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Украинская война. Книга 2. Турецкий прорыв. Превью
The armed conflict for Eastern Europe in XVI—XVII centuries
Volume II. TURKISH ONSLAUGHT: Balkans — Black Sea — Caucasus
(To the end of Sixteen century)
To the end of the Sixteen century from the very beginning the Ottoman history was the demonstrative interplay of the state building and the emergence of military phenomena. Usually they are treated as pure tactical or troops organizational. But really they ascended to the decisive social and political meanings.
The tactical state
The story started in the rise of the founder of the Ottoman state — bey Osman from a paltry obscurity of a mountain semi-nomadism and a petty plunder of Greek neighbors to the status of the pivotal danger for the Byzantine empire in the Western Anatolia.
In his leap to the control over Bithynia the bey not only leads his clan mounted militia and his personal host of mongol-style horse nokers but also the urban infantry of yayarun brotherhoods of nearby Muslim towns. The infantry became his anchor in the blockade of Nicaea of 1301 and gave the weight to his army in the followed battle of Bapheus where he crashed the Constantinople amphibious expedition to debris.
After the Bapheus battle both nomadic warriors of the Turkish tradition and the urbane Estate of the Persian inheritance became fundamental for the development of structures, practices and ideologies of the Early Ottoman state. The strong and clear causality of the tactics and the troops organization for the state building became intrinsic for the Ottoman way.
The initial Ottoman Turkey wasn’t a military state because she was an armed gang of robbers united in predatory raids on sedentary neighbors (the “marauders thesis”) or because she was forged by Islamic militants to impose Islam on “infidels” (the “gazi thesis”). Ottoman Turkey was the military state because the development of her governance institutions and the social composition was determined by fighting tools in the scale and depth that she looks like the “tactical state”.
Persons of bridges
To picture the rule and to analyze it is the task of the “Turkish onslaught: Balkans — Black Sea — Caucasus (to the end of Sixteen century)”. I wasn’t planning to repeat in Russian great books of Rhoads Murphey (201) and Colin Imber (130) in fields of the Ottoman military and general institutional history. Rather my research is not dedicated to reshape the mosaic of general and military Ottoman practices as they were combined by Halil Inalcik (139; 140) or Gabor Agoston (16; 6).
I follow the link “tactics — states building” looking for bridges between them. The bridges are virtual but solid. They are the comprehension of the armed struggle by the Ottoman government leaders, generals and other decisionmakers, including of course the broad population especially in the times of disturbances. The comprehension was as analytical and theoretical as visionary and personal: I’m interested in both.
The comprehension of the armed struggle together with the practice of fighting had been giving birth to military organization and tactical methods which formed up the army. The army required social base and political edifice. Somebody built them. I’m looking for builders.
The army is the institution which is absolutely not hanging in the air. The army is the tool of the struggle and it could be understood only in the struggle. For the task of research it means the necessity to treat the army in wars.
The triple construction of “fighting — decision makers — states building” of every specific period has to be tested in the armed struggle. The test program is the specific one: they are tried in clashes with enemies. It helps to determine the fighting meaning of the organizational and tactical military tools, to enlist the authors of them and to establish their political and social embodiments.
When “the extremely effective and intelligent infidel” the Habsburg captaingeneral in Hungary Nicolas Palffy opened in the Long War 1593—1606 the “box” of the Ottoman might which was feared “to be full of snakes, centipedes and scorpions” — he found it “empty” (126. 11). But Palffy was wrong boasting that there is “nothing at all inside”.
Turkey was the set of military, political, social and ideological institutions and phenomena worked out during two hundred years of the turbulent past.
With the European Military revolution at hand Palffy was the braveheart: “snakes, centipedes and scorpions” panicked and crawled out of his vision. We have to catch and vivisect them. Because they determined the fate of Ottoman Turkey in the Seventeen century.
And they staged the armed struggle for the Eastern Europe which is unimaginable without Turkey. As well as Turkey is inconceivable without the armed struggle for the Eastern Europe.
The last decade of the Sixteen century and the first two decades of the Seventeen one were decisive for the Ottoman history of the Early Modern time. They fiercely fought with Habsburgs and with Safavids, they dealt with domestic disturbances of the unprecedented scale and passed the severe economic crisis. Even the weather became dramatic as the people walked in the shock over the ice of froze Bothorus from Asia to Europe.
And in the decades Turkey entered the struggle for the partition and domination of the Eastern Europe. It demanded all her abilities to wage war and win. Or as minimum to survive.
The survival interrogation
In spite of the predominantly civil nature of the Islamic law sharia and Islamic state traditions, Ottoman Turkey was constituted as the cluster of military practices receiving the social and economic essences as derivative ones. Tactical innovations directly played as social moves and the troop organization was embodied as the structure of power. Constituted they returned on fields of fighting to be chopped and shot in order to give birth to the next generation of changes.
Behind the fixed Arabic lexicon of Ottoman legislation and the Persian flamboyance of the Ottoman literature there was the constant torrent of “innovate or die” social and political changes rooted in the military practice. During two hundred years until the end of the Sixteen century Ottoman Turkey was the best in Europe and Asia successive work of the Military Darwinism of Walter Runciman (244. 144) but it collapsed in the Seventeen one.
