2077) Socio-Economic Characteristics Of Armenians In Sivas During The Ottoman Period

Prof Dr. Ömer DEMIREL
Cumhuriyet University The Faculty of Arts and Sciences The Department of History / Sivas


The historical roots of the relationship of Sivas with Armenians can be traced back to the early eleventh century. The Byzantine Emperor Basil the Second annexed the region of Van, which was the territory of Vaspuragan Armenians in 1021 (ceding 12 castles, 4400 villages, and 115 monasteries), and gave them the Sivas region in which to settle down1. Vaspuragan King Johan Senekherim, who complied with the Byzantine Emperor, settled down in Sivas together with his family and nearly 15,000 citizens and carried his rule there2. The sovereignty of the Armenians, led by Senekherim, was dependent as a vassalage to the Byzantine Empire. After the death of Senekherim, his sons Davit and Adom carried on the administration of Sivas for the Armenians3. . .

1 Ali Sevim, Genel Çizgileriyle Selçuklu-Ermeni İlişkileri, (TTK), Ankara 1988, s.9.
2 Urfalı Matheos Vekayi - Nâmesi ve Papaz Grigor Zeyli, (Türkçe trc. H.D. Andreasyan), (TTK), Ankara 1987, s.XIX; Ali Sevim, Anadolu’nun Fethi, Selçuklular Dönemi, Ankara 1988, s.20; Besim Darkot, “Sivas”, İA, III, s.570.
3 Mustafa Demir, Türkiye Selçukluları ve Beylikleri Devrinde Sivas Şehri, (Yayınlanmamış Doktora Tezi, Ege Üni. Sos. Bil. Ens Tarih Anabilimdalı, İzmir

Danishmend Turks came to Sivas and its environs after 1059 at intervals which caused the Byzantine Emperor Romanos Diogenes to send a military expedition to Anatolia in 1071. When the Emperor went to Sivas, the Greeks living there complained that during the Turkmen attacks they were tormented by the Armenians rather than Turkmen. The Byzantine Emperor massacred the Armenians and ordered his men to loot the city.

They killed many Armenians and banished from Sivas4. The Emperor’s pressure is considered to be the reason that the Armenians welcomed Turkish raids in Sivas and Anatolia and approved of the administration of the Turks since it was tolerant and fair. After the conquest of Sivas by the Turkmen that took place between 1075 and 1080, it became the first established capital and the cultural center of the Danishmend dynasty of Turkmen. After 1175, Sivas became a Seljuk dominion and experienced a flourishing period politically, culturally, and economically. Two sources have written about the period, Matheos of Urfa, an Armenian priest, and the Syriac historian Mihael. They reported that Turkish-Armenian relationships were very good under both the Danishmend and the Seljuk reigns5. It was also shown in the sources that various churches were built, repaired, or ornamented in Seljuk and Danishmend lands. 6

Even under the Ilhanlı Mongols’ rule that was founded after 1243 Kösedağ defeat, it is seen that Armenians of Sivas and the Catholicos, the head of Armenian Church, were a bridge for the relations between Ilhanlılar and the Vatican7. It is understood that Armenian people were satisfied with their situations in Sivas under the Kadı Burhanettin and the Eretna dynasty following Ilhan rule. It is also known that the relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims were without problems; moreover, Turks and Armenians together defended Sivas during Tamburlaine’s attack 1996, s.17.

4 Urfalı Matheos Vekayi-Nâmesi, s.141;Darkot, a.g.e, s.570-571.
5 Urfalı Matheos, a.g.e, s.231; Yavuz Ercan, “Ermeniler ve Ermeni Sorunu”, Osmanlıdan Günümüze Ermeni Sorunu, (Yeni Türkiye Yayınları), Ankara 2001, s.80-81.
6 C.Cahen, Osmanlılardan önce Anadolu’da Türkler, İstanbul 1994, s.208.
7 Bertold Spuler, İran Moğolları, Çev. C.Köprülü, Ankara 1987, s.257;Ahmet Gökbel, İnanç Tarihi Açısından Sivas, İstanbul 2004, s.87.

at the end of 14th century8. This is evident in the reports by Şerefeddin Yezdi, Baron von Hammer and one of the Armenian historians, Thomas de Medzop, in which they noted that people buried alive by Tamburlaine were also Armenians9.


Sivas was first occupied by Ottomans in 1398, and after Timur’s invasion in 1400, it was for the second time taken under Ottoman sovereignty. However, the disaster created by Timur demolished the city in every way and the city experienced a breakdown socio-economically and demographically. The data given about population, economic life, and social life of the city by Ibn Batuta and other sources, give us an opportunity to compare the period before and after the invasion10.

