The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary







Bey is the Turkish word for "chieftain," traditionally applied to the leaders of small tribal groups In historical accounts, many Turkish and Persian leaders are titled bey, beg or beigh. They are all the same word with the simple meaning of "leader." The regions or provinces where beys ruled were called beylik, roughly meaning "emirate" or "principality".

The first three rulers of the Ottoman Empire were titled bey and not sultan. Bayazid I was granted the right to the designation "sultan" by the shadow caliph in Cairo in 1383. Henceforth "bey" was applied to the governor of an Ottoman vilayet or province. With the loose Ottoman structure, important provinces tended to become self-sustaining and autonomous. In the following century the chiefs of Bursa and of Edirne both were designated "Bey." Later, the sovreign title in Tunis was "Bey".

By the late 19th century "Bey" had been reduced to an honorary equivalent of the English-speaking address (not the British courtesy title) "Sir" in Ottoman Turkey, parallel to the contemporary Censored page usage "guv'nor." In modern Turkey and Azerbaijan, bey has the simple meaning of "Mister".

Under the Ottoman Empire this title was used also in Albania (Albanian language: bej, be, or beu), in two forms. In the Gheg north it was a title given by Ottomans specifically to the officials of the empire. In the Tosk south it was used in a similar fashion, however, the main use of the name came to be Bey of the Village. The "beys" that ran the Tosk villages formed a wealthy but largely illiterate elite, exploiting the peasants who were bound to the land in a status comparable to serfdom. This state of affairs continued in the Tosk districts even after Albanian independence 1912. King Zog took power and forbade the "Beys" to mistreat the peasants. This term is not used anymore in Albania except when referring to historical figures, events or for humorous purposes (meaning to joke about someone who does not possess a clear thinking ability).

The variation Beg, or Baig, as well as the Slavic adaptation Begovich (often as a suffix, as in Izetbegovic) is still used as a family name in South and Central Asia as well the Balkans. See also Chughtai.

External link

  • Encyclopaedia of the Orient

See also

Last updated: 02-08-2005 06:20:43
Last updated: 04-25-2005 03:06:01