VOL. 29 [176]

oktober 2019

Publishing: «Runivers»

ISSN 2306-4978

Pages: 256


The Ottoman Empire was a unique phenomenon in world history. Spring- ing in the late 13th-early 14th centuries fr om a tiny principality-beylik, bound between the mountains of Anatolia and the coast of the Marmara Sea, it rapidly scale of an empire, taking over the neighboring regions of Asia Minor and the Balkans. At the dawn of the 15th century the iron blow of the Central Asian ruler Timur led to a temporary disintegration of the Ottoman state. But in just a few decades the Turkish expansion was on the rise again. The Sultans of Osman Dynasty conquered the realms of the Byzantine Emperors and Mamluk Sultans, Christian monarchs of the Balkans and Islamic rulers of Northern Africa. Arabia and Mesopotamia, Crimea and Transcaucasia, along with many other regions fell — through war or peacefully — under the dominion of the «Great Turk».
As a result, by the mid-16th century, the single largest state in the western part of the Old World was shaped, a state whose borders spanned from the footholds of the Atlas to the Caucasus Mountains, from the Cat- aracts of the Nile to the Cataracts of the Dnepr, from the Persian Gulf to the Adriatic. Millions of the empire’s subjects spoke dozens of languages, adhered to various religions and belonged to very different cultural tra- ditions. The Ottomans developed unique political techniques in order to maintain their centuries’ old dominion over the plurality of nations and regions, to ensure the obedience of local elites, to fight uprisings and counter separatism.
Combining sternness with flexibility, the rulers of Istanbul managed to retain relative, yet lasting peace and order over huge areas. Neither the flawed communications, nor a relatively small administrative apparatus and army, nor fierce enemies on the borders of the empire proved to be a serious hindrance. The Ottoman state organization was based on the Sharia principles of the unity and indivisibility of the branches of govern- ment, as well as the collegial form of decision-making. The centralization of the capital’s administration, the constant rotation of the higher provincial officials, mutual control and independence of the military-adminis- trative, judicial-religious and financial organs of the local administration allowed for the unhindered functioning of the imperial mechanism.
The Ottoman army was considered to be supreme, filling its enemies with dread down to the late 17th century. The mass use of firearms and the proper military tactics were taken up by European strategists, from Spain and France to the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and Russia. European musketeers and harquebusiers, Russian sharpshooters-streltsy were all formed in semblance of the Ottoman Janissary troops. The neigh- boring countries also paid close attention to the forms of sustenance and recreation of the Ottoman military-administrative elite. Originally being comprised of renegades, it was later formed from the enslaved Christian boys of the Balkans, the Caucasus and Transcaucasia.
Another unique trait of the Ottoman Empire was its model of ethno- confessional organization. It was based on two principles. The first was the institutionalized hierarchy of Islamic spiritual authorities, integrated into the pyramid of Islamic theologians — a phenomenon completely atypical of the Sunni world. The second innovation, whose author was tradition- ally considered to be the conqueror of Constantinople — Sultan Mehmed II Fatih (1451—1481) was the system of millets — religious autonomies, a form of a «state within a state», that were separated one from another by invisible borders. Another unique trait of the Ottoman state and elite circles was their religious tolerance, which favorably separated them from the neighboring European countries. The privileged position of the top hierarchy of the Greek Orthodox and Armenian clergy, the Jewish rab- binate, the sheikhs of the Bektashi Brotherhood — which strayed far from the established Sunni fold, seem absolutely phenomenal for a state, whose ruler bore the title of the Caliph of the «Faithful» Muslims.
The glorious existence and expansion of the Ottoman state gave way in the late 16th century to the «stagnation period», and after the catastrophic defeat at Vienna in 1683 — by a period of deep crisis. The empire started falling behind in its economic development, with its military might — waning and the control over conquered territories — faltering. In the 19th century, after a light-handed sentence of the Rus- sian Emperor Nicholas I, the Ottoman Empire began to be known as the «Sick man of Europe». Passing through several waves of modernization between 1839 and 1908, the empire finally collapsed as the result of the First World War.
Why did the Ottoman imperial project prove to be successful, win- ning the historic competition with neighbors who were just as aggres- sive and ambitious? Professor K.A. Panchenko, whose largely polemical article opens the issue, sees the answer to this question in the special kind of openness of the Ottoman socio-political model, which successfully ab- sorbed representatives of various ethno-confessional groups. A significant factor was also the ability to move past the mental and psychological in- heritance of the nomadic elite, which conquered vast regions, inhabited by farmers and townspeople. Unlike their rivals, the Turks managed to adapt to the new realities and to make them work in their favor.
K.A. Panchenko’s article opens the section of the journal that is dedi- cated to the problem of Ottoman empire-building, a complex process that was directed from Edirne, and since 1453 — from Istanbul. Yet alongside these capitals were other major regional centers, which — in the 12th– 14th centuries — were ruled by ambitious Turkic clans, rivals to the House of Osman. The eminent Russian Ottoman Studies specialist, Professor M.S. Meyer, presents an article on the history of the provincial town of Kas- tamonu, on the western coast of the Black Sea. The capital of Byzantine Paphlagonia, and then of an independent Turkic beylik, in the 16th centu- ry it became an Ottoman, and now — a Turkish — regional center. With that regard, Kastamonu is an example of the successful submission of the troublesome Anatolian periphery to Istanbul.
