Arnold Joseph Toynbee.

Turkey: a Past and a Future online

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question which is the most despised of all nations - if one goes, not by
justice and equity, but by the violence and extensiveness of the
prejudice - might well now be altered to the Germans' disadvantage.

"In this unenviable competition for the prize of hate, Turkey, too, has
a word to say, for the unspeakable Turk' is a rhetorical commonplace of
English politics."

Having thus isolated the Jews from humanity and pilloried them with the
German and the Turk, the writer expounds their function in the
Turco-German system:

"Hitherto Germany has bothered herself very little about the Jewish
emigration from Eastern Europe. People in Germany hardly realised that,
through the annual exodus of about 100,000 German-speaking Jews to the
United States and England, the empire of the English language and the
economic system that goes with it is being enlarged, while a German
asset is being proportionately depreciated....

"The War found the Jewry of Eastern Europe in process of being uprooted,
and has enormously accelerated the catastrophe. Galicia and the western
provinces of Russia, which between them contain many more than half the
Jews in the world, have suffered more from the War than any other
region. Jewish homes have been broken up by hundreds of thousands, and
there is no doubt whatever that, as a result of the War, there will be
an emigration of East European Jews on an unprecedented scale....

"The disposal of the East European Jews will be a problem for
Germany.... It will no longer do simply to close the German frontiers to
them, and in view of the difficulties which would result from a
wholesale migration of Eastern Jews into Germany itself, Germans will
only be too glad to find a way out in the emigration of these Jews to
Turkey - a solution extraordinarily favourable to the interests of all
three parties concerned...."

And from this he passes to a wider vision:

"The German-speaking Jews abroad are a kind of German-speaking province
which is well worth cultivation. Nine-tenths of the Jewish world speak
German, and a good part of the remainder live in the Islamic world,
which is Germany's friend, so that there are grounds for talking of a
German protectorate over the whole of Jewry."

By this exploitation of aversions, Dr. Trietsch expects to deposit the
Jews of the Pale over Western Asia as "culture-manure" for a German
harvest; and if the Jewish migration to Palestine had remained nothing
more than a stream of refugees, he might possibly have succeeded in his
purpose. But in the last twenty years this Jewish movement has become a
positive thing - no longer a flight from the Pale but a remembrance of
Zion - and Zionism has already challenged and defeated the policy which
Dr. Trietsch represents. "The object of Zionism," it was announced in
the _Basle Programme_, drawn up by the first Zionist Congress in 1897,
"is to establish for the Jewish people a publicly and legally assured
home in Palestine." For the Zionists Jewry is a nation, and to become
like other nations it needs its Motherland. In the Jewish colonies in
Palestine they see not merely a successful social enterprise but the
visible symbol of a body politic. The foundation of a national
university in Jerusalem is as ultimate a goal for them as the economic
development of the land, and their greatest achievement has been the
revival of Hebrew as the living language of the Palestinian Jews. It was
this that brought them into conflict with the Germanising tendency. In
1907 a secondary school was successfully started at Jaffa, by the
initiative of Jewish teachers in Palestine, with Hebrew as the language
of instruction; but in 1914, when a Jewish Polytechnic was founded at
Haifa, the German-Jewish _Hilfsverein_, which had taken a leading part,
refused to follow this precedent, and insisted on certain subjects being
taught in German, not only in the Polytechnic, but in the
_Hilfsverein's_ other schools. The result was a secession of pupils and
teachers. Purely Hebrew schools were opened; the Zionist organisation
gave official support; and the Germanising party was compelled to accept
a compromise which was in effect a victory for the Hebrew language.

Dr. Trietsch himself accepts this settlement, but does not abandon his

"It was certainly impossible to expect the Spanish and Arabic-speaking
Jews[46] to submit in their own Jewish country to the hegemony of the
German language.... Only Hebrew could become the common vernacular
language of the scattered fragments of Jewry drifting back to Palestine
from all the countries of the world. But ... in addition to Hebrew, to
which they are more and more inclined, the Jews must have a
world-language _(Weltsprache),_ and this can only be German."

