Aghas and Hodjas
Citizens, Newspapers, and Misgovernment
The first constitution of the Ottoman Empire was promulgated toward the close of 1876, the same year in which Sultan Abdülhamit II began a thirty-three-year reign. The constitution had been prepared and adopted under the auspices of Mithat Pasha, one of the most prominent of the Ottoman reformers. It provided for the selection of representatives who would assemble as a legislative body. The spring of the following year, the deputies of the new parliament took their seats and began their deliberations. Not quite one year later, Abdülhamit II dissolved the parliament, but claimed to preserve the constitution. The election of deputies and the convening of another parliament would not occur again until the Young Turk revolution of 1908.
During its brief life, the parliament accomplished very little as a legislative body, but it did play an important role in shaping public opinion. In the course of their deliberations, the deputies soon became aware that their own personal experiences of misgovernment were not singular, but a general condition of the Ottoman Empire. The shock of this discovery was then transmitted in turn to a new audience of newspaper readers in the capital. However, the scandal of misgovernment that came to light in 1877 was not entirely contingent on the existence of these new channels of communication.
The government of the core Ottoman provinces had almost certainly improved since the end of the period of decentralization. It seems almost certain, then, that the scandal of misgovernment was as much a matter of perception as of information. A new kind of public life was taking shape in the towns and cities of the Ottoman Empire. Those who were part of it had outlooks and interests that led them to expect a different kind of governing institution. For an emergent Ottoman citizenry—including both Muslims and Christians—what had once been entirely normal now appeared as grotesque and outrageous.
At the time of the first constitutional period, such an emergent Ottoman citizenry was only somewhat less developed in the province of Trabzon than in the imperial capital. A new military and bureaucratic infrastructure had put an end to the unstable political conditions that had prevailed during the period of decentralization. If some of the eastern coastal districts remained unsafe for foreigners, the trade route from Trabzon to Erzurum had been made secure and the transit trade to Persia had greatly increased. As the volume of trade reached its height during the late 1860s, further administrative and judicial reforms extended the scope of centralized government. Just three decades earlier, higher state officials in the province of Trabzon had been tax-farmers backed by private armies. But gradually the provincial governors, and some limited number of their staff, had become instead professional bureaucrats, fluent in French and trained as public administrators. For the first time in almost three hundred years, the eastern coastal districts were subject to systematic administrative surveillance by the central government. More or less reliable censuses were being taken, including counts of shops, mosques, professors, academies, students, houses, cows, sheep, and goats. The centers of each of the coastal districts were incorporated as municipalities with mayors and councils chosen from among the local residents.
By chance, I came across a reverberation of the scandal of misgovernment in the province of Trabzon, in the course of reading reports of one of the British consuls. Alfred P. Biliotti was the son of a family of Italian origin linked to the island of Rhodes, apparently his birthplace. He first entered the British consular service in 1856, at the age of twenty-three, on the island of Rhodes, his residence at that time. He was assigned to Trabzon in 1873, where he remained as a consul until 1885. By his Levantine background, he could himself be described as a member of the new Ottoman citizenry, and so entirely familiar with its multiethnic and multireligious societies, despite his affiliation with the British.
During the first seven years of his residence in Trabzon, Biliotti dedicated most of his attention to questions of commerce. But then in 1880 his reports suddenly turn to the scandal of misgovernment. Once they did so, he would discover, to his astonishment, what he later professes to have always known. The province of Trabzon was burdened by conditions of injustice and oppression as a consequence of the collusion of local elites and state officials, at all levels of government.
Biliotti first mentions this kind of misgovernment as he was addressing another more specific policy issue. In the spring of 1880, he was writing a report that approved of recent proposals of the central government to regulate the distribution of firearms. However, in the course of referring to local elites with armed followings in the district of Ordu, he was carried away by this larger problem. With a degree of moral passion uncharacteristic of consular reports, he declares that district officials systematically colluded with local elites to exploit the population, both the Muslims and the Christians. However, his remarks feature a certain inconsistency, if not a blatant contradiction:
In this passage Biliotti describes how local elites ("Beys and Aghas") combined with district officials to subvert the administration of justice. However, he appears to be confused about the exact relationship of the former to the latter. Have the aghas and beys only now oppressed the population that they formerly protected? Or have they always oppressed the population? Do the aghas and beys oppress the population only because they have now become instruments of district officials? Or do they strive to oppress the population independently of district officials as they have always done? The passage reveals that the source of Biliotti's confusion lies in a certain assumption.
The measure [regulating the carrying of firearms] would be a great comfort to the Muslim and Christian population which seems to be cowed down, and to have lost all characteristics of honorable manhood under the terrorism which has oppressed them, and still continues to oppress them, and which the local Beys can ill conceal behind the Mashattas and Shahadnames [judicial dispositions] which they exact from time to time from interested Tsorbadjis [toughs] and corrupted priests who bear false witness [in their favor] [and] are certainly more to blame than those feudal chiefs [Aghas and Beys], who have inherited these abuses from their forefathers. The oppression is now felt incomparably more than former ages, for not only the contact with the outside world through traveling, commerce and the wars, has made it manifest to both Moslem and Christian that their condition is abnormal, but the Beys themselves are not Beys of old of whom one heard and read, those rich magnanimous, hospitable Lords, whose patriarchal government was naturally and thoroughly submitted to; with few exceptions the Beys and Aghas of the present day are abject instruments in the hands of a corrupt Government for oppressing a population which tyranny has rendered vicious and submissive. The Beys would fain be independent and exercise all those inequities to their own advantage, but they are obliged to council with officials trained to duplicity and cunning. Some of them [local elites (?) or district officials (?)] are accused of tolerating, if not authorizing brigandage in their domains and as to their morals, it is useless to say anything. They [local elites (?) or district officials (?)] are certainly the lowest dissolute beggars. [Italics mine]
Although the evidence is all to the contrary, Biliotti is inclined to believe that the problem is essentially one of misgovernment. That is to say, if district officials were to behave correctly, in accordance with administrative and judicial law, all would be well. This is why he attempts to make the district officials, not the aghas and the beys, the culprits. At the same time, Biliotti is well enough informed to know that there was a larger problem of local elites that exceeded the question of official misbehavior. This is why he keeps contradicting himself in his remarks about the aghas and the beys. But being well informed about specific incidents and being able to theorize and analyze a general problem are two entirely different matters.
In the spring of 1880, Biliotti holds fast to the idea that state officials were primarily responsible for general conditions of injustice and oppression in the province of Trabzon. He never considers the possibility that the local elites and district officials might be intimately linked (as they were), or might even in some instances be one and the same (as they were). His stubborn conviction is a direct reflection of the scandal of misgovernment that had come to light during the first constitutional period. If there were local elites in provincial society who mistreated the population, this was only because a bad government had allowed or encouraged them to come into existence. If, then, a good government were put in place to regulate provincial society, these local elites would not be able to oppress the population. The ponderable problem for Biliotti was how to replace bad government with good government. The imponderable problem was a relationship of state and society that underlay a certain kind of governmental structure.
Biliotti was thinking in the same terms as the emergent Ottoman citizenry, as he indirectly reveals in the passage above. Both Muslims and Christians, he tells us, now saw conditions of injustice and oppression as "abnormal" by virtue of two kinds of comparison. First, the general population in Trabzon now felt abused as never before by virtue of their "contact with the outside world." That is to say, they had come to assess political conditions in terms of new concepts of government. Second, the general population in Trabzon had "heard and read [of] those rich magnanimous, hospitable Lords" of the old feudal system. That is to say, they were no longer able to recognize existing political conditions as the legacy of old concepts of government. The collusion of local elites and district officials was both unacceptable and incomprehensible. An underlying principle of the imperial regime since the beginning of the decentralization, even the beginningof the classical period, could no longer be understood as a normal feature of the governmental structure.
The spread of new concepts of government, hence also misgovernment, had transformed long-standing practices into a scandal. The amnesia of the general population was now coordinate with and parallel to the ignorance of the foreign consuls, not to mention the ignorance of their superiors in London and Paris. A tactic of sovereign power based on interpersonal association had continually reproduced the collusion of local elites and district officials generation after generation. An ottomanist state society had come to occupy a place and play a role in the governmental structure of the westernized imperial system. Local elites and district officials were not representatives of two different political systems, but rather still part of a single governmental structure.
