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Traditional education, which lasted till the end of the empire, was dependent on the communities themselves and on their religous base; we see, however, that the numbers were quite low. After the Tanzimat era, modern schools opened and while the state succeeded in integrating all the religious communties in these institutions (following the primary school), non-muslim communities had already started modernizing their educational system before the Empire did.

In the official year-books, the Trabzon Vilayet Salnames, education is one of the most emphasised topics, but not regarding the traditional schools; the modern ones were put under the limelight. It is only in the first volume of the salnames, of 1869, that there is mention about the sıbyan mektepleri, the traditional primary schools, and neither them nor the medreses (the secondary religious schools for Muslims) were mentioned again (with the exception of the 13th volume, 1305/1888, p. 118-130).






Male Population










Male Students





The categories refer to the religious faith, not the ethnic origin, and it is known that the Catholics in the city were mostly of Armenian origin. [1] In the same year, there were 8 medreses in the city with 8 professors (müderris) and 174 students(talebe-i ulûm). [2] There were also 92 students in the modern middle school (rüşdiye). [3] The modern primary school(ibtidai) opened in 1852 and the rüşdiye in 1863. In 1869, there were 2 rüşdiyes in the whole of the Trabzon province (in Trabzon and Samsun). The number increased to 14 within eleven years (with Batum excluded as it was captured by Russia in 1878) but after 1888 rüşdiyes lost their importance and are not mentioned by name in the salnames anymore. [4] (The numbers appear again when reliable educational statistics are included in the salnames at the turn of the century).

In the second half of the 19th century, Trabzon became an important transit trade centre, and simultaneously to modern acitivities that found their way into the city, the city itself gained importance for the state; thus, the modernization of the education continued as in the other important centres. A reform school opened in 1867, a military rüşdiye in 1879 (which meant that the city’s boys would have access to the prestigious career in the army), a high school (idadi) in 1887 (changed into a, college(sultani) in 1910-11, a training college(darülmuallim) in 1889, as well as a girls’ middle school(inas rüşdiyesi) in 1891 .

It is a further indication of Trabzon’s flourishing economic and social life that, besides state schools, private schools opened too in the city.

The Greeks of Trabzon, after some attempts which started in the 17th century, succeeded in opening their own modern private school (Fronstistirion).. In 1833, an educator was brought from Russia and, in 1840, one of the former students was sent to Athens and then to Germany for pedagogical training. In 1850, teachers were brought from Greece and the educational system at Fronstistirion was incorporated to the Greek one. So perhaps the first person baptized ‘Perikles’ in Trabzon, was the son of Fronstistirion teacher Triantafillides, who graduated in Athens, became a teacher at the Fronstistirion himself and began teaching classical Greek in the city, while publishing articles and books on the local culture.

The Catholic Armenians of Trabzon attempted to found a modern school in 1817 and Trabzon-born educator Bijişkyan came to the city but after a two and a half years work, he had to leave though having personally helped the students. Petros Minasyan, who came to the city for the same purpose in 1846 and started the school education, was prohibited by the government in 1848 to remain in the city, because of sect factions. The school Surb Lusavorich opened again sixteen years later, in 1864, and stayed open until 1915 (it was opened again during the Russian occupation).

Some 40 years after the Greeks, the prominent Muslims of Trabzon felt the need and succeeded in opening a private school, firstly at primary and then at middle level. During Nemlizade Hikmet Efendi’s leadership, son of the entrepreneuring Nemlizade family, twelve people opened in 1880 the Mekteb-i Hamidiye (Hamidiye School, most probably in the name of the sultan Abdülhamid). The modern school education, including foreign language, music, gym class as well as accounting, law and literature [5], was financed by Trabzon’s merchants. [6] Cudi Efendi and Kitabi Hamdi, two prominent men of the city of that time, who supported the school by donating their book and cigaret rolling paper royalties. Still, it was more expensive (280 liras annualy) than the other fee-charging school of Trabzon, Hayriye Mektebi (150 liras). [7] The Hamidiye school merged with the idadi (high school) when the latter opened in 1887; this was an indication too of the high quality of the school.

The Trabzon İdadisi, the first of its kind in the “Trabzon Lisesi” tradition of the Republican era, was an important step in the city’s educational life. Still, in the early Republican times, it was not only that it was the high school of the whole region, but also that it was renowned for the facilities and quality of education, paving the way for the university to the children of the region. The efficient governor Sırrı Paşa, after consulting with the city notables and obtaining the consent of the central government, raised the price of the bread in the city to finance the idadi. [8] Next to the Greeks who opposed the plan, saying there was no need for such a school, the opposing notables’ faction sent their complaints to the central government too. [9]

In its first year there were only 55 students at the school. It was explained in the salname that this was due to all the students being from the city centre itself, as the ones from the region hadn’t come and the boarding section hadn’t opened yet. [10] (It must be remembered also that the population was around 35,000.) The İdadi in Trabzon soon appealed to all the communities, who sent their children from all over the region. (Of course this is relative; the number of students was very low, though mostly the people financed the schools.) [11]

The French Catholics opened their first primary schools for boys and girls in Trabzon in 1852. The Freres Catholic School opened in 1875 and the Ecoles Chretiennes in 1891. The American missionaries opened their Protestant primary school in 1865, the number increasing in time to four. In 1883, Iran opened its own school, Mekteb-i Nasrî. The Italians also had three primary schools for both genders in 1870, but they were closed down.

