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The Black Sea Region History Essay


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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, 2007:66-67].

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 §aitanoglu 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 ¦ 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 his attention to the specific economic function with which the Jews historically constituted a social group. According to his theory, "there is evidently a continuous interdependence between racial or national and class characteristics" in the case of European Jews, because "the social position of the Jews has had a profound, determining influence on their national character" [Leon, 1970: 74-75]. This remark on the mutual linkage and interaction between the social function of particular group and their identity seems constructive for our discussion. His indication on the historical dynamism of "people-class" also deserves attention. Leon categorically refused the primordial understanding of ethnic groups and averred; "Where the Jews cease to constitute a class, they lose their ethnical, religious and linguistic characteristics; they become assimilated1' [Leon, 1970:81].

Leon's prudent attitude to avoid over-simplification in defining the notion also merits positive estimation. He never excluded the non-mercantile elements in the Jewish community. Such flexible understanding makes it possible to apply his notion to the other communities, like the Ottoman non-Muslim merchants. However, there seems to remain a room of deliberation before we can apply this notion to the case of the Ottoman non-Muslim merchants. As I mentioned above, contrary to the European Jews, the majority of Armenians and Greeks were peasant masses, and mercantile elements in their community constituted only a small portion of the entire communities. However, numerical dimension does not seem a decisive factor in this case. Just like the other discussions on the nationalism, it is,not the rank and file, but particular symbolic groups in the community like shamans, priests, worriers, poets, intellectuals or revolutionaries that were the determining factors in constructing the collective identities of the community. In the case of the Ottoman Greeks, it is the mercantile element that played decisive roles in composing and transforming the communal identities in the course df their history from the fifteenth to the nineteenth century. So is the case of Armenians. As Razmik Panossian puts it, "Commerce, religion and etHnicity came together in the case of the Armenian Diaspora between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries... This 'capital-culture marriage' had a number of characteristics that had important ramifications, for Armenian national identity and subsequent developments' [Panossian, 2006: 97]. In both cases, the .merchants had always been the most influential, leading, emblematic, thus, focal element in their respective communities.

Structural change in the Black Sea trade during the eighteenth and first half of the nineteenth century The axis of the world commerce was gradually shifting from the trans-Eurasian to the Atlantic in the course of the seventeenth century. By the end of the eighteenth century, the shift had completed and it inevitably brought about significant transformations in the Ottoman external trade. Three major trends can be seen at this stage: a shift in the content of the export trade, a shift in its geographic distribution, and a shift in the relative rank of the trading partners [Inalcik & Quataert, 1994: 727],

During the eighteenth century, France surfaced as the leading Ottoman trade partner. In order to facilitate the commercial procedure to its advantage, the French concluded a new commercial agreement with the Ottoman government in 1740. By this agreement, the French gained the right for the lowest possible custom rate for the foreigners, up to 3%. The great benefit that this agreement was to bring was obvious, because the Ottomans, still obsessed by their old economic theory, lacking any intension to protect their trade and manufacture sectors, did not require reciprocity as a principle. Encouraged by the advantageous position, the French share in the Ottoman trade grew rapidly and the trend lasted at least until the 1780s. Impressed by the success of Frenchmen, all foreign states sought the same protection of treaties ("capitulations"). The absence of protectionism in the Ottoman trade policy resulted in serious blow to its manufacturers and merchants who engaged in intraregional trade, because the timing was widely overlapped with the industrial boom in the West. Thus, within a relatively short period, the Ottoman provinces became suppliers of raw materials for Europe and buyers of European manufactured or processed goods [Stoianovich, 1960:259].

