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English Translation of an Eighteenth-Century Crimean Tatar Chronicle

A rare hand-written document relating to the history of Crimean Khanate, Poland, Ukraine, Russia and the Caucasus was purchased by one Omer Fuat Bey in Istanbul in 1927 and subsequently given to Cafer Seydahmet Kirimer (1889-1960), a Crimean Tatar politician and activist. Titled, "Tevarih-i Tatar Han ve Dagıstan ve Moskov ve Deşt-i Kıpçak Ülkelerinindir" [Histories of Tatar Han, Dagestan, Moskovy and Desht-i Kipchak Lands], the document was first published in Pazarcik, Romania, in 1933, with an introduction by Cafer Seydahmet. The writer of the chronicle was Kefeli Ibrahim Efendi (Ibrahim of Feodosia), Secretary of the Crimean Khan Fetih II Giray (ruled in 1736-1737), who commissioned the work. It is believed that the manuscript was written in the 1730s. From certain references to Tsarina Catherine II, however, it is clear that this copy of the chronicle was revised at a later date, sometime in the second part of the 18th century, but before the annexation of Crimea by the Russian Empire in 1783. The whereabouts of the original is not known.

In 1934, the Wschod-Orient, a journal issued in Warsaw and linked with the Promethean movement, published a Polish translation of "Tevarih-i Tatar Han" by Dr. Abdullah Zihni (1905-1983), along with an English translation of selected passages. (1) Translation of the English version must have been done by the staff of the Wschod-Orient, as the journal often included English translations of the articles or at least English summaries. Abdullah Zihni, who later took the last name Soysal , was born in Crimea and emigrated to Istanbul in 1920, where he attended the University of Istanbul. He completed his Ph.D. under Professor Tadeusz Kowalsky at Krakow University in Poland and returned to Turkey in 1939, when WW II broke out.

From the point of view of Crimean Tatar history, "Tevarih-i Tatar Han" is considered a significant work because not only it reflects the concerns and anxieties caused by the increasingly expansionist policies of the Russian rulers, but also offers a different perspective on the Russian expansion. Those interested in the early modern history of Eastern Europe might also find it worth reading. In 2005, more than seventy years after the first printed edition, a second edition of the document was issued, with a facsimile of the original version in Arabic letters, transliteration into Latin alphabet and a Turkish translation by Ismail Otar (1911-2005). (2) An examination of this modern edition and the Wschod-Orient translations shows that Abdullah Zihni's Polish translation followed closely the original version. The English version, based on the Polish version, covers approximately two-thirds of the original and leaves out the last section relating to the rulers who descended from Genghis Khan.

The International Committee for Crimea is pleased to make available the English translation of "Tevarih-i Tatar Han," as it appeared in the Wschod-Orient. Both Abdullah Zihni and Ismail Otar pointed out that there are errors and variations in spellings, and made no effort to correct them. The footnotes in the English version were added by the translator, based on the explanations given by Abdullah Zihni. While preparing the document for this online publication, I noted a few errors (perhaps typographical) and corrected them in view of the original version. I also inserted the names of a few historical figures who are generally known by slightly different names today. While in modern historical writings one makes a distinction between Russian rulers Ivan III or Ivan IV, for example, in the original version both of these rulers are referred to as Ivan Vasilevitch. Another difficulty is the use of dates from the Islamic calendar. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the Islamic calendar was about 585-590 years behind the Gregorian calendar that is currently in use in the West. The dates given in Gregorian calendar, usually in parentheses, may be approximate dates. All my corrections or clarifications are given in brackets. It is my hope that a critical edition of "Tevarih-i Tatar Han" will be published at a future date by a specialist in the early modern history Eastern Europe.

Inci Bowman, Ph.D.

You can download "Tevarih-i Tatar Han," in PDF format here.


(1) "Przyczynek do historji narodow Kaukazu, Nadczarnomorza, Krymu, Moskwy i Polski," Trans. Abdullah Zihni, Wschod-Orient 2-3-4 (14-15-16), 1934, pages 68-98. The English translation, "Pages from the history of the Crimea, the Ukraine, Caucasia, Poland and Moscovy," pages 99-111.

(2) Kefeli Ibrahim Efendi, Tevarih-i Tatar Han ve Dagıstan ve Moskov ve Deşt-i Kıpçak Ülkelerinindir. (Tatar Hanı, Dagıstan, Moskof ve Kıpçak Ovası Ülkelerinin Tarihleridir). Ed. Ismail Otar. Eskisehir, 2005. 184 pages.

Posted: 8 September 2010

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