Fadıl Necmi; The Sublime Ottoman State: A History of the Ottoman Empire: Istanbul University Press The Crisis of the 1870s For all the wrong reasons it seemed, 1873 would be a turning point for the Ottoman Empire. It had been almost a half-century since the destruction of the Janissary Corps and their ossifying influence was broken, and much had changed in the Empire. The Tanzimat statesmen had declared equality between all the religions of the Empire, they had established the beginnings of a modern bureaucracy and built modern schools. They transformed not only the administration of the Ottoman State but its military too, building one of the world’s mightiest navies and ensuring that the army was well-supplied with modern Western arms. The economy was growing and foreign trade booming as Istanbul became a great centre of trade, hosting a community of Europeans in Pera. The reforms had touched even the habits of individuals, with traditional social mores amongst Muslims being increasingly influenced by those of the Europeans who many wished to emulate. French became a prestige language, and it was an Ottoman subject who had commissioned the scandalous L’origine du Monde . Only in Egypt was there an equal effort to integrate the country into the political and cultural fabric of the West. Yet for all the achievements of the Tanzimat Era there were great adverse effects on the Empire and its people. The old order had been relatively tolerant of regional differences, a key strength in an empire which stretched over three Continents. While sometimes attracting little dissent in the centre, some of the Tanzimat reforms produced great deals of outrage in outlying provinces of the Empire, contributing toward a general sense of disenchantment with the government. The peoples of the provinces still remained largely poor, uneducated and to some extent increasingly alienated from the government. Huge amounts of money went not only on administration, defence and the other necessities of the state, but on building huge palaces such as the Dolmabahçe Palace and the ever-increasing expenses of the court . The provinces saw little return from the taxes that were raised, and the reforms of the Tanzimat had sometimes led to armed uprisings. This perceived mis-rule contributed not only to an image of backwardness in the West, but also inspired the Yeni Osmanlılar or Young Ottomans, who disagreed with the autocratic manner of Sultan Abdülaziz as well as the Tanzimat statesmen. Others, inspired by Islamic reformists such as al-Afghani, turned away from the Westernization of the Tanzimat and advocated for an end to the capitulations and missionary activity. With the death of the last significant Tanzimat Statesman Ali Paşa, some of the Young Ottomans returned from exile. However Sultan Abdülaziz also took the opportunity to wrest back as much power as possible from the Sublime Porte. In this backdrop of political struggle, the Great Eastern Crisis erupted. In 1873 Europe entered a long period of economic depression, coinciding with a famine in Anatolia, both of which increased pressure upon the already greatly indebted treasury. The government responded by increasing taxes to meet its financial obligations, in particularly the cost of its debt which now accounted for almost 8 million TL a year, more than what was spent on the army. Combined with crop failures however, the increased burden of taxation instead pushed the peasants of Herzegovina to revolt, with the rumoured support of both Montenegro and Serbia. Faced by rebellion as well as a deteriorating financial situation, the Ottoman Government defaulted on its debt repayments in the October of 1875. In light of the rebellion and the financial difficulties of the empire, it was not until the May of 1876 that a definitive solution to the rebellion that was acceptable to all powers had been worked out. This brought only a short respite before an even greater series of catastrophes struck the empire. Rebellion broke out in Bulgaria, and the stretched Ottoman government turned to Başıbozuks, irregular soldiers drawn mainly from the Tatar and Circassian population of the Dobrudja. These Başıbozuks killed not only rebels but thousands of innocent Bulgarian civilians as well. Reports of Bulgarian villages filled with the corpses of their victims filtered back to the West, replacing the previously positive image of the reforming Tanzimat Ottoman with that of the “Terrible Turk”. Liberal Party leader William Gladstone lambasted the Turks as “the one great anti-human specimen of humanity”. Public opinion in Britain, the erstwhile ally of the Ottomans, had deteriorated to such a level that it was uncertain whether Britain would be able to intervene should another power threaten the Ottomans. With the internal and external situation rapidly deteriorating, neither Abdülaziz nor his minister Mahmud Nedim Paşa were able to fend off the Young Ottomans, and they were both deposed within a month of each other. Abdülaziz committed suicide (or was possibly murdered) a