Author: ÖZDIS HAMDI
It is customary to begin the history of the Ottoman press with the Takvim-i Vekâyi issued by Mahmud II in 1831. However, Orhan Koloğlu, an eminent scholar of the history of the press, points out that the first Ottoman newspaper was the Vekayi-i Mısriye, printed in Egypt. 33 years after the first publication of the Takvim-i Vekâyi[i], which Mahmud II issued in order to make his voice heard among the people, to inform the public opinion but also to take its support on his side, the first provincial newspapers would begin to appear after the Vilayet Law of 1864 (1864 Vilayet Nizamnamesi).
The aim of the state printing press but also of the provincial newspapers, again published by the state, was the same as the first newspaper: on a basic level to make accessible to the citizens/the people, the laws, regulations and other legislations as soon as possible, to inform and of course, to increase control over its nationals. We can observe the same aims in the publication of the Trabzon Vilayet Gazetesi.
It is known that the writing staff of the Trabzon Vilayet Gazetesi, which was issued between the years 1869-1916, was formed by people who were appointed by the state, or even directly by the governor and we even have information that the governor himself (for example Sırrı Paşa) wrote in the newspaper.[ii] In the year that the newspaper was founded (1869)[iii], its staff numbered four people. In the year 1904, there was a serious increase in the number of writers in the newspaper. Director was Arif Hikmet Efendi, head-writer (Sermuharrir) Abdullah Mehdi Efendi, second writer (Muharrir-i sani) Ziver Efendi, and third writer (Muharrir-i salis) was İhsan Efendi. If we count other workers such as the lithograph officer and other editors among this staff, it is possible to raise this number to 15[iv]. Another well-known name that is recorded in the newspaper’s yearbook, who was also a poet, is Mehmet Emin Hilmi.[v] It is necessary to point out that the writers constituting this personnel were also state employees and that they held other employment positions in the past.[vi] Even if the Trabzon Vilayet Gazetesi would be revived in the periods after the 1908 Revolution with the efforts of Hamamizade İhsan, governor Samih Rifat and letter-writer Zeki Megamiz, in this era that the press life flourished, the official publication instrument of the province did not have any function anymore in the social life.[vii] However, despite this, we come across an official document in the Ottoman Archives exactly in the direction of the continuation of the newspaper’s circulation.[viii] Of course, as noted by Hüseyin Albayrak, the newspaper is far from resuming its printing activity that was destroyed during the Russian occupation.[ix]
The Trabzon Vilayet Gazetesi came out once a week (on Thursdays) in 8 pages and, by looking at its contents, we see that it had a fairly broad spectre of topics. Of course, even with some exceptions, it was all about official news and texts. Anyway, the phrase that was right under the newspaper’s name expressed exactly this: “a provincial newspaper published in the province with official communication of public and private benefit, that contains every kind of useful news”. Again, as it is understood by this expression, the newspaper hosted many news regarding the province of Trabzon. Under the header “Provincial Incidents” we see that events that took place in the province such as banditry, theft, fires[x], earthquakes[xi] are mentioned in the newspaper together with news about everyday social events, for example people that fell off boats or ships to the sea or religion converters[xii] (ihtida haberi), or about people who got poisoned for harboring animosity.[xiii] Next to them in the newspaper there are all sorts of placements, including the new district governor’s appointment, civil servants’ awards, information on legal arrangements or legislations[xiv], various official announcements coming from the institutions, member elections for the local councils, about the courts of justice and the crime rules[xv] and news on a series of construction activities in progress (such as roadworks). The newspaper also gave space to short texts and series of articles in the form of short stories that had the aim of informing and educating the peasants on the topics of farming and tree care (hazelnut trees).
