Selected Passages from Hungarian-Ottoman Wars between 1372-1699

Prince Bocskai István

Prince Bocskai István

Was the uprising of Prince Bocskai István good for the Ottoman Empire?

(Szántai Gábor; Source: Szakály Ferenc: Bocskai kíséretében, 1988 Budapest)

ccording to Hungarian historian Szakály Ferenc, it was, by all means, profitable to the Sultan.
Let us not forget that it was István Bocskai who had defeated the Turks at Gyurgyevó and he had been persuading Prince Báthory Zsigmond of Transylvania to join the 15-Year-War against the Turks.

We also know that the Habsburg monarchs have done everything to alienate the Hungarian lords: the made-up cases against the prosperous (mainly Protestant) Hungarian aristocrats earned lots of money to Vienna as the long war had already emptied the Treasury of the king.

Bethlen Gábor (who later became the Prince of Transylvania with the help of 20,000 Turkish sabers between 1613-1629) tried to persuade Bocskai to rebel against the Habsburgs. Their letters were caught and their conspiracy was reported to the king.

Bocskai had tasted the Habsburgs’ prisons before so he had no choice but to rebel, getting allied with the Turks at the same time.

According to Szakály Ferenc, the following benefits were gained by the Turks from this war against the Habsburgs:

1. During the Long War (1591-1606), many Hungarian and South-Slavic peasants had to run away from their destroyed homes. They became „hajdú” soldiers who either traded with cattle or were raiding the „Turk” lands (basically their former homeland).
Their number had increased so much that they literally stopped all traffic between the Ottoman garrisons on the Occupied Lands of Hungary.
They were just slightly better than villains, they were looting everybody and we have sources that say that the local Hungarians fled to the feared Tatars who camped nearby just to get shelter from the Hajdú marauders.

Bocskai employed these Hajdús against the Habsburgs and even settled and privileged them with collective nobility. As a result of this, the Ottoman garrisons were freed from the huge pressure they had suffered before.

2. As the Hajdú troops had to be dealt with, the Habsburgs had to send several units against them.
As a result of this, the Ottoman field armies could operate easier than ever before and Grand Vizier Lalla Mohamed was able to retake Esztergom Castle in 1605.

3. As the new enemy, Bocskai occurred, the Habsburgs had a good reason to finish the 15-Year-War – the Long War, which ultimate goal would have been to liberate Hungary.

We know that a Persian envoy arrived in Prague in 1604 and the Persian-Habsburg alliance was about to be made. Now, this alliance has not been signed.

4. Bocskai helped to bring about the Peace of Zsitvatorok in 1606 which ended the Long War so the Turks could withdraw their armies from Hungary in order to put down the uprising in Anatolia.
Eger and Esztergom remained in the Turks’ hands.
Also, according to the Truce, Emperor Rudolf had to pay 200,000 Hungarian Gold Forints to the Sultan;
Consequently, Pasha Murad could march the best troops to Asia.

It all would not have happened so easily without Bethlen Gábor and Bocskai István.

What have the Hungarians gained from the whole business?

The constitutional rights of the Hungarian noblemen were restored, the harassment of Protestant lords was finished and the Principality of Transylvania gained more lands from Royal Hungary.

Many Hajdús were settled in Hajdú-towns. Transylvania became stronger and more independent both from the Turks and the Habsburgs.

But Hungary has not been liberated from the Turks yet.

The „Hungaries” have remained in three parts:
the Kingdom of Hungary (ruled by a Habsburg monarch who had to respect the Hungarian Constitution and laws);
the Principality of Transylvania (ruled by an elected Prince who paid fewer taxes to the Turks than the Habsburgs had paid before but had more central power in his country than any Habsburg kings at home);
and the Ottoman Occupied Lands of Hungary where 95% of the Ottoman soldiers were ethnically South-Slavic soldiers; where the local feudalism was eroding Ottoman feudalism so they have never become similar to other previously conquered Sanjaks in the Balkan.)

Between these „Hungaries” took place the broad Borderland where the „small war” was raging on as if nothing had happened before.

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