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Tsarist expansion against the Ottoman Empire and commercial access to the Black Sea and the Mediterranean broadened the parameters of Russian influence in the Near East in the nineteenth century. For Imperial Russia, the Eastern Question became a complex and multi-faceted issue, encompassing the pursuit of strategic and diplomatic aims in Istanbul, the Straits, and the Balkan peninsula, the protection of Eastern Orthodoxy, and the extension of trade in the Black Sea and the Levant. Commerce and consuls provide windows on Russia’s interaction with the Near East and illuminate the variety of interests which comprised Russia’s Eastern Question.

Russia’s relations with the peoples and regions of the Near East are best studied by tapping the rich and extensive records available in archives, manuscript collections, and libraries of Russia, Ukraine, and other successor states of the Soviet Union. This guide identifies and describes some of the holdings on commerce and consuls housed in Moscow’s Archive of Foreign Policy of the Russian Empire (AVPRI), the single most important and largest repository for the investigation of tsarist Russia’s diplomacy and foreign affairs. With its unmatched resources of 373 fondy (collections) and 500,000 documents, AVPRI contains abundant and assorted details on virtually every aspect of Imperial Russia’s involvement in the Eastern Question, including diplomacy, military and naval strategy, trade, religion, and philanthropy.


Originally published in the Modern Greek Studies Yearbook 16/17 (2000/2001): 513-36

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