Chapter III


It is commonly asserted that amiras held managerial or supervisory positions in any state institutions and established close connections with the palace, the central administration and Turkish officialdom. Their presence was strongly felt in two spheres of the economic life of the empire: finance and industry. A detailed consideration of the evidence on their infiltration into these spheres consequently seems both warranted and useful.

As has been established, the relatively rich Armenian would enter into the profession of sarraf, the Ottoman designation for banker or money-lender, after amassing a working capital in Istanbul or the provinces. The great majority of amiras practiced this profession. (See appendix for details. ) Although there were some Jewish and Greek sarrafs, the privilege to practice the trade, sarraflik, was granted with overwhelming frequency to Armenians. Western and Armenian contemporary accounts lend support to the assertion that the profession was dominated by the Armenians. [1] The nineteenth century court-historian, vak’anüvis Ahmed Cevdet, names two prominent Armenian sarrafs and implies that the others too were predominantly drawn from the same ethnic group. [2] However, any Ottoman subject could enter into the sarraflik trade with a small or large capital after obtaining the necessary berat, permission, paying a certain fee; he would then join the guild of the sarrafs. Once the official permission was granted, the sarraf could lend money to anybody according to prevailing laws and regulations, as well as customs, but those wishing to enter into governmental transactions had to obtain a special license. The sarrafs licensed by the state were kuyruklu, literally “with tail, meaning privileged or licensed. [3] These were granted the permission to work with the state treasury, and were, therefore, treasury sarrafs (hazine sarraflari). [4]

These sarrafs played a pivotal role in the iltizam system of taxation. The main function of the system was to guarantee income to the state treasury through the collection of taxes. At first taxes were collected only from imperial lands, in Ottoman terminology havass-i hümayan. [5] The system, however, grew from year to year, and by the eighteenth century many kinds of taxes were collected throughout the empire. [6]

Turkish pashas, known as mültezim, entered into contractual obligation with the state treasury, bidding for the right to collect taxes in the provinces. This system allowed the state treasury to acquire most of the taxes to be collected long before the tax collectors were in the field. Moreover, peasants frequently paid in kind and there was a necessary period of waiting before this could be translated into its cash equivalent. The right to collect taxes was sold at auction and the highest bidder was granted permission for the collection of taxes in a province. To guarantee payment of the sum that was bid, the state treasury required the mültezim to present the security of a sarraf, for the successful bidder had to deposit the amount agreed upon either immediately or in installments. To gain the financial support of a sarraf, the mültezim-pasha needed “a note of hand from his former banker, declaring that all his demands had been satisfied. [7]

The sarrafs took considerable risks. The government held the Armenian sarraf, and not the mültezim, responsible for the actual payment of the amounts involved, even when the latter was wealthy. In general, the mültezims had rank and influence but they rarely controlled capital large enough to pay the security demanded by the state treasury. Furthermore, the state had more trust in the sarraf than the mültezim who could default in his payment and avoid punitive damages. The sarraf paid to the state treasury a certain sum, which varied between 1, 500 and 11, 000 kuruş (piastres), for the berat, the official permission, needed to act as guarantor to the mültezim. Moreover each time payment of the amount stipulated in a contract was completed, he had to pay a fee, harc, in order to mark the reddiyye-i temessük, termination of claim. [8]

The roster of the licensed sarrafs was kept in the records of both the hazine-i maliye, the state treasury, and the hazine-i hassa, the sultan’s privy purse. [9] This is an indication of the fact that both the government and the palace were interested in the sarrafs. Though Armenian historical sources make no mention of the fact, a modern Turkish historian claims that the profession of sarraf was hereditary. [10] It is true that there were many families whose members were sarrafs –a quick look at the roster of amiras will confirm this (see Appendix)– but this does not necessarily mean that the profession was of hereditary nature.

Usually the sarraf would designate his own agent to accompany the mültezim pasha to the province whose taxes the pasha was to collect. The agent, ordinarily a relative of the sarraf, would watch very closely the activities of the mültezim. Apparently, “all money transactions pass[ed] through his [the agent’s] hands. [11] Where the taxes were paid in kind, that is in commodities (which happened very frequently), the sarraf or his agent would convert the agricultural products into cash by sale in various municipal markets, thus acting both as banker and merchant. [12] In disposing of the commodities collected “which he managed to obtain at a reduced price, [13] the sarraf was entitled to a ten percent commission or “agency” [14] in addition to the interest on the money loaned. At least one Western contemporary source, critical of sarrafs, states that the pasha, after his arrival to the province, would give the banker a present ranging “from a tenth to one-fifth of the value of the revenue as his [the sarraf’s] profits on the operation [sale of agricultural products], and a[nother] present to his [the sarraf’s] clerk, of the diverse produce of the province. [15] Since the sarraf or his agent usually made the sale of agricultural commodities, the ten to twenty percent cited by the contemporary westerner was the profit that the sarraf kept for himself from the sale he made. Apparently this profit on the sale of commodities was as much part of the agreement between the mültezim and the sarraf as interest on the money loaned.

As to the rate of interest on the money the sarraf loaned to the mültezim at the time of bidding, it varied from eighteen to twenty-four percent per annum. [16] These interest rates have seemed usurious to some modern historians [17] and have been cited as the reason for the resentment of the bankers by the general population. Bankers are rarely loved, but it is doubtful if the interest rates were the reason for special resentment for sarrafs. According to most recent research these rates were not inordinately high. A contemporary Westerner wrote that “un banquier juif nous disait qu’entre confrères on se prêtait entre 24 et 25 pourcent d’intérêt. En Turquie, 20 pourcent est un terme moyen de prêt. [18] In a recent study, an American historian, analyzing data pertaining to loaning and credit customs and mentality among the Turkish inhabitants of the central Anatolian city of Kayseri, adduces: “legal and moral practice had evolved to a point where an interest rate of 20 percent per year was accepted by the entire [Muslim] religious community in accordance with the sharia. [19] Later he adds: “That it was possible to charge 20 percent interest a year without any kind of deception is indisputable, even if the historical process by which this came about is not clear. [20] He then concludes: “loans of 20 percent interest were respectable. [21] If the rates charged by the sarrafs were not “respectable, in that they could be over 20 percent per year, they were not outrageously high, unacceptable and usurious either. Moreover, if the sarrafs “entre confrères” were making loans at 24 and 25 percent interest per year, then the rates charged on loans given to mültezims were not higher than the going market rates for ordinary financial transactions.

Because of the size of the capital required, only very wealthy individuals could enter the profession. Pertinent data are not available to provide answers to such questions as: how many bankers were registered as treasury sarrafs? What were the ranges of the loans made? What method of payment was more frequently used, lump sum or installment? The most important element which does remain is the identification of the sarrafs. Through such an identification it may be possible to establish a correlation between the hazine sarrafs and the amira sarrafs (for, as we have established earlier, not all sarrafs were called amira).

The financial support that sarrafs provided was vital in other, related fields of Ottoman government. Turkish officials who aspired to high political office needed money at every stage, as politicians appointed or elected to office have always done. Not only were the posts of government purchased, but also the visible symbols of power and their accoutrements were expensive. After his appointment to an office, the first thing a new pasha did was to find an Armenian sarraf to finance the purchase of “his outfit of daggers, pistols, shawls, and all the other indispensables of a pasha. [22]

The sarrafs enjoyed such “unlimited confidence” that they were “never asked for an account... even for an acknowledgment of the money which passed through their hands. [23] The close working relationship between the Turkish pasha and the Armenian sarraf would create friendship and trust in each other. This relationship was based mainly on mutual interest; more often than not, it turned into enduring, lifelong loyalty and friendship. There are many eyewitness accounts and much factual evidence to support such a view of the sarraf’s relations with the mültezim. An early nineteenth century Armenian chronicler recorded: “In these days (in 1809) the one-eyed Yusuf Pasha came to Sebastia on his way to Constantinople [where he was appointed] Grand Vezir. Along with him came his sarraf mahdesi Kasbar Amira of Mashkert. [24] Another illustration of the personal ties between a Turkish pasha and an Armenian sarraf is the friendship between Çiblak Hüseyin Pasha and Dakes Amira. The latter helped Hüseyin Pasha financially when he was removed from office by Sultan Selim III (1788-1807). In recompense when the pasha was appointed Grand Vezir later on, he not only kept Dakes Amira as his official sarraf but secretly brought his family from Akn to Istanbul to surprise him. [25] The fortunes of the Armenian sarraf consequently rose and fell with those of his pasha. The sarraf had much to gain from the elevation of his pasha, and to that end he would “even contribute to [the pasha’s] nomination to be Grand Vezir. [26] Along with its advantages, such a relationship naturally had its pitfalls, as we shall see later in this chapter.

As the iltizam tax-farming system grew both in terms of the kinds of taxes collected and the areas under the system’s jurisdiction, the sarrafs took on a more important and greater role. The state was actually “borrowing from the sarrafs, [27] using taxes that were to be collected as collateral. The immediate and major concern of the state was the availability of cash provided by the loans. Thus, financing the daily operations of the Ottoman Empire became a tripartite affair, bringing the sarrafs into ever more direct contact with the Ottoman state itself.

