.mw-parser-output .hidden-begin{box-sizing:border-box;width:100%;padding:5px;border:none;font-size:95%}.mw-parser-output .hidden-title{font-weight:bold;line-height:1.6;text-align:left}.mw-parser-output .hidden-content{text-align:left}@media all and (max-width:500px){.mw-parser-output .hidden-begin{width:auto!important;clear:none!important;float:none!important))You can help expand this article with text translated from the corresponding article in Turkish. (November 2023) Click [show] for important translation instructions. Machine translation, like DeepL or Google Translate, is a useful starting point for translations, but translators must revise errors as necessary and confirm that the translation is accurate, rather than simply copy-pasting machine-translated text into the English Wikipedia. Do not translate text that appears unreliable or low-quality. If possible, verify the text with references provided in the foreign-language article. You must provide copyright attribution in the edit summary accompanying your translation by providing an interlanguage link to the source of your translation. A model attribution edit summary is Content in this edit is translated from the existing Turkish Wikipedia article at [[:tr:II. Abdülhamid]]; see its history for attribution. You may also add the template ((Translated|tr|II. Abdülhamid)) to the talk page. For more guidance, see Wikipedia:Translation.
Abdul Hamid II
Ottoman Caliph
Amir al-Mu'minin
Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques
Sultan Gazi Abdül Hamid II - السلطان الغازي عبد الحميد الثاني
Portrait of Sultan Abdul Hamid II in 1899
Sultan of the Ottoman Empire (Padishah)
Reign31 August 1876 – 27 April 1909
Sword girding7 September 1876
PredecessorMurad V
SuccessorMehmed V
Grand viziers
Born(1842-09-21)21 September 1842[1][2]
Topkapı Palace, Constantinople, Ottoman Empire
Died10 February 1918(1918-02-10) (aged 75)
Beylerbeyi Palace, Constantinople, Ottoman Empire
Tomb of Sultan Mahmud II, Fatih, Istanbul, Turkey
Among others
Abdul Hamid bin Abdulmejid
FatherAbdulmejid I
MotherBiological mother:
Tirimüjgan Kadın
Adoptive mother:
Rahime Perestu Sultan
ReligionSunni Islam
TughraAbdul Hamid II's signature

Abdulhamid or Abdul Hamid II (Ottoman Turkish: عبد الحميد ثانی, romanizedAbd ul-Hamid-i s̱ānī; Turkish: II. Abdülhamid; 21 September 1842 – 10 February 1918) was the 34th sultan of the Ottoman Empire, from 1876 to 1909, and the last sultan to exert effective control over the fracturing state.[3] He oversaw a period of decline with rebellions (particularly in the Balkans), and presided over an unsuccessful war with the Russian Empire (1877–78), the loss of Egypt and Cyprus from Ottoman control, followed by a successful war against the Kingdom of Greece in 1897, though Ottoman gains were tempered by subsequent Western European intervention.

Elevated to power in the wake of Young Ottoman coups, he promulgated the Ottoman Empire's first constitution,[4] a sign of the progressive thinking that marked his early rule. But his enthronement came in the context of the Great Eastern Crisis, which began with the Empire's default on its loans, uprisings by Christian Balkan minorities, and a war with the Russian Empire. At the end of the crisis, Ottoman rule in the Balkans and its international prestige were severely diminished, and the Empire lost its economic sovereignty as its finances came under the control of the Great Powers through the Ottoman Public Debt Administration.

In 1878, Abdul Hamid consolidated his rule by suspending both the constitution and the parliament,[4] purging the Young Ottomans [tr], and curtailing the power of the Sublime Porte. He ruled as an absolute monarch for three decades. Ideologically an Islamist, the sultan asserted his title of Caliph to Muslims around the world. His paranoia about being overthrown, like his uncle and brother, led to the creation of secret police organizations and a censorship regime. The Ottoman Empire's modernization and centralization continued during his reign, including reform of the bureaucracy, extension of the Rumelia Railway and the Anatolia Railway, and construction of the Baghdad Railway and the Hejaz Railway. Systems for population registration, sedentarization of tribal groups, and control over the press were part of a unique imperialist system in fringe provinces known as borrowed colonialism.[5] The farthest-reaching reforms were in education, with many professional schools established in fields such as law, arts, trades, civil engineering, veterinary medicine, customs, farming, and linguistics, along with the first local modern law school in 1898. A network of primary, secondary, and military schools extended throughout the Empire. German firms played a major role in developing the Empire's railway and telegraph systems.[4]

