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14 December 2007

2238) Evaluation Of Sociocultural Interaction Of Turks And Armenians In Kayseri Region Using Spoken History Method

Assoc. Proff. Selma YEL
Gazi University Education Faculty / Ankara


Although I was born in Ankara in 1960, I lived in Kayseri during my childhood and adolescence. Our house was on Cafer Bey Road on Etlikçi Street,1 which is very close to Surp Krikor Lusvoriç Gregoryan, the only Armenian church which is still in service for worship. Therefore, I witnessed people having good friendships with the few Armenian families who remained in the city in the 1960s. My childhood friend was Marnik (Marne). Her sisters Çiçek and Üstüyan and her mother, Topal Maryam (Meryem), were my mother’s, sister-in-law’s and aunts’ . .

friends. This situation went on until 1966-1967. We were very close as I remember. I used to go to their house frequently and they used to come to our house, too. Our game group’s leader was Marnik. She was a strong character; she was the leader, and we used to play whatever she wanted to play. Sometimes we used to resent each other and didn’t talk to each other for a while. However, we never thought about the fact that she

1 This street was demolished during the mayoralty of Hüsamettin Çetinbulut in the 1980s and a large avenue was built on it.

had a different religion from us, and we never emphasized it. I also never witnessed that my mother and others were prejudiced against them. Marnik and her family moved to Istanbul in 1967; we were very sad and cried as we sent them off. When the elder daughter of the family came to visit my mother in 1973, I still remember it as if it were today; they hugged each other with tears because of their missing each other. We moved from that street later but whenever we needed a tailor, we used to go to Aunt Toros’s daughter-in-law on the street. I cannot remember Aunt Toros’s age but she was very old. However, there is one thing I am sure of and that is that they were the only Armenian family remaining on the street in 1979. Two of her grandchildren were studying at a boarding school in Istanbul. Her son, whom I never saw, was working in Beirut or so they told us. Only their bride and her mother-in-law were in Kayseri. I will never forget the words of Aunt Toros when criticizing her daughter-in-law like a typical mother-in-law in Kayseri:

“She keeps calling me mama just to drive me crazy. I want her not to call me that; I want her to call me mother, but she never minds.” I cannot remember the bride’s name, but she was very friendly. She used to hear this criticism but kept on calling her mama. While I was studying at university, I heard that they moved to Beirut, too. Lebanon, would not remind me of nice things because of the ASALA terrorist organization since I heard that there were terrorist camps in Beirut. However, whenever I remember my childhood friends and neighbors, I always feel the same pain and hear my sister-in-law’s words: “These non-Muslims were not like non-Muslims.”

In this symposium and in other scientific research done recently in the future, I think the answer to these questions will be given. Are the non-Muslim who lived in the Ottoman Era similar to Turks in terms of culture, tradition, and customs? Where did this similarity originate from and how did it develop?2

2 Abdurrahman Küçük has done detailed research on this issue for further information look at “Ermeni Kilisesi ve Türkler”, (2. Edition) Ankara 2003; Ramazan Adıbelli, “19-20 Yy.Kayseri ve Civarında Hristiyan Gruplar’’,IV.Kayseri ve Yöresi Tarih Sempozyumu Bildirileri” (10-11 April 2003) p.8, this similarity is also confirmed by this expression. Şemsettin Sami says that the population of Kayseri consists of Muslim, Armenian, Armenian Catholic, Armenian Protestant,

We carried out research based on the spoken history method in order to identify the similarities between us and Armenians, with whom we have been living together since 1071 according to written history. We tried to find out the secrets together by getting information about the Armenians of Kayseri, Talas, Develi and Ekrek, sometimes from the witnesses of the events and sometimes from the people’s being reported.

We hope we have succeeded in this respect.


Kayseri has been never shown in the so-called map of Armenia which was claimed to be true by the Armenian Diaspora.3However, it was a well-known fact that there was a extensive Armenian population living in Kayseri during World War I. According to a study released by the Turkish Armenian Patriarchate in the 1890s, the over-all population of Kayseri was as follows:

Muslims 136,590
Armenian Gregorian 43,318
Armenian Catholic 1,575
Armenian Protestant 1,800
Greek Orthodox 25,449
Total 208,732 4

In the official government statistics of 1914, the Muslim population was 184,292, the Armenian population was 50,174 and the Greek population was 26,590.5 and Greeks. They speak Turkish, and they are alike in terms of morals, physical appearance, and customs.

3 Ramazan Tosun, “Armenian cases in Kayseri”, Kayseri 1997. There is detailed information in this study.
4 Turkish Armenian Patriarchate, Surp Krikor Lusavoriç Church, Istanbul 1986, p. 27. Salih ÖZKAN, “Kayseri ve Yöresinde Azınlık ve Yabancı Okulları” 2nd Kayseri and its regions symposium announcements (16-17 April 1988), Kayseri 1988, S. 359, 1308-1309 dated (1890-1891) Ankara report the population of Kayseri 49,498. 31, 252 Muslim, 2419 Greek, 14,082 Armenian and 813 Catholic, 921 Protestant.

5 Süleyman Beyoğlu,’’1914-1922 Yıllarında Kayseri’ de Yaşanan Bazı Sıkıntılar”, 2nd Kayseri and its regions symposium announcements (16-17 Apri 1988), Kayseri

During the relocation, Armenians of Kayseri were sent to Mosul and Halep because of the law enforced on December 31, 1918, we understand that they were allowed to come back.6 However, with the help of this truce between the Ottoman State and the Alliances (England, France, Italy and America) it is impossible to identify how many Armenians came back to Kayseri. It is known that those who were not originally from Kayseri settled down in the region7. However, just after settling down, they began to leave Kayseri; this time by their own will. The reason of this might be the fact that Kayseri is not included in the so called Great Armenia because in January 1919, while trying to dictate the peace treaty to Ottoman State, Alliances, who gathered in Paris, decided to establish a great Armenian State. To realize this, the Armenian population in the east part of Anatolia had to be high. Their destination was Çukurova or Istanbul. In a report dated September 27, 1919 sent by the French Commissioner to Pichon, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, details were given about this migration and added that the Kayserian Catholic bishop encouraged the local Armenians to migrate8. After the Treaty of Lausanne, as a result of the policies practiced by the Armenian Patriarchate, Armenians began to move to Istanbul, from different parts of Anatolia including Kayseri. According to Arşak Alboyacıyan, there were 2,653 Armenians living in Kayseri in 1924, and only half of that number was originally from Kayseri. In 1932, the number decreased to 1,600 and only 554 were originally from Kayseri9.

