Why did the Turks adopt the Latin alphabet after WWI?

Why did the Turks adopt the Latin alphabet after WWI?

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The Turks used to write their language using the Arabic alphabet. After WWI, when Mustafa Kemal revolutionized the country, he imposed the usage of Latin alphabet. Also the new writing system seems to have been particularly inspired from German, rather than any other language using the Latin alphabet.

Why is that? I understand Mustafa Kemal needed to revolutionize, westernize and modernize the country. However, nobody else in the region used the Latin alphabet, and I do not see how making 100% of the population suddenly illiterate, as well as making old books completely unreadable, was supposed to help modernize the country.

Also why inspire the writing from German specifically, right after the WWI alliance with Germany failed?

Two reasons: to increase literacy by simplifying the language, and to cut ties with the past (ie. the Ottomans) and forge a new secular Turkish identity.

The Ottoman Turkish alphabet, a variant of Arabic, was not well suited to Turkish words and phonemes making it very hard to learn and use. In particular, Turkish has eight vowels, but vowels in Arabic are complicated producing a poor sound-letter correspondence.

This was fine during the Ottoman Empire when literacy was considered something for the elite, not the common people. The new Turkish Republic wanted to improve the lives of the common person, and so literacy was very important.

In Arabic, vowels are often simply dropped from the written language, where as the Latin alphabet is a good match with Turkish vowels. For example <كورك> /kwrk/ has implied vowles. It can be read as /gevrek/ 'biscuit', /kyrk/ 'fur', /kyrek/ 'shovel', /kœryk/ 'bellows', /gœrek/ 'view', which in modern Turkish are written gevrek, kürk, kürek, körük, and görek.

The second, and primary, reason is politically motivated. The Turkish Republic wanted to cut ties with the Ottoman past and create a sense of Turkish nationalism. By replacing the old script with a new one did that handily. By choosing a Latin script the new Republic deliberately weakened its ties with the Arabic world and moved closer to the secular West.

"The alphabet reform cannot be attributed to ease of reading and writing. That was the motive of Enver Pasha. For us, the big impact and the benefit of alphabet reform was that it eased the way to cultural reform. We inevitably lost our connection with Arabic culture."

-- Mustafa İsmet İnönü, 2nd president of Turkey

"Atatürk imposed the mandatory Latin alphabet in order to promote the national awareness of the Turks against a wider Muslim identity. It is also imperative to add that he hoped to relate Turkish nationalism to the modern civilization of Western Europe, which embraced the Latin alphabet."

-- Şerif Mardin

This, combined with the effort to remove Arabic and Persian loan words from the language, "was slamming a door on the past as well as opening a door to the future". (Bernard Lewis).

Unfortunately instead of the five years recommended to make the change over, Atatürk ordered it done in three months which is barely time to make and distribute new materials let alone retrain a whole nation. To emphasize the point, "Law on the Adoption and Implementation of the Turkish Alphabet" (Türk Harflerİnİn Kabul Ve Tatbİkİ Hakkinda Kanun ) meant that all public communications would be done in the new language whether the public knew it or not.

As to why they picked Germany as a model, I can only speculate. Despite losing WWI, Turkey still had strong economic, political, and social ties with Germany and Austria. They shared advisers, teachers, commanders, arms, and equipment.

In contrast the victories Allies occupied Turkey and attempted to carve it up. Just six years before their language reform, the The Turkish Nationalist Movement fought a war of independence against the Sultan and the occupying Allies. They're not likely to be cooperating with them.

The people of the fallen Ottoman Empire and of Turkey up until then had used Arabic script, the same script in which the Islamic Quran is written in. One of the main reasons that Mustafa Kemal Ataturk transformed the script of the country of Turkey into Latin and in essence secularized the nation was to weaken the power of the Quran. Ataturk's policies almost seemed like borderline persecution against Muslims in a country dominated by this religion, as he abolishes garments sacred to the religion, such as the fez and the burqa, and allows clerical garb only in the mosque. He required the people of Turkey to wear Western clothing. Also, in 1925, the Turkish Historical Society rewrote the history of the country to downplay the Ottoman Empire and Islam, showing that Ataturk wanted to move as far away from the uber-religious state the country arose from. Of course, changing the script and language meant that more people would be illiterate, which is why Ataturk made elementary education free, universal, and obligatory.

To answer the question regarding certain parts of the new writing system being adopted from Germany, this may be because Turkey had the best relations with Germany at the time, so it would be easier to adopt their systems than those of a country they had considerably worse relations with, such as the UK or France. You may recall that Turkey also adopted secular law similar to that of the Swiss.

To summarize, Ataturk basically changed the script from Arabic to Latin to take away power from the Quran, and thus move towards being a secular state rather than one that is religiously driven.

Turkey's post World War I leader, Mustapha Kemal, or "Ataturk" switched to the Latin alphabet as part of a mandate to break from the immediate, humiliating, and "Sultanic" past. A similar initiative was the move of the capital from Istanbul to Ankara.

Something like 8%-10% of the Turkish population was literate in 1927 (I couldn't find any earlier figures). So perhaps 90% of the population was illiterate.

Of the literate portion of the population, most knew, or had studied a European language, and would have been familiar with the Latin alphabet. Put another way, there were very few people who were both literate and unfamiliar with the Latin alphabet.

Changing to the Latin alphabet ( a modfied version thereof, actually), would not have rendered "100% of the population" newly illiterate. At most it would have been 8%-10%, and probably far less.

Switching to Latin alphabet does not really mean making all nation suddenly illiterate as statistics show (see the reference in the end).

But of course this was a very radical measure, I agree, and a part of Westernization/modernization project. One of Kemal's goal was to decrease the role of religion and religious education; to separate literacy from religious education. I suppose this was a very effective measure from this point of view.

There were few similar cases in history.

When communists came to power in Russia at approximately the same time, they had similar projects of switching from Cyrillic to Latin. They did not implement it for various reasons, but later they forced other nations of Soviet Union to switch to Cyrillic alphabet. I mean the nations of Middle Asia, who used Arabic before, and Moldavia which used Latin. So this case is not unique in history. None of these switching led to widespread illiteracy. Probably the opposite is true. At least in the Middle Asia, the literacy rate sharply increased during the Soviet rule. It increased in Turkey as well.

Why did they use German assistance? Because of the close cultural and other connection with Germany which existed before the war. (This was actually one of the reasons why they entered the war on the German side). German defeat seems irrelevant for this particular project, and the project itself could be prepared before or during the war.

EDIT. As an evidence of what I wrote, here is the statistics of literacy rates in Turkey:


(For Soviet Middle Asia I did not find the data but the increase in literacy rates was dramatic). And to answer some comments: I never wrote that Latin alphabet is simpler than Cyrillic. My point was only that this kind of reform can be relatively painless in what concerns literacy rates.

While there seems now to be a reaction, for decades following Ataturk it was part of the national identity to which the Turkish elite aspired to insist that Turkey was 'part of Europe' (which on usual geographical definitions only a small part of it, around Istanbul, really is). Likewise that it was a 'secular' state even if most Turks were Muslim.

This is probably part of the same tendency found to varying extents in many Asian countries in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Europe seemed so much more powerful, successful and more advanced that they wanted to copy it, in the hope they could become powerful, successful and advanced too.

