2857) Comparison Of Economic Structures Of Turks And Armenians In Second Half Of 19th Century: Case Of Tokat

Assoc Prof Dr. Mehmet BEŞİRLİ
Gaziosmanpaşa University Faculty of Sciences and Letters Department of History Tokat / TURKEY

This study was undertaken in the framework of a larger project (Peaceful Aspects of Turkish Armenian Relations: Cases of Tokat, Amasya, Sivas and Kayseri) supported by TUBİTAK. The Project Coordinator is Dr. Zekeriya Başkal; I work as the researcher on the project. This paper presents a comparison of economic structures of Turks and Armenians in the second half of the 19th century in the case of Tokat which was selected for a part of the project.. . .

1. A Brief History of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire

When Turks entered Anatolia in the first quarter of the 11th century, Byzantium was ruling the places where the Armenians lived. However, the Byzantine army was weakened due to internal struggles and military riots. Armenian leaders controlling the southeastern borders of Byzantium were fighting each other. They also were not on good terms with the ruling Byzantine power.1 Due to this chaos, the places where Armenians

1 Stanford Shaw, Osmanlı İmparatorluğu ve Modern Türkiye, Birinci Cilt, Gaziler İmparatorluğu, Osmanlı İmparatorluğu’nun Yükselişi ve Çöküşü, 1280- 1808, (Çev.:

lived were eventually controlled by the Seljukids during the second half of the 11th century. Until the domination of the Ottomans, Armenians lived peacefully under the Seljukid rule because it provided them with a tolerant administration.

Ottomans, starting from the time of Orhan (1324-1362), had good relations with the Armenians. Orhan Bey gave rights to the Armenian Church and protected them in the capital, Bursa. Fatih Sultan Mehmed (1451-1481) provided cultural and religious rights to Armenians.2 After the conquest of Istanbul, the Sultan invited the Armenian bishop Hovakim from Bursa to Istanbul and appointed him as the Armenian patriarch.

3 Fatih placed Turks, Greeks, Armenians, and Jews in Istanbul in order to make Istanbul, which was sparsely populated, a religious and cultural capital. The city improved in a short time and commerce and art developed. Between 1479-75, the Sultan brought Armenians from places in Central Anatolia, like Eski Foça, Yeni Foça, and Kefe, to Istanbul.

Yavuz Sultan Selim brought 200 Armenian artisan families from Tebriz and 500 from Cairo.4 The most important development that happened in Istanbul after the conquest was that the Italians trading in the region for the previous centuries and from now on losing their commercial activities were replaced with Jews, Armenians, and Greeks.5

After this process, Armenians started their lives within the millet system under the Ottomans. This was a system which allowed non-Muslims to rule themselves with little interference from the Ottoman government as long as they were loyal to the Empire.

Armenians like Jews were occupied with commerce under the Ottomans. Ottomans intended to provide commercial resources for their subjects by giving them certain commercial rights with other countries. Mehmet Harmancı), İstanbul 1982, p. 24.

2 Sadi Koçaş, Tarih Boyunca Ermeniler ve Türk Ermeni İlişkileri, Ankara 1976, p. 57.

3 Shaw, ibid,, p. 216; Mehmet Beşirli, “Alman Belgelerine Göre Ermeni Meselesi ve Avrupa Emperyalizmi, 1878-1896”, Türk Dünyası Araştırmaları, Sayı 125, Nisan 2000, p.84.

4 Halil İnalcık, Osmanlı İmparatorluğu’nun Ekonomik ve Sosyal Tarihi, C. 1, 1300-1600, Istanbul 2000, p. 54, 69

5 İnalcık, ibid, I, p.260.

