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29 May 2009

2854) Symbiosis Of Turks And Nonmuslims In Anatolia: Turkish Armenian Relations As A Case Study

Assist. Proff. Selahattin DÖĞÜŞ
Kahramanmaraş Sütçü Imam University Faculty of Arts and Science Department of History / Kahramanmaraş

INTRODUCTION

According to renowned Turkish historian, Fuad Köprülü, the Seljuk dynasty and its successor the Ottoman Empire was an amalgam of civilizations including values from the East and the West1. In this context, the Turkish culture flourished with its ancient Turkish, Islamic, and Anatolian (including Byzantine and Armenian) values. . .

The Fourth Crusaders in 1204 created a division in Christianity into Eastern and Western churches. In this political turmoil, because of the Catalan invasion under the auspices of the Byzantines, the center of Orthodoxy moved from Istanbul to Iznik (Nicaea). Therefore, eastern Christianity entered into closer relations with the Turks, who lived close to this center. Like the Catalan catastrophe of Byzantium, the Mongol invasion of Anatolia forced the Turks to move westward creating a new type of Turkish-Byzantine relations. In this atmosphere, Turkish political influence over the Byzantines increased, and these two neighboring people

1 F. Köprülü, Osmanlı İmparatorluğu’nun Kuruluşu, TTK Ankara 1999, p.110; Türk Edebiyatında İlk Mutasavvıflar, TDİB, Ankara 1993, p.191.

became involved in closer relations. Turks and Byzantine Greeks began to develop a common culture. One can argue the degree of the closeness of these relations considering that the Muslims prayed to Christian saints as the Christians did for Muslim saints2. Cross-relations between Anatolian Muslims and the Christians can be seen in folk and Sufi narratives. In some cases, Muslims drank wine with Christians and prayed in front of their icons. Muslim ladies celebrated St. Mary’s day with Christian ladies3. The German traveler Schiltberger wrote in the 15th century that Christians respected Şemseddin Tebrizi, follower of Rumi, as one of their saints4. In some tombs in Anatolia, mosques and churches were built for both Muslim and Christian visitors. Muslim and Christian people of Anatolia respected and prayed to the same saints in peace.

In the 16th century, the Albanians who were not aware of the difference between Islam and Christianity, went to mosque on Fridays and visited the church on Sundays. As late as the end of the 19th century, Christian and Muslims still visited the tomb of Hacı Bektaşi Veli, the founder of the Bektaşi sect. Native Christians compared him with St. Haralambos, a 2nd century Orthodox priest. The Christians visited the tomb raising the cross, and Muslims prayed in the mosque next to the tomb. Both Christians and Muslims were welcomed. In the Balkans, the tombs of Şeyh Bedreddin, Gül Baba, and Sarı Saltuk were treated the same by Christians as it happened to the tomb of Bektaşi Veli. Hacı Bektaş, a disciple of Baba İlyas, was revered as St. Haralambos by some Christians; and Elvan Çelebi was to be identified by a sixteenth-century German traveler as a friend of St. George, presumably on the basis of reports he heard from local Christians around Çelebi’s shrine,5.

2 See M.Balıvet, Ortaçağda Türkler, trans. Ela Güntekin, Alkım Publish, İstanbul 2005, p.142.

3 Ilber Ortaylı, Osmanlı’yı Yeniden Keşfetmek, Timaş Publish, Istanbul 2006, p.37.

4 In quotation from Schiltberger, J., The Bondage and Travels, M.Balıvet, Şeyh Bedreddin Tasavvuf ve İsyan, trans. Ela Güntekin, Tarih Vakfı Yurt Publish, İstanbul 2002, p. 20.

5 See Cemal Kafadar, Between Two WorldsThe Construction of the Ottoman State, University of California press Ltd. London England, p. 54, 74, 107, 108, 143.


