Panel 8I

Transottomanica: Eastern European-Ottoman-Persian Mobility Dynamics

10.45 – 12.45
Chair: Stefan Rohdewald, Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen

The Wiles of Women as a Trans-Ottoman Concept

David Selim Sayers, Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen

The “wiles of women” are a transcultural concept that spread from the Middle East to Europe via the Ottoman Empire. The concept entered Ottoman literature in the 16th century through translations and reworkings of Arabic and Persian sources such as the 1001 Nights. Next, the concept made its way from literature to political thought: starting with the reign of Süleyman I (r. 1520-66), Ottoman intellectuals formulated a discourse of political decline ostensibly caused by the wily meddling of the imperial harem, and especially Süleyman’s wife Hürrem (d. 1558), in the affairs of state. This political discourse was soon picked up by Western observers, resulting in literary works such as La Soltane by Gabriel Bounin (1561) and Il Solimano by Prospero Bonarelli (1619). In the late 19th and early 20th century, finally, the figure of Hürrem and the wiles-of-women concept were taken up in Eastern Europe, especially the Ukraine, where Hürrem’s putative origins as a Ukrainian slave girl led to works such as Denys Sichynsky’s opera Roksoliana (libretto 1911) positioning her as a proto-nationalist heroine. This paper analyzes how texts produced in the Ottoman Empire enabled the discursive migration of the concept from literary to political writings and demonstrates how this discursive migration facilitated the concept’s geographical migration from Arabic and Persian to European works. The paper argues that the concept’s elaboration and transformation in Ottoman hands and its subsequent reception in Europe attest to the Ottoman Empire’s role as a major nexus of transcultural mobility in the 16th century.

Migration of Printed Books between the Ottoman Empire and Eastern Europe in the 16th and 17th Centuries

Taisiya Leber, Gutenberg University of Mainz

The paper focuses on the mobility of printed books between the Ottoman Empire and Eastern Europe, examining the following aspects of the phenomenon: people who moved books; geographical routes and political connections (centres/peripheries, networks); as well as the languages and contexts of these “printed books in motion”. It analyses the role of printed books in the circulation of knowledge – specifically knowledge of different religious groups, religious traditions, and rites – in the “trans-Ottoman” context.  Although manuscripts were the main book medium in the Ottoman Empire in the 16th and 17th century (particularly when it came to books with Islamic content), Jewish and Christian (Orthodox) communities were already engaged in printing books and exchanging printed books within a network of active contacts with Eastern Europe. The first part of the paper examines the connections between Ottoman and Eastern European (Ashkenazi) Jews as constituting an important network for the migration of printed books as well as specific subjects of cultural exchange. The second part deals with the development of post-Byzantine networks between Orthodox patriarchates, bishoprics, and monasteries that extended far beyond Ottoman frontiers from Constantinople via Poland-Lithuania to Muscovy. The exchange of printed books within these networks provided knowledge of different Orthodox traditions as well as information on the particularities of Islam and multireligious society in the Ottoman Empire. By exploring the topic of printed books moving between the Ottoman Empire and Eastern Europe, the paper aims at an enhanced understanding of communication practices and (trans)cultural ties during the Early Modern Age.

Soldiers from the Ottoman Empire in the Russian Service, 1500 to 1700

Oleg Rusakovskiy, Independent scholar

The paper will focus on the migration of military personnel from the area controlled by the Ottoman Empire to the Russian state in the 16th and 17th century. During this period, a number of Christians of Greek, Slavic, or Armenian ethnic background, referred to as “Greeks” in the Russian sources, came from the Ottoman Empire to Russia, were they rose to the ranks of nobility to serve in the Russian cavalry forces. At the same time, some Muslim warriors (summarily called “Turks” in Russia regardless of their actual ethnicity) became subjects of the tsar, mostly starting out as captives and eventually entering the Russian military service. Unlike other categories of migrants between the Ottoman Empire and Eastern Europe, e.g., religious functionaries or Christian slaves, military men from the Balkans and the Near East have not been the subjects of historiographical study until now. The paper will address issues such as the numbers of these persons, the conditions of their service, and their social and religious situations within Russian society. Most importantly, the paper will explore their role as agents of the transfer of military knowledge, e.g., principles of cavalry organization or late Byzantine military theory, from the Ottoman Empire to Russia.

Download Paper (Rusakovskiy)

In the Triangle of the Great Powers: Interactional Spaces of the Kings and Nobility of Eastern Georgia, 1555-1724

Nana Kharebava, Marburg University

The paper explores the interactional spaces of Georgian kings and nobility who maintained close socio-cultural and political interaction and communication with the royal courts of neighboring countries like the Safavid, Ottoman, and Russian Empires. The study is based on political actors from the Eastern Georgian kingdoms of Kartli and Kakheti, covering an area that was considered to be under the influence of the Safavids following the peace treaty of Amasya between the Safavids and the Ottomans. The paper examines the period from 1555 to 1724, starting with the peace of Amasya (1555) and concluding with the emigration of the last Safavid viceroy Vakhtang VI (alias Hosaynqoli Khan) from the Eastern Georgian Kingdom Kartli to the Court of the tsar in 1724. The goal of the paper is to trace how the Georgian Kings created and negotiated interactional fields within the conflicting areas of expansionism of the three great powers of the region and age. In so doing, the paper analyses how the factors of migration, cross-cultural interrelations, mechanisms of maintenance of power, as well as contending religious cultures influenced the actions of these kings. By exploring this interdisciplinary topic, the paper aims to generate insights into the complexity of the socio-historical and cross-cultural interrelations between the three great powers and the Caucasus region.

The Making of Muslim Modernity in the Peripheries of Transottomanica. Similarities and Entanglements between Habsburg Bosnia, Russian Crimea, and the Ottoman World

Dennis Dierks, University of Jena

Discussions of Muslim Modernity often focus on its leading figures in the cultural centres of the Islamic World. This paper adopts a different perspective, analysing trans-Ottoman processes of knowledge circulation between centre and periphery. Focusing on Russian Crimea and Habsburg Bosnia, it discusses the example of two regions that, unlike other areas of Post-Ottoman Europe, were not affected by a process of radical de-Ottomanisation. Both Bosnian Muslims and Crimean Tatars maintained cultural and emotional bonds to other regions of the Transottomanica and especially to the old metropole Istanbul. This holds especially true for members of the elite, whose biographies were often marked by a high degree of mobility. The continuing trans-Ottoman networks played an important role in processes of cultural and social modernisation, during which patterns of modernity were not only taken over from the Imperial Russian or Habsburg rulers but transferred from the Ottoman Empire as well. The adoption of the discourse on medeniyet (civilisation) is one example of such trans-Ottoman transfer processes. Moreover, the analysis of the Bosnian Muslim and Crimean Tatar press before World War I demonstrates a keen interest in and close observation of the Muslim brethren in other former borderlands of the Ottoman Empire. In some cases, research can even reconstruct direct processes of communication between Bosnian Muslims and Crimean Tatars. This paper will concentrate on such processes, which the study of Muslim modernisation has neglected so far.