This was partly a 'love-hate' relationship as one of the motivations was to beat the West at its own game. As in the late nineteenth & early twentieth century Japanese learned European methods to build up their armed forces and industry, and then used them to defeat a partly European power Russia in the Russo-Japanese War in 1904-5, and as Ataturk had done to fight off the Greeks, British and French to preserve Turkey as a new state.

The Turkish alphabet is based on Latin but with several changes to fit their language e.g. no letter 'w', an extra letter like an 'i' without a dot to make the sound 'uh', various vowels with umlauts over them which at least look Germanic.

Another part of Ataturk's modernisation & westernisation programme was to adopt German Criminal Law and Swiss Civil Law as the laws of Turkey.

Could part of what is happening in Turkey now be explicable by the fact that the relative economic, industrial and military decline of Europe and the West in recent decades, and gradual rise to power of other parts of the world, mean that it no longer seems self-evident that copying Europe and the West is the road to success?

The Latin Alphabet

The Latin Alphabet has become the most widespread system of writing in the world. Its origins can be traced back thousands of years to Ancient Romans and to civilizations before that. It is probably the single biggest thing that we use today which originated in Rome.

Today’s English alphabet, you know that one from the song, is a modification of the system which was used by the Romans, which has had some unique quirks in the past that most English speakers are unaware of.

Learn more about the ABC’s of the ABC’s on this episode of Everything Everywhere Daily.

This episode is brought to you by Audible.com.

If you are interested in the origins of language, especially the English language, the audiobook I would recommend is The Adventure of English The Biography of a Language, by Melvyn Bragg. The book explains how a minor Germanic language wound up becoming a major world language due to political and economic events in world history.

You can get a free one month trial to Audible and 2 free audiobooks by going to audibletrial.com/EverythingEverywhere or clicking on the link in the show notes.

The system of writing which is used in most of the Western world today is known as the Latin Alphabet. This system of writing is used by every country in the Western Hemisphere, every country in sub-Saharan Africa, and all of Western and Northern Europe. It can also be found in various degrees in most other countries.

As with most good Roman ideas, they stole their alphabet from someone else. The Roman alphabet was based on the Etruscan alphabet, which also came from the Italian peninsula. The Etruscans based their alphabet on the Cumaean Greek alphabet, which in turn was based on the Phoenecian Alphabet, which in turn was based on Egyptian hieroglyphics. If you go all the way back, the writing system looks nothing like what we have today, but with each step along the way, you can see how the change gradually occurred.

The modern English alphabet has 26 characters. However, the ancient Roman alphabet had only 23 characters. The letters J, U, and W, are all relatively recent additions.

After the fall of the Roman Empire, the Catholic Church became the guardians of the Latin Language, and in 1978 they added the letter J to the Latin Alphabet. In 1978 John Paul II was elected pope, and he insisted that his Papal name in Latin be spelled with a J. Normally it would be spelled Ioannes, with an I, which is how his immediate predecessor, John Paul I, spelled it. Just like that, via a Papal decree, the letter J was added to the Latin language.

With no J or U, you might be asking how Julius Caesar would have spelled his name? In the original Latin, it would have been spelled I-V-L-I-V-S. The I was used instead of the J, and the V was used instead of a U.

The English alphabet is unique in that it is one of the only European languages which uses the Latin Alphabet but doesn’t have any diacritical marks. Whereas other languages will have some letters with dots, lines, and slashes above them to clarify how they are pronounced, English is totally lacking in them, even though it probably needs them more than other languages do because we’ve stolen so many words.

There used to be more than 26 letters in the English language. Many of them were abandoned over time, or they were just dropped as letters and used as other symbols.

The best example is the letter Thorn (Þ, þ). Thorn originally looked like the letter P flown at half staff. The round part was in the middle and not at the top. Over time, the way Thorn was drawn began to morph, and eventually, people replaced it with the letter it started to look like, the letter Y.

Thor was used to representing the “th” sound. If you’ve ever seen a sign that used the word “Ye”, that Y was the replacement for Thorn and it was supposed to be the “th” sound. So “Ye” should really be pronounced “the”. So a sign which says “Ye Old Shoppe” should really be pronounced “The Old Shoppe”.

Thorn is still used in Icelandic and it makes the same sound. If you look in the show notes for today’s episode, I have the Thorn character listed because it exists in ASCII computer characters.

Another letter which didn’t make the cut is one you are probably familiar with: Ampersand. Several hundred years ago, and even as late as the 19th Century, the ampersand was considered the 27th letter of the alphabet by many English speakers.

The character wasn’t originally called ampersand. It was just called “and” or “et” and it meant the same thing it does today.

It got the name ampersand because when you read off the alphabet, at the end you would say: “w, x, y, z, and, per se, and.” The “per se” part just means it was by its self.

The phrase “and per se and” eventually got merged into “ampersand”.

Another letter you might have seen is the long S. ? The long S was pronounced like the letter S, and it looked like the integral symbol from mathematics or like a lowercase f without a cross through it.

It existed alongside the S we know today, but with a host of rules for when it should be used. It was eventually abandoned in the 19th century because it served no real purpose as it was redundant with the normal s.

Most of the early countries which adopted the Latin Alphabet did so because they were Christian, and the early church used Latin. That was how non-romance languages like German and Polish came to use the characters.

Many countries have gone out of their way to switch to the Latin Alphabet. In some ways, the Latin Alphabet is like the metric system. It has become a universal standard. Countries that don’t use it have a large incentive to either convert to it or to use it alongside their native alphabet.

In Turkey, after WWI and the fall of the Ottoman Empire, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk moved Turkey to the Latin Alphabet, with 29 characters.

Over the last 300 years, there have been attempts to Latinize the Russian language by intellectuals. After the Communist revolution in 1917, there was a serious attempt to switch all of the languages inside the Soviet Union to the Latin Alphabet. They had actually made large strides for many of the languages until Stalin came to power who put the kibosh on the entire Latinization movement.

This didn’t stop several countries from making the change after the Soviet Union fell.

Uzbekistan officially converted to Latin from Cyrillic in the early 90s and has been transitioning ever since. Being a Turkik based language, they were able to piggyback off of efforts made by Turkey earlier in the 20th Century.

In 2007, Kazakhstan announced they were going to phase in Latin letters over a 10-15 year period.

Likewise, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan have all announced plans to move from Cyrillic to Latin.

Many countries have not officially switched, but Latin is commonly

used alongside other writing systems. In Serbia, Cyrillic is official, but Latin characters can be seen all over.

Likewise, Bulgaria has been debating a switch but hasn’t officially done anything yet. Nonetheless, you can find Latin characters in common usage.

China has also officially adopted a use of the Latin Alphabet. They created an official transliteration system called Hanyu Pinyin, which is a formal way to write Chinese words in Latin characters.

Pinyin was why the city of Peking was changed to Beijing. Pinyin has been experimented with some schools in China as the first system for teaching children how to read because it can be taught phonetically.

Once you know a few characters you can figure out every word. Literacy in Chinese often means knowing how to write at least 1,500 different characters.

The Latin Alphabet seems here to stay, and with the characters hard coded into our computers, it is likely that this will likely remain the case for centuries to come.

Over on Patreon.com, supporters of the show were just treated to a 20 min special podcast where I give the backstory behind the creation of the show, as well as my process for recording and how I select topics for episodes.

If you would like to listen to this special show and more upcoming special content, go patreon.com/EverythingEverwhere to become a supporter, where you can also get show merchandise like stickers, t-shirts and hoodies.

Everything Everywhere is also a podcast!

