2851) Economic States And Administrative Functions Of Non-Muslims In Maras District During Late Ottoman Empire

Assist Prof Dr. Memet YETIŞGIN
Kahramanmaraş Sütçü Imam University Faculty of Arts and Science Department of History / Kahramanmaraş


The Turks have always observed judicial principles when they ruled their subjects of different creeds.1 In this sense, they used örf hukuku that is a justice system based on traditions, customs, historical memory, and reason, which is also known as the töre. It contained laws based on justice, equality, tolerance, and humanism. Even when they accepted Islam and stayed within the Islamic justice system, the Turks strictly observed the töre. Furthermore, in order to apply a better way of ruling the subject peoples, the Turks did not see any harm in using Roman, old Turkish, and Byzantine judicial and administrative practices. 2 . .
The Ottoman Empire followed a protective policy towards the non-Muslims who were living in her lands. In their large Empire, the Ottomans tried to develop a peaceful environment for the whole population. Applying Islamic and örf laws together in their rule, they created a state of justice. As long as the non-Muslims paid their taxes, that is, haraç (a

1 Faruk Sümer, Selçuklular Devrinde Doğu Anadolu’da Türk Beylikleri, Ankara: Türk Tarih Kurumu, 1990, s. vıı.
2 İlber Ortaylı, Osmanlı Barışı, İstanbul: Ufuk Kitap, 2003, s. 17.

land tax) and cizye (a poll tax), they were placed under the protection of the State. In addition, tolerant, equal and just treatment because of the Turkish ruling practices provided the non-Muslims the opportunity to have a peaceful and comfortable life. In this way, the non-Muslims preserved their distinct social, religious, economic, and cultural practices within a millet system.

The millet system in administration was based on practical purposes and was born out of the Turkish ruling skills and wisdom. The oldest Turkish administrative practices known as töre valued four principles in administration: justice, equality, humanism, and tolerance. According to töre, everyone living within the State was equal in the eyes of rulers and judges.3 It gave an enormous power for the rulers to make laws based purely on administrative needs and on the situations of the time.4 Because of the Turkish ruling ethic, the non-Muslims of the Empire had a better chance to live a good life.

The main concern of the State in making different laws for different localities was to prevent arbitrary rule for the non-Muslims who were divided into three groups, namely the Greeks, the Armenians, and the Jews.5 These groups had their special administrative systems within the millet system. Their religious leaders known as Patriks (Patriarchs) were chosen by their own religious men and were appointed by the Sultan. They served their communities for life. They had a special right to lead their community, organize educational, social, cultural matters, and carry out justice for their communities.6 There were many non-Muslims who

3 Mehmet Saray, The Principles of Turkish Administration and Their Impact on the Lives of Non-Muslim Peoples: the Armenians as a Case Study, Ankara: Atatürk Araştırma Merkezi, 2003, s. 3-4.
4 Mustafa Akdağ, Türkiye’nin İktisadî ve İçtimaî Tarihi, 1453-1559, cilt 2, İstanbul: Cem Yayınları, 1995, s. 40-41; İlber Ortaylı, “Osmanlı İmparatorluğunda Millet Sistemi,” Türkler, cilt 10, s. 216; Mehmet Akif Aydın, “Osmanlı Hukukunun Genel Yapısı ve İşleyişi,” Türkler, cilt 10, s. 15; Gülnihal Bozkurt, Alman-İngiliz Belgelerinde ve Siyasî Gelişmelerin Işığı Altında Gayrimüslim Osmanlı Vatandaşlarının Hukuki Durumu, 1839-1914, Ankara: Türk Tarih Kurumu, s. 8.
5 Aydın, “Osmanlı Hukukunun Genel Yapısı ve İşleyişi,” s. 15.
6 Bozkurt, a. g. e., s. 30-31.

thanked the Sultan for giving them a better state of affairs in ruling their own communities.7

The non-Muslims who continued their crafts in the cities and mostly monopolized trade had the most profitable professions within the Empire. They had their own guilds, as the Muslims had, in every economic branch. They were free to spend their wealth either for their heirs or for their churches.8 Among the non-Muslim professions and jobs, gold-processing, banking, medicine, construction, woodcutting, locksmithing, goldsmithing, shoemaking, needleworking, teaching, watchmaking, transportation, agriculture, farming, gunmaking, trade, textile manufacture, silversmithing, mill-running, and furniture-making were common. 9

Because of economic advantages provided by the State, the non-Muslims were wealthier than the Muslims in most parts of the Empire. They not only had tax collecting rights (iltizam) but were also dismissed from military and government services.10 Because of frequent wars, the Muslim population in the countryside was generally employed in the military, which reduced the chances of the Muslims to engage in trade and create a better economy for themselves.11 When the Empire began to be defeated in war, the Muslims also began to lose men, which decreased their numbers. The non-Muslims, on the other hand, had better chances to improve themselves in trade and crafts within the secure environment the Muslim State provided them.

Commerce was one of the most important economic activities that made them wealthy. Because of their religious closeness to foreign traders and their concentration in the trades, the non-Muslims engaged in international trade. The Ottoman Empire had not made any great

7 Bilal N. Şimşir, Documents Diplomatiques Ottomanes: Affaires Armeniennes, 1896-1900, volume 4, Ankara: Türk Tarih Kurumu, 1999, s. 32.
8 231 Numaralı Maraş Şer’iyye Sicili, belge no. 575. Zengin bir Maraşlı Ermeni olan Kiğrok öldüğünde 3.000 liralık nakit parasının 600 lirasını Maraş Ermeni Katolik Kilisesine vasiyet etmişti.
9 Şimşir, Biritish Documents, volume 2, s. 479; Bozkurt, a. g. e., s 155.
10 Akdağ, a. g. e., s. 41.
11 Bozkurt, a. g. e., s. 23.

changes in the economic practices of the locals when she conquered their lands, and the non-Muslims continued to trade with foreigners as they had done before.

As the Ottoman Empire gave economic and judicial rights, which were commonly known as “capitulations,” to the European states, the foreign merchants increasingly profited from trade.12 This profit attracted many local merchants, especially the non-Muslim traders who tried to find a way to make the same profits. The non-Muslim merchants acted both as collaborators with the foreign merchants within the Empire and as foreign merchants with European countries. After receiving the necessary papers from the European consulates to trade as foreign merchants, the non-Muslims tried to have a better position provided by the capitulations and to escape heavy taxes imposed on domestic merchants.

In this way, they made more profits and had more opportunities than the Muslim merchants.13 In order to erase the inconvenience of using foreign passports by the non-Muslim traders, the Ottomans, during the reign of Sultan Selim III (1789-1807), promulgated new laws. The non-Muslim merchants received official permission to trade with Europe. These merchants came to be called the “European merchants.” After the creation of the “European merchants,” the Muslims merchants also started to receive profits by trading with Europe. At the end, the Ottomans gave a limited number of permits to the Muslims to trade with Europe. They were called the “Hayriye merchants.”14

In the nineteenth century, the non-Muslims began to revolt against the State, demanding either more reforms or complete independence. When they, especially the Greeks, the Serbs, and the Romanians, received military help from the foreign powers, markedly from Russia, to separate from the Empire, they succeeded in establishing their own states. These new nations showed amazing success in creating governments in a short amount of time. Due to this success, the millet system played

12 Şevket Pamuk, 100 Soruda Osmanlı-Türkiye İktisadi Tarihi- 1550-1914, İstanbul: Gerçek Yayınevi, 1988, s. 147.
13 Bozkurt, a. g. e., s. 11; Pamuk, a. g. e., s. 148.
14 Mübahat S. Kütükoğlu, Osmanlı-İngiliz İktisâdî Münâsebetleri I, 158-1838,
Ankara: Türk Kültürünü Araştırma Ensititüsü, 1974, s. 71-73.

an important role since it helped non-Muslims to protect their way of life and their national characteristics for centuries. Even this example would be enough to give a substantial credit to the Turkish administrative practices.

