Academic journal article International Journal of Turkish Studies

Special Section on Ottoman-Persian Historical Exchanges

Academic journal article International Journal of Turkish Studies

Special Section on Ottoman-Persian Historical Exchanges

Article excerpt

Son gli Persiani valentissimi,

Ma temono molto il nome otomano

The Persians are very brave

Yet they greatly fear the Ottoman name

Alogio Giovannni Veneziano, 15291


In 986/1578, twenty-three years after they had concluded the Treaty of Amasya (962/1555) and as many years of mutually observed peace, the Ottomans reopened hostilities against the Safavids by launching a new eastern campaign. When the arrows stopped flying and the guns ceased thundering twelve years later, Iran had seen its most populous city, Tabriz, occupied and ravaged by Ottoman troops (in 993/1585), and the Safavids had lost large swathes of their most productive lands in the northwest to the Turks. It would take a decade and a half and the enthronement of a new, forceful shah, Àbbas I (r. 995-1038/1587-1629), before the Iranians could mount a counteroffensive and regain these lands. In the meantime, the conflict, in the words of John Walsh, "so drained the resources of the Turkish provinces that never again was economic stability to be regained," while the scorched-earth tactics of both parties reduced Azerbaijan and Shirvan to a "desolate 'no-man's' land, depopulated and unproductive."2

Modern scholarship has not neglected the political and military aspects of this episode. Almost two centuries ago, the Austrian Orientalist Joseph von HaimnerPurgstall offered an outline of the story based on Ottoman-Turkish and European sources.3 Hans Robert Roemer devoted part of his 1939 doctoral thesis to the hostilities.4 C. Max Kortepeter's 1972 study, Ottoman Imperialism during the Reformation: Europe and the Caucasus, contains one chapter each on the outbreak of the war and on the war itself.5 Cornell Fleischer addresses the conflict in his biography of the Ottoman man of letters Mustafa Ali.6 We have several articles on the eastern policy of the Ottoman sultans and the general objectives of the various parties dueling for power in eastern Anatolia and the Caucasus in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.7 Among the Turkish scholarship, particular mention should be made of Bekir Kütükoglu's monograph on Ottoman-Safavid relations between 1578 and 1590, Osmanh- Iran Siyási Miinasebetleri, which is largely devoted to the war. Modern Iranian scholars, too, have contributed articles and book chapters on the topic.* * * * * * * 8

Several of these works render a balanced verdict on the direct causes of the hostilities that broke out in 986/1578 and especially on the Ottoman motives for going to war with their eastern neighbors again. One example is Kortepeter's sensible argument that the sultan and his advisors took advantage of a moment of calm on their western front coinciding with Safavid turmoil and weakness to launch a campaign designed to rob Iran of its rich Caucasian provinces and to maintain coimnercial and diplomatic communications with Central Asia. Turkish and Iranian scholars, on the other hand, tend to adduce reasons for the outbreak of the war and the violation of the Treaty of Amasya this signified that fall into nationalist categories in a way that reflects the propensity of Ottomanists and Safavid scholars to talk past one another, ismail Hakki Uzunçarsili. the author of a multi-volume work on Ottoman history, and Kütükoglu assert that, upon mounting the throne, Shah Esmàil II (r. 984-85/1576-77) broke the treaty by being unduly friendly to the Kurdish inhabitants of the frontier zone, inciting them to rebel against the Ottomans. Kütükoglu also refers to the robbery, in the vicinity of Zanjan, of an Ottoman caravan en route between Gilan and Anatolia. He accuses the Safavids of violating the peace accord by spreading radical Shìi propaganda on Ottoman soil-most notably in the form of a secret mission conducted by Ma' sum Beg under the guise of a pilgrimage to Mecca-and he cites examples of unrest in the borderlands that forced the Ottoman governor to take action, istanbul, he concludes, thereupon issued a farman ordering Kurdish chieftains to move into Safavid territory, to take its cities and appoint Ottoman governors, and to destroy those cities that could not be taken, killing all the heretics living in the area. …

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