The central government was not particularly fond of the missionary schools (called ecnebi (foreigner) to differ from the non-Muslim (gayrimüslim) schools for Ottoman citizens). The Ministry of Education was in fact established in order to be able to supervise them (activating the appropriate regulations at that time) and the founding of modern schools, expected to be all-Ottoman, was triggered by these missionary schools. In fact, the government preferred the non-Muslim Greek and Armenian schools to them. [12] But the modern schools (nizamiye) were causing the reaction of the traditional conservative circles [13] and the modern non-Muslim schools became the centre of the Greek and Armenian national revival. [14]

The Ottoman administration did not always have had the power to intervene at the schools, either the non-Muslim or the foreigner ones. The establishing and authorizing dates of the schools in Trabzon reveal to what extent the government acted that many years after their establishment and this certainly did not mean having full control. [15]

Name of the School

Date of establishment

Date of authorization

Armenian Catholic Mikhitarist School


16 September 1892

Armenian Mikhitarist Girls School


2 June 1897

Armenian Language School (Ermeni Lisan Mektebi)


1 July 1897

Catholic Greek School


1 January 1897

Greek Orthodox School


1 January 1897

Greek Orthodox School


1 January 1897

Greguvar French School


6 May 1897

İran Nasrî School (Mekteb-i Nasrî)


13 December 1897

In the 22th volume of the Trabzon Salname, the education in the Freres school was characterized as “primitive” and as being “far from the necessities of civilisation and science”, so “most foreigners living in the city sent their children either to İstanbul and Venice or to France and Switzerland”. [16] The muslim children began to be sent abroad for university education after the 1900s.

In 1904, the statistics show that the Trabzon sancak (one of the four administrative units of the Trabzon province) had caught up with the percentage of the literate in the empire (estimated at 8-10 %), though the Trabzon vilayet (province) was just a little lower (9%): [17]

Trabzon Sancak:



Male Population



Female Population






Male Student



Female Student






Percentage at school /male



Percentage at school/ female



Percentage at school




[1]Trabzon Vilayet Salnamesi, 1286/1869, V. 1, p. 139, 151.

[2] Op. cit. p. 151.

[3] Op. cit. p. 163.

[4] But in 1892/93, in the Trabzon sanjak, the number of old-style primary schools was still very high (2390) compared to the modern ones (229); Salname-i Maarif, 1316 (1898), p. 1275.

[5] Alfred Biliotti (1885) in Şaşmaz 1997.

[6] Hüseyin Albayrak, 1987: 53; 1988: 22-24; 1989: 43.

[7] Şaşmaz, 1997, p. 41-53. Hayriye Mektebi was supported by the municipality; opened in 1879, it was changed into a military rüşdiye. There were 100 students in Hamidiye and 120 in Hayriye.

[8] In 1898, in the Ministry of Education yearbook, the İdadi (together with the three rüşdiyes) is stated to be built with the donations of the people (Maarif Salnamesi, 1316 (1898), p. 1117.

[9] Karahasanoğlu, 1991a, 1991b.

[10]Trabzon Vilayet Salnamesi, 1305/1888, V. 13, p. 132.

[11] In 1898 there were only 192 Muslim and 7 non-Muslim students at the İdadi (54 boarding students, 21 of them free of payment) and only 7 students at the Training College (Maarif Nizamnamesi, 1316 (1898), p. 105, 1106). On the other hand, on the 8th February 1893, there were 8-10 Muslim students at the Freres school, seemingly excused as they had graduated from the rüşdiye and the two daughters of the secretary of the govenment Reşit Bey, 10 and 16 years old, together with the daughter of harbour master Ali Bey, who were going to the French nunnery school and were excused because there hadn’t has been a rüşdiye for girls in the city (Keskinkılıç, 2011, p. 669).

[12] It was ordered that if there a special ‘Greek class’ opened in the Freres school and the Greek children were sent there, that class would be authorized as a Greek school; “Trabzon’da Frerler Mektebi’ne devam ettirilen Rum çocuklarının milli mekteplerine devamlarının sağlanmasıyla Frerler Mektebi içinde meydana getirilen Rum sınıfı müstakil ise Rum Mektebi adına ruhsatnamesinin verilmesi”, BOA.MF.MKT.213.49.19/M/1312 (23 June 1894).

[13] The second director of the Trabzon rüşdiye was warned against his opposing of the appointment of a French language teacher and it was ordered that another teacher would be chosen as a second director if he continued to do so (“Trabzon Mekteb-i Rüşdiyesi Fransızca muallimi tayin edilmesinden dolayı uygunsuz sözler söyleyen Muallim-i Sani Mehmed Efendi’nin bu hali devam ederse yerine başkasının intihabı”, BOA.MF.MKT.65.153.12/L/1297 (11 November 1875).

[14] Among the abundance of documents, one of them orders the collection and destruction of the unwanted textbooks at the Armenian Catholic School (“Trabzon Ermeni Katolik mekteblerinde okutulan muzır kitab ve risalenin toplattırılarak imha edilmesi” BOA.MF.MKT.172.117. 16/Z/1310 (1 July 1893)).

[15] Karahasanoğlu 1992, p. 59; Maarif Salnamesi, p. 1112-1115.

[16]Trabzon Vilayeti Salnamesi, 1322/1904, V. 22, p. 111.

[17]Trabzon Vilayeti Salnamesi, 1322/1904, V. 22, p. 441.


Başbakanlık Osmanlı Arşivi – Merkez Teşkilatı Mektubi Kalemi.

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