In order to keep the non-Muslims within the State and gain their confidence in the Empire, the Ottomans started to make new reforms starting with the reign of Mahmut II (1808-1839). The Tanzimat Fermanı (an imperial decree), which was issued in 1839, openly stated the existence of equality among all groups living within the State. The Islahat Fermanı, which was declared in 1856 with the pressure of big powers, enlarged rights given to the non-Muslims. It even raised the non-Muslims to a better place than the Muslims within the Empire. In this sense, it reinstated the rights of the non-Muslims gained in the millet system and added new rights,15 which offended many Muslims at the time. The non-Muslims did not stop asking for new privileges, which created a continuing tension within the Empire.

The Muslims who were in most places poorer than the non-Muslims and who were more miserable than the non-Muslims, came to resent the non-ending demands of the non-Muslims. According to a British Consul, Palgrave, the Muslims were not happy with the non-Muslims who had more chances, more wealth and better life than themselves.16 Furthermore, the same Consul stated that although the Muslims who had worked on the lands and in the cities were more intelligent and more productive than the non-Muslims, the non-Muslims were becoming wealthier by using every means available.17

Because of reforms introduced during the Tanzimat Era (1839-1876), the non-Muslims became equal citizens of the Empire. Many of them, especially the Armenians, began to be employed in governmental services, including education, justice, municipal works, and economy.

15 Englhardt, Tanzimat ve Türkiye, tercüme Ali Reşad, İstanbul: Kaknüs, 1999, s. 126-129; Bozkurt, a. g. e., s. 55.
16 Bilal N. Şimşir, British Documents on Ottoman Armenians, 1856-1880, volume
1, Ankara: Türk Tarih Kurumu, 1989, s. 50-53.
17 Bozkurt, a. g. e., s. 154.

Many Armenians became ministers or high-ranking bureaucrats. 18 The percentage of the non-Muslims who worked in governmental services was 29 % in 1844 and reached 67 % in 1893.19

Besides having rights to serve within the official circles, the non-Muslims were given rights to have their own special “constitutions.” In this respect, in 1862 the Greeks and in 1863 the Armenians had their own “national constitutions,” which gave them rights to choose their own rulers within the State. In their elections, not only the religious, but also the common people had their say. In all, the non-Muslims received a kind of right to be “a state within the state” after the 1860’s.


Maraş which was a district within the Halep province in the late Ottoman Era was located on the southern skirts of Ahırdağ, an enormous mountain within the Taurus Mountain chain. The district of Maraş had plateaus, prairies, mountains, and low grounds. On the south and southeastern sides, it had flat grounds which provided a rich soil for agriculture. On the north and northwestern sides, it was mostly covered by the Taurus Mountains. In the mountainous region, the cazas (administrative district) of Zeytun21, Fırnız, Göksun, and Andırın and on the flat region, the cazas of Elbistan, Pazarcık, and Maraş were located. Maraş had low and arable lands which were watered by the Ceyhan and Aksu Rivers.22

18 İsrafil Kurtcephe, “1915 Ermeni Tehciri ve Doğurduğu Sonuçlar,” Maraş’ta Ermeni Sorunu Sempozyumu, 2 Mayıs 2002, Kahramanmaraş, s. 23; Bozkurt, a. g. e., s. 155. According to Kurtcephe, “Ottoman history recorded many high ranking Armenians, including 29 Pashas, 22 ministers, 33 senators, 7 ambassadors, 11 consuls, 11 professors and 41 high bureaucrats.”

19 Bozkurt, a. g. e., s. 156.

20 Maraş Türkleri who were organized by Kuvay-i Milliye (National Forces) fought against the French occupation and the Armenians in 1920 and gained a big victory. Because of their success, the city’s name chanced to “Kahramanmaraş” (Hero-marash).
21 Zeytun’s name was changed when a band of Armenians killed an army officer, named Suleyman, in 1915. After this event, its name was changed to “Süleymanlı”.
22 Suraiya Faroqhi, “Maraş,” The Encyclopaedia of Islam, vol. 3, London: Luzac and Co., 1936, s. 505.

Maraş city center was established on the skirts of the Ahırdağ which had wealthy water sources and the necessary weather to grow orchards and vineyards. The city of Maraş experienced four seasons in a year and was affected by the Mediterranean climate.

As the official census records and private observers stated (Table 1), the population of Maraş was around 180,000. Of this number, non-Muslims made a little less than 25% of the district. The non-Muslims mostly lived in the city center of Maraş and in the caza of Zeytun whose name presently is Süleymanlı that was given by the Ottoman government in memory of a Turkish officer, Suleyman Bey, who was killed by Armenian rebels in 1915. Despite its geographic aspects which would not have supported a large number of people, Zeytun’s large number of non-Muslims seems to have given the impression that these people were fleeing there to protect themselves from outside pressures, including local authorities appointed by the state,23 their own wrongdoings, such as stealing and robbing Muslims lived in surrounding villages and traveled in the region,24 and clashes of interests among different sects of the same religion. And perhaps, they were running away from performing their responsibilities to the State, such as tax payments and serving in the army.25 It was common in the Ottoman Empire at that time for the people to find a way to escape from performing their duties.

Table 1: The Population Of Maraş In The Late Ottoman Era Sources
City Center District Of Maraş
Muslims Non-Muslims Muslims Non-Muslims
1320/1904 Aleppo Almanacs 43.728 (%77) 16.563 (%27)
1312/1894 Aleppo Almanacs 114.964 (%79) 29.764 (%21)
1914 Ottoman Census Bureau 50.356 (%68) 23.517 (%32)
British Consul Albay Sir C. Wilson (1882) 109,648 (%78) 30,694 (%22)
Vital Cuinet (1881) 134.438 (%75) 45.415 (%.25)

23 Bilal Şimşir, British Documents on Ottoman Armenians, vol. 1, Ankara: TTK, 1989, s. 105.
24 Erdal İlter, “Ermeni Mes’elesi”nin Perspektifi ve Zeytun İsyanları (1780 – 1915), Ankara: Türk Kültürünü Araştırma Enstitüsü Yayınları, 1995, s. 81.
25 Bilal N. Şimşir, British Documents on Ottoman Armenians (1880-1890), volume 2, Ankara: Türk Tarih Kurumu, 1989, s. 237-238.

In the center city of Maraş, there were many official and religious buildings (Table 2) which provided necessary services to the people living both within the city and around the city.26 They also give important information of the extent of the non-Muslim population and for the tolerance and good administration applied for the non-Muslims by the Ottoman State. In the city of Maraş, there had always been important social organizations serving both the Muslims and the non-Muslims.