Ironically, the same education institutions that the Sultan sponsored proved to be his downfall. Large sections of the pro-constitutionalist Ottoman intelligentsia sharply criticized and opposed him for his repressive policies, which coalesced into the Young Turks movement.[6] Ethnic minorities started organizing their own national liberation movements. Armenians especially suffered from massacres and pogroms at the hands of the Hamidiye regiments. Of the many assassination attempts during Abdul Hamid's reign, one of the most famous is the Armenian Revolutionary Federation's Yıldız assassination attempt of 1905.[7] In 1908, the Committee of Union and Progress forced him to recall parliament and reinstate the constitution in the Young Turk Revolution. Abdul Hamid II attempted to reassert his absolutism a year later, resulting in his deposition by pro-constitutionalist forces in the 31 March incident, though the role he played in events is disputed.

Early life

Prince Abdul Hamid at Balmoral Castle in 1867, accompanying his uncle Sultan Abdulaziz during his visit to Western Europe between 21 June 1867 – 7 August 1867.

Hamid Efendi was born on 21 September 1842 either in Çırağan Palace, Ortaköy, or at Topkapı Palace, both in Constantinople. He was the son of Sultan Abdulmejid I[1] and Tirimüjgan Kadın (Circassia, 20 August 1819 – Constantinople, Feriye Palace, 2 November 1853),[8][9] originally named Virjinia.[10] Following his mother's death, he became the adoptive son of his father's legal wife, Perestu Kadın. Perestu was also the adoptive mother of Abdul Hamid's half-sister Cemile Sultan, whose mother Düzdidil Kadın had died in 1845, leaving her motherless at the age of two. The two were brought up in the same household, where they spent their childhood together.[11]

Unlike many other Ottoman sultans, Abdul Hamid II visited distant countries. In the summer of 1867, nine years before he ascended the throne, he accompanied his uncle Sultan Abdul Aziz on a visit to Paris (30 June – 10 July 1867), London (12–23 July 1867), Vienna (28–30 July 1867), and capitals or cities of a number of other European countries.[12]

Accession to the Ottoman throne

Abdul Hamid ascended the throne after his brother Murad was deposed on 31 August 1876.[1][13] At his accession, some commentators were impressed that he rode practically unattended to the Eyüp Sultan Mosque, where he was presented with the Sword of Osman. Most people expected Abdul Hamid II to support liberal movements, but he acceded to the throne at a critical time. Economic and political turmoil, local wars in the Balkans, and the Russo-Turkish War threatened the Empire's very existence.

First Constitutional Era, 1876–1878

See also: First Constitutional Era (Ottoman Empire) and Young Ottomans

Abdul Hamid worked with the Young Ottomans to realize some form of constitutional arrangement.[14] This new form could help bring about a liberal transition with an Islamic provenance. The Young Ottomans believed that the modern parliamentary system was a restatement of the practice of consultation, or shura, that had existed in early Islam.[15]

In December 1876, due to the 1875 insurrection in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the ongoing war with Serbia and Montenegro, and the feeling aroused throughout Europe by the cruelty used in stamping out the 1876 Bulgarian rebellion, Abdul Hamid promulgated a constitution and a parliament.[1] Midhat Pasha headed the commission to establish a new constitution, and the cabinet passed the constitution on 6 December 1876, allowing for a bicameral legislature with senatorial appointments made by the sultan. The first ever election in the Ottoman Empire was held in 1877. Crucially, the constitution gave Abdul Hamid the right to exile anyone he deemed a threat to the state.[16]

The delegates to the Constantinople Conference[17][18] were surprised by the promulgation of a constitution, but European powers at the conference rejected the constitution as a too-radical change; they preferred the 1856 constitution (Islâhat Hatt-ı Hümâyûnu) or the 1839 Gülhane edict (Hatt-ı Şerif), and questioned whether a parliament was necessary to act as an official voice of the people.

In any event, like many other would-be reforms of the Ottoman Empire, it proved nearly impossible. Russia continued to mobilize for war, and early in 1877 the Ottoman Empire went to war with the Russian Empire.

