Armenians marched by Ottoman soldiers / Wikimedia Commons
The era of Ottoman Rule, which began in the fourteenth century, is among the most controversial chapters of South-East European history. Over several stages of conquest, some of them several decades long, large parts of South-Eastern Europe were incorporated into the Ottoman Empire, or brought under its dominion. While the Ottomans had to surrender the territories north of the Danube and the Sava after the Peace Treaty of 1699, the decline of Ottoman domination began only in the nineteenth century. Structures of imperial power which had been implemented in varying forms and intensity in different regions were replaced by emerging nation states in the nineteenth century. The development of national identities which accompanied this transformation was greatly determined by the new states distancing themselves from Ottoman rule, and consequently the image of “Turkish rule” has been a mainly negative one until the present. However, latest historical research has shown an increasingly differentiated image of this era of South-East European history.
Military and Political Developments
Sultan Murad I ruled the Ottoman Empire from 1359 to 1389. It was under his rule that Adrianople (Edirne) fell to the Ottomans and became their new capital. / Wikimedia Commons
The 1 The expansion of territory started under the founder of the dynasty, and was continued under his son with the conquest of (1326). Ottoman expansion into the South-East European peninsula took place in the time after 1352 when the conquest of Tzympe, a fortress on the , allowed the Ottomans to establish their first base. Under Sultan , Adrianople ( ) fell and became the new capital of the empire.had its roots in North-West where in the thirteenth century the Ottoman Emirate was one of numerous minor Turkmen princedoms.
The Byzantine Empire and the Ottoman Turks in 1355 / The University of Texas at Austin
Ottoman expansion in the South-Eastern part of 2 Some regions or cities, such as , or Ragusa ( ) remained for centuries in a relationship of vassalage. These patterns of conquest were also the result of the political fragmentation of , which facilitated the expansion of Ottoman power on the . The time frame of this territorial expansion was also considerably influenced by the political development in Anatolia, where Ottoman rule had to be consolidated in a similarly lengthy process.consisted of multi-layered conquests, most of these extending over long periods. At first the Ottoman Sultans would frequently appear as allies of local rulers, while the phase of actual conquest started only once these territories had come under Ottoman dominion and were subsequently integrated into the Ottoman federation.
Ottoman expansion started at a time when the 3 between , one of the Serbian regional princes, who commanded an army of mainly Serbian and Bosnian contingents, and the Ottoman army under Sultan .4 The Ottoman victory spelled doom for the minor princedoms which had succeeded the Nemanjić empire, and which would finally vanish from the political map after 1459 when came under Ottoman rule.under the Nemanjićs and the Second were beginning to show signs of disintegration. After the death of the Nemanjić empire had broken up into individual territories. In 1371 some of these “princedoms” conducted a campaign against the Ottomans, which ended in defeat at Chernomen on the Maritsa. The Bulgarian empire under the Shishmanids was not able to offer resistance, either, as it had been weakened by centrifugal forces. Tsar had decreed that the Bulgarian empire should be divided between his two sons, who one after the other submitted to Ottoman rule by 1388. had fallen in 1381, in 1385 and (for the first time) in 1387; the final conquest of the latter would take place in 1430, after short periods of renewed Byzantine and Venetian rule. St Vitus’ Day (28 June) 1389 saw the Battle of (Kosovo Polye)
In 1392 the Ottomans conquered 5, which was to become an important base for subsequent military operations. , the last of the Bulgarian princedoms fell after the defeat of a crusader army in 1396 near Nikopol, so that the entire territory of the former Shishmanid empire had now become part of the Ottoman Empire for good. The events of 1402, when Bayezid I lost the battle of against the Mongolian “conqueror of the world” , also demonstrate how much Ottoman policy in South-East Europe was dependent of developments on the Eastern border of the Empire. The Sultan’s capture and his subsequent death led to a fratricidal war among his sons, from which emerged victorious.
Georg Kastriota (c. 1405–1468), known as Scanderbeg, son of a local Albanian ruler, was educated at the sultan’s court in Edirne, converted to Islam, and had a successful career in the Ottoman army. After returning to his native Albania and Christian faith, he eventually turned against the sultan and became one of the leaders of Albanian resistance to Ottoman rule. / Pictura Paedagogica Online
Once a degree of political stability had been achieved, Ottoman expansion in South-East Europe was increasingly directed against what is now 6 From 1438 onwards he held several administrative positions in the Albanian region; however, in 1443 he defected from the Sultan and converted to Christianity. His motive for changing sides was probably to take revenge on who had had his father Ivan Kastrioti (died ca. 1443) murdered. Together with other nobles Skanderbeg put up armed resistance against the Ottomans for a quarter of a century; his allies were the states on the Apennine peninsula. He was a legend even during his lifetime, and after his death in 1468, myths soon started growing around him. In Albania as well as Kosovo and Skanderbeg is even nowadays seen as a symbolic figure, stylised according to the respective national-political orientations.7 After Skanderbeg’s death, Venice was able to resist the Ottoman advance for a short time only. In June 1478 the citadel of Kruja fell after two years of siege, and a year later Shkodra had to submit to the Ottomans. With the peace treaty of 1479, ending the Ottoman-Venetian war begun in 1463, the Serenissima lost all her Albanian dominions except for Durrës. The Albanian regions had become part of the Ottoman Empire for good.8, where – already in control of much of – had between 1392 and 1405 established a protectorate over large parts of northern Albania and the city of Durazzo (Durrës) in central Albania. There were numerous rival noble houses in the Albanian region as well, who increasingly sought Ottoman support and had recognised the Sultan’s rule – especially after the Battle of Kosovo. They sent their sons as hostages to the Sultan’s court in Edirne, among them . As son of a nobleman, he became a court page and converted to Islam before 1428. It was not so much his conversion but rather his many skills, among them an extensive command of languages, which allowed him to rise quickly and high. In recognition of his military successes he was given the epithet Skanderbeg.
