Trabzon Greek: A Language without a Tongue

*An article by Ömer Asan
A long period of primitive development was followed by experiments, each more modern than the other, in feudalism, capitalism, socialism and liberalism. So saying, on the threshold of the 21st century, we entered a period in which attempts were made to revise the whole ideological basis of our quest. This period was first known as the new world order. From there we arrived at globalisation. Now there are two international political and social movements: globalisation and anti-globalisation. At a time when the laws of economics show no alternative to capitalism, it is difficult (at least on my own part) to guess what political identity anti-globalisation could assume.
The institutions and organisations created by modern communication systems (TV, cinema, tourism, festivals, football, Olympics, etc.) bring together peoples who differ completely in their political geography as well as thousands of different cultural groups. The attitudes of the various cultures that at first regard each other with something of bewilderment soon give way to curiosity and close interest, and the same attitudes (curiosity, interest, tolerance, cultural influence, etc.) can be observed in social groups that were culturally in the habit of entering into conflict on their first confrontation with each other. Similar results can be observed in the adoption or imitation of “distant” cultural activities such as films, TV series, music, dances, etc. by cultural groups thousands of kilometres apart, in the virtual mania created by Latin and African dances in a country with a national identity as culturally conservative as England and many other modern European countries, as well as the widespread growth of Brazilian sit-coms and popular music such as rap, heavy metal, rock, etc. Similar developments can also be observed in Turkey.

Ever since Istanbul became the capital of our country everything has been observed and evaluated from the standpoint of Istanbul. Various measures have been applied in accordance with Istanbul conditions in a remarkably docile society that readily submits to government. In language, we have accepted Istanbul Turkish as our criterion. We tend to assume that the whole of the Turkish population is composed of those living in Istanbul or that all the citizens of Turkey resemble them. It is true that those living outside Istanbul want to live and laugh and speak and perhaps even weep like the natives of Istanbul, but that is not so very easy. Istanbul was the first test site for globalisation in Turkey, with this great megalopolis serving as a sort of laboratory. Istanbul is a city that harbours every sort of citizen and contains shantytowns composed of every type of human social grouping. Everything that is tried out and meets with approval there spreads out into Anatolia, but in spreading out in this way it sometimes meets with various forms of resistance.
A glance at the demographic structure of this country will reveal the importance of our area of research. For example, now, at the beginning of the 21st century, villagers make up 45% of the Turkish population, and of these 30 million villagers 7.5 million are landless forest dwellers. As can be seen from the statistics available, the villages and the rural way of life retain their importance in both the economic and the socio-cultural spheres of Turkish society. Moreover, there are millions of people living in the cities that have not yet been affected by urbanisation and who insist on hanging on to the cultures they acquired in the villages.
Villagers are more persistent than the inhabitants of the cities in preserving their original cultures and languages. The reason for this is quite clear. The villages are the very last areas to come under the influence of new technology and communication systems, not to mention modern political ideology. This ensures the survival of a certain conservatism and narrowness of outlook, accompanied by an inward-looking economic and social life closed to outside linguistic, religious and cultural influences. Rural societies may thus be regarded as the most fruitful fields for sociological research.
According to the statistics for 2000, in Trabzon, our chosen field of research, there are 95,015 inhabitants living in 205 forest villages but, at the same time, there are thousands of natives of Trabzon that preserve their cultural identity in other parts of the country or even abroad. In Sinop, on the other hand, in which I would very much like to carry out research, there are 460 forest villages with a permanent population of 127,534.
I expected my first book [Pontos Kültürü, 1996] on the people and culture of the Black Sea region to be met with a certain amount of criticism. The first subject of controversy was the Greek spoken there and the culture so produced. It was quite natural that rival theses should merge centred on the “Greek” or “Turkish” identity of the speakers of this language and, as a result, a certain advance was made in this field. I later encountered a certain number of questions regarding linguistic and religious relations, to most of which I was unable to provide an answer. Just at that point, a subject that is of great interest to you but about which you know nothing emerged among you as a driving force in research. It was the same force that made me embark upon this subject.
Historical Records
Historians tell us that the arrival of the Turks in Anatolia and their permanent “settlement” there, at least from the political point of view, took place after the Battle of Malazgirt in1071, while the definitive Turkification of Anatolia began with the foundation of the Seljuk state in Iznik by Süleyman Shah in 1075 and the beginning of a massive Turkish immigration movement [Osman Turan] in which the Turkish tribes, fleeing from the Mongol invasion of their homeland, sought new homes in Anatolia [İnalcık). The same historians relate how, in the century after 1071, 35% of the settled population of Anatolia outside the Eastern Black Sea region became Turkish (!) as a result of their conversion to Islam.
The spread of Islam throughout Anatolia was no chance occurrence. First of all, it was a policy deliberately implemented first by a Muslim Seljuk State and then by a Muslim Ottoman State in the areas under their rule. The Turks introduced Islam first of all to Anatolia and, later, to the Balkans and the Caucasus. Although a certain number persisted in refusing to change their religion in spite of the sometimes rather brutal methods of persuasion employed, most of the population, well aware of the advantages offered by Muslim identity, preferred submission to resistance [Lowry]. As a result, after the collapse of the Byzantine Empire, otherwise known as the Eastern Roman Empire, and its dependencies in the 14th century in the Black Sea region (it was at this time that the Eastern Black Sea region came under Ottoman hegemony) Roman-Byzantine, Christian identity was replaced by a new and powerful Muslim identity. It was thus in the 15th century that religious con version began in the Eastern Black Sea region. Both Istanbul and Trabzon were now under Ottoman hegemony, and for a greater part of the local population Muslim identity possessed true validity.
Some scholars believe that the Muslim population that existed in Trabzon after the Conquest was the result of migration into the city and that only a very small proportion of the original population were actually converted. [Bostan, p. 545]. According to this, the Christians left the city after the conquest, abandoning their places to Muslim immigrants. This would mean that the inhabitants of Trabzon and the various villages, apart from a few exceptions, consisted of the members of various Turkish tribes and others of Muslim extraction. The aim of this thesis is obviously to oppose divergent interpretations regarding the ethnic and religious roots of the Muslim population of Trabzon. It is thus a purely political thesis of disputable scientific validity, because there is no information or documentary evidence regarding the language spoken by the converts or when or where these people, including the Turkish speakers, were converted to Islam. It would appear that in spite of the immigration into the city centre (as is claimed) Greek remained the lingua franca for several centuries [Lowry].
We know that a large proportion of our Orthodox Christian fellow citizens forced to leave Anatolia and the Black Sea region (Samsun, Bafra, Havza) in the 1924 exchange of populations spoke Turkish as their mother tongue from the fact that Turkish is still spoken by the third generation of these migrants. Moreover, the Orthodox Christian inhabitants of twenty-three villages in the Çalka region of Georgia who were expelled from their villages during the retreat because of their having supported the Russians during the Russian-Ottoman war of 1828-1829 still speak Turkish as their mother tongue. A few years ago I met a young native of Çalka of about twenty years of age who described himself as a native of Pontos (during the hostilities in Georgia they were transferred to Greece as natives of Pontos) who had a very fluent command of very pure Erzurum-Azeri Turkish, together with a command of both Georgian and Russian. And yet these people were neither Pontic nor Georgian nor Russian. In spite of their speaking Turkish as their mother tongue their religious identity prevented them from regarding themselves as Turkish. They are now endeavouring to accommodate themselves to their new national identity by learning Greek. It would appear from these examples that religious, national and political preferences can change with time, but that it is not so easy to abandon one’s mother tongue.
