Military Wiki
Iskender Pasha
Antoni Aleksander Ilinski (Iskender Pasha) as Brigadier General in the Ottoman Army
Native name Mehmet İskender Paşa
Birth name Antoni Aleksander Iliński
Born 1814
Died 1861 (aged 46–47)
Place of birth Žilina, Hungary
Place of death Istanbul, Ottoman Empire
Allegiance  Ottoman Empire
Service/branch Ottoman Army
Years of service 1844-1861
Rank Mirliva

Antoni Aleksander Iliński also known as Iskender Pasha (Turkish language: Mehmet İskender Paşa; 1814–1861), was a Polish-Ottoman military officer and general. A Polish independence activist and insurgent, he took part in the independence struggles of Poles and Hungarians against the Austrian-Russian alliance. He converted to Islam in 1844 and subsequently served in various commanding posts in the Ottoman Army during the reign of Abdul Mejid I (1839–1861) in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Danube, Crimea, Transcaucasia and Baghdad. He was promoted to the rank of Pasha (General) during the Crimean War (1855).

Early life and conversion to Islam[]

Antoni Aleksander Iliński was born in the town of Žilina (Ilina), in Hungary. In 1830, he took part in the November Uprising as a young officer of the Lithuanian Legion. He was an active member of the movement of Polish exiles led by Prince Adam Jerzy Czartoryski from Paris. Iliński worked under the leadership of Józef Bem in his abortive Portuguese Legion attempt (1833), and in further struggles to form Polish legions in Spain, France and elsewhere.

In 1844 he was arrested in Istanbul upon Russian request, for allegedly working to organise Ukrainian Cossack legions under Michał Czajkowski's "Eastern Agency". The Ottoman authorities were indifferent, but Russia pressured for his handover for trial. To escape this trap, he consented to an offer to convert to Islam and assumed Ottoman nationality under the new name of Mehmed Iskender[citation needed]. He was immediately accepted as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Ottoman Army as "Iskender Beg". In the years 1848–49, during the time of Spring of Nations, he was again Bem's aide in Hungary.

In the Ottoman Army[]

He served in the Army of Roumelia under Omar Pasha. He was a prominent figure in the military campaign that deposed and eventually executed the Herzegovina Vizier Ali-paša Rizvanbegović in 1851.

When the Crimean War broke out in 1853, he was charged with organizing and training the irregular troops (the bashi-bazouks) along the Danube. In the following year, Iskender Pasha's fierce and daring style in commanding successful cavalry raids on Russians brought him acclaim and he was soon promoted as Colonel.

Early 1855 he was posted in the Eupatoria Garrison in Crimea commanding a 400-strong cavalry regiment. His unit made a critical contribution in successfully repulsing a strong Russian assault on the town, which was threatening the rear of the Allied army besieging Sebastopol (see:Battle of Eupatoria) This victory brought him a second promotion in a year, making him a Pasha (General), (specifically a Mirliva, equivalent of a Brigadier General).

The same year he commanded the advance guard of an expedition army under Omar Pasha which landed at Sukhumi, in the hope of relieving the Eastern Anatolian fortress-city Kars from a Russian siege (see: Siege of Kars). The city fell to the Russians, however, before the two armies could engage.

In 1857 he was again called to duty by Omar Pasha, who was appointed as the Governor and General Commander of Baghdad. He went to Baghdad and was active in the repression of tribal uprisings around Basra and in the Nejd area.

On his return to Istanbul in 1861, he fell suddenly ill after an official banquet and died on June 2, 1861. He was buried in Edirnekapı Martyr's Cemetery in İstanbul.


In English:

  • Barham, John: "Bono, Johnny Turk!" article in "suite101"
  • Blake, R.L.V.ffrench: The Crimean War, Sphere Books Ltd., London, 1971. p. 137.
  • The Times: various issues between 1851-1856 (nos. 20745, 20774, 20780, 21530, 21757, 21816, 21822, 22223, 22260, 22263, 22284, 22299,22498)

In Turkish:

In Polish:

  • Latka, Jerzy: Adampol, Polska Wies Nad Bosforem, Kraków, 1981.
  • Latka, Jerzy: Lew Nasz, Lew Polski: Pasza Iskender (Antoni Ilinski), Kraków-Gdansk, 1996.

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