192. On the Bosphorus and beyond. Part 2
“Bu şehr-i Stanbul ki, bî-misl ü behâdır,
Bir sengine yekpâre Acem mülkü fedâdır,
Bâzâr-i hüner ma’den-i ilm ü ülemâdır.”
“Layık olursa cihanda bana taht-ı şevket
Eylemek mahz-ı safadır bana nasa hızmet” 
“Lenience in the eyes of Asians is a sign of weakness”
Sultan Selim III was intended
to become a great reformer but he was facing serious obstacles.
“The reforms of Selim III, under favorable conditions, could lead to progress in the economy and military affairs. However, the situation in the country was difficult, the government had no support among the people. Reforms were beneficial primarily to the state. As a result of the reforms, the Port Peasantry received only one thing - tax increases. The cities of the Empire remained adherents of traditional foundations: artisans were hammered, merchants counted only on themselves. The most enterprising of them belonged to non-Turkish nationalities, they did not care about strengthening Turkish statehood. The Janissaries opposed the reforms. The fact is that the regular units created by the Sultan favorably differed from the Janissaries in discipline and military training. In the future, they were to replace the Janissary Corps. The Sultan's centralization plans were opposed by large beys of Anatolia, Rumelia and other regions.” https://studfile.net/preview/7192385/page:37/
In opinion of some modern historians one of the big problems was that Selim was driven by “an unnecessary in this case feeling of mercy” and was ready to roll back the reforms leaving them, and the reformers, at the mercy of opposition that was not suffering from any sentiments. His "Nizam-i Cedid
" [new order] army trained by the French officers had only two “regiments” (it was almost impossible for him to divert soldiers from the regular army into the new units) and its most capable unit was the artillery equipped with modern guns cast in the foundry founded by Baron de Tott. These troops had been held in two barracks built outside of Istanbul city center.
The Ottoman Navy had some new ships with the crews trained European style and two recent campaigns with “Ushak Pasha” provided them with a valuable experience. Presently, the squadron that was operating on the Adriatics, together with the Russian squadron, was in the Marmara Sea causing almost open irritation of the “true believers”. The squadron was also carrying 2,000 Albanians of Ali Pasha of Yanina, the troops known for their ferocity and held in check only by authority of their Pasha and by a high prestige of “Ushak Pasha” .
Rather paradoxically, Selim could, to one degree or another, rely upon the Albanians and Serbs, not because they were really loyal to the throne but because they hated the Janissary. Pretty much the same could be said about the Sipahi but all these troops, except for Kapikulu Sipahis, had been routinely located in the provinces. However, their elite division, Silahdars, chosen from the best warriors in the Ottoman Empire, were placed in Constantinople and there were 12,000 of them.
With the recent war over Alexander had time and the resources to dedicate to the “Ottoman Issue”. The interest was not by any measure altruistic. In 1805 the grain export from Odessa only amounted to 700,000 “четвертей”  with a total cost of over 5.7 millions (silver) rubles. Strategically, with the Russian navy being in a position to establish blockade of both
straits, it could easily starve Constantinople if not to death than at least to a hinger revolt . However, much more important was dependency of the land owners and merchants of the Southern Russia upon the unimpeded exports and if the Muslim radicals would come to power in Istanbul the problems could be expected.
It was quite clear from the report of the Russian Ambassador at the Porte that the Sultan is too mild a person to arrange for the decisive measures unless
he is pushed by the right person and backed up by the right resources. The resources were not a problem: five grenadier battalions had been kept ready for embarkation in Sevastopol as “the first installment” with much more following if needed. Taking into an account that the fighting capacities of the Janissary had been steadily deteriorating over the last century, the reinforcement would not probably be even needed.
The problem was to find the right man to handle the situation and Generalissimus Bonapatre had just a man for the task, his former chief of staff, general Yermolov.
A man of a great personal bravery and charisma and one of the most talented Russian generals, he was extremely intelligent and equally devious . Ushakov, present with his squadron on the site, was of course greatly outranking him but he was an extremely descent and honest man and implementation of the “Asiatic methods” was not his forte. Actually, to a great degree the respect he gained among his Ottoman subordinates was due to his honesty (unusual for the Ottomans of a high rank). Of course, he will follow the imperial orders and provide all necessary backing (and if need arises will not hesitate to burn Istanbul with his artillery) but putting the things together.
Dealing with the Issue.
As soon as he arrived and was received by the Sultan, Yermolov started working on implementation of the plan he designed based upon the ambassadorial reports. It looked like he had to deal with two-fold opposition, the military and spiritual.
- The military opposition, the Janissaries. Although the estimated number of Janissaries at the time was seventy thousand, only thirty thousand of them were combat soldiers; the rest were officials and civilians who received the pay that originally had gone to combat soldiers, but which had been traded by third parties over the years as some sort of state bonds. In fact, from the mid-seventeenth century on, the Janissaries had gradually lost their role as the main combat force in the Ottoman army. Nevertheless, because of their continuing privileges concerning the carrying of arms and immunity from taxation, the Janissaries continued to act as an influential group in domestic political, social, and economic affairs. In many towns of the empire they became involved in commercial activities of all kinds, sometimes establishing monopolies, sometimes playing the role of a trade union for their proteges among the riffraff of Istanbul. It was because of this that some British agents in the Ottoman Empire described the Janissary Corps as the “representative of people” and wondered whether the post-Janissary regime might be a more repressive one, giving the sultan a loyal and apolitical military instrument. Of course those who did not have military training were useless as a military force but in the case of a revolt they would add strength to the intimidating crowd running through the streets of Istanbul. However, as at some point was demonstrated by certain general of the French Republic, “a whiff of a grapeshot” can do miracles to the ill-organized mobs. Yermolov was a self-educated man who was studying the military history very carefully.