In the Black Sea region, the general trend of economic dependency to the West was felt more conspicuously than any other parts of the Empire, as this region became the focus of the political and territorial scramble between three regional powers; Russians, Habsburgs, and Ottomans. As a result, the Black Sea was transformed into international waters from the "Ottoman lake." Freedom of commerce on the Danube was granted to Austrian subjects by the treaty of Passarowits. The Russians gained free entry and exit through the Bosporus by the treaty of Kuchuk Kainarji (1774). Although the right to enter the Black Sea was subsequently accorded to Austria (1784), England (1799) and France (1802), it was the Russians that gained the most from the internationalization [Turgay,' 1982: 289]. Russia obtained the indisputable right to send its merchant ships through the Dardanelles by the Russo-Ottoman treaty of 21 June, 1783. The treaty also permitted Russian merchants to sell their goods to any Ottoman buyers. It was a serious blow to the privileged position of ottoman subject merchants who had hitherto enjoyed de factp monopoly in the region [Stoianovich, 1960:288].

Strictly speaking, however, who benefited the most from these arrangements were not ethnic Russians, but the same elements who theoretically suffered most, the Ottoman merchants. In fact, the opening of the Danube, Bosporus, and Dardanelles to the foreign ships created considerable opportunities for them. The reason for this paradox is simple: both Russians and Habsburgs lacked a strong merchant class and was virtually without a Black Sea merchant marine [Stoianovich, 1960: 289]. Thus, the political reshaping did not bring about radical change in the rank of traders. By saying so, I don't mean to suggest that nothing had changed. There took place, of course, a significant change, but it was within the Ottoman merchant classes, thus, not the replacement of them by the other elements. A clear trend could be observed in this transformation. The Muslims merchants began to lose their predominant position and becoming more and more secondary, subordinate and peripheral existence. On the contrary, non-Muslims suddenly came back to life, and grew rapidly into the main conveyer of goods both intra-and inter-regional trade.

The non-Muslim merchants could enjoy several advantages that Muslims could not .expect. Foreigners had relied on non-Muslim intermediaries who spoke their language was well as the vernacular of the area, and who knew the culture and the officials regulating the international trade. Making use of this intermediating position, they could profit from the commercial rivalry between the European powers. The French domination of the "Levant trade" suddenly came to an end as a result of the opening of the Black Sea and the French Revolution in 1789. The British, in the hope to consolidate their supremacy in the Mediterranean trade, tried to establish effective partnership with the native Christian merchants. Austrians and Russians were also earnest about their future in the Mediterranean, and established two new big ports, Trieste and Odessa, as the main gateway to the East. In both cities, Greek Orthodox merchants, along with Jews and Armenians, built up prosperous colonies, and performed impressive roles [Harlaftis, 2005: 152].

The shift of axis of the global trade also reinforced their position. Towards the end of the eighteenth century, foreign merchants apparently controlled most of this international commerce. But, relatively secondary place of the trans-Mediterranean trade discouraged European mainland, merchants to engage directly in this risky, less profitable business. They preferred to entrust the local people with the substantial works. Thus, during the early nineteenth century, in almost every area of the empire, they were pushed out by their erstwhile proteges [inalcik & Quataert, 1994: 727-9, 839]. Long tradition of commercial companionship between the European and Ottoman non-Muslim merchants also merits scrutiny. The gradual eastward expansion of Russia and Austria often blurred difference between domestic and foreign traders. Thus, after the treaty of Belgrade (1739), the Ottoman Greek Orthodox merchants enjoyed exceptional opportunities in wholesale trading with the Habsburg lands [tnalcik & Quataert, 1994: 699]. Austria provided special grants to the Greek Orthodox immigrants and they contributed Austrian trade with the Balkans and the eastern Mediterranean lands reciprocally [Harlaftis, 2005: 153]. Russians also widely used Greek Orthodox population not only for their commercial purpose, but, in case of war with the Ottoman Empire, they were employed as seamen of the Russian fleets. Thus, it was natural that many Greeks ships began to fly the Russian flag when the Black sea was opened to Russian subjects [Harlaftis, 2005: 153].