War with Russia

Main article: Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878)

Ottoman troops under Romanian attack at the Siege of Plevna (1877) in the Russo-Turkish War (1877–78)

Abdul Hamid's biggest fear, near dissolution, was realized with the Russian declaration of war on 24 April 1877. In that conflict, the Ottoman Empire fought without help from European allies. Russian chancellor Prince Gorchakov had by that time effectively purchased Austrian neutrality with the Reichstadt Agreement. The British Empire, though still fearing the Russian threat to the British presence in India, did not involve itself in the conflict because of public opinion against the Ottomans, following reports of Ottoman brutality in putting down the Bulgarian uprising. Russia's victory was quick; the conflict ended in February 1878. The Treaty of San Stefano, signed at the end of the war, imposed harsh terms: the Ottoman Empire gave independence to Romania, Serbia, and Montenegro; it granted autonomy to Bulgaria; instituted reforms in Bosnia and Herzegovina; and ceded parts of Dobrudzha to Romania and parts of Armenia to Russia, which was also paid an enormous indemnity. After the war, Abdul Hamid suspended the constitution in February 1878 and dismissed the parliament, after its only meeting, in March 1877. For the next three decades, Abdul Hamid ruled the Ottoman Empire from Yıldız Palace.[1]

As Russia could dominate the newly independent states, the Treaty of San Stefano greatly increased its influence in Southeastern Europe. At the Great Powers' insistence (especially the United Kingdom's), the treaty was revised at the Congress of Berlin so as to reduce the great advantages Russia gained. In exchange for these favors, Cyprus was ceded to Britain in 1878. There were troubles in Egypt, where a discredited khedive had to be deposed. Abdul Hamid mishandled relations with Urabi Pasha, and as a result, Britain gained de facto control over Egypt and Sudan by sending its troops in 1882 to establish control over the two provinces. Cyprus, Egypt, and Sudan ostensibly remained Ottoman provinces until 1914, when Britain officially annexed them in response to the Ottoman participation in World War I on the side of the Central Powers.[citation needed]



Şehzade (Prince) Abdul Hamid in 1868.

Abdul Hamid's distrust of the reformist admirals of the Ottoman Navy (whom he suspected of plotting against him and trying to restore the constitution) and his subsequent decision to lock the Ottoman fleet (the world's third-largest fleet during the reign of his predecessor Abdul Aziz) inside the Golden Horn indirectly caused the loss of Ottoman overseas territories and islands in North Africa, the Mediterranean Sea, and the Aegean Sea during and after his reign.[19]

Financial difficulties forced him to consent to foreign control over the Ottoman national debt. In a decree issued in December 1881, a large portion of the empire's revenues were handed over to the Public Debt Administration for the benefit of (mostly foreign) bondholders (see Kararname of 1296).

The 1885 union of Bulgaria with Eastern Rumelia was another blow to the Empire. The creation of an independent and powerful Bulgaria was viewed as a serious threat to the Empire. For many years Abdul Hamid had to deal with Bulgaria in a way that did not antagonize the Russians or the Germans. There were also key problems regarding the Albanian question resulting from the Albanian League of Prizren and with the Greek and Montenegrin frontiers, where the European powers were determined that the Berlin Congress's decisions be carried out.

Crete was granted "extended privileges", but these did not satisfy the population, which sought unification with Greece. In early 1897 a Greek expedition sailed to Crete to overthrow Ottoman rule on the island. This act was followed by the Greco-Turkish War, in which the Ottoman Empire defeated Greece, but as a result of the Treaty of Constantinople, Crete was taken over en depot by the United Kingdom, France, and Russia. Prince George of Greece was appointed ruler and Crete was effectively lost to the Ottoman Empire.[1] The ʿAmmiyya, a revolt in 1889–90 among Druze and other Syrians against excesses of the local sheikhs, similarly led to capitulation to the rebels' demands, as well as concessions to Belgian and French companies to provide a railroad between Beirut and Damascus.