1988, p. 85, Ali GÜLER, “Kayseri’ de Demografik Durum (1831-1914), 2nd Kayseri and its regions symposium announcements (06-07 April 2000), Kayseri 2000, p. 208-209, the same numbers have been cited in that study. It is understood that 45.036 Gregoryan Armenian were forced to migrate. 4.911 people were put out of this practice. For further information: Yusuf Halaçoğlu, “Ermeni Tehciri” (4. Edition), İstanbul 2004, p. 96, Tosun, a.g.e., s.24-25.

6 Halaçoğlu, a.g.e., s.76-104, Tosun, a.g.e.,s. 82-83.
7 It was also confirmed by Arsak Albayacıyan. For further information: Kayseri and Surp Krikor Lusavoriç…s.37
8 Tosun, a.g.e., s. 86-87
9 Kayseri and Surp……, s. 37. When E. H. King visited Surp K. Lusavoriç church in 1937 he says that it was the only church which was open for worship and claimed that the church would shut down and be ruined because there are not enough people to worship there. This church is still open and it is the best answer in my

As the years went by, the population continuously decreased. According to the general census administered on October 21, 1945, there were 316 males and 165 females who declared that they were Armenians according to their mother tongue10. When classifying according to their religious sects, the Gregorian male population was 40 and the female population was 4511. The number of population, which was around 800 in the 1960s, has now decreased to 12 people as a result of immigration to Istanbul 12 and emigration to other countries such as America and France.


1. Anecdotes about the relationship between Armenians and Turks

The person who became the source for our research is one of the oldest members of the Karnik Teke community and was born in Talas in 1928. His life in Talas and his relationships with his neighbors in his own words are as follows:

“We used to do stock farming and sell to the butchers in Kayseri. They would completely give our money 1 or 2 weeks later. They would say that they could not steal from Armenians since it is a sin. We cannot see these kinds of people nowadays; cheating has increased. They would buy our stock and pay for it immediately13. Once we were paid 100 lira more. We gave it back to Şaban Ağa who opinion. For further information: “Kayseri Surp Krikor Lusavoriç church” www. (downloaded on 08.04.2006)

10 General directorate of statistics general census of 21 October 1945, Ankara, 1949, p. 101, we can understand that they were born during the forced migration by looking at their place of birth. Some of their palces of birth were stated as Iraq, Syria, and Egypt. They were not sent to Egypt during the forced migration for sure but they might have gone there for other reasons.

11 a.g.e.,s. 25

12 Kayseri and Surp Krikor….,, s.37

13 Karnik TEKE, says that they would buy aproximately 50,000 – 60,000 stock from Erzurum, Kars,and Sivas everyyear. Ali TUZCU confirms this and adds that they would buy the meat to make pastırma and sucuk from Erzurum when they could not get it from and around Kayseri. For further information: Ali TUZCU, “19. yy Başlarından 20. yy’ ın İlk Çeyreğine Seyyahların Gözüyle ve Konsolosluk

was the middleman. He gave the money back to the person to whom he sold the sheep.

The man sent us a letter saying that “may God be pleased with you, as long as you go on like this, may God not detain you from being honest.” Karnik Teke frequently repeats that there were so many honest people in those days, there was not dishonesty. We do not have those days now. At the same time he does not speak without using inshallah (God willing) and using a fluent Kayseri accent. People who would marry off their sons or daughters would come to us to borrow money, in autumn at the end of reaping, they would pay us back. There was nobody who did not pay us back, and we would not ask for interest14.”

Kadir Kolsuz was born in Talas in 1944 and graduated from the Istanbul University’s Journalism Department. He still lives in Tablakaya Street in Talas. He remembers Talas’s social life very well until 194915. “There were between 50 and 100 families. Peni and Panos from Yukarı Talas were my friends. We studied in primary school together. I used to take milk to the American College. Mr. Wilson was the headmaster of the school. We would study together with the Armenian children at Talas Central Primary School. We graduated from that school.

However, while Panos and Peni were accepted to the College, my application was denied. Their reason for this was my not knowing Turkish adequately. Armenian children would either study here at Raporlarında Kayseri’ nin İktisadi Yapısı”, 3rd Kayseri and its regions symposium announcements (06-07 April 2000), Kayseri 2000, S 540-542.

14 Vacit İMAMOĞLU, “20. Yüzyılın İlk Yarısında Kayseri Kenti: Fiziki Çevre ve Yaşam”, 1st Kayseri and its regions symposium announcements (11-12 April 1996), Kayseri 2000, p. 123, “In the first half of the 20th century the families had their own independent family budget, the use of fields, the close relationships in the villages, the domectic animals that the families had is all signs of this. Muslims are generally farmers and tradesmen, Greeks were interested in the trade especially with Europeans and Armenians are into service business such as carpentry, jewelry, tailoring and carpet weaving. As we can understand from this information Armenians were leaders in stock breeding and pastırma production.

15 Hüseyin CÖMERT, “19. Yüzyıl Vergi Kayıtlarında Talas”, 3rd Kayseri and its regions symposium announcements (06-07 April 2000), Kayseri 2000, p. 98, according to official documents there was Tablakaya Street in Talas in 1880.

college or go to Tarsus or Istanbul to study16. Was I rejected for being poor and having difficulty in paying the education fee or for really not using Turkish properly? However, I asked this question to myself, were Peni and Panos using Turkish more properly than me?

As it is understood from these views, although there apparently was friendship, he thought he was being exposed to unfair practices. However, Kadir Kolsuz’s memories are not always negative like this. The ones he especially mentions later on confirm what Karnik Teke said.

“The majority of the Armenians living in Talas did not do their military service by paying the required money to the government. Mr. Karnik and his father-in-law might have done their military service. Mr. Karnik and his father were our field partners. The field was in Balıkçıoğlu in Yukarı Talas. It was a large field. We used to plant vetch there together. Mr. Karnik’s father Sarkis,17 or by the name known among the people Zımbat Ağa, used to bring us meals to the field.

Their meals especially their kete (a kind of pastry) was tasty. They would supply us with meat and animal fat that we needed, and we would send them barley and vetch, a kind of animal food they needed.

That’s because we were partners. They would send us everything more than we deserved. They never abused the partnership; and we did not, either. However, there was still prejudice.”

“My father sent a horse’s load of watermelon to Zumbat Ağa’s home. Siyonüş (Meryem), who was Mr. Karnik’s new wife, opened the door. At that time I heard Zumbat Ağa’s yelling “Allah, Allah”. When returning home, I told my father off by telling him, “You are calling him a non-Muslim, but he yells Allah.” My father told me, “My son, Allah is everybody’s God”18.

Armenians of Talas and the American College have an important place in Kadir Kolsuz’s memories. “He says nobody from Turks could do yoke19, but they could.” As far as he heard from his father Ali Demirtaş, 16 Since it is very lenghty, we could not use the memories of Kadir KOLSUZ about forced migration.