Under the iltizam system it was invariably the mültezim who collected taxes in the provinces as representatives of the government, but Armenian sarrafs were given full and direct responsibility in the collection of customs duties. While it is not clear why the sarrafs could collect duties but not taxes, a partial explanation of this phenomenon may lie in the fact that the collection of duties by Armenian sarrafs was limited to major ports such as Istanbul, Izmir, and such major commercial centers as Aleppo and Erzurum. To cite but two instances: in 1802 Hovhannes Çelebi Diuzian had acquired the right to collect customs duties on silk, [28] and in 1847, a company headed by Mgrditch Amira Djezayirlian and Maksud Amira Sarimian was granted permission to collect import duties at ports in Istanbul and Izmir. [29]

Other sarrafs were jewelers and goldsmiths. In this capacity they served the palace, providing members of the sultan’s family with jewelry. The kuyumcu, i. e. “goldsmith, sarraf had to have the capital as well as the knowledge necessary for the profession. According to a Turkish historian, the kuyumcubaşi, chief goldsmith, and all the goldsmith sarrafs were Armenian. [30] Most of these sarrafs had goldsmiths work for them. In some provinces, goldsmithing was a special trade with hundreds of years of tradition and many professional secrets. A case in point is goldsmithing in the city and province of Van. According to one source, the profession had seven subdivisions, each with its specific task. [31] Much the same was true in Divrig, a town near Sebastia, where goldsmithing among Armenians was a highly developed and specialized craft. The specialty of the trade in Divrig lay in the secret formula of mixing gold with an alloy without leaving any impression of impurity or admixture. This apparently improved the quality of the gold without degrading it in value or in appearance. Those who knew the secret formula were called küliçeci, [32] a slang word meaning mixer or caster. [33] In Istanbul, these skilled goldsmiths worked as craftsmen and sometimes as sarrafs. [34]

Among the Armenian sarrafs who began as skilled artisans, no position was of great or even equal importance for the function and financial well-being of the Ottoman state than the management of operation of the state mint. In order to evaluate the function and role of these Armenian sarrafs more effectively, a concise description of the organizational structure of the mint seems warranted.

Like the other revenue-producing enterprises, the income of the mint was farmed out at auction. As in the case of provinces, here too the successful contractor, called ' amil, had to make payments to the state treasury in one lump sum or in regular installments. [35] Although the ' amil, the intendent of finance or collector of revenues, [36] was responsible for the collection of income, the actual operation of the mint remained under the control of state-appointed employees. These consisted of the emin or nazir, who was responsible for the supervision of the mint; the sahib-i ayar, who saw to it that all technical and legal requirements were met, and who acted as the director of operations; and the ustad or usta, who managed the minting process. [37] All appointive positions were entrusted to Armenians, who thus held the operational and managerial control of the mint.

In the earlier period the mint had been controlled by Jewish directors. Available sources provide only fragmentary information on how and why the control passed into the hands of Armenians. In 1752 a Dzeron Amira (no family name is given), who was a sarraf of the mint, died and a Catholic Armenian, Petraki Çelebi, succeeded him. [38] Then, in 1758, Mikayel Çelebi Diuzian or Diuz (Düz in Turkish) was appointed director of the mint, and Yago Bonfil, the Jewish director was removed from office. [39] Apparently Mikayel Çelebi supported the vezir who emerges as the winner in the internal rivalry around the palace. [40]

After 1758, the position of Director of the Imperial Mint was held with a short interruption by a member of the Diuzian family until 1880. The ascent of the family is significant. It is reported that a Harutiun Diuzian emigrated from Divrig, a center of goldsmithing, to Istanbul where he worked as a goldsmith. The circumstances surrounding the appointment of Sarkis Diuzian (d. 1721), a descendant of Harutiun, as palace goldsmith, are not clear. What is known is the fact that Sarkis was very skilled in his profession. His descendants continued to serve the palace in the same capacity, becoming kuyumcubaşi, chief goldsmith in the interim until Mikayel got the appointment to the mint. Thus Mikayel was able to combine in his person two positions: kuyumcubaşi and darphane emini, chief goldsmith and director of the mint. Both positions were kept in the family on a hereditary basis, either in one person or among different members. By this time the mint contained a special plant where the Armenian goldsmiths worked on gold and silver. [41]

In 1819, the family was disgraced, four of its male members hanged and the others driven to exile, and the control of the mint was entrusted to Harutiun Amira Bezdjian, who was, however, a former employee and protégé of the Diuzians. From 1819 to 1832 Bezdjian kept the directorship of the mint, except for a short interval in 1820, when he too was exiled for a year. During that period still another Armenian sarraf, Boghos Bilezigdjian, was put in charge of the institution. [42]

In addition to the money they made in goldsmithing and at the mint, the Diuzians were involved in banking activities as well. In 1802 Hovhannes Çelebi Diuzian obtained the right to collect customs duties on silk. [43] Another member of the family, Hagop Çelebi, showed interest in industry and built a large paper mill in Izmir in the 1840s. [44]

The Diuzians brought improvements in the management and efficiency in the operation of the mint. Mikayel is reported to have invented a new method to polish gold, a closely guarded secret, used only in the mint until 1830, when apparently the secret was given out. Mikayel minted a new gold coin, called findik altini, literally “hazel nut gold. The first to take steps to modernize the operation of the mint was Hagop Çelebi Diuzian who, in 1843, imported from England steam-powered engines to cut gold and silver coins. The following year the new coins known as mecidiye were introduced to the public. [45] His successor and relative Mihran Çelebi Diuzian continued the modernization process. According to Süleyman Sudi Efendi, who was familiar with its operations, the founders of the modernized mint were Hagop and Mihran Diuzian or Düzoģlu, as the family was known in governmental circles. [46]

The mint had always had Armenian employees. The renowned traveler Evliya Çelebi had recorded that the die-casters were “Christians and very honest, the smelters (or refiners) were Jews. [47] After the mint came under Diuzians’ control the number of its Armenian employees increased. [48] High level personnel, especially those with technical skills, were Armenian, and there are many references to Armenians holding technical positions at the mint. [49] Indeed, the complete control of the operation of the mint by the Armenian director and his immediate subordinates is reflected by the fact that the records of the mint were kept in Turkish written in Armenian characters that only Armenians could read. [50] These records of the mint were only recently discovered, after some bales had been burned as waste paper. [51]

While the employees received lifetime appointments from the government, the collector of revenues held his position on a yearly basis, with the possibility of reappointment. [52] The directors of the mint apparently were not simply salaried employees. They could derive financial benefits from their singular position. For instance, Harutiun Amira Bezdjian devised an astutely profitable system: he knew that the Muslims in India cherished the gold coin known as rubiye and would buy this coin, valued at 20 kuruş, for 25 kuruş, as a valuable coin from Dar ül-Hilafet, the Abode of the Caliphate. Consequently, Bezdjian collected from the market as many of the coins as possible and sent them to India to be sold there at a 25 percent profit. [53]

The Armenian sarrafs, whether lending funds to mültezim pashas, working for the mint, or making loans to ordinary borrowers, had their own organization: a guild, with a kehya or kâyha, “chief” or “steward” of the guild. [54] Armenian sources refer to various individuals as sarraflar kehyasi, chief of the guild of sarrafs. In 1728 Markar Amira, [55] in the 1780s Harutiun Amira Balkapantsi, [56] in the 1790s Minas Amira Tcheraz, [57] in 1819 Garabed Amira Aznavurian, [58] held the position. No listing of the membership of this guild at any given time is available, unfortunately, at least at this point, although a Western source stated that the sarrafs’ “corporation consist[ed] of sixty or eighty members, corresponding to the number of pashaliks. [59]

The promulgation of the Hatt-i Şerif of Gülhane, the “Noble Rescript of the Rose Chamber, on 3 November 1839, which abolished the iltizam tax-farming system in order to end the abuses associated with it, [60] was the first blow to the flourishing business of the sarrafs. This measure was further strengthened by the new imperial rescript, Hatt-i Hümayun, of March 1840, which reorganized the provincial administration of the empire, first by centralizing it and then by bringing it into an orderly system with salaried officials, who were to replace pashas and were responsible, to the central authorities. [61] Due to the strong reaction against these reform measures, on the one hand, and the financial difficulties that were encountered during the ensuing short period, on the other hand, the new tax system was abandoned in February 1842 and the civilian tax collecting officials were replaced by “the military governors and their contractors, with the assistance of councils of local notables. [62]

