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OTTOMAN ARCHIVES

The Ottoman archives represent an invaluable source for the history of no les than 26 independent states that emerged from the Ottoman Empire. These states are geographically dispersed in the Balkans, the Near East, the Middle East, the Mediterranean, the Caucuses and North Africa. Any serious historian who investigates these states and the events that took place, needs to refer to the Ottoman archives for treaties, border disputes, inheritance, titles and privileges, trusts, gifts, charitable and religious foundations (vakif), court documents, land deeds, applicable laws, historical demographics, tax, crops and military records, official correspondence etc. The official language of the archives is exclusively Ottoman Turkish; all foreign diplomats were required to use only Ottoman Turkish for their official correspondence. Almost all documents are hand written.

Turks have always considered the archives as a national treasure. It is for this reason that the archives were called “Hazine-i Evrak” which literally translates as Treasury of Records. The archives are estimated to hold more than 150 million documents. Only about a quarter of them are yet classified and computerized. The Ottoman archives are open to all researches of the world although there are practical difficulties in gaining access due to the shear volume of material and their age going back many hundreds of years. Today it is estimated that about 32 million records are accessible to all researchers, 20 million of which are in registration books and 12 million as separate items. The classification method is based on the model of the Hungarian historian and archivist Fekete.

The Ottoman archives represent a premier contribution of Turkish people to the world history and heritage. They hold the key to the fair resolution of many ethic and national struggles raging today from Bosnia in Balkans to Armenia and Azerbaijan in Caucuses and from Crimea to Palestine and Kuwait in Middle East. They also hold the true and unambiguous answers to campaigns of hate and misinformation funded by some ethic lobbies and waged in the western media which tends to be hopelessly ignorant of non-western cultures and their contribution to human thought and history but nevertheless always in the look out anybody who claims to be an innocent victim.

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