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. [...]
[...] The latter half of the 1800's put pressure on Anatolia from virtually every direction, and the culmination of this pressure was the collapse of an empire during World War I. While the claims for the causes of the First World War almost always center around nationalism, the alliance system, arms races, and colonial interests, all of these causes were intricately tied to the importance of Constantinople to each of the Great Powers. While no single battle was fought in this historic city throughout the entire war, its geostrategic implications perhaps brought more countries to the fighting grounds than [...]
[...] The Russo-Ottoman war certainly demonstrated Ottoman vulnerability, but more importantly, the response demonstrated how important the Balkans and Anatolia were to the rest of Europe in maintaining the balance of power on the continent. Britain, in particular, had strong incentives in placing checks on Russian expansion since they had commercial interests in both nearby Afghanistan and India. As for the latter, Britain had maintained very strong economic incentives in India since it defeated the French there during the Seven Years' War, from 1756 1763, and consequently established the imperial jewel that was the British East India Company. [...]
[...] In fact, it should be telling of Constantinople's importance to the Russians that there were a relentless thirteen Russo- Ottoman Wars between 1676 and World War I. As for the battle that took place from 1877 to 1878, the Russians emerged victorious and forced the Ottomans to sign the Treaty of San Stefano. This treaty demanded the recognition of independent Serbian, Romanian, Montenegrin, and Bulgarian states the latter of which maintained the most importance to Russia's Pan- Slavism movement in the Balkans. [...]
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