because in 1798 Napoleon invaded Egypt, and ushered in through his invasion, a long period of rapid and radical change. That sounds reasonable. But it is problematic. Because in this determination of the Napoleonic invasion as the beginning of the modern era, there is a hidden assumption. That hidden assumption is, that the modern era in the Middle East was created only and solely through European influence and European supremacy on an area which is in decline, stagnant and moving nowhere. So there is now a historiographical debate about whether it was ever really correct to begin the modern era with the Napoleonic invasion of Egypt. 

The Italian historian and philosopher Benedetto Croce said that history was always writing about contemporary history. All history is contemporary history, meaning to say that all history is written from the point of view of the present. And as the present changes all the time, with the changing of the present, we have a changing view of the past. And our ideas about the past, the way we write about the past, change all the time. And therefore, the idea of seeing the Napoleonic invasion as the sole impetus for change and modernization in the region has been challenged in later years. First let's have a look at the so called thesis of decline.

The thesis of decline argues that the Ottoman Empire since its peak in the period of the Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent who died in 1556, that since this mid-16th century, the Ottoman Empire was in a 350 year linear decline. That half of the empire's existence was this linear decline for centuries upon centuries. That the Middle East had become a dormant, stagnant society resurrected by the Western encroachment. That it was Western enlightenment and vitality that brought about the modernization of the Middle East. But this was was not so. In the Middle East, well after the 17th century, there are vibrant cities with centers of government and courts of law and centers of learning and arts and crafts, and trade with the West and the East. It was not a stagnant, rotting identity or entity. It is true that the empire did not expand. And from 1683 onwards, the failure in the Siege of Vienna, the Ottoman Empire was in constant retreat, in terms of territory. It did weaken in comparison to part of Europe, not to all of it. Certainly to northern and western Europe. Far less in comparison to southern Europe or Russia. But this was a matter of relative retreat, in comparison to the empire's former greatness. It was not a total linear decline. On the one hand, it is true.

The defeat at the gates of Vienna in 1683 was the beginning of a period of territorial contraction. But, on the other hand, there were very handsome Ottoman defeats dealt to the Russians, for example, after the Siege of Vienna in 1711, in the war with Russians, in what is presently the country of Moldavia. On the one hand, the Ottoman Empire was the sick man of Europe. But on the other, it enjoyed unquestioned Islamic legitimacy. Even when rebellions in the empire brought down the ruling Sultan, legitimacy of the empire remained intact. And this remained true until the rise of new ideas like nationalism in the late 19th and early 20th Century. It was only then that the empire was really challenged by new ideas from Europe, and that the legal system was questioned. Until then, the legal system was seen as fair and reasonable. But when European style legal and educational reforms were introduced, these had a dramatic impact on issues such as collective identity. And these did not make matters better, but quite the opposite. It is also true that in the 19th century, the difficulties of the empire were more clearly visible, clearly seen from the Napoleonic invasion of Egypt, as one example.

But another example that goes on throughout the 19th century are the nationalist uprising against the Ottoman Empire, amongst the Christians in the Balkans. And these were Nationalist uprisings that succeeded in obtaining independence for the Christian nations of the Balkans. The Greeks, the Serbs, the Bulgarians, who gradually through the 19th century, broke away from the Ottoman Empire. It is true also that in the 19th century, the Western advance and advantage in science and technology and power projection was very, very clear. But then again, on the other hand, the empire strengthened its hold in much of the Arab-speaking provinces, and controlled a huge domain. All the way from Yemen to Libya was all still the Ottoman Empire. There were indeed frequent rebellions against the Ottomans since the end of the 16th Century. This was a sign of weakness.

But the fact that the empire survived these rebellions time and time again was another sign of Ottoman resilience. The 17th century was a period of growing decentralization and empowerment of local potentates and rising urban social classes. Some historians argue that this was a negative force, that it was an indication of the decline of the Ottoman Empire. But others would argue quite the opposite, that it enabled an often effective, albeit  indirect form of control, and that it wasn't a sign of decline at all. Hugh Nolan, an Irish historian, not writing about  the Ottoman Empire but made a general comment. Aye, he said, the two things happen at one time. Things get better, and they get worse. 

So what difference does all this discussion make? Did it all begin with Napoleon or not? What is the correct periodization of this modern era? Was change all initiated from outside by the enlightened, progressive West, or a dormant, stagnant, and backward society? Did nothing change in the Middle East until Napoleon?

