Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas:  jgo.e-reviews 7 (2017), 1 Rezensionen online / Im Auftrag des Instituts für Ost- und Südosteuropastudien in Regensburg herausgegeben von Martin Schulze Wessel und Dietmar Neutatz

Verfasst von: Georg Michels


Türkenkriege und Adelskultur in Ostmitteleuropa vom 16. bis zum 18. Jahrhundert. Hrsg. von Robert Born und Sabine Jagodzinski. Ostfildern: Thorbecke, 2014. 355 S., Abb. = Studia Jagellonica Lipsiensia, 14. ISBN: 978-3-7995-8414-2.

Table of contents:



This volume resulted from an interdisciplinary conference of historians, art historians, and Ottomanists at the Zentrum Geschichte und Kultur Ostmitteleuropas, Leipzig University. The conference was the pilot project of the research group Ottoman Orient and East Central Europe. Comparative Studies on Perceptions and Interactions in the Border Zones (16th–18th Centuries) which resided in Leipzig from 2008–2013 with support of the German Ministry for Education and Research. This group has been very productive and the current volume is only one of four volumes published since 2013 (see vols. 44–45, 48 of Forschungen zur Geschichte und Kultur des östlichen Mitteleuropas, ed. Winfried Eberhard et al.).

The importance of this volume, which is very similar in scope to the other three volumes, is obvious: it takes issue with age-old scholarly traditions in East-Central Europe’s national historiographies as well as the historiographies of the Habsburg and Ottoman Empires. These traditions dwelled on centuries of military, religious, and ideological confrontation from “the emergence of the so-called Ottoman threat” (p. 7) before and after the Battle of Mohacs (1526) to the wars of Prince Eugen who has often been seen as “the savior of the Occident” (p. 19–20). An introductory essay by Karl Vocelka touches upon the long-standing power of negative cliché images of the Ottomans promoted for centuries by ecclesiastical and political elites which go a long way in explaining why past scholarship has paid overwhelming attention to the so-called “Turkish Wars” (Türkenkriege).

Vocelka and the editors introduce the volume with a number of thoughtful observations that nicely outline research questions that earlier generations of scholars have either not asked or neglected. For example, what were “the specific forms of interaction” (p. 7) between Ottomans and East Central Europeans? What were the strategies both sides developed to deal with each other? And how were perceptions of the other coded and transmitted in written, visual, and material cultures? Particularly important for the Leipzig research group was “to focus on supra-confessional and trans-cultural entanglements (Verflechtungen), grey-zones, and connections” (p. 8). Yet, the reader needs to know that noble and military elites are almost exclusively at the center of both this and the other three volumes (one notable exception is the essay by Wetter/Ziegler discussed below). This strong emphasis is understandable if one considers that the traditional studies engaged by the contributors dealt primarily with nobles and magnates.

The volume comprises twenty articles (one co-authored) with substantial footnotes and bibliographies, beautiful reproductions (e.g., coats of arms, coins, weapons, paintings, manuscript illustrations), and indices of personal and place names. The contributors – whose short biographies are notably missing – are from Hungary (6), Germany (6), Croatia (2), Austria (2), Romania (2), Turkey (1), the Czech Republic (1), and France (1). One wonders why no scholar from Slovakia was included given the strong tradition of Slovak scholarship on the Habsburg-Ottoman frontier. A similar question arises about the absence of Polish scholars in the volume: eighteen of the articles focus on the Habsburg-Ottoman border zone while only two are on the Polish-Ottoman frontier. Since articles on Poland are dispersed over the other three volumes it might have made sense to gather them instead in one separate volume.

The current volume falls into four sections: I. Noble Elites in Conflict Zones – Barriers and Contacts; II. Careers, Propaganda, Instrumentalization – Biographies from the Turkish Wars; III. The Alien As Familiar [Das Fremde im Vertrauten] (I) – Literature and Ceremonial Culture; and IV. The Alien As Familiar (II) – Commemoration and Representation.

The quality of the articles varies and I focus here on scholars who in my opinion make the most innovative contributions. In Section I Domagoj Madunić and Nataša Stefaneć stand out for their path-breaking archival studies of Christian warrior elites along the Croatian and Slavonian borders. Madunić elucidates the difficulties the Venetian Republic experienced in trying to integrate the chiefs of semi-autonomous Christian populations (known as Morlacchi) into the Dalmatian border defense system. And Stefaneć reconstructs the multiple ways in which Christian and Ottoman elites coexisted in their day-to-day experiences. She demonstrates convincingly that “interactions with the Ottomans … cannot be characterized as merely confrontational … the opposing sides were engaged in various types of rather complex interactions and thus challenged the paradigm of antemurale Christianitatis” (p. 87). Radu G. Păun makes a similar argument about the cooperation of Greek Orthodox elites with the Ottomans and also produces a wealth of interesting data (from published sources); Klaus Schneiderheinze (on the Janissary corps of the Polish King Jan III. Sobieski), and Claus H. Gattermann (on the long-term impact of the Ottoman conquest on the nobility of Baranya County) primarily engage the secondary literature while identifying important sources that warrant closer inquiry.