This relatively new situation apparently ushered in a new role for the Armenian sarrafs. In 1842, an association called Anadolu ve Rumeli Kumpanyasi, the “Anatolia and Rumeli Company, came into existence with governmental sanction. This company or association was responsible for the collection and remittance of the revenues of the whole empire to the treasury. Armenian sources do not describe specifically how it functioned and collected taxes. We know, however, that the company had two divisions: one for Anatolia, and one for Rumeli, and each division had six Armenian sarrafs. The Anatolian division consisted of the following: Harutiun Amira Erganian (Yerganian or Uzunian), Mgrditch Amira Djezayirlian, Bedros Amira Kiurkdjikhanlian, Misak Amira Misakian, Baghdasar Amira Tcharazian (Tcherazian or Tcheraz) and Boghos Amira Ashnanian. The Rumeli division had the following membership: Djanig Amira Papazian (or Simonian), Maksud Amira Sarimian, Harutiun Amira Gelgelian, Apraham Allahverdian (or Allahverdi), Hovhannes Tengerian (or Tenger), Hovsep Davidian. [63] Except for the last three, who were Catholics, the others were Apostolic Armenian amiras. The company, headed by Harutiun Amira Erganian, proved to be a short-lived experience: due to irregularities, strong European competition and lack of efficient organization, it was eventually dissolved. [64]

It was this European competition that brought the eventual doom of the sarrafs. But they made a last attempt to maintain their control before their total eclipse. By the imperial edict of 23 March 1853, a bank was to be established with a capital of 350 million kurus. Ottoman citizens could buy the shares valued at 100 sterling pounds each. The Egyptian yearly tribute was pledged as collateral. The shares, actually bonds, were to mature in 15 years. Mihran Çelebi Diuzian was to be named director of the bank, assisted by a board of governors with twelve members. The board included the following sarrafs: Maksud Amira Sarimian, Apraham Allahverdian, Hovhannes Tengerian, Boghos Çelebi Diuzian, Diran Aleksanian, Charles Hanson, David Glavani, Yanni Psikhari, Zarifi, etc. [65] It is significant that only one sarraf of amira rank was a member of this board. Whether the amira-sarrafs themselves desisted or were not invited to join the board, the presently available sources unfortunately shed no light on this question.

The Crimean war put an effective end not only to this project, but to the profession of the sarrafs. After the war the Ottoman state resorted, rather unwillingly, to loans from European lending institutions. It was neither the 1839 Hatt-i Şerif of Gülhane, nor the Hatt-i Hümayun, the “Imperial Rescript, promulgated on February 1856, that brought the final demise of the sarrafs, as has been claimed by one student of the topic, [66] but European banks and their representatives, actively supported by their respective governments. [67]

As the Diuzians were masters of the mint, so the Dadians, another family of amiras, held the monopoly for the operation of the gunpowder mills in Istanbul. Dad Arakel Amira, the ancestor who gave the family its name, was appointed barutcubaşi, “chief powder maker, in 1795, by Sultan Selim III in appreciation for his mechanical skills and technical innovations. Having migrated earlier from Akn to Istanbul and tried his luck as a watch repairer, Dad Arakel then turned sarraf but had to abandon this profession as well because of a long illness. Finally, he entered into the employ of a flour milling company, named “Paydos. Upon the recommendation of Foreign Minister Reşid Efendi (whom he had known and impressed when working as a watch repairer), he was allowed to repair the pulley of the old gunpowder mill at Ay Stefano (known also as San Stefano, now Yeşil Köy). This activity brought him to the attention of Ottoman officials, who asked him to build a steampowered engine for the new powder factory under construction at Azadli, a village north of Kücük Çekmece. Having successfully completed the task assigned, Dad Arakel was then appointed director of the new powder mill, with the privilege of exemption from payment of taxes and import duties. [68]

Arakel Amira further invented a new machine that could perform four operations at once: it could crush the mass of powder, mince and sift it, and pulverize and sift the coal. As the quality of the powder manufactured at the Azadli mill proved superior to the one made at the old mill, the French technician, who had been managing the mill at Ay Stefano, was dismissed and Arakel was appointed director. “A selfmade mechanical genius, [69] Dad Arakel invented several other machines or devices. Thus he built a wheeled-boat, similar to those on steamboats which did not exist at the time. At the request of Kapudan (Admiral) Hüseyin Pasha he invented, in 1802, a device to drain the bottom of ships, and another machine to cover the bottom of ships with copper instead of wood. In 1805 he built five looms to weave çuha, broad-cloth; the quality of the manufactured cloth was so high that the Sultan wore a coat made of that çuha and visited Arakel Amira at his factory at Azadli to express his satisfaction. During Mahmud II’s period, Arakel also built a machine, called hadde, to laminate silver and gold ingots, which his son Simon further improved; it was later used in the mint by the Diuzians. [70] So great was Arakel’s reputation that in 1810 the Shah of Iran invited him to his court. Understandably Mahmud did not allow Arakel to accept the invitation but permitted the Shah’s representatives to examine his machines. Armenian sources state that the position of barutcubaşi was granted to Arakel Amira as a hereditary privilege. [71] After Arakel’s death in 1812 his eldest son, Simon Amira Dadian, inherited the position at both mills. Whether the position was hereditary or whether each sultan reappointed the Dadians, the fact remains that this family kept the management of the two powder factories under its control until 1889.

Most members of the family were highly gifted, but the outstanding figure among Dad Arakel’s successors is his third son, Hovhannes Amira Dadian (1798-1869). It is worth examining and studying the work of this remarkable man. His experience at the mill started when he was hardly fifteen years old. In 1820 he was named director of the paper mill at Beykoz (founded by an Armenian named Artin). In 1826 he served as director of the spinning mill at Eyyup. A year later Hovhannes Amira devised a new machine for the piercing and rifling of the barrels of muskets, and then a device to polish them. Mahmud II was so pleased with Hovhannes and his older brother Simon that he personally expressed his satisfaction and gave Simon 15, 000 and Hovhannes 10, 000 kuruş. [72] The following year Hovhannes built three more machines for the manufacture of muskets at the plant at Dolmabahce, four others for spinning, and a little later a water pump. [73]

In order to improve his technical knowledge, Hovhannes Amira made extensive trips to Europe. His first voyage, in 1835, was overland to Austria, Italy, France and England. There he showed particular interest in chemistry, and gained up-to-date knowledge on iron foundries and weaving factories. As the official representative of the Sultan, he was well received everywhere he visited. [74] At the end of this yearlong trip, he brought with him modern machinery for the powder mills whose operation he reorganized completely. He had also obtained many diplomas from various institutions, and was consequently granted the important medal of iftihar in 1838.

The first innovations introduced by Hovhannes Dadian were related chiefly to the two gunpowder mills. Not only the quality of the powder was upgraded, [75] but new methods of manufacture initiated; [76] all of these duly recognized and appreciated by the Ottoman government. The most significant contributions this talented man made to the Ottoman economy went beyond this sphere, however, and affected the whole of the industrial field. He founded many state-owned industrial plants and factories, a quick enumeration of which can give a sense of the range of his work and of his multifaceted talent. In 1840 he set up a silk mill for the manufacture of silk products at Hereke; during the same year an iron smelting foundry was established at Ay Stefano, near the powder mill; in 1842, a tannery was built at a place called Boģazici or Silviburnu, near Beykoz, whose leather was to be used for the manufacture of shoes and powderflasks for the troops; in 1844 two factories were erected at Izmir for the manufacture of çuha, broadcloth, to be utilized in making clothing for soldiers; in 1845 a cotton mill was constructed again at Hereke, for the manufacture of fes, headgear, underwear, socks, carpet and silk cloth; during the same year one large and one small iron melting foundries were built at Zeytinburnu; near Ay Stefano.

Most of these factories needed modern, European-made machinery, for the purchase of which Hovhannes Amira undertook his second year-long trip to Europe (from October 1842 to February 1844). Along with the purchased machinery he hired European technicians and skilled workers to operate the modern factories. Contemporary sources continually refer to Sultan Abdülmecid’s frequent visits to these plants. Indeed, Hovhannes Amira is reported to have paid a visit to King Louis-Philippe of France during this second trip, thus lending support to the view that his visits were of official nature. [77] For the same reason, in February 1847, he embarked on a third trip to Europe from which he returned in January 1848. The contemporary Armenian newspaper in Izmir reported that, before the start of his journey, Hovhannes Amira, along with his two sons Arakel-Sisag and Nerses-Khosrov “had the honor to be presented to Sultan Abdülmecid who had a long conversation with Hovhannes Amira about matters related to his position. [78]

Clearly, Hovhannes Amira acted in a broader capacity than that of a purchasing agent for the Ottoman government. Before his second trip to Europe, he had selected sites for factories to be built in Bursa and Izmit (then called also Nicomedia). He initiated, planned and implemented the industrial projects that the government felt the state economy needed. The government determined the policy of the industrialization program, its direction, emphasis and the amount of investment; Dadian’s task was to implement the program, in all its aspects. Recently, a keen observer of early Ottoman industrialization efforts remarked: “Sultan Abdülmecid apparently gave extensive authority to Ohannes Dadian as effective head of the new industrial program. In 1842 Ohannes helped select specific sites for the Istanbul factories, the model farm, the Izmit wool mill, the Bursa sheep-ranch... [79] By the early 1840s, Hovhannes Amira was considered “probably more experienced in industrial management than was any other Ottoman subject. [80]