The 𠆋oomlet’ Before the Bust

The Federal Reserve, created in 1913, flexed its monetary policy muscles for the first time during World War I. Since the American public was unwilling to fund the war effort through taxes, the Fed did it by printing more money. The result by 1918 was runaway inflation. A pair of shoes that cost $3 before the war now cost $10 or $12.

Economists predicted a post-war crash as military factory orders dried up after the 1918 Armistice. Compounding the end of the wartime economy was the spread of the so-called “Spanish flu,” a virulent contagion which not only killed hundreds of thousands of Americans from the fall of 1918 to the spring of 1919, but shuttered businesses from coast to coast.

Incredibly, the dire post-war economic predictions didn’t come true. At least not immediately. American consumers, who had patriotically scrimped and saved during wartime, began to live it up. Europeans also joined in, purchasing $8 billion in exports from America. Inflation ticked upward, and so did prices, but consumers were willing to pay anything for a taste of freedom.

“Instead of the deflationary slump widely expected, the economy experienced an inflationary boomlet, and everybody exhaled,” says James Grant, the author of The Forgotten Depression: 1921: The Crash that Cured Itself. “The inevitable did happen, but it didn’t happen on schedule.”

How were the ancient Turks Arabized/Islamized? What was their culture like before this happened?

I'm curious to know where they lived when they adopted the Arabic script, why they did it, and what script they used before adopting the Arabic script.

Did they leave behind any literature from the period before Arabization/Islamization?

What impact/effect did this transition have on their conquering of Anatolia and Byzantium? Was the force made up only of Turks or did it have other Arabs or Muslim groups as well? I'm curious as to whether they would have conquered Byzantium if they had not adopted Islam.

The Turks were not "Arabized" rather they were "Persianized" and adopted Islam through Persian influences which were to the west of Turkish peoples some Turkish groups migrated westward into the Persian state, at first serving as kind of mercenaries but eventually becoming a significant force in Persian politics around the 10th century. Being originally nomadic they did not have a well-developed material or institutional culture and so they adopted these from the Persians, who did.

ontrack gave a good answer about the "-izations".

The force that invaded and seized most of Anatolia after Manzikert was primarily made up of Turkish groups. I have not read the specifics on ethnic or regional makeup of 11th century Seljuk armies, but Kurds and some Iranians would have been present in some form, they were later on, along with native Anatolians. As for Arabs in Seljuk armies, they would have been few as most of the Great Seljuk State was in Armenia, Persia and Central Asia, areas where few Arabs lived. Regarding conquering Byzantium if they were not Muslims should perhaps be asked in r/HistoricalWhatIf . I can though mention what John Haldon in Byzantium at War wrote on the Bulgarians (the original Bulgarians were Turks who were relatively quickly Slavicized and had arrived via southern Russia) when they became Christians. Instead of not attacking their fellow Christians to the south, the Bulgarian Khans instead thought they could make good emperors of Byzantium, so the wars did not stop. Later on the Bulgarian leaders were refered to as Czars (unless it is a modern appelation by nationalist historians). If the Anatolian Turks had become Christian they would probably still establish a Sultanate of Rum (Rome in Turkish).

An interesting sidenote, I can not remember which article I read it in, but following the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the rise of Arab nationalism, Arab scholars begun de-Turkifying the Arab language, as many Turkish words had entered Arab vocabulary. Iɽ say the Turks may have had more impact on the Arabs.

The mood of Versailles

The peace conference that met in Paris from January 1919 to January 1920 and which produced, among other things, the Treaty of Versailles was both vengeful and idealistic.

Public opinion in France and Britain wished to impose harsh terms, especially on Germany. French military circles sought not only to recover Alsace and Lorraine and to occupy the Saar but also to detach the Rhineland from Germany. Members of the British Parliament lobbied to increase the reparations Germany was to pay, despite the objections of several farsighted economists, including John Maynard Keynes.

The Versailles treaty, signed on June 28, 1919, met most of these demands. It also stripped Germany of its colonies and imposed severe restrictions on the rebuilding of its army and fleet. In these ways, the peace settlement could be seen as punishing the defeated enemy, as well as reducing its status and strength. Not unnaturally, this caused resentment among the Germans and helped to stimulate the quest for revenge.

At the same time, however, Versailles was imbued with more constructive aims and hopes. In January 1918 the U.S. president, Woodrow Wilson, set out his peace proposals in the “ Fourteen Points.” The general principles were open covenants openly arrived at, freedom of navigation, equality of trading conditions, the reduction of armaments, and the adjustment of colonial claims. Wilson also proposed “a general association,” which became the League of Nations, but his more specific suggestions were concerned less with unity among nations than with national self-determination. His aim, in effect, was to secure justice, peace, and democracy by making the countries of Europe more perfect nation-states.

Among other measures, this involved readjusting Germany’s borders. Alsace-Lorraine was duly returned to France and Eupen-Malmédy to Belgium, while Germany also lost territory to the east. But the Versailles and associated settlements went further still in dealing with central Europe. They broke up the Austro-Hungarian Empire, they created or re-created sovereign states, and they sought to make frontiers coincide with the boundaries between ethnic, linguistic, and cultural groups. This consecration of nationalism proved a highly equivocal legacy for example, in Northern Ireland or in the German-speaking Sudetenland of Bohemia.

In succession to the Habsburg empire, Austria and Hungary became small, separate, landlocked states. Poland was restored and acquired new territory so did Greece, Italy, and Romania, which doubled its former size. Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia came into existence as composite states. Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania won independence from Russia.

Parallel to the dismemberment of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, a further result of the war was the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Most of its eastern Mediterranean territory, together with Iraq, was placed under mandate to France and to Britain, which backed a ring of Arab sheikdoms around the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea, and the Indian Ocean. Turkey was reduced to a mere 300,000 square miles. The peace terms initially agreed upon by the Treaty of Sèvres were rejected by the sultan until British troops occupied Istanbul, and even then the National Assembly in Ankara organized resistance. A war with Greece in 1921–22 ended in the Peace of Lausanne, giving Turkey better terms than those decided at Sèvres. Soon, however, the secular sultanate and the religious caliphate were abolished, and Kemal Atatürk became president of a new, secular republic, which, among other Westernizing measures, adopted the Latin alphabet in place of Arabic script.

The drawing of new frontiers could never definitively satisfy those who lived on either side of them, and the problem of minorities became an important factor in the instability that marked Europe after World War I. The new composite state of Czechoslovakia, for instance, included not only industrialized Bohemia, formerly Austrian, but also rustic Slovakia and Ruthenia, formerly Hungarian. Romania similarly comprised both Transylvania, formerly Hungarian, and Bessarabia, formerly Russian. Reconstituted Poland was equally an amalgam, and in 1921, after Józef Piłsudski’s campaign against the U.S.S.R., it moved its eastern frontier more than 100 miles beyond the so-called Curzon Line established in 1920. Yugoslavia, finally, was based mainly on Serbia but it also included Westernized Croatia, formerly Austro-Hungarian, and part of Easternized Macedonia, formerly Turkish, as well as other territories. The rest of Macedonia was now Greek but an exchange of minorities between Greece and Bulgaria put many Macedonians under Bulgarian rule, sparking off an armed rebellion. Similar turbulence agitated Albania. Altogether, the Balkans became a synonym for violent nationalistic unrest.

Two global developments, moreover, formed an ominous backdrop to Europe’s territorial disputes. One was the Russian Revolution of 1917, which inspired a few idealists but mainly aroused fear throughout the rest of Europe lest bolshevism spread westward. The other was the active intervention of the United States, which had entered the war—decisively—in 1917 and played a determinant role in shaping the peace.