Well, the answer to all these questions is that it was obviously not so. The picture is much more complex. The European input added great momentum to a process that had already begun. Some go even as far as to argue that Napoleon interrupted a local process of modernization, which could have been a successful alternative to the Western model.

Had it not been for Western impact they say, the Middle East would have established its own model of modernity. Maybe, but equally, maybe not. But no one has really offered an alternative periodization. People have questioned whether it does all begin with Napoleon, but no one has been able to say, if not Napoleon,  then when does it begin exactly? So the bottom line of the debate is to come to a balanced conclusion, which would say the Napoleonic phase was a key to a new period of rapid change, but one that added a quantum leap forward to an ongoing process. The colonial interaction, with all its obvious negatives, created an unprecedented measure of rapid change in politics, the economy, and perhaps, most importantly, in the sphere of ideas and the erosion of tradition. 

Ideas are more dangerous than occupation. Ideas erode beliefs and traditions. Occupation comes and goes.

1.3. The Middle East in 19th Century

1.3.1. The Structure of Social Society

We're now moving into the discussion on the structure of society in the Middle East at the beginning of the 19th century.

What is important to recognize when we talk about the Middle East eh, in comparison to Europe, is the emphasis in the Middle East on the structure of society by groups. Groups as the components of society, rather than societies made up of individuals. The British historian Malcolm Yapp described Middle Eastern society in the following terms. He said that Middle Eastern society was composed of various groups whose relationship to each other was like that of pieces in a mosaic. Governments recognized the existence of these groups and dealt with them in different ways. There was no assumption that society was composed of numbers individuals who should be treated in a uniform fashion. Rather different groups had different rights and interests and required to be governed in different ways. 

Indeed, the different groups in Middle Eastern society were based on birth, family, the extended family, and tribe. And most importantly, by religious division. People in the Middle East defined themselves first and foremost by their religious association.

In 1800, the great majority of the Middle Eastern population or Muslims, they were minorities, Orthodox Christians, Jews. In Egypt, there was a Christian Coptic population. In the European parts of the empire, the
Christian majority was one of two to one over the Muslims, who, in the European part of the Ottoman Empire, were a minority. They were and are in the Middle East, minorities that are referred to in the professional literature as compact minorities.

What are compact minorities?

Compact minorities are minorities that are located in one single particular territory. Like the Maronite Christians in Mount Lebanon, or the Alawis in northwestern Syria, or the Druze in the Druze mountain area, which is in southern Syria and partly in Lebanon. Compact minorities, located in a specific territory, had a tendency to develop a very strong communal identity. Whereas Christians, who were spread out throughout the Ottoman Empire...

The Orthodox Christians, for example, who are not a compact minority, had a much greater tendency to support Arab nationalism far more than the Maronite Christians of Lebanon, for example. So, there is a difference in the political affiliations of the minorities, whether they're compact minorities or other minorities who are spread out throughout the empire. The Ottomans governed these minorities through their own autonomous institutions. This was known as the Millet system.

The minorities were known as millets, that  is autonomous peoples, so to speak. The minorities were governed by a law of  their own. Not all peoples of the Ottoman Empire were under the same legal authority. Non-Muslims paid taxes that Muslims did not pay. This was known as the jizyah, a poll tax. Although the Ottomans weren't very strict about it. Only about one-third of the non-Muslims actually paid the tax. But in theory, Muslims follow their law, and Christians and Jews follow theirs. The non-Muslim religious communities were not only about religion. Non-Muslim, communities also provided courts of law and schools of education for  their particular communities. The Muslim community was not uniform either. Divided between the Sunni Muslims and Shia Muslims. 

What is the difference between Sunnis and Shias?

Not really about dogma, much more about politics. The division between Sunnis and Shias goes back to the 7th century in a political struggle over who was to be the caliph after the passing of the Prophet. The first caliph was supposed to be, in the eyes of his supporters, Ali the son-in-law of the Prophet. His supporters were known as the Ali faction, Shi'at Ali. Shi'at is a faction. And it is from their support of Ali that the name Shia derives. It is a political struggle about who was supposed to be the caliph, not so much about religious dogma. Other minorities, like the Alawis and the Druze, are sects that broke away from the Shia in the 10th and 11th centuries. 

Official establishment Islam was represented by the chief of the religious establishment in the Ottoman Empire, the Sheikh al-Islam. The chief religious authority appointed by the Sultan, who was the chief religious authority for the Muslims in the empire. But there was also popular Islam, not only establishment Islam. The Sufi mystical orders, to which large portions of the Muslim population belonged.

