Rethinking Vaka-i Hayriye (the Auspicious Event) : elimination of the Janissaries on the path to modernization
Somel, Selçuk Akşin
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This thesis attempts to challenge the common perceptions regarding the Janissaries and their destruction in 1826. Our understanding of the Janissaries and Vaka-i Hayriye (the Auspicious Event) has been shaped by the official view of the Ottoman state as well as modern historiography, which has taken the accounts of the Ottoman official historians at face value. Conventional historiography has argued that while the Janissaries were the linchpin of Ottoman military strength from the 15th to the 18th century, their role and integrity began to erode in the 18th century and more intensely in the 19th century. The Janissaries were no longer the bulwark of the Ottoman state, rather, a clique of corrupt soldiers who terrorized the Ottoman civil population and a handful of traitors to the greater interests of the Ottoman state and society. Thus, destruction of the Janissaries had become indispensable for the good of the society as a whole. This study presents a critique of historiography as such and questions the accusations leveled against the Janissaries. Moreover, it finds that the Janissaries had strong ties with both elite and non-elite groups in Ottoman society. The fact that these societal groups did not submit to the modernization policies of the Ottoman state pushed the Ottoman government to eliminate the groups who opposed its new policies. In this context, the Janissaries had become a bastion of resistance against the modernization project of the Ottoman state, as a result of their profound relationships with different societal groups. I argue that the connections of the Janissaries with the rest of the society constituted a serious threat to the modernization process and this was the main reason for their destruction rather than corruption or obsoleteness.