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Era of Modern Reform, European Sabotage

Tanzimat reforms, Young Ottomans, Capitulations, modern bureaucracy, misrule

Severe economic, financial, political, and diplomatic problems emerged, however, to undermine the Tanzimat reforms. The newly industrialized European states preferred to keep the Ottoman Empire as a source of cheap raw materials and a market for their manufactured goods. Using the Capitulations—treaties by which, since the 16th century, the sultans had allowed Europeans to live and work in the empire according to their own laws and under their own consuls—the Europeans were able to prevent the Ottomans from restricting foreign imports and thus kept them from protecting their own nascent industries. Because the Ottomans depended largely on foreign industrialists for capital and know-how, the Europeans could also undermine and destroy what industrial efforts were made. The empire borrowed so heavily from European banks that by the last years of the Tanzimat, more than half of its total revenues were consumed by interest charges. Moreover, the new and modern bureaucracy soon began to use its authority to misrule the subjects.

A group of intellectuals and liberals known as the Young Ottomans for a Constitution then began to demand a limit to the power of the ruling class and the bureaucracy and a parliament to enforce the rights of the people. Severely suppressed by the Tanzimat leaders, the Young Ottomans fled abroad, publishing their demands in books and pamphlets that were sent into the empire through the foreign post offices, which, protected by the Capitulations, were free of Ottoman government control. At the same time, the newly independent Balkan states began large-scale agitation to gain control of Macedonia, where the population was almost evenly divided between Muslims and Christians. In Greece, Serbia, and Bulgaria, societies were organized that sought to enforce their claims by terrorist campaigns, severely straining the ability of the Ottoman state to keep order. Finally, the deaths of the principal Tanzimat leaders about 1870 left the autocratic structure of government they had created in the hands of dishonest politicians, who resumed the corruption and misrule that had prompted the Tanzimat in the first place.



Article key phrases:

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