Strikingly, such saint-sharing by Muslims and Christians was not limited to dervish figures but could even include holy warriors, namely, gazis. The Greek inhabitants of Gianitsa (Ottoman: Yenice Vardar) down to this century displayed reverence for “Gazi Baba”, that is, Evrenos Gazi, who conquered the area from his base in that township, where his mausoleum is situated. When Abdülhamid II’s (reigned between 1876-1909) agents went to Söğüt in the late nineteenth century in order to revive the legacy of the “founding fathers” who hailed from the little town, they were surprised that some of the local Christians venerated Ertoğrıl’s tomb.6

Sufi dervishes pursued religious policies with almost unlimited tolerance and love of human beings (“the created ones” and “parts of God”) without distinction of their acts and beliefs. This very humane policy of the Sufis and their tradition to share welfare with people without religious preference, created an entwined Muslim-Christian peaceful co-existence in Anatolia beginning with the 13th century. In the 12th and 13th centuries, the number of Christian population in Anatolia and Balkans were more than the Muslims. The Sufi tradition prevented bloody religious conflicts in the region. Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi, Yunus Emre, Hacı Bektaş Veli, Ibni Arabi, and Şheikh Bedreddin were architects of this social and religious peace.

SUFI TRADITIONS AND NON-MUSLIMS

Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi (1207-1273), who lived in Seljuk Turkey, is the most well-known Sufi dervish in Turkish history. He gathered followers of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism around him. He wrote in Persian, Turkish and Greek and combined general humane thoughts, which could be found in any religion, in his philosophy. His grand motto “Come, whoever you are, come again” aimed to call all people with different beliefs and with different pasts. Humanity was important, and the world was created for humans. Therefore, humans, who are special creatures of God, deserved the highest quality of treatment no matter their beliefs and sins. Rumi had a wide range of followers from every religion and beliefs. He was a friend of priests and rabbis. Greeks,

6 Kafadar, Between Two Worlds, p. 74.


Armenians, and Jews respected Rumi as Muslims did, because Rumi did not distinguish non-Muslims and Muslims from each other. Rumi’s philosophy warmed the hearts of non-Muslims to Islam and some eighteen thousand Armenians, Greeks and Jews converted to Islam in his lifetime.7 Menakıbu’l-Arifin writes at length about non-Muslims’ interest in Rumi’s philosophy. In his book he wrote about non-Muslims, such as Greeks, Armenians and Jews, mourning in sorrow at Rumi’s funeral.8

According to Rumi, “the love of God is superior to everything and everyone for pagans, Jews and the Christians.” According to the Sufi mysticism, a faithful infidel was better than a pseudo Muslim. For people like Armenians who were overlooked by the Greek Orthodox Patriarch and who felt alienated in Christianity approached Islam. Rumi’s teachings attracted many half-hearted Christian Armenians, because being a follower of Rumi did not require being a Muslim. Rumi said: “Twentyseven nations listen to the secret from us, and we are like a ‘ney’ combining some two hundred nations and beliefs in a single pitch.” He also said: “Like a compass, I have a strong foothold on Sharia and I wander the seventy-two nations with my other foot.” Rumi wrote extensively in Persian and his reputation and influence stretched from Anatolia to Iran, Afghanistan, and even to Pakistan.9

In medieval Konya, there were two important Christian monasteries. According to the sources, Rumi often visited Akmanastır.10 The monastery was a perfect example of peaceful coexistence between Islam and Christianity. According to Eflaki, there were three chapels and one mescid in the monastery, and Rumi used to spend a night once a year in this mescid for prayer.11 Joining from different nations and faiths, Rumi’s funeral displayed the impact of his teaching on the people.

7 Ahmet Eflakî, Ariflerin Menkıbeleri, (Translated by Tahsin Yazıcı), MEB publish, Istanbul 1989, V. II, p. 31, V.I, p. 531.

8 A.Eflakî, Ariflerin Menkıbeleri, V.I, p. 530.
9 B.Füruzanfer, Mevlana Celaleddin, Trans. F.N.Uzluk, MEB publish, Istanbul 1963, p. VIII.