1. Demography

The first data about Armenians under the control of the Ottoman Administration have been learned from the Writing Records (Population and Tax enlistments) produced after 1454. These records by which we acquired demographic information about Armenians gives us detailed information on the basis of the city and the state in the dates of 1454, 1519, 1528, 1553-54, and 157411.

It is understood from the first Ottoman census done in 1454 that there were 567 households (approximately 3000 people) in the city and more than half of these people were non-Muslim, that is Armenians. In this period, according to the records there is an impression that Muslims and non-Muslims were living in different districts. It is understood that Armenians used to live in six different districts registered as Palas, Meksat

8 Ömer Demirel, “Sivas’ın Timur Tarafından Zaptı ve Yağmalaması”, Cumhuriyetin 80.Yılında Sivas Sempozyumu Bildiriler,(15-17 Mayıs 2003), Sivas 2003.
9 Bkz. Y.Yücel, Timur’un Dış Politikasında Türkiye ve Yakın-Doğu(1393-1402), Ankara 1980, s.82; Hammer, Devlet-i Osmaniye Tarihi, Mütercimi Mehmet Atâ, İstanbul 1329, C.2, s.43-44; İ.Hakkı-R.Nafiz, Sivas Şehri, İstanbul 1928 s.94-96.
10 Seyahatnâme-i İbn Batuta, Tuhfetü’n-Nuzzâr fî Garaibi’l-Emsâr ve Acâibi’l-Esfâr, C.I, Mütercim Mehmed Şerif, İstanbul 1333-1335, s.326-327.
11 Ömer Demirel, Osmanlı-Vakıf Şehir İlişkisine Bir Örnek:Sivas Şehir Hayatında Vakıfların Rolü, Ankara 2000, s.183-187.

Keşiş, Zilkar, Bazar, Keşih Mehtar, and Nurmuş Keşiş12. Until 1574 the number of Armenians living in these six districts increased rapidly and the names of some of the districts were changed to Kaleardı, Kepenek, and Köhne Civan. Their total population reached 2085 households (more than 10,000 people) in 1574. After the Ottomans assumed central authority in Anatolia together with Sivas, Turks and Armenians that used to live separately began to share the same districts. Especially during the Celali rebellions Muslims and non-Muslims coming from country side to the city shared the same districts together. The most populous non-Muslim district of Sivas was the Bazar except during a few periods13. This continued for more than four centuries. (Today it is the area between “The Street of Banks” and “The Bazaar with Mirror”).

The data we have gathered from the first Ottoman census done by Ottomans in 1831 and from travelers are quite rich and detailed. In the first census, including the whole Ottoman Empire, the number of the non-Muslims, most of whom were Armenians, was about 9,000 (1,782 households). The most populous districts of that period were:

Hoca İmam (58 households), Cami-I Kebir (72 households), Bazar (178 households), Köhne Civan (49 households), Sarı Şeyh (42 households), Üryab-ı Müslim (64 households), Üryan_i Zimmi (119 households), Kösedere-i Zimmi (97 households), Akdeğirmen (105 households), Kilise (143 households), Ağca Bölge (80 households), Ece (129 households), Örtülüpınar (87 households), Baldır Bazarı (96 households), Kücük Bengiler (98 households), Küçük Minare (23 households), Temürcülerardı (110 households) and bâb-i Kayseri (79 households).

The 19th century became a period in which the data about the population in Sivas was enriched. The population registrations of the first half of the 19th century are followed by the Sivas City Year Books. The data gathered from travelers follow these for all of the 19th century. It is indicated in the documents of this century that the population of the city center in that century changed between 15,000 and 43,000 and the number of non–Muslims, most of whom were Armenians, was

12 Ö.Demirel, a.g.e, s.183.
13 Bkz. Ömer Demirel, a.g.e, s.183, Plan II.

between 6,000 and 9,00014. In demographic aspects the population of the city reached a rapid increase according to the Sivas City Year Books, foreign Archives and, of course, the first census of Republican period done in 1927. The number reached 173,000 in 1980 and to 233,000 in the last census of 1999.

The population of non-Muslims, the majority of whom were Armenians, had a variable but decreasing number by the reasons of Armenians exiled or Armenians migration to USA and European countries. In French sources it was 16,500(1901). In the Year Book of 1903 the number of Armenians was 8,300, in 1914 the total number of Armenians in Sivas and its environs was 151,000, in 1945 3,477 was the number included in the resources15.


