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A Nation of EmpireThe Ottoman Legacy of Turkish Modernity$

Michael Meeker

Print publication date: 2002

Print ISBN-13: 9780520225268

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520225268.001.0001

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A State Society

A State Society

State Officials and Local Elites

(p.185) 6 A State Society
A Nation of Empire

Michael E. Meeker

University of California Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter demonstrates how the local elites composed a tiered state society, the uppermost tier being inside the state system and the lowermost being outside the state system, and describes the structure of political authority that emerged in the old province of Trabzon during the period of decentralization. It uses the reports of British and French consular officials who first began to reside in the town of Trabzon after 1800 to analyze the structure of political authority.

Keywords:   tiered state society, state system, political authority, decentralization

A Tiered State Society

The rise of local elites in the coastal districts of the province of Trabzon came about through the appropriation and adaptation of an imperial tactic of sovereign power. Individuals from the lower ranks of military officers formed interpersonal associations with their lessers, equals, and betters. With this development, the structure of political authority came to feature a distribution of sovereign power with both vertical and horizontal cleavages. State officials no longer enjoyed a monopoly of military force as they once had during the classical Ottoman period. They were everywhere confronted with local elites in the coastal districts who were able to mobilize armed followings.

In this chapter, I shall describe the structure of political authority that emerged in the old province of Trabzon during the period of decentralization. As we shall see, it consisted of a hierarchy of leading individuals representing tiered circles of interpersonal associations. At the top, leading individuals consisted uniquely of state officials who were usually not from Trabzon. At the bottom, leading individuals consisted of local elites from the coastal districts. But the leading individuals in the middle range of this hierarchy held high titles and ranks in the state system precisely because they were eminent figures among the local elites of the countryside.

The two sides of the structure of political authority—official at the top and nonofficial at the bottom—reflect the two “pieces” of sovereign power in the imperial system: the mechanism of bureaucratic centralism and the tactic of disciplinary association. During the period of decentralization, the mechanism of bureaucracy had become less effective even as the tactic of association had become more generalized. Accordingly, the structure of political authority exceeded the state system so that local elites in the old (p.186) province of Trabzon, together with all their relatives, friend, partners, and allies, comprised a very large fraction of the population. In effect, the dissemination of the imperial tactic of sovereign power during the period of decentralization had transformed the large majority of inhabitants of the coastal region into an ottomanist provincial society.

To analyze this structure of political authority, I shall rely on the reports of French and British consular officials who first began to reside in the town of Trabzon after 1800.1 Although the quality of their insights is variable, they provide a wealth of information about specific individuals and incidents. Matching this information against other sources, I have been able to reach conclusions about the relationship of state officials and local elites, as well as about the breadth and depth of popular participation in the imperial system.2

For the most part, I shall not directly examine the observations of the consuls in this chapter. Instead, I rely on the information in their reports to understand the narrative of a Frenchman who briefly visited the provincial capital a few years before the beginning of the consular era.3 Citizen Beauchamp was one of the last western European visitors who was able to contemplate the relationship of state officials and local elites from a position of curiosity. A few years later, the consuls who followed him would come to believe that the success of their mission depended on the eradication of the local elites (see chap. 7).

Citizen Beauchamp and the Provincial Capital

In the summer of 1796, a French scientific expedition set out for the province of Trabzon in order to collect specimens of the unique flora of the eastern Pontic Mountains.4 After arriving in Istanbul, the party duly applied to (p.187) the central government, requesting permission to proceed. Beauchamp, one of the members of the expedition, explains how they were initially refused. “The first intermediary (drogman) had responded in the name of the Porte [Ottoman government]. The Laz were savages, wild and virtually independent. It [the Porte] did not wish to compromise itself in the eyes of our government should some kind of accident take place.”5 Most likely, the request for permission had been denied without comment; nonetheless, the intermediary had fulfilled his function by explaining official motives otherwise left unstated. Although the explanation is probably accurate, the characterization of the residents of the coastal region is tendentious and misleading.

The so-called Laz were outsiders to the high official circles of Istanbul. They were rough-and-tumble country people who had grown up in mountain villages. Their speech and manners featured all kinds of infelicities. Their costumes and appearance were inappropriate, if not unacceptable. Nonetheless, the Laz were also insiders of the imperial system. They comprised an ottomanist population whose presence and influence were palpable not only in Trabzon, but also in Istanbul. The local elites of this population had contacts and influence in the palace to such an extent that they were able to thwart provincial governors. The local elites had participated in military campaigns as leaders of militias and regiments, most recently in the Crimea and the Caucasus. Its tradesmen and craftsmen were also to be found as residents of the imperial capital, just as its professors and academies represented official Islam in many modest urban and rural quarters. Beauchamp probably never had the slightest inkling that the Laz were such an ottomanist population, rather than a specific people speaking a specific language. But he was fully aware of the difference between what he had been told in Istanbul and what he was soon to observe in Trabzon. This is why he includes this episode in his account, to illustrate the gross inconsistency between official formalities and governing practices.

Persisting with their request, the French are at last granted an imperial decree (ferman) addressed to the governor, but warned that his capital is in a state of insurrection at that very moment. They set sail for Trabzon accompanied by one of the janissaries who had been assigned by the Ottoman government to the French legation. Not far into their voyage, the boatman who was hired to take them begins to insist they bypass the provincial capital and proceed further eastward to the vicinity of Rize (see map 2). The (p.188) boatman was himself from Rize and enrolled there in a janissary regiment, while the “Laz” in the town of Trabzon were enemies of this regiment, making it impossible for him to land there.6 The French eventually learn that the objections of the boatman are little more than a pretext aimed at diverting the expedition.7 He wants to take on cargo in his homeland for his return trip to Istanbul, so he tells the French plausible lies.

Although the claims of the boatman are false, they are nonetheless revealing. The rural societies of the coastal districts were affiliated with military formations, militias, and regiments that were linked with the central army (janissaries).8 These military formations included ordinary traders, craftsmen, and boatmen. They were associated with district alliances and coastal coalitions that spread throughout the old province of Trabzon from Batum to Ordu. As such they functioned as fraternal organizations, providing hospitality to visiting members from other communities.9 On some occasions, they responded to call-outs for troops by state officials who summoned them to participate in imperial campaigns alongside the central (p.189) army. On other occasions, they mobilized to challenge state officials and the central army or to confront rival alliances and coalitions. Accordingly, the members of a military formation associated with one social network hesitated to travel to towns and districts that were dominated by a military formation associated with a rival social network.

The French anchor at the provincial capital of Trabzon, learn the town is actually at peace, and forward their imperial decree to the pasha of Trabzon. This document includes a request that they be given assistance to mount an expedition for the purpose of gathering botanical specimens. Beauchamp reports the response as conveyed to their messenger:

The governor, after having read the decree, told him that he regretted he was not able to fulfill its requirements as the chiefs of the town [les chefs de la ville] had assumed authority, and so it was for them to receive us. Our janissary then went to find the two ayans [chief notables], Osman Agha and Memiş Agha. The latter, having learned of the orders that were in our possession, arranged for a house to be prepared for us at once and sent two riflemen aboard our boat for our debarkation. For a moment, we thought that we were going to be led away to prison.10

Beauchamp has been led to expect insurrection and savagery, but he finds instead a working arrangement among three competing political authorities. Every other visitor who follows him will discover a similar situation until the close of the period of decentralization (1830s). The provincial governor (or a representative in his absence) is consistently matched by two (and more rarely three) leading individuals with followings.11 The exact relationship (p.190) of the provincial governor and the chiefs of the town is never exactly the same.12 The governor does not always defer to the two chiefs. The two chiefs do not always defer to one another.

The relationship of the three political authorities varies because each is in effect a sovereign power occupying a stronghold and able to mobilize military force. The provincial governor occupies the citadel and commands contingents of janissaries and mercenaries. The two chiefs occupy fortified residences within the city walls and command large numbers of armed followers such that their forces normally outnumber those of the governor. Sometimes the chiefs fill the streets of the town with men in arms, forcing state officials to retreat into their fortress within the city walls. Sometimes they conduct skirmishes with one another from their separate residences or lay protracted sieges around one another's residences. Since the town was at peace during his visit, Beauchamp does not witness any such events, but he sees the clear signs of them in the appearance of the town itself:

The town is built on a rise of a hillside at the coastline in an attractive setting. It forms an imperfect square: Its walls are high, crenellated, and badly maintained. At the center of the town, there are two fortified mansions that are closed each night with double doors of iron. It is there where the two chiefs reside. The narrow streets are paved. Except for one part of the town, near the sea, all the rest is nothing more than large gardens enclosed by walls. The commerce of Trabzon is currently not very active. It consists of linen cloth, copper, hazelnuts, and slaves from Georgia.13

The doors of iron are but one feature of the chiefs' fortified residences; they are also equipped with secret underground passages for the purpose of receiving supplies or permitting escape during sieges.14 The walls of the gardens (p.191) are so high that it is impossible to see from one street to another. They have been constructed as defenses against the pillaging that occurs during military invasions from the countryside. Strife between the governor and the chiefs, and, more commonly, between the chiefs themselves, periodically reduces the level of commercial activity. This may have been the case during the last few years of the eighteenth century.

Having contacted first the governor and then the two chiefs by messenger, the French are taken to a dilapidated residence, which they are allowed to use as their quarters. They are then separately visited by attendants of all kinds of officials and notables (tant du pacha que des ayans). The next morning they send timepieces in the customary manner (alaturka) to the two chiefs and coffee and sugar to other officials, the pasha, the kadı, and the janissary agha. After these preliminaries, they proceed to visit the principals (les grands), first the two chiefs in turn and then the pasha. The first chief, Memiş Agha, receives them with gravity, serves them coffee, and offers them pipes. He asks why the French have abolished all the churches in France. When they reply that religion is free in their country, so that he can himself come and pray in a mosque if he likes, he only smiles. After a quarter of an hour, he says there are no wild plants at Trabzon (that is, in the town itself), but he would send them with an escort of horsemen into his own lands at a distance of thirty leagues, that is, about one hundred kilometers. Refusing his offer, saying they fear the Laz, the French take their leave and visit the second chief, Osman Agha. The latter has a more agreeable countenance and makes them more at ease. He recommends they look for plants in his territories at a distance of six leagues, that is, about twenty kilometers, and he offers to take them there himself. Again they refuse his assistance, but they do later make an excursion to his lands (to the south of town along the trade route). Taking their leave, the French next pay a visit to the pasha. They are well received (avec beaucoup dʼaménité), but the governor does not offer them a full reception, withholding pipes, since they lack any official diplomatic capacity. Beauchamp here explains they had not requested appointment as official consuls for fear this might infuriate the Laz, (p.192) so the imperial decree given them describes them only as travelers.15 Nonetheless, in the evening the pasha sends them musicians who play for them in their lodgings. Beauchamp and his companions do not like the music, but they are reassured by the pasha's attentiveness.