It is not the aim of this paper to discuss racial, religious and national theories based, generally quite unscientifically, on a supposed blood brother relationship originating in Central Asia. No attempt will thus be made to respond to theses claiming different origins for the natives of Trabzon and the Greek speakers, but it is inevitable that the fact that a significant number of people of Trabzon extraction speak Greek (no matter how persistently this is ignored) should give rise to such arguments. Moreover, it is interesting to note that in the regions in question, quite apart from the language itself, place-names, family names, nicknames, names of plants, tools and household utensils have not been replaced by Turkish in the years since the exchange of population. Thus I shall attempt to approach the topic more objectively by adopting an analytical/comparative approach, appealing, when appropriate, to the historical records and avoiding the question of “origins”
Language, Religion, Education
Whence and by whom the Greek spoken in Trabzon was brought to the region and in what century it became the standard language are topics of great interest. The first serious historical evidence on this subject is that provided by Xenophon. Thanks to Xenophon, we know that in the year 400 B.C. Greek was spoken in the city, while different languages were spoken in the mountainous region outside it. Today there is no trace of any of the “other” languages once spoken in Trabzon and its environs. How is it that in a region where, until fifty years ago, there was not even the most primitive road, Greek reached the villages and became the standard language by eliminating all other contenders? I hope to be able to solve this problem by clues to be unearthed in the history of its speakers.
The extent to which the local population of the area, whose mother tongue (to be referred to henceforth as language A) was, until quite recently, Greek, preserved and continued to employ their mother tongue during the conversion to Islam constitutes in itself a very interesting topic of research. What language was employed in explaining the Muslim religion to the local population, a large proportion of whom would appear to have been converted from Christianity to Islam from the 15th century onwards (as recorded in the Ottoman land registers)? As can be seen in the case of Of  [Bostan, p.209], in the 97 years between 1486 and 1583 the number of Christians, excluding those holding hereditary tenure, increased by 8.58% from12,981 to 14,095, while the number of Muslims increased in the same period by 3,828.30% from 159 to 6,246.Thus, while the Christian population grew at an annual rate of 0.088%, the Muslim population grew at an annual rate of 40.49%. In the case of the inhabitants of Of, amongst whom there are no records regarding communal migration either in the memory of the local population or in the historical registers – in any case the topography of the region is unsuitable – is it reasonable to attribute the abnormal rate of growth of the Muslim population to the result of population exchange? And there are also a number of other problems demanding a solution. Since it was a question of religious conversion, in what language were the verses of the Koran explained to the people? Or were those who chose Islam first of all instructed in Arabic? Are the same problems to be encountered in the various other regions characterised by a variety of mother tongues that chose the Muslim religion?
One of the scholars who asked similar questions and gave them very serious attention was the Of researcher Hasan Umur. Indeed, Umur reaches really palpable conclusions [H. Umur, p.21). “Why is it that while the Muslim religion and Turkish identity spread very rapidly in the Baltacı valley and the lower regions of Solaklı they spread comparatively slowly in upper Solaklı regions (now Çaykara)? The explanation lies in the location of the administration centre in the Baltacı Valley and the suitability of the valley soil for agriculture. These two factors were instrumental in attracting the Turks to the lower levels of the Solaklı Valley. (…) A comparison between the known Muslim development in the 30 years between 961 and 991 with that between 991 and 1024 will show that in 1024 (1608) the region still contained a significant number of Christian Greeks. It is thus quite clear that in or around 1024 there was a strengthening of Islam and Turkish identity in the upper areas of Solaklı.“
According to Izzet  Akyol, “The  great majority of religious conversions, whether individual or communal,  culminated in the adoption of the Turkish language. Only in regions where mass conversions to Islam took place, such as Bosnia and Albania, did the new Muslims create a new model of Islam preserving the old languages. Although Muslim communities were to be found in Thessaly, Morea, Crete and the Eastern Black Sea region, these never produced an individual political identity, and their adoption of the Turkish language was the result of a very slow process.” The hypothesis put forward by Akyol is confirmed by data presented by Umur [Umur, p. 20]. “In the 70 years from 921 to 991, particularly in the last 30 years and more particularly in the Baltacı Valley and the lower reaches of Solaklı, the progress of the Islamic religion and Turkish identity, which had advanced very slowly among the population of Of from 864 to 921, began to accelerate quite remarkably, rapidly attaining a dominant position in a number of the villages. We may conclude that between 991 and 1024, by comparison with the previous 30 years, the whole region from the Baltacı valley to the lower reaches of Solaklı was, with very few exceptions, completely Turkified. Apart from the few remaining Christian minority groups we must conclude that the population had abandoned the Christian religion and entered the Turkish community.” Here “Turkish “ is used to signify “Muslim”.
Nevertheless, we know nothing of how the converts made their acquaintance with Islam and their new Turkish identity in churches that had been transformed into mosques or in newly built places of worship. This process was actually accomplished in the sıbyan  (Ottoman primary) schools, at least for the new generation that had never known Christianity. But in what language and under what teachers?
The answer to the question is not far to seek. Cansız Hoca is one of the most celebrated teachers from the Of-Çaykara pass in the 20th century and at the same time the teacher of Prof. Yaşar Nuri Öztürk.  According to Öztürk, who studied for nearly ten years with Cansız Hoca, under whom he studied all the basic works from Akaid-i Nesefî to Ömer Khayam, from the Divan of Hafız to Serahsi and the Usul of Pezdevi, Hoca “an inspector of religion in the Black Sea area, was one of the most distinguished of Oflu scholars. He had himself been taught by the most distinguished of the Oflu scholars of the day and the most famous of the ulema, such as Gargar Muslim Efendi, Tayyib Efendi and Çapanlı İdris Efendi. He taught in the university and possessed an excellent knowledge of philosophy, Western civilisation and Greek. He knew four or five languages – Turkish, Arabic, Persian, Chaghatayja and Greek – together with a thorough knowledge of their literatures.”
Cansız Hoca was a native of the Solaklı Valley which, according to Umur, was one of the last regions to come under the influence of Islam and the Turkish language.  Another hoca, Mustafa Çakmak, who has been imam in the Erenköy Mosque since 1960 and knows Turkish and Arabic as well as his Greek mother tongue. During a pilgrimage to Mecca he tried to speak to the Arabs. “Hoca,” they said, “the Arabic you speak is Koran Arabic. We can’t understand it.” This shows that the language of instruction in the medreses in the Of-Çaykara region was Koran Arabic and that the medrese graduates were sufficiently proficient in the language to be able to use it in conversation.
Paçanlı Kasım Kıroğlu was the first teacher in the Erenköy sıbyan school (1947). His mother tongue was Greek, but he also had an excellent command of Arabic and Persian as well as Turkish. He had no hesitation in using Greek when teaching village children who had difficulty in understanding Turkish.
Ottoman Primary Education
Although there may be certain drawbacks in an investigator playing a personal role in his own field of investigation, I find it useful to present a concrete example by describing how I, the author of these lines, was taught the Islamic religion and the prayers.