10 O.Turan, Türk Cihan Hakimiyeti Mefkuresi Tarihi, Nakışlar publish, Istanbul 1980, V.II, p. 493.

11 Eflakî, Ariflerin Menkıbeleri, V.I, p. 321, 609.



Yunus Emre (d.1308) represented folk Sufi tradition with pure love and humanity. He wrote in daily spoken Turkish; simple and effective. In his writings and sayings, he blessed divine love for the God almighty. He loved everyone and everything in the world because they were all created by God. In his philosophy love was a core value without faith, gender and social status distinctions. “All faiths are acceptable to us”, he said. His many sayings refer to Yunus’ divine love and religious tolerance. He said: “One goes to the mosque and prostrates, then he goes to the church, reads the bible and becomes a monk.” 12

Yunus Emre’s motto, “Love the created ones because of the creator”, influenced the Turks for centuries. He left important marks on Turkish humanism and social order. Like Rumi, Yunus also never pursued any religious extremism but rather he approached every faith with love. Another influential Sufi, Ibn Arabi (1165-1240), wrote in the 13th century that “once upon a time, I denied my neighbor because he was not my faith; but now my heart is open to every kind of shape. It is a pasture for gazelles, monastery for monks, temple for pagans, kava for pilgrims, commands of the Torah and the book of Koran.” 13 When he came to Anatolia, Ibn Arabi was surprised by the Turks’ tolerance and good treatment of non-Muslims. 14 He then visited the church and listened to the preachers and argued the points made by the preachers. 15 According to tasavvuf (mysticism), historian M. Balıvet, in the 13th century, reported that the non-Muslim population overwhelmed the Muslim population, and different religions, including Buddhism and Shamanism, existed in peace in Anatolia. In this atmosphere, Muslims needed to have good relations with non-Muslims, and Islam conditioned itself to follow its humane and tolerant policy, which was the essence of

12 Yunus Emre-Risalet: Risalet’ün-Nushiyye ve Divan, ed. A.Gölpınarlı, Istanbul 1965, p. 156; A.Gölpınarlı, Yunus Emre, Altın Kitaplar publish, Istanbul 1991, p. 17.

13 M.Balıvet, Şeyh Bedreddin Tasavvuf ve İsyan, s. 1. 14 C.Cahen, Osmanlılardan Önce Anadolu’da Türkler, e yay., Istanbul 1994, p. 251; M.Balıvet, ibid, p. 6.

15 M.Balıvet, Şeyh Bedreddin, p. 10; O.Turan, Türk Cihan Hakimiyeti Mefkuresi Tarihi, V.II, p. 492.


the Islamic belief, rather than to pursue a religious dogma. Ibn Arabi is a good example of Muslim-non-Muslim mutual compassion. 16 Traditionally, Sufism used different languages common to the Anatolian populace to carry its message to the masses. In the 1330’s, Aşık Paşa not only used Turkish in his work Garipname, but he also used Armenian, Hebrew, Greek, Farsi and Arabic. He even wrote the name of Allah in Greek. Aşık Paşa emphasized the importance of co-existence of different people. He quoted a tale to make his point clear. According to the tale,

One day, a Turk, a Farsi, an Arab and an Armenian traveled together. Each of them wanted to buy grapes but they could not communicate with each other because of the language barrier. They misunderstood each other and began to fight. When they arrived at a bazaar each of them walked up to the grape stand and bought some grapes. At that moment, they understood that they wanted the same thing, but that they misunderstood each other.17

According to Aşık Paşa, God is one and everyone wants to reach him. Therefore, all people should be united for this supreme goal. Aşık Paşa’s influence spread to all non-Muslims in the Ottoman Empire.

Before the success of the political expansion of the Turks in Anatolia, Sufi attraction won the hearts of many Christians in Anatolia and even in the Balkans. Sufism defended the simplification of religion and mostly relied on love of humanity. Sufism dealt with human feelings and developed human values, recognizing the unlimited goodness of individuals.

