Chapter I


The amiras became the leaders of the Armenian millet, and especially of the Armenian community of Istanbul, in the second half of the eighteenth century. Long before that, the lay leadership of the millet had developed, both in Istanbul and in the provinces, into a loosely-knit but recognizable elite, about which relatively little is known. Any study of the amiras must begin with these predecessors, and, in turn, a study of them requires an understanding of the honorific nomenclature used. The titles used overwhelmingly were hoca (or khodja) and çelebi (or tchelepi).

These present problems of etymological derivation, semantic confusion, and occasionally loose application to figures of varying prominence. In threading his way through the thicket of nomenclature, the historian must keep in mind the fact that these titles were not all derived from the same language or milieu, were not originally applied for the same reasons, and did not receive the same kinds of recognition.

Beginning with the mid-seventeenth century, the titles hoca and çelebi were used contemporaneously. The first term is of Persian origin, [1] while the second appears to be Turkish. Of the many meanings that hoca had in Persian, Ottoman Turkish had retained several, and had added others. The word was, at various times, a synonym for efendi (“gentleman”), aga (“lord, master”), and katip (“secretary, scribe, writer”); it was also used to mean merchant. [2] The turcologist Siruni adds other meanings: “witch, juggler, turbaned, healer, popular story teller. [3] In modern Turkish hoca came to mean lay teacher as well as Muslim teacher (hodja). [4]

Among Armenians, the word was first used as early as the thirteenth century and in some cases became part of the last name of individuals, as in Hocapap, Hocamir, Hocamali, Hocapek, Hocacan, Hocasar, Hocihan. [5] The hocas of the Iranian-Armenian community are particularly well-known, though hocas existed in Western Armenian provinces and in Istanbul. In Armenian, the word was primarily used to refer to established merchants of the community. The Turks also commonly called Armenian merchants hoca. However, the title is sometimes used to designate wealthy individuals in general, and while it is safe to assume that most prosperous Armenians of the period accumulated their wealth through trade and finance, the fact cannot be assumed a priori. Furthermore, though wealth and leadership are almost inevitably linked in this period, in the history of the lay component of the Armenian millet, it cannot be safely assumed that any nouveau-riche Armenian merchant whom sycophants might honor by addressing as hoca did indeed hold a position of leadership in the millet.

The origins of hocas are not clear. An examination of the colophons reveals that the title was used predominantly in the provinces. A colophon dated 1401, speaks of a khavtjah or khotjah Masudshah, “one of the gentlemen of the city of Tavriz. [6] Another colophon, dated 1423, mentions “the famous and honorable great hoca baron Amir. [7] Fortunately, there is evidence that not every prominent figure of the community was automatically honored with the highly regarded title. In many a colophon that mentions wealthy and prominent members of a community, only some of the individuals listed are distinguished with the title hoca, while others, apparently indistinguishable in prominence and privilege, are named without the honorific. In many instances all the members of a family bear the title: a father, his sons, his brothers and their sons. [8] In others, some members of a family are called hoca while others are mentioned by their names only. If we accept colophons as a reliable criterion in assessing the use of the title, then we have to accept the fact that the number of hocas was small in the fifteenth century, and that use of the title became widespread by the first quarter of the seventeenth century. It is hard to tell why this came about. It may be that there were more prosperous individuals who successfully aspired to leadership; it may also be the case that as the title became more coveted, it was applied more frequently to honor all sorts of people who might have been excluded earlier, when the informal standards of the community were more stringent; such a devaluation of titles and an increase in their frequency of use is not unknown in the West, though the increased occurrence of hoca never reached the proportions known in the West (one need only look at once-scarce honorifics such as “Madame”).

Finally, it is worth noting that the title hoca is rather rarely applied in the fifteenth and sixteenth century documents to individuals living in Istanbul. This cannot, in itself, be taken to indicate that the title was in fact in rare use in the capital of the Ottoman Empire. Compared to provincial areas such as Van and Khizan, Istanbul produced very few colophons, and so the scarcity of the sample might distort any conclusions we might be tempted to draw.

Neither the colophons nor historical accounts give any clues about the social origins of hocas. The Soviet Armenian historian Hagop Anasian, whose study of hocas is the most elaborate and penetrating to date, considers them “the offsprings of the old Armenian feudal nobility. [9] Such a claim is not fully borne out by the historical evidence.

