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The Black Sea Region History Essay

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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016

On the south-western side of the hill surmounting Lake Ohrid, travelers will find one’of the architectural masterpieces of medieval Orthodox Christianity. The church, that was dedicated to St. John the Theologian, and also known as “Kaneno,” whose consecration dated back to no later than.1447, is usually known as a legacy of Medieval Slavic empire (whether one calls it as Bulgarian, or, Macedonian, depends on

one’s fancy). Taking into consideration, however, its unique style that reminds us a highly successful

combination of Byzantine and Armenian architectural technologies, it seems more appropriate to calldt.as-a

monument of the cultural integrity of the wider Black Sea rim.

The Black Sea world, just like the church “Kaneno,” had been an artifact of cultural mixture, composed of various peoples of different faiths, vernaculars, customs and practices until the first decades of the twentieth century. They had been, moreover, living in a well-integrated and well-organized socio-economic entity that was tightly bound up by common water. Artisans of famous silver ornament in Trabzon would live on the Ukrainian wheat and Bulgarian wine, while the wealthy mercantile famny’in Odessa would enjoy their afternoon tea with dried figs from Anatolia. Life of the people around the Black Sea had been directly resting on the incidents at the opposite side of the water. They had kept watchful eyes on the course of event there. However, such a vivid image of the Black Sea region seems to be quite perplexing, if not alien, for us, people living in the twenty first century. Just like the record inscribing the name of the architect of the church “Kaneno” had been lost, our knowledge on the Pontus world is too fragmented to envision a unified picture.

The Pontus world also addresses us a perplexing question. Is it a mere accidental coincident that the three mercantile nations, Armenians, Greeks, and Jews, who had once been major lubricants for the organic mechanism in this world, suddenly disappeared from the Black littoral at the very moment when we lost the vivid image of this region? Armenians, Greeks, and Jews were all historical nations well-known by their conspicuous activities in commerce and financing. All of them had their residential centers around the Black Sea before the twentieth century. Armenians had been widely dwelling in the southern Caucasus and the eastern Anatolia, and displayed their strong presence in every commercial centre around the Sea. Greeks had densely populated in the Black Sea littoral as well, and often constituted plurality in major trade entrepots like Istanbul, Trabzon, Odessa, Varna, Constanta and Krasnodar. Until the last decades of the nineteenth century, majority of the world Jewry had lived in the Russian Black provinces and their hinterlands. However, it is an arduous work for us to trace out them on the contemporary ethnic map of the region. It seems as if they had taken away our memory of the region with them when they retreated to the backstage of history of the Black Sea.

What kind of process of modern conceptualization prevents us from shaping integrated scenery of the Black Sea region in our mind? The easiest answer might be the one that seeks the root in the nationalization of history. By the word “Cemomorski rajon,” an ordinary Bulgarian will think of an area

the word “Karadeniz bolgesi.” For both of them, cities like Kisinev, Akkerman, or Batumi are not the part of their “Black Sea region,” but some unknown foreign cities. The nation-state, as a model for historical thought, has obscured many elements.

The area studies, self-styled “inter-disciplinary” science, seem to have overcome the narrowing views of the national history, as they claim to have adopted an approach that makes it possible to analyze more than one nation-state at the same time. However, they seem, to be suffering from the same type of shortcomings. As for the Black Sea studies, there are too many candidates for the possible frame work, Slavic Studies, Balkan Studies, Caucasus Studies, Russian (and Soviet) .Studies (or its new version “Eurasian Studies”), Turkish and Islamic Studies, or Mediterranean Studies, but none is enough to cover all aspects of the Black Sea region. In order to comprehend the Black Sea region, it might be necessary to mobilize several area studies, but at the same time, it would mean saturation of methodologies. Such inherent weakness of the area studies seems, partly; to come from their methodological ancestors. Disciplines like Slavic Studies or Russian and Eurasian Studies could not completely cut off themselves with the tradition of Slavic philology. Both Turkish studies and Iranian Studies are, by and large, nd more than a dummy branch of the Orientalism (as its original meaning 6f the word). Area studies are still accompanying preconceptions that had been inherent to’ their methodological forefathers.