Table 2: Important Buildings in Maraş27

Official And Religious Buildings Number Official And Religious Buildings Number
State Building 1 İdadi (High School) 1
Military Depot 1 Primary Schools 10
Military Place 1 Girls’ Primary School 1
Military Hospital 1 Islamic Quarter Schools 20
German Hospital 1 Armenian Churches 4
Mosques 30 Protestant Churches 3
Small mosques 16 Catholic Churches 2
Medrese (Islamic school) 50 Latin Church 1
Mevlevihane 1 Colleges 2
Mevkonhane (?) 1 Christian Schools 15

Maraş had always been an important religious and administrative center before and after the Ottoman annexation in 1515. In the beginning, under the Ottoman rule, it was a beylerbeyilik (a kind of province) containing the cities of Malatya, Aintap, Zülkadriye, and Samsat.28 It later became a district within Aleppo. In 1914, it was turned into a free district that was ruled by a mutasarrıf (head of the district) appointed by the government and was not a sub-province of a province, but directly responsible to the central government.

26 Yücel Özkaya, XVIII. Yüzyılda Osmanlı Kurumları ve Osmanlı Toplum Yaşantısı, Ankara: Kültür ve Turizm Bakanlığı Yayınları, 1985, s. 61.
27 1326/1910 Tarihli Halep Vilayeti Salnamesi, s. 461.
28 Ali Sevim ve Yaşar Yücel, Türkiye Tarihi: Fetih, Selçuklu ve Beylikler Dönemi, Ankara: Türk Tarih Kurumu, 1989, s. 419.


Non-Muslims had rights to be represented in the high assemblies in the capital29 and administrative assemblies in the provinces, districts and cazas by the Islahat Fermanı issued in 1856.30 If the province had a non-Muslim population, the religious head of the province and two representatives of the non-Muslims were to attend the administrative assembly. Similarly, the assemblies of the districts were also attended by non-Muslims on equal ground.31 After gaining rights to be represented in the local assemblies, the non-Muslims started to have important posts in the ruling circles, especially ones that were involved with economic activities. Sometimes, their newly gained rights offended the Muslims.

In Maraş, a group of people killed a non-Muslim who was accused of swearing at the kadı (a local judge).32 The non-Muslims who were elected to the assemblies did not change the regular practices that had been going on.33 As they were accustomed to their places, they began to be involved in every ruling activity. In Maraş, they seem to have represented their own communities very well because they had representatives in every administrative organ they were allowed to be in. In 1886, out of six members elected to the administrative assembly of the district three were three non-Muslims (Table 3).34

Table 3: 1886 (H 1302) Maraş Administrative Assembly

Governor (Mutasarrif) Dede Paşa
Permanent Members Elected Members
Reis Mutasarrıf (Presiding Judge) Paşa Hacı Hüseyin Ağa
Naip Efendi Ahmet Efendi
Müftü Efendi Hacı Asım Efendi
Muhasebeci Efendi (Accountant) Delvet Efendi*
Murahhas Efendi (Representative) Artin Ağa*
Tahrirat Müdürü Beğ (head of the Statistics in the city) Hacor Ağa*
Clerk Mehmet Efendi
* Non-Muslims

29 Englhardt, Tanzimat ve Türkiye, s. 128-129.
30 Englhardt, Tanzimat ve Türkiye, s. 128-129.
31 Bozkurt, a. g. e., s. 66.
32 Bozkurt, a. g. e., s. 71.
33 Şimşir, British Documents on Ottoman Armenians, vol. 1, s. 28.
34 1302/1886 Tarihli Halep Vilayeti Salnamesi, s. 176-178.

Besides the district assembly, non-Muslims were equally represented in the Court of Bidayet (Table 4).35 Special laws for the administrative structure and rules of provinces were accepted in 1864. These special laws known as vilayet nizamnamesi arranged many administrative practices in favor of the non-Muslims. Around the same time, the Ottomans accepted new courts called nizamiye mahkemeleri.36 These courts handled cases in a secular manner, which was an important step towards secularization in an Islamic State.

Table 4: Bidayet Court (Lower Court)
Hukuk Reisi (Judge of the Laws) Naib Efendi
Ceza Reisi (Verdict Judge) Tayyar Beğ
Court Members
Hacı Mehmet Efendi
Mustafa Efendi
Oseb Efendi*
Kirkor Efendi*
Mülazımi Şakir Efendi
Mülazimi Artin Efendi*
Müddei Umumi Mustafa Efendi
Baş Katib Fethi Efendi
* Non-Muslims

In the Tanzimat Era, the Ottomans created municipal services. In these services, the non-Muslims had their places. They were equally represented in both the Municipal Administrative Assembly and the Menafi’ (Profits) Commission (Table 5).37

35 1302/1886 Tarihli Halep Vilayeti Salnamesi, s. 176-178.
36 Bozkurt, a. g. e., s. 113-114.
37 1302/1886 Tarihli Halep Vilayeti Salnamesi, s. 176-177. Mefafi’ commissions were established by the Province Laws (Vilayet Nizamnamesi) during the Tanzimat Era (1839-1876) to improve economic conditions of provinces.

Table 5: Municipal Administration
Head Ali Efendi
Mustafa Ağa
Mehmet Efendi
Ali Efendi
Panos Efendi*
Ağob Ağa*
Hemaprsom Ağa*
menafI’ (menfaatler) komIsyonu
Head Süleyman Efendi
Hacı Ali Efendi
Hemparsom Ağa*
Manuk Efendi*
Clerk Ökkeş Efendi
* Non-Muslims

In the district of Maraş the non-Muslims lived close together in the caza of Zeytun. Their percentage there reached to around 50%. Because of this, they were represented in the Caza Administrative Assembly and the Court of Bidayet. They especially played important administrative functions in the municipality. Both the head of the municipality and many members were Armenians (Table 6).38

Table 6: Zeytun Caza
Kaimakam (governor of district) Sabri Beğ
Naib (deputy) Mehmet Efendi
Malmüdürü (head of finance office) Ali Efendi
Aşar Memuru (Tax collector) Hafız Efendi
Ser tahsildar (head of tax collectors) Arslan Efendi
Head Kaymakam Beğ
Permanent Members
Naib Efendi
Mal Müdürü
Elected Members
Ali Ağa
Abdulgaffar Ağa
Nizar Ağa*
Nezaret Ağa*
38 1302/1886 Tarihli Halep Vilayeti Salnamesi, s. 178-179.
Mahkeme-i Bidayet
(Court of First Instance)
Head Naib Efendi
Hasan Ağa
Panos Ağa*
Head Clerk Rifat Efendi
Municipal Assembly
Babek Ağa*
Hazor Ağa*
Baba Ağa
Servi Ağa
Hacı Ağa
Avadis Ağa*
Clerk Asador Efendi*
* Non-Muslims

The Kaimakam who was the governor of the caza had an assembly whose members were made of village headmen elected by the people of villages or similar localities. In Zeytun, there were 29 headmen (muhtars), of which 14 were Muslims and 15 were non-Muslims. These headmen were to choose 4 Muslim headmen and 4 non-Muslim headmen to serve in the Administrative Assembly of the caza. The Kaimakam ruled the district with the help of these headmen.39

In the sub-province of Maraş, while the non-Muslims had enough representative power in the places where their population was dense, namely in the center of Maraş and in the caza of Zeytun, other cazas did not have many non-Muslim members within the administrative cadres because their numbers in these cazas were small. In Elbistan, Manuk Ağa was a member of the Bidayet Court and Ağob Ağa and Gebriyel Ağa were members of the Municipal Administrative Assembly and in Andırın, Mıgırdıch Ağa was a member of the Bidayet Court.40

In the administrative cadre of Maraş in 1908, Reshit Pasha was the Governor, (Mutasarrıf). Permanent members of the District Administrative Assembly were made of the Governor Reshit Pasha, the Vice-Governor Hulisi Efendi, the accountant Mustafa Efendi, the statistics director (tahrirat müdürü) Mesut Bey, the mufti Mustafa Efendi, the

39 Bilal N. Şimşir, British Documents on Ottoman Armeninas, vol. 1, Ank: TTK, 1989, s. 420.
40 1302/1886 Tarihli Halep Vilayeti Salnamesi, s. 178-179.