The new situation, in general, brought Greek Orthodox merchants more advantages than Jews and Armenians. The Orthodoxy was the largest congregation in the Eastern Christianity, and many Orthodox communities had already established themselves inside Habsburg and Russian Empires by the eighteenth century. When both countries became conscious of the need to expand their commercial and maritime activities and to consolidate their influence in the Ottoman lands, they found it convenient to exploit the economic initiatives of the Orthodox Christians. Thus, the economic policies of Habsburg and Russian Empires were ultimately favored Greek Orthodox traders.

The Ottoman Greek merchant navy began to grow during the 1770s. Greeks increased the number of ships that flew the Ottoman flag, while building up the main part of the fleet for the Russian trade. Greeks became the main carriers of Black Sea grain to the Western Europe. They benefited from the wars of the French Revolution and eventual suppression of the Republic of Venice in "1797. The temporary disappearance of the French and Venetian merchant drastically enlarged their sphere of activities in the Mediterranean [Panzac, 1992: 204]. At the same time, Greek Orthodox merchants came'to control the commerce of Wallachia, Moldavia, Hungary, Vojvodina, Croatia-Slavonia, and part of Transylvania and Moravia [Stoianovich, 1960: 266]. By the first decades of the nineteenth century, the Greeks had created a dense and extensive network in all the main port cities both in the Black Sea and the Mediterranean [Harlaftis, 2005: 155].

Development of secular culture and the emergence of modern intellectuals within non-Muslim merchant communities

The growth of the Western trade and the collateral prosperity the Ottoman non-Muslim merchants brought about far-reaching effects on the inner life of their communities. As the contact with the Western market increased, reading and writing in foreign languages became important prerequisite for the merchants and artisans. The rising importance of the European market also encouraged them to be more familiar with the Western business practices. Gradually, they felt urgent to get more sophisticated systematic knowledge of the West, and considered necessary to acquire basic knowledge of mathematics, accounting, political geography, history, and philosophy, along with the foreign language skill. These new demands promoted a series of cultural development within the non-Muslim merchant communities: emergence of modern literary languages based, more or less, on vernaculars, secular schools furnished with rational education method, modem literature and journalism, formation of secular intellectuals, and, after all, secularization of the religious structure of their communities.

As early as the eighteenth century, nearly parallel developments in the field of literary language were discernible within the three Ottoman non-Muslim communities. The trend can be characterized as the cultural emancipation from the domination of the religious hierarchy. Before the eighteenth century, only a limited number of higher clergy preserved the talent of sophisticated literacy of their sacred script. Most of texts in Greek, Armenian, and Hebrew were extremely.religious in contents, and usually produced and reproduced within limited circles of religious authorities. However, we can notice a drastic change both in the contents and the consumers of written, it not printed, texts in these three languages. In the Greek case, the overwhelming majority of their literature before the eighteenth century was religious in nature. However, the share of the secular writings began to increase during the eighteenth century. While, non-religious issues occupied no more than 25% in the 1700-1725, their portion leaped into 47% in the 1775-1800 [Roudometof, 1998:21]. In the earlier stage of popularization of the Armenian language, the activities of the Mekhitarist order, founded by Mekhitar (1676-1749) from- Sivas,, played an outstanding 4:ole. Although their activities were centered at the Catholic propagation, they left far-reaching effects on the Armenian intellectual life by their publication and translations of various secular works from Classical authors of ancient Greece to Humanists of modern Europe [Strauss, 2003: 45]. The Sephardi Jews had already established their own writing system, based on the medieval Spanish by the"end of the sixteenth century." Although, for a moment, the Judeo-Spanish remained as medium of the religious writings, it began to develop into a popular idiom during the first decades of the eighteenth century. Yaakov Culi (1689-1732) took up the work of compiling "Me'am Lo'ez" an encyclopedic collection of commentary on the Tanakh in 1730. Owing to strenuous . efforts of Culi and his successors, "Me'am Lo'ez" attracted wide-spread readers, and Judeo-Spanish literature saw its heydays during the eighteenth and the first half of the nineteenth century [Benbassa & Rodrigue, 1995:61-64].

