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Administrative Hierarchies    EN


The country-wide application, in 1867, of the Vilayet Law, which had come into force in 1864, clearly defined the hierarchical structure.  [i] The Ottoman Empire, that previously had the eyalet system, was divided with this law into the administrative levels of vilayet (provinces), sanjak (sub-provinces) and kaza (districts). The re-organization of the Trabzon province into sanjaks took place with this law. According to it, the province of Trabzon consisted of four sanjaks as lower units. They were the sanjaks of central Trabzon, Canik, Gümüşhane and Lazistan. [ii] In this respect, if we had to define the geographical borders of the Trabzon province, we would describe them as stretching along the coastline from Samsun to Batum, including Gümüşhane in the south. [iii]

From an administrative point of view there were many additional sub-districts (kaza) and prefectures (kaymakamlık) as sub-units in the structure of these sanjaks. So, there was an administrative structure that had the vilayet (vali) as the highest unit and authority, followed by the sanjak (mutasarrıf) and lastly the kaza (kaymakamlık). [iv] Of course, the lowest steps of this structure were made by the nahiye as a sub-unit of the kaymakamlık and its sub-unit, the karye (villages). The governors vali, mutasarrıf and kaymakam of the three highest units, namely the vilayet, the sanjak and the kaza, were directly appointed by the sultan. The governor of the nahiye was the müdir and the governor of the karye (village) was the muhtar. [v] While the muhtars, the village governors were elected by the local people, the locally elected müdirs of the nahiyes had to have the approval of the vali. [vi] The vali and the mutasarrıf were appointed by the central government and practically their post had no specific duration. That meant that a vali or a mutasarrıf could stay in office as long as he was deemed “suitable” and “successful”. A striking example of this was vali Kadri Bey in the province of Trabzon, who remained at his post for ten years.

It has to be noted that the constant mobility in the administrative structure of the Trabzon province in the 19th and early 20th centuries is eye-catching. Different dynamics and factors are behind this mobility. Sometimes due to local demands, sometimes by order of the central authority and sometimes because of wars, the administrative structure was constantly re-shaped. [vii]

Clashes and power fights for various reasons were also common in the hierarchical structure. The reasons of these clashes and rivalries were based either on financial, cultural or personal animosities. The fights and tensions between the vali and the mutasarrıf, the mutasarrıf and the kaymakam, one mutasarrıf and another mutasarrıf could lead to court or become news in the papers. There are countless examples like these in the Ottoman archives. For example, the Trabzon vali in 1886-88 Sururi Efendi and the mutasarrıfof Canik (Samsun) went to court for both personal and political reasons. [viii] Again one of Trabzon’s famous valis Sırrı Paşa and the mutasarrıf of Lazistan Ηüseyin Rüşdü Paşa went to court with the latter being eventually thrown to prison. [ix] Power struggles resulting from the conflict of interests also took place.


[i] For the country-wide application of the Law and evaluations see the following works: İlber Ortaylı, Tanzimat’tan Cumhuriyet’e Yerel Yönetim Geleneği, İstanbul:Hil Yayınları, 1985; Vecihi Tönük, Türkiye’de İdare Teskilatının Tarihi Gelisimi ve Bugünkü Durumu, Ankara, 1945.

[ii] The distribution and borders of the province of Trabzon and its sanjaks on the map see Kudret Emiroğlu, Kudret Emiroğlu (haz.) Trabzon Vilayeti Salnamesi 1871, Cilt 3, Trabzon İli ve İlçeleri Eğitim Kültür ve Sosyal Yardımlaşma Vakfı, Ankara, Mayıs 1993.

[iii] See map of the Province of Trabzon, Appendix 1.

[iv] While the office of the kaza governor was filled by the müdür until 1867, after this date, according to the third article of the country-wide applied Vilayet Law, the müdür was replaced by the kaymakam. Düstur I Tertip I İstanbul 1289/1872, p. 625. For a study about the management of the Ottoman kazas see Musa Çadırcı, “Türkiye’de Kaza Yönetimi”, Belleten, LIII/206, Ankara: TTK, 1989.

[v] For the creation and evolution of the muhtarlık see Musa Çadırcı, Türkiye’de Muhtarlık Teşkilatının Kurulması Üzerine Bir İnceleme”, Belleten C. XXXIV, TTK: Ankara, 1970.

[vi]Düstur Tertip I, İstanbul, 1289/1872, p. 625. However, we should not exaggerate this election issue, because it is not a matter of a democratic election in the modern sense of the word. There are various criteria for electing and being elected, with a specific income and property ownership being in priority.

[vii] Özdiş, ibid, p. 31 vd.

[viii] See Prime-ministerial Ottoman Archive/Başbakanlık Osmanlı Arşivi (BOA), Şura-yı Devlet 1841/23.

[ix] For the removal of the mutasarrıf of Lazistan Hüseyin Rüşdü Paşa see SD. 1832/34, 1832/35. Sırrı Paşa later on printed the proceedings of this trial as a book. See Trabzon, Lazistan Mutasarrıf-ı Sabıkı Hüseyin Rüsdü Pasa’nın Mahkeme-i Aleniyesi, 1298, writer unknown.


Archival Sources

The National Archives, Foreign Office (FO)

Başabakanlık Osmanlı Arşivi (BOA) Prime-Ministerial Ottoman Archive

Şura-yı Devlet (ŞD) 1841/23.


Çadırcı, Musa. Türkiye’de Muhtarlık Teşkilatının Kurulması Üzerine Bir İnceleme [A Study on the Establishment of the Muhtarlık Organization in Turkey]”, Belleten C. XXXIV, TTK: Ankara, 1970.

Düstur Tertip I, İstanbul, 1289/1872.

Emiroğlu, Kudret. Trabzon Vilayeti Salnamesi 1876 [1876 Almanac of the Trabzon Province], Cilt 8, Trabzon İli ve İlçeleri Eğitim Kültür ve Sosyal Yardımlaşma Vakfı, Mayıs, 1995, Ankara, pp.

Trabzon Vilayeti Salnamesi 1879 [1879 Almanac of the Trabzon Province], Cilt 11, Trabzon İli ve İlçeleri Eğitim Kültür ve Sosyal Yardımlaşma Vakfı, Mayıs, 1999, Ankara, pp.86.

Ortaylı, İlber. Tanzimat’tan Cumhuriyet’e Yerel Yönetim Geleneği [The Tradition of the Local Government from the Tanzimat to the Republic], İstanbul:Hil Yayınları, 1985.

Özdiş, Hamdi. “Power Struggle in the Province of Trabzon under Abdulhamid II: Notables, Politics and State (1876- 1909)”, PhD Dissertation, Hacettepe Ünv. Ankara, 2008.

Trabzon, Lazistan Mutasarrıf-ı Sabıkı Hüseyin Rüşdü Paşa’nın Mahkeme-i Aleniyesi [Public Court of Former Governor of Trabzon, Lazistan Hüseyin Rüşdü Paşa, 1298.

Tönük, Vecihi, Türkiye’de İdare Teşkilatının Tarihi Gelişimi ve Bugünkü Durumu [The Historical Development and the Present Situation of the Administrative Organization in Turkey], Ankara, 1945.