Hocas played a prominent role in the financial activities of the Ottoman government, while in the Armenian millet they took control of national life. A well-known Armenian scholar evaluates their role in the following way:

starting in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, hocas were known as influential landowners, as rebuilders and benefactors of churches and monasteries, and as individuals who commissioned the copying of manuscripts. Taking control of [Armenian] civic life, they were often celebrated as ‘guardians against foreigners’. It is probable that among them there were those who were cognizant of the decline of the Armenian church and people, and were dreaming of a brighter future. [10]

By the beginning of the seventeenth century, hocas had grown in number and influence. In Istanbul, they clustered in the well-known hoca-han (han or khan was used to indicate a “caravaasary”), which served as their headquarters as well as the central marketplace. The seventeenth century Armenian chronicler Daranaghtsi, points out in his succinct observation the importance of this han as well as the scope of the commercial activities of the hocas: “Many Armenian merchants were found there, from all corners of the world. [11] Although the han burnt down in 1660, a victim of the great fire of that year, even in its half ruined condition it continued to serve the hocas for a long time thereafter.

Many colophons, and the few extant chronicles available to us, attest to the noteworthy charitable activities of hocas. For example, a chronicler of the period has recorded the names of eleven hocas as donors for the repair and reconstruction of the St. Archangel church at Balat, a quarter of Istanbul. [12] In a colophon dated 1656, seven hocas are mentioned as “honorable princes and representatives” of the St. Illuminator church of Galata, a section of Istanbul. [13] In any collection of fifteenth to eighteenth century colophons, one can find many such instances attesting to the generosity of the hocas.

Hocas were so dominant in the life of the Armenian people, both in Istanbul and in the provinces, that a student of the subject calls the seventeenth century “the century of the hocas. [14] Hoca Ruhitjan, perhaps the most influential Armenian of the century and certainly the outstanding figure among his peers, was the Grand Vezir’s kürkçübasi (“keeper of the Sultan’s furcoats”). [15] He headed a party in the internecine struggles centering around the Patriarchate. During these internal clashes, he was instrumental in the removal of two patriarchs. [16] The ability to influence the election or removal of the chief cleric of the Armenian millet remained the best index of a layman’s power within the community, and of his influence at the imperial court, for centuries to come; it is a recurrent issue during the period of amiras.

Certainly Ruhitjan is not the typical hoca, but his behavior and actions are not atypical of the entire hoca class. Their interests and influence were limited neither to the geographical confines of the capital nor to the sphere of the Armenian church, for

the hoca class, holding the leadership of [Armenian] national life, was in close contact with the masses in the Armenian provinces, and was able to exert influence due to the fact that it knew how to put at the services of community life a certain portion of its economic power and immense capabilities. ... In 1671, Hoca Alhas and Hoca Khatchadur, originally from Van, petitioned the central government in Istanbul and were able to obtain a reduction of part of the tax burden of the people while some other taxes were completely eliminated. [17]

Perhaps the best indication of the hocas’ attempt to extend their influence by winning the hearts and minds of the people is their ransoming of the Armenians taken prisoner during the long-lasting Turco-Persian wars. [18] Hocas would also defray the expenses of the repair of monasteries and churches ruined by frequent earthquakes, and would assist in the repayment of public debts, such as the huge debt of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem. [19]

Naturally, these charitable activities of the hocas were not exclusively motivated by their piousness and selflessness. Part of it, it is true, was the result of in grained, almost instinctive habit: the preservation of Armenian cultural and religious values and identity was a value in itself to many of the leading families of the Armenian millet. But these acts were primarily designed to gain popularity, ard eventually control, over the millet. The hocas’ long term goal was the liberation of their nation from foreign domination, under their leadership and for their own economic interests (these two points will be further discussed later in this chapter). As a matter of fact, after 1666 their slogan became the liberation of the Armenian fatherland. [20]

Hocas did not form the only moneyed segment of Armenian society. Many Armenian notables in Istanbul and the provinces were called çelebi. Unlike hoca, the origin of the word çelebi is not well established, and there has been no satisfactory explanation of the history of its use. According to most recent studies, it is thought to derive “from the Anatolian Turkish Çalab [çäläb] meaning ‘God’. [21] Çeleb as a term was “applied to men of the upper classes in Turkey between the end of the thirteenth and the beginning of the eighteenth century, as a title primarily given to poets and men of letters, but also to princes. [22] While in Ottoman Turkish it denoted “writer, poet, reader, sage, man of keen common sense, in modern Turkish it means “well-educated, “gentleman, “man of refinement. [23] Its usage among Armenians was a reflection of the Ottoman-Turkish custom.

As in the case of hocas, the assertion is made that Armenian çelebis included “elements of the old [Armenian] feudal nobility as well as those who had risen from the ranks of artisans in cities. [24] Again, there is no historical evidence to substantiate the first contention, while the latter is a universally accepted fact.

