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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 March 2013


This article examines Ottoman Armenian attitudes toward the Tanzimat reforms, particularly in relation to the situation of provincial Armenians. Even though implementation of the reforms was slow and marked by setbacks, the promises embedded in them raised expectations of change among Armenians in both Istanbul and the provinces. In response, individuals in these areas equipped themselves with knowledge of the language and principles of the Tanzimat. They interpreted and utilized these for their own purposes, sometimes not as the Ottoman government intended. In this sense, the Tanzimat was not merely a top-down state project; it was also pluralized through interactions between the government and its subjects. Exploring how non-Muslims negotiated the Tanzimat enables reconsiderations of the Muslim-elite-centered historiography on the reforms.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2013

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Author's note: Dates in the Hijri, Rumi, and Julian calendars have been converted to the Gregorian calendar. Eastern Armenian and Western Armenian were transliterated according to the Library of Congress transliteration system. For their help at various stages of the project, I am grateful to Tadashi Suzuki, Kayoko Hayashi, Cemal Kafadar, Mesrob Mutafian, Nobuyoshi Fujinami, Jun Akiba, Hiroyuki Ogasawara, Tuncay Bağla, Helda Aynayüz, and Manami Ueno. I also thank the anonymous referees and the editors of IJMES for their valuable comments and suggestions. This article was supported by the Fellowship of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science.

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10 Some researchers have dealt with the process whereby the situation of provincial Armenians surfaced as a “problem,” although they have not sufficiently addressed the Armenian responses to the Tanzimat. Sarkissian, Arshag O., History of the Armenian Question to 1885 (Urbana, Ill.: University of Illinois Press, 1938)Google Scholar; Etmekjian, Lillian, “The Armenian National Assembly of Turkey and Reform,” Armenian Review 29 (1976): 3852Google Scholar; Libaridian, “Ideology of Armenian Liberation”; Hagop Barsoumian, “The Eastern Question and the Tanzimat Era,” in Armenian People from Ancient to Modern Times, 2:175–201.

11 Karpat, Kemal H., Ottoman Population 1830–1914: Demographic and Social Characteristics (Madison, Wisc.: University of Wisconsin Press, 1985), 148–49.Google Scholar

12 Braude, Benjamin, “Foundation Myths of the Millet System,” in Christians and Jews in the Ottoman Empire: The Functioning of Plural Society, ed. Braude, Benjamin and Lewis, Bernard, vol. 1 (New York: Holmes & Meier Publishers, 1982), 6988Google Scholar; Kevork B. Bardakjian, “The Rise of the Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople,” in ibid., 1:89–100.

13 Amnon Cohen, “On the Realities of the Millet System: Jerusalem in the Sixteenth Century,” in Braude and Lewis, Christians and Jews, 2:7–18; idem, “Communal Legal Entities in a Muslim Setting, Theory and Practice: The Jewish Community in Sixteenth-Century Jerusalem,” Islamic Law and Society 3 (1996): 75–90; Inalcık, Halil, “The Status of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch under the Ottomans,” Turcica 21–23 (1991): 407–36CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Masters, Bruce, Christians and Jews in the Ottoman Arab World: The Roots of Sectarianism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001)Google Scholar; Kenanoğlu, Macit, Osmanlı Millet Sistemi: Mit ve Gerçek (Istanbul: Klasik, 2004).Google Scholar

14 Aral, Guillaume, “La Juridiction du Saint-Siege de Rome sur les Armeniens Catholiques (XVIIe–XIXe siècle)” (PhD diss., Université de Nice, 2001); Charles A. Frazee, Catholics and Sultans: The Church and the Ottoman Empire 1453–1923 (London: Cambridge University Press, 1983)Google Scholar; Barsoumian, “Armenian Amira Class”; and Araks Şahiner, “The Sarrafs of İstanbul: Financiers of the Empire” (master's thesis, Boğaziçi University, 1995).

15 According to Libaridian, Istanbul Armenians in the middle of the 19th century considered Istanbul to be the center of the Ottoman Armenian community. Libaridian, “Ideology of Armenian Liberation,” 110–12.