If we look at the social hierarchy in the  Ottoman Empire in the 19th century... At the top of this hierarchy, we have the government composed, of course, of the military and the bureaucracy, staffed in the main by far by Muslims. It was not very customary for Jews and Christians to be part of either the military or the bureaucracy, although in the bureaucracy, there were some Jews and some Christians, particularly translators. But government and bureaucracy and the military were very much the domain of Muslims.

Second to government was the religious establishment and the religious functionaries. The judges, those who interpreted also religious law for the general population. Then those who are outside government. The merchants, the peasants, the tribesmen, the townsmen, the members of the professional guilds, the notables in the provincial parts of the empire, the notables who in the provincial parts of the empire were bridges between the rulers and the ruled. 

And they were very often the tax collectors. And as tax collectors and as landowners, there were deep divisions between town and village. Town is the center of government, the center of commerce, the center of education, the bureaucracy. Peasants, in the eyes of the townsmen, were regarded as illiterate, uncultured, and ignorant of the outside world. There was a great deal of tension between landowners in the towns and the peasantry. And these tensions between landowners and the peasantry were to be part and parcel of revolutionary politics, as we will see later on, in the Middle East of the 20th century. In the 19th century, Middle Eastern society did undergo major transformation. Government became more centralized, and thus, more powerful. Landowners grew even stronger, and the tensions between them and the peasantry grew even greater.

A new education system that was introduced  into the empire under the impact of European influence engendered a  new group of educated secular people. And this educated secular class, a new class of people in the modernizing empire, weakened the status of the religious establishment. But association with religious community, tribe and family, remained the core organizing principle of society. The issue of new ideas led to the even increased importance of the religious minorities.

Because of their knowledge of languages, because of their  relative openness to Europe, and therefore, because of their improved status, as a result of the reforms that were introduced in the Ottoman Empire during the 19th century.

1.3.2. The Economy

Having said a few words about society, let's make a brief statement about the economy of the Middle East, at the beginning of the 19th century. First of all, we have to recognize that we don't have reliable statistics for the population of the Middle East, for example, at that period. But we do know that it is estimated that the Middle Eastern population at that time was about 30 million. 6 million in Iran. 24 million in the various Ottoman territories. And 3 and a half million in Egypt. Counted separately because of the separate way Egypt took in the 19th century. And we'll talk a bit more about that later on. That figure, 3 and a half million in Egypt, is an interesting point to note at present. Since then, the beginning of the 19th century coming to the beginning of the 21st century today. Egypt's population has increased 25 times over. If we can say that the Middle East and, in the early 19th century, was relatively under populated. The great problem of the middle-east today and which we can see as a major reason for the outbreak of the Arab Spring as it is called. Is that the Middle East today is over populated.

But, in the early 19th century, things were very different. This was a relatively under populated part of the world. Population was kept low because of the wars that broke out continuously between the Ottomans and the Persians, between the Ottomans and various European powers. Famine was frequent, disease, was very
common. And there was also birth control, mainly through abortion which kept the population very low. There were very dramatic losses of life due to famine in countries like Egypt and Iraq, which were completely dependent on the flow of the great rivers. The Nile in Egypt and the Tigress and the Euphrates in Iraq. And when rain fall was low, populations suffered from famine. And causing huge losses of life. Plague was another cause of very, very dramatic tragic losses of life.

One sixth of the population of Egypt died in 1785 because of the plague. Over 300,000 people died in Istanbul because of the plague in 1812. During the 19th century, there was a revolution of population size. Because of Western medicine, public health measures, better communications and transportation, increased security, reduced internal violence. All these led to an ever increasing  population, in the 19th century, whichincreased at a much faster rate, for the same reasons, in the 20th century.  There were also changes in the composition of the population.

The fact that the Ottoman empire was gradually losing its European provinces also meant that the Ottoman Empire was gradually losing much of its Christian population. Provenances that were lost to Christian powers led to the immigration of Muslims from the east places into the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman Empire became ever more Muslim and ever less Christian during the 19th century.

In the period between 1912 and 1923, that is, the first quarter of the 20th century. It was a demographic disaster in the Middle East. 20% of the population of Anatolia, which is the major land mass of Turkey, died in that period. Due to wars and other inflictions. 10% of them immigrated. During the 19th century and the emergence of the nationalist idea, there was a trend of what we can call the territorialization of identity. It was not enough for indigenous communities to live in their particular locations.

