Pasha's military genius stood out throughout his career and he was respected even by his adversaries, such as the Russian Tsar.
As Türkiye marks the anniversary of Gazi Osman Pasha’s death on April 5, the country remembers the legendary Ottoman field marshal, whose tactical and military genius led to the defeat of the world's powerful militaries between the mid to late 1800s.
He was born Osman Nuri Pasha in 1832, and later became known as Gazi Osman Pasha, a commander who was respected even by his enemies. His life story, filled with bravery and heroism, still reverberates around Türkiye.
During the Russo-Turkish War, an Ottoman military march, called Plevna March, was composed just to honour Pasha's battlefield successes. An entire district in Istanbul has been named after the revered field marshal and a statue of him adorns the front area of the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality. There's also a hospital built in his name in Istanbul, as well as an elementary school in Ankara.
In his hometown, Tokat, a high school and a university have been named after him.
Pasha, the Plevna Hero, put up a fierce fight during the Siege of Plevna in 1877 when the Ottoman Empire was facing its archenemy, the Tsarist regime led by Alexander III.
During this battle, the defence tactics applied by Pasha opened a new page in military history. He was in charge of the defence of the Rahova and Vidin regions. Leading his army across the Danube River, he took his enemy head on.
Pasha had a great presence of mind. When the Russian troops were crossing the treacherous Berkovitsa Mountains, Pasha began his ground assault, hitting the enemy positions until he arrived in Plevna. The city capitulated and Pasha raised strong defences there, putting the Tsarist forces in a weaker position.
On July 20 1877, Pasha successfully repulsed the first enemy attack while defending Plevna. He outmanoeuvred the rival army and pushed them to the other side of the Osma River
Russian forces organised fresh attacks three days later, but they failed again. Following the bloody clashes, the Russian Tsar called for a retreat and then turned to the Romanian army for help. Upon this request, the Romanian army sent fifty thousand soldiers to Russia's aid.
The Russian-Romanian joint army attacked the Ottoman army, which was much smaller in numbers, in front of Plevna on September 11. Pasha again repelled the vicious Russian assault, which lasted for twelve hours. Pasha and his troops prevailed, winning the decisive battle and earning the honorific title of “Gazi,” which means veteran.
In the following months, the Russians tried to maintain the siege by increasing the number of their troops. They asked Pasha to surrender the city, but he refused.
The endless siege led to a shortage of food, fuel, medicine and other essential supplies in Plevna. Pasha and his men fell on difficult times. Counting the odds, Pasha planned a "break-out" operation.
The people of Plevna caught on to Pasha's operation. They sent Turkish notables to convince Pasha to take the city's residents along with him, as they feared persecution from the Bulgarian forces. At first, Pasha seemed reluctant to accept such a request. He feared it would risk the entire operation and also harm civilians. But he also wanted to save them from the violence of enemy troops.
During the planned sortie operation, the people of Plevna blocked the road with carts, oxcarts and animals. Seeing it, the Russian artillery began to fire.
In retaliation, the Ottoman army attacked the Russian forces, even though they were far less in number compared to the Russian-Romanian troops.
During the battle, Pasha's horse was wounded and it later died. Pasha suffered some serious injuries too. Hunger and disease soon set in. To avoid losing his troops and also save the locals of Plevna from collateral damage, Pasha decided to surrender to his rivals.
He was captured as a prisoner of war by Grand Duke Nicholas of Russia. His gravely injured leg was treated in a house near Vit Rivera. Impressed by Pasha's bravery, the Tsar returned his sword to him as a sign of respect.
During the military ceremony, Grand Duke Nicholas spoke highly of Pasha and his battleground successes while defending Plevna. Eventually, he was released and sent back to Istanbul in 1878, thanks to Ottoman ruler Sultan Abdul Hamid II's efforts.
On his return to the city, he received a warm welcome. He served the Ottoman army as the seraskier, the minister of war, for seven more years, and Sultan Abdul Hamid II appointed him as the Marshall of the Palace. He served in the palace until his death.
During the ceremonies, he shared the imperial brougham with the Sultan. One of his last wishes was to be buried in the courtyard of Fatih Mosque. Abdul Hamid II built a commemorative mausoleum in his honour.
Over the next two decades, Pasha served the Ottoman Empire four times as the Minister of War. He died on April 5 1900, at the age of 67. His wish was fulfilled and he was buried in the garden of the Fatih Mosque.