“Why?” lays not in the failure of Ottoman resources, the administrative capacity or the geopolitical thinking. It lays in the Ottoman fall in the historical interrogation of tactical questions and state building answers.
“Turkish onslaught” is paid to research the prehistory of the fall. It is the second volume of the series “Ukrainian War: the armed conflict for Eastern Europe in XVI—XVII centuries”. It is dedicated “to bring” Ottomans into the struggle for the partition and domination changed both the Eastern Europe and Turkey forever in the Seventeen century.
The Ukrainian trident
The importance of the struggle for the partition and domination of Eastern Europe could be deducted or constructed. In the deduction it became evident that after the closing of the Long War of 1593—1606 until the final Vienna campaign of 1683 almost three quarters of the century Balkans and Hungary were the silent territories of a small war. The Long war was closed by Ottomans as the winning side. The Vienna campaign became the catastrophe. If not in Balkans and Hungary the Ottoman might had been eroded somewhere else.
The eternal second front of Ottomans — the fight with Shiite Persia, their main rival in the Near East, the Middle East and in the Islamic world, was silent since 1630s. Persia cease to be the military or ideological danger for Ottomans.
The third region of the Ottoman military dedication and the main direction of their expansion in the middle decades of the Seventeen century was the Eastern Europe — Russian and Polish borderlands which had been gathering with Tatars Wild Steppes and Turkish Black Sea shores in the Ukraine.
Ottomans came into the struggle for the Eastern Europe in 1590s answering to Polish Cossack raids and trying to counterbalance the Polish hegemonic ascendance after the victory in the “Livonian” war with Russia. They never returned. They were lost in action.
The dash of the Ukrainian spike of the Ottoman geopolitical trident was so traumatic for Turkey that it collapsed under Vienna 1683 and rolled down beyond retrieve afterwards.
The wrestle total and messianic
In change of the deduction to the construction the common picture of the competition between states has to be taken into an account.
The Seventeen century was crucial for the aggressive states building over Early Modern Europe including Ottoman Turkey. All villains of the uncompromising rivalry for the geopolitical domination and for resources and the status jumped up and all victims were chased and pressed to beg under the gun barrel. But robberies in the Western Europe and the Eastern Europe had been played in different ways.
In the Western Europe there was a number of villains: England, the Netherlands, France, Habsburgs sometimes, Sweden initially and Brandenburg-Prussia later who crowded in gangs to give the kick to one between themselves. The quarrel spared victims German states, Spain, Portugal, Dane, Italian territories from the annihilation. Changing sides and maneuvering victims had chances to survive. Another chance consists of their own states building: all of them were states with good or bad but existing governance organizations and armies. They were capable to wage own wars. They were not doomed.
In the Eastern Europe at the end of the Sixteen century only two “great” pretenders emerged: Poland and Moscow.
Poland collected and merged relative Mazovia, Prussia as the former territory of Teutonic Order, Lithuania, The Western and South-Western Rus as the parts of Lithuania, and Livonia as the territory of Livonian Order finished in 1560th. In the movement of the “Law Execution” and in the Lublin Union of 1569 Poland brought all of them into unitary state with the one sovereignty, the one oligarchic government and the one Noble Legislation Assembly, with the one regular army of hired natives and foreign mercenaries.
The Moscow principality united around herself different lands of the Eastern Rus by dynastic, ideological, military ways and grabbed some parts of the Western and South-Western Rus from Lithuania in wars of the 1480th — 1520th. In 1550th Moscow conquered the Kazan Tatar state of the Middle Volga and moved to South and South Eastern fridges of Wild Steppes with the “defense” lines and fortresses as colonization centers. The united state of Russia got the shape as in 1540th the militaries who took over the power in the Shujsky coup of 1442 spread over the country the unitary legislation of the appointments rule, the local self-government, the General fiscal and legislative Assembly and the joint army of the regular infantry and the gentry horse.
In Eastern Europe no players besides Poland and Moscow survived or emerged. Coalitions weren’t possible. The struggle for the partition of the region or for the domination in it started as the wrestle of the two. As always in the case the contenders developed not only resources and fighting strokes, they have worked out special ideologies of the single combat — messianic ones.
In Poland it was “Antemurale Christianitatis” (the Christianity bulwark) as the special mission of Poland to be the advanced bastion of European “civilization” in the East and the South-East versus Russian Orthodox “schismatics” and Turkish-Tatar Islamic “barbarians”.
In Russia it was the “Czardom of Truth” as the Lord’s blessing to bring the Orthodox faith “clean” to the Apocalypse, meanwhile imposing it on “pagans” (means Tatars) and saving Western Rus from the Catholic (means Polish) “vicious” lordship.
By the end of the Sixteen century all other states, lands and peoples of the Eastern Europe became preys in the wrestle of Poland and Moscow. The Western and South-Western Rus and the Eastern Baltics were contended. Even Tartars who formerly had been enjoying the position of the Eastern European superpower were defeated, split to minor hordes and victimized. Their nomadic Wild Steppes became the spoil for the Polish-Moscow conquering and colonizing competition.
