(Ottoman Empire. Turkey)
Definition: Virtually autonomous religious communities within the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman
term specifically refers to the separate legal courts pertaining to personal law under which minorities
were allowed to rule themselves (in cases not involving any Muslim) with fairly little interference
from the Ottoman government.
Initially organized people based soley on religion. The Muslim millet included uArabs,
Kurds, Turks, converts, etc, despite the fact that they were of different ethnic origin and
spoke different languages. i.e. A Greek Catholic felt more connected to an Italian Catholic
than a Greek Orthodox Christian.
The head of a millet reported directly to the Ottoman Sultan. The millets had a lot of power
— they set their own laws and collected and distributed their own taxes. All that was insisted
was loyalty to the Empire. When a member of one millet committed a crime against a
member of another, the law of the injured party applied, but the ruling Islamic majority being
paramount, any dispute involving a Muslim fell under their sharia−based law.
Time: Developed in 18th century pre-secular Ottoman Empire
Significance: Symbolizes that the Ottoman Empire made no attempt at assimilation, rather they
strove for integration that allowed the empire to run more smoothly. This was also a source of
contention between Russia, Britain, and the port, as the system was based on privileges for religious
The Ottoman System lost the mechanisms of its existence from the assignment of protection
of citizen rights of their subjects to other states. People were not citizens of the Ottoman
Empire anymore but of other states, due to the Capitulations of the Ottoman Empire to
European powers, protecting the rights of their citizens within the Empire. The Russians
became formal Protectors of Eastern Orthodox groups, the French of Roman Catholics and
the British of Jews and other groups.
Each millet became increasingly independent with the establishment of their own schools,
churches, hospitals and other facilities. These activities effectively moved the Christian
population outside the framework of the Ottoman political system.
Existed from 1330-1826
Replaced the former army composed of disloyal tribal ghazis
Christian youths between 12-20, who were taken from their families, converted to Islam, and were
trained as part of the Ottoman army.
They eventually joined the ruling elite
Strengthened the sultans power, as opposed to tribal chiefs, because there was only one loyalty, to
the Ottoman sultan
Operated under the Devshirme system
Way of integrating conquered Christian communities into the imperial system
Fell into disarray during the crisis of the 17
century: As inflation and debasement of currency had
affected them, they began to enroll their children into the system (which was forbidden) and join
guilds in order to augment their pay; their old discipline and respect thus disappeared