Thursday, October 29, 2009

The End of the Ottomans

Magnet # 78: Turkish Flag Detail

Material: Acrylic

Purchased by: Mom & Dad

Is it just me, or does anyone else think it's kinda funny that Greece and Turkey have national holidays one right after the other, given their longstanding rivalry? I don't make these dates up, I just post when it's appropriate. So yep, it's Republic Day over in Turkey, when they celebrate the 1923 amendment of the Turkish constitution, the creation of the Republic of Turkey, and the last of the Ottoman Empire.

For over 600 years, the Ottoman Empire straddled the Eastern and Western worlds, serving as a connection between the two and an amalgamation of both cultures. At its height, the Empire dominated much of the Eastern Mediterranean and was a considerable military threat. Powerful and capable Sultans added to the size of the Empire, bringing in lands from Europe, Asia, and Africa. But, eventually, the tide began to turn. Europeans made military advancements beyond the Ottomans, making them impossible to beat on the battlefield. The Empire thus lost a considerable amount of its European holdings. It was forced to become a primarily defensive army, and, later, to never venture into military engagements alone, but as part of an alliance. Reforms began to be enacted, and a Constitution was developed, giving citizens equal rights and freedom of belief, but it was abolished and later reenacted. The Empire fell into debt, ethnic groups within it quarrelled, and it was unable to maintain communication over its vast territories. After World War I, when the Ottomans emerged on the losing side, much of their land was partitioned by the Allies. Finally, after a period of uncertainty, the Grand National Assembly of Turkey was able to amend the constitution, and a new country was formed. Sultanates were officially the way of the past - Republics were the way into the future.

Nowadays, Turkey is alive and flourishing, but signs of its Ottoman roots are still visible. For exaple, the current Turkish flag is actually inspired by that of the of the Ottoman Empire. Its crescent moon is a holy symbol from pre-Islamic times, and the color red was used by Ottomans for secular purposes, eventually becoming their signature color. The star, once consisting of eight points, was trimmed down to five in 1844. These symbols and color are said to have been inspired by a legend of an Ottoman battle site, where a vision of a crescent moon and star were glimpsed in a pool of blood. Some say, however, that the crescent and star were actually symbols of Constantinople that were adapted by the Turks when they conquered the city, and that the cresent is actually linked to Artemis, as it is her symbol. Regardless, the flag of Turkey is a clear indication that, although the Ottoman Empire may have officially ended 86 years ago, its descidents are alive and still connected to its traditions, and will continue to be.

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