This last section of Beauchamp's observations is rich in clues to the relationship of officials and nonofficials as competing sovereign powers. The French are received by all three principals (les grands) in an almost identical fashion. They are visited by representatives of all three. They are obliged to send presents to all three. They are invited by all three to a social occasion where they meet, share refreshments, and converse with one another. On the other hand, the reception of the governor follows ceremony and protocol, while the receptions of the two chiefs are more informal. For example, the governor is referred to only by his title while the two chiefs are known by their first names. The governor withholds pipes since the French lack diplomatic standing, but the chiefs offer them coffee and pipes. The governor has the means to embellish his reception of official visitors with an elaborate table and skilled musicians in the style of the court. The two chiefs are content to meet their visitors, offer refreshment, and engage in conversation. All three receive the French in accordance with a discipline of an interpersonal association. In the instance of the governor, this discipline has been formalized in accordance with the rules and aesthetics of the imperial court. In the instance of the two chiefs, the discipline is less adorned and more simply expressed. The logic of a sovereign power based on interpersonal association is the same for each, but it is expressed in two different registers.16

After their meetings with the two chiefs and the pasha, the French visit the chief judge (kadı) and the military commander (yeniçeri ağası). The military commander has been posted to the town by the central government and has no connection with the two chiefs, even though the latter are associated with janissary-like militias and regiments. He speaks at length about the lack of authority of the pasha and himself in the city. He hopes (p.193) that one day the pasha of Erzurum might come and take the heads of the two chiefs. The military commander offers the French his house and his garden, but they refuse, even though they are so badly quartered. They fear a close association with him might alienate the “rebels” of whom they believe themselves in need. Nonetheless, the French find the military commander cheerful and engaging, “without any of the Oriental gravity of his nation.” Here Beauchamp touches on the tendency of foreigners to miss the principle of sociability underlying official procedures. The military commander has chosen to host the French as his personal guests, rather than to treat them as visiting officials. His behavior therefore illustrates a discipline of interpersonal association in its register of gaiety and warmth, rather than protocol and ceremony.

The Structure of Political Authority in the Capital

In the summer of 1796, Beauchamp had encountered the pattern of divided political authority characteristic of the later period of decentralization. There were two kinds of sovereign power. That of the provincial governor appeared to represent state institutions and organizations. That of local elites appeared to rely on a local base of allies and supporters. But Beauchamp, and the other western Europeans visitors who followed him, could not so easily perceive the basic similarity and close relationship of the two kinds of authority.

On the one hand, the political authority of high state officials was primarily based on their position in the state system. The provincial governor, for example, was the head of a more or less effective centralized bureaucracy composed of military and judicial officials. He had at his command officers and soldiers from the central army and, perhaps as well, some private officers and troops. He had at his disposal funds that were raised by tax collections, not only from the eastern coastal region, but also from farms and estates outside the province of Trabzon. At the same time, his position in the state system had a social component that was just as important, perhaps even more important, than its bureaucratic dimension. But this social component involved the provincial governor's contacts with other state officials in other parts of the Empire, outside the province of Trabzon. His household was organized in accordance with imperial ceremony and protocol. His staff and servants were recruited and trained in accordance with official thinking and practice. Like other members of the official class, he might move his household, his family, servants, and staff, from town to town or from region to region. In this respect, his political authority was (p.194) not directly dependent on his position and influence in the social networks of the inhabitants of Trabzon (even if some of its local elites were his allies and others were his enemies). Instead, he was more directly dependent on his position and influence among members of the imperial official class, such as other governors and sub-governors in other provinces, or the highest officials of the palace in Istanbul. Accordingly, the souring of his social standing in official circles could lead to his immediate downfall, while a serious revolt of the local elites in the coastal districts could drive him from the capital but not deprive him of the provincial governorship.

On the other hand, the political authority of local elites, such as the two chiefs of the town, was primarily dependent on their local position and influence in some specific territory of the eastern coastal region. The two chiefs lived in large mansions and had large households that were functionally equivalent to those of state officials (see fig. 8). They even had staffs and servants who performed governmental functions, legally or illegally, just like the staffs and servants of state officials. So it was that they had the capacity to displace or replace state officials and govern districts in their stead. But the households of local elites were otherwise not organized in accordance with imperial protocol and ceremony, and their personal dependents and armed supporters were not recruited or trained in accordance with official thinking and practice. Rather, the local elites were creatures of a system of leaders and followers that was based on a discipline of interpersonal association. They were therefore dependent on their social networks among the inhabitants of a particular place somewhere in the eastern coastal region. They were Trabzonlus, not Ottomans, and by that fact they did not move in official circles. Nonetheless, they were able to defy, if not defeat, the provincial governor by mobilizing large numbers of men in arms because of their place in a regional social oligarchy that composed a major fraction of the rural population. When they lost favor with the provincial governor, this might have no effect whatsoever on their position and influence so long as they retained the support of clients, friends, partners, and allies.

For a century, from 1740 to 1840, these two kinds of political authority, one official and the other nonofficial, confronted one another in the town of Trabzon. The relationship of the provincial governor to the two chiefs of the town was not institutionalized but the subject of negotiation and renegotiation. In 1796, the two chiefs of the town had assumed authority ([ils sʼétaient] emparé de lʼautorité) from the provincial governor, reducing him to a mere symbol of the state system. In 1803, the two chiefs of the town (p.195)

A State SocietyState Officials and Local Elites

Figure 8. A mansion (early to mid-nineteenth century).

were included in the official receptions of the provincial governor but were not allowed to speak.17 In 1827, the two chiefs of the town had not been granted any official recognition by the provincial governor and were excluded entirely from his official receptions.18

During some periods, either state officials or local elites prevailed over the other for a period of time. When the provincial governor was in a much stronger position than the chiefs were, he was able to force one or both of them to abandon the city altogether, exiling all their dependents and supporters to one of the outlying coastal districts.19 When the two chiefs were in a much stronger position than the provincial governor was, they might force him to take refuge in the citadel, or even to abandon the capital or province altogether.20 Still other kinds of alignments occurred when no party was in a dominant position. During periods of political crisis, for example, the relationships of the governor and the two chiefs were entirely fluid, (p.196) changing from month to month, if not from week to week. Sometimes the governor allied himself with one of the chiefs against the other, and then a short time later allied himself with his former enemy against his former ally. Sometimes the two chiefs joined together and called in reinforcements from their friends and partners in the countryside in order to force concessions from the provincial governor. Sometimes the governor called on allies among the local elites in the outlying coastal districts to force the compliance of one or both of the chiefs.

So the government was divided between state officials and local elites during the later period of decentralization. And yet this division cannot be understood as a centralized “state system” ranged against a localized “social system,” since the latter was both structurally and functionally related to the former. All leading individuals with armed followings, whether or not they held official appointments, were essential to the carrying out of the most elementary functions of the provincial government. So state officials were dependent on the regional social oligarchy. On the other hand, local elites were always interested in penetrating the state system in order to consolidate and legitimize their political authority. So the local elites were dependent on the imperial system.

During the later period of decentralization, a few of the local elites of Trabzon gained entry into the circles of state officials, acquiring high titles and offices and cultivating social networks that reached up into the palace.21 The two chiefs whom Beauchamp accords the title “ayan” appear not to have held high titles and offices at the moment of his visit.22 The term “notables” (âyan) referred generally to persons of wealth and influence in a town or district, but it also designated a specific, officially recognized, social position. On the other hand, the term also referred to specific leading individuals who had been appointed as chief notable (âyan başı) by virtue (p.197) of their capacity to represent all the notables of a village, town, or area. The chief notable was not a state official, but he did assist in the carrying out of certain governmental functions.23

The principals among the local elites in the town of Trabzon and in the outlying coastal districts were often so appointed.24 Otherwise, the two chiefs in the town sometimes acquired titles and offices usually reserved for state officials, such as district governor (mütesellim), military commander (kaymakam), military general (paşa), and provincial governor (paşa, miri mîram).25 It was also the case that the most prominent of the local elites outside the provincial capital sometimes held such titles and offices, and probably did so on the occasion of the French expedition. The provincial governor, or his superiors in Istanbul, granted such official titles and offices in response to shows of force, as a means of mollifying or manipulating troublemakers. This being the case, it is not surprising that leading individuals with armed followings moved into state offices with greater frequency during periods of political crisis. Correspondingly, they were less successful in retaining such appointments during periods when the provincial governor was in a position to confront them. A strong provincial governor would dismiss those local elites who held state offices and replace them with as many of his own personal associates as possible.26 Still, even the strongest provincial governors never alienated the local elites entirely from the state system but merely curbed the worst of their illegal practices and scaled back their official titles and offices, usually by relegating them to the position of chief notable.

(p.198) Citizen Beauchamp and the Coastal Districts

With the benefit of these summary conclusions, I shall now return to Beauchamp's account in order to consider what his observations tell us about the relationship of the provincial government to a regional social oligarchy composed of local elites with armed followings. From his remarks, we can glimpse a pattern of vertical and horizontal alliances and oppositions.27

According to Beauchamp, the two chiefs, Memiş Agha and Osman Agha, were not natives of the town. They hailed instead from outlying rural areas of the province of Trabzon.28 So the provincial capital had been invaded and occupied by leading individuals with armed followings who came from very different parts of the coastal region. This was indeed the “normal” situation. More or less the same pattern appears to have prevailed during the entire period of decentralization.

Why did some of the local elites from distant parts of the province set themselves up in the capital? How were they positioned among the local elites of their homelands? Each of these questions points toward a pattern of alliances among local elites who were sometimes attempting to stabilize and sometimes attempting to destabilize the provincial capital.

From the clues Beauchamp gives us, checked against other sources, we can assess the position of each of the two chiefs in these alliances. Following is my summary of the evidence about each of them.

The chief who was known as Osman Agha most likely came from the rural mountain areas to the south of the provincial capital. Later, the French expedition proceeds in this direction and visits an Orthodox convent that was said to be situated in his territory. This means that the homeland of the chief is in the vicinity of the principal route and pass that link the anchorages of the town with the major trade routes of the interior plateau. Thus we can conclude that Osman Agha was associated with the central areas of the province where a substantial Orthodox population remained in place.29

(p.199) The chief who was known as Memiş Agha most likely came from, or was associated with, the vicinity of Rize. This would fit the distance to his lands, his offer of an escort on horseback to reach them, his interest in questions of church and state, and the association of his homeland with the Laz.30 If this is correct, Memiş Agha was from the local elites who were associated with the eastern districts, each of which enjoyed its own combination of ports, routes, and passes linking with the major trade routes of the interior plateau.31

These inferences are highly probable, even if not completely certain. And in any case, even if not entirely correct, they conform in their pattern to circumstances that prevailed in the town of Trabzon both before and after Beauchamp's visit.

During much of the period of decentralization, one of the factions in the town was more or less consistently linked with the Tuzcuoğlu family line of Rize. The Tuzcuoğlu coalition was largely composed of a coalition of local elites from districts beyond the central district of Trabzon, in particular, the districts of Rize, Of, and Sürmene. This coalition was usually opposed (p.200) to the pasha of Trabzon. The other faction in the town was more or less linked with a coalition of local elites from the immediate vicinity of Trabzon. Often led by a representative of the Şatıroğlu family line, this coalition was usually allied with the pasha of Trabzon. Given the distribution of sovereign power during the period of decentralization, this pattern makes perfect sense.32

If the passage of commerce through the town of Trabzon was disrupted, then the transit trade was diverted to other land and sea routes of the coastal region. This meant that civil disorders in the town of Trabzon could have a direct effect on the balance of power between state officials and local elites, as well as between different coalitions of local elites. For if trade declined in the town of Trabzon, both the pasha of Trabzon and the local elites in the vicinity of the town were weakened by a fall in tax receipts. And when trade declined in Trabzon, the local elites of the outlying coastal districts were strengthened since commerce was diverted to the outlying ports, markets, routes, and passes, resulting in a rise in tax receipts.

In general, it was the local elites of Rize, Of, and Sürmene who had the most to gain from disruption of commerce in the capital, given the proximity of their transit valleys to the land routes of the interior highlands (see map 2). Thus the pasha of Trabzon, as well as the local elites in the vicinity, such as the Şatıroğlu family line, had a common (but not identical) interest in peace in the town. And the local elites of the outlying coastal districts, but especially the Tuzcuoğlu family line and its backers in Rize, Of, and Sürmene, had no compelling interest in peace in the town. That is to say, there was peace in the town of Trabzon only if the provincial governor struck a partnership with the Şatıroğlu family line in central Trabzon and at the same time made concessions to the Tuzcuoğlu family line in Rize, Of, and Sürmene.