Political decisions and reforms

Most people expected Abdul Hamid II to have liberal ideas, and some conservatives were inclined to regard him with suspicion as a dangerous reformer.[20] Despite working with the reformist Young Ottomans while still crown prince and appearing to be a liberal leader, he became increasingly conservative after taking the throne. In a process known as İstibdad, Abdul Hamid reduced his ministers to acting as secretaries and concentrated much of the Empire's administration into his own hands. Default in the public funds, an empty treasury, the 1875 insurrection in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the war with Serbia and Montenegro, the result of Russo-Turkish war, and the feeling aroused throughout Europe by Abdul Hamid's government in stamping out the Bulgarian rebellion all contributed to his apprehension regarding enacting significant changes.[20]

His push for education resulted in the establishment of 18 professional schools; and in 1900, Darülfünûn-u Şahâne, now known as Istanbul University, was established.[1] He also created a large system of primary, secondary, and military schools throughout the empire.[1] 51 secondary schools were constructed in a 12-year period (1882–1894). As the goal of the educational reforms in the Hamidian era were to counter foreign influence, these secondary schools used European teaching techniques while instilling in students a strong sense of Ottoman identity and Islamic morality.[21]

Abdul Hamid also reorganized the Ministry of Justice and developed rail and telegraph systems.[1] The telegraph system was expanded to incorporate the furthest parts of the Empire. Railways connected Constantinople and Vienna by 1883, and shortly afterward the Orient Express connected Paris to Constantinople. During his rule, railways within the Ottoman Empire expanded to connect Ottoman-controlled Europe and Anatolia with Constantinople as well. The increased ability to travel and communicate within the Ottoman Empire served to strengthen Constantinople's influence over the rest of the Empire.[21]

Abdul Hamid took stringent measures regarding his security. The memory of the deposition of Abdul Aziz was on his mind and convinced him that a constitutional government was not a good idea. Because of this, information was tightly controlled and the press rigidly censored. A secret police (Umur-u Hafiye) and a network of informants was present throughout the empire, and many leading figures of the Second Constitutional Era and Ottoman successor states were arrested or exiled. School curricula were closely inspected to prevent dissidence. Ironically, the schools that Abdul Hamid founded and tried to control became "breeding grounds of discontent" as students and teachers alike chafed at the censors' clumsy restrictions.[22]

Armenian question

Main articles: Hamidian massacres, Yıldız assassination attempt, and Armenian question

20 kuruş during the reign of Abdul Hamid II, dating 1878

Starting around 1890, Armenians began demanding implementation of the reforms promised to them at the Berlin Conference.[23] To prevent such measures, in 1890–91 Abdul Hamid gave semi-official status to the bandits who were already actively mistreating the Armenians in the provinces. Made up of Kurds and other ethnic groups such as Turcomans, and armed by the state, they came to be called the Hamidiye Alayları ("Hamidian Regiments").[24] The Hamidiye and Kurdish brigands were given free rein to attack Armenians – confiscating stores of grain, foodstuffs, and driving off livestock – confident of escaping punishment as they were subject only to court-martial.[25] In the face of such violence, the Armenians established revolutionary organizations: the Social Democrat Hunchakian Party (Hunchak; founded in Switzerland in 1887) and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (the ARF or Dashnaktsutiun, founded in 1890 in Tiflis).[26] Unrest ensued and clashes occurred in 1892 at Merzifon and in 1893 at Tokat. Abdul Hamid put these revolts down with harsh methods.[27] As a result, 300,000 Armenians were killed in what became known as the Hamidian massacres. News of the massacres was widely reported in Europe and the United States and drew strong responses from foreign governments and humanitarian organizations.[28] Abdul Hamid was called the "Bloody Sultan" or "Red Sultan" in the West. On 21 July 1905, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation attempted to assassinate him with a car bomb during a public appearance, but he was delayed for a minute, and the bomb went off too early, killing 26, wounding 58 (four of whom died during their treatment in hospital), and destroying 17 cars. This continued aggression, along with the handling of the Armenian desire for reform, led western European powers to take a more hands-on approach with the Turks.[1] Abdul Hamid survived an attempted stabbing in 1904 as well.

