Amnesia and Prohibition
National Public Culture and Imperial Public Culture
The official history of the Turkish Republic begins on May 19, 1919, with the arrival of the Ottoman military commander, Mustafa Kemal Pasha, in the Black Sea port of Samsun. Under the terms of an armistice, the Ottoman sultan had accepted the disbanding of what remained of his armies, as well as military occupation by Britain, France, and Italy. Having left Istanbul under orders to implement the armistice, Mustafa Kemal, later to become known as Atatürk, instead set about coordinating a national resistance in defiance of the imperial government. Just days before his departure, a Greek army had landed at the Aegean port of Izmir with intentions of annexing western Asia Minor. In time, however, Mustafa Kemal was able to rally imperial commanders and troops in Anatolia and assume leadership of a National Assembly meeting in Ankara. The Independence War (1921–22) that followed concluded with the defeat and retreat of the Greek army. In the aftermath of this victory, Italy, France, and Britain came to terms with the nationalist movement, whereupon the imperial government collapsed. The declaration of the Turkish Republic followed soon thereafter (1923).
From the moment of military victory, the National Assembly, urged along by Mustafa Kemal, began to move toward radical revisions of the state system. By 1925, the Sultanate and Caliphate had been replaced by a president. The sacred law of Islam had been entirely abandoned in favor of the Swiss civil code and the Italian penal code. Religious schools and institutes had been closed in order to emphasize secular education. The Gregorian calendar and the international clock had replaced Islamic dates and times. From their inception, these changes in governmental institutions anticipated nothing less than a revolution, the replacement of an imperial by a national public culture. Certain kinds of religious speech, script, dress, and manners in public life were legally proscribed. Other kinds of secular speech, script, dress, and manners in public life were officially approved. There would be a new Turkish writing, a new Turkish language, a new Turkish history, and a new Turkish folklore. Scholarly institutes would be founded, academic research would be sponsored, and a core of schoolteachers would be trained for the purpose of propagating new national norms that would take the place of old imperial norms.
The effects of this revolution were not restricted to the greater cities, even during the early years of the Turkish Republic. Many district officers, public prosecutors, and gendarmes in towns and villages were zealous nationalists. They were ready, if not eager, to use their powers to arrest and prosecute anyone who defied the secular reforms. In addition to legal enforcement, provincial state officials also conducted propaganda campaigns aimed at disgracing local representatives of the imperial system, that is to say, aghas and hodjas. By the later 1930s, anyone who wished to take part in public life was obliged to do so in accordance with the new national norms. Indeed, even direct descendants of aghas and hodjas took care to appear in public life as Turkish nationalists rather than Muslim ottomanists. It is true that not everyone in the towns and villages of Anatolia changed their everyday habits. But any villager or townsman who wished to receive the respect of a state official was obliged to reform himself or herself.
The revolution would not have been so successful, and perhaps not successful at all, without the coupling of repression with enjoyment. Contrary to a stereotype of provincial Ottoman society, the villages and towns of Anatolia were anything but inert sociopolitical entities, even if the population had been impoverished and exhausted by decades of warfare by the 1920s. The top-down project of modular nationalism therefore required that citizens be drawn into the new public life of the Turkish nation by a process of self-discovery and development. Of the various steps taken, one of the more effective in provincial Turkey was the encouragement of local celebrations of local engagements in the Independence War, which became known everywhere as Liberation Day (Kurtuluş Günü). Sometime during the early years of the Turkish Republic, the towns in the western Aegean provinces began to commemorate the exact day of the year when foreign troops withdrew. The result was a series of rolling Liberation Days that progressively marked the westward advance of the nationalist forces toward Izmir.
By analogy, the towns in the eastern Black Sea provinces also began to commemorate their own series of rolling Liberation Days, but in reference to the end of an earlier military conflict. The Russian army had initially invaded and occupied the eastern coastal region in 1916, but then withdrew in 1918 as a consequence of the Bolshevik Revolution. This means that the Liberation Days in the Black Sea towns commemorate events that predate the landing of the Greek army in Izmir, Mustafa Kemal's arrival in Samsun, the rise of the nationalist movement, the subsequent Independence War, and the concluding declaration of the Turkish Republic. That is to say, they refer to events that occurred "anachronistically," in the context of an imperial rather than a national struggle.
In the next four sections of this chapter, I shall consider the way in which two Oflu authors attempted to understand this dislocated periodization during the later 1940s. At the time, the new national forms of speech, script, dress, and manners had thoroughly displaced the old imperial forms in the district of Of. Indeed, the revolution in public culture was as thorough and complete as it would ever be. Nonetheless, a state society of imperial origin was already colonizing nationalist institutions and organizations. As a result, the new public culture was beginning to feature splits and divides that challenged some of the most experienced and knowledgeable of the Oflus. National ideology and institutions had indeed brought about a change in consciousness in the district of Of, but in such a way as to make the relationship of present and past difficult to decipher.
The Battle for Of
The celebration of Liberation Day in the district of Of does not really mark the final withdrawal of foreign troops, as is the case elsewhere, but resistance to their initial assault two years previously. In this respect, the first event of local nationalist history occurs at a moment when the imperial government was anticipating victory. The district of Of therefore offers a striking example of a dislocated periodization, exceptional even for the towns along the eastern Black Sea coast. To explain, I must first briefly mention the larger context of military conflict in the late winter of 1916.
The Germans and Ottomans had been at war with the British, French, Italians, and Russians for a little more than a year. A great Ottoman victory, credited to Mustafa Kemal, had recently been achieved at Gallipoli. But all kinds of disasters were looming in the eastern provinces of Erzurum, Van, and Trabzon. Already, the imperial government had begun to deport the Armenian minority into the Syrian desert, where many would die without provisions or shelter. Very soon, the Muslim majority would also suffer massive casualties and extraordinary hardship as a consequence of Russian offensives followed by Ottoman counteroffensives.
The Russian advance on Trabzon began in February, when a land army supported by naval gun ships occupied the town of Rize. Avni Pasha, regional military commander of Lazistan, decided to gather the remnants of his retreating forces and make a desperate stand at the Baltacıı River in the district of Of (see map 1). Arriving in one of the interior villages of the district, he proceeded to summon to his side a number of the local leaders, asking them to rally the population in support of his army. The response he received seems to have exceeded anything he might have expected. For the next two or three weeks, several thousand Ottoman troops, reinforced by thousands of irregulars and assisted by thousands of civilians, succeeded in halting the forward movement of a formidable Russian force. During a brief but terrifying interval, the twentieth century arrived in the district of Of in the form of machine guns, naval bombardment, trench warfare, and civilian refugees.
As a popular effort involving great danger and sacrifice, the Battle for Of rightfully came to be remembered as the dawn of a new kind of political identity and participation. It was the local instance of a Turkish nation that was coming into existence even before the prospect of the extinction of the Ottoman Empire. Some twenty-five years after the declaration of the Turkish Republic, as the country was moving from a one-party to a multiparty system, two little books appeared that explored the meaning of the Battle for Of. Each of their authors pondered the early spring of 1916 as they considered the identity of the inhabitants of the district of Of. Each of them posed the question of how the Oflus had been able to manifest themselves as a Turkish nation, already in the twilight of the Ottoman Empire.
The first of the books to appear, in late 1949, was a memoir based on first-hand experience. It was written by Hasan Umur, student of the hodjas during the later Empire, participant in the Battle for Of, activist in the nationalist movement, and local politician in the early Turkish Republic. The second to appear (early 1950) was a research project based on personal interviews, official documents, and authoritative sources. It was written by Altay Yiğit, a young teacher in a primary school, native of the new district of Çaykara, and an intimate of leading individuals from large family groupings. I shall begin with their contradictory reports of what Avni Pasha, regional commander of Lazistan, said and wrote soon after he arrived in the district of Of, on February 28, 1916. Umur was among the local leaders who responded to the summons of Avni Pasha. He tells us that his party found the military commander sittingin a chair in the garden of a village residence sometime after midnight:
Umur goes on to explain what he took to be the meaning of these remarks. Avni Pasha was saying that no one would be forced to take part in the battle, and no one who fled the front lines would be arrested. Given that the situation was so desperate, he had no alternative but to appeal to the patriotism (vatan aşkıı) of the Oflus.
