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With a military force and a bureaucracy thus recruited from the non-Turkish and non-Moslem subjects, the earlier Ottoman sultans secured effective control over the empire. This they were able to maintain until the forces of corruption inherent in a military state based essentially on exploitation undermined the integrity of the Ruling Institution and changed basically the structure of the Janissary organization.
The Janissaries were closely associated with the religious order of the Bektash Dervishes, whose agha, or chief, held a commission as colonel in the Janissary organization. Dervishes were attached to all the military units of the Janissaries in their barracks and to the troops in the field. Thus the Janissaries closely affiliated with the Moslem Institution of ulemas, muftis, and cadis acquired elements of political power which threatened that of the sultans.

Growing weakness of the sultans in the seventeenth century resulted in the granting of more privileges to the Janissaries, whose officers became a class exempted from the burdens of taxation which even the Moslem population bore. Although Janissaries held a very special position in the empire and their officers had many opportunities to enrich themselves, the rank and file frequently found themselves without pay when the government was in financial difficulties.


Gradually, the very structure of Janissary organization was changed. Because of the opportunities open to the officers, many Turks sought to have their children enrolled in the Janissary corps, and by the last quarter of the seventeenth century the Janissaries ceased to be recruited from Christian families. Meanwhile, many ill-paid Janissary privates engaged in crafts and commercial activities, becoming prominent in so-called "corporations," which were comparable to the craft and merchant guilds of medieval Europe. This military organization holding a specially privileged position closely allied with a powerful religious brotherhood, eventually became intimately associated with important economic organizations. It thus grew to be a potent instrument of political power. The Janissaries, by riots, and mutinies, forced the sultans to dismiss members of the Divan and grand viziers, and even deposed sultans. While it was frequently described by historians as a Praetorian Guard, the Janissary corps, through its affiliations with other Ottoman institutions, had wider alliances than any mere body of mercenary troops.

The growing corruption of the Janissary corps undermined the military power of the Ottoman Empire and exposed it to foreign invasion. It threatened the very existence of orderly government. Not until 1826 was its power broken and the Ottoman state freed from this dangerous incubus. It was only when the ulemas and the members of the Ruling Institution had come to understand its threat to the very existence of the state that Sultan Mahmoud II was able to obtain their consent to the destruction of the Janissary corps.

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