Four different members of the Koprülü family served as grand viziers in the Ottoman Empire during the 17th century. Of obscure Albanian origins, Mohammad Koprülü had a fairly inauspicious career in the vast Ottoman bureaucracy until 1656, when he was appointed grand vizier. He soon distinguished himself as an able, efficient, and honest administrator.
Mohammad removed corrupt officials from office and oversaw the defeat of major rebellions in the Anatolian Peninsula and the Balkans. He also reinstituted rigorous adherence to the law.
Before his death in 1661, Mohammad recommended that his son Ahmed (Fazil Ahmed Koprülü) succeed him as grand vizier. Ahmed (served 1661–76) proved to be as able an administrator as his father and continued to strengthen the empire.
Led by Kara Mustafa, Ahmed’s brother-in-law, the Ottomans moved in 1683 to regain their ascendancy in Hungary and lay siege to Vienna, the city Suleiman I the Magnificent had failed to take in 1529. Reinforced with troops from Poland, the Habsburgs, now equipped with heavy artillery, defeated the Ottomans, who were forced to retreat to Belgrade. Upon the sultan’s orders, Kara Mustafa was then assassinated.
In 1689, Ahmed’s brother Mustafa was appointed grand vizier and continued the family tradition of honest administration; Mustafa reduced some taxes—a popular policy—as well as instituting other economic reforms.
Although a devout Muslim, Mustafa was also known for his religious tolerance and fair treatment of the large Christian minority populations in the empire and he became known as “Koprülü the Virtuous.” However, his tenure as grand vizier was short as he died fighting with Ottoman troops in the Balkans in 1691.
In 1697, Sultan Mustafa II sought to restore Ottoman power by appointing Husayn Koprülü as his grand vizier. His tax policies enabled the Ottomans to raise and equip a large army and fleet to protect territory in the Balkans; Husayn served as vizier until 1702 and another Koprülü became vizier for a short time in 1710. But even the reforms and efficiency of the Koprülü viziers failed to halt the decline of the Ottoman Empire and the gradual loss of territory to Russian and other European enemies.