They made religion simple and livable in the daily lives of people. Sufis mostly did not require their followers to convert to Islam to benefit from their teachings. Muslims and non-Muslims equally participated in Sufi social life. In many cases, Muslims and non-Muslims prayed together. But the Sufi way of warming people’s hearts to Islam resulted in great numbers of conversions to Islam on an individual basis. During the Ottoman Empire, mass conversion to Islam did not take place and

16 M.Balıvet, Şeyh Bedreddin, p. 3.
17 Aşık Paşa, Garipname, ed. Kemal Yavuz, Türk Dil Kurumu, Ankara 2001, p. 149; Kafadar, Between Two Worlds, p. 74.


individual conversions prove that Islamization of non-Muslims was never the Empire’s policy; and the Empire never forced people to convert. Şheikh Bedreddin (1358-1416) is a perfect example for a common life between the Turks and other ethnic groups in Anatolia and the Balkans. His father was one of the conquerors of the Thrace. Most of the ladies in his family, his mother, wife and daughter-in-love, were Christians. 18

Bedreddin told monks: “Even if we are separated by religion, our Lord is same and all of us are slaves of God.” His messages and deeds created Christian adherents of Şheikh Bedreddin. 19 Sheikh Bedreddin, the son of a gazi and the daughter of the Byzantine commander whose fortress he had captured, did not advocate forced conversion or brutal repression of the Christians but a utopian synthesis of different faiths, among other things, and he and his lieutenants managed to gather thousands of Muslims and Christians willing to fight against the Ottoman army. Bedreddin’s message lacked single-minded, adversarial proselytizing zeal not in spite of but because he came from a gazi.20

Bedreddin belonged to the first Turkish generation, who were born in the Balkans. Because of his background and the complexity of the Balkans and the Ottoman system, he acquired a vast cultural heritage.

Bedreddin’s followers mostly lived in the Balkans, and his teachings created a suitable atmosphere to secure Islam and Islamic expansionism in a region which was populated overwhelmingly by Christians. Traditional Turkish tolerance and just administration increasingly matured from the Seljuk times up to the 19th century Ottoman Empire, and from Anatolia to central Europe.

Weak Byzantine rule and endless fights between the Christian sects prepared the Anatolian and Balkan peoples for Muslim and non-Muslim solidarity. Christian groups welcomed the Turks, who pledged peace and prosperity. Lack of religious rigidity and, humane Sufi tradition turned the Turkish pledge into reality. Before the Turkish conquests in Anatolia,

18 M.Balıvet, Şeyh Bedreddin, p. 38; S.Divitçioğlu, Osmanlı Beyliğinin Kuruluşu, Eren publish, Istanbul 1996, p. 48.

19 Simavna Kadısıoğlu Şeyh Bedreddin Menakıbı, A. Gölpınarlı, İ.Sungurbey, Eti Publishhouse, Istanbul 1967, p. 90.

20 C.Kafadar, Between Two Worlds, p. 143.



Orthodox priests settled the Turks in Anatolia according to their political interests. The Turkish Sultan in Iran, Uzun Hasan, granted monetary assistance for building two Armenian churches. 21 When Gıyaseddin Keyhüsrev II married a Georgian princess, he built a chapel in his palace in Konya to give his lady opportunity to practice her religion. 22

Religious wars were used as a pretext to cloak political ambitions between the Armenians and the Orthodox Greeks. Orthodox Byzantium stretched its rule eastward and the Empire forced the Armenians to incorporate into the Byzantine Empire. Gregorian Armenians became a religious target for the Orthodox Greeks, and religious wars between the Armenians and the Greeks lasted a long time. When the Turks conquered Anatolia and Istanbul, they helped to promote peace among the Christians. Mehmed the Conqueror restored the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Istanbul. Later the sultans granted rights for Armenians to administer the Habeş, Kıpti and Suryani churches. Against the Islamic principle, the Ottoman Sultan created an Armenian Church in Istanbul, which never existed before. 23 The Millet system in the Empire enabled the Armenians, who spread all over the empire to retain and develop their religious and ethnic identities. 24