Otherwise, civil disorder in the provincial capital increased or declined in accordance with different strategic combinations of officials and nonofficials.33 The provincial governor might ally himself with the local elites of (p.201) the central districts, a common circumstance that usually kept peace in the town. If the local elites of the central districts became too strong, however, he might ally himself with the local elites of the outlying districts, a less common circumstance. On the other hand, the local elites of both the central and outlying districts sometimes joined together to foment civil disorders in order to weaken a strong provincial governor. And occasionally, the central and outlying elites combined to keep peace in the town of Trabzon for their mutual benefit, holding the provincial governor as their virtual hostage. The provincial governor might also face enemies other than the local elites of the coastal region. For if the provincial governor succeeded in gaining the upper hand over the local elites, usually by bringing in reinforcements from outside the province, the palace might begin to take steps to drive him from office, lest he use his position of strength in the coastal region to force concessions from the central government.

The situation in the provincial capital, as I have described it, can be more or less exactly correlated with the onset of the period of decentralization. The evidence for this appears in Peysonnel's account of commercial conditions along the Black Sea littoral. In a site-by-site description of the commerce of the eastern coastal region, Peysonnel writes:

The town of Trabzon was once much more flourishing than it is today [text revised and completed in 1762]. Internal warfare caused by the old quarrels of the Twenty-fifth and Sixty-fourth Regiments of Janissaries has reduced this town to the most deplorable condition. In succession Ömer Pasha Üçüncüoğlu [governor of Trabzon 1741–45] and Ali Pasha Hekimoğlu [governor of Trabzon 1751–54] were successively able to pacify these troubles by the most terrifying kind of examples and the severest kind of discipline; but in 1758 and 1759 the disorders began once again worse than ever to the point that the commerce of this place has been completely disrupted. The inhabitants did not dare leave their houses, grass was growing in the streets and markets, and a large number of the inhabitants, especially the reayas [here, the Christian population], were forced to abandon the town, and to go in search of tranquility and security at Jaffa and in other places.34

As we know from other sources, the “janissary regiments” that are mentioned in the quote were associated with the aghas and agha-families of the coastal districts, and their membership consisted of local residents who (p.202) were associated with the alliances and coalitions of the aghas and agha-families.35

Understood this way, Peysonnel's account links the rise of lower military officers and soldiers in the coastal districts, as established in the previous chapter for the district of Of, with the onset of civil disorders in the provincial capital. Early in the period of decentralization, before local elites and state officials had fully worked out the arrangements of their “ordered anarchy,” commercial activity had declined and grass grew in the streets of the provincial capital. Even at this early date, however, the misfortunes of Trabzon were the basis of prosperity in Rize. Peysonnel writes, “All the maritime commerce of the province of Trabzon takes place at Rize when the internal quarrels are ravaging the former principal city. If duty is paid at Rize, it counts at Trabzon, and if it is paid at Trabzon, it counts at Rize.”36 Peysonnel duly informs his merchant audience that their duty would “count” at either Rize or Trabzon, presumably as far as the palace in Istanbul was concerned. Locally, however, it did not “count” for the same individuals and groupings when it was collected at one or the other of the two ports. For during this same period, the local elites of the coastal districts often refused to forward receipts to state officials in the provincial capital.

With this understanding of the background of civil disorders in the provincial capital, we can now piece together a clearer picture of the local elites in the outlying coastal districts.

The Structure of Political Authority in the Coastal Districts

Just how many of the local elites, that is, how many aghas living in mansions, representing family lines, and backed by armed followings, were to be found in the coastal districts of Trabzon ? On the occasion of the call-out for troops in 1788/1202, Ottoman officials cited twenty-six personal or family names in sixteen coastal districts, almost all of them in the vicinity of Trabzon and further east to Hopa.37 On the occasion of the call-out for troops in 1789/1204, the officials cited more than forty personal or family (p.203) names in the vicinity of Trabzon and further east to Hopa.38 During a political crisis in the summer of 1807, Dupré despaired that “the government of the province was in the hands of fifty despots … who did not even listen to the sovereign.”39 When Osman Pasha had momentarily pacified the local elites in 1831, Fontanier listed seven family names of chiefs as he (erroneously) declared the province of Trabzon “disencumbered of that crowd of little despots.”40

The common denominator of each of these assessments is an assumption that one, two, or three leading individuals are to be found in each of about sixteen districts; however, these one, two, or three were simply the principals among the local elites whom the central government had appointed as their intermediaries. In other words, they were the “chief notables” among still other “notables” much like them. So provincial state officials and western European consuls recognized only a fraction of the aghas, mansions, family lines, and followings in each of the coastal districts. Nonetheless, provincial state officials, if not the western European consuls, were fully aware that the principals represented social networks that reached out “by twig and branch” into the rural societies of the coastal districts.41 Taken altogether, some twenty-five to fifty “little despots” represented but the uppermost, visible tier of a regional social oligarchy that included a substantial segment of the population.

The accounts of my interlocutors in the district of Of confirm that a segment of the local elites was more or less invisible to the residents of the provincial capital. Official documents, consular reports, and travel narratives usually don't mention more than two or three family lines in the district, but there were far more than two or three aghas from agha-families in its two valley-systems.42 As we have seen, my interlocutors were able to list twenty-two aghas and agha-families of the nineteenth century and sort them according to their affiliation with the Five or the Twenty-five Party.43 (p.204) Each of the twenty-two aghas and agha-families were also linked by kinship, friendship, and partnership with other lesser and greater individuals from other family lines.44

For example, the author of a family memoir (“Fettahoğullarının Tarihi”), probably written in the early twentieth century, begins by listing those family lines that had been comrades of his family line during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. He mentions two patronymic groups that had been the principals of the Twenty-five Party (Muradoğlu and the Cansızoğlu), but he also mentions six other patronymic groups that my interlocutors did not include among the aghas and agha-families of either party. This implies that each agha and agha-family would have been associated with still other individuals and families. Taking this into account, one reaches the conclusion that social networks in the district of Of alone included thousands of individuals who hailed from scores of families. By analogy, one could also reasonably conclude that social networks in the old province of Trabzon included tens of thousands of individuals and hundreds of families.45 These conclusions are consistent with the official call-outs that summoned the most prominent of the local elites to assemble from one to two hundred men each. They are consistent as well with consular reports that describe occasions when coalitions of local elites mobilized ten to twenty thousand men in arms in order to set siege to the provincial capital.

(p.205) The existence of an extensive regional social oligarchy, comprising a major fraction of the population, may not have had its exact counterpart elsewhere in Asia Minor. The dissemination of a tactic of sovereign power had occurred everywhere in the core Ottoman provinces, but it followed a specific course with specific results in the province of Trabzon. First of all, and most importantly, the inhabitants of the coastal region were inclined to become participants in the imperial system by reason of both their ecology and history (see chap. 3). In addition to this, there was a relative absence of towns and estates, and hence wealthy merchants and magnates who might succeed in centralizing political authority. This entailed the proliferation of vertical and horizontal cleavages of political authority, but also, in response to this, the elaboration of district alliances and coastal coalitions. A different leading individual with an armed following was associated with virtually every point in the landscape that was of some strategic importance (anchorages, crossroads, passes). However, no local leading individual with an armed following was able to stand alone by virtue of the importance of transport and commerce for all the local economies. Every local leading individual with an armed following therefore participated in social networks, district alliances, and coastal coalitions. These circumstances explain why French consuls and Ottoman officials could look upon the eastern coastal districts of the period of decentralization with such contradictory expectations. The former could not “imagine a more complete anarchy,” but the latter could hope to call out its inhabitants for mass participation in imperial campaigns.46

Combining the evidence from consular reports, official documents, and fieldwork, the distribution of sovereign power in the coastal districts can be spelled out in terms of the following patterns:47

  1. 1. Commercial Centers and Leading Individuals. Wherever economic activity was concentrated, there one also found a leading individual with an armed following. An anchorage associated with sea or land routes, a market center in a densely settled patch of a coastal valley, or a choke point through which the movement of people and goods were funneled would all (p.206) be associated with a kind of local “government,” consisting of a leading individual, a large residence, a household organization, a family line, and an associated body of allies and followers. The concentration of trade, manufactures, and farming meant that large numbers of people had a common interest in security. They were inclined, if not obliged, to submit to a leader with a following who collected revenues “off the top” (as some combination of goods, services, and cash) in return for his protection.

  2. 2. The Hierarchy of Commercial Centers. The centers of economic activity in the province of Trabzon varied widely in their commercial function and position. For example, the more important markets in the coastal valleys were located near transit points where overseas and overland routes intersected, near areas of high population density and more productive agriculture, or near choke points that funneled the movement of people and goods through the precipitous terrain. Some centers of economic activity were therefore “feeders” to others that were “collectors.” The feeder markets were always destined to remain byways of regional trade, manufactures, and produce, but some of the collector markets had the potential to emerge as the principal emporia of the coastal region.

  3. 3. Coordinated Hierarchy of Authority and Commerce. The relative economic importance of commercial centers was correlated with the relative eminence of its associated leading individual with an armed following. For local elites (as opposed to state officials), the function and position of the commercial center may have been more important than the absolute volume of trade. For example, an individual with a following who controlled a major “collector” market in a coastal valley was in a position to dominate other individuals with followings who dominated its “feeder” markets. In this fashion, a hierarchy of leading individuals reflected a hierarchy of collector and feeder markets. However, there was never one perfectly integrated politico-economic hierarchy either at the level of the district valleys or at the level of the provincial region. Rather, the precise character of the politico-economic hierarchies of valleys and regions was the focus of some degree of factional competition, both locally and regionally.

Leading individuals with armed followers arose from within the state system wherever there was commercial activity, compromising centralized government. But this disintegrative principle was countered by an integrative principle. A hierarchy of local elites tended to crystallize around any hierarchy of commercial centers. The interdependency of authority and commerce explains the alignments of local elites in the coastal districts. Each transit valley was potentially a single politico-economic hierarchy. Its (p.207) villagers followed a transhumant way of life that required the periodic movement of families and herds from the lower coastal foothills to the upper mountain pastures. They also needed to move products and manufactures, both exports and imports, through the valley from coast to mountains. Thus the local elites of a transit valley (who were associated with its anchorages, markets, roads, and passes) all had an interest in the secure movement of both people and goods from the shoreline to the highlands. On the other hand, the local elites of neighboring transit valleys did not necessarily share the same interests and so might be competitors.

The district of Of illustrates such patterns of intravalley organization and intervalley competition. There were two major valley systems in the district of Of. An agha of the Muradoğlu led a “party” that prevailed in the eastern valley, and an agha of the Selimoğlu led another “party” that prevailed in the western valley. While each of the two parties (fırka) appears to have dominated one of the transit valleys, they were also rivals. Furthermore, the membership of the Five and Twenty-five parties was not completely segregated territorially but interspersed between the two valleys, both in the lowlands and in the highlands. For many decades, the local elites of the district of Of were divided by disputes over the location of the principal market near the shoreline. At the same time, by virtue of their local rivalry, they each allied themselves with different groups of local elites in districts to the east and west.48

In the instance of some of the principal transit valleys, their anchorages, roads, and passes also constituted an attractive transport system for overseas and overland commerce. This provided yet another incentive for local elites to form district alliances among themselves and cultivate social networks based on hospitality, friendship, partnership, and intermarriage. On the other hand, the diversity of the trade, craft, manufactures, and cash crops did not match up in any one way with the multiplicity of anchorages, markets, routes, and passes in the coastal districts. Different combinations of political authority and commercial activity were always possible at both the district and the regional levels. The bouts of civil disorder, if not civil war, among the local elites of the coastal region were generally struggles to (p.208) establish one rather than another of these politico-economic hierarchies. If the local elites might squabble among themselves over such issues, so they might also squabble with state officials. As we shall see later, the most serious revolts of coastal coalitions were actually challenges to the politico-economic hierarchy associated with the provincial government.

