Imperial Russia Ottoman Empire Comparement Of Societies
Today, contemporary political borders might seem that they were always there and never changed. But actually what we have seen today is accumulation of hundreds years of international relations. Sometimes states were the main actor and sometimes entities called as empires that contain multiethnic, multilingual units within them. With this paper I tried to give information about two significant empires: Russian and Ottoman Empires. And mostly my emphasize was over the social structure and cultural settings of this two empire. But who are they?
When we look at the Russian Empire we see that it was existed from 1721 until Russian Revolution 1917 . It was successor of Tsardom of Russia which accepts itself as heritage of Rome Culture. Russian Empire with its huge territories once was one of the largest empires of the world. It stretched from Eastern Europe, across Northern Asia and into North America, even larger than Ottomans. Its government ruled by Tsar was one of the last absolute monarchies left in Europe in 19th century. Much of its expansion took place in 18th century. The total area of Russian Empire equaled 21.3 million square kilometers, 128 million people were registered in national census in 1897 (Finland and Polish provinces included), by the year of 1914 population of Russia increased up to 178 millions .
On the other side Ottoman Empire covers a 600 hundred years of process in world history. At the height of its power this multi-ethnic and multi-religious empire became diffused over three continents controlling much of Southeastern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. The empire was at the centre of interactions between the East and West for six centuries. The Ottomans regarded themselves as the heirs of both Roman and Islamic traditions and hence rulers of a “Universal Empire” through his unification of cultures .
Russia-Ottoman relations starts actually from Tsarist Russia period in 16th century with Black Sea trade ways. As being coeval to each other I will try to examine both civilizations in their social life, cultural values and generally society classes. Also by comparing them we will see their effects towards contemporary “nation” and “citizenship” questions.
Subjects of the Russian Empire were segregated into sosloviyes, in other words social classes such as nobility (dvoryanstvo), clergy, merchants, Cossacks and peasants. People of Siberia and Central Asia were officially registered as a category called as inorodtsy (non-Slavic, people of another origin). Totally Tsar had 150 million subjects, from poor, illiterate peasants to the noble families of great wealth. The great mass of the people 81, 6% belonged to peasant order, the others were: nobility 1.3%, clergy 0.9% the burghers and merchants 9.3% and military 6.1% . More than half of the society was consist of peasants then. In order to understand how these classes interact we should examine each of them separately.
The origins of the serfdom in Russia are traced to late 15th century. In the middle of 15th century, society and the economy were still organized along traditional lines. The land was sparsely settled. Life for the most of the population was simple and probably close to the subsistence level. Serfdom did not yet exist.
Lots of changes happened in the latter part of the 15th century. About 1460 measures were taken to bring the peasantry under more regular control of the state and the landlord . The growing controls upon the peasantry received impetus from the large scale deportations and colonizations that accompanied the annexations of Novgorad, Tver, Pskov, and Ryazan, when the old nobility were replaced with the nobility owing service to the prince of Muscovy. The legal code of Ivan III of Russia, Sudebnik (1497), strengthened the dependency of peasants, state wise, and restricted their mobility. After the passage of laws which further restricted the peasant’s right to free movement, the vast majority of the Russian populace was finally bound in full serfdom. Russian landowners eventually gained almost unlimited ownership over Russian serfs. In the 1600s those peasants working the lord’s land or working in the lord’s house had become bound to the lords by law. The landowner could transfer the serf without land to another landowner while keeping the serf’s personal property and family; however the landowner had no right to kill the serf . Sexual exploitation of female serfs had become common. It was the landlord who chose which of his serfs would serve in Russia’s military. As a whole serfdom came to Russia much later than in other European countries, it remained as a major institution till 19th century. The exact numbers, according to official data, were; entire population 60.909.309; peasantry of all classes 49.486.665; state peasants 23.138.191; peasants on the lands of proprietors 23.022.390; peasants of the appanages and other departments 3.326.082 . Russian serfdom depended entirely on the traditional and extensive technology of the peasantry.
