Reclaiming Byzantium: Russia, The Ottoman Empire and the Politics of Archaeology in the Ninteenth Century
In the last decades of the 19th century, there was an increasing number of Russian scholars who studied Byzantine antiquities in Ottoman territories. This academic interest was facilitated by an institutional framework, as the Imperial Academy of Sciences, universities, and scholarly societies at home and abroad provided funds for research in disciplines such as history, archaeology and art history. In addition to benefitting from the framework of existing institutions, Russian scholars were also instrumental in the establishment of new ones, such as the Russian Archaeological Institute in Istanbul. The institute was established in 1895 and operated until the outbreak of the First World War in 1914. Focusing nearly exclusively on Byzantine and Slavic antiquities in the Ottoman Empire and in the newly independent Balkan states, the activities of the institute reflected the imperial identity of Russia at the turn of the century. On the other hand, starting from the mid-19th century, the Ottoman Empire closely monitored foreign archaeological activities on its territories to protect its vulnerable sovereignty. The institute assumed important responsibilities in Russian-occupied regions during the First World War, but its activities came to a halt with the Bolshevik Revolution. Therefore, the history of the institute provides a lens through which we can analyse Russian foreign policy on the eve of First World War and the historical transformation the war caused in both Russia and Turkey.