For the reasons I have just mentioned, state officials were not neutral parties in the rivalries of local elites in the districts. On one occasion they might have an interest in supporting one alliance of local elites at the expense of their competitors, and then on a later occasion supporting the second at the expense of the first. On the other hand, state officials did not invariably adopt a policy of divide and rule. They more typically took steps to consolidate the authority of one particular individual in this or that valley. For example, one of the local elites was usually able to dominate the entry point of the transit valley near the coastline where a major market was typically located. The leading individuals in such strategic locations had a better chance of being appointed chief notable, if not district governor, and thereby becoming preeminent among the local elites of a transit valley. And once having become preeminent, they also had a better chance of perpetuating their family line so that their descendants would also be appointed chief notable. This appears to have been the case in the instance of the aghas of the Selimoğlu family, who were settled at a choke point of the western valley and then later at its coastal entry point.

Alternatively, the provincial governor might attempt to gain control of or manipulate an alliance of local elites by inserting one of his own followers at the entry point of a transit valley and confirming him as chief notable or district governor. The local elites of the transit valley might then be obliged to recognize him as the principal representative of their alliance by virtue of his occupation of an anchorage, market, route, or pass of strategic importance for the transit valley. It is probably by just such an appointment that İsmail Agha Muradoğlu set down a family line in the district of Of during the second decade of the nineteenth century. He appeared out of nowhere. He was of Kurdish origin and had no family line. But within a few years he had built an immense mansion to rival that of any state official in the most productive agricultural area of the district.49 It was aghas of the Selimoğlu type and Muradoğlu type whose family names appear in official documents and consular reports. They entered the field of vision of state officials and foreign consuls in different ways, either by cashing in on their (p.209) local position to enter the state system or by cashing in on the state system to establish a local position.

After the provincial governor had dispatched one of his own personal followers to one of the coastal districts (as perhaps in the case of İsmail Agha Muradoğlu), he might discover some years later that this person had himself risen to a position among local elites and so refused to submit to the governor's authority and could not be recalled.50 The former protégé would have built a mansion, enlarged his household, founded a family line, and assembled a following. So the local elites were not a fixed and invariant class. Some had become deeply entrenched in district social networks during several generations of succession. Others coupled their sponsorship from a provincial governor with efforts to establish themselves by building a following and extending their associations within the district. The local elites always included both newcomers and long-time residents since state officials planted their protégés in the coastal districts.

The provincial governor could never know exactly in what measure his appointed clients in the coastal districts, or even his own subordinates in Trabzon itself, had been drawn into the local networks of friendship, marriage, partnership, and alliance in the coastal districts. For example, Fontanier reports that one of the local elites in Sürmene, having declared his support for the provincial governor, secretly dispatched reinforcements to assist an ally who had remained in a state of revolt against the provincial governor. He writes, “They had sent proposals for accommodating the pasha, made magnificent promises of submission to him, and assured him that they would pay their taxes. At the same time, they placed on the very boat that was to carry these dispatches some fifteen men under the command of the nephew of their agha who were intending to go to the assistance of the chief who was in revolt.”51 Then on another occasion, also during the “strong” governorship of Osman Pasha, British consul Guarracino described how government troops, dispatched to suppress rebels in one of the coastal districts, dutifully engaged them in what was merely a mock battle, since they were in fact their friends and allies:

Uzunoglu Mehmet Agha, the commander of Osman Pasha's troops, came to Miruvet; it was agreed between Kior Hussein Bey and Uzunoglu (p.210) that a feigned engagement from the opposite bank of the river should take place, but that neither party should direct their fire on their opponents. The men maintained a constant fire for two days, and of course without a shot taking effect. The troops, who were apparently enemies during the day, crossed the river in boats in the night, and feasted together.52

There was an inescapable, decentralizing logic to a tactic of sovereign power based on interpersonal association. The provincial governor had his own circle of dependents and followers in the imperial rather than the local style. He could project his political authority by sending out a close friend or partner into the coastal districts. But once the latter found himself in the milieu of the countryside rather than the capital, he transformed himself from state official into one of the local elites.

A Single Government of State Officials and Local Elites

My analysis has examined the cleavages between state officials and local elites, as well as among the local elites themselves. This puts a spotlight on the instability of the structure of political authority. Similarly, the available sources, consular reports, travel accounts, official documents, and local traditions, all emphasize moments of crisis, since periods of peace were deemed less interesting and significant. So it is necessary to recall that state officials and local elites sometimes, if not usually, worked together for months, if not for years, without coming into conflict. There were two different situations in which state officials and local elites tended to cooperate. A strong provincial governor, one who was able to draw on manpower and resources from outside the eastern coastal region, was able to intimidate the local elites. For example, he might make examples of a few of the aghas and ayans, burning their markets or mansions or even arresting or executing them. The other aghas and ayans would then fall into line, declaring their loyalty and obedience to the governor and taking their places in the provincial government as intermediaries and assistants. Alternatively, a provincial governor who lacked manpower and resources could establish a working relationship with the local elites. For example, he would make concessions to the most powerful of the local elites in order to establish a negotiated peace. Then, relying on the assistance of the latter, he could move against (p.211) any of the less powerful of the local elites who opposed the terms of the negotiated peace. From the comments of Dupré, it could be inferred that provincial governors sometimes assumed office by the first technique and then gradually shifted to the second technique as they became more experienced.

Given the means by which provincial governors imposed or negotiated peace, it should come as no surprise that the prospect of the dismissal, resignation, disgrace, flight, or death of a provincial governor usually entailed a period of civil disorder at least until the arrival of his successor. On such occasions, the cleavages among state officials and local elites came out into the open. Accordingly, conditions in Trabzon were also directly affected by instability in the central government. For example, a strong provincial governor was in place when Consul Dupré first took up his post, but some years later political crises in Istanbul began to have repercussions in Trabzon. From 1807 to 1811, nine different individuals served as provincial governor, resulting in recurrent episodes of civil disorder in the town.53 Consul Dupré sometimes wrote with desperation:

The two parties [of derebeys] who were joined in an alliance are again in arms and the city is in a state of civil war.… There is veritable anarchy in the city. [The governor] Ahmet Pasha is powerless. The undisciplined troops of [Osman Agha] Şatıroğlu commit disorders, brigandage, thefts, assassinations with impunity.54 (June 6, 1807)

Civil war continues in the country and rekindles daily more and more. It was formerly only in the neighboring villages, but with the arrival of reinforcements for Memiş Agha [Kalcıoğlu] from [Memiş Agha] Tuzcuoğlu [of Rize], it is now occurring in the city itself.55 (Aug. 20, 1808)

Even so, one has to recall that civil disorder in Trabzon did not necessarily mean that there was also civil disorder in all or even most of the outlying coastal districts. Indeed, trouble in Trabzon was sometimes the sign of peace in the outlying coastal districts, just as peace in Trabzon was sometimes the sign of trouble in the outlying coastal districts. The disintegrative effects of the decentralization of sovereign power were countered by the integrative effects of the existence of a state society counterpoised to the state bureaucracy.

The other factor to bear in mind is the sometimes-gratuitous character of civil disorders. Oftentimes, they were merely a show of force not unlike (p.212) the marriage celebrations that I witnessed in the district of Of during the 1960s. There was a great deal of gunfire, but it might be no more than a demonstration of numbers and firepower rather than actual combat. Fontanier suggests as much by his description of the town of Trabzon in 1827. At the time, Osman Pasha Hazinedaroğlu had just assumed the provincial governorship only months after the abolition of the old janissary institution:

It is difficult to imagine a more complete anarchy. In the town itself, there are fortresses that belong to private parties who make war on one another. For several days while this is going on, one hears nothing but rifle shots as they fire from one house to the other. It is true that these fights are more noisy than murderous because at the conclusion of a battle it is often the case that no one has been killed or even wounded. A few days after my departure, I was told that the entire population had taken up arms and set siege to the pasha in his fortified mansion. Then, weary of war, they had allowed him to re-assume his position of authority. As a result of this state of affairs—that the inhabitants have always to be in arms—the collection of taxes is difficult, and not in correspondence with the fertility of the soil or the variety of its productions.56

This point having been made, it must also be said that there were also episodes of serious destruction and suffering. Such episodes generally occurred when a provincial governor undertook to alter the balance of power between state officials and local elites.57 There are two late examples. Süleyman Pasha Hazinedaroğlu (1811–18) assumed the provincial governorship with the intention of implementing the so-called “New Order” (Nizam-i Cedid).58 This measure entailed the organization of a new central army and hence the weakening of the old central army, as represented by the janissary (p.213) institution. Before he left office, the aghas and ayans of the outlying coastal districts had sacked the suburbs of the capital, and the government had responded by dispatching tens of thousands of troops for the invasion and occupation of the district of Of.59 Ten years later, Osman Pasha Hazinedaroğlu (1827–42) assumed the provincial governorship just after the abolition of the janissary institution. He then proceeded to carry out a program of pacifying the aghas and ayans, intending to reduce their military capacities. Once again, the aghas and ayans set siege to the capital, and in response, the government flooded the district of Of with tens of thousands of troops.

I shall conclude by comparing and contrasting three prominent individuals as examples of the relationship of state officials and local elites. The three examples will also make it possible to diagram a “tiered” state society consisting of higher and lower state officials merging and combining with greater and lesser local elites.

State Officials and Local Elites

Memiş Agha Tuzcuoğlu of Rize, Osman Agha Şatıroğlu of Trabzon, and Süleyman Pasha Hazinedaroğlu of Canık were the principal figures in a crisis of political authority in the province of Trabzon (1814–17). Each of these individuals was from a family of provincial state officials. Each of them had a regional base that provided him with resources in the form of cash income and armed followers. Each of them came to serve as a district governor and aspire to powers equivalent to a provincial governor. All three were rivals, and two became bitter enemies.

Memiş Agha Tuzcuoğlu and the Regional Elite

Memiş Agha Tuzcuoğlu is said to have been born in the eastern coastal region sometime during the early eighteenth century, perhaps as early as the year 1715. His father was one of the “notables” (eşraf) of Rize, where he was perhaps engaged in trade. One of his uncles held the rank of pasha and served as provincial governor of Erzurum.60 By the 1780s, Memiş Agha (p.214) had risen to prominence in the coastal districts of the eastern province of Trabzon by a combination of government, financial, and commercial activities. He was somehow involved with the manufacturing and shipping of flax and linen, which had become an important industry in the vicinity of Rize.61 He advanced villagers cash for their future produce so that they might be able to make tax payments. He collected funds to be forwarded as tax receipts to the provincial governor, taking some varying share for himself in proportion to his own position of strength.62 He was then all at once a social oligarch, an entrepreneur, a moneylender, a tax-collector, and, eventually, a provincial state official.