When the Turks began to invade Anatolia, the Armenians were one of the first groups to establish relations. Armenians met Islam, which was brought by the Turks, and they also met Turkish tolerance and social peace. Many Armenians converted to Islam and non-Muslim Armenians lived with Muslims in peace for more than eight centuries. The success of Armenian-Turkish co-existence in eastern Anatolia enabled the Turks

21 P.Wittek, Menteşe Beyliği, trans. O.Ş.Gökyay, TTK Ankara 1999, p. 5, 7, 11; F.Köprülü, Osmanlı İmparatorluğu’nun Kuruluşu, TTK Ankara 1999, p. 77-79; O.Turan, Selçuklular Tarihi ve Türk-İslam Medeniyeti, Ankara 1965; Y.Ercan, “Türkiye’de XV ve XVI.Yüzyıllarda Gayrimüslimlerin Hukuki, İçtimai ve İktisadi Durumu”, Belleten, V.XLVII, Sa., 188, 1983, p.1126.

22 O.Turan, Selçuklular Tarihi ve Türk-İslâm Medeniyeti, Ankara 1965, s.257; Turan, Türk Cihan Hakimiyeti Mefkuresi Tarihi, V.II, p. 483; Gregory ebu’l-Farac, Tarih, V.I, trans., Ö.R.Doğrul, Ankara 1945, p. 543

23 Y.Ercan, “Türkiye’de Gayrimüslimler”, Belleten, 1983, p. 1134; Y.Ercan, Osmanlı Yönetiminde Gayrimüslimler, Turhan Kitabevi, Ankara 2001, p. 89.

24 B.Eryılmaz, Osmanlı Devletinde Millet Sistemi, Ağaç Publish, Istanbul 1992, s. 107; Y. Ercan, “Türkiye’de Gayrimüslimler”, Belleten, 1983, p. 1133.


to repeat the same success in other parts of Anatolia and the Balkans. The Turks, as Muslims, achieved great social and administrative successes against the centuries old Christian religious bigotry and hatred.

During the Keykavus II reign, Christians gained importance in State affairs. The Sultan’s Christian uncles found luxurious hospitality in his court. Keykavus II often organized dialogues between Christian and Muslim clergy. According to Ebu’l-Ferec, when Keykavus visited the Barsuma (Malatya) monastery in 1258, he granted extended religious and social rights to the monks. 25

When Seljuk Sultan Alaaddin Keykubad returned to Kayseri after the Yassıçimen victory, Christian priests welcomed him with Muslim leaders at the gates of the city. According to an Armenian source, Christians preferred to stay in the hills. When Keykubad realized that Christians hesitated to take come forward, he went to them and pledged them their religious rights. Therefore, Muslims and non-Muslims turned back to the city in joy. The Seljuk sultans’ non-Muslim policies were sometimes not welcomed by other Muslims. The Khalif condemned the Seljuk sultans for granting wide-ranging rights for non-Muslims. The Emir of Aleppo, Nureddin Zengi, could not understand the degree of Seljuk tolerance, and he suspected that the Seljuk Sultan Kılıçarslan II converted to Christianity. 26 Crusader sources claimed that Keykavus, Kılıçarslan II, some other Seljuk sultans, and some Turkoman beks, like Ramazanoğlu and Karamanoğlu, secretly converted to Christianity. 27 After the conquest of Istanbul, Mehmed II protected and recognized expanded rights for non-Muslims. Considering his policies, Pope Pius II thought that the Ottoman Sultan converted to Christianity and wrote a letter to the Sultan asking him to confess his Christian faith. 28 Although the Turks pursued such policies, the Christian world was not ready to accept the idea of “peaceful co-existence.” For example, when the son of Sultan Keykavus escaped in front of the Mongol invasion and sought refuge 25 O.Turan, Türk Cihan Hakimiyeti Mefkuresi Tarihi, p. 485.

