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Tag Archives: Slavic

Rivalries in the Middle East 1856 – 1912

ottoman

THE MIDDLE EAST where Europe, Asia and Africa meet had long been known as one of the great crossroads of the world. Most of its people were Moslems, but among them were many Christians and Jews. They spoke languages as different as Arabic and Latin, Slavic and Turkish. They had little in common except that they were all subjects of the Ottoman sultan in Constantinople. The Ottoman Empire — so called after its early founder, Othman — was the last of several empires to rule over a large part of Islam. Unlike the earlier empires, it was dominated not by Arabs, but by Turks. Centuries before, the Turks had fought their way west from Central Asia and founded a new homeland in the West Asian peninsula of Turkey. From there, they had pushed outward, conquering lands and peoples. In 1699, however, they had lost Hungary to the Austrians. After that, while the nations of western Europe grew stronger, the Ottoman Empire became weaker. Throughout the eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the Ottoman sultans had to combat enemies both within and without their empire. Their foreign enemies were the European powers, which snatched up their outlying lands. Their enemies at home were the subject peoples, especially in the Balkan Peninsula of southeast Europe, who demanded their freedom. Unrest was chronic and the Ottoman Empire, which was usually called simply Turkey, came to be known as “the sick man of Europe.” By the 1850’s, Turkey had lost lands north of the Black Sea to Russia and Algeria‚ in North Africa, to France. Of its former Balkan holdings, Greece was independent and both Serbia and Rumania had some freedom. A native Arab dynasty ruled much of Arabia. In Egypt, a former Turkish governor had set himself up as hereditary khedive, or viceroy, …

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Byzantium and Russia 400 B. C. – 1240 A. D.

russia

THE BEGINNINGS of Russian history date back to the centuries when Byzantium was at the height of its glory. A thousand years before that Herodotus, the Greek explorer, found Greek settlements on the northern shore of the Black Sea. They traded with the Scythians, a tribe of nomads living on the open plains that stretched eastward for thousands of miles to the mountains of Asia. Bordering these plains on the north were the forest lands and above them, in the far north, stretched the frozen wastes of the arctic tundra. In all that vast land there were no barriers, no high mountains to serve as national boundaries. Even the rivers gave little protection against invasion, for they could be crossed when they froze in the winter. As a result, there was a constant shitting of tribes, the strong pushing back the weak. The Scythians who once held the grassy plains above the Black Sea were pushed away by the Sarmatians and they in turn gave way to the Goths in the third century. An invasion of Huns from the Mongolian desert in the fourth century overran everything in its path. It pressed far into Europe, threatening both Constantinople and Rome. All the conquered peoples, including the Slavic tribes of the forest, were forced to pay taxes to Attila, king of the Huns, for many years. Upon his death in the fifth century, the power of the Huns was broken and the tribes won their freedom again. Then followed a series of tribal wars and a general shifting of populations. Where the Slavs came from originally is not known, but they first appear in history on the Vistula River in the fifth century, as subjects of the Huns. It is possible that the name Slavs really meant slaves, since the Huns …

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The Church and the Empire A.D. 527-1261

empire

CHRISTIANITY, as the official religion of Byzantium‚ was under the control of the government. The emperor was the head of both church and state and high church officials in the East recognized him as the religious leader of the land. One of them wrote, “Nothing should happen in the Church against the command or will of the Emperor.” The church organization was similar to that of the state. As its head, but under the emperor, was the patriarch of Constantinople, who was appointed by the emperor. The appointment had to be approved by high church officials, but actually they never went against the emperor’s wishes. The emperor also had power to remove the patriarch from office. Under the patriarch were the metropolitans and archbishops, who had charge of large cities and important centers in the provinces. Then came the bishops and their staffs, which included the local priests. Unlike the priests of the West, those of the East were usually married. All the high-ranking officials of the church were unmarried and came from monasteries — places where monks and other religious men lived by themselves and spent their lives in prayer and service to God. MONASTERIES AND CONVENTS There were a great many monasteries in the East and many similar places for women, called convents. Many of these institutions helped the poor. Some provided hospitals, while others ran schools where the children of the poor could be educated. In time there came to be so many monasteries that they created problems for the empire. Many people went to live in them to escape from the army, or from the burden of public office. Monasteries became very wealthy, holding great tracts of land. Since they were usually not subject to taxes, the empire lost a large portion of its land-tax money …

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