The district of Of is geographically divided into two systems of valleys, that of the Solaklıı River and that of Baltacıı River (see map 1). The villagers of each system of valleys interact more among themselves than they do with the villagers of the other valley–system. The major market centers of each valley are different, and the routes of seasonal movement up and down the valley are different.
According to local tradition, which is probably correct, the large majority of the population in the district of Of has been Muslim since the mid- to late seventeenth century. Regional historians, westernEuropean travelers, and government records from the mid-nineteenth century all agree that the population was as much as 98 percent Muslim at that time. Government documents from earlier centuries strongly suggest that such a situation came about no later than the close of the seventeenth century. So almost all the inhabitants of the district have been Muslim for some time.
On the other hand, the villagers in different sectors of the district have a mix of ethnic backgrounds. The population in the eastern valley-system is (and, in local memory, has long been) almost exclusively Turkish speaking. The population in the western valley-system recently included a large number of Greek-speakers and was not so long ago largely Greek-speaking. This contrast correlates with the transit systems of the two valleys (see map 1). The eastern valley was open to settlement by peoples of the interior highlands. What was once the principal coastal market for the district, Eskipazar ("old market") was the terminus for a trade route that moved up the eastern valley, across the mountains, to reach the Anatolian town of İİspir, and thence Erzurum. In contrast, the western valley, lacking a natural trade route, was less conveniently connected with the Anatolian town of Bayburt. Its residents engaged in seasonal movements up and down the valley, but the valley was less accessible from the coast and from the interior.
My interlocutors in Of drew conclusions about the social attributes of each valley that are consistent with their contrasting topographies. The villagers of eastern valley are said to be of "diverse" origins by virtue of their physical appearance and social behavior. Many had accents that brought to mind the speech patterns of the people of Erzurum, across the mountains, suggesting that most immigrants had come from that area. In contrast, the villagers of the western valley are said to feature older, non-Turkic customs and practices. Although many spoke Greek as their first language, they also shared dances, stories, and songs from village to village, regardless of their mother tongue. This conservatism suggested that the rural societies in the western valley had been less unsettled by arrivals and departures.
Still, one cannot conclude that the villagers of the eastern valley were essentially of Turkic origin while the villagers of the western valley were essentially of Greek origin. More exactly, Turkish became the local language of assimilation in the eastern valley, while Greek became the local language in the western valley. In general, both Turkish and Greek as spoken in Of obey the rule of ethnic fragmentation and imperial appropriation. They are simultaneously marked by archaic traits and yet responsive to contact with the outside world. Brendemoen has found old Turkish usages in the district of Of that have vanished in most other parts of Asia Minor. Similarly, the Greek spoken in the district of Of is an old Pontic dialect unique to it and yet strongly influenced by Turkic, Arabic, and Persian.