Biliotti's Reports on the Western Coastal Districts
In the summer of 1880, some months after writing the passage cited above, Biliotti set out by horseback from Samsun intending to reach Trabzon several months later. As he slowly worked his way back toward the capital over the course of several months, he carried out inspections of each of the coastal districts, pausing for weeks at a time to gather information and conduct interviews. Judging from the consular reports that he wrote during his travels, he had undertaken the expedition for the express purpose of gathering evidence of misgovernment. The reports include case study after case study of local political and social conditions, often mentioning individuals and villages of no special commercial importance or diplomatic significance. Sometimes illegible, packed with details, and occasionally rambling, his consular reports are more like "field notes" than official communiqués. As such, they provide a mass of details from which it is possible to glimpse the patterns of government or misgovernment that prevailed in different sections of the coastal region.
During his travels, Biliotti discovered that local elites and district officials were almost everywhere linked by ties of kinship, friendship, and partnership. Usually they worked together for exploitative, if not criminal, purposes, but this was not always the case. Here and there, competent officials administrated certain districts in accordance with the new regulations of the central government.Here and there, benevolent local elites took a genuine interest in the welfare of the population and the maintenance of public order. However, such circumstances were exceptional. More typically, local elites and district officials manipulated the new government regulations for the benefit of their relatives or friends. In some instances, local elites exerted pressure on district officials who were unable to resist them. In other instances local elites had managed to have themselves appointed as district officials. In still other instances, district officials used the local elites rather than the other way around. And there are indications that it was still possible to begin as a district official as a first step toward becoming a local elite. Whatever the exact pattern in any district, local elites and district officials commonly combined to defeat any administrative or judicial reforms undertaken by the central government. The individuals in question were sometimes descendants of the old family lines that had been prominent throughout the later period of decentralization. But they were sometimes the descendants of new family lines that had displaced older local elites after the period of decentralization.
Taken together, Biliotti's reports reveal that the political situation in some places resembled that of the period of decentralization. The local elites were leading individuals with armed followings. They collected illegal taxes, extorted state funds, imposed forced labor, confiscated land and goods, forced women into marriage, exacted fees for marriages, subverted the court, suborned officials, and intimidated opponents. In some places the local elites represented large family lines and large followings, engaged in all kinds of illegal agreements with district officials, and joined in alliances with their counterparts in neighboring districts. In other places the town or the district was divided into two camps of local elites in competition with one another, each side striving to suborn district officials and subjugate the population. So to some considerable degree, the practices of the period of decentralization had continued, years after the reforms of the Reordering (Tanzimat) had been applied to the province of Trabzon. The local elites no longer dared to challenge the government militarily with thousands of men in arms, but otherwise little else seems to have changed.
But indeed there had been changes. The relationship of the state system and the state society was not the same as it had been at the beginning of the nineteenth century. The new, westernized system of centralized government had eased some of the harshest of the old official exactions, but it had also introduced all kinds of new bureaucratic regulations. If a trader, craftsman, or laborer wished to travel, then he needed a passport. If a young man wished to postpone military service, pay another to serve in his place, or claim an exemption by virtue of his religious training, then he needed a government certification of such a privilege. If a man or woman wished to register some piece of property, a house, a mill, a garden, or a farm, then it was necessary to acquire a deed. If two fathers wished to marry their children, then they needed a license. If a man with religious training wished to lead the mosque prayer, deliver a sermon, or perform a circumcision, marriage, or burial, then papers bearing the correct seals and signatures were necessary. If an individual wished to construct a warehouse in a marketplace or if a group wished to build a village mosque, then this or that approval was necessary, from municipal, district, or provincial officials. Biliotti informs us that local elites were almost everywhere the key to obtaining such official certifications and instruments. They performed such services for a fee that had no basis in law whatsoever, and the fees they charged could be exorbitant.
Biliotti was not the only one to be surprised by his discoveries. In the course of his journey eastward toward Trabzon, he happened to encounter Yusuf Pasha, who had served as provincial governor of Trabzon in 1878 and had briefly held that office again in 1880. Biliotti considered him one of three recent provincial governors who were men of exceptional probity, training, and ability. He therefore hoped that Yusuf Pasha would be able to address the problems that he had been encountering and deal with them effectively. Biliotti writes, "Yussuf Pacha unites in his person all the qualities required for the efficient fulfillment of this special duty. He is an incorruptible upright functionary, he is known as such to the populations of the province, he has a rank which while overawing the oppressors, will inspire confidence to the oppressed, and he is fresh from his recent experience in Armenia in dealing with similar questions." Biliotti immediately informed Yusuf Pasha of the conditions of misgovernment, only to find that he had not the slightest inkling of the problems of injustice and oppression that Biliotti had been encountering during his travels:
Official and consular ignorance of political and social conditions in the outlying coastal districts was nothing new. I have already given many examples dating from the period of decentralization. The Porte (central government) was always kept in the dark about certain matters by provincial governors. Provincial governors were always kept in the dark about certain matters by chief notables and district governors. No doubt the chief notables and district governors were also kept in the dark by the greater and lesser aghas of the outlying villages. All centralized bureaucracies work by filtering out information as it passes upward. Still, a centralized bureaucracy vertically segmented by tiered circles of interpersonal association could be expected to filter out information even more reliably and consistently.
The latter wondered at the many abuses which I summarily related to him, and of which he had heard nothing while he was Vali [governor] in this Province. I had no more heard myself of these before I went on the spot. The populations fear to speak and the Kaimakams [district governors] and Mudurs [district administrators] consider useless to report thereon. However the facts are undeniable, but the Porte is in complete darkness on the subject, and in the meantime abuses continue to the detriment of the population.
Biliotti's Awareness of a Structure of Misgovernment
Shortly after his encounter with Yusuf Pasha, Biliotti found himself back in his consular residence in the town of Trabzon. It was now time for him to write a summary report for his superiors, one that would set out general conclusions and recommendations instead of dwelling on specific instances of injustice and corruption. Before he undertook this task, however, he would be able to reconsider the coastal region in the light of all that he had learned about the prevailing social and political conditions. Strangely, facts he had always known about the provincial capital itself now acquired a new significance. He now realized that the problem of misgovernment involved something far more serious than collusion between district officials and local elites.
As he began to write the last of his reports, Biliotti understood that the best representatives of the reformed state system were powerless. A new governor, Sıırrıı Pasha, had just replaced the old governor, Yusuf Pasha. Biliotti admired the capability and integrity of the former no less than the latter. Nonetheless, he now saw both as victims of a governmental structure that they were unable to control or to change in any way:
The same collusion of local elites and district officials that existed in the coastal districts also prevailed in the provincial capital. But now in the town of Trabzon, where he had been a resident for more than seven years, this problem appeared in a new light. Local elites and state officials were one and the same. It was not that the latter had succeeded in corrupting the former; rather, it was that the two were one within a structure of misgovernment.
The same spirit [of defiance of the provincial governor by subordinate state officials] prevails down to the native official of the lowest rank. There are families that monopolize Government employments at Trebizond; the same thing happens in the districts. These families are connected to each other by blood or interest, but even when they are not, there is a kind of solidarity between native officials, who whatever the personal spites between them may be, unite to fight the power of the Vali, whom they consider an intruder.
To demonstrate the full extent of the problem, Biliotti described how a single family had penetrated the provincial government. He listed fifteen individuals from this family holding fifteen different governmental positions: five members of various courts, four chief administrators of provincial bureaucracies, three clerks to chief administrators, and three members of various councils. In addition to holding these offices in the provincial capital, other members of this same family held the position of government secretary in Gümüşhane and government treasurer in Rize.
Biliotti now understood that a regional social oligarchy of families and friends spread by "twig and branch" outward and downward into the coastal districts, but then also upward and inward into the highest circles of imperial officials. This regional social oligarchy had a kind of sovereign power of its own, apart from that of the westernized, that is, rationalized and institutionalized, state system:
He concludes that the governor had almost no control over major segments of the coastal region. His subordinates, the sub-governor of Rize in the east and the sub-governor of Samsun in the west, were virtually independent, regularly disregarding his orders. Furthermore, it was reported that the sub-governor of Rize was attempting to have his sub-province separated from Trabzon so that he might be appointed governor of this new province. This was exactly the situation that divided Memiş Agha of Rize from Osman Pasha of Trabzon in 1814–17, and then later divided Tahir Agha of Rize from Süleyman Pasha of Trabzon in 1832-34!