Armenian-Catholic member Ohannes Efendi and the Georgian-Armenian member Kavriyon Efendi. Furthermore, among the four elected members two were Muslims—Mehmet Shukru and Mehmet Efendi—and two were non-Muslims—Kostan Efendi and Sarkis Efendi. The non-Muslim elected members of the assembly made up half of the entire members.41 In addition, among the tax collectors and municipal and taxation members, there were many non-Muslims who were employed by the government. At this time, the head of the tax collecting service was an Armenian, named Hosyeb, and under whose order nine tax collecting services were operating. The non-Muslims were active in the Ziraat Bank, in the Reji (Ottoman debt commission) organization, and as consul dragomans.42 Moreover, the Armenians, Agop Ağa, Artin Efendi, Kirkor, and Andon Efendi, who were elected to the boards of trade, agriculture, and manufacture, as well as to the Court of Bidayet, represented their communities.43

In short, the non-Muslims who were serving in the governmental services and administrative assemblies represented their communities in a fair number in proportion to their population, even more than their percentage in the district of Maraş. Despite the right to participate in all the administrative activities, the Armenians of Maraş, and especially Zeytun, continued to revolt against the State. In this, foreign intrigues and false promises most probably played a more important role than the actual situation of the non-Muslims.

When Evliya Chelebi visited Maraş in the seventeenth century, he found that the city was made of 42 quarters and “10,000 houses, all of which were located in the hills and had cool waters, orchards, and vineyards.” Within the city, 70 fountains were running and every house had fresh water.44 After a long and fatiguing voyage, in the late 1830’s, H.

41 Hicri 1310 (Miladi 1894) Tarihli Halep Vilayeti Salnamesi, s. 222; Hicri 1326 (Miladi 1910) Tarihli Halep Vilayeti Salnamesi, s., 445.
42 Hicri 1326 (Miladi 1910) Tarihli Halep Vilayeti Salnamesi, s., 447,448, 450 ve 457.
43 Aynı yer, s., 454-455.
44 Evliya Çelebi, a. g. e., s. 46.

von Moltke, a German military officer in the Ottoman military, relaxed at a Turkish bath in Maraş. He spent his days at an Armenian banker’s house and wrote a letter in the garden under the blooming almond trees and by a water pond.45

Maraş had stayed almost the same for a long time under the Ottoman rule. But, in the late Ottoman Era, the city began to change. It used to have sun-dried brick houses, which were not attractive. However, in later times large, magnificent stone and brick houses began to be constructed. Streets and roads were enlarged and lighted for cars to be driven in the city. Furthermore, water was brought by pipes into the houses.46 Maraş had abundant water sources and forests47 in Taurus’s snowy, steep mountains and in the lowlands. Along with the mountain foothills, the low, flat areas were suitable for tilling, growing wheat, fruit trees, and vineyards. On the mountainous and high grounds, people herded their flocks, cut wood and grew small orchards. Good quality lumber for constructing ships on the Euphrates River had been sent for a long time from the mountains of Maraş48 to the Suveysh and Basara dockyards in Persian Gulf and Suez Gulf respectively.

As sources showed, Maraş was one of the lucky places as far as land and orchards were concerned.49 In 1908, in Maraş, 18,100 vineyards, 1,660 orchards, 16 grain storage buildings, 22,550 soil parcels, 20 grasslands, 61 cultivated and sowed lands, 110 forests, 5 plantations, and 454,800 square meters of tilled and untilled land was counted. Since the Ottomans considered all land, save vineyards and orchards, as state land, the people of Maraş, including Muslims and non-Muslims, were lucky because they had thousands of vineyards and orchards.50 As the legacies of the Muslim and non-Muslims people showed, most people had

45 H. von Moltke, Türkiye Mektupları, çeviren Hayrullah Örs, İstanbul: Remzi Kitapevi, 1969, s. 156.
46 Hicri 326 (M 1908) Tarihli Halep Vilayeti Salnamesi, s. 462-463.
47 Von Moltke, Türkiye Mektupları, s. 156.
48 Cengiz Orhonlu, Osmanlı İmparatorluğunda Şehircilik ve Ulaşım, derleyen Salih Özbaran, İzmir: Ege Üniversitesi Edebiyat Fakültesi Yayınları, s. 119-123.
49 Akdağ, a. g. e., s. 87.
50 Akdağ, a. g. e., s. 87.

orchards and left these orchards to their children.51 Besides land around the central city, Maraş’ towns had fertile soil. In this sense, Maraş’ towns had an “estimated 111,120 square meters in Yenicekale, 67,667 square meters in Camustil, 67,497 square meters in Bertiz, 28,652 square meters in Shekeroba, 24,750 square meters in Chakallı, and 8,915 square meter in Nadirli towns of sowed and unsowed lands.” 52

Having irrigated arable lands and suitable climatic conditions, many varieties of fruit and vegetables were grown in Maraş. For fruits, grape, apricot, cherry, apple, pomegranate, fig, peach, pear, walnut, pistachio, mulberry, and olive were grown in great quantities. Every type of grain—wheat, barely, corn, rice, sesame--were grown as well as cotton and tobacco.53 Rice and grapes produced in the region were processed in the factories established within the sub-province of Maraş. Some of the processed grape and rice was consumed locally while the rest was exported to Syria and Iraq. Furthermore, some of the agricultural goods, as well as timber from the forests, were exported to Europe via the Alexandrite (Iskenderun) harbor.54 Within the district of Maraş in 1890, 1,278,996 kilograms of wheat, barley, corn, beans, chickpeas, peas, and similar produce were produced. Furthermore, 2,632,687 okka of walnuts, pistachios, tobacco, figs, cotton, apples, apricots and similar produce were harvested. Besides, a type of yellow dye that was produced in the locality was exported to Europe.55 The tobacco that was produced in Maraş was good quality and was sent to Egypt.56 Maraş had a partly developed industry. Within the city, coffee processing, making copper utensils, silk processing, and especially leather processing. There was a place called “Marashbank,” 57 for banking purposes.

