Sultan Abdülaziz

Osmanlı Padişahı

07 Şubat, 1830
04 Haziran, 1876

Thirty second Ottoman Padishah. (B. February 7th, 1830, Istanbul – D. June 4th, 1876, Istanbul). He was the son of Sultan Mahmud II and Pertevniyal Valide Sultan and the brother of Sultan Abdülmecid. Upon the death of Abdülmecid he succeeded to the throne on June 25th, 1861, when he was 31 years old. He was a physically strong, healthy and showy person, who was also smart, lenient and sedate. It is also known that he was skilled in riding horses, using weapons and javelin throw and that he loved to hunt and wrestle. Abdülaziz had a free life while he was a prince and he received a careful education from his mother.

It is stated that he knew Arabic and Persian very well and that he was good at calligraphy, which he used when he wrote an Arabic tract. He was interested in music and he played nay and lute. With his musician side he made his mark among the composer sultans. He composed very beautiful compositions in Hicazkâr and Şehrân maqams and he even removed the palace orchestras and bands founded by Abdülmecid and had Turkish music saz (T. N. a stringed instrument) bands brought instead. He supported orta oyunu instead of opera as if he wanted to show that he did not have a Western side at all and he was supporting the national culture.

With a series of reforms Sultan Abdülaziz continued the Westernization efforts, which accelerated with Tanzimat (T. N. Reforms), in all areas as a result of the continuing pressure of the western countries. In order to show this orientation to Europeans, he appointed reformist Keçecizâde Fuat Pasha, who was not loved by the right-wingers (1861), as the Grand Vizier. He continued his reformist politics with Fuat and Âli Pashas, whom he appointed as Grand Viziers one after another.

In the sources it is stated that many attributes of Sultan Abdülaziz changed especially after his Egypt and Europe travels. Sultan Abdülaziz, who was at first characterized as a very pious person insomuch that the English Ambassador Canning described him as “narrow-minded and conservative”, turned into a Western-imitating padishah, who was open to all inculcations of the Western people and who was very lavish as a result of the influence of the entertaining dinners he joined in the Egyptian palace and the deluxe high society life he saw during his Europe trip.

At the time when Abdülaziz succeeded to the throne the Ottoman Empire was faced with a big depression. At the end of the year 1861, the Ottoman money bills “kaime”s depreciated greatly and they were not accepted in the market. Therefore the public became unable to procure even the staple food. Sultan Abdülaziz showed awareness to this issue and asked the government to prevent the financial depression. He even reduced the palace expenditure and thus showed his contribution and seriousness in this aspect. At first, he even wanted a restriction of his own allocation and he set an example to other government officers by stating that he was not going to have a harem. Accordingly, he contributed to the savings measures by reducing the number of government officers. He discharged Grand Vizier Ali Pasha from his position as Ali Pasha was not attentive to these implementations and he appointed Keçecizade Fuat Pasha as the Grand Vizier. However, afterwards neither the padishah nor other statesmen kept to their initial commitment. As such, although he set about with good intentions, Sultan Abdülaziz lost favor especially after 1871 because of the wrong behaviors and attitudes of the statesmen around him.

Another reason for the inability to sufficiently strengthen the financial structure during the reign of Abdülaziz was the fact that a big amount of money was spent for the military improvements (reforms). Abdülaziz evaluated the changes that came in view during his Europe trip very well and he felt the need to take measures as he saw that Russia broke free against the Ottoman Empire. Therefore, he gave orders to have everything necessary be done to have a strong military power against Russia and he spent virtually a treasure for this cause. Abdülaziz had modern weaponry bought from Europe for the army and the navy. He strengthened the straits with heavy artillery against the Russian threat.

The biggest work of Abdülaziz, who was a reformist Sultan, was the navy that he had built. During his reign, Abdülaziz had a navy consisting of 180 ships built including 25 armored ships in regard to the huge naval need of an empire that is surrounded on three sides by the sea and that rules over three seas.

He reorganized Mekteb-i Harbiye (T.N. Military College) with the experts he brought from Prussia (1866). He reorganized the military recruiting and organization laws and lot casting system was put into practice again. Military junior high schools were opened. Ministry of Defense was given importance and independent and big barracks were established. Armored ships that could not be constructed in naval shipyards were bought from England.  In order to school naval officers English Hubart Pasha was appointed to Mekteb-i Bahriye (Naval Military College). Navy Department was established.

Public works were concentrated on during the reign of Abdülaziz and approximately 1000 kilometers of railroad was constructed. Construction of Paris-Istanbul line was commissioned to Austrian Baron Hirsch and Sophia-Istanbul line was put into service in 1874. During his reign there were significant progresses in highways construction as well. One of the most wonderful achievements of Abdülaziz reign was perhaps the extensification of the telegraph network. Once again he also launched the shipping line operation enterprise in Danube and Tigris. Docks were also given an extraordinary importance in this period.

