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THE AWAKENING OF TURKEY

CHAPTER I

The decay of the Ottoman power—The Turkish people— Their virtues—Mussulman fanaticism—Family life. TURKEY, once so vast and powerful, has been undergoing a gradual dismemberment for the last two centuries. Possession after possession has been wrested from her in Europe, Asia and Africa. On the mainland of Europe, having lost Greece, Bulgaria, Roumania, Servia, Bosnia, Croatia and Herzegovina, as well as those regions on the northern shores of the Black Sea (once a Turkish lake) which now form part of Southern Russia, Turkey is left with but a narrow strip of territory stretching across the centre of the Balkan Peninsula from the Black Sea to the Adriatic. The despotic system of government in Turkey worked well enough so long as she was a conquering and expanding nation; but so soon as she ceased to be this, and was hemmed in by Christian Powers strong enough to check her advance, the system, being incompatible with progress, failed

to hold the Empire together and disintegration set in. The internal disorders caused by the evils of her administration and the cupidity and treachery of her powerful European neighbours threatened Turkey with extinction. Russia and Austria waged successful wars against her and possessed themselves of her frontier provinces, and at the same time the disaffected Christian populations of European Turkey were encouraged to rise and gain their independence. So it came about that Greece, Bulgaria and other kingdoms and principalities were carved out of Turkey, and up to within a few months ago Christian peoples within and without her frontiers were quarrelling over a further projected act of spoliation that would indeed have been for Turkey the beginning of the end—the partition of Macedonia. For the oppression, corruption and incompetence that characterised their government the Turkisk people themselves were held responsible by a large section of public opinion in Western Europe. There is a saying to the effect that a nation has the government which it deserves, and this may be true if a nation is free to work out its own salvation. But in the case of Turkey the people were allowed no chance of obtaining the government which they deserved; for it was to the interest of Turkey's powerful enemies to conserve the evils of the despotic rule, and whenever the Turks made an effort to put their house in order

some Christian Power, fearing lest a reformed Turkey might prove a strong Turkey, fell upon her with armed force or stood in the way of the projected changes. Moreover, the Powers that were bent upon self-aggrandisement at Turkey's expense saw to it that there should be no peace within her borders and stirred up trouble, exciting the Christian peasants to rise, and fomenting disturbances that might serve as pretexts for a policy of intervention and annexation. No methods were too unscrupulous for the Powers in question. For example, among many other agents provocateurs was a certain Dervish, who some years ago, as the paid secret agent of Russia, acting under instructions, preached a holy war against gia.ours in Asia Minor and excited the Mussulman population to attack the Christian inhabitants. One could quote many other stories to illustrate the treachery of Turkey's enemies and the unfair treatment which has been accorded to her. And so Turkey, by her own bad government and by the machinations of those who lusted after the rich possessions that were still left to her, was being steadily dragged down to her ruin. Even her best friends despaired of her regeneration; for reform from without administered by the Powers would mean the loss of her independence, while reform from within seemed impossible of attainment. Turkey appeared to be destined to early effacement from the map of Europe, when, lo l of

a sudden, the Turks themselves—all that was best and most patriotic of the manhood of the Empire —came boldly forward to make a desperate last stand in the defence of the integrity of their beloved fatherland. The “Young Turks” threw off the despotism that had all but destroyed their country and seized the reins of government, displaying a firmness, justice, wisdom and moderation in their almost bloodless revolution that have won for them the admiration of all honest men throughout the civilised world. It looks very much as if these men are about to prove to the world that reform can come from within even in Turkey, provided that the Turks are now given the chance which they have never had before, and greedy foes are not permitted to frustrate the aspirations of a people freed at last. Those Englishmen who know and therefore like and respect the Turkish people rejoice that the ancient friendship between England and Turkey has been restored, and that at last the English people are beginning to realise the injustice that a large section of public opinion has done to a noble race, for over thirty years. There was a time when we understood the Turks better. During the Crimean war our officers had the opportunity of acquiring an intimate knowledge of our allies; many firm friendships were then made which were kept up through life, and so large and influential were the relations thus brought about between the gentlemen of the two countries that

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