17 Since all of our source people pronounce it “Sarkis” we use it like this, although Hüseyin CÖMERT, a.g.m.,s.88, gives the name as “Serkis”
18 Maybe this little anecdote shows the reason for fights between religions
19 Yoke: the ancient tool which was used to plow a field

who was born in Talas in 1946 and is still a lawyer registered with the Kayseri bar, Armenians used to fix the roofs of the buildings in Talas all the time. “They were the wealthy people of Talas; shoe-making, carpentry, jewelry-making, weaving, and buckthorn-growing were in their hands,”

Kadir Kolsuz says. “They used to have buckthorn fields in Talas. They especially would grow and sell it. They would also use it as an export item” he adds20. The occurrence of wealth and influential people in a place where commerce is so developed is natural. It is said that Siyanüş Teke used to call Gülbenkyan, who is from Talas and one of the biggest petroleum shareholders in the world, as uncle21.

Kadir Kolsuz says that there is a bazaar in Yukarı Talas and you cannot find the variety of the goods which is available in the shops in the bazaar in Kayseri. Nahit Sırrı Örik also confirms this claim in his study in which he talks about his impressions of Kayseri. He mentioned quite 20 Buckthorn is used in the production of carpet dye. Tosun, a.g.e., p.37. It is very important for carpet weaving. 0055. html (downloaded on 10.04.2006)

Mehmet SOMUNCU, “the importance of production and trade of buckthorn in the 19th century” Erciyes Üniversitesi İktisadi ve İdari Bilimler Fak. Dergisi, vol. 22, January- June 2004, p. 99-125. “buckthorn whose seeds are used as a raw material for dye production was grown widely in Anatolia in the 19th century. The highest quality buckthorn was grown in Kayseri since its climate is very suitable for this plant. Some of it was used in the country and some was exported to some European countries such as England for many years. Buckthorn was a very important plant for the people of Kayseri because it was a source of income for them. It was used by Turks, Greeks, and Armenians in the 15th and 16th centuries. It adds green and yellow to wool. After harresting by farmers, they were bought by Armenian tradesmen and taken to Izmir and sold there. Hamilton says that it grows wildly in most parts of Anatolia but it is cultivated in Kayseri. 2/3 of the country’s production was met from Kayseri. According to the statistics of 1938, we learn that it was still produced but there is a sharp decrease in production.

21 Nahid Sırrı Örik, Kayseri, Kırşehir, Kastamonu, İstanbul 1955. s. 36., the author also confirms that there was exportation from Talas at that time. Erdal ŞAFAK, “Cehennemim Kapısını Aralayan Adam” Sabah 28 Nisan 2006, Kalust GÜLBANKYAN was born in Üsküdar in Kayseri. However, his family is from the Talas region. After he completed his education he got into oil business. Since he took a %5 share in the establishment of Iraq Petroleum Company, he was also known as “Mr. %5.When he died he left at least 3 billion dollars and transferred am important amount to Armenian foundations and associations.

a big bazaar in Yukarı Talas, and he drew our attention to the mansions belonging to wealthy Greeks and Armenians who lived there22. This bazaar in Yukarı Talas is now ruined; it seems it has nothing to do with its old, awe inspiring days. While these shops were disappearing, Talas’s economy was damaged as a result. Kadir Kolsuz says that when he was a child there was not a bazaar even in Kayseri of equal value to the one in Talas. On the contrary, he claims that people used to come to Talas for shopping, and his claim is confirmed by other sources23.

One of the people who was our source about Armenians of Kayseri is Kayseri born Atik Erkuyumcu, who was born in 1936. He is the chairman of the Surp Krikor Lusavoriç Gregorian Armenian church. He is 70 years old and graduated from Kayseri High School. His father, Abraham Atonyan, is from Felahiye; his grandfather Homparsum, known as Hasan Çavuş, is an influential person in Mr. Atik’s words. They were not subjected to forced migration. Likewise Karnik Teke says that his family was not subjected to forced migration because his father had done a seven-year military service during the mobilization, and his grandfather also had been headman of Yukarı Talas for 30 years. However, Mr. Atik’s properties were confiscated during the time of forced migration.

Fifteen years ago, they went to court for their properties. Hamdi Keskin,
the commander of Hacılar police station, testified by saying that their
ancestors did not betray the Ottoman Empire. However, while the trial
was developing in favor of him, Mr. Atik gave up continuing because
Turkish exchangees from Greece had settled on these properties. For this
reason, the Turkish exchangees felt uneasy24. During these days, the mayor

22 Örik, a.g.e. s. 37. It is said that Armenians who live in Europe and Istanbul came to Talas in summers and live in luxury.

23 History of Talas (downloaded on 30.03.2006), CÖMERT, a.g.m., S 96, “Shops in Talas are registered in the official documents. And there are 187 shops such as 14 clothes shops, 24 groceries, 6 barber shops, 4 tailor shops, 4 jewelry shops, 6 butchers, 7 shoe shop, 2 bakeries, 2 farrier, 1 open street market etc.

24 Because of the treaty between Greece and Turkey, while The Greek people who were living in Anatolia except Istanbul were relocated, the Turkish living in Greece except Western Thrace relocated to Anatolia. Turkish republic gave the land which was considered to be unowned. The land mentioned here was considered to be one of the unowned ones.

of Felahiye Hacı Kesici gave them financial support. At the same time, Homes Demir, who was living in the annex of a church and working as a cook for İshak Fazlioğlu, who is the owner of Şahin Sucukları, and his sons, Salih and İbrahim Fazlioğlu, got his family properties around Mount Hasan back25.

2. Economic Life

Kayseri lawyer Hamdi N. Göncüer (b. 1948), who is 58, says that his and Atik Erkuyumcu’s families did joint stock farming together and adds that nobody abused the other. The continuing close relationship between their children confirms this26. Atik Erkuyumcu speaks like a living history of Kayseri. His memory is very sharp. Although he could not give definite dates, he can mention names related to Kayseri’s social and economic life. As 1946 Kayseri born Hüseyin Cömert, who works as an expert at the Research Center of History of Kayseri at Erciyes University, confirms that Armenian craftsmen seemed to have great importance especially in tailoring. The things that Atik Erkuyumcu can remember are as follows:

. Etlikçi Gülbek Ağa and his wife Nazlı Erkuyumcu: They had a famous tailor shop by the Yahşiler Turkish bath.

. Kula Bedros: He was working close to İstiklal Primary School.
He was both a men’s and women’s tailor. Kayseri born Şükrüye Ünlü (b. 1938) says that she used to go to that tailor frequently.

25 It was possible only after the law which accepts to give properties back to Armenians who did not rebell against the country. Homes Demir died at the age of 80. Since he was single and did not leave them to the church his properties transferred to the state.