Among the great number of prominent Armenians in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries who were called çelebi, the best known and perhaps the most powerful figure was Abro or Abraham Çelebi, a seventeenth century figure about whom the illustrious Armenian writer of the century, Eremia Çelebi, has written extensively. After 1644, Abro Çelebi served the Ottoman army in Crete as its officially appointed purveyor. In 1659 he was thrown in jail when his patron, the Grand Vezir Deli Hüseyin Pasha, was decapitated for embezzlement. Abro survived the crisis and continued serving the Ottoman state, this time collaborating with Köpülü Oģlu Ahmet Pasha. [25] In the Armenian millet Abro Çelebi was known for his support of charitable and cultural activities. He sponsored the copying of many manuscripts, the construction of a number of churches and the repair of others. He was a strong supporter of Bishop Eghiazar Ayntaptsi in his struggle with his numerous antagonists. [26] The mercantile organization he put together was essentially a familial one, and it is not surprising to see that members of his family continued to be prominent up to the later eighteenth century. His brother, Bedros Çelebi, was also a well-known figure, while his son, Matdeos Çelebi, was wealthy enough as well as vain enough to purchase a certificate of nobility from the French king Louis XIV in 1687. In 1717, Matdeos’s three sons obtained from Peter the Great of Russia special permission to Open Russian trade to Armenian merchants of the Ottoman Empire; this was an event of considerable importance in the economic history of the empire. [27]

Andon Çelebi was a similar seventeenth century figure about whom the contemporary Armenian historian, Davrijetsi, writes: “this man was ... so renowned and famous that he was known by the Ottoman kings, [as well as] in the country of the French, and of the Persians. He was a man of great means and of many properties. [28] Andon Çelebi, who had houses in Bursa, his birthplace, in Izmir, where his commercial headquarters were located, and in Istanbul, was wealthy enough to pay on the spot and in cash for the load of an entire caravan coming from Persia, or the cargo of a vessel arriving to Izmir from Europe. [29] Unlike most other individuals known as çelebi, he never became a benefactor of his people, and showed little interest in Armenian community life. His brother, a shadowy character who was in financial difficulties much of his life, appears to have escaped retribution by converting to Islam. [30]

The sources are scant about another prominent çelebi. Maghakia, son of Hoca Eremia of Amit (or Diyarbekir), who was able to obtain a reduction of the tax levied for exemption from galley slavery, the külrekci akçesi, in 1649, during the grand vezirate of Melik Ahmet Pasha. [31] The Armenian churches in the capital were normally obliged to pay this tax. Furthermore, with his father’s help, Maghakia Çelebi was able to obtain the freedom of 25 Armenian young men from galley slavery, again thanks to his close relations with the Grand Vezir. [32] As to what the nature of these relations was, the sole source of information fails to shed any light on these points. Nor does the source discuss the occurrence of the titles hoca and çelebi in the same family. As we shall see later, such incidents increase in the course of the seventeenth century, when hoca becomes the more devalued and frequent honorific, and çelebi retains its distinction.

The seventeenth century Armenian historian, Davrijetsi, describes still another figure, Shahin Çelebi, as one of “the notables well-known at the king’s Porte. [33] Like all the other Armenian çelebis, he was a wealthy and influential person. An exception to this rule of title and wealth was Eremia Çelebi, who was apparently neither wealthy nor influential in governmental circles, but was, nevertheless, called çelebi by the Armenian community. Eremia was a writer and a civic leader of the Armenian millet, who is unanimously acknowledged as an early intellectual. The son of a priest, he was not a cleric; he remains one of the very few, if not the only, non-clerical learned figures in early modern Armenian history. He wrote many works of historical, linguistic and literary value, some of which have been translated into Turkish. [34]

The best known among the çelebis was the family of Diuzians. The rise, fall, reemergence and the eventual disappearance of this dynasty will be one of the focal points of this study. It is worth noting that their ancestor Sarkis, son of Harutiun, was a palace goldsmith in Istanbul and the first of the family to be called çelebi, an honorific title kept by his descendants even though by the mid-eighteenth century the title amira had come into prominence.

A student of the subject rightly points out that Armenian Catholic notables generally preferred the title çelebi; [35] another considers it an indication of the acceptance of “frankutiun, i. e. “frankism” or catholicism. [36] These assertions are open to question as far as earlier periods are concerned, but they were certainly true for the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. [37]

As Armenian provincial notables responded to the lure of Istanbul, and as hoca became devalued as a title, the use of çelebi as a honorific began to have a special appeal for those aspiring to the highest status and prestige.

