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Regular version of the site

Article

The Guizolfi Family: Brokers in the Medieval Black Sea Space

The World of the Orient / Східний світ. 2019. Vol. 3. P. 31-45.

This paper focuses on the Guizolfi family and showcases the aftermath of the Genoese colonization of the Black Sea area, highlighting the complex and entangled multiple identities that resulted from more than two centuries of the Genoese presence there. The Guizolfi were a Genoese patrician clan that was integrated into both the life of the Genoese Black Sea colonies and the local environment of Circassian and Zikh nobility. The prominent role it played in Eastern Europe went far beyond the Genoese Gazaria in the course of the late Middle Ages and early Modernity. Guizolfi intermarried with the local Circassian nobility and were quite successful in playing on double identities. One of the last representatives of this family in the area, Zaccaria Guizolfi, took measures to resist the Ottoman threat, but later on he began considering moving to the Russian Principality of Moscow, where Ivan III Vasilyevich was happy to accept the Christians who were fleeing from the Ottomans from the South. Zaccaria Guizolfi negotiated the terms of his potential service at the court of Ivan III, but finally failed to travel to Muscovy and found his way at the service of the Khans of Crimea. What is more interesting is a supposed link between Zaccaria and certain events in the religious life of Russia. Since long time ago, Zaccaria Guizolfi, Prince of Taman, also known as Zaccaria Skara from the above-mentioned correspondence with Ivan III, was identified by some scholars as a Jew Scharia, who was a heresiarch of the Judaizing heresy in Novgorod and Moscow. This point is a matter of ardent debate in historiography for decades, and till now there is little certainty on this matter.