The 9 Thus we can see that in Bosnia, too, the Ottomans first appeared as the allies of local noblemen. The final fall of the Bosnian kingdom can be dated to the year 1463, when Ottoman troops under Sultan finally conquered central Bosnia and the last king was captured and beheaded.10, which had seen its greatest territorial extent during the late fourteenth century, fell under Ottoman rule at the same time as the Albanian region. Its rulers had mostly been weak kings, faced with strong regional princes. It had been subject to Ottoman invasions ever since the 1380s; the first attack for which we have written sources taking place in 1386. The kingdom increasingly became a pawn between the two strongest land powers in South-East Europe, and the Ottoman Empire. The interplay of internal instability and external threat is exemplified in the power struggles after the death of king . Stephen Ostoja (ca. 1350–1410) was elected king in 1398, expelled by the nobility in 1404 and replaced by one of Tvrtko I’s sons, . However, with the help of a Hungarian army Ostoja was able to stabilise his position once more. After 1414 the balance of power shifted again, when the most powerful of the Bosnian nobles, , attempted to reinstate Tvrtko II with Ottoman help.
The map shows how the Ottoman Empire expanded between 1481 and 1683. The blue area denotes its territory in 1481. Conquests up to 1520 are marked in green, up to 1566 in red, and up to 1683 in brown. / The University of Texas at Austin
After the conquest ofin 1453, the loss of the in 1460 and the fall of the empire of (Trabzon) in 1461 the had ceased to exist. Political developments in South-East Europe were now dominated by the power struggle between the Ottoman Empire, Hungary and Venice. During the fifteenth century Ottoman expansion became an increasing threat to Hungary, which the kingdom would not be able to withstand in the long run. Under King defeats, e.g. near 1444, still alternated with successful military operations, such as the relief of in 1456, but neither nor the Jagiellon kings (1490–1526) were able to halt the decline. When under the Ottomans moved more determinedly against Hungary, the fall of Belgrade in 1521 and the defeat of Mohács in 1526, which cost the life of king , sealed the fate of the kingdom. The definitive conquest, however, took place according to the well-known pattern, when the Ottomans intervened in the political in-fighting that followed the king’s death.
The First Siege of Vienna, 1529. From 1526, the Ottomans and the Habsburgs fought for supremacy in Hungary. During this hegemonic conflict, Ottoman troops advanced in the autumn of 1529 to Vienna and laid siege to the city. In the face of Habsburg resistance, logistical difficulties and the looming winter, they were forced to withdraw with heavy losses. Despite the success of the defenders of the city, the siege of Vienna enhanced fears of the Ottoman Empire in Europe. / Deutsche Fotothek
At this time the Habsburgs appeared as new opponents, and the Ottoman-Habsburg confrontation began to take shape, which was to characterise political development in South-East Europe in the following centuries. At the diet of 11 One last successful expansion of Ottoman power was the the campaign of 1663/1664 when the fortress Neuhäusel (Nové Zámky in modern ) on the river Nitra was conquered, the Ottoman Empire having now achieved its greatest geographical extent in South-East Europe. At the same time Venice lost her status of being a great power in South-East Europe when finally came under Ottoman control in 1669, ending a war that had begun as early as 1645. Of the once great Venetian overseas empire only the , some coastal areas of and the Island Cerigo ( ) remained.12on 10 November 1526 the Hungarian nobles elected king, who could rely on Ottoman support. This put him in opposition to the Austrian Archduke who was recognised as ruler by a group of Hungarian magnates. During the ensuing power struggle between the Habsburgs and the Ottoman Empire, there were military campaigns which inclueded the failed siege of by the Ottomans in 1529. The struggle only came to an end when Zápolya died in 1541 and Ottoman troops occupied on 29 August of the same year, sealing the Hungarian kingdom’s division into three parts. The East of the country evolved into the Principality of which became a vassal of the Sultan. Western and Northern Hungary came under Habsburg control, while central Hungary was integrated into the Ottoman Empire. Süleyman I died during the campaign which ended in the conquest of Szigetvár. In the course of the Long War (1593–1606) the Ottoman Empire was able to take the fortresses of Eger (1596) and Kanizsa (1600); the subsequent peace treaty of Zsitvatorok (1606) safeguarded these territorial gains.
The Second Siege of Vienna, 1683. In 1683, an Ottoman army under the command of the Grand Vizier Kara Mustafa Paşa (1634/1635–1683) besieged the Habsburg capital of Vienna. However, the attackers suffered a devastating defeat at Kahlenberg against the relief army of Polish King John III Sobieski (1629–1696). The painting of the battle shows Vienna, which is strongly fortified with redoubts and bastions in the background, and, in the middle, the Ottoman siege ring with its trenches, from which tunnels were dug under the fortifications with the aim of collapsing them using mines. The foreground shows the battle between the Ottomans and the relief army. / Bildagentur für Kunst, Kultur und Geschichte, Wien Museum Karlsplatz
However, the Ottoman Empire’s territorial gains were more than reversed when the second siege of Vienna failed in 1683.13 The Ottoman campaign had been the result of the the Sublime Porte’s support for , the leader of a rebellion of Protestant nobles in the kingdom of Hungary against the Habsburgs (“Kuruc rebellion”) who had been recognised by the Sublime Porte as king of Hungary and vassal of the Sultan in 1682.
|The term “Sublime Porte” denoted the seat of the Ottoman government and referred to the Divan and the official residence of the grand vizier. The ministries of the interior, exterior and finance instituted at the beginning of the nineteenth century were also part of the Sublime Porte.|
A general of the Habsburgs, Prince Eugene was an opponent of the Ottomans, inflicting a severe defeat on them at Zenta in 1697. / Pictura Paedagogica Online
However, when Thököly’s position became increasingly weak, the Ottoman Empire began to wage war on the Habsburgs. Grand vizier 14 The Ottoman Empire lost all the territories of “historical Hungary”, with the exception of the region around (Timişoara), to the Habsburgs, and the Peloponnese to Venice. The Ottoman-Habsburg frontier now followed the rivers and Sava, with Bosnia becoming a border province. Re-conquering the lost territories remained an aim of paramount importance for Ottoman foreign policy in the early eighteenth century. In 1715 it was indeed possible to wrest the Peloponnese away from Venice once more, whereupon Austria entered the war on the side of the Serenissima. The peace treaty of Passarowitz (Požarevac)15 (1718) granted Austria the Banat as well as parts of Walachia, Bosnia and Serbia as far as Niš, and Venetian Dalmatia was expanded inland. The Peloponnese remained Ottoman. The frontier agreed between the Habsburgs and the Ottomans in 1718 is the South-Western frontier of Bosnia to this day. In contravention of this agreement, Habsburg troops invaded Bosnia again in 1736 but were defeated by the Ottomans in 1737 near . With the subsequent peace treaty of Belgrade16 the Habsburgs lost nearly all the territories South of the Sava, and the frontier agreed in this treaty remains the Northern frontier of the modern state of .led his troops as far Vienna in 1683, but had to raise the siege after being defeated in the Battle of Vienna near by a relief army under the command of , king of , on 12 September 1683. In 1684 the , Poland, Venice and the Pope formed a “Holy League” whose armies conquered Buda and central Hungary (1686). In the following year joined the League. The Serenissima succeeded in re-conquering the Peloponnese, and in the Northern part of the Balkan Peninsula the Ottomans lost Belgrade to the Habsburgs in 1688. One year later Habsburg units advanced as far as Kosovo from where, however, they would have to retreat again in the following year. The subsequent military stalemate lasted until 1697 when Prince inflicted a heavy defeat on the Ottoman forces near Zenta and then advanced as far as . On his quick retreat he was joined by several thousand Catholics, mostly from central and middle Bosnia. As Catholicism had been weakened in Bosnia already by Islamisation and conversions to the Orthodox Church, this exodus led to a new low in the numbers of Catholics in Bosnia. In military terms the victory of Zenta was the definitive decision in this war, which would finally end with the Treaty of Carlowitz ( ) in 1699.
