MESA Banner
The Slave Trade on the Russian-Ottoman Border in the Caucasus, 1800-1860
This study attempts to unveil the long-term practice of the slave trade at the Russian-Ottoman borderland in the Caucasus in the first half of the nineteenth century. The spatial limit of this study extends from the eastern Black Sea shores under the control of the Ottoman Empire, namely Kobuleti and Adjara, to the southwestern part of the Caucasus Viceroyalty of the Russian Empire, formerly the kingdom of Imeretia. As the period in question witnessed the expansion of the Russian Empire in Transcaucasus and further attempts for centralization of the Ottoman Empire, the slave trade and body-trafficking which were active since the early eighteenth century and targeting the Ottoman market became under governmental scrutiny starting from the 1820s, especially on behalf of the Russian Empire. Despite the fact that the Russian government succeeded to limit body-trafficking through the border to a certain extent, the slave trade from the western regions of Transcaucasus continued well into the 1850s. Within this context, this study aims at uncovering the social origins of slave dealers and their political roles in this trans-imperial setting. Whereas the Ottoman slave dealers appeared to be the raiders and plunderers in the Russian sources of the period, they were not alone in this transaction. Their noble counterparts in the Russian side of the border actively participated in this trade by selling their serfs to Ottoman buyers until very late in the nineteenth century. The slave trade in the Western Caucasus could not be controlled entirely by the Russian officers since the same nobles were also the target clients of the Russian imperial project in the Caucasus. The Ottoman slave trade network, on the other hand, provided Ottoman borderland notables with career opportunities on an empire-wide basis and further political influence within their respective areas. While the slave trade was by no means compatible with the Russian imperial visions regarding the Caucasus, the Ottomans, although publicly denounced the slave trade as a result of international pressure, did not categorically exclude this practice from their imperial agenda. Focusing on the importance of the slave trade for the integration of local notables into the Russian and Ottoman imperial policies, this study seeks to understand the mutual relationship of borderland notables from the both sides vis-à-vis the process of empire-making in the Caucasus
Geographic Area
Ottoman Empire
Sub Area