Upon introducing himself to us, he said: "I am going to engage the enemy in battle here. I will give weapons to those who wish to join our soldiers in the battle. If there are those who do not wish to engage in the battle, let them carry munitions for our soldiers. And if there are those who are unable to do this, let them dig trenches for our soldiers. And if there are still those who say they cannot do this, let them say prayers for our soldiers.And if as well there are those who say they cannot do this, by God I shall hang them, and so help me God I shall hang them." And then he excused himself [from our presence]. [Italics mine]
Umur recollected that an imperial military officer had delivered a speech that resembled a nationalist exhortation of the republican period. Avni Pasha had called for a popular rising of a total society in support of "our soldiers," constructing an image of a division of labor that implicitly included young and old, male and female, well and infirm. In doing so, he had attempted to inspire his audience to identify themselves with the imperial troops, rhetorically insisting that he would hang anyone who refused to say prayers in support of their efforts. But Umur was citing utterances that he had heard thirty years earlier, before the collapse of the Empire had been followed by the founding of the Republic. This raises the possibility, if not the likelihood, that his memory was playing tricks on him. There is good evidence that this was the case.
Avni Pasha had also sent communiqués to district officials in late February, delegating to them the authority to organize support for the war effort. Yiğit discovered one of these documents in the archives of the müftü of Of and published a transliterated version in his own account. In his communiqué, Avni Pasha uses terms that correspond to Umur's recollections, but their meaning is entirely different. He addresses the müftü with respect for his person and his office, recognizing his devotion to state and religion. So he does appeal to a kind of patriotism, but it is an "official" patriotism limited to those individuals who held titles and positions in the imperial system. He orders the müftü to send him everyone, whether residents or guests, including all army deserters, absentee conscripts, and soldiers on furlough "capable of contributing to the war effort, for fighting, attacking, transporting, and constructing." So he does refer to his need for a division of labor, but not to a total society composed of individuals with different abilities and inclinations. He also calls for extreme, punitive measures to be applied to anyone who refused to support his troops, but he does not do so merely by way of rhetorical emphasis. On the contrary, he delegates full authority to the müftü "to rain down the most terrible kind of worldly punishments and afflictions on anyone who opposed him." And tothis end, he recommends "destruction and burning of their households, and the deportation and torture of their relatives and descendants." In other words, Avni Pasha was licensing the harshest treatment of the Muslim population, just as other state officials had already licensed the harshest treatment of the Armenian population.
In contrast to the oral quote, the communiqué is consistent with state policies that had been repeatedly applied to the district of Of at moments of extreme political crisis during the post-classical imperial period. The governors of the province of Trabzon had often called on local elites to assemble and dispatch troops in support of the central armies of the Ottoman Empire. In doing so, they had often appealed to their identification with and participation in the imperial system, that is, their readiness to fight for state and religion. On the other hand, the governors of the province had also on some occasions carried out punitive expeditions against local elites. In doing so, they had burned houses, destroyed crops, hanged leaders, and deported families in order to force the submission of local elites at the head of local followings. In his message to the müftü, Avni Pasha therefore wrote in these two conventional registers of the post-classical imperial period. He acknowledged the "devotion to state and religion" of his official respondent even as he licensed "worldly punishments and afflictions" for anyone resisting his orders. So he in no way indicated any inclination to rely on the "patriotism" (vatan aşkıı) of the general population in the district of Of.
Avni Pasha may have adjusted the two conventional registers to suit his audience, drawing the line here when speaking to local leaders and drawing the line there when issuing orders to district officials. By such an estimation, the military commander would have spoken with respect for those who came to meet him at midnight in the garden, just as he also mercilessly threatened those who would not support the troops. When Umur recalled what he said, more than thirty years later, he may have further adjusted the two conventional registers, unconsciously redrawing the line between respect and threat. It was by this final edition that Avni Pasha had come to speak as a nationalist of the republican period.
Even if it is possible to soften the jarring contrast between the oral and written versions of Avni Pasha's remarks, the fact remains that Umur had mis-remembered. He had recalled that Avni Pasha did not intend to arrest anyone who fled the front lines but relied instead on an appeal to patriotism. The communiqué flatly contradicts this interpretation, and in doing so casts doubt on the reliability of Umur's memory. But there is also another reason to doubt Umur's recollection. If the overall design of his little book is considered, we can see that the words of the military commander are cited for a literary purpose. They confirm the presence of a certain "nation-thing" during the experience of the Battle for Of that was otherwise absent at the time of its recollection in writing. For the point of Umur's little book is that a national relationship of state and people, which had become palpable during the Battle for Of, had not afterwards been fully realized by the Turkish Republic. This is a strong indication that the memory of Avni Pasha's statement had been unconsciously reformulated as the singular moment of a pure national origin to be contrasted with an impure national aftermath.
Hodjas as the Founders of the Nation
Following the Battle for Of, Umur left the district of Of as a refugee, never again to return as a permanent resident. Sometime later he became an activist and politician in the nationalist movement, and so came to embrace the idea that the state should represent the people. However, by the later 1940s he had come to think of all the ways in which the people (halk) as defined by nationalist ideology and institutions, were not the people (millet) as measured by his own background and experience.
Umur was having such thoughts in anticipation of the possibility of free and direct elections. The prospect of a sounding of public opinion had probably brought to his mind the gap between the nation-state and the nation-people, the gap that should not have existed by the measure of his nationalist conviction and commitment. Accordingly, he had begun to reconsider who the people really were and therefore what the state really should be. And in doing so, he had followed his memories back to the moment of a pure national origin, back to the Battle for Of. There, he discovered an answer that stood in direct contradiction to revolutionary ideology and institutions. His little book, Of and the Battles for Of, is the result. It is an effort to explain what would have been unconscionable to the large majority of secular nationalists.
Umur begins with a brief essay on the importance of patriotism in human history, revealing his preoccupation with questions of the nation, as a people bound to a homeland. He then reviews the history of the district of Of, about which he was singularly informed. And what he brings to light for his readers, as he sifts through legend and rumor, is a people who are a people only as a consequence of the local religious professors and academies. It was they who had brought about the Islamization of the district of Of, making a place of many peoples speaking many languages into a place of one people with one religion.
His discovery had come to him from what he had personally learned and experienced in the district of Of; nonetheless, he concluded that his homeland could be taken as but a small part of a larger whole. The professors and academies that were once to be found in the district of Of, but that also existed throughout the core Ottoman provinces (bütün yurttaki medreseler gibi), had "laid the foundations of the Turkish nation." They had forged a common moral outlook and hence a communal solidarity among the people, not only in the district of Of, but in the rest of the country as well. Such a claim was not an original one at the time it was published; nonetheless, it was far from innocuous in its specific formulation. Umur was not just saying that religion had played an important role in the history of the Turkish people, as would have been acknowledged even by the most radical secularists. He was saying that no such thing as a Turkish people would have ever existed without the local representatives of the imperial religious establishment.
Knowing that his conclusion would prove controversial, Umur provides his readers with a historical and sociological account of the professors and academies. He discusses what was good and what was bad about religious education, consistently deriving its virtues from the personal character of the professors and its vices from inept policies and regulations. So he admits the deficiencies of the imperial religious establishment, but he consistently traces them to the state system, while otherwise lauding the religious teachers and students. As proof of their accomplishments, he includes a series of short biographies of the district's most distinguished representatives during the last years of the Empire and the first years of the Republic. His readers would be able to remember one or more of these men as their own personal teachers. In doing so, th ey would recall them as individuals who had been respected, if not cherished. It is this larger argument that explains why Umur had mis-remembered exactly what Avni Pasha had said in the midnight meeting in the garden. He was recalling the Battle for Of as a moment when the moral qualities of the people, put in place by the professors and academies, had been called forth by a state official.
Now Umur was completely correct with regard to the accomplishment of the professors and academies. They had indeed done exactly what he claimed they had done, at least in the context of the history of the district of Of. They had constituted the dominant form of ethical thinking and practice. Without them, the Oflus would be a hodgepodge of ethnic, if not tribal, groupings with little or nothing in common. But he was altogether incorrect to identify the Battle for Of as a moment of a perfect relationship between people and state. Indeed, the Battle for Of featured a gulf between the state and the people, as Avni Pasha's communiqué to the müftü clearly demonstrates. And this disjunction between state and people in 1916 was structurally similar, although not strictly identical, to the disjunction that had stirred Umur to question national public culture in 1949. To see more clearly what troubled him, we must examine the second account of the Battle for Of.
Aghas as Founders of the Nation
Altay Yiğit intended his little book, Eastern Black Sea Battles in the First World War, to be used in classrooms so that the children of the district would know local history. He had therefore conceived and constructed his story of the Battle for Of in an impeccable Kemalist format, the essential precondition for its adoption by a state school. The narrative of the little book is the result of research based on participant testimonies, official documents, and published histories. In other words, it is a nationalist history that conforms to scientific criteria. Nonetheless, the narrative is also interspersed with poetry composed by the most famous and eloquent authors of the early nationalist period. It joins authoritative methods and facts with an impassioned patriotism.