The Great War’s impact on Southeast Asia

World War I introduced nations around the world to deadlier weapons, bloody battles and each other. Though Southeast Asia was left relatively unscathed by the war, the reverberations of the conflict were felt in the region for decades

November 11, 2018

Southeast Asia’s role in World War I is all but lost to history. There was no major invasion of the region by a hostile power, like Japan in World War II. None of the Central Powers – an alliance of Germany, Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire – had colonial territory in the region, except on the periphery. German New Guinea quickly fell to the Allies after the outbreak of war in July 1914.

Yet the First World War, which ended 100 years ago this month, proved a decisive event for Southeast Asia. For the first time, it severely tested the relationship between the colonial authorities of Britain, France and the Netherlands (neutral in the war) and their colonial subjects in Southeast Asia, for whom sacrifice in the conflict was to be a rallying cry for more civil rights. The burgeoning nationalist movements throughout the region swelled with veterans returning home from democratic and industrial nations, while others, with considerable consequences in later decades, brought home interests in the radical politics at the time, not least communism.

Siamese soldiers arrived in Marseille, France, in July 1918, led by Major-General Phraya Phya Bhijai Janriddhi, who had received military training in that country

Arguably, the most interesting response to the declaration of war was made by Siam, as Thailand was then known. As the only Southeast Asian nation not colonised by a European power, Siam, under the absolute monarch King Vajiravudh, decided to go to war against the Central Powers in 1917, sending its own troops to fight in Europe. The Siamese Expeditionary Force of more than 1,000 troops arrived in the French port of Marseilles in July 1918. It was led by Major-General Phraya Phya Bhijai Janriddhi, who had received military training in France before the war. At first, the Thai troops were employed by the Allies as rear-guard labour detachments, taking part in the Second Battle of the Marne in August that year. The following month, they saw their first frontline action. They took part in several offences, including the occupation of the German Rhineland. In the end, 19 Thais had lost their lives – none from battle.

King Vajiravudh’s decision to go to war was calculated. Gambling on Allied victory, he believed Siam’s participation would earn it the respect of Britain and France. He was correct. Although it was independent, neighbouring colonisers (the British in Burma and the French in Cambodia) had slowly whittled away Siam’s territory in the preceding decades, with large tracts of land returned to Cambodia in the late 19th century. After WWI, though, Siam’s territory didn’t budge. Equally important, Siam took part in the 1919 Versailles Peace Conference and was a founding member of the League of Nations, a clear indication that Western powers now saw it as a legitimate force on the international stage and in Southeast Asia.

Many did not want to be thrust unquestionably into the greatest fratricide the world had yet seen

The rulers of independent Siam might have wanted respect and power, but the thoughts of ordinary people from the rest of colonised Southeast Asia are little known. Few first-hand accounts exist for historians. Quite probably, however, many did not want to be thrust unquestionably into the greatest fratricide the world had yet seen, and some no doubt hoped the colonial empires would be destroyed by the whole endeavour. Yet some nationalists, especially those of higher rank who weren’t expected to fight, saw the war effort as a means of gaining more political rights for themselves under the colonial system.

The war, for example, provided the Vietnamese with “an unexpected opportunity to test France’s ability to live up to vaunted self-representations of invincibility”, as Philippe Peycam wrote in 2012’s The Birth of Vietnamese Political Journalism: Saigon, 1916-1930. The prominent Vietnamese nationalist Phan Chu Trinh, who had spent years in jail before the war for his activism and was imprisoned for six months in 1914 on wrongful charges of colluding with the Germans, played a considerable role in recruiting Vietnamese men for the war. Another noted nationalist, Duong Van Giao, published a history of the Vietnamese war effort, 1925’s L’Indochine pendant la guerre de 1914–1918. Because of Vietnam’s sacrifice, he called on the French colonials to adopt a “native policy”: not quite outright independence but radical reform of civil rights for the Vietnamese. It was a similar sentiment as expressed in Claims of the Annamite People, an influential tract cowritten in France in 1919 by a young activist who later became known as Ho Chi Minh, who had spent most of the war working in a London hotel under the famous chef Auguste Escoffier.

Siam’s King Vajiravudh went to war with the Central Powers in 2017 – a move that protected Siam territory and gave it a seat at the 1919 Versailles Peace Conference

As a French colony, Vietnam was expected to provide troops for the war effort, but there were differing views among colonial officers as to what role they should play. Lieutenant-Colonel Théophile Pennequin was a hardliner but also a keen reformer. Before the outbreak of war, Pennequin requested that he be allowed to form a competent military unit that was termed by some as an armée jaune (yellow army), similar to the force noire (black force) popularised by General Charles Mangin in France’s West African colonies. For Pennequin, a national native army would allow Vietnamese to gain “positions of command and provide the French with loyal partners with whom they could build a new and, eventually, independent Indochinese state,” wrote historian Christopher Goscha in 2017’s The Penguin History of Modern Vietnam.

But Pennequin’s designs were rejected by Paris and, instead, most Vietnamese recruits were sent to Europe to work in factories or as supply hands. Yet some did fight. One estimate contends that out of 100,000 Vietnamese conscripts sent to the war in Europe, roughly 12,000 lost their lives. A battalion of Tonkinese Rifles, an elite corps formed in the 1880s, saw action on the Western Front near Verdun. Do Huu Vi, a celebrated pilot from an elite family, became a national hero after his plane was shot down over France.

Despite overt racism by some French nationals and trade unions’ concerns that they were bringing down wages, many of the Vietnamese put to work in munitions factories found it a revelatory experience. Some started relationships with Frenchwomen, unsurprising since other workers in wartime factories were mostly women. Others joined social clubs and reading groups. After the war, wrote Goscha, “a hundred thousand Vietnamese veterans returned to Indochina hoping to start a new life. Some wanted French citizenship most expected good jobs and upward social mobility. Several hoped to modernise Vietnam along Western lines, despite the barbarity they had just witnessed in Europe.”

It was a similar story for the Philippines, then a United States colony. It declared war on Germany in April 1917, the same time Washington did. At first, the colonial government requested the drafting of 15,000 Filipinos for service, but more than 25,000 enlisted. These troops formed the Philippine National Guard, a militia that was later absorbed into the American military. Most of the recruits, though, would not leave the Philippines during the war. Those who did travelled as part of the American Expeditionary Forces. In June 1918, the first Filipino died in action at the Battle of Château-Thierry, in France: Tomas Mateo Claudio, a former contract labourer on a sugar plantation in Hawaii who had enlisted in the US.

It is not known exactly how many Southeast Asians died during the First World War. Of those active in the European theatre, the number is estimated to be more than 20,000, mostly conscripts from the French colonies. It was a small figure compared to the number of Southeast Asians who perished during the Second World War. And, unlike in that war, there wasn’t a great arena of warfare in Southeast Asia during the First since none of the Central Powers nations had any imperial control in the region.

Vietnamese fighter pilot Do Huu Vi became a national hero when his plane was shot down over France

But Germany did have influence in China and possessed leased territory in Kiautschou Bay, near present-day Jiaozhou. It was invaded by Japanese forces after 1915, and China would later declare war on Germany in August 1917. But in October 1914, the German East Asia Squadron still had its base in the concession – it was from there that a lone light cruiser, the SMS Emden, slipped into Penang Harbour, part of what was then British Malaya. Disguised as a British vessel, the German cruiser launched a surprise attack on a Russian ship and then sank a French destroyer that had given chase. The sole attack on Malaya during the war killed 100 and wounded thousands more.

