Sanjak and Sandjak (other variants: sinjaq, sanjaq) are the most common English transcriptions of the Turkish word "sancak", which literally means "a
banner, flag". [ [http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/sanjak Dictionary.com - Sanjak entry] ] In Arabic the sanjaks were also called "liwa"s.
Sanjaks originally were the first level subdivisions of the
Ottoman Empire. They arose in the mid-14th century as military districts that were part of a military-feudal 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 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 "Sanjak bey" (roughly equivalent to "district governor").
With the formation of new first-level divisions, the
beylerbeyliks (later eyalets and vilayets), in the late 14th century, sanjaks were mostly second level divisions.
The number of Sanjaks in the Empire varied greatly. The
Tanzimatreforms 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
Benghaziand Çatalcaremained independent of the province system with their leaders reporting directly to the Porte.
The contemporary name of the Balkan region of
Sandžakderives from its former status as the Ottoman Sanjak of Novi Pazar.
Subdivisions of the Ottoman Empire
Sanjak of Novi Pazar
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