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Hamit Bozarslan, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris,Cengiz Gunes, The Open University, Milton Keynes,Veli Yadirgi, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London
This chapter argues that one of the longest-surviving forms of local, indirect administration that actually predated the Ottomans were the Kurdish emirates. In most parts of the empire, the Ottomans, like the European governments, for example, relied on a system of indirect rule whereby the local magnates recognized the ruler’s suzerainty. The rise of the modern state and the expansion of its institutions diminished the need for what might be called a symbiotic relationship between the imperial centre and the peripheral power-holders like the Kurdish aristocracy. This practice of ending local autonomies, whereby central states abandoned their ‘confederal organization’ during widespread civil wars, allowed them to replace decentralized structures of politics with administratively and territorially cohesive regimes (Maier, 2006: 43). In Ottoman Kurdistan, the process of centralization and replacing the indirect rule of the Kurdish aristocracy with the direct rule of the government appointees was made possible by a parallel development: the making of the Ottoman-Iranian boundaries and the permanent division of Kurdistan that has been evolving for quite some time. The elimination of Kurdish dynasts, who hitherto held power at the borderland, facilitated the making of the boundary even as the making of the boundary facilitated their elimination.
Using a plethora of hitherto unused and under-utilized sources from the Ottoman, British and Iranian archives, Ottoman-Iranian Borderlands traces seven decades of intermittent work by Russian, British, Ottoman and Iranian technical and diplomatic teams to turn an ill-defined and highly porous area into an internationally recognized boundary. By examining the process of boundary negotiation by the international commissioners and their interactions with the borderland peoples they encountered, the book tells the story of how the Muslim world's oldest borderland was transformed into a bordered land. It details how the borderland peoples, whose habitat straddled the frontier, responded to those processes as well as to the ideas and institutions that accompanied their implementation. It shows that the making of the boundary played a significant role in shaping Ottoman-Iranian relations and in the identity and citizenship choices of the borderland peoples.