2183) Good Model Of Living Together: Turkish-Armenian Relations At Harput (Modern Elaziğ)

Assoc Prof Rahmi DOĞANAY
Fırat University Science-Literature Faculty History Department / Elazıg


Managing to live together easily is first a question of self-confidence and tolerance, and then of sharing. During its long history, the Turkish nation has not only governed people of different races and religions but also has managed to live together with them by sharing values and lifestyles. At least since the Tanzimat, it was practical to join living together with governing together. The history of the Turks might help us to understand that Turks had no intention to massacre any other nation. . .

Until the 19th century these two nations managed to live together with tolerance and then in this century the Ottoman State provided reforms which gave extra rights to Armenians and made Armenians equal to Turks.1 After the 1878 Berlin Treaty, in the edict which dictated reforms on behalf of Armenians, Sultan Abdülhamit, with the opinion that non-Muslim people are also Ottoman, declared his intention to stop rebels which shows the continuous desire for living together peacefully.2

1 It was common to protect the rights of non-Muslim people by great states by political pressure not mentioning the rights of Turks and Muslim people.
2 Abdulhamid’in Hatıra Defteri, İstanbul 1975, s.56

With this intention and approach, the Armenian community did not pay attention to Armenian incidents till 1890. The Armenian people, using common sense, declared their intention which was very similar to that of the Ottomans and contributed to this opinion. A member of the 1st Meşrutiyet Meclisi (Parliament), Hamazasp, criticized the problems of Turkish-Armenian relations, and said “We, Christians, are happy with our situation and we don’t need protection. I’m, as an Armenian, deputy of Erzurum. Armenians who migrated to other countries came back and are protected here.” 3

Turks, over a thousand years, had good relations with Armenians as much as with other nations. Why has harmony deteriorated? The purpose of this study is not to blame anyone or to answer this question, but to rather give examples from the city of Harput, where Turks and Armenians lived peacefully, in order to prevent initiatives which obstruct the future of these nations. The information provided is taken from official city records (salname) of Mamuretü’l-Aziz vilayet (province). The yearly records from 1881 to 1908 show that Armenians had positions at every level of offices of state. The records show that there was a peaceful and tolerant social life between the Muslims and non-Muslims, including Armenians, in Harput.

The Non-Muslim Civil Servants in the ‘Vilayet’ of Mamuretü’l-Aziz

In The vilayet of Mamuretü’l-Aziz4 we find details about the social and administration positions of Armenians by checking the salname records which are at the centre of our study. It was noticed that between the years 1881 and 1907, 6070 people worked in public services and 690 of them were Armenians. Every office in the city had non-Muslim officers. These officers represented their community in provincial, city, and village administrations. They were honored and awarded according to the usual procedures of the Ottoman government. Furthermore, Armenian and Catholic officers were permanent. When it comes to

3 Ermeniler Hakkında Makaleler-Derlemeler, Ankara 1978, s.4

4 “The Vilayet of Mamuretü’l-Aziz” is the city nowadays named as “Elazığ”. The Vilayet of Mamuretü’l-Aziz also consists of the cities Tunceli, Malatya, Adıyaman in that period of time.

Elazığ, Armenians were in charge of these offices, except for the city and village governor positions.

In 1907, an Armenian named Ohannes Efendi was appointed as deputy city governor the Vilayet of Mamuretü’l-Aziz and honored with the rank “saniye”. Among the nominees for services, were Armenians, who were also honored by rank and decoration. The names are listed below:

Nominee Duty, City Rank5

Nastas Efendi Dersaadet (İstanbul) Deputy Tax Director, Eğin Ulâ Evveli
Panayot Efendi Record Office Director, Mamuretü’l-Aziz Sâlise
Antonios Efendi Treasurer, Harput Sâlise
Kirkor Efendi Treasurer, Mamuretü’l-Aziz Râbia6

In addition, the Vilayet of Mamuretü’l-Aziz administration committee, there was at least one voting non-Muslim member, and additional Armenian and Catholic representatives. The members of this committee were vali (the city governor), defterdar (the accountant) and müftü (Muslim religious leader). In the salname 1325 H (A.D. 1910) records, additional members were identified as:

Appointed Elected

Armenian representatives: Hüsrev Efendi Harputluyan Artin Efendi
Catholic representatives: Estepan Efendi Kuyumcuyan Agop Efendi7
The records also list more officers, such as city records officer, Registration
and Executive Board member, cashier, storekeeper, clerk, registrar,
and supplier.