“Non-Muslim subjects under the Ottomans, especially Jews, Armenians, Greeks, and Slavs by benefiting from the Ottoman protection established commercial colonies starting from the 15th century in Venice, Ancona, and Lviv (present day Ukraine).”6 In addition, Armenians were quite active in the Bursa-Istanbul-Akkerman (present day Ukraine) and the Lviv trade routes. Especially on the route of Akkerman-Lviv, all the caravan leaders were Armenians. The Armenians working in the Crimea, Eflak (present day Romania), Boğdan (present day Moldavia) and Poland had an important function in terms of commerce. They spoke Turkish since they migrated from Eastern Turkey and the Crimea and some of them had Turkish names. They were living quite comfortably, receiving protection from the Ottomans7 and working successfully in commercial activities.

2. The Armenians in Tokat

It was possible to find Armenian populations everywhere in the Ottoman Empire. However, they were active in six provinces, namely, Erzurum, Sivas, Van, Elazığ, Diyarbakır, and Bitlis. There were Armenians in Tokat, too. Especially in the 17th and 18th centuries, Armenians had an important place in the commercial life of Tokat. They were merchants of paint, cloth, and copper. Traveler Tournefort mentions in the beginning of 18th century that “Tokat should be considered the commercial center of Asia Minor.”8

Armenians were the most important merchants of Iranian raw silk in the 17th century. The biggest center for selling Iranian silk was Aleppo. Some Iranian silk was marketed in Istanbul and Bursa, and the silk was transported to these places through Erzurum and Tokat. 9 The silk consumption of Europeans in the 17th century was about 200,000

6 İnalcık, ibid, p.238.
7 İnalcık, ibid, p.343, 345.
8 Joseph de Tournefort, Tournefort Seyahatnamesi (Editör: Stefanos Yerasimos, Çev.: Teoman Tunçdoğan), 2. Kitap, İstanbul 2005, p. 223.
9 Suraiya Faroqhi, “Krizler ve Değişim 1590-1699”, Osmanlı İmparatorluğu’nun Ekonomik ve Sosyal Tarihi, (Editörler: Halil İnalcık, Donald Quataert), V. I1, 1600-1914, İstanbul 2004, p. 54, 69.

to 230,000 kilograms annually and 86% of European silk was either coming from Iran through Aleppo or through Tokat.10

In terms of religion, Armenians in Tokat were subjected to “Tokat Ermeni Murahhasalığı”(Armenian Religious Committee in Tokat). At the head of this committee, there was an Armenian clerk who was appointed by the permission of the Ottoman Sultan”11 When the Armenian society wanted to renovate a church, he would write a petition to Istanbul. After an inquiry, Istanbul would most likely send permission.12

Moltke, who traveled through Tokat, mentions that Tokat was quite big, and its population was 30-40 thousand.13 According to the census in 1844-45, the population of Tokat was 10,685. 54 % of these were Muslims, mostly Turks,14 34 % Armenians (6,665), 5.7 % Greeks, (1,110), 4.5% Catholics, (875), 190 Jews, and 110 Gypsies.

However, the Industrial Revolution in Europe weakened the importance of Tokat and port cities, such as Samsun and Trabzon, became more important. For this reason, we can observe that starting from the second half of the 19th century Greeks and Armenians migrated to the port cities along the Black Sea, such as Samsun.

3. Sources

Major sources of this study were Tokat Court Records (Tokat Şeriyye Sicilleri) numbered 12 (1811-1812), 23, and 25 (1818-1819) and 50 (1838-1839). We randomly chose a total of 118 instances of inheritance for 44 Turkish and 44 Armenian males and 15 Turkish and 15 Armenian females. 15

10 Faroqhi, ibid, II, p. 631.
11 Tokat Şer‘iye Sicili, (Tokat Court Records) Number: 15, Page Number: No: 66 (We will refer Court records as as TŞS).
12 TŞS, 13, 126-127. For further information see: Mehmet Beşirli, Orta Karadeniz Kentleri Tarihi -I- TOKAT (1771-1853), Tokat 2005, p. 131-132.
13 Cinlioğlu, ibid, p. 5.
14 Galip Eken, “Tanzimat Dönemi Osmanlı Toplumunda Nüfusun Mesleki Yapılanması: Tokat Örneği”, Tarih İncelemeleri Dergisi, C. XV, İzmir 2000, p. 157.
15 There might be people from other ethnicities too but the number would be insignificant

When someone died, what the person had owned was registered in books, whether it was real estate or not. When a disagreement broke out, courts would intervene and find a solution. The officials appointed by the court would register the goods and their values, such as cash, income, animals, household items, and real estate, such as houses, stores, vineyards, and gardens.16 If the deceased was female, the dowry would be included in the income section;17 if the deceased was male, the dowry would be included in the debt section.18 The debts, taxes, and other official charges would be taken off the total value and the amount left would be divided among the inheritors according to Islamic law.

