Ottoman-Safavid Peacetime Relations and Diplomacy in the Early Modern Middle East
(KOÇ UNIVERSITY, ANAMED)
MARCH 11, 2019 15:30-17:30
Abstract: The year 1639 constitutes a dividing point in the periodization of Ottoman-Safavid relations. The first period, if one disregards the House of Safi’s pre-monarchical phase, goes from the launch of the Safavid movement for sovereignty in 1500 to the peace of Zuhab in 1639, one hundred and forty years marked by military conflict and the Ottoman conquest of Kurdistan and Iraq at the expense of Iran. The period from 1639 to the collapse of Safavid rule in 1722, on the other hand, has often been described as relatively eventless. This is the result of bias in the literature toward confrontation. Scholarship has mostly suggested that once hostilities ceased, bilateral relations were marked by both parties’ unwillingness to interact and their contentment with the preservation of a peace solely based on non-aggression and the observance of an imprecisely drawn border. However, this paper demonstrates that during these decades of peaceful neighborly relations, the Ottoman State and Safavid Iran were very actively engaged with each other in peacetime diplomacy. Through dozens of missions, they exchanged hundreds of missives, conducted negotiations, regulated an international hierarchy, struck deals, confronted each other, and went through crises. The content of this diplomacy was not only ceremonial, but it also contained substantial stakes. Simultaneously, both states repeatedly tried to gain the upper hand along the common frontier by provoking insubordination, making tours de force with full-fledged armies, crushing rebellions, extending direct rule, disputing the demarcation of the border, demanding compensation for violations, conducting espionage activities, etc.
Selim Güngörürler is a Post-doctoral Fellow at the Koç University Research Center for Anatolian Civilizations (ANAMED). He received his PhD from Georgetown University in 2016 with a dissertation on diplomatic and political relations between the Ottoman Empire and Safavid Iran from 1639 to 1722. His earlier work focuses on the Ottomans’ mid-eighteenth-century diplomatic contacts with the Habsburgs, Russia and Venice. Before ANAMED, he worked at Boğaziçi University as a post-doctoral fellow on the ERC-sponsored project OTTOCONFESSION, which aims to explore the fashioning of Sunni orthodoxy and confession-building in the early modern Ottoman Empire. Currently, he is in the process of extending his previous work in order to reconstruct the fundamentals of pre-modern diplomacy in the Middle East with regard to hierarchy, titulature, international system, delegatory representation, and protocol. In addition, he is also interested in classical Persian and Turkish literature.