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The Ottoman Empire was one of the most influential entities in the world. The territorial possessions consisted of the European, African, and Asian countries. Moreover, the army was indeed strong and won a huge number of bloody wars. In addition to the territorial and military superiority, the empire had immense treasure possessions concentrated in the hands of sultans. However, despite these strengths, the Empire was destined to fall apart for various reasons.
The Government and Society
It is worth noting that the Ottoman Empire gained increased power in the XVI century. Its prosperity rooted in the success of its predecessors, and the accumulation of wealth. The rulers of the empire were able to consolidate the previous gains and resolve conflicts within the country to ensure complete stability. Regarding, the internal organization, the military-feudal system was established, and the land was owned conditionally because the Sultan had the principal right of proprietorship of all the conquered lands. It is important to note that social life was built in such a way that the ruling class existed mainly due to the exploitation of the peasantry.
However, private serfdom was not present in the state. The Ottoman Empire was a feudal despotism. Sultan had, in addition to the land proprietorship, the unlimited state, and spiritual power (Cleveland and Bunton 45). The great vizier performed some of the functions of the head of the state.
The religious communities were of great importance in the life of society. Muslims and members of other religions facilitated the social differentiation within the Ottoman Empire. It should be noted that religious communities took part in political and social life. For instance, they exercised jurisdiction over coreligionists (except criminal authority), and collected levies from the population including government revenues (Cleveland and Bunton 45).
In general, non-Muslim communities made a significant contribution to the development of society. Mainly, the representatives of other religions (non-Muslim) have contributed to the preservation of national and cultural traditions and heritage. A distinctive feature of the empire that differed from other countries was that the conquest of the territories was simultaneous with the establishment and development of the administrative structure of the state. By the end of the XVI century, the Ottoman Empire was a state with a rich ethnic and religious structure, and various parts were mainly involved in farming. All regions showed weak economic ties and interaction with each other but, overall, it was a political community (Cleveland and Bunton 45).
Such a rich background demanded the centralization of the vertical power, which was the main objective of the Sultan as mentioned above. Moreover, despite the well-built vertical, Sultan performed supervision over all aspects including military, financial, tax, administrative, political, judicial, and Muslim, and non-Muslim forensic activities. Regarding the religious communities, one of the Sultans established the system of millets, which were self-governing religious communities (Cleveland and Bunton 46). When the non-Muslim populations have adopted this status, they were integrated into the social and political structure of the Ottoman society and became part of it.
The Weakness of the Ottoman Empire during 1700 – the 1800s
The decrease in the power of the Ottoman Empire originated at the end of the previous century; however, the most obvious signs of destabilization were visible from the beginning of the 1700s. The state still had a territorial advantage and possessed the important trade routes. The empire occupied a strategic position and had strong leadership; nevertheless, there were reasons inside the state itself that contributed to its weakening.
The empire did not have internal unity in terms of national, ethnic, religious, and social backgrounds. Moreover, such heterogeneous fragmentation implied the dependence on the central government. Also, the domination over the conquered peoples was maintained by military force solely while the military power, in its turn, was on the decline (Cleveland and Bunton 46). The system of land tenure was not conducive to the strengthening of feudalism but rather undermined it. Despite the attempts by government officials to regulate the processes in the country through the discipline, taxation, and other measures, the Ottoman Empire was experiencing short-term improvements. Moreover, there was a new balance of power, and the empire had to meet the opposition in the global stage.
In the period of prosperity of the state, the Ottoman Empire had a social and political structure, which was regulated by the concentration of power and rigidity within the state apparatus. The religious and social background was varied, and non-Muslim representatives were united in a community to preserve the identity. As a consequence, the populations became isolated from the perspective of economic and social relations, which contributed to the fragmentation within the empire.
This situation has stimulated the predominance of an autocratic regime. The result of the internal structure of the state and its policies since the beginning of the XVII century led to the fact that the country was in a state of decline and the growing internal crisis. The international arena has changed, and other countries took a strong position, which allowed foreign colonizers to enter the lands that were under the control of the Ottoman Empire.
Cleveland, William, and Martin Bunton. A History of the Modern Middle East. 6th ed., Westview Press, 2016.