Foreign policy


See also: Ottoman Caliphate

An example of what once hung on the Door of Repentance of the Ka'ba in 1897 until 1898. It was made in Egypt under Abdul Hamid II's ruling of the Ottoman Empire. His name is stitched into the fifth line following a verse from the Qur'an.[29]

Abdul Hamid did not believe that the Tanzimat movement could succeed in helping the disparate peoples of the empire achieve a common identity, such as Ottomanism. He adopted a new ideological principle, Pan-Islamism; since, beginning in 1517, Ottoman sultans were also nominally Caliphs, he wanted to promote that fact and emphasized the Ottoman Caliphate. Given the great diversity of ethnicities in the Ottoman Empire, he believed that Islam was the only way to unite his people.

Pan-Islamism encouraged Muslims living under European powers to unite under one polity. This threatened several European countries: Austria through Bosnian Muslims; Russia through Tatars and Kurds; France and Spain through Moroccan Muslims; and Britain through Indian Muslims.[30] Foreigners' privileges in the Ottoman Empire, which were an obstacle to effective government, were curtailed. At the very end of his reign, Abdul Hamid finally provided funds to start construction of the strategically important Constantinople-Baghdad Railway and the Constantinople-Medina Railway, which would ease the trip to Mecca for the Hajj; after he was deposed, the CUP accelerated and completed construction of both railways. Missionaries were sent to distant countries preaching Islam and the Caliph's supremacy.[31] During his rule, Abdul Hamid refused Theodor Herzl's offers to pay down a substantial portion of the Ottoman debt (150 million pounds sterling in gold) in exchange for a charter allowing the Zionists to settle in Palestine. He is famously quoted as telling Herzl's Emissary, "as long as I am alive, I will not have our body divided; only our corpse they can divide."[32]

Pan-Islamism was a considerable success. After the Greco-Ottoman war, many Muslims celebrated the Ottoman victory as their victory. Uprisings, lockouts, and objections to European colonization in newspapers were reported in Muslim regions after the war.[30][33] But Abdul Hamid's appeals to Muslim sentiment were not always very effective, due to widespread disaffection within the Empire. In Mesopotamia and Yemen, disturbance was endemic; nearer home, a semblance of loyalty was maintained in the army and among the Muslim population only by a system of deflation and espionage[citation needed].

America and the Philippines

Map of the Ottoman Empire during the reign of Abdul Hamid II

In 1898, U.S. Secretary of State John Hay asked United States Minister to the Ottoman Empire Oscar Straus to request that Abdul Hamid, in his capacity as caliph, write a letter to the Sulu Muslims, a Moro subgroup, of the Sulu Sultanate in the Philippines, ordering them not to join the Moro Rebellion and submit to American suzerainty and American military rule. The Sultan obliged the Americans and wrote the letter, which was sent to Mecca, whence two Sulu chiefs brought it to Sulu. It was successful, since the "Sulu Mohammedans ... refused to join the insurrectionists and had placed themselves under the control of our army, thereby recognizing American sovereignty."[34][35][36][37][38][39]

Despite Abdul Hamid's "pan-Islamic" ideology, he had readily acceded to Straus's request for help in telling the Sulu Muslims to not resist America, since he felt no need to cause hostilities between the West and Muslims.[40] Collaboration between the American military and Sulu Sultanate was due to the Ottoman Sultan persuading the Sulu Sultan.[41] John P. Finley wrote:

After due consideration of these facts, the Sultan, as Caliph caused a message to be sent to the Mohammedans of the Philippine Islands forbidding them to enter into any hostilities against the Americans, inasmuch as no interference with their religion would be allowed under American rule. As the Moros have never asked more than that, it is not surprising, that they refused all overtures made, by Aguinaldo's agents, at the time of the Filipino insurrection. President McKinley sent a personal letter of thanks to Mr. Straus for the excellent work he had done, and said, its accomplishment had saved the United States at least twenty thousand troops in the field.[42][43]

President McKinley did not mention the Ottoman role in the pacification of the Sulu Moros in his address to the first session of the Fifty-sixth Congress in December 1899, since the agreement with the Sultan of Sulu was not submitted to the Senate until 18 December.[44] The Bates Treaty, which the Americans signed with the Moro Sulu Sultanate, and which guaranteed the Sultanate's autonomy in its internal affairs and governance, was then violated by the Americans, who then invaded Moroland,[45] causing the Moro Rebellion to break out in 1904, with war raging between the Americans and Moro Muslims and atrocities committed against Moro Muslim women and children, such as the Moro Crater Massacre.

