Since the inception of faith, religions all over the world have always been in conflicts due to the differences in faith and beliefs. The differences and the beliefs that one religion is superior to the other has been a major cause of these conflicts. For example, some denominations may feel superior to the others within the same religion (i.e., a catholic and a protestant) or among different religious groups, for instance, a Muslim and a Christian.
Conflict between the Muslims and western Christendom has existed since Islam came into being. This rivalry has never ceased since then. There have been both political and economic clashes between these two religions. Islam came into being in 622 AD and it is credited to be among the last of great civilizations.
The Islam religion managed to change the Arabs into a new form of community, which was more united and this enabled them spread beyond the Arabia, Persians, and even into Africa and European parts. The first clash between the Muslim and Western Christendom dates back the year 711 A.D when the Muslims tried to besiege Constantinople.
Among the most well known and well documented conflicts between the Islam and Christianity which also was a sign of the fall of the Ottoman Empire was the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878.
The Ottoman Empire was and remains one of the greatest and fondly recognized civilizations of the modern times. The empire was the largest and one of the most influential Muslim empires of all times and it lasted until the 20th century.
The empire was founded in the late 13th century by several Turkish tribes, which were ruled by the descendants of Osman 1 until the dissolution of the empire in 1918. Within 100 years since their establishment, the Ottomans had changed from the small kingdom it had started as to the heirs of one of the strongest and most respected empire.
The success of the Ottoman Empire has for a long period been attributed to the disunity and the weaknesses of their adversaries as well as excellent and superior military techniques that the empire held.
The Russo-Turkish war origins can be traced back to the Crimean war in which Russia underestimated the power of the Ottoman Empire and when they entered to war Russia was defeated and lost some of its territories to the empire.
Thus, though Russia was helping the Balkan states in regaining their independence, their main aim was to recover the territories it had lost earlier. Another aim of entering into war was aimed at protecting the Armenians who were the minority group of orthodox Christians and they were suffering much from the Muslim empire rule.
In the year 1876, the Balkan states of Serbia and Montenegro declared war on Ottoman Empire where the two states were defeated but Russia with the approval of Austria attacked and defeated the Ottomans (Spielvogel 762). The Russian army passed through Danube and met with the ottoman soldiers. The war took a period of about 5 months and when the Ottoman army could resist no more, they retreated and the Russian soldiers marched on and on annexing some of the empire land.
The ottomans could not take that anymore and they requested for a peace treaty. The Russians agreed and with it the peace treaty was signed which went by the San Stefano. By the treaty of San Stefano, a large Bulgarian state was also created and the treaty also resulted in some of the countries under the Ottoman rule which were fighting for independence being granted the same and these included Serbia and Romania.
The Russian success was not a positive indication to other European powers and in the year 1878, European countries with Germany under Bismarck being the leader, called for a congress in Berlin to discuss a revision of the San Stefano treaty. When the congress met it reduced the agreements, which had been signed under the treaty to the humiliation of Russia.
The Bulgarian state was reduced in size and the rest of the territory returned to the Ottoman Empire and it was after this Congress of Berlin that European powers formed alliances in order to safeguard their security.
After what Russia had experienced in the Berlin congress, it terminated the alliance and thus Germany had to make an alliance with Austria with Italy joining later.
In the middle of 19th century there was a rising wave of nationalism across the Ottoman Empire. It was at this period that the Balkan States which had been under the rule of Ottoman successfully revolted against the empire and gained their independence with the help of other European countries.
Related to the Balkan states the following activities led to the conflict; The founding of the independent Bulgaria, the revival of their language, the intellectual awakening and the rise of the orthodox Christian church were some of the factors that reinforced nationalism and realization of Bulgaria’s independence and unity among other Balkan states.
It was after gaining the independence that Bulgaria felt that it needed to establish territorial and ethnographic boundaries to separate it from the other Slavic nations. It was during this period that anything related to Ottoman was considered negatively and Islam as a religion was regarded as a reminder of the ottoman occupation, and with the help of Russia this was made possible (IHRC 7).
At the end of the Crimean war, which pitied Russia against the Ottoman Empire, there was an agreement that Christians and Muslims were to share equal rights. While some of these reforms were initiated afterwards, some key aspects of discrimination still remained, for example, there was no place where Christians were allowed to confess against the Muslims.
This created a Muslim like immunity towards offenses committed against the Christians. In some instances it allowed the Muslims to take advantage of the situation and exploited Christians badly. These practices were mostly felt where the Christians were the majority and this was used as a tool to keep them off, as a result revolts grew within and the Russians saw it as an opportunity to help them by attacking the Ottoman Empire.
The empire army and economic status began weakening; this caused its instability and made them vulnerable to external attacks from their rivals. The military instability caused the empire to experience internal problems and weakened the very foundation of the empire. The empire insistence and devotion to its traditions also caused their relations with the rest of European countries which were Christian dominated and as observed by Lioutas,
In the year 1800s the Empire experienced a decline as a result of a lack of advancement, corruption in the government, a decline in military power, which facilitated external attacks, along with negative feelings towards them and poor relations with other countries; this resulted in isolation from the West (Lioutas 1).
Another factor that led to the weakening of the Ottoman Empire was its internal army conflict, for example, before their war with Russia, the Ottoman Empire had engaged in war with Muhammad Ali from Egypt which resulted in the loss of Egypt for the empire. Internal wars were fought resulting in liberation and essentially loss of land therefore decrease in empire size; slowly and steadily, parts of the empire particularly in the borders were lost (Haberman & Shubert 71).
The significance of the Russo- Turkish conflict for the subsequent development of the relationships between those involved:
After the Russo-Turkish war, the Russians redefined their understanding both of operations and of their preparation and conduct to produce a concept that was linked to their military superiority” (Menning1). They changed their way of understanding and developed a strong military force with advanced art and science of military. It is through these advancements that the Russian military has been known to possess, use, and continue to advance.
The formation of alliances after the Berlin Congress led to developed animosity between German and the Russians and this is a possible cause of the First World War which started in 1914 where the British, Russia and her allies were trying to contain the expansionist policies of the Germans.
This war also led to significant recognition of the Christians living within the empire and a peaceful co existence was thus required. It was after this war that the Armenians who were the minority Christian in the empire began looking upon Russia for help due to the unfriendly environment they were living in within the empire.
It is worthy noting that it is after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in 1877-1878 that the kingdom weakened drastically and started forming alliances with other European countries in order to secure its territories but this continued up to the First World War where thereafter the Ottoman Empire collapsed.
Haberman Arthur, and Shubert, Adrian. The West and the World; Contacts, Conflicts, Connections. Toronto: Gage Learning Corporation, 2002.
IHRC. “Europe’s Shame: Anti-Muslim Hatred and the Roma of Bulgaria.” Islamic Human Rights Commission, 2010. Web. 13 Dec. 2010.
Lioutas, Dawn. “The Fall of the Ottoman Empire.” Bukisa, Feb 19th, 2010. Web. 13 Dec. 2010.
Menning, Bruce. “The Imperial Russian Legacy of Operational Art, 1878-1914.” Center of Military History United States Army, 1 June 2007. Web. 13 Dec. 2010.
Spielvogel, Jackson. Western Civilization: Alternate Volume: Since 1300. New York: Cengage Learning, 2008