In the first half of the 1800s serf uprisings in the hundreds had occurred and serf in great number had been running away from their lords. Alexander I, perhaps from fear of the nobility and with the memory of his father2s fate in mind approached the serf problem with caution, though with a desire for reform, but first war HANGÄ°SAVAÅž BAK. And then diplomacy diverted him. His successor Nicholas disliked the serfdom, but there were political hazards in eliminating it. In 1858 there were 19 million state peasants (owned by Tsar) and 22.5 million private serfs. Only minor measures were taken to benefit the serfs on private estates.
Opposition to serfdom grew steadily not only by many of Russian intellectuals but also among high officials. They hoped for more rule of law and an advance in rights and obligations for everyone under the rule of Tsar. Moreover serfdom was also obviously an obstacle to economic development. It seemed not only unjust but intolerable that in a great nation men and women could be owned. In Russian Baltic provinces (Courland, Estonia, Livonia) serfdom was abolished at the beginning of the 19th century . Those who owned serfs defended that ownership merely as a selfish interest.
In March 1861 Tsar Alexander freed all serfs in a major agrarian reform “Emancipation Manifesto”. He had feared that more uprisings would create an uncertainty in society. So it was better to liberate peasants from above, than to wait until they won their freedom by risings from below. According to this program of emancipation the lords were to receive compensation in the form of treasury bonds, and the freed serfs were to pay for their freedom not as individuals but collectively. Except in the Ukraine and a few other areas, land were distributed to communities of former serfs, communities called communes, the government hoping that a commune of freed serfs would be more responsible than scattered individuals and the government hoping to prevent the creation of numerous isolated person without property. It was the commune that was responsible for distributing land to the former serfs, for collecting taxes, providing recruits for the military and other obligations.
Payments by freed serfs were to be annual while the lords for the time being were keep title to their lands, including that portion given to the serf commune. Many freed serfs felt that they did not get all the land that had been promised them. Actually this abolition was achieved on unfavorable terms to the peasant. The former serfs received 18 percent less land than they had been promised and 42 percent of the former serfs’ allotments of land insufficient to maintain their families .
Peasant life in Russia as elsewhere was the product of an ever evolving accommodation with geography with climate and political forces beyond the peasant’s control. Apart from agricultural work, many peasants on estates engaged in cottage industry of one kind or another. Most common was spinning and weaving. Peter the Great and his successors encouraged landlords to engage in manufacture on their estate. The main instrument of peasant self-administration was the mir . It was a village assembly consisting of heads of peasant households. Its functions were to distribute the tax burden and other financial obligations of the village among the families according to their ability to pay, to administer peasant justice and periodically to redistribute the communal land among the villagers in accordance with the ability of families to work it. Russian peasants usually employed a three-field system of farming, with one field in grain, a second in hay and the third lying fallow. The peasant family was patriarchal in structure. It was headed by a bol’shak.
According to Professor Dr. Emilie Joseph Dillion who lived in Russia from 1877 to 1914 “the peasantry of Russia” was deeply suffering. He described the material misery in which the majority of peasants lived in :
“The Russian Peasant goes to bed at six and even five o’clock in the winter,
because he can not afford money to buy petroleum enough for artificial light. He
has no meat, no eggs, and no milk, no butter often no cabbage and lives mainly on
black bread and potatoes. Live? He starves on an insufficient quantity of them.”
