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Recent Studies on the Yörüks in the Ottoman Empire

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Recent Studies on the Yörüks in the Ottoman Empire

Mesajgönderen TurkmenCopur » 25 Ara 2010, 07:29

Review of the Recent Studies on the Nomads (Yörüks) in the Ottoman Empire


The Turks migrated originally from Central Asia to Anatolia between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries. Most of them were sedentary communities. However, a signifıcant portion was nomads, called Oghuz, or Türkmen, at that time. These nomads used to move between regions identified as summer pasturages and winter quarters in order to graze their animals. Therefore, their lifestyle was substantially different from sedentary life. Even after Anatolia was brought under Ottoman rule by the end of the fırst quarter of the 16th century, they eontinued their traditional lifestyle. During the Ottoman conquests, these nomads migrated to the Balkans in accordance with the policy pursued by the state. The nomads in the Balkans were generally organized as military units.

During the Ottoman period the nomads were known by the names of Türkmen and Yörük or Yürük. These names were generally used to describe their way of life, rather than their ethnic origin. However, these terms were often used interchangeably. At the same time, various other words were used for the nomads, such as "Konar-göçer", "Göçebe", "Göçer-yörük", "Göçerler", and "Göçer-evliler". The most common one among these was 'Konar-göçer'. Ali of these words are found in Ottoman archival documents and carry only the meaning of "nomad".

Geographically, the nomads of the Ottoman period spread from Anatolia to the Balkans and formed an important portion of the Ottoman population. Despite this fact, research remains insufficient regarding the nomadic peoples. The reason for this has been keener interest by historians in Turkey concerning the foundation of the Turkish Republic and political and administrative issues rather than nomadism. Research in Ottoman social history was not popular among these historians. However, as research on Ottoman social history grew, so did interest in nomadic populations.

Research Trends

It is possible to group existing studies on Ottoman nomads into three main categories. The first category contains publications of archival documents concerning nomads; the second, anthropological, sociological and folklore studies; and the third, historical studies of the nomads based mainly on archival sources.

Archival Studies

The main source for the history of nomadic societies during the Ottoman period remains Ottoman archival documents. Even though, in general, these documents reflect the state's point of view on nomadic affairs, they remain the unique source for historical inquiry on the nomadic peoples. Because of this, it is extremely important that transcriptions of these documents be published in order to facilitate further research. Previously, some Ottoman archival documents concerning the nomads of the Ottoman period were published in modem Turkish transcription by Ahmed Refik [Altınay]. His work [Altınay 1930] was based on documents from the Ottoman archives in İstanbul, specifically Mühimme Defters (Register of important Decrees), which were sent by the central government to the authorities in the Ottoman Empire. Refik selected 244 documents between A.H. 966-1181 (A.D. 1559¬1768) for his study. These documents supply detailed information on the nomads, such as their organization, duties, liabilities, relations with sedentary society, their migration from one place to another, and issues of summer pastures and winter quarters. This work is quite useful for the researcher. Hovvever, Refik's study does not include ali extant decrees in the Mühimme Defters concerning the nomads. Unfortunately, as well, he omitted full citations for the decrees he did select.

Apart from Refik's study, some archival materials regarding nomads in a specific area were published by Kâmil Su [1938] and İbrahim Gökçen [1946], The former collected some documents on the nomads in the area from the court of Balıkesir, a city in western Anatolia. The second is also a compilation of court records pertaining to nomadic populations, but from the area of Manisa, which is also in westera Anatolia. These works present important information concerning their legal status, their relations with sedentary people, and their socio-economic organization. Unfortunately, these studies suffer also from a lack of complete citations.

