The Contrast between the Imperial and Regional Elite
When Süleyman Pasha moved decisively to restrict his independence, Memiş Agha responded by raising the ayans and aghas of districts east of Trabzon in revolt (1814–17). The manner in which Süleyman Pasha was at last able to suppress this revolt serves to illustrate the uprooted and mobile character of the imperial elite as opposed to the rooted and immobile character of the regional elite.
Süleyman Pasha had long sought to obtain a warrant for the arrest and execution of his rival, but this had proven a difficult task by reason of the Rizeli's influence in palace circles. When the warrant was issued in 1816, Memiş Agha proceeded to march on Trabzon, occupying its suburbs with thousands of soldiers and forcing Süleyman Pasha to flee his capital. From this position of strength, Memiş Agha initially attracted the allegiance of still more of the ayans and aghas in various parts of the coastal regions.
Süleyman Pasha was later able to return to Trabzon after receiving military support from other members of the imperial elite, that is to say, other high state officials with whom he had contacts. At the time, a combination of forces, supported by ships from the imperial navy, moved on the province of Trabzon from different directions. These included the armies of Ali Pasha of Kastambol [sic], Mehmet Pasha of Erzurum, the pasha of Sivas, and the military commander of Gümüşhane. Like Süleyman Pasha, all of these individuals were uprooted and mobile in that they commanded some considerable number of salaried and conscripted troops. As these different armies moved on the province of Trabzon, many of the ayans and aghas, especially those in the western districts of the province, then reversed themselves, declaring their allegiance to Süleyman Pasha.
Once Süleyman Pasha had reinstalled himself in the provincial capital, he dispatched 2,500 troops to set siege to the residence of Memiş Agha Tuzcuoğlu in Rize. This led the latter to flee to Of, where he was able to find refuge among the local elites of that district. Süleyman Pasha then sent representatives to the district of Of hoping to persuade its ayans and aghas to turn over Memiş Agha. After months of fruitless negotiations, Süleyman Pasha gathered twenty-five to thirty thousand troops from the vicinity of Batum and dispatched them to the district of Of, where they engaged in a two-month battle with the local ayans and aghas. Although no eyewitness accounts of this particular invasion are available, we can reasonably assume that the troops adopted the same measures they followed on earlier and later occasions. They burned and looted mansions, shops, warehouses, and residences. They destroyed or seized crops, stores, and stock. They impressed villagers into military service, and they extorted exceptional taxes from them. In other words, Süleyman Pasha succeeded in forcing the surrender of the population by terrorizing and impoverishing them. Eventually the local elites and their followers submitted, and the soldiers were at last able to capture and execute Memiş Agha Tuzcuoğlu in October 1817.
Less than six months after his victory over Memiş Agha, Süleyman Pasha fell into disgrace and a few days later suddenly died. The provisions of the "New Order" would never be implemented in the province of Trabzon, and his successor would soon face revolts by alliances of local elites in the outlying coastal districts.
By way of contrast with Süleyman Pasha, and the state officials who sent him reinforcements, the aghas and ayans of the province of Trabzon were rooted and immobile. They were obliged to serve the interests of extensive social networks and ensure the security of trade and commerce in the transit valleys. It is true that they favored their dependents and allies at the expense of the general population. It is also true that they were sometimes drawn into protracted and destructive conflicts with one another. Nonetheless, they did not carelessly wreak havoc on the very populations from which they drew their followings.
Memiş Agha Tuzcuoğlu exemplifies how the regional elite were also rooted and immobile since they were leaders of district networks and coastal coalitions of local elites. He had built a large mansion, founded a family line, assembled an armed following, and was able to mobilize a coastal coalition. If his household included many servants and slaves, it was not organized in the imperial manner. Removed from the context of the social networks and commercial interests of Rize, Of, and Sürmene, he would have been reduced to a figure of inconsequence.
Keeping in mind the differences between Süleyman Pasha and Memiş Agha as representatives of the "imperial" and "regional" elite, we can now turn to Osman Agha Şatııroğlu.