The administration and management of all these industrial enterprises were exclusively in the hands of Dadians. While Hovhannes was absorbed in the technical aspects of the industrial program, his nephew, Boghos Amira (Hovhannes’s elder brother, Simon’s son), was the supervisor of both powder mills. Hovhannes Amira took responsibility for governmental relations, foreign and domestic, and for importation of machinery, his nephew acted as chief administrator. Other members of the family were entrusted with key positions in the factories. Hovhannes Amira’s eldest son, Arakel-Sisag, was the manager of the imperial model farm at Zeytinburnu, set up in 1847. In 1857 this young Dadian was named barutcubaşi of the powderworks at Rados (Rhodes?), as well as director of the sulphur and saltpeter (or potassium nitrate) factory. After his father’s death in 1869, he was appointed barutcubaşi of the powder mill at Azadli. [81]

Hovhannes Amira’s second son, Nerses-Khosrov, an engineer like his older brother, was named director of the wool mill at Izmit after his return from studies in Paris in 1845, and two years later became manager of the foundry at Zeytinburnu. Following in his father’s footsteps, this talented man was an innovator and, to some extent, also an inventor. In 1847 he built the first railroad track in Turkey on the Straits of the Bosphorus. [82] This short track was built to facilitate movement of freight to and from the brick factory at the village of Böyükdere on the Bosphorus. He further invented a water pump used in the wells of Istanbul, and adapted a heavy scale for the use of customs officials in the weighing of heavy loads in the harbor. Other members and relatives of the family were employed in the various factories and plants under Dadians’ management. In 1843 Arakel-Sisag dispatched one of his assistants at the Azadli mill to Baghdad to set up a powder mill there. The Dadians employed many Armenians. The village of Makrikeui, now Bakirköy, was inhabited by immigrant Armenians from various provinces, who worked in the nearby powder factory at Ay Stefano. [83] Some of these were skilled laborers; Sivri Khatchadur Kehya and Usda Ghugas of Palu were both experts in mechanics and powder making. [84] According to an eyewitness account, some five hundred Armenian workers were also employed at the musket works at Fanal, called Tophane. [85]

Many of the factories and plants the Dadians managed were built by Garabed Amira Balian, Chief Imperial Architect, in cooperation with Hovhannes Amira Serverian, another Imperial Architect and a son-in-law of Garabed Amira. To cite a few instances, the tannery near Beykoz was constructed by Balian Amira in 1842; [86] so was the cuha mill in Izmit, built in 1844. Balian Amira reportedly used modern techniques, for “the building [of the cuha mill] which incorporated significant advances in European construction techniques. [87]

In general, the Dadians kept a monopolistic privilege and control over the industrial field, the Balians and Serverians being involved only in the construction of factories. The only exception to this control was Hagop Celebi Diuzian who, in 1844, installed steam-powered stamping machines in the mint, and built a paper mill in Izmir. It is not known why he did not continue his activities in this area of development. Were the Dadians able to eliminate their potential rival through the intervention of the Sultan or the government? Did Hagop Diuzian lose interest in industrial ventures? The two families had a long-standing rivalry; whether this rivalry played any role in cutting short Hagop Diuzian’s new career in industry remains to be answered. In 1849 the Dadians were reported by an English newspaper to have been removed from office and their properties confiscated. [88] Except for this one journalistic account, however, no Armenian or Western source mentions such a major mishap to the family. Foreigners also accused the Dadians of practicing “Jobbery, a term implying collusion between this Armenian family and Ottoman officials to whom they were accountable. Apparently there was sufficient ground for the accusation. [89] However, such blames were not devoid of bias and self-serving interest.

Other Armenian industrialists emerged eventually, but the industrial activities of Armenians per se is not part of the subject of this study, only that of amiras. Nor is the industrialization effort of the Ottoman state a focal point. It should be emphasized, however, that if the industrial program of the government did not achieve the anticipated results, it was due to the over-ambitious goals it had set, ignoring such essential prerequisites as proper economic infrastructure and social environment. A whole series of accidental mishaps, natural and man-made, coincided to give a heavy blow to the program. [90] The Ottoman industrial program of the 1840s did not accomplish its major goals. “Not even Ottoman military self-sufficiency was remotely approached. [91] Many factories were closed and equipment rusted. Hovhannes Amira could not “carry through [the] widespread revolutionary changes” that the program would inevitably usher in. [92] But in a country where one of the major factors responsible for the stagnant condition of the economy “was the lack of managers and technicians” [93] the Dadians were certainly a new breed, embodying in their persons both qualifications. They even tried to train local people for the new industries. In the technical school they established, members of the family also served as teachers.

All in all, the Dadians were not merely industrial managers and technocrats, both badly needed in the Ottoman industrialization program, but also innovators and westernizers who introduced western technology, scientific innovations, education and mentality into Ottoman governing circles and society in general.

Just as the Diuzians and the Dadians controlled some positions, so the Balian family came to monopolize the position of Chief Imperial Architect, which had formerly belonged to the Greeks. [94] The early history of the Balian family is at present unclear. According to an Armenian source, an ancestor of the family, Bali, had entered into Sultan Mehmed III’s (1596-1603) service, and married the daughter of the royal architect, who was likewise an Armenian. This Bali presumably inherited his father-in-law’s office after the latter’s death, and Bali’s position was then given to his son. The accession and early succession to this position, however, still remain contradictory and unresolved. [95] The first fully documented Armenian to hold that office did not belong to these families but was a certain Melidon Arabian or Araboģlu, originally from Kesaria (Kayseri in Turkish, formerly Caesaria). He is reported to have been Sultan Ahmed III’s (1703-1730) architect in 1722.

During this same period, a member of the then unknown Balian family, Sarkis Khalfa, was also an architect of some repute. Khalfa, or kalfa in modern Turkish, means “master builder; the epithet was an indication of the profession of architect. In 1727 Sarkis Khalfa built a church and is mentioned as “palace architect. [96] Most probably he was Melidon’s deputy whom he succeeded after the latter’s death.

The family rose to prominence by the end of the eighteenth century with Krikor Amira Balian, appointed Imperial Architect by Abdulhamit I (1774-1789). Krikor, with his brother Senekrim, his son Garabed, and three grandsons, all architects, formed the “Armenian Ottoman dynasty of royal architects who were to be responsible for as many acres of building as Sinan had been, including the Dolmabahce, Beylerbey and Ciragan palaces. [97] After the construction of the Nusretiye (“Divine Victory”) mosque in 1826, “most major buildings erected for the sovereign were the work of the Balian family or their Armenian assistants. [98] These included not only sumptuous palaces and mosques, but also barracks, fire towers, industrial factories and the state mint. [99] Garabed Amira Balian, Krikor’s son, along with his brother-in-law Hovhannes Amira Serverian, himself a royal architect, reportedly built some 180 buildings. [100] Neither Garabed nor his father had studied abroad, but following the westernizing pattern his three sons, Nigoghos, Sarkis and Hagop, were sent to Paris to study at the College St. Barbe. All three studied architecture, and continuing in the family tradition, they too are credited with the construction of numerous buildings. [101]

Without attempting to evaluate the artistic contribution of this family to Ottoman architecture, in general, and to the beautification of the capital, in particular, the following quotation from an authority on the subject should be sufficient to give an idea concerning their influence: “the dynasty (Balians) introduced European fashion and a flamboyance, which has been popular ever since. [102] In addition to the construction of buildings for the state, the Balians contributed to “the European appearance of the new neighborhoods” of Istanbul. [103]

In addition to the professions, Armenians were, of course, prominent in the field of commerce and indeed had always been active in the trade of the Ottoman Empire. Of the great merchants, only those connected with the palace were named amira. These great amira-merchants, whom the Ottomans called bazirgân, a term best translated as “officially-appointed purveyor, [104] provided the palace with such necessities as çuha, bez (cotton material), tülbent (muslin), etc. In addition to their primary function as purveyors of the palace, many bazirgâns served the army, assuming responsibility for its provisions. Others were involved in general trade.

As early as the 1640s, Armenian merchants occupied the position of bazirgânbaşi, i. e. “chief purveyor, of Sultan Murad IV’s (1623-1640) army during its march on Baghdad in 1638. [105] Many of these merchants controlled a single trade route or specialized in a particular commodity. Throughout the 1780s and 1790s, for example, Garabed Manugian’s fleet dominated shipping between Istanbul and Russia, enabling him to accumulate a great fortune. [106] In the 1750s, Hovsep Çelebi, as bazirgân, monopolized the importation of watches from England, controlling their sale throughout the empire, and enriching himself in the process. [107]

In the 1760s, three amiras are reported as bazirgânbaşi of the grand vezir: Boghos Amira (Aleksanian), Ghazar Amira (Movsesian) and Aslan Amira (family name not known). [108] After the grand vezir’s death, they all fell; Mardiros Amira Sakaian along with his associates succeeded them. A renowned amira, Mikayel Pishmishian, was also a bazirgân, specifically ekmekçibaşi, “chief bread purveyor, for the government, and most probably for the army as well. [109] During the eighteenth century a considerable number of amiras were bazirgâns but after the turn of the century the sources are silent about their activities. In general, the bazirgân-amiras are a much more limited phenomenon than the amiras engaged in finance and industry.

