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).

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Framing Ottoman Epigraphy

Tracking Down a Black Sea Fortress at the Topkapı Palace
contribution by Emily Neumeier

[1] Sultan Abdülhamid's monument (1294 H/1877-78 CE) to Sohum in the second courtyard of the Topkapı Palace, with the chambers of the imperial council (Divan-ı Hümayun) and Tower of Justice in the background. Unless otherwise noted, photos by Emily Neumeier, 2014.

[2] Ali Pasha of Çürüksu (front row,
middle) and Ottoman Georgians
during the Russo-Ottoman War (1877–
78). Wikipedia, in Public Domain.

Every day, the thousands of tourists who visit the Topkapı Palace in Istanbul stream past a stately stone monument. [Fig. 1] Despite the monument's grand scale (more than 3 meters in height) and prominent location in the second courtyard of the palace, most visitors barely give it a second glance. And who can really blame them, with the nearby Tower of Justice, or the rococo Gate of Felicity (Bab-ı Saadet), as competition for their attention? Yet a careful reading of this monument's inscriptions reveals its unusual function--a piece of war propaganda for a new sultan in the midst of a crushing military defeat. More specifically, this is a military memorial from the early years of Sultan Abdülhamid II's reign, when fighting erupted in both the Balkans and the Caucusus during the Russo-Ottoman war of 1877-78. [Fig. 2] The purpose of the Topkapı monument is to present and frame an Ottoman inscription that had been rescued from the Black Sea fortress of Sohum, a city that was only briefly held by the Ottomans and then once again fell into Russian hands. 

[3] The monument's upper inscription and tuğra of Sultan Abdülhamid II.

[4] The early 18th-century foundation
inscription rescued from the fortress at
Sohum, now preserved in the Hamidian-era
memorial at the Topkapı Palace. 
The inscription that is located at the top of the monument, incised on a single block of marble, is itself undated but has been paired with the tuğra of Sultan Abdülhamid II above, which gives the year 1294 H/ 1877-78 CE. [Fig. 3] The text declares that more than a century and a half earlier, during the reign of Sultan Ahmed III (r. 1703-30), a fortress was constructed in Sohum, on the eastern coast of the Black Sea. The inscription further explains that this fortress was later occupied by Russian forces ("Mosḳof eline geçmiş iken"), but it was finally reclaimed again by Sultan Abdülhamid and "the time of the gazi sovereign returned" ("gerüye şah-ı gāzi-i zamān geldi"). It was then that, by imperial order, the 18th-century foundation inscription from the fortress was removed from the Black Sea site and brought to Istanbul for the memorial at the Topkapı. Thus, the two plaques featuring Ottoman epigraphy that appear on this monument serve very different functions. Although the text of the 18th-century inscription from Sohum, if taken on its own as a historical document, does offer valuable information about a little-known Black Sea fortress, within the context of the Hamidian memorial, this plaque is presented as a kind of relic--a tangible fragment, or object, imbued with the aura of past military victory and success. The late 19th-century inscription in the upper register of the monument acts as an illustrative text, both literally and figuratively framing the central plaque. 

Because the Hamidian craftsmen responsible for the construction of this monument treated all three inscriptions (tuğra, upper inscription, central plaque) to the same paint job of gold lettering on a dark-green ground, at first glance a visitor might be led to assume that these inscriptions were all produced at the same time. However, even if a visitor were not able to read the text, there are subtle stylistic differences in the calligraphy that make it clear that these inscriptions are not from the same workshop or time period. [Compare figs. 3, 4 and 5] First, although the upper and central inscriptions are both written in the so-called ta'lik script--very popular for public texts in the Ottoman period--they were clearly designed by two different calligraphers. The ta'lik script in the central plaque is more Persianized in style in that it tends to flow more at an angle, while the later text in the upper panel follows is a bit more flat, sitting on a straight (imaginary) baseline. Additionally, while the text in the upper panel remains contained within eight cartouches, the 18th-century calligraphy in the central plaque is more free and lively, spilling over the lines of the text boxes. [Fig. 5] 

[5] Detail from the 18th-century central inscription showing the ta'lik script.