26 While doing this research, this partnership issues attracted my attention. It was revealed in a later study of ours that while the governorship of Nazmi TOKER, we learned that a rule had been enforced. According to it every non-Muslim craftsman had to get a Muslim apprentice. After this rule Turks began to get into business especially pastırma business. In the works which tell about the economic situation of Kayseri in the 19th century, there are many examples. For further information: Bayrak, “18-19. Yüzyılda Kayseri’nin Ticari Hinterlandı’’, 4th Kayseri and its regions symposium announcements (10-11 April 2003),Kayseri 2003,p.73-81.

. Fat Bedros: His shop was by the newly built Yahşiler Turkish Bath.

. Tailor Vahan: He worked with his wife in Bahçebaşı.
. Tailor of Paris: Master Gazer, who was a both a men’s and women’s tailor, was one of the most popular tailors in the city. It is said that governors and bureaucrats from higher ranks used to come to him.
. Artin Çiçek: He was a men’s tailor, and his father was a war veteran of Çanakkale. His shop was in Kazancılar Bazaar.
. Dede Aşık: He was a men’s tailor. His shop used to be in the Municipality Shopping Center. His master was famous Geyingör, maybe the only famous Muslim tailor whose apprentice was an Armenian.
. Atik Erkuyumcu also remembers the masters of stone carving who have an important place in Kayseri’s architecture:
. Setrakmor, also known as Master Osman, one of the most famous ones.
. Serkis Demir, who is also a master of stone carving.

. Master Behçet, the stone house opposite the church is his work.

Gazi Demirtaş, who is a registered lawyer of the bar in Kayseri, is the person who helped me in doing this research. His grandmother, Ayşe Demirtaş, who was born in 1916 and still resides in Talas, also learned tailoring from Anjil, Aneyik, Zarih, Armin, and Lucin who resided in the same street. She went to their house for 20 days regularly and did not sense any discrimination.

A similar statement was made by Kayseri born Şükriye Ünlü (b. 1938). She says that they were living very close to the church in Cafer Bey Street and adds that she learned lacework and cross-stitch from the daughters of their Armenian neighbors. She also states that she learned how to prepare Aşmakarna, which is a kind of pasta, from them. She was an apprentice to Tailor Güllü in Bahçebaşı. Eminent families of Kayseri, Adem Ağa’s daughters and daughter-in-laws used to go there. Later, Güllü changed her religion and became a Muslim.

In addition, Atik Erkuyumcu confirms what Kadir Kolsuz talks about.

He says that the production of Buckthorn dye was under their control. Natural buckthorn used to grow in Kartın part of Hacılar. Armenians used to bring it with their donkeys and sell it to carpet makers27. Armenian women are said to weave carpets and rugs well. Homes Demir used to weave silk carpets in the summer. Also, Şükriye Ünlü says that the same thing was very common among Turks, too. These anecdotes are related to Kayseri after the 1950’s.

As it is today, first class production of sucuk, which is garlic flavored sausages, and pastırma, a kind of dried meat covered with cumin, was made in that period. Ohonnes Samsa was one of the producers. Martoğulları and Mesiya Gazeryan were the other producers in this business. Göncüler is also one of the Turkish originated families in the same business. These producers were serving people in the shops in the street which was in front of the church.

The most famous of the ironmongers is Master Horen from Çat. Mr. Atik says that he was extraordinarily talented and well-known in Kayseri. His place was in the old industrial estate. Most of his apprentices still work there. Uncle Hacı from Bünyan is one of them.

Karnik Erkuyumcu, (Atik Bey’s step-uncle) was one of the most renowned jewelers in Kayseri, and he was the apprentice of Hacı. Jeweler Hacı is a Muslim, but his mother, Gülhanım, is originally an Armenian who changed her religion and became a Muslim. According to Atik Erkuyumcu’s statements, Gülhanım Erkuyumcu’s father had been a governor of Kayseri province28.

27 Tuzcu, a.g.m., S 536-540, in those years Kayseri used to earn more money in buckthorn selling to foreign countries. The best buyer is the Netherlands, France, England and Germany. This trade decreased in time but continued until the 1940s.

28 On 6 July 1897, Mr. Hamanuyan Agop was appointed to the vice governorship of Kayseri region. On 5 June 1899 Mr. Aleksiyan Servet was appointed. The one Mr. Atik mentioned must be one of them. For more information:. Tosun, a.g.e. p:35, Mustafa KESKİN / Mehmet Metin HÜLAGÜ, “Geçmişteki İzleriyle Kayseri”, Kayseri (no date), p. 137. In this study eminent branches of jobs according to religions have been stated. And it confirms what our source people told about the subject.

It is confirmed by all of our sources that Armenians and Greeks were not only renowned in tailoring but also in jewelry-making, ironmongering, stone-carving and sucuk and pastırma production. An anecdote told by Karnik Teke seems to explain to us why Muslims got into these business areas late.

“A young person from Talas bought a pair of shoes one day with the money he saved up for a long time. A Muslim preacher called him and asked why he was wearing them because shoes were considered to be something which belonged to a non-Muslim at that time and displaying non-Muslim behavior was not approved. However, there is no such discrimination today. By imposing these kinds of things, they discouraged Turks to produce and have modern things. However, there were so many talented ones who could do shoes at that time everywhere.”

I do not know if there is a better anecdote to explain the damage of Turks’ choosing to be a soldier rather than produce something. Because of the mentality that Turks should be a shehit (a Muslim who had died for Islam or who has died while serving the Turkish state) during a war or a war veteran, Turks fall behind other nations for ages. Turks used to have this mentality until towards the end of Ottoman State but not today.

Atik Erkuyumcu’s grandmother produces boğma rakı (a version of raki which is a traditional alcoholic Turkish drink). She also produces wine out of dried grapes. Mr. Atik says that his grandmother is an excellent producer. His grandmother’s name is Diremar, but since she is loved very much among people, she is called Mrs. Melek. Moreover, she draws patterns for carpets and decides on the appropriate colors for them.

3. Food

Armenians produced wine in basements which they call zerzemi (wine vault). They kept their hevenk grapes (grapes dried with bunches), melons, watermelons, carrot, gilaburu (a type of fruit) and pickles. By filling pitchers with cheese, they turned them upside down and buried them into soil. They called it compressed pitcher cheese. Şükriye Ünlü says that her mother-in-law, Hatice Ünlü, who died 10 years ago, used to preserve fruit and make cheese in the same way, and she adds that there are no such delicacies anymore.

That there is also a great similarity between cuisine cultures is confirmed by all of our source people. It seems impossible to identify the real origin of foods. Ayşe Demirtaş says that Zarih, who was their neighbor and works in Talas American Collage as a cook, offered them a kind of delicious dessert that tasted like kadayıf, which is traditional Turkish dessert, and gave some from it to the children who brought milk to the College. Pastırma and sucuk are also seen as a shared cultural element.

Atik Erkuyumcu says, “Dried meat is from you, cumin is from us. We put them together and as a result pastırma came out.” Pastırma’s dried meat form originated from the Middle East, but it is hard to identify when and where cumin was first used29.