It was the reason behind great geopolitical surprise when in two last decades of Sixteen century Sweden from the North and Turkey from the South burst in the exclusive Polish-Moscow struggle with equally ambitious aspirations. They were not only military strong (in the case of Sweden it became the surprise itself) they were arguing for the Eastern European domination from different approaches. Both powers came with the core idea of the Sea Domination: the Turks as masters of the Black Sea shores, the Swedes pressing to master the Baltic open sea.
But entering the struggle they understood the rule: to contend for the Eastern Europe you have to be not only resourceful and daring — you have to be messianic as well.
Turkey had her messianic idea from long ago. She profited from the “sacred war” — gaza on infidels to robber them and suppress them as taxed minority in the global community of Islam. For the struggle of the Eastern European domination the “sacred war” was amended into conception of the “hard” conquest in spite of the “soft” robbery and submission.
Sweden invented her messianic idea just in hand. She invested in the Lutheran Predestination of Swedes to ring the Protestant empire of Northern and North-Western Europe out of “satanic” grip of the Roman Sea. The orthodox Russian grip suits to be broken as well as the Catholic Polish one.
The lonely wrestle of Poland and Moscow became the struggle of the four. It was the clash of the conception of the sea-based domination versus the conception of the hinterland-based domination. It was the messianic confrontation without compromises.
If in the Western and Central Europe the geopolitical struggle (including the Ottoman-Habsburg contest in Hungary) was the competition for territories, resources and statuses, in the Eastern Europe it was converted in the total war for the survival with the stake of the future only for the one.
In the Eastern European struggle for the supremacy your choice was not to catch the lordship or to continue in the second rate obscurity but to win and survive or to perish.
It was the reason why the struggle for the Eastern Europe in the Seventeen century became the matter of survival for Turkey. To the end of the period the outcome was determined. Turkey and Sweden were mutilated to continue as stumps of their former ambitions and statuses. Poland was wounded to death. Russia emerged as the superpower.
The gathering Ukraine was the room of the butchery and emergence.
Visionaries of the Survival
Turkey was so lucky in the survival game before that her collapse in the Seventeen century looks highly surprising.
From the urban brotherhoods infantry in the Nicaea siege and the Bapheus battle of 1301 it became the hard rule that in the crucial clashes with the enemies Ottomans had some innovative stock in advance. Ottoman military and political inventions were not a reaction to the thrusts of the enemies or to the picture of circumstances — they were the forecast of dangers and the prognosis of opportunities. They were visionary.
Emir Orhan — the son of bey Osman started to generate ideas ahead when he unleashed the raid activity across Dardanelles to Thrace. He formed it into the socio-military movement of the “torrent” — akin. Orhan assembled militant communities of fighters akincis from his native Turkmen, Muslim adventurers, local Greek and Slavic renegades, settled them in Thrace and ordered to attack the local population without an attention to political borders.
The Akin was the continuation of the Anatolian gaza but it was organized in the different way. It wasn’t tribal and it wasn’t free. The communities of the akin were arranged after the special charters, the leaders were appointed from “comrades” of bey Osman and emir Orhan, the raiding activity was licensed and the booty was taxed.
It is possible that Orhan founded akinci communities for the political game in the Balkans during Byzantine Empire’s civil war or for the marauding of defenseless territories. But it happens that in the first clash with Serbia as the peninsular heavyweight the special tactical skills of akincis brought two very important victories on Maritsa river of 1364 and 1371.
The akincis became very effective occupational forces. They cleaned Thrace from competing pretenders, fixed the submission of the Byzantine Empire (leaving her only Constantinople itself) and moved the center of the Turkish state building from Asia Minor to Balkans.
What is important for the visionary way of the Turkish development the akin was founded not after the clash with Serbs but before it as if the clash and the enemies were predicted.
What is important for the Turkey existence as the tactical state, akin communities became her Balkan borderland organization as political and social, as economical and ideological until the end of the Sixteen century. Considering that the most of Turkey was the borderland — it was the good military tactical and organizational invention turning to become the state building block.
Next move came from the son of emir Orhan — Murad. He was sent to Balkans as the heir apparent. Proclaimed after the death of his father as the sultan (an independent king instead of the emir — a military leader as Orhan or the bey — a local lord as Osman) he moved the capital to Adrianople — Edirne. Established himself geographically and politically he immediately continued to innovate.
Enemies were the same: Serbia with her affiliate Bosnia and backing Hungary. Nothing could push Murad I to the fundamental change he initiated. When in 1386 the Turkish akincis army was severely defeated by Serbs with their new leader prince Lazar near the Toplitsa river and by Bosnians near the town of Bilech akincis looked an outdated waste.
But when Lazar met Murad I three years later on the Kosovo Field of catbirds his assault troops of the heavy mailed horse and foot who cracked down akincis were amazed to clash with their Turkish twins. They were equally mailed timariot sipahis — the horse fighters received timar estates with peasant taxes to equip themselves in the manner of the “middle” cavalry.
In the decisive episode of the battle after the assassination of Murad I by the Serbian saboteur, timariots under his son Bayezid crushed the Serbian army, killed Lazar, strangled Bayezid’s brother Yakub and proclaimed him the sultan. While “former innovations” of gazi warriors, the yaya infantry and akinci horse were the most of Turkish fighters, it was the counterattack of timariots which brought the tremendous victory to the Ottomans.
