Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Keeping out Napoleon

The Fortress-City of Acre
contribution by Annie Greene
[1] Old Walls of Acre. Felix Bonfils, 1878. NYPL Digital Collections

[2] Khan al-Umdan, constructed late 18th
century by Ahmad Pasha al-Jazzar. 

Photo from
The walls of Acre (‘Akko/‘Akka), prominently jutting out into the Bay of Haifa, have in many ways come to define this small Mediterranean coastal town. [Fig. 1] Once Acre's main line of defense, the fortifications now serve as a time machine, of sorts, that separates the Old City and its labyrinthine streets from the “new” one that has developed outside the historic walls. Every year, visitors flock to Acre to explore the city’s main tourist attractions, such as the Al-Anwar Mosque and the Khan al-‘Umdan, as well as the Crusader-era tunnels, refectory, and church. [Fig. 2] Yet the walls that surround Old Acre—the walls that make it a walled city, even today—deserve consideration as well. In 1799, the fortified city held off Napoleon and the French army, a most feared revolutionary power, and reversed the tide of the Napoleonic Wars in the Middle East. 

[3] Satellite view of the Old City of Acre. Google Earth Pro, accessed October 5, 2015.

Acre was a fortress-city long before the Ottomans rolled in and incorporated the region into the empire. The location and shape of the site makes for a strategic military position as well as a bustling port town. [Fig. 3]  The story of the city’s fortifications really begin during the First Crusade, when Acre was attacked,   and, in 1104, capitulated to King Baldwin of Jerusalem. The Crusaders rebuilt the city, fortifying it with walls. Acre thus became the Crusader Kingdom’s main port to the rest of the Levant, with access to the spice trade. During the Third Crusade (1189-1192), Acre was the seat of the Knights Hospitaller order and even served as the de facto capital of the remnant Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem, following the fighting and its subsequent capture by the Ayyubid Sultan Salah al-Din in 1187. In order to prevent the return of the Crusaders, Acre was razed to the ground with the Mamluk conquest in 1291. The city then diminished in importance and, in the early modern period, was nothing more than a small port and fishing outpost. 

Acre came back in a big way in the last quarter of the eighteenth century, and the historic fabric as it is seen on the ground today was largely shaped under the leadership of two Ottoman governors [vali], Zahir al-‘Umar (d. 1775, r. 1768-1775), and Ahmad Pasha al-Jazzar (d.1804, r. 1775-1804). The growth of the city’s influence within the Western Galilee region greatly affected the re-development of the city. During the course of the eighteenth century, Acre and its hinterland eclipsed the nearby port town  of Sidon. 

[4] Map of Acre in 1820. From Thomas Phillip,
Acre: The Rise and Fall of a Palestinian City, p. 231.
[5] Walls of Acre. Photo by Author, 2015.
Because the city sits on a peninsula, the fortification walls of Acre face the sea on three sides, with the Bay of Acre to the east and the Mediterranean Sea to the west. To the north are the land walls, defended by an elaborate three-layer system. The inner land wall was built in the time of Zahir al-‘Umar, while the outer land wall was added only a few decades later by  Ahmad Pasha al-Jazzar. The third element of the defense system, a nineteenth-century earthen rampart, was added on the order of the vali ‘Abdullah Pasha (r. 1820-1832). [Fig. 4]  These fortifications, especially when compared with the Crusader-period walls, incorporated several modifications that point to the ever-increasing usage of firearms, such as gun-slits placed within the walls’ deep embrasures; low, thick bastions with rounded corners in order to deflect canon and artillery fire; and complex symmetrical layouts. [Fig. 5]

[6] Wall constructed by Zahir al-‘Umar at Acre. Photo by Author, 2015.

After having the former mültezim [tax farmer] of Acre killed while sending his troops to march on the city, Zahir al-‘Umar declared himself the mültezim of Acre in 1746. This declaration made him the political, military, and commercial ruler of the city. He first fortified the city around this time, which displayed the visual rhetoric of his possession and rule. [Fig. 6]  Zahir al-‘Umar first strengthened the city’s walls by adding square towers:  three on the eastern wall, four on the north, and one on the north-eastern corner. The wall to the north-east of the citadel still remains today, and it can be distinguished from later developments in the small size of the blocks, and the embrasure design of narrow slits set in arched casemates. These features are consistent with Zahir al-‘Umar’s other known and identified fortification projects in the Galilee region, such as the walls of Tiberias, Qal‘at Jiddin, and Dayr Hanna. [Fig. 7] 

[7] Tiberias from the Lake. Photograph Lewis Larsson, 1898-1914G. Eric and Edith Matson Photograph Collection, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
[8] Skyline of of Acre. Photo by Author, 2015.
Ahmad Pasha al-Jazzar, previously appointed as vali of Sidon, took over rule of Acre after the death of Zahir al-‘Umar in 1775. Even today, it is hard to escape from al-Jazzar in Acre. A main street is named for him. His mosque, built 1781, dominates the skyline when standing on the walls, which he fortified, and from which he fought. [Fig. 8]  An incredibly intriguing figure, born as a Christian in Bosnia, Ahmad went to Istanbul as a youth, worked as a barber, and befriended one of the Egyptian Mamluk elites there. He followed him back to Cairo, converted to Islam and trained among the Mamluk military elite, and, according to popular tradition, killed seventy Bedouins to avenge the murder of his master. His nickname al-Jazzar, “the butcher” in Arabic, is said to have been inspired by his cruelty and vengeful spirit. 

