Transplanted Slavery, Contested Freedom and .Transplanted Slavery, Contested Freedom and Vernacularization

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  • This article will be published in a revised form in Comparative Studies in Society and History published by Cambridge University Press https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/comparative-studies-in-society-and-history/all-issues This version is free to view and download for private research and study only. Not for re-distribution, re-sale or use in derivative works. Accepted version downloaded from: http://eprints.soas.ac.uk/23607/

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    Transplanted Slavery, Contested Freedom and Vernacularization of Rights in the

    Reform Era Ottoman Empire

    Ceyda Karamursel

    School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London

    Department of History

    In 1861, a Nogai prince named Canpolat, who was expelled from the Caucasus

    during the ongoing Russo-Caucasian war and settled near Constanza, wrote to the

    Ottoman officials to complain about the rebellious behavior of his five slaves that he

    brought with him.1 Canpolat was one of many Caucasian noblemen who were uprooted

    from their native lands in the Caucasus during the war and settled in the Ottoman

    domains. Like many other slaveholding Caucasian noblemen at the time, he brought with

    him not only his slaves but also his conceptions of slavery, freedom, and law, so much so

    that he was utterly perplexed when the Ottoman officials responded to his appeal by

    asking him to pay the penik tax he owed for his slaves.2 Taxes paid on slaves were not

    known to them in their native lands in Kuban, he objected. Nor was his ownership of the

    slaves a matter of the shara law that could be litigated or settled at the shara courts. In

    Canpolats transplanted perception of law, this process was regulated primarily by

    1 Babakanlk Ottoman Archives (hereafter, BOA), A.MKT.UM 507/61, 1278.R.14 (19 October

    1861). 2 From Persian pandj yak, and equivalent to Arabic khums, penik tax originally denoted one-fifth share of booty, particularly war captives, set aside for the sovereign. For an overview of its

    development within Islamic jurisprudence, see A. Zysow, R. Gleave, Khums, Encyclopaedia of

    Islam, Second Edition. Edited by: P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel, W.P.

    Heinrichs. Brill Online, 2016. In the financial and administrative parlance of the late Ottoman

    state, it signified an ad valorem import tax on slaves. Hakan Erdem, Slavery in the Ottoman

    Empire and its Demise, 1800-1909 (London: Palgrave Macmillan Limited, 1996), xiii.

  • This article will be published in a revised form in Comparative Studies in Society and History published by Cambridge University Press https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/comparative-studies-in-society-and-history/all-issues This version is free to view and download for private research and study only. Not for re-distribution, re-sale or use in derivative works. Accepted version downloaded from: http://eprints.soas.ac.uk/23607/

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    customary law, known commonly as dat in the Caucasus, whereas for the Ottoman

    state, slavery was regulated by the shara law, and accordingly slave or free status were

    determined at the corresponding courts.

    Legal ambiguities that resulted from the mass deportation of the Caucasians into

    the Ottoman territory were not related to slavery alone. One of earliest and biggest cases

    of displacement in the global nineteenth century, the Caucasian expulsion necessarily

    brought about a horde of social, political and, cultural challenges, many of which had

    their imprint in law.3 David Cuthell has noted the social frictions between the incoming

    refugees with the native tribes in Eastern Anatolia, as well as small-scale brigandage

    being commonplace from early on in the settlement process.4 In Tuna province, where

    the incoming refugees were found in great numbers, conflicts with the Christian

    3 Despite its scale and significance, the Caucasian expulsion remains largely unstudied

    particularly in terms of its effects on social and legal categories in the Ottoman Empire and

    Turkish Republic. There are, however, several comprehensive studies on the policy on and the

    mechanisms of the settlement process. See Mark Pinson, Demographic Warfare: An Aspect of

    Ottoman and Russian Policy, 1854-1866, (Ph.D. Dissertation, Harvard University, 1970); David

    Cameron Cuthell, The Circassian Srgn, Ab Imperio, no.3 (2003), in addition to Cuthells

    unpublished dissertation The Muhacirin Komisyonu: An agent in the transformation of Ottoman

    Anatolia, 1860--1866 (Ph.D. dissertation, Columbia University, 2005); Berat Yldz,

    Emigrations from the Russian Empire to the Ottoman Empire: An Analysis in the Light of the

    New Archival Materials, (Masters Thesis, Bilkent University, 2006); Oktay zel, Migration

    and Power Politics: The Settlement of Georgian Immigrants in Turkey (18781908), Middle