Catherine II, known as Catherine the Great (1729–1796), was empress of Russia from 1762. She consolidated Russian rule within the empire and expanded its frontiers. Catherine is considered a representative of enlightened absolutism. The esteem in which contemporaries held her is reflected in the caption “O dea certe” (“O goddess surely”), Virgil, Aeneid I, 328. / Wellcome Library
During the five decades that followed the two great powers avoided waging war on one another. Habsburg forces were engaged in the War of the Austrian succession (1740–1748) and the Seven Years’ War (1756–1763), while the Ottoman Empire was busy fighting the Persian rulerbetween 1743 and 1746, and Russia between 1768 and 1774. Finally in 1788 a war broke out which foreshadowed the developments of the nineteenth century. The Russian Empress had developed a so-called “Greek Plan”, according to which the Byzantine Empire, comprised of the Ottoman territories in Europe with Constantinople as its capital, should be reborn as a vassal state of Russia under the rule of Catherine’s grandson Constantine. According to these plans Austria would have received Bosnia, Serbia, Herzegovina and Dalmatia, whereas the Peloponnese, and Crete were intended for Venice, while and were earmarked for . In light of these ideas, which were visibly manifest in the development of the Fleet, the Ottoman Empire declared war on Russia in 1787. As the allies of Russia, Austrian forces invaded Bosnia, but had to give up after a five months long siege of the citadel of Dubica. While they had more military success the following year, they had to cede their gains in Bosnia and Serbia under pressure from the other European great powers.
From the late eighteenth century onwards it was not so much the military power of the Ottoman Empire which determined the extent of Ottoman territories in South-East Europe, but rather the political interests of the other European great powers. From the nineteenth century onwards, the Ottoman Empire found itself confronted with emerging nationalism within its borders, mostly imported into South-East Europe by elites living in the diaspora. The history of the emergence of the new nation states was part of the “Eastern Question”, the crisis in South-East Europe which grew out of the military decline of the Ottoman Empire and the consequent rivalry among the European powers. Despite extensive attempts at reforms, which went down in history as “Tanzimat”17 (and which will be discussed in more detail later on), Ottoman political leaders were unable to prevent the disintegration of the Empire.
|The exact term is “Tanzimat-i Hayriye”, “beneficial regulations” and refers to the attempts at reforms which took place between the 1839 imperial edict known as Hatt-i şerif of Gülhane which laid out the reforms, and the proclamation of the constitution in 1876.|
Since the Treaty of Carlowitz in 1699 the borders of the Ottoman Empire in South-East Europe had remained rather stable. However, during the nineteenth century the picture began to change. The Ottoman Empire had to accept territorial losses not only after military conflicts with other powers, but also due to rebellions, which frequently developed into international crises given the wider political situation. The Ottoman retreat from South-East Europe took place in periodical crises.
In the province of Belgrade unrest broke out in 1804, and quickly escalated into political revolts. An internal Ottoman conflict to begin with, the situation soon came to the notice of the great powers, and in the Treaty of(1812) Russia insisted on formal autonomy for Serbia. The political realisation of these provisions, however, took a long time and would only really be implemented over the following decades. A decisive moment came with the Greek rebellion of 1821, which the forces of the Sublime Porte were unable to put down.The Ottomans therefore sought the help of . He had consolidated his position of power in the Egyptian province and modernised its troops after the French model. His units achieved great successes against the rebels. It was only after in the conflict and after the destruction of the Ottoman-Egyptian fleet at (1827) that the tides of war turned, and in the Treaty of (1830) was granted its independence.
Serbian autonomy, which had been agreed upon in 1812, was realised around the same time, when in the Russo-Ottoman peace treaty of Edirne (1829) the Sultan had to recogniseas the prince of an autonomous Serbia. The treaty furthermore contained provisions concerning the status of the Moldavia and Wallachia. Both had become tributaries to the Sultan in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, respectively. Since 1711 (Moldavia) and 1715 (Wallachia) the Sublime Porte had appointed Phanariotes as rulers, members of influential Greek families from the Phanar quarter in (Turkish: Fener) who would administer the Danubian Principalities until 1821. The Treaty of Edirne determined that Moldavia and Wallachia would become a Russian protectorate under Ottoman suzerainty. However, the extent of Tsarist Russian power in South-East Europe was reduced considerably by the provisions of the peace treaty of which ended the War in 1856 and under which the Danubian Principalities lost their status as Russian protectorate. The election of a joint ruler in 1859, which was confirmed by the Sultan in 1864, meant the de factounification of Moldavia and Wallachia.