[6] "Sukhumi Fortress", 1830s, Jacques François
Gamba. Wikipedia, in Public Domain.

Besides being an interesting example of 18th-century calligraphy, the central plaque taken from the Sohum fortress provides insight into the construction of the fortification built by Ahmed III. [Fig. 6] Presently the site is difficult to access for any non-Russian citizens, as Sohum (Sukhumi, Sokhumi, Aqwa) is presently at the center of a complex political conflict, being the capital of Abzhakia, a disputed region in Georgia on the eastern coast of the Black Sea. Sohum came under Ottoman control in the 1570s, and at this point the town was presumably re-fortified, adapting even earlier military works dating as early as the Roman period. [Fig. 7]

[7] Selection of late-antique and medieval-era pot sherds found in the 1985 Russian excavations of the Sohum fortress, evidence for the continuous use of the site as a settlement. Hrushkova and Gunba, "Raskopki Suhumskoi kreposti," p. 40.
We know, of course, from the foundation inscription now at the Topkapı that a new fortress was erected (or rather extensively rebuilt and enhanced) in the early eighteenth century in the reign of Sultan Ahmed III. The central plaque's text can be translated thus:
The king among kings of the world, the majestic Sultan Ahmed Gazi, whose imperial gate is the refuge of İskender and Dara. He is the exalted ruler of prosperity, whose imperial person is the ornament of the world with his exalted position of justice and perfect attainment of honor. The Grand Vizier, Damad Ibrahim Pasha, abundant in influence, is the distinguished ruler’s imperial relation. He rendered secure every corner of the world from enemies because he ordered that this region be protected. This esteemed, strong fortress was erected with such majesty that you would imagine it to be the Phoenix at the top of Mount Kaf. The justice of the sultan increases the prosperity of the world such that the most holy one is a fortune for the world’s repose. As for the most exalted vezir he always acts such that the wise sadrazam is in this way the agent of security and peace. 
Unfortunately, this (very flowery) inscription is undated, but the text itself declares that the Sohum fortress was built under the Grand Vizier Nevşehirli Damat Ibrahim Pasha, which further narrows the window of time in which the construction could have taken place to 1718-1730, the term of Ibrahim Pasha's service. The conclusion to this question of dating the fortress can actually be found, not in Ottoman sources, but in a map of western Georgia (Imereti) produced in the first half of the 18th century. [Fig. 8]

[8] Detail of Sohum Fortress (central square enclosure). French copy of the 1738 Georgian manuscript map, Bibliothèque Hydrographique de la Marine, Paris. W.E.D. Allen, "Two Georgian Maps," p. 106.
[9] Sohum Castle as it survives today, along
the water front of the city. Taken from
Google Earth, 15 March 2015.
This rationalized plan of the fortress depicts the construction as situated between two streams emptying into the Black Sea, a rectangular enclosure with a square bastion on each corner and an entrance with towers to both the north and south. The foundation inscription was most likely fixed above one of these entrances. It is perhaps a bit strange that the foundation inscription compares this structure, which is so evidently placed on the edge of the sea at the mouth of the port, to the "Phoenix at the top of Mount Kaf," but this just proves that sometimes the composers of these texts took some liberties with their metaphors and the actual topographic situation of a site (this discrepancy also might indicate that the author commissioned for this text was in Istanbul, and never visited Sohum personally). The description of the fortress on the Georgian map states that the fortification was "built by the Turks in 1723" and governed by a pasha "of two tails" with 100 soldiers (janissaries) operating 60 cannons. This map, therefore, confirms an exact date (1723 CE) for the inscription now found at the Topkapı Palace. The rendering in the 1738 map can be compared with what survives today on the ground in Sohum. [Figs. 9, 10]  Even though we can safely assume that the fortress underwent even further restorations after its initial construction in the early eighteenth century, the original design is essentially intact, being a rectangular plan with the traces of projecting bastions, or towers, on each corner. 