The value of the inheritance would be changed according to the goods and property. Gold, silver, and other precious things would be priced according to official tariffs. Kitchen utensils, beds, carpets, books, guns, and so on would be at the current value of the time. Houses, stores, vineyards, gardens and other real estate would be sold in auctions. For this reason, we have to accept the values given in these books as close to the true value as possible.

In this study, rather than elaborating on the economic differences between Turks and Armenians in detail, we will provide a general understanding of it.


1. Wealth in General

We can divide the wealth of our subjects into two groups as real estate and goods. Real estate includes houses, stores, vineyards, gardens, baths, lands, farms, mills, and so on; goods include cash, income, household items, clothes, foods, kitchen utensils, jewelry, arms, books, and so on.

16 Said Öztürk, Askeri Kasamsa Ait Onyedinci Asır İstanbul Tereke Defterleri, (Sosyo Ekonomik Tahlil), Istanbul: 1985, p.27.
17 TŞŞ, 15, 40.
18 TŞS, 15, 67.

Table 1. Items of Wealth
Items of Wealth
Turkish - Male Turkish-Female Armenian-Male Armenian-Female
Value In Kuruş % Value In Kuruş % Value In Kuruş % Value In Kuruş %
Real estate 47,711 37.24 50,86 25.29 38,180 51.9 835 2.82
Cash 38,76.5 2.91 842.5 4.18 876.5 1,19 4,055 13.71
Receiv-ables 5,524.5 26.72 25,81.5 12.83 6,443 8.75 457.5 1.54
Debt 187.5 7.66 50 0.24 795.5 1.08 - 0
Saddle beasts and pack animals 4,547.5 3.42 135 0.67 1,382 1.87 50 0.16
Household items 276.5 7.73 5,269.5 26.20 21,569.5 29.32 6,118 20.69
Clothes 4,658.5 3.50 3225.5 16.04 3,180 4.32 5972.5 20.20
Jewelry 25,55.5 1.92 2,777.5 13.81 186 0.25 11,846.5 40.07
Harnesses 900 0.67 - 0 35 0.04 - 0
Books 771.5 0.58 20 0.09 20 0.02 5 0.01
Miscellaneous items 1,466.5 1.10 62 0.30 617.5 0.83 193.5 0.65
Food 8,645 6.50 58 0.28 272 0.36 30 0.10
Total Inheritance 13,1120.5 100 20,107.5 100 73,557 100 29,563 100

As shown in Table 1, the total wealth of 44 males was 131,120.5 kuruş. The same number of Armenians had a total of 73,557 kuruş.

The total wealth of 15 Turkish females was 20,127.5 kuruş and the total wealth of 15 Armenian females was 29,563. Further, 64.46% of the wealth of Turkish males was real estate and income. The wealth of Armenian males consisted of real estate and household items at 81.22% of the total. For Turkish females, household items and real estate were 51.49% of the total, and for Armenian females, 60.76 % was jewelry and household items.