In addition to these collections, I have published an archival document from the Ottoman archives concerning the Türkmens of Yeniil and Aleppo transporting food with their camels during the Baghdad campaign of 1638 [Şahin 1982b]. Recently, Hüseyin Özdeğer [1988] has published a Tahrir Defteri (Cadastral survey record), dated 1596, concerning the Türkmens of Aleppo. Tahrir Defters in the Ottoman archives in Turkey, which were compiled for taxation purposes, present detailed information about administrative, economic, social structure, and the tax-paying or tax-exempt populations in each city, town, village, and nomadic tribe in the XVth and XVIth centuries. Özdeğer's study provides only the name of the boys (tribes) and cemaats (communities) found in this Tahrir register, in addition to the total number of households, single taxable males, sheep, and the total tax for each cemaat. Later on, Orhan Kılıç [1996] has written an article about the Türkmens of Aleppo, by basing his work on the same source used by Özdeğer. Unfortunately, the author has not seen Özdeğer's study, while preparing his article. This cadastral survey record, dated 1596, which was utilized by both of these researchers, is in Tapu Kadastro Genel Müdürlüğü in Ankara, Kuyûd-ı Kadîme Arşivi, no. 37. As far as we know, this Tahrir register contains data not only of the detailed record, dated 978 (1570), in Başbakanlık Osmanlı Arşivi, Tapu Tahrir Defteri, no. 493, but also of the detailed record, arranged in 992 (1584), in Başbakanlık Osmanlı Arşivi, Tapu-Tahrir Defteri, no. 610. Besides, there is a summary (icmal) record of above-mentioned detailed records, in Başbakanlık Osmanlı Arşivi, Tapu-Tahrir Defteri, no. 544.

Besides these studies, some researchers have also published transcriptions of archival documents relating to nomads among other subjects. Such documents are found in Çağatay Uluçay's books [1940, 1944, 1955], These documents collected from the court records of Manisa by Uluçay deal with the Manisa region. The fırst book consists of 138 documents, about seven of which are connected with the nomads, although most pertain to the historical monuments and vaqfs (religious foundations) in Manisa. The second book contains around 250 documents from the 17th century. About twenty of these concern nomads, most of whom migrated from eastern Anatolia to western Anatolia due to the pressure from such Arab nomads as Aneze and Şammar. Other documents concern the settlement, state service, and taxation policies, as well as new economic and trade opportunities in western Anatolia. The third book consists of 132 documents dating from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; but there are few documents related to nomadic populations.

Anthropological, Sociological, and Folklore Studies

As for the second category of research -those which treat nomadic populations from a social scientific and folklore perspective- we should first mention Ali Rıza Yalman [Yalgın]'s work. He carried out very important research on the folklore and anthropology of Anatolian nomads, and his name is closely associated with a series of books published on the nomads of southern Anatolia [Yalgın 1931-32, 1933 a, b, 1934, 1939] in particular. In these studies, he gives invaluable information on social organization, dwelling-tent and house, tent-type, lifestyle, folk songs, narrative, objects, animal species, carpet motif, food production, dietary system, and customs of the nomads called as Beydili and Elbeyli. In the meantime, we fınd the similar information in these works about the nomads living in the mountains of Bulgar, Kozan, Binboğa, and Nurhak. Apart from this information, these books are extremely important sources for oral history, which were directly recorded by Yalgın from these populations.

Aside from the studies done by Yalgın, we should also çite the research of Kemal Güngör [1941] and Hikmet Şölen [1945]. Güngör's study is based on his research in the Anatolian regions of Niğde, Adana, Mersin, and Denizli. He deals with on the culture, music, folklore, lifestyle, and tradition of the nomads. It is worth mentioning that the author also gives some anthropometrical and morphological data on nomads in the above-mentioned regions in accordance with the popular eugenics debates of the 1940s. Şölen's study focuses on the Yörüks of the Aydın region in western Anatolia. There is also information on customs, beliefs, riddles and folk songs of the Yörüks, such as Hayta, Farsak, Danişmend, and Horzum. Another study about the Yörüks was done by D. E. Eremeev [1969]. The author of this work utilized some of printed archival materials, and sociological, anthropological and folkloric studies in the Turkish language, as well as the general studies in the Russian language, most of which do not directly relate to the subject matter. Besides, he used some sources in vvestern languages. The author, who based his work on the studies mentioned above, gives brief information about the Yörüks, related to their economic activities, cultural materials and socio-economic structure, and so on. Although this book is usefiıl for Russian speaking readers, author's some thoughts on the Yörüks are incorrect. In this connection, for instance, he states that the Yörüks is a minority group in Anatolia. Whereas, as it is known, the term "Yörük fırstly appeared in some historical sources in the 15th century and was used to describe the way of life of the Türkmens by the Ottomans for some political reasons.

Unlike the above-mentioned research, there is also work specifıcally published on the anthropology and folklore of Gaziantep, a city in eastern Anatolia. Gaziantep became an important region for the settlement of the nomads during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. For this reason, this area offers particularly rich cultural material for anthropological and sociological studies. In this connection, we should çite Abdülkadir İnan [1934, 1940], M. Şakir Ülkütaşır [1941], Cahit Tanyol [1952, 1953, 1954], Ömer Özbaş [1958], Ferruh Arsunar [1962] and Naci Kum's studies [1965], Arsunar's book is especially valuable because he focuses on the folklore of Gaziantep and records many of the nomadic folk songs of this area concerning settlement among other events. We should emphasize that folk songs are an important source for studies on nomadism.

