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Constantinopole was the focal point for the Fourth Crusade. The Christians lost and Constantinopole went to the Ottoman Empire. Then, the European Christians became stronger and went about colonizing the rest of the world. In the meantime, the Ottoman Empire grew weaker. Yet, despite the Europeans' territorial ambitions as colonists, why didn't they try taking back Constantinopole? The Ottomans have weakened, so it shouldn't be too difficult. Constantinopole is present-day Istanbul.

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First of all, Welcome to the site! Now, the question - if I may say so - is not bad but quite confused. See, you've got the chronology mixed up and chronology is the basic starting point. I'll try to answer though. – Felix Goldberg Sep 28 '13 at 11:11
One more thing, I'm not sure Constantinopole is considered "middle east", it's rather north to place it there geographically and a bit too non-Muslim to claim religious influence. Yes the Ottomans and, by succession, Turkey, is a proud muslim nation but Greece (and its past incarnation, Byzantium) is right next to it and it's proudly Orthodox. For these reasons I think Constantinopole would be considered part of the Balkans (plus it's right on the peninsula). – rath Jan 27 '14 at 11:58
Why do you think there were no efforts to take back the Balkans? And why do you think colonization of America does anything to do with fighting the Ottoman Empire? Also, what time/age are we talking about? – Greg Jan 5 at 3:10
up vote 25 down vote accepted

Lemme have a go at this.

  1. Its rather ironic that you bring up the Fourth Crusade as it is quite probably the reason Constantinople was lost to Christianity in the first place. Taking place in 1204-5 it was supposed to go to Egypt to fight there the Ayudid sultan who controlled the Holy Land but through a disastrous chain of events it got sidetracked into fighting and destroying the Byzantine Empire which was actually the main bulwark of Christendom in the east. The Latin Empire of Constantinople which replaced it for a brief 50 years was stillborn and the restored Byzantine Empire was at best a pale shadow of its former self. It was into this power vacuum, created by the crusaders' wanton destruction of the Byzantine Empire that the Ottomans stepped.

  2. From about 1400 the Ottomans were in ascendant, constantly pushing back the Christian powers, taking the Balkan countries, twice besieging Vienna and conquering all of Venice's maritime possessions. (Venice was basically fighting them on her own for a few decades before being broken). They also had some setbacks (Vienna, Malta 1565, Lepanto 1571) and eventually a sort of stalemate ensued. During this time reconquering Constantinople was perhaps desirable to the Europeans but an absolute impossibility - they were barely holding to their own territory (and some, like Venice and the Balkan kingdoms lost it).

  3. From the early 18 the century a new player arose - Russia. Starting with Peter the Great's relatively timid and unsuccessful campaigns against the Turks, Russia for 200 years had been putting increasing pressure on the Ottomans. At some point taking Constantinople became a major goal of Russian policy (Catherine the Great had her yonger grandson named Constantine as a heavy hint that she wished to have the boy one day seated on the throne of Constantinople). This coincided with two important developments (1) The constant and palpable decline in Ottoman power (2) The cooling of religious fervour both in Europe and Turkey.

  4. During the second half of the 19th century Britain and to a smaller extent France were indeed propping up the Ottoman Empire (the proverbial "sick man of Europe") out of fear that Russia would seize the major part of its lands and dominate the Levant. So in a sense the Ottomans were now protected by their own weakness.

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+1 I like how you narrated all the events in breifly. – moudiz Sep 28 '13 at 12:10
@user1709088: The Russians wanted Constantinople because it was the "cork in the bottleneck" to their Black Sea, which is why other European countries DIDN'T want Russia to have it, to the extent of preferring to leave it in the hands of the Turks. – Tom Au Sep 28 '13 at 18:17
@user1709088 - sea access to Mediterranean. – DVK Sep 30 '13 at 19:52
+1, in part for pointing out the irony. :) – Michael Oct 4 '13 at 22:55
France started to support Ottomans against the Habsburgs much earlier! – Anixx Nov 2 '15 at 18:41

There was no "good" time for Europeans to take back Constantinople. As late as 1683, the Ottomans had the upper hand, besieging Vienna. Up to that point, Europe was more concerned about defending itself than about rolling back Ottoman power.

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the one European power that might have been able to take back Constantinople was Russia. But by that time, most of "Europe" feared Russia more than the Ottoman Empire. The Crimean War (1854) was fought by Britain, France and Piedmont to DEFEND Constantinople (against Russia).

The "Europeans" (British Empire) DID try to take back Constantinople with the Gallipoli campaign in World War I. It was a failure.

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Ottoman Empire allied themselves with Britain and France. They fought wars with Russian Empire and Greece, but were supported by the British and French forces. This way they won the Crimean war. Later they allied themselves with Germany in WWI. Despite the defeat of the Ottomans, Russia could not claim Constantinople because was excluded from the post-war negotiations by the British and the French.

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-1, sorry. You give a very idiosyncratic perspective and a slanted one at that. Did the history of the matter begin in the 19th century? Was the Crimean war the first war between the Ottomans and Russia? Was Russia the only European country to have ever fought the Ottomans? Any ideas why Britain and France were so keen to support the Ottomans? Any mention of their own conflicting positions on the Ottoman empire slightly earlier in the 19th century? Any mention at all of Navarino? Sorry, this answer is more of a projection of modern or semi-modern politics than a historical analysis. – Felix Goldberg Sep 28 '13 at 11:07
Oh, one more thing: Russia was excluded from post-WWI negotiations because the Bolshevik government took Russia out of the Entente and concluded a separate peace with Germany in early 1918. Pity you neglected to mention that... – Felix Goldberg Sep 28 '13 at 23:31

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