We can see mantı (a kind of meat filled pasta) and su böreği (a kind of pastry) on both sides. One of our source people is Zakarya Mildanoğlu, who is 56 years old and born in 1950 in Erek village near Kayseri. His brother Tercan was a doctor for many years. His wife is from a Muslim family from Şebinkarahisar. When his sister-in-law’s husband died, Mr. Zakarya’s sister brought soup, chicken, rice, a saucepan of mantı and yogurt to the funeral home. By this example, we can understand that the mantı tradition also continued outside Kayseri. Stuffed vegetables, such as courgettes and peppers, stuffed animal bowels and stuffed vine leaf are present in both cuisines.

Stuffed courgette flowers, which is known in a few regions of Turkey, is also known by both cuisines. Examples from desserts, açma, baklava and nevzinde, are also recognized by both cuisines as shared cultural elements.

Armenians make kete especially well. This is confirmed by not only Kadir Kolsuz but also Şükrüye Ünlü. Karnik Teke again quotes us an anecdote.

29 www.pastı, tü (downloaded on 03. 10.2005)

One day an Armenian, a Turk and a Greek decided to go on a picnic in a place called çardak in the countryside of Talas30. The Muslim brought mantı, the Armenian kete and the Greek pastırma. While they were eating, two people came close to them. They said that they were fasting but began to eat with them. After this incident, the saying, “A Muslim’s mantı, an Armenian’s kete, and a Greek’s pastırma push one out of his religion” has become widespread.

Which nation does which dish best has been emphasized by this story. The moral of the story is this. Mantı is loved very much by the people of both nations. Atik Erkuyumcu says that Nubar Gülbenkyan still wants them and requests by phone to send him mantı to Switzerland by plane.

Karnik Teke is a very interesting person. Another anecdote that he tells us about pastırma is expressed in different ways in Kayseri. One day an Armenian grocer had some pastırma stolen. While he was beating his chest, he kept saying, “I am not sorry for having it stolen; I am sorry because what if he does not know how to slice it properly and eventually waste it31.

4. Customs and Traditions

There are also many similar customs and traditions apart from cuisine culture. After accepting Islam as a religion, the custom of going to the house of a young woman to ask for permission from her parents for marriage has become widespread among Turks. The same thing has become valid for Armenians after the acceptance of Christianity. “Beşik kertmesi” (the agreement between parents about the future marriage of their children which is made when they are still babies) and marriage at a young age exist in both communities. However, the principle of not marrying to a relative is valid in Armenian culture32. On the contrary,

30 Cömert, a.g.m., S 98, In the same study the name Çardak was mentioned again. We can understand that it is a place to have a picnic.

31 Abdullah Satoğlu, Kayseri Pastırmacılığı, Kayseri 1960, p 17. In the same event they present the grocer as a Turk who took pastırma to Istanbul.

32 The church set this rule for more information: Küçük, a.g.e., s 260

to have a marriage among relatives was preferable among Turks in the past.

Karnik Teke states that parents’ liking of the future bride is a must in marriages. Atik Erkuyumcu states similar things. People who are engaged cannot go out alone. This practice is valid for both communities, according to Şükriye Ünlü. First, the bride’s parents and bridegroom’s parents agree on the marriage and drink coffee. Then, they wait for the engagement day. On the day of engagement, a gift of jewelry is given to the bride. Families come together and decide on a date for the wedding. Just before the wedding, the bride’s trousseau is exhibited. While the wedding is going on, the trousseau is sent to the house of the bridegroom.

The practice among Turkish families in Kayseri has been like this until recently. The best man of the bridegroom (gınka-hayız in Armenian) not only manages the wedding but also becomes the most influential person of the bridegroom’s side. This spiritual relationship is passed on to the next generation.

Weddings are organized around big dining tables and musical instruments, such as the clarinet, the violin, the ud (a kind of stringed instrument) and the tambourine are played as a local tradition. Women and men sit in different places and have fun. Weddings last 3 or 4 days. The practice of holding a henna night, taking the bridegroom to a Turkish bath, sending the bridegroom to have a shave and taking the bride to a Turkish bath are performed by both communities. The bride is taken to the bridegroom’s house on Sunday, but Turks can take her also on Thursday. Asking for some money by blocking the passage of the bride is generally done. Girdling the bride’s belt is nonexistent in Armenian culture. In weddings, soup, rice, roasted meat, pastry, meat boiled in water, Armenian kete and baklava are generally offered. After the wedding night, the bride’s sheet is taken to her mother and some money or a gift is asked for. One week later, they go to visit the bride. This is a shared practice between two communities.

Şükriye Ünlü says that both sides invite each other to their weddings, adding that there are even some Muslims attend wedding ceremonies in a church.

After the wedding, the bride is definitely taken to her father-inlaw’s home. Large families seemed to be preferable in those times in both communities. Sometimes the bride used to keep silent and serve her husband’s family for years33. This practice was carried out among the Turkish families until recently. In order to end this practice, Karnik Teke says that a golden bracelet or a gift should be given. He tells us an interesting anecdote about brides.

“An Armenian bride serves as a bride for three years and does not speak. By saying that this bride is mute, they have their son remarry. The new bride, upon entering the house, sees the milk on the stove was ready to over boil, says “Hey, the mute bride! Be careful your milk is over boiling.” The previous bride, talking for the first time, replies: “Take a look at the bride; take a look at the way she is talking! It has been three years since I came here and nobody has ever heard of my voice”34.

Maybe it is because of living together for many years, both Armenians and Turks choose the names of their elders when they name their children. Karnik Teke, for example, gave the name of an elder from his family to his son. Unlike Turks, we see baptism practice in Armenians when naming a child. A godparent undertakes the role of a spiritual grandfather.

The thing that Abdurrahman Küçük is interested in is the baptism ritual35. The celebration made after the fortieth day of a baby’s birth is still held by washing the baby and by saying prayers among the people of Kayseri.

Albasma (a microbic illness with high fever which some women suffer after giving a birth), confinement and the celebration made after

33 For more information: Zeki Arıkan, “Türk Ermeni Kültür İlişkileri Üzerine” Bilim ve Aklın Aydınlığında Eğitim Dergisi, April 2003, year.4 number:38
34 The possibility of this story’s being anonymous is very strong serving the parents does not only exist in Armenian or Turkish culture, it is common in Muslim societies in general.
35 Küçük, a.g.e., s. 245

the fortieth day of a baby’s birth are examples of traditions and beliefs which are practiced in both communities36.

