Turkish Empress. How Roksolana and other Ukrainian wives of sultans ruled the Ottoman Empire
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Roksolana is a manipulator, a sorceress and an experienced politician. Today, according to researcher Alexandra Shutko, she could become a coach in matters of relations between men and women.
A new book by Alexandra Shutko “The Harem of the Ottoman Sultans. The Epoch of the Women's Sultanate” has appeared on the shelves of Ukrainian stores. This is a book about the sultans who had a significant impact on the politics of the Ottoman Empire. The first in their line is the legendary Ukrainian Roksolana, she is Alexandra Anastasia Lisowska Sultan (1502–1558), one of the most popular historical heroines in Ukraine.
Of the 11 books written by Shutko, most are about Roksolana, who, being a concubine, became a powerful ruler. But what is the originality of Shutko's view? The fact that we trust Ukrainian sources about Roksolana too much, while she almost did not live in Ukraine: according to some reports, a native of Rohatyn, Nastya Lisovskaya, was captured by the Crimean Tatars as a nine-year-old girl, and then presented to the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire Suleiman the Magnificent. She thought jokingly: who is Alexandra Anastasia Lisowska considered in Turkey – the country where she spent almost her entire life.
It turned out that there are two extremes in the view of the popular sultana: in our country they look at her almost as a national heroine and patriot of Ukraine, and in Turkey, as an intriguer who undermined the foundations of the Ottoman Empire. The truth, as always, is in the middle.
You said that you were carried away by the personality of Roksolana from childhood. What was the impetus?
– A novel by Pavel Zagrebelny about this sultana. And also – the Ukrainian series about Roksolana, played by Olga Sumskaya. In my youth, I read the studies of Polish, Russian, Ukrainian historians about Roksolana, but I understood that she spent her entire adult life in Istanbul. Therefore, I wanted to know what local researchers wrote about her. For this, I completed Turkish language courses in Kyiv. Then she went to Turkey for holidays and excursions, where she bought books about Roksolana and her descendants.
Having collected enough information from Turkish sources, I decided to acquaint Ukrainian readers with it. Therefore, she wrote the book “Roksolana: Myths and Realities”, which went through two editions in Ukraine in a year, and in 2017 was published in Turkish translation in Istanbul.
You point out that in your In letters to the Sultan, Roksolana wished him “to defeat the despicable and disgusting infidels [Christians] in military campaigns.” This does not at all coincide with the perception of Roksolana by Ukrainians as a victim of Ottoman captivity and a Ukrainian patriot. Didn't she, the daughter of an Orthodox priest from Rohatyn, make any attempts to support Christians?
– Roksolana surrounded herself with servants, translators, mentors of sons from the Kingdom of Poland, that is, fellow countrymen. True, not by Ukrainians, but by immigrants from the Polish gentry, who, like her, were captured by the Crimean Tatars and ended up in Istanbul. They helped her to establish diplomatic relations with the Polish king Sigismund II. Roksolana did not advertise her origin – she was a commoner who found herself in childhood or adolescence (it is not known exactly) in captivity. In letters to the Hungarian queen, she called herself the Empress of the Turks, and the Polish king addressed her as “Your Royal Highness.”
How skillfully she manipulated the Sultan's opinion, using the formula “Would you like to think ?” In my opinion, modern Ukrainian women could use a similar technique to get what they want from their faithful.
“This is a skillful tactic in dealing with a man. If you follow the whole path of Roksolana from a slave to the wife of Sultan Suleiman, you can see such a picture. At first, a miniature red-haired 15-year-old girl with a sweet smile on her lips liked Sultan Suleiman, who at that time was 26 years old. In a place like a harem, she chose the tactics of the victim, who was bullied by her competitors. So, when the mother of the eldest son of the Sultan, Mustafa, the daughter of the Circassian prince Mahidevran, attacked her with fists, Roksolana did not resist. The Sultan, seeing the scratched face of the tearful favorite and the torn out tuft of red hair, was moved. Having learned who beat her, he wanted to put Makhidevran out of the harem. But his mother, Hafsa, also a Circassian, stood up for her. Then Roksolana violated the principle of “one mother – one son”, giving birth to Sultan Suleiman's daughter and five sons, one of whom, Selim II, ascended the throne.
