Dr. Fırat Yaşa


Bonn Center for Dependency and Slavery Studies
Room: 2.004  
Niehbuhrstr. 5
D-53113 Bonn


Dr. Fırat Yaşa.jpeg
© F. Yaşa

Academic Profile

Fırat Yaşa is a faculty member in the Department of History at Düzce University in Turkey. He has a Ph.D. in Ottoman History from the University of Sakarya (2017) with a dissertation on the lives, ideas, and expectations of urban and village people, their attitudes towards law, and their roles in the social and economic life in the seventeenth century by writing the microhistory of Bahçesaray between the years 1650 and 1675. His disciplinary interest areas include asymmetrical social dependency, slaving practices, slavery laws, captives, discourses about social dependency, and manumission in the early modern Ottoman Empire and the Crimean Khanate (1500-1700). For the past nine years, he has been studying the lives of East European slaves in sixteenth and seventeenth-century Ottoman and Crimean societies.

An Attempt at Revision: Writing about Crimean Slavery in its own Terms and in a Comparative Perspective

The Crimean slavery system by employing a micro-historical approach, I encounter phenomena and forms quite distinct from those typical of the broader Ottoman territories. First, the Crimean Shari'ah (Şeriat) court records describe slaves in terms that differ from those used in Ottoman court records, especially when categorizing child slaves (for instance doğma, çora, devke). I argue that these categorizations provide information not only about the social and legal condition, but also about the further career of the slaves. Those who were born as slaves in Crimea (doğma), for example, adapted more easily to local society and felt less as strangers than they would done if returning to their own countries, as adults or elderly people. After manumission, the doğma tended to stay in the city where they had lived as slaves.

This observation leads us to another important point, namely the Rus/Urus quarter in Bakhchysarai established by manumitted slaves. In social terms, former slaves in Crimea thus significantly differed from manumitted slaves in Ottoman cities such as Istanbul, where the slaves had lived in the households of their owners and largely integrated into urban society after manumission. By contrast, although they were legally free, manumitted slaves in the Crimean Khanate were a special social category distinguishable from other townspeople.

Another aspect this project deals with the different forms of slave ownership. In Ottoman society, the ownership of a slave or two was an indicator of wealth and thus affected the status and prestige of the owner, who as noted, usually had his/her slaves live in his/her own house. In the case of Crimea, however, the possession of slaves was not a sign of affluence nor did they live in the owner’s residence. Adjacent to their own dwellings, the Crimean Tatars, who possessed many slaves in comparison to their Anatolian counterparts, built separate rooms called ‘Cossack chambers’ (kazak odaları) for their slaves. This spatial separation must have limited the integration of slaves into the household and community of the owner.

Hypotheses and Research Questions

  • Aside from existing Ottoman examples, the different slavery terminology current in Crimea, such as doğma, çora, devke, kazak odası, tarhan, odman, should be a subject of study, allowing us to define hitherto little known forms of slavery.
  • In the seventeenth century, a village or neighbourhood where freed slaves lived together was a phenomenon specific to Crimea and unknown in the territories directly governed by the sultan. It is important to study this phenomenon within its proper context.
  • There were practices concerning slaves that were specific to Crimean slavery, which differed from those current in the Ottoman territories. We need to focus on the spatial separation of slaves in the residence of their owner and the establishment of a slave quarter in certain Crimean towns. In addition, it is necessary to examine their role in the qadis’ courts, where their testimonies were acceptable in certain instances. What kind of information do these aspects provide concerning the legal and social status of slaves?
  • In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice, there is. This paradox applies to the legal status of slaves in Crimean society as well. For instance, a free woman's may marry a slave and bear his children – on the other hand, she cannot marry even a free non-Muslim man.
  • 2021. Bahçesaray 1650–1675, Ankara: Türk Tarih Kurumu.
  • 2021. The Other Faces of the Empire: Ordinary Lives Against Social Order and Hierarchy, Esra Taşdelen (trans). Istanbul: Koç University Press.
  • 2017. Slavery in the Ottoman Empire: Trade, Captivity and Daily Life, İstanbul: Tezkire Press, with Zübeyde Güneş Yağcı and Dilek İnan.
  • 2021. “Born and Bred in Seventeenth-Century Crimea: Child Slavery, Social Reality and Cultural Identity”, In Children and Childhood in the Ottoman Empire From the 15th to the 20th Century, eduted by Gülay Yılmaz, Fruma Zachs, Edinburg: Edinburg University Press, 177–195.
  • 2018. “Desperation, Hopelessness, and Suicide: An Initial Consideration of Self-Murder by Slaves in Seventeenth-Century Crimean Society”, Turkish Historical Review, vol. 9, 198–211.
  • 2017. “From the Kitchen of the Khan to the Slaves of Bakhchysarai: Kilercibasi Mehmed Agha in the Center of Social Relations”, Bilig Türk Dünyası Araştırmaları Dergisi, vol. 8, 27–49.
  • 2019. “Between Life and Death: Slaves and Violence in Crimean Society in the last quarter of 17th Century”, Selçuk University Journal of Studies Turcology, vol. 47, 433–443.
  • 2014. “The Social and Financial Dimensions of Slavery in Crimean Khanate”, Gaziantep University Journal of Social Sciences, vol. 13/3, 657–669.
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