By no later than 1788, Memiş Agha was regularly serving as chief notable, if not district governor, of Rize. This means he was a principal figure among the local elites of the eastern province of Trabzon by this date. Just a few years later, he held an imperial rank commonly granted to eminent provincial notables, gate-keeper (kapıcıbaşı). Afterward, he also occasionally served as military commander (kaymakam) of Rize and castle-keeper (muhafaza) of Faş.63 By the 1800s, if not earlier, he was the leader of a coastal coalition that included aghas and ayans distributed across the eastern coastal districts.64 The coastal coalition in question consisted of what I (p.215) have termed a hierarchy of authority and commerce, centered on the districts of Rize, Of, and Sürmene and controlling the transit trade from the coast to the interior.65

From 1814 to 1817, he had raised the ayans and aghas of the coastal districts of Rize, Of, and Sürmene in revolt against the provincial governor, Süleyman Pasha Hazinedaroğlu. At the time, his enemies accused him of intending to form a separate state. More probably, he was hoping to maintain, if not enhance, his prerogatives and privileges within the imperial system, perhaps by establishing himself as a provincial governor of a separate “ province of Rize.”66

I shall describe Memiş Agha as one of the “regional elite,” thereby distinguishing him from lesser local elites of the coastal districts. I use this term to designate the limited number of local elites who held higher state appointments and imperial ranks. There would probably have been somewhere between twenty and fifty representatives of such a regional elite at any one time.

Süleyman Pasha Hazinedaroğlu and the Imperial Elite

Süleyman Pasha Hazinedaroğlu was not a native of Trabzon, and he did not reside there until later in his career. According to an undocumented tradition, he came from an old family line that had long been associated with the western province of Canık.67 However, his position in the western coastal region was not comparable to the regional elite of the province of Trabzon. He was instead the owner of vast estates worked by sharecroppers reduced to the status of serfs.68 So he was not linked with a coalition of aghas and (p.216) ayans in any section of the coastal region, and therefore he was not dependent on the support of the population of any particular place. He controlled the lands and peoples in the province of Canık by the mechanisms of the state system rather than by a coalition of aghas and ayans. Thus, he was able to bring troops and supplies into the “ungovernable” eastern coastal region from the “governable” western coastal region.69

When Süleyman Pasha first arrived in the town of Trabzon, he held appointments as military commander of Canık and district governor of Trabzon, but he expected to be appointed provincial governor of Trabzon.70 When he rose to that position soon afterward, he did so by bidding for the office and then paying a large fee for his governmental concession. That is to say, he counted on his ability to force the local elites of the coastal region to forward tax receipts to the provincial government. This was consistent with his intention of implementing the so-called “New Order” (Nizam-i Cedid), which would have had the effect of curbing the military strength of the aghas and ayans. So Süleyman Pasha hoped to reinforce the formal state system in the province of Trabzon at the expense of its local elites, and, in particular, the coastal coalition led by Memiş Agha Tuzcuoğlu.

I shall describe Süleyman Pasha as an “imperial elite,” thereby distinguishing him from the local elites of the province of Trabzon. As such, he conducted his provincial governorship in accordance with state ceremony and protocol.71 His various households (he came to have more than one) were composed of numerous dependents, servants, and slaves, many of (p.217) whom would have been raised and trained in accordance with official conventions and procedures. He had at his side state officials and military officers who were not from Trabzon but were themselves associated with the formal state system. He was associated with still other higher state officials by kinship, friendship, and alliance.72 He was backed by a certain number of paid regular or irregular soldiers in his capital and was able to raise and transport large numbers of regular and irregular soldiers from the province of Canık.73 He joined with other high state officials to launch imperial campaigns in the Caucasus. When faced with revolts in the eastern coastal region, he was able to call on high state officials in neighboring regions, and they supported him by dispatching military reinforcements.

Given his position in the formal state system, Süleyman Pasha was not obliged to consider the tranquillity and prosperity of any particular settled population. He could afford to sacrifice the welfare of the inhabitants of the province of Trabzon in the interest of mobilizing troops and requisitioning supplies for military campaigns.74 Unlike the local elites, he therefore enjoyed the advantage of a relative freedom from any sympathy for, or loyalty to, a land or a people. At the same time, he appears to have had a money problem, understandably so since his governorship relied on payment for services rather than the support of a circle of aghas and ayans. He had been forced at some time to borrow funds from Memiş Agha Tuzcuoğlu. So he (p.218) was indebted to a man who should have been his subordinate, and, as well, a subordinate who was asserting his independence by withholding tax receipts.

The Contrast Between the Imperial and Regional Elite

When Süleyman Pasha moved decisively to restrict his independence, Memiş Agha responded by raising the ayans and aghas of districts east of Trabzon in revolt (1814–17). The manner in which Süleyman Pasha was at last able to suppress this revolt serves to illustrate the uprooted and mobile character of the imperial elite as opposed to the rooted and immobile character of the regional elite.

Süleyman Pasha had long sought to obtain a warrant for the arrest and execution of his rival, but this had proven a difficult task by reason of the Rizeli's influence in palace circles.75 When the warrant was issued in 1816, Memiş Agha proceeded to march on Trabzon, occupying its suburbs with thousands of soldiers and forcing Süleyman Pasha to flee his capital.76 From this position of strength, Memiş Agha initially attracted the allegiance of still more of the ayans and aghas in various parts of the coastal regions.77

Süleyman Pasha was later able to return to Trabzon after receiving military support from other members of the imperial elite, that is to say, other high state officials with whom he had contacts. At the time, a combination of forces, supported by ships from the imperial navy, moved on the province of Trabzon from different directions. These included the armies of Ali Pasha of Kastambol [sic], Mehmet Pasha of Erzurum, the pasha of Sivas, and the military commander of Gümüşhane.78 Like Süleyman Pasha, all of these individuals were uprooted and mobile in that they commanded some considerable number of salaried and conscripted troops. As these different (p.219) armies moved on the province of Trabzon, many of the ayans and aghas, especially those in the western districts of the province, then reversed themselves, declaring their allegiance to Süleyman Pasha.

Once Süleyman Pasha had reinstalled himself in the provincial capital, he dispatched 2,500 troops to set siege to the residence of Memiş Agha Tuzcuoğlu in Rize. This led the latter to flee to Of, where he was able to find refuge among the local elites of that district. Süleyman Pasha then sent representatives to the district of Of hoping to persuade its ayans and aghas to turn over Memiş Agha. After months of fruitless negotiations, Süleyman Pasha gathered twenty-five to thirty thousand troops from the vicinity of Batum and dispatched them to the district of Of, where they engaged in a two-month battle with the local ayans and aghas. Although no eyewitness accounts of this particular invasion are available, we can reasonably assume that the troops adopted the same measures they followed on earlier and later occasions. They burned and looted mansions, shops, warehouses, and residences. They destroyed or seized crops, stores, and stock. They impressed villagers into military service, and they extorted exceptional taxes from them. In other words, Süleyman Pasha succeeded in forcing the surrender of the population by terrorizing and impoverishing them.79 Eventually the local elites and their followers submitted, and the soldiers were at last able to capture and execute Memiş Agha Tuzcuoğlu in October 1817.80

Less than six months after his victory over Memiş Agha, Süleyman Pasha fell into disgrace and a few days later suddenly died. The provisions of the “New Order” would never be implemented in the province of Trabzon, and his successor would soon face revolts by alliances of local elites in the outlying coastal districts.81

(p.220) By way of contrast with Süleyman Pasha, and the state officials who sent him reinforcements, the aghas and ayans of the province of Trabzon were rooted and immobile. They were obliged to serve the interests of extensive social networks and ensure the security of trade and commerce in the transit valleys. It is true that they favored their dependents and allies at the expense of the general population. It is also true that they were sometimes drawn into protracted and destructive conflicts with one another. Nonetheless, they did not carelessly wreak havoc on the very populations from which they drew their followings.

Memiş Agha Tuzcuoğlu exemplifies how the regional elite were also rooted and immobile since they were leaders of district networks and coastal coalitions of local elites. He had built a large mansion, founded a family line, assembled an armed following, and was able to mobilize a coastal coalition. If his household included many servants and slaves, it was not organized in the imperial manner. Removed from the context of the social networks and commercial interests of Rize, Of, and Sürmene, he would have been reduced to a figure of inconsequence.

Keeping in mind the differences between Süleyman Pasha and Memiş Agha as representatives of the “imperial” and “regional” elite, we can now turn to Osman Agha Şatıroğlu.

Osman Agha Şatıroğlu and the Local Elites of the Central Districts

Osman Agha Şatıroğlu represented the local elites in the vicinity of the town of Trabzon, just as Memiş Agha Tuzcuoğlu represented the local elites of Rize, Of, and Sürmene. They were in some respects of similar background and position, and they were even related to one another through the marriage of their children.82 On the other hand, they can be distinguished by fine differences that point to two different strategies that were adopted by the regional elite. Some (like Memiş Agha) relied on a coastal coalition of (p.221) ayans and aghas to assert themselves against state officials. Others (like Osman Agha) relied on a narrower base of ayans and aghas to vault themselves into the state system, where they formed close alliances with some but not all higher state officials.

The first members of the Şatıroğlu family line are reputed to have arrived in the coastal region at the time of Ottoman incorporation.83 Whatever the case, various members of the family line appear as prominent individuals (chief notables) and state officials (district governors) in the province by the later eighteenth century, usually in the vicinity of Trabzon or Gümüşhane.84 While members of the family line often served as state officials, they were also named as “valley lords” (derebey) and “usurpers” (mütegallibe). In all these respects, Osman Agha Şatıroğlu continued the tradition of his forebears.

Osman Agha Şatıroğlu was probably one of the chiefs of the town when Beauchamp arrived in 1796. He was most certainly among the local elites who served as state officials about a decade later. Dupré initially calls him “Osman Agha” and describes him as a “notable and derebey” who has been appointed district governor of Trabzon (1804). In later consular reports (1804–9), Dupré alternately names him as chief notable or military commander or district governor.85 The terminology of the French consul probably did not keep pace with his career. After Süleyman Pasha Hazinedaroğlu (p.222) had assumed the governorship (1810), Osman Agha attained the imperial rank of gate-keeper (kapıcıbaşı). A few years later, he appeared as one of the principal supporters of Süleyman Pasha during the revolt of Memiş Agha Tuzcuoğlu (1814–17). He eventually acquired other titles and ranks, such as castle-keeper (muhafaza) and finally governor (miri mîram). During the 1820s, he served as sub-governor of Trabzon, ruling the town for four years in the absence of a provincial governor. Then, with the appointment of a new provincial governor (a former ally of Şatıroğlu, now a rival), he left Trabzon to take up residence in Sürmene, where he was accused of fomenting brigandage in the eastern districts, conspiring with the sons of Tuzcuoğlu, and rising in rebellion against the governor.86

The composition of Osman Agha Şatıroğlu's household and followers was probably mixed, so that they resembled those of Memiş Agha in some ways and Süleyman Pasha in other ways. He would certainly have around him all kinds of relatives, friends, associates, and dependents, but there are also indications that he also had paid mercenaries and professionals in his service. He was therefore always obliged to gain appointments to state offices, since the form of his political authority required a higher level of cash flow given that his support was not entirely drawn from a coastal coalition. By way of contrast, Memiş Agha Tuzcuoğlu was required to work against the provincial governor to enhance the prerogatives and privileges of dissident elements among the local elites, since otherwise the latter would have no reason to support him.

We can now draw some conclusions from all the details that have been reviewed above. Just as the contrast between Memiş Agha Tuzcuoğlu and Süleyman Pasha Hazinedaroğlu reveals differences in the political authority of the imperial and regional elite, so the contrast between Memiş Agha Tuzcuoğlu and Osman Agha Şatıroğlu reveals two types of political authority among the regional elite. In terms of his social background and personal career, Osman Agha Şatıroğlu was most certainly one of the ayans and aghas of the coastal districts. He was the descendant of an old family line that was linked with a certain area and had large numbers of followers from that area. He participated in district social networks and coastal coalitions, and he occasionally rose in revolt against the provincial government at the head of local elites with armed followings. On the other hand, Osman Agha Şatıroğlu consistently insinuated himself in the formal hierarchy (p.223) of authority and commerce of the state system. This is why his family line was more or less closely linked with the trade route of Trabzon and the silver mines at Gümüşhane. Both the route and the mines represented aspects of the coastal region that were closely associated with the state system rather than with dissident elements among the local elites.