By ranking wealth from the greatest to the smallest we made up

Table 2.
Table 2. Ranking of Turkish and Armenian Wealth from Large to Small
No Turkish Males Armenian Males Turkish Females Armenian Females
1 Real estate Real estate Household items jewelry
2 Receivables Household items Real estate Household items
3 Household items Receivables Clothes Food
4 Debt Clothes Jewelry Cash
5 Food Saddle and pack animals Receivables Real estate

No Turkish Males Armenian Males Turkish Females Armenian Females

6 Clothes Cash Cash Receivables
7 Saddle and pack animals Debt Saddle and pack animals Miscellaneous items
8 Cash Miscellaneous items Miscellaneous items Saddle and pack animals
9 Jewelry Food Food Food
10 Miscellaneous items Jewelry Debt Book
11 Harnesses Harnesses Books Debt
12 Books Books Harnesses Harnesses

As can be seen in Table 2, while real estate is in first place for both Turks and Armenians, for Turkish females household items and Armenian females jewelry take first place. Real estates have formed a major part of the males’ inheritances. Because the real estates were worth a lot, the value of the males’ inheritances was higher than other’s. Real estate was comparatively in a lower place for females. For Turkish and Armenian males, possession of books takes place last. Turkish and Armenian females do not have any horses can be explained by the gender. There was not any amount in the debt line of Armenian females.

2. Types of Wealth
a. Real estate

Within the estates that we studied, there were houses, stores, vineyards, and gardens. There were 41 properties in 44 Turkish male inheritances and there were 32 properties within 44 Armenian male inheritances.

There were 7 properties in 15 Turkish female inheritances and 4 properties in the same number of Armenian female inheritances. In other words, there were not any properties inherited by 3 Turkish males, 12 Armenian males, 8 Turkish females, and 11 Armenian females.

As seen in Table 1, real estate consisted of 37.24% of the total inheritance of Turkish males and real estate consisted of 51.90% of the total inheritance of Armenian males. The ratio is 25.29% for Turkish females and 2.82% for Armenian females.

In Table 2, both in Turkish and Armenian male inheritances, real estate takes first place whereas real estate takes second place for Turkish

females and fifth place for Armenian females. The first place in Armenian female inheritances was taken by jewelry.

Table 3. Distribution of Real Estate according to Inheritances real estate
Turkish Male Armenian Male Turkish Female Armenian Female
Value Kuruş % Value Kuruş % Value Kuruş % Value Kuruş %
Houses 28,035 58.76% 22,500 58.93% 4,116 80.92% - 0%
Vineyards 8,195 17.17% 15,680 41.06% 370 7.27% 835 100%
Stores 8,140 17.06% - 0% 600 11.79% - 0%
Gardens 3,341 7.00% - 0% - 0% - 0%
Total 47,711 100% 38,180 100 % 5,086 100% 835 100%

As seen in Table 3, the ratio of the value of houses within Turkish male inheritances is 58.76% and 58.93 % for Armenian males while this ratio is 80.92 % for Turkish females. There were no houses within the 15 Armenian female inheritances that we studied. The ratio of the value of vineyards in Turkish male inheritances is 17.17 % while for Armenian males, it is 41.06%. In Turkish female inheritances, vineyards are 7.27 % and for Armenian females, it is 100 %. The ratio of the value of stores is 17.06% for Turkish males and 11.79% for Turkish females. For Armenian male and female inheritances, there was no record of stores. The ratio of the value of gardens is 7 % for Turkish males and there was no record of gardens for Turkish females, Armenian males or Armenian females.

Table 4. Ranking of Real Estate from Greatest to Lowest Value
No Turkish Male Armenian Male Turkish Female Armenian Female
1 Houses Houses Houses Vineyards
2 Vineyards Vineyards Stores -
3 Stores - Vineyards -
4 Gardens - - -

As seen in Table 4, while a house as part of their inheritance takes first place in value for Turkish males, Turkish females and Armenian males, vineyards takes first place for Armenian females. While vineyards takes second place for Turkish and Armenian male inheritances, stores are in third and gardens are in fourth place for Turkish males.

b. Movable Goods
As seen in Table 1, within the movable goods, we have cash money, receivables, debt, saddle beasts, pack animals, household items, clothes, jewelry, precious metals, harnesses, books, commodities, and various other items.

Cash money means the moneys recorded when the inheritances items of the inheritances owners were registered into the court register.