- The spiritual opposition was seemingly a greater problem because the Ulema led by Shaykh al-Islām (who had the power to confirm new sultans) were against any Western influence. However, there was a big “BUT” which Yermolov did not miss: once the sultan was affirmed, the sultan retained a higher authority than the Sheik ul-Islam and could overrule his fatwas.
The artillerymen and Nizam had been put on a high alert and so were Silahdars with the strong pickets being placed near the Sultan residence (and the boats provided in the case he will need to escape to the fleet). The Russian and Ottoman warships were moved closer to the shore and the Albanians made ready to get to the boats and get to the city. High religious officials were ordered to give sermons that it was a religious obligation to oppose the Western enemies “with their own arms and techniques”.
Now, the only thing needed was a provocation triggering an open revolt and this part was easy. The sultan informed them that he was forming a new army, the Sekban-ı Cedit, organized and trained along modern European lines (and that the new army would be Turkish
–dominated). The Janissaries saw their institution as crucial to the well-being of the Ottoman Empire
, especially to Rumelia
, and had previously decided they would never allow its dissolution. Thus, as predicted, they mutinied, advancing on the sultan's palace. The Sultan then brought out the Holy Banner
of the Prophet Muhammad
from inside the Sacred Trust
, intending all true believers to gather beneath it and thus bolster opposition to the Janissaries.
The government was well prepared. Cannons fired upon the Janissary barracks, while other military forces, joined by students of religious schools and Muslim inhabitants of Istanbul, marched against the rebels. The government forces put down the mutiny on the same day it began. Approximately two thousand rebels were executed in Istanbul and many more were banished either to frontier fortresses in the Balkans or to their home provinces. Two days later it was officially announced that the Janissary Corps was abolished throughout the empire.
With the exception of some provinces (including Bosnia) where Janissaries were able to resist for several months because of their close commercial and social bonds with local officials and powerholders, the abolition of this four-centuries-old institution was realized more easily than expected.
General Yermolov, his mission accomplished, sailed back to Russia together with Ushakov’s squadron.
Following the abolition of the Janissaries as the main body of the Ottoman central army, efforts were made in Istanbul to recruit jobless and poor youngsters aged 15–25 for the new army: “The Victorious Soldiers of Muhammad” (Asakir-i Mansure-i Muhammediyye). The new army was planned to consist of eight regiments with a total of twelve thousand officers and other ranks. Although the recruits were expected to join the ranks voluntarily on a professional basis, low wages and the twelve- year obligatory service was not attractive to many young men and the urgent need for more troops was met by coercing draftees. Local officials preyed upon them and some- times sent them in chains to army camps. However, many of these “volunteers” were sick, old, or unskilled, providing horseless cavalries and unarmed infantries who when war came fled from the battlefield at the first opportunity. Although the new army was officially imagined as an all-Muslim community, many Muslims tried to avoid both volun- tary and mandatory military service. Under the leadership of their feudal and tribal chiefs, rural and tribal communities of ethnic Bosnians, Albanians, Kurds, Yezidees, Arab Bedouins, Lazes, and Turcomans fiercely resisted conscription for dozens of years, and proved willing to give service only as undisciplined mercenaries during campaigns.
In the first ten years the number of recruits was reported to have reached 161,036 soldiers. Of every ten draftees, however, five were lost because of epidemics, four disappeared as war losses (deserters, captives, deaths), and the remaining one was dismissed. Those who were able to retire after twelve years of obligatory service constituted a very small minority. For the Ottoman political elite, the key attributes of the new army were “discipline and drill.” However, the army lacked the skilled officers to teach European drill and maneuvers.
However, this was a matter of future and as for now the task was accomplished: the Russian-friendly Sultan was firmly in power, the most dangerous opposition was dealt with and the moderate (and rather inept) reforms more or less guaranteed a continued existence of the Ottoman Empire. The Serbs, who actually rebelled against the Janissaries,
got their autonomy.
In Egypt Muhammed Ali was firmly in power. He was quietly forming a standing army consisting mainly of conscripted native Egyptian Arab peasants trained by French officers and led by Turkish, Albanian, and Circassian commanders. However, it will take years to make it into the serious fighting force so for now he was loyal.
The trade was going uninterrupted and everything was fine and quiet on the Bosphorus.
 “This is the city of Istanbul - unmatched, luxurious./His stone of the lands of all Iran is worthy./People of new searches are born in it,/And at the bazaars of science, its essence is the essence of all knowledge.”
 “At the behest of fate, having ascended to the throne,/To serve my people/It will be sweeter than all praise.”
 Not too different from the Russian state of the late XVII - early XVIII.
 “четверть” = 12 puds (1 pud = 16 kilograms). So it was over 134,000 tons
 Did happen in OTL in 1807 when Senyavin established blockade of the Dardanelles. After food riots broke out, Sultan Selim III
was replaced with Mustafa IV
 His OTL activities in the Caucasus aside, when being sent to negotiate the peace with Persia he found a rather unexpected way to intimidate his counterparts “I assured the Persians that my ancestors were Tatars, and pretended to be a descendant of Genghis Khan, surprising them with the remark that in the very country where my ancestors ruled, where everything subdued their terrible weapons, I am an ambassador confirming peace and friendship.”
Funny as it may be, the claim worked and he was treated with the utmost respect by the intimidated Persians and managed to squeeze the most favorable terms.