few days later, and the Young Ottomans now had real influence within the government. Tensions between them and the conservatives soon mounted however, as Hüseyin Avni Paşa disagreed with Midhat Paşa’s drafting of a constitution that would provide for an elected parliament. When Hüseyin Avni was lightly wounded in an attempted assassination attempt, rumours soon began to spread that this had been organized by the Young Ottomans . The threat of political violence, so soon after the death of Abdülaziz was beginning to take its toll on the apparently delicate psyche of the new Sultan Murad. With both the internal and external situations of the Empire desperately requiring firm leadership, Hüseyin Avni and Midhat both agreed that Murad should be replaced by Prince Abdülhamid. Known to be intelligent and ambitious, as well as familiar with liberal ideas, he remained one of the only figures who could unite the Young Ottomans and conservatives in cabinet. While Istanbul was in a state of political tumult, the Serbs and Montenegrins had attempted an invasion of the Ottoman Empire, leading to discussions between the Austrians and Russians at Reichstadt to discuss what would happen once the Ottomans were defeated. By August however the Ottomans had defeated the Serbs at Alexinatz and were in a position to invade Serbia itself, which they refrained from for the time being. However the Serbs attacked once again in September and were once again defeated with relative ease by the Ottomans, whose modern rifles made short work of the unprepared Serbs. Although the Ottomans steered clear of taking Belgrade, they had occupied a good part of the country when an armistice was signed. The European powers had toyed with various solutions to the Balkan Crisis, from a partition of the Ottoman Empire to an international conference, which was finally settled upon as an acceptable solution by the British Prime Minister Disraeli. The conference was ultimately a failure however, with neither the powers nor the Ottomans finding each other’s proposals adequate. The diplomatic impasse between the Ottoman Empire and the Great Powers allowed Midhat Paşa to progress with a more unorthodox solution. Midhat’s suggestion that a constitution that guaranteed equal rights for Christian subjects may make the European powers amenable to continued Ottoman rule in areas the Great Powers wanted to give over to the Serbs and Montenegrins did not sway Hüseyin Avni, but made a greater impression on the Sultan. The first Ottoman Constitution, the Kanûn-u Esâsî or “Basic Law”, was promulgated on the 23rd of December 1876. Far from presenting a political coup-de-grace to opponents of the empire in Europe however, there was scepticism amongst many (the leader of the opposition in Britain, the Turkophobe Gladstone noted “Turkish Constitution!!!” sarcastically in his diary at the news). Certainly the Russians, who were as opposed to Constitutional government as they were to Turkish massacres in the Balkans, saw the promulgation of the Constitution as a threat more than anything else. Midhat’s gamble that a constitution would remove the need for the empire to implement the reforms suggested by the Europeans appeared not to have paid off. Despite the efforts made to clean up the reputation of the Ottoman Empire in the wake of the Bulgarian massacres, the conference ultimately ended in failure due to the unwillingness of either the Great Powers, Young Ottomans or indeed the Sultan to compromise with the other parties. Abdülhamid had wanted to find a working compromise with the Europeans to avoid war, but ultimately lacked the clout to overcome his cabinet . Rumours that he had told Midhat that “The price for your obstinacy will be a sea of Muslim blood” may have been an invention of the enemies of Midhat, but the Sultan was highly disappointed in the results of the conference. The British Foreign Minister Salisbury had warned the Ottomans that without accepting the demands of the powers, the British would be unable to assist the Ottomans should the Russians choose to attack the Empire. The position of the Ottoman Empire was far from enviable, heading toward bankruptcy and completely devoid of allies in the face of renewed Russian aggression. Salisbury bemoaned that “Russia shall be free to take her picking of Ottoman territories, and we shall have to do what we can to secure our own imperial defence”. Bismarck similarly began plans for a great European conference to be held once the Russians had reached Istanbul. * * * * * *  – This is completely true, of course. The commissioner (Khalil Bey) naturally lost the painting through excessive gambling.  – The Dolmabahçe Palace cost around 5 million TL, or around 75% of the yearly Ottoman budget when it was built.  – Perhaps it goes without saying, but this is the POD as in the previous timeline.  – Abdülhamid favoured a strategy of appeasement and concessions in OTL, but it was actually the constitutionalist Young Ottomans who settled on an uncompromising stance that resulted in war.