In 1886, Sultan Abdülhamit II, desirous of greater economic control over his empire, proposed a railway from the Bosporus to the Persian/Arabian Gulf. It would extend Baron Maurice de Hirsch's Oriental Railway, which linked Berlin to Istanbul at its completion in 1888. In the same year, the Ottoman government granted the Anatolian Railway Company, a syndicate dominated by the Deutsche Bank, the concession to construct a railway from the Bosporus to Ankara, in order for Germany to pursue its economic penetration of the Ottoman Empire. This railway line, completed in 1893, was extended to Konya by 1896.
Developing Ottoman–German political and economic cooperation induced the Ottomans to grant the Anatolian Railway Company the concession to extend the railway from Konya to Baghdad and beyond. The Baghdad Railway Company, dominated by the Deutsche Bank and other German interests, was formed in 1903.
Construction was hampered by technical and financial difficulties, Anglo–French–Russian fears of German penetration of the region, and World War I. The Ottoman and German governments agreed to Britain's demand that the railway end in Basra, and not extend to the Gulf. The lines from Istanbul to Nusaybin, and from Baghdad to Samarra in the south, were not completed until 1917. Track laying and tunnel construction continued throughout the war, as late as September 1918. The Nusaybin–Mosul–Samarra gap was finally closed in 1939–1940, and the first train set out from Istanbul to Baghdad in 1940.
see also abdÜlhamit ii.
Earle, Edward M. Turkey, the Great Powers, and the Baghdad Railway. New York: Macmillan, 1923.
Wolf, John B. The Diplomatic History of the Baghdad Railway. Columbia: University of Missouri, 1936.
Francis R. Nicosia
Baghdad Railway, railroad of international importance linking Europe with Asia Minor and the Middle East. The line runs from İstanbul, Turkey, to Basra, Iraq; it connected what were distant regions of the Ottoman Empire. The railroad was initially financed chiefly by German capital; its Anatolian sections were completed in 1896. The ambitious project was then formed to extend the railroad to Baghdad, and a company, again backed chiefly by German capital, was organized for the purpose. Immediate protests were made to Turkey by France, Russia, and, particularly, Great Britain, which saw in the projected line a direct threat to its empire in India. Operations were held up for several years by these international representations and by engineering difficulties, but in 1911 work was resumed. By playing on imperialistic rivalries, the construction of the railroad was a factor in bringing about World War I. By the end of the war only a stretch between Mosul and Samarra remained to be completed on the main line, which Syria and Iraq later undertook and finished.