Describe the role of nationalism in the Ottoman Empire in the Nineteenth Century.

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mrkirschner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Nationalism was a very destructive force in the Ottoman Empire and was one of the primary reasons for its dissolution. The European concept of nationalism was that people should be governed by people of the same ethnicity. It was inspired to a large degree by the French Revolution. The Ottoman Empire was viewed as inferior because of its diversity and multiculturalism. This was true despite the fact that the different religions and ethnic groups had peacefully co-existed under the millet system since the Fifteenth Century. Under the system, the various ethnic minorities were granted a large degree of autonomy. This system was changed in the Nineteenth Century under the Tanzimet Reforms as the sultans tried to unify the vast empire into a single code.

The ideas of European nationalism started to take hold in the early 1800's in the Ottoman Empire. European powers like Britain and Russia instigated revolts against the Ottoman Turks for their own benefit. Ethnic groups like the Greeks (supported by Britain), Serbs and Armenians (supported by Russia) asserted their independence. Even many Muslim groups opposed the Tanzimet Reforms because they did not adhere to Islamic law. They started to exhibit nationalist tendencies. As all of these ethnic groups believed in the European ideals of nationalism, the Ottoman Empire grew weaker and weaker.