Ready to Secede to the Ottoman Empire: Habsburg Hungary after the Vasvár Peace Treaty (1664-1674)


  • Georg B. Michels University of California, Riverside



Seventeenth-Century Hungary, Hungarian-Turkish relations, Ottoman Empire in Hungary, Counter-Reformation, Vasvar Peace Treaty (1664), Ferenc Wesselenyi Conspiracy (1664-1671).


In the period following the 1664 Vásvár Peace Treaty, which ended four years of warfare between the Ottoman and Habsburg Empires, large segments of the Hungarian noble elite seriously considered switching their allegiance from Vienna to Istanbul. This essay explores some of the reasons for this dramatic but little studied chapter in Hungarian history. At the center of the analysis are the secret instructions to an emissary who was to negotiate with Grand Vezir Ahmed Köpülü the conditions for Royal Hungary’s secession to the Ottomans. This article examines the historical circumstances under which these instructions originated and argues that the initiative came primarily from Hungarian Protestant nobles who sought the sultan’s protection to guarantee the survival of their religion which had come under threat by a brutal Habsburg-sponsored Counter-Reformation campaign. The evidence presented here sheds light on the emergence of close personal relations between Hungarian Protestant nobles and Ottoman powerbrokers, which was a crucial precondition for the Lutheran magnate Imre Thököly’s success in gaining control over large parts of Habsburg Hungary with Ottoman support during the early 1680s.

Author Biography

Georg B. Michels, University of California, Riverside

Georg B. Michels is Professor of History at the University of California, Riverside and is currently working on a book about the impact of the Habsburg Counter-Reformation on late seventeenth-century Hungarian society. His recent articles include “The 1672 Kuruc Uprising: A National or Religious Revolt?” Hungarian Studies Review, Vol. XXXIX, Nos. 1-2 (2012): 1-20 and a forthcoming study in Történelmi Szemle (published by the Institute of History, Hungarian Academy of Sciences) critically reexamining the expulsion of the Protestant clergy from Hungary during the early 1670s. Michels’ interest in Hungary and the early modern Habsburg Empire emerged from his studies on religion, society, and revolt in early modern Russia and the discovery of significant similarities between Russian and Hungarian popular resistance against a centralizing imperial power. Trained as a Russian historian and Slavic linguist at the University of Göttingen (Germany), UCLA, and Harvard (Ph.D. 1991) he has written At War with the Church: Religion and Dissent in Seventeenth Century Russia (Stanford, 1999) and co-edited Russia’s Dissident Old Believers (1650-1950) (Minneapolis, 2009).






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