Under the impact of European ideas, these religious minorities sought a territorial identity. In the form of a state.  And the creation of these territorial identities led to clashes. And bloody clashes, between different religious, national groups. The most tragic of all and the most well known of all is the terrible tragedy of the Armenians in Turkey of the first World War. Territorialization of identity, therefore, had some very nasty, unintended consequences. But because the population of the Middle  East grew in the 19th century, on the eve of World War One, the Middle East was no longer self-sufficient in food. And this is a problem that was only aggravated as time went by.

This has become even more of a problem, in the Middle East of today. Overpopulated and inca, incapable of providing its own needs, in terms of food. In terms of the economic relations between the Middle East and the West, during the 19th century. Britain surpassed France as the leading commercial super power in the Middle East. At the end of the 19th century, most of the Middle East's commerce was with Europe. Middle East exports of raw materials and food items went to Europe, while the Europeans, as a result of their Industrial Revolution, exported finished goods, from Europe to the Middle East.

There was a massive flow of capital, from  Europe to the Middle East, and the creation of a huge debt, both in the Ottoman Empire and of Egypt, to European countries and banks. All of the above was much slower. This connection with Europe, these economic changes, were much slower in Iran, much further away from Europe, far less in direct contact with Europe, than in the Ottoman empire and Egypt.

1.3.3. Politics

Moving into politics in the Middle East of the 19th century, I refer again to the British historian Malcolm Yapp, who spoke about politics being governed by two main characteristics. Government was diverse. And minimal, he said. The government says we have not recognized  the existence of groups and not individuals. Muslims and non-Muslim subjects were governed in different ways and by different laws. Muslims followed the Sharia, and Christians and Jews followed their ecclesiastical or legal frameworks. Tribesmen had their own modes of settling disputes.

Foreigners were also granted special legal  privileges; they were called the capitulations. Foreigners were governed by the laws of their own countries, implemented by their respective consular representations. Government was minimal, as was taxation.  Services like law and education were not supplied by the central government, but by the various communities. To outside observers, this gave the impression of a decentralized and even ineffective government in decline. But as another British historian, Albert Hourani, has noted, these were actually adaptations in the style of governance, according to changing circumstances. And they were and remained quite effective. The locus of power shifted from the sultan to the higher [FOREIGN] of the bureaucracy in the office of the Grand Vizier, the chief minister. Provinces were often controlled by local [UNKNOWN] as was the case in Egypt and in other parts of the empire.

In the Arab cities of the empire, there were notable families, some Arab, some Turkish, that assumed positions of wealth and power. But because of the importance of religion, notable families tended to send their children to obtain religious education and to become functionaries in the religious and legal establishment.  through this kind of employment, they  gained control of religious endowments,awqaf as they are known in Arabic, which were sources of great wealth and political control. Boys but not girls, were schooled in the traditional schools, the Qutb and the Madrasas, where they learned the Quran and religious jurisprudence, as well as some secular subjects like mathematics and astronomy.

1.4. Changing Balance of Power with Europe

During this period of the 19th century, there was a dramatic change in the balance of power with Europe. Up until the middle of the 18th century, the Ottomans could feel on an equal footing with Europe. And before this period, even superior to Europe. But in the last quarter of the 18th century, a dramatic change took place. It was clear that the gap between the Ottoman Empire and Western Europe, in science, technology, military, and economic power was all shifting in favor of the Europeans. Important advances in medicine led to dramatic population growth in Europe. Technology enabled modern shipbuilding. And therefore also economic expansion. The wealth of the West enabled the creation of powerful navies and armies. And all of this served the expansion of Europe, ever more at the expense of the Ottomans. The Russian-Ottoman War of 1768 to 1774 was a critical turning point.

The Russians emerged victorious in this confrontation, and in this war they took over the area of the Crimea. This Russian victory brought the Russians onto the banks of the Black Sea. The Black Sea from then onwards was no longer an enclosed Ottoman lake. And brought the Russians ever closer to the straits, the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles, that lead to the Mediterranean. This loss of Crimea didn't only mean the loss of complete Ottoman control of the Black Sea. It also meant the first serious loss of control of Muslim subjects.

The symbolic loss of Ottoman control of Muslim peoples.

This was a great historical reversal. And of great meaning, because it was of great religious and legitimacy importance. For the Ottoman Empire to be the ruler of Muslims, and not to have Muslims taken over by Christian powers. The Ottoman Empire was, after all, the protector of Muslims and of Islam. In the 19th century, we have what one could call the century of European empires. Europe seemed to be ruling the world. This led to the realization of the peoples in the Middle East, and the Ottoman government too, that something had gone awfully wrong in the cosmic order of things.