Yiğit also begins by explaining the importance of patriotism in all of human history in his introduction. This leads him to the example of Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Turkish Republic. Here he cites the accomplishments of the Eternal Leader (Ebedî Şef), and he concludes with a quotation of his "Speech to Youth" (Ey Türk Gençliği!). The first two chapters that follow then examine the imperial period as a run-up to the national period. They bear the titles "Our Relationships with the Russians Through History" and "The Collapse of the Ottoman Empire and Its Causes." Yiğit then turns to his main topic, an account of local residents who joined troops of the imperial army in order to resist Russian military invasion and occupation. Before mentioning specific incidents and individuals, however, he briefly explains the general significance of the Great War.
Because it was a modern military conflict, the Great War took the form of "total warfare" (topyekun harb). By this fact, the Ottoman Empire had to rely more than ever before on a people, all the more so because of the weakened condition of the state system. And of course, the only people it found to rely upon, at least in Asia Minor, were the Turkish people. As a consequence, the Great War brought to light the qualities of the Turkish nation (ıırkıımııza has kahramanlıık). And so it was that the Russian advance in 1916 locally took the form of a struggle for national existence (bütün varlıığıı ile savaşmak zorundadıır). An imperial army, which had been transformed into a national army (Türk ordusu) by total warfare, would require the assistance of the local population—not only its local militias, but all the residents of what was already in effect a national homeland (Karadenizin evlâtlarıı).
By these textual moves, made in three short paragraphs, Yiğit set the Battle for Of in the framework of the age of nations: A state had come to represent a people because the state was obliged to depend on the people. He immediately follows this opening argument with a list of the names of those volunteers who were known to have first rushed to the front lines between Batum and Hopa, even before the Russian advance. The list includes forty-five names of militia members from Rize, Of, and Sürmene. Next, he briefly describes three successive battles that occurred as the Russians advanced westward beyond Batum toward Rize, estimating in each instance the number of casualties on both sides. He then describes the Battle for Of in more detail. In the course of this account, he tells how soldiers and civilians worked together to organize a front at the Baltacıı River. Here he again gives lists of names of the volunteers who were part of this endeavor, but he also tells his readers about their words and actions. In doing so, he usually recounts how a military officer (his name is given) gave orders to one or more local residents (their names are given).
This account of the Battle for Of is remarkable in its tacit features, meaningless to anyone but an Oflu. The names that appear in the lists are in romanized characters, but they otherwise appear in their old imperial form. This being the case, the personal names of individuals are sometimes accompanied by a title, such as agha, bey, or pasha. When the individual is a local resident, the personal names are almost always preceded by a family name in the form of a patronymic (always if titled), such as Nuhoğlu Ahmet Agha. The exact distribution of the names in the lists is significant. Of the forty-five names of volunteers who rushed to the front lines at Batum, a third have the title agha as well as the patronymic of an agha-family from Rize, Of, or Sürmene. As for the lists of names associated with the Battle for Of, they always begin with a large cluster of individuals whose personal names are accompanied by the title agha and whose family names are those of agha-families. As for the accounts of the interactions of military officers and local leaders, they almost always involve well-known aghas from well-known agha-families.
Now, Yiğit's lists of names are in no way false or even biased. On the contrary, they appear to be a reasonably accurate version of the Battle for Of, even if not an exhaustive and definitive one. Leading individuals from large family groupings had always provided the leadership for local militias and regiments. The aghas from agha-families had assembled and accompanied soldiers on imperial campaigns, at home and abroad, for centuries. One would therefore expect that aghas from agha-families would be in the forefront of popular support for the imperial troops on the occasion of the Russian invasion in 1916. What is more significant is the placement of the aghas and the agha-families in a nationalist frame. The volunteers from among the local residents are presented as representatives of a Turkish people. The military officers and troops are representatives of a Turkish state. So the aghas from agha-families are given pride of place in the relationship of the nation-people and the nation-state. However, there is still more to the matter than this. By the lists of names, aghas from agha-families act as the representatives of the people of Of as the latter manifest themselves as a Turkish nation coming to the assistance of a Turkish state. But in the details of the account, aghas from agha-families are not depicted as assembling and directing volunteers (as they must have done in fact during the Battle for Of). They are depicted as receiving and fulfilling the orders of military officers. So for Yiğit, as for Umur, the nation once again becomes visible through a relationship of state and people, but in a different form. For Umur, the relationship of state and people manifested a moral solidarity (a state official evoking the support of a local population), but for Yiğit the relationship of state and people manifested a hierarchy (state officials directing local leaders who then direct the local population).
To understand this difference, we must return once again to the time the little book was written. Leading individuals from large family groupings had once again become intermediaries between state officials and the local population by the later 1940s. This had come about as state officials of the Kemalist period followed a governmental practice of the imperial period, turning to leading individuals from large family groupings for assistance, even though this contradicted nationalist ideology and institutions. As a consequence, an imperial state society at the local level had gradually but efficiently reoriented itself to become a national state society at the local level. Leading individuals from large family groupings, the descendants of aghas from agha-families, now appeared as nationalist rather than ottomanist in behavior, speech, and dress.
Yiğit's account of the Battle for Of therefore confirms that the old modernity, which could now be described as the "old republic," had inhabited the new modernity, which could now be described as the "new republic." According to this reorientation, the consequence of official practices if not policies, it was no longer possible for the Oflus to identify leading individuals from large family groupings as an unwelcome imperial legacy. Consequently, the ascendants of leading individuals from large family groupings, the aghas from agha-families, began to appear in memory as a nationalist leadership, even in the mind of a young Kemalist teacher in a primary school.
The confusion of the present with the past is clearly apparent from other formal features of the little book. It includes photographs of places and individuals associated with the battles of 1916 but that clearly date from after the declaration of the Turkish Republic. One of the five photographs of places shows a battle site (the high pastures in the Sultan Murat Mountains), but the other four show contemporary scenes of government buildings in the towns of Rize, Of, and Çaykara, one of them being identified as "headquarters." The four photographs of individuals include two individuals with the title "agha." One is a leading individual from the Muradoğlu (Harun Agha), and the other a leading individual from the Selimoğlu (Ferhat Agha). These two men are identified as participants in the Battle for Of, but they would also be among the most conservative, if not reactionary, of the local elites during the early Republican period.
But I have not yet mentioned the most striking of all the ironies that result from all these crossovers by which the local imperial was embedded within the local national. Yiğit could have plausibly described the aghas as the actual leaders of the people during the Battle for Of. After all, they were members of a regional social oligarchy, positioned in district networks, surrounded by large numbers of agnates, relatives, friends, partners, and followers. And indeed, for the very same reasons, their descendants could also plausibly be described as leaders of the people during the later 1940s. However, to so describe either group, it would be necessary for Yiğit to position them in circles of interpersonal association that were linked with Islamic belief and practice. But in the meantime, between 1916 and 1950, the Kemalists had disestablished Islam, thereby de-legitimizing the regional social oligarchy of the old province of Trabzon. So Yiğit could mention Islamic belief and practice as a feature of the Turkish nation (as he does in his introduction), but he could not describe aghas from agha-families as leaders of the people. He could only describe them as leaders of the people by virtue of their connections with officials of the nation-state, the latter having monopolized the legitimate representation of the nation-people.
In this regard, Yiğit is strangely silent when it comes to the professors and academies of the district of Of that were not only in existence legally in 1916, but also still in existence illegally in 1950. In this regard, his silence has all the earmarks of a prohibition. For example, of the more than a hundred personal names on his lists, only two have official religious titles (müftü, müderris), and only a few more indicate any kind of religious accomplishment (a number of hafıız, but not a single hacıı). Instead, the most common title affixed to a personal name after that of agha is efendi. Such a title would have indicated an "educated gentleman," hence by implication a graduate of a secular state school (rüşdiye), even though at least some if not most of these efendis had once been religious students, or even religious teachers.
Now Yiğit was a schoolteacher somewhere near the town of Of, but he was also himself from Çaykara, that part of the old district of Of so famous for its professors and academies. This means he would have not only been well informed about hodjas of Of, but he would also have inevitably had connections with such persons. It is even likely that he was a descendant of a line of hodjas, as was the case for many men and women who became schoolteachers, and certainly for most men and women who became writers or scholars. But Yiğit tells us nothing of this. Instead, he obliquely informs his readers that he is both a close relative and close friend of leading individuals from large family groupings.
