The Ottomans ruled all the Middle East, the Balkans, and much of the southern shore of the Mediterranean Sea at the height of their power. Their empire reached its greatest glory during the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent, 1520-1566. By the time of Suleiman, the Ottomans, who were originally horse nomads, had become a settled, urbanized, sophisticated “Great Power” with a large and excellent navy to impose their will across the Mediterranean and Black Seas. They were a Great Power who interacted with the Great Powers of Europe in the standard European way.
Christian Europe finally halted the Ottoman tide in three military campaigns of tremendous ferocity and enormous importance. First, in 1565, the Ottomans invaded the Mediterranean island state of Malta and laid siege to the city of Malta. A joint European force under the leadership of the famous Knights of Malta broke the siege and forced the Ottomans to evacuate the island with great loss. Second, a combined Spanish and Venetian navy destroyed the Ottoman navy at the Battle of Lepanto, fought in the waters off the western coast of Greece, in 1571. Third, in 1683, a huge Ottoman army laid siege to the Austrian city of Vienna. A coalition of European armies, among whom the Poles were preeminent, broke the siege and routed the Ottoman army.
Throughout the 18th and 19th Centuries, the Austrians and Russians waged wars to steadily whittle away at Ottoman lands in southeastern Europe. The Greeks, who soon gained European support, revolted against the Ottomans starting in 1821. The Greeks finally achieved their full independence as a modern nation in 1832. The British and Italians took over what had been Ottoman possessions in Egypt and Libya respectively. A coalition of European Balkan countries defeated the Ottomans in the First Balkan War of 1912-1913. As a result, Ottoman lands in Europe were reduced to a tiny enclave around the city of Constantinople. But the Ottomans still ruled over Palestine, Arabia, and Mesopotamia from their core region of Turkey. They underwent a period of attempted aggressive internal reform and modernization under the “Young Turk” movement. The badly shrunken Ottoman Empire joined as allies with the Germans and Austrians in World War I, 1914-1918. The Ottomans successfully repelled a British amphibious invasion on the shores of Gallipoli in 1915. Also in 1915, the Ottoman Turks massacred large numbers of their Christian Armenian subjects in the Caucasus region on the suspicion that the Armenians were helping the Russians. The Ottoman Empire was destroyed by British invasions and Arab revolts by the end of the war in 1918. The Ottoman Empire’s central remnant became the modern nation of Turkey under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who was the victorious Ottoman general at Gallipoli.
NOTE: The Russians took the name of the Kazakh Turks, corrupted it to “Cossacks,” and applied it to the renegade, outlaw Europeans who migrated to the steppe lands and intermarried with some of the Kazakh Turks during the late 1400s and 1500s. These people formed a hybrid European-Asian nomad culture on the wild southeastern frontiers of Czarist Russia. The most famous Cossack is the fictional Taras Bulba from the novella of that name by Nikolai Gogol. The probable real-life model for this character was Bogdan Khmelnitsky. Khmelnitsky was a Cossack chieftain who led a successful revolt against the Poles, 1648-1657, the Poles being the dominant power in the Ukraine at that time. The American-made Hollywood epic Taras Bulba, released in1962, is a not-bad view of the dynamics of life and war on the old steppe. A Russian-made film titled Taras Bulba came out in 2009 and was released on DVD in the United States in 2010 under the title The Conqueror.
NOTE: There were dozens of other small Turkic states that existed at various times throughout the Middle East.