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Zübeyde Güneş Yağcı / Mustafa Akkaya (Hgg.): Kırım Kazaskeri Buyurdu. 34 Numaralı Kırım Sicili - Değerlendirme ve Transkripsiyon [The Chief Judge of Crimea Has Ordered: The Court Register of Crimea, No. 34 - Analysis and Transcription], Istanbul: Gece 2021, 319 S., ISBN 978-6-2584-4975-4, TRL 168,00
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Rezension von:
Gül Şen
Universität Heidelberg / Universität Bonn
Redaktionelle Betreuung:
Stephan Conermann
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Gül Şen: Rezension von: Zübeyde Güneş Yağcı / Mustafa Akkaya (Hgg.): Kırım Kazaskeri Buyurdu. 34 Numaralı Kırım Sicili - Değerlendirme ve Transkripsiyon [The Chief Judge of Crimea Has Ordered: The Court Register of Crimea, No. 34 - Analysis and Transcription], Istanbul: Gece 2021, in: sehepunkte 22 (2022), Nr. 9 [15.09.2022], URL:

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Zübeyde Güneş Yağcı / Mustafa Akkaya (Hgg.): Kırım Kazaskeri Buyurdu

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The Crimean Tatars were the majority indigenous population on the Crimean Peninsula from the fourteenth century until the military conflicts of the mid-nineteenth century between the Ottomans and the Russians. Although their ethnogenesis remains contested, because of their Turkic language, which is very close to Ottoman Turkish, the Crimean Tatars are called Crimean Turks (Kırım Türkleri) in Modern Turkish, and this practice is adopted also by the editors of the book under review, Zübeyde Güneş Yağcı and Mustafa Akkaya. The history of this ethnic population, which is widespread especially in Turkey and Bulgaria, is dominated by their expulsion from the formerly Ottoman and newly Russian territories after the Crimean War (1853-1856) and by their experiences in the diaspora. This must be the reason why the editors dedicate their book Kırım Kazaskeri Buyurdu: 34 Numaralı Kırım Sicili - Değerlendirme ve Transkripsiyon [The Chief Judge of Crimea Has Ordered: The Court Register of Crimea, No. 34 - Analysis and Transcription] to the "Crimean Turks, hoping they will return to their homeland." Both editors are Turkish social historians who work primarily on enslavement and enslavement practices in the Ottoman Empire. Although there are some studies on the social and economic life of Crimea, only a few court registers have been published and are available as primary sources. A recently published catalog of the court registers preserved in the Russian National Library of St. Petersburg (Fond 917) shows the growing interest in the history of the Crimean khanate as a tributary state of the Ottoman Empire. [1] The edition under review is a contribution to this research field, with a focus on the period from September 1698 to August 1700.

A kazasker (ḳażıʿasker) was the chief judge in the Crimean capital, Bakhchysarai (Bahçesaray), and hierarchically the highest authority within the class of religious-legal scholars. The register published in the present volume consists of 115 manuscript folios and was written under two chief judges, Abdülmecid Efendi and Abdullah bin Şeyh Ahmed. The register sheds light on the daily life of the Crimean Tatars. Moreover, it provides information on what was going on in the Crimea when the Treaty of Karlowitz was signed in 1699 between the Ottoman Empire and the Habsburg Empire and how this treaty affected the life of common people in the peninsula. In addition, the register contains a record of the inheritance of a member of the khan's family, which offers a glimpse into the life of the ruling family.

In the analytical part of the work (29-57), the editors highlight the main themes of the register under five categories: districts and villages, officials, family, slaves, and daily life. In the preface, the editors explain why they chose this particular register, no. 34, for publication. The reason is that this register covers a particularly important time period, encompassing the Treaty of Karlowitz in 1699 and the Treaty of Istanbul in 1700. The former marked the first time that the Ottoman Empire lost a vast amount of territory and thus constituted a turning point in Ottoman history, while the latter enshrined the first victory of the Tsardom against the Ottoman Empire, ending the Ottoman supremacy in the Sea of Azov region and securing Russian access to the Black Sea. The register contains an imperial order sent to the Crimean khans, declaring that in accordance with both treaties, the Tatars may no longer carry out raids into Russian and Polish territory. The order was not welcomed in the peninsula.

The editors also discuss the role played by the Crimean khanate during the wars and they explore the social and economic life of the Crimean population in Bakhchysarai and its vicinity over a period of two years. Whereas their long discussion on the ancient history of the peninsula and the movements and settlement of Central Asian Turkic tribes in the Crimea seems less relevant to the present study, the section that provides an overview of Ottoman history is very useful. It describes how, for a long time, the khanate served as a buffer zone against Russian expansion on the Black Sea but ultimately could not prevent Russia's entry into Crimea in 1738 during the Ottoman-Russian war. The editors conclude the analytical section by emphasizing the importance of the court register as a source on the socioeconomic realities of different strata in Crimean society, from rulers to enslaved individuals.

Although several entries shed light on provincial administration, the register reflects first and foremost urban Crimean society emerging from a long period of war. There are numerous entries concerning household slaves, with their monetary values listed in inheritance documents; manumitted slaves appear, as do those who petition the court to establish formally that they have been freed. These entries are certainly relevant for studies of slavery and dependency. In the area of material culture, the inheritance records list many objects of daily use and household amenities such as carpets and kilims. Socioeconomic differences can be discerned in the textiles that appear in the property lists as mattress covers: in the lists of wealthy households, the fabrics were woven with silver fibers. The fact that almost everyone seems to have owned horses is a clear indicator of the importance of horses in Crimean society. A further detail is that horse meat was part of Crimean cuisine.

The bulky register is reproduced in modern Turkish and occupies pages 58-315 (not 58-313 as mistakenly indicated in the table of contents). The editors explain that the register does not differ linguistically from those of Anatolian cities. The absence of transliteration makes it difficult for non-Turkish-speaking scholars to identify special terms, but the glossary in the appendix provides not only the Ottoman Turkish terms but also the vernacular vocabulary used in the contemporary peninsula. The editors should be commended for their hard work and accuracy in deciphering the register. However, additional redactional support might have helped avoid a number of minor errors, such as "kazak" instead of "Kazak" (70), "tatar" instead of "Tatar" (41), "Bölükbaşının" instead of "Bölükbaşı'nın" (41), and "havlusu" (their towels) instead of "avlusu" (their courtyards) (40). Despite these small errors, this edition is a great contribution to the corpus of primary sources on Crimean history at the end of the seventeenth century.


[1] Fehmi Yılmaz / Ahmet Cihan / Özlem Deniz Yılmaz / Erol Özvar (eds.): Kırım Hanlığı Kadı Sicilleri Kataloğu, Ankara 2021.

Gül Şen