The Greek Experience Under Ottoman Rule
Program in Hellenic Studies
University of the Aegean
Department of Social Anthropology and History
Workshop: "The Greek Experience Under Ottoman Rule"
June 25-27, 2010
Introduction and Welcome: Dimitri Gondicas (Princeton University), Efthymios Papataxiarchis (University of the Aegean)
Panel #1: Reform and Power in the 19th Century
Respondent: Ali Yaycioglu (Fairfield University)
Stefanos Poulios (University of Crete), ‘Luddites’ in the Ottoman Dodecanese (1865-1900): “Eliminate the Machines, which Bring Suffering to our People" (abstract)
Faika Celik (McGill University), Reading Imperial Policies Through Local Lenses: The Case of Gypsies (Roma) in Nineteenth Century Ottoman Serres (abstract)
Panel #2: Orthodox Elites
Respondent: Haris Exertzoglou (University of the Aegean)
Hasan Çolak (University of Birmingham), Reconsidering Ottoman Policies towards Greek Orthodox Patriarchates in the 18th Century Günil Ayaydın Cebe, The Literary Activity of Ottoman Greeks in the 19th Century (abstract)
Dimitris Kamouzis (King's College London), From ‘Rum’ to ‘Greek,’ Mid-19th Century to 1930: The Role of Elites in the Formation of a National Minority in Istanbul (abstract)
Panel #3: Localism and the Imperial Project
Respondent: Heath Lowry (Princeton University)
Yannis Spyropoulos (University of Crete), Cretans and Muslims: The Janissaries of Crete and their Collective Identities (1750-1826) (abstract)
Ourania Bessi (University of Birmingham), Mytilene (Lesbos) in 15th and 16th Centuries: Preserving or Ottomanising the Urban Scenery? (abstract)
Concluding Remarks: Molly Greene (Princeton University), Eleni Gara (University of the Aegean)
Ourania Bessi, Mytilene (Lesbos) in 15th and 16th Centuries: Preserving or Ottomanising the Urban Scenery?
The attempt to reconstruct the Ottoman authority and successively, the establishments which accommodated it in the island of Midilli, at the North eastern borders of Aegean pelages, pivots around two main axes: the material remains, Byzantine and Ottoman, and the archival and secondary sources. The first thematic includes sites and monuments where the entirety of the construction or construction phases are identified as dated in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.
Within the framework of my thesis plan, the present study attempts to establish a comparison, in the form of case-studies, between the architectural patterns of Ottomanisation performed along the multicultural Via Egnatia and the secluded architectural environment of Mytilene island, in order to attest what was the accommodation of the Ottoman architectural traditions in both cases and in what way the socio-political synthesis in these regions had a influence on the formation of the architectural environment.
Specifically, this paper means to discuss the diversity of the sources, which are needed to be employed in the attempt of corroborating the evidences provided by the material remains from the lower castle and the outer encirclement of the Mytilene castle; these sources vary from Byzantine narrative descriptions to cartographic evidences, contemporary Ottoman narrative recounts, physical evidences, such as architectural inscriptions and archival Ottoman sources.
Through the aforementioned analysis are determined the construction phases of the Ottoman additions and repairs on the Mytilene castle. For the first time, it is elucidated the earliest Ottoman phase 1463-1508 of the castle which coincides with the defensive works undertaken during the first forty years of the Ottoman authority on the island and were based on the repairs of the damaged sections incurred after the Ottoman seizure of 1462, the identification of the “hisar-ı peçe”, within the Mitylenean topography, and its importance for the elucidation of the location of the auspicious “Melanudi”. The latter, had a crucial effect on the conquest of Mytilene, the Ottoman annexation of the castle, the settlement of the Ottomans in the northern port of Epano Skala and the subsequent Ottomanisation of the Mitylenean urban scenery.
On a second level, the two successive Ottoman construction phases from the beginning and the last quarter of sixteenth century, will be correlated with the second construction phase of Molyvos castle (1567/8) in an attempt to be interpreted within the extensive scheme of reinforcement of the island’s major fortified positions, as undertaken during the reign of Suleiman the Lawgiver. These observations on the defensive works will be used as a point of reference in order to draw a comparison with the archival material retreated from the sixteenth century’s tapu tahrir on the scale of the urban development and the establishment of religious foundations of the era within the Mytilene castle.
