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TRANS-BLACK SEA SLAVE TRADE  SAQALIBA SLAVE HUNTING
ONE OF THE GREATEST ATROCITIES IN HISTORY

Central and Eastern European slaves were generally known as Saqaliba (صقالبة Siqlabi i.e. Slavs). The slaves were captured in southern Russia, Poland-Lithuania, Moldavia, Wallachia, and Circassia by Tatar horsemen in a trade known as the "harvesting of the steppe". In Polish Podole alone, about one-third of all the villages were destroyed or abandoned between 1578 and 1583. Some researchers estimate that altogether more than 3 millions people were captured and enslaved during the time of the Crimean Khanate. Cf.  All Polish-Lithuanian territory in 1580 - 865 000 sq. kms (the most Tatars invaded lands: Podole - 19.9 sq. kms, Braclaw - 59.5 sq. kms, Kiev  - 200.0 sq. kms, Wolyn - 40.8 sq. kms, Ruskie - 55.2 sq. kms). All Polish-Lithuanian territory in 1634 - 990 000 sq. kms.  All Polish-Lithuanian population in 1680 - 11 millions. All Polish-Lithuanian population  in 1790 - after the first partition, estimated 8.6 millions (the most Tatars invaded lands: Podole - 574 000, Braclaw - 945 000, Kiev - 647 000, Wolyn - 838 000, Ruskie - 131 000).
The Central and Eastern European Slavic slaves were cruelly treated: tortured, mutilated, forced to work in inhuman conditions, sadistically killed when found useless. The abducted Slavic children, adolescents and women were condemned to be brutally and systematically raped to satisfy lust of their owners.

 