The Countries of South-East Europe After the Congress of Berlin (1878): This map shows the new borders of South-East Europe after the Congress of Berlin in 1878. / The University of Texas at Austin
1875 saw rebellions in Bosnia, 18 The remaining Ottoman territories in South-East Europe (Albania, Macedonia and ) were fought over in the of 1912/1913. On the one hand these military conflicts were a continuation of the conflicts among the great powers, as is demonstrated by the Russian commitment for a stronger Serbia. The other great powers reacted by recognizing the independence of Albania in 1913, part of their political calculation in this was the consequence of barring Serbia’s access to the . On the other hand, the Balkan wars were not least an expression of attempts at emancipation by the new Balkan states who were trying to conduct independent foreign policy. All in all these internecine struggles signified the end of Ottoman rule in South-East Europe, with the exception of parts of Thrace.19and the Bulgarian region, which gave Serbia and a reason for military intervention in 1876. When it appeared that the Ottoman army would prevail, Russia entered the war against the Ottoman Empire in 1877. After devastating defeats the Sultan had to agree to the Peace Treaty of San Stefano, which provided for, among other things, an independent principality of Bulgaria under Russian suzerainty. This Russian increase in power met with opposition from the other great powers who attempted a reconciliation of interests during the Congress of in 1878. Serbia, Montenegro and became independent states, and obtained the right to administer Bosnia and Herzegovina. Habsburg troops occupied this region in 1878, annexing it finally in 1908. Events leading up to the First World War show that the Congress of Berlin did not reach a solution to the “Eastern Question”.
The retreat of a considerable proportion of the Ottoman Empire’s forces from South-East Europe during the nineteenth and early twentieth century significantly changed the political situation on the Balkan Peninsula. Imperial governmental control was replaced by nation states whose formation has influenced the development of the South-Eastern region of Europe to this day. As regards the history of ideas, the origins of this transformation were to be found in, where , Romanticism and Idealism together with the lasting experience of the furthered the discussion of concepts such as state and nation. The thoughts of and, in particular, would excert a great influence on practical politics in South-East Europe. In order to put these ideas into practice on the Balkan Peninsula, nations had to be constructed out of diverse group identities whose common points of reference might be a shared religion, language or cultural similarities. The earliest supporters of this development were representatives of the respective diasporas, such as the Greek in Paris, or the Serb in Vienna, who attempted the creation of national languages through language codification. Besides language they also hoped to create a shared history and culture, which could be realised by establishing their “own” education systems or by glorifying national folklore. However, this phase of nation building in the early nineteenth century was a project of the elite with very little impact on the wider population. Targeted attempts at instilling the idea of nationhood in the population began at different times throughout South-East Europe. The autonomy of the Principality of Serbia (1829) or the creation of the Kingdom of Greece (1830) were responsible for conditions which facilitated these efforts. Both these state structures were comparatively homogenous, linguistically as well as ethnically. This was partly due to the emigration, or rather . From 1804 (the beginning of the Serbian rebellion) to 1820 ca. 15,000–20,000 Muslims had left Serbian territory. With the Greek rebellion in 1821 came the end of widespread Muslim settlement in , where an estimated number of between 60,000 and 90,000 Muslims had been living until that time. The vast majority fled, were expelled or murdered, so that in the end there were only very few Muslims left in the newly created kingdom.
The political realisation of the idea of nation states in South-East Europe did not only result in anti-Ottoman or anti-Muslim reflexes but also held significant potential for conflicts between the newly emerging nation states. Regions such as Macedonia, Kosovo or Bosnia were claimed by several nationalist movements because of linguistic, religious or historic criteria; consequently some sections of the population would repeatedly suffer murder, expulsion and flight, or found themselves under severe pressure to assimilate with the majority.20
The Timar System
Direct integration of conquered territories in South-East Europe into the Ottoman Empire was usually done by compiling a land register (tapu tahrir defteri) which listed the “fiefs” as timar, has or zeamet according to their size, as well as the names of owners and householders from among the population liable to tax (reaya). The oldest surviving register dates from 1431 and covers a large part of modern-day Albania. It shows that the timar system was frequently based on pre-Ottoman structures, in respect of territory as well as personnel. The register of 1431 lists a large number of Christian holders of fiefdoms who were able to transfer their feudal possessions into the timar system. As under Ottoman rule the majority of arable land was considered to be state property (miri), this transfer usually entailed a loss of property rights but at the same time continuing exploitation rights.
The timariot (timar holder) was not the owner of the land, and consequently he was entitled only to the income realised from it. Also, the land of the timariot could not, as a rule, be inherited. In the Bosnian region, however, some families from the lower nobility succeeded in maintaining their hereditary possessions exempt from duty and in family ownership as a baština with tax privileges. Similar cases are known from Macedonia and Serbia, where the so-called Voynuks, members of Christian auxiliary forces, were able to retain their property and the attendant tax privileges until at least the sixteenth century. These examples clearly show the structure of the timar system, which was made up mostly of “fiefs” given in return for military service. There were some exceptions, as ecclesiastical dignitaries, Ottoman judges or important civil servants of the administration could also be granted such fiefs. Unlike Western “feudalism”, in the Ottoman Empire the holder of a “fief” did not have jurisdiction over the peasant population living on his land.21
The timar system began to change considerably by the seventeenth century at the latest. The most important characteristics of this transformation included the increasing spread of çiftliks, usually understood as having been large-scale agricultural enterprises. In coastal regions such as the area around Durrës (in modern-day Albania) or on the plains (such as found in the hinterland of Salonika, parts of Macedonia and 22), these çiftliks could reach considerable size, while in mountainous or hilly regions such as Bosnia only small çiftliks could be established. The causes of this spread were manifold. Among the most important reasons was the deterioration of the timar holders’ situation, due mainly to the reduction in size of their “fiefs”, the devaluation of the silver currency akçe and the increasing presence, especially since the seventeenth century, of tax farmers. Consequently the timariots felt compelled to seek direct land ownership in the form of a çiftlik. Similarly, ever more tax farmers, who since 1695 were able to hold this position for life, became owners of çiftliks. The timar system was abolished in 1831, with the consequence that the çiftliks became officially the private property of their owners.