However, the economic activities of the Turks and the non-Muslims had some strong differences. While the Turks were mostly engaged in

51 Akdağ, a. g. e., s. 143.
52 Hicri 1326 (M 1908) Tarihli Halep Vilayeti Salnamesi, s. 462.
53 Aynı yer, s. 463-464.
54 Cuinet, a. g. e., s. 88.
55 Aynı yer, s. 89.
56 Aynı yer, s. 90.
57 Halil Aygan, 235 Numaralı Şer’iyye Sicili, Kahramanmaraş Sütçü İmam Üniversitesi, Basılmamış Yüksek Lisans Tezi (1996), s. 30.

agriculture and animal husbandry, the non-Muslims were generally merchants and craftsmen. The wealth that was gained by the non-Muslims from trade was enormous and caused envy among the Muslims.58 According to British council T. H. Skene, “While the Turks owned all the lands in the countryside, the non-Muslims were almost all merchants within the city. The Muslims were tilling the soil. The nomads all were the Turkmen, Kurds and Arabs, The Christians owned almost all the manufacturing establishments.”59 While farmers were growing vide varieties of agricultural products, the nomads raised animals, produced dairy products and sold them in market places. The non-Muslims, on the other hand, produced most of the manufactured goods and earned a living in commercial activities.

Within the province of Aleppo, the non-Muslims did not live in the villages, save some around the city of Maraş. These Christian villagers did not own the soil; they worked on land owned by Muslims. Their economic situation was as good as their Muslim neighbors.60 “The Turks never forgot that they were the owner of the lands. This situation is backed by the Turks’ desire to till the soil and raise animals.”61 Because of this reality, while the Turks left lands, vineyards, orchards, and domestic animals of all sorts to their children as inheritance, the non-Muslims left merchant’s goods, wealthy clothes, shopping centers and a few orchards or vineyards. Land, animals and public service belonged to the Turks while the non-Muslims were the artisans.62 An Armenian family named Hırlakyan had a “whole shopping street” within the city.63 The Armenians had names, such as “Kuyumcuyan” (goldsmith),64 “Kitapçıyan”

58 Şimşir, British Documents on Ottoman Armenians, vol.1, s. 26.
59 Krikorian, Armenians in the Service of the Ottoman Empire, s. 84.
60 Şimşir, British Documents on Ottoman Armenians, vol.1, s. 26.
61 Rev. Edwin Munsell Bliss, Turkey and the Armenian Atrocities. London: Edgewood Publishing Company, 1896, s. 73-74.
62 Kerr, a. g. e., s. 73.
63 Adil Bağdadlılar, Uzunoluk: İstiklal Harbinde Kahramanmaraş, Kahramanmaraş: Kervan Matbaası, 1974, s. 16.
64 235 Numaralı Maraş Şer’iyye Sicili, belge no. 562; 234 Numaralı Maraş Şer’iyye Sicili, belge no. 400, 623.

(bookseller),65 “Bilezikciyan” (bracelet maker),66 and “Ketenciyan” (cotton dress maker)67 that reflected their economic situations.

Maraş was a wealthy place as far as industry was concerned. Within the town of Zeytun, a rich iron mine providing both raw material for iron processing places where horse shoes and kitchen utensils were produced and jobs to the Zeytunlies who did not have many economic activities and who worked in this mine for 60 piastres a day (3d),68 was one of the places that made the district wealthy.

Silk and various textiles which were sources of garments made in Aleppo were also important industries in Maraş. A special fabric called aba which was sought “for artistic fantasies and good dresses” was made of wool, cotton, or a mixture of wool and cotton threads. There were more than 281 small industrial units that were producing abas. Furthermore, fine quality and decorated horse saddles were made. Leather production, shoemaking, and furniture production were developed industries.69 The most advanced industries in the city were leather processing and shoemaking. There were 170 leather processing places and 305 shoemakers.70

According to the almanacs of Aleppo dated 1908 “In Maraş, fine saddles and …valuable and fine … white and red abas and well-known cotton dresses, best quality leather, European type good quality chairs and tables from the logs of walnut and elm trees were manufactured. Furthermore, fine quality acemshali and shallar (types of fabrics), good quality sheets and towels, mattress covers, pillowcases, and curtains were produced.”71 In the city, a branch of the Smyrna Eastern Carpet Company had 100 carpet-making places. In these places, the Christian girls worked for 2 kurush a day and the carpets that they made were exported

65 235 Numaralı Maraş Şer’iyye Sicili, belge no. 632; 234 Numaralı Maraş Şer’iyye Sicili, belge no. 623, 638.
66 234 Numaralı Maraş Şer’iyye Sicili, belge no. 400, 514.
67 Aynı yer, belge no. 666.
68 Şimşir, British Documents, volume 1, s. 427.
69 Cuinet, a. g. e., s. 91-92.
70 Atalay, a. g. e., s. 176.
71 Hicri 1326 (M 1908) Tarihli Halep Vilayeti Salnamesi, s. 463.

to Europe.72 Maraş exported many commodities, such as lumber, rice, wool, leather, abas, carpets, pistachios, papers, beans, grapes, oil, cheese, couches, sofas, chairs, tables, whose value was around 17,514,000 kurush. The city imported goods, such as fabric, coffee, sugar, flour, soap, gas, salt, and glass, whose value was estimated at 5,050,000 kurush.73 Commercial activities in the region were lively in the region. Commercial products were sold both neighboring regions and far away places, including foreign countries. In this, transportation had some problems. Although some commodities produced in Maraş were transported to the neighboring provinces, namely Sivas, Adana, Kayseri, and Harput,74 among them the most desired commodities were rice and lumber, some commodities were sold to foreign countries. Among the goods sent to the foreign countries were yellow dye, wheat, dried grapes and fruit, cotton, sesame, walnut, salep, olive oil, wooden objects, leather, and camel and goat hair. Most of these commodities were sent by middle companies to the foreign state via three main centers, namely Aleppo, Alexandrite and Smyrna.75 One of the main problems before the export of commodities in the district was lack of modern roads. Most of the commodities were carried by mules, camels, or donkeys. Rivers that were running in the district were not suitable for transportation.76

The Economic State Of The Muslims And The Nonmuslims In The District Of Maraş According To The 'Kadi' Registers

A kadı who was a judge educated in Islamic jurisprudence and headed the Islamic courts, called Şer’iyye courts, recorded the cases they presided over. These records were combined in books called kadı registers. In the late Ottoman era, the Islamic court generally solved cases

72 Resul Kesenceli, 231 Numaralı Maraş Şer’iyye Sicili (1315/1897-1898), Transkripsiyon ve Değerlendirme, Kahramanmaraş Sütçü İmam Üniversitesi, basılmamış Master Tezi, s. 43.
73 Atalay, a. g. e., s. 187.
74 Hicri 1324 (M 1906) Tarihli Halep Vilayeti Salnamesi, s. 471; Hicri 1326 (M 1908) Tarihli Halep Vilayeti Salnamesi, s. 463.
75 Cuinet, a. g. e., s. 91-92.
76 Cuinet, a. g. e., s. 91.

involved in weddings, separations of couples, inheritances, and wills of deceased people. Muslims and the non-Muslims had the right to bring their cases before the kadı. The kadı registers are valuable sources for the social, economic, and cultural aspects of a place.

When kadı registers were studied, one of the first things that could be concluded was that the people of Anatolia, either the Muslims or the non-Muslims, who had suffered plagues, famines, natural disasters, and other types of destructive events for centuries, came to appreciate the stocking of food for survival. The people who lived in Maraş seem to have prepared themselves for any type of disaster. They always had enough food in their storage rooms in order to feed their families. They stored grains, dried fruits, and preserved foods, as well as domestic animals, such as goats, sheep, and cows, which could be slaughtered and brought to table at any time required. Table 7 shows edible commodities that were left by deceased peoples to their heirs.