Anyone acquainted with the language-ordinances of Central Europe will
feel that this suggestion veils a threat. What has been happening in
Palestine during the War? Dr. Trietsch informs us that the Ottoman
Government has been proceeding with the "naturalisation" of the
Palestinian Jews, and that the "local execution of this measure has not
been effected without disturbances which are beyond the province of this
pamphlet." One significant consequence was the appearance in Egypt of
Palestinian refugees, who raised a Zion mule corps there and fought
through the Gallipoli campaign. What is the outlook for Palestine after
the War? If the Ottoman pretension survives, the menace from Turkish
Nationalism[47] and German resentment[48] is grave. But if Turk and
German go, there are Zionists who would like to see Palestine a British
Protectorate, with the prospect of growing into a British Dominion.
Certainly, if the Jewish colonies are to make progress, they must be
relieved of keeping their own police, building their own roads, and the
other burdens that fall on them under Ottoman government, and this can
only be secured by a better public administration. As for the British
side of the question, we may consult Dr. Trietsch.

"There are possibilities," he urges, "in a German protectorate over the
Jews as well as over Islam. Smaller national units than the 14 1-3
million Jews have been able to do Germany vital injury or service, and,
while the Jews have no national state, their dispersion over the whole
world, their high standard of culture, and their peculiar abilities
lend them a weight that is worth more in the balance than many larger
national masses which occupy a compact area of their own."

Other Powers than Germany may take these possibilities to heart.

Here, then, are peoples risen from the past to do what the Turks cannot
and the Germans will not in Western Asia. There is much to be
done - reform of justice, to obtain legal release from the Capitulations;
reform in the assessment and collection of the agricultural tithes,
which have been denounced for a century by every student of Ottoman
administration; agrarian reform, to save peasant proprietorship, which
in Syria, at any rate, is seriously in danger; genuine development of
economic resources; unsectarian and non-nationalistic advancement of
education. But the Jews, Syrians, and Armenians are equal to their task,
and, with the aid of the foreign nations on whom they can count, they
will certainly accomplish it. The future of Palestine, Syria, and
Armenia is thus assured; but there are other countries - once as fertile,
prosperous, and populous as they - which have lost not only their wealth
but their inhabitants under the Ottoman domination. These countries have
not the life left in them to reclaim themselves, and must look abroad
for reconstruction.

If you cross the Euphrates by the bridge that carries the Bagdad
Railway, you enter a vast landscape of steppes as virgin to the eye as
any prairie across the Mississippi. Only the _tells_ (mounds) with which
it is studded witness to the density of its ancient population - for
Northern Mesopotamia was once so populous and full of riches that Rome
and the rulers of Iran fought seven centuries for its possession, till
the Arabs conquered it from both.

The railway has now reached Nisibin, the Roman frontier fortress
heroically defended and ceded in bitterness of heart, and runs past
Dara, which the Persians never took. Westward lies Urfa - named Edessa by
Alexander's men after their Macedonian city of running waters[49]; later
the seat of a Christian Syriac culture whose missionaries were heard in
China and Travancore; still famous, under Arab dominion, for its
Veronica and 300 churches; and restored for a moment to Christendom as
the capital of a Crusader principality, till the Mongols trampled it
into oblivion and the Osmanlis made it a name for butchery.

From Urfa to Nisibin there can be fields again. The climate has not
changed, and wherever the Bedawi pitches his tents and scratches the
ground there is proof of the old fertility. Only anarchy has banished
cultivation; for, since the Ottoman pretension was established over the
land, it has been the battleground of brigand tribes - Kurds from the
hills and Arabs from the desert, skirmishing or herding their flocks,
making or breaking alliance, but always robbing any tiller of the land
of the fruits of his labour.

"If once," Dr. Rohrbach prophesies, "the peasant population were sure of
its life and property, it would joyfully expand, push out into the
desert, and bring new land under the plough; in a few years the villages
would spring up, not by dozens, but by hundreds."

At present cultivation is confined to the Armenian foot-hills - an
uncertain arc of green from Aleppo to Mosul. But the railway strikes
boldly into the deserted middle of the land, giving the arc a chord, and
when Turco-German strategic interests no longer debar it from being
linked up, through Aleppo, with a Syrian port, it will be the really
valuable section of the Bagdad system. The railway is the only capital
enterprise that Northern Mesopotamia requires, for there is rain
sufficient for the crops without artificial irrigation. Reservoirs of
population are the need. The Kurds who come for winter pasture may be
induced to stay - already they have been settling down in the western
districts, and have gained a reputation for industry; the Bedawin, more
fickle husbandmen, may settle southward along the Euphrates, and in time
there will be a surplus of peasantry from Armenia and Syria. These will
add field to field, but unless some stronger stream of immigration is
led into the land, it will take many generations to recover its ancient
prosperity; for in the ninth century A.D. Northern Mesopotamia paid
Harun-al-Rashid as great a revenue as Egypt, and its cotton commanded
the market of the world[50].