Since the word çelebi carried with it implications of learning and polish in the very highest Ottoman circles, and the word hoca was less esteemed by those very same circles, Armenian notables appear to have made an effort to increase its use. The evidence supports Anasian’s conclusion that çelebi came to be perceived as the title appropriate for “the [Armenian] aristocracy of the capital. [38] Hocas appear to have coveted it, and the shift from the use of that title by the fathers to the use of çelebi by the sons is remarkable. Such were the cases of Simon Çelebi, who was the son of Hoca Tovma; [39] Maghakia Çelebi, son of Hoca Eremia from Amit or Diyarbekir, mentioned earlier; [40] Markas Çelebi, son of Khanents Hoca Tuma from Van; [41] Pegi Çelebi and Peglar Çelebi and Hagop Çelebi; [42] Skandar Çelebi, son of Hoca Sanos of Aleppo. [43]

The blurring of boundaries between the two titles must have started by the early seventeenth century, at which point we begin to encounter prominent Armenians who bore both titles as a matter of course. Such were the brothers Hoca Bedik Çelebi and Hoca Sanos Çelebi; the latter was the former’s assistant when Hoca Bedik held the concession for collection of customs duties in Aleppo. Later, when Sultan Murad IV named Bedik as chief customs-duties collector at Erzurum, the two brothers were instrumental in organizing the ransoming (and rescue) from slavery of over a thousand Armenians who were taken as booty by the Tartar army fighting along with the Ottomans against the Persians in the war of 1638. [44] Hoca Bedik was involved in so many business affairs and held so many official or semi-official positions that an Armenian cleric, Simeon Tbir Lehatsi, describes him as “a person of notoriety who walked about like a pasha, with thirty, forty guards; he had janissaries and sipahis (“cavalryman”). His account-books held as many as twenty-four entries at a time, so diverse were his sources of income, which included “customs [duties], the inspection of markets, the police superintendency, the khans, the public bathhouses. [45]

There are no contemporary historical accounts that describe in clear terms the circumstances in which an individual acquired either of the two titles. The abundance of colophons concerning the use of the two titles has not led to a clearer understanding of the underlying situation than that presented here, because the data, though plentiful, lack clarity and continuity. On the other hand, few Armenian scholars have seriously focused upon the significance that hocas and çelebis represent for the early modern period of Armenian history. Among those who have examined the subject, there are two opposing views. One view holds that each title represented a separate class, with an identifiable historical role, while the other rejects such clear-cut differentiation, and is less willing to impart political significance to the titles.

The first view, expounded mainly by Soviet Armenian scholars headed by Anasian, not only accepts the existence of two classes but posits the theory of a “class struggle” between them. [46] This struggle is said to have been so intense that “it turned into social upheaval. [47] Hocas, it is claimed, declared an unremitting struggle against their antagonists, and the locus of the clash became the Patriarchate of Istanbul. Control of this administrative center of the Armenian church in the Ottoman Empire was tantamount to dominance over the Armenian people and millet within the borders of the empire. Without delving into details, suffice it to state that proponents of this school of thought find hocas, who were numerous and stronger in the provinces, to be better attuned to the sentiments and aspirations of the Armenian masses than the çelebis, the majority of whom gravitated to the Ottoman capital.

This view maintains that the çelebis considered themselves natives of Istanbul and thought of hocas as newcomers. [48] It finds support in the fact that çelebis were most frequently, if not exclusively, sarrafs, i. e. bankers, and were therefore

closely connected with the Ottoman Palace and the feudal environment... In the seventeenth century they had already adopted, to a great extent, the characteristics of nobility, and being assimilated, they withdrew into the regressive positions of Armenian conservatism. [49]

The same view assumes that the hocas were not only closer to the people, but that they attempted to meet at least some of their needs. In so doing, they intended to bring the masses under their sway and leadership, and eventually, to attain their ultimate goal with popular support: the liberation of Armenia. The hocas perceived “Turkish military feudalism” as a hindering, obstructive system in which their economic, especially commercial, interests could not be enhanced. This argument goes on to state that to throw off this “formidable yoke, hocas advocated the liberation of the Armenian people and the establishment of “native rule over the native land. [50] After securing the support of the Armenian masses for their cause for outside help; papal diplomacy and French capital, according to this view, presented the most promising and attractive prospects. As a result, on the one hand hocas were trying to convince their clerical allies in the Armenian church to make concessions to the Catholic church in Rome, while on the other a prominent hoca was dispatched to Western Europe as emissary to work out plans for the united rebellion of Armenians and Greeks. [51]

In opposition to hocas, the çelebis are represented as defenders of Ottoman rule and the status quo, because their economic interests dictated such a political orientation. As the çelebis were bankers, this view claims,

the main field [of operation] of their capital was the environment of the palace and the pashas, and, therefore, their interests were closely linked with the Turkish (i. e. Ottoman) bureaucracy. [52]

The other view, represented mainly by Siruni, refuses to accept not only the existence of the class struggle but of two separate classes. Siruni, who discusses Anasian’s thesis at quite a length, dismisses the assertion of two classes and draws attention to the fact that

all the çelebis were former hocas, former merchants and bankers, who, after reaching a certain position [of prominence], strove to obtain also the title çelebi and a more conspicuous position in governmental affairs, and to insure for themselves authority and rank within the Armenian community. [53]