I was born in a village without proper roads and with a large population living in houses without water or electricity, and, consequently, without baths or toilets. Apart from our speaking Turkish and apart from a Philips transistor radio and our watches, we lived in a primitive environment typical of life one or two thousand years ago.
At the beginning of the 1970s, probably some three hundred and fifty years after my ancestors had been converted to Islam, the older people in our households still spoke Greek, while my contemporaries and myself spoke Turkish in the mosque. Our hoca’s mother tongue was Greek (Holo-Çaykara) but he taught in Turkish. The villagers clubbed together to provide him with his salary, his fuel and his meals. We took turns in taking him his food. In our lessons during the summer, we learned orally, in the course of three months, almost everything concerning the nature of Islam and the faith, the times of the namaz, the Suras, the ritual observances, religious practices and prayers. We children learned the meaning of the prayers and the Suras in neither Turkish nor Greek. In the second month we were each given an elifbe cüz or supara from which we were taught to read and write Arabic. We never used the Turkish alphabet.  We were able to perform our worship as genuine Muslims who had learned about God and his Prophet. A three months’ mosque instruction and the fear of God were sufficient to transform us into well-informed Muslims. The alder or hazel canes used to punish us for our childish misdemeanours constituted an integral part of our schooling. In the Of district children over 4 attended the mosque, boys continuing their education in the mosque until the age of 14, girls until the age of 12. This education consisted basically of the acquisition of religious knowledge. The main books used in instruction and the namaz were the following: Emsile (paradigms for derivation, conjugation or declension), Elifbe (Arabic alphabet), Tebareke, Süphaneke, Ettehiyatu, Tecvit (the art of reading, reciting or chanting the Koran with proper rhythm and pronunciation), Mızraklı (elementary schoolbook), İlmuhal  (catechism) and Mushaf-Kur’an.
Sıbyan schools are known to have been the means employed in the instruction and education of children in the Islamic religion from the first to the last years of the Ottoman state. These sıbyan schools, which usually consisted of a single room, were usually located in the mosque, which they resembled in generally being founded by distinguished benefactors, though some schools located in rural districts were founded on the initiative of the local population. These were generally financed by vakıfs  (pious foundations) and monthly contributions made by the parents.
The village of Çoruk contained a medrese as well as a sıbyan school. In the memoirs of Habib Bahadır, a native of Çoruk-Erenköy, we find the following description of instruction and education as it existed until quite recent times [Bahadıroğulları, p. 76, 84, 85]. “I joined the first class in the Mandıra Medrese sıbyan school in our district at the age of six before the First World War. On entering the classroom we had to shout out “Long live the Sultan” three times. The medrese I attended was about 3 km from my home, and for two years my grandmother I would take me there through mist and snow, storm and blizzard. I first learned the besmele from an elderly teacher by the name of Cinci Mehmet Efendi. (…) After Mandıra  I went to middle school in the Büyük Mosque. That continued until the closure of the medreses in 1924. I was then 17. By then I was in the 10th and highest class of Canonical Jurisprudence.”
Schooling and Literacy
According to the 1869 Trabzon Province Yearbook (Salname) Trabzon province contained 350 medreses, 2,363 pupils, 139 mosques, 150 mesjids, 1 tekke (dervish convent), 98 imams, 137 hatips (preachers) and 82 teachers. There were also 191 sıbyan  schools attended by 4,680 children. On the other hand, there were 10 churches, 6 priests, 5 Greek schools and 47 pupils. This implies a fairly high level of literacy. How many were also able to write is unclear. According to the same Salname the province ofTrabzon also contained 686 medreses in 16 kazas (districts).
Most of the medreses were to be found in the kazas of Of, Bafra and Kelkit and the nahiye of Niksar. It is no coincidence that more than half of these medreses were located in Of, which had the highest literacy rate in the Ottoman Empire. Of and its inhabitants were famous for their pre-eminence in Islamic instruction and education [Topaloğlu, p. 113]. For example, in the last quarter of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, Ismail Efendi, a native of Of, was the first teacher in the Salaha Medrese (Rize), while practically the whole of the teaching faculty in the Rize Kendirli (Goloz) Medrese consisted of teachers and professors from Of. These were Yusuf  Efendi, Hafız Numan Efendi, Osman Efendi, Hacı Tahir Efendi, Bakkal Hüseyin Efendi from Paçan, and Kaytaz Mahmut Efendi, son of Kaytaz Ahmet Efendi of the village of Kireçhane.
The first churches were built in Of in 400 A.D., a hundred years after the settlement of Christians in Trabzon in the 4th century. One of the oldest churches was the church in the village of K›r›nta, now completely abandoned. According to the Ottoman tahrir surveys, several of the villages were the property of the monasteries, the names of which, with some errors in orthography, are to be found in these registers, namely Ayasofya, Aso Manos, Aso Mandliya, Şuşka Pastos, Zesukfal, Ayios Fokas, Asfalya(r), Yarakis Yanaki and Ayo Oban (Ayios Ioannis).
The promulgation of the Maarif-i Umumiye Nizamnamesi (General Regulations for Education) in 1869 was followed by the opening of sıbyan schools in every town and village teaching a whole range of subjects such as religion, morals, mathematics, Ottoman history and geography. In accordance with the same regulations, minorities had the right to open their own special schools, subject to approval of the books and curriculum by the Ottoman government. Thus the schools previously opened by Catholic, Greek and Armenian minorities, as well as the schools founded by foreign missionaries, were placed on a legal basis, but, according to the same law, Muslims whose mother tongue was not Turkish were not recognised as a minority and were thus deprived of the possibility of receiving education in their own language for the foreseeable future.
The 19th century Ottoman administration would thus appear to have embarked on the quest for a Western type of educational system and on endeavours to modernise the traditional systems of education and instruction. At the same time, the movement towards freedom and the rule of law introduced by the Tanzimat (Reform) and the 1876 Constitution led to the systematic organisation of the new educational system. By 1883, there were 899,932 pupils in 29,130 sıbyan schools, 40,000 in 619 high schools and 20,000 in 93 preparatory schools.
According to the Ottoman scholar Taner Timur [Osmanlı, p. 113] Ottoman educational practice was based on a “diploma” system in a “master-apprentice” relationship. After attending a sufficient number of lessons by the masters and gaining their approval, they were presented with a diploma known as an “icazetname”.
An icazetname consisted of three sections. The first section introduced the student together with a list of his praiseworthy characteristics. The second section introduces the teacher and the scholars from whom the teacher had received his icazet.  A sort of hierarchical chain of scholarship was thus created by the list formed by the names of the teachers, the teachers of the teachers, and the teachers of those teachers. Thus the recipient of an icazet became part of a sort of aristocratic pedigree. The third section of the icazetname consisted ofadvice to the student, stressing the utter insignificance of man in face of the greatness and perfection of God and reminding him that the aim of all knowledge and learning is to prepare the individual for the service of God.
Hasan Umur, a teacher who had received his icazet from Tayyip Zühtü Efendi, one of the most distinguished and highly-respected teachers in Of, describes how, in the icazet prayer gatherings at the beginning of the 1900s, amulets would be circulated by several people for a line to be writtenon them by each of 41 teachers. He believes this tradition to have been a pagan tradition descended from the Assyrians [Of ve Of, p. 77]. Whether or not this tradition was a pagan one is uncertain, but it was obviously a ceremony signifying respect and obedience towards those certified as proficient in reading and writing.