“In the battle against England… Islam will become one of our most important weapons.”

Max von Oppenheim

After the attack, the Emden is thought to have docked in a port in the Dutch East Indies, present-day Indonesia, raising British suspicions that the Dutch weren’t as neutral as they had claimed. Neutrality, moreover, didn’t mean the colony went unscathed. The Dutch East Indies was home to a sizeable German population that worked to “coordinate and finance covert operations designed to undermine British colonial rule and economic interests in Southeast Asia,” as historian Heather Streets-Salter wrote in 2017’s World War One in Southeast Asia: Colonialism and Anticolonialism in an Era of Global Conflict.

The Emden was finally stopped by an Australian cruiser that ran it ashore in Singapore. The surviving crew of the German vessel were interned there, then a part of British Malaya. Also stationed in Singapore was the Indian Army’s Fifth Light Infantry, which unsuccessfully mutinied in January 1915 after they learned they might be sent to fight in Turkey against fellow Muslims (though they were eventually sent to Hong Kong instead). The 309 interned Germans from the Emden joined in the mutiny, which left dead eight British and three Malay soldiers, as well as a dozen Singapore civilians.

A much forgotten history of World War I was a Turco-German plot to promote jihad (holy war) in parts of the Muslim world colonised by the Allies, including Malaya. Using the Dutch East Indies as a base, supporters of the Central Powers produced “pan-Islamic, anti-British propaganda” that was sent to Muslim-majority British Malaya, and also to India. One of the architects of this plan, Max von Oppenheim, wrote in a position paper in 1914: “In the battle against England… Islam will become one of our most important weapons.” The Ottoman Sultan, Mehmed V, issued a fatwa against the Allies in November of that year. In British Malaya, the authorities doubled down on censorship by closing many Malay-language newspapers, some of which were considered supportive of the Ottoman Empire.

Pan-Islamic propaganda agitating for independence of Malaya was just as attractive to the Muslim-majority subjects of the Dutch East Indies where it was produced. In the preceding decades, these subjects had been demanding more freedoms, even independence, for themselves. This was a serious cause of concern for the Dutch colonialists, but ultimately the real impact of the war on the Dutch East Indies was economic. The Allies’ blockade of European waters, as well as control of Asian waters, made it difficult for Dutch ships to reach the colony for trade purposes.

“The Netherlands Indies was effectively cordoned off by the British Navy,” wrote Kees Van Dijk in 2008’s The Netherlands Indies and the Great War, 1914-1918. As a result, the war caused price increases and severe food shortages in the Dutch East Indies. By the end of 1916, the export industry was practically destroyed. Around that time, social unrest had gained momentum. Rural protesters burned reserve crops, eventually leading to famine in some parts of the colony. Nationalists and a small contingent of socialists began advocating for revolution. By 1918, unrest was so dire that the governor general called a meeting of the nationalist leaders where he made the so-called “November promises” of more political representation and freedom, but these were empty promises.

The Great War introduced Southeast Asian fighters to new political concepts like communism that they brought back home with them

Economic problems were a constant throughout the region. To help pay for the war effort, the French and British were reduced to raising taxes in their Southeast Asian colonies. The burden fell mainly on the poor. Small wonder it resulted in unprecedented protests. A failed uprising took place in Kelantan, British Malaya, in April 1915. In Cambodia, the so-called 1916 Affair saw tens of thousands of peasants march into Phnom Penh demanding the king reduce taxes. None of these were exact appeals of “no taxation without representation”, but rather the germinal expressions of self-independence that were to become more forceful across the region in the 1930s, and decisive after World War II. Brian Farrell, a professor of military history at the National University of Singapore, has described the impact of the First World War on Southeast Asia as significant yet delayed.

By the close of the war, many of the colonies returned to some form of pre-war normalcy. Yet the colonial governments, indebted and weakened from the conflict, knew that reforms had to be made in Southeast Asia. In Laos, the French-run administration thought the county “secure enough” in October 1920 to introduce the first of a series of political reforms aimed at decentralising power through local appointees, wrote Martin Stuart-Fox in A History of Laos. The British authorities in Malaya also experimented with decentralisation in the 1920s, which involved placing more power in the hands of the provincial sultans. In 1916, the Jones Act was passed in Washington to begin the process of granting the Philippines a “more autonomous government”, including a parliament, which was built upon until full independence in 1946.

War also transformed the role of local elites, who took on more autonomy and power. In Vietnam, the years after 1919 saw the creation of reformist newspapers, written in the increasingly popular Vietnamese script instead of the Roman alphabet, which the French had imposed. In Cambodia and Laos, such forceful nationalism did not arise until the 1930s. Other reformists in the region grew interested in ideologies brought back from the West. The South Seas Communist Party, a pan-Southeast Asian party, was formed in Burma in 1925 before splitting along national lines in 1930. Ho Chi Minh, who spent the war in London, helped create the Communist Party of Indochina that year. Tan Malaka, who had actually tried enlisting to fight with the German army – without success – became an integral part of the communist movement in the Dutch East Indies, later becoming known as something of a father of the independent Republic of Indonesia .

World War I laid bare the unequal “social contract” that colonial authorities had forced their colonial subjects in Southeast Asia to sign. The contract would only become more obviously threadbare by the 1920s, yet it took the next global conflict, which had a far greater impact on the region than the first, for these anti-colonial movements to grab real political power.

Has there ever been a nice dictator?

Usually when I hear about a dictator I think of someone that's power hungry and always ends up hurting the people in some way. Has there ever been a dictator that was somewhat nice or made really good decisions that benefitted the people?

Lee Kuan Yew is probably the single best modern example.

had to go look him up - thank you for sharing - it's interesting how we are all too familiar with the names of North Korean and Saudi Arabia dictators, but haven't seen any news stories or pieces on this guy

I'm quite surprised that no one mentioned Napoléon. He wasn't a "dictator", but quite a strong figure who deserves his place here.

While defending France against 6 coalitions of kings who didn't want to see France giving such bad ideas as liberty, social justice etc. to their people, he managed to give to his people and to the world :

Sciences, discoveries & inventions

Decipherment of hieroglyphic writing by French scientists during Napoléon's Egyptian expedition.

invention of the ambulance service by a doctor of Napoléon's army (Dominique-Jean Larrey).

invention of the submarine by American Robert Fulton commissioned by Napoléon. First launched in France in 1800.