Another anthropological and folklore study has been published in two volumes by Matsubara Masatake [1983]. This study focuses on the nomads of Çoşlu in southern Anatolia. The author lived a few years with nomadic people in preparing this study. The work contains important information concerning tents, seasonal migration, pastures, distance betvveen pastures, species composition of herds, basic economic activities, and the social structure of the nomads of Çoşlu. In addition to Matsubara's study, there is Muhtar Kutlu's study [1987] based on the writer's anthropological fıeldwork carried out between 1978 and 1983 on the Türkmens of Şavaklı living semi-nomadic lifestyle in Tunceli in eastern Anatolia. Afîter giving a short historical summary of the Türkmens of Şavaklı, the author focuses on their animal husbandry and animal culture, as well as their migration patterns.

In addition to these specialized studies, there are works of a more general nature giving information on the nomads in a large area. One of these was done by Mehmet Eröz [1991]. In this sociological study, the author uses not only historical sources, but also his own observations among nomadic people. He deals with ali of the Anatolian nomads. Afiter demonstrating the ethnic origin and religious ties between the nomads in Anatolia and Central Asia, most of whom migrated into Anatolia; he looks at language, social structure, and family institutions. At the same time, Eröz points out the characteristics of nomadic economy and, as a sociologist, he gives information concerning the settlement of the nomads.

Perhaps the most important general work on nomads is A. M. Khazanov's study [1984]. This book is a theoretical study on the historical anthropology of the nomads and the first comparative survey of nomadic societies in Eurasia, the Middle East, and Africa from the origins of nomadism to the modern era. Khazanov begins by explaining nomadism as a distinct food-producing activity. Then after giving information on the origin of nomads, he focuses on social structure within nomadic societies, relations between the nomads and the outside world, as well as nomadic states. While this study contains much information about the nomads of the Eurasian steppe, it devotes little space to the nomads of Anatolia, only a minör flaw in this monumental undertaking.

Historical Studies

Our third category contains historical studies devoted to origins, social structures, legal status, and so on. A number of articles have been written by Faruk Sümer [1948, 1949b, 1951, 1952a, c, 1953a, b, c, d, 1992], which combine information from the Tahrir Defters, chronicles, and narrative sources. Sümer was a specialist on and the first to publish a detailed history of the Oghuz (Türkmens) in Anatolia. In his research, he presents the names of Oghuz tribes, such as Kayı, Kınık, Çepni, Döğer, Bayat, Yazır, Afşar and Karkın, and their topographical dispersion in Anatolia. Sümer's numerous articles on the Oghuzs (Türkmens) have been compiled in book form [1967].

Meanwhile, the social structure, legal status, economic activity, and geographic dispersion of the Ottoman nomads have been studied by other researchers, such as Selahaddin Çetintürk, Faruk Sümer, Tayyib Gökbilgin, Xavier de Planhol, Enver M. Şerifgil, İlhan Şahin, and Halil İnalcık. Çetintürk's study [1943] gives general information on the Yörüks and their legal status in the Ottoman Empire. Sümer [1952b] concentrates more in his study on geographical dispersion, legal status and fınances of the Turkish tribes in Anatolia, Syria, and Iraq during the 16th century. Based mainly on Ottoman archival materials, Gökbilgin's studies [1948, 1957] focus on the military organization and geographical dispersion of the Yörüks in the Rumelia (the Balkan). Planhol [1959] deals with only historical background and geographic dispersion of the Anatolian nomads. Şerifgil [1981] investigates active soldiers of Yörük origin (eşkinci) in Rumelia according to the Tahrir Defter, dated 1530. My article [Şahin 1982c] concerning the legal status and administrative system of the nomads in the Ottoman Empire is mainly based on Ottoman archive documents. İnalcık's [1983, 1986] scholarly research concerns not only the origin and social structure of the Ottoman nomads, but also their economic and transportation activities.

