Afternoon Tea: “The Burdens of Subjecthood: The Ottoman State, Russian Fugitives, and Interimperial Law, 1774-1869”

This article analyzes the changing treaty law and practice governing the Ottoman state’s attitude toward the subjects of its most important neighbor and most inveterate rival: the Russian Empire. The two empires were linked by both migration and unfreedom; alongside Russian slaves forcibly brought to the sultans’ domains, many others came as fugitives from serfdom and conscription. But beginning in the late 18th century, the Ottoman Empire reinforced Russian serfdom and conscription by agreeing to return fugitives, even as the same treaties undermined Ottoman forced labor by mandating the return of Russian slaves. Drawing extensively on Ottoman archival sources, this article argues that the resulting interimperial regulations on unfreedom and movement hardened the empires’ human and geographic boundaries, so that for many Russian subjects, foreign subjecthood under treaty law was not a privilege, but a liability.

This is from Will Smiley, a historian at the University of New Hampshire. Here is the link.

RCH: America and Russia use to be friends

It’s true, and it’s the subject of my latest Tuesday column over at RealClearHistory. Check it out:

The two future superpower rivals had more in common than mere future greatness, though. Both were expanding rapidly, gobbling up huge swaths of territory at the expense of isolated polities like the Khiva Khanate and the Sioux confederacy, and hapless autocracies like Mexico and the Ottoman Empire. Russia and the United States also shared common foes – France and the U.K. – due mostly to the fact that American and Russian expansion was beginning to step on French and British toes. Both empires – one democratic, the other autocratic – also had looming labor crises that overshadowed everything they did in international affairs: slavery and serfdom.

Yes, I’m writing about the widely-ignored Crimean War. Please, read the rest, and don’t forget to tune in Friday for ten cool facts about the Crimean War!