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Constantinople: the Key to European Balance in the pre First World War World

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  1. The Ottoman Empire in mid-nineteenth century
  2. The Russo-Ottoman Wars
  3. Britain and France
  4. The crack of the Ottoman Empire

One can view the First World War and claim that it was fought for a complex web of rationales by a complex web of interdependent actors and the events of June 1914 sent the whole system into a state of madness and disarray. However, one can also claim that Europe was systematically into two warring camps, the Allies and the Central Powers, and that the events of the past century had attempted to stabilize this dual-sided equilibrium with the advent of colonial expansionism and the creation of a widespread alliance system. While the Great European Powers fought to advance their empires and interests, there was one empire to the East that was fighting to stay alive. As the Ottoman's declined, the European powers looked to take advantage of their vulnerabilities and for seventy years Constantinople became the target on every European ruler's list. The capital of Anatolia played a crucial role in the Great War for the mere fact that it maintained a vital geographic position and because of its universal appeal, its safety served as a check on each of the growing Great Powers. Constantinople simultaneously held together and tore apart Russia, France, and Britain.

[...] In the seventy-five years leading up to World War the Allies of Britain, France, and Russia consistently maintained a close eye on the Ottoman Empire and where their strategic interests were within its boundaries. During this buildup period to the war, the alliance system started to piece itself together. Germany and Austria-Hungary had been allied since 1879, mostly in defiance of Russian expansionism geared towards the Balkans. Then, in 1904, Britain signed the Entente Cordiale with France despite the fact that their clashing colonial interests made them unlikely allies. [...]


[...] Britain also took control of Baghdad in 1917 and Mosul in November 1918, in violation of previous armistices made with the Turks, and they further emerged from the war with a mandate for Palestine (which somewhat contradicted the 1917 Balfour Declaration's support of a national Jewish homeland in that same region). Furthermore, the British, Germans, and Dutch invested millions in the Turkish Petroleum Company in an effort to extract the priceless oil that was claimed to be located in Ottoman territories (the German share would later end up in French hands after the war) Iraq). The crumbling of the Turks was synonymous with discovering a gold mine from the British and French perspectives, and World War I was the price paid to find the treasure. [...]

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