The Ottoman public was divided into two groups as was common in Middle Eastern states. The first was the military group in which the ruler turned his power over to viziers and governors, and the latter was the group which paid taxes, that is to say the subjects. The military group had the “berât” of the Ottoman ruler and did not pay taxes. Subjects, Muslim and non-Muslim, took the name of farmers, tradesmen or merchants according to their economic activities16. With some small exceptions, all of the non-Muslims, including the Armenians, were in the subject group and in Sivas, as all other Ottoman cities, were tradesmen or merchants.

The Kadi Registers that are the richest sources of the Archives give us detailed information about the professional activities of Armenians living in Sivas. According to registers, it is possible to investigate trade guilds under three main titles according to their ethnic situations. In the first group were the professions done only by Armenians, in the second the professions done by Muslims and non-Muslims and in the third the professions done only by Muslims.

14 Ömer Demirel, Sivas, DİA, Baskıda; Darkot, a.g.e., s.570.
15 A.Gökbel, s.170-171; Hikmet Özdemir- Kemal Çiçek - Ömer Turan - Ramazan Çalık - Yusuf Halaçoğlu, Ermeniler:Sürgün ve Göç, TTK. yay. Ankara 2004, s.16-47.
16 Halil İnalcık, Osmanlı İmparatorluğu Klâsik Çağ(1300-1600), Çev.R. Sezer, 3.Baskı,(YKY) İstanbul 2004, s.73-74.

The professions included in the first group were: wax producers (3 people), printed cotton producers (16), coffee potters (1), tent producers (5), carpenters (11), cartridge producers (2), physician (7), tin makers (23), skier (2), sword makers (4), lock makers (2), jewelers (23), yarn dealers (1), decorators (1), inn keepers (4), barbers (1), thread dealers (2), colored cotton kerchief dealers (1), and a shrill pipe player (1)17.

Almost all of the professions that Armenians had were either the ones that needed skilled handwork or the ones that needed extensive education, such as medicine. (That non-Muslims were not recruited to military service increased their mastery in their professions and their skills.

Moreover, the desire of the Muslims to have the document of “berât” became influential on the aforementioned subject.

The professions that were done by Muslims and non-Muslims were not necessarily shared equally. Armenians were the majority in some; Muslims were the majority in others; in some Muslims and non-Muslims shared equally. Armenian majorities occurred for: herbalist (30 Armenians-1 Muslim), grocers (16-15), barbers (11-10), seed oil dealers (2-1), cloth merchants (9-1), paint dealers (8-1), bath attendants (4-3), leather dealers (8-1), ready-made shoe dealers(16-3), workers (2-1), butchers (27-26), turban dealers (3-2), furriers (13-1), watch sellers (5-1) and iron mongers (52-3)18.

The shared professions included ones that required skilled handwork and crafts. The shared professions where Muslims constituted a majority were: barley sellers (16 Muslims-2 non-Muslims), vegetable gardeners (5-1), maker or seller of pipe stems (13-1), tobacco dealers (30-10), junk dealers (11-9), scrap dealers (4-1), saddle tree dealers (4-2), muleteers (9-3), silk manufacturers (9-4), candle dealers (7-3), seat dealers (15-2), cotton dealers (17-7), saddlers (77-2), tailors (38-27), salt dealers (6-2) and merchants (3-1). Knife maker, miller, snuff maker, felt maker, and stone worker are examples of professions what were shared equally.

The professions that were monopolized by the Muslims were maker or seller of coarse woolen cloth or garments, cook, roof maker, gardener,

17 Ömer Demirel, II. Mahmut Döneminde Sivas’ta Esnaf Teşkilâtı ve Üretim-Tüketim İlişkileri, Ankara 1989, s.159-162.
18 Ömer Demirel, II.Mahmut Dönemi, s.159-162.

fisherman, maker or seller of axes, powder maker, pastry maker, glass worker, horse dealer, cattle dealer, maker or seller of robes, sandal maker, stock maker, plate maker, town crier, large mortar maker, baker (8), Turkish bath owner and employees, caravansary owner, leaser, keeper of a coffeehouse (5), cauldron maker, sheep head dealer, cook and seller of roast meat, gunstock maker, diaper dealer, roasted chickpea dealer, maker or seller of pipe bowls, maker of water bottle, donkeyman, nail dealer, spinner of goat hair, bookbinder, blacksmith, wood cutter, paspan (guard), onion seller, sweetened fruit juice maker or seller, rifle maker, oil dealer, yogurt seller, and maker and seller of rush-bags.

Among the tradesmen and merchants performing most of the commercial activities to meet the needs of Sivas Armenians were the people who created the commercial relationship with other cities or countries. These relationships were created even by the Armenians of Sivas but they were generally the Armenians coming from Kayseri, Ankara, and Istanbul.