5 These ranks had been given to the Civil Servant by Ottoman Government for their accomplishments.
6 1325 (A.D. 1910) Tarihli Mamuretü’l-Aziz Sâlnamesi, s.116
7 1325 (A.D. 1910) Tarihli Mamuretü’l-Aziz Sâlnamesi, s.53

Most of the basic region’s administration had Armenians as directors.

In the city records for the year 1302 H (AD. 1885) the following were directors of the various regions:

The Vilayet of Mamuretü’l-Aziz - Kuyulu Region8 Director Manuk Ağa
The Vilayet of Mamuretü’l-Aziz - Holpenk Region Director Müdürü Evak Ağa
The Vilayet of Mamuretü’l-Aziz - Perçenç Region Director Deputy Kasbar Ağa
The Vilayet of Mamuretü’l-Aziz - Mollakendi Region Director Deputy Meyrasup Ağa
The Vilayet of Mamuretü’l-Aziz - İçme Director Deputy Muavini Oskyan Efendi
The Vilayet of Mamuretü’l-Aziz - Mürüdü Director Deputy Evid Kahya
The Vilayet of Mamuretü’l-Aziz - Dersim Sancağı-Çarsancak Region Deputy Head of
Administration Minas Efendi.9

It was also true for regions. Armenians were appointed to positions similar to city government. In 1307 H, in Eğin District, Executive Board Members Agop Efendi, Yordan and Haçator Efendi worked as elected officials.10

The governing offices in the city were heavily occupied by non-Muslims because they had expertise in finance and trade. The appointment of non-Muslim people for finance administration, such as Reji Idaresi, Düyun-ı Umumiye, Aşar and Rüsum-ı Sitte (finance and tax offices) was on purpose.

The Vilayet of Mamuretü’l-Aziz Reji Administration 1298 H (A.D. 1881)
President Pançeri Efendi
Registrar Evidis Efendi
Treasurer Ohannes Efendi
Storekeeper Antoniyadis Efendi
Storekeeper Deputy Vasil Efendi
Deputy Kirkor Efendi
Clerk Ohannes Efendi11

8 “Region ” is the sub-adminitrative structure of “districts”.
9 1302 (A.D. 1885)Tarihli Mamuretü’l-Aziz Sâlnamesi, s.57-58
10 1307 (A.D.1889) Tarihli Mamuretü’l-Aziz Sâlnamesi, s.44
11 1298 (A.D. 1881)Tarihli Mamuretü’l-Aziz Sâlnamesi, s.61

In the Vilayet of Mamuretü’l-Aziz, Malatya, and Tunceli districts there are countless examples of heads of finance and up to eleven in the districts of Arapkir, Keban, Çemişkezek, Besni, Ovacık, and Kahta, such as:

Arapkir district: Kirkor Efendi12
Arapkir district: Kirob Efendi13
Çemişkezek district: Esteban Efendi14
Kahta district: Daniel Efendi.15

The treasurer (Sandık eminliği) in the financial structure of administration was populated by Armenian people. The position of repository officer (Ambar memuru) was also mainly occupied by Armenian people, which shows the confidence the State had in these people, not only for their expertise.

Positions in the Nâfıa İdaresi (Public Works Administration) and Maarif Komisyonu (Education Board) were filled by non-Muslim people. In Mamuretü’l-Aziz, Sermühendis Baranofski Efendi, Merkez Fen Memuru Ohan Efendi and Kondoktör Manuk Efendi worked in the Nâfıa İdaresi.16 On the Education Boards there were to be two non-Muslim members with rights to vote, who coordinated the education in the schools. In addition, there were non-Muslim teachers at the schools.

Mamuretü’l-Aziz Maarif İdaresi (City Education Board)
Müderris Bedros Efendi
Bogos Efendi
Ohannes Efendi17

12 1298 (A.D. 1881) Tarihli Mamuretü’l-Aziz Sâlnamesi, s.61
13 1305 (A.D. 1887) Tarihli Mamuretü’l-Aziz Sâlnamesi, s.43
14 1308 (A.D. 1890) Tarihli Mamuretü’l-Aziz Sâlnamesi, s.69
15 1301 (A.D. 1884) Tarihli Mamuretü’l-Aziz Sâlnamesi, s.90
16 1307 (A.D. 1889) Tarihli Mamuretü’l-Aziz Sâlnamesi, s.37
17 1310 (A.D. 1892) Tarihli Mamuretü’l-Aziz Sâlnamesi, s.105

Eğin Kazası Maarif Komisyonu (Education Commission of Eğin District)
Denizciyan Serkis Efendi
Ohannes Efendi
Canikyan Oseb Efendi 18

Like other institutions of the Ottoman State, at Menafi Sandıkları and Ziraat Bankası (bank and financial institutions), there were non-Muslim Ottoman citizens at every level of bank structure and Armenians were also head administrators.

