A terrace at the entrance to the Divan Hall
The heart of political life of the Crimean state was in the Divan Hall. The Crimean Divan (the State Council) much differed from the institution of the same name at the Turkish court. While the Divan in Istanbul was a council of ministers, which body could be changed by the will of the sultan, the Crimean Divan was rather a kind of a "parliament". The
(seniors of noble clans) were permanent members of the Divan and the khan could not replace or discharge them. They were not ministers but representatives of territorial communities incorporated under their authority. On behalf of their communities (their clans) they spoke at the sessions of the State Council.
The walls of this Hall are silent witnesses of epoch-making events in the history of the Crimean Khanate. In this Hall assemblies were held, where the Crimean sovereigns together with the
s, judges and court dignitaries discussed different questions of internal and foreign policy, passed laws, tried the most important legal cases, received foreign ambassadors. Destinies of the Crimean state were decided here and the khans of Crimea solemnly ascended the throne placed in this Hall. The Hall of the Divan was also a usual place where officials who came from Istanbul read the orders of Turkish sultans on displacement of the former khan and appointment a new one.
When the khan announced a session of the Divan, the
s left their estates and arrived to Bakhchisaray. Ceremonies held here were distinguished with solemnity. A special court dignitary
administered the order of entering visitors into the Hall. He took a silver mace as a symbol of his authority. Entering the Divan Hall, visitors or foreign ambassadors made a deep bow before the Crimean sovereign, who sat on the throne decorated with golden embroidering. The members of the Divan took their seats on long benches by the walls.
(two official successors, younger brothers or other male relatives of the khan) sat by the right and left hands of the Crimean monarch. The were followed by the seniors of noble clans, then by the
(the head of the Muslim community of Crimea) and
s (judges of the highest rank). Court officials closed this line of the most important state persons of Crimea. Sometimes the
could be met here – this title belonged to the mother or the elder
sister of the khan.
The throne place of the Crimean
khans in the Divan Hall
Ceremonies in the Divan Hall were often ended with a dinner during which the khan gave a golden cup to the most respected guests with his own hands. It was a sign of a high honour.
The great significance of the Divan Hall for statehood traditions of the Crimean Tatars was confirmed in 1917, after the February Revolution, when the Crimean Tatar Qurultay (assembly of people’s representatives) proclaimed here the independent national Crimean Tatar government.
The initial interior of the Hall was not much similar with what the visitors see today. There was much more light in the chamber because of two lines of windows cut in all the four walls of the Hall (nowadays the only wall is windowed). The floor was paved with marble slabs. The present wall-paintings are mostly fantasies of Russian painters of the 19th century, but a section of the western wall shows the original decoration (images of grape-bunches and imitations of marble).