World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

Barcelona, July 19th - 24th 2010


OTTOMAN PERSPECTIVES - 3/4. The Empire and Beyond (459) - Panel

· Date: FRI, 23 / 11.30 am - 1.30 pm

· Language: English

· Description:

Paper presenter: Christiane Czygan (PhD Student, University of Hamburg, Germany), “How the Young Ottomans Perceived Europe: Views on the Other - Features in the Journal Freedom (Hürriyet) 1868-1870”
The paradigm of an ‘iron curtain’ between the Ottoman Empire and Europe was finally superseded by Prof. Suraiya Faroqhi’s study, who documented in various fields the early existing exchange. In the 19th century the relevance of Europe increased considerably and was illustrated e.g. by the installation of a translation office, whose service was in the 1860`s handed over from the Greek Phanariots to young well educated Turkish officers. Some translations of the French thinkers of the Enlightenment had already been published in the first half of the 19th century and were retranslated in the late fifties and early sixties, as well as ideas of the Enlightenment which were spread through further translations. A small group of well educated young men initiated in Istanbul the rise of a critical press. From different motives and disparate political positions, some of them decided in Spring 1867 to flee to Paris to continue their publishing activities from abroad. Paris served only as a starting point, after which they travelled throughout Europe, settling in a number of places on their three and more year sojourn. The best known of the Young Ottomans are Namik Kemal, Ziya Bey and Ali Suavi, however, Nuri, Resad, Mehmed and Agah Bey also belonged to the Young Ottoman nucleus and fostered the spirit of opposition, designative for the Young Ottomans. In London in June 1868 they started publishing the journal Hürriyet, which was produced for an urban Ottoman readership. It became the main voice of the Young Ottomans. Two members of the group, Ziya Bey and Namik Kemal, were chiefly responsible for its production, with the remainder of the group either returning to Paris, taking residence in Geneva or Brussels, or keeping their distance due to a difference in motives. Although the main focus of Hürriyet lay on the Ottoman Empire we find a variety of references related to Europe. These were not aimed at reporting on European life, but played an important role in the discussion on how to create a better state. In this respect Europe was taken as a model. Nevertheless, several dichotomies existed in the Young Ottomans view of Europe. These took the form of inspiration and ignorance, attraction and rejection in different fields according to their political, cultural, judicial, as well as economic context. Rejection was expressed in their description of European bankers as vultures flocking around, whilst in an earlier article they idealized European prosperity, attributing it solely to society’s respect for order. The question is, in which contexts idealization happened and where and why rejection occurred. In my paper I will explore the way in which the Young Ottomans portrayed Europe and its impact on the construction of a Turkish-Ottoman identity.

Paper presenter: Morteza Nouraei (Associate Professor, University of Isfahan, Iran), “Iran and Ottoman's Relations at the Ordinary People Level”
The study of Iran's relations with its neighbours did not end in political affairs only. Particularly, in the mutual behavior between the Iranians and the Ottomans in each other's lands there were other important elements which sometimes directed the diplomatic pivot of the two countries to unwanted situations. The measure of the traffic of subjects to both sides, mainly the Iranians interested in pilgrimages and life opportunities, who moved to Ottoman territories, indicate the depth of relations mainly amongst ordinary people. Examining people's reactions in both territories based on documentations reveal daily exchanges between subjects of both sides. However, if any conflicts aroused during these contacts, legal pursuits would be taken to the official courts. Among these conflicts, land possession, which was a basic element of citizen's rights, frequently provided long negotiations. This article, based on archival sources, endeavors to clarify the situation through the following lines: The circumstances of possessions and records.-The kinds and varieties of possessions.-The difficulties against land ownerships.

Paper Presenter: Will Smiley (PhD Candidate, University of Cambridge, UK), “The Shifting Boundaries of Captivity in the Ottoman Empire, 1739-1829”
Through the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the Ottoman and Russian Empires fought a war roughly every twenty years, drastically affecting the social, political, and economic structure of the Near East, Mediterranean, Black Sea, and Balkans in ways which are still little understood. While the geopolitical causes of this rivalry have been often studied as the diplomatic 'Eastern Question' scholars are only beginning to consider these conflicts varied effects. I approach this question through one of the most persistent and important, but least understood, avenues of contact between the two empires: captivity. I begin with a discussion of Ottoman-Russian peace treaties, whose provisions on captivity evolved through the period. Here I draw parallels to Ottoman treaties with other powers, especially the Habsburgs and French, and to the Ottoman treatment of captured non-state militants: pirates, privateers, bandits, and rebels. These treaties, I demonstrate, formed a consistent Ottoman policy toward military captives, differentiating them from both civilians and 'illegitimate' combatants. While this policy was developed in dialogue with Russia, beginning with the Treaty of Belgrade (1739), it was followed in declared wars against other powers as well, through the 1829 Treaty of Adrianople. It was only after the Crimean War that both Western and Eastern European belligerents signed the same treaty, accepting the same rules of captivity. However, I contend, it would be a mistake to explain this as a process of 'Westernization,' since all of the states involved responded to domestic and regional incentives. Most importantly, the formal diplomatic rules of captivity cannot be understood without reference to the actions of ordinary people, caught between empires. I show the variety of ways in which prisoners, conscripts, deserters, mercenaries, and civilian slaves understood and manipulated imperial rules to advance their interests using religious origins and conversion, technical skills, diplomatic pressure, and personal connections as currency. The Ottoman and Russian empires, and other powers, countered with their own interpretations, and these negotiations shaped the rules found in peace treaties. My search draws on Ottoman, British, and Austrian archives, as well as published Russian sources, Ottoman chronicles, travel accounts, and captivity narratives. From such diverse perspectives, I open new perspectives on the broader effects of Russo-Ottoman rivalry in the greater Eastern Mediterranean basin.

