The Vilayets (Turkish pronunciation: [vilaːˈjet]) of the Ottoman Empire were the first-order administrative division, or provinces, of the later empire, introduced with the promulgation of the Vilayet Law (Turkish: Teşkil-i Vilayet Nizamnamesi) of 21 January 1867. The reform was part of the ongoing administrative reforms that were being enacted throughout the empire, and enshrined in the Imperial Edict of 1856. The reform was at first implemented experimentally in the Danube Vilayet, specially formed in 1864 and headed by the leading reformist Midhat Pasha. The reform was gradually implemented, and not until 1884 was it applied to the entirety of the Empire's provinces.
The term vilayet is derived from the Arabic word wilayah or wilaya. While in Arabic, the word wilaya is used to denote a province or region or district without any specific administrative connotation, the Ottomans used it to denote a specific administrative division.
The Ottoman Empire had already begun to modernize its administration and regularize its provinces (eyalets) in the 1840s, but the Vilayet Law extended this to the entire Ottoman territory, with a regularized hierarchy of administrative units: the vilayet, headed by a vali, was subdivided into sub-provinces (sanjak) under a mütesarrif, further into districts (kaza or liva) under a kaimakam, and into communes (nahiye) under a müdir.
The vali was the representative of the Sultan in the vilayet and hence the supreme head of the administration. He was assisted by secretaries in charge of finances (defterdar), correspondence and archives (mektubci), dealings with foreigners, public works, agriculture and commerce, nominated by the respective ministers. Along with the chief justice (mufettiş-i hukkam-i Şeri'a), these officials formed the vilayet's executive council. In addition, there was an elected provincial council of four members, two Muslims and two non-Muslims. The governor of the chief sanjak (merkez sanjak), where the vilayet's capital was located, deputized for the vali in the latter's absence. A similar structure was replicated in the lower hierarchical levels, with executive and advisory councils drawn from the local administrators and—following long-established practice—the heads of the various local religious communities.
Vilayets of the Ottoman Empire circa 1900:
Vilayets, sanjaks and autonomies, circa 1876:
Vilayets and independent sanjaks in 1917:
For administrative purposes the immediate possessions of the sultan are divided into vilayets (provinces), which are again subdivided into sanjaks or mutessarifliks (arrondissements), these into kazas (cantons), and the kazas into nahies (parishes or communes). A vali or governor-general, nominated by the sultan, stands at the head of the vilayet, and on him are directly dependent the kaimakams, mutassarifs, deftardars and other administrators of the minor divisions.
All these officials unite in their own persons the judicial and executive functions, under the "Law of the Vilayets", which made its appearance in 1861, and purported, and was really intended by its framers, to confer on the provinces a large measure of self-government, in which both Mussulmans and non-Mussulmans should take part. It really, however, had the effect of centralizing the whole power of the country more absolutely than ever in the sultan's hands, since the Valis were wholly in his undisputed power, while the ex officio official members of the local councils secured a perpetual Mussulman majority.
The Vilayet of Adrianople or Vilayet of Edirne (Ottoman Turkish: ولايت ادرنه, Vilâyet-i Edirne) was a first-level administrative division (vilayet) of the Ottoman Empire.
This vilayet was split between Turkey and Greece in 1923, culminating in the formation of Western and Eastern Thrace after World War I as part of the Treaty of Lausanne. A small portion of the Vilayet was given to Bulgaria in the Treaty of Bucharest (1913) after the Balkan wars. In the late 19th century it reportedly had an area of 26,160 square miles (67,800 km2). In the east it bordered with the Istanbul Vilayet, the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara, in the west with the Salonica Vilayet, in the north with Eastern Rumelia (Bulgaria since 1885) and in the south with the Aegean Sea. Sometimes the area is described also as Southern Thrace, or Adrianopolitan Thrace.After the city of Edirne (pop. in 1905 about 80,000), the principal towns were Tekirdağ (35,000), Gelibolu (25,000), Kırklareli (16,000), İskeçe (14,000), Çorlu (11,500), Dimetoka (10,000), Enez (8000), Gümülcine (8000) and Dedeağaç (3000).Aidin Vilayet
The Vilayet of Aidin or Aydin (Ottoman Turkish: ولايت ايدين, translit. Vilâyet-i Aidin), also known as Vilayet of Smyrna or Izmir after its administrative centre, was a first-level administrative division (vilayet) of the Ottoman Empire in the south-west of Asia Minor, including the ancient regions of Lydia, Ionia, Caria and western Lycia. It was described by the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica as the "richest and most productive province of Asiatic Turkey".At the beginning of the 20th century it reportedly had an area of 17,370 square miles (45,000 km2), while the preliminary results of the first Ottoman census of 1885 (published in 1908) gave the population as 1,390,783. The stated accuracy of the population figures ranges from "approximate" to "merely conjectural" depending on the region from which they were gathered. As of 1920, the vilayet had an "exceptionally large" Christian population.Aleppo Vilayet
The Vilayet of Aleppo (Ottoman Turkish: ولايت حالب, translit. Vilâyet-i Halep; Arabic: ولاية حلب) was a first-level administrative division (vilayet) of the Ottoman Empire, centered on the city of Aleppo.Baghdad Vilayet
The Vilayet of Baghdad (Ottoman language: ولايت بغداد, Vilâyet-i Bagdad, Modern Turkish: Bağdat Vilâyeti, Arabic:ولاية بغداد) was a first-level administrative division (vilayet) of the Ottoman Empire in modern-day central Iraq. The capital was Baghdad.
