PhD Thesis Researched Christian Societies in the Ottoman Empire


Today, on 2 November, Olga Razuvajeva from the Tallinn University School of Humanities defended her PhD thesis, which researched the reforms in the Ottoman state between 1839-1876, and their influence on the Christian communities within the empire. The thesis focused on two edicts – the Tanzimat and the Islahat.

“The Osman state was quite tolerant towards their non-Muslim subjects, which helped non-Muslim communities conserve their religions, traditions and languages,” Razuvajeva explained and added that religion was the key element in creating identities and marking the person’s position within the society.

To reform the relationship between the state and its subjects, the Tanzimat introduced a new vocabulary, which was based on the terms vatan (fatherland), and vatandaş (fellow countryman, later defined as citizen). These words were supposed to join the peoples of the empire. The Islahat emphasised the state’s intention to ensure every person within the Ottoman empire will be governed equally, and the promise that non-Muslims are allowed to serve within state institutions and be seen as equal to Muslim citizens. “Thus, the reforms ended the hitherto imperial order, wherein the population was divided according to religion. The new ideology (Osmanlılık) was supposed to create a state that would help secure the empire in a novel political situation with increased nationalistic demands,” the author explained.

The thesis shows that even though the promises within the Islahat were not applied in all corners of the Ottoman empire, many areas were still reformed. “The new, secular ideas did not bring about the demise of the shariat or Islamism within practices and intellectual thought. On the contrary, the traditional underpinnings of the Ottoman Empire were often the centre of debate and reinvention,” Razuvajeva explained.

The doctoral thesis “The Ottoman Reforms between 1839 and 1876 and Their Impact on the Ottoman Christians” was defended at Tallinn University on 2 November at 12:00. The supervisors were Professor Otto Jastrow from Tallinn University and Associate Professor Abdüllatif Armağan from Ankara University. The Opponents were Researcher Robert Langer from Bayreuth University and Professor Nese Özden from Ankara University.

The thesis can be read in full via the Tallinn University Academic Library e-vault ETERA.