[9] Eastern (outer) walls of Acre, Photo by Author, 2015. 

[10] The moat of Acre on the north side. 
Photograph 1920-1933, G. Eric and Edith
 Matson Photograph Collection, Library
 of Congress, Washington, D.C.
Napoleon’s campaign in Egypt was the impetus for another fortification of Acre’s walls under Ahmad Pasha al-Jazzar. In this period, the British offered their assistance in strengthening the walls of both Jaffa and Acre in the hopes of curbing French presence in the region. The innovative design allowed for maximum defensive artillery fire while minimizing enemy attacks. Al-Jazzar’s new defensive line was 30m outside the walls of Zahir al-‘Umar, which were dismantled in some places for the purpose of constructing the new walls and the moat that ran outside it. [Figs. 9 & and 10] The new walls were thicker, and this improvement had the dual effect of absorbing the impact from canon fire, in addition to providing a wide-enough platform from which Ahmad Pasha’s men could respond by shooting their own artillery in safety. The British also provided the Ottomans with canons.  

Acre’s land and sea walls that were re-fortified during the eighteenth century therefore reveal a local story of military innovation, and point to interaction with Europe beyond invasion. Britain’s help with the provision of canons, as well as British and Russian naval presence alongside the Ottoman forces to fight Napoleon’s men, illustrates the end of an isolated local power structure. The following decades saw considerably more European involvement in terms of politics and trade.  
Just as the walls circled Acre, so too did Ahmad Pasha surround his realm with armies. He considered Acre his base, and he had to protect it and subdue the outlying areas for reasons of political and economic security. These measures incited on-again off-again conflict with the Druze, and led him to assert control over Jaffa when the French began their campaign, as control over both Jaffa and Acre would be a decisive foothold for an invader to continue into the hinterland of the Levant. 

[11] Statue of one of Napoleon’s
men in the Old City of Jaffa, pro-
claiming it a Historical Site:
One of the ironies of tourism in
the present day. Photo by
author, 2015.
Napoleon invaded Egypt in 1798, and from there turned eastward toward Jaffa in 1799,  proving again the defensive link between Egypt and the Levant. He knew that if war with the Ottomans were on the horizon, he would rather strike first and secure his position. [Fig. 11] When the threat of the French turned into a reality, Ahmad Pasha al-Jazzar sent his troops to create a military buffer between Acre and Napoleon’s advances. He added his men to the Egyptian Mamluks stationed at El-‘Arish, in Egyptian territory, and annexed Gaza, which had not previously been a part of Damascus’ administrative district. He also made alliances with influential families in the Galilee region, and the Druze between Dayr al-Qamar and Baalbek, creating effective political support for Acre. 

Napoleon cited the presence of Ahmad Pasha’s troops in Egyptian territory as a provocation of sorts, and one of the reasons behind the Levantine campaign. Napoleon and his forces managed to enter El-‘Arish on February 7, 1799 and besieged the citadel. Gaza fell on the 25th of February, and then the French conducted a four-day siege of Jaffa starting on March 3, destroying the city and massacring its inhabitants. After sacking Jaffa, the French army continued the march northward toward Acre. Where Jaffa’s walls had failed, Acre’s did not. Al-Jazzar had also surrounded the city with more walls of armies. From the sea, English, Russian, and Ottoman troops fired on the French, and Ahmad Pasha al-Jazzar’s own men bombarded Napoleon’s army from the land walls. [Fig. 12]  The siege of Acre lasted exactly two months, from March 19, 1799 until May 20, when Napoleon had to retreat due to plague and shortage of supplies. The walls of Acre had held him off.

[12] Citadel of Acre, Ottoman fortification. Photo by author, 2015.

Much is made of Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt. Alongside the military operations, he and his men also conducted a cultural campaign that resulted in the Description de l’Égypte. More emphasis could be placed, however, on the reversal of Napoleon’s campaign plans at Acre--not only when taken from the perspective of a retreating revolutionary European army, but also from the vital perspective of 18th-century architectural and military innovation outside of Istanbul. Acre, as a walled city, enforced its boundaries against the invading French army and maintained its sovereignty and authority. Its identity as a successful fortress-city shines through to today. Though Acre may have a street named after Napoleon (Rechov Napolyon Bonapart), it remains outside the walls, just like the man himself. 

