The Armenian Population Within the Demographic Structure of Maraş and Zaytun at the End of the 19th Century and the Beginning of the 20th Century

Maraş was turned into a sanjak that was linked to the province of Aleppo after the arrangements that were done in the Ottoman State in 1867. The following were the counties of the sanjak of Maraş: Maraş central county, Islahiye, Zeytun, Elbistan, Göksun, Andırın, Bulanık, Pazarcık, and Hassa. Although there was no change in the status of Maraş after the administative arrangements that were made later on, Elbistan, Zeytun, Pazarcık, and Andırın were designated as counties that were linked to Maraş. Maraş was made an independent sanjak after the declaration of the 2nd Constitutional Regime (Günay, 2007: p.55).

Zeytun Ermenileri 1906

Armenians from Zaytun, 1906

The first official census in the Ottoman State was conducted in 1831 without using the recording of land or the identification of the taxabale population as a basis. The purpose of this census was to identify those who were to be enlisted in the army and those who were parties liable to pay tax (Eryılmaz, 1988, s. 69-91). The first census was not conducted in Maraş. However, the French traveler Charles Texier, who visited Maraş in 1835, gives an idea by talking about a population of 6000, of which one third were Armenians (Texier, 2002, p.109).

In 1850, only Muslims lived in only five of the 38 neighborhoods and in the remaining 33 neighborhoods, Muslims lived together with non-Muslims. At that time, out of the 3655 households at the Maraş city center, 2212 belonged to Muslims, 1420 belonged to the Christians, and 23 belonged to the Jews.

In 1850, only Muslim lived in 191 of the 257 villages that were linked with Maraş and in 66 of them, Muslims and non-Muslims lived together. In the same year, the Muslims, who were around 50,600, constituted 81% of the total population of the city when the total estimated population of Maraş was 62,110. The ratio of non-Muslims, who had a population of about 11,510, to the total population was 19% (Doğan, 1999, pp.176-179). The population of the city center of Maraş can be determined more realistically based on a document dated 1856. According to this, in 1856, 6,796 Muslims and 4,623 non-Muslims lived in the Maraş city center (BOA. A.MKT. UM., 240/14). It is possible to determine the number of residents in the 38 neighborhoods in Maraş and their religious distribution based on a document dated 1868. According to this document, 7,007 people lived in 1984 Muslim households, 4,926 Armenians lived in 1,402 households and 77 Jews lived in 23 households in the center of Maraş. There was a total of 12,010 people in 3,409 housholds (BOA. Y. E. E., 37/37). In 1890, the Muslims in Maraş constituted 70% of the population with 36,794 people, the Christians constituted about 29% of the population with 15,315 people and the Jews constituted less than 1% of the population with 182 people (SVH, 1890, s. 248). According to the data put forward by the French geographer Cuinet for the year 1890, the Muslims in the city were 74% and the Christians were 26% (Cuinet, 2001, pp. 94-100).

In 1894, the total population of the sanjak of Maraş was 144,772. 114,994 of this population were Muslims and 29,778 of it were non-Muslims (Öztürk, 2006, s.777). In Maraş, the Muslims had a 70% majority over the Armenians, who had a population of 15,246 and who were composed of people who belonged to the Armenian-Protestant and Catholic communities, with a population of 37,648. One third of the men in Maraş were literate and one sixth of those in Zeytun county were literate (SVH, 1894, pp. 271-273). According to this, 9,541 men who lived in Maraş and 1,240 men who lived in Zeytun were literate. However, it is not clear how many of these men were Muslim and how many of them were non-Muslim.

In 1898, the population of of the county of Maraş increased by 4,000 and reached 56,049. 39,968 of them were Muslims, 3,283 were Catholics, 9,324 were Armenians, 2,894 were Protestants and 580 were others. According to this, the population of maraş was 70% Muslim, 5.9% Catholic, 16.9% Armenian, 5.3% Protestant, and 2% Jewish and others. These records show that the Muslim and non-Muslim populations increased in a natural course. In 1898, 40,490 Muslims, 328 Catholics, 967 Armenians and 325 Protestants lived in the county of Elbistan. For the same year, the population of the county of Zeytun was as follows: 8,075 Muslims, 408 Catholics, 8,597 Armenians and 250 Protestants (SVH, 1898, pp.306-311).

In 1899, there are small differences compared to the year before in the counties of Elbistan and Zeytun, even though there was no change recorded in the population of the county of Maraş. There was a 57% decrease in the number of Catholics who lived in Zeytun (SVH, 1899, pp. 327-333). In Maraş or Elbistan, there was no such situation or an increase in the number of Catholics. Since the records show that there were no changes of denominations, the Catholics who lived in Zeytun may have emigrated or moved to other cities in the country.