Osman Agha Şatıroğlu was sometimes without any official appointment and so out of the government. In these circumstances, he sometimes appeared as one of the valley lords, participating in the civil wars of the coastal region or rising in revolt against the provincial governors of Trabzon. Still, his interests and inclinations were close to those of the provincial government that he supported most of the time. Accordingly, he was one of a certain number of the regional elite who enjoyed a degree of uprootedness and mobility, similar to that of the imperial elite. At different times, he lived and ruled in Sürmene, Trabzon, Gümüşhane, and Görele, and on exceptional occasions he briefly held official appointments in Erzurum and Van.87 In the course of his career, when he was simply one of the local elites, he was addressed as “Agha” and described as an ayan and derebey. Later in his career, when he was one of the regional elite, he was addressed as “Bey” and described as a district governor or military commander. Still later, for a few years in the mid-1820s, he was the de facto provincial governor of Trabzon, after which he was addressed as “Pasha.”88

The three individuals just reviewed indicate the essential difference between the imperial and regional elites. The former were able to draw on manpower and resources generated by the state system without any dependence on a local following. The latter were also able to draw on the manpower and resources of the state system, but they were more directly dependent on their position in a regional social oligarchy. In this regard the (p.224)

Table 2. Elites of the Province of Trabzon, Early Nineteenth Century


Imperial Elite

Regional Elite (Type 1 and Type 2)

Local Elites (Greater Aghas)

Local Elites (Lesser Aghas)

State appointments

In and out of higher state offices

In and out of state offices

Agha, ayan, mütesellim

Agha, ayan

Pasha of Trabzon

Agha, ayan, mütesellim kaymakan, muhafaza

Household organization

In the imperial style

Large residence(s)

Large residence

Large residence

Multiple large residences

Large family and/or large following

Large family and/or large following

Large family and/or large following

Large retinue

One or two coffeehouses

One coffeehouse



Type 1 more mobile, Type 2 less mobile


Social milieu

The imperial elite in other parts of Asia Minor, Caucasus, Crimea, eastern Europe, Middle East

The regional elite, local elites of the coastal districts, and a local social network

Local elites of other districts and a local social network

Local elites of other districts and a local social network

Higher social connections

Connections with the palace

Type 1: Connections with the palace and with the pasha

The regional elite and greater aghas of his locale

Greater aghas of his locale

Type 2: Connections with the palace but not with the pasha

Lower social connections

Weak to strong connections with regional elite

Type 1: Narrower connections with greater aghas

Lesser aghas, traders, and farmers

Lesser aghas, traders, and farmers

Type 2: Broader connections with greater aghas


Dominate the ports and routes of the provincial capital with the support of Type 1 regional elite

Type 1: Allies himself with the pasha in order to control commercial centers

Allies himself with Type 1 or Type 2 regional elite in order to control his locale

Allis himself with a greater agha in order to control his locale

Type 2: Allies himself with local aghas in order to control commercial centers


Süleyman Hazinedaroğlu

Type 1: Osman Ağa Şatıroğlu

Muradoğlu aghas

Fettahoğlu aghas

Osman Hazinedaroğlu

Type 2: Memiş Ağa Tuzcuoğlu

Selimoğlu aghas

Ayazoğlu aghas

(p.225) (p.226) imperial and regional elites represent the top tiers of a state society. The characteristics of individuals in each of these two tiers are represented in columns 1 and 2 of table 2, respectively. Each tier of the state society is differently positioned in the official state system, just as each tier refers to a different level of interpersonal association.

As we have also seen, the regional elite were the principals among a much larger number of local elites of varying prominence. In recognition of this, it is necessary to add two more tiers of the state society. Some were usually appointed as chief notables and sometimes appointed as district governors in the outlying coastal districts. Others are seldom mentioned in official documents, although they were sometimes recognized as the aghas or ayans of their respective areas. The characteristics of the leading individuals in each of these two tiers are represented in columns 3 and 4 of table 2.


(1.) There were French consuls in the coastal region through most of the nineteenth century. Dupré, the first consul in Trabzon, arrived in 1803, and Fourcade, the first consul in Sinop, arrived in 1802. Brant, the first British consul in Trabzon, did not arrive until 1830.

(2.) For another approach, see Aktepe (1951–52), who examines the relationship of state officials and local elites through official correspondence, thereby revealing the web of interpersonal relationships in which both were enmeshed. In contrast, the early French and British consular reports refer directly to civil disorders, and in so doing indicate cleavages of political authority.

(3.) There was already a Russian consul in both Trabzon and Sinop at the time of Beauchamp's visit. From the reports of both Dupré and Fourcade, it would appear that the Russian consuls had extensive contacts and agreements with both state officials and local elites. See MAE CCCT L. 1 and MAE CCCS, passim.

(4.) (Whatever the unannounced motives of the expeditions, the French had a long-standing botanical interest in the eastern coastal region. Tournefort (1717, 240–41) had led a scientific expedition to Trabzon almost a century earlier. See his description of the conditions of insecurity in the interior highlands of northeastern Anatolia at this time.

(5.) Beauchamp 1813, 265.

(6.) See Fontanier's (1829, 5; 1834, 286) comments on similar experiences with boatmen who are reluctant to land at ports for fear of rival militias or regiments.

(7.) One of the sailors then tells them that they should not agree to the diversion, since the country of the boatman would not suffer any Christians there, much less Europeans. The warning of the sailor is consistent with the “fanatical” reputation of the eastern coastal districts. It is such warnings that incline almost all the European visitors who follow Beauchamp to avoid the districts of Rize, Of, and Sürmene.

(8.) The number of individuals affiliated with the janissary institution in the eastern coastal districts appears to have been large. Fourcade encountered “Laz” janissaries who had participated in the revolt against Selim III (MAE CCCS folio 191). Fontanier writes:

When the great lord became determined to annihilate this fearsome corps, he gave the order to forbid the entry or exit of all Turkish vessels from the coast of Anatolia. He was not unaware that it was this part of the empire [the Black Sea region] from which those of his subjects who came to the capital were most prone to insubordination. Almost all of them were affiliated with the janissaries and were found in large numbers among castle guards. The government was afraid that a revolt might ensue in those provinces where they had numerous chiefs if the news of the massacre arrived there before appropriate measures could be taken. As well, the pasha of “Trabzon set to sea in the fleet and menaced the coast as the first fugitives began to arrive.” (1829, 25–26)

Consul Brant reports that many janissaries fled to Trabzon after June 1826, and thereafter kept alive the spirit of this party among the people (PRO FO 524/1 p. 23, Aug. 23, 1832). See also Fontanier (1829, 27–28, 29–30) for other interesting observations on janissaries as a civil opposition to the government.

(9.) This is suggested by a tradition in Of whereby a visitor to a village would first determine if a particular house featured the insignia of his party (Five or Twenty-five) before asking to be received there as a guest (see chap. 1). As was determined in chapter 5, the Five and Twenty-five parties were regiments or militias.

(10.) Beauchamp (1813, 268–69).

(11.) Shortly after his arrival in 1803, Dupré describes the situation as follows: “The town is governed by a mütesellim [district governor] nominated by the pasha, and then there is a kadı [judge], a janissary agha [district military commander for the central army], and dizdar agha [military commander of the fortress for the central army], and finally three derebeys [commanders of valleys] who have the greatest influence in the countryside, and who are the chiefs of parties during periods of dissension” (MAE CCCT L. 1, No. 11, 2 Nivôse An XII [Dec. 1803]). In later years, Dupré refers to only two chiefs in the town, but others in the near vicinity. “Two derebeys are present with the governor, but not allowed to speak” (MAE CCCT L. 1, No. 15, Floreal An XII [May 1804]); “two derebeys have united with one another in fear of Yusuf Pasha, who had deposed Tayyar Pasha” (No. 37, Brumaire An XIV [Oct. 1805]); “the two derebeys of the city, who are sworn enemies, have taken sides” (No. 65, July 1807); “the chiefs of the factions have agreed to a request for armistice after six months of civil war and the foreigners (outsiders) have retired, but the two principals have made it known that their animosity continues” (No. 78, Aug. 1808); “a rapprochement of the two derebeys has occurred upon the occasion of the marriage of their son and daughters” (No. 81, Oct. 1808). Fontanier (1829, 18, 20) writes of fortresses in the town belonging to private individuals as though there were several such buildings, not just two.

(12.) The chiefs of the town are described by different terms according to context. The Ottomans refer to them as squire (ağa), notable (ayan), lord (derebey), usurper (mütegallibe), or brigand (şaki). The French and British consuls refer to them as chief, agha, ayan, bey, derebey, derebey ayan, and valley lord. When these individuals with followings hold formal appointments, they then may appear in the guise of state officials.

(13.) Beauchamp 1813, 274–75.

(14.) A few years later, Dupré describes the suburbs of the town as follows: “The houses of the suburbs consist of a single story and those of the Christians are enclosed with a wall of around eight to ten feet in height, such that one moves through the streets without being able to see the crossroads, or nearly so. They say it is the internal wars to which this town has always been subject that brought about this manner of building” (MAE CCCT L. 1, No. 11, 2 Nivôse An XII [Dec. 1803]). On the occasion of his visit in 1827, Fontanier comments on the same architectural features of the town: “The citadel is held by a pasha who also occupies a fortress within it. As I have already noted, several lords each dwell in a kind of château-fort. As well the town has a military appearance to it that renders it cheerless. The houses of private parties are built low and in large stones. They are connected with one another by secret passages that are for the purpose of assisting the flight of the owners who might be attacked” (Fontanier 1829, 20).

(15.) When they learn that there is a Russian consul in Trabzon, they realize their mistake.

(16.) Other visitors with diplomatic status provide better accounts of the ceremony and protocol during a reception by the pasha of Trabzon. See Rottiers's (1829, 217–28) description of his elaborate reception at the court in 1818 and his conversation with Hüsrev Pasha, successor to Süleyman Pasha. See Fontanier's (1834, 98–108) description of the court of Osman Pasha Hazinedaroğlu. By way of contrast, see Morier's (1812, 323–24) description of his less elaborate reception and entertainment by Emin Agha, district governor of Erzurum in 1809.

(17.) MAE CCCT L. 1, No. 15, Floreal An XII [May 1804].

(18.) This appears to have been the case when Fontanier (1834, 96–108) was received at the court of Osman Pasha Hazinedaroğlu during his second visit.

(19.) Aktepe (1951–52, 39–43) and Goloğlu (1975, 154–55), in regard to the exile of Osman Agha Şatıroğlu, circa 1825.

(20.) See the note 33, below, citing eight known occasions between 1758 and 1833.

(21.) Memiş Agha Tuzcuoğlu was repeatedly able to block attempts by provincial governors to restrain him. Later, Tahir Agha, his son and successor, was able to do the same. Bilgin (1990, 311) infers that his son had influence in the palace. Consul Brant confirms that Tahir Agha had “powerful friends at Court” since the “Kapidan Pasha and Kapidan Bey are both Rizeli” and the “Serasker [of Erzurum (?)] likes him” (PRO FO 524/1 p. 29, Jan. 15, 1833).

(22.) Casual foreign visitors like Beauchamp commonly use the term “ayan” but did not always have a good understanding of it. Some years later, however, Dupré confirms Beauchamp's account. As a long-term consular resident, Dupré would have been well acquainted with its meaning. He sometimes refers to the two chiefs of the town as the “first ayan” and “second ayan,” indicating that they are ranked as first and second chief notable (MAE CCCT L. 1, No. 86, Apr. 1809).

