|Named after||Turkish word for crazy-head|
|Founding location||Istanbul, Ottoman Empire|
|Territory||Balkans, Eastern Europe|
|Allies||Ottoman Empire |
Khedivate of Egypt
|Rivals||Russian Empire |
A bashi-bazouk (Ottoman Turkish: ? babozuk, IPA: [babo'zuk], lit. 'one whose head is turned, damaged head, crazy-head', roughly "leaderless" or "disorderly") was an irregular soldier of the Ottoman army, raised in times of war. The army chiefly recruited Albanians and Circassians as bashi-bazouks, but recruits came from all ethnic groups of the Ottoman Empire including slaves from Europe or Africa. They had a reputation for bravery, but also as an undisciplined group, notorious for looting and preying on civilians as a result of a lack of regulation.
Although the Ottoman armies always contained mercenaries as well as regular soldiers, the strain on the Ottoman feudal system caused mainly by the Empire's wide expanse required heavier reliance on irregular soldiers. They were armed and maintained by the government, but did not receive pay and did not wear uniforms or distinctive badges. They were motivated to fight mostly by expectations of plunder. Though the majority of troops fought on foot, some troops (called akinci) rode on horseback. Because of their lack of discipline, they were incapable of undertaking major military operations, but were useful for other tasks such as reconnaissance and outpost duty. However, their uncertain temper occasionally made it necessary for the Ottoman regular troops to disarm them by force.
The Ottoman army consisted of the following:
An attempt by Koca Hüsrev Mehmed Pasha to disband his Albanian bashi-bazouks in favor of his regular forces began the rioting which led to the establishment of Muhammad Ali's Khedivate of Egypt. Their use was abandoned by the end of the 19th century. However, self-organized bashi-bazouk troops still appeared later.
The term "bashibozouk" has also been used for a mounted force, existing in peacetime in various provinces of the Ottoman Empire, which performed the duties of gendarmerie.
The bashi-bazouk were notorious for being violently brutal and undisciplined, thus giving the term its second, colloquial meaning of "undisciplined bandit" in many languages. A notable example of this use is in the comic series The Adventures of Tintin, where the word is often used as an insult by Captain Haddock.
The Batak massacre (1876) was carried out by thousands of bashi-bazouks sent to quell a local rebellion. Likewise, the bashi-bazouks perpetrated the massacres of Candia and Phocaea in 1898 and 1914. During the 1903 Ilinden-Preobrazhenie Uprising in Ottoman Macedonia, these troops burnt 119 villages and destroyed 8400 houses, and over 50,000 Bulgarian refugees fled into the mountains.
The Bulgarian martyresses (1877) by Konstantin Makovsky is a painting depicting the rape of two Bulgarian women in a church by one African-looking and two Turkish-looking bashi-bazouks, during the April Uprising.