From Beratlı Tüccar to Avrupa Tüccarı: The Pursuit of "Nizâm-ı Raiyyet" in SalonicaDiren Çakılcı
The non-Muslim merchants of the Ottoman State had requested protection from the consuls throughout the 18th century for their legal and economic freedom. In this sense, the institution of tercümanlık [dragoman] was open to abuse and exploited, and the issue of beratlı-fermanlı tüccarıs [certified merchants] arose. Selim III in particular fought against this issue in order to preserve the state's reputation and revenues. Salonica was one of the significant cities where the attempt was made to control this issue and the patronage of consuls. The practices of Selim III regarding the establishment of nizâm-ı raiyyet [statute regarding non-Muslim subjects] had significant success in Salonica. In 1806, the issue of beratlı [certified] merchants was resolved in Salonica, and the institution of Avrupa tüccarı [merchants of Europe], which was offered to the dhimmi [non-Muslim subjects] as an alternative, gained popularity. Compared to the Greeks, the Jewish merchants of the city gained an active position in socio-economic life thanks to this establishment.
Beratlı Tüccar’dan Avrupa Tüccarı’na Selanik’te “Nizâm-ı Raiyyet” ArayışıDiren Çakılcı
Osmanlı Devleti’nin gayrimüslim tüccarı hukukî ve ekonomik serbestlik için 18. yüzyıl boyunca konsoloslardan himaye talep etmişti. Bu anlamda suistimal edilmeye müsait olan tercümanlık kurumundan istifade edilmiş, beratlıfermanlı tüccarlar meselesi ortaya çıkmıştı. Özellikle III. Selim, devletin itibarının ve gelirlerinin muhafazası için bu meseleyle mücadele etmişti. Selanik, beratlı tüccarın ve konsolos himayesinin kontrol altına alınmaya çalışıldığı önemli şehirlerdendi. III. Selim’in, devletin gayrimüslim tebaasıyla olan ilişkilerindeki düzen anlamına gelen “nizâm-ı raiyyet”i tesisine dair uygulamaları Selanik özelinde başarı göstermişti. 1806 yılında Selanik’te beratlı tüccar sorunu çözülmüş, alternatif olarak reayaya sunulan Avrupa tüccarı müessesesi rağbet görmüştü. Rumlara nazaran, şehrin Yahudi tüccarları bu müessese sayesinde sosyo-ekonomik hayatta etkin bir konum kazanmıştı.
The economic and legal capitulations the Ottoman State gave to foreign states resulted in negative impacts on socioeconomic life in the 18th century and the abuse of certain institutions. One of these was the institution of tercumanlık [dragoman], which was responsible for conducting the consuls’ work and communicating with the Ottoman state authorities in particular. Consul dragomans, regardless of whether they were actually Ottoman dhimmi [nonMuslim subjects] or not, were subject to the law of müstemen [foreign nationals permitted to reside on Ottoman lands]. In this way, dhimmi merchants, who had the opportunity to be exempt from the tax burden and other obligations of the dhimmi law, started racing to become dragoman. The fact that each dragoman was appointed two hizmetkar [servants] to his entourage who were also able to benefit from the same exemptions caused the problem to grow and deepen over a short time. This problem became famous over time as the beratlı-fermanlı tüccarıs [certified merchants].
The city of Salonica was a commercial center where the issue of beratlı-fermanlı tüccarıs was on the agenda throughout the 18th century due to the diversity of its demographic structure and the abundance of consulates there. At the beginning of the 18th century, France, and England first established consulates there, after which consulates from other European states increased in number. This situation made getting permission to work as a dragoman or servant easier for the dhimmi of Salonica, as it also increased the need for these types of workers.
According to the document from 1797 that is the subject of this study, the number of people who were allowed to work as dragoman and servants in Salonica until that date had been 70. The consuls from France, England, Spain, Sweden, Austria, the Netherlands, the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, Venice, Denmark, Prussia, and Dubrovnik claimed patronage over the merchants in Salonica with this method. Until 1806, the numbers of dragomans and servants in Salonica had changed little. Except for the dragomans provided to the newly established Septinsular Republic and those under the protection of Russia, the number of other countries remained unchanged. This is because Selim III only gave a new certificate after the death of the old holder, in order to keep the number of licensed merchants under control. According to the new decisions made during the reign of Sultan Abdulhamid I, the charter holders had to strictly abide by the rules to which they were subject. Otherwise, they were in danger of losing their charters. In order to implement the decisions taken by his uncle Selim III, Abdulhamid I had inspections made in many cities. In 1802, however, he offered the dhimmi merchants an alternative to obtaining the same status as an Avrupa tüccarı without the patronage of a consul.
