Kara Mustafa Pasha

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Merzifonlu Kara Mustafa Paşa (Born 1634/1635 – died 25 December 1683) was an Ottoman military leader and grand vizier who was a central character in the empire's last attempts at expansion into both Central Europe and Eastern Europe.


His Name

In contemporary sources, Mustafa is universally described as both greedy and villainous. The veracity of this is naturally open to conjecture, although his nickname of Kara (black or handsome [1]) can certainly be interpreted in this way.

Born to Turkish parents in Merzifon, he was adopted into the powerful Albanian Köprülü family at a young age, and served as a messenger to Damascus for his brother-in-law, the grand vizier Ahmed Köprülü. He directed in the name of Köprülü family's mukata' or tımar fields in Merzifon. After distinguishing himself, Mustafa became a vizier in his own right, and by 1663, commander of the Ottoman Grand Fleet of the Aegean Sea.

His Official Life

He served as a commander of ground troops in a war against Poland in 1672, negotiating a settlement that added the province of Podolia to the empire. The victory enabled the Ottomans to transform the Cossack regions of the southern Ukraine into a protectorate. In 1676, when the grand vizier died, Mustafa succeeded him.

He was less successful in combating a Cossack rebellion that began in 1678. After some initial victories, intervention by Russia turned the tide and forced the Turks to conclude peace in 1681, effectively returning the Cossack lands to Russian rule with the exception of a few forts on the Dnieper and Bug rivers.

Battle of Vienna

In 1683, he launched a campaign northward into Austria in a last effort to expand the Ottoman empire after more than 150 years of war. By mid-July, his 100,000-man army had besieged Vienna (guarded by 10,000 Habsburg soldiers), following in the footsteps of Suleiman the Magnificent in 1529. By September, he had taken a portion of the walls and appeared to be on his way to victory.

But on 12 September 1683, the Austrians and their Polish allies under King Jan Sobieski took advantage of dissent within the Turkish military command and poor disposition of his troops, winning the Battle of Vienna with a devastating flank attack led by Sobieski's Polish cavalry. The Turks retreated into Hungary, and then leaving the kingdom for retaking by the Germans in 1686.

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