The article of D.R. Zhantiev — the leading Russian researcher in Ot- toman Syria — is also dedicated to the problem of the interaction between the imperial center and the periphery. Out of all of the Arabic possessions of Sultan, Syria was the one closest to the capital. This «underbelly» of Anatolia is portrayed by the author as a grandiose historical test ground, wh ere — during the course of four centuries — the Ottomans tested the political techniques, aimed at turning an uneasy periphery into a secure stronghold. D.R. Zhantiev’s article is thematically linked with the Arab- Israeli researcher Mahmoud Yazbak. Using the example of the Syro- Palestinian city of Jaffa in the 1830’s, Professor Yazbak demonstrates the transformation process of a Middle Eastern city and its agrarian province, which were now becoming a part of the world capitalist system. The mod- ernization of Ottoman society was not in any way linear; its course saw numerous crises on both — the level of specific cities and regions — and the empire as a whole. Some sociopolitical institutes disappeared, others demonstrated unique resilience.
The focus of two authors — Jane Hathaway and Yannis Spyropou- los — lies upon the institutes, which in many ways became the distinc- tive markers of the Ottoman Empire: the corporation of court eunuchs and that of the Janissaries. An outstanding American Ottoman studies Professor — Jane Hathaway — projects the evolution of the institute of eunuchs from the global context unto the Ottoman history of the 14th–20th centuries. The leadership of the palace eunuchs turned into a force of their own, becoming a counter-balance to other influential elite groups: state officials and military leaders, as well as the Sunni spiritual hierarchy. The Greek researcher Yannis Spyropoulos turns to the analysis of another strong Ottoman corporation: the Janissary Corps. Meanwhile, the key military forces in the Ottoman Empire are examined from an unusual angle: no so much as a military machine, but as an imperial network for the exchange of human and material resources, goods and ideas. The complex analysis of such two different professional entities, provided by Jane Hathaway and Yannis Spyropou- los, demonstrates the multifunctional nature of such institutes in the pre-capitalist period.
The Janissary Corps was disbanded in 1826; the palace eunuchs also lost all influence outside the harem in the 19th century. Yet another ex- tremely important Ottoman institute — the wakf system (estates and other properties, the profits of which went to social needs and charity) — proved to be more enduring. The Russian researcher P.V. Shlykov in his article analyzes the attempts of the Ottoman authorities to modernize the activi- ties of the wakfs from 1826 to the fall of the empire, placing their colos- sal property under state control. P.V. Shlykov’s work once again raises the question: are traditional social institutes capable of developing in new his- torical settings, or do they have to undergo radical transformation or liq- uidation?
The problem of the functional evolution of traditional institutes is examined by the Russian researcher V.E. Smirnov on the case of the his- tory of the Mamluk «house» (beit) of Balfyia. This beit emerged in the 17th century as a military organization highly atypical for Ottoman Egypt. But after a couple of generations of struggling for its survival, it adapted to the local socio-political conditions, lost its unique traits and became practically indiscernible from other Mamluk «houses».
The article of the young Oriental Studies researcher N.R. Krayushkin forms a link between the two sections of the journal, which are dedicated to the socio-political institutes and the spiritual and ideological endeavors. Examining the case of several venerated Arab-Ottoman theologians of the 17th century, N.R. Krayushkin demonstrates the influence of the «journey in search of knowledge» on the development of Islamic culture of the Mid- dle East and North Africa, and coincidently — on several socio-political processes.
The Ottoman «God-Protected» State during several centuries paid sig- nificant attention to the sustenance and transition of Islamic knowledge. In a certain way, Sharia law was seen as the official imperial ideology. The situation changed by the middle of the 19th century, when the modernized Ottoman Empire found a need for new concepts. As part of the Western European discourse, the Ottoman ideologists practically simultaneously proposed the doctrines of «Osmanism» and «pan-Islamism», adapted to the local conditions. The article by A.M. Abidulin and I.A. Shirkina is dedicated to the study of these two concepts. The concepts of «Osmanism» and «pan- Islamism» were taken up by the Sultan’s government for both — internal, as well as for foreign — policy, becoming a powerful tool of the empire.
The new ideological postulates developed in the Late Ottoman period, survived the fall of the empire and took roots far beyond its borders. The joint article of three Moscow State University professors — S.A. Kirillina, V.V. Orlov and A.L. Safronova — studies the transboundary evolution of one historic phenomenon: the doctrine of Caliphatism. The concept of the resurrection of the Caliphate, developed and perfected in the works of Is- lamic ideologists of the Middle East, found a response from a faction of the elites and population of Southern Asia. Its apotheosis was the exotic project aimed at the creation of the state of Osmanistan in India.
The phenomena of the Ottoman Empire are numerous and rich in their variety; the current issue of the journal touches upon just a few of them. Basically, this issue of The Historical Reporter is the first collection of articles dedicated to Ottoman history, published in post-Soviet Russia. The journal’s next issue will be dedicated to the relations of Russia and the Ottoman Empire.

