The Great War in 1914 to 1918 destroyed mighty empires, and created nations from their ashes. Both the Allied and Central Powers had been dominated by powerful empires. The Ottoman Empire, established by the Turks was at one point the largest empire in the world. Prior to World War I, it had fallen into decline as its territories were gobbled up by other powers. The world dismissed the Ottoman Empire as “the Sick Man of Europe.” Throughout the Nineteenth Century, the rest of Europe waited for the empire to implode. A few years before war broke out, the Turks had a revolution. The revolutionaries rebuilt the crumbling empire, making it a formidable force for war. Weighing their options, the Turks joined the Germans and Austria-Hungarians, hoping the war could restore it to its former glory. Both the Allied Powers and the Central Powers were dubious about the Empire’s ability to wage war. The British, who were to be the Ottomans’ primary opponent, expected them to be a puppet of the Germans and an easy mark. The Turks decided to wage a defensive war to keep the British in check and tie down their resources. In the early years of the war, the Empire protected its allies’ flank, strangled the Russian war effort, and tied up vast amounts of British war materiel and troops. The ability of the Sultan as Caliph to declare Jihad presented a serious threat to the British Empire. The British ruled millions of Muslims throughout the world; jihad could lead to colonial rebellion. The prewar reforms restored the Ottoman Empire’s strength, allowing it to be a significant player in 1914, 1915, and 1916, in which it won crucial battles at Gallipoli and Kut. The Ottoman Empire, the “Sick Man of Europe,” provided a valuable military contribution to the Central Powers in the early years of World War One.
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