Horse servicemen with different benefice forms were widespread in Balkans (as everywhere in Europe). There were nothing new in timatiots. The innovation consists of their mass, unitary weapons and equipment and in their organization in territorial armies with the strict hierarchy of the command and discipline. They appeared to be decisive in the battle.
After the victory on the Kosovo Field of catbirds in 1389 timariots from the military tactical and organizational innovation became the pivotal arrangement of Great Turkey which Bayezid I hurriedly combined from conquered Balkans and subjugated Muslim principalities — beyliks of Anatolia.
Territorial armies were settled as territorial organization of the state power and the hierarchy of timariot commanders — as the governmental structure in provinces two of which were established: Rumelia for Balkans and Anatolia for Asia Minor. It was the triumph of the tactical organization as the social and political arrangement.
The timariots appearance on the Kosovo field of 1389 shows another feature of the Turkish visionary development from the tactics to the state building. Always innovations came as the savior hand when the defeat seams inevitable and chances hanged on the very edge. The innovations became a handful of sand overweighted the balance in favor of Turks.
Building Great Turkey Bayezid I came to the contra omni fighting with everybody around. His prime enemies became Crusaders called by Hungarians from Europe and the “World conqueror” Tamerlane from the Middle Asia.
Crusaders were clever analytics and understood the weakness of Turks in the low fighting discipline of their horse akincis if compared with Western heavy knights trained to fight as the cohesive iron fist. In the battle of Nikopolis 1396 the Crusaders charged at home to crash the army of Bayezid I. It was their great surprise to find after the screen of akincis not “crowds” of more akincis or yaya foot but the new azab infantry equipped with composite bows stayed behind sharpened stakes.
Under the hail of arrows Crusaders pushed aside the stakes and crashed azabs. The cost was their exhaustion and disarray which Bayezid I used attacking them first with timariots and later with his vassal Serbs and his househorse guards silihdars. To save their leader John the Fearless of Burgundy the Crusaders gave up and were massacred.
To change traditional yaya foot to new azabs was not a label shift. Azabs became quite different troops. They were not communities obliged to enroll for fighting but the troops conscripted from the Muslim urban population and sometimes also peasants. They were equipped and trained in unitary fashion, they fought under their own commanders appointed by local judgeadministrators kadis.
Together with the establishment of the azab infantry the kadi administrational districts were arranged by Bayezid I over Turkey. They became the united system of the power together with the timariots hierarchy. Their organization was topped with two captain-judges kadiaskers for two provinces Rumelia and Anatolia. While azabs were the tactical and military organizational invention — kadis became civilians embodied it into the state building block.
The problem of Bayezid I named the Thunderbolt when he met Tamerlane near Ankara in 1402 consists in the fact that he was too slow and faint to prepare something new in the tactics and the organization of his army. He anticipated the innovation, he started to work on it but he couldn’t develop it in time. It was the governmental slaves kapikulu army made of horse silihdars and foot “new troops” yeni ceri — janissary.
They flashed in the battle of Nikopolis 1396, but they weren’t the main participants. Bayezid I had been arranging them hurriedly before the Ankara battle of 1402, but difficulties occurred to be too strong. He needed the time to recruit slaves in raids over Balkans, to press them into Islam and to train them to fight. He falls. He was crucially defeated by Tamerlane.
The “World conqueror” split Turkey between the sons of Bayezid I, gifted his wives around and dragged the sultan in the cage to use him as the feet rack. Bayezid I died of the humiliation. The fate of the Thunderbolt shows the clear lesson what happens with the Ottoman leader who doesn’t have the military innovation to be turned into the state building block at hand in time.
The fall of Bayezid I had long-range consequences. Two hundred years after Ankara battle no reasonable Ottoman tried to play down the innovations game. Between his sons while Suleiman had been drinking and womanizing in steam hamams and Musa mocked his suspected followers with baked toads, Mehmed aimed to took the command over the later father’s inventions.
In the beginning of Fifteen century the era of great spiritual movements spread in Europe and Asia and Mehmed used spiritual tools. He distributed all Turkish society between different “ways” — tarikats of mystical sufi Islam, assigning one of the state building block to each of them. Blocks were equal to organizational and tactical parts of the army so the mystical orders started to control them ideologically.
After the introduction of timariots territorial armies and azabs territorial conscript troops the gentry service hierarchy and the kadi judge network became the backbones of the government. Mehmed appointed the Melami “humbling” order to patronize crude timariots and the Mevlevi order of whirling dervishes to patronize educated kadis. Himself he joined Mevlevi.
To inspire simpletons akincis and janissaries he called for Bektashi order of miracle making teachers babas. To catch the heart of akincis and janissaries wasn’t a simple job. They had been supporting Musa long time but at last his extravagancies became unbearable — he was betrayed and killed, Mehmed crowned as the united sultan for European and Asiatic provinces.
Soon after his ascendance Mehmed I died. His son Murad II continued to work with the government slave kapikulu troops. He developed their fighting capacity and turned them into the new state building block — kapikulu government.
To the time when the next round of confrontation with enemies outside started he logically defined the arrangement of the society as the mobilization base, the army as the fighting force and the government as the political embodiment of its tactical parts. The pyramids were: the Muslim population — the azabs infantry — the kadis administration, the timariots gentry — the timariots horse — the timariots territorial commanders, the Christian population — janissaries and other kapikulu troops — the kapikulu central government.
