Subdivisions of The Ottoman Empire

Subdivisions Of The Ottoman Empire

The administrative divisions of the Ottoman Empire were administrative divisions of the state organisation of the Ottoman Empire. Outside this system were various types of vassal and tributary states.

The Ottoman Empire was first subdivided into provinces, in the sense of fixed territorial units with governors appointed by the sultan, in the late 14th century. The beylerbey, or governor, of each province was appointed by the central government. Sanjaks were governed by sanjak beys (sancakbeyi), selected from the high military ranks by the central government. Beylerbeyis had authority over all the sancakbeyis in a region. Kaza was a subdivision of sancak and referred to the basic administrative district, governed by a kadı.

It is considered extremely difficult to define the number and exact borders of Ottoman provinces and domains, as their borders were changed constantly. Until the Tanzimat period, the borders of administrative units fluctuated, reflecting the changing strategies of the Ottomans, the emergence of new threats in the region, and the rise of powerful Ayans. All the subdivisions were very unequal in regard of area and population, and the presence of numerous nomadic tribes contributed to the extreme variability of the population figures.

In English, Ottoman subdivisions are seldom known by a myriad of Turkish terms (vilayet, eyalet, beylerbeylik, sancak, nahiye, kaza, etc.) which are often eschewed in favour of the English-language denomination (e.g. "province", "county", or "district") that is perceived to be the closest to the Turkish original. These translations are rarely consistent between the works of different scholars, however.

Read more about Subdivisions Of The Ottoman EmpireInitial Organization (pre 1362), 1362-1864

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