Table 7: Food Counted in Inheritances77

Person Grains Oil And Dessert Domestic Animals
Bekir’s son Ömer’s son
Bekir’s grandson from Abbaslar Village
21 goats
14 new-born goats
1 cow, 1 calf
Karaçalıoğlu Bekir from Yusuf Hacılı Village.
4 gırat* tarhana (a dried food made of grain and yogurt), 4 bulgur, 12
gırat wheat
8 goats
Karaoğlu’s son Topal Halil from Bulanık Village
4 gırat tarhana, 26 gırat wheat,
200 dried foods
made of grape with the price of 200 kurush.
4 bulls
Gamburluoğlu Ahmet from Gedayimli Village in Bertiz Town.
9 gırat bulgur, 4 gırat wheat
5 batman of molasses
Kisforok’s son Kazor’s son Toros from Şekerdere Quarter of Maraş
1 çelik döğme, 1 gırat
bulgur, 1 batman oil, 2 gırat tarhana
20 batman of dried grapes
Ali’s son Çolak Bekir from Sadıklı village in Camustil Town.
6 gırat bulgur, 1 gırat tarhana, 5 gırat red corn
16 gırat rye
3 bulls
1 cow

77 235 Numaralı Maraş Şer’iyye Sicili, belge no., 549, 550, 551, 567, 565, 568, 570, 571, 572, 576, 644; 234 Numaralı Maraş Şer’iyye Sicili, belge no., 283, 284, 320, 346, 552, 614,

Person Grains Oil And Dessert Domestic Animals
Hüseyin’s son Yusufluoğlu Mehmet from Sadıklı Village in the town of Camustil
2 gırat dakik, 10 gırat bulgur, 5 gırat rye, 5 gırat corn
2 oxen
3 goats
3 kids
Mehmet’s son Ümmetoğlu Mehmet from Gedayimli Village of Bertiz Town
10 gırat bulgur, 15 gırat
wheat, 15 gırat barley
200 kurush of dried grapes and molasses
2 oxen
2 goats
Mehmet’s son Abdi from Gedayimli Village
8 gırat bulgur, 2 gırat grains, 20 gırat wheat,
4 gırat barley, 4 gırat red corn
7,000 walnuts, 100 kurush grapes and molasses
2 oxen
Mustafa’s son Harbindeoğlu Hasan in Deveceli Quarter in Maraş
250 gırat barley, 100 gırat wheat 7 oxen
Mehmet’s son Ciritlioğlu Mehmet from Kemahlı Village in Bertiz
3 gırat bulgur, 1 gırat tarhana, 2 gırat küşne,
8 gırat wheat, 3 gırat barley,
10 batman of molasses, 10 beehives
30 goats
1 ox
1 cow
1 bull
Bekir’s son Molla İsmail from Ismaili Village in the Nadirli Town
50 gırat wheat, 50 gırat barley, 50 batman Haşve,** 2 gırat chick peas, 15 gırat lentil, 50 gırat küşne
4 oxen
2 cows
5 goats
8 sheep
Mehmet’s daughter İşçiioğlu Elif from Etmekçi Quarter in Maraş
1 gırat bulgur, 1 gırat flour
Veli’s Moduk Mustafa from the Town of Nadirli
20 gırat wheat, 10 gırat barley, 10 gırat bulgur,
7 gırat rekik (kekik?), 6 gırat chickpeas, 3 gırat döğme, 25 gırat mezru wheat, 7 gırat barley, 3 gırat tarhana
2 batman oil, 20
batman molasses
3 cows
4 calves
3 bulls
4 oxen
75 goats
Nedirli nahiyesi ahalisinden Veli oğlu Moduk Mustafa
10 batman rice, 20 gırat wheat, 20 gırat barley 2 batman oil,
4 oxen
10 calves
10 düveği (young
17 cows
Toros’s son Şermetoğlu Oseb from Armenian community in Maraş Hatuniye Quarter
6 batman pure oil, 16 batman bastık, 2 batman sun-dried molasses, 4 batman pestil,
10 batman yufka molasses, 30 batman rice,
60 gırat barley, 5 gırat wheat, 4 batman dried grape
* Gırat was a big cup that was used to measure grain. One gırat was around 8-10 kilograms.
**Haşve, minder ve yastık gibi şeylerin içerisine doldurulan pamuk, kıtık, kuru ot benzeri şeylerdir.

As table 7 shows, in the late Ottoman era, the people in Maraş generally did not buy their food from stores. They grew and processed the basic foods that could be eaten during the winters. The Turks, as well as others, were successful in growing their grain and meat for their own consumption. Their economy was mostly based on their daily needs. They produced less for the market, just to get some money to buy things, such as clothes, sugar, and so on, which they could not produce themselves. Table 8: Properties and Assets of Muslims and non-Muslims78

Muslim Properties And Assets Non-Muslim Properties And Assets

Deceased Person Properties And Assets Deceased Person Properties And Assets
Abdullah’s son Abbas’s son Memili from Klaguzlu Village
copper, quilt, pillow, very big bag,
çul, bulgur, wheat, küşne, ox, bull, cows, countryside cow, goats, female horse, and tilling tools.
Kisforok’s son Kazor’s son Toros in Şekerdere Quarter in Maraş
Quilt, mattress, pillow, bulgur, very big bag, döğme, dried grape, heybe, small very large tray, bulgur, çul, cere, oil, tarhana, butcher’s ax, pistol, hokka, very big pan, süzek, small ax, pan, big ax, bowl, large bowl, coffee utensils, blue fabric, zerah, red fabric bunch, flowery fabric, jacket, canfes arşın, adorned çevre, oil holder, fes hat, ceket, şitari entari, shoes, headscarf, donkazanı, Trablus belt, şerh, belt şeridi, very large bowl, dana kolanı, female horse.

Karaçalıoğlu Bekir from Yusuf Hacılı Village
copper, mattress, çul, very big bag,
tarhana, bulgur, wheat, bağbostan,
goats, home.
Toros’ son Şermetoğlu Oseb from Hatuniye Quarter.
400 dried şluk, bir doru female horse, 6 dried şluk, bir nargile, 6 dried şluk 5 fincan, bir çini tası, 10 driedşluk bir havan, 2 batman copper, copper big tray, small pan, one fanus, bread holder and flame shovel, pickax, meat kutter, sun molasses, 4 torch, 6 batman bastık, 4 batman pestil, copper veri large tray, home fabric, pillow fabric, çuka aba, one batman dried grape, yufka molasses, woolen quilt, pillow, mattress, 2 silk çul,
5 batman tih, kuşgana kazanı, Antep cutter, 30 batman rice, 6 batman pure oil, 6 gırat barley, 5 gırat wheat, 1 çamaşır kazanı, house, kürüm vinyard,
Karaoğlu’s son Topal Halil from Bulanık Village
Mattress, çul, very big bag, tarhana, wheat, ox, donkey, 3 kıta vineyard, one home, products made of grape.
Gamburluoğlu Ahmet from Gedayimli Village in Bertiz Town
copper batman, mattress, çul, very big bag, bulgur, wheat, liquid molasses, sal, saman, donkey, vineyard, home (father’s house).
Ali’s son Çolak Bekir from
Sadıklı Village in Camustil
copper pan, çul, very big bag, bulgur, tarhana, red corn, rye, ox, donkey, cows, tilling tools, house. Mehmet’s son Ümmetoğlu Mehmet from Gedayimli Village in Bertiz Town copper batman, çul, köhne, very big bag, bulgur, wheat, barley, goats, ox, donkey, 200 kurush grape-made goods, tilling tools, home, 2,000 kurush vineyard, home, hırdavat.

