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There will be three short papers all addressing shifts in political, military or cultural frontiers in the Balkans in the 18th or 19th centuries, as follows:

Hard Border Controls Safeguard Mobility? The Habsburg Sanitary Cordon in the Eighteenth Century (Jovan Pešalj)

In recent years, external border checks are used to restrict mobility. Walls are built, fences erected, travelers are closely monitored, with an aim to decrease migration numbers or exclude certain categories of migrants. The presentation takes us back to the eighteenth century, to the Habsburg-Ottoman border, where first permanent and systematic border checks were established already in the 1720s in the form of a sanitary cordon. Analyzing migrant lists from Habsburg border stations, in particular from Pančevo and Mehadia in the province of Banat, the presentation argues that the original purpose of border controls was to ensure free flow of people and goods even in times of epidemics, and that this goal was pursued with a reasonable success.

Bordering Empires: The Making of the Bessarabian Borderland in the Post-Crimean War Context  (Constantin Ardeleanu)

By August 1856, peace in Europe seemed to depend on the fate of the small town of Bolgrad, now in southwestern Ukraine. The Crimean War had just ended, and through the Paris Peace Treaty signed in March 1856 imperial Russia accepted a border change in its southern province of Bessarabia, to the benefit of Moldavia, a vassal state of the Ottoman Empire. This paper will historicise the construction of the Bessarabian border, both during the delimitation and demarcation phase of its making. It will refer to the circulation of knowledge and the role of expertise, starting from the example of Charles Gordon, a young military engineer working under Colonel Edward Stanton, the British delegate in the international border commission appointed by Europe’s powers.

Bosnian Muslims between the Habsburg and Ottoman Empires (Leyla Amzi-Erdogdular)
This paper will focus on the case of Bosnia Herzegovina after the Berlin Congress, 1878. Overlap of Habsburg rule and Ottoman legal sovereignty shaped the considerations of diplomatic and political relevance, including international conventions on occupation, sovereignty, minority protections, and migration. Shifting borders and an ambiguous legal boundary created space for Bosnian Muslim agency. Bosnian Muslims – native Balkan Slavs – navigated the Ottoman and Habsburg realms, developing a relationship with the new authorities in Vienna and transforming their interactions with Istanbul and the rest of the Muslim world. Observed more broadly, intersection, transregional connections, and networks across empires deconstruct the geohistorical boundaries between Europe and “the east” and complicate discussions of Muslim cultural and religious compatibilities still current in Europe. 

All welcome- this seminar is free to attend but advance registration is required.