“The Rus have violated our sacred lands and the Italians sail our waters with impunity. Inshallah, we will teach them all the error of their ways.”
Mehmed Pasha, Grand Vizer to his Imperial Highness Suleiman Mustafa I, to the French Ambassador, Constantinople 1870
Once thought to be a power in decline, the Ottoman Dominons have staged a remarkable recovery in their fortunes over the last century. Dominating the eastern end of the Mediterrenean, the Dominion occupies the crossroads of the Eurasian continent and as a result holds enormous influence on all overland trade between Europe and Orient. The Dominion’s central Asian territories also hold vast quantities of mineral oil – black gold whose significance is just becoming apparent to the other major powers. Long considered militarily backwards, the Dominion has recently undertaken a major overhaul and modernisation of its military forces under its dynamic new Sultan and his wise and experienced Grand Vizier. Nonetheless, the Dominion’s new engagement with foreign powers has created a degree of political tension between rival factions in the Imperial Court.
Although challenged in North Africa by both the Italian League and the Kingdom of Britannian, and seeing its dominance in the Balkans slowly eroded by local revolts, these are still comparatively minor issues. The Sultan and his government hold sway over lands from Libya in the west to the borders of the Russian Coalition and the Chinese Federation to the north and east, while to the south, the Dominion’s borders stretch deep into the heartlands of east Africa and the entire Arabian Peninsula. Like the Russian Coalition, all of the Dominion’s lands, apart from its Balkan territories across the Dardanelles, lie within a single set of borders. Moreover, the Dominion benefits from formidable natural defences against foreign interference – rugged mountains in the north and east, the Black, Mediterranean and Arabian Seas and the inhospitable deserts and jungles of the African interior. Only in the Balkans, where its territory directly abuts the Prussian Empire and the Italian-backed Free Hellenic Kingdom, and in North Africa, where a growing Italian presence in Algeria and Tunisia borders its westernmost provinces, can the Dominion be threatened from Western Europe. However, from the Black Sea coast to the Caucasus Mountains, the Sultan’s armies and fleets keep a careful watch on the Russian Coalition, the Dominion’s most overt enemy.
The Sultan, who also holds the title of Caliph, rules from his glittering capital of Constantinople, the jewel of the Mediterranean which straddles the Bosporus. Control of the narrow but vital waterway between two major seas has always been an Ottoman priority, and the entire Dardanelles is heavily fortified from end to end, for it also forms the principal line of defence between the Dominion’s heartlands in Asia and any trouble arising in Europe.
Much of the Dominion’s huge population is concentrated on the coasts of its territories and in the fertile hinterlands of the great rivers it controls – the Nile, Tigris and Euphrates. However, the Dominion is also inhabited by many itinerant nomadic tribes, from the Arabs in the south east to the Berber tribes of Libya. Like the Russian Coalition, the Ottoman Dominion encompasses many different peoples, societies and beliefs – although Turks constitute the bulk of the ruling class, the Sultan rules such diverse peoples as Arabs, Persians, Greeks, Bulgars, Serbs, Bosniacs, Chechens, Uighurs and many east African tribes.
The Sublime Lord Suleiman Mustafa I is the current Sultan of the Ottoman Dominion. At 36 years of age he is a young and dynamic leader, having taken power only seven years before. In technical terms, he holds absolute power over the whole of his vast empire as the supreme military, civil and religious authority (as Caliph), although in practice the bulk of administration is handled by an exceptionally capable bureaucracy, headed by his chief advisor, the 67 year old Grand Vizier Mehmed Pasha. Mehmed has faithfully served no fewer than three Sultans during his long tenure, and his great political wisdom and experience helps to temper the sometimes impassioned and mercurial Sultan. This has been particularly evident in the light of prolonged Italian and Russian hostility towards the Dominion in both the Caucasus and the Balkans. Rather than acquiescing to the Sultan’s wish to lead his nation alone into conflict with its giant neighbour, Mehmed has advised that the Dominion lessen its previously isolationist stance towards the world in order to gain foreign allies and avoid the rigours of a two-front conflict fought alone.
Although the Dominion is effectively autocratic, and is frequently characterised by foreigners as a deeply conservative and religious entity, its system of governance is in fact highly flexible. The regional governors of its various provinces, known as Pashas or Beys, have considerable autonomy over their territories. This kind of freedom has led to a degree of corruption in the past, and so the activities of governors are policed by the Qadi, or magistrates, who report back to the Grand Vizier and through him, ultimately, to the Sultan.
Although characterised as a Muslim empire – the bulk of its population following this faith – the Dominion is pragmatic enough to permit a high degree of religious toleration, with officials being promoted and ennobled on merit rather than by blood or beliefs. Suleiman Mustafa has instituted major reforms in education, taking it partially out of the hands of the religious institutions that have traditionally held sway over it, and bringing in much foreign expertise in order for his empire to capitalise on the latest industrial and technological advances. In particular, he has revived the Dominion’s historic association with France, so much so that French is once again an officially recognised language in his court. French engineers, scientists and soldiers are working extensively in the Dominion’s universities and military academies.
Ottoman military organisation retains many of the features that have sustained it for centuries, but the demands of modern warfare and rapid technological advances have given rise to extensive changes in equipment and tactics. The core of the Ottoman army is still its elite regiments of Janissary infantry, although their composition and role have changed greatly since their extensive (and brutal) reorganisation by the then-Sultan in the early 19th century. The Janissaries are trained as riflemen and grenadiers, and some regiments have recently begun to undergo extensive training with French-designed rocket packs to serve as assault troops on Ottoman armoured and naval units. Janissary regiments are totally self-contained organisations, and even include their own medical and logistic services. Alongside the Janissaries, the bulk of the Ottoman armies are made up of Azap regiments – conscript light infantry given basic training and equipment, and which form the mass manpower of the Sultan’s armies. Lastly, Ottoman armoured regiments and Land Ships are crewed by a special class of soldiers known as Seymen. Originally irregular, almost exclusively Turkish, light infantry units who also served as guards and watchmen, the Seymen regiments have evolved to become custodians of the Sultan’s war machines, and are busily building a whole new military tradition.
Alongside the regular Ottoman forces, there are many irregular troops from various quarters, such as desert nomads, who fight more or less as guerrilla forces. Ottoman commanders allow such troops a high degree of autonomy, understanding that they operate best when left to fight as they know best.
The Ottoman Navy is a single organisation that also encompasses the Aviation Corps. Ottoman warships are strongly built and well armed, designed to operate almost as mobile fortresses in confined waters where the risk of surface and air attack is considerable. The Aviation Squadrons, a comparatively recent addition to Ottoman military strength, as yet mostly employ redesigned versions of French equipment, but are said to be rapidly re-equipping with new craft originated by the Dominion’s own naval and aerial architects. There are also persistent rumours than the Dominion may be attempting to acquire GNE technology from its French allies.
Currently, the Ottoman Dominion is engaged in a defensive conflict against the Italian League in the Mediterranean, staving off the perfidious southern Europeans while a corps of engineers works on a secretive plan in the Suez region to undermine overall Italian objectives at a single stroke. Meanwhile, the Sultan is marshalling his forces for a major counterattack against the Russians. Although Suleiman Mustafa has no real desire for territorial expansion, he is determined that the unprovoked Russian violation of his empire’s heartland will not go unpunished.