Apart from methodological questions, it seems relevant to interrogate a primordial question: where, at all, is the destination of intellectual endeavors of the area studies, or more simply, for what purpose are they serving? Recent developments may suggest us a part of the answer. There took place a* drastic reshaping of the area studies after 1989. East European studies have already divided into Central European Studies and Balkan Studies. Former Soviet Studies have also transformed themselves into “Eurasian Studies.” As the change is apparently linked to the shift of geopolitical situation, the answer must be lying somewhere beyond the “natural” evolution of methodological thinking, or survival strategies of individual researchers. The recent change indeed bears marked similarities to the realignments of traditional disciplines and eventual crystallization into area studies after the World War II. Both of the cognitive processes went through strong impact of the hegemonic shifts that had reshaped geopolitical map of the globe. The shift inevitably brought the regions drastic changes. From economic point of view, each region had to modify its trade regulations, financial mechanism, monetary policy, and working practices to be fit into the new situation, thus, it precipitated changes in the structure, and even mode of production. Political systems were also required to accommodate themselves to the new relations. As these changes caused considerable stress to the society, social tissue had to undergo significant metamorphosis. The area studies analyze various aspects of these changes, and provide, as a whole, a systematic knowledge to cope with the new reality. Therefore, they are working, irrespective of the intension of individual researcher, for special concern of particular forces that have common interest in a certain form of regional division of labor. Indeed area studies seem to pay less attention to the phenomena that tend to slip out of the scope of their main concerns, especially those overlapping several “areas.” By reassessing historical narratives concerning three nations, this paper tries to demonstrate the significance of those phenomena that have been made invisible by the frame of cognizance which was formulated in the course of modernity.

The Ottoman Conquest and the Black Sea regional economy

The Black Sea and surrounding lands had been playing significant roles as a hinge that bound

together the Mediterranean, Central Asian Steppe, and Indian-Middle East economies since antiquity. The

economic wealth of the region was an important factor in the political and economic stability of the

Macedonian, Roman, and. Byzantine Empires in the Classical and Medieval times. The Black Sea also

formed one of the major arteries joining the Islamic world and north-eastern Europe, and served as an

important commercial rout between the ninth to early thirteenth century. Within itself, the Black Sea region,

together with the Aegean, had formed a closely knit economic entity, as the northern Black Sea region

produced and exported grain, meat, fish, and other animal products, while the southern Black Sea and the

Aegean exported wine, olive oil, dried fruit, and luxury goods in exchange [Kortepeter, 1966: 86; Peacock,


By the time the Byzantine control of the region collapsed at the beginning of the thirteenth century, the Black Sea trade had largely fallen into the hand of the Venetian and Genoese merchants. At first Venetians seemed to have taken upper-hand, but Genoa succeeded in gaining a t near monopoly over the Black Sea commerce after 1261. By the time, Genoa had been building up a network of its colonies covering all lands surrounding the Black Sea. The Genoese BlackSea Empire was, however, relatively short-lived, as there emerged a formidable power in the western corner of Anatolia at the end of the thirteenth century, and it was to bring the Italian hegemony in the Black Sea finally to an end in the course of fifteenth century.

Starting as a small warriors’ state, the Ottomans followed a gradual, but steady course of territorial expansion during the first half of the fourteenth century. They were successful in intruding into the Balkans after crossing the Dardanelles in 1346. By the end of the century, the Ottoman sultans had established themselves firmly on the vast landmass lying at the both sides of the Straits. Although the Ottorrfans at first did not show much interest in controlling the Black Sea commerce, a clear Ottoman policy regarding the Black Sea began to emerge during the reign of the Mehmed II (1451-1481) [Kortepeter, 1966: 88].

Upon assuming the throne the throne, Sultan the Conqueror embarked on a series of campaign to destroy the Latin colonial empires in the eastern Mediterranean, as a part of his project to reassemble the former Byzantine territories. Especially after the “takeover (ri AXrooTj)” of the Byzantine capital in 1453, Mehmed II felt it necessary to establish a complete control over the resources of the Black Sea region for the reconstruction and development of his new capital. In 1459, the Ottomans first deprived the Genoese of Amasra, the most important port on the Anatolian Black Sea coast, as it formed, together with Caffa, the shortest route in the north-south communication in the sea. After the fall of Amasra, the Genoese colonies were confined to the north western corner of the Black Sea. The seizure of the main Genoese colony of Caffa took place in 1475. Caffa had long been the chief trade and manufacturing centre for the Genoese in the Black Sea. After the fall of Caffa, the Genoese grip on the Black Sea considerably weakened and the Ottomans captured all of the Italian colonies in the Crimean and the Caucasus within a decade. The only remaining trade centers of significance were two Moldavian port cities, Kilia and Akkerman. Both of them fell to the Ottoman hand in 1484. In this way, by the beginning of the sixteenth century the Ottomans had turned the Black Sear into an “Ottoman lake” [Inalcik & Quataert, 1994: 271-3; Kortepeter, 1966: 92-3].

