Hamidiye (cavalry)

For the Ottoman warship, see Ottoman cruiser Hamidiye.

A major in the Hamidiye
Active 1890-1908
Country Ottoman Empire
Branch Ottoman Army
Type Cavalry
Size 16,500+ in 1892.[1]
Zeki Pasha
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Military of the
Ottoman Empire

The Hamidiye corps (literally meaning "belonging to Hamid",[2] full official name Hamidiye hafif süvari alayları, Hamidiye light cavalry regiments) were well-armed, irregular Sunni Kurdish, Turkish,[3][4] Turkmen[5] and Yörük,[6][7] also Arab cavalry formations that operated in the eastern provinces of the Ottoman Empire. Established by and named after Sultan Abdul Hamid II in 1891, they were intended to be modeled after the Russian Cossacks and were supposedly tasked to patrol the Russo-Ottoman frontier. However, the Hamidiye were more often used by the Ottoman authorities to harass and assault Armenians living in Turkish Armenia.[8]

A major role in the Armenian massacres of 1894-96 has been often ascribed to the Hamidiye regiments, particularly during the bloody suppression of the revolt of the Armenians of Sasun (1894), but recent research contends that the Hamidiye played a less important role than previously assumed.[9]

Historical background

Abdul Hamid II's reign has the reputation of being “the most despotic and centralized era in modern Ottoman History.” [10] Abdul Hamid is also considered the last sultan to have full control over Ottoman Empire. His reign struggled with the culmination of 75 years of change throughout the empire and an opposing reaction to that change.[10] Abdul Hamid II was particularly concerned with the centralization of the empire.[11] His efforts to centralize the Sublime Porte were not unheard of among other sultans. The Ottoman Empire’s local provinces had more control over their areas than the central government. Abdul Hamid II's foreign relations came from a “policy of non-commitment." [12] The sultan understood the fragility of the Ottoman military, and the Empire’s weaknesses of its domestic control.[12] Pan-Islamism became Abdülhamid’s solution to the empire’s loss of identity and power.[13] His efforts to promote Pan-Islamism were for the most part unsuccessful because of the large non-Muslim population, and the European influence onto the empire.[14] Abdul Hamid II's policies essentially isolated the Ottoman Empire, which further aided in its decline. Several of the elite who sought a new constitution and reform for the empire were forced to flee to Europe.[14] After the Treaty of Berlin (1878), the Ottoman Empire began to contract and it lost certain territories. New groups of radicals began to threaten the power of the Ottoman Empire.

Creation of Hamidiye cavalry

There are several reasons advanced as to why the Hamidiye light cavalry was created. The establishment of the Hamidiye was in one part a response to the Russian threat, but scholars believe that the central reason was to suppress Armenian socialist/nationalist revolutionaries.[15] The Armenian revolutionaries posed a threat because they were seen as disruptive, and they could work with the Russians against the Ottoman Empire.[15] The first Armenian revolutionary party was the Social Democrat Hunchakian Party.[16] The Social Democrat Hunchakian Party was made up of Armenian university students whose aim was "to create an independent Armenian state." [16] The Hamidiye Light Cavalry was created to "combat local and cross-border challenges to Ottoman authority." [17] The biggest patron of the Hamidiye was Abdul Hamid II. He wanted to create a relationship of commitment and loyalty with the Kurds that were chosen to make up the Hamidiye Cavalry.[18] The Hamidiye was divided into groups according to age: the ibtidaiye (ages 17–20), the nizamiye (age 20-32), and the redif (age 32-40).[14] An Ottoman diplomat, close advisor to the sultan, and contributor to the creation of the Hamidiye Light Cavalry was Sakir Pasa.[19] Over time the Russians forged relationships with Armenian revolutionaries, and with Kurdish tribal leaders.[19]

