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Vassal States were a number of tributary or vassal states, usually on the periphery of the Ottoman Empire under suzerainty of the Porte, over which direct control was not established, for various reasons.



Some of these states served as buffer states between the Ottomans and Christendom in Europe or Shi’ism in Asia. Their number varied over time but notable were the Khanate of Crimea, Wallachia, Moldavia, Transylvania, and the Kurdish Emirates. Other states such as Bulgaria, Hungary, Serbia, and Bosnia were vassals before being absorbed into the Empire. Still others had commercial value such as Imeretia, Mingrelia, Chios, the Duchy of Naxos, and the Republic of Ragusa (Dubrovnik). Areas such as holy cities and Venetian tributary areas of Cyprus and Zante were not fully incorporated either. Finally, some small areas such as Montenegro/Zeta and Mount Lebanon did not merit the effort of conquest and were not fully subordinated to the center.


  • Some states within the eyalet system included sancakbeys who were local to their sanjak or who inherited their position (e.g., Samtskhe, some Kurdish sanjaks), areas that were permitted to elect their own leaders (e.g., areas of Albania, Epirus, and Morea (Mani Peninsula was nominally a part of Aegean Islands Province but Maniot beys were tributary vassals of the Porte.)), or de facto independent eyalets (e.g., the Barbaresque 'regencies' Algiers, Tunis, Tripolitania in the Maghreb, and later the khedivate Egypt).
  • Outside the eyalet system were states such as Moldavia, Wallachia and Transylvania which paid tribute to the Ottomans and over which the Porte had the right to nominate or depose the ruler, garrison rights, and foreign policy control.
  • Some states such as Ragusa paid tribute for the entirety of their territory and recognized Ottoman suzerainty.
  • Others such as the sharif of Mecca recognized Ottoman suzerainty but were subsidized by the Porte.

There were also secondary vassals such as the Nogai Horde and the Circassians who were (at least nominally) vassals of the khans of Crimea, or some Berbers and Arabs who paid tribute to the North African beylerbeyis, who were in turn Ottoman vassals themselves.

Other states paid tribute for possessions that were legally bound to the Ottoman Empire but not possessed by the Ottomans such as the Habsburgs for parts of Royal Hungary or Venice for Zante.

Other tribute from foreign powers included a kind of “protection money” sometimes called a horde tax (similar to the Danegeld) paid by Russia or the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. It was usually paid to the Ottoman vassal khans of Crimea rather than to the Ottoman sultan directly.


See also



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