[10] View of Sohum, 1912. Early color photo by Sergei Prokudin-Gorskii.
Wikipedia, in Public Domain.
The question remains, however, why did Abdülhamid's troops decide to remove the foundation inscription from the fortress at Sohum, and bring it to the imperial capital? As the Hamidian inscription states, the fortress at Sohum had for a long time been in Russian hands, and when the Ottomans briefly won back the castle in 1877, they must have known that their occupation there would only be short-lived. There is a long and proud tradition in the early modern period of military victors displaying the regalia of the losing side, and the Ottomans perhaps feared that once the Russians took back control of the fortress in Sohum that they might deface or destroy the foundation inscription as a symbolic gesture. So, while the sultan's troops in the end could not prevent the ultimate surrender of the castle itself, their one consolation prize was Ahmet III's inscription, which served as a precious testament to more triumphant days on the battlefield. Indeed, in the memorial now at the Topkapı Palace, Abdülhamid II, who was facing what by all accounts was a disastrous military loss, endeavored to make an explicit connection between himself and Ahmed III, who, along with his grand vizier Damat Ibrahim Pasha, was celebrated for his many victories against the Russians. It was hoped that this 18th-century inscription, which lauded viziers who "rendered secure every corner of the world" with fortresses that compared to the "Phoenix at the top of Mount Kaf," might confer some of that triumphal fanfare to the new sultan, who framed his ambitions for the future with a nostalgic monument to the past. 

**Many thanks to Olga Greco for her assistance in locating the Russian archaeological reports for the Sohum fortress; to Nilay Özlü for her advice on bibliography; and to the 2014 Ottoman Epigraphy Course at the Research Center for Anatolian Civilizations, Koç University, where this essay began. 

**Transcription of the Central Plaque recording the 18th-century foundation of the fortress (both translation above and transcription by the author, also see transcription by Necdet Sakaoğlu):

(1) [Ş]ehinşāh-i cihān şevketlu Sulṭān Ahmed gāzi ‖ ki bāb-i devleti İskender ü Dārāya me’vādır
(2) [O] ḫāḳān-ı bülend-i iḳbāl kim ẕāt-ı hümāyūni ‖ kemāl-i ‘izz ü cāh-ı ma’deletle ‘ālemârādır
(3) [O] ḫāḳān-ı güziniñ ṣıhr-ı ḫāṣı ṣadr-ı ‘ālisi ‖ Vezir-i pür-himem Dāmād İbrāhim Pāşādır
(4) Cihānıñ eyleyüb her kūşesin te’min a’dādan ‖ bu semtiñ daḥi oldu çünki emri ḥıfẓına ṣādır
(5) [ya]pıldı himmetiyle bu mu’aẓzam al'a-i muḥkem ‖ ki heybetli sanursenkim ser-i Ḳāf üzre ‘Anḳādır
(6) ḳıla ḥaḳ-ı şehriyār ‘ālemiñ iḳbālini efzūn ‖ ki ẕāt-ı aḳdesi sermāye-i ârām-ı düny[a]dır
(7) […] vezir-i a’ẓamın daḫi ḳıla dā’im ‖ ki bā’iŝ böyle emn ü rāḥata ol ṣadr-ı dānādır

EMILY NEUMEIER is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Pennsylvania, specializing in the art and architecture of the Ottoman world and Modern Turkey.

