Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Germans are Coming

It's not immediately clear what's so different about this map, until you look more closely at what's written where Turkey's supposed to be: "Deutsch Klein-Asien" or "German Asia Minor." Compared to this, the other changes seem pretty minor. Greece gets Thrace but Austria-Hungary gets Thessoloniki. Montenegro takes over Albania and Russia is given a naval base on Crete. These maps appeared as a supplement to Adolf Guyer-Zeller 1897 work Der T├╝rkenherrschaft ende, or "The End of Turkish Occupation." Guyer-Zeller was a Swiss rail-road magnate, who, as these maps reveal, seemed keenly interested the potential of German Imperialism to create to rail routes (If anyone knows more about Adolf please let us know).

From the Ottoman perspective, of course, maps like this offer another insight into how the empire found itself disastrously involved in World War One. Our first post highlighted the Empire's desire to avenge its territorial losses. This map, by contrast, highlights the fear of much more serious losses. Recent scholarship has revealed just how conscious Ottoman statesmen were of the fact that even their allies were eager to carve up  what was left of their territory. After decades of seeing maps like these, there was ample reason for Ottomans to suspect that if they sat out the war they would lose no matter who won. When the war broke out, the CUP leadership initially tried to delay their entry until the winner was clear, but ultimately decided, with some help from Enver Pasha, that neutrality was more dangerous than the risk of ending up firmly on the losing side. From a purely strategic perspective, betting on a German victory was hardly a foolish thing to do, and as anyone who plays backgammon knows, sometimes luck can make even a smart move end in disaster.