The icazetname was, in a sense, a document certifying a person’s competence and proficiency in the expression of independent opinions in matters of religion. The acceptance by the inhabitants of Of (more particularly those from Greek speaking villages) of the necessity of undergoing quite arduous endeavour and difficult exams in order to attain such a privileged position is quite a rare phenomenon. Moreover, shortly afterwards, we find inhabitants of Of with a say, not only in the icazetname, but also in the icazet. Some anthropologists believe that there are economic factors underlying such trends. For example, in one region a man will earn his living as a sailor, in another as an imam. Those from Hemşin became bakers, those from Maçka quilt-makers, while those from a place like Çankırı that had no connection with the sea ran caiques across the Bosphorus. In other words, every profession belonged to a certain locality and the guild system made it difficult for anyone not belonging to that locality to enter that particular profession. Nevertheless, it seems unlikely that the inhabitants of Of deliberately chose this course in order to ensure their religious authority. After all, there were scores of country towns and hundreds of villages in similar circumstances.
As writing was an invention conceived and utilised in an urban environment, it must have arrived in Erenköy from the towns or cities in the vicinity. According to a diploma in our possession, the first official step in the teaching of writing in Erenköy/Çoruk, and, consequently, the first step towards a written Turkish culture, was taken by the Ulus (state)schools in 1938. Before that, the village is known to have possessed a sıbyan school and a medrese in which boys were taught to read and write Ottoman Turkish. The first modern primary school was opened in 1947, and boys and girls who had until then employed Greek as their mother tongue began to learn to read and write Turkish, thanks to their teacher, Kasım (Kıroğlu) of Paçan, who had been appointed by the state and who had a native speaker command of Greek. Today, none of the Greek speaking Muslims are ignorant of the alphabet of the language they speak, whereas not a single written document in the Greek alphabet written by their ancestors in the previous centuries has survived to the present day. Colloquial Greek is a mountain and forest language.
The famous German writer J. Philip Fallmerayer gives the following description of villagers he encountered on his way to the Sumela Monastery during a visit he paid to Trabzon in 1840. “Below us, as we left a rocky forest area, there appeared a second flat-roofed house with a field of tobacco in front of the door. A group of harvesters from the fields, both men and women, emerged from amidst the thicket in front of us with sickles in their hands and loads of hay on their backs – all reminiscent of a scene from Schalders in the Tyrol. Instead of skirts, the women had tied smocked pinafores of Turkish crimson both in front and behind and white trousers were to be seen on both sides. Can this be an old Colchis form of dress dating from the time when Xenophon and his Ten Thousand entered these mountains? They greeted us in Greek. They were Christians and served the Virgin Mary of Sumela, the patron saint of these valleys. Living in Byzantine districts secure against the Europeans they were little concerned with the alphabet and religious lessons. For the great mass of the people, religion meant observance of the fast and hatred of the Latins” [Fallmerayer, p.115].
Fallermayer’s account shows that the majority of the inhabitants of the Christian villages in the Black Sea and Trabzon provinces were illiterate.
According to a talimatname (code of regulations) published in 1846 [Atuf, p. 100], instruction in the s›byan schools lasted four years, and the subjects taught comprised: Elifba (alphabet), Koran, ilmihal (catechism), tecvit (the art of reading, reciting or chanting the Koran with proper rhythm and pronunciation), harekeli Türkçe muntasar ahlakı memduha risaleleri, [dictionaries of words and names of three radicals (sülâsî), of four radicals (rubaî), of five radicals (humasî), and of six radicals (südasî)], as well as the sülüs and nesih scripts.
According to the same talimatname the following methods were to be used: “To introduce the letters to the new beginners and to allow them gradually to learn to write them, one should follow the method long established in Mecca, Medina and other parts of Arabia of having the children write and erase them on the slates provided by the Sultan in suitable quantities for each school. Each child on beginning school should be given one slate and, after making them write as well as possible the line a, b, p, t, s, c that they have learned and duly adding the vowel points, they should, after reaching the letter c, be shown how elif is written and told that it is called “elif”, and making the child repeat this several times.”
After the children have learned the alphabet in this manner, they continue their instruction by being made to write the “lugati Türkiye” (Turkish lexicon) and moral homilies on these same slates. Furthermore, to accustom the pupils to write on paper, they are each, as is the custom in Arabia, given a brass divit (pen case) to be hung around their waists containing a large amount of lika  (raw silk) but very little ink together with two pens but no penknife [Atuf I, p. 101-102].
About one year after this talimatname the situation in Of and its environs remained the same [Kazmaz, Çayeli, p.84]. “In the mosque, only the boys were taught to write. Those who attended the mosque knew harekeli yazı (writing with vowel points). The girls were given no writing lessons. The boys and girls went together to the mosque but although they sat in the same room they sat separately during lessons. Lessons usually continued until ikindi (hour of the afternoon prayer, late afternoon).”
A “Tevhid-i Tedrisat” (national curriculum)was contained in law no. 430 dated 3 March 1924. Thereafter all medreses were placed under the Maarif Nezareti (Ministry of Education). As a result of this law, the medreses, which had formed an integral part of Ottoman education for six hundred years, were closed down.
The aim of the village schools that replaced the medreses as institutions of instruction and education was laid down as follows in Article5 of the Maarif Teşkilat Kanunu  (Law of Educational Organisation) of 1926. “All village schools are responsible for applying a course of instruction and education that would not estrange the children from village life.” This approach could be summarised as follows with reference to the stage we have reached in our field of research on the threshold of the 21st century.  According to the data provided by the State Institute of Statistics in 1990,Trabzon, with a total population of 700,659 contained 102,987 women unable to read or write. At the same time, 62,907 women have obtained diplomas from literacy courses held at various times. In other words, there were 165,894 women in Trabzon who had never attended school and had never attained the ability to read a single line. This amounted to 23.6% of the population. For men the figure was 12.7%. It is therefore not surprising that those most proficient in speaking Greek are women, and this was also undoubtedly true in the past. The prohibitions on women and their lack of exposure to formal instruction, bad or good, is undoubtedly the main reason for the survival of Greek.
The Struggle between the “Old” and the “New”.
On 13 November 1925 the headline “Education Committees in Maçka” appeared on the first page of the Trabzon newspaper Yeniyol  [Tarakçıoğlu, p. 82]. This referred to a visit to Maçka by the Information Committees of the Türk Ocağı and the Muallimler Birliği (Teachers Association). One section of the delegation addressed a gathering in Cevizlik, while another section addressed meetings in the Maçka villages of Ispela, Meksila, Hortokop and Kizera, where they also addressed the people. These public addresses by the Türk Ocağı and the Muallimler Birliği referredto the following points:
The views of the government on civilisation,
Malicious propaganda against the Turks in Europe and America,
The wearing of the hat was not contrary to religious principles,
Islam is the most modern of the religions.
The delegations carried out the same propaganda in all the towns and villages in the province of Trabzon. Let us once again take Of as an example.
