Author: ÖZDIS HAMDI
Looking at the administrative borders of the Trabzon province (sanjaks of Canik, central Trabzon, Lazistan and Gümüşhane) it becomes obvious that the jurisdiction of the vali covered quite a large geographical area. Specifically, the vali could rule, in this geographical district, over all the civil servants and the law enforcement units, gendarme and police. The vali was directly accountable to the Sublime Porte and the sultan and was the person who conducted all sorts of relations with local and foreign institutions and organizations. He had promise and effect in all kinds of regional councils (municipal council, pious foundations, forest administration, council polls, chamber of commerce and industry etc). [i] Even though there were some laws in effect that limited the authority and power of the vali, they didn’t have an equivalent in practice. [ii] For example, as much as the appointment of civil servants or bureaucrats in the countryside was carried out by the centre, namely by the Sublime Porte or by Yıldız, the vali could manipulate the assignment of people of his choice and could easily change their places of appointment. The most obvious example of this can be seen in the Trabzon province, when Sururi Ali Paşa was the vali. Because the Vali pasha protected and guarded his own relative, he managed to prevent him from being punished for a crime he committed and arranged for him to be appointed at a different place. [iii]
The real limiting elements that restricted the valis were the local dynamics, meaning the local notables and local networks. For the valis who came to the region from elsewhere it was extremely difficult to establish their dominance if they did not take into consideration the local balance of power. [iv] While, on one hand the valis worked hard to cooperate with the local notables, on the other hand they tried to install order in the province by fighting with them aiming to ensure the central authority. Of course, the valis’ managerial experiences, their personal efforts and abilities, their qualifications, their educational status and coincidental situation were highly effective to this aim. This situation can be understood better even by looking shortly at the profiles of the valis that came to the province of Trabzon only in the period of Abdülhamid II (1876-1909). Nevertheless, it is difficult to say that the valis were appointed only based on their merit. There are profiles of valis who did not possess any of the above-mentioned features, who were absolutely passive and inept and stayed on the sidelines of the events that took place in the province. The first ones to come to mind are the valis of 1878 Yusuf Ziya Paşa and of 1903 Reşad Bey. Especially the period of Reşad Bey (1903-1906), who came right after Kadri Bey, a powerful vali, was marked as a period of chaos in its pure meaning with a dramatic rise in criminal cases of every kind of unrest, including car thefts, assassinations and robberies. [v]
As far as the social origins of the valis are concerned, there were some who came from notable families and some who were sons of ministers or military, pashas (like Kadri Bey) and children of religious leaders (like Sırrı Paşa or Sururi Efendi). [vi] Therefore, it is apparent that the majority of the valis were educated people with managerial experience, writers, who had from a young age served in different bureaucratic posts. However, it is difficult to say that all of them were successful in the management of the province. [vii] Maybe it was exactly for this reason that 14 valis changed in 33 years. [viii] It is possible to say that two valis left their special mark on almost 15 out of these 33 years (Kadri Bey for 10 years and Sırrı Paşa for 4,5). Apart from these two names we can say that capable and educated valis like Ali Bey, a theatrical writer and director, came and went from the province of Trabzon only for short terms like 2 years.
[i] In some councils, when it came to electing members, the vali, using his initiative and, of course, exceeding his authority, could introduce the member of his choice to the council. For example, if we look at the report that Kadri Bey wrote about the Nemlizades we can understand how he protected them. For information about the malpractice of the Nemlizades in the member elections at some local councils and courts and the protection of them by the vali see BOA, Şura-yı Devlet 1848/39, ayrıca bkz. Özdiş, ibid, p. 50-51.
[ii] Abdülhamid Kırmızı, Abdülhamid’in Valileri, Osmanlı Vilayet İdaresi 1895-1908, İstanbul: Klasik Yayınları, p. 151-155. Even though Abdülhamid Kırmızı notes here that the authority of the valis was limited in some areas, in the example of the province of Trabzon the vali’s authority went far beyond what was defined in the Vilayet Law. For example, even though it was not in the vali’s authority to punish criminals by submitting them to flogging in the lightest form, Kadri Bey, the vali of Trabzon at the time, flogged the guilty of crimes in an arbitrary manner of his own device. See, Hamdi Özdiş, “Power Struggle in the Province of Trabzon under Abdulhamid II: Notables, Politics and State (1876-1909), Unpublished Ph.D Dissertation, Hacettepe University, Ankara, p. 52.
[iii] See,Hamdi Özdiş, “If the Fish Stinks From the Head!”: Violence, Banditry and Corruption in the Province of Trabzon in the 1880s”, presented paper in 13th International Congress of Ottoman Social and Economic History (ICOSEH), 1-5 October 2013, Spain/ Alcala.
[iv] This expression is valid for the province of Trabzon as well as for the province of Salonica. See Mark Mazower, Selanik: Hayaletler Şehri, translator: Gül Çağalı Güven, İstanbul: Yapı Kredi Yayınları, 2007, p. 164. See also Özdiş, “Power Struggle in the Province...”, p. 212.
[v] FO 524/25, 18 January 1904, Longworth.
[vi] For a successful study of the valis who served in the period of Abdülhamid see Kırmızı, Abdülhamid’in Valileri İstanbul: Klasik Yay. 2007.
[vii] For example valis Yusuf Ziya Paşa in 1879 and Reşat Efendi in 1903, despite their education and bureaucratic experience, demonstrated an absolutely terrible management. For Yusuf Ziya’s mismanagement see FO FO. 195/1457, 10 May 1883, for Reşat Bey’s doings see FO 524/25, 17 February 1903, “Letter from Longworth to N. O’Conor”, p.829.
[viii] Özdiş, “Power Struggle in the Province...” p. 30.