78 235 Numaralı Maraş Şer’iyye Sicili, belge no., 548, 549, 550, 551, 567, 565, 568, 572, 644: 234 Numaralı Maraş Şer’iyye Sicili, belge no., 283, 284, 320, 346, 351, 387, 552, 13; 231 Numaralı Maraş Şer’iyye Sicili, belge no., 80,

Muslim Properties And Assets Non-Muslim Properties And Assets
Deceased Person Properties And Assets Deceased Person Properties And Assets
Mehmet’s son Abdi from Gedayimli Village
2 batman copper, 1 mattress, 1 çul, 8 very big bag, 7,000 walnuts, 8 gırat bulgur, 2 gırat foodstuff, 20 gırat wheat, 4 gırat barley, 4 gırat red corn, 2 ox, 1 donkey, 1 donkey, 1 gun, 100 kurush worth walnut tree, foods made of grape, vineyard, orchard, cherry orchard, home, hırdavat
“Sabsızoğlu Ağob veled-i Haçer veled-i Ağob” from Çavuşlu Quarter in Maraş
Coffeehouse, shoe-store, carpenter’s store, ev arsası, valuable ring stones, vineyard, dress, tome and home stones, very big bag, granary, pencil, carriage, very large bowl, masere kazanı.

It can be seen from the inheritances of the people living in Maraş that the public, either the Muslim or the non-Muslim, lived a modest life without luxuries (Table 8). Generally commodities left behind by the deceased people were necessary goods for daily life and were just enough to support families. It would be accepted that the people who were living in Maraş in the late Ottoman era were generally middle or lower middle class as far as their economic power was concerned. While the wealth of the Muslims was mostly gained from the agriculture and animals, the non-Muslims gained their wealth from trade and manufacture. The non-Muslims played little role in agriculture and none in animal husbandry.

The Turks had limited and modest clothes. Their wills show that they generally did not leave clothes as legacies. In the cases observed for this paper, only a Turk who was a public servant79 had clothing counted in his will. Reasons for the absence of clothes or dresses in the Turkish inheritances would be two: either Turks who did not want to wear their deceased relatives’ clothes, which was a common feeling among the Turks, or they gave away these clothes as charity to poor people. It could be said that, in those days, the Turks could not afford to buy too many new clothes. As for the non-Muslim clothes, they were a little luckier than the Turks as far as their inheritances show. They generally lived in cities and worked as artisans and merchants in the towns and cities, which required them to have nice clothes. Furthermore, they traded fabrics and clothes, which gave them more chance to buy clothing inexpensively.

79 Aynı yer, belge no., 387.

For example, in a legacy left by Kisforok’s grandson Toros, a red sleeved shirt, a red T-shirt, a jacket, and four pair of shiny shoes were counted by the court.80

The main commodities seen in the legacies of the Turks were lands and animals. The non-Muslim legacies contained monies and tradable goods. Similarly, in the cases brought before the kadis, the non-Muslims could sue each other for loans that had not been paid back or land. The Muslim cases generally contained quarrels over distribution of lands.81 This would show that the non-Muslims generally did not own too much land and property.

Table 9: Number of Muslim and non-Muslim Members in Family82

Number Of Muslim Heir Number Of Non-Muslim Heir
Deceased Person Inheritors
Value (kurush, Para)
Miras Birakan Inheritors
Value (kurush, Para)
Abdullah’s son Abbas’s son Memili in Klaguzlu Village in Maraş
Total Inheritance 2,700
Kisforok’s son Kazor’s son Toros in Şekerdere Quarters in Maraş
Total Inheritance 4,200
Wife Farma 221.21 Wife Toto 500.05
Son Mehmet 900.28 Son Kazor 875.08
Son Ali 900.28 Son kirkor 875.08
Daughter Gülsüm 450.19
Son Mikail 875.08
Daughter Meryem 427.24
Daughter Terfent 427.24
Ömer’s son Bekir from
Abbaslar Village
Total Inheritance 1,600

Kisforok’s son Karaoğlu Ohannes from Şeyh Quarter
Total Inheritance 830
Big Son Hasan 862.10 Son İrvanet 461
Wife Emine 95.10 Daughter Osene 230
Son Hüseyin 444.26 Wife Hatun 99

Karaçalıoğlu Bekir from Yusuf Hacılı Village
Total Inheritance 1250

“Kelçırakoğlu Artin veledi Mesdusi veledi Haçdık” from Sadiler village in Şekeroba
Total Inheritance 1,470
Wife Ayşe 161.10 Wife Ağabet 183.30
Small Son Ali 564.15 Son Ohannis 367.20
Son Durdu
Mehmet 564.15
Son Oseb 367.20
Son Astor 367.20
Daughter Meryem 183.30

80 235 Numaralı Maraş Şer’iyye Sicili, belge no., 565.
81 Kesenceli, a. g. t., s. 43.
82 235 Numaralı Maraş Şer’iye Sicili, belge no., 548, 550, 551, 567, 565, 568, 571, 572; 234 Numaralı Maraş Şer’iye Sicili, belge no., 580, 13; 231 Numaralı Maraş Şer’iye Sicili, belge no., 80, 643, 642, 615,

Number Of Muslim Heir Number Of Non-Muslim Heir
Deceased Person Inheritors
Value (kurush, Para)
Miras Birakan Inheritors
Value (kurush, Para)
Karaoğlu’s son Topal Halil from Bulanık Village
Total Inheritance 2,680
Gülrüzoğlu Mosis veled-i Minos’s on Mosis from Gulruzoglu village in Restebaiye Quarter
Total Inheritance 7,630
Daughter Zeynep 441.20 Wife Halime 926.11
Son Ökkeş 1,540.26 Son Ohannes 1,623.25
Daughter Fatma 776.22 Son İbrahim 1,623.25
Daughter Şemsiye 776.22
Son Ahrun 1,623.25
Daughterı Meyrini 811.32
Daughterı Fedar 811.32
Gamburluoğlu Ahmet from Gedayimli Village in Bertiz
Total Inheritance 1,840
Panos’s son Gülrüzoğlu Keyfuruk in Çavuşlu Quarter in Maraş
Total Inheritance 21,400
Wife Şerife 212.25
Son Mehmet 517.28
Son Bogas 10,408.30
Son Ahmet 517.28
Daughter Esma 251.34
Son Bedrusi 10,408.30
Daughter Hatice 251.34
Ali’s Son Çolak Bekir from Sadıklı Village Total Inheritance 1,400 Ohannes’ son Ağob from Dereköy in Yenicekale
Total Inheritance 2,100
Son Mehmet 204.10
Son Ali 204.10 Wife 252.10
Daughter Elif 177.07 Son Ohan 706.28
Daughter Leyla 177.07 Son Nişan 706.28
Daughter Bekire 177.07 Daughterı
Meryem 353.14

The kadı registers that include information relating to properties and commodities left by deceased people gives a pretty good information about the economic state, and also the social and cultural aspects of the people living in that locality. In Maraş, both the Muslims and non-Muslims had almost the same size families (Table 9). The male heirs received larger shares of the legacy than the female heirs. The spouses received some shares, generally one fourth of all the inheritance. Any child who was not satisfied with the share of the inheritance could go to the court to get help for getting their share.83

The inheritance shows that the Turks who had the right to marry up to four women, as the Islamic laws allowed before the civil codes were accepted in 1926, most Turks preferred to marry one woman. It could 83 234 Numaralı Maraş Şer’iyye Sicili, belge no., 660, 667 ve 672.

be said that the Turks have always valued monogamy over polygamy. The non-Muslims were monogamous people, too.