In addition to these studies, Halime Doğru [1990] has recently published a book on military organizations of nomadic origin. While this book's title gives the impression that it is about the organization of Yaya-Müsellem-Taycı throughout the Ottoman Empire, it really focuses on the organization of Yaya-Müsellem-Taycı only in the province of Sultanönü during the fıfteenth and sixteenth centuries. Unfortunately, it is diffıcult to ascertain whether the author investigated ali the basic documents from the Ottoman archives, such as the Mühimme Defters and the Maliye Ahkâm Defters.
As mentioned before, during the Ottoman period official terms were used to denote nomads by the Ottoman chancery. Some researchers have tried to explain the meaning of these terms. In his study, Faruk Sümer [1952b] explores how historical chronicles used terms like Türkmen and Yörük interchangeably. îsenbike Ancanlı's article [1979] concerning the differences betvveen Yörük and Aşiret (tribe) in the Ottoman Empire presents an original analysis on the above-mentioned topics. Recently, Yusuf Halaçoğlu [1996] has published an article about terms related to nomadism, basing his study on the Ottoman archival documents and showing that the terms Türkmen, Etrak, Yörük, Kürd, and Ekrâd were used to mean nomad and nomadic lifestyle during the Ottoman period. He adds that these terms have no ethnic connotation in Ottoman documents.

Although Ottoman archival documents, such as Tahrir Defters, provide detailed information on not only the settled population, but also the population of nomadic peoples of the period, they have not been studied suffıciently by the researchers. However, Ömer Lütfı Barkan's pioneering studies on the population of the Ottoman Empire during the fıfteenth and sixteenth centuries [1953, 1957, 1970] found that of 872.610 households during 1520-30 in Anatolia, which includes Anatolia, Karaman, Dulkadır, and Rum provinces (eyalet), 160.564 of these -almost 15 per cent- were nomadic. We should also consider that there were military groups of Yörük origin, Yaya and Müsellem, among settled people in the province of Anatolia (Anadolu Eyaleti). At the beginning of the 16th century the population of Rumelia (the Balkan) had more than 1.000.000 households. Some 50.000 of these were Yörük and groups of Yörük origin. In addition to this, Barkan gives some figures on the nomadic population in the provinces of Aleppo, Tarabulus, Damascus, Baghdad, and Basra. He shows that of approximately 369.000 households in these provinces, 87.000 were nomadic. Here we have proof that a considerable part of the Ottoman population was of nomadic or military nomadic origin. Since Barkan's studies, a new book published by Cem Behar [1996] has appeared on the population of the Ottoman Empire and Turkey. Although Ottoman archival documents like the Tahrir Defters, Avarız Defters, and Temettuat Defters do provide researchers with unexplored information on the settled and nomadic population in the Ottoman Empire, Behar uses mainly historical studies and does not give information on nomad population.

It is well known that the administration of the Ottoman Empire was highly centralized. For this reason, the settlement of nomadic peoples was a priority for the state. information on such settlement programs in the early Ottoman period is available in detailed studies by Ömer L. Barkan [1952, 1954-55]. In these studies, Barkan shows that settlement during this period was achieved by sürgün (state-organized population relocation programs). Following Barkan's studies, Cengiz Orhonlu did a study, also based on archival sources, concerning the policies of nomadic settlement in the late 17th century [1963]. During this period, the aim of settlement by the government was to repopulate uninhabited or abandoned agricultural areas, to sedentarize the nomads, and create a buffer zone against the raiding Aneze and Şammar tribes in the Syrian region. Besides this study, Orhonlu did scientific research [1967] on derbend (mountain passes, fords, roads, or bridges) in the Ottoman Empire and also investigated the nomads settled by the Ottoman government as derbendci (guardian of a pass, road, or bridge). He later published an article [1976] on the Ottoman settlement policies from the early period up to the end of the 19th century. Yusuf Halaçoğlu [1973, 1988] has also studied on this topic. The former is about state-organized settlements in the Çukurova region during the second half of the 19th century. The latter also gives information on the settlement policy of the Ottoman state during the 18th century based on Ottoman archival materials. Planhol's historical-geographic research [1968] on the geographic fundamentals of the history of islam shows that the Ottoman Empire was more successful in the settlement policy of nomads than other states, such as Iran.