Faika Celik, Reading Imperial Policies Through Local Lenses: The Case of Gypsies (Roma) in Nineteenth Century Ottoman Serres
My preliminary examination of Ottoman archival sources (particularly documents catalogued under the Cevdet Tasnifi in the Başbakanlık Arşivi in Istanbul) has made it clear to me that the nineteenth and early twentieth century Ottoman government was, first of all, extremely concerned about establishing the population breakdown of the Gypsies -- both Muslim and Christian, settled and nomadic. This population breakdown, it seems, served as the basis for new taxation regulations introduced in the 1850s. Perhaps the most significant concern of the late Ottoman state was to reform (ıslah) the Gypsies. In this regard, we see the government asking local authorities to prepare memorandums (layihas) on how to educate and sedentarize Gypsy communities. One such layiha was written and submitted to Sultan Abdlühamid II in 1888 by Muallim Sa’di Efendi, a college professor in the city of Siroz (Serres). Through his case study of the Gypsies in late Ottoman Siroz, Muallim Sa’di offers us glimpses into how difference was understood and acted upon in late nineteenth-century provincial towns and how, in turn, this perception of difference was received and negotiated by the center. Therefore, through close reading of this layiha, the paper attempts not only to understand the ways and techniques through which the late Ottoman government produced and governed the Empire’s subjects but also to show how Gypsies interacted with and were received by the local population in Serres, including Muslims and Orthodox Christians. By doing so, I hope to contribute to the emerging discourse on varieties of interaction among different communities of the (late) Ottoman Empire.
Hasan Çolak, Reconsidering Ottoman Policies towards Greek Orthodox Patriarchates in the 18th Century
“The Sublime Porte wished to centralize everything at Constantinople; and the Great Church followed its lead. As a result the Eastern Patriarchates were put into a position of inferiority in comparison with that of Constantinople…in practice they found that they could only negotiate with the Sublime Porte through their brother of Constantinople.”
Steven Runciman, using mainly Constantinople-based patriarchal sources, made this point in 1968 in his seminal Great Church in Captivity. His arguments have been followed since without much questioning. I argue that the long-advocated idea that the Eastern Patriarchs negotiated with the Ottoman administration only through the Constantinopolitan Patriarchs during the whole Ottoman period is a construct of the 18th century. Earlier Ottoman documents show that they could smoothly negotiate with the centre without, and in some cases against, the intervention of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. From the beginning of the 18th century, however, the course of relations between them shows a differing pattern because of the new set of networks. From 1711 onwards, Ottoman Sultans chose the hospodars of Moldavia and Wallachia distinctively from among Phanariots, who had a crucial role in the Ottoman Empire tying together personnel involved in the Ottoman central state, Orthodox Church administration, provincial administration, and international diplomacy. From the 1730’s onwards, the Patriarchate of Constantinople also passed into the hands of the Phanariots. Meanwhile the Greek Patriarchs of Constantinople received their first berât in 1764 from the Ottoman Sultan giving them authorization to punish troublemakers in their community without having to bring the case to the attention of the Porte. It is also during this time that they began to interfere in civil cases, which had been dealt with until then mainly by local kâdî courts as well as community courts in places such as the Aegean islands. It is also in the first half of the 18th century that the ‘expansionist’ policy of the Great Church resulted in an unprecedented success. In 1724 the Patriarch in Istanbul appointed Sylvestros, a monk from Mount Athos, as the Patriarch of Antioch, which started a period of intensive involvement by the Patriarchate of Constantinople in Antiochan affairs. Similarly, the churches of Romania, Bulgaria, and Serbia all have come under the control of the Patriarchate of Constantinople in 1767. Despite all these obvious developments, we still do not know much about ‘how’ the patriarchate of Constantinople dominated the Eastern Patriarchates and what this ‘domination’ involved. Using unpublished and unused correspondence preserved in Ottoman archives, published patriarchal letters, and missionary reports, I would like to address these two major questions. Particularly I will be focusing on the role of the patriarchs of Constantinople in the patriarchal elections of the Eastern Patriarchates, their policies against the Catholics who were especially active in Antioch and Alexandria, and their role in the economic empowerment of the patriarchate of Jerusalem through a number of church waqfs in many parts of the Ottoman Empire.
Dimitris Kamouzis, From ‘Rum’ to ‘Greek,’ Mid-19th Century to 1930: The Role of Elites in the Formation of a National Minority in Istanbul
The aim of this paper is to present the main points and arguments of my recently completed PhD thesis entitled ‘The Constantinopolitan Greeks in an era of secular nationalism, mid-19th century to 1930’. The thesis focuses on the involvement of communal elites in the transformation process of the Greek Orthodox of Istanbul from a religious community to a national minority and the role they played in the construction of the group’s identity. The term ‘elites’ refers to the lay and religious leaderships of the community/minority.
At the outset, I will briefly refer to the existing studies on the Constantinopolitan Greeks in an effort to explain the reasons for revisiting this specific subject. It will be argued that the current bibliography depicts a fragmented image of the formation and consolidation of a Greek national minority in Istanbul. The examination of the internal dynamics of the minority’s leaderships, their responses to the policies of the Greek and Turkish state and their role in the construction of a Greek national identity is largely restricted in the nineteenth century and is nearly non-existent for the post-Lausanne period. Thus, the paper will discuss the objectives, the methodology, the theoretical approach and the primary and secondary sources of the dissertation in an attempt to demonstrate its contribution to the existing historical analysis.