Whatever their profession or field, amiras accumulated great wealth. Apparently the Dadians and Balians as well as those associated with them were salaried state employees. An Armenian source mentions that Garabed Amira Balian would receive 5, 000 Ottoman gold coins as a present or reward from the sultan each time the construction of a building was completed. [110] According to the same source he had built 180 buildings. Assuming that a few dozen of these buildings were for private parties, such as houses for amiras and other wealthy individuals, a simple arithmetic computation would yield a huge earned income. [111] As mentioned earlier, Simon and Hovhannes Amira Dadian brothers received 15, 000 and 10, 000 kuruş respectively from Mahmud II as bonuses in appreciation for their inventions and skills. Another indication that the Dadians were salaried is the fact that in 1798 Selim III allocated 410 kuruş for each of the three young sons of Dad Arakel. Moreover, royal architects and powder makers were not only exempt from taxation and payment of duties, but received lands as personal gifts from the various sultans. These salaried amiras were very rich; they lived in luxury and abundance. Hovhannes Amira Dadian, for one, owned three houses: in Beşiktaş, [112] Azadli and Ay Stefano. Even so, their wealth was not on the level of that of a sarraf-amira.

The sarraf-amiras took advantage of the opportunities of their profession and enriched themselves, as a banker would do in any country. There are unfortunately no present data as to the extent of their wealth. A contemporary western observer estimated “the utmost extent of their (the sarrafs’) fortunes to be a million sterling. [113] The joint wealth of the sarraf and bazirgân Hagop (or Yagub) Aģa Hovhannesian and the chief [black?] eunuch Süleyman was estimated to have reached the staggering amount of 45 million kuruş exclusive of jewelry and other valuable articles, at the time they were both hanged in 1752. [114] There is, however, no way of separating the share of the Armenian bazirgân from that of his collaborator. In 1828, Harutiun Amira Bezdjian, one of the wealthiest men of his time, is reported to have bought the pleasure boat of a European traveler for 350, 000 kuruş with “one or two other leading [Armenian] characters, and presented it to Mahmud II as a gift. [115] In the same year, Harutiun Amira paid for half of the expenditure for the reconstruction of the burnt-out Patriarchal building and its adjacent three churches, at an estimated cost of as much as three million kuruş. [116]

These wealthy individuals could not feel secure without additional guarantees. The government granted them a legal framework which assured, to some extent, that they would not be considered simply zimmi, non-Muslim, subjects. Because of the nature of the profession of banking, disputes would inevitably arise between a sarraf and his debtor, usually a mültezim pasha. The sarraf as a member of a zimmi millet had a major legal handicap: his testimony was not admissible in an Islamic court, and he could, therefore, not obtain equitable redress in an ordinary tribunal. Furthermore, the sharia, Islamic canon law, considered interest on money loaned as illegal and usurious. To remedy this situation, the government created a special court where the sarrafs’ lawsuits could be tried equitably. It is not clear whether this special court, called by a western source the “council of the mint, [117] was connected with the Ministry of Finance, hazine-i maliye, or the Sultan’s Privy Purse, hazine-i hassa. [118] Whatever the jurisdictional connections of this tribunal, the fact remains that the sarrafs were granted legal rights not available to the rest of the non-Muslim society, and were “considered privileged” [119] subjects of the Sultan.

Even so this extraordinary and favorable legal measure guaranteed the security of neither their wealth nor their person. The fact remained that “eminent posts [were] eminent dangers in Turkey, as a contemporary western observer noted succinctly. [120] Corruption and bribery were widespread in the administration; nothing could be accomplished without bribery. [121] This practice was not limited to poorly-paid, low echelon government employees, but reached the highest levels of the ruling class, and the sultan himself, who would not hesitate to confiscate the fortunes of his wealthy subjects when he felt need for money. [122]

In this atmosphere many a sarraf lost both his wealth and life. To some extent it was true that when “a sarraf has become so rich as to make him worth the sacrifice... [he] is hanged and decapitated, his property seized, and his family reduced to utter destitution. [123] Hagop Hovhannesian’s case has already been mentioned. He was both the bazirgân and the sarraf of the grand vezir. [124] In 1763, Ghazaros Amira Movsesian, bazirgân of the Grand Vezir Ragib Mehmet Pasha, was imprisoned, along with two colleagues, after the latter’s death, and consequently hanged. [125] In 1821, Krikor Amira Tcharazian, a prominent sarraf in Istanbul, was hanged from the door of the Valide Han, a center for the sarrafs. [126] In general, a sarraf was imprisoned or killed as a consequence of the downfall or death of the pasha whose political patronage he enjoyed, although unlike the pasha, the Armenian sarraf might occasionally save his life and salvage part of his fortune through bribery and the intervention of friends. [127]

The most notorious among the numerous such cases of sarraf downfalls was that of the Diuzians, who, as we have noted, held the twin positions of director of the mint and chief goldsmith. In 1819, after a preliminary investigation of their accounts and activities at the mint, four male members of the family were hanged, while the others, including some women, were banished from the capital to Anatolian cities, and their extensive properties and great -fortune confiscated. This was such a significant event that even the French ambassador reported the hangings and the ensuing confiscations to the Foreign Ministry in Paris. [128] There is extensive literature on this subject. Suffice it to state that the accusation of flaws in the accounts by the government was not without any foundation, but the extreme punishment does not seem to have been warranted. [129]

Another striking case of the disgrace and impoverishment of an Armenian sarraf was that of Mgrditch Amira Djezayirlian, who was the sarraf of the Grand Vezir Mustafa Resid Pasha. A short time after Resid Pasha’s death (7 January 1858), Mgrditch Amira’s properties and wealth, including jewelry, were confiscated (1859) under the pretext that his accounts were to be examined. The investigation never took place, he was left totally destitute and he died a poor man two years later (1 April 1861). Such misfortune as befell Djazayirlian Amira was not as frequent and ominous as the change of grand vezirs, yet it did happen intermittently. In 1832, three prominent amiras, Maksud Amira Sarimian, the brothers Djanig Amira and Khntir Amira Papazian, faced imminent hanging but were saved thanks to the intervention of well-placed friends in the government.

It would be erroneous to deduce or assume from the few incidents described and many similar ones not recounted here that the government had any planned policy directed against the Armenian sarrafs. The imprisonments and executions were “normal” consequence of Ottoman political vicissitudes. If the pashas, some of them former grand vezirs, could be hanged or decapitated, the Armenian sarrafs, as zimmis, would be just as liable to such a fate. In other words, there is no evidence that throughout this period the Ottoman government pursued any deliberate policy inimical to sarrafs in general, and to Armenian sarrafs and wealthy amiras, in particular.

On the contrary, the Armenian sarrafs were so well integrated into the Ottoman system that they enjoyed the confidence and trust of not only the pashas but the sultan himself. Maksud Amira Sarimian is reported to have been a “special scribe” of Mahmud II in the 1820s. [130] Abdülmecid dined twice at Garabed Çelebi Diuzian’s house and once brought with him the valide sultan, i. e., the queen mother. [131] He also visited Garabed’s nephew, Mihran Çelebi Diuzian at the latter’s house. [132] Similarly the sultan paid many visits to the Dadians, and once stayed over at Boghos Amira Dadian’s house at Ay Stefano for four days. [133]

The close relations that developed between Mahmud II and Harutiun Amira Bezdjian remained unparalleled. Bezdjian Amira, known also as Kazez Artin, became a companion, confidant and a counselor of the sultan. The ties of friendship were so close that many anecdotes were told about them. Kazez Artin was a frequent visitor at the palace. When he fell ill the sultan visited him at his rather modest house at Yenikapu. To be closer to the palace, he was moved to Ortaköy. And when he died his casket was put in a boat, according to the wishes of the sultan, and passed by the palace, so Mahmud could bid farewell to his friend. [134]

Two incidents are sufficiently indicative of Bezdjian’s role to be worth presenting here. During 1829 there was a shortage of food in the capital because of the Russo-Turkish war. As a remedy the government issued a decree ordering Armenians, Greeks, Jews and others who had come to Constantinople in recent years, as well as bachelors, to return to their birthplaces. This decree created unrest in the population. Bezdjian proposed, instead, the removal of internal customs duties, the reduction of fees on travel and the freeing of the trade of wheat and other staples from any restrictions. As a result, the capital was soon flooded with wheat and other foods. [135] At the end of the war a new difficulty was faced: one of the stipulations of the treaty, was the payment of heavy war indemnity. As the Ottoman state treasury was empty, Bezdjian was granted permission to secure the amount demanded by the Russians by whatever means he could. In a matter of a few days he obtained the necessary loans from the European and local merchants in Istanbul and presented the voucher to the sultan. [136]

Such easy access to and close contact with the sultan, at a time when he was still “the shadow of God on earth, was doubly significant: the sultan, by communicating with these zimmi subjects, was giving proof of his open-mindedness; the Armenian amiras, having such closeness with the ultimate authority in the Muslim empire, were indicating that they were as much an integral part of the Ottoman ruling class as any other elements. The Christian Armenian was closer to the sultan and his entourage than most Muslim rayas (subjects).