i The Ottoman conquest brought about a new socio-economic system into the Black Sea region. Now,

majority the coastal lands of the Sea were directly connected to the imperial capital, Istanbul, and a new regional division of labor was introduced in order to maintain this extraordinarily large city. Moreover, the Ottoman Empire employed a kind of “command economy” whose main purpose was to maintain its military predominance. Hence, the government put strong control over the transportation of manufactured goods and raw materials produced within its domain, imposing de facto ban on the export, while, on the other hand, it

showed lavish attitude to the imported commodities that its lands could not yield. Under this regime, many parts of the empire constituted an autarkic economic entity. Hence, it was natural that the Black Sea region, along with other part of the Empire, constituted an integrated, but closed to outside, system.

Non-Muslim Merchants as coordinating elements

One of the most important changes that took place after the Ottoman conquest of the Black Sea

region was the termination of the Italian predominance in favor of the native Ottoman subjects. Owing to the

poor development of Muslim mercantile class at the beginning of the Ottoman-conquest in this region, it was

the non-Muslims that took initiative in forming the: wider regional network. Already during the Italian rule

of the Black Sea, the Greeks and other indigenous people, together with Jews and Armenians, played the

role of middlemen and widely dwelled in the Genoese trade centers. Many of them were employed as

apprentices in the Latin enterprises, and accumulated the knowledge of the business practices in the Levant

trade. Even before the fall of Caffa, the Italians were losing their control of the oriental trade in the northern

countries, and were being replaced by Ottoman subjects, mostly Armenian Christians, Greek Orthodox

Christians and Jews. The Ottoman government found in them reliable traders and contractors as middlemen

within the empire. Thus, non-Muslim merchants took advantage of the new opportunity of the closure of the

Black Sea to the foreigners in the sixteenth century, and they made use of their privileged position to

traverse the Ottoman domain, in order to organize trading networks across southern and western European

cities [Kortepeter, 1966: 101; inalcik & Quataert, 1994: 272, 209].

The first element that gained most from this new order seemed to be Greeks. The Greek merchants of this period widely operated in Ottoman inter-regional trade. They were in control of a significant portion of the commerce of the eastern half of the Balkan Peninsula. Greeks were particularly active in the Ottoman capital, as traders and sea captains, carrying grain from the Balkan coastal regions adjacent to the Black Sea. The Greek merchants, allegedly descendants of the Byzantine aristocracy, widely engaged in tax farming, large-scale trade and shipping both in international and domestic. However, after the execution of tfye great tycoon in the Greek community of Istanbul, Michael Cantakuzino ┬žaitanoglu in 1578, the predominant position of the Greek merchants in the imperial economy began to shake [Stoianovich, 1960: 241; Inalcik & Quataert, 1994:517].

Instead of Greeks, Jewish bankers and tax-farmers surfaced as predominant elements in Ottoman finance and long-distance trade during the second half of the sixteenth century. The expulsion of the Marrano Jews from the Catholic countries especially contributed to the Jewish prosperity in the Ottoman economy. The Marrano Jews seemed to introduce into the Ottoman Empire the techniques of European capitalism, banking and the mercantilist concept of state economy, and played decisive role in the finances [inalcik & Quataert, 1994: 212]. Jews also played a considerable role in the development of the Danube basin. As tax farmers, Jews were managing many Danubian ports and customhouses [Levi, 1982: 26-27]. But the Jewish domination of the Ottoman economy could not last long. Already in the 1650s, Jewish merchants had been less active in Ottoman territory than during the second half of the sixteenth century. The Jews were losing the functions that they had acquired in the sixteenth century, including the farming of custom duties, minting, and the positions of money exchanger for the ottoman notables. Westward Jewish migration that occurred synchronously with the shift of the global economy to the trans-Atlantic trade was a part of reason. Another reason is the renewed expansion of activities of Greek merchants that forced many Jewish merchants out of Balkan trade [Panzac, 1992: 203; inalcik & Quataert, 1994: 519].

