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Turkish Chancellery and Acta Turcarum from the Period of the Dubrovnik Republic until the Present

Vesna Miović
Nikša Selmani

Puni tekst: hrvatski pdf 362 Kb


str. 235-284

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This article aims to reconstruct the fate of the Ottoman documents over a period of five centuries, from the days of the Dubrovnik Republic when they were kept at the Turkish chancellery to their present location—the Acta Turcarum series of the State Archives of Dubrovnik. Prior to the arrival of the Osmanlis, Ragusan state correspondence with its neighbours was among the responsibilities of the Slavic chancellery. But with the Ottoman Empire at its borders, a Turkish chancellery developed within the former. Chancellery clerks, the co-called dragomans (translators for the Ottoman language), were in charge of the Ottoman documents which they translated into Croatian and Italian, but were of equal help to the Ragusan government officials by translating their letters to various Ottoman dignitaries into Turkish. In addition, the dragomans were responsible for the documents’ keeping, classifying and inventories. Thanks to their zeal, several inventories have been preserved. The authorities of the Dubrovnik Republic showed great concern for the archiving of the state chancellery papers. Poor fate, however, befell the archival documents after the fall of the Republic as, due to the lack of care, many of them were stolen, destroyed or lost, Ottoman documents in particular. It is unlikely that we shall ever know the exact number or at least a rough estimate of the Ottoman documents once housed by the archives, as well as how many were lost through and after the Republic period. A glance at defter (register) no. 3 of the Archives of the Government Presidency of the Republic of Turkey in Istanbul containing the records of all the Sultan papers issued to the Ragusans in the period 1627-1647 clearly shows that as many as 40% of the original documents from the Dubrovnik Archives have not survived. Owing to its persistent efforts, Dubrovnik Archives managed to reclaim the materials that had been taken to Vienna, Zadar and Belgrade in the nineteenth and twentieth century. As for about 50 books from the old Turkish chancellery, they still adorn the shelves of the Austrian National Library (Österreichische Nationalbibliothek). The inventories of the Ottoman papers reveal that the collection of the most beautifully decorated documents—ahdnama (bilateral Raguso-Ottoman agreement confirmed by each new sultan) and hatt-ı humayun (containing the sultan’s order on the obeyance of his decision written in his own hand (“Be it carried out according to my order.”)—had the least chance of surviving, probably because of their artistic appeal. This collection today contains only three original ahdname, that of Sultan Murad III, Mehmed III and Mehmed IV and only eight of the hatt-ı humayun. The trials notwithstanding, the Acta Turcarum series of the State Archives of Dubrovnik today files about 15,000 Ottoman documents, originals mainly, but also authenticated and unauthenticated copies written in the Ottoman language, as well as Croatian and Italian translations. The series also contains a smaller number of documents written in Arabic, Hebrew and Armenian, and in terms of script in bosančica, Cyrillic and Latin. The oldest Ottoman document dates from 1458—a firman (receipt) issued by Sultan Mehmed II on the Ragusan payment of the harac (tribute). Ottoman documents can mainly be classified as the Sultan papers (firmans, a smaller number of patents - berat, and the earlier-mentioned rare copies of ahdnama and hatt-ı humayun), buyrultu (orders generally issued by the Bosnian beylerbeys), huccet, ilam, arz and fetve (legal documents), in addition to a larger correspondence collection. In order to make the Ottoman documents more accessible, in 2002 the State Archives of Dubrovnik set up a large project to classify, catalogue and publish them. The first phase was completed by the publishing of the documents of the Ottoman sultans in 2005. Forthcoming is the analysis of the buyrultu papers issued by the beylerbeys of Bosnia which, no doubt, will cast an additional light on the relations between the Bosnian court and the Dubrovnik Republic.

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