Which were the different political stances that developed within the minority after 1923? How did these elites influence the policies of the minority and its interaction with the Greek and Turkish government? In what way do the post-Lausanne policies and responses of the lay and religious leaderships relate to the pre-1923 period? The paper will try to offer some replies to these questions by providing a description of the theme and the main goals of each chapter and introducing the basic conclusions of the thesis. In this context emphasis will be placed on the emergence of different leaderships within the community, their development and involvement in communal affairs until 1930 and the inter- and intra-communal antagonisms their course of action brought on the foreground. Furthermore, the paper will highlight the continuity of specific political practices and trends, taking into account whether and how these changed under the specific social and political conditions of each period.
Stefanos Poulios, ‘Luddites’ in the Ottoman Dodecanese (1865-1900): “Eliminate the Machines, which Bring Suffering to our People”
In the second half of the 19th century the Greek Orthodox communities of the smaller islands of the Dodecanese expanded demographically and increased their economic activities, as a result of a system through which the Ottoman government granted them administrative and economic autonomy and low taxation. The social structure of the communities depended on sponge fishery and trade, which was the principal activity of their inhabitants, mainly in Syme and Kalymnos. However, from 1864 onwards certain measures of the Ottoman government affect these communities, causing their reaction on the basis of safeguarding their “old privileges”. By the same time, apart from the struggle to keep the “privileges” another menace to the islanders emerged: in 1865 a new method of sponge fishing was introduced in the Dodecanese from Europe causing frustration among the population of the islands, the diving suit (scaphandre).
The diving suit evoked the immediate reaction of the plungers in Syme, who realized that the new ‘machine’ (as it was called) was a threat to their activities. The first ‘machines’ were confiscated by the Dimogerontia (Council of the Elders), which also introduced certain measures that were meant to prevent the use of the diving suit in the Dodecanese, and were destroyed by the angry crowd. The Dimogerontia’s measures included the banishment of those who would operate the diving suits and the confiscation of the sponges that they had collected. Still, the communities were unable to obtain an official prohibition of the diving suit by the Ottoman government. Despite their efforts, the use of the diving suit prevailed, and the communities were forced by the authorities to compensate those who had suffered losses from the movement against the ‘machines’.
The ‘industrialization’ of sponge fishing changed rapidly the social and economic life of the communities. The control of sponge fishing and trade passed from the hands of family businesses to enterprises or individuals who could invest capital in an antagonistic sponge market in Europe. Overfishing brought down the sponge prices and caused sponge depletion, forcing the traditional plungers either to search for sponges in more distant seas or quit their activities. Apart from the social implications, the diver’s disease made its appearance among the inhabitants of the islands and reinforced the demand for the abolishment of the ‘machines’. On the other hand, certain social groups increased their profits by the augmentation of the production and the control of the ‘new’ means of fishing. A new social class, consisting of moneylenders, captains and merchants, emerged by the transition from the preindustrial era to modernity. These people formed the economic elite in Syme and organized commercial networks from Egypt to London.
The paper, which is mainly based on sources from Greek and Ottoman archives, aims to present a story of a community under the Ottoman framework (Syme) which concerns the communities of the nearby islands (South Sporades) and it is connected with the international changes of the 19th century (industrialization).
Yannis Spyropoulos, Cretans and Muslims: The Janissaries of Crete and their Collective Identities (1750-1826)
During the War for Crete (1645-1669) a large number of Ottoman soldiers were sent to the island and despite the constant deployment of imperial soldiers coming from all around the Empire there was also a policy of accepting local Cretans into the Ottoman military forces. These forces were created on the basis of the voluntary recruitment of the local population who converted to Islam. Actually, it seems that conversion and recruitment were so interconnected that many sources described joining the military as a direct result of becoming a Muslim. This large incorporation of Muslim people of various origins, occupations and social classes into the military and especially into the rapidly-growing janissary corps had as a result the blurring of the corps’ composition and identity. Even as early as the end of the 17th century the biggest part of the urban Muslim population of Crete was connected to the military units based there, the biggest of which was by far the janissary corps. It was exactly because of the large participation of the island’s Muslim population to this institution that Molly Greene has characterised Crete as “the janissaries’ island”. But, given that the composition of the corps was so diverse, to what extent and on which basis could janissaries actually engage in collective action?
In my paper I will deal with the problem of the collective identity that the janissaries of Crete developed. I am not interested in seeing them as individuals, but as a group of people united in pursuing a common purpose. What I am trying to demonstrate is that one cannot understand the motives for collective action that the janissaries developed in the 18th and 19th centuries unless s/he treats them as an institution with a strong popular basis that extended beyond the official state’s view of the institution’s size. Also, I argue that, due to the diversity of the institution’s socio-economic composition, the engagement of the janissaries in collective action cannot be explained in terms of class interests and social status. Rather one should focus on the corps’ confrontation with the central state, the representatives of its policies, and – increasingly towards the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century – the Christian population of Crete. Thus, one should look at the Janissaries of Crete as being a party whose collective identity was mainly defined by the extended localisation of the corps and the intercommunal religious conflicts that were taking place in the island.
Research on the composition of the janissary corps of Crete, the type of collective action that its members developed and the role that the corps played in local politics can offer a lot towards better understanding the relation between the Cretan population and the central Ottoman administration as well as the interaction of the Greek-speaking Muslim and Christian communities of the island.