The modern writer Ibrahim Karaja is the author of numerous works-essays, articles, both in academic and literary categories. Below we present you an excerpt from Karaja’s article “who is indigenous, who is not”, which raises the question of the Pontic Greeks and Armenians of the same region, as well as Western Armenia as an indigenous people in the Ottoman period and after that. “If you look at the Ottoman sources of the XVI century, then according to the information from the chronicle “Trapizon Salname”, Hamshen was one of the provinces of Trapizon. It was divided into three sub-regions: Hamshen, Karakhamshen and Eksanos. According to the Ottoman archives, in 1681 the Armenian population of Hamshen was 80%,” the author writes. Western Armenia welcomes such a statement, and in some cases there is no need to state that the indigenous inhabitants of Western Armenia are Armenians, next to whom other peoples lived over time – Greeks, Yezidis, Kurds, etc.
After reading these lines, the following question necessarily comes to mind: did Yavuz organize an expedition against the Turks living on the land conquered by his grandfather, or did he want to Islamize the people living there for hundreds of years? Because historical sources say that 30 years after the conquest, that is, 30 years before the arrival of Yavuz, only non-Muslim peoples lived in the region. The so-called “achievement” was not (according to my readings) a victory of one side as a result of mutual clashes. The Emperor of Trapizon, David Komnen, handed over Trapizon Fatih to Sultan Mehmed, having received a promise that the people and his family would not last. But he was from an ancient Byzantine dynasty called Komnenos, that is, the Greeks considered him the heir to the Byzantine throne. Seven months after the conquest, he and his children were beheaded in Edikule, Constantinople, and their corpses were hung from the walls of Constantinople as a message to the Constantinople and Pontic Greeks and Christians that they could no longer return to the past. The former officers of the emperor, having converted to Islam, were included in the corps, and his former officers were taken to the palace and appointed doorkeepers. Cases of unauthorized Islamization were also observed in the large noble families of Trapizon. One of them was, for example, the family of the chief senecar Georgios Amirus. Two sons of this family were named Mehmet Bey and Iskender Bey.
Looking at the Hamshen tribes…
If you look at the Ottoman sources of the XVI century, then according to the information from the chronicle “Trapizon Salname”, Hamshen was one of the provinces of Trapizon. It was divided into three sub-regions: Hamshen, Karakhamshen and Eksanos. According to the Ottoman archives, in 1681 the Armenian population of Hamshen was 80%. Censuses and other registers do not indicate the origin and nationality of the Muslim Hamshen population. For the Ottomans at this stage it was important to be Muslims, while non-Muslims were registered according to their nationality. In 1860, 66,150 Muslims and 1,630 Armenians lived in the sanjak in the whole of Lazistan. The British Consul in Trapizon K. Palgrev writes: “A large Armenian colony lives in the Hamshen subdistricts, in 40 villages out of 20 thousand people, 17 thousand are Muslims, and 3 thousand are Christian Armenians. Armenians are the majority among Muslims.”
Continuing in the direction of Trapizon, you will see several settlements where they converted to Islam and settled, although they fled from Hamshen in the 17th century and came to Arakli and Arsi so as not to change their religion. Among these settlements are Kizirnots and Zifona. If you lean towards Ispir and Tortum, you will meet Hamshen settlements: Khotojur, Khodik, Kamunch, Veringeg and Khozbrik. The Hamshen people of Duzje, Akchakocha, Karasu and Kocaali came from Hopi after the Ottoman-Russian war, known as the “War of ’93” and founded the villages of Ardalets, Abotsi, Khigotsi, Achbash, Hamshen and Karapetli, speak the Hamshen language, and in some localities live together with Abkhazian, Georgian and Balkan (Turkish) refugees. It is known that in the 1860s, some of the Hamshens, fleeing from the oppression of apostasy, came to Batumi. Igor Kuznetsov from Kuban State University in Krasnodar presents as follows. “The Armenians of the rural areas of Trapizon, Ordu and Samsun (Janik) are recognized as descendants of the Hamshen refugees fighting Islamization. In 1878, the eastern part of Pontus, together with 12 villages inhabited by Hamshen, remained within the borders of Batumi (Adjara) The Russian Empire. Today, these Hamshen Armenians are inhabited on a vast territory stretching from Krasnodar to Abkhazia. With the exception of those who fled Abkhazia during the Abkhaz-Georgian war (1991-93), all the others are descendants of refugees from Turkey.” Some may find the phrase “Hamshen Armenians” used here problematic for exaggerated content, but I think it is just as “exaggerated” as “Ottoman Armenians” or “Ottoman Turks”, and I don’t find it problematic. This phrase is already present in the Ottoman documents “Ermeniyan-ş Hemşin” .