Napoléon himself is given credit for discovering and proving Napoléon's theorem in mathematics.

the Napoléonic Code : the first successful codification of a civil legal system in Europe. It has formed the basis of the private law systems in France, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Portugal and their former colonies, thus becoming the most influencial legal system in the world.

the metric system : invented in 18th-century France, officially adopted in 1791, but only proclaimed as the only measure system in 1799. It is now the universal measurement system, which only the USA, Myanmar and Sierra Leone haven't adopted yet.

the tricolour French flag and the Marseillaise (national anthem) : symbol of the French Revolution, they were kept by Napoleon as the national flag, even during the Empire, which assured its survival to this day. -most of the institutions of the current French Republic, like Court of Auditors, Labour Courts, Légion d'Honneur (Legion of Honour, still nowadays the most important french official decoration, the country subdivision into régions (kind of "landers"), departments, cantons, highschools, university system and great colleges like the Ecole Polytechnique, and many other things.

spread of the ideas of the Enlightenment throughout Europe and Latin America, including the concepts of Human Rights, equality of rights, constitution and citizenship.

part of Poland's national identity : Poland is the only country in the world to invoke Napoléon in its national anthem. Napoléon indeed contributed in the independence of Poland from Russia or Prussia.

the unification of Germany : Napoléon is credited with reorganizing what had been the Holy Roman Empire made up of more than 1,000 entities into a more streamlined network of 40 states providing the basis for the German Confederation and the future unification of Germany under the German Empire in 1871.

the Louisiana purchase by the USA : without Napoléon's decision to sell the French possessions making about 1/3 of the present-day USA, the US history would be very different. By this sale Napoléon more than doubled the size of USA, one of his rare ally, helped by France to gain its independence two decades earlier.

the European emancipation of the Jews : Napoléon played an important role by abolishing old laws in most of Europe restricting the Jews to ghettos, as well as the many laws that limited Jews' rights to property, worship, and careers. We could note that the Rothschild banking family of France was founded in 1812, under Napoléon's reign.

some of France's greatest neoclassical artists were sponsored by Napoléon, such as Jacques-Louis David or Ingres.

the Empire style (named after Napoleon' Empire) in architecture, furniture, painting, etc.

Why did Ataturk insisted on renaming Constantinople to Istanbul?

After WWI, Mustafa Kemal (or later known as Ataturk, "Father of the Turks") led a nationalist movement that successfully established the modern-day Republic of Turkey from the remnants of the collapsing Ottoman Empire. As a part of the "Turkification" effort to emphasize the Turkish identity of the new republic in the 1920s, many names - from non-Turkish surnames to geographic names - were changed to Turkish renditions. One of the names that were changed was Constantinople, the former seat of the Ottoman sultanate. The Ataturk government was so insistent on renaming Constantinople to Istanbul that all mails that were addressed to Constantinople were rejected. Eventually, at the urging of the Ataturk government, Istanbul was accepted internationally as the new name for Constantinople.

Here's my question: why did Ataturk insisted on renaming Constantinople to Istanbul? To my understanding, "Istanbul" was a Greek-derived phrase that simply meant "in the city" and has been used as a colloquial name for the former Constantinople since the Ottoman era, so "Istanbul" was no more Turkish than the "Constantinople" name. This is why I do not understand (at least from the Turkification standpoint) the motive of Ataturk's insistence on changing a popular Greek-derived city to a colloquial Greek-derived name.

Why did the Turks adopt the Latin alphabet after WWI? - History

The evolution of Turkey in the early 1900s is one of the most baffling cultural and social changes in Islamic history. In a few short years, the Ottoman Empire was brought down from within, stripped of its Islamic history, and devolved into a new secular nation known as Turkey. The consequences of this change are still being felt today throughout the Muslim world, and especially in a very polarized and ideologically segmented Turkey.

What caused this monumental change in Turkish government and society? At the center of it all is Mustafa Kemal, better known as Atatürk. Through his leadership in the 1920s and 1930s, modern secular Turkey was born, and Islam took a backseat in Turkish society.

The Rise of Atatürk

The decision of the Ottoman Empire to enter the First World War in 1914 turned out to be a horrible mistake. The empire was run by a dictatorship led by the “Three Pashas” who unilaterally entered the war on the German side, against the British, French, and Russians. The Ottoman Empire was invaded from the south by the British, from the East by the Russians, and by the Greeks in the West. By 1918 when the war ended, the empire was divided and occupied by the victorious allies, leaving only the central Anatolian highlands under native Turkish control.

Mustafa Kemal in 1918

It was in central Anatolia where Mustafa Kemal would rise to become a national hero for the Turks. As an Ottoman army officer, he displayed great leadership in battle, especially at Gallipoli, where the Ottomans managed to turn back a British invasion aimed at the capital, Istanbul. After the war, however, Kemal made clear what his priorities were. His main goal was the establishment of Turkish nationalism as the unifying force of the Turkish people. Unlike the multi-ethnic and diverse Ottoman Empire, Kemal aimed to create a monolithic state based on Turkish identity.

In Mustafa Kemal’s own words, he describes the importance of Turkish identity and the insignificance of Islam as he sees it:

“Even before accepting the religion of the Arabs [Islam], the Turks were a great nation. After accepting the religion of the Arabs, this religion, didn’t effect to combine the Arabs, the Persians and Egyptians with the Turks to constitute a nation. (This religion) rather, loosened the national nexus of Turkish nation, got national excitement numb. This was very natural. Because the purpose of the religion founded by Muhammad, over all nations, was to drag to an including Arab national politics.”

- Mustafa Kemal, Medenî Bilgiler

Mustafa Kemal’s skewed [and quite frankly, factually incorrect] views of Islamic history helped push his nationalist agenda. Using Turkish identity as a rallying point, he managed to unite former Ottoman officers under his command in the Turkish War of Independence in the early 1920s and expel the occupying forces of the Greeks, British, and French, who had encroached on Turkish land after WWI. By 1922, Kemal managed to completely free the Turks of foreign occupation and used the opportunity to establish the modern Republic of Turkey, led by the Grand National Assembly, the GNA, in Ankara. At the head of the new Turkish government was a president, elected by the GNA. The natural choice was Mustafa Kemal, the hero of the War of Independence, who now took on the title of “Atatürk”, meaning “Father of the Turks”.

Abolition of the Ottoman Sultanate and the Caliphate

At first, the new Turkish government seemed to inherit the role of the Ottoman government as the upholder of Islam. A new constitution drawn up by the GNA declared that Islam was the official state religion of Turkey and that all laws had to be vetted by a panel of Islamic law experts, to make sure they do not contradict the Shari’ah.

This new system of government could not work, however, so long as there continued to be a rival government in Istanbul, led by the Ottoman sultan. The Ankara and Istanbul governments both claimed sovereignty over Turkey, and had frankly conflicting goals. Atatürk eliminated this problem on November 1, 1922, when he abolished the Ottoman sultanate, which had existed since 1299, and officially transferred its power to the GNA. He did not immediately abolish the caliphate, however. Although the sultanate was no more, he allowed the Ottoman caliphate to continue to exist, although with no official powers, only as a symbolic figurehead.

Abdülmecid II, the last caliph who held the office from 1922 to 1924.

Knowing that this move would be very unpopular among the Turkish people, Atatürk justified it by claiming he was simply going back to a traditional Islamic form of government. From the 900s to the 1500s, the Abbasid caliphs were mostly figureheads, with real power being in the hands of viziers or warlords. Atatürk used this example to justify his creation of a powerless caliphate.

The caliphate had existed since the days following the death of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, when Abu Bakr was elected as the first leader of the Muslim world. For Muslims outside of Turkey, Atatürk’s actions clearly put the office of the caliphate itself in danger. In India especially, Muslims expressed outrage at Atatürk’s actions and organized the Khilafat Movement, which sought to protect the caliphate from danger, whether by foreign invaders or the Turkish government itself.

For Atatürk, the expressions of support for the caliphate from Muslims outside Turkey were seen as interference in internal Turkish affairs. Citing this supposed international interference, on March 3rd, 1924, Atatürk and the Grand National Assembly abolished the caliphate itself and sent all remaining members of the Ottoman family into exile.