26 F.Köprülü, Osmanlı İmp.nun Kuruluşu, p. 192; M.Balıvet, Şeyh Bedreddin, p. 20.
27 O.Turan, Türk Cihan Hakimiyeti Mefkuresi Tarihi, p. 485.
28 H.İnalcık, Doğu Batı (Makaleler I), Cantekin Matbaacılık, Ankara 2005, p. 48.


in Byzantium, he was forced to accept Christianity and his name was changed to Melik Konstantin. 29 A crusader source pointed out that Turkish tolerance made it difficult for the crusader activities in Anatolia. The non-Muslims in Anatolia appreciated their status and life standards and did not back the crusaders. The same source noted that more than three thousand crusaders converted to Islam to escape from Byzantine-Greek cruelty, because the Turks treated the Christian faith with tolerance and compassion and never pressured non-Muslims to convert. 30

According to Ibn Bibi, five languages were spoken in Anatolia. Many Armenians only spoke Turkish, and Armenian writers produced their works in Turkish. Even, some Greek and Armenian churches conducted sermons in Turkish. 31 Seljuk coins with verses from the Koran and engraved with pictures of the Virgin Mary and Jesus were found in archeological excavations. 32

After the conquest of Istanbul, Mehmed II brought people from different religious and ethnic origins to the city and recognized extensive rights for them to make Istanbul a international center. According to this policy, a great number of Armenians moved to Istanbul and enjoyed their freedoms. The Sultan recognized the Armenian Church in Istanbul. Armenians in Istanbul and elsewhere in the Ottoman Empire made great contributions to the Ottoman culture. 33 According to data from 1577, there were 485 mosques and 743 churches in Istanbul. In the nineteenth century the number of Armenians in Istanbul was around 150,000. 34 The Seljuk and Ottoman guild system included non-Muslim members. According to the sources, in the earliest times of the Ottoman Empire, there were many Armenian merchants in Bursa. Ottoman sources claimed that Armenians, unlike the Greeks, were very successful

29 İbn Bibî, El-Evamiru’l-Alaiye, ed., M.Öztürk, Kültür Bk. publish, Ankara 1996, V. II, p. 161.
30 O.Turan, Türk Cihan Hakimiyeti Mefkuresi Tarihi, p. 496.
31 O.Turan, Türk Cihan Hakimiyeti Mefkuresi Tarihi, p. 522.
32 M.Balıvet, Ortaçağda Türkler, Çev. Ela Güntekin, Alkım yayınevi, Istanbul 2005, p. 60.
33 Y.Ercan, Osmanlı Yönetiminde Gayrimüslimler, p. 80.
34 Y.Ercan, Osmanlı Yönetiminde Gayrimüslimler, p. 89; B. Eryılmaz, Osmanlı Devletinde Millet Sistemi, p. 23.


in working with Turks under the guild system. 35 It should be emphasized that the Turkish guild system had deep relations with Sufi traditions. Merchants and artisans adopted rules and codes according to Sufi teachings.

According to the Turkish guild philosophy, serving people meant serving God. 36

The tribe, which established the Ottoman State, had early relations with Armenians. When they lived around Bilecik, some places were named after the Armenians like Armenian Mountain and Armenian Gate. Semi-nomadic Ottoman tribes left their homes and assets to Armenian neighbors when they moved to higher land with their livestock in the summer. When they came back in the autumn, they gave gifts of cheese, rugs and animals to their Armenian neighbors for their help.

37 The founder of the State, Osman Bey, pursued good relations with non-Muslims. He visited non-Muslim neighbors, joined their weddings and brought gifts. 38 According to Aşıkpaşazade, when Osman Bey was asked about the reason for pursuing good relations with non-Muslims, he said: “When we came to this territory, when we were weak, they [non-Muslims] welcomed us; therefore, now, (when we are powerful) we must respect them.39 Interestingly, Beyazıd the Thunderbolt named his sons Isa (Jesus), Musa (Moses), Süleyman (Saloman) and Mehmed (Mohammed) after prophets of the three monotheistic religions--Islam, Christianity and Judaism.

