Geschichte Osteuropas und Südosteuropas




Prof. Dr. Christoph Witzenrath

Christoph Witzenrath focuses on the steppe and its borderlands, and on the influence of nomadic-settled relations and the slave trade on social dependency and political representation. He aims to analyze premodern inner Eurasian societies’ structural and cultural specificities that are often characterized by alternating, instable but strong asymmetric dependency. This frequently led to conditions best described as slaving area. However, in the early modern period there formed various counter dependency zones, such as Poland-Lithuania and Muscovy. Unlike Muslim empires, they enserfed some co-religionists and subjects to guard the polity. Extensive slave raids mainly from the steppe and a relative trickle of ransomed slaves returning from the flourishing empires of the Mediterranean, Middle East and Central Asia influenced Muscovite imperial culture and its evolving redemptive style. Since the 1550s, Muscovy represented itself predominantly as New Israel led out of Egyptian or Tatar slavery by the tsar as Moses. This frequently overlooked, liberationist narrative contributed to dynamism, instability, early censorship and an increasingly autocratic façade of governance in Russia. Earlier research showed how extended periods of negotiations of local Siberian town cossack groups with Moscow and the local governor alternated with limited reprisals, while both safeguarded the global monopoly in luxury furs in a vast frontier. He is also interested in how dependency was expressed in signatures as measure for island literacy.

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