Southern Mesopotamia - the Irak of the Arabs and Babylonia of the
Greeks - lies desolate like the North, but is a contrast to it in every
other respect. Its aspect is towards the Persian Gulf, and Rohrbach
grudgingly admits[51] that down the Tigris to Basra, and not upstream to
Alexandretta, is the natural channel for its trade. It gets nothing from
the Mediterranean, neither trade nor rain, and every drop of water for
cultivation must be led out of the rivers; but the rivers in their
natural state are worse than the drought. Their discharge is extremely
variable - about eight times as great in April as in October; they are
always silting up their beds and scooping out others; and when there are
no men to interfere they leave half the country a desert and make the
other half a swamp. Yet the soil, when justly watered, is one of the
richest in the world; for Irak is an immense alluvial delta, more than
five hundred miles from end to end, which the Tigris and Euphrates have
deposited in what was originally the head of the Persian Gulf. The Arabs
call it the _Sawâd_ or Black Land, and it is a striking change from the
bare ledges of Arabia and Iran which enclose its flanks, and from the
Northern steppe-land which it suddenly replaces - at Samarra, if you are
descending the Tigris, and on the Euphrates at Hit. The steppe cannot
compare with the _Sawâd_ in fertility, but the _Sawâd_ does not so
readily yield up its wealth. To become something better than a
wilderness of dust and slime it needs engineering on the grand scale and
a mighty population - immense forces working for immense returns. In a
strangely different environment it anticipated our modern rhythm of life
by four thousand years, and then went back to desolation five centuries
before Industrialism (which may repeople it) began.

The _Sawâd_ was first reclaimed by men who had already a mastery of
metals, a system of writing, and a mature religion - less civilised men
would never have attempted the task. These Sumerians, in the fourth
millennium B.C., lived on _tells_ heaped up above flood-level, each
_tell_ a city-state with its separate government and gods, for
centralisation was the one thing needful to the country which the
Sumerians did not achieve. The centralisers were Semites from the
Arabian plateau. Sargon of Akkad and Naram Sin ruled the whole _Sawâd_
as early as 2500 B.C.; Hammurabi, in 1900, already ruled it from
Babylon; and the capital has never shifted more than sixty miles since
then. Babylon on the Euphrates and Bagdad on the Tigris are the
alternative points from which the _Sawâd_ can be controlled. Just above
them the first irrigation canals branch off from the rivers, and between
them the rivers approach within thirty-five miles of each other. It is
the point of vantage for government and engineering.

Here far-sighted engineers and stronghanded rulers turned the waters of
Babylon into waters of life, and the _Sawâd_ became a great heart of
civilisation, breathing in man-power - Sumerians and Amorites and
Kassites and Aramaeans and Chaldeans and Persians and Greeks and
Arabs - and breathing out the works of man - grain and wool and Babylonish
garments, inventions still used in our machine-shops, and emotions still
felt in our religion.

"The land," writes Herodotus[52], who saw it in its prime, "has a little
rain, and this nourishes the corn at the root; but the crops are matured
and brought to harvest by water from the river - not, as in Egypt, by the
river flooding over the fields, but by human labour and _shadufs_[53]
For Babylonia, like Egypt, is one network of canals, the largest of
which is navigable. It is far the best corn-land of all the countries I
know. There is no attempt at arboriculture - figs or vines or olives - but
it is such superb corn-land that the average yield is two-hundredfold,
and three-hundredfold in the best years. The wheat and barley there are
a good four inches broad in the blade, and millet and sesame grow as big
as trees - but I will not state the dimensions I have ascertained,
because I know that, for anyone who has not visited Babylonia and
witnessed these facts about the crops for himself, they would be
altogether beyond belief."

Harnessed in the irrigation channels, the Tigris and Euphrates had
become as mighty forces of production as the Nile and the Ganges, the
Yangtse and the Hoang-Ho.

