Turkish Journal of History
The Power of a Legend: Examining the Historical Development of the Relationship Between the Janissaries and BektashiAbdulkasım Gül
This article discusses the relationship between the Janissary and Bektashism, one of the most interesting topics in Ottoman history. Based on archival records and the works of Ottoman writers, the study first reveals how the bond between the Janissaries and Bektashism was established and developed, then under the third heading attempts to show how Bektashi soldiers evaluated the manifestations of the relationship in the context of the literature, and finishes by examining the conditions that led to the prohibition of Bektashism right after the abolition of the Janissary organization. As a result, the bond was revealed to have developed as a legend that manifested itself at the end of the 16th century and became the official order of the Janissary Army at the beginning of the 17th, with the acceptance of the organization and Janissaries. It took a form that would be reflected in the entire history of the janissary in their customs and traditions. Some Bektashi and Janissary were concluded to have been on the same front under the conditions that developed again in the second half of the 18th century, which caused them to suffer the same fate in 1826. Based on this, the legend of the relationship still continues.
Bir Efsanenin Gücü: Yeniçeri-Bektaşîlik Münasebetinin Tarihî Gelişiminin İncelenmesiAbdulkasım Gül
Bu makalede Osman tarihinin oldukça ilgi çeken konularından biri olan, yeniçerilik ve Bektaşîlik arasındaki ilişki ele alındı. Çalışmada arşiv kayıtları ve Osmanlı yazarlarının eserlerine dayanılarak; önce yeniçerilerle Bektaşîlik arasındaki bağın kuruluşu ve gelişimi ortaya koyuldu, ardından neferlerin ne kadar Bektaşî olduğu gösterilmeye çalışıldı, üçüncü başlıkta ilişkinin tezahürleri literatür bağlamında değerlendirildi ve en son olarak yeniçeriliğin kaldırılmasının hemen ardından Bektaşîliğin yasaklanmasını sağlayan şartlar incelendi. Sonuç olarak efsane halinde gelişen bağın on altıncı yüzyıl sonunda kendisini belli ettiği, teşkilat ve neferlerin kabulüyle on yedinci yüzyıl başında resmî hale dönüştüğü, adet ve geleneklere yansıyarak yeniçeriliğin bütün tarihine yansıyacak bir şekle büründüğü ortaya koyuldu. Yine on sekizinci yüzyılın ikinci yarısında gelişen şartlarda, bazı Bektaşîlerle bir kısım yeniçerinin aynı cephede yer almaları 1826’da aynı akıbeti yaşamalarına sebep olduğu ve bunun temel alınmasıyla ilişkinin efsaneleşmesinin halen devam ettiği sonucu çıkarıldı.
The relationship between the Janissaries and the Bektashi order, namely Bektashism of the Janissaries and the Janissary Corps, attracts much attention among researchers and readers. The reason for this interest naturally involves the parties in the relationship, because this relationship between the organization that had the greatest influence on Ottoman politics and society and the Bektashi order, a cult and religious sect, had some quite exciting aspects. For this reason, not only historians but also those studying the Alevi-Bektashi belief have focused on this issue. In this way, a very large volume of literature has been formed on the subject, with many ideas having been expressed and many books and articles having been written on the evidence and nature of the relationship between these two structures.
Despite the many studies, the developmental line and nature of the relationship has yet to actually be determined. On the contrary, the literature has resulted in the issue becoming even more mysterious and legendary. The main reason for this involves the attempts to generally understand the connection by going back from the historical line in general or to focus on its signs and consequences by accepting its existence as absolute and extremely common in all eras. 1826 is when Bektashism was banned and its Janissaries abolished and has generally been the main starting point from which to go back; the intensity of the relationship at that time became a punishment for both institutions by the state while at the same time is considered to have deepened the relationship. Aside from this date, however, even the works and official records of the 17th century or the information pertaining to the period that followed are no help at understanding the founding period, as records and other resources are not at all abundant. Records related to the Janissary-Bektashism relationship and that have information about the Janissary Corps have undergone many changes over the centuries. In addition, some developments have occurred since the second half of the 18th century involving both the Janissaries and Bektashi in which both groups found themselves opposite the empire. However, the Ottoman empire’s resentment for both institutions was due to their involvement as its opposition rather than their connection with one another.
