Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

Suleyman's reign was the high-water mark of Ottoman power. He had contemplated the subjection of the entire Occident, and was rightly surnamed the “Magnificent." From this zenith of glory, in 1526, the empire began to decline. Here followed a succession of weak and irresolute sultans. In the latter part of this century, an allied fleet, under Don John of Austria, dealt a withering blow to the Ottoman navy. A succession of wars followed with Austria, Russia and Poland. Success and defeat were about equally divided on the field. Gradually the vitality of the nation was drained by continual carnage. Austria no longer lived in continual dread of Turkish invasion, but took the offensive. European Turkey began to shrink in extent.

Egypt is only nominally a part of the Turkish Empire. Military insubination and revolts, troubles and hostilities of the neighboring districts, assumed more and more alarming proportions. Now and then courageous and wise rulers arose and somewhat brightened the political horizon, but under incompetent sovereigns, the Turkish nation relapsed into a condition from bad to worse. The present Sultan is a staunch patron of learning, who has endowed the state with schools for the education of his people.

The nomadic instinct of the Turanian family has not yet been extinguished in Asia Minor. Circassians, Tartars and Kurds and other cognate tribes, are to be looked upon as unmitigated rogues and thieves, whose only occupation has been kidnapping, plundering and destroying life and property. They want everything for nothing.

They visit the peaceful villages with fire and sword, extorting money and goods to gratify their lazy and luxurious tastes. With no feeling of mercy, they delight in blood and wasteful destruction. No language can depict

[graphic][merged small]

their atrocious cruelties and inhuman crimes. The above engraving, taken from a photograph, well depicts the characteristically hideous face of a Kurd. Russians, in order to relieve their minds from the gloom and terror of the Circassians, expelled them from their mountain homes of Caucasus. They, however, entered Turkey with gun and pistol, and without any restriction on the part of the authorities. Ever since they have become the scourge

[graphic][merged small]

and dread of the surrounding country. They are admirable horsemen and marksmen. The above engraving is a faithful representation of a Circassian with his characteristic dress, with daggers rattling in his belt, and rows of cartridgeholders ranged across his breast.

TAXATION IN TURKEY,

“Render therefore unto Casar the things which are Cæsar's."'--Jesus Christ.

A RELIABLE index to the prosperity of any country is AT to be found in its system of taxation. Whether or no such taxes are proportionately divided, whether the poor are oppressed and the rich escape from their rightful share in the public burden of expense, are questions the answers to which, to a large extent, determine the character of the nation. The proper administration and regulation of public taxation has been a serious and unsolved problem in all ages. A wise administration of taxes has raised empires to the pinnacle of world-wide glory. A toosweeping tax adjudication has led many a nation to irretrievable downfall. Taxation is the tyrant's mightiest tool; rightly conducted, it serves as the people's greatest blessing. One thing is certain, no matter how different the ways in which taxes are levied, they are essential to national growth and even national existence. In examing briefly the systems applied in Turkey to-day, let our judgment be deliberate, and let us ever take into consideration Turkey's own peculiar exigencies and surroundings.

Before proceeding to discuss taxation proper, a few preliminary statements regarding the currency of the country will be both necessary and convenient. The best known coin and the standard of currency is the official gold piastre, equal to four cents in United States currency. For convenience this coin is divided into forty paras, although a quarter-piastre, consisting of ten paras, is the smallest denomination in use. A para is about equal to one mill.

Beside the official, there are also two other inferior piastres, one of alloyed silver and copper and another of mere copper. There are two other denominations that might be mentioned: The lira, composed of one hundred gold piastres, and the purse of five hundred piastres, worth about twenty dollars.

Every year, at harvest time, a person called the Multeyim appears among the agriculturists and claims his one-tenth of the produce, such as corn, tobacco, cotton, grapes and wheat. This tax-collector has bought his authority from the government at auction, and the tax which he gathers in produce is the most ancient, and perhaps the most remunerative, and is called the asher, or tithes. The collector, as a rule, combines self-interest with public service in regulating the amount of contribution.

Although not always of the same proportion as at present, this tax has been levied from the earliest history of

« ForrigeFortsett »