Ottoman Provincial Administration
The introduction of the timar system was concomitant with the development of the Ottoman provincial administration, whose “classic” form was, however, strongly characterised by regional differentiation. Until the sixteenth century the largest administrative units had been called beylerbeyilik or vilayet; from the eighteenth century onwards the term eyalet was used increasingly frequently in documents of the Ottoman administration. The head of one such large province was a governor called beylerbeyi or, from the eighteenth century onwards, vali. Until the fifteenth century all conquered regions in South-East Europe, including the region around the Black Sea, were assigned to the administrative unit of the Province of Rumelia (“land of the Romans”). After the conquest of Buda in 1541 Rumelia was divided into several sub-provinces, each under a regional governor. Larger provinces were divided into livas or sancaks, each headed by a sancakbeyi. The next lower administrative level comprised the jurisdictions (kaza or kadılık), each of which was led by a judge (kadı), and which were further divided into districts (nahiye). Within this system the kadıs occupied dual positions. On the one hand they administered the law, their judgments based on religious law (şeriat), Imperial ordinance (kanun) and customary law (örf). Legal opinions (fetwa) by jurists (müfti) were not usually binding for the judges. On the other hand, kadıs also fulfilled administrative duties such as overseeing pious endowments (vakıf) and keeping traffic and transport infrastructure in good shape. They were usually also responsible for supervising markets.23
The structure of provincial administration changed significantly by the seventeenth century at the latest. The terms of office of governors and subordinate officials were shortened, as the number of applicants was increasing while there were fewer positions available. The resulting competition was one of the main causes of the emergence of households made up of family members as well as persons who were no relations. It was hoped that these constantly changing institutions would supply the networks which had become necessary to ensure a successful career within the administration. However, these governors and other dignitaries had to provide for their households whether they were in office or not, which forced them to increase their income. Thus they might try to establish as many members of their household as possible as tax farmers. Complaints about excessive tax demands were often due to this change in the overall structure.24
One of the most important characteristics of these structural changes was the increase in the importance of local dignitaries (ayan). The material basis of their rise was the land they owned, especially as çiftliks, and, even more, the position of tax farmer. At first, it was intended that these local dignitaries should only support the Ottoman administration, as the latter was not able to perform many of its duties adequately, especially during the “Great Turkish War” (1683–1600). However, the ayans became indispensable and would remain so during the eighteenth century, with the consequence that the position of ayanlik was institutionalised in 1725 and linked to the performance of certain duties. Again and again individual families would try to obtain the ayanlik. Thus during the second half of the eighteenth century the Rizvanbegović families were able to extend their influence in the Herzegovina, as were the Bushattliu inand Middle Albania. The traditional Albanian national historiography frequently presents the latter as forerunners of national independence, but in fact they – like other ayans of the eighteenth century – intended to extend their influence within the Ottoman administrative system only. In cities such as Sarajevo it was even possible for poorer and Christian inhabitants to achieve the position of ayan. Unlike other provinces of the Ottoman Empire from the sixteenth century onwards Bosnia had “kapetans”, at first mainly near the borders with Habsburg territory. Over the following two centuries the institution spread all over Bosnia, and during the second half of the eighteenth century in particular the position became in many instances hereditary. The influence of these local dignitaries was essentially based on their various military and administrative position. Many of them attempted – for instance in quarrels with other kapetans – to acquire the position of ayanlik and the rights associated with it. Frequently, however, the kapetans’ position of influence was due above all to their being tax farmers and military commanders.
Portrait of Sultan Mahmud II (ca. 1785–1839) / Getty Images
For the Ottoman administration the ayans were an ambivalent institution. On the one hand they were by that time an integral part of the system of Imperial government, but on the other they were on the verge of eluding the control of the Sublime Porte. It was not until 25rule that central government was able to abolish the ayans – not without using military force. In Bosnia and Herzegovina the kapetans were finally abolished in 1835 and replaced by civil servants called müsselim. They were appointed by the governor, and more than a few former kapetans and ayans were among those who acquired this position. Rebellions led by individual kapetans continued until 1850 and hat to be put down by Ottoman troops.
Among the reform projects of the nineteenth century was a re-structuring of the Ottoman territorial administration which was enacted in the Vilayet law of 1864. At first it was applied only to the Vilayet of Danube established that year, which was made up out of the former provinces of Silistra, Vidin and Niš. One of the aims of this reorganisation was to increase the contribution of the non-Muslim population. A further review of the law took place in 1867, according to which the Imperial territory would be divided into vilayets, each led by a vali. In addition, an administrative council made up out of Muslim as well as non-Muslim members would now assist the governor. The same principle was applied to the level of the sancak, and even the individual jurisdictions were now expected to have an administrative council.
Regional Differences in the Ottoman Provincial Administration
It was not possible, however, to implement Ottoman governmental structure in all regions. In some regions, which were difficult to govern due to their geographical conditions, the Ottoman administration had to be satisfied with the formal recognition of the Sultan’s suzerainty, as expressed by tributes (haraç) and military services. As the tribes living in the mountainous regions of northern Albania frequently refused to pay the haraç, there were repeated attempts to collect it by military means until the eighteenth century. Tribal societies or those based on kinship ties always resisted attempts by the Ottoman administration to integrate them more closely into the structures of the Empire. There were frequent uprisings in the southern Albanian Himara region, and the Souliotes of Southern Epirus offered considerable resistance until the nineteenth century. An only loose integration into the Empire was also characteristic of the “Black Mountains” (Crna Gora/Montenegro), where the Ottomans had not introduced the timar system and the population lived mainly according to a tribal constitution. From the late seventeenth century onwards, however, the Orthodox bishops (vladika) of Cetinje, the majority of whom were members of the Petrović Njegoš family, began to create a structure of centralised power.
Separate codes of regulations, called kanun (from Byzantine-Greek kanon) developed in some of these places far removed from the central power of the state. In the Albanian region people knew several codes of customary law, such as the kanun named after 26which was observed in Northern Albania and parts of the Kosovo. It was set down in writing only at the beginning of the twentieth century by the Franciscan . The code contains a number of ways of avoiding conflict, such as arbitration, compensation or blood feud (literally “taking of blood”). The latter is also found in other regions around the ( , Crete) which have a similar social structure. “Taking of blood” followed fixed rules and would affect not only the perpetrator but also his male relations. In fact, the kanun was concerned with all the essential areas of social life and practically rendered the Ottoman legal system superfluous. The fact that customary law is very much alive makes the implementation of legal systems controlled by the central government problematic to this day.
It was furthermore characteristic of individual regional types of administration that they would go back to structures whose origins dated to pre-Ottoman times. In areas inhabited by Orthodox Christians in particular, district headmen called knez and village headmen (primikür, starešin,kocabaşi) would fulfil administrative functions which led to them being mediators between the local Christian population and the Ottoman authorities, as instanced by the task of tax collecting with which they were charged.
