No problem has perplexed students of modern Ottoman history more than that of determining the state of the empire's population during its last century. Foreign travelers and diplomats and various nationalist leaders claimed that the Ottoman government had no census of its own. They made self-serving estimates of its population to support their own political or diplomatic ambitions, using at best methods such as multiplying by preset figures the number of males found in neighborhood coffeehouses or Sunday religious services, or simply accepting the estimates of local priests. In the face of this, the Ottomans did no more than publish their figures without providing supporting data or bothering to explain their census procedures. As a result, the Ottoman census system and its data were largely ignored in the outside world, and the rough and inaccurate estimates of foreigners were generally accepted in preference to the official figures.
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