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COAL MINES, THE PALACE, AND STRUGGLES OVER POWER, CAPITAL, AND JUSTICE IN THE LATE OTTOMAN EMPIRE

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 April 2012

Abstract

This article is based on a case file examining the allegedly corrupt behavior of the district governor (kaymakam) of Ereğli, located in the Black Sea coal district of the Ottoman Empire, before the 1908 Young Turk Revolution. It paints a vivid picture of the cronyism, greed, and demands for justice that abound in the testimonies and petitions of a diverse array of local actors that were included in the case file. These documents provide the opportunity to shed light on, among other things, the growing nexus between state power and capital in the late Ottoman Empire within a little-studied peripheral context. As the article shows, prospects of control over the region's burgeoning coal economy led to abuses among officials at various levels of the local and imperial bureaucracy, the impacts of which were felt (to varying degrees) by a wide cross-section of Ereğli society. The behavior of the district governor and his allies, along with the final decision made in the case, reveals much about power, wealth, and justice in the final years of the Abdülhamit regime.

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Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2012

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References

Author's note: I (David Gutman) thank Jean Quataert and the editors of the International Journal of Middle East Studies for the opportunity to complete the revisions of this piece. As one of Donald's final doctoral students, it has truly been an honor to have had the chance to contribute to the publication of Donald Quataert's final project.

1 Quataert, Donald, Miners and the State in the Ottoman Empire: The Zonguldak Coalfield, 1822–1920 (New York: Berghahn Books, 2006)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

2 For an example of their use, see Can Nacar, “Tobacco Workers in the Late Ottoman Empire: Fragmentation, Conflict, and Collective Struggle” (PhD diss., State University of New York–Binghamton, 2011).

3 Regarding his transfer, see Başbakanlık Osmanlı Arşivi (hereafter BOA).I.DH 1454 Ra/29 1325 (4 May 1907).

4 BOA.DH.MKT 1192 26 (10 Recep 1325/19 August 1907). The document also mentions that Emin Muhlis never reported to his new post. The table of contents of the 1325 provincial yearbook for Hudavendigar province also confirms that Emin Muhlis was appointed as the Uşak kaymakamı. See Hudavendigar Vilayeti Salnamesi (hereafter VS) (Bursa, Turkey: Matbaa-i Vilayet, 1325), 611. But the same source, when listing the names of the local officials, gives someone else as the Uşak official (ibid., 494). Moreover, in subsequent official listings of positions, the name of Emin Muhlis Bey never appears as an official in Uşak nor is he reappointed to Ereğli, where the exchange official from Uşak continued to serve.

5 The first testimony is dated 8 Ağustos 1321 (21 August 1905), and the last one 18 Ağustos 1321 (31 August 1905).

6 Kastamonu VS (Kastamonu: Matbaa-i Vilayet, 1317), 203, and ibid. (1314), 320–58.

7 Findley, Carter, Ottoman Civil Officialdom: A Social History (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1989), 23CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

8 Findley indicates that only one percent of graduates of the school of civil administration were of non-Ottoman origin. Ibid., 114.

9 For some perspective on Emin Muhlis’ rapid rotation, consider that the average duration of each assignment of a Foreign Ministry official's career was six to eight years. How typical this was for the Ottoman bureaucracy as a whole is unknown. Findley, Civil Officialdom, 276–80.

10 According to the personnel register, the kaymakam would receive two more promotions during his time in Ereğli. His final recorded promotion is especially noteworthy. According to the personnel file, Emin Muhlis had actually been approved for promotion to the rank of kaymakam second class in February 1891, an order that was never executed. As a result, in February 1898, the Personnel Committee moved to promote him to a higher-level second-degree kaymakam second class.

11 BOA.SD 1676 3 (25 Şevval 1324/12 December 1906). Compare with statements by Findley, Civil Officialdom, 320–21.

12 Thus, he was earning about 50 percent more than his initial salary as hospital clerk some twenty years earlier.

13 Findley provides a table of median Foreign Ministry salaries, which dropped by 12 percent between 1894 and 1897. Findley, Civil Officialdom, 358–59.

14 See Findley's reference to the 3 December 1894 edition of Le Moniteur Oriental. Findley, Civil Officialdom, 300.

15 Quataert, Miners and the State, 52–79.

16 BOA.SD 1676 2, testimony of Hüseyin Ustaoğlu (8 Ağustos 1321/21 August 1905).

17 Ibid., and testimony of Karamahmudzade Mehmet (9 Ağustos 1321/22 August 1905).

18 BOA.SD 1676 2, testimony of timber merchant, Çeberoğlu Hacı Mehmet (8 Ağustos 1321/21 August 1905), naming Yiğitzade Halid Efendi and other clerks.