The Ottoman Empire understood the threat this created and is in large part why they chose the Kurds to make-up the Hamidiye. The Kurdish population could potentially unite with the Russians, but with the formation of the Hamidiye they would protect the frontiers of the Ottoman Empire . Some argue that the creation of the Hamidiye “further antagonized the Armenian population” and it worsened the very conflict they were created to prevent.[20] The Hamidiye played a huge rule in the Armenian Genocide and it was in largely responsible for the Hamidian Massacres that occurred from 1894-1896.[20] They were told to take control of many lands populated by Armenians to weaken “internal enemies” along with the hidden agenda of eventually eliminating the Armenians.[21] Regions with high Armenian revolutionary actions were targets for the Hamidiye.[22] The Hamidiye created an “Armenian Conspiracy” to justify their reasons for killing the Armenians.[23]

The Hamidiye shaped the “social, economic, and political transformations” in Kurdish societies.[24] The Hamidiye received several benefits for their participation. They were able to seize much of the lands they destroyed, whether lawful or not.[25] The Hamidiye were protected during their annual migrations (periods when they took care of their livestock).[25] They were supplied with the most advanced weapons from the state, and were given armed escorts.[25] The Hamidiye stole money from the villages they plundered without fear of government sanction.[26] Another important on-site commissioner of the Hamidiye was Zeki Pasha, who was connected to the sultan through marriage.[27] Zeki Pasha was given the task of collecting sufficient taxes in order to recruit the Kurdish into the Hamidiye. If one was a member of the Hamidiye and a crime was committed against you, the government would take immediate action to punish the criminals.[28] The plunder, murder, and theft that the Hamidiye carried out went unpunished, but if a non-Hamidiye group did similar actions they were punished.[29] Other groups who associated themselves with the Hamidiye received benefits as well, they rose in power with the money and land they acquired illegally.[30]

The Hamidiye were not held responsible for their terrible actions. They were assured freedom of action in raids that involved non-Hamidiye parties.[28] The Hamidiye obtained wealth illegally with secret help from the Ottoman government. The corruption, chaos, and destruction caused by the Hamidiye is a direct cause of their lack of order and control. No guidelines in the Hamidiye cavalry led some of its members to not be a part of the indulgences that came with the corruption. Ottoman soldiers described the some Hamidiye as “miserable, hungry, and sometimes poorly clothed.”[31] The Hamidiye’s performance was due to their “lack of professionalism superimposed on an emotionally charged mission requiring highly disciplined troops.”[32] The cavalry was not prepared for all they were intended to do because they were not trained properly and based their raids on anti-Armenian ideologies. These factors led to the slow disintegration of the Hamidiye.


The uniform ranking system was based on the 1861 patterns of cuff chevrons.[33] Several ceremonies took place to for the Hamidiye where they wore elegant uniforms showing their ranks and accomplishments. The new uniforms were to take the place of the colorful uniforms previously worn by the Kurds.[34] Its purpose was to create an identity for the Hamidiye who were spread across the frontiers of the empire.[34] They sometimes consisted of grey tunics or waist-belts, grey trousers with a narrow red stripe, and kalpak with the imperial arms.[35] The uniforms slightly varied depending on the region the Hamidiye was located.


The Hamidiye Regiments were stationed in the following towns and villages.[36]

