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Tanzimat


Reform program in the Ottoman Empire from 1839 until 1876.
Tanzimat is Turkish for "reorganization", and was a program that based itself on the changes started by sultan Mahmud 2. The actual program was started under sultan Abdülmecid 1, and corrupted and destroyed by sultan Abülaziz.
The Tanzimat program was one of highest importance to the Ottoman Empire. It was initiated by reformists who understood why the empire was growing weaker while neighbour countries were growing stronger. The situation was clearly illustrated by numerous military defeats. Inside the empire also, there were many dangerous tensions that could lead to conflicts and demands of autonomy. This had already happened in Egypt, when Muhammad Ali achieved autonomy.
But high in the empire there were many people with conservative ideas, as well as many who (accurately) feared for their own positions, and who opposed the reform processes. One characteristic of the Tanzimat that made it hard to accept for many, was that it had been formed upon European ideas and ideals. And Europe was considered the lands of the infidels.
The reforms of the Tanzimat was administered under the Grand Vizier. The most known of the Tanzimat viziers was Mustafa Resid Pasha, who served altogether 6 terms.
While the Tanzimat program might have saved the Ottoman Empire, or at least prolonged its existence, one may assert that it came too late. But even more grave, it was discontinued by sultan Abdülaziz' abuse of politics and little respect for the reforms. And there was even less hope for the reforms when Abdülhamid 2 ascended the sultan throne in 1876, and as among the first of many despotic acts stopped the Tanzimat.

The program
The program was defined in a document of 1839 called Hatt-i Serif (Noble Edict of the Rose Chamber). It contained new regulations in several fields:

New administration: Provincial representative assemblies (nothing to do with democracy in modern terms, of course) were established, together with state courts that ruled independent of the religiously learned. But more important than that, the local administrations started to function as parts of large state structure. Also, new codes of commercial and criminal law were introduced.

Standardized system of taxation: Earlier there had been abuses in many provinces, allowing local rulers to enrich themselves on the locals. The system of taxation also applied to military conscription and training, a system that now was regulated, and involved less pressure on the locals.

New conscript system: The Ottoman Empire now introduced a conscript system based upon Prussian patterns. This involved the total end of the devsirme system, from which the Janissaries had been recruited.

Rights of the individual: No matter what race or religion a citizen had, his or her security of life, property and honour was guaranteed inside the empire. In return, the state demanded that all citizens were loyal to the sultan and the Ottoman administration.

Secular school system:
Earlier, Islam had been the foundation for schooling. Now, modern ideals were introduced instead.




By Tore Kjeilen