It is difficult to adjudicate the claims made by these two views, but more doubts are raised by Anasian’s argument. It is probably the case that wealthy merchants from the provinces made gestures towards leading a “liberation” movement in the seventeenth century; this movement has been studied in considerable detail and need not concern us here. It is also clear that many of these merchants bore the title hoca. Fifteenth century colophons record hundreds of hocas and no çelebis. [54] In the collection of colophons for the years 1601-1620 only two çelebis are mentioned, one of whom lived in Istanbul. [55] It seems clear that the hoca-merchants aspired to succeed as financiers at the capital, and that as they succeeded they aspired to the title çelebi. Anasian himself admits that this honorific had “a special attractiveness, and that is why hocas often liked to be glorified with [it, though] in reality they remained the same merchant-hocas. [56] All this does not support the idea that the honorifics represented two “classes” involved in a struggle over political issues about the liberation of the Armenian people. It suggests, rather, that there were divisions between the once-dominant provincial power-elite (usually hocas), and the later more polished urban members of this elite, centered in Istanbul. Specializing in finance and making their fortune as sarrafs, were hocas who added the title çelebi, or the sons of hocas who preferred the newer title, or became çelebis directly without ever having carried the other honorific: Abro, Andon and Eremia çelebis, all of whom have already been mentioned, belonged to this latter category.

Soviet Armenian historians have a tendency to see class-struggle where other kinds of clashes are at issue. The evidence suggests that Siruni (a Western Armenian historian) is closer to the truth, and that the clashes between the not-very-clearly demarcated groups of hocas and çelebis represent a struggle for power between two groups of the Armenian bourgeoisie. That there was competition, rivalry, and even struggle among the members of this class is a historical fact; but the battle lines were not so clearly drawn along the configurations of the two titles. I shall return to this point in the conclusion of the chapter.

The study of this wealthy bourgeoisie, which is the predecessor of the amiras in several ways, is further complicated by the introduction of yet another title: mahtesi. Siruni claims that the individuals who bore the title, in Istanbul and in the provinces, formed a separate class. [57]

The term mahtesi means, etymologically, someone who has gone on pilgrimage to Jerusalem; [58] it is derived from the Arabic word muqaddesi or muqdasi, meaning “he who has gone to Quds” or Jerusalem, therefore, a pilgrim. [59] The Christians used either form of the term while the Muslims preferred the use of hadjdji (or haci, in Turkish), which also means pilgrim, from the Arabic hadjdj, “pilgrimage. [60] The Armenian word mahtesi had a number of variations: mughtesi, mghtesi, mahtasi or mahdasi, etc. [61]

The view that the individuals called mahtesi formed a separate class is based on the assumption that

the use of the title mahtesi in the seventeenth and eighteenth century sources leads us to the conclusion that it was given to a certain class [of people] who had a [prominent] position in the Armenian nation and were also involved in civic life. [62]

Curiously, Siruni, makes this claim even as he refuses to accept the hocas and çelebis as separate classes. To support his contention he cites several instances where among the sponsors of various church reconstructions were included individuals whose names were preceded by the epithet or adjective mahtesi. For example, he states “it is significant that among the eleven hocas mentioned none was also called by the title mahtesi, [63] referring to the list of donors for the reconstruction of the church of the Archangel in Balat, a quarter in Istanbul, in 1627. This and the other instances he cites lead to a totally mistaken conclusion, due to the fact that Siruni is careless in his examination of the record. In many colophons hocas are also called mahtesi. It is noteworthy that in four colophons of the year 1604, there are three mahtesi-hocas:

Mahtesi Hoca Panos, [64] Mahtesi Hoca Atom and his son Mahtesi Hoca Zirak; [65] there are so many others that it is neither possible nor necessary to cite them all in this space. [66]

The use of mahtesi in the colophons clearly indicates that the term meant a pilgrim. In several colophons the pilgrimage to Jerusalem of the individual concerned is recorded. In a fifteenth-century colophon Mahtasi Pashah-Mayr, a woman in whose memory her sons sponsor the copying a of a bible, had gone on pilgrimage to Jerusalem. [67] Other such instances are those of Mghtasi Hovhannes, [68] and Mahtasi Margos. [69] The fact that reference to Jerusalem pilgrimage is made in rare cases only reinforces the conviction that the term’s meaning was understood by all: it was taken for granted that an individual called mahtesi must have actually gone to Jerusalem for the pilgrimage.

Unlike hoca and çelebi, mahtesi was a title also used by women, such as the aforementioned Mahtasi Pashah-Mayr, [70] Mahtasi Khanum, [71] Mghtesi Atlaz, [72] Mghtesi Mariam and Mghtesi Vartkhatun, [73] Mahtasi Knar, [74] Mahtesi Lusin, [75] and Mahtasi mother Vartkhatun. The enumeration is meant to demonstrate that the use of mahtesi by women was quite widespread, and not accidental; given the extremely limited role of women in public life, the claims made for mahtesi as a “class” seem very unlikely.