Yiğit was most certainly withholding important information from his readers. But he was not intentionally attempting to trick or deceive. He was writing as an Oflu/Çaykaralıı and Kemalist. He wished to pay homage to the bravery of local residents in 1916, but he was obliged to so do by imposing on himself the revolutionary prohibitions that had made possible the move from Empire to Republic. He had therefore obliged himself to remain silent on this point or to disguise that point, and in the process of accepting such prohibitions, he progressively developed amnesia. By the time he had finished writing his book, he was no longer conscious of the relationship of the aghas to the hodjas. And because he was no longer conscious of this relationship, he could no longer understand who aghas had been or why the agha-families existed.
His citation of an official document in his little book confirms this conclusion. Yiğit had explicitly recognized one instance of the cooperation of a kind of agha and a kind of hodja. It occurs precisely in his citation of the communiqué that I have as yet only partially translated. Avni Pasha writes to the müftü that he was sending Haşıım Agha to assist him in carrying out his orders "to rain down the most terrible kind of worldly punishments and afflictions on anyone who opposed [them]." So his citation of the communiqué ever so slightly lifts the veil on the partnership of aghas and hodjas in the old regional social oligarchy, which is otherwise damaging to his case. And his citation of the communiqué also lifts the veil on official readiness to license the regional social oligarchy to inflict all the horrors of imperial sovereign power on the local population, which is also damaging to his case.
Yiğit was attempting to show that the imperial troops had emerged as a "Turkish army" just as the local population had emerged as a "Turkish people" in 1916. Nonetheless, he chose to include a document that reeks of the "imperial" and so directly contradicted the "national" significance of the Battle for Of. Why did he not "suppress" this most embarrassing official instrument? In my opinion, Yiğit cites the communiqué because it stood as concrete evidence of the readiness of state officials to delegate full sovereign power to local elites. It therefore stood as substantial confirmation that local elites were a nationalist leadership, at least in the terms of his argument. But it could only serve as confirmation if he simultaneously forgot that the communiqué otherwise wildly contradicted nationalist ideology and institutions. It revealed that an imperial state official was ready to use sovereign power to threaten and coerce the general population, and it revealed that local elites, consisting of aghas and hodjas, were ready to lend their assistance in such an effort.
In effect, Yiğit was himself unconsciously moving to reconstitute the hierarchy on which Avni Pasha was depending when he wrote his communiqué. He was at the time a schoolteacher who did research and wrote books, but he was doing so in a way that made him a "nationalist hodja." His account of the Battle for Of confirmed that nationalist aghas occupied a proper place in the state system. The result was the legitimization of a nationalist empire in which local elites assisted state officials to manage, and if need be to coerce, the general population. The old pattern by which state power captured religious revelation was reappearing as a new pattern by which state power captured secular history.
This puts Hasan Umur in a different light. Since he dared to reflect on the role of the professors and academies, and so defy secularist prohibitions, it would seem that he should have had a clearer vision of the past, and hence a clearer understanding of the present.
Amnesia and Prohibition
By all accounts of the Battle for Of, and they include a large body of songs and stories, Avni Pasha had no need to threaten the local population with burning, destroying, torturing, and deporting. Caught between two armies, the local residents would have had more to gain by siding with the Russians, who were advancing, and more to lose by siding with the Ottomans, who were retreating. And yet, for reasons that should be clear from previous chapters, a very large number of Oflus chose to join or assist "their" imperial troops.
Part of the response of the Oflus would have most certainly involved aghas directing local militias in accordance with the orders of imperial military officers. And yet, the popular response would not have been limited to such a process. Accordingly, Hasan Umur was able to provide an account of the Battle for Of that makes virtually no mention of aghas. This is evidence that the rising of the Oflus against the Russian invasion was general and popular in character, rather than limited to the circles of local elites, their agnates, relatives, friends, and partners. Umur's account of the Battle for Of as a popular rising therefore has to be regarded as a reasonable and accurate version, even if it, too, cannot be said to be exhaustive and definitive. The inconsistency in the accounts of Umur and Yiğit are therefore not wholly matters of "construction." They indicate that the events of the Battle for Of were of a complex and variegated character, which is exactly what one would expect during a conflagration.
And yet there are also signs of prohibition and amnesia in Umur's Of and the Battles for Of. As we saw in chapter 1, Umur does refer to aghas in the introductory historical section of his book. He describes the "time of the aghas" (ağa devresi), a period he restricts to the half century between 1790 and 1840. In doing so, he associates the aghas and agha-families with conditions of civil disorder that he attributed to the decline of the classical imperial system. He thereby disconnects them from the later Empire just as he disconnects them from the early Republic. So for Umur, the aghas were the pathological effects of a weakened and ineffective state system. Otherwise, he makes no other explicit reference to them. Umur's omission of the aghas is no less suspicious than Yiğit's omission of the hodjas.
During his youth, Umur would have been among that segment of the Ottoman public who had come to believe in a new kind of governmental institution. So it is very likely that he would have seen the aghas, intermediaries between the state and the general population, as a problem of misgovernment. If this were the case, he would have had a sense of déjà vu during the later 1940s. Once again, leading individuals from large family groupings had begun to play a prominent role in public life. And once again, in the opinion of the majority of local residents, there were severe problems of misgovernment.
If Umur was so apprised of the situation in the district of Of during the 1940s, his silence is entirely understandable. He would refuse to recognize that the aghas had played a role in the Battle for Of. He would not give them an important place in events that he otherwise had conceived as the first signs of a Turkish state that effectively and genuinely represented a Turkish people. Instead, he would foreground all those ways in which the injunctions of a military officer had stirred a popular rising against the Russian invasion and occupation. And as a way of explaining how it had been possible for the state to represent a people at this moment, he would turn to the work of professors and academies.
And of course he was justified in doing so, as I have already noted. By virtue of the efforts of the professors and academies, the Oflus enjoyed a common moral outlook that enabled communal solidarity. They therefore enjoyed a capacity to form all kinds of circles of interpersonal association, not only in the form of leading individuals at the head of armed followings, but in all kinds of other, more entrepreneurial ways, along the lines of my friends in the Crystal Palace Hotel and Teahouse. And so, Umur appropriately praised the professors and academies. But in doing so he not only consciously chose to remain silent about the aghas, but he also forgot about them precisely by way of a thought that was forbidden to him.
The descendants of aghas had once again inhabited the state system, controlling nationalist institutions and organizations by the later 1940s. They were ready and able to monopolize sovereign power at the local level by virtue of a discipline of interpersonal association. And this was itself a legacy of an imperial tactic, one by which state power held official religion as a captive. But Umur could not see how this was so because the descendants of aghas represented themselves as a national leadership. They wore hats, trousers, and shoes rather than turbans, baggy pants, and slippers. They were represented by schoolteachers who wrote authoritative histories of their close connections with the nationalist movement. All this being the case, it was not easy to recognize (even if it was otherwise easy to see) that they were positioned in a regional social oligarchy rooted in the imperial history of power and religion. In his account of the Battle for Of, just after his quote of Avni Pasha, we find a confirmation of this second instance of amnesia born of a prohibition.
Just a day or so before Avni Pasha arrived in the district, the campfires of Russian troops had began to appear along the western banks of the İİyidere River, the border between Of and Rize (see map 1). Umur hoped that a front might be organized there, sparing the villages of central Of from the worst of the fighting. To assess this possibility, he had set out from the district center in the company of a policeman (zabit), intending to reach one of the villages near the western banks of that river. On their way, the two of them came across an older hodja, blissfully unaware of all that was happening. Umur describes their meeting as an incongruous scene of pastoral serenity:
While ascending just at the point of passing the Baltacıı River, in the fine air of a cool spring day, we saw Hurşit Efendi, professor of the Eskipazar religious academy, reclining in a sheltered spot in a meadow just above the road. Every time I encountered this man I gave him a greeting [1st pers.: selamün aleyküm; 2nd pers: aleyküm selam, hoş geldin; 1st pers.: hoş buldum; 2nd pers: merhaba; 1st pers.: merhaba; 2nd pers: nasıılsıın?; 1st pers.: iyiyim, sen de nasıılsıın?, etc.] "Where are you going?" he inquired. After briefly explaining the situation, I said, "We are going to battle. We will not let the enemy into the country." [Thinking Umur was going to fight the imperial government] the hodja said in reply, "I grant all of the district of Of to you. If you don't struggle and become a man, what good is there in it?" I understood what he meant, but my policeman friend did not and asked me, "What is the hodja saying?" To which I replied, "The hodja doesn't understand the affairs of this world. He is talking about something else again." Immediately I set out on the road, and of course the policeman followed along. The hodja had a grudge against the [imperial] government. He was alluding to the possibility of setting up a new government that would replace the existing government, which did not know how to direct the people.  The fact of interpersonal association (the exchange of greetings) was enough to sanction the hodja's engagement in a revolutionary initiative aimed at seizure of sovereign power. Such a revolutionary initiative would have the purpose of bringing the state into proper alignment with society. It was therefore inspired by the old imperial modernity in which interpersonal association was the foundation of sovereign power. Umur could not formulate the connection of aghas and hodjas any more successfully than Yiğit. Even though he dared to challenge a prohibition, he, too, was afflicted with amnesia. He could not understand that aghas and hodjas came in the company of one another as the representatives of the old republic based on sovereign power and interpersonal association.