Just like Muslim Turkish women, it is common among Armenian women to cover their mouths and faces not to be seen by men who are strangers. They are distant towards men who are strangers. Similarly, the habit of wearing a scarf at early ages is seen in both communities. We can see this practice in the life of Kayseri born (b. 1927) Siyanuş (Meryem) Teke. She explains this practice with a Kayseri accent:

“The school was from morning till noon; we used to be at home in the afternoon. There is a mixed education system, the Armenian and the Turkish. They used to study together. While I was in the fifth grade, my father put a head scarf on my head. The headmaster of my school said that they were no longer in use those days. Then my father did not allow me to go to school. My father was a religious person”37.

We see a similar practice in the life of Şükriye Ünlü. Although she was a successful student and even though it was known that her teacher wanted her to become a teacher, thinking that she had studied enough, her mother had her quit school at the end of the fourth grade. The most important evidence about how these two nations resemble each other in terms of culture is the photo in Figure 2 and the statements

36 Arıkan, Türk Ermeni Kültür ilişkileri üzerine…., http://yayı
37 Milliyet newspaper 6 november 2003, Thursday.

Figure 2. The photo of Siyanüş Teke’s father
Figure 3. Ottoman Turkish and Turkish image of the letter on the back of the photo of Siyanüş Teke’s father on the back of the photo in Figure 3 of Siyanüş Teke’s father taken when, according to Siyanüş Teke; he was a soldier during World War I.

Dear Mom,

It has been a long time. I would like to kiss your hands with all my
respect. If you wonder about me, my health is well, and I pray to
God for your own health, too. I received the photo from my two
brother-in-laws. I was delighted. I received the letter just before the
photos. I could not write to you for that reason. Don’t worry about
me at all. I am in great condition and the only thing that worries
me is your health. Please give my best regards to Eyüp Ağa, Hüsnü
Efendi, Mehmet Ağa, Ubderis Ağa, Sarkis Ağa, Artin Ağa, and their
family, and also to everybody who asks you about me. Please take
good care of my son. I am sending my photo as a remainder from
me. That’s all from me. Pray for me.

İstefan Grasty…

We can understand by looking at the statements above that there
were no prejudice between Armenians and Turks; he stated similar things
which an ordinary Turkish soldier from Kayseri can tell to his family in
the letter.

5. Religious Rituals

As in the entire world, the color of mourning for Armenians is black. As confirmed by Şükriye Ünlü, Armenian women and young ladies generally wear black in their daily life. On their shoulders there are knitted black shawls. After burying the body of the dead, tea or coffee is served to the people who come for condolences to the church or the funeral home. Relatives, friends and neighbors bring food for a week to the funeral home. The same practice is still sustained in Kayseri, just like all over Turkey. Atik Erkuyumcu, Karnik Teke, and Şükrüye Ünlü say that, without discriminating between Muslims or Christians, everybody does their own part in a situation like this. Forty days after the death, the dead person is remembered by prayers in both communities. Armenians go to visit the grave and they generally offer kete and fruit juice by saying prayers. The annual commemoration is done in the same way. Again, without regarding religious differences, all of the neighbors are invited to the ritual. Commemoration days among Turkish people living around Kayseri region take place on the first Thursday, the fortieth day, the seventy-second day and the first year after the death. In general, food is offered and prayers from the Holy Koran are said. While sacrificing an animal and helping the poor in the name of the dead is seen in Armenians’ culture and belief, the practice of helping the poor by giving them food and clothes can be seen in both of the communities.

If we are to take Surp Krikor Lusovoriç Church as an example of Gregorian Churches, we have to confirm that it is obviously very different from Catholic and Protestant churches. Although it has a traditional church architecture, the ground is covered with carpets and there are not any rows of wooden benches. There are only two lines of rows at the back. These are put there for the ones who cannot worship by sitting on the ground38.

38 Ramazan ADIBELLİ, “19-20 yy Kayseri ve Civarında Hristiyan Gruplar Arasındaki İlişkiler” 4th Kayseri and its regions symposium announcements (10-11 April 2003), Kayseri 2003,p, 4. “they did not attend the meeting held in Kadıköy, Istanbul in 451 A.D. and did not accept the view that Jesus has 2 natures.The

Since the most detailed study about the form of belief and worship of the Gregorian Armenian Church was done by Abdurrahman Küçük, it is possible to find the information related to this issue from his study called “The Church of Armenians and Turks.”

Upon seeing our amazement at the entrance of the church, Atik Erkuyumcu says that it is not possible to enter their churches without a head scarf and with your shoes on just like it is for mosques. He says that they worship sitting on the ground and have their foreheads touch to the ground. He states that, as it is in Islam, women and men worship in separated places, and additionally, women must enter the church with proper clothes, a headscarf, and without make-up. He adds that when you enter the church, there is a barred place on the left or right side called “vernedon” which is a place for women to worship. You can see this situation in the engraving belonging to the 18th century in Figure 139. However, since the church has been used for touristic purposes of late, Atik Erkuyumcu says that they cannot obey most of these rules.

Atik Erkuyumcu, Zakarya Mildanoğlu, and Eskiya İstepanyan from Kastamonu, whom we have met recently, say that, in their own way, they perform the ritual prayer twice a day, one in the morning and one in the evening. However, they say that there are few people who perform this Armenian church accepted the opposite view. After that point Armenians began to be represented as the Gregorian Armenian Church.

39, Figure 1. An engraving of the 18th century Kayseri Surp Krikor Lusyovoriç Church.

ritual. As it is known, Gregorian Armenians have a fasting ritual. Since Abdurrahman Küçük has given detailed information related to this issue, we do not need to go into this topic. Şükriye Ünlü says that their fasting is harder than ours. Especially the neighbors’ girls fast in order to win approval and respectability from Armenian society. Apparently, young Armenian men used to prefer this kind of girls.

6. Intermarriage

Although there is a religious difference, it is a fact that marriage and love is inevitable between the members of two communities which have lived for many years together. When we ask about this issue, they say that until recently, they did not willingly give permission for marriage to a Turkish man. Besides, it was not considered to be appropriate to get married without getting permission from the family, but they add that this opinion has changed lately. However, there must have been love between the members of these two communities in the past because Karnik Teke sings us this traditional folk song belonging to Harput region in the east of Turkey which is about a forbidden love between a Turkish man and an Armenian lady.

Bahçelerde mor meni,
Verem ettin sen beni,
Ya sen İslam ol Ahçik,
Ya ben olam Ermeni.

In the lines above, it is mentioned that a young Turkish man is inviting an Armenian lady to become Muslim, and also if it is necessary he can change his religion for the sake of his love, too. However, it is difficult to say that the wish stated here can easily come true. It was almost impossible for a young Turkish lady to get married to an Armenian man until recently.

Şükriye Ünlü says that in about 1948 when she was ten or eleven, Agop, who was a relative of her neighbor, fell in love with a Muslim girl who was from Cafer Bey Street. Although he agreed to change his religion and become a Muslim, the parents of the girl did not approve of the marriage. The man became ill later on and died. Şükrüye Ünlü tells us the story with regret.