The presence of the Armenian merchants in the Black Sea region had been strongly felt long before the Ottoman conquest. Armenians had settled in Crimea as early as the eleventh century [Panossian, 2006: 82]. They were important trade partners for the Nogays in the North Caucasus, and engaged widely in the transaction of slaves and large quantities of butter and furs [Kortepeter, 1966: 104]. They were predominant in the “Moldavian [Lwow-Akkerman) route” of trade during the fourteenth century, “and obtained the trade privilege for all Ruthenia in 1402. The leader of the caravan on this route was always an Armenian throughout the fifteenth century. Until that time, Armenians had widely settled in the commercial centers in Crimea and Rumania. According to an Ottoman survey in 1520, there were 2,783 households in Caffa, out of which about 60% was Christian, mostly Armenian [inalcik & Quataert, 1994: 280, 286].

The Ottoman conquest of the Black Sea region brought about more favorable conditions for the Armenian merchants. In the Ottoman Empire, Armenians, like Greeks, constituted a Christian community that was accorded with religious and judicial autonomies. Their religion also gave them easier access to the lands of Christian Europe. They had already firmly established themselves in southern Poland and Transylvania, and controlled local commerce. Making use of the Ottoman trade policy as the linchpin, the Armenian traders succeeded in building up their commercial network, extending as far as Venice and Central Europe. The Armenians could also make use of the rivalry between ‘Ottomans and Russians in order to establish their new trade route. Several Armenian merchants played conspicuous role in the court of Ivan the Terrible, and further expanded their commercial activities as far as the northern end of the Grand Duchy of Moscow [Goffman, 2002: 15; Braudel, 1992: 155].

The Armenian merchants had another advantage, as they were going to expand their activities further in the east. The Armenian middlemen settled in Persia found in silk an eminently marketable’commodi’ty. In the seventeenth century, the Ottoman Armenian merchants distinguished themselves by their association with an international trade network basing around New Julfa, a suburban city of Isfahan. Merchants from this city took an active role in the Iranian silk trade which spanned the globe from Narva, Sweden to Shanghais, China. In this way, the Armenian merchants had been successful in establishing their trading network stretching from China to Western Europe by the eighteenth century [McCabe, 2001].

In the course of their expansion, the commercial activities of three non-Muslim merchant communities widely transcended the Ottoman borders. It was, by no means, the loss of weight of the Ottoman commerce for them by the eighteenth century. The commerce on Ottoman territory continued to be crucial for the maintenance of these networks, as the goods they traded were often of Ottoman manufacture or had transited through the Ottoman state. The trade activities of Armenians, just like those of Greeks and Jews, remained intrinsic to the economic system of the Ottoman Empire, and the Ottoman wealth was central to their prosperity [Inalcik & Quataert, 1994: 517-8].

As we have, hitherto, surveyed the significance of the non-Muslims merchants in the Ottoman Black Sea trade, it is necessary to emphasize that we should not downplay the importance of the Muslim merchants. Although they were late comers in this region, already in the fifteenth century, Muslim merchants had outnumbered the others at least in the southern section of the south-north trade over the routes of pursa-Istanbul-Caffa or Akkerman by sea and overland by Edime-Kilia-Akkerman [Inalcik & Quataert, 1994: 278]. It seems probable that the role of the Muslim merchants constantly gained importance in the course of the sixteenth and seventeenth century, and eventually took over the non-Muslims, especially in the intra-regional trade. The position of the Muslim merchants in the intra-Ottoman trade was much stronger than the non-Muslims during the eighteenth century. The minorities almost always held only a secondary position in the domestic maritime trade. According to an Ottoman document of 1782 or a list of cereal ships to Istanbul

provide us an interesting data that out of the total 56 names of merchants, 55 were Turks or other Muslims, only one was Greek or Albanian, and even he was associated with a Turk. The document also shows us that out of 158 ships captains, 136 (86%) were Turks or other Muslims, and 22 (14%) were Greeks or Albanians. Therefore, the Muslim merchants had secured almost total control over the supply of wheat to Istanbul by the Black Sea route [Panzac, 1992: 195, 203].

Socio-economic features of the non-Muslim merchant communities

From historical point of view, merchants, especially those who engaged in cross-cultural- trade,

possessed, more often than not, ambivalent characters. As frequenters in two or more distinct societies, they

had to master several important knowledge and skills that were usually unfamiliar to those who lived inside

a particular culture. So, they brought with them, not only a variety of foreign goods and wares, but new

technologies and information. These cultural goods often catalyzed a transformation of the host society. In

the case of the Ottoman non-Muslim merchants, they became major actors in a technological and cultural

interplay between the Ottoman Empire and the rest of Europe. It wa,s their trading network that helped

produce a uniform commercial method throughout ti?e Mediterranean and European worlds before the ┬Ž

nineteenth century [Goffman, 2002: 16].