It has been revealed in the documents that Armenians who were dealing with intercity and international trade were richer than other trade groups in the city. For example, the second richest tradesman of 19th century Sivas was the Armenian merchant Kirkor of Ankara.

On this point a question comes to mind, what was the state of welfare of Sivas Armenians? Were there similarities or differences among Muslim and non-Muslim tradesmen from the point of view of prosperity? The documents in the Kadi registers from which we have gained information showed that non-Muslim tradesmen had similar levels of affluence with both Muslims in Sivas and Muslims and non-Muslims tradesmen in other Anatolian cities. For example, the property of some Armenian tradesmen, such as Bezzaz Artin, Kalaycı Agob, Bezzaz Bagos, Jeweler Hımyarson, Tailor Mudis, Saddler Gabriel, Furrier Basil, and others, had similarities with those of the Muslim tradesmen of Sivas, such as Grocer Halil Aga, Party Maker Ali, Chamber Vessel Dealer Osman, Firewood Seller Kara Ali, Salt Dealer Halil, Mücellid Ahmed, Iron Monger Hüseyin, Vegetable Gardener Ali, and Knife maker Hasan19. In our Archive studies related 19 Ömer Demirel, “ Sivas Tüccar ve Esnafının Mal Varlıkları ile Borç-Alacak İlişkileri”, Doğumunun 65.Yılında Prof.Dr.Tuncer Baykara’ya Armağan, Tarih Yazıları, Prof. Dr. Akif Erdoğru, İstanbul 2006, s.158-173.

to other Anatolian cities, similarities in the positions of affluence and prosperity were determined20.

When we look at the Armenian tradesmen of Sivas from a different perspective, the extent of their commercial relationships with Muslim tradesmen, the trust between them, and their being each other’s financial guarantors are reflected at length in the sources. For example, when he died in 1850 the merchant Kirkor had 195 receivables and 49 of them were from tradesmen of Sivas and the others were from people who were from different ethnic, religious, and professional groups in Sivas. For instance, among the people Kirkor held credit for debts were as follows: Grocer Mahmut Ağa 70 piaster, Keeper of Kale Bath İbrahim Ağa 30 piaster, The Head of Butchers Muğdis Agob 92 piaster, Tailor Agob 185 piaster, Grocer Mihail 250 piaster, Grocer Osman 100 piaster, Grind Veliyüddin Efendi 1100 piaster, Kadı Zade Hafız Efendi and his brothers 379 piaster, Zaralızade Murtaza Bey 132,5 piaster, Sheikh Bekir Efendi 240 piaster, Hakim Efendi 154 piaster, Mustafa Pasha 2420 piaster, Cavalry Captain Osman Ağa 77 piaster, Head of the Financial Department Halil Efendi 240 piaster, Owners of Meydan Bath 251 piaster and Goverment Officer Yusuf Efendi 25 piaster21.

Similar examples are widely seen in the Archive registers. What especially attracts attention are that Armenian merchants and tradesmen were in a debt and credit relationship with Muslim tradesmen, city dwellers, and administrators. Moreover, the large amount of mutual loans for that period shows that these people trusted each other a great deal. Furthermore, in the Archive resources of the 19th century, house 20 Bkz.Ömer Demirel, Bkz. Ömer Demirel, “Tereke Defterlerine Göre Kayseri Tüccar ve Esnafının Borç Alacak İlişkileri”, IV. Kayseri ve Yöresi Tarih Sempozyumu (10-11 Nisan 2003), Kayseri 2003,s.139-150; Ömer Demirel, “Çankırı Esnaf ve Tüccarı’nın Mal Varlıkları ile Borç-Alacak İlişkileri”(1815-1875), Yâran Kültürü ve Çankırı, II. Çankırı Kültürü Bilgi Şöleni, 17-18 Eylül 2004.Çankırı 2005, s.32-42.; Ömer Demirel, “Çorum Esnaf ve Tüccar’ının Mal Varlıkları ve Borç-Alacak İlişkileri” (1850-1900), Osmanlı Dönemi Çorum Sempozyumu, 28 Eylül-3 Ekim 2004; Ömer Demirel, “Trabzon Tüccar ve Esnafının Mal Varlıkları ile Borç-Alacak İlişkileri(1800–1840)”, Karadeniz Tarih Sempozyumu, 25-26 Mayıs 2005, (Karadeniz Teknik Üniversitesi),Trabzon 2005.

21 Bkz. Sivas Şer’iye Sicili 25, s.140-145.

sale contracts between Armenians and Muslims are frequently seen, and most of the houses were sold by Muslims to the Armenians22.