Attacks on Islam

With the caliphate out of the way, the Turkish government had more freedom to pursue policies that attacked Islamic institutions. Under the guise of “cleansing Islam of political interference”, the educational system was completely overhauled. Islamic education was banned in favor of secular, non-dogmatic schools. Other aspects of religious infrastructure were also torn down. The Shari’ah council to approve laws that the GNA had established just two years earlier was abolished. Religious endowments were seized and put under government control. Sufi lodges were forcefully shut down. All judges of Islamic law in the country were immediately fired, as all Shari’ah courts were closed.

Atatürk’s attacks on Islam were not limited to the government, however. Everyday life for Turks was also dictated by Atatürk’s secular ideas:

  • Traditional Islamic forms of headdress such as turbans and the fez were outlawed in favor of Western-style hats.
  • The hijaab for women was ridiculed as a “ridiculous object” and banned in public buildings.
  • The calendar was officially changed, from the traditional Islamic calendar, based on the hijrah – Prophet Muhammad ﷺ’s flight to Madinah – to the Gregorian calendar, based on the birth of Jesus Christ.
  • In 1932, the adhan – the Muslim call to prayer – was outlawed in Arabic. Instead, it was rewritten using Turkish words and forced upon the country’s thousands of mosques.
  • Friday was no longer considered part of the weekend. Instead, Turkey was forced to follow European norms of Saturday and Sunday being days off from work.

After all of these changes, the GNA gave up the charade in 1928 and deleted the clause in the constitution that declared Islam as the official state religion. Islam had been replaced with Atatürk’s secular ideologies.

Language Reform

Atatürk knew these secular reforms would be futile if the Turkish people could manage to rally together to oppose them. The biggest danger to this new order was the history of the Turks, which since the 900s had been intertwined with Islam. In order to distance the new generations of Turks from their past, Atatürk had to make the past unreadable to them.

Atatürk introducing the new Latin script in 1928.

With the excuse of increasing literacy among Turks (which was indeed very low in the 1920s), Atatürk advocated the replacement of Arabic letters with Latin letters. Much like Persian, Turkish was written in Arabic letters for hundreds of years after the conversion of the Turks to Islam in the 900s. Because Turkish was written in the Arabic script, Turks could read the Qur’an, and other Islamic texts with relative ease, connecting them to an Islamic identity – which Atatürk saw as a threat.

In addition to the introduction of the Latin letters, Atatürk created a commission charged with the replacement of Arabic and Persian loanwords in Turkish. In keeping with his nationalist agenda, Atatürk wanted a language that was purely Turkish, which meant old Turkish words, that had become obsolete during the Ottoman era, came back into use instead of Arabic words. For example, the Turkish War of Independence, formerly know as the Istiklal Harbi, is now known as Kurtuluş Savaşı, because “istiklal” and “harb” are Arabic loanwords in Turkish.

From Atatürk’s perspective, the language reform was wildly successful. Within a few decades, the old Ottoman Turkish was effectively extinct. The newer generations of Turks were completely cut off from the older generations, with whom simple conversations were difficult. With the Turkish people illiterate to their past, the Turkish government was able to feed them a version of history that they deemed acceptable, one that promoted the Turkish nationalistic ideas of Atatürk himself.

Secular Turkey

All of these reforms worked together to effectively erase Islam from the lives of the everyday Turks. Despite the best efforts of religious-minded Turks (such as Said Nursi) to preserve their heritage, language, and religion, the government’s pressure to adopt secular ideas was too much. For over 80 years, Turkish government remained vehemently secular. Attempts to bring back Islamic values into government have been met with resistance by the military, which views itself as the protector of Atatürk’s secularism.

In 1950, Adnan Menderes was democratically elected prime minister of Turkey on a platform of bringing back the Arabic adhan. Although he was successful, he was overthrown by a military coup in 1960 and executed after a hasty trial. More recently, in 1996, Necmettin Erbakan was elected prime minister, while remarkably openly declaring himself an “Islamist”. Once again, the military stepped in, and overthrew him from power after just one year in office.

Modern Turkey’s relations with Islam and its own history are complicated. Portions of the society strongly support Atatürk’s ideology and believe Islam should have no role in public life. Other segments of society envision a return to a more Islam-oriented society and government, and closer relations with the rest of the Muslim world. Most troubling, however, is that the ideological conflict between these two opposing sides shows no signs of subsiding anytime soon.

Assorted References

The use of the term Serb to name one of the Slavic peoples is of great antiquity. Ptolemy’s Guide to Geography, written in the 2nd century ce , mentions a people called “Serboi,” but it is not certain

…country seemingly behind the murders, Serbia. This set the Triple Alliance (Austria-Hungary, Germany, and Italy) against Serbia’s allies in the Triple Entente (Russia, France, and Britain). Momentum became unstoppable, sparking one of the deadliest

…League, (1912–13), alliance of Bulgaria, Serbia, Greece, and Montenegro, which fought the First Balkan War against Turkey (1912–13). Ostensibly created to limit increasing Austrian power in the Balkans, the league was actually formed at the instigation of Russia in order to expel the Turks from the Balkans. The league members…

…(Serbo-Croation: Union or Death), secret Serbian society of the early 20th century that used terrorist methods to promote the liberation of Serbs outside Serbia from Habsburg or Ottoman rule and was instrumental in planning the assassination of the Austrian archduke Franz Ferdinand (1914), precipitating the outbreak of World War I.…

This move antagonized Russia and Serbia, the latter claiming these territories as part of its own national domain. In 1912 Russia aided several of the Balkan states in a new attack on the Ottoman Empire, with the allies hoping to obtain Macedonia. The Balkan nations won, but they quarreled with…

In Serbia, the state most threatening to Vienna because of its ethnic tie to the Serbs and Croats inside the Dual Monarchy, a fundamental political shift had occurred. In previous years Vienna had neutralized Serbia by bribing the ruling Obrenović dynasty, but in 1903 the rival…

…Hollweg urged strong measures against Serbia and reasserted their unconditional loyalty if war should eventuate. With Russia rapidly recovering from its defeat by Japan in 1905 and Austria-Hungary increasingly threatened by the national aspirations of its minorities, time appeared to be on the side of the Triple Entente. Thus, if…

Following the collapse of communism in the former Yugoslavia and the secession of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina from the Yugoslav federation in 1991–92, units of the Yugoslav army and Serbian paramilitary forces engaged in campaigns of “ethnic cleansing” aimed at driving out non-Serb…

…demanding that the recently enlarged Serbia be denied an outlet to the Adriatic Sea by the creation of a new state of Albania. Russia supported the Serbian desire for an Adriatic port, but the European powers decided in favour of Austria. The Balkan alliance then fell apart, with Serbia and…

The independence of Serbia, Montenegro, and Romania was recognized. The boundaries of Serbia and Montenegro were extended so as to be contiguous, while Romania was compelled to cede southern Bessarabia to Russia, receiving the Dobruja from Turkey in exchange.

