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Transottoman Semiospheres: Pavel A. Levašev's (d. 1820) and Necati Efendi's (d. after 1776) Imaginations of the Other

Alexander Bauer, Gül Şen
The envisaged project analyses Ottoman-Russian mental entanglements by comparison of two reports written by two war captives. Both had fallen in a yearlong captivity during the same military conflict and wrote autobiographical texts about their years in custody. Necati Efendi (d. after 1776) was an Ottoman official and served as the registrar (defter emini) for Silahdar Ibrahim Pasha, the Ottoman commander in chief of the Crimea during the Ottoman-Russian War in 1768–74. Together with a group of Ottoman officials he became a prisoner of war for almost four years (1771–75), until he was released after the peace treaty of Küçük Kaynarca in July 1774. Back in Istanbul, Necati continued his profession as a member of the Ottoman bureaucratic echelon. This part of project (carried out by Gül Sen) relies on the captivity narrative of Necati Efendi, which is available in a number of extant manuscripts. Due to the structural and stylistic similarities, this narrative, entitled Tārīḫ-i Ḳırım (The History of Crimea), within the genre of Ottoman sefāretnāmes (embassy report). Pavel A. Levašev (d. 1820) was a Russian diplomat and served in Istanbul. At the beginning of the Ottoman-Russian War in 1768 he was imprisoned together with the diplomat Aleksej Michajlovič Obreskov. Later, as a captive of the Ottoman army, both traveled the land. After his liberation in 1771, Levašev went back to St Petersburg (together with Obreskov), where he started to work at the Collegium of Foreign Affairs. Levašev published his memoires of his captivity in St Petersburg in 1790 under the title Car’grader Briefe (Car’gradskie pis’ma) and Plen i stradanija rossijan u turkov – Captivity and Sufferings of the Russians among the Turks, a historical treatise spanning several centuries. This sub-project (carried out by Alexander Bauer) examines Levašev’s captivity narrative, which is already available in an edition, along with his other writings.
By their texts, both Necati Efendi and Pavel A. Levašev contributed to the manifestation of Ottoman and Russian discourses on the “other”. The mutual perception must be seen against the backdrop of the increasing interconnections of the Russian-Ottoman space in the second half of the eighteenth century. On the Russian side, a kind of orientalism of its own was developed during the rule of Catherine II (r. 1762–96), whereas under Mustafa III (r. 1757–74) a first phase of reforms and diplomatic rapprochement with the European powers began. The war between two empires forced the protagonists into a mental confrontation with their opponents and compelled them to integrate themselves into their own imaginations. The project examines—in a comparative way—both captive narratives in a four step analysis: (1) The critical edition and translation of the Ottoman-Turkish manuscripts and the translation of the edition of the Russian texts; (2) text-based imaginations of the “other” in the context of the Russian-Ottoman cognitive interrelations in the Transottoman semiospheres (drawing on the concept of semiosphere, Lotman 1984) by means of narratological examinations; (3 )classification of the history of Russian-Ottoman relations in the second half of the eighteenth century; (4) embedding the texts in the coeval multicultural Transottoman context in Istanbul and St. Petersburg with focus on mobility, entanglements, and circulation of knowledge.