The Changing Image of the Turk

author: Božidar Jezernik, Oddelek za etnologijo in kulturno antropologijo, Filozofska fakulteta, Univerza v Ljubljani
published: Feb. 25, 2008,   recorded: September 2007,   views: 3463

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Western European-Ottoman relations had a long and many-facet history. As long as the Ottoman Empire was expanding, its civil and military institutions were idealised as far superior to those of their contemporaries in Western Europe. In the 15th century, Pope Pius II even summoned the Sultan, Mehmet II, to let himself be baptised and become the greatest of Christian princes and a papal protégé. However, due to Ottoman defeats in the late 17th century, the overall prestige of the Ottoman Empire declined. When, in the 19th century, the tables were turned, the once formidable empire became ‘the Sick Man of Europe.’ Its idealised image had faded away to dwindle into obscurity. In the 1856 Treaty of Paris, the Ottoman Empire was nevertheless officially recognised as a permanent part of the European power balance. As such, it was the first non-European political entity to gain that status, which was codified at the Hague Conference in 1899 where the Ottoman Empire appeared as one of the participants, and confirmed by the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne. Regardless of these changes, Turks have been the Western European ‘other’ par excellence ever since the first encounter of the two cultures.

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