ALLEN, W.E.D. "Two Georgian Maps of the First Half of the Eighteenth Century." Imago Mundi 10 (1953): pp. 99-121.
BALCI, Ramazan. Sarayın Sırları: Bilinmeyen Yönleriyle Osmanlı Sarayı ve Harem Hayatı. Istanbul: Elit, 2000. pp. 58-59.
FORTNA, Benjamin. "The Reign of Abdülhamid II," in The Cambridge History of Turkey Volume 4: Turkey in the Modern World, Ed. Reşat Kasaba. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University, 2008.
GUNBA, M. M. and Hrushkova L. G. "Raskopki Suhumskoi kreposti." Arheologicheskie otkrytiia v Abhazii 1985. Tbilisi: Mecniereba, 1990.
SAKAOĞLU, Necdet. The Imperial Palace with its History, Locations, Inscriptions and Memoirs (Topkapı Palace). Istanbul: Denizbank, 2002. p. 89.
SHAMBA, G. K. Drevnii Suhum. Sukhumi: Alashara, 2005.

Citation: "Framing Ottoman Epigraphy," Emily Neumeier, Stambouline (March 15, 2015).

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Anıtkabirs That Weren't

The Competition to Design Atatürk's Mausoleum
guest contribution by James Ryan

The winning submission for Anıtkabir from Turkish architects Emin Onat and Orhan Arda. From Arkitekt magazine (1943): “This project is a composition that pleased everyone. It is a plan for a mausoleum inspired by the idea of a rectangular temple and is framed by a sophisticated colonnade. The hall of honor is composed with a monumental volume in order to reach a height appropriate for a common view. The base is plain and drawn in ink, underneath this part more elaborate bas reliefs will be made.”
Anıtkabir Today. Photo by Emily Neumeier, 2013.

When attempting to explain to Americans the significance of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and his legacy in Turkey, I often use the analogy that he is like every US founding father rolled into one. Likewise, Anıtkabir--the mausoleum that houses Atatürk’s coffin, and so much more--is a bit like the Lincoln, Jefferson and Washington monuments put together. This comparison is one I’ve always found helpful, in part because the two sets of monuments roughly share the same architectural flavor, despite Anıtkabir’s vast size. 

Whether as a tourist, tour guide, or historian, I have always found Anıtkabir fascinating, because it is a tremendous example of nationalist myth-making. While the architecture itself can be charitably described as grandiose, it is really the museum, which features exhibitions of Atatürk’s possessions (including a rowing machine and cane-rifle), the war for independence (complete with life-sized diorama of the Sakarya Pitch battle) and era of reforms, that does much of the work of hagiography.

Recently, I have begun investigating how this museum and monument came about, which has resulted in an interesting thought experiment regarding what Anıtkabir could have looked like if the memorial's design committee (formed in the early 1940s) had decided to go in a different direction. Along the way I have also learned that, perhaps unsurprisingly, the competition was subject to the geopolitics of the early years of World War II, as many of the nearly fifty submissions were not only from Turkish architects but also from Germany and Italy. Many of the European submissions came from architects who had already been tapped to build many of the major buildings of the new Turkish capital throughout the 1930s.

The history of this competition has been preserved in the pages of the Turkish journal Arkitekt, which ran a series of articles in 1943 highlighting many of the entries, complete with scale renderings and plans. Below I’ve excerpted some of this journal’s comments on the various entries. The views of Arkitekt’s editors seem to have been independent from the evaluations of the competition committee (for an an in-depth analysis of the politics behind this committee, see Christopher Wilson’s recent monograph, Beyond Anıtkabir, cited below). On the whole, Arkitekt's commentators tended to prefer modernist-nationalist designs across the board, and often took issue with some designs that they felt to be over-orientalizing.

We have compiled here a gallery of nine of the more striking submissions to this competition, taken from the pages of Arkitekt, with short descriptions and reflections. Afterwards is a translation of some the most pertinent competition rules, as published in the magazine:

[1] This entry from German architect Yohannas Krüger features a tiling pattern on the façade that is reminiscent of Persian and Central Asian motifs. Krüger’s submission is markedly more understated than some of his Italian and German counterparts. From Arkitekt: “Architect Y. Krüger’s project is a strong piece of work. While the external architecture is a bit brutal in its effect; the interior is rich. In the architect’s project, the memorial dominates the concept and the hall in which the tomb is placed forms the basis of the mass; the other components such as the [architectural] details remain secondary.”