ANNIE GREENE is a PhD student at the University of Chicago, specializing in the cultural and intellectual production of Ottoman Iraq in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. 

**For more on Acre, see another stambouline post: The Lights of Ahmad

BRUMMETT, Palmira. Mapping the Ottomans: Sovereignty, Territory, and Identity in the Early Modern Mediterranean. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015.
GÜLER, Mustafa. Cezzar Ahmed Paşa ve Akka Savunması. Istanbul: Çamlıca, 2003.
PETERSEN, Andrew. A Gazetteer of Buildings in Muslim Palestine (Part 1). Contributions by Marcus Milwright, drawings by Heather Nixon, and maps by Peter Leach. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.
PHILIPP, Thomas. Acre: The Rise and Fall of a Palestinian City, 1730-1831. New York: Columbia University Press, 2001.

Citation: "Keeping out Napoleon," Annie Greene, Stambouline (October 7, 2015).

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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Hagia Sophia at Ground Zero

contribution by Benjamin Anderson

[1] Design for the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church at the Ground Zero Site, 2012, Santiago Calatrava Architects & Engineers. 

[2] Site map, National September 11
Memorial & Museum, 28. August 2015.
Photo: author.

Today when visitors exit the 9/11 Memorial Museum in lower Manhattan, they look across a deep pool that occupies the footprint of the south tower of the World Trade Center towards an active construction site. Plans distributed across the memorial relate that this platform will soon host “St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church,” and a sign stretched across a chain-link fence on Greenwich Street displays an architect’s rendering of the building in progress. [Figs. 1 & 2] 

Those who were paying attention in Art History 101 will notice the basic similarity between the church in the drawing, whose single broad dome rests on four massive pillars, and Hagia Sophia. [Fig. 3] A more elaborate connection between the two structures is asserted by a video hosted on the website of the man who designed St. Nicholas, Santiago Calatrava. The video opens with a view of Hagia Sophia from the southwest. The four minarets have been removed and the dome is crowned by a cross, while the mausolea of the Ottoman sultans remain in the foreground. This rendering morphs into the model of the church held by its imperial patron, Justinian, in the Byzantine mosaic that stands above the building’s southwestern entrance. The view expands to take in the entire mosaic, with the Virgin and Child at center and the emperor Constantine offering a model of his city at right. The Virgin and Child are then transformed into a series of increasingly abstract watercolors executed by Calatrava himself that culminate in the design of St. Nicholas. 

[3] Hagia Sophia. From Guillaume-Joseph Grelot, Relation nouvelle d’un voyage de Constantinople (Paris: Pierre Rocolet, 1680).
The church’s patrons in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North America have also drawn a connection between the two buildings. As Archbishop Demetrios explained to the New York Times: “What attracted the committee... was that Mr. Calatrava had been strongly influenced by Hagia Sophia, the magnificent sixth-century Byzantine basilica in Istanbul that was converted into a mosque and then, in 1935, into a museum.”

[4]  From Atlas of the Borough of Manhattan
(New York: G. W. Bromley & Co., 1916).
New York Public Library, Lionel Pincus
and Princess Firyal Map Division.
Calatrava’s new construction rises near the former site of an older church of St. Nicholas, located at 155 Cedar Street. [Fig.4]  At the beginning of the new millennium, this building stood as a remnant of nineteenth-century Manhattan, an erstwhile house that had also served as a tavern and was purchased early in the 20th century by Greek immigrants. St. Nicholas had managed to survived the urban renewal projects that destroyed the surrounding urban fabric, [Fig. 5] and its incongruously modest profile stood in the shadow of the World Trade Center until 2001, when the south tower’s collapse leveled it completely.

[5] St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, 1998. Photo: jaydro (Panoramio).

For the last fourteen years, the Greek Orthodox congregation of lower Manhattan has been housed in a church across the river in Brooklyn. As with all matters related to the redevelopment of Ground Zero, discussions of the rebuilding of St. Nicholas quickly left local needs behind to dwell instead on questions of symbolism and propriety. By 2010, an essentially financial dispute between the archdiocese and the Port Authority had become entangled with the national controversy around the proposed Islamic community center at Park Place (often polemically described as the “Ground Zero mosque”). An assistant to the archbishop stated: “We have people that are saying, why isn’t our church being rebuilt and why is there... such concern for people of the mosque.” In 2011, George Demos, a congressional candidate from Long Island, launched a petition to “rebuild [the] ground zero church first,” expressing the hope that future generations might “look back with pride that our nation stood up and defended our Judeo-Christian values.”

These statements positioned the new reconstruction of St. Nicholas as a maneuver in a contest between Christianity and Islam, an interpretation that persisted even after the dispute between the archdiocese and Port Authority had been resolved. When Calatrava’s winning design was made public in 2013, a spokesman for the archdiocese stated that “the dome, invented by the Mycenaean Greeks, was a Christian form of architecture that was borrowed by the Islamic world. There are going be some wonderful teachable moments down the road.” These statements may have been influenced by the simultaneous campaign led by Turkish religious conservatives to reopen Hagia Sophia for Muslim worship, a movement that culminated later in 2013 when the deputy Prime Minister referred to the building as the “Hagia Sophia Mosque.”

