The Ottoman Navy in the Late 19th Century : An analysis of the Financial Problem

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Other Title
  • 19世紀末のオスマン海軍:財政問題を中心に
  • 19セイキマツ ノ オスマン カイグン ザイセイ モンダイ オ チュウシン ニ

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Abstract

It is often asserted that the Ottoman Navy had experienced the Dark Ages during the reign of Sultan Abdulhamit II (1876-1909). After the Russo-Turkish war (1877-1878) most of their warships had been anchored at the Golden Horn until the eve of the Greco-Turkish war (1897). It means that the Ottoman Empire left her own fleet in the port for about twenty years. While the world naval technology had made remarkable advances, the Ottoman Navy, on the contrary, became outdated.In this paper the author has attempted to analyze the financial situation of the Ottoman Navy from 1878 to 1897. This research is based on the documents of Deniz Muzesi Tarihi Arsivi (Historical Archives of Maritime Museum) and Basbakanlik Osmanli Arsivi (Prime Minister’s Ottoman Archives).Compared with Abdulaziz’s period (1861-1876), the distribution of state expenditure to Navy was cut down from 6 or 7% to 3%. At the same time the amount and opportunity of acquiring loans was limited. Thus the Navy always had been suffering from budgetary deficits. Their annual budget was not even enough to cover personnel expenses.Under such conditions the Naval Ministry often presented letters of petition to obtain extraordinary expenditure to both The Supreme Porte and Sultan. But those efforts met usually with no result. Even if they could get Sultan’s permission, the Finance Ministry ignored the order and the Naval Ministry could not receive money. For these very reasons the Ottoman Navy could not perform its duty. Actually, they planned a number of improvements, for example, the reinforcement of fleet, modernization of dockyards and arsenals, and so on. But all these important activities could not be put into practice because of the financial difficulties.It has been argued that Sultan Abdulhamit II ruined his own navy because he feared that the naval forces would join in a coup d’état. But there is no historical evidence which would support such a hypothesis. Whenever we discuss Abdulhamit’s reign, we must not forget that the Ottoman state budget was controlled by the Public Debt Commission, most of whose representatives were European Bankers. The reason why the Ottoman Navy had declined during Abdulhamit’s period should also be looked for in their own budgetary deficits. It was one of the phenomena of the economic semi-colonial situation of the last stage of the Ottoman Empire.

Journal

  • The Toyo Gakuho

    The Toyo Gakuho 73 (1・2), 01-025(138~162), 1992-01

    東洋文庫

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