With Serbia already much aggrandized by the two Balkan Wars (1912–13, 1913), Serbian nationalists turned their attention back to the idea of “liberating” the South Slavs of Austria-Hungary. Colonel Dragutin Dimitrijević, head of Serbia’s military intelligence, was also, under the alias “Apis,” head of the secret…

The first Austrian invasion of Serbia was launched with numerical inferiority (part of one of the armies originally destined for the Balkan front having been diverted to the Eastern Front on August 18), and the able Serbian commander, Radomir Putnik, brought the…


When King Alexander of Serbia was assassinated in a military revolt in 1903 and the Obrenović dynasty was replaced by the Karadjordjević, Serbian relations with the Habsburg monarchy deteriorated. The Serbs adopted an expansionist policy of unifying all South Slavs in the Serbian kingdom, and, in order to block…

…1906 to June 1909 between Serbia and Austria-Hungary, so named because during it the export of live Serbian pigs to Austria-Hungary was prohibited. In 1903 Serbia, regenerated with the accession of a new king that year, threatened Austria-Hungary in the Balkans, and the Austro-Serb commercial treaty was running out. Renewal…


…Croatia sought to unite with Serbia. In December Serbians elected a fiery nationalist and ex-Communist, Slobodan Miloševic, who exploited his waning power over Yugoslav institutions to seize national assets on behalf of the Serbs. Slovenia declared independence in December. As fighting erupted over disputed territories of mixed population, the presidents…

In all postcommunist states except Serbia, the solutions to economic problems were expected to be found in a market economy and in eventual association with the EU. International agencies such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund promised financial help for the new Balkan regimes but required an…

…vast region of Kosovo to Serbia, while in the south Greece was given the greater part of Çamëria, a part of the old region of Epirus centred on the Thíamis River. Many observers doubted whether the new state would be viable with about one-half of Albanian lands and population left…

>Serbia, on the southeast by Montenegro, and on the southwest by the Adriatic Sea along a narrow extension of the country.

Furthermore, Serbia, which was closely related to Bosnia and Herzegovina geographically and ethnically, was outraged by the annexation. It demanded that Austria cede a portion of Bosnia and Herzegovina to Serbia, and Izvolsky, pressed by anti-Austrian opinion in Russia, was forced to support the Serbian claims.…

…the northern Balkans, including the Serbian lands, and styled himself “Tsar of the Bulgars and Autocrat of the Greeks,” but his country was near exhaustion.

…Yugoslav Macedonia, and part of Serbia.

…and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia. After Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina declared their independence from Yugoslavia, ethnic Serbs, who opposed the breakup of Serb-dominated Yugoslavia, launched armed struggles to carve out separate Serb-controlled territories in both areas. Around the same time, Croats and Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) also…

…brought Greece into contention with Serbia and Bulgaria, both of which also looked to Macedonia, which remained under Ottoman rule, with covetous eyes. The contest was initially conducted by means of ecclesiastical, educational, and cultural propaganda, but at the turn of the century rival guerrilla bands, financed by their respective…

…not threaten Hungary proper while Serbia still stood. But in 1389 the power of Serbia was broken at the Battle of Kosovo, and the danger for Hungary became urgent. Sigismund organized a Crusade that was disastrously defeated at the Battle of Nicopolis in 1396. Timur (Tamerlane) gave Europe a respite…

…century Kosovo was incorporated into Serbia (later part of Yugoslavia). By the second half of the century, the largely Muslim ethnic Albanians outnumbered the predominantly Eastern Orthodox Serbs in Kosovo, and interethnic tensions frequently roiled the province.

Serbia, which had won independence from the Ottoman Empire early in the 19th century, regained control of Kosovo in 1912, following the First Balkan War, but lost it again in 1915, during World War I. An occupation divided between Austria-Hungary and Bulgaria ended in 1918,…

…Turkish victory, the collapse of Serbia, and the complete encirclement of the crumbling Byzantine Empire by Turkish armies.

…target of Greek, Bulgarian, and Serbian expansion, each claiming closer ethnic or historical ties to the region than the others. In 1893 the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO) was founded to support the cause of Macedonian independence. In 1903 IMRO led the Ilinden, or St. Elijah’s Day, Uprising, but it…

…substantial part of Bosnia, and Serbia as far north as the Danube. Although the cultural heart of the empire was Raška (the area around modern Novi Pazar) and Kosovo, as the large number of medieval Orthodox churches in those regions bear witness, Stefan Dušan was crowned emperor in Skopje in…

…had been dominated by the Serbian dynasty, administration, and armed forces, the second Yugoslavia was organized as a federation, and Macedonia was established as one of its six constituent republics.

…and, to a lesser extent, Serbia in a conflict over which state would be able to impose its own national identity on the ethnically, linguistically, and religiously diverse population of the region traditionally called Macedonia. In that way, each state attempted to gain possession of the territory of Macedonia itself.

…fortunes of Montenegro came when Serbia declared war on the Ottoman Empire in 1876. (See Serbo-Turkish War.) Montenegro, under Prince Nikola Petrović (Nicholas I), joined Serbia immediately and Russia the following year. Although the territorial gains awarded to Montenegro by the initial Treaty of San

…3, 1886), military conflict between Serbia and Bulgaria, which demonstrated the instability of the Balkan peace settlement imposed by the Congress of Berlin (Treaty of Berlin, July 1878).

…Belgrade government—by then dominated by Serbia’s nationalist strongman, Slobodan Milošević, and by the Serb-led Yugoslav People’s Army (YPA)—began an economic blockade of Slovenia and expropriated Ljubljana’s bank assets. Slovene and Croatian proposals for a looser Yugoslav confederation were rejected by Serbia, and on June 25, 1991, Slovenia seceded from Yugoslavia.

Ottoman Empire

…in September 1739, ceding northern Serbia (with Belgrade) and Little Walachia (in southern Romania) to the Ottomans and thus renouncing the strong position in the Balkans it had obtained under the Treaty of Passarowitz (1718). With Austria’s defection, the militarily successful Russians had to make a disappointing peace that same…

The death of the Serbian emperor Stefan Dušan in 1355 left his successors too divided and weak to defeat the Ottomans, despite an alliance with Louis I of Hungary and Tsar Shishman of Bulgaria in the first European Crusade against the Ottomans. The Byzantine emperor John V

…areas as Egypt, Romania, and Serbia) in the period immediately prior to the losses of 1878 is estimated to have been about 26 million. Natural increases and Muslim immigration from Russia and the Balkans virtually made up the losses, and in 1914 the population was increasingly homogeneous in religion and…

…1371), Ottoman Turk victory over Serbian forces that allowed the Turks to extend their control over southern Serbia and Macedonia. After the Ottoman sultan Murad I (reigned 1360–89) advanced into Thrace, conquered Adrianople, and thereby gained control of the Maritsa River valley, which led into the central Balkans, the Christian…

Role of

Hungarian domination eventually turned Serbia, inhabited by fellow Slavs, into the Dual Monarchy’s mortal enemy.

…made his home in Topola, Serbia, and prospered by trading in livestock. Among his seven children was Alexander, a future prince of Serbia (1842–58).

…decline through an alliance with Serbia, Metochites, in 1298, led an embassy to the Serbian court at Skoplje and arranged the marriage of Andronicus’s five-year-old daughter, Simonis, to Tsar Milutin. As a result, Serbia, although militarily stronger than Byzantium and acknowledged as ruler of formerly Byzantine Macedonia, admitted the universal…

…revolutionary who became prince of Serbia (1815–39 and 1858–60) and who founded the Obrenović dynasty.

…crushed a coalition of southern Serbian princes at Chernomen in the Battle of the Maritsa River, took the Macedonian towns of Dráma, Kavála, and Seres (Sérrai), and won a significant victory over a Bulgarian-Serbian coalition at Samakow (now Samokovo). These victories brought large territories under direct Ottoman rule and made…

…minister of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (1918, 1921–24, 1924–26). He was one of the founders, in 1918, of the kingdom that would later (from 1929 to 2003) be called Yugoslavia.