In the Republican period, the most important role in teaching literacy was played by the Halkevi (People’s Institutes) and Halkodası (Culture Centres). When the Democrat Party closed these centres down in 1950, there were 477 halkevi and 4,332 halkodası operating in 63 provinces, with libraries in 330 of the halkevi.  At the present day, inhabitants of Of-Erenköy of 60 or over first learned to read the new alphabet from books such as Karacaoğlan, Köroğlu, Emrah and Kerem and Aslı and various other books published by the MEB (Ministry of Education) they found in the local Halkodası library. After the closure of the Halkodası in 1950, the same books were burned and destroyed by these same villagers in accordance with a political decision. In the past, similar motives had led to the destruction of the Greek books in the archives of the Sumela Monastery, while, in the years following the proclamation of the Republic, Arabic and Persian books were destroyed as reactionary elements. Thus, written culture would seem to have been regarded by the local population as the price to be paid by the people for every change in administration, and a heavy burden that was the first to be thrown off.
Until the first half of the 20th century neither the Turkish nor Greek speakers in the Trabzon villages had ever possessed a written cultural heritage. In my own village, which I have taken as an example, there are (apart from title-deeds and muhtar records) no written seceres, memoirs, works of literature or family trees. Until quite recent times, no family dwelling possessed a library.
A year before the propaganda delegations began their tour of the villages (1924) all the medreses and sıbyan  schools in Erenköy and the country as a whole had been closed down. It was only in 1947, after the village had remained without a single school for 23 years under the Republican regime, that a primary school was finally erected in Of-Erenköy and the work of education begun. In 1998 the same school was closed down for lack of pupils and the few village children were bussed to schools in the central villages. On the other hand, this village, with a population of 500, with 4 mahalles (wards) and 4 mosques, has four imams centrally appointed who are provided with accommodation for themselves and their families. At the same time, there is a state funded programme of education and instruction in Of-Erenköy comprising a Koran school housed in a five-storey, centrally heated building with computer equipment as well as a boarding medrese with hundreds of girl students and women teachers. Thus, in my own village and the other villages in the province of Trabzon, there is no clear difference of approach between the “old” and the “new”. We may comfortably affirm that the inhabitants of Of would have no hesitation in preferring the “old”, as regards the expression of independent opinions and the granting of icazets.
In the religious field, the local population are perhaps better organised than they were in the past. For example, in the 19th century, a few distinguished ulema and the local population belonged to the Sunni branch of Islam, but there is no information or official record in the first years of the Republic regarding the existence of any tarikat (religious order) in the region. According to Cans›z Hoca [Cansız, p. 13), “In the old days, the inhabitants of Of were faithful Sunnis under the authority of the medrese. The village never housed a single Shiite tekke (dervish lodge). Although there were 70 medreses in Of not a single tekke had ever been built. (…) Nakshibendilik was brought first from Erzurum, and later, during the reign of Abdülhamit, from Istanbul. The existence of this religious order in this locality depended on its being on good terms with the Medrese. No religious order other than the Nakshibendi was ever accepted here, and the last representatives of this order finally died out.” According to an investigation carried out by the Ministry of the Interior Housing Directorate [Öksüz, p. 762] Tezkere No.562/2248 issued by the Of Kaymakamlığı on 23 September 1925 (1341), the kaza contained no clan, tribal, tahtacı or tarikat seyhs..
Of and Rize were the first communities to protest against the Şapka Devrimi (Headgear Reform), which was generally regarded as a symbol of Republican modernisation. Immediately after the passing of the Headgear Law on 25 November 1925 a rebellion broke out in Rize that had to be suppressed by the military. After a trial lasting three days, the Istiklal Mahkemesi (Independence Tribunal) set up on 11 December condemned 8 of the accused to death, 14 to fifteen years imprisonment, 22 to ten years and 19 to five years. The executions were immediately carried out in front of the Dalyan Mosque. The eight people sentenced to death were the following: the Ulucami imam Hafız Şaban Hoca, the Mahalle Muhtarı (village elder) Sergeant Tarakçıoğlu Yakup, the İslâhiye imam Hacı Hasan Efendi, the municipal watchman Kadir Agha, Muhammed Peçelioğlu, Hafız Mahmut Kamburoğlu and the nakshi seyh Numan Sabit Tarakçioglu Efendi [Rize Tarihi, p. 211).
“Revolutionary” modernisation propaganda included in the programme of the propaganda committees, such as the assertion that the wearing of the hat was in no way incompatible with religious principles, left profound and lasting marks on the centuries old traditions of the communities. The most striking examples of this were to be found among the inhabitants of Of and Rize, who were well known for the passionate love of freedom typical of the Eastern Black Sea region, their devotion to their conservative traditions and their refusal to bow to Ottoman authority.  The local people, compelled for a time to wear the hat, have now returned to the turban and the shalvar, and are in the vanguard of the political Islam movement. Whether this approach constitutes a resistance to over-hasty “modernisation” or to radical interference in age-old traditions is a matter of dispute.
There are still people living who witnessed the performance of the religious rites known as zikir in the villages of Of and Çaykara in the 1950s. According to Yiğit [A. Yiğit, p. 59] “The zikir was performed by the Nakshibendi and zikir seyhs. Those taking part in the rites gathered secretly in a room and, standing, held hands in a circle. While making constant convulsive movements with their bodies, they uttered 100 kulhu vallahi (Say, He is God),100 Allah and 100 Sübhanellah (Praise be to God). There were some who fainted during the ceremony. “
According to Cansız Hoca, the Nakshibendi order suffered a severe setback with the closure of the tekkes and tarikats in the Republican period, but the inhabitants of Of stoutly resisted any type of prohibition in this sphere and continued to perform the rites in their own dwellings. This I can confirm from my own experience. In the 60s and 70s, when I was being brought up as a true Muslim, I never heard any mention in our mosques of a şeyh or of a religious order. Later, after 12 September 1980, Nakshi activities were unofficially permitted. In Adıyaman these were led by Muhammed Raşit Erol, a Menzil şeyh of Kurdish extraction, and in Istanbul by Mahmut Ustaosmanoğlu, a native of Of (the village of Mitso). The Nakshi order is now conducting both religious and political activities in the Of-Çaykara region.
I was myself present at an icazet presentation ceremony held in the village of Zisino in Of in 1998 for those receiving a teaching diploma after a training in mosques (official-unofficial) medreses actually run by these tarikats. The icazet ceremony arranged by the village Koran Course was relayed by public address system throughout all the streets. Hundreds of people, brought by automobiles and minibuses, took part in the ceremony. The Koran was recited and those deemed worthy of the icazet were publicly honoured. One innovation was that women teachers were also being trained in special courses arranged for female candidates. As can be seen, the Republican administration has not been very successful in its attempts to replace the old with the new.
Languages in the Solaklı Valley
At the beginning of the 20th century Greek and Turkish were spoken side by side and Arabic and Persian, although not used for communication, were both spoken and written, while some expatriates coming and going to and from Russian were able to speak Russian. There was a popular tradition that during the Russian occupation of 1916-1918 elderly expatriates, who had been unable to leave their villages, bargained with the occupying commanders in Russian in an attempt to protect the local population from victimisation. As a result, at the beginning of the 20th century, five languages, Greek, Turkish, Arabic, Persian and Russian, were being spoken in the Solaklı Valley. The XVIIIth century divan poet Oflu Fevzi, whose real name was Ahmet, was able to recite poetry in three languages and had an excellent command of Arabic [Göre, p. 255). Manuscripts left behind by İsazade Hacı Salih Efendi, who had been educated in the Yakudiye Medrese in Erzurum and was one of the first müftüs in Of, show that he had a sufficient command of Turkish, Arabic and Persian to be able to write and recite poetry in these three languages.
