in category Ottomans

When were the various Ottoman millets created?

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The researcher Abu Jaber argues the millet system was not an Ottoman creation, a system that Mehmed II continued on his entrance to Constantinople in 1453. The scholar Braude argues the millet system was not an empire wide system that was regulating the communities of the non-Muslim subjects of the empire during the 15th and 16th centuries beyond the capital, but became empire wide when the Tanzimat reforms took place. Ursinus on the other hand refers to millet as a term for a religious community during the pre-Tanzimat era of the empire and the term was used by Ottoman in order to describe the religious non-Muslim communities that were living in the ottoman state. The meaning of the term appears to have evolved over the centuries, ending up with the meaning "nation", whilst at the beginning of the empire it meant religious community.

The first millet in the Ottoman empire is believed to be the Orthodox Christian millet, established in 1454. This brought Orthodox Christians into a single community under the leadership of the Patriarch who had considerable authority given to him by the Sultan. A millet was based on religion, so among the members of the Orthodox millet were the Greeks, Bulgarians, Serbs, Albanians, Macedonians and Romanians. In the Rum millet, the Ecumenical Patriarch was accountable to the Sultan for the conduct of his people and the chief interlocutor. He was held responsible for any act of disloyalty or rebellion committed by millet members against the state.

The Armenian millet was recognised in 1461, its members coming from one ethnic group. When the Armenians formed their millet, neither Armenia nor the Armenian provinces of the East, two important seats, were ruled by the Ottomans. Mehmed II chose Horaghim, Gregorian bishop of Bursa, as the Armenian patriarch of Istanbul and gave him powers similar to those of the Orthodox patriarch.

The Jewish millet remained without a declared definite status, until a formal charter was decided in the 19th century. Despite their millet not being officially recognised until the late centuries of the empire, legally the Ottomans treated them similarly to the Orthodox and Armenian millets.

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