In section II the contributions by Zeynep Yelçe and Hajnalka Tóth are noteworthy as they draw on new evidence elucidating the personal relations between Ottoman and Hungarian elites. Yelçe explores Ottoman chronicles and campaign diaries to shed light on the elevation of János Szapolyai (1487–1540) as King of Hungary by Sultan Süleyman I; Tóth studies letters exchanged between members of the prominent Batthyány clan and the pashas of Kanizsa (ca. 1575–1645). The other articles are less convincing. Uwe Tresp examines a Czech magnate family’s memorialization of a forebear who died at Mohacs (1526) but unnecessarily weakens his argument with digressions into gratuitous matters (e. g., Renaissance medals and coins). Marco Penzi looks into the life of “a military enterpriser” (p. 158) who fled Henry IV’s France to build a new career for himself in Habsburg service, but draws largely on previous scholarship (e. g., Sahin-Tóth). Heinke Frabitius’ attempt to demonstrate a “peculiar oscillation between respect and disrespect” (p. 180) in a late 17th-century portrait of Kara Mustafa remains rather speculative.

Section III does not seem to be in line with the volume’s intended goals as the contributors write about the prevalent anti-Ottoman discourses of the early modern period. Nora Etényi reviews the post-1683 efforts of Hungarian aristocrats to convince the European public of their “traditionally strong military and political roles in the Turkish wars” (p. 208). It is interesting that this propaganda failed to overcome notions of Hungarian betrayal (e. g., Imre Thököly submitting to the sultan). Borbála Gulyás studies the dissemination of anti-Turkish images and motives in Habsburg court ceremonies, e. g., public tournaments simulating the triumphant slaughter of “the bloodhound and archenemy of Christendom” (p. 224). Agnes Drosztmer’s article on the poems and autobiography of a Hungarian noble captured by the Ottomans abounds in vague assertions (e. g., about the intended audience). One wishes she had focused on how the author “reflect[ed] on his capture and capturers” (p. 237). The final article by Pál Ács on the Esterházy Kunstkabinett suffers from a similar lack of focus and its conclusions are not surprising (e. g., Pal Esterhazy’s self-glorification as Hercules Hungaricus embodying “the cause of liberating the country“, p. 261).

The final section contains two excellently researched articles by Evelin Wetter/Ágnes Ziegler and Ibolya Gerelyes who clearly address the volume’s core agenda. Wetter/Ziegler trace the use of Ottoman textiles (e. g., carpets, silk pillows, luxury garments) by Transylvanian Saxons and their functions in funerals, memorial culture, and church services (e. g., as decorations of pews and pulpits). They argue that these Ottoman artifacts became crucial markers of confessional identity after the brutal annexation of Transylvania by Habsburg troops. Gerelyes similarly looks at Ottoman artifacts (e. g., horse gear, weapons, ceremonial robes, carpets) in the collections of Hungarian nobles. Based on a meticulous reconstruction of the now lost Batthyány Collection she finds that quite a number of items were diplomatic presents or had been purchased in Ottoman markets (that is, they were not war booty). Two other essays deal with the self-representations of Bohemian nobles who saw themselves at war with the Antichrist (Václav Bůžek) and the spectacular memorial celebration (with an elaborate display of purportedly original Turcica) of the 100-year anniversary of Jan Sobieski’s 1683 Vienna triumph (Sabine Ja­god­zinski). Finally, Herbert Karner’s research article Turkish heads as means of symbolic representation exhaustively illustrates the visual dehumanization of the Ottoman “Other” (e. g., in engravings, portraits, and medals featuring decapitated heads) which he maintains was “an important instrument for assuring the readiness to fight” (p. 320).

Contrary to this volume’s stated purpose quite a number of articles focus on East Central European elites’ negative perceptions of the Ottomans. But the best articles show convincingly that friendly encounters and productive exchange were just as normal as ideological confrontation and warfare. Future studies must pay more attention to ordinary men and women. How did peasants, townsmen, and parish clergy see the Ottomans? Ottomans views of the societies and cultures they encountered in East Central Europe also need to be explored and future collaborations hopefully will draw in more scholars working in Ottoman archives.

Georg Michels, Riverside, CA

Zitierweise: Georg Michels über: Türkenkriege und Adelskultur in Ostmitteleuropa vom 16. bis zum 18. Jahrhundert. Hrsg. von Robert Born und Sabine Jagodzinski. Ostfildern: Thorbecke, 2014. 355 S., Abb. = Studia Jagellonica Lipsiensia, 14. ISBN: 978-3-7995-8414-2, http://www.dokumente.ios-regensburg.de/JGO/erev/Michels_Born_Tuerkenkriege_und_Adelskultur.html (Datum des Seitenbesuchs)

© 2017 by Institut für Ost- und Südosteuropastudien in Regensburg and Georg Michels. All rights reserved. This work may be copied and redistributed for non-commercial educational purposes, if permission is granted by the author and usage right holders. For permission please contact jahrbuecher@ios-regensburg.de

Die digitalen Rezensionen von „Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas. jgo.e-reviews“ werden nach den gleichen strengen Regeln begutachtet und redigiert wie die Rezensionen, die in den Heften abgedruckt werden.

Digital book reviews published in Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas. jgo.e-reviews are submitted to the same quality control and copy-editing procedure as the reviews published in print.