Isazade Haci Salih Efendi is best known for the prohibition he placed on the speaking of Greek by Muslims. It is quite remarkable that a religious intellectual from Çaykara-Karaçam, i.e. Ogene, should have spent so much effort in the 1800s in preventing the use of what was both his own and the villagers’ mother tongue. Furthermore, the three pieces of advice he left to the community before his death adds a new dimension to Haci Salih Efendi’s identity as an ulema and intellectual.
            “Look out!…
Beware of animals,
Beware of your neighbour,
Beware of Infidels.”
It would appear that those engaged in the opposition to the use of Greek that seemed to have flourished together with the process of Islamicisation, proposed the use of Turkish in place of the mother tongue, which would seem to imply that the general public also wanted Turkish to be accepted as the mother tongue (language A). It would thus appear that the language B (second language) spoken by the local population at the beginning of the 19th century was Turkish. Therefore, if we concede that a sudden transition is unlikely, we must assume that Turkish had been spoken in the region for a considerable time. According to Shukurov [Shukurov, p. 121] “Towards the middle of the 15th century the existence in the surrounding area of Turkish, a Turkish type life-style and a Turkish environment was a fact with which the local Greeks were perfectly familiar and to which they were perfectly indifferent.”
The existence of Turks in the region, a claim made in various sources, is based on the uncertain number of migrants that had arrived by way of Bayburt and settled in Of and its environs. In the area covered by our research, a marked difference in the pronunciation of Turkish can be noted between Greek speakers and those who never spoke Greek. For example, the Turkish spoken in Erenköy is quite different from the Turkish spoken by the inhabitants of the nearby village of Cumapazarı, who knew no Greek, but the Turkish and Greek accents in Gülenköy (Visir), a village adjacent to both Erenköy and Cumapazarı, are identical. An examination of the bilingual ability of the local population and the various accents clearly shows that Turkish was not spoken as a “foreign” language. Moreover, there is a wide plateau at the intersection of the borders of Çaykara, Sürmene and Bayburt – rumoured to have been an old settlement with a number of hans – which is known to the local population and transhumants as Panturke, and we may accept this as confirmation of Shukurov’s claim that the local population was perfectly familiar with Turkish and the Turkish life-style.
In the census carried out by Mehmet the Conqueror, there are a number of districts bearing Greek or Armenian names, but it is surprising to note that the names of some of the inhabitants in these districts are Turkish.  This prompts the following question: “Is it possible that the term “Rum” does not really refer to an ethnic Greek population and that the term “Ermeni” does not actually refer to an ethnic Armenian population? In the first case, the term “Rum” would appear to refer to a Greek Orthodox Turkish community or a combination of Orthodox Turks and Greeks, while in the second case, the term “Ermeni” would seem to refer to a Turkish community belonging to the Gregorian sect or a mixture of Gregorian Armenians and Turks [Osm. İmp. Tarihi, I, Beldiceanu, p.165]. Although this complex inter-involvement creates difficulties for the anthropologist, it opens up new horizons for Turkish sociologists and political historians.
In the 20th century the first person to initiate a similar discussion on a linguistic-religious basis was Cansız Hoca of Of, who expressed the following views on the subject in an article in the ‹nan periodical published by the Trabzon Halkevi [Cansız, 11-12]. “In the Greek spoken in Of, Turkish elements outnumber the Greek. The language spoken in the villages is certainly not a national language.  In other words, the use of Greek as a spoken language in these villages dates from the arrival of Christianity. After the inhabitants of Of were converted to Islam, they acquired a sufficient proficiency in Arabic, as the language of this religion, to allow them all, including the women, to converse in that language, and as most of the medreses were located in these villages 95% of the Of hocas grew up in these villages.
Some writers, in discussing Trabzon Greek and its speakers, tend to establish a direct connection between the language and its ethnic roots, whereas Greek and ethnic Greeks and Turkish and ethnic Turks are subjects that should be treated quite separately. For example, Şakir Şevket [Şevket, p. 98] declares that “the local population still communicate in Greek and that pupils who know no Turkish are taught in that language (1877). Two hundred years after the conquest of Of, i.e. until 1960, all the inhabitants of the region belonged to the Greek millet.” Similar conclusions connected with this topic are to be found in the Tabzon Province Almanac for 1888: “The kaza of Of has long attracted the attention of scholars. The population still preserves their love of ulema education, and a large number of ulema distinguished for their scholarship and learning are graduates of the local medreses.  The mother tongue of the local population is Greek, and both Christians and Muslims communicate in that language, and ulema students who know no Turkish have to be taught in Greek [p. 635]”. By “Greek millet” the historian Şakir Şevket means the Christian community. At that time, the term “Rum” did not refer to ethnic origin, Greek speaking Muslims being registered as “Islam” in the section of the identity records referring to millet [Bahadıroğulları, p. 65]. “Rum” denoted someone belonging to the religion of the East Romans, i.e. Christian. Canzız Hoca comes to similar conclusions on the subject [Cansız, p. 11]. “It is erroneous to conclude from Şakir Şevket’s statement that 400 years ago the Muslim inhabitants of Of belonged to the Rum millet  that94 years after the conquest of Trabzon the inhabitants of Of were still predominantly of Greek extraction. Ottoman scholars and historians used the term “millet” to denote religion, and what Şakir Şevket actually meant to say was that the inhabitants of Of were Christian.
Some scholars adopt a stricter approach to the topic [Galanti, p. 14]. “During the period from very early times until 1923, the Greeks in the Aegean archipelago had a very proficient command of “Yunanca” (Greek) while those living in places farther from the Aegean had a rather weaker command, although they had not completely lost it. That is why, after the conquest of the province of Trabzon by Mehmet the Conqueror, the Greeks (Yunanlar) living in this section of the empire and along the Black Sea coasts preserved their language, although with a few variants, and never adopted Turkish as comprehensively as did the inhabitants of Asia Minor. The Greek spoken in the coastal region of the Black Sea, better known as Pontus, preserves within it vestiges of the language of Homer.”
