What was the stagnation period of the Ottoman Empire? Why did the Ottomans stagnate? When was the Ottoman period of decline?
The period beginning with the death of grand vizier Sokullu Mehmet Paşa (1579) until the Treaty of Karlowitz (1699) is called the Period of Stagnation of Ottoman Empire. Even though the state maintained its strength during this period, it faced important internal and external problems. Sultanate of very yound şehzades and their mothers (Valide Sultans) interference to state affairs, statesmen who were not supported by the military, and the uprisings against the sultans hindered the solution of the problems. The fact that the Spanish brought large amounts of gold and silver to Europe during the geographical expeditions and some of those gold and silver were illegally brought to Ottoman land caused the decrease of the value of Ottoman currency and increase in cost of life. Technical development of the European armies led the Ottoman armies lost the battles. Because of these reasons, the development of the state stopped and a type of stagnation was experienced. First, the idea of reforming the problematic affairs of the state was developed. Koçi Bey, one of the educated men of the period, presented reports to Sultan Murad IV about the failures of the state and suggestions for their solutions.
The sultans of this period were Ahmet l (1603 – 1617), Murat IV (1623 – 1640) and Mehmet IV (1648 – 1687).
2. Major Incidents of the Period of Stagnation
During the period of stagnation, civil wars broke out. Villagers who were suffocated under heavy taxes, administrators who were not happy with the central government, and the unemployed madrasa graduates joined to those uprisings which are called Jelali Revolts. Those uprisings were suppressed by military precautions and the causes of the problems were not examined. This was why the people’s trust in the state weakened.
After those uprisings were suppressed and order was established, a military expedition was sent to East to solve the unrests along Iranian. Baghdad, which had been lost, was regained. The Treaty of Kasr-ı Şirin (or the Treaty of Zuhab) was signed with Iran (1839). This treaty determined the current borders between Turkey and Iran.
Even though Ottoman Empire gained a little more land in its struggles in the West in the 17th century, it experienced its first land loss at the end of that century. During this period, Ottoman Empire had wars with Austria, Lehistan (Poland), and Venice.
Lehistan attacked the Ottoman lands soon after it acknowledged the Ottoman authority. As a result of the military expeditions over Lehistan, the region was taken under subordination. According to the Treaty of Buchach (1676) signed with Lehistan, it accepted the Ottoman authority again and, by taking Podolia, some more land was gained in the west for the last time.
Ottoman Empire had long battles with Austria in the 17th and 18th century. The real reason for that was the efforts of Austrian-Hungary to establish authority in the Central Europe. Both countries wanted to keep this region under their control. With The Peace of Zsitvatorok signed in 1606 the superiority of the Otomans to the Austrians ended and with the The Treaty of Karlowitz significant amount of land was left to Austrians. The Second Siege of Vienne (1683): This siege is accepted one of the turning points in Ottoman history. The cause of war was the interference of the Ottomans to an uprising that took place in Hungary and declared war against Austria. The siege failed because of bad administration of the Ottoman army. With the failure in Vienne, Europe shook off itself the psychological fear, which Europe had against Ottoman Empire for centuries. In order to keep the Ottomans away from Europe, Austria, Lehistan, Venice, Spain, Malta and Russia vame together and formed “the Holy Alliance.” At the end of a 16-year intermittent of wars, Ottoman Empire was defeated. The Treaty of Karlowitz was signed between the parties (1699). Hungary, Podolia, Ukraine, Mora and the coasts of Dalmacia were lost. Ottoman Empire lost land for the first time in its history with the Treaty of Karlowitz.
2. The Reform Activities of the 17th Century
The precautions and the activities to solve the problems experienced in the state administration and the operation of the institutions are called islahat (or reform). Islahat can be done by restructuring and restoring an existing institution, otherwise it is not done by completely destroying it.
In the 17th century, Ottoman Empire faced political, military, and economic problems. In order to solve these problems, the path of islahat was chosen for the first time. The object was to deliver good service to public, to take precautions in accordance with the necessities of the time, to ensure the state gain its earlier might, and to achieve the cohesion between the state and the public. The reforms which were done in this period were as follows:
- Discipline in the army was achieved by applying harsh methods.
- A ban was issued on tobacco and alcohol.
- Palace expenditures were restricted. A balanced budget was prepared. Taxes charged from the public were reduced.
- The intervention of the class of scholars (Ulema class) to state affairs was tried to be prevented.
Most of the reforms done during this period could not find an opportunity to develop. The death of the statesman who was working on the reform or his removal from the office prevented to get results. Moreover, not getting to the bottom of the problems, trying to get results by force, statesmen’s lack of attention to the developments happening in Europe and the reactions of the circles (military personnel, administrative, etc.) whose interests were affected by the reforms were other causes of the failure of the reforms.