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Between Russians, Ottomans and Turks: Crimea and Crimean Tatars
A Book Review

Reviewed by Inci Bowman

The publication of Alan Fisher's book, Between Russians, Ottomans and Turks, in 1998 somehow escaped our attention. While doing research at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC, I happened to notice it in the online catalog, and subsequently contacted the publisher, Isis Press. Alan Fisher, a professor of history at Michigan State University (USA), is best known for his classic study, The Crimean Tatars (Hoover Institution Press, 1978), which is still available in paperback edition. Between Russians, Ottomans and Turks is an anthology of his selected writings published in various sources over a 20-year period, from 1967 to 1988.

The anthology includes ten journal articles and book chapters, and an interesting and useful introduction in which Professor Fisher traces the progress of his research relating to the history of Tatars. The introduction also provides a good survey of historical literature on the topic. While a graduate student at Columbia University in New York in the mid 1960s, he became interested in Kazan Tatars, but was advised by his mentors that it would be very difficult to receive permission from the USSR authorities to do research in Kazan. Instead, he went to Istanbul to use the archives there, still hoping to find documentary evidence for any interraction between the Ottomans and Kazan Tatars. When he realized that there was no evidence for such close relations and that he had been misled by Russian and Soviet historians, he turned his attention to the Crimean Tatars. His doctoral dissertation resulted from the initial research conducted there on 18th-century Crimea, and was later published as a book, The Russian Annexation of the Crimea, 1772-1783 (Cambridge University Press, 1970). The article on Shahin Giray included in this volume of anthology is based on his dissertation. (See the Table of Contents below.)

Alan Fisher returned to Istanbul several times to use the Ottoman archives. His articles on 16th- and 17th-century Crimea included here are based on careful analysis and evaluation of Ottoman records. He also became interested in historical issues from the Crimean perspective at a time when focusing on "small nations" or ethnic minorities was not fashionable as it is today. "Crimean Separatism in the Ottoman Empire" was an outgrowth of this approach. His study showed that the Crimean Tatars saw themselves as independent people and maintained their identity even after the annexation by Russia.

A conference at Columbia University provided an opportunity for Professor Fisher to review the life of Ismail Gaspirali and his role in the intellectual history of Crimean Tatars and the Turkic world. His "Ismail Gaspirali, Model Leader for Asia," a chapter in Tatars of the Crimea: Their Struggle for Survival (Duke University Press, 1988), is an excellent review of Gaspirali's accomplishments. A second chapter in the same volume, which is also reproduced here, is the English translation by Alan Fisher of a long obituary of Gaspirali that appeared in the November and December 1914 issues of Shura published in Orenburg.

Between Russians, Ottomans and Turks: Crimea and Crimean Tatars will be a valuable addition to the library of anyone interested in the Crimean Tatars. This volume does not contain all of Fisher's journal articles pertinent to the topic, and one hopes that the rest may someday be published as a separate volume. In the last decade, Professor Fisher has turned his attention to other topics in Ottoman history, including a biography of Suleyman the Magnificent (still in progress).

Between Russians, Ottomans and Turks: Crimea and Crimean Tatars can be ordered directly from the publisher. In the US, you may contact Evergreen Books in Los Angeles, California. It may also be available at certain bookstores in Istanbul and Ankara.

The Isis Press
Semsibey Sokak, No. 10
Beylerbeyi, 81210 Istanbul
Phone: 90 216 321 3851
FAX: 90 216 321 8666



"Ottoman Sources for a Study of Kefe Vilayet: The Maliyeden Mudevver Fond in the Basbakanlik Arsivi in Istanbul," Cahiers du Monde Russe et Soviétique, XIX/102, 1978, pp. 191-205.

"Les rapports entre L’Empire Ottoman et La Crimée: L’aspect financier," Cahiers du Monde Russe et Sovietique, XIII/3, 1972, pp. 368-381.

"The Ottoman Crimea in the Sixteenth Century," Harvard Ukrainian Studies, V/1, 1981, pp. 135-170.

"The Ottoman Crimea in the Mid-Seventeenth Century: Some Problems and Preliminary Considerations," Harvard Ukrainian Studies, III/IV, 1979-1980, pp. 215-226.

"Crimean Separatism in the Ottoman Empire," William W. Haddad and William Ochsenwald (eds). Nationalism in a Non-National State: The Dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, Ohio State University Press, Columbus, 1977, pp. 57-76.

"Sahin Giray, the Reformer Khan, and the Russian Annexation of the Crimea," Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas, XV/3, 1967, pp. 341-364.

"Social and Legal Aspects of Russian-Muslim Relations in the Nineteenth Century: The Case of the Crimean Tatars," Abraham Ascher, Tibor Halasi-Kun, Bela K. Kiräly (eds.), The Mutual Effects of the Islamic and Judeo-Christian Worlds: The East European Pattern, Brooklyn College Press, Brooklyn, 1979, pp. 77-92.

"lsmail Gaspirali, Model Leader for Asia," Edward Allworth (ed), Tatars of the Crimea: Their Struggle for Survival, Duke University Press, Chapel Hill, 1988, pp. 11-26.

"Ismail Bey Gasprinski, 1851-1914," Shura, nos. 21 (1 November 1914); 22 (15 November 1914); 23 (1 December 1914); 24 (15 December 1914), pp. 641-44, 673-75, 705-8, 737-41, respectively; translated by Alan Fisher. In Edward Allworth (ed), Tatars of the Crimea: Their Struggle for Survival, Duke University Press, Chapel Hill, 1988, pp. 72-99.

"The Crimean Tatars, the USSR, and Turkey," William 0. McCagg, Jr., Brian D. Silver (eds), Soviet Asian Ethnic Frontiers, Pergamon Press, New York, 1979, pp. 1-24.

Posted: 18 May 2013

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