Alemdar Mustafa Pasha
Alemdar Mustafa Pasha

Alemdar Mustafa Pasha (also called Bairaktar Mustafa Pasha) was an Ottoman military commander and a Grand Vizier born in Khotyn in Turkish-occupied Ukraine in 1765. Both alemdar and bairaktar mean "the standard bearer" and were the names given to the same rank in the Janissary corps.

He was originally the ayan (provincial notable) of Rusçuk, and one of the strongest ayans of his time. The deposition of the reformer Sultan Selim III in 1807, and his replacement with the reactionary Mustafa IV by the Janissaries and other opponents of reform, provoked Alemdar Mustafa Pasha to lead his army of Albanians and Bosnians to Istanbul in an attempt to reinstate Selim III and restore his reforms. After he arrived, Mustafa IV ordered Selim III and Mahmud II to be killed, he succeeded in getting the former killed. Alemdar Mustafa Pasha, seeing Selim III dead, showed fealty to Mahmud II (Selim's cousin), and he was instated the sultan, with Alemdar as his Grand Vizier. As vizier, Bayrakdar purged the soldiers who had rebelled against Selim, removed conservatives from governmental positions and replaced them with men sympathetic to reform. Bayrakdar modernized the army and navy and attempted to reform the Janissaries, but Mahmud, fearing a political backlash of the elite corps, halted such change. Bayrakdar's power and influence and his arrogance wielding it caused a rebellion against his position. In November 1808, the Janissairies attacked the Porte and laid siege to the stone powder magazine where he and his personal guard had taken refuge. As the Janissaries were about to break in the powder barrels exploded, killing Bayrakdar, his guard, and several hundred Janissaries. It is uncertain if the explosion was an accident or intentionally set off by Bayrakdar.

He rose through the Janissary corps. After having been promoted to commandership, he took part in the wars against Austria and Russian Empire.

In 1808, when the Sultan Mustafa IV ascended the throne with the help of the reactionaries who opposed the reform efforts undertook by Selim III, and the deposed Selim III was imprisoned, Alemdar Mustafa Pasha was the governor of the city of Rusçuk (today "Rousse") in Bulgaria.


The assault on Istanbul and Fight against The Reactionaries

Alemdar Mustafa Pasha had always been a keen supporter of Sultan Selim III. With Mustafa IV on the throne rule and the reactionary rebels commanded by Kabakçı Mustafa in command of the Ottoman capital, Mustafa Pasha gathered a council in Rusçuk and the council decided to take action.

On 21 June 1808, Alemdar Mustafa Pasha and his army of about 15,000 men came to İstanbul. They easily took control of the situation and with the order of Alemdar Mustafa Pasha, the rebels were killed or exiled.

When Mustafa IV learned the events, he decided to have his uncle, Selim III, as well as his younger brother, Prince Mahmut, killed in order to remain the only member of the imperial family. The executioners arrived first in the room of Selim III in the palace. Selim III, who was playing reed flute and had no weapons, resisted with his flute, but his efforts proved futile and he was strangulated. His dead body was brought in front of Alemdar Mustafa Pasha, who began weeping, thinking having failed in all his objectives.

While he was weeping, his men warned him that Mustafa IV's men were going to kill the Prince Mahmud as well. In fact, in those very moments, the executioners had raided the prince's room, the Prince was put to hiding in the roof by the servants. Alemdar Mustafa and his men arrived and broke the palace doors. They killed the rebels and eventually saved the prince.

Alemdar Mustafa Pasha declared prince Mahmud the new sultan with the name Sultan Mahmud II, and he became his grand vizier.

In the service of Sultan Mahmud II

But differences of opinion soon emerged between the two. First of all, he made an agreement with the rebel representative from Anatolian lands, which was named “Sened-i Ittifak”("The Alliance Treaty"). Sultan Mahmud thought that his authority was limited with that agreement and he lifted his support of the Pasha.

Secondly, he re-established the army of Nizam-ı Cedid under a different name: Sekban-ı Jedid. Nizam-i Jedid army was an alternative to the corps of Janissaries, therefore the Janissaries were hateful against this army. Pasha's opting for another name can be explained with an effort in order not to anger Janissaries. Furthermore, he conducted an investigation among the Janissary corps and he fired the men who were not in fact Janissaries but receiving Janissary salaries all the same.

His death

His steps would eventually lay the ground for further reforms in the Ottoman Empire. But in the meantime, the ruling elites were resentful of the Pasha. On 15 November 1808, about a thousand Janissaries raided Alemdar Mustafa Pasha's house. Realizing he could not survive the assault, he ignited the gunpowder reserves that were place in the cellar of his house, killing himself and approximately 400 Janissaries in the ensuing explosion. Alemdar Mustafa Pasha was buried in the courtyard of the Zeynep Sultan Mosque in Istanbul.


  • Shaw, S. J. and Shaw, E. Z. 1997. History of the Ottoman Empire, Volume 2. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Ortayli, I. İmparatorluğun En Uzun Yüzyılı (Longest Century of the Empire). Hil Yayinlari (1983)

See also

Preceded by
Çelebi Mustafa Pasha
Grand Vizier
29 July 1808 - 15 November 1808
Succeeded by
Çavuşbaşı Memiş Pasha

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