[6] Hagia Sophia with the equestrian
statue of Justinian. Cristoforo
Buondelmoti, Liber Insularum Archipelagi.

The Hagia Sophia that stands today in Istanbul was built in the aftermath of catastrophe, a violent uprising brutally suppressed by the Emperor Justinian in 532, in which thousands died and the monumental core of the Byzantine capital was torched. Justinian stamped his monogram on the capitals found in the interior of the new church and set his equestrian statue on a monumental column beside its dome, turning Hagia Sophia into a kind of monument to his own victory over the rebels. [Fig. 6] Procopius, the emperor’s court historian, proposed that the new church was so beautiful, that if someone had shown the inhabitants of Constantinople a model of it before the fire, they would have demanded that their old church be destroyed right away, so that it could be replaced by the new structure. Hagia Sophia was not only a marvel of engineering and aesthetics: it also represented an attempt to control the meaning of the event that had cleared the ground for its construction.

The analogy to St. Nicholas is by no means precise. Most importantly, those responsible for the construction of the new church had nothing to do with the destruction of its predecessor. Nevertheless, the new St. Nicholas, like Hagia Sophia, represents an effort to inflect the meaning of the preceding catastrophe. For the representatives of the archdiocese and their political allies, the new St. Nicholas is meant to establish the priority of Christianity in the commemoration of 9/11. As an ancillary benefit, it employs a prominent piece of real estate to claim the design of Hagia Sophia as innately Christian (and Greek).

[7] St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, construction site, 28. August 2015.
Photo: author.

We can choose, however, to draw a different lesson from the history of Hagia Sophia. In the centuries after Justinian’s death, Byzantines began to produce legends that downplayed the emperor’s role in its construction, thereby converting it into a monument that met their own needs, not his. Some ridiculed Justinian, relating his jealous reaction to the popularity of the building’s true architect, who cleverly evaded the emperor’s attempts to have him killed. Other stories had nothing to say about the emperor, but tamed the overwhelming monumentality of his church by focusing on intimate particulars: the pier where an angel appeared to the architect’s son, for example, or the fountain in which pilgrims found a cup that they had lost while bathing in the River Jordan.

Legends like these transmit a wise patience, an understanding that the efforts of the wealthy and powerful to fix the meanings of events and monuments are misguided, since familiarity and the rhythms of daily use will produce accounts more enduring than the intended and official. In this sense, we have every reason to welcome, and to participate in, the creation of a new Hagia Sophia at Ground Zero.

BENJAMIN ANDERSON is Assistant Professor in the Department of History of Art and Visual Studies at Cornell University.

Citation: "Hagia Sophia at Ground Zero," Benjamin Anderson, Stambouline (September 16, 2015).

Saturday, July 4, 2015

The Tanzimat and Children on the Periphery

The Mekteb-i İdadi of Baghdad
contribution by Lydia Harrington
[1] Mekteb-i İdadi (Preparatory School), Baghdad, view from inner courtyard. 
Photograph 1880-93. Abdülhamid II Collection, Library of Congress.
[2] View of Mekteb-i İdadi from the Tigris.
Photograph 1880-93. Abdülhamid
 II Collection, Library of Congress.
The Baghdad that appears in contemporary media as a bombed-out, crumbling, dangerous cityscape (or, for that matter, Saddam Hussein's tacky, self-aggrandizing monuments of the 80s and 90s) makes it hard to imagine the city's not-so-distant history as a booming metropolis and center of civilization. And while architectural historians have primarily focused on the (mostly-unrealized) high-modernist projects in the 50s commissioned by the Iraq Development Board and the art-deco designs that flourished during the British Mandate period, a look at pre-Mandate Baghdad reveals that modernist principles were not introduced to this city’s architecture by the British, but by the Ottomans. Examining new institutions of 19th-century Ottoman provincial capitals such as Baghdad offers a new spatially-oriented perspective on power relations between the imperial center and periphery, and this can particularly be seen in the development of educational systems in the last years of the Empire. A prominent example is the Mekteb-i İdadi (“preparatory school”), which still stands today between the left bank of the Tigris River and al-Mutanabbi Street, a well-known book-selling district that suffered a devastating car bomb attack in 2007. [Figs. 1-2] The Mekteb-i İdadi served an elite cadre of young men who experienced a new kind of education system with a more modern and secular curriculum compared to what was offered prior to the 19th century. Graduates typically moved on to be trained at the military academy in Constantinople, followed by careers in government administration and diplomacy. 
[3] Contemporary aerial view of the clocktower, Saray and Mekteb-i İdadi amid the modern urban sprawl of the city. Google Maps Street View 2015.
New infrastructure projects--roads, railways, tramways, telegraph lines, bridges, steamships--enabled an increased communication between the imperial center and its provinces and facilitated the building of institutions such as schools, administrative centers, hospitals, prisons, and the printing press. Namık Pasha, the vali (governor) of Baghdad from 1851-1852 and 1861-1868, and Midhat Pasha, vali from 1869-1872, are credited with introducing such innovations that were characterized by a more direct role of the state in local life. Plans to set up the Mekteb-i İdadi were made at the beginning of the Tanzimat era but not realized until the 1850s. It was built next to the Saray (administrative center) complex initiated by Namik Pasha and completed by Midhat, and featured a 23-meter tall clock tower (completed later in 1870) in what was known then as the Rusafa district. [Fig. 3] Baghdad’s division by the Tigris allowed such projects to be built in full view of visitors and locals alike.