Number Tribe Place Cavalry Infantry Total
1 Sipkân Dutak 400 250 650
2 Sipkân Hosuna 400 175 575
3 Sipkân Cemal Verdi 400 225 625
4 Zilan Toprakkale 250 360 610
5 Zilan Karakilise 450 250 700
6 Karapapak and Kurds Eleşkirt and Karakilise 400 150 650
7 Terekeme and Kurds Tutak - Karakilise 300 200 500
8 Keşvan Hasankale 200 175 475
9 Şapikan and Badayan Kızıldiz 250 325 575
10 Taşkesen, Diyadin Kasatkanlı 198 350 548
11 Mikaili Karakilise, Diyadin 175 325 500
12 Hamdiki, Başımi, Hal Hesini Karakilise, Diyadin 225 350 525
13 Haydaran Bergiri (Muradiye) 200 318 518
14 Haydaran Bergiri (Muradiye) 175 350 525
15 Şevli Van, Timar 200 350 550
16 Kalıkan, Livi Erciş 255 270 525
17 Mukuri Saray 215 315 530
18 Takari Zermaniz, Saray 300 380 680
19 Milli, Şemsiki Saray 225 425 650
20 Şkeftka Eblak 327 213 540
21 Adaman, Zilan, Hecidıran Erciş 250 275 525
22 Haydaran Erciş 175 350 525
23 Haydaran Adilcevaz 200 350 550
24 Heydaran Erciş 175 350 525
25 Marhoran Adilcevaz 250 300 550
26 Hasenan Hınıs (Kumdeban) 335 205 540
27 Hasenan Malazgirt 340 200 540
28 Hasenan Malazgirt (Diknuk, Dinbut) 304 230 534
29 Hasenan Moranköyü 310 230 540
30 Hasenan Bulanık 308 232 540
31 Cibran Gümgüm 308 232 540
32 Cibran Hınıs 310 235 545
33 Cibran Varto 315 330 545
34 Zirkan Tekman 300 250 550
35 Zirkan Söylemez 375 500 875
36 Cibran Kiğı 285 265 550
37 Celali Bayezit (Örtülü kışlağı) 305 370 540
38 Celali Bayezit (Şeyhlu kışlağı) 300 240 540
39 Takori Mahmudiye (Saray) 305 301 606
40 Kafkasya muhacirleri Sivas 275 500 775
41 Milli Mardin 275 265 540
42 Milli Siverek 255 375 630
43 Milli Siverek 303 247 550
44 Karakeçi Siverek 305 225 530
45 Kikan Ra's al-'Ayn, Mardin 350 270 620
46 Tay (Arab) Nusaybin 445 185 630
47 Karakeçi Siverek 310 230 540
48 Miran Cezire 335 205 540
49 Miran Cezire 308 232 540
50 Ertoşi Elbak 375 300 625
51 Kays Urfa 450 200 650
52 Kays Harran 400 150 550
53 Berazı Urfa 250 300 550
54 Berazı Urfa 300 300 600
55 Berazı Urfa 275 300 575
56 Gevdan Hakkari 200 300 500
57 Şadili Hasankale 300 250 550
58 Adaman Erciş 200 350 550
59 Pinyan Hakkari 150 400 550
60 Şidan Hakkari 350 300 650
61 Kasıkan Söylemez 250 300 550
62 Kiki Harran 250 350 600
63 Milli Viranşehir 550 250 800
64 Milli Viranşehir 600 225 825
65 Belideyi Erciş, Patnos, Malazgirt 250 200 450


