The sectarian violence in the Middle East is seldom traced to imperial rivalries in the sixteenth century, when the rise of Safavid state in 1501 led to two centuries of warfare, militarization, conquest and religious persecution of sunnis in Iran and shi’i Qizilbash in the Ottoman empire. Moreover, few historians have studied these religious and political conflicts in the wider Mediterranean and European contexts or have compared them with the reformation in Europe and the rise of national states. There is no doubt that the establishment of twelver shi’ism in Iran helped ward off Ottoman expansion into Azerbaijan although this borderland region was occupied several times and suffered economic by the Ottomans. Numerous peace treaties signed between these two states did not end the wars until the treaty of Erzurum signed between the Qajar and Ottoman states in 1829 ended hostilities and set the borders. This panel brings historians of Ottoman empire and Iran together to a shed new light on the history of Ottoman-Iranian relations, borderlands, and Iranian shi’i communities in the Ottoman empire based on both Ottoman archival, European, and Persian sources. The first paper in this panel will examine the transformation of Ottoman-Safavid relations and the role Western European countries (the Habsburg empire) in Ottoman- Iranian wars to protect their own frontier in southeast Europe. The second paper will focus on the impact of Ottoman-Safavid wars on the society and economy of Azerbaijan, an important and rich borderland region, during the late sixteenth and early eighteenth centuries. The third paper will tackle the role of religion in Ottoman- Iranian relations and the changing Ottoman notions of frontier applied to Iran from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries. The final paper will examine the impact of diplomatic normalization between the Ottoman Empire and Qajar Iran on the status of the Iranian community in Istanbul. The paper will show that the emerging notion of Ottoman citizenship combined with the shi’i identity of Iranians actually hardened the Ottoman policies toward Iranians living in the empire.
The history of Ottoman-Safavid borderlands is beginning to get some attention by historians. The Ottoman campaigns into Iran aimed at punishing the Safavid state for supporting the Qizilbash in Anatolia, and bringing the silk growing region of Ganja and Shirvan as well as the city of Tabriz, which was the most important silk entrepôt in the eastern Mediterranean trade zone under Ottoman control. Based on Ottoman archival sources, I will examine the Ottoman administration of Azerbaijan in two periods, in the late sixteenth (1585-1603) and the early eighteenth centuries (1725-30), highlighting the transformation of Ottoman policies in administering this rich borderland region during these two periods. The first period witnessed a tight Ottoman central control and very harsh policies by Ottoman governors, in part due to sectarian warfare and the Celali rebellions, leading to great economic dislocation and local rebellions. The second occupation of Azerbaijan took place after the disintegration of the Safavid state and the Afghan occupation of Iran. The Ottomans state reached an agreement with peter the Great of Russia to occupy the northern and western provinces of Iran. The Ottoman empire followed a more decentralized control over Azerbaijan during this period and coopted members of local nobility as well as tribal leaders into its administration. It farmed out the sources of revenue to its own military as well as local ayan who submitted to Ottoman rule and followed the Persian tax registers in assessing taxes. This policy proved more effective in reviving the economy as revenues began rising. But the dispersal of some major local tribes between the Russian and Ottoman held territories caused a major uprising by the Shahsevan tribe against Ottoman and Russian policies. In brief, Ottoman policies in attempting to rule over tribes in Azerbaijan proved ineffective and the joint Russian-Ottoman control of this region caused major dislocation among the Shasevan tribe. Based on cadastral surveys and Muhimme registers, this paper will examine the nature of Ottoman administration of this important borderland, as well as the demographic makeup, agricultural and economic resources of this rich borderland province in two periods of Ottoman rule.