Another form of regional idiosyncrasy within Ottoman structures of power was the granting of a special status for certain parts of the population or certain cities. The “sacred mountain” Mount 27 and “pass watchmen” (derbendci), who fulfilled military and police duties. Their reliability was, however, doubtful in some cases, as witness the complaints to the Ottoman authorities by merchants who had suffered aggression from “pass watchmen”. The Ottoman administration hoped that by forcing the “pass watchmen” to name guarantors it would be possible to ensure a degree of internal social control. Miners or other groups of the population who provided important contributions to the economic might of the Ottoman Empire would also enjoy tax relief. Some cities retained the privileges they had already enjoyed in pre-Ottoman times, others were granted tax relief and other privileges for various reasons, such as their geostrategic or economic importance. In Sarajevo even the governor’s right to dwell in the city was limited to three days.28on the Halkidiki peninsula, for example, came under Ottoman rule in 1424. The monastic republic paid a yearly tribute and in return enjoyed wide-ranging privileges and internal autonomy. Other beneficiaries of tax privileges were the mainly Christian “martoloses”
With the Ottoman expansion Islam established itself in South-East Europe for good. It is estimated that by the middle of the sixteenth century around a third of the population embraced the new faith. However, the scarcity of written sources means that we are unable to give details on the numerical relation between converts and groups of Muslim immigrants, such as the nomadic Yürüks, the dervishes or Muslim traders and craftsmen. During this first phase, Islamisation was mostly limited to towns and cities, where religious infrastructure like mosques, dervish monasteries and pious foundations developed. From the middle of the sixteenth century onwards Islamisation spread to the more rural areas, reaching its peak in many regions of South-East Europe during the 1640s. Bosnia and Herzegovina were the only regions where the Muslims became the largest group of the population as early as the late sixteenth or early seventeenth century, although the exact date is not known. During the eighteenth century, there were no more significant waves of conversion in the Ottoman regions of South-East Europe.
When we look at these phases of Islamisation we can see that they were long-term processes with significant regional differences. Monocausal explanations for the conversion to Islam will not do justice to the historical conditions, as, after all, many factors led to the Islamisation of large parts of South-East Europe. Avoiding the poll tax for non-Muslims (cizye) is often mentioned as a motive, but this argument holds only as one of several motives and at best for the seventeenth century, when under the weight of increased taxation conversion provided the possiblility to avoid at least the poll tax. The fear of the devşirme or “child-gathering” is also frequently cited as having impelled Christians to convert. This was the recruitment of Christian (in Bosnia also Muslim) boys who would then be employed by the Sultan as janissaries or palace staff. Some of them even climbed to the top of the career ladder and became grand viziers. 25 of 92 grand viziers who held the position between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries came from the Albanian regions. Since the sixteenth century the devşirme took place every one to five years until the practice ended at the beginning of the eighteenth century.
Part of the discussion concerning the importance of the devşirme for the conversions in South-East Europe is the question of whether Islamisation was forced or voluntary. While there are accounts of forced conversions from several regions, they must be regarded with caution. Thus there are chroniclers who report forced conversions which are said to have taken place in present-day Macedonia and theduring the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. However, the chronicles were written only during the nineteenth century, against a background of nascent nationalism and “anti-Turkish” propaganda. The interpretation of contemporary sources suggests that the accounts of these chroniclers are not reliable. It is difficult to determine to what degree aggression against non-Muslims played a part in conversions. There are sources from the Albanian regions which prove that this did happen, in particular during and after wars. There were also cases of soldiers ransacking the houses of non-Muslims after the Sultan’s death.
However, local and regional instances of the use of force were not among the most important reasons for Islamisation. More important factors can be found in, e.g., the weak ecclesiastical infrastructure in some parts of South-East Europe before the Ottoman conquest. Thus the presence of the “Bosnian Church” had prevented firm Catholic or Orthodox structures being established in Bosnian and Herzegovinian regions. As there was no close network of priests and consequently no intensive pastoral care, people did not feel a close bond with the two Christian Churches. The exact nature of the “Bosnian Church” is to this day a subject of some controversy. Contemporary sources do not contain any instances which prove the existence of close links with the Bogomils, nor is there much information on contacts to Western European Heretic movements such as the Albigensians,or Cathars. The organisation of the Church, which was headed by the Djed or Gost, showed parallels to monastic structures in the domain of the Eastern Church as set down by . At the time of the Ottoman conquest, the “Bosnian Church” was already much weakened, and consequently the first Ottoman tax register shows only 120–130 households of members of this church (“Krstjani”).
In the Bulgarian regions, where the Bogomils prevented the establishment of a structured Orthodox Church, the bond people felt with their Church was similarly weak. The doctrine preached by Bogomil in the tenth century consisted of religious dualism, and its practical application led to conflict between its adherents and the structures of political and ecclesiastical government. The ideal aspired to was a pure “apostolic” life where every day was determined by prayer, fasting and pilgrimage. From Bulgaria the Bogomil doctrine spread to Byzantium, other Balkan regions, and also to Russia.
Another important factor in the process of Islamisation were the activities of 29(dervishes), of whom the Bektashis appear to have played an important role, particularly in the Albanian region. They frequently erected their monasteries (tekke, zaviye) near well-known pilgrimage sites and integrated elements of popular belief into their religious practices. In this way a popular Islam was able to evolve, and conversions would take place as a smooth transition. Far away from the centres of government, in the mountainous regions of Albania, lived crypto-Christians who would outwardly profess Islam but privately follow the Christian rite. Religious life in South-East Europe was furthermore characterised by interreligious syncretistic developments, for instance when Muslims and Christians visited the same shrines, Muslims had their children baptised or Christians asked the Imam to pray for their offspring.