  1. Balakian, Peter (2003). The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America's Response. New York: HarperCollins. p. 51. ISBN 0-06-055870-9.
  2. Balakian. Burning Tigris, p. 44.
  3. Palmer, Alan, Verfall und Untergang des Osmanischen Reiches, Heyne, München 1994 (engl. Original: London 1992), pp. 249, 258, 389. ISBN 3-453-11768-9.
  4. Van Bruinessen, Martin. Agha, Shaikh and State - The Social and Political Structures of Kurdistan. London: Zed Books, 1992, p. 185. Van Bruinessen mentions the "occasional" recruiting of a Turkish tribe (the Qarapapakh)
  5. Shaw, Stanford J. and Ezel Kural Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977, vol. 2, p. 246.
  6. Öhrig, Bruno, Meinungen und Materialien zur Geschichte der Karakeçili Anatoliens, in: Matthias S. Laubscher (Ed.), Münchener Ethnologische Abhandlungen, 20, Akademischer Verlag, München 1998 (Edition Anacon), zugleich Inaugural-Dissertation zur Erlangung des Doktorgrades der Philosophie an der Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität zu München, München 1996, p. 36, ISBN 3-932965-10-8. U. a. mit Verweis auf Ş. Beysanoğlu, Ziya Gökalp´in İlk Yazı Hayatı - 1894-1909 [Ziya Gökalp's First Writing Life, 1894-1909], Istanbul 1956, pp. 164-168.
  7. Vgl. deutschsprachige Wikipedia, Artikel "Yörük", Abschnitt "Herkunft und Einwanderung nach Kleinasien", Versions-ID 31139363
  8. Hovannisian, Richard G. "The Armenian Question in the Ottoman Empire, 1876-1914" in The Armenian People From Ancient to Modern Times, Volume II: Foreign Dominion to Statehood: The Fifteenth Century to the Twentieth Century. Richard G. Hovannisian (ed.) New York: St. Martin's Press, 1997, p. 217. ISBN 0-312-10168-6.
  9. Verheij, Jelle (1998). Les Frères de terre et d'eau: sur le role des Kurdes dans les massacres arméniens de 1894-1896, in: Bruinessen, M. van & Blau, Joyce, eds., Islam des Kurdes (special issue of Cahiers de l'Autre Islam
  10. 1 2 Stephen Duguid, The Politics of Unity: Hamidian Policy of Eastern Anatolia, 139
  11. Dr. Bayram Kodaman, The Hamidiye Light Cavalry Regiments (Abdullmacid II and Eastern Anatolian Tribes)
  12. 1 2 M.Sükrü Hanioglu, A Brief History of the Late Ottoman Empire, 129.
  13. M.Sükrü Hanioglu, A Brief History of the Late Ottoman Empire, 130.
  14. 1 2 3 Dr. Bayram Kodaman, The Hamidiye Light Cavalry Regiments (Abdullmacid II and Eastern Anatolian Tribes)
  15. 1 2 Summary of Janet Klein’s Power in the Periphery: The Hamidiye Light Cavalry and the Struggle over Ottoman Kurdistan, 1890-1914.
  16. 1 2 "Social Democrat Hunchakian Party". hunchak.org.au.
  17. Janet Klein, Joost Jongerden, Jelle Verheij, Social Relations in Ottoman Diyarbekir, 1870-1975, 172
  18. Manfred Berg, Simon Wendt, Globalizing Lynching History: Vigilantism and Extralegal Punishment from an International Perspective, 127.
  19. 1 2 Janet Klein, Joost Jongerden, Jelle Verheij, Social Relations in Ottoman Diyarbekir, 1870-1975, 151
  20. 1 2 Janet Klein, Joost Jongerden, Jelle Verheij, Social Relations in Ottoman Diyarbekir, 1870-1975, 152
  21. Klein, The Margins of the Empire, 5.
  22. Klein, The Margins of the Empire, 26.
  23. Janet Klein, Joost Jongerden, Jelle Verheij, Social Relations in Ottoman Diyarbekir, 1870-1975, 153.
  24. Janet Klein, Joost Jongerden, Jelle Verheij, Social Relations in Ottoman Diyarbekir, 1870-1975, 154
  25. 1 2 3 Klein, The Margins of the Empire, 68.
  26. Janet Klein, Joost Jongerden, Jelle Verheij, Social Relations in Ottoman Diyarbekir, 1870-1975, 160
  27. Klein, The Margins of the Empire, 27.
  28. 1 2 Klein, The Margins of the Empire, 69.
  29. Klein, The Margins of the Empire, 70.
  30. Klein, The Margins of the Empire, 75.
  31. Klein, The Margins of the Empire, 87.
  32. Edward J. Erickson, Defeat in Detail: The Ottoman Army in the Balkans, 1912-1913, 14
  33. http://www.ottoman-uniforms.com/ottoman-hamidiye-corps-1890-till-1908/
  34. 1 2 Klein, The Margins of the Empire, 37.
  35. Klein, The Margins of the Empire, 38.
  36. (Turkish) Avyarov. Osmanlı-Rus ve İran Savaşlar'ında Kürtler 1801-1900 [The Kurds in the Ottoman-Russian and -Iranian Wars, 1801-1900]. Ankara: SİPAN, 1995, OCLC 38764140.


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