It was generally mentioned as nakd,19 nakd-i der-kise,20 and nukud-i der-kise.21 The highest amount inherited by a Turkish male belonged to Abdurrahman,22 the son of Ömer, with 1,220 kuruş and the lowest amount belonged to Mehmet, son of Kasım,23 with 16 kuruş. The highest amount inherited by an Armenian male belonged to Tatos,24 son of Martos, with 363.5 kuruş and the lowest amount belonged to Karabet,25 son of Kadioğlu, with 1 kuruş. The highest amount by a Turkish female belonged to Fatma Hatun,26 daughter of Ömer, with 600 kuruş and the lowest amount belonged to Hatice,27 daughter of Abdullah, with 7 kuruş. In 44 Turkish male inheritances, there was money for 14 and in the same number of Armenian male inheritances there was money for 7. Four Turkish and 4 Armenian females inherited money.

Receivables are the money that the deceased was owed from various people. Receivables were recorded without the mention of the source.

Most of the receivables for females were the dowry from their husbands.

The ratio of receivables in Turkish male inheritances is 26.72% with 35,525.5 kuruş and for Armenian male inheritances it is 8.75% with 6,443 kuruş. For Turkish females this ratio is 12.83% with 2,581.5 kuruş and for Armenian females, it is 1.54% with 457.5 kuruş.

19 TSŞ, 15, 39.
20 TSŞ, 23, 22.
21 TSŞ, 23, 151.
22 TSŞ, 25, 113.
23 TSŞ, 15, 39.
24 TSŞ, 25, 119.
25 TSŞ, 23, 65.
26 TSŞ, 23, 59.
27 TSŞ, 23, 59.

Debt was the money that the heir had to pay. Generally, it was recorded in the section of expenditures. Most debts were related to money that husbands, whether Turkish or Armenians, would pay to their wives, that is, the dowry. 28

Donkeys were most common among the pack animals. Following donkeys were mules, oxen, water buffalo, female water buffalos, horses and sheep.29 There were also cows and calves. Sometimes, in addition to animals, items related to animals, such as saddles, were recorded.30

In the section of household items, kitchen utensils, bedroom items, living room furniture, and other furniture was recorded. There were also items such as quilts, pillows, prayer rugs, cushions, rugs, carpets, sofa, mats, mirrors, hookahs, towels, curtains, sacks, lanterns, sheets, boxes, locks, drawers, candles, and so on.

The ratio of household items within the Turkish male inheritances is 7.73% with 10,276.5 kuruş and within the Armenian male inheritances this ratio is 29.32% with 21,569.5 kuruş. Within 15 Turkish female inheritances, the ratio of household items is 26.20% with 5,269.5 kuruş and for Armenian females, it is 20.69 % with 6,118 kuruş.

3. Distribution of Heirs (or Inheritors) According to Profession Of 44 Turkish male heirs, there were one broker (tellal), two grocers (bakkal), one green grocer (manav), one clerk (kâtip), one gardener (bostancı), one cotton-maker (pamukçu), one wool-maker (yüncü), one wood seller (oduncu), one coat-maker (abacı), one shoemaker (nalçacı), one flag-bearer (alemdar), one major (başçavuş), one miller (değirmenci), one chimney maker (babacı) and one teacher (muallim). Eleven of these professions are related to commerce, three of them are related to the military, one of them is related to education, and one of them is related to the clerkship. There were five pilgrims (hacı), three seyyids, (descendants of the Prophet), one effendi (Turkish title of respect), and three

28 TSŞ, 15, 67.
29 TSŞ, 15, 39,51,52,101,104,106, TSŞ, 23, 38,43,50,57,63; TSŞ, 25, 121,113, 109.
30 TSŞ, 156.

aghas (wealthy person or military commander). These titles show their status in society. Their incomes were comparatively higher. For the 44 Turkish male heirs, 28 of them had no mention of the profession in the records.

Of the Armenian male heirs, there were two merchants, one cloth printer, four coat makers, one rug maker, one priest, two tailors, one potter, one commissioner, three cauldron makers, one jeweler, one builder, and one silk maker. There was no mention of profession for 26 male heirs.