“Ukrainian mothers of sultans gathered around them fellow countrymen and cemented these unions with bribery. Therefore, they accumulated untold wealth. In Ukraine, presidents also like to put fellow countrymen and friends in leadership positions”
After the death on March 19, 1534, the mother of Sultan Suleiman, Hafsa, Roksolana, armed with the Koran, complained to the Sultan that, being a slave, she could not do good deeds (build mosques, schools, hospitals and fountains in Mecca, Medina and Istanbul). He freed her from slavery. Having become a free Muslim woman, Roksolana could not have extramarital affairs. So she advised Suleiman to marry her contrary to tradition. Indeed, after the conquest of Constantinople in 1453, the Ottoman sultans lived with their concubines without marriage.
This style of manipulation can also be seen in her intimate correspondence with Sultan Suleiman, who went on conquest campaigns every year. Once he gave her 5 thousand florins, which (in today's money) is about 735 thousand dollars, as well as a hair from his beard. Roksolana lyrically responded to this: “For me, one hair from your beard is more expensive than not only 5 thousand, but also & nbsp; 100 thousand & nbsp; florins.” Such an answer touches any man.
In this regard, modern Ukrainian women have a lot to learn from Roksolana. Today she would be a successful coach (laughs). I could conduct mega-popular courses “How to marry a sultan” or “How to breed an oligarch for money.” She has no shortage of experience in this matter, because in the 16th century she became the richest woman in the Ottoman Empire.
Information is everything
< strong>They say that when other Ukrainian women entered the harem, Roksolana sent them out of there under various pretexts so that she would not have competitors. Is this true?
– Such a case was described by the Venetian ambassador in Istanbul Bragadin. When some dignitary gave Sultan Suleiman two beautiful Ukrainian women – one to him and the other – to his mother, Roksolana was upset, because she considered them competitors in the harem. Therefore, sobbing, she begged the Sultan to expel the countrywomen from the palace. And he listened to her: he returned one Ukrainian to a dignitary, and married another. Roksolana swore to the Sultan that she would die of jealousy. At that time, such behavior of the Sultan, who catered to one woman in the harem, was unheard of.
How great was the role of Roksolana as an intriguer in the execution of Suleiman's eldest son – Mustafa?< /p>
– Mustafa also did not sit idly by. At the age of 38, he began to find adherents among dignitaries, the military, and even the rulers of Venice and Iran. This became known to Roksolana thanks to her son-in-law, Grand Vizier Rustem. She actually married him to the only daughter from Sultan Suleiman, Mihrimah. Rustem was from Croats, whose ancestors lived in eastern Galicia. When he was still serving as a groom for Sultan Suleiman, Roksolana, contrary to protocol, often talked with him. The British King Henry VIII, having learned that Sultan Suleiman married his beloved daughter to a groom, burst out laughing. But such were the traditions of the Ottomans. The sultans did not marry their daughters to the rulers of neighboring states, but only to their subjects.
Information helped Roksolana gain great influence on the executive power in the Sultan's palace. She controlled every step of the competitors, including the heir to the throne, Mustafa. It is not surprising that Sultan Suleiman also found out about his collusion with the enemy, the Iranian Shah Tahmasp, in order to get the Ottoman throne. Enlisting the support of the mufti, he executed the eldest son Mustafa, and then his descendant, 7-year-old Mehmed.
You write that Roksolana violated many foundations of the Ottoman Empire. The Turks point out that she laid the foundations of the female sultanate, which, according to the Turkish historian Ahmet Refik Altynai, caused the decline of the Ottoman Empire, they say, nepotism flourished in the sultanate. Doesn't this remind modern Ukraine, when the top leaders give everything to the inner circle, and nothing to the rest?
– Indeed, Roksolana was the founder of such a phenomenon as the female sultanate, when for more than a hundred years the women of the sultans influenced the policy of the state. For the first time, in 1609, the Venetian ambassador in Istanbul, Ottaviano Bon, spoke about this. The followers of Roksolana in the 17th century became stronger due to the fact that their sons ascended the throne at a young age. The youngest sultan was 6-year-old Mehmed IV, whose mother, Ukrainian Hatice Turhan, actually ruled the Ottoman Empire on his behalf. The mothers of the sultans gathered allies around them, as a rule, countrymen, and sealed these alliances with bribery. Therefore, they owned untold wealth.
In Ukraine, presidents also like to put their fellow countrymen and friends in leadership positions. All of them, having received power, begin to enrich themselves. As for the Ottomans, mature men became sultans in the 18th century, so their mothers stopped actively intervening in politics. Despite this, the decline of the Ottoman Empire only intensified.
The son of Roksolana, sultan Selim II, was not a very good statesman because of his addiction to alcohol, he was nicknamed Selim the Drunkard. They say he conquered one of the islands just because they made great wine there, right?
