“The End of the Sublime Porte” and other recommended documentaries at Deutsche Welle.


Deutsche Welle is Germany’s public international broadcaster. The DW archives are a treasure trove of viewing (in English) for history, geography and world news junkies like me.

In the course of reliving my 1987 travel experiences in Sarajevo and Mostar (now independent Bosnia-Herzegovina), I watched this excellent documentary, which offers uncommonly clear context about the Ottoman Turks and what happened in Europe and the Middle East when the empire disappeared. It’s highly recommended.

The End of the Sublime Porte: Part 1 – Multi-ethnic States in the Ottoman Empire

The End of the Sublime Porte: Part 2 – Crumbling Middle East

For 600 years, the Ottoman Empire was a superpower. This two-part documentary tells the story of how this vast empire vanished in less than a century.

The Ottoman Empire extended across three continents and the seven seas. Over the hundred years from Greek independence in 1830 to the Balkan Wars of 1912 and 1913, the Ottoman Empire withdrew from Europe for good after a presence in the Balkans lasting almost 500 years. The shared past is often downplayed by national historians, but the Balkan states are strongly influenced by the complexities of Christian, Muslim and Jewish peoples living together, says Mark Mazower from Columbia University. It was more of a ‘side by side’ existence based on the Ottoman Empire’s “millet” system, where non-Muslims enjoyed the protection of the sultan but had to pay special taxes in return. Over the course of the 19th century, the region’s religious identities slowly became clear national ones; people now saw themselves as Serbs, Greeks, Armenians and Bulgarians. This rising nationalism, along with attempts by the major European powers to get their hands on the region’s resources and the inability of the Ottoman Empire to implement reforms, brought about the end of Ottoman rule in Europe. Using rare picture and film footage and with contributions by international historians, this two-part documentary analyses the last century of the Ottoman Empire and tries to understand its demise.