There was a close relationship between Turks and Armenians in Tokat in the second half of 19th century. When we study the court records, we can see this relationship. The reason for this was that although Greeks and Jews were more private in terms of social structure and distribution of inheritance, Armenians commonly used the Ottoman religious court.

When we have studied inheritances and other records in court registers, we see that Turks and Armenians have many commonalities in terms of social structure, property and goods. Most of the household items mentioned in the inheritances are the same.

In terms of wealth, real estate was the most important for both groups. Houses were in first place for Turkish males and vineyards in first place for Armenian males. For Turkish and Armenian females, household items and clothes had an important place. However, jewelry also had an important place for Armenian females. Another interesting point is that books took the lowest place both for Turks and Armenians.

We do not see the professions and titles for females although the professions and titles of males were recorded into court registers. Within 15 Turkish females, only one had the title of pilgrim (hacı). Most of the male professions, both for Turks and Armenians, were related to commerce and business.

When we studied 88 male and 30 female heirs, we see that that the wealth of both groups was very similar. However, we believe that the Armenians worked in professions related to commerce and industry that tended to earn more money. We see Turks whose wealth was quite high, too. We believe that when we compare the wealth of two groups by taking the population into consideration, we will be able to see that the wealth of the two groups was close to each other.


1. Archive Sources - Tokat Court Records
No Court Record Number Date Page
1 13 1224-1225/1809-1810 190
2 15 1227/ 1812 176
3 24 1234-1235 / 1818-1820 129
4 25 1234-1235 / 1818-1820 167
5 50 1254 /1838-1839 80

2. Books

BEŞIRLI, Mehmet, “Alman Belgelerine Göre Ermeni Meselesi ve Avrupa Emperyalizmi, 1878 1896”, Türk Dünyası Araştırmaları, Sayı 125, Nisan 2000.
_____________, Orta Karadeniz Kentleri Tarihi -I- TOKAT (1771-1853), Tokat 2005, Gaziosmanpaşa Üniversitesi Fen-Edebiyat Fakültesi Yayını.
CINLIOĞLU, Halis Turgut, Osmanlılar Zamanında Tokat, 4. Kısım, Tokat 1973, Barış Matbaası.
EKEN, Galip, “Tanzimat Dönemi Osmanlı Toplumunda Nüfusun Mesleki Yapılanması: Tokat Örneği”, Tarih İncelemeleri Dergisi, C. XV, Ege Üniversitesi Edebiyat Fakültesi Yayınları, İzmir 2000.
İNALCIK, Halil, Osmanlı İmparatorluğu’nun Ekonomik ve Sosyal Tarihi, V. 1, 1300-1600, İstanbul 2000, Eren Yayınları.
FAROQHI, Suraiya, “Krizler ve Değişim 1590-1699”, Osmanlı İmparatorluğu’nun Ekonomik ve Sosyal Tarihi, (Editörler: Halil İnalcık, Donald Quataert), V. II, 1600-1914, İstanbul 2004, Eren Yayınları.
KOçAŞ, Sadi, Tarih Boyunca Ermeniler ve Türk Ermeni İlişkileri, Ankara 1976.
ÖZTÜRK, Said, Askeri Kassama Ait Onyedinci Asır İstanbul İnheritance Defterleri (Sosyo Ekonomik Tahlil), İstanbul 1985, OSAV Osmanlı Araştırmaları Vakfı.
SHAW, Stanford, Osmanlı İmparatorluğu ve Modern Türkiye, First Volume, Gaziler İmparatorluğu, Osmanlı İmparatorluğu’nun Yükselişi ve çöküşü, 1280- 1808, (Turkish trans.: Mehmet Harmancı), İstanbul 1982, E Yayınları.
TOURNEFORT, Joseph de, Tournefort Seyahatnamesi (Editör: Stefanos Yerasimos, çev.: Teoman Tunçdoğan), 2. Kitap, İstanbul 2005, Yapı Kredi Kültür Yayınları.
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