Sanjaks were administrative divisions of the Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

. Sanjak, and the variant spellings sandjak, sanjaq, and sinjaq, are English transliterations of the Turkish
Turkish language
Turkish is a language spoken as a native language by over 83 million people worldwide, making it the most commonly spoken of the Turkic languages. Its speakers are located predominantly in Turkey and Northern Cyprus with smaller groups in Iraq, Greece, Bulgaria, the Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo,...

 word sancak, meaning district, banner, or flag. Sanjaks were also called by the Arabic word for banner or flag, liwa
Liwa (arabic)
Liwa or Liwa is an Arabic term meaning district, banner, or flag, a type of administrative division. It was interchangeable with the Turkish term "Sanjak" in the time of the Ottoman Empire. After the fall of the empire, the term was used in the Arab countries formerly under Ottoman rule...



Sanjaks originally were the first-level subdivisions of the Ottoman Empire
Subdivisions of the Ottoman Empire
The subdivisions of the Ottoman Empire were administrative divisions of the state organisation of the Ottoman Empire. Outside this system were various types of vassal and tributary states....

. They arose in the mid-14th century as military districts that were part of the timar
Timar is a land granted by the Ottoman sultans between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries, with a tax revenue annual value of less than 20 000 akçes. The revenues produced from land acted as compensation for military service. A Timar holder was known as a Timariot...

, a military-feudal
Feudalism was a set of legal and military customs in medieval Europe that flourished between the 9th and 15th centuries, which, broadly defined, was a system for ordering society around relationships derived from the holding of land in exchange for service or labour.Although derived from the...

 system. In addition to the paid professional army, the Ottoman army had corps of cavalry soldiers (called spahis or sipahi) who performed military service in return for estates granted
A fee was the central element of feudalism and consisted of heritable lands granted under one of several varieties of feudal tenure by an overlord to a vassal who held it in fealty in return for a form of feudal allegiance and service, usually given by the...

 by the Sultan (larger estates were called zaim or zeamet, smaller ones timar). Spahis gathered for war according to the Sanjak in which they lived, and were led by an official called a Sanjak-beg or Sanjakbey
Bey is a title for chieftain, traditionally applied to the leaders of small tribal groups. Accoding to some sources, the word "Bey" is of Turkish language In historical accounts, many Turkish, other Turkic and Persian leaders are titled Bey, Beg, Bek, Bay, Baig or Beigh. They are all the same word...

(roughly equivalent to "district governor").

With the formation of new first-level divisions, the beylerbeylik
Beylerbeylik was a type of country subdivision in the Ottoman Empire....

s (later eyalet
Eyalets were a former primary administrative division of the Ottoman Empire. The term is sometimes translated province or government. Depending on the rank of their commander, they are also sometimes known as pashaliks, beylerbeyliks, and kapudanliks.From 1453 to the beginning of the nineteenth...

s and vilayets), in the late 14th century, sanjaks were mostly second level divisions.

The number of Sanjaks in the Empire varied greatly. The Tanzimat
The Tanzimât , meaning reorganization of the Ottoman Empire, was a period of reformation that began in 1839 and ended with the First Constitutional Era in 1876. The Tanzimât reform era was characterized by various attempts to modernize the Ottoman Empire, to secure its territorial integrity against...

 reforms of the 19th century saw the number climb to over 400, but more usually it was around 150.

Not all sanjaks were part of a province; some were in newly conquered areas that had yet to be assigned to a province and others such as Benghazi
Benghazi is the second largest city in Libya, the main city of the Cyrenaica region , and the former provisional capital of the National Transitional Council. The wider metropolitan area is also a district of Libya...

 and Çatalca
Çatalca is a city and a rural district in Istanbul, Turkey. It is in Thrace, on the ridge between the Marmara and the Black Sea. Most people living in Çatalca are either farmers or those visiting vacation homes. Many families from Istanbul come to Çatalca during weekends to hike in the forests or...

 remained independent of the province system with their leaders reporting directly to the Porte.

A sanjak could be divided into smaller units, called kadiluk
A Kadiluk, in some cases equivalent to a Kaza, was a local administrative subdivision of the Ottoman empire, which was the territory of a Kadı, or judge.There could be several kadiluks in a sanjak...

s; each of which had a Kadı
Qadi is a judge ruling in accordance with Islamic religious law appointed by the ruler of a Muslim country. Because Islam makes no distinction between religious and secular domains, qadis traditionally have jurisdiction over all legal matters involving Muslims...

, or judge.

The contemporary name of the Balkan
The Balkans is a geopolitical and cultural region of southeastern Europe...

 region of Sandžak
Sandžak also known as Raška is a historical region lying along the border between Serbia and Montenegro...

 derives from its former status as the Ottoman Sanjak of Novi Pazar
Sanjak of Novi Pazar
The Sanjak of Novi Pazar was an Ottoman sanjak that existed until the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913 in the territory of present day Montenegro, Serbia and Kosovo.-History:It was part of the Bosnia Vilayet and later Kosovo Vilayet and included...

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