Mamuretü’l-Aziz Ziraat Bankası
Member Edvar Efendi
Clerk Filibos Efendi
Cashier Nişan Efendi19

Besides these official institutions, there were many non-Muslims in the civil service like the Ticaret Odaları (Chamber of Commerce).

Mamuretü’l-Aziz Ticaret Odası İdare Heyeti (1301H)
(Chamber of Commerce Administrative Board)
Tarakçıyan Kirkor Efendi
Davudyan Davud Ağa
Kuyumcuyan Ohannes Ağa
Kürkçüyan Kirkor Efendi
Harputiyan Artin Efendi20

In town councils (Belediye Dairesi) non-Muslims had representatives and the right to elect them at every level and authority except the chairmanship. At least two of the members of a council were non-Muslim but there could be more.

18 1301 (A.D. 1884) Tarihli Mamuretü’l-Aziz Sâlnamesi, s.65
19 1312 (A.D. 1884) Tarihli Mamuretü’l-Aziz Sâlnamesi, s.159
20 1301 (A.D. 1884) Tarihli Mamuretü’l-Aziz Sâlnamesi, s.56

Mamuretü’l-Aziz Belediye Dairesi 1305 H (A.D. 1887)
Member Hasan Beğ
Member Mustafa Efendi
Member Hakkı Efendi
Member Hacı Mustafa Efendi
Member Kasbar Efendi
Member Elpiyeryan Efendi
Member Harputluyan Nişan Efendi
Clerk Mihail Efendi21

Armenian citizens also had positions in courts except for Islamic courts. It is evident that Armenians had authority and an influence on justice.

Mamuretü’l-Aziz Bidayet Mahkemesi (lower court) 1305 H (A.D. 1887)
Chairman İbrahim Beğ
Member Hacı Hafız Mahmut Efendi
Member Mihran Efendi
Member Kevork Efendi
Member Mahmud Efendi22

There were other positions and duties from different sectors such as: police, post office, the press, agriculture, and commerce boards. This situation had no adverse effects on the communities.

City Printing Office worker Artin
Estate Agency member Bedros
Postal clerk Agop
Agriculture Board member Misakyan Serayum Efendi
Head of Finance Office Kirkor
Treasurer Ohannes
Member of Education Board Bedros

21 1305 (A.D. 1887) Tarihli Mamuretü’l-Aziz Sâlnamesi, s.37
22 1305 (A.D. 1887) Tarihli Mamuretü’l-Aziz Sâlnamesi, s.36

Between the years 1881 and 1907 (1298-1325 H) in the government offices of Mamuretü’l-Aziz vilayeti there were 690 non-Muslim employees with Muslim employers. Among the Armenians were 1 deputy governor, 1 deputy head official, 14 governors of districts and deputies, 11 heads of finance, 48 treasurers. The quantity of non-muslim civil servants official institutions is as follows: 44 in the city councils and government offices, 67 in Elazığ town councils, 75 in Malatya and Tunceli town councils, 23 in tax offices, 113 in municipality offices, 124 in the courts, 15 in public works offices, 28 on the board of education, 12 in estate administration, 67 in Reji (finance) administration, 15 in Âşar and Ağnam (taxes) administration, 8 in the Chamber of Commerce, 4 in the printing office, 1 in public registration, and 4 in the police department.

It was very common to find non-Muslims working in city schools and also schools in small towns.23 Edvard Efendi was one of them at Mamuretü’l-Aziz İdadi Mektebi (Prep School) in 1325 H. (A.D. 1910) All the examples given cover official positions and committees which shows that no discrimination was favored by the State (especially after the Tanzimat reforms beginning in 1839).The State paid respect to non-Muslim people as much as to Muslim people and gave them responsibility and authority without discrimination. These examples show that the Ottomans had no intention to insult or discriminate against Armenians or non-Muslim people and even show that the Ottomans had the intention to strengthen unity.