    Eastern Studies, vol.46, no.4 (July, 2010). Other studies look at the Caucasian expulsion as part

    of a bigger wave of displacement in the late Ottoman Empire. See Kemal H. Karpat, Ottoman

    Population Records and the Census of 1881/821893, International Journal of Middle East

    Studies, Vol. 9, No.2 (May, 1978); Alexandre Toumarkine, Entre empire ottoman et tat-nation

    turc : les immigr s musulmans du caucase et des balkans du milieu du XIXe si cle nos jours,

    (Ph.D. Dissertation, Universit de Paris IV-Sorbonne, 2000); Dawn Chatty, Displacement and

    Dispossession in the Modern Middle East (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010). 4 Cuthell, The Circassian Srgn, 155. BOA also contains numerous files on the conflicts

    between Caucasian settlers and the native tribes in eastern Anatolia, such as the powerful Afar

    tribe.

  • This article will be published in a revised form in Comparative Studies in Society and History published by Cambridge University Press https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/comparative-studies-in-society-and-history/all-issues This version is free to view and download for private research and study only. Not for re-distribution, re-sale or use in derivative works. Accepted version downloaded from: http://eprints.soas.ac.uk/23607/

    3

    population were also common.5 Fred Burnaby, a British Army intelligence officer on

    duty in eastern Anatolia shortly before the 187778 Russo-Turkish War wrote that the

    native inhabitants of the region still often complained that the Caucasian refugees had

    hazy ideas as to the difference between meum and tuum and that they were often

    communally implicated in the cases of brigandage and robbery near their settlements.6 In

    1880, Edwin Pears, a British barrister living in Constantinople, reported how they had to

    pay a Circassian chief to protect them from being attacked and held to ransom on their

    way to Nicaea, as brigands were known to be out in the neighbourhood.7 As late as

    1890s, Greater Syria was described as a country [...] infested with Bedouins and

    Circassian thieves who went unpunished except when the exasperated villagers in sheer

    desperation resisted.8

    One of the most vivid descriptions of the tension between the Caucasian refugees

    hazy ideas and the Ottoman state law came from Krikor Zohrab, who noted that even

    murder, especially when in the form of retaliation, was not always understood to be a

    criminal act by the Caucasian refugees. A young, talented criminal defense lawyer by the

    5 Cuthell, The Circassian Srgn, 160; Milen Petrov, Everyday Forms of Compliance:

    Subaltern Commentaries on Ottoman Reform, 18641868, Comparative Studies in Society and

    History, vol. 46, no.4 (Oct., 2004), 749. 6 Fred Burnaby, On horseback through Asia Minor (London: Sampson Low, Marston, Searle, &

    Rivington, 1877), 277. Burnaby also visited Sivas Prison and saw that out of 102 prisoners kept

    there, the majority were Circassians and Kurds for horse and cattle theft, 285. 7 Edwin Pears, Forty Years in Constantinople; The Recollections of Sir Edwin Pears, 1873-1915,

    with 16 Illustrations (London: Herbert Jenkins, 1916), 6667. 8 The English Illustrated Magazine, 1891-1892 (London: MacMillan and Co.), 903. Also see

    Georgi Chochiev and Bekir Ko, Migrants from the North Caucasus in Eastern Anatolia: Some

    Notes on Their Settlement and Adaptation (Second Half of the 19th Century-Beginning of the

    20th Century) in Journal of Asian History, vol.40, no.1 (2006), 9495, 97; Ryan Gingeras,

    Sorrowful Shores: Violence, Ethnicity, and the End of the Ottoman Empire, 19121923 (Oxford:

    Oxford University Press, 2009), 29.

  • This article will be published in a revised form in Comparative Studies in Society and History published by Cambridge University Press https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/comparative-studies-in-society-and-history/all-issues This version is free to view and download for private research and study only. Not for re-distribution, re-sale or use in derivative works. Accepted version downloaded from: http://eprints.soas.ac.uk/23607/

    4

    1880s and already famous for the work he had undertaken for the Armenian peasants and

    other unprivileged groups, Zohrab took on the defense of Krandk, a recent refugee from

    Dagestan who was being charged with first-degree murder. Krandks testimony gave

    everything away, Zohrab wrote ruefully, and his clients naivety beyond belief left no

    room for the lawyer e