Germany's support

Abdul Hamid II attempted to correspond with the Chinese Muslim troops in service of the Qing imperial army serving under General Dong Fuxiang; they were also known as the Kansu Braves

The Triple Entente – the United Kingdom, France and Russia – had strained relations with the Ottoman Empire. Abdul Hamid and his close advisors believed the Empire should be treated as an equal player by these great powers. In the Sultan's view, the Ottoman Empire was a European empire that was distinguished by having more Muslims than Christians.

Over time, the hostile diplomatic attitudes of France (the occupation of Tunisia in 1881) and Great Britain (the 1882 establishment of de facto control in Egypt) caused Abdul Hamid to gravitate towards Germany.[1] Abdul Hamid twice hosted Kaiser Wilhelm II in Istanbul, on 21 October 1889 and on 5 October 1898. (Wilhelm II later visited Constantinople a third time, on 15 October 1917, as a guest of Mehmed V.) German officers such as Baron von der Goltz and Bodo-Borries von Ditfurth were employed to oversee the organization of the Ottoman Army.

German government officials were brought in to reorganize the Ottoman government's finances. The German emperor was also rumored to have counseled Abdul Hamid in his controversial decision to appoint his third son as his successor.[46] Germany's friendship was not altruistic; it had to be fostered by railway and loan concessions. In 1899, a significant German wish, the construction of a Berlin-Baghdad railway, was granted.[1]

Kaiser Wilhelm II also requested the Sultan's help when he had trouble with Chinese Muslim troops. During the Boxer Rebellion, the Chinese Muslim Kansu Braves fought the German Army, routing them and the other Eight Nation Alliance forces. The Muslim Kansu Braves and Boxers defeated the Alliance forces led by the German Captain Guido von Usedom at the Battle of Langfang during the Seymour Expedition, in 1900, and besieged the trapped Alliance forces during the Siege of the International Legations. It was only on the second attempt, in the Gasalee Expedition, that the Alliance forces managed to get through to battle the Chinese Muslim troops at the Battle of Peking. Wilhelm was so alarmed by the Chinese Muslim troops that he requested that Abdul Hamid find a way to stop the Muslim troops from fighting. Abdul Hamid agreed to Wilhelm's demands and sent Enver Pasha (no relation to the Young Turk leader) to China in 1901, but the rebellion was over by that time.[47] Because the Ottomans did not want conflict with the European nations and because the Ottoman Empire was ingratiating itself to gain German assistance, an order imploring Chinese Muslims to avoid assisting the Boxers was issued by the Ottoman Khalifa and reprinted in Egyptian and Muslim Indian newspapers.[48]


Abdul Hamid II made many enemies in the Ottoman Empire. His reign featured several coup d'état plans and many rebellions. The Sultan triumphed in a challenge by Kâmil Pasha of absolute rule in 1895. A large conspiracy by the Committee of Union and Progress was also foiled in 1896. His ascendancy finally ended in a revolution in 1908, and his reign for good ended with the 31 March Incident. These conspiracies were primarily driven by members of inside the Ottoman government, due to dissatisfaction with autocracy. Journalists had to contend with a strict censorship regime, while the intelligentsia chafed under the surveillance of intelligence agencies. It was in this context that a broad opposition movement to the sultan emerged, known as the Young Turks to European observers. Most Young Turks were ambitious military officers, constitutionalists, and bureaucrats of the Sublime Porte.

With state policy fostering an Islamist Ottomanism, Christian minority groups also began to turn against the government, going so far as to advocate for separatism. By the 1890s, Greek, Bulgarian, Serbian, and Aromanian militant groups started fighting Ottoman authorities, and each other, in the Macedonian conflict. Using the İdare-i Örfiyye, a clause in the defunct Ottoman constitution comparable to declaring a state of siege, the government suspended civil rights in the Ottoman Balkans. İdare-i Örfiyye was also soon declared in Eastern Anatolia to more effectively prosecute fedayi. The statute persisted under the Ottoman Empire and the Republic of Turkey until the 1940s.[49]

Educated Muslim women resented the Salafist Hatts that mandated veils be worn outside the home and to be accompanied by men, though these decrees were mostly ignored.[50]

Young Turk Revolution

See also: Young Turk Revolution, Second Constitutional Era (Ottoman Empire), and Young Turks

