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Russian Imperial Rule and Citizenship in the South Caucasus (1878–1914)

Gözde Yazıcı Cörüt
The Treaty of Berlin brought the Russo-Ottoman War (1877–78) to an end, and delineated a new border between the Russian and Ottoman Empires at the juncture of north-eastern Anatolia and the southern Caucasus. Three Ottoman sanjaks, Kars, Çıldır (including the Ardahan district) and Batum were ceded to Russia; soon thereafter Russian authorities established two separate administrative divisions, the provinces (oblasts) of Kars and Batum. My project aims at examining Russia’s citizenship policies in these provinces (1878–1914) vis-à-vis concurrent Ottoman citizenship policies, which were rather entangled with border politics of both empires. Using the case studies of Kars and Batum, and comparing these to other Ottoman and Russian geopolitical contexts, such as the Balkans and Central Asia, I will use imperial citizenship as a lens to consider the following, broad questions: How does imperial citizenship facilitate greater centralization and thus reform as a means of control and governance of imperial borderlands? Are these policies shaped by the politics of contiguous states, which have a stake in such contested border regions? How do citizenship policies affect political allegiances, cross-border movements, and the habitation of imperial borderlands by divergent ethnic and religious groups? And, finally, what strategies ought to be employed to avoid any cross-cultural difficulties that may arise?
My hope is an original contribution to the comparative study of imperial transfers between Tsarist Russia and the Ottomans, by looking more closely than before at the competitive claims of the various actors on the Russo-Ottoman borderlands. This might well constitute a kind of virgin soil in the research sense, and, as such, promises to make a significant and original contribution to the broader discussion of the Ottoman and Russian imperial experience. Currently, “Empire Studies” is not only a growing field, but particularly interested in inter-imperial interactions and transfers, the topic of my current research. My short-term publication plan consists of an academic journal article, which will examine the case of Armenians who straddled the Russian and Ottoman Empires, and the limits of imperial power to monitor their lives and movement between 1878 and 1914. My long-term plan is to turn my PhD Dissertation entitled “Ambivalent Loyalties and Imperial Citizenship on the Russo-Ottoman Border between 1878 and 1914: An Analysis of the Ottoman Perspective” on the Ottoman Empire and current research on Tsarist Russia into a successful monograph. The working title for the monograph might be: “Policies of Imperial Citizenship in the Ottoman and Russian Empires: A Perspective from Eastern Anatolia and the Russian Caucasus”.