16 Sahman Azkayin Zhoghovoyn (Istanbul, 1826), 7–9; Sahman Azkayin Zhoghovoy (Istanbul, 1830), 9–12; Salname-i Devlet (Istanbul, 1847–80). On the relationship between the Istanbul patriarchate and the other religious authorities during the Tanzimat period, see Ueno, Masayuki, “Tanzima-to Ki Arumenia Kyodotai no Saihen: Mirreto Kempo Go no Isutanburu Sosyukyoza o Chushin ni” (The Reorganization of the Armenian Community during the Tanzimat Period: Focusing on the Patriarchate of Istanbul after the Recognition of the Millet Constitution), Toyo Bunka 91 (2011): 263–87.Google Scholar

17 The Ottoman government permitted the separation of the Armenian Catholic community in 1830 and appointed its first bishop in 1831. Beydilli, Kemal, II. Mahmud Devri'nde Katolik Ermeni Cemâati ve Kilisesi'nin Tanınması (1830) (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University, 1995), 2633Google Scholar; Dwight, H. G. O., Christianity in Turkey: A Narrative of the Protestant Reformation in the Armenian Church (London: James Nisbet, 1854), 291–92, 307308.Google Scholar

18 Takvim-i Vekayiʿ, no. 187 (22 November 1839).

19 Takvim-i Vekayiʿ, no. 539 (3 March 1856). On Armenians who were accepted into the state service, see Çark, Y. G., Türk Devleti Hizmetinde Ermeniler 1453–1953 (Istanbul: Yeni Matbaa, 1953).Google Scholar

20 Masis, nos. 70 (8 June 1853), 71 (15 June 1853), 72 (22 June 1853). These “religious privileges” would become the source of controversies in a later period. Sia Anagnostopulu, “Tanzimat ve Rum Milletinin Kurumsal Çerçevesi: Patrikhane, Cemaat Kurumları, Eğitim,” in 19 Yüzyıl İstanbul'unda Gayrimüslimler, ed. Pinelopi Stathis (Istanbul: Tarih Vakıf Yurt Yayınları, 1999), 10–11; Kechriotis, Vangelis, “The Modernization of the Empire and the Community ‘Privileges’: Greek Orthodox Responses to the Young Turk Policies,” in The State and the Subaltern: Modernization, Society and the State in Turkey and Iran, ed. Atabaki, Touraj (London: I. B. Tauris, 2007), 5370Google Scholar; Fujinami, Nobuyoshi, Osuman Teikoku to Rikkensei: Seinen Toruko Kakumei ni okeru Seiji, Shukyo, Kyodotai (The Ottomans and Constitutionalism: Politics, Religion, and Communities in the Young Turk Revolution) (Nagoya, Japan: Nagoya Daigaku Shuppankai, 2011)Google Scholar, chap. 3.

21 See n. 9.

22 Takamatsu, Yoichi, “Ottoman Income Survey (1840–1846),” in The Ottoman State and Societies in Change: A Study of the Nineteenth Century Temettuat Registers, ed. Hayashi, Kayoko and Aydın, Mahir (London: Kegan Paul, 2004), 1545.Google Scholar These tax reforms turned out to be a failure, but the principle of fair taxation raised expectations for change among people in the provinces. İnalcık, “Tanzimatʾın Uygulanması,” 645; Çadırcı, Musa, Tanzimat Döneminde Anadolu Kentleri'nin Sosyal ve Ekonomik Yapısı (Ankara: Türk Tarih Kurumu Basımevi, 1997), 215.Google Scholar

23 Akiba, Jun, “The Local Councils as the Origin of the Parliamentary System in the Ottoman Empire,” in Development of Parliamentarism in the Modern Islamic World, ed. Sato, Tsugitaka (Tokyo: Toyo Bunko, 2009), 176204Google Scholar; Çadırcı, Tanzimat Döneminde Anadolu, chap. 3.

24 Çadırcı, Tanzimat Döneminde Anadolu, 192–96; van Bruinessen, Martin, Agha, Shaikh and State: The Social and Political Structures of Kurdistan (London: Zed Books, 1992), 175–95Google Scholar; Atamian, Sarkis, The Armenian Community: The Historical Development of a Social and Ideological Conflict (New York: Philosophical Library, 1955), 4759Google Scholar; Nalbandian, Armenian Revolutionary Movement, 78–79.

25 Kara, İsmail, “Müsâvat yahut Müslümanlara Eşitsizlik: Bir Kavramın Siyaseten/Dinen İnşası ve Dönüştürücü Gücü,” in Osmanlı Devleti'nde Din ve Vicdan Hürriyeti, ed. Özcan, Azmi (Istanbul: Ensar Neşriyat, 2000), 307–08Google Scholar; Masis, no. 1282 (13 September 1872).

26 Aghapēkian, Margos, Deghegakir Amenayn Hayotsʿ Gatʿoghigosutʿean Ayzhmean Vijagin vray (Istanbul: Dbakrutʿiwn Aramian, 1865), 16.Google Scholar The author claimed that Russia aimed to encourage Armenians in the eastern provinces to resist Ottoman rule.