Opening of the first Ottoman Parliament (Meclis-i Umumî), at the Dolmabahçe Palace in 1877.
Greek lithograph celebrating the Young Turk Revolution in 1908 and the restoration of the 1876 constitution in the Ottoman Empire

The national humiliation of the Macedonian conflict, together with the resentment in the army against the palace spies and informers, at last brought matters to a crisis.[31] The Committee of Union and Progress (CUP), a Young Turks organization that was especially influential in the Rumelian army units, undertook the Young Turk Revolution in the summer of 1908. Upon learning that the troops in Salonica were marching on Istanbul (23 July), Abdul Hamid capitulated. On 24 July an irade announced the restoration of the suspended constitution of 1876; the next day, further irades abolished espionage and censorship, and ordered the release of political prisoners.[31]

On 17 December, Abdul Hamid reopened the General Assembly with a speech from the throne in which he said that the first parliament had been "temporarily dissolved until the education of the people had been brought to a sufficiently high level by the extension of instruction throughout the empire."[31]


See also: 31 March Incident and Adana massacre

Abdul Hamid II's last ride through the streets of Istanbul after the 31 March Incident

Abdul Hamid's new attitude did not save him from the suspicion of intriguing with the state's powerful reactionary elements, a suspicion confirmed by his attitude toward the counter-revolution of 13 April 1909 known as the 31 March Incident, when an insurrection of the soldiers backed by a conservative upheaval in some parts of the military in the capital overthrew Hüseyin Hilmi Pasha's government. With the Young Turks driven out of the capital, Abdul Hamid appointed Ahmet Tevfik Pasha in his place, and once again suspended the constitution and shuttered the parliament. But the Sultan controlled only Constantinople, while the Unionists were still influential in the rest of the army and provinces. The CUP appealed to Mahmud Shevket Pasha to restore the status quo. Shevket Pasha organized an ad hoc formation known as the Action Army, which marched on Constantinople. Şevket Pasha's chief of staff was captain Mustafa Kemal. The Action Army stopped first in Aya Stefanos, and negotiated with the rival government established by deputies who escaped from the capital, which was led by Mehmed Talat. It was secretly decided there that Abdul Hamid must be deposed. When the Action Army entered Istanbul, a fatwa was issued condemning Abdul Hamid, and the parliament voted to dethrone him. On 27 April, Abdul Hamid's half-brother Reshad Efendi was proclaimed as Sultan Mehmed V.[20]

The Sultan's countercoup, which had appealed to conservative Islamists against the Young Turks' liberal reforms, resulted in the massacre of tens of thousands of Christian Armenians in the Adana province, known as the Adana massacre.[51]

After deposition

The mausoleum (türbe) of Sultans Mahmud II, Abdulaziz, and Abdul Hamid II, located at Divanyolu street, Istanbul

Abdul Hamid was conveyed into captivity at Salonica (now Thessaloniki),[31] mostly at the Villa Allatini in the city's southern outskirts. In 1912, when Salonica fell to Greece, he was returned to captivity in Constantinople. He spent his last days studying, practicing carpentry, and writing his memoirs in custody at Beylerbeyi Palace in the Bosphorus, in the company of his wives and children. He died there on 10 February 1918, a few months before his brother Mehmed V, the reigning sultan. He was buried in Istanbul.

In 1930, his nine widows and thirteen children were granted $50 million from his estate after a lawsuit that lasted five years. His estate was worth $1.5 billion.[52]

Abdul Hamid was the last sultan of the Ottoman Empire to hold absolute power. He presided over 33 years of decline, during which other European countries regarded the empire as the "sick man of Europe".[53]

Personal life

The tomb of the Libyan Sufi Sheikh Muhammad Zafir al-Madani in Istanbul who initiated the Sultan into the Shadhili Sufi Order

Abdul Hamid II was a skilled carpenter and personally crafted some high-quality furniture, which can be seen at the Yıldız Palace, Şale Köşkü, and Beylerbeyi Palace in Istanbul. He was also interested in opera and personally wrote the first-ever Turkish translations of many classic operas. He also composed several opera pieces for the Mızıka-yı Hümâyun (Ottoman Imperial Band/Orchestra, established by his grandfather Mahmud II who had appointed Donizetti Pasha as its Instructor General in 1828), and hosted the famous performers of Europe at the Opera House of Yıldız Palace, which was restored in the 1990s and featured in the 1999 film Harem Suare (it begins with a scene of Abdul Hamid watching a performance). One of his guests was the French stage actress Sarah Bernhardt, who performed for audiences.[54]