It is easy to comprehend that with the influence that all these officials, severally and collectively, can command in the Capital of the Province, and with the support which they give or receive from their relatives or friends in the districts, the power of the Vali is more nominal than real. . . . Not only this, but several natives of this Province holding important appointments in the Capital [of the Empire] they naturally always enlist their influence in favor of their countrymen, friends, or relatives.
Provincial governors were oftentimes upstanding, well-educated, and capable administrators, that is to say, accomplished representatives of the new westernized state system. But there was nothing they could do about misgovernment, even though they had good intentions and were determined to make a difference. Biliotti writes, "Sirri Pacha who has worked very hard since his appointment here 20 months ago, will, I expect, soon break down, as broke down before him, Ahmet Rassim Pacha and Yusuf Pacha, also two first rate Valis, and as will break down all those that may succeed him." Eventually the new professional bureaucrats would be defeated by a government subverted by a regional social oligarchy whose leading individuals used the law to favor their own interests.
Biliotti's new awareness of the subversion of the westernized state system by local elites had led him toward a moral judgment of conditions in the coastal region. Good government was dependent on good character. The province of Trabzon seemed to him to be awash with bad characters, and for that reason its provincial government was corrupt and abusive. His new perception was, however, incomplete. He was still unaware that another kind of morality, different from the morality of professional bureaucrats, underpinned what appeared to him as misgovernment.
Here I must comment further on Biliotti's perception of both ordinary and elite Muslims in the province of Trabzon. His consular reports always include assessments of the general condition of both the Muslim and Christian populations. He remarks again and again that local elites and district officials treated ordinary Muslims even worse than they treated ordinary Christians. He repeatedly cites instances in which leading individuals among the Christian minorities participated in the exploitation of both ordinary Muslims and Christians. Still, he knew more about the Christians than the Muslims, and he assesses the circumstances of the former in more detail than the latter. In all probability he always resided with Greeks and Armenians during his travels, and his hosts were most probably the chief sources of the information he gathered.
In mentioning these features of Biliotti's consular reports, I do not wish to cast any suspicion on the accuracy of the information he provides, or even to suggest that it was one-sided. He was perhaps the most open-minded of all the British and French consuls. Nonetheless, his consular reports are in a certain sense unreflective. Unlike other exceptional and accomplished consuls, Biliotti never pauses to theorize or analyze the character of the ottomanist state society of the province of Trabzon. This is partly because he was personally inclined to cite facts and incidents rather than offer generalizations. Still, his consular reports are curiously skewed. They include an impressive body of ethnographic details, more than are found in the reports of any other British or French consul. And yet he never attempted to describe in structural terms the local elites from family lines or the social formations that backed them.
Biliotti's Reports on the Eastern Districts
Biliotti's failure to theorize and analyze is perhaps linked to his Levantine background. Unlike some of the other British and French consuls, he never writes as though he feels uncomfortable or threatened by Muslims. Having perhaps been born and raised among Muslims, he was able to take them for granted rather than search for some way to interpret them. As an "Oriental," he found it impossible to be an "Orientalist." So Biliotti consistently perceives the collusion of local elites and state officials as misgovernment and therefore never as a structural legacy of an ottomanist state society. He consistently assesses social and political conditions as a consequence of corrupt and abusive practices and therefore never as an alternative governmental morality. We can see how this is so by considering how he addresses the differences between the western and eastern coastal districts.
Biliotti had chosen to carry out an inspection of western rather than eastern Trabzon for several reasons. The commercial interests of the British were more important in the western than the eastern coastal districts. The reforms of the state system had been applied earlier in the west than the east. There were large, concentrated populations of Christians in the western districts, but not in the eastern. And then, perhaps most importantly, the eastern segment of the province of Trabzon had once again become a dangerous place for state officials let alone foreign consuls. This was a direct result of Russo-Ottoman War (1877–78), which had seriously disrupted the political and economic arrangements that had linked the rural societies of eastern Trabzon with Anatolia and the Caucasus. So for all these reasons, Biliotti did not have the opportunity to observe that segment of the province of Trabzon. When his attention was drawn to the coastal districts to the east, however, we find he was entirely aware of their peculiar features that set them apart from the coastal districts to the west.
In the year following his trip by horseback from Samsun to Trabzon (1881), Biliotti wrote at some length about an incident in the district of Sürmene, still famous for its civil disorders. Writing with the benefit of his fieldwork in the western coastal districts, he was now able to understand the larger implications of the fragmentary pieces of information that arrived in the provincial capital. A state official, Hüseyin Bey, had set out for Sürmene with "a score of zaptiyes [policemen]" in order to investigate an attack by brigands on villagers that had occurred during the annual return from the high summer pastures. Having arrived in the district center, Hüseyin Bey had immediately sent back an urgent request for reinforcements, saying that even ten score men would not be sufficient. Biliotti pauses in his account of the incident to provide his superior with background information, writing "The district of Surmeneh and indeed the whole country between Trebizond and the Russian frontier [which had newly become the Çoruh River after the loss of Batum] is in a state of anarchy and insecurity beyond description. No traveller is safe on the roads, and I have from time to time reported cases of plunder and murder in villages." The "state of anarchy," to which Biliotti refers using the standard consular phrasing, was directly related to the recent loss of territories to the Russians. The outbreak of brigandage was the predictable result of the weakening of the centralized government, the westward flight of large numbers of Muslim refugees, the breakdown of customary trade across the Çoruh River, and the return of demobilized soldiers.
Having oriented his correspondent, Biliotti returned to the incident in question, explaining why Hüseyin Bey required a force of hundreds of men just to apprehend a few outlaws who had robbed some villagers:
By this account, we can be sure that Biliotti understood that the "Beys and Aghas" in the east were not exactly like the majority of the townsmen and landlords he had described in the western districts. Although he does not closely compare the two, he refers to the features of the local elites in the eastern districts that distinguish them from those in the western districts: (1) They had armed followings ("brigands"). (2) They provided essential assistance to state officials ("capturing criminals"). (3) Their assistance to the government was directly related to their local rivalry ("moved by a feeling of jealousy"). (4) They were the representatives of large family groupings ("clans"). (5) They were positioned in broad and deep social networks ("relatives or friends"). (6) The extent of these social networks reached impressive levels, that is, thousands of men in arms. The situation in the district of Sürmene differed from that in the western districts by the greater breadth and depth of the structure of misgovernment.
[In these eastern districts where a state of anarchy reigns] there are Beys or Aghas who command influence and are the abettors of brigands. Sometimes moved by a feeling of jealousy against each other they assist the Police in capturing criminals. . . . But if there is no feud between the brigands the police are quite powerless. Hussein Bey . . . reckons that there are only at Surmeneh [alone] about 5,000 Martini rifles with plenty of ammunition in the hands of the population, which is very warlike, and considers that nothing can be done without the assistance of some local Bey. He states that a certain Bazoglou Djafer Aga is all powerful, and that through him the culprits may be apprehended. It may be so, if they do not belong to his clan, but I doubt that he will ever give up relatives or friends.
Biliotti knew that the "Beys and Aghas" in the eastern districts were of a special character in that they enjoyed a more substantial backing of the local populations. Still, he could not identify their significance as the representatives of an alternative governmental morality. For Biliotti, collusion of state officials and local elites was everywhere a manifestation of the same scandal of misgovernment, even if it took a somewhat different form in the east and the west. And it is his knowledge of another, seemingly unrelated, scandal that confirms this prejudice.
The Scandal of Christians who were Muslims
The proliferation of country hodjas and medreses was another peculiar feature of the eastern districts. So the excess of hodjas and medreses was a characteristic of precisely those districts where collusion between local elites and state officials was backed by a substantial cross-section of the population. But Biliotti felt no compulsion to ponder this correlation. It was just another isolated fact rather than a piece of a puzzle that might be deciphered. He never considered a possible connection between aghas and agha-families, who appeared to subvert the centralized government, and the hodjas and medreses, who represented the official Islam of the centralized government.