H. Lowry, who engaged in research concerning Islamicisation and Turkification based on written records, came to the following conclusion regarding the inhabitants of the city of Trabzon 123 years after the conquest. “Although in 1583 Trabzon was a city with a Muslim majority, it cannot really be described as a Turkish city. In this city, in which nearly half of the Muslims were first or second generation Greek or Armenian converts to Islam, Greek (Rumca) was almost certainly employed as a “lingua franca”.  Although these converts and their descendants gradually became Turcophone, it is to them that spoken Turkish owes the existence within it of words of Greek origin [Lowry, p. 135]”. The ethnologist Türkdoğan, on the other hand, came to the conclusion, on the basis of research carried out in the locality, that “the Greek spoken in the villages in the Tonya district stemmed mainly from commercial, economic and cultural relations together with the preference of the Muslim Turks who had adopted Greek language and culture. Long standing historical relations were able to call Turkicised Greeks and Hellenised Turks on to the historical stage.” According to Hasan Umur, who approaches the subject from a more purely local point of view [H. Umur, p. 23], “The fact that, following the adoption of Islamic and Turkish culture in the kaza of Of, the inhabitants of the Baltac› valley and the lower sections of the Solaklı Valley spoke only Turkish as their mother tongue, while the inhabitants of the upper sections of the Solaklı valley preserved Greek as their first language, is a matter well worthy of further investigation. (…) Islam and Turkish culture penetrated the upper villages (Çaykara) of the Solaklı Valley very slowly. For example, in 921 we find one Turk, by the name of Ahmet, in the village of Holaysa, while in 961 there were five Muslims, Mahmud, Şaban, Hüseyin…. How was it possible, in 991, for these five Muslim families to have preserved their mother tongue for so many years in the midst of a community of nearly one hundred Christian families? The situation is much the same in the lower villages.” Umur goes on to say that ”While, in the period up to the presentation of the petition by the Kadı İbrahim Efendi in 1204, Islam was still continuing to spread very slowly throughout this region and Turkish still existed as a second language among the Muslims (actually, it is quite probable that in some villages the very existence of the Turkish language hung in the balance), and when the Christians, who made up the majority of the population, left the region in 1024 their places were taken by Muslim Turks who mingled with the old, non-Turkish speaking Turks and followed them in adopting Greek as their first language. Let me at once note here that the fact that when some of the Christians left the country others accepted Islam and remained behind shows how powerful and dominating a position was held by the Greek language.”
Nevertheless, Umur would appear to have certain problems concerning which he expresses his feelings very frankly [H. Umur, p. 23-24]. “That the language situation in the upper villages of the Solaklı Valley progressed in this way can be regarded as a natural and inevitable process, but a regrettable aspect of the whole is that when, after the whole of the local population had become Muslim and Turkish and when scholarship and learning in the mosques and medreses had attained a high degree of excellence, the dominant position should still (1951) be held by a foreign language.” It is perfectly natural that Umur should regard Greek as a foreign language, because of the position of Turkish as the national and official language. In the 1950s, there was not a single politician in Turkey who would admit the reality of the mother tongue. Thus the stones had not yet settled in their place and would not settle for another fifty years, in spite of the fact that the local population spoke Greek, not only in the medreses, but as their first, their mother tongue in everyday life. Hasan Umur again bears witness to this situation. (In Of), “until quite recent ly (1951), the testimony given by some witnesses in the courts of law had to be translated” [H. Umur, p. 13], and comes to the following conclusion: “Although, in Of , the Muslim religion completely swept away Greek identity together with the Christian religion, the language has continued in use up to our own time (1951), together with its peculiar accent, without the slightest loss”
The time has come to give an answer to the question posed at the beginning of this article. We can now state that it was in the Greek language that the inhabitants of the Solaklı Valley (apart from the late comers) were introduced to Islam and in which the imams in question were educated. A Greek friend of mine was absolutely amazed when I told him that “our forefathers learned Islam through the medium of Greek, and spread the new religion in the same way among Greek, and even Turkish speakers.” At first, my friend found it impossible to reconcile Greek, the language in which all Orthodox Christians read the Bible, with Islam. There is, however, nothing strange about this. The Koran has been translated into many languages, and serves as a guide to many who have no knowledge of Arabic. Actually, there is no more natural and logical a way of learning any sort of unfamiliar thought, doctrine or religion than through the mother tongue. So what is the problem? Or what do they want to make into a problem?
Of the various Greek dialects in existence at the present day, Trabzon Greek, the language closest to ancient Greek and which, according to some, still retains some vestiges of the language of Homer, has been sacrificed to religious, national and political intrigue and impotence. Although there is no prohibition of any kind in place, Trabzon Greek, labelled by religious bigots as a “giaour” language, by nationalists as an “enemy” language and by bureaucrats and politicians as a “separatist” language, has the misfortune of being listed at the head of merely local, not national, languages.
A glance at quite recent historical records, as, for example the Trabzon Province Salname published 35 years before the foundation of the Turkish Republic, reveals the following attitude on the part the of the state towards the relations between the language spoken in Of and religion. “The fact that the inhabitants of Of still employ Greek as their mother tongue confirms the traditional view Şakir Şevket, Trabzon Tarihi], but all those of integrity and understanding well know that true religious faith resides in the heart of man and has no connection with language. In other words, language is not connected in any way with true religious devotion. Moreover, although Turkish is a very old language, it is not the language of our religion. The language of our religion is essentially Arabic, but all Arabic speakers do not have the good fortune to be Muslims. Consequently, the fact that the mother tongue of the inhabitants of the region in question is Greek does not imply that the population lacks true religious feelings. On the contrary, the Muslims in this district are generally noted for their firm religious faith, their extremely strong religious fervour, and their strict observance of the religious law.”
A copy of the Trabzon newspaper Yeniyol published on 21 September 1926, two years after the proclamation of the Republic, contains the following news item [Tarakçıoğlu,  p. 81]: “On 26.9.1926,the Türk Ocağı and the Information and Publicity Section of the Muallimler Birliği (Teachers Association) composed of Murteza Bey, Hüseyin Avni Bey, Mehmet Salih Bey and Mustafa Turhan Bey, led by Mustafa Reflit Bey and accompanied by Deputy Gendarme Commander Captain Süleyman Zeki Bey, rode for  ten hours without a break up the Kalanima Valley to the village of Orta Mahalle in Tonya. On Friday, after spending the night there, Mustafa Reşit Bey delivered a speech to the muhtars (village elders), members of the village councils and villagers from Melekşah, Kumyanı, Iskenderli and other places in the neighbourhood, in which he stressed the virtues and benefits of the reforms and the republican regime, touched on various national and economic problems, the importance of avoiding the use of Greek and of working freely and generously in the atmosphere of freedom and liberty created for them by their blood brothers, the Turks.” It would appear from the opinions here expressed that they were aiming to preserve, after the introduction of the republican regime, a homogeneous community based on the blood brotherhood ideology of the Party of Union and Progress, that had transformed Anatolia into a sea of blood as a result of ethnic clashes and fraternal conflict.
Although the Turkish constitution does not base the concept of nationhood on racial homogeneity and blood brotherhood, the conclusions reached in a book published by the Governor of Trabzon 71 years after the news item quoted above constitutes a concrete example of the manner in which this problem was viewed [Belge, p. 53]. “Although a small number of elderly people can be found in the districts of Of, Sürmene and Maçka as well as in the Tonya bucak of Vakf›kebir who speak a language resembling modern Greek, the younger generation detest the idea of speaking this language.” No need, however, is felt in the book to explain why it is that the younger generation “detest” a language resembling modern Greek in this way.
Despite this type of attitude, official records show that in the 1965 census 4,565 people declared Greek to be their mother tongue, but no consideration is given to the manner in which a Muslim Turkish citizen whose mother tongue is Greek is, simply because he or she speaks Greek, branded as “Rum” (Greek), a term which, although it has no ethnic connotation, is not an “acceptable” identity label for a citizen of the Turkish Republic.
