Between Kraków and Istanbul: the art and architecture of the Crimean Khanate as the connecting link between Ottoman and European culture

  • Swietłana Czerwonnaja (Author)

Identifiers (Article)


In the middle of the second millennium AD, Crimea became an outpost of Islamic civilization in south-eastern Europe. Muslim values, Islamic law, morality and aesthetics were at the heart of medieval Crimea: in the system of government, military organization, business, art and culture. However, the relationship between Muslim Crimea and Christian Europe did not deteriorate into opposition, military conflict and religious confrontation. Crimea found allies in eastern and central Europe. These allies were primarily Lithuania and Poland (after the Union of Lublin, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Kingdom of Poland - Rzeczpospolita of both nations, otherwise known as, ‘the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth’). The alliance of the Crimean Khanate with the Polish-Lithuanian state was motivated by the strategic objective of countering Moscovite expansion, which had been aggressively focused towards the east and west ever since the 16th century. This may be seen in the conquest of the Kazan and the Astrakhan Khanates by Ivan the Terrible, his foray into the Nogai prairie and Moscow’s participation in the Livonian War. These strategic objectives resulted in an alliance between Crimea and Turkey. Crimea’s status as a protectorate of the Ottoman Empire was the most important factor in safeguarding the Crimean Tatar state from the Moscovite threat. At the same time, the fact that the Crimean Khanate became a vassal of Porte (the Ottoman Empire) did not result in its losing its political independence and neither did it interfere with the authentic nature and development of Crimean Tatar culture.