Paper presenter: Joshua White (Ph.D. Candidate-University of Michigan, USA), "Navigating Piracy, Banditry, and Captivity in the Early Modern Adriatic: Ottoman Policy and Frontier Reality"
The early modern Adriatic frontier frequently demanded the attention of the Ottoman central administration in Istanbul. The activities of Maltese, Uskok, North African, and locally-based corsairs, independent freebooters and roving bandits threatened the lives and livelihoods of Venetian, Ottoman, and Ragusan alike, as well as the prestige of their protectors. The raids of pirates and bandits, on land and at sea, had the common goal of acquiring booty and captives for ransom or sale. Thus, preventing piracy and securing the safe return of captives and cargo was a critical aspect of the diplomatic relations between the Ottomans and the other Adriatic powers and formed a cornerstone of their treaties, the ahidnames. The Ottomans, in their agreements with foreign powers and in their instructions to their provincial leaders, strove to protect their own subjects as well as those whose safety they were treaty-bound to ensure, and they strenuously objected when foreign or domestic actors abrogated the ahidnames or failed to prevent others from doing so. Nevertheless, the porous nature of the borderlands and the fluid allegiances of their inhabitants made enforcement of the treaty provisions exceptionally difficult from the distant Ottoman center. In addition to working through their provincial governors, the Ottomans? special relationship with Dubrovnik, their vassal, meant that the nominally-neutral city-state often served as the Ottomans? main conduit to the rest of the Christian Adriatic and frequently lay at the center of multi-party negotiations for the exchange of captives or the return of ransomed slaves. Utilizing Ottoman archival material, this paper establishes the legal and diplomatic framework under which the Ottomans understood their own obligations and those of their treaty partners regarding acts of piracy/banditry and the return or exchange of captives during the second half of the sixteenth and the seventeenth centuries. It then examines this policy put into practice through the letters of the Ottoman central administration to foreign governments and through its orders to its own provincial governors, judges, and other authorities in response to petitions submitted by aggrieved parties foreign and domestic; in so doing, it exposes the gap between central government intention and local reality. Local Ottoman officials often had very different priorities from their superiors in Istanbul (as did, of course, those of Venice) and frequently pursued their own agendas, from which they stood to profit. Indeed, close examination of the records of the central government sheds light on the state?s diplomatic and political imperatives and priorities, on the fates of pirates, bandits and their victims, and, critically, on the limits of Ottoman administrative efficacy and the divergence of interests between center and periphery.

Paper presenter:Ceren Aygül (Research Assistant, Historian, Middle East Technical University, Turkey), “Fluctuations among the Great Powers in the Middle East; The Ottoman Policy Towards Germany At The Outbreak of the First World War”

Just after the Ottoman Empire realised that it had to follow a balance policy among great powers of Europe leaving its isolation policy aside and had to be fixed to their international politics in early 19th century, find itself in a complexity of great powers imperialistic desires on the Middle Eastern region. After a century, new imperialistic powers have been added to the list and their ambitions on the region have upsurged with the effect of rising competition and antagonism; the minds of the Ottoman governers’ has been confused more than the previous century. Still having the control of a vast territory including also the Middle Eastern area and holding intense socio-economic and historical relations with the habitants of these different geography, Ottoman Empire was at the core of many great powers imperialistic policies. Moreover, imperialists had different policies towards the Ottoman Empire . That is to say; Great Britain who had taken side of Empire's unity just before a century, has been now adapted the fragmentation policy on the Ottoman Empire. On the other hand, newly rising imperialist power of the Europe, Germany has been seen considering the unity of the empire due to its differentiating interests than the others’. In the first quarter of 20th century; the balance policy of Abdülhamid the Sultan has become useless and the Ottomans had to choose a side between the two imperialistic poles. On the one hand, the Entente Powers constituted by a variety of interrelated treaties of France, Great Britain and Russia and on the other hand Central Powers in opposition to the Entente alliance: Austria-Hungary and Germany? The Ottoman government lead by the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) had to be take part of one of these armed camps. Although the government tried to be on the part of Entente Powers, the Empire entered the war with the side of Central Powers. Why such a reluctant decision was taken, is the problem this paper will try to reveal. The probable reasons lying behind this very critical decision should be investigated in; first Eastern Question's destructive attitude towards the territorial unity of the Empire which impelled the Empire to take part on the side of Germany; second, the rising influence of Germany over the Empire owing to its vast economic and politic privileges gathered in the advantage of conjuncture; and thirdly the mentality of repressive CUP highly resembled in the German ideals especially in military and political doctrines. The aim of this study is putting an analytical frame of the Middle Eastern regional politics in the guidance of the reasons stated above.