(23.) See the Muradoğlu document dated August 14, 1834, for an example of such an appointment in the instance of Memiş Agha Muradoğlu, son of İsmail Agha, founder of the family line. This late document describes the chief notable as an “official” (memur); nonetheless, I think it best not to regard this position as a state office.

(24.) Sometimes Dupré writes of a certain individual as a valley lord (Dere Bey [sic]) and then later reports that this same man has been appointed as chief notable (Ayant [sic]). Sometimes he describes a valley lord (Dere Bey) as one of the “notables” (Ayant) of a certain place. So he implies that valley lords are a category apart from notables but also that some valley lords are notables and that some of them become chief notables. See MAE CCCT Ls. 1 and 2, passim.

(25.) I have discovered instances in which a man described as a chief, agha, or valley lord is appointed to the following offices or ranks: chief notable (âyan başı), agent (mübaşir), military commander (kaymakam), district governor (mütesellim), castle keeper (muhafaza), door keeper (kapıcıbaşı), general (paşa), and governor (miri mîram).

(26.) Sometimes the provincial governor would himself assume the positions of both district governor and military commander in the provincial capital.

(27.) My reading of his account is informed by a review of the consular reports of Dupré and Fontanier.

(28.) Some years later, when Dupré was residing in the provincial capital (1807–9), an Osman Agha and a Memiş Agha were chiefs of the town, enemies of one another, sometimes engaged in hostilities with one another, and now and then appointed as chief notable by the provincial governor, as well as to other offices, such as district governor and military commander (MAE CCCT L. 1, Nos. 22–94, passim). For my estimate that these were the same men that Beauchamp had encountered, see the footnotes that follow.

(29.) This man was almost certainly an individual named Osman Agha Şatıroğlu. A call-out of troops (Cevdet Asker 40224, dated 1789/1204) confirms that Osman Agha Şatıroğlu was a leading individual who commanded a large number of soldiers in the vicinity of Trabzon (nefs-i Trabzon). In 1804, Dupré tells us that Osman Agha Şatıroğlu was a “Dere Bey et Ayant” who replaces Hasan Agha as district governor (MAE CCCT L. 1, No. 22, 4 Vendémiaire An XIII [Sept. 1804]). As we shall see, he remained a leading individual in the vicinity of the provincial capital until the 1830s. If Beauchamp's Osman Agha is this man, then these conclusions would be further reinforced.

(30.) The contemporary roadway connecting the towns of Rize and Trabzon is 75 kilometers, so it would make sense that the distance to the interior of Rize would have approached 100 kilometers in 1796. As I have explained, the population in this part of the old province of Trabzon was oriented toward official Islam, and was therefore sensitive to issues of religion and state. As always, any mention of the Laz should be understood with respect to the situation of the speaker using the term. Although all the peoples of the province were considered Laz in Istanbul, the peoples of the further eastern sectors, Rize, Of, and Sürmene, were considered Laz in Trabzon. The Lazi-speakers of the coastal region inhabited the valleys still further east of Rize. Memiş Agha is most probably not from among the Lazi-speakers, since their homelands would have to be reached by boat, not horseback.

(31.) This Memiş Agha is most likely not Memiş Agha Tuzcuoğlu, a leading individual who commanded a large number of soldiers in the district of Rize. But he is almost certainly one of his allies, since the Rizeli was usually allied with one of the chief notables in the provincial capital, and he sometimes came there himself, as was the case in March of 1807 (MAE CCCT L. 1, No. 58, Mar. 1807). He may rather be Memiş Agha Kalcıoğlu. See Goloğlu (1975, xxxi), who lists this man as a chief notable (ayan) of Trabzon during the year 1807. Bilgin (1990, 282) claims the Kalcıoğlu family line hailed from the western coast. Nonetheless, Memiş Agha Kalcıoğlu was a son-in-law of the Rizeli and a part of his coastal coalition. So he could have had a secondary, or even a primary, mansion and base somewhere in Rize even if his ascendants had been from the western coast.

(32.) The western coastal districts of the province also had their local elites with armed followings, but they did not challenge the provincial government so frequently as the local elites in the eastern coastal districts. This is probably explained by the fact that the ports and valleys of Rize and Trabzon are potentially in direct competition for the transit trade into northeastern Anatolia, especially the market center of Erzurum.

(33.) On at least eight occasions between 1758 and 1833, state officials were forced to close the gates of the city and shut themselves up in the citadel as the walled city was surrounded and the suburbs were sacked. The dates of the invasions are 1758–59 (Peysonnel 1787); 1807 (MAE CCCT L. 1, No. 65, July 1807); summer of 1808 (No. 76, Aug. 1808); fall of 1808 (No. 81, Oct. 1808); 1816 (MAE CCCT L. 2, No. 26, Aug. 1816); 1827 (Fontanier 1829, 19; Bryer 1970, 44); 1830 (Bryer 1970, 44); and 1833 (PRO FO 524/2 p. 25, Feb. 1833).

(34.) Peysonnel 1787, 72.

(35.) See note 8 above citing Fourcade, Fontanier, and Brant on janissaries in Trabzon.

(36.) Peysonnel 1787, 53–54.

(37.) See the official document that calls on certain individuals and families in the coastal district to send troops (Umur 1956, No. 65 1788/1202, pp. 65–67; Sümer 1992, 104–6).

(38.) Cevdet Asker 40224, dated 1789/1204.

(39.) MAE CCCT L. 1, No. 59, June 1807.

(40.) MAE CCCT L. 3, No. 11, Jan. 1831.

(41.) The arboreal metaphor is borrowed from Aktepe (1951–52). See the quote in note 44, below.

(42.) The names of the two principal family lines are not always the same: Garaçoğlu and Selimoğlu in 1788, Cansızoğlu and Selimoğlu in 1832, Muradoğlu and Selimoğlu after 1834.

(43.) See chap. 1. My interlocutors in Of were also able to describe the places where the mansions of the aghas of each agha-family were located before they were destroyed by Osman Pasha.

(44.) Aktepe (1951–52, 28–29) notes that the Tuzcuoğulları, by virtue of their various relationship with other families, “spread by twig and branch over a considerable region.” See also Bilgin (1990, 310–11), who gives numerous examples of intermarriage among the agha-families during the late period of decentralization. For example, Memiş Agha Tuzcuoğlu, leader of a coastal coalition that eventually challenges the provincial government, is eventually related to most of the other principal figures of the late period of decentralization. Osman Şatıroğlu of Trabzon and Gümüşhane is his son-in-law (MAE CCCT L. 1, No. 59, June 1807; PRO FO 524/2 p. 39, Jan. 1834, Suter). Memiş Kalcıoğlu of Trabzon and Sürmene is his son-in-law (Bilgin 1990, 282). Memiş Büberoğlu of Of is the father-in-law of his son, Ahmet (Bilgin 1990, 311). Arslan Bey of Batum is his son-in-law (PRO FO 524/1 p. 35, July 1833, Brant). Note that the above-mentioned individuals are sometimes rivals of one another, even though related, some supporting and some opposing the Tuzcuoğlu coastal coalition.

(45.) Without accounting for overlaps among the allies of the principals, the number of family lines in the district social networks of Of can be calculated as follows: 22 agha-families each allied with 6 non-agha-families equals 132 patronymic groups. Estimating 20 households per patronymic group, 132 times 20 equals 2,640 households in the district social network. This is the same order of magnitude of the number of households in the district of Of at this time (estimated at 6,000 in the census of 1869/1286; see Emiroğlu 1993, vol. 1, 141).

(46.) Fontanier 1829, 18. Also see Dupré, MAE CCCT L. 1, June 1807.

(47.) Aktepe (1951–52) has carried out the most systematic study of local elites in Trabzon during the later period of decentralization. Other important works based on Ottoman and Turkish sources are Ahmet Cevdet Paşa (1892/1309), Şakir Şevket (1867/1284), Umur (1951, 1956), Goloğlu (1975), Bilgin (1990), and Sümer (1992). The most important works based on Greek sources are Bryer (1969, 1970) and Bryer and Winfield (1985). There are probably significant Armenian sources that have not yet been addressed by scholars.

(48.) There are always local details that do not exactly fit the models I am using. For example, the eastern valley in Of was primarily a route for reaching the interior highlands, while the western valley was primarily a migration route toward high mountain pastures. There was perhaps a measure of cooperation between the elites of the two valleys for this reason, since the residents of each would want to trade and to migrate in both.

(49.) The date of 1822/1237 is inscribed on one of the hearths in the great mansion.

(50.) Dupré comments that Yusuf Pasha “appears resolved to force a derebey to come back to the town. The latter is his protégé, in possession of various villages, which for some time he has usurped from those who were first to acquire them and who now defend their supposed property with force of arms” (MAE CCCT L. 1, No. 65, July 1807).

(51.) Fontanier 1929, 14.

(52.) Guarracino (1845, 298) heard this story while on a journey that probably took place during the summer of 1841.

(53.) Goloğlu 1975, 304

(54.) MAE CCCT L. 1.

(55.) Ibid.

(56.) Fontanier 1829, 18–19.

(57.) As we have seen in chap. 5, there was destruction and suffering during the early period of decentralization, when local elites first began to assert themselves against state officials. Canıklı Ali Pasha (1772–79, 1781–84) sent 10,000 troops to Of, but they had to return without accomplishing anything (Karadenizli 1954, 46; Şakir Şevket 1867/1284, 94). Süleyman Pasha sent 2,500 troops against Memiş Agha Tuzcuoğlu in Rize in 1816 after retaking the capital (Bilgin 1990, 290). Süleyman Pasha sent 25,000 to 30,000 for the invasion of Of in 1816 (ibid.). Tayyar Pasha sent 6,000 troops not far from Trabzon to try to suppress a valley lord (MAE CCCT L. 1, No. 71, Mar. 1808). Süleyman Pasha invested and destroyed Görele in 1811 (Bryer 1969, 191). Süleyman Pasha took a military expedition to Batum (MAE CCCT L. 1 [1801–11], No. 92, Sept. 1809; No. 94, Nov. 1809).

(58.) Dupré wrote that the pasha is once again to attempt to establish the new military organization, having failed previously to do so (MAE CCCT L. 2 BPMT, Dupré, No. 9, Oct. 1812).

(59.) On the sack of the suburbs, see MAE CCCT L. 2, No. 26, Aug. 1816. On the invasion of Rize, Of, and Sürmene, see Aktepe (1951–52, 33) and MAE CCCT L. 2, Nos. 43, 47, 49, and 50.

(60.) Aktepe (1951–52, 20–21) estimates his year of birth as 1715 by the tradition that he was more than 100 years of age at the time of his execution in 1817. Also see Bilgin (1990, 282), who reviews Aktepe (1951–52) and Ahmet Cevdet Paşa (1892/1309).

(61.) The “Fettahoğullarının Tarihi” mentions the connection of local elites with the transport of locally manufactured linen.

(62.) According to tradition, Memiş Agha was a tall and fat man. On the days when he collected taxes, he would ride a great mule, leading a second carrying a small cannon. When the villagers heard the shot of the cannon, they knew he was coming. They would gather around him as he remained seated on his mule, and he would tell them to pay this or that amount in taxes. There are stories that tell of his kindness, but others tell also of his cruelty; both probably contain a grain of truth. Bilgin (1990, 283, n. 2) writes, “An old man complained to Memiş Agha that his son was not behaving properly to him and asked if would he please help to reform him. Memiş Agha thereupon ordered the son to be hanged. The old man pleaded that he did not ask him to kill but to ‘reform’ (ıslah) his son. ‘This is the way I reform people,’ he replied and rode away.” In contrast, Umur (1949, 20–22) writes that Memiş Agha was close to the people and enjoyed their support. Stories of his mistreatment of the people were slanders spread by Süleyman Pasha and his representatives in their attempt to undermine local confidence in him and also to discredit him with the palace. Favoring the view of Umur, at least in regard to the family line in general, Consul Suter reports that Tahir Tuzcuoğlu, his son and heir, was “loved by his people” by reason of “his influence and wealth” (PRO FO 524/1 p. 40, Mar.–Apr. 1834).