[4] Baghdad Mekteb-i Rüşdiyye under construction.
Photograph 1880-1893. 
Abdülhamid II
 Collection, Library of Congress.

During the Tanzimat, military education took precedence over civil institutions and was superior both in terms of breadth of topics and quality of education. Thus the first modern educational institutions in the empire were provincial military schools whose graduates were sent for further study in Constantinople. Young men from the provinces had more opportunities to pursue a modern education, shifting the tide of thought both in and beyond the capital and producing a class of educated officials and professionals, some of whom disagreed with Sultan Abdülhamid II’s rule. Prior to the Tanzimat, higher educational opportunities in the city were few and the system and curricula largely religious. The youngest students went to a kuttâb to learn reading, writing, and Qur’an recitation, and more advanced students attended a madrasa  to study transmitted sciences (theology) and rational sciences. Namık Pasha began to modernize the system by founding new versions of the kuttâb and madrasa—the ibtidai and rüşdiyye, respectively—where new subjects such as French and modern sciences were added to the curriculum. [Fig. 4] Such changes in lower education demonstrate not an entire secularization of education, but an expansion of or complement to pre-existing kinds of education. The Mekteb-i İdadi was the highest level of (non-Islamic) education a young man in Baghdad could undertake and expanded upon the subjects taught at the rüşdiyye, adding military strategy. Except for classes on religion, which were taught by an imam (in Arabic), all instruction was given by Ottoman military officers in Turkish. 

[5] Mekteb-i İdadi, Baghdad. Plan 1890-93. Abdülhamid II Collection, Library of Congress.

[6] Plan of Mekteb-i İdadi from Salname-I
Nezaret-I Maarif-I Umumiye
The extant sources for the physical appearance of the Mekteb-i İdadi in Baghdad include plans of the school's layout and photographs of the activities that took place within its walls. Looking at the two existing ground plans for the school, however, raises some issues regarding what had been proposed versus what was in fact built on the ground. One plan [Fig. 5] shows two floors surrounding a central open courtyard, and this corresponds with what is seen in contemporary photos. Another (later) plan for the Mekteb-i İdadi, published in the 1906 Salname (yearbook) for Baghdad [Fig. 7], however, does not correspond with the other drawn plan. It has some similarities regarding the layout, but no courtyard. So this could be evidence for renovation projects, a plan for a different floor, or a different building altogether. These two plans call into question the accuracy of planimetric documentation and stress the importance of comparing such documentation with historical photographs, if possible. 

[7] Mekteb-I İdadi, Baghdad, drills in the courtyard. Photograph 1890-93. 
Abdülhamid II Collection, Library of Congress. 
The students photographed in the courtyard of the Mekteb-i İdadi who are ostensibly lined up for military exercises stand at attention under the eyes of teachers and staff from all sides and from above. [Fig. 7] The layout of the rooms and doors in both plans (assuming Fig. 6 is indeed of the Mekteb-i İdadi) not only facilitates ease of movement and socialization, but also ease of surveillance. This aspect of physical and psychological control is shared with contemporary institutions like modern hospitals, insane asylums, prisons and, of course, schools in the Ottoman Empire, Europe, and North America. 

Stylistically, the exterior of the school building was rendered in the late Ottoman Neo-Classical style of Constantinople’s most prominent buildings, demonstrating that tastes of the imperial center still defined the periphery. This was not necessarily mimicry of what Europeans were doing, but was a way to display power, wealth, taste and investment in education as high-ranking members of a world empire. Meanwhile, the interior courtyard typology of the Mekteb-i İdadi reflects the traditional building types of Baghdad for which keeping living spaces cool in the scorching summer heat and maintaining privacy were primary concerns.