The revolutionary impulses of Hurşit Efendi, so spontaneous and immediate, illustrates that the professors and academies had done something more than forge a common moral outlook that enabled communal solidarity. They had been part of an imperial tradition of power and religion. And so hodjas in partnership with aghas had enabled the local population to assert themselves in the imperial system. The old imperial modernity therefore harbored a republican principle. The state was composed as a society, and so it was that society could become part of the state. This old republican principle therefore harbored the potential to serve the new republican principle.
The old republic was founded on a principle of hierarchy, even though it was implemented through participation. The new republic, however, was founded on a principle of participation, even though it was implemented through hierarchy. The Kemalist revolution had become problematic in the district of Of even before the first electoral sounding of public opinion in the Turkish Republic. The devices of authority and association far exceeded nationalist ideology and institutions. The result was splits and divides in national public culture working through an alchemy of amnesia and prohibition.
In the remainder of this chapter, I shall return to the revolution in public culture in the town of Of during the first decade of the Turkish Republic. In doing so, I explain the extent to which principles were contradicted by practices.
The Deposition of Ferhat Agha
Ferhat Agha Selimoğlu, the ascendant of every public office holder in the early 1960s (see fig. 2), first became the mayor of the town of Of sometime around 1910. Although he is said to have been an active participant in the Battle for Of, he chose to remain in the district during the Russian occupation from 1916 to 1918, continuing to serve as mayor. Many leading individuals from large family groupings elected to stay in their districts, and some of them worked with the military authorities as representatives of the local population. This put them in a delicate position with respect to the nationalist movement once the Russian troops withdrew.
After the beginning of the Independence War, but before the declaration of the Turkish Republic, the local elites in Rize, Of, and Sürmene are said to have been contacted by emissaries of Mustafa Kemal Pasha. Each was asked how many men in arms they might be able to assemble and dispatch in support of the nationalist struggle. According to my interlocutors, the actual purpose of these inquiries was to assess the strength of local elites in anticipation that they might choose to support the imperial government. Those who were considered too powerful because they had too many men or too much money were called before the independence courts (istiklâl mahkemeleri). Some leading individuals from large family groupings were there accused of collaborating with the Russians. This was not because they were guilty of any crime, so it was said, but rather it was a move to weaken them by detaining and dishonoring them. Ferhat Agha managed not only to survive the turmoil of the interregnum but also to remain the mayor of the town, by default since there were no local elections. However, his luck finally ran out in 1926 when a new district officer (kaymakam) took steps to force him out of office. The timing of his deposition is significant since it occurs at the moment of confrontation between the nationalist movement and the old state societies in the provinces of the Turkish Republic. From 1925, the Kemalist leadership of the National Assembly had begun to take steps to suppress their opponents and consolidate their hold on the central government. The ongoing Kurdish rebellion of Shaikh Sait had served as an initial pretext for their doing so. But subsequent incidents provided further justification. The adoption of the Dress Law (Kııyafet Kanunu) in the fall had led to a number of armed rebellions in different parts of Anatolia, some of them occurring in the eastern coastal districts. Then, in the following summer, the discovery of a plot to assassinate Mustafa Kemal in Izmir provided the occasion to crush the opposition. Soon afterward, the Republican People's Party (RPP) became the only legal political party, initiating more than twenty years of a one-party regime (1925–45).
The deposition of Ferhat Agha occurred in this context. One of my interlocutors recalled the occasion as follows:
During the year 1925, a new district officer (kaymakam) was appointed to the district of Of. [The next year] this man went to Ferhat Agha and told him that he would no longer serve as the mayor of the town. In reply, Ferhat Agha gave the district officer two slaps (tokat) across his face. The district officer then proceeded to telegraph Trabzon for reinforcements. Taking a number of gendarmes (jandarma) with him, he surrounded the office of the mayor, which was next to the Town Square Coffeehouse. He ordered Ferhat Agha out of the office and announced that a new mayor would be chosen.
The district officer and his subordinates (memur) are remembered to have become the dominant authorities in the district of Of after the deposition of Ferhat Agha. Probably as never before, district state officials were able to take a range of actions without first reaching agreement or receiving assistance from local elites. The enhancement of the state system at the expense of the old state society was recalled by one of my interlocutors as the onset of moral laxity and decline:
With the news [of the declaration of the Turkish Republic in 1923], there were celebrations in the town of Of. Crowds assembled and bonfires were built. There was a sense that the future would be different, but the first change to be noticed was the misbehavior of young men. This was especially the case during the "time of the waiter girls" (karson kıızlar devresi), sometime around 1926–27. A building was turned into a kind of theater (tiyatro) in the town of Of. Films were shown using an electric generator that was run by a little water wheel. [There was no cinema in the 1960s.] Sometimes singers and musicians would come to the town, appear on the stage, and perform for audiences. [There was no nightclub in the 1960s.] Besides the theater, there was also at least one new kind of coffeehouse. One of the new nationalist regulations permitted women to work as waitresses in the coffeehouses. [There was no such coffeehouse in the 1960s.] To encourage this reform, local officials declared that the prices in coffeehouses with men rather than women waiters would have to be set higher. Someone, either a state official or a private party, set up a coffeehouse with women waiters and a group of musicians and permitted the patrons to dance. [There was no public dancing in the 1960s.] Some of the local youths began to attend this establishment, going there to smoke cigarettes, have the girls wait on them, and dance among themselves. They considered themselves very modern and very revolutionary. [There was no place where young men could drink or smoke in the 1960s.] Soon there were disturbances in the coffeehouses, as the young men quarreled with one another and fights broke out. Unwilling to tolerate this, local state officials revoked the experiment, called in a minivan [sic], and packed off the women and the musicians to Trabzon. Still, these kinds of excesses had changed the relationship of fathers and sons. Sons became less respectful of their fathers. The young men no longer went to the mosque or the Friday prayers. They failed to keep the fast during Ramadan. [In the 1960s, by contrast, it was uncommon for young men in the town to avoid the weekly prayers or to break the fast.]
It is not surprising that the revolution, by which the state system had moved to overturn the state society, was remembered as a moment of filial rebellion. The Kemalists had reinforced the ligaments of official authority even as they had also relaxed the ligaments of social authority. Every citizen now had to wear a hat instead of a fez, so why should one attend to fathers and uncles who had worn the fez instead of a hat? But then, as we have already seen, memory can play tricks. The recollection of the unraveling of social and familial hierarchy has to be put in the context of a revolution that promised more than it eventually delivered.
Let us return to the last half of my interlocutor's account of the deposition of Ferhat Agha:
To a point, this memory fits the previous recollection of moral laxity and decline. Speaking to me in 1967, my interlocutor was recalling how the Oflus had become aware of a part of the physician's consciousness that was otherwise hidden from them. This had come about when he had come into contact with foreigners whose dress and manners were incongruous, if not absurd. The new mayor had welcomed a Frenchman who was said to be a general in that nation's army, but he stepped off the boat in the company of his wife, wore a funny little brimmed hat, and had the same title as an irregular soldier under the old imperial regime. Some general! Some nation!
The district officer ordered Ferhat Agha out of the office and announced that a new mayor would be chosen. The district officer and Ferhat Agha then entered into negotiations. They agreed that a new mayor would be appointed, but by their mutual approval. It was then that Hasan [surname omitted] was appointed to the mayoralty, which he held for six or seven years. He was a physician, and he spoke some French. We knew this because one day a boat stopped here and a French general and his wife disembarked at the pier. Hasan [surname omitted] received them and spoke French to them. The Frenchman wore a little brimmed pillbox hat [kepi] and was named De Limerjine, which everyone understood as "Crazy Merjin" (Deli Mercin).
The two "asides" that appear in the account of the deposition of Ferhat Agha are equally revealing. After a show of force, we are told, the district officer and Ferhat Agha had "entered into negotiations," and eventually they agreed that a new mayor would be appointed "by their mutual approval." These are signs that the practices of the old regime would continue to be the practice of the new regime. Kemalist ideology and institutions might have been designed to replace the old state society with a new nation of citizens in the long run, but the state system would continue to work through the old state society in the short run.