At the beginning of the 20th century it reportedly had an area of 54,503 square miles (141,160 km2), while the preliminary results of the first Ottoman census of 1885 (published in 1908) gave the population as 850,000. The accuracy of the population figures ranges from "approximate" to "merely conjectural" depending on the region from which they were gathered.Bosnia Vilayet
The Bosnia Vilayet was a first-level administrative division (vilayet) of the Ottoman Empire, mostly comprising the territory of the present-day state of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It bordered Kosovo Vilayet to the south. Before the administrative reform in 1867, it was called the Bosnia Eyalet. In the late 19th century it reportedly had an area of 17,900 square miles (46,000 km2).It effectively ceased to exist as an Ottoman province after the Austro-Hungarian occupation of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1878, although it formally existed for thirty more years until 1908, despite being governed by Austria-Hungary. This excluded Old Herzegovina, which was ceded to the Principality of Montenegro in 1878. In 1908 Austria-Hungary formally annexed it into its own territory.Diyarbekir Vilayet
The Vilayet of Diyâr-ı Bekr (Ottoman Turkish: ولايت ديار بكر, Vilâyet-i Diyarbakır) was a first-level administrative division (vilayet) of the Ottoman Empire, wholly located within what is now modern Turkey. The vilayet extended south from Palu on the Euphrates to Mardin and Nusaybin on the edge of the Mesopotamian plain. After the establishment of Republic of Turkey in 1923, the region was incorporated into the newly created state.
At the beginning of the 20th century, it reportedly had an area of 18,074 square miles (46,810 km2), while the preliminary results of the first Ottoman census of 1885 (published in 1908) gave the population as 471,462. The accuracy of the population figures ranges from "approximate" to "merely conjectural" depending on the region from which they were gathered.Erzurum Vilayet
The Vilayet of Erzerum (Ottoman Turkish: ولايت ارضروم, Vilâyet-i Erzurum) was a first-level administrative division (vilayet) of the Ottoman Empire.
The vilayet of Erzurum shared borders with the Persian and Russian empires in the east and north-east, in the north with the Trebizond Vilayet, in the west with the vilayet of Sebastia, and in the south with the vilayets of Bitlis, Mamuret-ül Aziz and Van.
At the beginning of the 20th century it reportedly had an area of 29,614 square miles (76,700 km2), while the preliminary results of the first Ottoman census of 1885 (published in 1908) gave the population as 645,702. The accuracy of the population figures ranges from "approximate" to "merely conjectural" depending on the region from which they were gathered. It was one of the six Armenian vilayets in the eastern part of Anatolia, and, prior to World War I, had a large number of Armenians living there as well as Georgians, Pontic Greeks and Caucasus Greeks, and other ethnic groups, both Muslim and Christian [mainly Greek Orthodox and Armenian Apostolic (Orthodox/Gregorian)].Janina Vilayet
The Vilayet of Janina, Yanya or Ioannina (Ottoman Turkish: ولايت يانیه, Vilâyet-i Yanya) was a first-level administrative division (vilayet) of the Ottoman Empire, established in 1867. In the late 19th century it reportedly had an area of 18,320 square miles (47,400 km2). It was created by merging Pashalik of Yanina and Pashalik of Berat with sanjaks of Janina, Berat, Ergiri, Preveze, Tırhala and Kesriye. Kesriye was later demoted to kaza and bounded to Monastir Vilayet and Tırhala was given to Greece in 1881.Kosovo Vilayet
The Vilayet of Kosovo (Ottoman Turkish: ولايت قوصوه, Vilâyet-i Kosova; Turkish: Kosova Vilayeti; Albanian: Vilajeti i Kosovës; Macedonian: Косовски вилает, Kosovski vilaet; Serbian: Косовски вилајет, Kosovski vilajet) was a first-level administrative division (vilayet) of the Ottoman Empire in the Balkan Peninsula which included the current territory of Kosovo and the western part of the Republic of Macedonia. The areas today comprising Sandžak (Raška) region of Serbia and Montenegro, although de jure under Ottoman control, were in fact under Austro- Hungarian occupation from 1878 until 1909, as provided under Article 25 of the Treaty of Berlin. Uskub (Skopje) functioned as the capital of the province and the mid way point between Istanbul and its European provinces. Uskub's population of 32,000 made it the largest city in the province, followed by Prizren, also numbering at 30,000.