Biliotti had occasion to mention the hodjas and medreses in 1885 in a study of the system of education in the province of Trabzon. The following excerpt is given without lacunae:
These are indeed remarkable facts, for the account seems almost to explode from the tension of contrary tendencies. According to Biliotti, the populations in the eastern districts were almost all Muslim, in contrast to other parts of the coastal region. On the other hand, this had not always been the case, since they still spoke older Byzantine languages among themselves and still preserved Christian scriptures, vestments, and relics. And yet, at the same time, they were now among the most "fanatical" of the Muslims in all the province, having come to know Turkish thoroughly and to specialize in Islamic teaching and learning. On the other hand, these accomplishments notwithstanding, the many hodjas and medreses that existed in the eastern districts had no apparent effect on morals whatsoever, since the peoples of the eastern districts specialized in robbery and homicide. All told, these signs of having used their former accomplishments as Byzantines for the purpose of new accomplishments as Ottomans were to no avail. For one could not say what the function of hodjas and medreses should have been, save to enable the residents of the eastern districts to avoid conscription (in that part of the province, which had always provided large numbers of soldiers for the Porte) and to encourage hostility toward Christians (which, however, were virtually nonexistent in their district). If Biliotti's superiors believed this section of his consular report, they would believe anything.
The number of medressés [higher religious academies] is especially great eastward of Trebizond.
The majority of the inhabitants of these districts are the descendants of Byzantines who began to embrace Islamism about 150 years since [1885 - 150 = 1735]. Numerous medressés may have been necessary at that period for the purpose of instructing proselytes, but their usefulness is no longer apparent. One of the present undeniable results of these institutions is to enable the youths attending them to evade conscription. Another probable result is to entertain a feeling of hostility toward Christians at large, for hardly any live in these districts. Furthermore no progress seems to be made in good moral[s], as the native population eastward of Trebizond is more addicted to brigandage and murder than in any other part of the Vilayet. Not withstanding their so thoroughly learning the Turkish language, they continue to use in familiar intercourse, a corrupt Greek dialect called Lazico, of which I shall speak later. Another remarkable fact is that with all their fanaticism they still stick to Christian Customs and traditions, and that the families that furnished Christian priests in bygone time, are those in which the greater number of mollahs [hodjas] are to be found.
They preserve with reverence their sacred books, the sacerdotal vestments and emblems of their forefathers and put the greatest faith in their healing power. They impose the former on sick persons and to drink in a communion cup is reserved as the last hope of recovery in desperate cases of disease. Pilgrimages with offerings in a renowned Byzantine monastery, that of Soumela, at 8 hours distance from Trebizond, dedicated to the Virgin, are not unknown occurrences. But in spite, or perhaps, because of all this, the Mussulmans Eastward of Trebizond, especially those of Off, are the most fanatical in this vilayet. [Italics mine]
At the time he was writing, Biliotti was completing the final year of a long tenure of service in the Trabzon. So he was as fully informed and experienced as he ever would be during his residence there. The incoherence of his remarks can therefore be taken as a measure of how little he had reflected on the character of society and state in the province of Trabzon. In this respect, he was no different from other British and French consuls of the later nineteenth century. The local elites of the outlying coastal districts had not posed a serious military threat to the central government for decades. Consular officials therefore had no reason to pay attention to either the aghas or to the hodjas. Accordingly, with the passage of time, they understood less and less, rather than more and more, about the ottomanist provincial society of Trabzon.
On the other hand, Biliotti was not an ordinary consul, and he was not submitting a routine report. He was exceptionally well informed about the coastal districts, and he was writing a lengthy treatise on the system of education in the province. Even if he was never inclined to analyze the general character of Ottoman society, he usually gave examples of incidents or individuals to illustrate specific points. So the incoherence of his account of the eastern districts deserves closer attention; for, despite its internal contradictions, the cited passage does feature a certain consistency. Biliotti pretends to be reporting on all the eastern districts, but he is actually passing along a collection of rumors and slanders regarding the district of Of alone. Moreover, these rumors and slanders would have been most current among the Christian minorities, and especially the Greek Orthodox minority. The clearest indication of this is his reference to a mass conversion that resulted in Greeks becoming Muslims. This clue requires that I qualify my preceding remarks.
While the consuls had ignored the rural societies of the province of Trabzon for decades, the eastern coastal districts had recently captured public attention once again. I have noted that new concepts of government were spreading among an emergent Ottoman citizenry during the last decades of the nineteenth century. Among the Christian minorities, and especially among the Greek Orthodox minority, these new concepts included nationalist ideologies. From the mid-nineteenth century, the Orthodox Greek population in the old province of Trabzon had prospered and expanded, partly as the result of immigration into the coastal region from the Aegean. And given the existence of an independent Greece, nationalist sympathies and movements had naturally gained ground in Trabzon, stirring memories of the Ottoman conquest of the Greek Empire of Trebizond. Inevitably, the existence of Greek-speaking Muslims in the district of Of became a subject of nationalist reflection.
How could a Christian majority ever come to abandon their religion and become a Muslim majority? The question had always bothered the Christians in Trabzon. For a very long time, perhaps for centuries, they had explained every instance of a large Muslim population of Byzantine background by a specific mythic formula. Some eminent leader in this or that district must have turned away from Christianity, and led his unfortunate followers into Islam, for the sole purpose of enjoying a personal advantage, that is, to gain official Ottoman favor. In the instance of the Lazis between Atine and Hopa, it had been "Prince Lazerew." In the instance of the Greeks of Of, it had been "Bishop İİskender." So a concept of high apostasy and perfidy, referring back perhaps to the traumatic surrender of the Byzantines of Trebizond to Mehmet II, had also required a thesis of mass conversion. But now in the later nineteenth century, when Biliotti was writing, the question of how Christians had become Muslims had begun to disturb the minorities in a different way. How could peoples who were not really "Turks," but rather Greeks or Armenians or Georgians, become Muslims? Such questions were provoked by a nationalist rather than a religious anxiety. For the minorities, this was also a scandal, no less than government corruption.
From the later 1860s, western European observers, and more notably their informants from the Greek Orthodox minority, attempted to minimize or controvert the relationship of the district of Of to the Ottoman system, especially in regard to the matter of Islam. They did so at the very moment when information about the extent of religious teaching and learning in the district was newly available as a matter of public record. According to the Trabzon yearbook (salname) for 1869/1286, there were 82 professors (müderris) and 2,364 students (talebe) in the district of Of. These numbers are completely out of proportion to its relative population. The district is recorded as having about five percent of the Muslim population (six thousand households) living in all the villages and towns of the entire coastal region from Batum to Bafra, that is, the combined sub-provinces (sancak) of Trabzon, Canıık, Lazistan, and Gümüşhane. Nonetheless, more than half of all the religious academies, more than a quarter of all the religious teachers, and more than a third of all the religious students of the entire region are officially attributed to this single district.
By the logic of the new nationalist ideologies among the Greek Orthodox minority, all these professors, academies, and students became evidence of alienation from, not connection with, imperial institutions (see fig. 9). In 1885, Biliotti referred to the two most popular interpretations of this alienation, both of which had been current among the minorities for years: (1) The hodjas and medreses of Of were evidence of a past Byzantinism, not a present ottomanism, since they were to be found among families that had once produced Orthodox priests and still preserved Christian sacred books and sacerdotal instruments. By this interpretation, the hodjas and medreses, which were so strongly associated with a strict and literal version of official Islam, are transformed into evidence of the vitality of an underlying Christianity. (2) The extraordinary number of hodjas and medreses in the district of Of were evidence of the evasion of military service, hence a sign of the lack of commitment to the Ottoman system on the part of the population. By this interpretation, the hodjas and medreses, which were predominant in those districts known for contributing large numbers of troops to imperial campaigns, became evidence of disaffection from imperial military projects and ideals.
Figure 9. One of several imperial mosques decorating a village mosque.
Of the two ways of distancing the Oflus from the Empire, the charge that hodjas and medreses were merely devices to avoid conscription has to be taken seriously. Toward the close of the seventeenth century, large numbers of Oflus had become either irregular soldiers or religious students, and, probably in many instances, both at the same time. So from an early date there was always a connection and coordination between the military and religious engagements of the populations in the eastern coastal districts. The intimate and necessary connection between aghas and hodjas, however, was not without tension and conflict. The relationship of the officials of the imperial military and religious establishments was institutionally regulated. The relationship of the aghas and hodjas in the coastal districts, both of them interlopers in the imperial military and religious establishments, was less regulated and more competitive. In other words, the colonization of the military and religious establishments worked by a logic entirely different from the institutional integration of the two establishments within the imperial system.
