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Biography of an Empire

Biography of an Empire: Governing Ottomans in an Age of Revolution

Christine M. Philliou
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: 1
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Biography of an Empire
    Book Description:

    This vividly detailed revisionist history opens a new vista on the great Ottoman Empire in the early nineteenth century, a key period often seen as the eve of Tanzimat westernizing reforms and the beginning of three distinct histories—ethnic nationalism in the Balkans, imperial modernization from Istanbul, and European colonialism in the Middle East. Christine Philliou brilliantly shines a new light on imperial crisis and change in the 1820s and 1830s by unearthing the life of one man. Stephanos Vogorides (1780–1859) was part of a network of Christian elites known phanariots, institutionally excluded from power yet intimately bound up with Ottoman governance. By tracing the contours of the wide-ranging networks—crossing ethnic, religious, and institutional boundaries—in which the phanariots moved, Philliou provides a unique view of Ottoman power and, ultimately, of the Ottoman legacies in the Middle East and Balkans today. What emerges is a wide-angled analysis of governance as a lived experience at a moment in which there was no clear blueprint for power.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94775-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. MAPS
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  6. PREFACE: The View from the Edge of the Center
    (pp. xvii-xxx)
  7. Stephanos Vogorides’ Apologia, November 1852
    (pp. 1-4)

    Enlightened by the theory of the Evangelical Logos,¹ which commands us to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s (idol worshipers though they were then), to love one’s neighbor as thyself, even the Samaritan who does not glorify the Resurrection as we Christians do, and to avoid anything that brings about scandal, abnormality, or disorder to human society, where divine Providence deigned to form us out of nonbeing, I have thus always been bound not to give occasion for discord, for responsibility and accusations of suspicion against Christians of the Ottomans (under whom God has subjected us for our sins). I...

  8. 1 The Houses of Phanar
    (pp. 5-37)

    It was with difficulty that I could collect my scattered senses when the time came to step into the nut-shell, all azure and gold, which waited to convey the [dragoman]’s suite to the [Phanar].… Each stroke of the oar, after we had pushed off from the ship, made our light caick [T.kayık] glide by some new palace, more splendid than that which preceded it; and every fresh edifice I beheld, grander in its appearance than the former, was immediately set down in my mind as my master’s habitation. I began to feel uneasy when I perceived that we had passed...

    (pp. 38-40)

    Stephanos Vogorides’ personal journey through Ottoman and phanariot politics before the 1820s provided him with the skills, personal connections, and, according to him, the fortitude to survive wave after wave of major political upheaval and remain loyal to the Ottoman sultanate for another four decades.¹ His remains an excellent example of how people navigated and accumulated power in the phanariot moment—from the turn of the nineteenth century until 1821—and of how that power could be recouped in subsequent decades.

    He was born—as Stoiko Stoikov—in the 1770s in Kotel (T. Kazan), a village in today’s central Bulgaria,...

  10. 2 Volatile Synthesis
    (pp. 41-60)

    It is unlikely that Stephanos Vogorides or any of his contemporaries were aware of this episode in Ottoman military history. And yet, this “toy” performance in the grand vezir’s tent in 1791 has become the starting point of a plotline that has overwhelmingly dominated modern accounts of the final, “long nineteenth century” of Ottoman history. This is the plotline of Westernization and modernization of the Ottoman military.¹ It has become so dominant, in fact, that this initial episode, which could not have been witnessed by more than a few men, has come to obscure the larger context of Ottoman governance...

    (pp. 61-64)

    When Stephanos traveled to İstanbul in the mid-1790s, he had already laid the groundwork for entrance into politics and imperial service through the connections of his family in Wallachia. He arrived in İstanbul with a letter from his grandfather to a combination of officials that varies according to one’s source. Some say he first arrived with a letter to Helarion, bishop of Turnovo, who in turn recommended Stephanos to the Karaca phanariot family. They in turn introduced him into the service of Husrev Paşa, who was ascending the Ottoman military-administrative hierarchy in the 1790s.¹ This route seems plausible in that...

  12. 3 Demolitions
    (pp. 65-81)

    In September 1821, six months into civil wars sparked by Greek-hetairist insurgencies in the Danubian Principalities and the Morea, a British envoy in İstanbul noted a dilemma of the Ottoman government:

    As to the immediate re-establishment of the [Danubian] Princes, a … difficulty stands in the way. Are you aware of the public ceremony and pomp attending their investiture? Are you aware that these ceremonies are indispensable? That a procession, scarcely inferior in splendor to that of the Sultan himself, must be made through Constantinople? That the whole of the Greeks established here, attend the ceremony? Be assured that if...