The news in the newspaper were not limited only to the centre of the province of Trabzon. They captured also the other administrative units of the area (sanjaks, kazas and nahiyes).[xvi] Even though the news had a rather local scale, we know that, beyond the borders of the province, space was given to stories that were taken from various foreign newspapers concerning international incidents.[xvii] Finally, from the point of view of social structure mobility, we should underline that very important information about confiscations in the province, land and property changing hands, was conveyed in the newspaper.[xviii]
It was out of the question that the newspaper would print anything against the central state discourse and if such a tendency was perceived, there was immediate intervention and censorship. For example in 1895, when the Trabzon Vilayet Gazetesi hosted in its pages the story from the Russian newspaper Tchernomorski Vertnik about the Armenian incidents that erupted in Trabzon in the years 1894-96, an immediate intervention order was issued and the censorship officers were instructed by the central government to take action so that no texts would be written in the provincial newspapers against the state.[xix] On another occasion, there was an order for the newspaper not to publish texts that caused disputes between the coachmen that were unhappy with municipal fees and the public, and for the censorship officers to intervene immediately because of “unsuitable word-use” [xx] in some newspaper articles. Consequently, these above-mentioned stories will remain as a few exceptions in the half-century printing life of the newspaper.
[i] See, İlber Ortaylı, İmparatorlugun En Uzun Yüzyılı, Ankara: Hil Yay. 1987, p.38; A.D. Jeltyakov, Türkiye’nin Sosyo-Politik ve Kültürel Hayatında Basın, Ankara: 1979, p.46.
[ii] For example, in 1884 Sırrı Paşa wrote an article about an incident concerning the Ordu-Sivas road. See 20 August 1300/ 1 September 1884, p. 1; Sırrı Paşa, Mektubat-ı Sırrı Paşa, İstanbul, 1300.
[iii] In his book Trabzon Tarihi, Mahmut Goloğlu mentions that the Trabzon Vilayet Gazetesi was first published in 1870. Even though Goloğlu gives 1870 as the year that the Trabzon Vilayeti Salnamesi (Yearbook) was also issued, both pieces of information are wrong. See Mahmut Goloğlu, Trabzon Tarihi, Fetihten Kurtulusa Kadar, Ankara, 1975, p.188. The foundation date of the newspaper is 1869. See, Hüseyin Bayraktar, “Doğu Karadeniz Bölgesinde İlk Matbaa ve İlk Salname”, Karadeniz Araştırmaları, 4-2005, p. 41.
[iv] See, Trabzon Vilayeti Salnamesi, 1904, vol. 22, editor: Kudret Emiroğlu, p. 270.
[v] See, Ahmet Hilmi İmamoğlu, (editor), Şair- i Mahir Trabzoni Emin Hilmi Efendi Hayatı, Edebi Kişiliği, Eserleri ve Divanı, Trabzon: Serander Yayınları, 2009; Divan-ı Mehmed Emin Hilmi Efendi, Trabzon, 1293 (1876), p. 1.
[vi] For example chief-writer Abdullah Mehdi Efendi was an employee of the Trabzon Correspondence Office (Mektubi Kalemi). See Prime-ministerial Ottoman Archive (BOA), DH. MKT. 1899/111.
[vii] See Kudret Emiroğlu, “Trabzon’da XIX. Yüzyıldan XX. Yüzyıla Kahvehane ve Kitabevi Bağlamında Toplumsal Tabakalanma, Kültür ve Siyaset”, Kebikeç, 10, 2000.
[viii] See (BOA), Şura-yı Devlet (ŞD) 1865/11.
[ix] See Bayraktar, ibid, p. 41.
[x] In March 1900, the Trabzon Vilayet newspaper shares in its second page the pain of a mother who lost her two children in a fire, p. 2.
[xi] In Balıkesir and in Denizli “a violent earth trembling occured and many casualties were caused. The damages in the buildings are in the range of eighty percent...” Trabzon No. 1296, 1 March 1314/13 March 1898, p.6.
[xii] Trabzon, 17 March 1898, No.1297, p.6. There is a story about an Armenian who changed his religion.
[xiii] For the story of Melaoğlu Mustafa from a village (Koz/Köz?) in the area of Aybastı, who added a kind of poison to the food of his neighbor against whom he held a grudge, see, 8 Zilkade 1317/ 10 March 1900, No.1397, p. 1.