27 For example, a Muslim in the Eğin district accused Armenians in the same district of communicating secretly with Russian subjects and obtaining weapons from them. Başbakanlık Osmanlı Arşivi (hereafter BOA), MVL 281/13 (25 May 1854). To damage the trustworthiness of the Istanbul patriarch, the Sis Catholicos told the Ottoman government that the patriarch had close relations with Russia. Sanjian, Avedis K., The Armenian Communities in Syria under Ottoman Dominion (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1965), 242–57.Google Scholar

28 While the languages of the petitions were Armenian, Ottoman Turkish, or Turkish written in Armenian scripts, the taḳrīrs were written in Ottoman Turkish.

29 Adenakrutʿiwn (20 October 1871): 475–78. This number does not include taḳrīrs written on matters such as the appointment of clergymen or the repair of religious facilities or to express gratitude for fair treatment from provincial officials.

30 In addition, forty-four were from Aleppo, nineteen from Adana, fourteen from Trabzon, thirteen from Damascus, one from Aydın, twenty-one from Ankara, thirty-eight from Bursa, three from Kastamonu, and nine from Rumeli.

31 Among these, sixty-five were based on petitions from the Erzurum province and seventy-nine from Diyarbakır.

32 In addition, thirty-two addressed forced conversion, thirty-eight addressed conflicts with Catholics and Protestants, twenty-six requested nonintervention in church construction and calls for prayer, and thirteen requested nonintervention in religious services.

33 BOA, MVL 55/54 (The date of the order responding to the taḳrīr was 30 November 1847).

34 Takamatsu, “Ottoman Income Survey,” 15–45.

35 BOA, HR.MKT 155/64 (30 July 1856); MVL 266/10 (1 December 1853).

36 İnalcık, “Tanzimat'ın Uygulanması,” 640.

37 BOA, A.}DVN.MHM 4/23 (27 November 1847). See also BOA, HR.SYS 80/29 (16 September 1851); A.}DVN 844/75 (12 November 1252).

38 BOA, MVL 286/16 (8 March 1855).

39 BOA, MVL 645/1 (24 February 1863). Also, BOA, MVL 657/63 (29 September 1863).

40 BOA, MVL 678/35 (17 June 1864).

41 BOA, MVL 686/5 (8 September 1864).

42 Manzumei Efkʿear, no. 3136 (5 June 1876).

43 Masis, no. 256 (31 December 1856), Masis Oratʿertʿ, nos. 186 (6 July 1868), 418 (21 September 1869).

44 BOA, HR.MKT 96/97 (7 December 1854).

45 For example, BOA, MVL 641/26 (5 November 1862); MVL 678/18 (13 May 1864).

46 BOA, MVL 702/8 (24 March 1864).

47 For example, BOA, MVL 285/19 (4 February 1855, Orthodox, Gümülcine/Komotini), MVL 294/60 (13 November 1855, Catholic, Erzurum). For the case of the Danube province, see Petrov, “Everyday Forms of Compliance,” 730–59.

48 Miwnadiyi Erjiyas, no. 213 (26 August 1862); Manzumei Efkʿear, no. 1753 (18 November 1871).

49 For example, Masis, nos. 559 (8 November 1862), 568 (10 January 1863), 655 (10 September 1864), and 684 (1 April 1865).

50 Aghapekian, Deghegakir Amenayn Hayotsʿ Gatʿoghigosutʿean, 16.

51 Armenians called this regulation, which was approved by the Ottoman government in 1863, the “Armenian National Constitution” (Azkayin Sahmanatrutʿiwn Hayotsʿ). On the drafting process, see Artinian, Armenian Constitutional System; Albōyajian, Arshag A., “Azkayin Sahmanatrutʿiwně: Ir Dzakumě ew Girarrutʿiwn,” in 1910 Ěntartsag Ōratsʿoytsʿ S. Pʿrgchean Hiwantanotsʿi Hayotsʿ (G. Bolis: Tpagrutʻiwn H. Mattʻēosean, 1910), 476528Google Scholar; and Ueno, Masayuki, “The First Draft of the Armenian Millet Constitution,” Annals of Japan Association for Middle East Studies 23 (2007): 213–51.Google Scholar The 1863 version stipulated that the assembly consist of twenty clergymen, eighty laymen from Istanbul, and forty laymen elected by provincials. Azkayin Sahmanatrutʿiwn Hayotsʿ, art. 57–62. Assembly minutes, published after each meeting, were distributed to the representatives and sold to the public.