In 1900, the increase in the population in the city center of Maraş continued and it was recorded to be 58,219. The most important topic that attracts attention in these records is a 29% rise in the Catholic population in Maraş. The number of Catholic women in Maraş increased by 100. The number of the Protestants increased by 71 and the number of the Armenians dropped by 92 (SVH, 1900, pp. 343-349). This situation indicates that some Armenians may have converted to the Protestant or Catholic denominations. The rise in the Catholic population in Maraş must also be related to the decrease in the number of Catholic Armenians in Zeytun in the 1899 records, because the Armenians of Zeytun were not shown in the records of 1899, even though they had relocated to Maraş. On the other hand, the fact that the Catholic women who lived in Zeytun were recorded once again, shows that they may have gone to other places as seasonal workers (Sykes, 2000, p. 71). Other important details are that in the yearbook that was issued in 1900, the citizens of other states, which had been recorded as “foreigner” in the previous yearbooks, were not included and the Greek Orthodox people were included in the Maraş census for the first time.

In 1901, the total population of Maraş was recorded as 59,112 and the total population of Zeytun was recorded as 16,224 (SVH, 1901, p. 361, 367). The Ottoman records that were written down for Zeytun in 1902 are the same as the previous ones. However, it has been found that there is a very big discrepancy between the Ottoman data and the Armenian sources. The Armenian sources claim that 37,500 Armenian lived in Maraş and 18,500 Armenians lived in Zeytun, and they do not talk about the Muslim population at all (Marashlian, 1991, pp. 98-99). The population of Maraş was as follows according to the Ottoman records for the year 1902 (SVH, 1902, p. 370): 43,728 Muslims, 4,135 Catholics, 9,270 Armenians, 2,922 Protestants, 211 Jews, 20 foreigners, and 5 Greek Orthodox.

There are significant changes in the population records that were written for Maraş in 1905 compared to the previous ones. The 5 Greeks, who were Orthodox in the previous records, changed their denominations and converted into Catholicism and their number also went up by 6. On the other hand, a new population group named “Latin” appeared even though there was no such group in the previous records. When we add the big increase in the number of foreigners who settled in the city, the population of the city went up by 4.6%. The British traveler Mark Sykes stated that 8,000 people lived in Zeytun in the same year (Sykes, 2000, p. 74). The population structure in Maraş in the year 1905 was recorded as follows (SVH, 1905, p. 469): 46,575 Muslims, 11,180 Armenians, 3,567 Catholics, 4,057 Protestants, 213 Jews, 1510 foreigners, 6 Greek Catholics, and 884 Latins.

There is no difference between the population distribution in Maraş and Zeytun for the years 1905 and 1908 (SVH, 1908, p. 469, 478). In the year 1914, there were 50,356 Muslims, 13,260 Armenians, 11 Greek Orthodox, and 151 Jews. In the same year, 8,069 Muslims and 10,050 Armenians were recorded in Zeytun (Shaw, 1980, s. 204). The number of Catholic and Protestant Armenians, who were not included in the statistics published by Shaw, is available in Karpat’s study. According to this, while there were 3,808 Catholic Armenians in Maraş and 182 Catholic Armenians in Zeytun, the number of Armenian Protestants in Maraş was 4,972 and the number of Armenian Protestants in Zeytun ws 486. The records in question seem to be compatible with those in year 1908. Similarly, the Armenian population in cities increased, the Muslim population declined. The most influential factor that affected this situation was the Muslim men going to serve in the military.

Some Armenian writers give the number of Armenians who lived in Maraş in the years 1913-1914 as 32,844 (Kévorkian & Paboudjian, 1992, p. 58). The total Armenian population in Maraş that was determined by Shaw and Karpat is 22,040. It is seen that there is a big difference between that number and the Ottoman records. The same source indicates that 22,456 Armenians lived in the county of Zeytun and it overlooks the Muslims who lived in Zeytun and Maraş. The Armenian population, which Shaw and Karpat gave on the basis of the Ottoman records, is less than half of that number. On the other hand, Armenian writers overlook the Muslim population. When one takes into account the population movements, the Armenian population in Maraş was between 21% and 23% even when it was the most crowded. Some Western writers think that the Christian population in a wider geography including Maraş, Niğde, Kayseri, and Adana was between 24-29% (Panzac, 1997, p.135).


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