This article examines the so-called “White Russian” refugees, an important yet little-studied community, and their employment in early republican Turkey. Fleeing from the Bolshevik Revolution, refugees from Russia connected the two shores of the Black Sea by offering their expertise and knowledge in a number of fields in their host country. Russian refugees served as a source of skilled labor, and they functioned as agents of Turkey’s economic, industrial, and cultural transformation. Russian ballerinas took to the stage in important ceremonies while Russian chefs opened the first European-style restaurants in Turkey’s new capital, Ankara. Moreover, a significant number of Russian engineers worked in some of the most important industrial enterprises and trained Turkish technicians, a much-needed workforce as the country launched an ambitious industrialization program in the interwar years. Russian refugees not only filled the skilled-labor gap, but they also trained apprentices in their professions, transferring their knowledge to locals. In the end, the interaction between Russian refugees and their host society sheds new light into Turkish modernization, which was a multipolar process and was inspired by different models, rather than a single role model.
Following the life and movements of a well-connected Ottoman Orthodox in the Russian Empire, this article seeks to contribute towards an understanding of the ways in which individuals and groups from the Black Sea region were incorporated into the business and statecraft of empire. Alexander Levantinos, a technician from Gümüşhane, in the Pontus or Black Sea region of Anatolia, serves as a characteristic example of Pontic iterant miners, moving within the Russian and Ottoman Empires and the territories in-between in search of new veins to exploit. Initially intending to search for copper in Russia, Levantinos was eventually granted permission to move to the region of Nerchinsk, where he established silver mines and transferred the necessary skills for silver mining to local workers. Simultaneously, he was engaged in trade with China. Levantinos’ biography demonstrates the overlap between state service, craftsmanship, and trade in Russia of the early eighteenth century. The tension between the transfer of skills and commercial transaction as an autonomous sphere, and transfer and exchange as embedded in a range of power relationships is central to Levantinos’ achievement. This tension should serve to underline the degree to which actors such as Levantinos contributed to the expansion of the simultaneously “minimalist” and “activist” Russian state, an expansion from which they benefited.
In his contribution, Forestier-Peyrat revisits the history of the Black Sea during Cold War, a period normally neglected by scholars of the region. Specifically, he attempts to synthesize two trends in modern Black-Sea historiography: an earlier genre of scholarship that emphasized geopolitical rivalries, and a more recent trend that has highlighted cultural and economic exchange. He argues for the existence of a permanent equilibrium between the two facets of realpolitik and culture. In the Black Sea region, conflicts, forced migrations and military tensions were simultaneously parts of a geopolitical horizon and elements of daily life for local populations. Official attempts to redefine the political geography of the region, through the promotion of tourism or the cutting off of trade, for example, were necessarily implemented in conversation with local memories of mobility or rivalry. In a conclusion, Forestier-Peyrat argues that the tension between local and geopolitical during the Cold War has not reached a clear resolution.
During the nineteenth century, the Russian settlement of Rostov and the Armenian colony of Nakhichevan on Don slowly merged into a single urban and economic space. This contribution analyses how these increasingly entangled communities negotiated conflicts and to what extent disputes about trading opportunities and state privileges shaped their urban identities. On the empire’s periphery, Armenians, Russians and Cossacks framed their positions with narratives of soslovie, class or religious belonging, until the beginning of the Great Reforms, when the state increasingly levelled differences in administration and economy and growing national sentiments increasingly altered multiethnic communal life.