19 BOA.SD 1676 2, testimony of Hüseyin Ustaoğlu and İnce Fashoğlu Abdullah (16 Ağustos 1321/29 August 1905).

20 Naim, Ahmet, Zonguldak (Istanbul: n.p., 1934), 36Google Scholar.

21 BOA.SD 1676 2, testimony of Hüseyin Ustaoğlu (8 Ağustos 1321/21 August 1905).

22 BOA.SD 1676 2, testimonies of Ahmed Dedeoğlu (12 Ağustos 1321/5 August 1905) and Hacıismailağazade Hakki Bey (13 Ağustos 1321/26 August 1905).

23 BOA.SD 1676 2, testimony of Karamahmud Mahmud (14 Ağustos 1321/27 August 1905).

24 Statistics from table in Quataert, Miners and the State, 28.

25 Such lodges played a powerful role in the social life of the late Ottoman Empire and were located in most cities and at countless sites in the countryside. Some lodges, such as that of the Mevlevis in Istanbul and of Hacı Bektaş in central Anatolia, were famous and bound thousands in fellowship. But many, such as the one under assault here, were largely unknown outside of their own district. The affiliation of the lodge is not stated; one witness called the group the Alim Şeyhoğulları. See BOA.SD 1676 2, testimony of İmam Hacıoğlu Recep (9 Ağustos 1321/22 August 1905).

26 BOA.SD 1676 2, testimony of Alim Şeyhzade Şeyh Ahmed (8 Ağustos 1321/21 August 1905).

27 For example, see Nilay Ozok-Gundogan, “The Making of the Modern Ottoman State in the Kurdish Periphery: The Politics of Land and Taxation: 1840–1870” (PhD diss., State University of New York–Binghamton, 2011).

28 BOA.SD 1676 2, testimony of Alim Şeyhzade Seyh Ahmed (8 Ağustos 1321/21 August 1905).

29 BOA.SD 1676 2, testimony of Alim Şeyhzade Hasan (9 Ağustos 1321/22 August 1905).

30 BOA.SD 1676 2, testimony of İmam Hacıoğlu Recep (9 Ağustos 1321/22 August 1905). The imam claimed to have earlier sent a petition regarding the kaymakam's actions in the affair. He admitted, however, to sending the petition without having read it and acknowledged his limited capacity to read and write.

31 BOA.SD 1676 2, testimony of Hacıismailağazade Hakki Bey (13 Ağustos 1321/26 August 1905).

32 BOA.SD 1676 2, testimony of Karamahmud Mahmud (14 Ağustos 1321/27 August 1905).

33 BOA.SD 1676 2, statement of Hacıismailağazade Hakki Bey (13 Ağustos 1321/26 August 1905).

34 BOA.SD 1676 2, testimony of Mustafa Efendi (13 Ağustos 1321/26 August 1905).

35 BOA.SD 1676 2, statement of Hacıismailağazade Hakki Bey (13 Ağustos 1321/26 August 1905).

36 In one case brought before the interrogator, the headmen of four villages and two other local leaders sought recourse from both sources. BOA.SD 1676 2, statement of tax farmer (12 Ağustos 1321/25 August 1905). In the case recounted by the imam, however, villagers working in the paşa's mines had appealed to the bank for relief.

37 Donald Quataert, “Ottoman Reform and Agriculture in Anatolia, 1878–1908” (PhD diss., University of California, Los Angeles, 1973), 133–37. BOA.SD 1676 2, Statement of Akarca quarter imam (12 Ağustos 1321/25 August 1905).

38 Quataert, “Ottoman Reform,” 150.

39 According to the imam, Emin Muhlis also imprisoned, “for weeks and days,” four local headmen as well as the imam of the Müfti quarter of Ereğli and two others with knowledge of the kaymakam's embezzlements. BOA.SD 1676 2, statement of the imam of Akarca quarter (12 Ağustos 1321/25 August 1905).

40 BOA. SD 1672 2, statement of Hacıismailağazade Hakki Bey (13 Ağustos 1321/26 August 1905).

41 For details see Quataert, Miners and the State, 116.

42 His mines were a distant second to a French-capitalized company that accounted for 75 percent of total coal production. See Quataert, Miners and the State.

43 This is critical testimony providing insight into Emin Muhlis’ interventions into the coal economy on behalf of Ragıp Paşa. The source Donald Quataert provided was the following: BOA.SD 1676 2, Statement of Karamahmudzade Halil (17 Haziran 1321/30 June 1905). David Gutman, however, could not find evidence in the author's notes for this part of Halil's testimony.

44 BOA.SD 1676 3, 116 (30 Mart 1323/12 April 1907).

45 Zonguldak, Eğitim Dairesi (ED) 4: 199, telegram c. 20 Temmuz 1294 (1 August 1878).

46 Kiray, Mubeccel, Ereğli: Ağır Sanayiden önce bir Sahil Kasabası (Ankara: n.p., 1964), 6465Google Scholar, as quoted in Ciladir, Sina, Zonguldak Havzasında İsci Hareketletinin Tarihi, 1848–1940 (Ankara: Aydınlık, 1977), 26Google Scholar.