The Vilayet stood as a microcosm of Ottoman society; incorporated within its boundaries were diverse groups of peoples and religions: Albanians, Serbs, Bosniaks; Muslims and Christians, both Orthodox and Catholic. The province was renowned for its craftsmen and important cities such as İpek (today's Peć, Albanian: Peja), where distinct Ottoman architecture and public baths were erected, some of which can still be seen today. The birthplace of the Albanian national identity was first articulated in Prizren, by the League of Prizren members in 1878.
As a result, firstly of the Treaty of San Stefano in 1878, then of the modified Treaty of Berlin the same year which split the Ottoman Empire, Kosovo became the first line of defense for the Ottoman Empire, with large garrisons of Ottoman troops being stationed in the province. Before the First Balkan War in 1912, the province's shape and location denied Serbia and Montenegro a common land border. After the war, the major part of the vilayet was divided between Montenegro and Serbia. These borders were all ratified at the Treaty of London in 1913. The Ottoman Empire finally recognised the new borders following a peace deal with the Kingdom of Serbia on 14 March 1914.Mamuret-ul-Aziz Vilayet
The Vilayet of Mamuret-ul-Aziz, also referred to as Harput Vilayet (Armenian: Խարբերդի վիլայեթ Kharberd) was a first-level administrative division (vilayet) of the Ottoman Empire in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It was also one of the Six vilayets. The vilayet was located between Euphrates and Murat river valleys. To the northwest was Sivas Vilayet.Manastir Vilayet
The Vilayet of Manastir (Ottoman Turkish: ولايت مناستر, Vilâyet-i Manastır) was a first-level administrative division (vilayet) of the Ottoman Empire, created in 1874, dissolved in 1877 and re-established in 1879. The vilayet was occupied during the First Balkan War in 1912 and divided between the Kingdom of Greece and the Kingdom of Serbia, with some parts later becoming part of the newly established Principality of Albania.Ottoman Syria
Ottoman Syria refers to divisions of the Ottoman Empire within the Levant, usually defined as the region east of the Mediterranean Sea, west of the Euphrates River, north of the Arabian Desert and south of the Taurus Mountains.Ottoman Syria became organized by the Ottomans upon conquest from the Mamluks in the early 16th century as a single eyalets (province) of Damascus. In 1534, the Aleppo was split into a separate administration. Eyalet of Tripoli was formed out of Damascus province in 1579 and later Eyalet of Adana was split from Aleppo. In 1660, Eyalet of Safed was established and shortly afterwards renamed Eyalet of Sidon; in 1667, Mount Lebanon Emirate was provided a special autonomous status within the Sidon province, but was abolished in 1841 and reinstalled in 1861 as the Mount Lebanon Mutasarrifate. The Syrian eyalets were later transformed into the Vilayet of Syria, the Vilayet of Aleppo and the Vilayet of Beirut, following the 1864 Tanzimat reforms. Finally, in 1872, the Mutasarrifate of Jerusalem was split from the Syria Vilayet into an autonomous administration with a special status.Ottoman Tripolitania
The coastal region of what is today Libya was ruled by the Ottoman Empire from 1551 to 1864, as the Eyalet of Tripolitania (Ottoman Turkish: ایالت طرابلس غرب Eyālet-i Trâblus Gârb) or Bey and Subjects of Tripoli of Barbary from 1864 to 1912 and as the Vilayet of Tripolitania (Ottoman Turkish: ولايت طرابلس غرب Vilâyet-i Trâblus Gârb) from 1864 to 1912. It was also known as the Kingdom of Tripoli, even though it was not technically a kingdom, but an Ottoman province ruled by pashas (governors). The Karamanli dynasty ruled the province as de facto hereditary monarchs from 1711 to 1835, despite remaining under nominal Ottoman rule
and suzereignity from Constantinople.
