In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century the Ottoman Empire was sometimes called the 'great patient'. Its structures and institutional functions were in a state of prolonged crisis and out of touch with the modern, western models that tended to predominate in the international scene.

The Ottoman Empire was economically dependent on foreign countries (though loans and the investment of western capital in the East, the introduction of new technologies and the undertaking by European construction companies of the construction of important works such as the railway and cable networks). This situation meant a high degree of economic and political intervention from the West. The claims of the newly-established national states, which undermined even more the antiquated mechanism of the Empire, should be placed against this background. The Empire's imminent disintegration and the problem of the distribution of its territories constituted the so-called 'Eastern Question'.

Against this situation, as early as the late nineteenth century, a wave of discontent began in the Empire, expressed in many different forms, ranging from liberal intellectual developments (Muslim or otherwise) that sought freedom and equality among different nationalities through the grant of political and individual liberties after the western European fashion, to nationalist Turkish claims for the reinforcement of the state through the projection of its Turkish identity. The crisis of the Macedonian Question, with the Greco-Bulgarian confrontation in the Ottoman Empire and the likelihood of European intervention to resolve the problem, alarmed the Ottoman army officers of Macedonia who belonged to the 'Committee of Union and Progress' (CUP). In June 1908 they captured Thessaloniki, from where they claimed and imposed immediate institutional and constitutional changes and, later, in 1909, replaced the Sultan Abdul Hamid with Mehmed V, who apparently lost the right to dissolve the Parliament.

With the outbreak of the revolution, the Bulgarian Principality declared its full independence, abolishing the status of Turkish sovereignty, whereas the Austro-Hungarian Empire annexed Bosnia-Herzegovina. These facts were accepted by the Young Turks, who naturally asked for reparations.

These developments created a remarkable precedent in Balkan diplomacy.

Regarding the fate of the Christian populations in the Ottoman dominion, it is certain that the Young Turk revolution was of great importance. The promise of liberty and equality among all citizens, regardless of their religion or nationality, created a sense of positive acceptance of the new status quo. Greeks, Bulgarians, Serbs, Armenians and Jews participated in the new parliament. Among the Greeks of Constantinople there were discussions about a joint Greek-Ottoman state. Such views were upheld by the 'Organization of Constantinople' founded by Ion Dragoumis and Athanassios Souliotis Nikolaidis. Quite soon these plans proved unrealizable, as the main objective of the Young Turks was the formation of a unified national Turkish state rather than respect for the rights and freedoms of minorities. The treatment of non-Turkish populations by the Young Turks became harsher compared to that of the traditional Ottoman authority, as it was seeking the assimilation of various nationalities to the new national Turkish body, a fact that very soon eliminated the universal consent which the revolution had enjoyed in the first place.