Alexey E. Titkov. Editor-in-Chief of the Historical Reporter
Taras Y. Kobishchanov. Editor of the Issue, Editorial Board Membe



Konstantin A. Panchenko. The Ottoman Model of Empire-building: an Interpretation

Mikhail S. Meyer. Kastamonu — the History of a Province Centre on the Western Black Sea Coast           .

Dmitriy R. Zhantiev. Syria in the System of the Ottoman Possessions (16th — beginning of the 20th Century)

Mahmoud Yazbak. Penetration of an Urban Capital into the Palestinian Country-side: the Beginnings, Jaffa in the 1830s


Jane Hathaway. Eunuchs in the Ottoman Empire      

Yannis Spyropoulos. Janissaries: a Key Institution for Writing the Economic and Political History of Ottoman Muslims in the Early Modern Period              

Valeriy E. Smirnov. Specific Traits of the Rise and Development of the Mamluk «House» of Balfyia           

Pavel V. Shlikov. Reformation of the Waqf System in the Late Ottoman Empire: Institutional Crisis and Search for the New Philosophy of Waqf

Nikita R. Krayushkin. The Phenomenon of a «Journey in Search for Knowledge» in the Ottoman Culture


Alim M. Abidulin, Irina A. Shirkina. Transformation of Ideological Concepts in the Ottoman Empire in 1850–1900. Ottomanism-Pan-Islamism 

Svetlana A. Kirillina, Alexandra L. Safronova, Vladimir V. Orlov. The «Imperial Syndrome»: Conception of the Ottoman Caliphate In the Middle East and South Asia (First Quarter of the 20th Century)


Ferida M. Atsamba and her Immediate Circle at MSU History Department in 1940–1955