"This," Herodotus adds[54], "is the best demonstration I can give of the
wealth of the Babylonians: All the lands ruled by the King of Persia are
assessed, in addition to their taxes in money, for the maintenance of
the King's household and army in kind. Under this assessment the King is
maintained for four months out of the twelve by Babylonia, and for the
remaining eight by the rest of Asia together, so that in wealth the
Assyrian province is equivalent to a third of all Asia."

The "Asia" over which the Achaemenids ruled included Russian Central
Asia and Egypt as well as modern Turkey and Persia, and Egypt, under the
same assessment, merely maintained the local Persian garrison[55]. Its
money contribution was inferior too - 700 talents as compared with
Assyria's 1,000; and though these figures may not be conclusive, because
the Persian "province of Assyria" probably extended over the northern
steppes as well as the _Sawâd_, it is certain that under the Arab
Caliphate, when Irak and Egypt were provinces of one empire for the
second time in history, Irak by itself paid 135 million _dirhems_
(francs) annually into Harun-al-Rashid's treasury and Egypt no more than
65 million, so that a thousand years ago the productiveness of the
_Sawâd_ was more than double that of the Nile.

Another measure of the land's capacity is the greatness of its cities.
Herodotus gives statistics[56] of Babylon in the fifth century
B.C. - walls 300 feet high, 75 feet broad, and 58 miles in circuit;
three- and four-storied houses laid out in blocks; broad straight streets
intersecting one another at regular intervals, at right angles or
parallel to the Euphrates. Any one who reads Herodotus' description of
Babylon or Ibn Serapion's of Bagdad, and considers that these vast urban
masses were merely centres of collection and distribution for the open
country, can infer the density of population and intensity of
cultivation over the face of the _Sawâd_. When the Caliph Omar conquered
Irak from the Persians in the middle of the seventh century A.D., and
took an inventory of what he had acquired, he found that there were
5,000,000 hectares[57] of land under cultivation, and that the poll-tax
was paid by 550,000 householders, which implies a total population, in
town and country, of more than 5,000,000 souls, where a bare million and
a half maintains itself to-day in city alleys and nomads' tents.

And in Omar's time the _Sawâd_ was no longer at its best, for, a few
years before the Arab conquest, abnormally high floods had burst the
dykes; from below Hilla to above Basra the Euphrates broadened into a
swamp, and the Tigris deserted its former (and present) bed for the
Shatt-el-Hai, leaving the Amara district a desert. The Persian
Government, locked in a suicidal struggle with Rome, was powerless to
make good the damage, and the shock of the Arab invasion made it
irreparable[58]. Under the Abbasid Caliphs of Bagdad the rest of the
country preserved its prosperity, but in the thirteenth century Hulaku
the Mongol finished the work of the floods, and under Ottoman dominion
the _Sawâd_ has not recovered.

Can it still be reclaimed? Surveys have been taken by Sir William
Willcocks, as Adviser to the Ottoman Ministry of Public Works, and his
final conclusions and proposals are embodied in a report drawn up at
Bagdad in 1911[59].

"The Tigris-Euphrates delta," he writes, "may be classed as an arid
region of some 5,000,000 hectares.... All this land is capable of easy
levelling and reclamation. The presence of 15 per cent. lime in the soil
renders reclamation very easy compared with similar work in the dense
clays of Egypt. One is never far away from the giant banks of old canals
and the ruins of ancient towns."

But he does not expect to make all these 5,000,000 hectares productive
simultaneously, as they are said to have been when Omar took his
inventory. "It is water, not land, which measures production," and he
reckons that the average combined discharge of the rivers would irrigate
3,000,000 hectares in winter, and in summer 400,000 of rice or 1,250,000
of other crops. This is the eventual maximum; for immediate reclamation
he takes 1,410,000 hectares in hand. His project is practically to
restore, with technical improvements, the ancient system of canals and
drains, using the Euphrates water to irrigate everything west of the
Tigris (down to Kut) and the Shatt-el-Hai, and the water of the Tigris
and its tributaries for districts east of that line. Adding 33 per cent.
for contingencies to his estimate for cost of materials and rates of
labour, and doubling the total to cover interest on loans and subsequent
development, he arrives at £29,105,020 (Turkish)[60] as the cost, from
first to last, of irrigation and agricultural works together; and he
estimates that the 1,410,000 hectares reclaimed by this outlay will
produce crops to the value of £9,070,000 (Turkish) a year. In other
words, the annual return on the gross expenditure will be more than 31
per cent., and under the present tithe system £7,256,000 (Turkish) of
this will remain with the owners of the soil, while £1,814,000 will pass
to the Government. This will give the country itself a net return of
24.9 per cent. on the combined gross cost of irrigation and agricultural
works, while the Government, after paying away £443,000 (Turkish) out of
its tithes for maintenance charges, will still receive a clear 9 per
cent. per annum on the gross cost of irrigation, to which its share in
the outlay will be confined.

