Fikret Sarıcaoğlu

Keywords: Ottoman, Opposition, Early Political Declarations, History


From its foundation, the instances of political opposition to the Ottoman government manifesting themselves have, naturally, occurred in a conjunctural fashion and paralleled the changes in governmental and societal traditions. Though information is available concerning the earlier period in regard to oral and written opposition, the swelling volume of protests and "papers" (kâğıd) following the ratification of the Küçük Kaynarca Peace Treaty led to the framing of a confidential political note directed to Sultan Abdülhamid I (r. 1774-89)-a document whose original text is preserved in the Turkish Prime Ministry Ottoman Archives and which constitutes the first example of a record of this kind that has come to light. Through written declarations and acts of arson whose perpetrators were thought to be members of the janissary corps, the voices of opposition made public in Istanbul their discontent with the passive role of onlooker adopted by the Porte in response to the occupation and annexation by the Russians of the Crimea-it was unprecedented in Ottoman history for an action of this kind to take place in a region inhabited by Muslims. To summarize this unique document, which in modern terms may be called a "note" or "warning" and in which is contained a reiteration of a threat against the life of Abdülhamid I, it declared that it was necessary to end the war being waged against Russia and the Habsburg monarchy and stressed that the sultan himself would be held responsible for the loss of the Crimea and demanded the replacement of all the high-level officials. Coinciding with the French Revolution taking place in Paris in 1789, this "paper," which was secretly placed at the public drinking water pavilion of Kapudan Pasha, was assessed by Sultan Abdülhamid I and the deputy grand vizier as either a strategem by the enemy warring states or a maneuver by Cezayirli Gazi Hasan Pasha, the grand vizier.