    (pp. 82-84)

    When conflicts broke out in 1821, the position ofvoyvodamust have finally seemed to Vogorides to be within reach. He was appointed as interimkaymakamwhen his patron-employer Skarlato Kallimaki fled abruptly to Pisa on the eve of hostilities.¹ When Greek-hetairist rebellions began in earnest in 1821, the networks around him, through which he had risen and made his career, began to collapse before his eyes. This was amoment that Vogorides himself clearly saw as a turning point in his life. Decades later he described a moment in the course of Greek-hetairist rebellions in Moldavia when he was faced...

  14. 4 Phanariot Remodeling and the Struggle for Continuity
    (pp. 85-104)

    In the immediate wake of violence in the 1820s, phanariot households and families found themselves scattered across long distances and made choices to maximize their chances of survival. Many members of phanariothanedanswho survived the immediate İstanbul aftermath of Greek insurgencies in Moldavia were exiled within Ottoman domains. ThevoyvodaKallimaki was exiled to Bolu, in northern Anatolia, where he was subsequently murdered by the governor there.¹ Stavraki Aristarchi, who has gone down in history as the last phanariot dragoman, was soon removed from office and exiled with his family to Bolu as well, where he was killed, ostensibly...

  15. BIOGRAPHY OF AN EMPIRE IV: Persistence and the Old Regime
    (pp. 105-106)

    Even in the 1820s, before the role of diplomatic politics in Ottoman governance expanded, the previous functions performed by phanariot dragomans—negotiations, translation, interpreting, exchange of information within the empire—were at the center of Vogorides’ bid to survive and rebuild power. While the central state was focused on military struggles, both within the state (Mahmud II’s project to destroy janissary power) and against Greek-identified rebels in the provinces, Vogorides was on hand, like only a very few others, to negotiate. As early as 1823, in the heat of conflict, he was rumored to have been the agent of the...

  16. 5 Diplomacy and the Restoration of a New Order
    (pp. 107-135)

    İstanbul was like a gift in the 1830s, ready to be offered up to one of several possible recipients. In the coffeehouses of the capital, informants exchanged gossip that Husrev Paşa, who had been directing the new Ottoman military, had proposed “turning İstanbul over ” to Russia so that he and others in the government would be able to “rest easy.”¹ Halil Paşa had reportedly answered that İstanbul would be better turned over to Mehmet Ali Paşa of Egypt, who was a “brother in religion” and already a vezir and subject of the sultan.² In a separate coffeehouse conversation, a...

  17. BIOGRAPHY OF AN EMPIRE V: The Second Ascendancy: Prince Vogorides, Also Known as Istefanaki Bey
    (pp. 136-151)

    As the horizons of Ottoman diplomacy began to expand again in the later 1820s, Vogorides became involved, as translator, secretary, and negotiator, in successive treaty negotiations with Russia.¹ He traveled several times to St. Petersburg—first in 1826 to negotiate the Treaty of Akkerman (presumably on a kind of furlough from his internal exile), then in 1828–29 for the preparatory negotiations of the Treaty of Edirne, and some sources place him there again in 1833 to negotiate reparations from the 1829 conflict—with Halil Rıfat Paşa, a military-turned-diplomatic figure under the protection of Husrev Paşa.² The 1833 trip to...

  18. 6 In the Eye of the Storm
    (pp. 152-169)

    A Christian statesman serving the Ottoman Empire in 1852 would have had a number of reasons to invoke the career of the Duke of Wellington. The recently deceased Wellington was Anglo-Irish and yet rose from that disadvantaged background to become a military and diplomatic leader defending the British Empire in India and against Napoleon.¹ Representing Britain at the Congress of Vienna, Wellington was conservative in a time of changes and challenges for England and for the European system of politics. Wellington had apparently managed to reconcile the contradictions and challenges of his position and earn a shining reputation in life...

  19. Afterlives
    (pp. 170-176)

    Stephanos Vogorides died in August 1859, just as act two of the Tanzimat project was beginning in earnest. His son-in-law Constantine Musurus, however, went on to serve the Ottoman Empire as its London representative for more than twenty-five years after Vogorides’ death. Operating as a Tanzimat-era statesmen, Musurus served the empire within the confines of his official position, unlike Vogorides, whose de facto role in governance had dwarfed his official title. Musurus helped negotiate the loans from the British to the Ottoman state and the establishment of the Ottoman Bank, mediated for Ottoman subjects living in Britain, and even was...

  20. APPENDIX A: Genealogies of the Vogorides, Musurus, and Aristarchi Families
    (pp. 177-182)
  21. APPENDIX B: Phanariot Dignitaries in the Four High Offices of Dragoman (Grand Dragoman; Dragoman of the Fleet) and Voyvoda (of Wallachia and Moldavia), 1661–1821
    (pp. 183-186)
  22. NOTES
    (pp. 187-242)
    (pp. 243-264)
    (pp. 265-268)
  25. INDEX
    (pp. 269-286)
  26. Back Matter
    (pp. 287-287)