Peasants did not always suffer in silence. Resistance took form of jokes or cheating the landlord. What peasants most wanted was continuity. Old abuses bothered them little. New ones presented a break with the traditional contract and often met with protest. Anxiety about peasant unrest, growing moral concern about one person owing to another and the knowledge that serfdom impeded Russia’s economic growth and military strength finally persuaded the government to emancipate serfs. After the emancipation reform one quarter of peasants have received allotments of only 2.9 acres per male, and one-half less than 8.5 to 11.4 acres – the normal size of the allotment necessary to the subsistence of a family under the three-fields system being estimated at 28 to 42 acres . Land must thus of necessity be rented from the landlords at fabulous prices. This situation showed an increase in debts. The arrears increased every year; one fifth of the inhabitants have left their houses and wandered throughout Russia in search of labour. To give the land (to the serfs) meant to ruin the nobility and to give freedom without land meant ruin to peasants. The state peasants were better off, but still they were emigrating in masses. It was only in the steppe governments that the situation was more hopeful. The peasants, at first were disappointed by the emancipation decree. Instead of immediate freedom, they had to pass through a series of steps to freedom. Instead of all the land, they received on average one-sixth less than they’d had before the emancipation and the landlords got control of woodlands and common pastures. Moreover the peasants faced forty nine years of burdensome payments in order to redeem the land. After a brief period of unrest, however, the great majority of peasants fatalistically accepted the disappointing emancipation settlement. The emancipation did not successfully resolve the land question in Russia.
By the beginning of the 20th century peasant life was slowly changing . Literacy among the peasants was on the rise. As the country industrialized, opportunities to work in factories and mines grew. Thousands of peasants took leave from the commune to work in industrial pursuit.
The nobility arose in the 12th and 13th centuries as the lowest part of the feudal military class, which composed the court of a prince or an important boyar. From the 14th century land ownership by nobles increased and by the 15th century the rulers of Muscovy considered the entire Russian territory as their collective property. Various semi-independent princes still claimed specific territories but Ivan III forces the lesser princes to acknowledge the grand prince of Muscovy and his descendants as unquestioned rulers with control over military, judicial and foreign affairs. By the 17th century aristocracy composed the bulk of feudal lords and constituted the majority of landowners. Peter the Great finalized the status of the nobility. Like other monarchs, Peter needed nobility, but he wanted unified nobility. And so he abolished boyar privilege by abolishing mestnichestvo and got rid of possible constraints on his power by abolishing the Boyar Duma. In 1722, Peter formalized the service state with his Table of Ranks. Nobility now depended on serving the state. Peter also required a minimal education for entry into service. From the time of Peter, therefore, education was a sign of nobility. Russian nobility possessed the following privileges :
• The right of possession of populated estates
• Freedom from required military service
• Freedom from zemstvo duties
• The right to enter civil service and privileged educational institutions
• Freedom from corporal punishment
• The right to have a family coat of arms
The nobility was not happy with having to serve for life, especially since a boy started to serve the state at age fourteen. When Peter died in 1725, the nobility began to campaign for concessions. The great nobles who were descended from the boyars resented their loss of prestige as a result of the Table of Ranks. Later the greatest victory of nobility came in the reign of Peter III. He liberated the nobility from compulsory state service.
In 1785 Catherine the Great conferred on the nobility the “Charter to the Nobility” . For the first time in Russian history a social group had legal rights instead of only duties. She saw the highpoint of the Russian nobility.
By the 18th century western way of life spread among the upper classes. There developed a class of nobles who were interested in culture for the sake of their own development, as well as cutting good figure in society. Private boarding and day schools proliferated, as tutors hired by wealthy nobles for their children. Nobility were guaranteed cheap serf labour by the state. Still, only a few of the Russian nobility were rich. The great majority was relatively poor and did not live lives of luxury or even great comfort. Life in the countryside for the nobility was not always secure.
The emancipation reform effected the situation of the former landowners also. Accustomed to the use of compulsory labour, they have failed to accommodate themselves to the new conditions. The millions of rubles of redemption money received from the crown have been spent without any real or lasting agricultural improvements having been affected. The forests have been sold, and only those landlords are prospering who exact rack-rents for the land without which the peasants could not live upon their allotments. During the years 1861-1892 the land owned by the nobles decreased 30%. Though weakened by the emancipation the nobility was by no means destroyed by it and they remained the dominant social class in Russia right up to the 1917 revolution.