The beratlı controls in Salonica in 1806 had important results. During the inspection, a total of 75 people consisting of 27 dragomans and 48 servants were evaluated as being assigned to 11 different country consulates in Salonica. As a result, 35 people were understood to have left Salonica due to death or abandonment and their status was revoked. A total of 22 people who were on duty in Salonica accepted becoming Ottoman dhimmi again and to being subject to the statue on non-Muslims. Because some did not volunteer, the administrators resorted to a little coercion. At the end of the audit, the total number of 75 people (i.e., 27 dragomans and 48 servants) from Salonica had decreased to 18. In this framework, only a few people remained under the auspices of the consulates of France, England, Sweden, Prussia, and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. During the checks in Salonica, a total of 45 people who had obtained documents to become dragomans or servants in another city were understood to lived in Salonica. Due to them having to reside in the city where their consuls were located, their statuses were revoked, their charters were confiscated, and they were allowed to live in Salonica as dhimmi. In light of all this, Selim III’s checks are understood to have started in Salonica in 1806 and to have had significant success in the city.
In 1806, Yakomi of the Paico family was among those who had given up on being an dragoman and returned to being a dhimmi. His great-grandfather had been Constantin Paico, an dragoman in Salonica at the beginning of the 18th century. Costantin’s son, Andronic Paico, and his grandchildren were registered as dragomans and servants on the 1797 list. The family’s chartered status continued until the merchant Yakomi gave his up voluntarily in 1806. In fact, the merchant Yakomi received a charter as an Avrupa tüccarı from the state during this time. According to the archival document dated 1815, only one Avrupa tüccarı was residing in Salonica at that time, and that was Yakomi, son of Paico. The success of Selim III’s policy also resulted in success in the Paico family.
After 1815, the number of Avrupa tüccarıs began to increase. However, the Greek Revolt of 1821 and the subsequent independence of Greece caused the Greeks of Salonica to stop seeking Avrupa tüccarı status they had initially sought. As in the example of the merchant Plato who was executed in 1821, properties were confiscated from some of the Avrupa tüccarı who’d been involved in the revolt. The risk of losing their lives and property had caused Greek merchants to prefer being müstemen rather than an Avrupa tüccarı. As a matter of fact, only two Greeks were registered as Avrupa tüccarı in the census records from 1830. However, the Jews in the city became more interested in being Avrupa tüccarı over time, and by 1830 their number had reached at least 11. Isak, son of Santo Odini was among them and one of the first Avrupa tüccarı to be granted a charter as of 1816. The Jewish Karasu family, who gave up becoming dragoman in 1806 and accepted being dhimmi, also became interested in becoming Avrupa tüccarı over time. Avram Karasu, the son of Isak Karasu, gave up his duty as a dragoman for the Spanish consul in 1806 and accepted the law for non-Muslim subjects with his brothers; he also became an Avrupa tüccarı. The importance of the family in Salonica business life lasted until the 20th century. Just like the Karasu family, Salamo Amar, a member of the Jewish Amar family, had the charter for being an Avrupa tüccarı. His children and grandchildren took their place among the important bankers of Salonica at the end of the 19th century.
According to the records in the Sicill archives of Salonica from 1839 just before the Tanzimat [Reforms], Salonica had 18 Avrupa tüccarıs 6 of them were Greek and 12 were Ottoman Jews. Behor Francis is included in this list and was one of the best examples in terms of the wealth and social status that being called an Avrupa tüccarı in Salonica could gain. Behor Francis was the representative of the Jewish community in the Salonica Assembly, which had been established after the proclamation of the Tanzimat. In this sense, he was a significant name in Salonica and was also respected by the state. When he died in 1861, the amount of wealth he left behind was more than one and a half million gurush [Ottoman currency].
Selim III's successful policy in Salonica removed the issue of beratlı from the city’s agenda after 1825. A significant number of the Greeks from Salonica, who’d avoided being subject to the law on dhimmis had opted for illegal means such as obtaining a patent. The Jews also made such attempts. However, the opportunities the Avrupa tüccarı institution offered to the Jews who’d remained subjects of the state led them to become stronger in their socioeconomic lives in the second half of the 19th century.