1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Kuprili

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KUPRILI, spelt also Köprili, Koeprulu, Keuprulu, &c., the name of a family of Turkish statesmen.

1. Mahommed Kuprili (c. 1586–1661) was the grandson of an Albanian who had settled at Kupri in Asia Minor. He began life as a scullion in the imperial kitchen, became cook, then purse-bearer to Khosrev Pasha, and so, by wit and favour, rose to be master of the horse, “pasha of two tails,” and governor of a series of important cities and sanjaks. In 1656 he was appointed governor of Tripoli; but before he had set out to his new post he was nominated to the grand vizierate at the instance of powerful friends. He accepted office only on condition of being allowed a free hand. He signalized his accession to power by suppressing an émeute of orthodox Mussulman fanatics in Constantinople (Sept. 22), and by putting to death certain favourites of the powerful Valide Sultana, by whose corruption and intrigues the administration had been confused. A little later (January 1657) he suppressed with ruthless severity a rising of the spahis; a certain Sheik Salim, leader of the fanatical mob of the capital, was drowned in the Bosporus; and the Greek Patriarch, who had written to the voivode of Wallachia to announce the approaching downfall of Islam, was hanged. This impartial severity was a foretaste of Kuprili’s rule, which was characterized throughout by a vigour which belied the expectations based upon his advanced years, and by a ruthlessness which in time grew to be almost blood-lust. His justification was the new life which he breathed into the decaying bones of the Ottoman empire.

Having cowed the disaffected elements in the state, he turned his attention to foreign enemies. The victory of the Venetians off Chios (May 2, 1657) was a severe blow to the Turkish sea-power, which Kuprili set himself energetically to repair. A second battle, fought in the Dardanelles (July 17–19), ended by a lucky shot blowing up the Venetian flag-ship; the losses of the Ottoman fleet were repaired, and in the middle of August Kuprili appeared off Tenedos, which was captured on the 31st and reincorporated permanently in the Turkish empire. Thus the Ottoman prestige was restored at sea, while Kuprili’s ruthless enforcement of discipline in the army and suppression of revolts, whether in Europe or Asia, restored it also on land. It was, however, due to his haughty and violent temper that the traditional friendly relations between Turkey and France were broken. The French ambassador, de la Haye, had delayed bringing him the customary gifts, with the idea that he would, like his predecessors, speedily give place to a new grand vizier; Kuprili was bitterly offended, and, on pretext of an abuse of the immunities of diplomatic correspondence, bastinadoed the ambassador’s son and cast him and the ambassador himself into prison. A special envoy, sent by Louis XIV., to make inquiries and demand reparation, was treated with studied insult; and the result was that Mazarin abandoned the Turkish alliance and threw the power of France on to the side of Venice, openly assisting the Venetians in the defence of Crete.

Kuprili’s restless energy continued to the last, exhibiting itself on one side in wholesale executions, on the other in vast building operations. By his orders castles were built at the mouth of the Don and on the bank of the Dnieper, outworks against the ever-aggressive Tatars, as well as on either shore of the Dardanelles. His last activity as a statesman was to spur the sultan on to press the war against Hungary. He died on the 31st of October 1661. The advice which, on his death-bed, he is said to have given to the sultan is characteristic of his Machiavellian statecraft. This was: never to pay attention to the advice of women, to allow nobody to grow too rich, to keep his treasury well filled, and himself and his troops constantly occupied. Had he so desired, Kuprili might have taken advantage of the revolts of the Janissaries to place himself on the throne; instead, he recommended the sultan to appoint his son as his successor, and so founded a dynasty of able statesmen who occupied the grand vizierate almost without interruption for half a century.

2. Fazil Ahmed Kuprili (1635–1676), son of the preceding, succeeded his father as grand vizier in 1661 (this being the first instance of a son succeeding his father in that office since the time of the Chenderélis). He began life in the clerical career, which he left, at the age of twenty-three, when he had attained the rank of muderris. Usually humane and generous, he sought to relieve the people of the excessive taxation and to secure them against unlawful exactions. Three years after his accession to office Turkey suffered a crushing defeat at the battle of St Gothard and was obliged to make peace with the Empire. But Kuprili’s influence with the sultan remained unshaken, and five years later Crete fell to his arms (1669). The next war in which he was called upon to take part was with Poland, in defence of the Cossacks, who had appealed to Turkey for protection. At first successful, Kuprili was defeated by the Poles under John Sobieski at Khotin and Lemberg; the Turks, however, continued to hold their own, and finally in October 1676 consented to honourable terms of peace by the treaty of Zurawno (October 16, 1676), retaining Kaminiec, Podolia and the greater part of the Ukraine. Three days later Ahmed Kuprili died. His military capacity was far inferior to his administrative qualities. He was a liberal protector of art and literature, and the kindliness of his disposition formed a marked contrast to the cruelty of his father; but he was given to intemperance, and the cause of his death was dropsy brought on by alcoholic abuse.

3. Zade Mustafa Kuprili (1637–1691), surnamed Fazil, son of Mahommed Kuprili, became grand vizier to Suleiman II. in 1689. Called to office after disaster had driven Turkey’s forces from Hungary and Poland and her fleets from the Mediterranean, he began by ordering strict economy and reform in the taxation; himself setting the example, which was widely followed, of voluntary contributions for the army, which with the navy he reorganized as quickly as he could. His wisdom is shown by the prudent measures which he took by enacting the Nizam-i-jedid, or new regulations for the improvement of the condition of the Christian rayas, and for affording them security for life and property; a conciliatory attitude which at once bore fruit in Greece, where the people abandoned the Venetian cause and returned to their allegiance to the Porte. He met his death at the battle of Salankamen in 1691, when the total defeat of the Turks by the Austrians under Prince Louis of Baden led to their expulsion from Hungary.

4. Hussein Kuprili (surnamed Amuja-Zade) was the son of Hassan, a younger brother of Mahommed Kuprili. After occupying various important posts he became grand vizier in 1697, and owing to his ability and energy the Turks were able to drive the Austrians back over the Save, and Turkish fleets were sent into the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. The efforts of European diplomacy succeeded in inducing Austria and Turkey to come to terms by the treaty of Carlowitz, whereby Turkey was shorn of her chief conquests (1699). After this event Hussein Kuprili, surnamed “the Wise,” devoted himself to the suppression of the revolts which had broken out in Arabia, Egypt and the Crimea, to the reduction of the Janissaries, and to the institution of administrative and financial reform. Unfortunately the intrigues against him drove him from office in 1702, and soon afterwards he died.

5. Numan Kuprili, son of Mustafa Fazil, became grand vizier in 1710. The expectations formed of him were not fulfilled, as although he was tolerant, wise and just like his father, he injudiciously sought to take upon himself all the details of administration, a task which proved to be beyond his powers. He failed to introduce order into the administration and was dismissed from office in less than fourteen months after his appointment.

6. Abdullah Kuprili, a son of Mustafa Fazil Kuprili, was appointed Kaimmakam or locum tenens of the grand vizier in 1703. He commanded the Persian expedition in 1723 and captured Tabriz in 1725, resigning his office in 1726. In 1735 he again commanded against the Persians, but fell at the disastrous battle of Bagaverd, thus emulating his father’s heroic death at Selankamen.