The Ottoman Empire lasted for six hundred years (1299-1923) and encompassed what is modern day Turkey, The Balkans and all of the Arab-speaking nation states. Thus the Ottoman Empire was a home to an extremely diverse population ranging from the Muslim majority to the minority population, specifically Christians and Jews who were referred to as the “People of the Book”.
In the Ottoman Empire it is hard to say that there were social classes in society like it was in the Western feudal class system. There were not any stratums like; serf-senior, proletariat-bourgeoisie. It is not possible to define existing society within the lines of neither feudal nor caste system. Main reason of this situation was Islamic understanding of society and ownership. Of course, there were some classes in society but they came to existence with values of Turk-Islam states in the history. These values prevented exploitation and hindered wealth to be collected in the hands of few. That’s why in Ottomans we can not see an aristocracy or nobility class of West. Anyway the elements that organize social relations weakened the evolution of feudal class system, and they were connecting the people who belonged to the different occupations and statuses.
In the whole empire the right of possession of land was given to only state. This prevented the rise of new wealthy aristocrat class that can be rivalry to the government power. So there was not any west style of landlords, dukes or princes.
The most common differentiation of the society was in line with governors and rayyah. Generally governors were military rooted and rayyah was consisted of common people. Another differentiation is made by historians as: Muslim and non-Muslim population. Judicial differentiation showed itself as free people and slaves.
From the royal Sultan to the villagers in the rayyah class, the people of the Empire each had a unique position in Ottoman society. At the very top of the social structure there was the Sultan, absolute commander of all. A step below there were a small group of wealthy, esteemed leaders who were essentially the Sultan’s “slaves”. The majority of commoners were called as the rayyah. They had the task of actually producing the wealth. The rayyahs had to pay part of their profits from industry, commerce, and farming to the state in the form of taxes. Townsfolk, villagers, and the pastoral peoples made up the eclectic mix of rayyah class . The word “rayyah” literally translates into “the protected flock of the Sultan”. While Ottoman society was clearly divided into distinct social classes, these classes were neither closed nor confining, meaning that with the proper attributes and luck, a man could raise his social status. For example; to be a member of the small ruling class below the Sultan, one had to possess the following three:
• Deep-rooted patriotism and loyalty for the Empire and the Sultan
• Acceptance and practices of Islam, which was integrated into the Ottoman lifestyle.
• Knowledge and practice of the Ottoman Way, which consisted of complex customs, behavior and language.
If rayyah possessed these qualities, he had a chance of becoming one of the numbered leaders. On the other hand, if a leader appeared to be lacking one or more of these qualities, he could just as easily be removed from his position and sink to being a rayyah again. For example we can see that many non-Muslim people who got good education with the Devshirme system rose to the tops of social structure. Between 1453 and 1566 twenty of twenty-four VEZÄ°R was devshirme rooted .
The shaping force behind the Ottoman Empire was most definitely the religion of Islam. To maintain religious harmony and unity among the diverse Muslim and non-Muslim sects of the Empire, the rayyah class was given the right to organize themselves as they wished. The people of each important religion or sect organized themselves into self-centered, self-governing communities called millets . They were like mini-states, that regulated smaller civic matters such as marriages, deaths, etc. In a sense the Ottoman Empire was like the United States is today.
People were bound to their millets by their religious affiliations, rather than their ethnic origins . The head of millet, most often a religious hierarch such as the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople, reported directly to the Ottoman Sultan. The millets had a great deal of power; they set their own laws and collected and distributed their own taxes. All that was insisted was insisted was loyalty to the Empire. But the ruling Islamic majority being paramount, any dispute involving a Muslim fell under their sharia based law.