What made this possible was the role reserved to the Armenian notables, especially the sarrafs. These amira-sarrafs were capitalists par excellence: as capitalists their capital was essential for the functioning of Ottoman financial structure. In the iltizam tax-farming system their dual role of sarraf, as banker providing capital and merchant selling commodities given in lieu of cash, was indispensable. The iltizam system itself, started during Mehmed Fatih’s period, had evolved from playing a small and limited role to the point where all kinds of taxes, not just ’ushr, the tithe, were collected in this way. The greater the importance of iltizam in Ottoman financial and economic structure, the more critical and vital was the position of the sarrafs in the entire Ottoman governmental system.

In spite of this, the sarrafs were not perceived positively. They were, and still are, depicted as usurers who charged “des taux d’intérêt extrèmement élevés, [137] made “enormous but unholy gains by a fictitious raising and lowering of the exchange, by elsewhere unheard-of-usury, [138] and who were “magnates of compradorial capital. [139] According to a European contemporary historian, their influence was so corruptive that it “grinds the peasantry, puts hatred between the pashas and his province, degrades the character of the public service, and excludes from it character, honour and honesty. [140] Their role and place were perceived in such a distorted way that an English merchant resident in Istanbul argued that “one of the two reasons for Turkey’s existence... was for the benefit of some fifty or sixty bankers or usurers, and some thirty or forty pashas, who make a fortune out of its spoils. [141]

These criticisms and, to some degree, accusations made against the sarrafs suggest that they were not as unselfish and disinterested as might appear. Contemporary western observers expressed indignation at the usurious rates the sarrafs were charging for their loans, but, as stated earlier, these rates were neither usurious nor outrageous. Actually, the sarrafs were making as much money from the commercial business connected to tax collecting (buying cheap and selling high the agricultural products peasants would give in lieu of cash) as from the interest on loans. But Europeans were struck by the high rates prevailing in Ottoman financial transactions. And since they had “surplus capital” to be invested, at the first opportunity, which was presented after the Crimean War (1854-1856), they entered into Ottoman finances. [142] The rest belongs to Ottoman financial history.

Unlike contemporary observers, modern students of the subject put the responsibility equally on the shoulders of the sarraf and the pasha. A modern historian found collusion between the two, since they were part of the iltizam system and benefited equally from it. They were exploiting the situation illegally to their personal advantage. [143] Yet the contemporary court historian, Cevdet Pasha, was more critical of the mültezim pashas than of the sarrafs. He called the mültezims “that group of bankrupt and rude men, who went to the provinces and, in order to collect higher taxes for the iltizam, tormented the poor. [144] Even the harsh western contemporary critic of sarrafs came to the conclusion that “the cause of the misgovernment of Turkey is to be found ... in the power of the pashas” [145] and that to remedy the situation “it is only necessary to collect the revenue without the intervention of the pashas. [146]

Whether the elimination of “the intervention” of the pashas was the true panacea of the situation or not, the Armenian sarrafs certainly had their share of responsibility in the harsh conditions that the iltizam tax-farming system had created for the Ottoman taxpayer. The latter, Muslim and zimmi, suffered from the multiplicity and weight of taxes and from the arbitrary ways in which they were administered. [147]

The Armenian sarrafs were, in the final analysis, lending money to a state which was financially in a chronic state of deficiency. If anything, these sarrafs helped the fragile Ottoman financial administration keep running without suffering internal shocks or break-ups, and held outside intervention at bay for more time. At least one modern Turkish historian has acknowledged the salutary role of the sarrafs during this crucial time: “the roles that the sarrafs played during the times of need of the state are truly great. [148]

As for the influence of the Armenian sarrafs, according to one contemporary western historian, it was decisive and enormous, for “they can reduce any Turkish governor to the condition of a private individual. [149] This assessment of their economic power is exaggerated, if not misleading, for this same observer noted that “the bankers have no power of their own, they have no distinct influence, ... they are wholly deprived of all political importance. [150]

While there could be diversity of opinion, if not controversy, in the evaluation of the function and role of sarraf-amiras, the assessment of technocrat-industrialist and architect amiras is devoid of such ambivalence and argumentation. At the time the Dadians and their associates emerged on the scene, the Ottoman state, under Selim III’s guidance and instigation, was undertaking tentative and limited steps to introduce machine manufactured goods for the army. These efforts were intensified under Mahmud II, and turned into an ambitious industrialization program during Abdülmecid’s reign. More than anything else, the government needed industrial managers with technical skills who could implement the various projects. The Dadians, starting with Dad Arakel Amira, demonstrated unique aptitude and skill in the technical field, and talent in industrial and skill in the technical field, and talent in industrial management. They did more than select sites, import modern machines, or operate and manage the various manufacturing plants. They invented new devices and machines, and adapted others from European models; they were inventors as well as innovators. The Dadians introduced into Ottoman society, in general, not only advanced European technological methods, but western mentality and way of thinking. As such, they were westernizers as well.

As a class, the amiras, whether sarraf, architect, merchant-purveyor, or technocrat, were deeply entrenched in the Ottoman governing system and ruling class. They enjoyed Ottoman governing system and ruling class. They enjoyed privileges, rights and status which were bestowed upon only those who belonged to the governing elite of Ottoman society.

However enviable and impressive these glamorous trappings were, amiras lacked a most essential ingredient or characteristic, which differentiated them from the rest of the ruling elite: political power. Amiras neither held political offices nor exercised any truly political power in the Ottoman government; they could not affect directly the latter’s internal or external policies. Their interests lay in the preservation of the regime, yet, when the government introduced reform measures which would undermine their economic interests and social status they could demonstrate no visible opposition and acquiesced.

The political power which amiras lacked as marginal members of the Ottoman ruling class, they found ample opportunity and almost complete freedom to exercise in the Armenian millet.

[1]          Among many Armenian sources the following are cited: A. Ketchian, Akn, p. 61; A. Berberian, Patmutiun, p. 19 passim; Gabriel Ayvazovski, Patmutium Osmanean Petutean [History of the Ottoman State], 2 vols. (Venice, 1841), 2: 35; H. Injidjian, Ashkharhagrutiun Tchorits Masants Ashkharhi [Universal Geography], 5 vols. (Venice, 1801-1806), 5: 121. Among Western sources: Ubicini, Lettres, 2: 315; MacFarlane, Constantinople, 1: 112; Urquhart, Turkey, pp. 108-112; A. Du Velay, Essai sur l'Histoire Financière de la Turquie (Paris, 1903), pp. 47, 53; Adoiphus Slade, Records of Travels in Turkey, Greece (Philadelphia, 1833; reprint ed., London, 1854), p. 434.

       An eyewitness observed: “All the pashas in the interior are obliged to have their bankers, and these for the most part are Armenians from Constantinonle. ABCFM, Mission to the Armenians, Constantinople, vol. 1 (1838-1844), no. 144.

[2]          Ahmet Cevdet, Tarih-i Cevdet, 12 vols. (Istanbul, 1871-1880), 1: 159-163, 11: 45-46; Armenian trans., A. KH. Safrastian, Turkakan Aghbiurnere Hayastani, Hayeri ev Andrkovkasi Mius Joghovurdneri Masin [Turkish Sources About Armenia, Armenians and the Other People of Transcaucasia] 2 vols. (Erevan, 1961-64), 1: 237-243, 300-302.

[3]          Pakalin, Deyimleri, 1: 79-3 S. V. “Hazine Sarraflari.

[4]          Ibid.

[5]          Ibid., 2: 57-53; Mehmet Genc, Osmanli Maliyesinde Malikane Sistemi [The Malikane System in Ottoman Finance], ed. Osman Okyar, Türkiye Iktisat Tarihi Semineri [Seminar on the Economic History of Turkey] (Ankara, 1975), pp. 232-235; DuVelay, Essai, pp. 2-81.

[6]          For a cursory study of the history of the iltizam system and the various taxes collected see Pakalin, Deyimleri, 2: 57-58 s. v. “Iltizamat.

[7]          Urquhart, Turkey, p. 108.

[8]          Pakalin, Devimleri, 2: 58.

[9]          Ibid., 1: 793.

[10]       Ibid.

[11]       Urquhart, Turkey, p. 110.

[12]       Walsh, Residence, 2: 430.

[13]       Urquhart, Turkey, p. 110.

[14]       Walsh, Residence, 2: 430.

[15]       Urquhart, Turkey, p. 108.

[16]       White, Three Years in Constantinople, 2: 63.

[17]       The following quotation is typical of contemporary Western opinion of the sarraf s: ... the native saraff [sic] ... makes his enormous but unholy gains by a fictitious raising and lowering of the exchange, by elsewhere unheard-of-usury, and ... by ‘sweating’ the coins which pass through his hands; in Farley, The Resources of Turkey, p. 70.

[18]       Ami Boue, La Turquie d’Europe, 4 vols. (Paris, 1840), 3: 124.