[xiv] Regarding the publishing of the gunpowder legislation see, Trabzon, 26 March year 1314/7 April 1898, p. 7.
[xv] Trabzon, 26 March 1314/7 April 1898, p.7.
[xvi] For news coming from various sub-districts within the limits of the province see, Trabzon, 12 March 314/24 March 1898, No.1298, p. 1.
[xvii] It is possible to say that news from the international press came via Istanbul. For example see Trabzon, 10 March 1900, No.1397, p. 3.
[xviii] For an example see, “(...) Hopa hanedanından Cordanzade Abdülrahim Ağa’nın Ömer Reisoğlu Osman Kapudan zimmetinde olan alacağından dolayı .... tarikiyle merhun Hopa’nın Kise karyesinde vaki onbeş dönümü havi beş kıta tarla indel müzayede iki bin yediyüz altmış guruş bedel ile talebi üzerinde takarrur eylediğinden yüzde beş zammile taleb olanların otuzbir gün zarfında Hopa kazası tapu kalemine müracatları ilan olunur.” 26 March year 1314, p.7.
[xix] For a document dated from 1895 see Prime-ministerial Ottoman Archive, (BOA)HR.SYS. 2771/68, “Vilâyet gazetelerinin Hükûmet aleyhinde bendler neşretmemeleri için sansür memurlarının emir aldıkları ve bir takım Ermeni çetelerinin hudud-ı hakaniden bi'l-mürur ika-i şuriş edecekleri ve Trabzon hadisesi hakkında Tchernomorski Vertnik gazetesinde neşredilen bendin leffen takdim kılındığı.”
[xx] BOA, DH.MKT. 1886/70, 3 Ramazan 1309/1 April 1892. “Trabzon vilayet gazetesinin 1307 Teşrin-i evvelin ikinci gününe ait nüshasında görülen uygunsuz sözlerin kullanılmaması.”
[xxi] For the document dated in 1907 (19 Cemaziyelevvel, 1325 Hicrî) see, BOA, DH. MKT. 1179/31.
Başbakanlık Osmanlı Arşivi/Prime-ministerial Ottoman Archive, (BOA)
Hariciye Siyasi (HR.SYS)
Dahiliye Mektubi Kalemi (DH.MKT)
Şura-yı Devlet (ŞD)
Trabzon Vilayet Gazetesi 1884, 1891-1895,1898-1900.
Bayraktar, Hüseyin. “Doğu Karadeniz Bölgesinde İlk Matbaa ve İlk Salname”, Karadeniz Araştırmaları, 4-2005.
Emiroğlu, Kudret. Hazırlayan. Trabzon Vilayeti Salnamesi, 1904 Cilt 22, Ankara:Trabzon İli ve İlçeleri Eğitim ve Sosyal Yardımlaşma Vakfı, 2009.
----------------------“Trabzon’da XIX. Yüzyıldan XX. Yüzyıla Kahvehane ve Kitabevi Bağlamında Toplumsal Tabakalanma, Kültür ve Siyaset”, Kebikeç, 10, 2000.
Jeltyakov, A.D. Türkiye’nin Sosyo-Politik ve Kültürel Hayatında Basın, Ankara: 1979.
Goloğlu, Mahmut Trabzon Tarihi, Fetihten Kurtulusa Kadar, Ankara, 1975.
Şevket, Şakir. Trabzon Tarihi, Haz. İsmail Hacıfettahoğlu, Trabzon Belediyesi Kültür Yayınları, Trabzon, 2001.
Trabzon Tarihi Sempozyumu, Bildiriler, 6-8 Kasım 1998, Trabzon Belediyesi Kültür Yayınları, 1999.
Ortaylı, İlber. İmparatorlugun En Uzun Yüzyılı, Ankara: Hil Yay. 1987.
Sırrı Paşa, Mektubat-ı Sırrı Paşa, İstanbul, 1300.