47 Hakki Bey notably referred to Emin Muhlis most unflatteringly as “our gentlemanly kaymakam, who takes great joy in sticking his fingers into everything” (Herşeyine parmağınısokmaktan lezzet alan kaymakamımız bey efendi). See BOA. SD 1672 2, statement of Hacıismailağazade Hakki Bey (13 Ağustos 1321/26 August 1905).

49 BOA. SD 1672 2, statement of Hacıismailağazade Hakki Bey (13 Ağustos 1321/26 August 1905), testimony of Karamahmudzade Mehmet (9 Ağustos 1321/22 August 1905).

50 The activities of Ragıp Paşa appear regularly in Pakalin, Mehmet Ziya, Son Sadrâzamlar ve Başvekiller, 5 vols. (Istanbul: n.p., 1941–46)Google Scholar. See index therein for references, the first of which dates from 1880.

51 Kilekian, Diran, “Life at Yildiz,” Contemporary Review 70 (1908): 788Google Scholar.

52 Pakalin, Son Sadrâzamlar, 2:376.

53 See Osmanoğlu, Ayşe, Avec mon pere le Sultan Abduhamid de son palais a sa prison (Paris: L'Harmattan, 1991), 123Google Scholar, and the various citations in Pakalin, Son Sadrazamlar.

54 Ekrem Zaman notes the Ragıp Paşa köşkü in the posh suburb of Caddebostan. This source calls Ragıp the head chamberlain, a statement that appears erroneous. See Zaman, Ekrem Murat, Zonguldak Kömür Havzasının iki yüzyıl (Ankara: Maden Mühendisleri Odası, 2004), 49Google Scholar.

55 Ragıp Paşa's influence may have spread beyond Emin Muhlis to the latter's more powerful superior, the governor of Kastamonu province, Nazim Paşa. There is no smoking documentary gun, but the governor's decision to open up mine work to all Ottoman subjects has Ragıp's fingerprints on it. Zaman, Zonguldak, 50.

56 We do not know what, if any, role Emin Muhlis’ successor from Uşak district played in these economic struggles.

57 Quataert, Miners and the State, 231.

58 Jens Hanssen presents a fascinating picture of the nexus between state, capital, and patronage networks during the era of Abdülhamit. As he demonstrates in his investigation of the Malhamé family in Beirut, powerful economic and political networks linked to the highest levels of Ottoman governance easily transcended lines of ethnicity, religion, language, and nationality. Furthermore, he links these transimperial and transnational networks of accumulation to the growing popular sense of malaise with the Abdülhamit regime that manifested in the Young Turk Revolution. See Hanssen, Jens, “‘Malhamé-Malfamé’: Levantine Elites and Transimperial Networks on the Eve of the Young Turk Revolution,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 43 (2011): 2548CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Although on a somewhat smaller scale, the relationship between Emin Muhlis, his cronies, and Ragıp Paşa possessed many of the same dynamics discussed by Hanssen.

59 Testimony of Altıparmakzade Mustafa Efendi.

60 BOA.I.DH 1325 54 (18 Rabiulevvel 1325/01 May 1907).

61 BOA.SD 167 2, 120 (11 Nisan 1322/24 April 1906). This document provides a summary of pages 1 to 129 of the document.

62 BOA.SD 1678 16, 184/1–8 (20 Ağustos 1323/2 August 1907).

63 BOA DH.MKT 985 23 (24 Recep 1325/2 September 1907).

64 The conclusion to this case bears a striking resemblance to one that took place, also in 1907, over 600 miles away in the eastern Anatolian city of Harput. In that case as well, all charges brought against the accused (a number of whom were prominent local state officials) were dropped despite extensive evidence of their guilt. What the similarities between the two cases suggest is uncertain, but at the very least they demonstrate that many of the events detailed in this article were neither unique nor aberrant. For details on the Harput case, see David Gutman's forthcoming dissertation, “Migrants, Smugglers, and the State: Overseas Migration, Return and State Making in Anatolia, 1880–1915.”

65 BOA.DH.MKT 1232 17 (06 Muharrem 1326/09 February 1908). The document includes a draft and final copy of the letter to the grand vizier from Hüseyin Ustaoğlu Nezif. Osmanoğlu, Avec mon pere, 128–29.

66 Zaman, Zonguldak, 66–67. Ragıp first turned over some of his mines to an agent and then, in 1913, to a Ruhr industrialist, receiving a royalty on production.

67 See, for example, Özok-Gündoğan, Nilay, “A ‘Peripheral’ Approach to the 1908 Revolution in the Ottoman Empire: Land Disputes in Peasant Petitions in Post-Revolutionary Diyarbekir,” in Diyar-ı Bekir: Political, Religious, and Economic Changes and Developments Between 1850 and 1910, ed. Jongerden, Joost and Verheij, Jelle (Leiden: E. J. Brill, forthcoming)Google Scholar.

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COAL MINES, THE PALACE, AND STRUGGLES OVER POWER, CAPITAL, AND JUSTICE IN THE LATE OTTOMAN EMPIRE
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