By this assessment of the deposition of Ferhat Agha, the reforms of the early Republic bear a resemblance tothe reforms of the late Empire. Whenever the state system was strong and the state society was weak, the provincial governor had confronted local elites in the eastern coastal districts, sometimes deposing them from state offices and replacing them. When the provincial governor did so, he chose successors in order to insure the cooperation and assistance of those he had dismissed. Similarly, the district officer who deposed Ferhat Agha understood that it was best to make gestures of deference to this man rather than ignore him. The district officer in question, who is remembered as exceptionally intelligent and competent, was also more pragmatic and less ideological than some of his successors.
The aforementioned Hasan, the physician, continued as mayor of the town for about five years (not six or seven as my interlocutor stated). He was then briefly succeeded by yet another member of the Selimoğlu family line, by circumstances about which I have no information. The more interesting period of the mayoralty begins sometime later during the early 1930s, not long after the death of Ferhat Agha.
The Selimoğlu Family Line During the Early Republic
Mehmet Selimoğlu was born in 1901 in the interior "home" village of the Selimoğlu family line, about twenty kilometers up the western valley-system. At some point, he attended a middle school (rüşdiye), probably in the town of Of. Later, he dabbled in "trade and farming," probably in the town of Of. In 1927, the year after the deposition of Ferhat Agha, he joined the Republican People's Party. He was elected chairman of the RPP in the district of Of in 1932, and he was elected mayor of the town in 1934. He continued to hold both of these offices until he was elected to represent the province of Trabzon in the National Assembly in 1946.
Mehmet was remembered as educated (tahsilli), bright (zeki), and energetic (çalıışkan). He had come of age during the first years of the nationalist movement. He had entered politics at the beginning of the one-party period. He had become mayor at the high point of the program of reforms. His assumption of the mayoralty therefore marks the definitive replacement of the old order by the new order. How was it, then, that the local transition from Empire to Republic resulted in a local public official, later a national public official, that eventually emerged as a leading individual from a large family grouping?
As it happened, Mehmet Selimoğlu was not at all well placed in his family line at the beginning of his mayoralty. He was not descended from Ferhat Agha or any other prominent member of the Selimoğlu during the late imperial period. He was from the interior "home" village of the family line, and so not a member of any of the "sets" (takıımlar) of the family line that were most numerous and visible in the town of Of. He did not have a large number of brothers, uncles, or cousins, since he was also not part of any large set of the family line in the home village. He married an older woman only after he had become mayor, did not have any children afterward, and so was not in a position to consolidate a wide circle of agnates, relatives, and friends. He was maternally (not paternally) related to a set of the family line in the town, but the relationship was strained by an earlier event of bride abduction followed by a vengeance murder in the 1910s. There were rumors that the sons of Ferhat Agha had abused and humiliated him when he was a boy. So he would not have had especially warm feelings for the set of Ferhat Agha, which was the largest circle of agnates, relatives, and friends in the town of Of. My interlocutors who were old enough to recall Mehmet Selimoğlu as a youth referred to him as "Little Mehmet" (Küçük Mehmet). The nickname is significant. He was "Little Mehmet," that is, not "Big Mehmet," a son of Ferhat Agha, who was senior to him. So "Little Mehmet" was not initially a leading individual of his family line.
At the time, any young man of the Selimoğlu who had become a Kemalist would not have been well positioned in the patronymic group. The senior prominent members of the family line were too closely wedded to the old regime to be able to adapt themselves to the new regime. Accordingly, Mehmet became mayor of the town without resorting to the old state society. And after becoming mayor of the town, he continued to remain apart from the vertical and horizontal solidarities of the old state society. That is to say, he made no move to use the office of mayor to consolidate a broad circle of agnates, relatives, and friends. On the contrary, during most of the decade he served as mayor, his associates were drawn from a narrow circle of district officials, civil servants, professionals, and merchants. He had become the mayor of bureaucrats, businessmen, and professionals in a small town where there were not very many of these representatives of the new modernity. By my estimation, his core constituency would have roughly consisted of five bureaucrats, one military officer, two judges, three lawyers, one doctor, five teachers, seven merchants, and three businessmen, some of who were not Oflus. All of these individuals would have been members of the RPP, and hence more or less radical secularists. Accordingly, Mehmet Selimoğlu felt no need to display himself in public as a believer, and he is not remembered as a man who was religiously observant. On the contrary, he is said to have had a number of unfortunate petty vices, including drinking and partying.
Mehmet Selimoğlu had personal qualities that had never before had a bearing on the rise to prominence of an individual in the district of Of, qualities that had no relationship to aghas and agha-families or hodjas and medreses. But even though his education, intelligence, and energy must be acknowledged, it was also the case that he would have been only one of a number of exceptional individuals in the town of Of, and therefore only one of several potential candidates for the mayoralty. That the Kemalist leadership nonetheless selected Mehmet Selimoğlu points to a policy of relying on local elites of the old regime. That is to say, they accepted one of the Selimoğlu. And in doing so, they may even have thought he was a leading individual of this large family grouping.
The response to another radical measure of the program of reform, enacted during the same year that Mehmet became mayor, provides further evidence of this peculiar situation. The Name Law of 1934 required every citizen to adopt an official surname. It was at this time that the man who had been Mustafa Kemal became Kemal Atatürk. Similarly, all the citizens in the district of Of also chose new surnames. At this point the correction of a common misunderstanding is required.
It has been observed that "the Turks, like most other Muslim peoples, were not in the habit of using family names." Surnames were indeed exceptional, although not unknown, in many parts of the country. However, there were appellations that resembled surnames in the rural areas of much of Anatolia. It was commonly the case that a collection of agnatically related households in a village might designate themselves by a collective name. So household or family groupings sometimes chose surnames that were derived from these lineage or tribalnames. But they more typically chose a new surname from lists of officially approved surnames, since the lineage or tribal appellations were not always understood to refer to a family line.
Otherwise, it is not at all accurate to say that the Turks were not in the habit of using what could be regarded as surnames. Everywhere in the districts of Anatolia, from the seventeenth century forward, if not earlier, there were individuals who were designated by reference to the name of their family line. This was especially the case in the eastern coastal districts, where names of family lines were a matter of paramount significance. As I have already pointed out in chapter 1, the names of family lines, whether in the "oğlu" or the "zade" form, were used, both officially and nonofficially, to refer to the principal figures of the old state society. Unlike the lineage or tribal names elsewhere in rural Anatolia, these patronymics did not mark a person as a country bumpkin. Instead, they confirmed standing and position in the imperial system; hence, many individuals were loath to surrender them. Consequently, the old patronymics commonly, although not invariably, became the basis for the new surnames, simply by eliding the suffix. In the district of Of, for example, Selimoğlu became Selim, Muradoğlu became Murad, while Tellioğlu became Öztel, Bektaşoğlu became Bektaş, Şisikoğlu became Şişik, and Abdikoğlu became Abdik. The application of the Name Law of 1934 is therefore of utmost interest as an indicator of the transition from the old republic to the new republic.
As the deadline for selecting surnames approached (January 1, 1935), there were disagreements, even heated quarrels, among the members of some large family groupings. As we have already seen, these conglomerations of hundreds of households were comprised of a variety of sets (takıımlar), and each set was the potential basis for a faction. The members of different sets were sometimes tempted to formalize these latent cleavages, designating themselves by distinctive surnames. Concerned that such disputes might actually lead to civil disorders, the district officer is said to have taken steps to insure that the members of large family groupings all agreed to adopt the same surname. In one instance, it is recalled, he went to the length of summoning all the elders (büyükler) of the Tellioğlu, a large family grouping in the vicinity of the sub-district center. They had been quarreling about the adoption of a surname, and the sets were on the brink of splitting into different groupings. The district officer told the elders they were the most numerous family in the area and should stay together. He then informed them that he would himself choose their new surname by preserving in some way their old family name. Thereupon he dubbed them with the new surname "Öztel." So in this instance, a district officer, who is recalled as an ardent Kemalist, arranged for the continuation of the legacy of aghas and agha-families. He had done so as a practical measure of preserving the working relationship of the new state system with the old state society. He was a revolutionary in principle, but a conservative in practice.