"The Black Sea and the Crimea occupied an important place as a major slave supplier for the Mediterranean World as is described in the earliest of recorded history until early modern times. In the Middle Ages, with the establishment of Italian trading colonies in the Crimea after the Fourth Crusade of 1204 and the incorporation of the northern shores of the Black Sea into the Mongol Empire (the Kipchak Khanate) by the mid-13th century, slave trade in this area became remarkably active. In the 14th and 15th centuries Kaffa (Caffa), a Genoese colony in the Crimea, and Tana, a Venetian one on the Azov Sea, were the most flourishing slave-markets, and the most active slave-export ports from the Black Sea. During these centuries, a massive number of the Tatars, Circassians, and Russians were transported as slaves to the Byzantine Empire, Italy, France, Spain, and Egypt by the Genoese, Venetian and Islamic slave-traders. Slave transportation from the Black Sea by Italians had a great influence on the history of the Mediterranean world in the Middle Ages. For example, without their activity the Mameluke Dynasty doubtlessly could neither have emerged nor existed in the history of Egypt at this period. (...) Only in the second half of 15th century, especially after the time when the Ottomans conquered the Byzantine Empire in 1453, expelling the Italians from the Black Sea and establishing their control over the Crimean Tatars in 1475, the traditional slave trade which had been held by the Italians was transferred to the hands of Islamic merchants. Although Muslim merchants replaced the Italians as the major slave traders in the Black Sea, slave trade itself in the area kept on flourishing after 1475 as well. Only the slave source noticeably changed after that time. While the Italians controlled the markets in the Black Sea, they were not slave hunters, but, as a rule, slave buyers from the surrounding lands, such as those of the Tatars, Circassians and the Russians and others. Since the time when the Ottomans and the Crimean Tatars had dominated the area, the latter’s military campaigns and raids for captives became a major source of slaves. Although the Crimean Tatars had been acquainted with agriculture and an urban way of life by the 16th century, they retained their traditional nomadic skills and abilities to move quickly and quietly across the steppe, had an open hostility toward the Christian population, and were inherently disdainful of peasants. From the beginning of the 16th century until the end of 17th century the Crimean Tatar raider bands made almost annual forays into agricultural Slavic lands searching for captives to sell as slaves. As many scholars recognize the slave trade was the most important basis for the Crimean Tatar economy in the 16th and 17th centuries. During these centuries, the Crimean Khanate remained the main supplier of Slavic slaves, almost all of which were captured in southern Poland or Muscovite Russia, and brought back to the Crimea by their raiders. (...) In the 220 years from 1468 to 1794, A. Fisher enumerates about sixty occasions where the Tatars raided either southern Poland or Muscovite Russia and returned to the Crimea with a large number of captives. (The largest was 400,000 captives in1676). However, as he himself suggests in the same paper, the most frequent and the most usual raider bands were small ones and captured less than 30 persons at a time. B. Baranowski, a Polish historian, states that Poland lost one million of its population in all the years combined from 1494 to 1694. On the other hand, A. A. Novosel’skii, a Soviet historian, estimates in his book that the Russian people captured by the Tatars in the 40 years in the first half of 17th century were about 200,000.
 (...) The captured people usually were forced to make a long march on foot and in chains to the Crimea, and many of them died on the way. Fearing military attempts to get back the captives by the Russian army or by Cossack parties, the Tatar raiding bands hurried on their way to the Crimea, and ill or wounded captives were usually killed. S. Herberstein, an ambassador from the Emperor of Germany to Muscovy in the first half of 16th century, wrote that in 1521 “He [Mohammed Giray: Crimian Khan 1515-23] took with him from Muscovy so great a multitude of captives as would scarcely be considered credible; they say the number exceeded eight hundred thousand, part of whom he sold in Kaffa to the Turks, and part he slew. The old and infirmed men, who will not fetch much at a sale, are given up to the Tatar youths, either to be stoned, or to be thrown into the sea, or to be killed by any sort of death they might please.” The Crimean raiders have to hand over ten percent of their human booty to the government as a kind of custom tax at the frontier of the Crimean Khanate. Most captives were usually driven to Kaffa, the largest slave market of the Crimea under the direct administration of the Ottoman Empire, and were sold there to the slave merchants of Greek, Jewish, Armenian and Muslim origin.24 These merchants bought in bulk Slavic captives from the Crimean raiders, and classified them into many categories according to their sex, age, ability or skill, and then sold them individually to local buyers, or again in large numbers to slave-traders in order to export them to the Ottoman Empire or to Iran. In the 1570s close to 20,000 slaves a year were being sold in Kaffa, and according to Beauplan, a French officer who served in Poland and visited Kaffa in the mid-17th century, there were nearly 30,000 slaves to be sold in 1648. He described Kaffa as follows: “In the city there are not many Tatars, there live chiefly Christians who keep in their hands many slaves which have been purchased from the Tatars, who had plundered and seized them in Poland or in Muscovy. This city has twelve Greek churches, thirty-two Armenian churches, and a Catholic church; St. Peter’s. In the city there are probably five or six thousand households, but we find here over 30,000 slaves.” Nearly seventy percent of the slaves sold in Kaffa were driven onto ships and dispatched to Istanbul. A voyage of ten days brought them to the capital of the Ottoman Empire. When they arrived, the Ottoman officials first examined the new “cargos” and chose the best slaves: the most beautiful women for the sultan’s harem, the most handsome and the strongest men for his palace service. The remaining ones were purchased either by the government for navy, or by the slave merchants of Istanbul, all of whom were of Jewish origin and who were organized into a guild. Buyers of slaves came to here from all parts of the Empire, Egypt, Anatolia, Western Europe, Africa and Iran. Not only the government but also individual nobles and officials purchased Slavic slaves as their suite and for use in domestic tasks. Some Slavic slaves converted to Islam and rose to a high position within the Ottoman government, but they are few and the exception. As mentioned above, the largest number of the Russian slaves were purchased by the government and used as galley slaves. There was only one advantage for the galley slaves and that was a greater possibility for escape. A Cossack captured by the Tatars served on a galley of the Kaffa Bey for seven years, but was fortunately freed by a Cossack raid. He later testified that 260 Russian slaves were serving on his galley. The famous leader of a rebellion during the Time of Troubles, Ivan Bolotnikov, before being a rebel, was also taken prisoner by the Crimean Tatars and was sold into slavery in the Ottoman Empire, where he served as a galley slave for some years. But when a German ship captured his galley, Bolotnikov was freed and went to Venice. From Venice he made his way to Russia via Poland and later became the leader of the rebellion.  Vasilii Polozov, a lesser gentry (deti boiarskii) who served under Governor B. A. Repnin in the second half of 17th century, was also captured by the Crimean Tatars and given as a gift to the Ottoman sultan after one and a half year’s stay in the Crimea. In the Ottoman Empire he served sultan for twenty years, but against the sultan’s wish he would not give up his Christian faith. Lastly, the sultan ordered his death, but he was saved and sent instead to the galleys. He served as a galley slave for more than nine years. But when his galley was wrecked except he and his friend all crew were drowned. They clung to a beam and were washed ashore. In thanksgiving, Vasilii made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and other eastern Holy Places, and finally succeeded in getting back to Russia by way of the Circassian lands, Persia and Astrakhan. After arriving in Russia, he submitted a petition (Chelobitnaia) reporting his long hardship to Tsar Fedor Alekseevich and requested a post. These cases, however, are exceptionally lucky ones. Most of the Russians who had the misfortune to be galley slaves never returned home and ended their life on the warships of the Ottoman Empire. A number of the Russian captives of the Tatars were kept as slaves in the Crimea, without being sold abroad as merchandise or brought back home for ransom. The Crimean Khanate supplied not only the slaves for military forces but also important materials such as grains, meat and salt to the Ottoman Empire. The khan and many clan leaders received a certain percent of captives from raiders as a “gift” or “custom” and used the women in their harems, and the men in agriculture in their landed estates. Of course slaves also performed domestic work in the towns. Sometimes they were hired out from the Muslim owners to Christian employers. Mikhalon Litvin (Michael the Lithuanian), who left a vivid picture of the Crimean Tatar based on first-hand observation in the mid-16th century, demonstrates that Kaffa was a big slave-market port city, from where a large number of Slavic slaves were exported to the major slave-mart of Asia Minor, and that the slaves were used to carry out the most burdensome tasks also for the Crimean Tatars themselves. Mikhalon Litvin wrote: “The Crimean Tatars have much more slaves than livestock. Therefore they supply them also to other lands. Many ships loaded with arms, clothes and horses came to them one after another from beyond the Pontus and from Asia, and left always from them with slaves. ……. So these plunderers always are in possession not only of slaves for trade with other people but also have slaves for their own estates and to satisfy at home their cruelty and waywardness. In fact we often find among these unfortunate people very strong men, who, if not castrated, are branded on the forehead or on the cheek, and are tormented by day at work and by night in dungeons.” The fate of Slavic captive-slaves was not bright either in Turkey or in the Crimea." (Eizo Matsuki full article)