Why don’t we like Sultan Suleiman?

Sultan Suleiman I

The rulers who tore Hungary into three: Suleiman, Ferdinand, and Szapolyai; the end of the Hungarian Renaissance built by King Matthias…

King Habsburg Ferdinand I

Frankly, the more I read about King Ferdinand and King Szapolyai, the less I like them. Not as if Sultan Suleiman were the apple of my eyes.

King Szapolyai János

Let us take him first into account as it was him, after all, who had attacked Hungary. In previous posts, I had gone into the details about the contest of Szapolyai and Ferdinand over the Hungarian throne.
Sultan Suleiman I was called the Magnificient (ruled 1520-1566), he was an outstanding ruler who made the Ottoman Empire great.
However great law-giver and righteous ruler he was in his own home, here, in Hungary, Suleiman is said to have made even bigger damage in Hungary than the Mongolian invasion in 1241, perhaps only the Habsburgs could be compared to him.
Right from the fall of Nándorfehérvár / Belgrade in 1521, Suleiman had evaluated the situation very well and used the inviting opportunity to take revenge for the failure of his great-grandfather Sultan Mehmed II who had been defeated by Hunyadi János.
However much I personally like the Turkish people today and however nice friendship has developed since the 18th century between us, we have to call a spade a spade, not forgetting that modern people are not responsible for the doings of the Ottoman dynasty.
According to Kulcsár Árpád, a Hungarian historian, there are ten facts about why millions of Hungarians should not celebrate the Suleiman Series on TV.
Here are the ten points listed by Kulcsár against the Sultan:

1. He was the one who finished the sovereign Hungarian Kingdom off by causing the death of King Louis I at Mohács in 1526 so the Hungarian independence was given a staggering blow and it was how Habsburgs were able to gain the power.

2. No other ruler of the enemy could ever destroy the country for so long, for 45 years. Suleiman had led seven campaigns against Hungary between 1521-1566 and he even finished his life there. Hundreds of villages were burned and flourishing towns were destroyed, thousands were taken to captivity.

3. Huge damage was done in human lives according to the contemporary sources, whole areas got depopulated. By the end of the Ottoman wars in 1699, an estimated one million Hungarian people (civilians and soldiers alike) were killed or taken away. A whole Hungarian spoken dialect disappeared from the country; countless renaissance and gothic-style buildings, artifacts, and documents, books perished.

4. Kulcsár includes the „verbal insults” into his list, blaming Suleiman for using words about the Hungarians like „auspicious and dishonorable Hungarians” or „base damned ones”, „lecherous evils”, „villains living in false belief” and called the Hungarian soldiers „offals who befriend the Devil”.

5. The Sultan (my remark: like many Christian rulers, though) was making a show of executing the Christian captives. Márk Szkublics, the heroic defender of Zimony Castle was offered his life in case he embraced the Muslim faith in 1521 but when he refused it, the young Suleiman had him thrown before his elephant. Five years later, he had 2,000 captured soldiered beheaded on the field of Mohács.

6. According to the traditional Ottoman strategy, he was intentionally terrorizing the inhabitants by sending his Akindji and Tatar riders to raid, pillage and burn the lands, to spread terror and fear among them before invading the territories. Here we can mention the example of the massacre in Pécs where 4,000 inhabitants were killed.

7. Having conquered the new lands, he was systematically ripping them off, taking away all the valuable properties from the castles and homes, not to mention the taxes he imposed on the newly occupied territories, thus contributing to the ruin of the country.

8. The timar-system was a less developed feudal system than the European way of life. As a result of its introduction, the new Sipahi landowners squeezed all the money out from their domains because the new owners had no right to leave the lands to their children automatically and many Sipahis were appointed to own the lands only for a limited time. It has made all development hardly impossible.

9. The Sultan made Török Bálint, the foster-father of the baby King János Zsigmond prisoner in 1541 by inviting him into his tent as a guest, and then he took Buda Castle by a trick, not keeping his word. (My remark: yet, in other cases, Suleiman honestly kept his given word better than any other Christian ruler in the area. Suleiman never went back on his word regarding King Szapolyai, always supported him against the Habsburgs, and left Szapolyai`s half-kingdom untouched by his raiders.)

10. Suleiman was the enemy of the local Christian faith as well, he banned the tolling of the bells and did not allow the renovation nor the new construction of the churches. (My remark: He could not reinforce this law everywhere in Occupied Hungary, though.) Many churches were turned into mosques and the Christian were called „kafirs”, second-class citizens who had to pay more taxes.

One thing is for sure, the Ottoman Empire delivered such a blow to the Hungarians which had its effect felt even in the 20th century.

Yet, these wars of concern were not about Hungary alone; sadly, we just provided a battlefield to this. Europe’s future was on the stakes.

We are trying to discuss a series of wars here between the Ottoman Empire and the rest of the Christian world – Hungary just happened to be caught in the way.