For example, the Oflus who identified themselves with the imperial military establishment were different from the Oflus who identified themselves primarily with the imperial religious establishment. Those villagers who became irregular soldiers participated in the social networks and coastal coalitions of the aghas and agha-families. Those villagers who were engaged in religious teaching and learning were potential migrants interested in escaping the aghas and agha-families. So the relationship of aghas and hodjas was always variable, and, in some respects, always troubled. As the documents transcribed by Umur demonstrate, a newly emergent complex of aghas and mansions came into direct and tragic conflict with an already existing complex of hodjas and medreses, most dramatically in Paçan village during the year 1737/1150. This was the occasion when irregular soldiers, led by individuals who would eventually establish family lines, were accused of murdering forty religious professors and students and destroying large numbers of books and registers. From this date, it would seem almost certain that the system of aghas and mansions had dominated and subjugated the hodjas and medreses in all the eastern districts.
But this situation began to shift in 1826 with the abolition of the janissary institution. According to Hasan Umur, official registers show an immediate change in the district of Of that is directly correlated with the abolition of the janissary institution. During the course of two decades (1826/1240–1844/1260), prayer-leaders and sermon-givers are granted appointments (berat) to serve in mosques in virtually every village in the district. Umur interprets the flurry of permits as a sign of increased security brought about by the central government's Reordering (Tanzimat) of 1839–76. Although his information seems significant, his conclusion does not necessarily follow. It is doubtful that there was much change in security within the district of Of itself. After all, the Reordering was not applied to Trabzon until 1846 or 1847, that is, after the flurry of permits.39 The aghas would continue to give patronage to armed followings, and the villages would continue to bristle with Martini rifles throughout the nineteenth century. Thus, it would seem that the flurry of permits is a harbinger of the reorientation of the population away from military and toward religious occupations. Probably from the time of the abolition of the janissary institution, imaming had begun to take the place of soldiering as the principal mode of imperial involvement and participation in the district of Of.
After Sultan Abdülhamit II ascended the throne, an imperial policy of pan-Islamism further served to stimulate religious teaching and learning in the district of Of. By the report of British consul Palgrave, resident of Trabzon during the 1870s, the hodjas and medreses in the district of Of, like the sultan himself, had come under the influence of the Wahhâbî movement in Arabia. And by a contemporary tradition in the district itself, the Oflus were first contacted by representatives of the Nakşibendi and Kaderi religious orders sometime during the Hamidian period. This was the period when the Oflus turned to religious teaching and learning by the thousands. They did so not only to exempt themselves from military service, but also to take advantage of new career prospects. The Oflus had less to gain from a military profession or hobby and so, evading conscription, directed their attention toward a religious profession or hobby.
The Learned Class from the Eastern Districts
A recent study indirectly tells us something more about the distinctive orientation of the Oflus toward religious teaching and learning during the late nineteenth century. Sadıık Albayrak, an independent scholar from the district of Çaykara, published a four-volume work consisting of transcriptions of the official biographies of the Ottoman learned class during the final years of the Empire. Using his index, which lists the birthplace of each individual, I was able to arrive at a count of the number of individuals who were listed among the Ottoman learned class for particular locations. Table 3 presents the counts for the principal coastal districts of Trabzon, for two mountain districts of Antalya (Akseki and Ibradıı), and for Istanbul. The counts provide a rough indication of how many individuals from each location had become officially recognized as members of the Ottoman learned class. The locations are grouped in order to illustrate how the counts vary in different regions: eastern Black Sea, western Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea, and the capital.
|3. Individuals Listed among Ottoman Learned Class, by District and Region|
|Eastern Black Sea||Western Black Sea||Mediterranean Sea||Capital|
By the counts, the number of individuals born in the district of Of who appear among the learned class is relatively high, but not as high as for other eastern Black Sea coastal districts. Since the numbers of religious professors, academies, and students in Of would have surpassed all the other districts cited by far (save for the imperial capital itself), this means that a relatively small number of those Oflus who took up religious studies were able to rise into the Ottoman learned class.
The contrast between the districts of Arhavi and Of illustrates how the inhabitants of coastal districts with fewer religious professors, students, and academies than Of produced more members of the learned class. From Albayrak's study, we discover that some fraction of the learned class born in Arhavi did receive their early education in its local centers of religious studies. On the other hand, many others did not begin their early education until after they left Arhavi to reside in Istanbul. In effect, the Arhavilis were more successful than the Oflus in leaving their mountain homelands and seeking their fortune in the capital.
Comparing the eastern and western districts of the Black Sea coast, we see that the inhabitants of the former were far more successful than the latter in rising into the Ottoman learned class. This is consistent with the relative differences in the relationship of society and state in these two regions. To the east, the Muslims consisted more nearly of a melange of peoples of Turkic, Lazi, Kurdish, Greek, and Armenian background. Although their districts had been almost entirely rural in character until the late nineteenth century, a more continuous history of local participation in the imperial system resulted in large numbers of individuals among the ranks of the Ottoman learned class. To the west, the Muslims consisted of a larger proportion of Turkic peoples of pastoral background. Even though there were a number of sizable towns, the Muslims in these districts did not have the same history of local participation in the imperial system and so they were less prominent among the Ottoman learned class.
A further comparison casts still a different light on this matter. Akseki and Ibradıı are districts nestled in the upper valleys of the Toros Mountains, which run along the southern tier of Asia Minor. The landscape in which the villages are located is hilly and forested, and historically there were no farming estates or land magnates in this area. The district centers were stops on the caravan routes running from the shoreline through the mountain passes to the important provincial center of Konya. Many of the inhabitants of these districts became migrant traders and craftsmen, leaving their villages seasonally to work in towns and cities. In other words, Akseki and Ibradıı were much like Of, save that they were located in the Mediterranean province of Antalya rather than the Black Sea province of Trabzon. Like their eastern Black Sea cousins, the residents of Ibradıı and Akseki were propelled by circumstances to seek their fortunes beyond their rural homelands. As in the eastern Black Sea districts, these two Mediterranean districts once produced large numbers of professors, academies, and students.
And yet, there is a striking difference between the Mediterranean and Black Sea districts in this regard. The number of the Ottoman learned class who declare Akseki and Ibradıı as their birthplace or homeland is very high. The numbers involved are comparable to all the learned class of all the eastern Black Sea coastal districts taken together, or even to all the learned class of Istanbul. Ibradıı and Akseki are then two striking additional examples of provincial participation in the state society and system, only by a different path and in a different way. There were large numbers of professors, academies, and students in Akseki and Ibradıı during the late nineteenth century, to a degree that was comparable to Of. Still, the Aksekilis and Ibradıılııs were far more successful in entering the ranks of Ottoman religious, military, and administrative officials. The reason for this appears to lie in their very early contacts with the imperial center, a fact Evliya Çelebi took the trouble to point out. From a very early date, no later than the classical Ottoman period, the inhabitants of these two small Mediterranean districts were unusually well connected in the ranks of Ottoman officialdom, despite their remoteness. Over time, moreover, they were able to preserve and cultivate these connections so that the two towns, even though agriculturally impoverished, were recognized as centers of both learning and wealth by state authorities during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. These long-standing connections with individuals in high imperial positions were probably essential for maintaining the quality, if not the quantity, of local educational activities. And, of course, they must have also played an important role in providing access into high imperial circles as one generation of successful Ibradıılııs and Aksekilis gave assistance to the next.
The peoples of the district of Of, like those in the districts of Akseki and Ibradıı, were also obliged by their circumstances to seek their fortune through participation in a state society and system. On the other hand, their situation was very different from their Mediterranean cousins. The district of Of had remained outside the realm of the Turco-Islamic dynasties of Asia Minor for a much longer time. Its inhabitants included many newly converted peoples during the seventeenth century. As newcomers, they were at a disadvantage. They would not have had contacts among circles of higher imperial officials. They therefore would have had more difficulty working their way into circles of higher imperial officials. So they did not have what the Aksekilis and Ibradıılııs had: representatives among higher imperial officials who endowed local religious establishments and sponsored local youths of promise. What the Oflus had instead was collective experience in penetrating a state system from its margins.
During the post-classical period, the Oflus set about colonizing imperial institutions wherever and whenever they could do so. As a consequence of this mode of entry, the Oflus were remarkably successful on the ground floor of imperial institutions, so to speak, in the same measure that the Aksekilis and Ibradıılııs were successful at the top floor. In the district of Of, one discovers all the ways in which people at the margins of the Empire could better themselves through a strategy of identifying with a state society and system rather than resting content with purely local communal identities and occupations. Religious teaching and learning were therefore popular activities in the district of Of precisely in the measure that involvement in the outside world was the local way of life. Religious teaching and learning were fused with the practice of trades and crafts precisely because acquisition of the former was the precondition for the exercise of the latter in the towns and villages of a state society and system.