When in the end of 1430s — the beginning of 1440s resurrected Hungary with her army reorganized and retrained by the genius of John Hunyadi stroke Turkey with the tremendous force she doesn’t cracked.
Hunyadi was the matchless tactician and the organizational superstar who took into account all sides of the armed struggle including the composition of forces, their training, weapons and morale, fighting methods and the operational environment, the timing and the space of the combat.
He used professional hired troops as Hungarian as Czech and Polish equipped with newest editions of cold steel and fire weapons, motivated to fight for the Faith and the Fatherland. His tactics embraced the absolutely unbeatable tabor wagon fortress just introduced by Czech Hussites and the tried charge of cohesive ironclad horse with pikes. He added between them flexible actions of the middle mailed and light horse and (it was his great personal achievement) he applied the tabor as the assault array and used the tabor-based army for deep operational raids.
In 1443 Hunyadi came on the brink of the Balkan mountain ring crossing and the capture of Ottoman capital Edirne. He was stopped by Murad II personally in the hard fighting of Zlatitsa pass when the Turkish army doesn’t dare for open fight with him. Next year he repeated the dash under the town of Varna in Northern Bulgaria. Hunyadi seams to be unstoppable and unbeatable, Murad II met him looking to fall in action as a martyr shahid.
In vain, it was Hunyadi who was doomed. Unlike Murad II society-armygovernment pyramids Hunyadi had behind his fighting genius only the diverse Hungarian Estates society lost in the squabble for privileges and tax exemptions. Hunyadi tactical and organizational innovations weren’t transformed in the state building of Hungary, vise versa they were marginalized and despised by the ruling oligarchy of magnates.
After the day of hard fighting Hunyadi forces were beaten and pushed into the defense of tabor. King Wladislas III frantically dared for the direct thrust with his heavy horse, he was beaten off, unhorsed and beheaded. Next day Turks stormed the tabor and massacred the Hunyadi infantry. Pretending to stop the defecting cavalry he ran out and saved himself.
The Hunyadi example shows that the strong link between tactical innovations and the state building was absolutely obligatory for the success in the armed struggle not only for Turkey. It shows much strong causality in the play of military and political factors than the classical sociological establishments of Karl Marx and Max Weber or the loose contemporary IEMP model of Michael Mann.
In the Early Modern time both the Marx dictate of the society to the politics and Weber guidance by the politics of the society are filtered via the military factor of the fighting efficiency. And the interplay of the ideology, economy and politics of Mann is not seasoned with the military factor but managed by it.
The guess has to be researched, the research isn’t the task of this book dedicated to Ottoman Turkey. But it has to be considered as Turkey came to the conflict with the forces much more mighty and enthusiastic to fight than Hungary or Anatolian beyliks.
The defloration of might
The Murad’s II trained son Mehmed II was successful applying the Ottoman invention to become the undisputable master of the East-Southern Europe and the Near East. He conquered Constantinople and finished the Byzantine Empire, he merged Serbia and most of Asia Minor, he defeated the mighty Turkmen state of “white sheep owners” Aq-qoyunlu, ringed Black Sea as the Ottoman lake and stormed Otranto as the bridgehead in Italy. He proclaimed himself “Megas Amiras” — the Great Captain in the mixed Latin-Arabian lexicon. He looks like semi-God.
He reconstructed Constantinople as Istanbul — the great metropolis of the Turkish lordship and the Islamic superiority. He enslaved in his new palace Topkapi dozens of high-born offsprings of Palaeologus imperial dynasty and lesser royal families of Bosnia, Serbia etc. He forced to bed and stripped of virginity dozens of Greek and Latin princesses. He established inner palace Enderun schools where he educated and indoctrinated the new generation of his government officials and army commanders. They were his owned things as if the unlimited dissemination of himself.
But while Mehmed II enjoyed the Heaven there were great developments on the Earth.
The conflict for the domination in Italy started to move Habsburgs to unite their electoral emperorship in Germany with the inherited kingship in Spain. Together with “explored” Americas and seized Italy they formed the universal Western Christian empire with the Crusading ambitions behind horizons.
The Turkmen fermentation in Iran, Iraq, the Transcaucasia and the Eastern Asia Minor catapulted to the religious and state power the revolutionary order of Safevi — “red-caps” kizilbashi followers of the great mystiс sheikh Safy of Ardabil. The descendant of Safi — Ismail came out in 1500s as the warrior and general, political manager and mystical poet of the charisma so bright that he was accepted as the precursor of the Mahdi messia of the Islam Apocalypse or the Mahdi himself.
His momentum was so tremendous that in lesser than ten years he defeated and killed Aq-qoyunly and other enemies and subdued all Middle East. He took the ancient Persian title shakhinshakh and based his power on the interaction of Turkmen zeal and Persian heartland prosperity. He intended to switch to himself the loyalty of all Asia Minor population and to push Ottomans over Channels to Balkans.