The Padishah, who also gave importance to education, had a trade school called Mekteb-i Mahrec-i Aklâm put into service in 1862 and made it possible for clerks to be schooled for public offices. This school was turned into a language school in 1864. Also, there was an effort to generalize the educational services regardless of religion and race differences and starting from 1867, Christian children were also accepted to junior high schools on the condition that they passed the Turkish exam. However, this period is also the period in which the missionary schools spread in the Ottoman lands. Spread of the similar schools caused a disorder in educational system and apart from that the local education fell behind of the missionary schools. In order to ensure coordination among educational institutions Meclis-i Kebir-i Maarif was founded and later in 1870 Statute on General Education was published. With this statute, on one hand it was attempted to generalize the education by making the primary education obligatory and on the other hand it was intended to render the teaching staff qualified. Publication of statute of copyright and translation and opening of the first ever teacher’s training school took place in this year as well. Darülfünun (İstanbul University) was founded in 1870.

During the reign of Abdülaziz important works in fields of administration and law were carried out and new laws were enacted. Provincial law was enacted and Ottoman administrative structure underwent a radical change as it was changed from state structure to provincial structure. Afterwards, provincial councils were established according to the new provincial law and it was made possible for the public to participate in administration as most of the council members entered the council through elections. Army Courts were established in provinces and most importantly, by separating Meclis-i Vâlâ-yı Ahkâm-ı Adliye (Administrative Court), Şurâ-yı Devlet (Council of State) and Divan-ı Ahkâm-ı Adliye (Supreme Court of Appeals) from each other administrative and judicial works were made independent of each other and thus an important step was taken regarding judicial independence. Especially Şura-yı Devlet was an important institution in this sense and was opened by the sultan in person on May 10th, 1868. Both institutions were very meaningful within the framework of the Ottoman Tanzimat era. Because while both Tanzimat and the Edict of Reform were pulling the judicial system of the state into pieces with the privileges bestowed on foreigners and non-Muslims, these two institutions ensured the centralization and the unity of law. Although a commission, which took the Western law as an example, was established in this period as a preparation for the Civil Code, Mecelle Cemiyeti, which carried out studies within the framework of Islamic law, became more effective afterwards instead of this commission.

During the reign of Abdülaziz, certain legal arrangements were made to enhance the trade and to ensure the capital inflow; granting the right to own property in the country to foreigners and founding “country funds” and Government Lending Agency to support the farmers by establishing farm loan systems were significant steps. With this purpose, Osmanlı Bank was founded in 1863. Once again, during the reign of Abdülaziz, Ottomans participated in industrial fairs abroad for the first time. Another way that the Western capital flowed into Ottoman Empire during the reign of Abdülaziz was through debts. The state chose to provide the money that it lacked for military and administrative arrangements by means of debt.

By the way, it should also be stated that many events that were considered as domestic revolts in previous periods turned into an international problem. Therefore, many events such as the Montenegro uprising, Serbian uprising and Crete uprising can be analyzed within the framework of external affairs. We can say that the most important ones of these political events of Abdülaziz era were the Montenegro and Serbian uprisings. The Montenegro uprising, which was amplified by especially the spark of the nationalism movement that spread in Europe and Ottoman Balkans after the 1789 French Revolution and by the support of European countries, started before the reign of Abdülaziz and was concluded with a protocol (1858), however because Montenegro covertly helped the rebels during the Herzegovina uprising it blazed up again. Nevertheless, the Montenegro uprising that took place during the first years of the reign of Abdülaziz was more easily and effectively repressed as a result of the fact that the Western countries did not intervene in it.

Another uprising was the Herzegovina uprising. The uprising, which started as a result of Christian villagers’ reaction against the big landholders and villagers’ unwillingness to pay taxes, spread quickly with the provocation of Hungarians who were against Russia and Austria. Although, at the end of the year 1875, the government wanted to repress the uprising by publishing an imperial order that promised certain privileges, there wasn’t any positive response to these attempts. Other states such as England, France and Russia intervened in the issue and sent a diplomatic note to Istanbul. Although Istanbul accepted this diplomatic note, the uprising did not come to an end because of the provocation of Russia and it even spread to Serbia and Bulgaria (1876). The fact that French and German consuls were killed in Thessalonica resulted in the uprisings getting out of the control of Ottoman Empire and thus the great powers intervened in the issue. When the Berlin Memorandum that was jointly prepared by Germany, Austria and Russia was about to be communicated to Istanbul, Abdülaziz was dethroned.

One of the other important uprisings in the era of Abdülaziz was the Serbia uprising which was also in the same region. Serbians, who supported the uprisings in Montenegro, actually intended to found the Great Serbian Kingdom in 1860s. The fact that Russia and France supported the rebels made it impossible to get the uprisings under control. Hence, in 1861, Serbians made a move to remove the Turkish people along with the Turkish soldiers from the Serbia and they marched on Belgrade in 1862. European countries took action upon these events and they dictated the Istanbul Protocol to Ottoman Empire. According to this protocol, Ottoman Empire had to remove its soldiers from certain forts in Serbia and accept the removal of the Turks from the region (except from Belgrade and some forts).

The wrong Ottoman policy, which was pursued after the Europe trip of Sultan Abdülaziz and which was based on granting capitulations to Europeans in order to establish good affairs with them, caused Crete to be shaken with uprisings as well. In 1867, joining of Crete to Greece was rejected for the time being and the dust settled as Crete was given a special statue. Sultan Abdülaziz was toppled from the throne with coup d’état on May 30th, 1876. On June 4th, 1876, he was found dead with his wrists cut in Feriye Palaces, where he was kept under custody.



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