2. Socio-Cultural Aspect

Armenians, who were called in the Archive documents as “Reliable Subjects” among the Ottoman subjects, can be said to have had a good environment for their educational and cultural activities, religious beliefs, and freedom to worship. It is also known that they gained governmental and administrative rights during and after the Administrative Reforms. For example, Kocabaş and Metropolit, who took part in “Producer Assemblies” as the representatives of non-Muslims, later took part in the government’s administrative and general councils as the non-Muslim representatives after “Producer Assemblies” were abolished in 1842. Moreover, there were also non-Muslim members chosen by the public23. Sivas County General Cabinet Council of 1911-1912 consisted of 15 members, one of whom was the head. Seven of the members were non-Muslims, most of whom were Armenians coming from Sivas and its environs24. In addition, Armenian deputies took part in the First and the Second Constitutional Monarchy Assemblies as representatives. In general, Sivas Armenians had freedom of religion and worship.

There were churches of different periods and sects whose numbers changed from 5 to 9. Four of them were Gregorian Armenian, and the most important of them was a cathedral built for the Virgin Mary. The Catholics had one church, the Protestants had two churches and the Jesuits have had just one chapel. They were able to get permission for the repair and care of their churches25. Furthermore, Armenians freely

22 Ömer Demirel, Sivas Şehir Hayatında Vakıfların Rolü, s.23; Ayrıca bkz. SŞS, 10, s.19, 37,43,89,90; SŞS, 15, s.6,17,83,100. Kayseri ve Ankara’da da benzer satışlar görülmüştür. Bkz. Suraiye Faroqhi, Men of Modest Substance House Owners and House Property in Seventeenth-centry, Ankara and Kayseri, Cambridge 1987, s.154-155.
23 Musa Çadırcı, Tanzimat Döneminde Anadolu Kentleri’nin Sosyal ve Ekonomik Yapıları, Ankara 1991, s.212,219,255-258.
24 Bkz.Ömer Demirel, 1911-1912 Sivas Vilayet Meclisi Kararları, (Sivas Valiliği) Baskıya verildi.
25 Bkz.Adnan Mahiroğulları, Seyyahların Gözüyle Sivas, İstanbul 2001, s.133.

established their Charitable Foundations appropriate to their belief and worship26.

In the 19th century, Sivas Armenians who had similar freedom for educational activities had twenty primary and secondary educational institutions, 12 of which were of Gregorian and 8 of which were of Protestant27.

They also had two printing houses and 12 daily newspapers and magazines. They printed more than a thousand books which shows their cultural activities. During and after the Constitutional Monarchy, 15 publications by non-Muslim’s in the Armenian language are mentioned28. From all of these activities it can be concluded that the Ottomans did not have an aim in forcing them to accept Islam. We rarely come across someone that converted to Islam in the Registers for hundreds of years.

Furthermore, the reality that the population of Armenians kept increasing in number since the 15th century and that there had never been a decrease cannot be a coincidence. The socio-economic and cultural relationships of Armenians were so close that some of the Christians in Sivas applied to the Ottoman courts to solve their inheritance problems. It is possible to find thousands of examples in all Ottoman cities, including Sivas; for example, the property of Artin veled Artos who died in Sivas Kösedere-i Zimmi district was shared among his heirs according to Ottoman laws29.


Since Sivas is one of the Anatolian cities in which the Armenians inhabited beginning in the 11th century, it is one of the cities that had the largest population of Armenian people. It is indicated in the Archives that before and during the Ottoman period Armenians had exemplary relations with the government and with Muslims. In addition to the fact that they maintained and even increased their population, they worked as tradesmen and merchants and controlled the trade in the city and environs. From the point of affluence and prosperity, they continued a life as rich and comfortable as the Turks. In religious, economic, and

26 Ömer Demirel, Sivas Şehir Hayatında Vakıfların Rolü, s.123.
27 Bkz.Cuinet’den nakleden, A.Mahiroğulları, a.g.e.,s.135-136.
28 Bkz. Y.Halacoğlu, Ermeni Tehciri ve Gerçekler(1914-1918), Ankara 2001, s.5.
29 Bkz. SŞS, 141, s.14-15.

socio-cultural aspects they had equal rights with Turks, and after the Administrative Reforms they had equal rights within Ottoman law.

However, beginning from the second part of the 19th century, there were some problems in Turkish-Armenian relations after the missionary activities of Americans and the English. It is indicated in the sources that after 1879 these problems turned into serious events, such as injuries and murders. Political investigation of Turkish-Armenian relations in Sivas is possible by means of long-term Archive studies.


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