The empires building on Western and Eastern borders of Turkey was accompanied by the absolutely new threat from the Southern “underbelly”. In the Indian Ocean and Red Sea Portugueses dived out with artillery high-board ships and the fire infantry. They were the small gang in the scales of Asia but using the technologies extremely efficiently they not only captured sea routes of the spice trade but aimed to demolish the Saint Towns of Mecca and Medina and as boasted the “vise-king” of India Alfonso de Albuquerque “to cancel the cult of Mohammed”. The Mamluk military regime in Egypt and Syria selfappointed as the Saint Towns custodian was overwhelmed by the Portuguese seapower and firepower.
The triple danger requires from Ottomans to act with the tenfold innovative energy. The problem consist in the fact that they couldn’t introduce anything new without breakage and throwing off something former to scraps. The society was arranged and the state structure was established. The military innovations in the tactics and organization were possible but it was painful and hard job to clean the space to introduce them in the state building.
The structure of the research
The first chapter of this book is paid to understand how under the guidance of sultans Bayezid II and Selim I Ottomans coped to circumvent the requirement and to win the struggle versus mystical kizilbashis of shakh Ismail and versus the Mamluk military and ideological might. The first chapter serves as the prolog in action. The episode became the starting point of the research because it was the first time in the Ottoman history when the tactical and organizational military innovations weren’t introduced as the social arrangement and political structures in Turkey.
Was it the weakness fall or was it the sign of the historical maturity? The answers are collected in the inner comparison and contradistinction of the Ottoman history before the point (chapters second, third, fourth) and the Ottoman history after the point (chapters fifth and sixth).
In the first part I dug for the source of the visionary military innovations of Ottomans and their ability to install them as social arrangements and the political structures. In the second one I reap the causes of their impotence to continue the effective line when they generated a number of military innovations but ceased to introduce them into society and politics as state building blocks.
The conclusion is brought as the result of the 1570th and 1580th of the Ottoman history in final two chapters — the last part of the research. It is established as the precondition for the Ottoman Turkey defeat in the armed struggle for the Eastern Europe in Seventeen century and her general “decline” afterwards.
Playgirls, brains and ironheads
One new request appeared in the last quarter of Sixteen century of the Turkish history: from the time if you want to continue the successful state building your first task is not to invent something fresh but to clean the room for it wasting something rotten and rusty. It is probable that the new request became the first-rate one for all Europe. The cause could be researched but in Turkey it was apparent. The innovations themselves — technical, economical, religious, social, military etc and etc came down as the avalanche. The game was not to invent but to choose between available inventions and to implement the chosen one.
It was the hardest game. But in the long range run for the state efficiency and the military superiority it was the only possible game. As always there were the peoples who understood the challenge and the peoples who didn’t understand or pretended to don’t understand.
In the first category there were a number of military commanders. They were challenged to die or win on the field of action and this kind of choice always helps to think. The necessity of social and political transformations was absolutely clear for them as the writing and the governmental activity of grand vizier Lutfi pasha shows. But Lutfi became the prey of women: his wife Shakh Sultan the sister of sultan Suleiman I and the darling of the sultan Hurrem. Lutfi was spared of the ordinary strangulation but dismissed and died forlorn. His persecutors belonged to another party — hostile to changes.
The category consists of the peoples with native horizontal or vertical flexibility. Both flexibilities afforded them to evade the necessity of changes and to prefer the political and social constant.
The horizontal flexibility was the resource of numerous playgirls who crowded Turkish houses of power since the famous “Ukrainian” captive and the favorite haseki wife of sultan Suleiman I Hurrem “Roxelana”. The haseki wife of the next sultan Selim II the “Italian” captive Nurbanu “Cecelia” long lived after the death of the sultan and started new category of royal dowagers valides. The wife of her son Murad III the Albanian captive Safiye shared the power over the sultan as the haseki with Nurbanu as the valide. After the death of Murad III in 1595 Safie became the valide of her son Mehmed III while he enjoid his own haseki Halime who became the valide after his dearth. And so on.
This book isn’t a story of harem playgirls but if entered the power they are important as political category. Women of the harem could adjust themselves to any relief of pillows to murmur the advice to the sovereign. Together with palace eunuch officials and court mystical teachers they were the party indifferent to social changes. They were satisfied with their status, they acted against the scrap of the existing order. They were conservative.
The vertical flexibility was the virtue of the cleverest men such as Sokollu Mehmed pasha the grand vizier of sultans Suleiman I, Selim II and Murad III. If he wouldn’t be assassinated by the undercover dervish killer he could continue. His trick was to be afloat on the top of the power in any circumstances bad or good. He spent his wisdom to play them and not to change them. Sokollu Mehmed was a good general and a good administrator but the chameleon he was best.
There were the lot of peoples lesser than him but same as him. They were afraid of sharp changes fearing to loose the political capital saved and the environs mastered. They considered that the state could be improved greasing the existing elements. As always they were supported by political scientists like Kinalizade Ali Celebi who earned from advising. They were conservative.
The conservative party developed own ladder of the government ascendance. The tools of the promotion were bribes, harem favoritism, mystical visions and relative connections. They managed the system, it was sweet for them.
But the wars of the Middle of the Sixteen century screamed for the changes, more and more radical ones since they were postponed by politicians dictated from harem and traditionalists parties. The enemies of Ottomans invented effective tools versus their power. They found how to crush or to confuse the Turkish military might expressed in the ability to execute huge tactical events with campaign decisive or strategic results.
