On February 9–10 the SMALLST project, in collaboration with the Islamic Studies Institute of the Heidelberg University and the Warsaw Centre for Global History of the University of Warsaw organized a workshop titled Asymmetrical Neighbours: Minor Players and Empires in the Early Modern and Modern Borderlands.

The international collaboration focused on the diplomatic relations between unequal parties on early modern and modern borderlands. The participants shared their contributions relating to several geographic areas and time periods, discovering intersections of their individual research topics in the broader scheme of the event. The SMALLST project was represented by four of its members.


The project’s principal investigator, Gábor Kármán shared his research concerning Transylvania’s diplomatic options and efforts in the 1660–70s. His focus was on the case of the Varad vilayet’s taxation of Transylvanian villages bordering the vilayet, which was, due to the Principality’s state as a tributary, treated by the Porte as quarrels between two sultanic governors. Kármán explored the discourse of legitimation the Transylvanian diplomats mobilized to overcome this problem and balance the situation to protect the small state’s own interests.

Tetiana Grygorieva analyzed the patterns found in Cossack Ukraine’s diplomatic communication, focusing on the language of ceremonies and procedures that accompanied Cossack hetmans accepting various protectors over them, including a more direct language of the related correspondence. She described communication patterns characteristic of the emerging Cossack diplomacy, specifically through conflicts and misunderstandings that arose in the diplomatic processes.


The political language came to the focus of Natalia Królikowska-Jedlińska’s presentation as well, who shared her findings regarding an archival collection of letters found in the Hauptstaatsarchiv in Dresden, containing correspondence of the Crimean Khans and Ottoman, as well as Polish officials, during the years 1712–1714. The letters show the importance of linguistic choices, the ways actors utilized the diplomatic language, and the roles translators could play in interstate negotiations.

Lovro Kunčević addressed some important questions regarding the method the Republic of Ragusa used to balance its status on the intersection of the Ottoman, Spanish, and Venetian possessions. Kunčević’s research explored how the city-state operated its espionage network, how it utilized and distributed the gained information, and how it resolved situations when its dealings came to light.

The rest of the papers presented at the workshop focused on further questions regarding diplomacy on imperial borderlands, ranging from the Early Modern period to the 20th century. This provided the participants with the opportunity to work on a methodological framework encompassing eras and space.

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