Through the nineteenth century and beyond, the local elites of the eastern coastal districts adapted themselves to the westernizing state system. The aghas and agha-families remained essential to the state system since they were still necessary for carrying out the most elementary governmental functions at the local level. The hodjas and medreses remained essential to the state system given the policy of building an Islamist population for the support of the imperial regime. By this combination, the military and religious foundations of an ottomanist rural society remained in place until the very end of the imperial regime. Again, it is the district of Of, homeland of so many soldiers and students, that provides one of the best examples of how this was so.
Memoirs of Günday
The problem of misgovernment by local elites and district officials was probably especially severe in the early 1880s, as a consequence of the recent Russo-Ottoman War. A little more than a decade later, when Biliotti had left Trabzon for an assignment in Crete, a new provincial governor appears to have reigned in the regional social oligarchy. Kadri Bey (1893–1903) did not bring about a definitive change in the structure of political authority. Rather, by the classic measures of a strong provincial governor—reprisal and intimidation, combined with appointments and concessions—he "rectified" and "improved" (ııslah) the local elites and district officials. But then, upon his sudden death in office, there was a deterioration of governmental authority, just as there had been upon the death of Süleyman Pasha (1818) and Osman Pasha (1842).
At the time, British consul Longworth described conditions in the town of Trabzon in terms that bring to mind the consular reports of Fourcade and Dupré a century earlier. The town of Trabzon, he tells us, is divided into factions led by two family lines, the Kahyaoğlu and Hacııoğlu, such that "lawlessness has become rampant." There are "rowdies in the streets" who "fight wherever they meet." They use "their firearms freely to the danger of those around." A young Kahyaoğlu who had shot a policeman was "freed by the gendarmes," and "no one will bear witness" against the troublemakers. These civil disorders were not entirely restricted to the province of Trabzon. The Ottoman Empire was drifting toward the Young Turk revolution of 1908. The repeated failure to address the problem of misgovernment was leading Ottoman officials and citizens to draw more radical conclusions about the steps necessary for governmental reform. One such Ottoman official and citizen would eventually cite the district of Of as a case in point.
When the revolution of the Young Turks occurred in 1908, it was accompanied in the province of Trabzon by demonstrations against governmental corruption and incompetence. Large crowds assembled before government buildings in each of the coastal districts to express their outrage. Fearing for their personal safety, district officials deserted their posts, leaving much of the province of Trabzon without any kind of governmental authority. Faik Hurşid Günday was an advisor to the governor and resident of the capital at the time. As he recalled years later in his memoirs, he was asked to investigate and resolve an especially serious incident in the district of Of, where two local parties were on the brink of armed conflict.
According to reports, the district officer (kaymakam) of Of was supported by one group of local aghas, while the municipal mayor of Of, Hasan Efendi Selimoğlu, was supported by another group of local aghas. Each of the two opposed parties had called on their followers to assemble in the district center (kasaba), and some seven or eight hundred men in arms from the villages had responded.
Günday had been asked by the governor to mediate between the two parties and restore the peace, just as countless other state officials had been obliged to mediate among the competing local elites during the period of decentralization. In his memoirs, he describes how, in the company of just two gendarmes, he set out from the capital by horseback and reached the district after a half-day's ride:
Günday had come to the district of Of to "rectify" or "improve" (ııslah) the aghas, that is, to put them back in their proper places, not to suppress or disperse them. He lectures them specifically on the point of having taken up arms against one another and orders them to "put their affairs in order in accordance with their position" as local elites who represent the peoples of the district. There will be no mention of criminal charges or proceedings during his visit, most assuredly not by an official who had but two gendarmes at his side in a district that had only recently mobilized as many as eight hundred men.
I went to the government building and entered the office of the district officer. The government building was a rented house in a state of ruin with stairs that were broken down, dirty, and disgusting. Afterward I received the aghas from the two sides. I told them I had no idea that there were armed characters such as they in the district of Of and that they should put their affairs in order in accordance with their position. When the news of my arrival and the resignation of the district officer spread, the two opposed sides sent all their men back to the villages. [Italics mine]
Günday provides a sketch of the district such as he came to know it during two and a half months residence as acting district officer. The following citation is given without lacunae:
The conditions Günday was describing were a more or less corrupted version of the form of local government officially instituted by Osman Pasha. The illegal practices of the aghas of Of were not really that far from legal practices in force from 1834 to 1847.
I saw that the dominion of "agha-ness" (ağalıık) was everywhere in existence in Of, in a stronger and more powerful form [than elsewhere].
Of these, the Solaklıı Valley aghas were from the Selimoğlu, the most powerful family in Of. In the second place, there were the Baltacıı Valley aghas from the so-called Muradoğlu, as well as other aghas like Osman Vehbioğlu and Tellioğlu. The villages of these aghas were in places distant from the district center (kasaba), but all of them had salons (oda) in the district center, and all of them resided in these salons.
In these salons they were all as it were in the position of being like a [nonofficial] government (hükümet) for each of their separate areas (mııntııka). The aghas served as intermediaries between the official government and the villagers who belonged to them, such as in the instance of the marrying of boys and girls. The aghas exacted charges and bribes in accordance with the means of each man or the task in hand. I also established that they collected an "agha-ness" contribution (ağalıık aidatıı) each year in their villages.
Günday next mentions the existence of seventy medreses in the district of Of, adding that almost everyone was a student. He then goes on to describe the collusion between the local aghas and almost all the district officials, including the head of the accounting office, the head of the census office, and the judge's representative, in the following terms:
Günday gives specific examples of the way that an "embezzlement commission" (irtikap komisyonu) extracted money in the instance of fees paid for exemption from military service, the registration of deeds, and so on. We can assume that the "embezzlement commission" was probably standard practice both before and after the period of decentralization. It was one more way in which practices of the central government had been locally appropriated and adapted.
In Of, with the intervention of these aghas, and including almost all the civil servants, there was a battle over these bribes. The two-headed revolt that had broken out in the affair involving district officer Celal Bey was precisely because of these bribes.
I also learned other things. Except for the mayor of the municipality, Hasan Efendi Selimoğlu, and his supporters . . . , a very sizable association collected money from every businessman who came to the government. This association included . . . the district officer Celal Bey, the administrative assembly members, Ferhat Selimoğlu, and Hasan Efendi Muradoğlu, along with a number of civil servants like the census official. Acting together in this matter, they then divided the money among themselves.
Hoping to abolish these practices, Günday ordered the salons of some of the aghas to be closed and the bribery to cease. In response to these measures, one of the aghas told him he was going to the British consul for assistance. Another agha told him that the bribes were the "bread" of the aghas, and he was taking their "bread" from them. Eventually the mayor, Hasan Efendi Selimoğlu, showed Günday an order sent down by a previous provincial governor (Kadri Bey) calling for the salons of the aghas to be shut and the aghas themselves banished to their respective villages (that is, removed at a safe distance from the government but otherwise not punished). So Günday was doing in Of what Kadri Bey had done in Of just a few years before. And Kadri Bey had done in all of Trabzon more or less what Osman Pasha had done in all of Trabzon before him. Get the aghas out of the district government. Destroy their mansions or close down their salons. Send them back to their villages. Require them to serve the government as they should: "Put your affairs in order in accordance with your position."
Günday concludes his remarks with a negative assessment of what he or anyone else could have accomplished under the imperial regime. After the declaration of the Constitution of 1908, he tells us, there were no real changes, either in Of or in any other of the coastal districts of the province of Trabzon. All along the coastal region the old local elites (eşraf) and usurpers (mütegallibe), such as he had encountered in the district of Of, stayed in place by registering themselves as members of the new dominant party of the new constitutional revolution, the Union and Progress Committee. In other words, his mission to the district of Of was inevitably a failure. He had temporarily "rectified" or "improved" (ııslah) the aghas of Of, but no real structural change had taken place.
Some years later, Günday would participate in the nationalist movement. He served as the governor of the province of Sivas. He represented the army in the National Assembly. His memoirs were written still later, sometime during his retirement in the 1950s. His account of the aghas and agha-families of Of should therefore be read as a retrospective account. When Günday points to what could not be accomplished in the district of Of in 1908, he is almost certainly thinking of what he felt had been accomplished later during the first decades of the Turkish Republic. He insisted on the failure of an imperial policy of reform, for which he himself had worked, because he was convinced of the success of the nationalist movement and revolution in which he had become so deeply involved some years later. By the later prescriptions of Kemalism, which Günday would have most certainly espoused, it would not be enough to westernize the state system while hoping that social thinking and practice would follow along. It would be necessary to reinvent both the state and social systems at the same time.