Zakarya and Jale Mildanoğlu got married in 1980. Of course, it was only possible for Jale Mildanoğlu to get her parents’ permission after the marriage. Everybody has his or her religious belief in this marriage; conversion is out of question. Atik Erkuyumcu’s two nephews, Ohannes Keçeci and Mıgırdıç Kaya, were also married to Muslim ladies and everybody practices his or her own religious beliefs in these marriages. Atik Erkuyumcu’s brother Garip Erkuyumcu40 got married to a Muslim lady and changed his religion. Further, another relative of Mr. Atik, Armoni, also married a Turkish man called Tevfik and changed her religion and became a Muslim. Atik Erkuyumcu’s two aunts also married Turkish men. One of his aunts joined the Küpeli family in Musa Hacılı village. The other joined to the Kısırlar family in Fethiye. Moreover, Şükrüye Ünlü says that her sister-in-law Hikmet, who is about ninety and lives with her son, daughter-in-law and grandchild, is actually an Armenian lady. She says that this story is not discussed in the family and even her daughter-in-law does not know the story. Of course, these marriages were realized in normal conditions. Because according to Kadir Kolsuz and Şükrüye Ünlü, during the forced migration, many Armenian girls were taken under the protection of Turkish families and married off.

It is understood that the necessary actions were taken according to the circular which was sent to the governors by the Ministry of Domestic Affairs41.

40 Garip ERKUYUMCU got medal of honor for his services in boxing in 1966 by the national olimpics commitee of fair play. He is a member of the boxing council of the world and referees’ council and he is the trainer of Celal Sandal who is also a member of the boxing council and a world referee. For more information: Milliyet, 19 July 2002,,, www.fairplayturkiye. com
41 General directorate of archives, “Osmanlı Belgelerinde Ermeniler” (1915-1920), Ankara 1995, s.85.,BOA. DH. ŞFR, nr. 55/18.

7. Turkish and Armenian solidarity at the times of Forced Migration

According to Karnik Teke, his grandfather, for being a headman for many years in a village, and his father, for being a soldier during the mobilization, was exempted from the forced migration. Documents confirm Karnik Teke42. They also say that Siyanüş Teke’s father did a seven-year military service during the mobilization. Atik Erkuyumcu also states, without mentioning names and locations that those similar things happened and adds that especially the residents of Mengücek village protected many Armenian families. Şükrüye Ünlü says that the parents of her neighbors Solmaz and Üstüyan were saved from forced migration by a Turkish family. As far as he heard from his elders, Kadir Kolsuz says that there were many Armenian women and children who were protected by Turkish families and many of them are known in Talas.

He even gives an exaggerated number of 40 or 50 for the number of women who were saved in that way. The most well-known one of them is Arif Hodja, who adopted an orphan Armenian child while he was working as a gendarme in Yozgat. While he was once called non-Muslim Ali, after being recognized and loved, and also having married the daughter of an eminent family, he became Muslim Ağa. Kadir Kolsuz states that there are some Armenian girls and boys who were adopted at the age of three or five in this way, brought-up and married off to the sons, nieces, or nephews of the family.

8. Ramadan

By considering what we have been told by all of our source people, we can understand that they preserve their friendships, companionships, and neighborhood relationships, but we observed that the importance given to religious festivals and Ramadan possess a special place.

Atik Erkuyumcu says that her mother (also known as “the Ottoman lady”) used to prepare dinner and entertain some of the well-known industrialists and tradesmen of Kayseri, such as the Ruhbaş, the Güpgüp, and 42 In the Ottoman documents…, p. 10. “Forced migration did not apply to every Armenians. There are many exceptions such as the ill, the blind, Protestants, Catholics, soldiers and their families, civil servants, tradesmen, and some workers. Karnik Teke’s family stayed because his father was a soldier.

the Bamyacıoğulları families at their home in Talas. He emphasizes that they exchanged the visits with each other. Karnik Teke says that during Ramadan, his mother, Mrs. Virkin, used to make kete and give it to their neighbors who were fasting. Also, he adds that they frequently organized dinner at their home and invited their neighbors. Since Ramadan was respected, he says that they would reduce the prices of food. He says that their neighbors would do the same for them. Karnik Teke adds that the people of the neighboring streets would act openly and emotionally on some occasions, such as weddings, engagements, funerals and births in the frame of the same traditions and customs.

In the 1990s the governor, the chief of the police department and the high level bureaucrats of Kayseri used to go to church at religious festivals. Since the Armenian community moved to Istanbul in the 1950’s, this practice is no longer carried out. However, Atik Erkuyumcu states that they could celebrate their red egg festival in the main room of the church in the middle of April of 2004 with the participation of Mehmet Şahin, the owner of Şahin Sucukları, Mehmet Duymaz, Mustafa Suludere, Vahti Çelik and Mateos Gözoglu, who came from Istanbul and many others. Şükrüye Ünlü says that their Armenian neighbor would bring eggs and pastry at Easter, and they give rice with meat to their neighbors when they sacrificed an animal. The clearest thing she remembers about Ramadan is that she never witnessed their neighbors’ eating or drinking anything openly. She says that they used to behave so respectfully. When they had some bread baked, she states that both sides used to offer it to their neighbors before going home43.

Lawyer Ali Demirtaş tells the most impressing anecdote about Ramadan by quoting his father, Gazi Demirtaş. When he was young, Gazi Demirtaş went to harvest the field of an Armenian jeweler with a group of workers from Tablakaya and Kiçiköy Street to Hamurkesen District of Talas in 1945. When the job was over, the owner of the field came

43 Tuzcu a.g.m., S 528-529. this situation was confirmed by all the sources. A European traveler says that “Turks, Greeks, Armenians, Jews everybody visits each other. Jews do not want to be very intimate. They visit each other in festivals. Gregorian worship 3 times a day like Muslims. People live in peace in Kayseri. My landlord said that everybody is equal here and in the eye of God. He was the son of a man who is both a tradesman and an imam.”

with his horse and said that he would give their money at his home. They went to his home. While waiting for the money, the host asked them to come in and said that he would like to offer food to break their fast and added that they were surprised by that polite behavior. After the dinner they became even more surprised because the Armenian host wanted to to perform prayers together. Talking about this event for at least half an hour, Gazi Demirtaş would tell his son that some Armenians who became Muslim could not make it public because of the pressure of society. Similarly, Kadir Kolsuz says that his father-in-law Mehmet Can had been the head of Tarabya Street in Talas for 40 years and died at the age of 87 in 1986. Mehmet Can also reported that there were some Armenians who came to mosques and listened to those who preached.