The belief in the historic supremacy of Islam over Christianity. The belief in the historic supremacy of Muslims above all other religions and peoples, was in need of an update. The fundamental change in thinking was required. And it was now at the end of the 18th century, when the Sultan Selim III began the first serious efforts at modernizing the Ottoman Army. And this was done in the 1790s, before the Napoleonic invasion of Egypt. The fact that reforms began in the military, is a very important factor in and of itself. What this meant, and having a great effect on politics in the Middle East in later years, was that the military was the vanguard of Western modernizing reform.

Military officers became the most  westernized,of Middle Eastern societies. And very often in later years, became the leaders of revolutionary change. Revolutionary change in the military led to revolutionary change in other spheres. To modernize the military required, for example, the learning of foreign languages. French, English, German. The learning of foreign languages in order to modern, modernize the military, led eventually to the influx of foreign ideas. And foreign ideas were the most important in creating what one could call a cultural shock.

For the Muslim world and its recognition, that Islam was no longer a superior culture. The Muslims could no longer rely just on their own self sufficiency. New ideas, such as equality before the law, individual rights, nationalism. All of these gave rise to new forms of  identity and to new forms of organization of the political community.

The most dramatic foreign intrusion was Napoleon's invasion of Egypt in the summer of 1798. The French stayed for three years until they were forced out by the British and the Ottomans. But this was the first intrusion into the very heartland of the Ottoman Empire. And it was not only an intrusion, but also an extreme exposure to the greatness of European power at that time.

This was not just military power. The French came to Egypt not only with their armies, but with scientific missions, that brought to  the Middle East and exposed to the Middle East, this whole new world of scientific advancement and progress. During the 19th century, the people of the Middle East were exposed to an explosion of European energy. The population of Europe increased by 50% from 1800 to 1850.

Britain's population grew in this period from 16 million to 27 million. London became the largest city on Earth with a population of two and a half million people. There was therefore much available manpower, needed both for industry, and the development of large modern armies. Between 1815 and 1850, Britain's exports to the countries of the Eastern Mediterranean, increased by 800%. Europe's need for raw materials meant olive oil from Tunisia, silk from Lebanon, and cotton from Egypt. The European merchants had the power of their home countries behind them.

The Russians and the French interfered regularly, in the affairs of the Christians in the Ottoman Empire. The Russians supporting their fellow co-religionists, Orthodox Christians, the Serbs and the Greeks. And the French protecting Catholics. At a later stage, Britain tried to play this minority game by supporting the Jews and the Zionist idea in Palestine. Support for nationalist aspirations of the Christian communities of the Ottoman Empire came very regularly from the Europeans. And it is the Christians who were the first to be affected by Western ideas. Because by the nature of things, the Christians had a greater openness to the Christian West.

1.5. The Eastern Question

These are the years in which the so-called Eastern Question developed. The Eastern Question is a question that preoccupied the European powers. But it was really a question about the fate of the Ottoman Empire, which had a very critical impact on the  European balance of power. The fear of the European powers was that a decline or disappearance of the Ottoman Empire, the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, could lead to a European struggle for the remnants of the empire that would upset the balance of power in Europe and  reate a huge European war. That is what most European powers sought to prevent. The European powers, generally speaking, therefore had the collective interest to preserve the integrity of the Ottoman Empire, despite its weakness, so as not to have the disintegration of the empire cause a destabilization of the power relations in Europe.

At the end of the 18th century, and at the beginning of the 19th, Russia posed the greatest challenge to the Ottoman Empire. And there were two components of this Russian challenge. The religious factor, Russia's support for Orthodox Christians in the Middle East.  And the strategic factor, Russia's desire to advance southwest to the Black Sea. Hence the importance of the Straits, the  Bosphorus, and  the Dardanelles, in order to eventually reach the Mediterranean. Britain also became an interested party in the affairs of the Middle East as a result of her acquisition of empire in India, the so called jewel in the crown of the British Empire.