1. My account of the first constitutional period follows Lewis (1961, 160-64). [BACK]
2. See Lewis's (1961, 164–65) quotation of the Istanbul correspondent of the Daily News. [BACK]
3. Cf. Hourani 1974, 73-74. [BACK]
4. The first printing press in Trabzon was established by the provincial government in 1869. The government printing house published official y earbooks (salname) and an official newspaper from that date. The first private newspaper did not appear in Trabzon until 1908 (Odabaşııoğlu 1987; Birinci 1989). [BACK]
5. See Issawi 1970. The transit trade at Trabzon begins to decline after the opening of the Suez Canal (1869) and the completion of the railroad from Tiblis to Teheran (circa 1870). [BACK]
6. In PRO FO 195/261, Jan. 1846, Fr. Stevens anticipates application of the Reordering (Tanzimat) in Trabzon. Bilgin (1990, 164) dates the application of the Tanzimat in the province of Trabzon to 1847. [BACK]
7. Beginning with the first in 1869 and continuing into the 1900s, Ottoman yearbooks regularly described an array of public representatives and institutions that reached out from the provincial capital into these district towns. [BACK]
8. See the Ottoman yearbook of 1869/1286 (Emiroğlu 1993, vol. 1). [BACK]
9. Biliotti would have almost certainly known Italian, French, and Greek as well as English. He should have known Turkish, too, but I am less certain of his fluency. He also served as a consular official in Crete from 1885 to 1899 and in Salonica until his retirement to Rhodes in 1903. David Barchard tells me that Wyndham Graves, Biliotti's consular successor in Crete, considered him to be a native of Rhodes. [BACK]
10. The British government favored institutional change as a means for protecting the interests of the Christian minorities as well as for insuring the stability of the Ottoman Empire. The Foreign Office had been displeased when Sultan Abdülhamit II exiled Mithat Pasha and dissolved the parliament. Subsequently, the Foreign Office had probably instructed its representatives to gather information about injustices so that a case for reform might be pressed upon the Hamidian regime. [BACK]
11. Biliotti initially attributes the problems in the district of Ordu to a specific cause, the Laz immigrants who had been newly settled there after the conclusion of the recent war with the Russians. But then he goes on to broaden his remarks to apply to all the "Beys and Aghas" of Ordu (PRO FO 195/1329, May 12, 1880). [BACK]
12. Ibid. Biliotti also discusses abuses at Pir Aziz in this same report, and abuses at Giresun and its sub-district, Bulancak, in a subsequent report (PRO FO 195/1329, May 14, 1880). [BACK]
13. The later British and French consuls did not normally undertake such expeditions. They had little interest in the coastal districts after the "pacification" of the local elites during the 1830s. As the treatment of the minorities became a diplomatic issue, they began to think once again of the coastal districts, but very few consuls submitted themselves to the ordeal of visiting the more remote rural areas by horseback. William Gifford Palgrave, Biliotti's predecessor, was, however, another exception among the later consuls. He also left the provincial capital, traveled extensively throughout the coastal region, and submitted lengthy, heavily documented descriptions of the coastal region (PRO FO 195/812, Jan. 1868, "General Report"; No. 19, Mar. 20, 1868; PRO FO 526/8, Jan. 29, 1873, "On the Lazistan Coast . . ."; Palgrave 1887). Palgrave's consular reports include a wealth of statistical information, gleaned from official Ottoman documents, but very little reliable information about political and social conditions in the coastal districts. They are marred by prejudice against both the Muslims and Christians. For doubts about Palgrave's accounts of Trabzon, see Bryer 1969, 193, and especially Bryer 1988. [BACK]
14. However, Biliotti eventually writes a report that presents an overview of the province of Trabzon in which he reaches general conclusions about its social conditions (PRO FO 195/1329, No. 64, Dec. 1880). [BACK]
15. Biliotti's consular reports, written from 1880 forward, are consistent with three major sociological patterns in different parts of the coastal region. The patterns and their sources follow: 1) Along the coast to the west of Ordu toward Samsun (the old province of Canıık) he found vast farming estates, some of them spin-offs of the lands of the Hazinedaroğlu. Here the local elites were often large landowners who formed a kind of government by themselves. Their sharecroppers were often "life tenants," little more than serfs who were bought and sold with the land. See PRO FO 195/1329, No. 38, Aug. 1880 at Çarşamba, describing eastern Çarşamba; No. 30, Aug. 1880 at Fatsa, describing the coast from Fatsa to Ordu; No. 32, Aug. 1880 at Ünye, describing Fatsa; No. 33, Aug. 1880 at Ünye, describing Ünye. 2) Along the coast east of Trabzon toward Hopa, which Biliotti knew about only indirectly, his reports indicate that local elites were members of large family groupings who were positioned in district social networks. State officials were often more or less completely dependent on such individuals, even for carrying out the most elementary tasks of government. See PRO FO 195/1238, Jan. 23, 1879; 195/1381, No. 54, Sept. 1881; 195/1381, No. 33, Nov. 1881; 195/1420, No. 27, June 1882. 3) Along the intermediary coast, from Trabzon to Ordu, the local elites were more variable in their character. In those places where there were plains along the coastline, local elites resembled the landowners of the western coast, while the conditions of their sharecroppers were sometimes better and sometimes worse. In other places, the local elites were from large family groupings that combined to dominate rural areas as along the eastern coast. In still other places, local elites were prominent townsmen who had been able to permeate district governments with their friends and relatives. See PRO FO 195/1329, No. 34, Aug. 1880 at Çarşamba, describing Terme; No. 30, Aug. 1880 at Fatsa, describing Ordu; No. 45, Oct. 1880 at Çarşamba, describing Pir Aziz, sub-district of Giresun; No. 45, Oct. 1880 at Çarşamba, describing Bulancak, sub-district of Giresun; No. 48, Oct. 1880 at Görele, describing Tirebolu; No. 49, Oct. 1880 at Vakfııkebir, describing Görele. [BACK]
16. Also see his comment on the district officer (kaymakam) at Ünye (PRO FO 195/1329, No. 33, Aug. 1880 at Ünye, describing Ünye, and PRO FO 195/1329, No. 48, Oct. 1880 at Görele, describing Tirebolu). [BACK]
17. See Biliotti's comments on Mithat Bey at Sürmene (PRO FO 195/1238, Jan. 23, 1879). [BACK]
18. The other two governors he mentions are Ahmet Rasim Pasha and Giritli Sıırrıı Pasha. See Deringil (1998) for an in-depth study of the political outlook of high Ottoman officials during this period. [BACK]
19. PRO FO 195/1329, No. 50, Oct. 1880. [BACK]
20. Ibid. [BACK]
21. PRO FO 195/1329, No. 64, Dec. 1880. [BACK]
22. Ibid. [BACK]
23. Ibid. [BACK]
24. Ibid. [BACK]
25. David Barchard, quoting the memoirs of Wyndham Graves, has recently given me evidence of Biliotti's close contacts with Christians during that later period. [BACK]
26. The consular report cited above, in which Biliotti expresses his confusion about the role of the feudal lords in old Trabzon, indicates how little attention he had given to provincial Muslim society during seven years of residence in the coastal region. [BACK]
27. PRO FO 195/1381, No. 54, Dec. [or possibly Sept.] 1881. [BACK]
28. Ibid. [BACK]
29. See note 15, above, summarizing the sociological patterns of local elites, which can be inferred from Biliotti's consular reports. [BACK]
30. PRO FO 195/1521, "Report on the Schools in the Vilayet of Trebizond," May 1885. [BACK]
31. Another indication is Biliotti's reference to brigandage and murder, charges that were usually leveled against the Oflus. In MAE CCCT L.2 (1812–24), No. 74, Feb. 1819, "Off, the refuge of brigands"; Fontanier (1834, 293–94) writes, "its inhabitants as well as those of Sürmene are reputed to be great robbers, but have the advantage over the latter of being fearless pirates as well." Koch (1855: 110–11) writes, "In all the mountains, the land of Off is the most feared and avoided because of brigandage." [BACK]
32. Fontanier (1834, 299) mentions the tradition of Prince Lazerew for Mapavria. [BACK]
33. Fontanier (1834, 299) mentions the tradition of Bishop ııskender for Of but does not give his name. [BACK]
34. For the first attestations of many professors, academies, and students in the district of Of, see chap. 5. Attestations from the nineteenth century are abundant. Şakir Şevket (1877/1294, 98) notes that the district of Of was known for having produced many men of the learned class (ulema). See Karadenizli (1954, 45), more readily available, for a translation of Şakir Şevket's passage on the district of Of. British consul in Trabzon W. G. Palgrave writes, "It is curious that no district of Anatolia furnishes so large a number of Mollas and Muftees that is of Professors and Legists as Of, nor I must add such ignorant and narrow mindedness" (PRO FO 526/8, Jan. 29, 1873, "On the Lazistan Coast. . . ."). Trabzon yearbooks, including the first published in 1869/1286, state that the district of Of was famous for its many professors, academies, and students. [BACK]