The Habsburg captain-general of Hungary Lazarus Schvendy and Iranian shakh Tahmasb expressed the discoveries in the writing.
In his “Kriegsdiskurs” Schvendy proposed to pull apart the striking might of the Turkish army with the defense of the linked fortresses of the fortified districts simultaneously with the maneuvering actions of the relief army from the depth.
Tahmasb confessed his ideas in his Credo “Tezkire”. He advised to split the irresistible power of the combined Ottoman army in the local pockets of fighting where the balance of the horse, fire infantry, artillery, tabur and logistics would be distracted and isolated Ottoman forces fall as a prey to his light kizilbashi horse and horsed fire infantry.
The middle of the Sixteen century became the deep crisis of the Ottoman military power both in Hungary and Iran. Suleiman I and Selim II tried to solve it with the simple amalgamation of the troops, but never solved. It was evident that not only the Turkish army needs the changes, but the society and the structure of power have to be transformed in order to afford the reforms and to root them.
The time of the power shift came and it was the time of the party of military ironheads.
The Lepanto 1571 debacle and hard Cyprus war brought the understanding not to the political power top but to the military field commanders of the middle level. The development started in Hungary where provincial governors hired absolutely new troops of the light horse deli and fire infantry sekbans and levends between the local converts, dissolved fighting retinues of timariots gebelus and any free men directly or with the gang leaders bolukbashis as managers. The firepower monopoly of Istanbul governmental troops fall apart but the Turkish army acquired the numerous fire foot and light horse who could be coupled tactically to wage the distributed war imposed on the Turks by their enemies.
That was a great military organizational and tactical invention returned the Ottoman army on the pike of the fighting capacity anew. The problem was that it was the army (or multiple armies) which belonged not to Ottomans (as the sultan and his central government Divan) but to provincial governors and military commanders. Controlling the armed struggle they had to switch to politics inevitably. And their new troops mastering the armed action had to switch to social activity.
The cycle of the embodiment of military innovations in the state building had to be repeated with the lead of sultans or without. Rather without.
Hello from the hell of Caucasus
The burst came in 1584 when the successful commander of the new war with Iranian Safavids (the “Son of Purest Iron”) Ozdemiroglu Osman pasha came to Istanbul with the troops of his Caucasian veterans. The road of Ozdemiroglu Osman was winding. He wasn’t “classical” Ottoman product of the devshirme conscription and palace kapikulu schools. And he wasn’t heir of old Turkish landowning aristocracy of Asia Minor or religious Ulema Estate offspring graduated from some medrese. He was borne in the family of former Egyptian mamluk of Caucasian origin and made his carrier in the fighting.
Ozdemiroglu Osman took over the command of Ottoman troops as the campaign chief serdar in the Eastern Caucasus when they seem be doomed and other commanders rejected the honor. He conquered Shiraz and Dagestan while cut off the main army bogged in Georgia and Armenia.
He fought with the troops consisting not of central janissaries or timariots but with sekbans and levends hired in Eastern Turkey and locally between Caucasian tribes. He effectively used Crimean tartars and when the Crimean khan Muhammed-Geray II led his hord back and refused to return (the khan was too fatty to travel astride on mountain trails) Ozdemiroglu Osman went after him.
The pasha passed the Caucasus, pushed aside Cossacks on the river Terek ford, walked over inflamed Kuban steppes, traversed the miraculously frozen Kerch strait, got to the fortress of Kaffa, was sieged by the khan, overplayed him in the game of Tatar clans, and with the arrival of the main Ottoman fleet of the corsair Kilic — Uluc pasha overthrew Mohammed-Geray II. The khan was hunted and killed. Ozdemiroglu Osman reformed the Crimea as not the semiindependent horde anymore but as the Turkish service district.
When Ozdemiroglu Osman came to Istambul he enjoyed the personal triumph but was threatened by intrigues of the conservative party of sultan Murad III haseki Safiye and sister Esmehan allied by grand vizier Siyavus pasha. Siyavus stamped in the Divan the decision to suspend the bonus of the Caucasian hero’s troops and authorized the coin debasement which cut the salary at half. Esmehan proposed the serdar but the old fighting horse discarded her: the fiancee appeared to him too selfish and extravagant. He didn’t like the qualities in ladies.
Ozdemiroglu Osman revolved. His troops stormed the palace. Levends and sekbans suppressed the guard (janissaries weren’t enthusiastic to defend the clique), fished out the top officials from the private apartment of the sultan and his harem, hanged some Jewish financiers found guilty in the coin debasement, fired Siyavus pasha and established their serdar as the grand vizier.
It was the military coup par exellence. Ozdemiroglu Osman surpassed the ladder of promotion established by the palace party. He never paid the bribe, he refused to marry the sultan’s sister and he was indifferent to court mystics. Maybe he never read Kinalizade Ali. The disciplined firepower of his levends and sekbans was his currency.
The army tried in the Caucasus hell was faithful to him more than to the sultan, his relatives or the officials. They were quite happy to stay alive. Now Ozdemiroglu Osman had the undisputable power to change the Turkish state and society as he likes. And he likes to socialize and politicize his hired troops of sekbans and levends.
