The Causes for the Rebellion of Shahkulu Based on Ottoman Archival Sources
The last period of the Bayezid II’s sultanate was an extremely unstable period due to the rebellions and the fights over the throne among Shahzads. Bayezid II’s illness has gradually increased in the last years. It is probably for this reason that the sultan usually stayed in Istanbul and Edirne and dealt with them, while he left the administration of Anatolia to viziers and governors (“beylerbeyi”). Therefore, the sultan was unaware of the socio-economic problems that arose in Anatolia. The sources of that period show that justice was not established, corruption and oppressions increased, many heavy taxes were collected from rayah and many malpractices occurred in the collection of taxes in Anatolia within that time period.
Consequently, the difficult situation of the Ottoman Empire, resettlement policy and collecting heavy taxes from the rayah brought nomadic Turkmen clans, soldiers whose payments were taken away, and poor peasants together and as a result, caused a social movement in 1511. This social movement appears in archival documents, with its distinctive content, as Alevism, Rafizism or Qizilbash or as Unbeliever (“Mulhit”). This movement, that began in the last years of the Bayezid II’s sultanate, appeared as a rebellion under the leadership of Shahkulu in the Tekeli region.
The rebellion of Shahkulu arose during fights over the throne, in the period of the absence of authority. It is surely that this rebellion was some kind of revolt of masses, having socio-economic difficulties, and Shahkulu’s followers directed towards political power. Participation of people from all walks of life shows that the rebellion has a class character. Accordingly, chronicles confirm that the rebellion of Shahkulu was not a movement that arose entirely from belief differences. Therefore, it is possible to say that ignoring the socio-economic facts while assessing the essentials of this rebellion as a conflict between the Qizilbash belief system and Sunni denomination is not a correct evaluation. In this context, it would be correct to say that socio-economic bases predominate among the most important causes for this rebellion.