[8] Students from the Baghdad Mekteb-i İdadi. Sebah and Jouaillier, Photograph 1888.
Abdülhamid II Collection, Library of Congress. 
[9] Students from the Tribal [Aşiret] School
in Constantinople. Abdullah Frères, Photograph
Abdülhamid II Collection, Library of Congress. 
Both idadi and rüşdiyye schools are well documented in the large collection of photographs kept by Sultan Abdülhamid II. The documentation of the Baghdad Mekteb-i İdadi can be considered as comparable to that of other late Ottoman photography projects such as the Elbise-i Osmaniyye, in which different Ottoman ‘types’ were posed together and regions ordered according to their proximity to the imperial center. The availability of the Elbise-i Osmaniyye to Europeans in the Vienna Exposition of 1873 and to elite Ottomans back home enforced a hierarchical view of “Ottomanness” based on class, ethnicity, religion and geographical location. Similarly, the Abdülhamid II photograph albums were viewed by Ottoman elites and gifted to institutions such as the British Library, ensuring consumption by foreign elites. The students of the Mekteb-i İdadi were, like the Elbise subjects, photographed before a backdrop, devoid of context and wearing fezzes and Ottoman uniforms. [Fig. 8] The only kind of indigenous dress or identity revealed in these albums is in a controlled environment (such as the Aşiret School in the imperial center), while all other regions demonstrate homogeneity of dress. [Fig. 9] The schools were photographed as well, separately from their students. This lack of context makes it possible that these are not even the students at these institutions, but they are still valuable since they demonstrate how the center represented the periphery in Constantinople and abroad.

Documenting subjects through photography was not only a way of gathering information, but also of psychologically reorganizing the empire as it was physically reorganized. Ussama Makdisi has argued that Ottoman elites in the 19th-century internalized some Orientalist views from Europeans and at the same time projected an “Ottoman Orientalism” on their own “others” in the provinces. In Namık and Midhat Pashas’ case, they became at once objects of reform as well as essential parts of an empire that was losing its western provinces. In his first public speech in Baghdad, Midhat Pasha emphasized the need for development and modernization and contrasted the great past of the city with the present backwardness of the region. He noted that not all changes may be welcomed by the people, but he believed they would ultimately benefit.  According to Makdisi, “the Ottomans represented their own periphery as an integral part of their engagement with, explicit resistance to, but also implicit acceptance of, Western representations of the indolent Ottoman East.” Ottoman elites used the provinces as a sort of laboratory for experimentation with modern and new institutions and techniques; analysis of the Mekteb-i İdadi, however, demonstrates that the motive behind reformers was more to retain imperial strength and demonstrate competence rather than change a social status quo. Examining the intersection of imperial and local interests, institutions, architecture, and representations allows us to go beyond the binary of “East and West” and see the more complex picture that was reform in Late Ottoman Baghdad. 

LYDIA HARRINGTON is a Ph.D. student in the History of Art and Architecture at Boston University, focusing on modern institutions in the Middle East and the representation of Islamic art and architecture in museums.

**The Abdulhamid II Photograph collection is available on its own digital platform at the Library of Congress, Washington D.C. All images are free to use in the public domain.

CEYLAN, Ebubekir. The Ottoman Origins of Modern Iraq: Political Reform, Modernization and Development in the Nineteenth Century Middle East. London: I. B. Tauris, 2011.
ERSOY, Ahmet. “A Sartorial Tribute to Late Tanzimat Ottomanism: The Elbise-i ‘Osmaniyye Album,’” Muqarnas 29 (2003): pp. 187-208.
ÖZGÜVEN, Burcu. "FROM THE OTTOMAN PROVINCE TO THE COLONY: LATE OTTOMAN EDUCATIONAL BUILDINGS IN NICOSIA." Middle East Technical University Journal of the Faculty of Architecture 21.1-2 (2005): pp. 33-66.
SOMEL, Selçuk Akşin. The Modernization of Public Education in the Ottoman Empire, 1839-1908: Islamization, Autocracy, and Discipline. Leiden: Brill Academic Publishing, 2001.
WEBER, Stephan. Damascus: Ottoman Modernity and Urban Transformation (1808-1918). Proceedings of the Danish Institute of Damascus (Book 5). Aarhus: Aarhus University Press, 2009.

Citation: "The Tanzimat and Children on the Periphery," Lydia Harrington, Stambouline (July 4, 2015).

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Lost Mosque of Moscow

contribution by Kateryna Malaia

[1] Moscow Congregational Mosque (c. 1904) in the 1990s. Image from 
Like any mega city, Moscow has many hidden architectural treasures. Until recently, one of these monuments—the Congregational Mosque of Moscow (c. 1904)—was located in the Meshchansky neighborhood of the city, right next to the modern stadium constructed for the 1980 Summer Olympics [Fig.1]. The Congregational Mosque, one of only two historic Muslim landmarks in the Russian capital, managed to endure the vicissitudes of time and politics throughout the twentieth century,  but ultimately it could not withstand the recent boom of demolition and construction that is now threatening many architectural and historic landmarks in Russia. Just a few years ago, the mosque was torn down completely and is currently under 'reconstruction.' 