Furthermore, the epithet was also used by Armenian clerics: Mghtesi Der Maghakia, [76] Mahtasi Der Tavit, [77] Mahtesi Der Garabed and Mahtesi Der Hayrabed, [78] “the cleric Mahtasi Der Herbed, [79] Mahtasi der Tavit, [80] Mahtasi Der Mgrditch, [81] and Mahtesi Der Melkon [82] are all in the records. This is the only epithet or title shared by Armenian clerics and by laymen.

Finally, whereas hoca and çelebi imply wealth and prestige, mahtesi was a title used by the common people, some not so well-off economically, who had been able to make the pilgrimage. In two instances mahtesis were simple workers, [83]

It is likely that the custom of calling mahtesi a person who made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem is an imitation or adoption of the Muslim custom of calling a pilgrim to the Holy cities of Mecca and Medina a hadjdj; in Islam “the word [al]-hadjdj so often added to Muslim names is an honorific title. [84]

To ascribe social and economic status and connotation to the title mahtesi is sheer conjecture. The assertion that the mahtesis formed a separate and distinct class at best might be interpreted to mean that some of them were able to make significant donations in order to have their names inscribed or recorded along those of hocas and other prominent individuals. In other words, some of the mahtesis were not simply pious pilgrims but quite rich people who had reached a visible station in the social structure.

A review of what is known about the predecessors of the amiras suggests that interpretations of the record have been clouded by an uncalled-for attribution of importance to certain groups and struggles, accompanied by an underestimation of others. What is most significant and must never be lost sight of, is that the individuals under discussion, whatever their titles, are the Armenian upper bourgeoisie of the period. Of course, the term “bourgeoisie” can be and has been applied to a very wide group, but it is possible to restrict it here. The Armenian writers understood quite well what group or class they were writing about; it is no accident that members of this group are so often called ishkhan. The term means “prince” in modern Armenian, but in its meaning are entwined two different strands: one derives from ishkhel, “to rule, and the other from the notion of aristocratic origin. Naturally, the two were linked in classical Armenian history. Whether ishkhan implied aristocratic descent from the feudal nobility need not concern us here; what is necessary to stress is that in talking about the “ruling class, such as it was, of the Armenian millet, a “class” which “ruled” subject to the limitations imposed by the sovereignty of the sultan and the Ottoman state.

What can be safely said about this ruling class is that there was competition and rivalry between its members, who were divided into two groups with no exact demarcation. Geographically speaking, the hocas were originally largely provincial merchants, while the çelebis were more metropolitan and derived their wealth from manipulations of financial capital. However, this state of affairs clearly changed as hocas migrated to Istanbul from the provinces and continued to lead their followers. [85] This rivalry between two power elites, displaced in Istanbul, continued unabated and took on social overtones. The perennial competition described by Armenian chroniclers adds another polarity, that of “insiders” versus “outsiders. The “insiders, in Armenian nersetsi, were those who had settled in the capital for a long time, considered themselves “natives” and were extremely proud of it. The “outsiders, in Armenian drsetsi, were the newcomers from the provinces, who were also known as gavaratsi, i. e. provincial; the urban “natives” looked down on them. Many colophons and chronicles mention details of the disputes between these two social elements. The arrogance the “natives” demonstrated towards the “provincials, which Arakel Davrijetsi does not fail to notice, [86] was usually motivated by the success, wealth and position of the newcomers. Armenian provincial notables would accompany the Turkish pasha named to a post in the capital and thus arouse the jealousy of the “insiders” who would regard the former as “vulgar and uncivilized (not good mannered). [87]

This competition, and sometimes the clash, continued even though some of the “outsiders, with the passing of time, became “insiders; the flow of immigrants to the capital, driven there mainly by economic necessity and sometimes by the political conditions in the provinces, never ceased. This social phenomenon, with its economic, cultural and political ramifications, is not unique to Armenians in the Ottoman Empire; but in its seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth century setting it would help explain a number of problems, among them the changing forms of the confusing çelebi and hoca competition.

By the middle of the eighteenth century, the emerging amiras became dominant in the Armenian millet, and developed a remarkable degree of control over the affairs of the community and Patriarchate. The amiras inherited and elaborated the roles and functions of the çelebis and hocas who have been called their “ancestral” groups and “prototypes. [88] The Amiras were to become power-brokers, intermediaries between the Sultan and his Armenian subjects, philanthropists on a large scale, lay leaders of the church and its flock and conservative defenders of the status quo, which perpetuated their power and position.

[1]          For an etymological, as well as historical, examination of the word hoca, see Islam Ansiklopedisi, s. v. “Hace, by M. Fuad Köprülü, and “Hoca, by W. Ivanow.

[2]          Türk Ansiklopedisi, s. v. “Hace. Encyclopedia of Islam, lst ed., s. v. “Khodja, by A. Yusuf Ali. The latter limits itself to the definition and study of “the name of a community of dissenting Muslims, mainly to be found in the Pundjab...

