A Clash of Cultures or Different Temperaments: Othering in Russo-Ottoman Diplomatic Contacts in the 18th Century

Saturday, January 6, 2018: 8:50 AM
Virginia Suite A (Marriott Wardman Park)
Mariya Amelicheva, Georgetown University
This paper examines increasing contacts between the Russians and the Ottomans in the eighteenth century, especially on the diplomatic level, which revealed existing and begot new cultural perceptions of the other political entity and its society. Sources on diplomatic exchanges, including rare archival documents, reveal a range of responses by elite representatives of the Russian and Ottoman empires to their encounters with each other. I will explore the performative, symbolic, and verbal expre­ssions of the othering strategies employed by diplomats and host governments. A sense of difference was ingrained in the rhetoric and behavior of participants in the Russo-Ottoman diplomatic exchanges, which more often than not took place after bloody military conflicts. However, the paper not only exposes a wide range of responses to and conceptions of the other but also reveals surprising ways in which mutual perceptions were not exclusively antagonistic. In fact, for the first time since the establishment of political contacts in the late fifteenth century, the Russians and the Ottomans were intensely curious about each other. The middle of the eighteenth century in particular was a time of considerable rapprochement in mutual relations. How did the antagonism, the curiosity, and the seeking of peaceful relations all influence the ways in which the two sides conceived of themselves as distinct?