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Transylvania and Hungary acquired by Austria

In 1699, the representatives of the Ottoman Empire and the Holy League signed the Treaty of Karlowitz. The Austrians had captured Buda in 1688, while Transylvania fell to them in 1689. Humiliated at the Battle of Zenta in 1697, the Ottomans officially agreed to give up Transylvania and Hungary in 1699.  This event is recorded on the Bible Timeline Poster with World History during that time.

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The Great Turkish War

In 1526, Sultan Suleiman I led the Ottoman army to victory against the forces of Hungary’s King Louis II in the Battle of Mohacs. Since then, the Ottoman forces had been on a conquering spree in Hungary which alarmed the Habsburg rulers of Austria. The Ottomans occupied most of Hungary along with the Principality of Transylvania.  Only the northwestern part, called “Royal Hungary”, was held by the Habsburg Holy Roman Emperor in Austria. Buda, the capital of Hungary, was finally captured and occupied by the Ottomans in 1541.

However, this did not stop the Habsburgs from intervening in Transylvanian affairs. Fazil Ahmed Pasha, Mehmed IV’s Grand Vizier, demanded that Austria refrain from meddling in Transylvania. This demand, however, was dismissed. Exasperated, the Grand Vizier Fazil Ahmed Pasha led his troops in attacking the fortress of Ujvar (Neuhasel/Nove Zamsky) in Hungary in 1663. It fell to the Ottomans in September of the same year.

In response to this new Ottoman victory, the Holy Roman Emperor and Pope Alexander VII hastily organized a new alliance. Both sides agreed to negotiate and finalize a peace treaty in the Hungarian town of Vasvar.  Their armies clashed once again just as the messengers from Vasvar were on the way to the Grand Vizier and the Holy Roman Emperor to deliver the document. The Holy League defeated the Ottoman army on the 1st of August 1664 near the Hungarian town of Saint Gotthard. Both sides agreed to uphold the peace treaty ten days later, and the Principality of Transylvania stayed in Ottoman hands.

Suleiman I, otherwise known as “Suleiman the Magnificent”, was the tenth and longest- reigning sultan of the Ottoman Empire.

The Ottoman Empire during the late 17th century was plagued by instability and rebellions. Its army fought on almost all frontiers, including Hungary where the presence of Austrians threatened Ottoman influence in the region. The Reformation also spread to Hungary during the 16th century. This movement was met with harsh counter-reformation measures led by the Catholic Habsburg rulers. The resentment of the Protestant Hungarians boiled over, and the anti-Habsburg sentiments turned into an uprising.

This revolt was led by a Hungarian Protestant named Count Imre Thokoly whose family’s properties had been confiscated by the Austrians. To counter the Habsburgs, Imre Thokoly gambled with an alliance with Ottomans and the French. The Ottomans agreed to help the count and his followers if they also helped them in the upcoming invasion of Gyor. Imre Thokoly agreed.

The Siege of Vienna

In June 1683, the grand vizier Merzifonlu Kara Mustafa Pasha and the Ottoman army marched from Istanbul and across the Balkans. Their original destination was the fortress of Gyor, but Kara Mustafa Pasha decided to lead the army instead to the Austrian capital. They arrived at the outskirts of the heavily fortified Vienna in July of the same year. They started the siege immediately, but the Habsburg defense was better this time.

The European defenders also learned from past encounters, so they invested in the latest large caliber weapons to help them defend the city. The Ottomans, meanwhile, remained stagnant when it came to weaponry. The city was also defended with the help of the soldiers from Poland, the Papal States, Portugal, and Spain. Germany also sent soldiers later on, and it was clear to the Ottomans that they would have to turn back.

On the 12th of September, 1683, the Ottoman army retreated to regroup but it was useless. They were disorganized and under the poor leadership of Kara Mustafa Pasha. The Hungarian rebel leader Imre Thokoly received some of the blame for the failure of the siege of Vienna. But it was Merzifonlu Kara Mustafa Pasha who bore the brunt of the viziers’ anger. He spent the winter in Belgrade after the retreat, but he was not meant to go home nor lead another battle. The viziers ordered his execution in Belgrade on December 25, 1683.

However, his death did little to solve the problems of the Empire. No one in court was competent enough to replace Merzifonlu Kara Mustafa Pasha, and Mehmed himself was unpopular as a sultan. The Empire’s problem became bigger when the European powers formed the Holy League in 1684. This supergroup was made up of Poland, Malta, Tuscany, the Papal States, Venice, and the Habsburg Austria. Russia also joined this alliance later on.

Mehmed IV’s court was unhappy at the turn of events, and he was removed from the throne soon after. He was succeeded by his brother, Suleiman II, but his reign was greeted with the Holy League’s capture of Croatia and Slovenia. Other Balkan territories held by the Ottomans revolted when they saw this. Suleiman II was not equipped to deal with this setback, so he immediately sued for peace with the Holy League. The peace treaty, however, came to nothing as the other members of the Holy League did not agree to the terms. As a result of this, the attacks and counter-attacks continued.

In 1688, the Habsburg troops captured Buda which forced the Ottoman officials to flee to Belgrade. The Ottoman soldiers did not put up much of a fight as their salaries had been unpaid for some time now. In addition to this, they did not have a competent general who would lead them in the fight. The soldiers promptly rebelled, so the troops of the Holy League took this opportunity to push deeper into Hungary and the Balkans.

By 1689, the Austrians invaded and occupied Transylvania and Wallachia. Suleiman II died in 1691 while his successor Ahmed II died in 1695. He was succeeded by Mustafa II who, along with his Grand Vizier, initiated the military and political reforms desperately needed by the Empire. These reforms seemed to have paid off as the Ottomans won some battles against the Holy League. Unfortunately for the Ottomans, the conflict within the Empire’s army ran deep, and it showed in their crushing defeat in the Battle of Zenta in 1697.

By 1698, the Ottomans were already spent and they were forced to sue for peace once again with the Holy League. The two sides met in the town of Karlowitz, and the treaty was signed on January 26, 1699. The territories were divided based on the principle of uti possidetis (“as you possess”). Each party was allowed to keep whichever territory it took during the years of war. In the Treaty of Karlowitz, Transylvania and Hungary went to Austria. The Ottomans, meanwhile, were allowed to keep Timisoara (Temesvar).

Picture by: Cristofano dell’AltissimoAtlante dell’arte italianadirect url / Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence, Italy, Public Domain, Link
Carsten, F. L., ed. The New Cambridge Modern History, The Ascendancy of France: 1648-88. Vol. 1. Cambridge University Press, 1961.
Faroqhi, Suraiya, ed. The Cambridge History of Turkey: The Later Ottoman Empire, 1603–1839. Vol. 3. Cambridge University Press, 2006.
Finkel, Caroline. Osman’s Dream: The Story of the Ottoman Empire, 1300-1923. NY, NY: Basic Books, 2007.
Kia, Mehrdad. The Ottoman Empire. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2008.
Shaw, Stanford Jay. History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey : Empire of the Gazis: The Rise and Decline of the Ottoman Empire, 1280-1808. Vol. 1. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977.
Wheatcroft, Andrew. The Enemy at the Gate: Habsburgs, Ottomans and the Battle for Europe. London: Basic Books, 2008.
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