Tbilisi, 1877. Large folding lithographed map ca. 101.5x70cm, dissected into 12 compartments. Title, map scale and date written on a paper label and mounted on the verso of the map. With a lithographed title, legend and administrative divisions in the lower part of the map. Damp stains and a couple of ink stains. Otherwise in a good condition. Previous owner’s ink inscription on the verso of the map: dated 1894.
This is likely to be one of the first detailed Russian maps depicting the Middle East (the territories of modern Israel, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, North-East of Egypt (Cairo, Port Said, Suez Canal), and Cyprus).
A large map of Turkey in Asia (Asia Minor/Anatolia, Armenia, Kurdistan, Mesopotamia, and Syria) with a part of the Russian Trans-Caucasia published in Tiflis under control of the Military Topographic Unit of the Caucasian Military District in 1877. The Military Unit was designed to improve cartographic techniques and supply troops with maps and plans, therefore it can be assumed that the publication of Turkey in Asia had its own political motives and was triggered by the latest developments in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878.
A military conflict between the Ottoman Empire and the Eastern Orthodox Coalition (led by the Russian Empire and consisting of Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, Montenegro) broke out shortly after the 1876 Bulgarian uprising against the Ottoman rule. Atrocities committed against the rebels (the Turkish army suppressed the revolt, massacring up to 30,000 people), also known as “the Bulgarian Horrors”, and bad treatment of Christian minorities in the empire triggered international condemnation which culminated in Russia declaring war on the Ottoman Empire in April 1877. Russia’s involvement in the conflict stemmed from its interest in recovering the territorial losses (mainly Bessarabia) it had suffered after the Crimean War and gaining control over the Black Sea region. The war ended with the defeat of the Ottomans in 1878. In the aftermath of the conflict, Bulgaria gained its autonomy from the Ottoman Empire, the de facto sovereign states of Montenegro, Serbia and Romania were recognized independent and Russia established its rule over Kars, Batum, and Bessarabia.
The map displays the area of Turkey in Asia from Sinop in the north to the Dead Sea in the south, with Ottoman Crete in the west and Pandzvin in the east. The map is densely annotated and marks 12 administrative units (Bursa, Izmir, Konya, Kastamonu, Ankara, Sivas, Trabzon, Erzurum, Diyarbakir, Halab (Aleppo), Baghdad, and Damascus), main cities, towns and settlements, provinces, mountains, rivers, islands, canals, etc. It’s curious to note that Kars and Batum are already shown as the Russian territories although they remained Turkish prior to the war. It was not until the 1878 Treaty of San Stefano that the Ottoman Empire officially ceded territories to the rival country.