However, in still another instance, a leading individual from a large family grouping specifically chose to disassociate himself from his agnatic relatives. After January 1, 1935, Mehmet Selimoğlu became Mehmet Sayıın, designating himself by a surname that does not seem to have been adopted by any other member of his patronymic group. The name he chose was a neologism, a "New Turkish" creation of the language reform that meant "esteemed" or "respected." At the same time, most of the other members of the family line had adopted the official surname of "Selim," thereby retaining a semantic hold on their old name, hence also a hold on its eminence.
Mehmet Sayıın had chosen a surname that at the same time asserted his attachment to the program of reforms and his detachment from the other members of his family line. And whatever his intention, his new surname could not help but suggest that the old name he had explicitly refused was disrespected in that his new name was respected. So by the choice of his surname, Mehmet Sayıın appears to have been a radical Kemalist; however, he was pushed by circumstance to become conservative in practice, even if he was a revolutionary in principle.
After Mehmet Sayıın assumed the mayoralty, he began to accumulate other public offices as well. He became the chairman of the Turkish Air Association (Türk Hava Kurumu), chairman of the Red Crescent Society (Kıızıılay Cemiyeti), chairman of the Children's Protection Society (Çocuk Esirgeme), chairman of the Of People's House (Of Halkevi), and chairman of the RPP. He was also director of the Ferry Boat Agency (Deniz Yollarıı Acenteliği) and caretaker (mütevelli) for the endowment (vakııf) of the town mosque. As my interlocutors remarked, "Little Mehmet was the government." In this regard, he had succeeded in fully "replacing" Ferhat Agha, who might also have been described in such terms. But if he was similar to his imperial predecessor, he was also different. He had begun as an outsider to his family line. He had disassociated himself from his agnates by choosing a unique surname, and he risen to prominence under the auspices of the one-party regime.
Although I have relatively good information about his accumulation of public offices, I have very little information about his motives. It is possible that Mehmet Sayıın was in a certain sense forced to accumulate offices. Any local office that he allowed to escape his personal control would have been commanded by a circle of agnates, relatives, and friends, most probably one that would be led by a member of his own family line. He may therefore have concluded that a local public official like himself would have to serve as the dike against the interpersonal associations of the old state society.
There is some evidence for this. In the course of acquiring public offices, Mehmet Sayıın was sometimes obliged to anger members of his family line. For example, he became the director of the Ferry Agency, a public office more lucrative than most, only by removing one of the descendants of Ferhat Agha. More tellingly, perhaps, the one public office that he never succeeded in fully controlling appears to have remained in the hands of leading individuals from large family groupings. This was the directorship of the Agricultural Credit Cooperative, another that was more lucrative than most.
The organization of agricultural cooperatives had first begun during last years of the Empire. They were originally intended to curtail the dependence of producers on usurious loans, but they also served a number of other functions. The cooperatives collected contributions from villagers in order to establish a capital fund. The same villagers could then apply for financial assistance as agricultural producers. The cooperatives bought tools and supplies in bulk at wholesale prices, passing along the benefit to the villagers. The cooperatives rented warehouses so that the villagers could store their crops until such time as they might be sold at the best price. And finally, the members of cooperatives were able to take advantage of government programs intended to stabilize prices and encourage production.
The first Agricultural Credit Cooperative (Tarıım Kredi Kooperatifi) was organized in the district of Of in 1931, before Mehmet Sayıın had served as mayor. Its first director earned himself the nickname "heathen imam" (gâvur imamıı). As for the cooperative, it became known as the "imam's bank" (imam bankasıı). This man appears to have achieved a minimal literacy by studying in one of the religious academies, although he was said to never perform his prayers or attend the mosque. According to the story told to me, the "heathen imam," "uneducated but clever" (tahsilsiz fakat kurnaz), would go to the villages where there were members of the cooperative, set up a table, lay out stacks of papers, and place two bags at his side, one on the left and the other on the right. The members would then come to him and sign papers that he presented to them. This done, he would take money from the bag on the left, give the signers a small percentage, and then drop most of the money in the bag on the right. He would then use this money to give loans to various relatives (akraba), friends (arkadaş), and youths (delikanlıı) so that they became indebted to him and supported him.
The director of the Agricultural Credit Cooperative, together with some kind of executive council, was elected by its membership. This being the case, it would have been difficult for Mehmet Sayıın to control the cooperative since he lacked a circle of agnates, relatives, friends, and partners among the villagers. On the other hand, the "heathen imam" had been a municipal employee of Ferhat Agha, and he was from a family line that had been associated with the Five Party during the previous century. So it is likely that the cooperative had remained in the possession of a circle of agnates, relatives, friends, and partners once centered on Ferhat Agha. The Agricultural Credit Cooperative was probably the last bastion of the old state society in the town of Of. If it was, this would explain in part how it was that the descendants of Ferhat Agha came to monopolize the public life of the town during the 1940s.
Official Principle and Official Practice
In the spring of 1939, a few months after the death of Kemal Atatürk, a resident of the provincial capital traveled to Of and reported on his short visit in one of its newspapers. During his stay in the town of Of, he had attended a public address made by Bay Mahmut [sic], a district officer who had recently been assigned to Of. The visitor described how Bay Mahmut had at one point praised the local gendarmes who had resisted the aghas. Turning to speak to a number of the gendarmes who were standing at his side, he had "opened fire" on the aghas:
"We will thrash the aghas. We will save the simple and pure folk from their influence, their execrable acts, and their deceits and tricks. We will not give them precedence in any manner, with respect to any thing or task." Then turning to the audience, he said, "I am saying this to you. If a villager comes to you, stand up, but if an agha comes before you, do not budge from your place." There were both aghas and villagers in this meeting; there were people from every class. Wherever there are aghas and those who depend on them, they [all of them] are covered in shame, while the people and the villagers are rearing up with thankfulness and gratitude over their downfallen pride.
According to the memory of my interlocutors, government campaigns against aghas during the 1930s were not always limited to denunciation and invective. Sometimes villagers dared to lodge complaints with district officials against a leading individual from a large family grouping. When villagers did so, the gendarmes sometimes arrested and jailed the accused, or even beat him on the spot. Villagers of the "common class" (ehali takıımıı, ehali millet) also began to refuse to assist the descendants of aghas, seeing that the state no longer favored them. Some said the descendants of the aghas, if not the aghas themselves, fell on hard times. The grandsons of Ferhat Agha, later to become prominent public officials, were obliged to work as janitors or waiters. Tellingly, the old gestures of homage, such as stooping to kiss a patron's hand, vanished from public life. Even when a villager of the common class attempted such a gesture of homage, the descendants of aghas began to refuse such gestures.
At the same time, as we have seen, the transition from the old to the new forms of dress and manners was imperfect. As the example of the Name Law indicates, provincial state officials had continued governmental practices that were not consistent with revolutionary ideology and institutions. They might move against an agha or a descendant of an agha in this or that instance. In other ways, they would have chosen to work through leading individuals from large family groupings, or even to support the social thinking and practice on which their position and influence depended. The predicament of Mehmet Sayıın was a result of this compromise of principle by practice. He had been officially favored because he was a member of the most prominent family line of the imperial period, but he was obliged to prevent leading individuals from large family groupings from once again dominating the public life of the town and district.
1. See Zürcher (1993) for an assessment of official history as it took shape during the one-party period of the Turkish Republic. [BACK]
2. See Zürcher (1993) for an assessment of the massive losses among the civilian population, both Armenian (pp. 119–21) and Muslim (pp. 170-72). [BACK]
3. Yiğit 1950, 88. [BACK]
4. Yiğit (1950, 96) estimates the number of troops at five thousand regular soldiers, three thousand Oflu irregular soldiers, and another three thousand regular infantry who arrived on the tenth day of the battle. [BACK]
5. The Russian army occupied the eastern segment of the province, including the town of Trabzon, for about two years. Failing to control the Zigana Pass, which connects the port of the provincial capital with the highlands, the Russians undertook to build a road from Of to Bayburt. Many Oflus eventually worked on the road, but the money given them as wages soon became worthless. [BACK]
6. Umur 1949, 46. [BACK]
7. Yiğit 1950, 91:
Lâzistan Havalisi Kumandanlıığıı / Bismillahirrahmanirrahim; / Müftü kazayıı Of Hüseyin Sabri efendiye / Mektup velâi selâhiyetimdir. / Bu kerre kazayıı Of'da [mukim] ve misafir harp ve darbe veya nakliyat veya inşaatıı ceriyyeye kudreti vafir [bilumum] firarî, bekaya ve tebdilhava efradıınıın nezdi fazilânelerine yollanan ve emir ve kararıımııza terfik olunan Hacıı Haşıım ağanıın sây ve gayreti ve sizin din ve devlet uğrundaki fedakârane faaliyetiniz ile cem ve tarafııma sevk olunmalııdıır. [Müfrezede] ve kapıısıı önünde çalıışmaktan ve emrinize itaatten [i stinkâf] edecek kimseler üzerine dünyanıın eşeddi ceza ve mesaibini yağdıırmağa sana selâhiyeti tamme verdim. Bu gibi kimselerin hanelerini ihrak ve tahrip ve evlât ve ahfat ve [akraba] ve [tallükatıınıı] nefy ve tazip hususundaki icraatıınıızıı görmek isterim. / Veminellahitevfik. / 28—Şubat—1331 / Lâzist an Havalisi kumandanıı / Mirliva Ahmet Avni.