9. Neighbor Relationships

It is confirmed by all our sources that as part of good neighborhood relationships presents were given at weddings and births. Karnik Teke’s family gave a golden coin at Kadir Kolsuz’s brother’s wedding. Similarly, Turkish friends of Atik Erkuyumcu brought presents when they come to his wedding ceremony. Moreover, lawyer Hamdi N. Göncüer states that when coming to his circumcision ceremony Abraham Ağa’s son, Arzam Koza (named Hacı), gave him some money and a rare, handmade, football. Kadir Kolsuz says that solidarity is very important in neighboring relationships.

“Barber Mircan had a shop on Talas Yukarı Street. There was not a Turkish barber because they used to plough. Mircan was also loved very much by Turks. Everyone from our generation had a memory about him. He opened a shop in the square of Talas later. A haircut was 25 kurush but we did not have any money. I had to have a haircut since I had to go to school on Monday. My mother said to me, “Take him a watermelon and have him cut your hair”. I went to the shop with a great embarrassment and said to him, “Sir, take this watermelon and cut my hair.” He said, “It is unfair because this watermelon makes 10 haircuts.” Nobody had money at that time so he cut many children of my generation’s hair for free. He later went to Istanbul sometime between 1955 and 1960.”

Kadir Kolsuz’s memories about Mircan continue in Istanbul where he came to study at university.

“We went to Istanbul to study. I could not find a place in a dormitory. I had to rent a house in Tarlabaşı. A young Armenian girl, originally from France, opened the door and asked if we could show a guarantor. There were pensioners from Iran. I had to rent that room. One of my friends told me to go and find Mircan and added that he was working in a barber shop. I found Mircan, told him about my problem, and he agreed to be a guarantor for me and said to the owner of the pension, “Hey, my sister, these are my brothers. You cannot find better people to rent the room than them,” and she replied, “Okay, if you say so, the house is yours44.”

Memories related to neighboring and friendship is mutual. Lawyer Hamdi N. Göncüer reports what he heard from his father, Ahmet Göncüer.

“My father had a partner called Setrakmor, called Master Osman, who was illiterate. Their partnership lasted after Master Osman moved to Istanbul, too. My father used to send him carpets, and to show their quality, he would scratch 1, 2 or 3 lines on them. Setrakmor valued and sold the carpets according to the lines. These commercial relationships continued for many years. They even bought joint properties in Istanbul and became stock holders of Paşabahçe. Cavid Akansu later attended this partnership. After the death of master Setrakma, one day his son Kirkor phoned me and said that they had found some stock certificates in his father’s safe and asked me if they had belonged to us or not.”

As Karnik Teke frequently states, commerce and partnerships were based on mutual reliance at that time. As one can see from the memories of our sources, even though some people try to create hatred between Armenians and Turks, second generation sons do not betray the friendship that they had for centuries45. Hamdi N. Göncüer also came to Istanbul to 44 After graduating from Talas American Collage, Mircan’s son went to the States and became rich. He calls him to America and he went to see his son to New York. After seeing his son, he had a heart attack and died in a taxi. However, his memories are still alive in Kadir Kolsuz.

45 No evidence was found proving that there is a relationship between daughters

study at university just like Kadir Kolsuz. When he went there he wanted to visit his friends from the past. Let’s learn the rest from his words. “It was my duty to visit my friends for sure. I went to Karaköy. They had a famous place called çerkezköy Mezecisi there. As far as I learned, Kenan Evren (a former president) used to shop there. Kirkor said to me, “Hamdi, you cannot do much when you study at university. The university is here. We earn a great deal of money here; come and join us.” We had this close friendship.”

The importance given to friendships is understood not only among men but also among women. Hamdi N. Göncüer relates an anecdote he had learned from his father:

“My father used to say that we had a very close friend called Abraham who was a craftsman. He used to sell combs with a saddlebag on his back. Although he was such a kind of person who does not take care of his clothes and physical appearance, people used to call him for such occasions, like asking permission from a lady’s parents since he was an articulate and practical person. He was always successful in getting the permission.”

“After my father got married, one day someone knocks the door. Since my mother could not open the door, my grandmother opened it. It was Master Abraham and he was hosted perfectly. Upon seeing this, my mother got sulky. While she was grumbling why that beggarlooking man was there, my grandmother interfered. She says, “My daughter, listen to me, this man is a member of this family. Maybe one day you go but he will remain”46.

This interest would also be shown to Abraham Ağa’s son in the future. Hamdi N. Göncüer goes on talking:

46 Tuzcu, a.g.m. S 529, In the same travel book, they state the importance of these issues. He says “there is a harmony between the Turkish, Armenian and Greek families who hosted me. Ladies do not enter their guest room and don eat with guests. Sometimes there are some things I wonder. A rich Turkish man takes his Armenian worker on his right when they are eating at the table. The same practice exists among Armenians. Everybody is equal; there is no discrimination in any way. They do not keep servants or maids in their houses. Şükrüye ÜNLÜ also confirms this practice.

“Aram Koza, who was Abraham Ağa’s son, was a shoemaker. He was a literate person who liked reading. After his death my father took his body to Istanbul. However, although we wanted so much, we as sons could not carry out this friendship as well as our fathers did.” Armenians would also invite their Turkish neighbors to their theatre plays. According to what Ayşe Demirtaş reports, plays were performed regularly in the Armenian Church, which was on Talas Harman Street. She says they had a good time watching those plays47.

According to Ayşe Demirtaş, there was an Armenian called Ömüroğlu who was working in the Talas American Hospital. He did everything to help the ones who went to hospital from Talas. An Armenian lady named Dadır tried to help the people who suffered from lumbago.


There had been a close friendship, companionship, and neighborhood relationship between Armenians and Turks for ages, and these relationships had been carried out before and after the forced migration. They used the same language; they had the same feelings of happiness and sadness. Then what happened? These two intimate nations were presented as if they were enemies? The best explanation to this question is I think in Karnik Teke and Atik Erkuyumcuyan’s own words.

“Neither Artin (Armenians) nor Ahmet (Turks) has fault in this issue. Jews’ discord, the British’s gold, the Russian’s weapons has turned these two intimate nations into enemies. Since Armenians held important positions in the Ottoman Empire, Jews were jealous of them, and they provoked Armenians by saying that the land until Sivas was theirs. Russians said, “I will give you weapons; go and fight the Turks”. The British said “I would give gold” and France supported this coalition against Ottoman State”.

47 Similarly Klodyüs TOROS, who is a doctor in the east of Turkey and whose grandmother is an Armenian from Talas says he heard that Armenians perform plays especially paregentan festivals. We can conclude from this explanation that even in the 1915s the social life in Talas was very lively. For further information: Küçük. a.g.e., and festivals under website. Similarities can be seen between nevruz festival and paregentan.

Although these two nations, who had been friendly for centuries, are made enemies, we hope that we could share the views and memories of our sources that this friendship started to be rebuilt soon after the first years of the declaration of the Turkish Republic.


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