Peter A. Tolstoi was Russia’s first resident ambassador to the Ottoman Empire. He spent more than a decade at the Ottoman court charged with the tasks of maintaining the peace that the tsar and sultan had concluded in 1700, advancing Russian trade interests in the Black Sea, and gathering information about the Ottomans. The dispatch of a permanent diplomatic representative to the Sublime Porte formed part of Tsar Peter I’s move towards establishing resident embassies across Europe and beyond, which is usually seen as the beginning of a new era in Russian diplomacy. The talk will follow Tolstoi’s itinerary from Moscow to Edirne as the ambassador set out to establish an embassy at the sultan’s court in 1702/3. Focusing on the role of the diplomat in gathering intelligence and maintaining contacts with important intermediaries, the talk will explore the advantages and limits of taking a biographical approach to the study of an early modern institution: the office of ambassador.
Jan Hennings is Associate Professor of History at CEU. His research has focused on early modern diplomacy, especially in Russian-European contexts. His current work explores Russian-Ottoman exchanges, concentrating on the establishment of the first Russian resident embassy in Constantinople at the beginning of the eighteenth century. Before moving to Budapest, he had held a Junior Research Fellowship at St John’s College, Oxford, and taught history as a Visiting Professor at Sabancı University, Istanbul. His publications include Russia and Courtly Europe: Ritual and the Culture of Diplomacy, 1648-1725 (Cambridge, 2016).