8. The provincial government subjected the district population to such measures on at least four occasions. Troops surrounded and deported seven villages in 1710/1121 (Umur 1956, Nos. 45, 46). Canııklıı Ali sent about ten thousand troops into Of sometime around 1775 (Goloğlu 1975, 44–45). Süleyman Pasha sent twenty-five thousand troops into the district of Of and Sürmene in 1817 (Aktepe 1950–52, 33; MAE CCCT L. 2, Nos. 43, 47, 49, 50, Dupré). Osman Pasha sent twenty-five thousand troops into the districts of Of and Sürmene in 1832 (PRO FO 524/2 p. 19, May 1832; PRO FO 524/1 p. 23, Aug. 1832, Brant). Houses are burned and men are hanged (PRO FO 195/101, July 17, 1839). A large force is dispatched to punish the Lazes (PRO FO 195/101, Sept. 9, 1839). [BACK]
9. Umur (1949, 47) and Yiğit (1950, 104) relate other anecdotes that suggest that Avni Pasha was not among the most progressive Ottoman military commanders. They describe how he dispatched his soldiers to the front promising to reward them with a silver coin for each enemy hat and a gold coin for every enemy rifle, a practice reminiscent of payment for each head of an enemy soldier, still an official policy during the eighteenth century. Umur also recounts how Avni Pasha flew into a rage when he received the report of one of his cavalryman, striking him on the head with his horsewhip and threatening him with execution. After intercession on the part of another military officer, the cavalryman was allowed to explain that he had failed to remove telephone lines before the arrival of the enemy out of fear for his life. [BACK]
10. He would be even better informed several years later, after completing a program of archival research (Umur 1951, 1956). [BACK]
11. Umur 1949, 29–30. [BACK]
12. Cf. Barkan 1942a, 1942b. [BACK]
13. Yiğit explains that an organization (teşkilat) was set up to assemble volunteers for the battle (1950, 91–92). The individuals who participated in this organization are then listed for each of the principal areas of Of (pp. 93–96). Here we find the names of the old aghas from the principal agha-families of the old Five and Twenty-five parties, including the Selimoğlu, Muradoğlu, Nuhoğlu, Tellioğlu, Bektaşoğlu, Cansıızoğlu, and so on. [BACK]
14. There are also one pasha, two beys, and one efendi among the names. [BACK]
15. As we shall see in chap. 10, it was not always a question of their descendants. There were also a few examples of the old aghas of the later imperial period (Reşat Agha, Harun Agha) who re-emerged as leading individuals during the later Turkish Republic. [BACK]
16. The other two are individuals from well-known family groupings, but they are given the title "educated gentlemen" (efendi). [BACK]
17. Some of the family names include the titles hacıı and molla, but these were of historical rather than current significance. [BACK]
18. For example, the two other photographs of individuals are of "Boduroğlu Hasan Efendi" and "Hacııbektaşoğlu Ömer Efendi," both of whom are wearing a Kemalist tie but also sporting the beard of a hacıı. Hasan Efendi, who is shown bareheaded, is none other than Hasan Umur, who studied under a distinguished religious professor as well as in secular institutions. Ömer Efendi, who is shown wearing a fez, probably also had such a mixed religious and secular education. [BACK]
19. The dedication of the book and its place of sale provide indications of these connections. [BACK]
20. In his account of the Battle for Of, I have discovered only three instances of personal names with the title. They all occur in the same sentence, where they refer to one, and only one, agha taking part: "According to Genç Agha Nuhoğlu, as many as sixty people took part in the battle [on a certain hill near a certain village], among whom were found Ali Agha Nuhoğlu, the son of Esat Agha, and ıızzet De-mircioğlu" (Umur 1949, 55). [BACK]
21. Since he regarded this popular rising as a manifestation of the work of professors and academies, his book otherwise features numerous references to personal names with the titles müderris, hoca, molla, or hacıı. [BACK]
22. It is true that he gives a favorable report on Memiş Agha Tuzcuoğlu, but only as an instance of the cruelty and corruption of imperial state officials, such as Osman Paşa Hazinedaroğlu. It is perhaps significant that Memiş Agha was also a merchant and financier, like Hasan Umur himself during his later years. [BACK]
23. Later, of course, he would publish the results of his archival research (Umur 1951, 1956), which would cast the aghas and agha-families in a highly unfavorable light. [BACK]
24. Umur 1949, 45–46. Although Umur does not explain the hodja's grudge, the central government had favored diminishing the authority of the learned class at this time and was about to undertake further secular reforms of the educational and judicial system (Zürcher 1993, 125-26). [BACK]
25. For an account of the concepts of sovereignty and citizenship in what I have termed the old republic, see Meeker 1996. [BACK]
26. Ferhat Agha explained his decision in a letter dated June 6, 1916, which was sent to the müftü of Of, then in hiding (Yiğit 1950, 124–25). It would have been difficult for the Russian army to govern the eastern coastal districts without them. It is therefore quite likely that their absence would have only compounded the suffering and hardship of the general population. Their "collaboration" can therefore be plausibly justified, even by the criteria of nationalist patriotism. [BACK]
27. Early on, the nationalists had set up the independence courts to deal with their opponents (Shaw and Kural 1977, 352–53; Zürcher 1993, 159). [BACK]
28. Zürcher 1993, 376-80. [BACK]
29. Shankland (1999) notes that an armed uprising against the Dress Law that occurred in Rize on November 25, 1925, first began in the district of Of. If this is true, my interlocutors discreetly avoided mentioning it to me. [BACK]
30. Lewis 1961, 269; Zürcher 1993, 181-83. [BACK]
31. A short biography appeared in the Halk Gazetesi (Apr. 28, 1949). [BACK]
32. Each of these sets were built around a core agnatic lineage of the family line, as in the instance of the sons and grandsons of Ferhat Agha (see fig. 2). I use "set" in the place of "lineage," there being a local term for the former but not the latter. [BACK]
33. Lewis 1961, 283. [BACK]
34. Each patronymic has a learned, written form in Ottoman, where the Persian suffix "zade" replaces the Turkic "oğlu." So one also encounters the older Ottoman variants, Selimzade and Muradzade. This would be a pretentious usage during the Turkish Republic, but I have encountered it a few times. [BACK]
35. It is possible that elision of the suffix was common in informal usage even before the Name Law. Today one often hears the usage "the Murads" (Muradlar), "the Selim" (Selimler), "the Şişiks" (Şişikler), "the Abdiks" (Abdikler), and others. [BACK]
36. The office of headman (muhtar) for the municipality had been abolished at this time. [BACK]
37. The records of the cooperative show that a total of about 4,000 Turkish lira was made available in loans during the fiscal year 1933. The amount of loans outstanding and the number of members at the close of the fiscal year were not given. In 1937, the records show that a total of about 5,000 Turkish lira had been loaned to forty members by the end of the fiscal year. [BACK]
38. I shall have some rather bleak things to say about the way in which cooperatives were run, but I do not mean to judge them as complete failures. They were organized to serve villagers, and eventually they did. Still, they could not escape the circumstances of the political transformation of which they were a part. I shall use them as examples to indicate the character and problems of that transformation, not to cast doubt on government assistance programs. [BACK]
39. The cooperative movement had its beginnings in the late Ottoman period, primarily after the revolution of 1908 (Lewis 1961, 453). [BACK]
40. The titles "bay" and "bayan" can be compared to the French "citoyen" and "citoyenne." The former, like the latter, were introduced when titles of the old regime, such as "bey" and "hanıım," were suppressed. Eventually, they lost currency and were replaced by more generalized usages of "bey" and "hanıım." [BACK]
41. In all likelihood, the speech against aghas as given by the district officer of Of in April 1939 was also a commemoration of Atatürk. [BACK]
42. The article was titled "Impressions of a Trip from Trabzon to Of" (Trabzondan Ofa Gidiş Gelişin Intibalarıı) and appeared in Yeni Yol, Apr. 22, 1939. [BACK]