At the present day there are no valid grounds for the unease on supposedly political, religious or national grounds of a quite arbitrary nature felt in several circles regarding the speaking of Greek by a large number of the inhabitants of Trabzon. The language known as Greek (“Yunanca”), the  Pontic dialect and, to the inhabitants of Anatolia, as “Rumca” , one of the most highly respected languages in the world, is a victim of the fluctuations in Turkish-Greek and Greek-Turkish relations. Kinship between languages (or the speakers of these languages) does not imply that the speakers of those languages are of the same origin, nor does anyone have the power to change reality. Moreover, the same language (Yunanca) was once officially recognised as a language of the Ottoman State. In early days, Yunanca (Greek) was accepted by the Ottoman State as an official language in correspondence with foreign governments. Prior to the conquest of Istanbul, Mehmed the Conqueror, in order to ensure the neutrality of the Galata Genoese, granted them a Greek patent recognising the privileges that they had received from the Byzantine Empire. Again, in 1479-1481, the correspondence between Mehmed the Conqueror and the Venetian government was carried out in Greek (Galanti, p. 13). Indeed, Mehmet the Conqueror is known to have had a native speaker command of both spoken and written Greek, and, far from “detesting” the language, he is said to have taken great pleasure in reading Homer’s Iliad in Greek manuscript.
In spite of all this historical background, the years following the foundation of the Turkish Republic were marked by a great deal of opposition to the speaking or writing of Greek in Trabzon, but in the face of countless other problems, this was not regarded as particularly urgent, and no one thought to ask the Greek speakers why they used that language, with the result that it was able to survive into the 21st century without any real harassment or persecution.
That Trabzon Greek, which has long been a member of the group of disappearing languages, should have become the victim of a veritable phobia at the present day is due to a campaign of disinformation. For example, in an article written by two teachers of theology and published by an official state university we find the following: “While, in the 90s, there were fewer than ten Christians in Trabzon , in the year 2000, ten thousand are said to have received a Christian education. The fact that this activity is being carried on in close association with Pontic national identity shows that our fears are fully justified” [Arslantürk, Usta]. This totally unscientific work of so-called research on the subject of Pontic culture entitled Doğu Karadeniz’de Kültürel Kimlik (Cultural Identity in the Eastern Black Sea Region),completed in 2002, was published in a book full of nationalistic, racist and separatist theories. The outlook behind the foreword, written as a guide to the researchers by Mustafa Erkal, the director of research [Head of the Istanbul University Faculty of Economics Department of Sociology and Head of the Association of Intellectuals] is apparent right from the beginning in the manner in which he indulges in so-called “scientific” assertions that the teachers are using language as a means of creating ethnic fragmentation (whatever that may mean) and separatism in the Eastern Black Sea region as well as in Turkey as a whole.[p. VI]. The aim is to teach the pupils an artificial language and to create an identity compatible with it, while at the same time perverting their identity by means of a process of Hellenisation, by distorting some of the local traditions and by forming a link to Pontic culture.” [p. 10].  This so-called field research on the language of the “learners” comes to the conclusion that “communication with the inhabitants of villages such as Çaykara and the country town of ‹skenderli in the Trabzon district of Tonya, who speak a dialect known as local Greek (Rumca) is very difficult and restricted These dialects are not known to have any written source.” [p.69]. In fact, the conclusions reached by researchers quite ignorant of Trabzon Greek as regards the communication, identity and culture created by the language is worthy of being the subject of a quite separate study.
Unfortunately, in Turkey, all local languages apart from Turkish are regarded as a threat. It is perhaps true that English and French, with their expansionist-interventionist discourse, may form such a threat, but local languages can scarcely be regarded as dangers to be included in “national defence strategies”. For example, Trabzon Greek, which forms the subject of this study, has never caused the slightest harm to Muslim identity throughout the whole period of its existence. On the contrary, its speakers have employed it as missionaries for Islam. Right up to the present day, the same language has never at any time formed an obstacle to an official national identity, and examples prove that the fears that Trabzon Greek could possibly pose a political threat at any time in the future are utterly groundless. The only factor that can convert a language into a political problem is the desire for national, historical and geographical independence. But there is no such desire and no need to create it.
It is obvious that, as in every other period of history, the aim of a few benighted brains, far from enlightening the people, is to exploit various methods of disinformation and to condemn any who think differently from themselves. It is, however, quite obvious that such an aim and such an endeavour can contribute nothing to history, to Islam, to national unity or to the political future of the country.
In conclusion, Trabzon Greek, once spoken with great joy and satisfaction by the local inhabitants, both young and old, and an indicator of Turkey’s cultural richness, is now transformed into an outcast language “without a tongue”. I believe that this is the sole aim of the campaigns being waged against local languages in the name of nationalism, with, unfortunately, great success.
One question remains.
What was transferred, and into whose hands?


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To the editor of Sebilürreşad in Istanbul,
Dear Sir,
We should be most grateful if you would publish the opinions of the inhabitants of our kaza given below in the pages of your newspaper, which has the trust of the whole Islamic world.
Of, 8 November 1923.
The first aim of all Turks is the protection of their country and their religion. Since the conversion of the Turks to Islam, all social thought has been moulded by Islam. So much so that “Turkish” has come to be synonymous with “Muslim”.
In the period before the First World War, our country was infiltrated by a group of foreigners who had lost their existence and national identity and were endeavouring to produce movements that would destroy national unity and damage social values. Unfortunately, these movements are still continuing their activities. We now see the real aim of the various concepts such as modernity and secularism that appear in your newspaper. Do these men, who regard the religious beliefs of the people and their customs and traditions as reactionary, imagine that it will be easy to convert the Turkish nation into a people without country, laws, or religion? They should realise that all Muslims look upon people of this character not only as ruthless enemies of tradition but also as the most remorseless enemies of the fatherland. On seeing in your columns the opinions of these blind imitators who wish to replace our national law, our national morality and social identity with rotten, out-of-date, elements from the West it is difficult to believe that they are Turks. How could Turks and Muslims feel any love for the West? How could they accept their immoral, antisocial values? We will accept Western technology and economic theories, we will compete with the West in trade and agriculture, but we will never sacrifice our identity and our values. We are Turkish, we are Muslim, we are Orientals. We have no need for Western laws, customs or traditions, or their decadent social structure. Our Western enemies, finding it impossible to conquer our country by force of arms, are now trying to undermine it from within. For whom are those enemies of our religion, our customs and traditions working? We are well aware of the large numbers of people in this country who are attacking our identity, but they cannot, with all their noise and clamour drag, the Turks into their sink of filth and degradation.
If they wish to live in this country, they must respect the religion, the morals and the traditions of the people of this country. Otherwise, the way is open for them. Let them not attempt to destroy the social values of the Turk. Let them go and live wherever hey like in the West. The Turks and Muslims will not grow stronger by tearing down the curtains of decency or shattering religious beliefs but rather by strengthening them. This is the desire of our nation. And everyone should know it.
OF KAZASI, 8 November 1923
Çakir Zade (Çakiroglu) Halim Sitki, Mufti Ahmet Feyzi, Professor Dursun Feyzi, Chairman of the Municipal Council Sari Ali Zade (Saral) Ömer Lütfi, Sari Ali Zade Sadullah, Sari Ali Zade Halim, Abdülkerim Zade Halil, Sinoglu Yusuf Ziya, Ram Zade Ahmet, Mehmet, Ömer Sadri, Ismail Hakki, Salihoglu Süleymanoglu Ömer, Seyyid Ilyas, Çakir Zade Ali Riza.
NB. The above letter is taken from the Sebilürreşad periodical of 8 November 1923. Vol.23, No. 574, p.28.

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