On the other hand, every society that based principally on the production of use values would inherently harbor antagonism toward the merchant. Such hostilities were often boosted by the stresses that arouse in the course of cultural transformation. Therefore, the position of the cross-cultural merchants was constantly under the threat of eventual outburst of hatred against them. In order to avoid, or at least to alleviate, the tension with the host society, the merchant community had to be adaptive. In the case of the non-Muslim merchants in the Ottoman Empire, we can notice strong tendencies of compliance to the authority.

Ottoman Jews and Greeks played major role in the finances during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and even later. They were the major players in the tax-farming, the most important means of capital formation at that time, and their accumulated wealth became indispensable for the state finances and the palace. In return for their service, the Ottoman government conferred them various privileges. Several Jews were appointed the court physicians and imperial treasurers. Greeks were employed as dragomans (official interpreter) and, later, rulers of Moldavia and Wallachia [Inalcik & Quataert, 1994: 209], The Ottoman Armenians also played significant role in the palace. The upper strata of their community, often called as amiras, made their presence strongly felt in government as bankers or money lenders. In the tax farming, they provided the capital as sarrafs (bankers), and sold the commodities collected in kind as merchants. After the eighteenth century, they became instrumental in keeping the fragile Ottoman financial system functioning. It is symbolized by the fact that the prominent Dtizian family monopolized the position of superintendent of the state mint office from 1757 until 1880 [Panzac, 1992: 203; Panossian, 2006: 85].

Probably, the most important in this aspect was the role played by their religious authorities. The Ottoman government traditionally granted wide range of religious and judicial autonomies to its Christian and Jewish subjects, calling each of these congregations as millet. The Greek, Jewish, and Armenian mercantile class in Istanbul practically monopolized the posts of the highest priests of their millets, and did their utmost in preserving the imperial order, by securing the loyalty to the sultan among their coreligionists. Thanks to these endeavors, Jews and Armenians were often praised by the authority as “millet sadakat,” or

loyal subjects. In the case of Greek Orthodox, they failed to win this “title” because of the several unruly elements like semi-nomadic mountaineers or provincial peasants with independent spirits, the upper strata of their community, however, generally earned high esteem among the Muslim authorities.

In spite of such functions, non-Muslim merchants did not dare to go over a certain limit of the host societies, because over adaptation to the host society was suicidal to their existence. It would increase the tension with the other society where they made business at the same time. For example, the conversion to Islam might promise better position in the Ottoman society, but it would make very difficult, if not impossible, to earn by the international trade. Thus, probably the best strategy for the merchants was to blur the demarcation line with the host society by making their existence more and more vague and ambiguous. By doing so, they could expect more secure conditions’for their survival.

It was, therefore, no coincidence that the three non-Muslim merchant communities in the Ottoman Empire possessed marked characteristic of special multilingual!sm. As the other Jews in the Western Europe, Jews in the Ottoman Empire adopted the languages of the people among whom they lived. They could, usually quite fluently, communicate in Turkish and other majority languages, but they nevert fully assimilated linguistically to the host societies. The “Romaniotes,” who had long lived among the Greeks, adopted vernacular Greek as their communal language,.while the, Ashkenazi, East European Jews continued > to speak Yiddish in their home. The most influential element of the Ottoman Jews, the Sephardi, preserved medieval Spanish, where their ancestors had been living until the Catholic take-over. Moreover, all of these Jewish vernaculars contained significant portion of Hebraic expression. Thus, the dialect expresses the two contradictory tendencies: the integration to the surrounding society and the isolation.

The Ottoman Armenians shared the same characteristic. While they continued to use ancient Armenian as their spiritual symbol especially in their place of worship, almost all of them were either bilingual or, in some cases, monolingual speakers of Turkish. Turcophone among the Armenians was so strong that Vartan Pasa, an Armenian writer in the nineteenth century, in the preface to his ‘History of Napoleon Bonaparte,’ justifies the fact that he had written this work in Turkish with the argument that the Armenians who knew ancient language (krapar) were very few and that the new literary language based on the vernacular was still not sufficiently developed thus, that the Turkish language was the best tool to the majority [Strauss, 2003:41, 55].