The courts charged some fees for the work they did in determining how to distribute the inheritance among the heirs. In most cases, the Muslims84 and the non-Muslims85 paid about the same amount of fees to the court. These fees could be different in different cases, depending on the time and energy spent by the court.

Muslim and non-Muslim wealth determined from the registers of inheritance shows that the non-Muslims were almost 30% wealthier than the Muslims (Table 10). While, the average wealth of 17 Muslim deceased people was about 6,339 kurush, the wealth of 9 non-Muslims averaged 9,732 kurush. Furthermore, some non-Muslims, such as the Hırlakyan and Shermetoğlu families, had big companies that conducted businesses in the international arena. Almost 60 % of the merchants in Maraş were non-Muslims.86 When an Armenian, named Bilezikcioğlu, died, he left 145,890 kurush worth of goods.87

Table 10: Wealth of Muslim and Non-Muslims88

Muslim Wealth Non-Muslim Wealth
Deceased Person Total Inheritance
(Kurush, Para) Deceased Person Total Inheritance (Kurush, Para)
Abdullah’s son Abbas’son Memili from Klaguzlu Village in Maraş 2,700 Toros’ son Kazor’s son Kisforok from
Şekerdere Quarter 4,200
Ömer’s son Bekir from Abbaslar Village in Mararsh 1,600
Toros’s Şermetoğlu Oseb from Hatuniye
Yusuf Hacılı köyü Karaçalıoğlu Bekir 1,250 Quarter in Maraş. 14,634
Karaoğlu’s son Topal Halil from Bulanık Village 2,680

84 235 Numaralı Maraş Şer’iyye Sicili, belge no., 567.
85 Aynı yer, belge no., 565.
86 Besim Atalay, Maraş: Tarihi ve Coğrafyası, İstanbul: Dizerkonca Matbaası, 1973, s. 187.
87 231 Numaralı Maraş Şer’iye Sicili, belge no., 80.
88 235 Numaralı Maraş Şer’iye Sicili, belge no., 548, 549, 550, 551, 567, 565, 568, 571, 572, 574, 576; 234 Numaralı Maraş Şer’iye Sicili, belge no., 283, 284, 320, 346, 351, 552, 580, 13, 614; 231 Numaralı Maraş Şer’iye Sicili, belge no., 80, 675, 672, 668, 665, 643, 642, 615,

Muslim Wealth Non-Muslim Wealth Deceased Person Total Inheritance (Kurush, Para) Deceased Person Total Inheritance (Kurush, Para)

Gamburluoğlu Ahmet from Gedayimli Village 1,840
“Sabsızoğlu Ağob veled-i Haçer veled-i
Ağob” from Çavuşlu Quarter 9,240
Ali’s son Çolak Bekir from Sadıklı in Camustil 1,400
Mehmet’s son Ümmetoğlu Mehmet from Gedayimli 2,700 Kisforok’s Karaoğlu Ohannes from Şeyh Quarter 830
Mehmet’s son Abdi from Gedayimli Village 2,750
“Kelçırakoğlu Artin veledi Mesdusi veledi Haçdık” from Sadiler Village in Şekeroba 1,540
Veli’s son Fakioğlu Sarı Mehmet from Gedayimli Village 10,700 Karabet’s son Mebiyen Sarkis from Şekerli Quarter in Maraş 13,796
Mustafa’s son Harbindeoğlu Hasan**** from Deveceli Quarter
9,280 Ohannes’s son Bilezikcioğlu Karabet from Şekerli Quarter 145,890
Mehmet’s son Ciritlioğlu Mehmet from Kemahlı in Bertiz 2,420 Ahom’s son Gazezoğlu Ağob from Restabaiye Quarter 2,300
Bekir’s son Molla İsmail from Ismailili Village in Nadirli Town 9,024 Kirkor’s son Araboğlu Tehret from Divanlı Quarter in Maraş 9,920
Mehmet’s daughter İşçioğlu Elif from Etmekçi Quarter in Maraş 984.20 Minos’s son Gülrüzoğlu Mosis from Restebaiye Quarter in Maraş 7,630
Veli’s son Moduk Mustafa from Nedirli Town 6,340 Panos’s son Gülrüzoğlu Keyfuruk from Çavuşlu Quarter in Maraş 21,400 Hacı’s son Hintooğlu Hasan from Hacı
Bebekli Tribe in Maraş 8,100
Ohannıs’ son Ağob from Dereköy in Yenicekale 2,100
Hasan’s son Aşık Hasanzade Durdu Efendi from Alemli Quarter in Maraş 18,000

****The total inheritance left by the deceased person was 9,280 kurush. After payment made for lenders, the heir received 2,968 kurush.

Although the non-Muslims earned a lot of money from trade and other professions, the Turks were wealthy people as far as their lands were concerned. Some Turks who were called zâdegans (people who had wealthy, large and old families) had large lands, big orchards, and vineyards. As an overwhelmingly farming society, the Turks owned almost all the lands within the sub-province of Maraş.


As one of the longest-lived Turkish states, the Ottoman Empire respected laws and presented an advanced state of laws for its time. Although the basics of the Ottoman laws were based on the Islamic justice system, the Ottomans had not hesitated to apply the Turkish customary laws called Töre for administrative purposes in the Empire. The Töre which greatly valued justice, tolerance, equality and a humanist approach helped to create a secure and peaceful place for all the subject peoples to be able to protect their own social, cultural, and religious traditions.

Because of the Ottoman economic, administrative and military practices, the non-Muslims had generally better economic conditions than the Muslims. The non-Muslims were prosperous because they had profitable jobs. Limits for their acceptance into both government posts and the military helped them to spend most of their efforts to make monies. They freely worked in profitable economic jobs, including gold processing, medicine, commerce and craftsmanship, to improve their wealth.

In Maraş, the non-Muslims were somewhat wealthier than the Muslims. While the non-Muslims were mostly merchants, artisans and industrialists, the Muslims were mostly farmers, nomads and, to some extent, artisans and traders. The non-Muslims were mostly living in cities and towns, the Muslims generally populated rural areas.

Reforms that were introduced during the Tanzimat Era (1839-1876), and in later times the Ottomans, gave many new rights to the non-Muslims. They had rights to be represented in central and rural boards and assemblies. In Maraş, they were chosen to serve in these assemblies in fairly equal numbers. However, these rights were generally judicial, administrative, political and cultural in character rather than economical. Most of the non-Muslims were not happy with some of these reforms, especially the acceptance into the army.

The non-Muslims who had been ruled in a millet (nation) system before major reforms were introduced during the Tanzimat era and constitutional eras gained new rights in the late Ottoman period. Their new rights put them in an equal state with the Muslims before laws. Yet, they kept their old privileges coming from the old millet system. In this way they had an advantageous situation within the empire. However, the Ottoman Empire faced enormous internal and external economical, political, social and military problems in the final days, which somehow badly affected the lives of all the subject peoples..


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