ﬁres are burning behind the river—
The Tatars are dividing their captives.
Our village is burnt And our property plundered.
Old mother is sabred
And my dear is taken into captivity.
(a Ukrainian folk-song)
The Crimea, a peninsula on the border between the Christian West and the MuslimEast, was a place where merchants from all over the Black Sea region, East and WestMediterranean, Anatolia, Turkey, Russia, and West European countries came to buy,sell, and exchange their goods. In this trade “live merchandise”—reluctant travellers, seized by the Tatars during their raids to adjacent countries—was one of the mainobjects to be negotiated. Numerous published and archival sources (accounts of Europeanand Ottoman travellers, letters and memoirs of captives, Turkish defters [registers], Russianand Ottoman chronicles to mention some of them) composed by Muslim, Christian, and Jewish authors provide not only a detailed account of the slave trade in the region inthe Early Modern times, but also a discussion of some moral implications related to thissort of commercial activity. While most of the authors expressed their disapproval of theTatar predatory raids and cruel treatment of the captives, none of them, it seems,objected to the existence of the slave trade per se, considering it just another oﬀ shoot of the international trade. Another issue often discussed in the sources was the problem of the slaves’ conversion.
Introduction: a general picture of the slave tradein the Crimea
The CrimeanTatars invaded Slavic lands 38 times from 1654 to 1657; 52,000 peo-ple were seized by the Tatars in the spring of 1655 in the course of araid into the territory of Ukraine and Southern Russia.
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