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  • Turkish Radio Hour
    x0x OTTOMAN MEDALS AND DECORATIONS By Ilhan Akbulut Until the 19th century gifts symbolising royal favour and recognition of outstanding services took the form
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 3, 2003

      By Ilhan Akbulut

      Until the 19th century gifts symbolising royal favour and recognition
      of outstanding services took the form of hil'ats (robes of honour),
      furs, jewelled swords, aigrettes, wreaths, and horsetail standards.

      The plumed aigrette was that which corresponded in function most
      closely to the medals and decorations of western countries. During the
      reign of Mahmud II (1808-1839) the presentation of robes of honour and
      wearing of aigrettes became obsolete, gifts such as jewelled watches,
      and gold cigarette and snuff boxes were bestowed instead. However,
      such gifts did not carry the desired symbolic significance, and the
      Ottomans instituted their own medals and decorations. Wars, treaties,
      new parliamentary assemblies, new constitutions, major financial and
      other reforms, state visits, national and international exhibitions,
      and competitions all became occasions for issuing medals. Some Ottoman
      medals were struck at mints in Istanbul and others in European
      countries including Britain, France, Germany and Austria. They were
      mostly designed by well-known artists and architects of the
      time, and their inscriptions by celebrated calligraphers. The former
      included Robertson and Kirkor Efendi, and the latter included Mustafa
      Efendi, Hasim Efendi, Sabit Efendi and Abdulfettah Efendi. Prior to
      this Ottoman medals were rare but not entirely unknown. Over four
      centuries earlier the first Ottoman medal had been produced at the
      request of Sultan Mehmed II the Conqueror in 1480 by the Italian
      artist Gentile Bellini, whom the sultan invited to Istanbul. The medal
      bears the portrait of Mehmed on the front and three crowns symbolising
      the territories of the Ottoman Empire on the reverse. Sultan Mahmud I
      (1730-1754) produced the Ferahi Medal (Medal of Prosperity) 250 years
      after this, and his successor Osman III (1754-1757) instituted the
      Sikke-i Cedid or New Medal in commemoration of monetary reform. When
      combined Ottoman and British forces defeated the French in Egypt,
      Sultan Selim III had a medal called Vak'a-i Misiriye (the Egyptian
      Campaign) struck for presentation to Ottoman and British troops. But
      it was only with the westernisation movement of the reign of
      Mahmud II that medals and decorations began to be instituted and
      awarded on a sustained basis. In 1808 came the Hilal-i Osmani (Ottoman
      Crescent), in 1832 the Iskodra Medal awarded to soldiers who fought at
      the Battle of Iskodra (Scutari in Albania), and in 1833 the Hunkar
      Iskelesi Medal in commemoration of the treaty which concluded the
      Ottoman-Russian War. Others dating from Mahmud's reign include the
      Syrian Desert and Akka Fortress, Tashih-i Ayar (Reform of the
      Coinage), Yemen, Bosnia, Silistra, Crimea, Sinop, and Kars

      Mahmud's son Sultan Abdulmecid (1839-1861) awarded a
      commemoration medal to those who helped to finance the restoration of
      Haghia Sophia, and in 1850 issued a medal in commemoration of the
      Reform Bill of 1839. In 1839, 1853 and 1858 three different Iftihar
      Nisani (Orders of Honour) were instituted. During the reign of Sultan
      Abdulaziz (1861-1876) several commemoration and war medals were
      issued: the Ottoman Public Exhibition Medal, the Agricultural Medal,
      the Industry Medal, the Negroponte Medal and Crete Medal. Abdulhamid
      II (1876-1909)
      instituted nearly 30 medals during his 33 year reign in commemoration
      of major social and political events, including the Russian War and
      Plevne, Privilege, Honour, German State Visit, Crete, Merit, Planetary
      Motion, Military Establishment, Hejaz Railway, Silk Competition, and
      1900 Paris International Exhibition medals. The most significant of
      the political medals issued during his reign is the 1909 Constitution
      Medal in commemoration of the Second Constitution proclaimed on 10
      July 1908. The Star of Liberty and Star of the Second Constitution
      were not awarded for services but could be purchased by the general
      public. The Niyazi Bey Star, issued in honour of the public hero
      Niyazi Efendi of Resne for his contributions to the proclamation of
      the new Constitution, is of particular significance as revealing the
      impact of the Constitution on society. During the reign of Sultan
      Mehmed V Resad a medal was issued commemorating the Constitution
      Monument, which was completed in 1912. In 1913 the Hamidiye Battle
      Cruiser Medal was issued to commemorate the ship of that name which
      had fought
      in the Mediterranean during the Balkan War. During the First World War
      medals were presented to those who fought at Canakkale, Gelibolu
      (Gallipoli) and Galicia, and others commemorated Turkey's allies in
      this war - the Allied States, Tripartite Alliance, German Audience and
      Austrian Audience medals.

      With the fall of the Ottoman Empire, all its
      medals and decorations became obsolete, and were replaced by the
      Turkish Republic with the Independence Medal.

      * Ilhan Akbulut is a freelance writer.
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