Gemil, Romanians and Ottomans in the XIVth – XVIth centuries
Annotation author: Chiriluş, Oana-Andreea
Book author: Gemil, Tahsin

Tahsin Gemil, Romanians and Ottomans in the XIVth – XVIth centuries, Bukarest 2009

Romanians and Ottomans in the XIVth – XVIth centuries [Românii şi Otomanii în secolele XIV-XVI] was first published in 1991 in Romanian at the Romanian Academy Publishing House [Editura Academiei Române] in Bucharest. It was first meant to be a series of five volumes, and at the time it was the first research project of such a dimension that focused entirely on the Romanian-Ottoman relations. The author of this book, Tahsin Gemil, is a history professor at “Babeş-Bolyai” Universit,y and since 2008 he is also the director of the Institute of Turkology and Central Asian Studies at the same University in Cluj-Napoca. He is one of the few Romanian experts in the history of the Ottoman Empire. Tahsin Gemil has made major contributions to the studies of Romanian-Ottoman relations.

The Romanian Academy awarded this book with the “Nicolae Iorga” Prize for History and the Cultural Foundation of the Magazin Istoric journal also awarded it with it’s “Radu Rosetti” Prize. Due to its high demand, it was reedited in 2008 and published by Ovidius University Press, Constanța. The changes brought to the second edition are more about its form rather than its content. Remus Bejan and Paul Sanders translated the book into English for the Encyclopaedia Publishing House [Editura Enciclopedică], Bucharest, in 2009.

The three chapters of this volume approach the first two centuries of Romanian-Ottoman relations from a legal-political-economic perspective based on a meticulous study of the sources. The book debuts with a presentation of the complex legal framework of the Romanian Principalities’ relations with the Ottoman Empire during the 14th-16th centuries. The following chapter is dedicated to the political aspects of their relations, while the third and last part of the book deals with the economic aspects of Romanian-Ottoman interactions.

The author’s main argument is that the changing nature of the Romanian-Ottoman relations is a reflection of the multiple strategies used by the Moldavian and Wallachian princes in order to protect and maintain the territorial integrity of their states. In the beginning, the Danubian Principalities put up a military resistance to the Ottoman expansion in the Balkans. However, they soon realised that military actions had to give way to diplomacy. By the end of the 15th century, they came to accept the suzerainty of the Porte in exchange for an extensive autonomy. This ‘new form of resistance’, as the author calls it, prevented the Moldavians and Wallachians from suffering the fate of the other Orthodox peoples in the region (Bulgarians, Serbs, Greeks and Albanians) as they managed to preserve their political autonomy, territories and cultural identity, while the Turks were not allowed to build mosques north of the Danube nor to own any properties there. Still, this came at a high price. The resources of the two states were put to the Ottoman Empire’s disposal.

Tahsin Gemil’s work stands out due to the abundance of Turkish sources used which often represent new evidence for this area of research. By conducting a thorough investigation of the Romanian and Turkish sources, Gemil manages to shed light on some extremely complicated aspects of the relations between the Romanian Principalities and the Ottoman Porte. He offers to the general audience a differentiated perspective on the relations between the Romanian space and the Ottoman Empire, untouched by the romanticized image of the bravery of the Romanian people so specific to the communist era, which still persists. Even after so many years since it was first published, Romanians and Ottomans in the XIVth – XVIth centuries remains to this day a fundamental work for the study of the Moldavian and Wallachian interactions with the Ottoman Empire.

Oana Chiriluș

GRK 2304