[19]       Ronald C. Jennings, “Loans and Credit in Early 17th Century Ottoman Judicial Records, Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 16 (1973): 184.

[20]       Ibid., p. 190.

[21]       Ibid., p. 214. The going rate in Western Europe on governmental bonds was five or six percent per year. See Donald C. Blaisdell, European Financial Control of the Ottoman Empire (New York, 1929), p. 20.

[22]       Walsh, Residence, 2: 430.

[23]       Ubicini, Lettres, 2: 315.

[24]       Hovhannes Sebastatsi, Patmutiun Sebastioy [History of Sebastia], ed. B. L. Tchugaszian (Erevan, 1974), p. 115.

[25]       Toros Azadian, Akn (Istanbul, 1956), p. 87. The pasha, after his elevation to grand vezirate, secretly brought the Armenian sarraf ’s family from Akn to Istanbul, settled them in a large house and took his friend for a casual visit there.

[26]       Urquhart, Turkey, p. 109.

[27]       Pakalin, Deyimleri, 1: 793.

[28]       Endardsak Oratsoyts, 1900, p. 141; Zartarian, Hishatakaran, p. 138.

[29]       Arshaloys Araratean (Izmir), 10 January 1847, p. 3.

[30]       Pakalin, Deyimleri, 2: 334, s. v. “Kuyumicubaşi.

[31]       Haygag Gosoian, “Vaspurakani Hay Joghovrdakan Mi Kani Dohmik Arhestneri Masin, ["About A Few Native Armenian Crafts of the Armenians of Vaspurakan"]. - Varag (Teaneck, New Jersey) 58 (July 1967): 24.

[32]       Küliçeci is a Turkish word of provincial usage. Neither Ottoman nor modern Turkish dictionaries mention the word. The closest is the word küliçe meaning “a round flat cake of cast metal, wax, etc. in Redhouse Turkish-English Lexicon (Istanbul, 1921), p. 1600.

[33]    Zartarian, Hishatakaran, p. 123; this was first reported by Aram Andonian in an article in Loys, 1908, no. 10.

[34]       See article by Hovhannes Der Bedrosian, “Hayeru Sadare Turk Mshakoytin ev Tntesutean” [“The Contribution of Armenians to Turkish Culture and Economy”], Arev (Cairo), 29 November 1976, p. 3.

[35]       Encyclopedia of Islam, 2nd ed., s. v. “Dar al-Darb, by Halil Inalcik (hereafter cited as EI2).

[36]       There is confusion about the terms emin (a) and 'amil (b). Uzunçarşili and Pakalin consider the darphane emini the official who was appointed yearly and whose function was the collection of revenues from the mint. (See Ismail Hakki Uzunçarşili, Osmanli Devletinin Saray Teşkilati [The Palace Organization of the Ottoman State] (Ankara, 1945), p. 386; Pakalin, Deyimleri, 1: 396. ) For Halil Inalcik (see note 35 above), it was the 'amil who occupied that position and fulfilled the function; the 'amil had assistants, called emin and wekil. Inalcik states that the operation of the mint was in the hands of state-appointed employees, named “emin or nazir, who had its [the mint’s] supervision.

       While the first two consider the sahib-i 'ayar (or ‘ayyar’ ) the official responsible for all legal and technical aspects of the mint, Inalcik ascribes to him the position of director too.

       To avoid such confusion in usage of the two terms, the Diuzians are called directors of the mint, refraining from the use of any Ottoman term.

       (a) emin: Ott. hist. superintendent, head of a department, p. 338;

       (b) 'amil: Arabic hist. governor, high administration officer; Ott. hist. intendent of finance, collector of revenues, p. 57

       (in New Redhouse Turkish-English Dictionary, Istanbul, 1974).

[37]       EI2, s. v. “Dar al-Darb, by Halil Inalcik. For a detailed description of the subdivisions of the mint, see Pakalin, Deyimleri, 1: 394-396; Uzunçarşili, Saray Teşkilati, pp. 384-386.

[38]       Asadur, Polsoy Hayere, p. 71; Mrmerian adds the name of Rasdoģlu, from the Rasdian family, without further identifying him; see Mrmerian, Masnakan Patmutiun, p. 66.

[39]       Zartarian, Hishatakaran, p. 124; Torkomian, Eremia Tchelepii, 1: 295.

[40]       Armenian sources claim that Bonfil, the Jewish superintendent, had committed fraud and was to be hanged had not Mikayel Diuzian intervened and saved his life. Furthermore, Mikayel granted Bonfil a lifelong monthly salary. Apparently another Jew, named only as Balti, tried to wrestle the position but was unsuccessful. See Zartarian, Hishatakaran, pp. 124-125; Menvishian, Diuzeants, pp. 14-16.

       On the other hand, in a letter dated 19 November 1762, a member of the Mekhitarist Congregation in Istanbul wrote to his superior in Venice informing him of the fact that over a thousand Jews were banished from the capital "for their treachery" and that Mikayel Düzoģlu was appointed halçibaşi (“chief of smelters of ores, or refiners of metals”) by the king. See Archives, Correspondence, Mekhitarist Convent, Venice.

[41]       In addition to the section for the goldsmiths, the mint served as a depository for the keeping of the jewelry of the sultan and his household, the jewelry of the valide sultan, i. e. the sultan’s mother. It also contained a treasury for the payment of royal expenditures, a bureau for securities or guarantees, and a safe for royal stamps. See “Kostandnupolsoy Pogheranotse” [“The Mint of Constantinople”], Bazmaveb, 1 December 1847, p. 363.

[42]       A. Berberian, Patmutiun, p. 170.

[43]       See note 28, p. 65.

[44]       Menevishian, Diuzeants, p. 37.

[45]       Menevishian, Diuzeants, p. 37.

[46]       Pakalin, Deyimleri, 1: 396.

[47]       Pakalin, Deyimleri, 1: 394.

[48]       Indjidjian, Ashkharhagrutiun, 5: 121.

[49]       Mrmerian, Masnakan Patmutiun, p. 51, mentions sahib-i 'ayar Eremia as a well-known personality; Hovhannes Der Bedrosian, Hayeru Sadare, 29 November 1976, cites Kakmadji Kevork Aga and Eghiazar Aga who had worked in the mint for many years.

[50]       Jan Reychman and Ananiasz Zajaczkowski, Handbook of Ottoman Turkish Diplomatics (The Hague, 1968), p. 29.

[51]       Cüneyt Òlcer, Sultan Abdülmecid Devri Osmanli Madeni Paralari [Ottoman Coinage during the Reign of Sultan Abdülmecid Han] (Istanbul, 1978), pp. 6-8; “Pogheranotsi Hin Tetrakneru Ardsanagrutiunnere Norutiunner Haytnetsin” [“The Old Records of the Mint Disclosed Novelties”], Marmara (Istanbul), 14 July 1978, pp. 1 and 4. I thank Mr. Garo Kürkman of Istanbul, who discovered the records of the mint, for the above information.

[52]       Pakalin, Deyimleri, 1: 396.

[53]       P. Ketchian, Patmutiun Hivandanotsin, pp. 17-18.

[54]       Kehya or kâhya means “steward, or warden of a trade guild, New Redhouse, p. 582.

[55]       Asadur, Polsoy Hayere, p. 95.

[56]       Mrmerian, Masnakan Patmutiun, p. 72.

[57]       A. Ketchian, Akn, p. 206.

[58]       Ibid., p. 151.

[59]       Ubicini, Lettres, 2: 314.

[60]       Bernard Lewis, The Emergence of Modern Turkey, 2nd ed. (New York, 1969), p. 107.

[61]       Ibid., p. 108.

[62]       Ibid., p. 386.

[63]       A. Berberian, Patmutiun, p. 276; Asadur, Polsoy Hayere, p. 151, note 1; Ormanian, Azgapatum, 3: 3734-3735.

[64]       Sources do not give a date for the dissolution of the association.

[65]       Arshaloys Araratean, 27 March 1853, p. 1.

[66]       Pakalin, Deyimleri, 2: 58.

[67]       Blaisdell, European Financial Control, p. 27 passim.

[68]       Boghosian, Dadian Gerdastane, pp. 23-25.

[69]       Edward C. Clark, “The Ottoman Industrial Revolution, International Journal of Middle East Studies, 5, no. 1 (January 1974): 70.

[70]       Boghosian, Dadian Gerdastane, pp. 25-26.

[71]       Ibid., p. 28; G. Basmadjian, “Dadian Gerdastani Djiughagrutiune” [“The Genealogy of the Dadian Dynasty”], Banaser (Paris), 1907, p. 121.

[72]       Endardsak Oratsoyts, 1932, pp. 98-99.

[73]       Boghosian, Dadian Gerdastane, pp. 52-55.

[74]       A. Berberian, Patmutiun, pp. 264-265.

[75]       Prussian engineers tested the strength of the gunpowder manufactured at the Azadli mill, compared it with the powder made in England and they found the two of equal quality and standard. See Arshaloys Araratean (Izmir), 18 October 1841.