The case of Greeks was much more complicated, but it might show rather vividly the advantages of

linguistic ambiguity for the prosperity of the mercantile community. During the Ottoman period, the word

“Greeks” seldom denoted the linguistic community. Many “Greeks” in the Anatolian plateau spoke Turkish

dialect, Karamanh, while the “Greeks” in Syria and Egypt used Arabic as their ordinary means of

communication. The “Greeks” in the Balkans were more perplexing. There were many “Greeks” who spoke

Bulgarian, Vlacho-Arouman, Albanian, and Turkish. The linguistic variety derived from the context that the

communal identity of the Ottoman “Greeks” usually conflated with the “Rum” millet identity. Within the

Ottoman Empire, the Greek Orthodox Christians, especially those who composed the urban strata, were

collectively referred to “Romans,” members of the Rum millet, regardless of their ethnic origins.

Such tendencies were strongly felt especially among the mercantile class. The notion of the Greek Orthodox Christian was indeed a social category. In many parts of the Balkans, contemporary denomination of nations, like Serbs and Bulgarians, denoted the peasants in particular locations. When Slavs moved into the urban space or became members of the middle class, they generally shifted their identity to Greek. The local Christian higher strata were Grecophone in Serbia. In the Bulgarian lands, the domination of cultural

life by the ecumenical patriarchate led to the promotion of Grecophone culture in liturgy, archives, and correspondence [Roudometof, 1998:13-14]. The tendency became more conspicuous after 1750, when the prosperity of the Greek Orthodox merchants was reaching its peak. Owing to the predominance in trade, Greek became the primary language of commerce in the eastern Mediterranean, and Orthodox Christian merchants, regardless of their ethnic origins, generally spoke Greek and often assumed Greek names. The middle class Orthodox Christians were largely acculturated into the Greeks or under heavy Grecophone influences [Stoianovich, 1960: 291].

The ambiguity or ambivalency of the groups seems to have been felt stronger at such elements like new comers, lower members, and/or provincial elites, than at the centre of the community. For example, during the first half of the nineteenth century, the biiingualism, especially with the dialect spoken by the majority member of the surroundings, was more conspicuous among newly immigrated members from local villages than those who had lived in urban space for generations. It reflected in their identities that veteran urban dwellers were adamant in their Greek consciousness in contrast to the new comers with mixed identity with Bulgarian element [Markova, 1976: 43-54]. The same was true for the Greek ecclesiastic circle, where lower clergy tended to remain within the boundary of Metropolitan diocese, while the higher hierarchies rotated several dioceses of different Patriarchates. As a result, high dignities in the Church possessed deep-seated belief in the Hellenic nature of the Orthodoxy; ion the other hand, parish priests widely shared non-Hellenic culture with their parishioners.

To summarize our discussion hitherto, the non-Muslim merchants in the Black Sea region bore the following attributes as groups. They were religious congregation as well as occupational category. As for the latter, they were, more often than not, engaged in external trade, or in other words, were agencies tonne’cting different cultural, socio-economic entities. The members of these groups were usually quite proficient in special occupational expertise. They knew well specific business and social practices of various places, and they were multilingual for the most of part. They were generally more adaptive to the host society, and, at least on the surface, very compliant to the existing authority. The demarcation line between them and the other groups was vague, and often intentionally blurred. Their ambiguity or ambivalency was more intense, more strongly felt at peripheral or lower strata than at the core. Perhaps, this was the most important attribute that made possible the non-Muslim merchants to maintain their social and economic function, while preserving their identities, without provoking serious conflict with the host societies.

The above mentioned characteristics of the Ottoman non-Muslim merchants might seem to fit well into a wider category of Diaspora merchants. But, at the same time, there arises an uncomfortable feeling to call those merchants who dwelled in their homeland as Diaspora, because, except for the Jews, many Greek Orthodox and Armenian merchants lived in the territory of their former Kingdoms or Empire. Moreover, there were many non-Mercantile members within the Greek Orthodox and Armenian communities in the Ottoman Empire (the Jews were exception in this case as well). It does not seem reasonable to separate the merchant groups from the peasant mass when we discuss them as ethno-religious communities. Taking into these inconveniences into consideration, it seems more pertinent to apply the old notion of “people-class,1′ proposed by Abram Leon, for the case study of the Ottoman non-Muslim merchant’s. In his work that examined the historical development of the Jewish communities in Europe, Leon1 turned

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