The ascendancy and eventual victory of secular vernaculars over the classical 'sacred'languages were consolidating during the nineteenth century. While a number of novels and popular writings in Judeo-Spanish were published in the Ottoman lands, there appeared wide spread usage of Yiddish in the writing of poplar tales, novels, poems, and journalism among the Russian Jews [Shneer, 2004: 34-35]. Armenians followed the same course of development. Although the Mekhitarists were staunch defenders of the classical language (krapar), this type of writings became increasingly obsolete towards the end of the century. Instead, the "Armenian Renaissance" that occurred between 1843 and 1915 revived the vernacular into a vehicle of literary expression, and with the publication of many journals, the Modem (Western) Armenian surpassed the classical language and became the linguistic medium of the new Armenian intellectuals [Strauss, 2003: 41,46].

As the preponderance of secular vernacular became conspicuous, it caused a conflict within the communities. We can find probably the best example in the case of Greeks. In the course of the eighteenth century, the classical antiquity turned out to be favorite vocabulary within the discourse of the Western Enlightenment. It accelerated, among the Ottoman Greek Orthodox Christians, the secularization of the language as well as the connotation brought with it. Inspired by the development of the Hellenic studies in Europe, intellectual curiosity to the classic form of Greek convened an assumption of continuity between the ancient and Modem Greek people. As it contradicted to the basic teaching of the Orthodox Church, the ecclesiastic circles suspected the linguistic secularization as a potential threat to their authority. Thus, the attempt of Adamantios Korais to create a new literally language was harshly condemned and attacked by the Church and its followers [Beaton, 1994: 298].

As a renowned classicist, Korais took up a'work to restore Greek modeled after the ancient vernacular of Attica. According to Korais, both contemporaneous vernacular and "Church Greek" were contaminated by non-Greek elements. Thus, the new language must be created by purging non-Greek words from the spoken vernacular and replacing them with ancient Greek words. Korais spent most of his life in France, and directly experienced the Great Revolution. It is natural that his idea of the new language was widely inspired by the French school of Enlightenment. Therefore, his linguistic initiative was strongly motivated by his political belief that Greeks were destined to reborn as a new. nation, and that education in the classic would serve to prepare people for a democratic polity [Roudometof, 1998:25].

The linguistic secularization advanced hand-in-hand with the development and dissemination of the printed materials. Until the Tanzimat, an overwhelming portion of reading material of the non-Muslims of the Ottoman Empire was provided by printing presses established abroad. Books intended for them were printed in a number of cities in Western Europe such as Vienna, Venice, Leipzig, Amsterdam [Strauss, 2003: 36]. We can add some port cities in India, such as Mumbai, Calcutta, and Madras, to the list in the case of Armenians [Kurkjian, 1958: 469]. In any case, it was the merchants that became the vehicle of those imported materials. Hence, they became the most exposed elements to the intellectual influence of new ideas that those materials conveyed. The books were financed by merchant money and carried and diffused through their merchant network. The Armenian merchants gave financial support to the first Armenian printing presses elsewhere [Panossian, 2006: 88]. The Greek merchants contributed financially to- the dissemination of books, and provided a subvention for the publication of translations, especially secular nature.

This merchant network was also instrumental in building and financing the new schools that were to provide children with secular knowledge. Armenian colonies in India began to construct secular schools with modern method of education toward the end of the eighteenth century. The :Mardassirakan (Philanthropic) school for boys and the Sandukhdian for girls, both in Calcutta, have rendered signal service to the diffusion of education for Armenians in the Middle East [Kurkjian, 1958: 470]. The first secular school for the Greek Orthodox Christians was founded by Phanariotes in Bucharest in 1689 [Clogg, 1992: 64].