[76]       In 1846, with the assistance of his three sons, Hovhannes Amira tested the powder manufactured from cotton at the presence of Sultan Abdülmecid, with successful results. See Hayastan (Constantinople), 30 November 1846.

[77]       Boghosian, Dadian Gerdastane, pp. 63-73; Alboyadjian, Les Dadian, pp. 79-80 and 100-102.

[78]       Arshaloys Araratean, 1847, no. 280.

[79]       Clark, Industrial Revolution, p. 71.

[80]       Ibid., p. 70.

[81]       Boghosian, Dadian Gerdastane, pp. 123-127.

[82]       Ibid., p. 158.

[83]       Torkomian, Eremia Tchelepii, 1: 400.

[84]       Boghosian, Dadian Gerdastane, p. 47.

[85]       Walsh. Residence, 2: 432.

[86]       Boghosian, Dadian Gerdastane, p. 65.

[87]       Clark, Industrial Revolution, p. 68.

[88]       The Times (London), 23 January 1850, p. 6, reported in Clark, Industrial Revolution, p. 73.

[89]       Clark, Industrial Revolution, p. 74; Cyrus Hamlin, Among the Turks (London, 1878), pp. 57-60.

[90]       Ibid., pp. 73-74. To cite a few of the accident in 1848 the kücük Çekmece powder works blew up; in 1855 an earthquake destroyed the silk mill at Bursa; due to lack of access roads and mining equipment the exploitation of coal and iron-ore deposits lagged, which in turn affected delivery of iron plows to the model farm, etc.

[91]       Ibid., p. 73.

[92]       Ibid., p. 75.

[93]       Charles Issawi, ed., The Economic History of the Middle East, 1800-1914 (Chicago, 1966), p. 47.

[94]       Indjidjian, Ashkharhagrutiun, 5: 131; Torkomian, Eremia Tchelepii, 1: 213.

[95]       Zartarian, Hishatakaran, p. 160, states that Bali’s son was Minas who served Sultan Ahmed III (1703-1730) and Mahmud I (1730-1754) and died in 1703 (?). The date of death is most probably misprinted and should read 1730. Torkomian, on the other hand, cites Minas as the architect of the church built in 1804, based upon the account of the contemporary chronicler. See Torkomian, Eremia Tchelepii, 1: 213-214

[96]       Asadur, Polsoy Hayere, p. 61.

[97]       Godfrey Goodwin, A History of Ottoman Architecture (Baltimore, 1971), p. 417.

[98]       Ibid., p. 419.

[99]       Ibid., p. 132.

[100]    Zartarian, Hishatakaran, 2: 43.

[101]    For a listing of the buildings Sarkis and Nigoghos Balian (Hagop died relatively young) constructed, see Boghosian, Dadian Gerdastane, on. 138-139.

[102]    Goodwin, Ottoman Architecture, p. 419. For further evaluation of their work, see also pp. 398-399 and 417-426.

[103]    Ibid., p. 425.

[104]    According to Pakalin, the bazirģâns were Christian merchants, who were called also çorbaci and çelebi. The term was used synonymously for big merchant, ehl-i ticaret, i. e., people of commerce, and merchant whose occupation was commerce or money lending, sarraflik. See Pakalin, Deyimleri, 1: 183, s. v. “bazirģân” and “bazirģânbaģşi.

[105]    A. Ketchian, Akn, p. 272.

[106]    Mrmerian, Masnakan, p. 71.

[107]    Der Bedrosian, Hayeru Sadare, 6 November 1976, p. 3.

[108]    Mrmerian, Masnakan Patmutiun, p. 65.

[109]    A. Ketchian, Akn, p. 178.

[110]    Zartarian, Hishatakaran, 2: 43.

[111]    This income could fluctuate between 500, 000 (for 100 buildings) and 900, 000 gold coins, assuming that the 5, 000 coins were the normal fee.

[112]    It was at this house in Beşiktaş that, in 1856, Hovhannes Amira received Marechal Pelissie, the commander of Allied Forces during the Crimean war, whom he had known when he was in France. Masis (Constantinople), 1856, no. 232, reported in Boghosian, Dadian Gerdastane, pp. 77-78; A. Berberian, Patmutiun, pp. 600-601.

[113]    Urquhart, Turkey, p. 109.

[114]    J. M. Jouannin and Jules Van-Gauer, Turquie (Paris, 1850), p. 343, reported in Ormanian, Azgapatum, p. 2979.

[115]    MacFarlane, Constantinople, 1: 491.

[116]    Endardsak Oratsoyts, 1901, p. 191.

[117]    Ubicini, Lettres, 2: 314.

[118]    Pakalin, Deyimleri, 1: 793.

[119]    Ibid.

[120]    MacFarlane, Constantinople, 1: 113

[121]    Stanley Lane-Poole, Preface to The People of Turkey, by John Elijah Blunt, 2 vols. (London, 1878), p. xvi. A contemporary Turkish humorist put it very aptly: “iceri girdim, selam verdim, rüsvet degil dir degi almadilar. Trans. “I entered in [the office], and gave them my greetings, but as it was not a bribery they did not take it.

[122]    Stanford Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey, 2 vols. (Cambridge, Mass., 1976), 1: 265.

[123]    Walsh, Residence, 2: 431. To cite the case of a non-Armenian, Shapdji, a wealthy Jew who was so charitable that he was called “father of the poor, was killed on a minor pretext and his fortune confiscated. MacFarlane, Constantinople, 2: 147-150

[124]    Torkomian, Eremia Tchelepii, 2: 612, 3: 279.

[125]    Ibid., 2: 612; A. Ketchian, Akn, p. 285. These sources mention the names of three different individuals. The confusion is due to the fact that amira s are mentioned in their first names, as was the custom in the nineteenth century.

[126]    A. Berberian, Patmutiun, pp. 175 and 465.

[127]    Mrmerian, Masnakan Patmutiun, p. 65.

[128]    Archives des Affaires Etrangères, Paris, Correspondence Diplomatique, Turquie, vol. 232 (July 1819 - December 1820), p. 108.

[129]    To mention a few sources on the subject: Arsen Pakraduni, Azgabanutiun ev Patmutiun Nshanavor Antsits Aznuazarm Tann Diuzeants [Genealogy and History of Major Events of the Noble Diuzian Dynasty] (1856, MS, Mekhitarist Library, Venice); MacFarlane, Constantinople, 2: 143-144; Menevishian, Diuzeants, pp. 28-33; Ayvazovski, Osmanean Petutean, 2: 519; Ormanian, Azgapatum, 2: 3452-3455.

       According to the sources cited, the culprit was Halet Efendi who, as Grand Vezir, exerted great influence over Mahmud II, as well as Halet’s Jewish sarraf Yehazkel (see M. Franco, Essai sur l’Histoire des Israelites de l'Empire Ottoman (Paris, 1897), p. 133) whom Armenian sources call Khesgel. Halet replaced the ’amil of the mint, Abdülrahman Bey, friendly with the Diuzians with his own collaborator Hayrullah Efendi. The latter investigated the accounts of the mint and found discrepancies. The Diuzians had made many loans; moreover, they had lavishly spent money frcm the mint. They were given no opportunity to collect the loans they had made, nor to get loans from friends to repay the money missing in the accounts; they were forced to sign confessions of embezzlement and were immediately hanged. Eventually Halet Efendi was removed from office and beheaded. His Jewish sarraf was saved from certain death thanks to the intercession of Bezdjian Amira.

[130]   Zartarian, Hishatakaran, p. 28.

[131]    Menevishian, Diuzeants, p. 41.

[132]    Pakraduni, Azgapanutiun Diuzeants, p. 2.

[133]    A. Ketchian, Akn, p. 138.

[134]    Toros Azadian, Hariurameay Hobelean Bezdjian Mayr Varjarani, Kum Kapu, 1830-1930 [Centenary of the Bezdjian School, Kum Kapu, 1830-1930] (Constantinople, 1930), pp. 22-23; S. Papazian, Kensagrutiun, p. 65; Zartarian, Hishatakaran, pp. 8-9.

[135]    Zartarian, Hishatakaran, pp. 20-21.

[136]    Ibid., p. 23. Alexander W. Hidden, The Ottoman Dynasty (New York, 1912), pp. 304-305.

[137]    Du Velay, Essai, p. 52.

[138]    N. W. Senior, A Journal Kept in Turkey and Greece, 1857-58 (London, 1859), p. 85.

[139]    Ghazarian, Arevmtahayeri, p. 396.

[140]    Urquhart, Turkey, p. 112.

[141]    Senior, Journal, p. 84.

[142]    Blaisdell, European Financial Control, p. 23.

[143]    Ibid., p. 12.

[144]    Cevdet, Tarih, 6: 235-238; Safrastian, Turkakan Aghbyurnere, 1: 27-279.

[145]    Urquhart, Turkey, p. 117.

[146]    Ibid., p. 112.

[147]    Du Velay, Essai, pp. 59-108, about the condition of the Ottoman taxpayer.

[148]    Pakalin, Deyimleri, 1: 792.

[149]    Urquhart, Turkey, p. 108.

[150]    Ibid., p. 112.