The origin and historical development of their connection has not been able to be fully determined, as reflected in the opinions of those who’ve studied it. Except for some who’ve claimed that a very tight connection had previously existed, people have maintained reservations about this issue or completely rejected the connection. This article aims to illuminate all the points that have caused hesitation and therefore to also discuss the history of the relationship between the Janissary and the Bektashi order in line with its development. The article is shaped under four headings that consider the purpose and the various aspects of the subject.
The first part of the article examines the historical process of the relationship (i.e., its founding and developments) up to its maturation based on archival records and Ottoman writers. Only the one element, which strengthens the rumor about the Janissary based on akbörk [a Bektashi symbol Janissary would wear with permission] and the conditions that were required for this to be accepted, was attempted to be displayed in terms of both parties. According to the findings, the actual connections (i.e., symbols) of the relationship between the Bektashis and the Janissary emerged at the end of the 16th century when the bond was became well-established in minds. The relationship grew stronger in relation to the change the Janissaries experienced, becoming both official and legendary in the early 17th century.
The second part of the article involves the nature of the bond whose development was described in the first section. In other words, the second part discusses the nature of Bektashi order in the Janissaries based on the results obtained in the first part. It attempts to understand whether or not being a member of the Hearth mean being in a sect and whether the soldiers held the belief structure of Bektashism. Although the sheikhs and dervishes of the Bektashi order were within the body of the Janissary organization, and the soldiers were also members of this order, the relationship is understood to have actually developed through the spiritual personality of Haji Bektash Veli. Therefore, the heterodoxy of Bektashism, which did not comply with the official religious understanding, is understood to have not had much connection with the organization or the Janissaries.
The third part evaluates the existence and soundness of some of the practices, customs, and other issues that have been presented as evidence of this relationship using archival records and Ottoman sources. The particular purpose of this section is to show that the acceptance of myth and the intensity of the relationship actually originated from the literature. Although this section does make some general evaluations of the literature, it specifically addresses the essential studies in terms of their inclusiveness and impact. As a result, the following points have been determined: The literature is constantly repeating other works within it, and the information that is produced is used without looking at its soundness; also, some issues from the last period have been generalized for the entire history of the Janissary organization, with the mythologizing having increased and continuing to still, even after the abolition of Janissaries.
The fourth part of the study discusses the state of the connection during the time leading up to the abolition of the Janissary and the prohibition of Bektashism. Although Bektashi-Albanian Janissaries and their supporters have existed and the janissaries did resort to the traditional defense mechanism of the Haji Bektash Hearth for their existence, this link was not the main reason for the abolition of Janissaries. Nor was the reason for the prohibition of Bektashism their direct relations with the Janissaries. Both of these institutions suffered a similar fate because of their positions opposite the Ottoman power and the sultan. The Rumelian-centered opposition, which became evident in the second half of the 18th century, included both groups, and they became a common enemy opposing the state. Movements against the weakening legitimacy of the empire included certain nations and the Janissaries, from whom the empire who felt endangered and who were its biggest opposition.
These decisions affected the fate of both institutions in 1826 and determined the history of their ties and the shape they would take in the future. Upon retrospection, this decision fed the conviction that they had had a very strong connection that had roots in the past. The fact that the Bektashi order is future-oriented is why the mythicizing gradually increased after this date. The most important issue affecting the future was that the Bektashi order, which would carry forward the reason why they had experienced the same victimization as the Janissary, would continue to survive. The Bektashi had always ensured the development and richness of the relationship and tried to express their past qualities as strongly as possible when they were revived during the reign of Abdulmejid I (reign 1839-1861). Bektashi greatly influenced the literature after this period, and in this way, they became entwined with the Janissaries in almost all aspects. This situation still continues, with researchers constantly developing this legend with their studies.