The significance of millets is that they kept diverse peoples from clashing too much, since each cultural/religious group maintained a dignified distance from each other. Until the 19th century beside the Muslim millet, the main millets were the Greek Orthodox, Jewish and Armenian. The Ottoman contribution was mainly to regulate and institutionalize it, pay greater attention to its proper operation, and bring it down from medieval times to the 20th century. The millet system was, in effect, an extension of Ottoman general administrative practices. In an age that lacked modern technologies of administration, communication and control, the Ottomans, like all other contemporary states had little choice but to deal with the masses of their population corporatively, allowing each group wide latitude in the conduct of its internal affairs. At the same time Ottomans attempted to control their population as much as possible through the centralization of government.
Each community had also considerable judicial autonomy. It was allowed to maintain courts which could adjudicate among its own members on a wide range of family and civil matters. Although members of minority groups used their own community courts, they frequently preferred to bring their cases before the Muslim courts, which were also recognized as state courts. The most likely reason why the minorities resorted to the Muslim courts instead of their own community courts was that the Muslim courts, as state courts, enjoyed a superior legal status and greater executive authority.
Muslims and minorities tended to live in their own quarters in urban as well as in rural areas, and coming together around their houses of worship and community institutions. In general, however the boundaries between the different communities were fluid and also there were quarters where the population was mixed. Inter community relations gave rise to multilingualism, especially among the minorities’ professional and commercial classes, which contributed to the general Ottoman cultural synthesis.
Still, life in the Ottoman Empire was not utopian. There was basic inequality between Muslims and non-Muslims. Christians and Jews paid higher taxes than their Muslim neighbors. They suffered a variety of legal and social disabilities. But they were able to compensate for these by their professional and economic skills and their strong sense of intra-community solidarity.
For the most part of process of Ottoman Empire different groups lived in peace and even mutual respect. In general in the 15th and 16th centuries, when the Ottoman Empire was its zenith and its administration was well-organized and efficient, life was good for all and inter-communal relations were at their best. But in the 17th and 18th centuries as the Ottoman Empire became economically marginalized by the ascent of Europe and as it began its slow decline and disintegration, life had become more difficult and inter-group relations had deteriorated. The economic decline of Ottomans, the growing corruption and disintegration of its administration, the breakdown of public order and the worsening relations between ethnic groups prepared the ground for rise in the 19th century, of separatist nationalist movements in the Balkans.
I want to give some population statistics about Balkans in the early 20th century. In Thrace Muslim constituted 53 percent of the population, Greeks 28%, Bulgarians 12% and Jews and the other made up the rest . In Istanbul for example Muslims comprised 56%, Greeks 22%, Armenians 15% and Jews 4%. In Salonica, Jews constituted more than half of the population with Muslims, Greeks and Bulgarians comprising the rest.
It was the European intervention that the Balkan nations gained their independence and the processes of “ethnic cleansing” have begun. The ethnic wars in the Balkans and Anatolia from 1821 to 1922 resulted in the death of millions and the expulsion and dislocations of millions more. Numerically, those who suffered the most were the Muslim communities of the Balkans. They were subjected to massacre and expulsion. The Armenians also suffered horribly. In Anatolia during the First World War, an estimated 1 million Armenians perished and countless others became refugees. Jews and Gypsies were also singled out for persecution and Greeks, Bulgarians, Serbs and Albanians also suffered considerable losses.
As I told before, it is hard to classify Ottoman society according to Western type of class structure. But most historians chose to classify society according to where they lived:
It is possible to examine urban citizens of Ottomans in four groups:
1. Military: They were generally belonged to the governors’ part of the society. What differentiate them was that they were not paying taxes as majority of rayyah did. Rayyah was paying regular taxes according to its income.
2. Tradesmen: In Ottomans usually non-Muslim groups had assumed the kind of jobs like trade, banking… This situation especially let Jewish population to get richer in a short time.