The pyramid of military inventions established as the social arrangement and political structures had been reborn. Turkey lived as the tactical state again.
It could be the new era for Turkey. And it could be not. It depends.
Persons of precipices
As always in the time of the great historical changes it depended on personal destinies of history makers.
The military revolt of Ozdemiroglu Osman pasha in Istanbul in 1584 placed Turkey in the general Eastern-European frame of the military grabbing the states power in the second half of the Sixteen century. It happened in Russia, in Sweden, in Poland and in Turkey at last.
The common picture is described in the Third volume of the research “Ukrainian war. The armed conflict for Eastern Europe in XVI—XVII centuries” named “Head-to-head offensive: Baltics — Lithuania — Steppes. (In the second half of Sixteen century)”.
As everywhere in the Eastern Europe the takeover of the power by military opened great opportunities for the mobilization, army swell and state building. Under the control of generals Turkey could become fiscal-military state like Sweden or bureaucratic state like later Prussia, could become “absolutist” state like France with the sultan on the top or the oligarchic “constitutional” state like England with the Assembly of factions. The recharged state dynamics could boost Turkey ahead or equal in the race of the European states building and the Military Revolution.
The problem was that in the time of the choice almost everything is determined by the leader of changes. Ozdemiroglu Osman died in 1586 fighting for the Iranian city of Tebriz.
There was the generation of new military leaders going after him like the Italian aristocrat Cigalazade Sinan, the former Buda governor Sokollu Ferhad and the former Kaffa governor Jaffar. They were young, they were field commanders and they were self-made. They had the ideas and the troops at hand to promote them.
Had they been coming as bridges to the future or precipices to cut it off?
Turkey entered the last decade of the Sixteen century with the fateful question.
Farewell the chieftaincy
To predict the answer it is necessary to imagine the nature of the emergence of Turkish visionary military innovations and the Turkish ability to embody them as the social arrangement and to install them as political structures. Where it came from?
The “constructivist” theory of international relations teaches us that in the Early Modern time in Europe it was more important how the states were divergent inside into substates and Estates than how they are divided outside one from another. (204. 36—37) In the case of Turkey the thesis is quite applicable. But the sense of it has to be not «structural» but «ancestrial».
Turkey emerged on the very brink of the Turco-Mongolian nomadic Eurasian world. The space for the emergency was fought from sedentary Byzantine word of Greek and Slavic peoples. From the upstart Persian and Arabic elements participated in the state building of Ottomans. They were represented by the Muslim urban population of Anatolian towns and the Muslim religious and administrational Estate of Ulema. They co-worked but not mixed.
In the Turco-Mongolian nomadic consciousness the mankind world has to be built under the chieftain khan or bey — the charismatic overlord who knows the Will of Heaven and the Road of Predestination. To arrange the world in the model it is necessary to conquer it: the war was the pillar of the Turco-Mongolian Universe and the warfare was the main function of the man.
The chieftain has to unite the peoples and states around himself by conquer and to lead them. Their divergence from the guidance was unacceptable but their difference and autonomy was granted as they were going together on the Road of Predestination under the Will of Heavens known by the chieftain. The resources were distributed, the power split and low votes heard. The chieftain was the state personally, everything “states” belongs to him.
The Turco-Mongolian tradition was the inception idea of the Ottoman state and it had been leading long time but the Persian and Arabic traditions were interplaying with it. They are radically different.
The Persian tradition is a bureaucratic one and affirms the hierarchy of authorities as the state itself while the king shakh is the top symbol. It doesn’t like the local differences, autonomies of power and resources distribution.
The Arabic tradition is a communal, legalistic and messianic one. It dictates the theocratic state Caliphate as the Universal Community of the faithful Umma living under the God-given legislation of Sharia and managed by the elected or hereditary religious leader Caliph related to the Prophet. For the military or routine affairs the Caliph could appoint sultans as the lay governors but they are responsible to Caliph and obeying to Sharia.
While Turco-Mongolian tradition is the loose form of the military guidance, both Persian and Arabian traditions are unitary, strict and throughful.
The process of the construction of Ottoman Turkey was slow if compared with historically instantaneous built up of her Turkic triplets — the Iranian state of Safavids and the Indian state of Mughals. She had the pace to combine Persian and Arabic traditions in a positive way.
They brought something to her military development and to the application of military innovations as the social arrangement and political structures. But their role of “innovation donors” was not so important as their role of inner disturber.
The conflict of the state building, social and Universum traditions inside the Ottoman Turkey born the fermentation where the visionary military organizational and tactical practices received the perspective and if successful were dealt as the state building blocks in the social arrangement and political structures. But no wine could ferment forever. The time came when it fixes the grade and the taste. It means that the ferments inside went to equilibrium.
The age of the Magnificent Suleiman I in the middle decades of the Sixteen century was the maturity time of the Turkish wine with the Ottoman label. The environ became stale. The innovations sprang but died. All of the three traditions found their place in the government, social arrangement, thinking and the behavior of peoples. The rivalry between them ran out. The environ started to kill innovations and while tolerating them in the military business it never invited or allowed them to root and grow as social and political changes.
The Seventeen century will show the domestic mechanics and international effects of this negative play between military innovations and the social stagnation.
The Ottoman sundown had been forthcoming.
It promised to be grandiose.