Ottoman Hungary

Ottoman Hungary

Ottoman Hungary refers to parts of the Ottoman Empire situated in what is today Hungary in the period from 1541 to 1699.


By the sixteenth century, the power of the Ottoman Empire had increased gradually, as did the territory occupied by them in the Balkans, while the Kingdom of Hungary was weakened by the peasants' uprisings. Under the reign of Louis II Jagiellon (1516-1526), internal dissentions divided the nobility.

After capturing Belgrade in 1521, Suleyman the Magnificent (1520–1566) did not hesitate to launch an attack against the weakened Kingdom, whose smaller (approximately 26 000 compared to 45,000 strong), badly led army was defeated on 29 August 1526 at the Battle of Mohács. Thus he became influential in Hungary, while his semi-vassal, named John I Zápolya and his enemy Ferdinand I both claimed the throne of Hungary. Suleyman went further and tried to crush Austrian forces, and laid siege to Vienna in 1529, but failed to take that city after the onset of winter forced his retreat. The title of king of Hungary was disputed between Zápolya and Ferdinand until 1540. After the seizure of Buda by the Turks in 1541, the West and North recognized a Habsburg as king ("Royal Hungary"), while the central and southern counties were occupied by the Sultan and the east was ruled by the son of Zápolya under the name Eastern Hungarian Kingdom which after 1570 became the Principality of Transylvania.

During the Ottoman rule, peace was fragile: the Habsburgs pursued plans to liberate the land from the Muslim invaders, and to promote the Counterreformation with the help of agents. Using Ottoman Hungary as their base, the Ottomans attempted to use this religious division of their Christian opponents in 1620, and again in 1683 when they laid siege to Vienna for the second time.

In these times, Hungary began to undergo changes. Vast lands remained unpopulated and covered with woods. Flood plains became marshes. The life of the Turkish occupiers was unsafe. Peasants fled to the woods and marshes from their cruel masters, forming guerilla bands, the Hajdú troops. Eventually, Hungary was a drain on the Ottoman Empire, swallowing much of its revenue which was spent on the maintenance of a long chain of border forts. However, some parts of the economy flourished. In the huge unpopulated areas, townships bred cattle that were herded to South Germany and northern Italy. In some years the number of exported cattle reached 500,000 animals. Wine was traded to the Czech lands, Austria and Poland.

But in the end continuous wars, Turkish rule and Habsburg repression ruined the country.

The defeat of Ottoman forces led by Grand Vizier Kara Mustafa Pasha at the Second Siege of Vienna in 1683, at the hands of the combined armies of Poland and the Holy Roman Empire under John III Sobieski, was the decisive event that marked the beginning of the stagnation of the Ottoman Empire, and ultimately swung the balance of power in the region. Under the terms of the Treaty of Karlowitz, which ended the Great Turkish War in 1699, the Ottomans ceded nearly all the territory they had taken from the Kingdom of Hungary. Following this treaty, the members of the Habsburg dynasty became Kings of Hungary (previously they ruled over only "Royal Hungary"; see Habsburg Hungary).


The territory was divided into Sanjaks (provinces), with the highest ranking Ottoman official being the Pasha of Buda. Pashas and Sanjak-Beys were responsible for administration, jurisdiction and defense. The Ottomans' only interest was to secure their hold on the territory. The Sublime Porte (a term used to designate the Ottoman rulers) became the sole landowner and managed about 20 percent of the land for its own benefit, apportioning the rest among soldiers and civil servants. The new landlords were interested mainly in squeezing as much wealth from the land as quickly as possible. Of major importance to Istanbul was the collection of taxes. Taxation left little for the former landlords to collect; Most of the nobility and large numbers of burghers emigrated into the Habsburg "Royal Hungary" province. Wars, slave-taking, and the emigration of nobles who lost their land caused a depopulation of the countryside. However, the Turks practiced religious tolerance and allowed the various ethnicities living within the empire significant autonomy in internal affairs. Towns maintained some self-government, and a prosperous middle class developed through artisanry and trade.


Despite the continuous warfare with the Habsburgs, several cultural centres sprang up in this far corner of the Empire. Examples of Ottoman architecture of the classical period, seen in the famous centers of Istanbul and Edirne, were also seen in Hungary, where mosques, bridges, fountains, baths and schools were built (unfortunatelly, after the Habsburg conquest, most of these works were destroyed. Few survived to this day). The introduction of the Turkish Baths with the building of the Rudas Baths, was the starting point of a long tradition in Hungary. No less than 75 "hammams" (steam baths) were built during the Turkish age.

Muslim schools

In the seventeenth century, 165 elementary ("mekteb") and 77 secondary and academic theological schools ("medrese") were operating in 39 of the major towns of the province. The elementary schools taught writing, basic arithmetics, and the reading of the Qur'an and of the most important prayers. The "medreses" carried out secondary and academic training within the fields of Muslim religious sciences, Church law and Natural sciences. Most "medreses" operated in Buda, where there were twelve. In Pécs there were five medreses, Eger and Eszék each had four. The most famous "medrese" in Ottoman Hungary was that of Buda, built by the Bosnian Sokollu Mustafa Pasha during his seventeen years of governing (1566-1578).

In the djamis, people not only prayed, but were taught to read and write, to read the Qur'an, and prayers. The sermons were the most effective form of political education. There were numerous elementary and secondary schools besides the mosques, and the monasteries of the Dervish orders also served as centers of culture and education. The spread of culture was supported by the libraries. The school library of Sokollu Mustafa Pasha in Buda, contained, besides Muslim religious sciences, other literature, works on oratory, poetry, astronomy, music, architecture, and medical sciences.


The Ottomans practiced religious tolerance, and hence Christianity was not prohibited. However, there were large numbers of converts to Islam, who, alongside the ~80,000 Muslim settlers, contributed to the constantly growing Muslim minority. The religious life of the Muslims was supervised by the mosques and djamis that were either newly built or transformed from older Christian churches. Payment for the servants of the mosques, as well as the maintenance of the churches, was the responsibility of the Ottoman state or charities.

Besides orthodox Islam, a large number of dervish communities also flourished. The most important ones were the "bektashis", the "halvetis", and the "mevlevis". The famous Gül Baba monastery of Buda, sheltering 60 dervishes, belonged to the "bektasi" order. Situatated close to the janissaries camp, it was built by Jahjapasazáde Mehmed Pasha, the third "begler bey" (governor) of Buda. The türbe (mausoleum) in Budapest of the famous dervish and poet Gül Baba is to this day the northernmost site of Islamic pilgrimage.

Another famous monastery of its time was that of the "halveti" dervishes. Built around 1576 next to the türbe of Sultan Süleyman I the Magnificent (1520-1566) in Szigetvár, it soon became the religious and cultural centre of the area. A famous prior of the zavije (monastery) was the Bosnian Sejh Ali Dede. The monastery of Jakovali Hassan Pasha in Pécs was another famous location. Its most outstanding prior was Mevlevian dervish Pecsevi Árifi Ahmed Dede, a Turk and native of Pécs.

"see also: State and Religion In the Ottoman Empire"

ee also

*Islam in Hungary
*Ottoman-Habsburg wars



* "Encyclopaedia Humana Hungarica": Cross and Crescent: The Turkish Age in Hungary (1526-1699)
* Balázs Sudár: "Baths in Ottoman Hungary" in "Acta Orientalia Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae", Volume 57, Number 4, 7 December 2004, pp. 391-437(47)

External links

* [ Cross and Crescent: The Turkish Age in Hungary (1526-1699)]

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