The 1904 Congregational Mosque is unique in that it belongs to the particular tradition of Moscow mercantile culture as well as the religious architecture of the Tatar community. Additionally, the old building reflects the socio-political and aesthetic conditions of the late (pre-1917) Russian Empire, when the government delivered to the public an ideological reinforcement of statehood through the arts. In terms of architecture, this emphasis placed on the state was reflected through loose interpretations of early imperial styles, Byzantine in particular. While only being a little more than a hundred years old at the time of its demolition, the old building of the Congregational mosque was truly embedded not only in the history of Moscow and Russian Tatar Islam, but also in the history of the Russian state itself. To understand the multiplicity of narratives represented in the architecture of the old Congregational Mosque, we will first examine the wider history of mosque building within the city of Moscow and the wider Russian lands.

[2] The Model Project of a Mosque for
Siberia authorized by Catherine the Great
in 1782. Image from Zagidullin, Islamskie
instituty v Rossiĭskoĭ imperii,
p. 220.
Historians have demonstrated that, since the early history of Moscow, the Tatar Muslim merchant communities in the city were permitted to perform their worship in privacy of their courtyards and construct wooden spaces for prayer in the city. Unfortunately, we do not know much about the typology or appearance of those early prayer spaces, as, throughout its history, Moscow has experienced a number of fires. Also, in 1649, Tsar Aleksey Mikhailovich Romanov issued a decree ordering all the non-Christians to leave Moscow and their houses of worship to be burned. This tense situation shifted after the rise to power of Aleksey's son Peter the Great in 1689. Besides political changes, Peter's ambitious effort to European-ize old Muscovy began the introduction and standardization of architectural typologies and elements of style within the territory of the new Russian Empire. This process of architectural standardization further continued under Catherine the Great, who at the same time pursued a tolerant policy towards religious minorities; in 1773, the Most Holy Governing Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church issued a decree that advocated for tolerance of all religions, officially enabling the construction of mosques within the territory of the Russian Empire. This political statements resulted in the Model Project of a Mosque for Siberia authorized by Catherine the Great in 1782. [Fig.2]  The model project, produced by Russian architects, was said to be based on the architecture of the Muslim Tatars of the Middle Volga Region in its plan (a one room mosque with no courtyard). By choosing a Tatar mosque type to be used all over the state, Catherine and her administration attempted to enforce the "civilized" and loyal Tatar tradition on newly conquered communities, such as the Kirgiz and Kazakhs, whose way of worship was seen as barbaric and dangerous to the Empire. This model mosque, however, barely has any visual elements that could be attributed to the Tatar Muslim tradition. According to the architectural historian Nijaz Khalitov, 15th and 16th-century Tatar architecture was influenced by Ottoman examples (ex. Qolşärif Mosque before its destruction in the 16th century), but the facade articulation of this model mosque project diverges from any examples of early modern Tatar or Ottoman architecture. In fact, the facade elements--arched portico, rusticated minaret bases and the circular boss moldings--seen in the building were not much different from the rest of Catherine's neo-classical constructions. 

[3] A model project of a mosque approved
in 1829. From Zagidullin, Islamskie
 instituty v Rossiĭskoĭ imperii,
p. 228. 
Another model project of a mosque, produced in 1829, claimed to preserve the spatial and vertical organization of early Tatar mosques. [Fig.3] This time the  the model mosque not only had an ideological purpose; it was also an attempt to control the growing number of Muslim religious buildings, which according to a 1828 bureaucratic report, “only multiplied because of the desire of the  imams to get their own parish.” The 1829 model of the mosque was not accepted by most of the Muslim communities because of the expenses of its construction. As a result, in 1843 other models were developed that in many ways referenced the existing rural Tatar mosques. [Fig.4] Curiously, the model projects for wooden Tatar mosques allowed for more flexibility in the facade articulation—it was suggested that the facades could be decorated with recognizable Muslim motifs, yet they often acquired new unexpected readings after being re-imagined by non-Muslim architects and bureaucrats. 

[4] A model project of a Friday mosque approved in 1843. From Zagidullin, Islamskie instituty v Rossiĭskoĭ imperii, p. 244. 
In 1862, Muslim communities were given permission to independently determine the plans and facades for their mosques. Yet, in the vast majority of cases, the communities decided to preserve the standard plan and spatial organization (a single-room space with a small vestibule, similar to most of the then surviving Tatar mosques). In the case of larger congregational mosques, communities favored a rectangular, three-nave plan. [Fig.5] 

[5] Congregational Mosque of Moscow before demolition. Image from

[6] Tatar mosque in 'Zmoskvorecheje'
after the construction of a minaret.
Image from
While the plans of most mid-19th century mosques constructed in the Russian Empire remained rather conservative and uniform, the opposite phenomenon can be observed in the mosques' facades: the elevations of the mosques were often designed and constructed based on their particular context, rather than tradition or even suggested model mosque type. This was especially true for larger cities (except for Kazan), where the Muslim communities, no matter how deep-rooted, remained minorities. The two historic mosques of Moscow were built to reflect the style of the contemporary street facades and visually fit in with the surrounding city so perfectly that only a knowing person would have been able to easily recognize these buildings as mosques. The other mosque still surviving in Moscow today is the Tatar mosque in 'Zmoskvorecheje' or Tatarskaja Sloboda district (c. 1823). [Fig.6] The mosque was first constructed as a small building without a minaret; the minaret was erected years later in 1881, and at that time the entire building was also restored and remodeled. The second mosque, of course, is the Congregational Mosque of Moscow. 

