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Vassal and tributary states of the Ottoman Empire

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Title: Vassal and tributary states of the Ottoman Empire  
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Subject: Ottoman Empire, Senate of the Ottoman Empire, Chamber of Deputies (Ottoman Empire), United Principalities, Agaluk
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Vassal and tributary states of the Ottoman Empire

Vassal States were a number of tributary or vassal states, usually on the periphery of the Ottoman Empire under suzerainty of the Porte, over which direct control was not established, for various reasons.


Some of these states served as buffer states between the Ottomans and Christianity in Europe or Shi’ism in Asia. Their number varied over time but notable were the Khanate of Crimea, Wallachia, Moldavia, Transylvania. Other states such as Bulgaria, the Eastern Hungarian Kingdom, the Serbian Despotate and the Principality of Serbia, and the Kingdom of Bosnia were vassals before being absorbed entirely or partially into the Empire. Still others had commercial value such as Imeretia, Mingrelia, Chios, the Duchy of Naxos, and the Republic of Ragusa (Dubrovnik). Areas such as holy cities and Venetian tributary areas of Cyprus and Zante were not fully incorporated either. Finally, some small areas such as Montenegro/Zeta and Mount Lebanon did not merit the effort of conquest and were not fully subordinated to the center.


  • Some states within the eyalet system included sancakbeys who were local to their sanjak or who inherited their position (e.g., Samtskhe, some Kurdish sanjaks), areas that were permitted to elect their own leaders (e.g., areas of Albania, Epirus, and Morea (Mani Peninsula was nominally a part of Aegean Islands Province but Maniot beys were tributary vassals of the Porte.)), or de facto independent eyalets (e.g., the Barbaresque 'regencies' Algiers, Tunis, Tripolitania in the Maghreb, and later the Khedivate of Egypt).
  • Outside the eyalet system were states such as Moldavia, Wallachia and Transylvania which paid tribute to the Ottomans and over which the Porte had the right to nominate or depose the ruler, garrison rights, and foreign policy control. They were considered by the Otomans as part of Dar al-'Ahd, thus they were allowed to preserve their self-rule, and were not under Islamic law, like the empire proper; Ottoman subjects, or Muslims for that matter, were not allowed to settle the land permanently or to build mosques.[1]
  • Some states such as Ragusa paid tribute for the entirety of their territory and recognized Ottoman suzerainty.
  • Others such as the sharif of Mecca recognized Ottoman suzerainty but were subsidized by the Porte.
  • In the later period of Ottoman decline, several breakaway states from the Ottoman Empire had the status of vassal states (e.g. they paid tribute to the Ottoman Empire), before gaining complete independence. They were however de facto independent, including having their own foreign policy and their own independent military. This was the case with the principalities of Serbia, Romania and Bulgaria.
  • Some states paid tribute for possessions that were legally bound to the Ottoman Empire but not possessed by the Ottomans such as the Habsburgs for parts of Royal Hungary or Venice for Zante.

There were also secondary vassals such as the Nogai Horde and the Circassians who were (at least nominally) vassals of the khans of Crimea, or some Berbers and Arabs who paid tribute to the North African beylerbeyis, who were in turn Ottoman vassals themselves.

Other tribute from foreign powers included a kind of “protection money” sometimes called a horde tax (similar to the Danegeld) paid by Russia or the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. It was usually paid to the Ottoman vassal khans of Crimea rather than to the Ottoman sultan directly.


Map showing some vassal states of the Ottoman Empire in 1683

See also


  1. ^ Romanian historian Florin Constantiniu points out that, on crossing into  
  2. ^ a b "An Historical Geography of the Ottoman Empire: From Earliest Times to the ... - Donald Edgar Pitcher - Google Boeken". Retrieved 2013-09-18. 
  3. ^ Constantinople 1453: the end of Byzantium p.10
  4. ^ "The Tatar Khanate of Crimea". All Empires. Retrieved 9 October 2010. 
  5. ^ "The European Tributary States of the Ottoman Empire in the Sixteenth and ... - Google Books". 2013-06-20. Retrieved 2013-09-18. 
  6. ^ Palabiyik, Hamit, Turkish Public Administration: From Tradition to the Modern Age, (Ankara, 2008), 84.
  7. ^ Ismail Hakki Goksoy. Ottoman-Aceh Relations According to the Turkish Sources. 
  8. ^ "The Thirty Years War: Europe's Tragedy - Peter Hamish Wilson - Google Books". Retrieved 2013-09-18. 
  9. ^ "Princes of Transylvania". 2008-08-30. Retrieved 2013-09-18. 
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