In addition to the above-mentioned research, studies concerning the nomads in a specifıc area during the Ottoman period have appeared. One of them concerns the Atçeken nomads of Konya, who had previously existed under Karamanoğullan hefore the Ottoman period. First, a book has been published about this subject by Rudi P. Lindner [1983], investigating the relations between the Ottoman state and the Atçeken nomads. However, the title of Lindner's book is misleading. Although it gives the impression of a history of nomads in Anatolia, it mainly focuses on the relations between Atçeken nomads of Konya and the Ottoman state. Lindner's study also suffers from lack of the use of important sources, such as Mühimme Defters, Ahkâm Defters, ete., and relies too heavily on the Tahrir Defters as his main archival source. Tahrir Defters, while providing some statistical information, do not contain much qualitative evidence of state-nomad relations. Lindner also makes some errors in reading these documents. For example, in counting the number of sheep registered for tax purposes, he mistakenly counts lambs as taxable animals, although the existing law explicitly states that taxes were to be made only on full-grown animals. irene Beldiceanu-Steinherr [1987] has also published an article on the same subject. This article based on a Tahrir register, dated 1500-01, gives basic information about the etymology, social structure, and economy of the Atçeken.

There are also studies only partially concerned with nomads in the Ottoman Empire. Among these, Korkmaz [1963] has studied the phonetics of Nevşehir, a city in central Anatolia, and its vicinity. At the same time, she presents important information on not only the ethnic structure of the Nevşehir, but also the nomads of this region settled by the Ottoman government to the centre of Nevşehir and its vicinity during the first quarters of the 18th century. Sümer [1964] gives information on the history of Çukurova (the region betvveen Mersin and İskenderun in southern Anatolia), focusing on such nomads as the Varsak of this region in during the 16th century. Sümer's another study [1976] is on the role of the Turkish tribes in the foundation of the Safewid state. He gives detailed information about the nomadic groups who migrated from eastern Anatolia to Iran and Azerbaijan in the fıfteenth and sixteenth centuries.

Woods [1976] studied the history of the Aqqoyunlu Empire, covering eastern Anatolia, Azerbaijan, and Iran in the 15th century. It is well known that the Aqqoyunlus originally belonged to the Bayındır branch of the Oghuzs (Türkmens). There were also many nomadic groups living in eastern Anatolia under Aqqoyunlu rule. It is for this reason that Woods deals with these nomadic groups in his study. These groups were mentioned in connection with the name of Bozuluş under Ottoman rule after the Aqqoyunlu period in Anatolia. Faruk Sümer [1949a] published an article mainly based on a Tahrir register, dated 1548, about the "Bozuluş" under Ottoman administration. However, there are many unexplored archival documents concerning them in the Ottoman archives.

Halaçoğlu's work [1979] is related to the sancak of Sis (Kozan) in the 16th century. This study is mainly based on the Tahrir Defters and gives the population and economic activities of the nomads in the sancak of Sis. Apart from this study, R. Jennings [1984] published an article regarding the population, society, and economy of the region of Erciyes Dağı in central Anatolia at the end of the fıfteenth and sixteenth centuries according to Ottoman archival documents. In this connection, the author gives some information on the nomads of this area, such as the Yahyalu Yörüks. Emecen's study [1989] is about the district of Manisa in western Anatolia in the 16th century. Ottoman archival documents are used in this study to a great extent. He focuses on administration, demography, and economic activities of the settled people in Manisa, as well as nomads and peoples of nomadic origin, the Yaya-Müsellem, in this region. This study is not only important for this fıeld, but also an important methodological contribution to researchers who wish to study on these matters.

Finally, we should mention a general study concerning the nomads during the Ottoman period done by Cevdet Türkay [1979], in which the names of the nomadic groups are given in alphabetical order. In addition to this, it is possible to fınd here names of the districts, provinces, or regions where these groups lived. Although it is understood that Türkay used especially the Mühimme Defters and Maliyeden Müdevver Defters in the Ottoman archives to prepare his study, unfortunately he does not give citations for the decrees or other archival sources he selected. Also, there are some errors in the reading of the names of nomadic groups. Therefore, researchers are warned to be careful in utilizing this book.

In conclusion, this bibliographical review may have given an impression that there are many studies and publications regarding the nomads and nomadic populations living in the Ottoman Empire. However, if we consider that the nomads were an important part of and played an important role in Ottoman society, we can say that the research on this subject is stili not suffıcient since many unexplored archival documents stili exist. In this connection, we suggest that the fiıture study of nomads should cover specific areas and periods rather than general observations. If studies are undertaken in the above-mentioned manner, we believe that researchers will be able to reach some fresh, general conclusions and ideas on not only the nomads but also the Ottoman history.

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