3. Artisans and craftsmen: In Ottoman society artisans and craftsmen had corporations called as “Lonca Organizations”. The origin of these organizations goes back to 12th century actually . They were firstly originated in Anatolian Seljuks. In those times its name was Akhism. Each craftsmen and artisan had to register one of those lonca organizations. Once you are a member and then you were getting under the protection and discipline of Lonca. The members were gathering around the chief of that profession, usually the oldest one among them. Trust, repentance and the search of God’s way were the main elements that held them together. They had to obey these rules. The right of opening a store was called as “Gedik”. In order to deserve this privilege respectively you did had to do firstly apprenticeship and then become headworker and lastly you had to take mastery certificate.
Major duties of the Lonca Organizations:
• To determine the standards and prices of the products.
• To prevent unfair competition among the craftsmen
• To organize the relations between the craftsmen and state.
• To provide loans to his members
4. Other Groups: Travelers, delegates of foreign countries, people who migrated from villages to urban areas and hawkers composed the rest of the urban society.
We can group countryside people in 3 parts:
Farmers: These people were cultivating the lands around that were given by state. Those lands were called as haciendas. They were paying the tax of what they produce and this tax was called as Ã¶ÅŸÃ¼r and haraÃ§. And also paying another tax for the land. Differently from the West these farmers were free people and they would not give their products directly to the state. They would pay the state from the money they earned from those products. The land that was not cultivated for more than three years were taken away from the farmer and were given to another person.
Mesne Lords: They were controlling the farmers and feeding some soldiers whose duties was to protect those areas.
There were also some wanderer tribes inside of Ottoman territories. State was encouraging them to settle down. But it was still possible to see nomads in Ottoman lands. Leaders of the Turkish tribes were called as Bey, and Arabic ones were named as Sheik. Generally they were engaging in stock-breading and they were paying aÄŸÄ±l tax according to the number of animals they have.
Slavery in Ottomans
There was institution of slavery in Ottomans but it had different features from the one that was existed in Europe that time. For example it had not required life time slavery. They can easily be freed even later could take office in government posts. Most importantly peasants were free people. They were not belonged to any aristocracy class. Slavery was not connected to land.
Ottoman Empire by taking slavery institution from Middle East Islamic states later integrated it into its own society and state conditions. At first slaves were hired mostly in palace and used for military services. Later it got disseminated to residences and pavilion. But as we look at the lower classes of society, slavery was not so in demand.
Here are the some slave sources of Ottomans:
• Prisoners of war
• People who were kidnapped and sold in slave markets.
• People who were sold by their own families.
As it can be seen both Russian and Ottoman Empire have deeply roots, different social connection that can be originated from 11th or 12th centuries. Both empires actually were outside of European continent but they both succeeded in effecting the West. By providing shelter to those different elements within them they helped evolution of a multicultural situation.
When we compare their societies, we see that religious effect was obviously heavier over Ottomans. Maybe this also provided them a different understanding of class and serfdom systems.
As a conclusion both Russian and Ottoman civilizations played important role in world history. While they were dominating vast of land even several continents, they left their marks behind. Today it is possible to find a Muslim house in Balkans or a Russian speaker in Middle Asia.
Some Pictures About Russian and Ottoman Societies
Pic no 1: Russian Peasantry, https://tspace.library.utoronto.ca/citd/RussianHeritage/4.PEAS/PEAS.12.html
Pic. 2: Ottoman Villagers http://www.aktuelbakis.com/files.php?file=Millet-.jpg
Pic. 3: Saint Petersburg in winter, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Beggrov3.jpg
Pic. 4: Sultan’s Palace in Istanbul, http://www.old-picture.com/american-history-1900-1930s/pictures/Constantinople-Sultans.jpg
Pic. 5 : Russian Serfdom, http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/russia/images/streltsy-surikov.jpg
Pic.6:A Turkish Family In The Park, http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/1/12/Constantinople%281878%29-park.png
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