Non-Muslim merchant communities within the Ottoman Empire soon followed suit. In 1790, an Armenian magnate by the name of Schnork Megrditsch established a parochial school in the Kunkapi district in Istanbul. This served as a model for similar schools established in various Armenian districts in the city. By the middle of the nineteenth century, popular education had become a common thing among the Armenians in the Ottoman capital [Arpee, 1909: 21-22], The Greek merchants also financed schools, colleges, and libraries in their native towns and islands, and sponsored the education abroad of promising young Greeks. In the course of the eighteenth century, a number of Greek secular schools opened in the major port cities and inland commercial centers [Papadopoulos, 1962: 417; Papadrijanos, 1991: 284].

As the number of schools increase, it felt necessary to set up umbrella organizations that were to coordinate the activities of local schools and to give systematic support. Here also contributed most the mercantile classes. The Ottoman Armenian merchants formed many educational societies. The Benevolent Union, founded in 1860, attempted to improve the financial and social conditions of the Armenian communities through education and agricultural innovations. The Altruistic Society,was established in Istanbul in the 1860s. The United Societies, which came into being in 1880 by the union of three existing organizations, all of which were active in opening schools in the provinces [Gocek, 2002: 46]. The Greeks in Istanbul also established philanthropic societies, like, the Society for dissemination of Greek Language (1869), the Friendly Society of Macedonian Education (1871), the Epirus Society in Istanbul (1873). The most influential of all was "the Literary Society of Constantinople," founded in 1861. This organization took up an extensive work that included the preparation and dissemination of textbooks, sending teachers and financial aids to indigent areas, coordination of school curricula of the Greek schools scattering all over the Ottoman territory, as well as granting scholarship to promising young Greeks in the countryside [Gerasimos, 1992: 177-179].

As the secular education became popular among the non-Muslim communities, the number of literate mass increased collaterally. The development created the necessary audience for an expanded press and contributed further to the growth of the reading public. Thus, we can notice the emergence of modern journalism of non-Muslim subjects of the Ottoman Empire in the second quarter of the nineteenth century. Armenian, Greek and Jewish publishing houses began to circulate journals and magazines written in their respective vernaculars on weekly or monthly b3se. What is important to note.here is the positive impact of liberalistic, if not liberal, circumstances that was brought about with the inauguration of "Westernization" of the Empire. The spectacular rise of printing and publishing in the Ottoman Empire just coincided with the wake of the Tanzimat reforms in 1839. The tendency dramatically accelerated by the further amelioration of the non-Muslim status after with the 'Reform Edict (Islahat Fermani; 1856)' [Strauss, 2003: 42-43].

The same was true for the Jews living in the Russian Empire.,It was after the inauguration ,of the Great Reforms under Tsar Alexander II that the Enlightenment of the Russian Jews took concrete forms. The secular education got momentum among the youth of Russian Jewry, and "a flood of young men.,. rushed from the farthermost nooks and comers of the Pale into the gymnasia and universities whose doors were kept open for the Jews" [Dubnow, 1918: 304], The new generation of secular education, together with reform minded bourgeoisie, became supporters and propagators of Haskalah, and emphasized the need of moderate religious reforms.

Political expression of the secularization and its consequences

The secularization that took place among the non-Muslim merchant communities in the Ottoman Empire proclaimed itself secular, rational, and scientifically oriented. Thus, it inevitably confronted with religious authorities that had dominated them. The collision between the old and the new began in the cultural fields like language and education, and the conflict zone gradually expanded into other fields. One of the focal points was the administration of the communal affairs.

Non-Muslim communities in the Ottoman Empire had long been controlled by religious authorities. At the centre, the Ecumenical Patriarch, Armenian Patriarch, and Jewish Hahamba§i enforced their judicial and political, as well as spiritual, control over the respective communities in Istanbul, and they could claim, at least theoretically, leadership of all coreligionists of the Empire. The religious heads (millet basi), with help of their ecclesiastic institutions, presided over the judicial proceedings, watched over the assessment and collection of tax and levies, supervised schools, and kept watchful eyes on the behavior of communal members, lest they should commit anti-Ottoman intrigues. In the countryside, diocesan heads like Bishops and Metropolitans, or the Chief Rabbis, played the same roles. The theocratic nature of the communal administration prepared the grounds on which the discontents of lay members were accumulating. Tnus, as the secularization gained momentum, there broke out various disputes over the judicial procedures, taxation, and schools administration between the laity and the clergy. During the eighteenth century, these conflicts began to conflate into massive movements that required wider lay participation in the communal affairs. The Armenian case was most conspicuous in this aspect.

