16th century Cyprus and Serbs in Ottoman Empire

Saint Triad Basilica- Rizokarpaso

Did you know that when Ottoman Empire conquered Cyprus from Venice in 1571 Grand Vizier was Sokolu Mehmed Pasha and that the commander of the Ottoman army was Mustafa Lala Pasha both from Bosnia with Serbian origin. They like Pertev Mehmed Pasha, Piyale Mehmed Pasha, Zal Mahmud Pasha and Huseyin Pasha who also were of Bosnian Serb origin were moved to imperial court together, and later became viziers or admiral. Sokollu Mehmed Pasha entered Imperial court after serving Iskender Çelebi for 13 years.

Curiosity is that all of them were in the viziereal council in 1571 the year Ottoman Empire invaded and conquered Cyprus. 

They were not united in their interests and aims and it is said that Mehmed Pasha Sokollu and Lala Mustafa Pasha were fierce enemies. 

Lala Mustafa Pasha was in favour of conquering Cyprus while Sokollu Mehmed Pasha was concerned at the begining.

Legend says that his relative Makarije who was appointed as a first Patriarch of renewed Serbian Orthodox church was the one who established a connection between Orthodox priests in Cyprus and Ottoman court in order to attract the interest of Ottoman Empire towards the state of affairs on the island. At that time Catholic bishop was the prime ruler of Christians getting approval, unwillingly, from Orthodox church as well. Even attending liturgies in the same Churches, Orthodox Christians were entering the Church from side doors, something you can see at the Church of Panagia Eleousa in Rizokarpaso area.

After achieving consensus at the Imperial council and Lala Mustafa Pasha got approval to prepare. Ships were build and campaign started. As he had difficulties of conquering Famagusta, Mehmed Pasha Sokollu, using his deep connections, concluded secret separate peace agreement with Venice thus stoping the supplies reaching the city. 

This is how Marko Antonio Bragadin , the commander of Famagusta was forced to surrender. 

As there is a talk now in 2019 about Famagusta old city and property issues the legend says that when Selim II heard that Lala Mustafa Pasha lost many many soldiers in conquering Cyprus he ordered for him to be deprived of any profit from Cyprus campaign and gave the right of profit to Sokollu Mehmed Pasha.  

Just to mention that some sources say that Sokollu Mehmed Pasha wealth was at 18 000 000( eighteen million ducats).

Sokollu Mehmed Pasha, Bajica Sokolovic, was not the first family member of Sokolovic family to be taken to the court through “dervişirme”. The first one was Deli Husrev Pasha, who even became the second Vizier of Sultan Suleiman in 1543 (from”Sokollu Familly” Encyclopedia of Ottoman Empire 2009 New York).

This information sounds right as all Janissaries which were proceeding upward wanted to have family members near them in order to feel safer and to make so called household which would give them even more power and possibility for advancement. It is quite possible that Yeşilce Mehmed Pasha acted per instructions of Deli Hüsrev Pasha to recruit Bajica Sokolovic, then 18 years old, together with his brother Lala Mustafa Pasha all in order as said above to strengthen his clan. 

However it looks like that plan backfired as Lala Mustafa Pasha and Sokollu Mehmed Pasha became enemies. That is to be confirmed many times one being the aim to conquer Cyprus where Sokollu Mehmed Pasha was against and Lala Mustafa Pasha in favour of Cyprus invasion. 

There is to this day the dispute in historiography if parents gave their children voluntarily or they forced to do so. 

What it looks like is that it was a mixed phenomenon, different from family to family. 

To be continued …

This article was published in October 2019 and republished now with some new information

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