Besides the core territory of Tripolitania, Barca was also considered part of the kingdom of Tripoli, because it was de facto ruled by the Pasha of Tripoli, also the nominal Ottoman governor-general.Ottoman name of "Trablus Garb" literally means "Tripoli in the West" since the state already had another Tripoli in the east also called Trablus conquered by Selim I after the battle at Marj Dabiq. After Tripolitania was annexed names of the eyalets are changed to "Tripoli in the East" (Trablus Şam) and "Tripoli in the West" which is Roman Tripolitania (Trablus Garb).
A remnant of the centuries of Turkish rule is the presence of a population of Turkish origin, the Kouloughlis.Salonica Vilayet
The Vilayet of Salonica (Ottoman Turkish: ولايت سلانيك, Vilâyet-i Selânik) was a first-level administrative division (vilayet) of the Ottoman Empire from 1867 to 1912. In the late 19th century it reportedly had an area of 12,950 square miles (33,500 km2).The vilayet was bounded by the Principality (later Kingdom), of Bulgaria on the north; Eastern Rumelia on the northeast (after the Treaty of Berlin); Edirne Vilayet on the east; the Aegean Sea on the south; Monastir Vilayet and the independent sanjak of Serfije on the west (after 1881); the Kosovo Vilayet on the northwest.
The vilayet consisted of present Central and Eastern parts of Greek Macedonia and Pirin Macedonia in Bulgaria. Present Pirin Macedonia part of it was administrated as kazas of Cuma-yı Bala, Petriç, Nevrekop, Menlik, Ropçoz and Razlık. It was dissolved after Balkan Wars and divided among Kingdom of Greece, Kingdom of Serbia and Tsardom of Bulgaria in 1913.Scutari Vilayet
The Vilayet of Scutari, Shkodër or Shkodra (Turkish: İşkodra Vilayeti or Vilayet-i İşkodra; Albanian: Vilajeti i Shkodrës) was a first-level administrative division (vilayet) of the Ottoman Empire that existed from 1867 to 1913, located in parts of what today is Montenegro and Albania. In the late 19th century it reportedly had an area of 5,310 square miles (13,800 km2).Short-lived Ottoman provinces
Among the many Ottoman provinces (eyalets or vilayets) that were created during the centuries-long history of the Ottoman Empire, some existed for relatively short amounts of time, either because they were ceded to foreign powers, obtained independence, or were simply merged with other provinces.Syria Vilayet
The Vilayet of Syria (Ottoman Turkish: ولايت سوريه, translit. Vilâyet-i Suriye), also known as Vilayet of Damascus, was a first-level administrative division (vilayet) of the Ottoman Empire.
At the beginning of the 20th century, it reportedly had an area of 62,180 square kilometres (24,009 sq mi), while the preliminary results of the first Ottoman census of 1885 (published in 1908) gave the population as 1,000,000. The accuracy of the population figures ranges from "approximate" to "merely conjectural" depending on the region from which they were gathered.Treaty of Sèvres
The Treaty of Sèvres (French: Traité de Sèvres) was one of a series of treaties that the Central Powers signed after their defeat in World War I. Hostilities had already ended with the Armistice of Mudros. The treaty was signed on 10 August 1920, in an exhibition room at the Manufacture nationale de Sèvres porcelain factory in Sèvres, France.The Sèvres treaty marked the beginning of the partitioning of the Ottoman Empire, and its dismemberment. The terms it stipulated included the renunciation of all non-Turkish territory and its cession to the Allied administration. Notably, the ceding of Eastern Mediterranean lands allowed the creation of new forms of government, including Mandatory Palestine and the French Mandate for Syria and the Lebanon.The terms of the treaty stirred hostility and nationalist feeling amongst Turks. The signatories of the treaty were stripped of their citizenship by the Grand National Assembly led by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, and this ignited the Turkish War of Independence. In that war, Atatürk led the Turkish nationalists to defeat the combined armies of the signatories of the Treaty of Sèvres, including the remnants of the Ottoman Empire. In a new treaty, that of Lausanne in 1923, Turkish sovereignty was preserved through the establishment of the Republic of Turkey.Vilayet of the Archipelago
The Vilayet of the Archipelago (Ottoman Turkish: ولايت جزائر بحر سفيد, Vilâyet-i Cezair-i Bahr-i Sefid;"Vilayet of the Islands of the Mediterranean Sea") was a first-level administrative division (vilayet) of the Ottoman Empire extant from 1867 to 1912–13, including, at its maximum extent, the Ottoman Aegean islands, Cyprus and the Dardanelles Strait.
At the beginning of the 20th century, it reportedly had an area of 4,963 square miles (12,850 km2), while the preliminary results of the first Ottoman census of 1885 (published in 1908) gave the population as 325,866. The accuracy of the population figures ranges from "approximate" to "merely conjectural" depending on the region from which they were gathered.