[2] The first Italian proposal featured in Arkitekt comes from Arnoldo Foschini, who won second prize in the competition. According to Wilson, the Italian Minister of Education praised the entry in a letter to Foschini writing, “Italian architecture, through your appreciated work, has obtained another solemn acknowledgement on foreign soil and in 
competition with artists of other nations.” From Arkitekt: “The external design has a similarly relative volume; the façades are filled with superfluous bas-reliefs. Entering the interior space conjures the spirit of a church; the composition of the hall of honor constitutes a contrast between Turkish and Islamic spiritualism.”

[3] This building is a collaboration by three young Turkish architects, H. Kemalî Söylemezoğlu, Kemal Ahmet Aru and Recal Akçay. The combination of European and Islamic monumental traditions was a favorite of the editors of Arkitektwho praised it by saying, “We think this project is the closest work to the character of Turkish architecture in the competition.” They went on to criticize the exterior’s relative plainness, and somewhat incorrect proportions, but praised the interior, which “...has an effect on our national feelings. Although it comprises a small tomb, together with the designs on the ceiling and side walls and colonnades, it creates a national atmosphere."

[4] The next entry comes from a Swiss architect named Ronald Rohn, and was, according toWilson, meant to evoke the ancient Egyptian funerary complexes at Deir el-Bahari, located on the west bank of the Nile near Luxor. Arkitekt, in agreement with the competition committee, was somewhat dismissive of this entry (Arkitekt even fails to mention Rohn’s name), citing the lack of monumentality, and overall “humbleness” of the design.

[5] Another design from a European, this time the Italian architect Giovanni Muzio, again evokes the monumental architecture of ancient Egypt. Arkitekt enjoyed the way this entry called back to ancient styles of tombs and graves, but thought that the plethora of windows, coupled with the all-concrete hexagonal pyramid could result in a very difficult system of construction.

[6] This entry, also from Italy, comes by way of the architect pair Giuseppe Vaccaro and Gino Franzin. It’s a personal favorite of mine, since the design presents a very bold mid-century modernist outlook and might not have been out of place memorializing any of the prominent authoritarian leaders of that period. Vaccaro himself had just designed a smaller funerary chapel for an industrialist family in Bologna (La Capella Goldoni), which also evoked an oversized sarcophagus. It didn’t impress Arkitekt, however, who’s one-sentence description expressed utter dissatisfaction: “We do not really care for the severity of this project’s classical influence, rather decorative internal design and needlessly difficult construction plan.” 

[7] This entry was submitted by noted Turkish architect Sedat Hakkı Eldem, and is a nod to Anatolian and Persian traditions of kümbet mausoleum architecture with its vaulted dome that is meant to remind one of Seljukid tents. Eldem, according to Wilson, was one of the pioneers of the canonical “Second National Style” in Turkish architecture that represented an attempt to reconcile historical, local, modernist and national forms in a single coherent whole. Arkitekt’s editors were clearly on board with this style, citing that Eldem’s efforts were “...completely Turkish in their influence and inspiration.”

[8] This entry is courtesy of the German architect Clemens Holzmeister, who designed several government buildings in Ankara, including the current Parliament building. The proposed conical pyramid, surprisingly, differs drastically from the more cubic style of Holzmeister’s other buildings, through which he had endeared himself to many in the Turkish government, including the competition committee. The editors of Arkitekt, however, took him to task, asserting that “it is impossible to discern where the external architectural details and descriptions of a monumentality can be found and it does not follow any of the principles of classical works. This personality has been shown to be at work in Holzmeister’s other works.”

[9] Finally we have an proposal that is perhaps the most palatial, evoking both classical monuments and ancient monuments such as the Tower of Babel or Trajan’s Column. It comes from Italian architect Paolo Vietti, who had previously designed Ankara’s Hippodrome and Istanbul’s İnönü Stadium (home to the football club Beşiktaş). Both Arkitekt and the competition committee dismissed this effort because of the awkward mix of styles, and overall lack of clarity.