(63.) See Bilgin 1990, 285.

(64.) For an indication that Memiş Agha Tuzcuoğlu was the leader of such a coalition no later than 1788, see the official documents that call on certain individuals and families in the coastal district to send troops (Umur 1956, No. 65 1788/1202; Cevdet Asker 40224, dated 1789/1204).

(65.) This does not mean that all the ayans and aghas of Rize, Of, and Sürmene were followers of Memiş Agha. For example, Dupré reports that the Rizeli was unable to respond to a call for troops by the provincial governor in 1808 because he had already sent six thousand men to set siege to a valley lord occupying a fortified castle among the Laz to the northeast of Rize (MAE CCCT L. 1, No. 71, Mar. 1808; No. 72, Mar. 1808; No. 73, June 1808).

(66.) Perhaps a third hierarchy of authority and commerce existed among the local elites of the western coastal districts, where the rural economy was based on a different combination of ports, routes, products, and manufacturers. According to Bryer (1969, 197), Süleyman Pasha called on eastern local elites to make war on the western local elites in the first year of his appointment to the governorship (1811).

(67.) Goloğlu (1975, xxix) describes the Hazinedaroğlu family as a well-known and very old family of the coastal region.

(68.) The western coastal region could be economically exploited as large estates farmed by life tenants. By this fact, it was a potential reservoir of cash and men that could be used to gain control of the sometimes-lucrative trade route at Trabzon. The provincial governors who were able to import manpower and resources into Trabzon from the western coastal region (Canık) were in a good position to intimidate local elites. At least four such provincial governors can be cited: Canıklı Hacı Ali Pasha (1772–78, 1781–84), Canıklı Tayyar Mahmut Pasha (1801–5), Süleyman Pasha (1811–18), and Osman Pasha (1827–42).

(69.) During his tenure as governor, Süleyman Pasha repeatedly brought troops from Canık to deal with uprisings of the local elites. See, for example, MAE CCCT L. 2, No. 25, July 1816; No. 32, Nov. 1816. He also sometimes used his mansions and estates in the province of Canık as a kind of refuge, especially during the bouts of plague or rebellion in the capital (MAE CCCT L. 1 BPMT, No. 3, Nov. 1811; L. 2, No. 125, Jan. 1812; BPMT, No. 23, Feb. 1814; No. 27, Sept. 1816; No. 54, Nov. 1817). Hüsrev Pasha, successor to Süleyman Pasha, also went to Canık to raise troops to deal with a rebellion in Sürmene (MAE CCCT L. 2, No. 75, June 1818). He, too, transported his household to Canık as a precaution in the face of an imminent rebellion in Trabzon (MAE CCCT L. 1, No. 82, Aug. 1819).

(70.) See MAE CCCT L. 1, No. 110, Nov. 1810.

(71.) Reports on the household of Süleyman Pasha are meager, but see Hamilton's (1842, 282–92) remarkable description of his son's mansion and household at Çarşamba. Hamilton meets Osman Pasha late in his tenure as governor of Trabzon. He describes him as a man of impressive wealth who had adopted European dress and lived in greater state than anyone he had ever encountered in Turkey. He described his house as “a gay straggling building” with a large harem, many wives, ladies, and slaves, and a household staff that included European experts and doctors.

(72.) During the Tuzcuoğlu rebellions of the 1810s and 1830s, for example, first Süleyman Pasha and then Osman Pasha depended on officials in Adjaria, Bayburt, Canık, Erzurum, Gümüşhane, Kars, and Sivas for the invasion and occupation of Rize, Of, and Sürmene, as well as for the arrest and execution of members of the Tuzcuoğlu family. For the Tuzcuoğlu rebellion of 1814–17, see MAE CCCT L. 2, Dupré, No. 32, Nov. 1816; No. 33, Jan. 1817; No. 41, Feb. 1817; No. 43, June 1817; No. 47, July 1817; No. 49, July 1817. For the Sürmene revolts of 1831–32, see PRO FO 524/1, Brant, p. 23, Aug. 1832. For the Tuzcuoğlu revolt of 1832–34, see PRO FO 524/1, Brant, p. 29, Jan. 1833; p. 35, July 1833; Suter, p. 42, Oct. 1833; p. 43, Mar. 1834; PRO FO 524/2, Brant, p. 24, Dec. 1832; Suter, p. 56, p. 41, Apr. 1834; p. 46, Apr. 1834; p. 46, May 1834; p. 56, Aug. 1834.

(73.) In 1815 Süleyman Pasha was also appointed provincial governor of Canık, so that he was the putative ruler of the entire northern coast of Asia Minor (MAE CCCT L. 2, No. 12, Apr. 1815).

(74.) Süleyman Pasha had a direct interest in the town of Trabzon as the means for dominating and controlling the regional overseas and overland trade routes. Still, he was willing to let its residents suffer in order to address a larger problem of the state system. For example, he disrupted the commerce of Trabzon for months on end in the course of assembling a large body of troops for the purpose of carrying out an invasion of the Caucasus (MAE CCCT L. 1, No. 117, May 1811, Dupré).

(75.) Turkish local historians usually mention the tradition that Süleyman Pasha and Memiş Agha had long been personal rivals and had quarreled over a large debt that the former owed the latter. Nevertheless, the historians have also recognized that the personal animosity of the two was fueled by their leadership of two competing hierarchies of authority and commerce. See Aktepe (1951–52, 23), Goloğlu (1975, 143–45), and Bilgin (1990, 287) on this point.

(76.) The revolt of Memiş Agha Tuzcuoğlu was the forerunner of other revolts by his sons, Ahmet Agha (1818–21) and Tahir Agha (1832–34). In each instance, the same conflict between hierarchies of authority and commerce is evident, one centered on Rize and the other centered on Trabzon.

(77.) See Aktepe (1951–52), Goloğlu (1975), and Bilgin (1990, 287).

(78.) MAE CCCT L. 1, No. 32, Nov. 22, 1816; No. 33, Jan. 10, 1817; No. 41, Feb. 18, 1817; No. 43, June 12, 1843; No. 47, July 21, 1817; No. 49, July 30, 1817, Dupré.

(79.) The governor dispatches warships and troops to Rize (MAE CCCT L. 1, No. 32, Nov. 1816). State officials seize goods without payment (No. 33, Jan. 10, 1817). State officials raise new taxes, terrorize the population, place hundreds of men in chains (No. 41, Feb. 1817). Rize is occupied by government troops for five months (No. 47, July 1817). The forces of Süleyman Pasha enter Of by sea (No. 49, July 1817). Bilgin (1990, 287 ff.) and Goloğlu (1975, 148) report that tens of thousands of troops invaded the district of Of on this last occasion and battled with its residents for two months.

(80.) See Aktepe 1951–52, 33.

(81.) Aktepe 1951–52, 33–39. Hüsrev Pasha, successor to Süleyman Pasha, was rumored to have poisoned him on orders of the palace (Fontanier 1834, 98–99). A “slave official” (kul) of the palace, this man became the guardian of his predecessor's three sons, sending them to Istanbul after the death of their father. The oldest son, Osman, became a page of the sultan (Fontanier 1834, 98), and then later returned to Trabzon to serve as provincial governor. The middle son, Abdullah, served his older brother as a state official once he had become provincial governor, then later succeeded him as provincial governor. It is also interesting that Süleyman Pasha may have himself taken extreme measures to bring about a succession in the Tuzcuoğlu family line. When Fontanier visited Rize circa 1833, İzzet Agha Tuzcuoğlu was serving as the military commander of that district. Then about thirty years old, he had “at sixteen years of age, on orders of the pasha, killed his uncle with two shots of a pistol” (ibid., 298). The shooting would have taken place sometime around 1817, that is, during the revolt of Memiş Agha Tuzcuoğlu.

(82.) In 1807 a dispute between Memiş Agha and Osman Agha had been settled when the former gave his daughter in marriage to the son of the latter (MAE CCCT L. 1, No. 58, Mar. 1807).

(83.) Bilgin 1990, 294; Goloğlu 1975, 153.

(84.) Mehmet Şatıroğlu was appointed as Trabzon chief notable in 1768, and in the 1780s was a noted “valley lord” against whom Abdülhamit I issued a ferman condemning him for brigandage (Bilgin 1990, 294). İbrahim and Ömer Şatıroğlu were associated with the government of Canıklı Hacı Ali Pasha, serving as tax collectors in the vicinity of the town of Trabzon in 1777, in the vicinity of Gümüşhane in 1778, and in Trabzon in 1782–83 (ibid.).

(85.) Dupré reports that Osman Agha Şatıroğlu, “Dere Bey et Ayant,” has been appointed “commandant” of the town (MAE CCCT L. 1, No. 22, 4 Vendémiaire 13 [Sept. 1804]). Dupré reports that Osman Agha, “Dere Bey et Ayant,” is appointed as military commander (kumandan) of the town by Yusuf Pasha at the time of a revolt in Canık (MAE CCCT L. 1, No. 48, Aug. 1806). Dupré reports that he is the enemy of Yusuf Pasha in 1807 (MAE CCCT L. 1, No. 53, Jan. 1807; No. 55, Feb. 3, 1807; No. 68, Apr. 15, 1808; No. 69, Apr. 15, 1808; No. 75, Aug. 1809; No. 92, Sept. 30, 1809). Dupré reports that Osman Agha has been appointed military commander and district governor of Trabzon (MAE CCCT L. 1, No. 98, Mar. 1810). From 1807 to 1810, Dupré reports that Osman Agha is repeatedly at odds with a certain Memiş Agha, who is sometimes military commander or district governor in his place. Their rivalry includes land and naval warfare. Described as the two derebeys of the town, they attempt to settle their differences on one occasion by arranging the marriage of their son and daughter, but to no avail since they are soon once again at loggerheads (MAE CCCT L. 1, No. 81, Oct. 1808). This Memiş Agha, who is otherwise unnamed (see note 31, above), is also an ally of Memiş Tuzcuoğlu (MAE CCCT L. 1, No. 73, June 31, 1808; No. 86, Apr. 1809).

(86.) Goloğlu 1975, xxxiii, 153–58; Bilgin 1990, 294–95.

(87.) Osman Agha was mobile like the imperial elite but normally only within the confines of the province of Trabzon. He was appointed to state offices outside the province of Trabzon, but only briefly, probably at the instigation of provincial governors who hoped to remove him from the coastal region for a time.

(88.) Sometime around 1832, Fontanier met with Osman Agha, who was then an aged man, living in the coastal town of Arakli, not far from Sürmene. He describes him as the “lieutenant of the provincial governor,” having recently acquired the title “Pasha” and the rank of “Mirimiran” all for his services in putting down the Sürmenelis. Nonetheless, Fontanier spoke with him more or less freely and openly, as though without ceremony. At the time, Osman Agha maintained a large household and enjoyed a handsome income, but only a small fraction of that of the then prospering provincial governor, Osman Pasha Hazinedaroğlu. Nonetheless, the latter was obliged to rise in order to salute him (Fontanier 1834, 288–90). Interestingly, Consul Brant refers to Osman Agha as “Osman Pasha, an ayan of the town [of Trabzon ]” (PRO FO 524/2 p.25, Feb.21, 1833; p.39, Jan.22, 1834).