The Balkans eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 396 pages of information about The Balkans.
Europe second the choice of apostasy or death, absorbed or annihilated almost all the previous populations, and swept forward into the Balkans as single-minded apostles of Islam.  If the composition and the aims of the Osmanlis had been these, it would pass all understanding how they contrived, within a century of their appearance on the western scene, to establish in North-west Asia and South-east Europe the most civilized and best-ordered state of their time.  Who, then, are the Osmanlis in reality?  What have they to do with true Turks? and in virtue of what innate qualities did they found and consolidate their power?


Origin of the Osmanlis

We hear of Turks first from Chinese sources.  They were then the inhabitants, strong and predatory, of the Altai plains and valleys:  but later on, about the sixth century A.D., they are found firmly established in what is still called Turkestan, and pushing westwards towards the Caspian Sea.  Somewhat more than another century passes, and, reached by a missionary faith of West Asia, they come out of the Far Eastern darkness into a dim light of western history.  One Boja, lord of Kashgar and Khan of what the Chinese knew as the people of Thu-Kiu—­probably the same name as ’Turk’—­embraced Islam and forced it on his Mazdeist subjects; but other Turkish tribes, notably the powerful Uighurs, remained intolerant of the new dispensation, and expelled the Thu-Kiu en masse from their holding in Turkestan into Persia.  Here they distributed themselves in detached hordes over the north and centre.  At this day, in some parts of Persia, e.g.  Azerbaijan, Turks make the bulk of the population besides supplying the reigning dynasty of the whole kingdom.  For the Shahs of the Kajar house are not Iranian, but purely Turkish.

This, it should be observed, was the western limit of Turkish expansion in the mass.  Azerbaijan is the nearest region to us in which Turki blood predominates, and the westernmost province of the true Turk homeland.  All Turks who have passed thence into Hither Asia have come in comparatively small detachments, as minorities to alien majorities.  They have invaded as groups of nomads seeking vacant pasturage, or as bands of military adventurers who, first offering their swords to princes of the elder peoples, have subsequently, on several occasions and in several localities, imposed themselves on their former masters.  To the first category belong all those Turcoman, Avshar, Yuruk, and other Turki tribes, which filtered over the Euphrates into unoccupied or sparsely inhabited parts of Syria and Asia Minor from the seventh century onwards, and survive to this day in isolated patches, distinguished from the mass of the local populations, partly by an ineradicable instinct for nomadic life, partly by retention of the pre-Islamic beliefs and practices of the first immigrants.  In the second category—­military adventurers—­fall, for example, the Turkish praetorians who made and unmade not less than four caliphs at Bagdad in the ninth century, and that bold condottiere, Ahmed ibn Tulun, who captured a throne at Cairo.  Even Christian emperors availed themselves of these stout fighters.  Theophilus of Constantinople anticipated the Ottoman invasion of Europe by some five hundred years when he established Vardariote Turks in Macedonia.

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The Balkans from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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