Unquestionably, therefore, the enterprise is exceedingly profitable to
all parties concerned. Looking further ahead, Sir William proposes to
supersede the navigation of the Tigris[61] by railways, and so set free
the whole discharge of the two rivers for irrigation. He contemplates
handling annually 375,000 tons of cereals and 1,250,000 cwt. of cotton,
and estimates the future by the effects of the Chenab Canal in Northern
India -

"a canal traversing lands similar to those of Mesopotamia in their
climate and in the condition in which they found themselves before the
canal works were carried out.... In such a land, so like a great part of
Mesopotamia, canals have introduced in a few years nearly a million of
inhabitants, and the resurrection of the country has been so rapid that
its very success was jeopardised by a railway not being able to be made
quickly enough to transport the enormous produce."

"A million of inhabitants" - that is the crux of the problem. Labour is
as necessary as water for the raising of crops; Sir William's barrages
and canals without hands to turn them to account would be a dead loss
instead of a profitable investment; but from what reservoir of
population is this man-power to be introduced? The German economists are
baffled by the difficulty.

"It is useless," as Rohrbach puts it, "to sink from 150 to 600 million
marks in restoring the canal system, and then let the land lie idle,
with all its new dams and channels, for lack of cultivators. Yet Turkey
can never raise enough settlers for Irak by internal colonisation[62]."

She cannot raise them even for the minor enterprises at Konia and
Adapa[63], and evidently the _Sawâd_ must draw its future cultivators
from somewhere beyond the bounds of Western Asia. From Germany, many
Germans have suggested; but German experts curtly dismiss the idea. The
first point Rohrbach makes in his book on the Bagdad Railway is that
German colonisation in Anatolia is impossible for political reasons. "No
worse service," he declares, "can be done to the German cause in the
East than the propagation of this idea," and the rise of Turkish
Nationalism has proved him right[64]. There remain the Arab lands;

"But even," he continues, "if the Turks thought of foreign colonisation
in Syria and Mesopotamia, to hold the Arabs in check" (the political
factor again), "that would be little help to us Germans, for only very
limited portions of those countries have a climate in which Germans can
work on the land or perform any kind of heavy manual labour."

And Germany herself is hard up for men.

"For all prospective developments in Turkey," writes Dr. Trietsch, "not
merely scientific knowledge, capital, and organisation are wanted, but
men, and Germany has no resources in men worth speaking of for opening
up the Islamic world."

It is one of his arguments for bringing in the Jews, but the
colonisation of Palestine will leave no Jews over for Irak. Rohrbach[65]
disposes of the Mouhadjirs - they are a drop in the bucket, and are no
more adapted to the climate than the Germans themselves. "There is
really nothing for it," he bursts out in despair, "but the introduction
of Mohammedans from other countries where the climatic conditions of
Irak prevail."

That narrows the field to India and Egypt, and drives Turco-German
policy upon the horns of a dilemma:

"The colonists must either remain subjects of a foreign Power, a
solution which could not be considered for an instant by any Turkish
Government, or else they must become Turkish subjects - "

a condition which, to Indians and Egyptians, as well as Germans, would
be prohibitive. No one who has known good government would exchange it
for Ottoman government without the Capitulations as a guarantee.

The Ottoman Government has its own characteristic view. In a memorandum
on railways and reclamation, published by the Ministry of Public Works
in 1909, a _résumé_ is given of the Willcocks scheme.

"In due time," the memorandum proceeds, "a comprehensive scheme for the

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Online LibraryArnold Joseph ToynbeeTurkey: a Past and a Future → online text (page 5 of 6)