Competition Rules:

I. The Character of the Monument
 1. Atatürk established the new Turkey in the heart of the greater Turkish nation. On October 11, 1938, on the face of Atatürk’s coffin, who shook off his mortal coil and migrated into eternity, the greatest influence and gratitude of the Turkish nation was wrought. To express the greatness and power of the connection of the Turkish heart, in which lives this great man, his works and possessions, a Great Monument will be erected according to these principles. 
2. The monument will be a place of pilgrimage. This pilgrimage will commence through a large hall of honor and many hundreds of thousands of Turks will be able to repeatedly pass in front of their ATA, while paying their respects, bowing, and feeling their compensation and connection with him. 
3. This monument is ATA’s; Soldier Mustafa Kemal, State President Gazi M. Kemal, great politician and scientist, great thinker, and finally a constructive and creative genius, it’s qualifications will be the epitome of power and ability. And we will find the monument to be commensurate with his personality. 
4. It is necessary that Anıt Kabir’s façade be visible from a great distance. Accordingly it should be provided with a powerful silhouette. At the same time, although it is necessary that the monument’s architectural motifs be visible from afar, we do not want the greatness and power displayed through small details to be lost in favor of the larger elements. The monument must give the impression of being the most dominant in the land. 
5. The Turkish Nation is symbolized by Atatürk’s name and personality. Those who want to pay reverence to the Turkish nation by bowing in front of his catafalque should be allowed to do so. Accordingly, it will be the duty of every visitor to Ankara to go directly to Atatürk’s grave. 
6. For the cost of Anıt Kabir’s service and outbuildings, as well as the arrangement of gardens and parks, their maintenance, internal paths, surrounding walls, three million lira will be allocated, of which two million is intended for the construction of Anıt Kabir.  .......
III. The Hall of Honor 
14. The hall of honor, containing the great Ata’s sarcophagus, necessarily  constitutes the most fundamental part of the spirit of this monument. At the head of this hall the whole Turkish nation should be able to pay their respects along with foreign state visitors. This hall should be able to contain at least 250 visitors. This hall should give the impression of greatness, glory and power to visitors as they leave, and no one should be able to deny its shape, size and elevation. 
15. The place of Atatürk’s coffin constitutes the spirit of this hall. However, the place which the catafalque will occupy is left up to the competition.
16. Aside from this, the six principles accorded to the Republican People’s Party by Atatürk which are the program and symbol of the contemporary, modern Turkey and are represented by the six arrows of the party’s flag consists of these: 
  1. We are Republicans 
  2. We are Nationalists 
  3. We are Populists
  4. We are Revolutionaries
  5. We are Statists
  6.  We are Laicists 
It is necessary that competitors display and represent these six principles in the vicinity of Atatürk’s sarcophagus either on its side or in some appropriately visible area. 
17. Other that these, there should be an accessible, golden book for our dignitaries and distinguished foreign guests who are paying their respects to sign. The space for this book and the signing space is to be determined by the competitors. [This book, the Anıtkabir Özel Defterleri (1953-1999), has now been published in a 23-volume set!]

**Text cited in this post from Arkitekt magazine, numbers 1, 2 and 4 (1943). All translations by James Ryan.

JAMES RYAN is a Ph.D. candidate in the History department at the University of Pennsylvania, focusing on the late Ottoman Empire and the Turkish Republic.

BOZDOĞAN, Sibel. Modernism and Nation Building: Turkish Architectural Culture in the Early Republic. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2001.
ÖZTÜRK, Dilek. "Anıtkabir'in Mimari Gerçekleri," (11 November 2009).
WILSON, Christopher. Beyond Anıtkabir: The Funerary Architecture of Atatürk: The Construction and Maintenance of National Memory. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2013: 65-99.

Citation: "The Anıtkabirs That Weren't," James Ryan, Stambouline (October 5, 2014).

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