This article aims to revisit autonomy and decentralization in the nineteenth century as dynamics that captured the hybrid position of the Ottomans in the rapidly changing regional and international contexts. Addressing briefly a number of different examples, the article argues that the emergence of the “autonomous province,” as a specific administrative practice, constituted not an imperial defeat but a compromise that allowed the empire to survive. In fact, the different chronological and regional manifestations of autonomy in the empire’s provincial universe invite recognition not only of this specific phenomenon but also of broader, long-ignored aspects of the Ottoman reform as a whole. Within this context, Kostopoulou’s article looks at a number of examples that best capture the elements of both promise and danger entailed in nineteenth-century Ottoman decentralization. This double capacity of being simultaneously a colonizer and a colony characterized the Ottomans throughout the period in question and is best illustrated by their strategies and agonies over their autonomous provinces.

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