The Ottoman Armenian population living in the major cities was mainly composed of small artisans and merchants. Thanks to the above mentioned economic development, many of them became more and more affluent, and started to contribute in financing the communal affairs. As their share in the communal burden increased, they tried to make their voice heard more strongly in the communal administration. The . first major success was the election of a new Catholicos in 1725, in which the representatives of artisans and merchants were invited along with the traditional stakeholders, the amiras. The Armenian merchants and artisans in Istanbul continued struggling for the wider participation, and succeeded in creating a permanent committee that was to take care of the entire affairs concerning Armenian schools, hospitals, and other philanthropic organizations in the Capital in 1834 [Artinian, 1988:28-29].

We can observe same conflict in the case of Russian Jews. As the new trend of secular education took root, the new generation of Jewish intelligentsia began to confront with the traditional leadership of the Russian Jewry. Inspired by the new ideas, they propagated the lay participation in the society, and, by and large, supported the official policy of Russification, Although there was considerable variety from the total negation of all historic forms of Judaism to some moderate acquisition of the language, the stream of secularism and Russification was incompatible with the traditional form of the Russian Judaism, *and it brought about rift and friction within the community [Dubnow, 1918: 305-9].

The demand for the secularization of the communal structure entailed political awakening, whose ultimate goal was an independent political entity. Thus, it was no surprise that we came across fantastically ambitious plans of political "emancipation" of these non-Muslim communities as early as the second half of the eighteenth century. In 1769, the Armenians in Russia presented a plan to Empress Catherine II on how to free Armenia and recreate an Armenian state. In 1773, a group of the Armenian merchants in Madras also published a detailed constitution for the independent Armenia [Gocek, 2002: 24]. The Ottoman Jews also dreamed of resurrection of the Jewish state in Palestine. We can notice a prototype of Zionism in the writings of the nineteenth century Ottoman Jews, like Judah Bibas (1780-1852) and Judah Alkalay (1798-1878)[Benbassa&Rodrigue, 1995: 117].

The political fantasy was much stronger felt among the Greek Orthodox Christians, as they had transformed their commercial and economic preponderance into a kind of political status. The position of Greeks Orthodox merchants everywhere in the Ottoman Empire was becoming stronger after 1650. They obtained a virtual monopoly over the new posts of dragoman of the Porte, or dragoman of the Fleet. After 1716 the office of Hospodar of Moldavia and Wallachia became de facto hereditary property of the Phanariotes. The ship-owners in the Aegean enjoyed wide range of autonomy in their local affairs. The Kocabasi, Greek village chiefs, were successful in controlling the political power all over the Morea [Stoianovich, 1960: 269-270].

Toward the end of the eighteenth century, the proponents of the political "emancipation" were gradually crystallized their imagination into more concrete form of political programs. The most well-known was the abortive revolutionary plan of Rigas Velestinlis-Feraios. Rigas conceived of the idea of an Orthodox revolution among the Balkan peoples that would result in the overthrow of the sultanas authority apd the creation of a Greek state in its place. Although it was obvious that Rigas was.inspired by the European concept of political nation, we can notice a partial confusion of it with religious identity of Rum millet. Rigas was well-informed of the ethnic reality of the Balkans toward the end of the eighteenth century. Therefore, he preached the future Hellenic republic was to be of multi-ethnic composition, saying that Greeks, Bulgarians, Albanians, Vlachs, Armenians, Turks and other "races" were to be sovereign people of the state. At the same time, however, he was such an optimist to believe that the existing framework of Rum

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