35. The Trabzon yearbook for 1869/1286 (Emiroğlu 1993, 1: 150–51) lists the total number of students (miktar-i talebe-i ulum), academies (medâris-i ilmiye), prayer-leaders (eimme), sermon-givers (huteba), and professors (müderrisîn) for each district of the province of Trabzon. For the district of Of, these numbers are 2,364, 350 [?], 98, 137, and 82, respectively. By way of comparison, the corresponding numbers for the sancak of Trabzon (coastal districts from Rize to Giresun) were 4654, 435, 576, 946, and 170, so that Of made up more than half of the total number of students. The number of academies listed for Of is presumably a clerical error since it exceeds the total number of villages by severalfold. The number 35, rather than 350, would be in line with the other figures given in this and later Trabzon yearbooks. This would mean there were 35 academies in Of out of a total of 85 in the sancak of Trabzon, again roughly half. [BACK]
36. The Trabzon yearbook for 1888/1305 also lists the numbers of students, the official academies, and the names of the professors in each of the districts of Trabzon. On pages 127–31, the thirty-nine academies in the old district of Of are listed in order of their official number, from No. 134 to No. 172. Of these, eleven were in villages in what is now the district of Of, twenty-three were in villages in what is now the district of Çaykara, three were in the "Holo" villages that are now attached to Sürmene, and two are of unknown location. The total enrollment in the academies was given as 2,800. Umur (1949: 25–33) writes that there were probably about three to four thousand students in the academies of the old district of Of during the late Ottoman period. He lists nineteen villages with academies in the valley of the Baltacıı River alone (most now in Hayrat sub-district), only five of which appear on the official lists in the Trabzon yearbook for 1888/1305. He also names a professor who was associated with each of these academies and provides a short biographical sketch. [BACK]
37. The nineteenth-century reports of crypto-Christians generally refer to the Kurumlis—Christians officially registered as Muslims—who were settled in the upper districts of Sürmene and Trabzon rather than in Of (see chap. 5). The contemporary Oflus, like other Trabzonlus, believe in the curative powers of Christian priests and preserve Christian relics that they used as charms for cures. In the 1960s, during my residence in Of, I met observant and knowledgeable Muslims who showed me small interlocking silver ornaments, said to be useful as prophylactic devices, that they had purchased from Christian priests. [BACK]
38. Umur (1956, 16–17) fixes the period when many new permits were granted from 1825/1240 to 1844/1260. [BACK]
39. See note 6, above, referring to the application of the Reordering (Tanzimat) to Trabzon. [BACK]
40. My interlocutors in Of knew that registration as a religious teacher or student was a tactic for avoiding conscription, but they insisted that the main motive for such activities was social prestige and economic advantage rather than evasion of military service. However, Umur (1949, 28) mentions that the abolition of examinations during the later Ottoman period turned the religious academies into asylums for military deserters. [BACK]
41. Palgrave (1872, 130) writes, "Not the common people only, but many of the highest and best educated classes, even the Sultan himself among the number, are distinctly inclined toward the stricter school, and so are the principal doctors and teachers throughout the Ottoman East, as he will find who visits the 'Medresehs' at Of, Koniah, Damascus, Gaza, and even Mosool." [BACK]
42. See Cansıız (1948, 13) who also states that there were never any meeting places for religious brotherhoods (tekke) in Of; however, one such a meeting place is officially recorded in the Trabzon yearbook for 1869/1286. The number of meeting places for religious brotherhoods is unusually low in all the coastal districts east of Trabzon. The Trabzon yearbook for 1869/1286 lists none for Lazistan (Batum to Arhavi), twenty-six for Trabzon (from Rize to Bucak), and forty-eight for Canıık (Ünye to Bafra). Of the twenty-six in Trabzon, there were only three in the district of Rize, one in Of, and none in Sürmene. Cuinet (1890–95: vol. 1, 55, 64) counted only two tekke for all of the sancak of Trabzon, one each in Giresun and Tirebolu. Noting the low number of tekke in the coastal region, Bryer (1975: 141) concluded that the energies of the early missionary dervishes of Anatolia had been spent by the time that Trabzon was incorporated by the Ottomans. Alternatively, the low number of tekke might be interpreted as a sign of the preference for "official" as opposed to "charismatic" Islam by all the population of the coastal region. [BACK]
43. The title of his study can be translated as "The Last Period of the Ottoman Learned Class" (1980–81). It is based on the biographies of hundreds of officials whose birth dates usually occur sometime during the nineteenth century. The biographies themselves sometimes add further details about educational background. Albayrak notes that he was unable to consult all the biographies since many had been destroyed or were in poor condition. Thus, the counts in table 3 are only a rough indication and cannot be considered definitive. [BACK]
44. The counts might conceivably underestimate the extent to which centers of religious study in Of contributed to the religious education of members of the Ottoman learned class, wherever they may have b een born. Some of the learned class may have in fact received some of their religious education in its centers of religious study even though they were not born there. This would probably not have been a significant number, however, since the Oflus themselves were not able to rise into the learned class in large numbers. [BACK]
45. Some went to Sürmene, where the teacher in the local religious academy would probably have been an Oflu. Some of those who went to Istanbul may have also received lessons from an Oflu teaching in one of the great mosques. [BACK]
46. These two districts have usually been part of a coastal Mediterranean province, such as Alanya or Antalya. Ibradıı is now a sub-district (nahiye) of the district (kaza) of Akseki in the province (vilayet) of Antalya. [BACK]
47. So far as I can determine, Ibradıı and Akseki were never known as recruiting grounds for irregular soldiers as were Rize, Of, and Sürmene. [BACK]
48. I was able to visit the town of Akseki very briefly during 1967 and 1968. Although it was a remote mountain district, I was particularly impressed with the gracious appearance of its houses and streets. In fact, I chose not to use this town as a site for a second study because its residents seemed so educated and sophisticated. This was a mistake that I have since sorely regretted. The comparison of Of and Akseki would have been a fascinating exercise. [BACK]
49. In the census of 1878/1295 there were fifty religious academies attributed to the district of Akseki, which included the sub-district of Ibradıı (Özkaynak 1954, 43). [BACK]
50. Özkaynak (1954, 123–79) mentions that they were as successful in becoming military and administrative officials as religious officials. [BACK]
51. Evliya Çelebi refers to a connection between Ibradıı and one or more Şeyh- ül-ııslâm in Istanbul during the later seventeenth century (Özkaynak 1954, 10, 100; Selekler 1960, 82). There is also a tradition that the Şeyh-ül-ııslâm Minqârî-zâde Yahya Efendi was associated with Akseki. Uğur's (1986, xliv, 450–52) summary of the official biography of this man includes no mention of this; however, he does note that he sponsored many individuals wishing to enter the upper ranks of the ulema. [BACK]
52. Özkaynak 1954, 100–101. A number of large mansions were built in the town by individuals with official connections at this time. [BACK]
53. See my summary of Osman Pasha's reforms (ııslah) of the local elites during the early years of his governorship (chap. 7). [BACK]
54. PRO FO 195/2136, Apr. 1, 1903. [BACK]
55. Odabaşııoğlu 1990, 4-13. [BACK]
56. In the 1960s, the Vehbioğlu and the Tellioğlu families were considered allies of the Selimoğlu. [BACK]
57. See the Muradoğlu documents. [BACK]
58. During the later nineteenth century, it became common for British, French, and Russian consular officials to act as the protectors of the Christian minorities. When the agha proposed seeking the help of the British, he was seeking to emulate this practice, seeing himself as an abused minority. [BACK]
59. See my comments on the strong governorship of Kadri Bey (1893–1903) in chap. 7. [BACK]
60. Odabaşııoğlu 1990, 13. [BACK]