People of the Ottoman State managed to live together for thousands of years. In the period we studied there were no illegal activities between and against Muslim and Armenian people, even though some tried to destabilize the situation. Armenians were not happy with the activity of the Armenian gangs. Even the religious leader, Mıgırdaç Hrimyen, was forced to resign because of his attitude against unity. During the First World War, supplies were collected from Eğin (aka Kemaliye) for the army, and some Armenians contributed. The warehouses, in which

23 For more information Erdal Açıkses, Sâlnamelere Göre Mamuretü’l-Aziz Vilayetinde Maarif, Elazığ 1985, Ankara Üniversitesi, TİTE Basılmamış Yüksek Lisans tezi.

these supplies had been stocked, were attacked by Armenian gangs and one warehouseman was killed.24

There were kin relationships between Armenians and Turks. (We have learned this from second and third generations of these families.) During the 1915 migration, many Armenians left their properties to Muslim neighbors. Relocation was done in consideration of the unstable situation and not a total displacement of people. The people who most often moved were men. Women and children stayed behind with Muslim neighbors. Children who were left alone were raised by Muslims, and sometimes were adopted by Muslims. Some married with Muslims. No names are mentioned as an example because there might be an adverse effect on a situation which otherwise has reached a common understanding. During the “National Struggle,” Armenians, who were sent behind the front, had contact with people who stayed there and they described warm relationships in their letters. We learn from letters that people could request help from their Muslim neighbors when needed. By letters, it was possible to communicate and send money. In letters sent to the Leon and Ohannesyan families from Leon Derohannesyan (Elazığ, March 1, 1338) and to Serpik Benekliyan from Karebet Acemyan, they explained that they were in good condition and had nothing to worry about and that they received the money (15 and 20 lira respectively).

Moving out of the main area of concern, it would be informative to describe the contents of letters from Armenians who moved from Karaman, Konya, Ereğli, Sivas, and Niksar cities to Muş. It was explained that they had a safe journey with enough rest to Muş, and now they were engaged in their own professions and had no pressure from Turks. They enjoyed the treatment by the officers and the community of Muş when they arrived at nighttime. They were settled in hotels and served some food.25 Ohannes from Muş tells his sister, Serkis Kimerliyan: “ …

By the Ottoman State, I am in a good situation… I cannot find words to

24 Erdoğan Cengiz, Ermeni Komitelerinin Amal ve Harekat-ı İhtilalliyesi, Ankara 1983, s. 238
25 Zekeriya Türkmen, “Kurtuluş savaşı Yıllarında Cephe gerisine Gönderilen gayrimüslim Vatandaşların Aileleriyle Haberleşmeleri”, Askeri Tarih Bülteni, Ağustos 2000, s.114 vd.

explain the good behavior of the Ottoman officers when I left you and during the journey. Thanks to the Turkish Government, now village people help us much….”26 The post addresses given by the senders are Deputy Police Superintendents, Niyazi and Reşat Bey.

And now, who and with what purpose destroyed and continues to undermine the harmony and unity between Turks and Armenians? That is the question to be asked and everybody must learn his lesson with this question.

26 Z. Türkmen, a.g.m. s, 116


ABDULHAMID’IN HATIRA DEFTERI, Kervan Yayınları, İstanbul 1975.
AçIKSES, Erdal; Sâlnamelere Göre Mamuretü’l-Aziz Vilayetinde Maarif, Elazığ 1985 Ankara Üniversitesi, TİTE Basılmamış Yüksek Lisans tezi.
DEMIR, N. Kerem; Türkiye’de Ermeni Meselesi, Ankara 1976.
CENGIZ, Erdoğan; Ermeni Komitelerinin Amal ve Harekat-ı İhtilaliyesi, Ankara 1983.
TÜRKMEN, Zekeriya; “Kurtuluş savaşı Yıllarında Cephe gerisine Gönderilen gayrimüslim Vatandaşların Aileleriyle Haberleşmeleri”, Askeri Tarih Bülteni, Ağustos 2000.

1298 Dated Mamuretü’l-Aziz Sâlnamesi.
1301 Dated Mamuretü’l-Aziz Sâlnamesi.
1302 Dated Mamuretü’l-Aziz Sâlnamesi.
1305 Dated Mamuretü’l-Aziz Sâlnamesi.
1307 Dated Mamuretü’l-Aziz Sâlnamesi.
1308 Dated Mamuretü’l-Aziz Sâlnamesi.
1310 Dated Mamuretü’l-Aziz Sâlnamesi.
1312 Dated Mamuretü’l-Aziz Sâlnamesi.
1325 Dated Mamuretü’l-Aziz Sâlnamesi


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