[3]          Siruni, Polis, 1: 477. Siruni’s contention that the word was spelled differently when used to designate non-Muslims is based upon one instance, and therefore, at best, is tenuous.

[4]          New Redhouse Turkish-English Dictionary (1974), s. v. “Hoca.

[5]          Hratcheay Adjarian, Hayots Andsnanunneri Bararan [Dictionary of Armenian Proper Names] (Erevan, 1944), p. 526.

[6]          Levon S. Khatchigian, JE Dari Hayeren Dseragreri Hishatakaranner, Masn Aratjin (1401-1450) [Colophons of Fifteenth Century Armenian Manuscripts, Part One (1401-1450)] (Erevan, 1955), p. 10.

[7]          Ibid., p. 310.

[8]          Ibid., p. 328. Idem, Part Three (1481-1500) (Erevan, 1967), pp. 60-61; Vasken Hagopian and Ashot Hovhannisian, Hayeren Dseragreri JE Dari Hishatakaranner, (1601-1620)  [Colophons of Seventeenth Century Armenian Manuscripts (1601-1620)] (Erevan, 1974), p. 25.

[9]          Anasian, Azatagrakan Sharjumnern, p. 60.

[10]       Ashot Hovhannisian, Drvagner Hay Azatagrakan Mtki [History of the Armenian Liberational Mind], 2 vols. (Erevan, 1959), 2: 38.

[11]       Krikor Daranaghtsi, Jamanakagrutiun [Chronicle] (Jerusalem, 1915), pp. 168-169.

[12]       Melkon Asadur, Erekdarean Patmutiun Palatu Surb Hreshtakapet Ekeghetsvoy [A Three Hundred Year History of the St. Archangel Church of Palat] (Constantinople, 1931), p. 58.

[13]       Papken Giuleserian, Kolot Hovhannes Patriark [Patriarch Hovhannes Kolot] (Vienna, 1904), p. 120.

[14]       Siruni, Polis, 1: 477.

[15]       Mrmerian, Masnakan Patmutiun, p. 27.

[16]       1n the first instance, Ruhitjan and his collaborator were able to remove the unpopular Patriarch Tovmas Beratsi in 1658; the Patriarch had obtained the ferman (edict) of his institution to the patriarchate by raising the annual tax from 140, 000 to 400, 000 kuruş and bribing officials.

       The second instance relates to the removal of the Patriarch Hovhannes Mughnetsi, in 1655; a group of influential leaders, headed by Ruhitjan, forced the Patriarch to resign. See Ormanian, Azgapatum, 2: 2513; 2518-2521 and Asadur, Polsoy Hayere, pp. 25-26.

[17]       Anasian, Azatagrakan Sharjumnern, pp. 80-81.

[18]       Hagop Garnetsi, Teghagir Verin Hayots [Topography of Upper Armenia] (Vagharshapat, 1903), p. 34.

[19]       Daranaghtsi, Jamanakagrutiun, pp. 324-326.

[20]       Anasian, Azatagrakan Sharjumnern, p. 83.

[21]       Encyclopedia of Islam, new ed., s. v. “Çelebi, by W. Barthold and B. Spuler.

[22]       Ibid.

[23]       Ibid., and New Redhouse, s. v. “Hoca.

[24]       Anasian, Azatagrakan Sharjumnern, p. 59.

[25]       Mikayel Tchamtchian, Patmutiun Hayots [History of the Armenian People], 3 vols. (Venice, 1784-1786). 3: 698-709.

[26]       On the struggles that Eghiazar Ayntaptsi relentlessly continued to wage for many years, see Anasian, Azatagrakan Sharjumnern, p. 72 passim; Siruni, Polis, 1: 516 passim; Ormanian, Azgapatum, 2: 2559 passim; Tchamtchian, Patmutiun, 3: 697.

[27]       Siruni, Polis, 1: 485-486.

[28]       Arakel Davrijetsi, Patmutiun [History] (Vagharshapat, 1896), pp. 338-339.

[29]       Ibid.

[30]       Torkomian, Eremia Tchelepii, 2: 547-548, 574-575, and 3: 198-199.

[31]       Ibid., 1: 51-52, 388-389.

[32]       Ibid.

[33]       Davrijetsi, Patmutiun, p. 287.

[34]       In addition to Torkomian’s valuable work, there are a number of others, including Fr. Nerses Akinian’s Eremia Tchelepi Keomiurdjian, Keankn u Grakan Gordzunetiune [Eremia Çelebi Keomiurdjian, His Life and Literary Activities] (Vienna, 1933); Simon Eremian, “Eremia Tchelepi, Bazmaveb (1903): 367-373. For a complete listing of works on this topic see Torkomian, Eremia Tchelebii, 1: 138, note 1, and for the listing of Eremia Çelebi’s works see Akinian.

