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The conquest of Bulgarian territories by the Ottoman Turks at the end of the 14th c. led to the imposition of a foreign political and religious system. The statute and the social structure of the Bulgarians were seriously changed. The consequences of the Ottoman subjection were measured not only in numerous victims and destruction but mostly with the establishment of Islam as the dominant ideology, which determined the humiliating position of the Christians in the country. The deposition of Bulgarian aristocracy deprived the Bulgarians of their spiritual leaders.

During the conquest of the Balkans a new political system and model of government was established. The major legislator in the Ottoman state was the Sultan. He was supreme commander, supreme judge, and master of the life and the property of all his subjects. All 36 sultans were of the Osman dynasty. This is why the country was called Osman.

The institution second in importance was the Divan - the council of the higher administration. Its sessions were chaired by the Grand Vizier who, after the 16th c., was also supreme commander. The provinces were governed by two representatives - the bey, who came from the class of the military and represented the executive power of the Sultan, and the kadi, who came from among the ulem (scholars) and possessed judicial power. In his decisions and in the application of the sheriat and the kanun (law), the kadi was directly subordinated to the Sultan.

At the beginning the conquered territories formed one administrative unit called Pasha sandzhak (district). The centre of this district, after 1369, was Ederne. At the end of the 15th c. Bulgarian territories were organized in 8 sandzhaks: Chirmen, Pasha, Sofia, Kyustendil, Orchid, Vidin, Nikopol and Silistra.

During the 16th c. were formed smaller territorial units - kazi, headed by kadis. All provincial governors were appointed by the Sultan and were subordinated to the central power.

The so-called timar system (a system for provisional management of income from farm land) was imposed in Bulgarian territories after the conquest. Gold and silver, which formed the monetary system, were not sufficient for the maintenance of the large army. The Ottoman state was also not in a position to collect taxes in kind from the peasants and to turn them into money. This led to the establishment of the practice of distributing taxes in kind among military and administrative officials who, in practicing their obligations, collected the taxes instead of their salaries.

In the classical period of the Ottoman Empire (15th - 17th c.) the timar (with a revenue up to 20 000 akche - a small Turkish coin) was a form of provisional management of natural revenue - one tenth of the harvest paid by the peasants in kind to the governor of the timar. Most of the timars served to keep up the spahis (the most numerous part of the feudal class), who could make use of the revenue from the timar while they served in the army. The spahi didn't have the right to sell or make over the timar and his hereditary rights were greatly limited. The same was valid for the ziamets (with a revenue up to 100 000 akche). They were given to the commanders of the spahi cavalry and the beys of the sandzhaks while they were in service. Only the hass (with revenue over 100 000 akche), given to viziers and members of the Sultan's family, had more freedom. They included the largest sources of revenue: large towns, ports, fertile lands. This built up the administrative aristocracy, among them many Christians, who had adopted Islam and served in the Ottoman administration.

In addition to the provisional, there were also fixed forms of possession - myulk (landed property within the limits of a settlement) and vakuf (landed property whose revenue was given to Muslim religious offices or for charity).


Following Ottoman judiciary system, the peasant, as different from the spahi, had more rights in connection with land. He could hand it over in inheritance with the obligation to cultivate it and pay the respective taxes. If he left it uncultivated for three years, he was deprived of it. In addition to these lands, which were state owned, the peasants also possessed myulks (personal property - vineyards, gardens). The peasants were not bound to the soil and were free to leave it, paying tax for the damaged land. They also possessed a document called tapia, which proved their right to possess the land.


Taxes were organized in two groups - the sheriat (in accordance with Islam) and those imposed on a concrete occasion. The sheriat taxes included: tithe on the harvest, personal land tax and harach (dzhizie), paid only by non-Muslims. Christians also paid the so-called blood tax (devshirme). 12-14 year old boys were forcefully taken in the army - in the janissary corps.

Exceptional taxes were imposed according to concrete needs of the state and were paid in kind and in monetary form. The heaviest tax was the dzhizie, a monetary tax which, since the end of the 17th c., was paid by all men of age.

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