To maintain connection with India, Britain obviously required safe passage which went through the Mediterranean and the Middle East.  Britain therefore acquired a very great interest in the preservation of Middle Eastern stability.  But things were not always easily manageable. Bonaparte's expedition to Egypt in 1798 is a typical example of these kinds of difficult management. Napoleon occupied Cairo in July 1798. A month later in August, the French fleet was destroyed by the British in the Battle of the Nile, severing Napoleon's communications with France. In September of 1798, the Ottomans declared war on France and entered into an alliance against France with both Britain and Russia. Bonaparte set off into Syria but was stopped at Acre in May 1799, and he returned to France. In 1801, the French force in Egypt finally surrendered to a British expeditionary force. Britain and Russia were now firmly allied to preserve the integrity of the Ottoman Empire. But a new reality had emerged in Egypt in the meantime.

In the aftermath of the French occupation, Muhammad Ali, an Ottoman officer of Albanian origin, who was posted by the Ottomans to Egypt, gradually assumed control of Egypt as the local ruler de facto. Muhammad Ali became the creator of modern Egypt, essentially separating Egypt from the Ottoman Empire, instituting military reforms. After which, followed a whole host of other reforms in other spheres. Actually, moving ahead in reform, ahead of the Ottoman Empire. Muhammad Ali established his own autonomous control of Egypt in the early 19th century. And thus, he, Muhammad Ali, and Egypt also became a part of the famous Eastern Question. A core component of this Eastern Question during the 19th century was the conflict between the Ottoman Empire and its Christian subjects. In the Balkans, in particular. Christians in the Ottoman Empire in the Balkans were eagerly discussing and adopting modern European ideas, like nationalism. And it was with European support that they were eventually successful in their struggles for independence. The Greeks were the first, in the 1820s, followed by others, like the Serbs, the Romanians, and the Bulgarians.

There was a dominant religious element in these nationalist movements. It was, after all, always Christians fighting against Muslims. And thus, the natural support of the Europeans for these newly emerging Christian independent movements versus the Ottomans. European support for Greek independence was also motivated by a romanticized image of ancient Greece, related to this new struggle of the Greeks for their independence.

As the Ottomans seemed to be losing in this struggle with the Greeks, Muhammad Ali, now the de facto ruler in Egypt, was called in by the Ottomans to help suppress the Greek uprising. But the Turko-Egyptian fleets were defeated in Navarino by a combined British-French force in 1827. Muhammad Ali was promised Syria in return for his assistance, but the Ottomans did not keep  their promise.And Muhammad Ali invaded Palestine and Syria in 1831, and defeated the Ottomans in Konya, which is deep inside Anatolia, in 1832. Muhammad Ali was now really threatening the integrity of the Ottoman empire. And in their despair, the Ottomans sought help from Russia, and they signed a defense pact with the Russians in 1833. The Russians were interested in preserving the integrity of the Ottoman Empire against other threats, but this gave the impressions to other European powers that Russia was acquiring a de facto protectorate over the Ottoman Empire. Brittan therefore became committed to removing Muhammad Ali from Syria. Not because she cared so much about the Near East, but because of Britain's concerns about the balance of power in Europe.

Muhammad Ali defeated the Ottomans again in 1839. And Britain and Russia cooperated to remove the threat posed by Muhammad Ali, forced him out of Syria and back to Egypt. But Muhammad Ali was now given the hereditary possession of Egypt in exchange for his removal from Syria. That meant that Egypt was no longer only under the ruler of Muhammad Ali, but that it was promised as an inheritance to Muhammad Ali's sons and their sons after him. Thus, creating a dynasty which ruled in Egypt all along until 1952, when overthrown by the Egyptian officers and their General Naguib and Colonel Nasser. Matters were destabilized again between the powers in 1854 with the outbreak of the Crimean War.

This was a war that the Russians fought against the Ottomans, and the Ottomans, now backed by Britain and France, against the Russians. The trouble was ignited at first by conflict between France and Russia on the  protection of Christian holy places in Palestine. The Russians demanded concessions from the Ottomans whose refuse resulting in war, eventually brought to an end by the Peace of Paris in 1856.  The Peace of Paris, again, guaranteed the territorial integrity of the Ottoman Empire by the European powers. But in return for this European guarantee of Ottoman integrity, the Sultan promised reforms and better treatment of Christian minorities.

What this meant, in conclusion, was a growing European interest and interference in the lands of the Ottoman Empire, which had also led to the promotion of nationalist movements threatening the empire, made it absolutely crucial for the rulers of the Ottoman Empire to engage in urgent reform to save the empire. Reforms did not save the empire in the end.  But they eventually helped to create the modern Middle East as we know it. In our next lesson, we will engage in these reforms that changed the empire and introduced the modern Middle East.

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