Catholic Christianity, Orthodox Christianity and Judaism
In the South-East European regions of the Ottoman Empire, Christians were living in Northern Albania, in the 30, in Hungary and in Bosnia, with Franciscan friars overseeing their pastoral care. The Franciscans had probably arrived in Bosnia as early as the late thirteenth century, with the aim of strengthening Roman Christianity against the “Bosnian Church”. In 1339/1340 they founded the Vicariate Bosnia, which extended as far as the Black Sea. Ottoman expansion led to a new framework within which the Order had to be restructured, and in 1514 the Vicariate was divided. The resulting regions were the “Croatian Province” (Provincia Croatiae), which comprised all non-Ottoman territories, and the Provincia Bosnae Argentinae, which mainly covered Bosnia. The Franciscans had already received extensive privileges from Mehmet II, among which were freedom of movement and worship for the clerics, ownership and repair of churches, extensive tax relief as well as protection from attacks by Orthodox patriarchs and metropolitans. These regulations were renewed in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, although by the eighteenth century it had become more difficult to have them implemented against the resistance of the local authorities. Reasons for this are, among other things, the changes within Ottoman administrative structures described above. Monasteries were the centres of Franciscan activity and oversaw the pastoral care of several parishes. During the second half of the seventeenth century the monasteries increased their efforts to take over parishes situated outside Bosna Argentina as well. In some cases they were even able to garner the Ottoman authorities’ support for such enterprises. These developments were due to the increasingly difficult financial situation of Franciscan monasteries, which were consequently to a large extent reliant on the congrua, the income from their congregations. Besides the Jesuits, the Bosnian Franciscans were the most important supporters of the Congregatio de Propaganda Fide founded in 1622, whom the Holy See entrusted with, among other duties, the organisation of in the South-East European provinces of the Ottoman Empire. Apostolic Vicars would travel in particular through Bosnia, Herzegovina and the Albanian regions, in order to acquire an idea of the numbers of Catholics, the condition of the churches and monasteries as well as the pastoral care in the parishes. Their reports to the Congregation in are among the most important documents of the life of the Catholic population in these regions.
The titular head of all Orthodox Christians in the Ottoman Empire was the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople, whose official residence has been since 1601 in the quarter of Phanar. At first, however, the patriarch was not able to put this claim into practice. In South-East Europe the autocephalic archbishopric of Ohrid and the Patriarchate of Peć considerably restricted his power. Both these churches shared a common past, as Serbia had been under the jurisdiction of Ohrid untilfounded an autocephalic Serbian Church in 1219 with the consent of the ecumenical patriarch Manuel I (died ca. 1221). After the last remnants of the Serbian state collapsed in 1459 the Serbian Church came under Ohrid’s dominion once more, until the patriarchate of Peć was constituted anew under Ottoman rule in 1557. The Patriarchate of Peć as well as the autocephalic archbishopric of Ohrid were dissolved in 1766/1767 by decree of Sultan Mustafa III (1717–1774). Internal ecclesiastical and political developments had led to this move, which now gave the ecumenical patriarch unlimited jurisdiction over Orthodox Christians in the Ottoman territories of South-East Europe. The two churches had been tied to the ecumenical patriarchate’s patronage system and had suffered an increasingly heavy tax burden. Furthermore the Ottoman administration regarded them with more distrust after the patriarch Arsenije III Crnojević (1633–1706) had fled to Habsburg Hungary in 1690 and made Karlowitz his seat of office. The patriarchs continued to give the Ottomans reasons to doubt their loyalty. Consequently it probably suited Mustafa III perfectly when not only the ecumenical patriarchate but, in 1766, the patriarchate of Peć also requested to end the independence of the Serbian Church.
The patriarchs of Peć had seen themselves as preservers of the Nemanjić heritage, thereby connecting themselves with the Nemanjić dynasty that had built the Medieval Serbian dominion. Their title was “patriarchs of the Serbs, Bulgarians and other lands”. Some documents add, besides Serbia and Bulgaria, the “coastland”, the “Western coastland” or the “Western lands”. “Western lands” referred not only to Dalmatia but also to Bosnia and Herzegovina. The claim to jurisdiction expressed in this way is also found in tax demands made of those Christians who were not Orthodox, which were disputed by the Franciscans before the kadi.
Monasteries in the internal Balkans and on Mount Athos, where Slav monasteries were gaining in importance, came to be the most important bearers of the culture of remembrance. In 1169 Russian monks settled in the derelict Panteleimonos monastery, and in 1189 the Nemanjićs restored the monastery which was later to become the Hilandar monastery. From the middle of the sixteenth century onwards close ties developed between the Russian Tsar and the Serbian Orthodox Church. Monks from the Hilandar monastery would regularly travel to 31in order to ask the Tsar for financial assistance. In the hope of finding assistance for their monastery they also travelled through parts of Anatolia, the South-East European regions of the Ottoman Empire, Austria and Poland. On their travels they were able to rely on a widespread network of metókhias (Greek: metókhia, Serbian: metoh), which were “branches” of Athos monasteries which the Ottomans had permitted them to keep as endowments.
After the end of the Spanish reconquista (1492) many Jews sought refuge in the Ottoman Empire. Many of them settled in Salonika, which became the only city in Early Modern Europe whose population was in the majority Jewish. Since the sixteenth century, there had been numerous 32also in Sarajevo, who settled in this internal Balkan commercial centre as they were mostly engaged in the cloth trade. The “Haggadah”, an illuminated manuscript created in the in the fourteenth century came to be the symbol of Jewish life in Sarajevo. One characteristic of the Sephardim in the Ottoman Empire was the Judaeo-Spanish language which they had brought with them from . The Jewish merchants became part of the commercial life of the Ottoman Empire; however, from the late sixteenth century onwards Greek and Armenian merchants would increasingly supplant them in the long-distance trade. As a consequence the Jewish elite became more prominent as tax farmers and in “state monopolies”, thus becoming more integrated into Ottoman society and less closely connected to Christian Europe.
The centre of Ottoman cities was usually the commercial quarter (çarşı) with a bedesten, a roofed and lockable building where goods and personal belongings could be kept. Craftsmen would have their shops and workshops, located according to the respective trade, in the alleyways of this commercial quarter. Everyday life in this part of the city would be ruled by the guilds, whose hierarchy was just as varied as their membership. In some guilds the members would be followers of one religion only, while others adopted a multi-faith structure. During the seventeenth and, in particular, eighteenth centuries an increasing number of craftsmen joined the janissary corps in order to enjoy it’s prestige and tax privileges. Similarly, an increasing number of soldiers pursued a trade. At the beginning of the nineteenth century there were cities in South-East Europe where the majority of the male population were members of the janissary corps. However, only a small number of the soldiers officially listed as janissaries were available for active military service. Consequently there was significant opposition, especially in the cities, when this, previously elite, unit of the Ottoman army was disbanded in 1826.