[35]       G. Hnaser (pseud. ), “Hay Vadjarakanner ev Arhestavorner K. Polsoy metj (JZ ev JE Dar), [“Armenian Merchants and Craftsmen in Istanbul (Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries), ”] Arev (Cairo), 7 October 1955, p. 3.

[36]       Mrmerian, Masnakan Patmutiun, n. 25.

[37]       Ghazarian, Arevmtahayeri Katsutiune, p. 382.

[38]       Ibid., p. 381; Anasian, Azatagrakan Sharjumnern, p. 67, note 1.

[39]       H. M. Ughurlian, Patmutiun Hayots Gaghtakanutean ev Shinutean Ekeghetsvoy i Livornoy Kaghaki [History of the Armenian Settlement in the City of Livorn and of the Construction of their Church] (Vienna, 1891), p. 30; Siruni, Polis, 1. 491.

[40]       See note 30, p. 23.

[41]       Davrijetsi, Patmutiun, p. 513.

[42]       Karekin Srvandsdiants, Toros Aghbar [Brother Toros], 2 vols. (Constantinople, 1879-1884), 2: 400.

[43]       Hagopian and Hovhannisian, Dseragreri, p. 743.

[44]       Simeon Tbir Lehatsi, Ughegrutiun [Travelogue] (Vienna, 1936), p. 318; Siruni, Poli s, 1: 487-488.

[45]       Daranaghtsi, Jamanakagrutiun, p. 580.

[46]       Anasian, Azatagrakan Sharjumnern, p. 62.

[47]       Ibid.

[48]       Ibid.

[49]       Ibid., p. 60.

[50]       Ibid., pp. 112-113.

[51]       Ibid., p. 113.

[52]       Ibid., p. 66.

[53]       Siruni, Polis, 1: 491.

[54]       Khatchigian, Hayeren Dseragreri, Part One (1401-1450) and Part Three (1481-1500).

[55]       Hagopian and Hovhannisian, Dseragreri, pp. 274-275 and 350.

[56]       Anasian, Azatagrakan Sharjumnern, p. 67, note 1.

[57]       Siruni, Polis, 1: 492.

[58]       Adjarian, Hayeren Armatakan Bararan [Armenian Etymological Dictionary), 6 vols. (Erevan, 1926-1933), 4: 760.

       Idem, Andsnanunneri, p. 171.

[59]       Idem, Arnatakan, 4: 760-762.

[60]       Encyclopedia of Islam, new ed., s. v. “Hadjdj, by A. J. Wensinck; Islam Ansiklopedisi, s. v. “Hace.

[61]       Khatchigian, Hayeren Dseragreri, Part One and Part Three.

[62]       Siruni, Polis, 1: 493.

[63]       Ibid.

[64]       Hagopian and Hovhannisian, Dseragreri, p. 138.

[65]       Ibid., pp. 143, 146, 149.

[66]       Ibid., pp. 29, 33, 377, 425, 590; Khatchigian, Hayeren Dseragreri, Part One, p. 328; Ara Kalaydjian, “Tsutsak ev Hishatakaranner G[alust] Giulbenkian Matenadarani Hayeren Antip Grkeru, [“Listing and Colophons of Armenian Unpublished Books in the G[alust] Giulbenkian Library”] Sion (1969, no. 9-10): 482.

[67]       Khatchigian, Hayeren Dseragreri, Part One, pp. 522-523.

[68]       Ibid., Part Three, p. 369.

[69]       Hagopian and Hovhannisian, Dseragreri, p. 644.

[70]       Khatchigian, Hayeren Dseragreri, Part One, pp 522-523.

[71]       Hagopian and Hovhannisian, Dseragreri, p. 318.

[72]       Ibid., p. 91.

[73]       Ibid.

[74]       Ibid., p. 705.

[75]       Ibid., p. 709.

[76]       Ibid., p. 57.

[77]       Ibid., p. 241.

[78]       Ibid., p. 529.

[79]       Ibid., p. 577.

[80]       Ibid., p. 611.

[81]       Ibid., p. 612.

[82]       M. E. N., ed., “Surb Hagopi Sephakanutean Khndir, [“The Problem of Ownership of the Convent St. James, ”] Sion (1942, no. 3-4): 89-91.

[83]       Kalaydjian, “Surb Hagopi, p. 253; Khatchigian, Hayeren Dseragreri, Part Three, p. 318.

[84]       See note 60, p. 29.

[85]       Hovhannisian, Review of Anasian’s Book, Patma-Banasirakan Hantes (1963, no. 1): 241.

[86]       Davrijetsi, Patmutiun, see in general.

[87]       Cf. See the previous note.

[88]       Anasian, Azatagrakan Sharjumnern, p. 60.