– Rumors about his alcoholism are exaggerated. I would call Selim II an aesthete who loved wine, beautiful women and poetry. During his reign, the Ottomans continued their conquests, although there were failures, like the lost battle of Lepanto.
Was Roksolana interested in military issues or her main passion -internal affairs, showdowns in the harem and around the throne?
– In letters to Suleiman, Roksolana asked about his successes at the front. She was interested in whether he captured Shah Tahmasp or at least his children, reported on the battle for Tunisia won by the Ottoman fleet. Also, curses regularly fell on the head of Shah Tahmasp from her. Roksolana was involved in foreign policy intrigues – she participated in the warm welcome in Istanbul of the younger brother of Shah Tahmasp, Alkas Mirza, who, with the support of the Sultan, tried to seize power in Iran.
“Roksolana surrounded herself servants – translators, tutors of sons from the Kingdom of Poland, that is, countrymen. True, not Ukrainians, but immigrants from the Polish gentry “
There is a version that it was she who initiated the idea to invite the first Ukrainian hetman Dmitry Vyshnevetsky to Istanbul. So she tried to annoy the Polish king, who, after assurances of friendship with Sultan Suleiman, married the daughter of his enemy Ferdinand I of Habsburg.
How did she know about the practice of concluding peace agreements of the Ottoman Empire, in which she participated? Is it true that one of the points of such a contract was to weaken the attacks of the Crimean Khan on Polish lands? And could the Crimean Khan disobey such instructions?
– The participation of Roksolana in the conclusion of peace agreements is dictated by the will of Suleiman. Yes, one of the conditions for peace with the Poles was the non-attack of the Crimean Tatars on the Kingdom of Poland. But the Tatars were in no hurry to adhere to such a ban. And then there was the army of Dmitry Vishnevetsky got into the habit of robbing the border lands with the Ottoman Empire. There is evidence that for this Sultan Suleiman instructed the Crimean Khan to attack in response.
Roksolana is an intellectual sorceress
How solid are the suspicions Turkish historians accusing Roksolana of witchcraft?
– Roksolana's contemporaries really called her a witch who bewitched Sultan Suleiman with love charms. In this, she was allegedly helped by a maidservant, a Karaite woman from Crimea, Trongilla, who prepared a love potion. She served as a sorceress for Suleiman's mother, Hafse. In addition to treatment, she settled all her financial and diplomatic affairs outside the palace. Then Roksolana provided the same assistance.
Can Roksolana be briefly described as a beautiful, sexy, strong-willed and pragmatic intellectual predator? Isn't this the type we see in the behavior of Yulia Tymoshenko, who constantly tried to use her feminine charm to solve political issues? in the harem they called Alexandra Anastasia Lisowska (laughing, cheerful). She learned there the Ottoman language, Arabic, Farsi, read the Koran, wrote poetry, knew ancient Greek mythology.
As for Tymoshenko, in one American tabloid I somehow happened to read an article where she was compared with Roksolana. Femininity, cunning and willpower are what unites her with the Ukrainian sultana. I was pleased that a year ago, Yulia Vladimirovna, among the books she read in quarantine, also indicated mine – “Women's Sultanate: Power and Love”.
To what extent do Ukrainian women see their ideal in Roksolan?
– I think our women are attracted by the success story of a countrywoman in the patriarchal state – the Ottoman Empire. After all, the fame of Roksolana has not subsided for 500 years.
Principles and traditions of the Ottoman Empire, which Sultan Suleiman I the Magnificent (1494–1566) violated for the sake of Roksolana (1494–1566)
• From one mother – one son. Roksolana bore him six children: five sons and a daughter
• Sultan Suleiman first married a commoner. Previously, Ottoman sultans married only the daughters of Christian rulers and leaders of neighboring Turkic tribes. After the conquest of Constantinople, there was no need for political alliances, therefore, the sultans cohabited with the concubines of the harem. Roksolana became the legal wife of the Sultan
• she left the Old Palace, where the Sultan's harem was located, and moved with her children to New (Topkapi) – the residence of the Sultan
• Roksolana became the founder of mosques, hammams
• Being a commoner from birth, Roksolana conducted diplomatic correspondence with the monarchs of Europe and Asia. They called her queen
• Roksolana became the founder of such a phenomenon in Ottoman Empire, as a female sultanate
• Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent lived with her in a monogamous marriage until her death and did not marry again
• over the grave of Roksolana Sul heyman erected a luxurious tomb. She became the first wife of the Sultan, buried in a separate mausoleum
• Selim II, the son of Roksolana and Suleiman, ascended the throne in 1566 – although he was third in line to the throne