Introduction to the history between 1372-1490
In the following pages, you can read short essays about historical events taking place from the beginning of Hungarian-Ottoman clashes until 1490. For me, it symbolizes the first part of Ottoman-Hungarian wars.
Note, Ottomans were the Osmanli people but they were called Turks by contemporary Hungarians, even though 95% of soldiers staying in Ottoman garrisons of Occupied Hungary, were mainly either Bosnians, Serbians or Albanians. So I will call them both Ottoman and Turk.
Since the end of the 14th century, we can witness how the Turks were gaining ground, turning Hungary, a medium-size power European kingdom into a thin line of Borderland. However, after the fall of Buda in 1542, we can see the birth of the Transylvanian Principality.
History was more complicated than what we hear about this period from so-called history TV channels.
What is the propaganda telling us?
On one hand, when it comes to the Ottoman conquest, we are told that it was stopped entirely by the mighty Habsburgs. On the other hand, in TV programs sponsored by Eastern sources, the Ottoman Empire is being portrayed as the best thing that could have ever happened to the nations of the Balkanian Penisula and Hungary. No one speaks about the sacrifices and horrendous losses of the Eastern European nations, let alone the consequences which are haunting us until today; the Ottomans left behind ethnic and cultural changes along with serious tensions, the living tradition of corruption, industrial and social backwardness and what not. The Eastern European countries paid a high price for defending the development of western civilization.
According to Professor Pál Fodor, one of the most acknowledged researchers of this historical period in Hungary, the Ottoman Occupation was the greatest disaster which happened in Hungarian history. He says it crippled and ruined the country mentally, economically, politically, and ethnically, directly leading to the nation`s tragedy in the 20th century. Yet, the Ottoman extension was not only a Hungarian problem, but half of the European countries had to face it as well, especially the Balkans. Today, there are many viewpoints as to how historians interpret the Empire`s conquest. These interpretations depend on suffered losses, the ways of research and the different historical sources, and let’s not forget national sensitivity. TV programs try to simplify the entire issue.
Now, let`s take a look as to how historians of different nations view it.
1. The Turks’ concept:
According to the Ottoman-Turkish point of view, the mainstream opinion in Turkey today is that the conquest was basically a religious thing because the Ottoman Empire just carried out the order of the Ghaza and the Jihad. They say its reason was not evil. They did not want to build an imperialist great power and conquer other nations as it is said by others. No, it was rather a „fettih”, a conquest which is not an „istillah”(an invasion to colonize other lands). /My remark: please, help me to find the correct spelling for the Turkish words…/
„Fettih” is a conquest that is intended to bring the holy religion`s peace to the territories which had been in political chaos before. A peace, where the members of different religions could live together peacefully.
The other key terminology here is the „istimah”, the way of gaining the trust of the opponent by diplomacy thus indicating that the Ottoman conquest was not a disaster but a peaceful and gradual happening whereas the Empire gave an opportunity for everyone to quietly join in the hierarchy.
Thus, the conquest brought about the „müszámmaha”, religious peace and tolerance. They say it was especially good for Orthodox Christianity because in this way it was saved from the embrace of the Latin church.
2. The Christian Mediterranian (half Greek/half Latin) view:
Well, they simply regard the Ottoman conquest as the end of the world, a complete disaster! Yet, at the same time, they see that there was also a revival of the Orthodox church in Constantinapolis which has eventually gained serious independence.
3. The Balkanian nations think:
There is a nationalistic point of view which is different in each successive country of the Balkans. Among them, there are very similar ones to the Hungarian point of view but there are totally different ones, as well. The Serbians, Bulgarians and the Greeks think very similarly to the Hungarians.
The Serbs say their nation was sacrificed early to save Christendom, later suffering a more than 400-year-long oppression but then, they have been resurrected.
The Bulgarians think the same; they, along with the two Romanian states (Wallachia and Moldavia) say that the Ottoman conquest broke their development and the occupation took them far from the (western) European way of civilization.
In Hercegovina, there are more viewpoints, one of them similar to the Hungarian while another one tends to view the Ottoman conquest just like the Venetians regarded it but there is a third opinion that is close to the Ottoman concept.
The Albanians have a Catholic and a Muslim approach at the same time while the Ottoman aspects seem to be gaining ground among Bosnians.
The Muslim Albanians say that the Ottoman conquest saved them from „Slavization” and „Hellenisation”, otherwise, they would have been swallowed by the Orthodox church without the „help” of the Ottomans.
4. The Hungarian’s opinion:
On the whole, the Hungarians, just like fellow Croatians think that the Ottoman occupation was a disaster, quite as Professor Fodor had summarized it.
Yet, among the overwhelming pile of negative things, a few Hungarians can see a couple of things that were not harmful but rather positive.
According to mainstream 19th-century Hungarian opinion, for example, Kós Károly listed that this period had been the most valiant age of the Hungarian knights. It brought along the improvement of our national character, the beginning of our freedom fights against the Habsburgs, the independent Hungarian Transylvania where the Hungarian culture could survive, and the development of the Reformation faith.
Today, modern historians think a bit differently; now, the role of the Habsburg-ruled Royal Hungary is better stated.
It has to be emphasized that Royal Hungary did not cease to exist in 1526 and it was not consumed by the Habsburg Monarchy. It was the only member of the Austrian kingdom which was able to keep its sovereignty and constitutional rights better than any other colony of the Habsburgs.
As for the pro-Habsburg historians, they also say that the Ottoman conquest had brought about tremendous harm and disaster, but they have a very negative opinion about the role of the sovereign Principality of Transylvania.
Actually, the debates between pro- and anti-Habsburg historians are still going on.
People keep bringing up the question of what would have been the better choice, siding with the Habsburgs or not; perhaps there could have been a third way.
These questions have been haunting us since the 19th century: what if the Hungarians had agreed to be integrated into the Ottoman Empire? Could they have kept their identity and culture under the shadow of Ottoman weapons?
These are the opinions about the Ottoman Occupation and they are being used by political forces equally inside and outside of Hungary in the 21st century, making the question quite timely again.”