By the beginning of the 20th century, the Ottoman Empire was considered an industrialised nation. With the weeds of corruption all but stamped out, the economy was flourishing. The discovery of oil in the once ignored Arabian peninsula led to a boom, and the government decided that the Arabs there should be helped with some of the profits.

Greater pressure to give voting rights to the people led to considerable reform in the first few years of the century. By 1920, it was clear the newly educated masses would no longer tolerate a heriditary system of any kind, so a constitutional system was set out. In 1921, the first open election began (of course, women were not allowed the vote). A modest, centre-right party was chosen, narrowly defeating the socialists.

The first world war shook the world, but the Ottomans were able to narrowly stay out the debacle. They could not, however, stay away from the trouble in the Balkans. The Russians felt they could liberate their Slavic brothers from Austria-Hungary, however they did not want a war with the now fairly formidable Ottomans. This led to a feeling of resentment amongst the northern population, but that did not stop them rioting in 1915 and 1917. By this time, however, the Germans were defeated and the Austrian empire carved up. Migration was allowed to the new independent nations, however many decided to stay for want of better conditions.

The great depression in 1929 led to a rise in fascism. The Ottoman Empire was not exempt from this, and in 1931 Faraj Mohammed became Grand Vizier. In typical fashion, it was soon made apparant that he would not be holding elections again. However, his policy of building up the military was favoured and by 1937 close ties with Germany led to the Ottoman Empire joining the Axis. Many Turks wanted an Ottoman Empire built on the same ethnic ideals as the Germans. In the wake of a large babyboom, many wanted some Ottoman 'living space'.

In the 1938 Berlin conference the nations of Germany, Italy, Turkey and Japan met to discuss their proposed division of Europe. Mussolini's ideal of a new Roman Empire was largely disrupted by the Turks, but they agreed to divide Egypt amongst themselves and make the Suez canal open to all Axis members.

Thus, in 1939, German troops began their invasion of Poland. This was the last straw for the allies - World War 2 had begun

Next: World War 2

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