The most important official institutions would also be found in the city centre, most prominent among them were often the mosques of the Sultan, named after the respective conqueror. Part of the Mosque precinct was the public kitchen (imaret) and usually also the boys’ school (mekteb). Furthermore, thermal (ılıca) and steam (hamam) baths characterised the appearance of Ottoman cities. The upkeep of these institutions was undertaken mainly by trusts, comprising family trusts and pious or public endowments (vakif). Shops, baths, bazars, schools and other integral parts of public infrastructure were built and maintained with the aid of religious endowments. These vakifs might be endowed by men as well as women, of Muslim or Christian faith, as long as they were free and the asset was theirs to dispose of. In many cases, patronage also played an important part. During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, governors and viziers would imitate the architecture of the capital when erecting mosques, mausoleums, baths and other buildings in the provinces. Some high-ranking dignitaries who had come to Istanbul in the course of “child-gatherings” and had risen to the highest positions would sponsor the construction of public buildings in their home regions. During the seventeenth century we frequently find “dynasties” of civil servants acting as patrons of the arts, such as the Köprülü, several of whose members were grand vizier between 1656 and 1695. In Candia () for example, they erected citadels, wells, streets and city squares.
While the commercial quarter was the public sphere of a city, private life would take place mainly in the other city quarters (mahalle), which were usually inhabited by people of similar ethnic origin, religion, faith or place of origin. These quarters, where everyday life was organised according to the rules and traditions to which its inhabitants adhered, developed their own identities, which are often influential to this day. In such an environment the inhabitants could feel protected and cared for, but it also created an atmosphere of distinct social control. The layout of the city quarters could frequently give a clear picture of the distribution of wealth within the city. Poorer citizens would be living in the outer districts, which were visibly different from the mahalles where the wealthy upper class had their homes. The economic rise of numerous cities during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries made it possible for many city dwellers to climb the social ladder, and this new urban elite was more interested in preserving local architectural tradition. In 33in Albania wealthy citizens of the Mangalem quarter built multi-level houses which had bay windows and loggias and were thus clearly distinguishable from the rural style.
Adanır, Fikret: Semi-Autonomous Forces in the Balkans and Anatolia, in: Suraiya Faroqhi (ed.): The Cambridge History of Turkey, Cambridge 2006, vol. 3: The Later Ottoman Empire, 1603–1839, pp. 157–185.
Boeckh, Katrin: Von den Balkankriegen zum Ersten Weltkrieg: Kleinstaatenpolitik und ethnische Selbstbestimmung auf dem Balkan, Munich 1996.
Dávid, Géza / Fodor, Pál: Hungarian Studies in Ottoman History, in: Fikret Adanır et al. (eds.): The Ottomans and the Balkans: A Discussion of Historiography, Leiden 2002, pp. 305–350.
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- On the early phase of Ottoman history see Kafadar, Between Two Worlds 1995.
- See Inalcık, Ottoman Methods 1954.
- Due to a strongly mythologised culture of remembrance the Battle of Kosovo exerts socio-political influence until the present day.
- Concerning the Battle of Kosovo see Malcolm, Kosovo 1998, pp. 58–80.
- A description of these conflicts can be found in Kastritsis, Sons of Bayezid 2007.
- The form Skander is derived from Iskender, the Turkish rendition of Greek “Alexander”. Bey was an Ottoman honorific for high-ranking members of the military and civil services. Skanderbeg might thus be translated as “Lord Alexander”.
- Concerning Skanderbeg see Schmitt, Skanderbeg 2009.
- On the Ottoman conquest of the Albanian regions see Schmitt, Das venezianische Albanien 2001, pp. 549–570.
- During the 1440s another nobleman, Stefan V (1404–1466), succeeded in expanding his sphere of influence as the Lord of Hum. In 1448 he called himself “Herceg of Hum and the Coast”, the title Herceg being derived from German Herzog (Duke). The name Herzegovina is in turn derived from this title.
- On the conquest of Bosnia see Malcolm, Geschichte Bosniens 1996, pp. 36–44.
- On Ottoman rule in Hungary see Dávid / Fodor, Hungarian Studies 2002.
- Cf. Eickhoff, Venedig, Wien und die Osmanen 1992.
- An overview of Ottoman expansion in South-East Europe can be found in Hösch, Geschichte der Balkanländer 1993, pp. 78–84; on the development of the Ottoman Empire as a whole until the sixteenth century, see Inalcık, Ottoman Empire 1973.
- Digitalized peace treaty of Carlowitz, 26/01/1699, provided by the Institute of European History, Project Europäische Friedensverträge der Vormoderne [20/12/2011].
- Digitalized peace treaty of Passarowitz, 21/07/1718, provided by the Institute of European History, Project Europäische Friedensverträge der Vormoderne [20/12/2011].
- Digitalized peace treaty of Belgrade, 18/09/1739, provided by the Institute of European History, Project Europäische Friedensverträge der Vormoderne [20/12/2011].
- For an overview of the Tanzimat see Findley, The Tanzimat 2008.
- An overview of the political developments between the eighteenth and twentieth centuries can be found in Quataert, Ottoman Empire 2005, and Jelavich, History of the Balkans 1983.
- On the Balkan wars see Boeckh, Balkankriege 1996.
- Concerning the process of nation building see the overview by Sundhausen, Nationsbildung 2004.
- On the “classic” timar system see Inalcık, Economic and Social History 1994.
- On the subject of çiftlik see Ursinus, Çiftlik 2004.
- Concerning the administrative system see Inalcık, Ottoman Empire 1973, pp. 89–120.
- These changes are described in Kunt, Sultan’s Servants 1983.
- On the role of the ayan see McGowan, Age of the Ayans 1994.
- Concerning kanun see Elsie, Der Kanun 2001.
- The “martoloses” were a Christian auxiliary regiment which mostly consisted of Orthodox Christians recruited from the South-East European provinces of the Ottoman Empire. This institution was disbanded in 1721.
- For an introduction to the structures of autonomy discussed in this section, see Adanır, Semi-Autonomous Forces 2006.
- On Islamisation see Minkov, Conversion 2004.
- Concerning the activities of Bosnian Franciscans see Džaja, Konfessionalität und Nationalität 1984, pp. 151–218.
- Concerning the Serbian Orthodox Church see Hadrovics, Le peuple serbe 1947.
- An introduction into Jewish life in the Ottoman Empire can be found in Rozen, Ottoman Jews 2006.
- For an introduction into urban life see Faroqhi, Kultur und Alltag 1995, pp. 166–182.
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