In the Ottoman Empire, non-Muslims owned their own land and even timars (land granted by the Sultan) were granted to some Christians and priests. 40 Even though non-Muslims retained their own judicial

35 M.Akdağ, Türkiye’nin İktisadî ve İçtimaî Tarihi, V.I, Cem yayınevi, Istanbul 1977,p. 484.
36 A.Gölpınarlı, Mevlana’dan Sonra Mevlevîlik, İnkılap Kitabevi, Istanbul 1983,p. 186.
37 R.P.Linder, Ortaçağ Anadolu’sunda Göçebeler ve Osmanlılar, trans. Müfit Günay,İmge Kitabevi, Ankara 2000, p. 52; I.H.Uzunçarşılı, Osmanlı Tarihi, TTK Ankara 1988, V.I, p. 102.
38 B. Eryılmaz, Osmanlı Devletinde Gayrimüslim Tebanın Yönetimi, Izmir 1988,p. 15-19.
39 Aşıkpaşazâde Tarihi, ed. Ali Bey, Matbaa-i Amire, Istanbul 1332, p. 12-16.
40 BA Tapu defteri, no. 154, p. 165, 172, 178.


systems, in many cases, they preferred to apply to Sharia courts for their
cases. 41

In the Ottoman Empire, after Fatih Sultan Mehmet, the Millet System began to be used systematically. With the help of this system, Armenians began to live in Istanbul as a “nation” with their own culture and traditions. Formerly, Armenians were living spread out widely throughout the Empire and had no unity among themselves.42

Non-Muslims and Armenians mastered trade and crafts in the Ottoman Empire. For example, in the 19th century, three out of five members of the Maraş Trade Chamber were Armenians.43 In 1912, in Istanbul, twelve out of forty bankers were Armenians. The Ottoman reforms created a civil bureaucracy, and non-Muslims were over-represented in the bureaucracy according to their population ratio in the Empire. Abdülhamid II’s favored statesmen, Armenian Artin Dadyan Pasha, became Minister of Finance.44 When the Ottoman Parliament was inaugurated, almost half of the representatives were non-Muslims. There were no Indians in the British Parliament and no Africans in the French Parliament. The Russian Duma required non-Russians to send only a few representatives, unequal to their numbers in the population.45 In 1893, Muslim officials only composed 43% of Ottoman Foreign Ministry, the rest were non-Muslims.46 Armenian youth received education from their own schools and state schools. The famous Ottoman Galatasaray Lycée received more Armenian students than any other minority group. 47

41 1 no.lu Ankara Şer’iye sicili, belge no: 1036.
42 B. Eryılmaz, Osmanlı Devletinde Millet Sistemi, Ağaç Yayınları, Istanbul, 1992, P.107; Y.Ercan, “Türkiye’de Gayrimüslimler”, Belleten, 1983, p.1133
43 S. Döğüş, “Maraş Şer’iye Sicillerine Göre Şehirde Müslüman-Ermeni Münasebetleri”, Kahramanmaraş’ta Ermeni Sorunu Sempozyumu, KSÜ Yayınları, Kahramanmaraş 2002, p. 133-134.
44 I. Ortaylı, Osmanlı Barışı, Ufuk Kitabevi Publish, Istanbul 2004, p. 123; G.Bozkurt, Gayrimüslim Osmanlı Vatandaşlarının Hukukî Durumu, TTK publish, Ankara 1989, p. 155.
45 I. Ortaylı, Osmanlı İmparatorluğu’nda İktisadî ve Sosyal Değişim, Turhan Kitabevi, Ankara 2000, p. 213-14.
46 I. Ortaylı, Osmanlı Barışı, p. 26-27.
47 G.Bozkurt, Gayrimüslim Osmanlı Vatandaşlarının Hukukî Durumu, p. 160; B.Eryılmaz, Osmanlı Devletinde Millet Sistemi, p. 13, 86.



In regards to daily life, non-Muslims generally were living near their churches or synagogues. They had their own religious leaders. In Ottoman cities, Muslims, Christians, and Jews lived in different quarters. In addition, gypsies had their own quarters in cities as well. Trade between Muslims and non-Muslims increased the relations among Ottoman citizens.

