From fellows to foreigners : the Qajar experience in the Ottoman Empire




Baghoolizadeh, Beeta

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This paper explores the impact of Qajar-Ottoman diplomacy on issues of identity and sovereignty during the late nineteenth century as addressed in the Treaties of Erzurum of 1828 and 1848. Through these treaties, the Qajars and the Ottomans introduced notions of imperial identities, extraterritoriality, and extended their imperial spheres of influence. The Treaties of Erzurum defined subjecthood and sovereignty over subjects based on place of origin, not current location. This radical change in international politics created a new, bureaucratic method of identification. Focusing on the Qajar perspective, this paper proposes that although Qajar subjects had always travelled to the Ottoman Empire for religious or economic reasons, the Treaties of Erzurum in 1828 and 1848 changed Middle Eastern geopolitics by legally allowing the Qajar government to exercise sovereign rights over its subjects. To better understand the consequences of these new imperial identities and labels, this paper looks at different communities in the Ottoman Empire that shared special relationships with the Qajars. Each of these chapters focuses on their affiliation with the Qajars and how the Treaties of Erzurum affected them: first, the Qajar travelers, second, the Qajar expatriates, and third, the Ottoman Shi’is. The examination of Qajar government documents, Persian travelogues and newspapers reveals complicated relationships between the Qajars and these communities. Analysis of each provides insight on the Qajar Empire’s efforts in fostering a relationship with these communities, as made possible by the Treaties of Erzurum.
This study contributes to a number of narratives involving the Qajar Empire. First, it challenges the weak imagery surrounding the Qajar government and shows the Qajar extension of power outside its borders. Furthermore, this paper engages in the issue of identity, a crucial concept for understanding nascent, pre-nationalist sentiments. Discussion of the Treaties of Erzurum in conjunction with nationalism or imperial power remains overwhelmingly neglected. Although previous scholars have alluded to extraterritoriality in their research, the discourse on subjecthood and identity beyond imperial borders has been ignored in the Middle Eastern context. This study serves as a starting point for future research on the subject.



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