Abdul Hamid was also a good wrestler at Yağlı güreş and a "patron saint" of the wrestlers. He organized wrestling tournaments in the empire, and selected wrestlers were invited to the palace. Abdul Hamid personally tried the sportsmen, and good ones remained in the palace. He was also skilled at drawing, having drawn the sole known portrait of his fourth wife, Bidar Kadın. He was extremely fond of Sherlock Holmes novels,[55] and awarded their author, Arthur Conan Doyle, the Order of the Medjidie, 2nd-Class, in 1907.[56]


It was rumored that Abdul Hamid always carried a pistol on his person at all times. In addition to locking the Ottoman Navy in the Golden Horn, he also did not allow the army to train with live ammunition.[57]


Abdul Hamid practiced traditional Islamic Sufism. He was influenced by the Libyan Shadhili Madani Sheikh, Muhammad Zafir al-Madani, whose lessons he attended in disguise in Unkapani before he became sultan. After he ascended the throne, Abdul Hamid asked al-Madani to return to Istanbul. Al-Madani initiated Shadhili gatherings of remembrance (dhikr) in the newly commissioned Yıldız Hamidiye Mosque; on Thursday evenings he accompanied Sufi masters in reciting dhikr.[54] He also became a close religious and political confidant of the sultan. In 1879, the sultan forgave the taxes of all of the Caliphate's Madani Sufi lodges (also known as zawiyas and tekkes). In 1888, he even established a Sufi lodge for the Madani order of Shadhili Sufism in Istanbul, which he commissioned as part of the Ertuğrul Tekke mosque. The relationship of the sultan and the sheik lasted for 30 years, until the latter's death in 1903.[58]


A sample of his handwritten poetry in Persian language and scripts, which was taken from the book My Father Abdul Hameed, written by his daughter Ayşe Sultan

Abdul Hamid wrote poetry, following in the footsteps of many other Ottoman sultans. One of his poems translates thus:

My Lord I know you are the Dear One (Al-Aziz)
... And no one but you are the Dear One
You are the One, and nothing else
My God take my hand in these hard times
My God be my helper in this critical hour


In the opinion of F. A. K. Yasamee:[59]

He was a striking amalgam of determination and timidity, of insight and fantasy, held together by immense practical caution and an instinct for the fundamentals of power. He was frequently underestimated. Judged on his record, he was a formidable domestic politician and an effective diplomat.[60]


Abdul Hamid had numerous consorts, but allowed none of them to have political influence; in the same way he did not allow his adoptive mother, Rahime Perestu Sultan, or other female members of his family to have such influence, though some of them still had some degree of power in private or in the daily life of the harem. The only, partial exception was Cemile Sultan, his half-sister and adoptive sister. He was convinced that his predecessors' reigns, especially those of his uncle Abdülaziz and his father Abdülmecid I, had been ruined by the excessive meddling of the women of the imperial family in affairs of state.


Abdul Hamid had at least 23 consorts:[61][62][63][64][65][66][67]


Abdul Hamid had at least eight sons:[68][63]


Abdul Hamid had at least 13 daughters:[68][63]

In popular culture

Awards and honors

Ottoman orders
Foreign orders and decorations


Threatened by several assassination attempts, Abdul Hamid II did not travel often (though still more than many previous rulers). Photographs provided visual evidence of what took place in his realm. He commissioned thousands of photographs of his empire, including from the Constantinople studio of Jean Pascal Sébah. The sultan presented large gift albums of photographs to various governments and heads of state, including the U.S.[84] and Great Britain.[85] The American collection is housed in the Library of Congress and has been digitized.[86]

See also



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Further reading

Abdul Hamid II House of OsmanBorn: 21 September 1842 Died: 10 February 1918 Regnal titles Preceded byMurad V Sultan of the Ottoman Empire 31 August 1876 – 27 April 1909 Succeeded byMehmed V Sunni Islam titles Preceded byMurad V Caliph of the Ottoman Caliphate 31 August 1876 – 27 April 1909 Succeeded byMehmed V