[7] Congregational Mosque of Moscow before demolition. Image from

[8] Congregational Mosque of Moscow
between 1905 and 1930.
Image from
Before building the Congregational Mosque, the Tatar community petitioned Tsar Nicolay II to allow for the construction of a new mosque with facades in the Byzantine revival style, which reflected the political and ideological agenda of the Russian Imperial government at that time. [Figs. 7,8] The original building featured two stories with a basement and was roughly 65 feet tall from the ground level. The short minarets of the mosque were constructed only at roughly 1/3-height of the rest of the building. The entrance to the mosque was located under the axially-central minaret; this led to an interior space with a central hall flanked by two naves and balconies above them. The use of this standardized plan type clearly marked the genealogical connection of the building to the previous examples of Tatar mosque architecture. The facades were articulated with tall pilasters topped with braided ornaments. These pilasters separated the sets of arched windows on the second floor (characteristic of Byzantine Revival style) and truncated top windows on the first floor (characteristic of Russian 'Stil' Modern').

In the 1920s and 1930s, the Bolsheviks conducted a policy of uncompromising struggle with religious institutions and common expressions of religion. That struggle, however, was not as harsh against Islam as it was against Christianity; for multiple political reasons, especially the ongoing and uneasy Sovietization of Central Asia, the central government in Moscow was willing to mitigate the persecution of Muslims in comparison to other religions. Thus, the Congregational Mosque of Moscow survived and, as opposed to the majority of other religious buildings in the city, remained functioning until another threat in the late history of the USSR. In the late 1970s, a new stadium for the 1980 Olympics was mandated to be constructed right next to the mosque. The presence of a religious building next to this internationally attended venue, in the eyes of the political elites, contradicted the Soviet atheist ethos. Urban planners decided to demolish the mosque, but, thanks to the intervention of the international Muslim community and persistent petitions of the Moscow Muslims, the mosque was saved again. 

[9] The Congregational Mosque of Moscow and the construction of new buildings rising on around it, 2011. Image from Wikipedia, in the Public Domain.
[10] The Congregational Mosque of Moscow
under (re)construction, 2013. Photo by the author.
Yet, this century-old unique Byzantine Revival style Tatar mosque did not survive the present crisis of demolitions, which began in Moscow in the early 2000s. [Fig. 9] The land and the building were only returned to the ownership of Muslim organizations a couple of years ago. During this short period, the major Russian Muslim organization, the Spiritual Administration of Muslims of the European Part of Russia, managed to dispute the building's landmark status, demolish the mosque and make way for a new and inadequate 'reconstruction,' completely neglecting the historic and architectural value of the old building. [Fig.10] The conflict around the mosque was as complex as any major urban power and bureaucratic struggle and involved multiple stakeholders representing different groups of the changing Russian society. I plan to provide a larger overview and analysis of this recent conflict of interests and the new construction in a forthcoming article. In the meantime, one thing can be stated for sure: because of the current lack of government desire to follow legal mechanisms of historic preservation as well as the power struggle in the changing Muslim community and Moscow bureaucratic elites, the city and the architectural heritage worldwide has lost a unique and valuable building, which in itself served as a living monument to the history of Islamic architecture in Russia. 

KATERYNA MALAIA is a Ph.D. student in the Buildings-Landscapes-Cultures (BLC) interdisciplinary program at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee focusing on the architecture and urban condition of post-Soviet mega-cities. 

**Liked this post? You might also enjoy "Little Mosques on the Prairie," by guest contributor Michael Połczyński.

KHALITOV, Nijaz. Tatarskai︠a︡ mechetʹ i eë arkhitektura: istoriko-arkhitekturnye issledovanie. Kazan:Tatarskoe knizhnoe izd-vo, 2012.
KHAYRETDINOV, Damir."Musulmanskaja Obshina Moskvy: Istorija i Sovremennost". Paper presented at the III Congress of ethnographers and anthropologists of Russia, Moscow, 8-11 June, 1999.
ZAGIDULLIN, Il'dusIslamskie instituty v Rossiĭskoĭ imperii: mecheti v evropeĭskoĭ chasti Rossii i Sibiri. Kazanʹ: Tatarskoe knizhnoe izd-vo, 2007.

Citation: "The Lost Mosque of Moscow," Kateryna Malaia, Stambouline (May 11, 2015).