Muslim men could get married to non-Muslim women. In these situations, women could maintain her religious rituals but the children should be Muslim.48 Zimmis (non-Muslims) had freedom regarding their clothes and finery. They could freely ring bells in their churches in Seljuk Anatolia. At the same time, non-Muslims had many duties in the Ottoman Empire, such as soldier, sipahi, artilleryman, etc. They also worked in the Ottoman naval force. They worked as engineers in the Ottoman Palace, as doctors in the Ottoman Palace, as diplomat bureaucrats, governors, and ministers for the Ottoman State.

After conquering Jerusalem in 1516, Sultan Yavuz Selim granted wide-ranging rights for the Jerusalem Armenian Church. 49 Despite the fact that new churches were not allowed in Islamic territories according to Sharia law, Sultan Selim established the Jerusalem Armenian Church and recognized many social and economic privileges for the Church. 50 In the same respect, renowned Ottoman grand vizier Sokollu Mehmed Pasha established the Serbian Church, which never existed before, and appointed his brother as patriarch for this church. Muslims, even some statesmen and grand viziers, monetarily supported church constructions. At the inauguration of a church in Manastır, the Muslims ironically stated that the church lacked a minaret. Christians replied that if smooth relations between them continued, in short, Muslims would observe Easter and Christians would observe Ramadan. 51

Turks and Armenians shared many commonalities such as language, culture, literature and music. These two groups developed common religious values despite believing in different religions. In folk literature, 48 H. Inalcık, Klasik Çağ Osmanlı Tarihi 1300-1600, Istanbul, 2003, p.157

49 Y.Ercan, Kudüs Ermeni Patrikhanesi, TTK, 1987, p.16; Ercan, Osmanlı Yönetiminde Gayrimüslimler, p. 109.
50 See Y.Ercan, Kudüs Ermeni Patrikhanesi, TTK Ankara 1987, p. 15-17.
51 G.Bozkurt, Gayrimüslim Osmanlı Vatandaşlarının Hukuki Durumu, TTK Yayınları Ankara 1989, p. 41.



there were amazing commonalities between the Turks and the Armenians. Turkish fairy tales and sayings of ozans were known and memorized in Turkish by Armenians. Armenian gusans used to perform their songs and sayings in Turkish and would play Turkish musical instruments, like the saz. 52 Armenians produced great musicians and composers, who contributed a lot to Turkish music.53 A great number of Armenian writers produced their works in Turkish. Some published their works in Turkish but with Armenian script. 54

If we investigate Turkish history as a whole, we can summarize Muslim and non-Muslim people’s situation in the eyes of State, with a quote from Sultan Mahmut the Second: “I want to see my Muslim citizens in the Mosques, Christians in Churches, and Jews in Synagogues; according to me, there is no difference between them. I have love and justice for all of them; they are my real sons.”55

In sum, Turks and Armenians traditionally lived for centuries with a common social life having same and similar values and traditions. Religious differences melted away between these culturally similar peoples. Centuries old tolerance, just rule and social peace created a stable common milieu between the Turks and the Armenians until the 19th century when European enlightenment movements seriously affected the stability of the Ottoman Empire.

52 Zeynelabidin Makas, “Türk Halk Hikayelerine Ermenilerin Bakış Açıları”, Ermeni Araştırmaları I.Türkiye Kongresi Bildirileri, V.III, Ankara 2003, p. 121.
53 A.Kankal, “Ermeni Öykülerine Göre Osmanlı Türk Toplumunda Ermeniler”, Ermeni Araştırmaları I.Türkiye Kongresi Bildirileri, C.III, ASAM, Ankara 2003, p. 119.
54 See M.Kutalmış, “Ermenice ve Ermeni Harfli Türkçe Eserlerin Türk-Ermeni İlişkilerindeki Yeri”, Ermeni Araştırmaları I.Türkiye Kongresi Bildirileri, Ankara 2003, p.133.
55 Yaşar Kaynar, Mustafa Reşit Paşa ve Tanzimat, Ankara, 1954, p.100


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