52 Kostandyan, Ēmma, “Mkrtichʿ A Vanetsʿi,” in Kʿristonya Hayastan Hanragitaran (Erevan, Armenia: Haykakan Hanragitarani Glkhavor Khmbagrutʿyun, 2002), 745–47.Google Scholar

53 Adenakrutʿiwn (3 December 1870): 161–62.

54 Makdisi, Ussama, The Culture of Sectarianism: Community, History, and Violence in Nineteenth-Century Ottoman Lebanon (Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 2000), 160–61.Google Scholar

55 Manzumei Efkʿear, no. 988 (10 August 1869).

56 Adenakrutʿiwn (3 December 1870): 152–53, 165; (9 December 1870): 175–78; (3 November 1871): 497.

57 Adenakrutʿiwn (20 October 1871): 468–83.

58 Masis, nos. 1158–162 (9 November 1871–18 November 1871).

59 Adenakrutʿiwn (3 November 1871): 498–99.

60 Balcı, Sezai, “Bir Osmanlı-Ermeni Aydın ve Bürokratı: Sahak Abro (1825–1900),” in Osmanlı Siyasal ve Sosyal Hayatında Ermeniler, ed. Erdal, İbrahim and Karaçavuş, Ahmet (Istanbul: IQ Kültür Sanat, 2009), 115–19.Google Scholar

61 Davison, Reform in the Ottoman Empire, 105–108; Masis, nos. 617 (19 December 1863), 650 (6 August 1864), and 797 (1 June 1867).

62 Davison, Reform in the Ottoman Empire, chap. 5.

63 Masis, no. 666 (26 November 1864); Petrov, “Tanzimat for the Countryside,” 103.

64 Balcı, “Osmanlı-Ermeni Aydın,” 112–13; Artinian, Armenian Constitutional System, 69–71, 86.

65 Adenakrutʿiwn (20 October 1871): 469–70.

66 Ibid., 473–74.

67 Ibid., 472.

68 Ibid., 479.

69 Ibid., 480–81.

70 Gülsoy, Ufuk, Osmanlı’nın Gayrimüslim Askerleri (Istanbul: Timaş Yayınları, 2010)Google Scholar, chap. 2; Heinzelmann, Tobias, Cihaddan Vatan Savunmasına: Osmanlı İmparatorluğu'nda Genel Askerlik Yükümlülüğü 1826–1856, trans. Noyan, Türkis (Istanbul: Kitap Yayınevi, 2008), 244–50.Google Scholar

71 Adenakrutʿiwn (20 October 1871): 479.

72 For example, Manzumei Efkʿear, no. 1753 (18 November 1871).

73 Şemsettin Sami Frashëri, a Muslim Albanian intellectual and state official, employed a similar discourse. See Gawrych, George W., “Tolerant Dimensions of Cultural Pluralism in the Ottoman Empire: The Albanian Community, 1800–1912,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 15 (1983): 524.Google Scholar

74 Heinzelmann, Cihaddan Vatan Savunmasına, 155.

75 BOA, İ.HR 5001(6 October 1853); Takvim-i Vekayiʿ, no. 494 (27 October 1853).

76 Adenakrutʿiwn (3 November 1871): 502–503.

77 Adenakrutʿiwn (20 October 1871): 481.

78 Haykakan Sovetakan Hanragitaran, s.v. “Pʿapʿazyantsʿ.”

79 Masis, no. 1161 (16 November 1871).

80 Adenakrutʿiwn (3 November 1871): 500–505.

81 Ibid., 500, 504.

82 Adenakrutʿiwn (10 November 1871): 510–12; (1 March 1872): 593–98.

83 On Muslims’ negative attitudes toward equality with non-Muslims, see Arai, Masami, Osuman Teikoku wa Naze Hokaishita noka (Why Did the Ottoman Empire Fall?) (Tokyo: Seidosha, 2009), 7983Google Scholar, 146–160.

84 Masis, nos. 1226 (27 April 1872), 1574 (8 September 1874).

85 Adenakrutʿiwn (22 September 1876): 174–76.

86 Stavrianos, Leften S., The Balkans since 1453 (New York: Rinehart & Company, 1958), 396401.Google Scholar

87 Adenakrutʿiwn (19 May 1876): 6–7.

88 Manzumei Efkʿear, nos. 3180 (17 July 1876), 3183 (20 July 1876); Masis, no. 1852 (22 July 1876).

89 Masis, nos. 1847 (11 July 1876), 1848 (13 July 1876); Manzumei Efkʿear, no. 3175 (12 July 1876).

90 Hatt-ı Hümayun ve Kanun-ı Esasi (Istanbul: Matbaʿa-i ʿAmire, 1876), 4–5.

91 For example, Adenakrutʿiwn (7 June 1876): 38–42; (8 September 1876): 153; (22 September 1876): 174–86.

92 Adenakrutʿiwn (22 September 1876): 185–86.

93 Ibid., 180–84.

94 Adenakrutʿiwn (7 December 1877): 309–10, 317–18.