By Ismail Veli……
As with many small villages in Cyprus that are not on historians radar, the village of Lurucina/Akincilar was largely forgotten or neglected.
Only hearsay and assumptions kept its history and origins alive. Myths and stories were almost taken to be facts. So what do we know about the real history of this once large, bilingual village assumed to be the stronghold of the Linobambaki or cotton woollies in English? This derogatory label was based on the assumption that Turkish people of the village were in fact converts from Christianity to Islam simply to save tax, which was higher for the Christian population after the conquest of the Ottoman’s in 1572.
After a 5 year research based on countless sources, Ottoman archives, and family records of a local tax collector born in 1898 (Ibrahim ‘Tahsildar’) who kept early records of the family trees, odd maps and records based on the Turkish settlement of Cyprus, a startling and completely different story has emerged. To understand this we need to start from 1572 and also try to evaluate the conditions and population in Cyprus and the region around Lurucina in particular.
According to the maps of the Venetian period Lurucina was named Lorthing. In the 1540s it was registered as Lorichina in the Contrada di Visconta (District of Visconta) which seems to indicate a Lusignan origin possibly 12-13 centuries AD. The Venetian census from the early 1500s showed that most of the inhabitants were Orthodox Greeks and a small number of Latins. The surrounding villages like Damalia, Aya Zorzi, Aya Marina and Mallura had some Latin communities. The most detailed record for Mallura in 1565 recorded 81 adult freemen (Though Francomates were freemen, legally they were still servants of their Latin Lords). With women and children it had an estimated population of 196. Mallura’s origins go back to the Roman period and the estimated population during Roman rule was between 188-258. Malloura was abandoned during the Arab-Byzantine period but re-settled during the Frankish Lusignan period. It was a thriving village and the people earned their living from cereals, vineyards, orchards and herding.
Athienou was the first farming village in the valley. It was established in the 1st century BC when Cyprus became a Roman Province. To the north of Lurucina however is the oldest town of the area which is the Ancient Idalion, founded in the early period of Greek settlement over 3000 years ago.
The Cypriot population during the Venetian period like the Ottoman period showed some wild fluctuations during the 82 years of occupation. A quick glance at the following table is enough to show this fluctuation.
Statistics and sources are by Halil Inalcik from his ”Ottoman policy and administration in Cyprus after the conquest.” And ”History Studies, International Journal of History.”
|Population||Parici (landless Serfs/slaves||Francomati(Freed slaves).||Total peasants|
|End of the 15th century||47,185||77,066||124,251|
|1540 (F. Attar, M.L. III, 534)||70,050||95,000||165,050|
|1562 ( B Sagredo, M.L. III,541)||83,653||47,503||131,156|
As can be seen from the statistics while the fortunes of the peasant class changed wildly, the actual population hardly increased in 82 years. Michael Toumazou’s book titled ”The Archaeology of Past and Present in the Malloura Valley,” edited by Derek Counts, P. Nick Kardulias, 2012, have all helped our knowledge on the local history surrounding Lurucina. Their information gives us some informative details of the villages and populations around Lurucina in the last years of Venetian rule.
The few villages mentioned.
It’s clear from the above that Lurucina was a decent size village for the period. The population was even larger than Athienou/Kiraci Koy and Dhali/Dali. The Ottoman census of 27 households is not so detailed on the head count. It does seem however that a drop in the population took place. If so, no doubt this would be the Latin element, and would explain why some families were transferred during the siege of Famagusta and of course some Ottoman settlers after the war.
When the Ottoman’s took over Cyprus, they were eager to carry out a census in order to establish the potential revenue and population of the Island. The Census completed on 18th October 1572 established that Cyprus had around 650-700 villages. with a population of 33.947 Christian heads of family. In the Ottoman census of this period only taxpayers were registered, but we can roughly assume that the total population with women and children may have been about 150.000. Halil Inalcik an expert of Cypriot Ottoman history listed 23.000 Cizye taxpayers. This was a tax imposed on Christians as a result of being exempt from military service. Why there were an additional 11.000 paying a different form of tax is not something I can explain. There was a massive overhaul of the taxation system under the Ottomans. For example under the Venetians even girls and boys under the age of 15 were liable to pay taxation. This could only be done with forced labour. Under the Ottoman taxation system, only heads of households paid. Under 14s, over 75 year olds, disabled and women were totally exempt.
In the same 1572 census, Lurucina was registered as having 27 household. 24 married and 3 bachelors. Its doubtful whether the few Latin families who had converted to Islam during the Ottoman siege in 1571, and then transferred to Lurucina were included in the tax records at this stage. Muslims were registered separately to Christians, so therefore their number is difficult to learn with any degree of certainty. The Istanbul Ottoman Archives; The Muhimme Defteri ( Muhimme Book) XIX , Page 334-335, registered Lurucina as one of the villages on the settlement programme from Anatolia. The main taxable produce of Lurucina in 1572 was registered as Wheat, Barley, Fruits, Olives, Beehives, Sheep, Pigs, Fines and other dues, properties without heirs. Produce not liable for tax as a result of smaller quantities were Flax, Cotton, Cocoons and garden produce. Unfortunately as stated above no results for the Muslim population and tax have been found.
It seems the Christian population grew at a reasonable rate as the 1643 Cizye (Christian tax) recorded a total of 41 households. Damalia, Aya Zorzi and Mallura were not registered so we have to assume that they were abandoned during the Ottoman conquest of the Island. 76 villages were abandoned during the war of 1570-71, these were vastly Latin settlements as they feared retribution by the advancing Ottomans and the local Orthodox Greeks who had been treated abysmally by their Latin rulers.
Margo, almost adjacent to Piroi came up with a population of 16 households. Aya Marina which surprisingly is missing from the maps of that period registered 13 households in 1643. The small number of surviving Latins may have converted to Islam or Orthodox Christianity. Aya Marina was later abandoned and its population is reputed to have settled in nearby Limbya village (originally called Olympia). Unfortunately Limbya is not found on any map of that period, but the 1560s Venetian records recorded 88 inhabitants, while the 1643 census registered 14 households.
The early part of the 1600 started badly for the peasant population as locusts, droughts, and poverty forced many Cypriots to leave for Syria and southern Anatolia in Turkey. By 1636-1641 the number of households showed a dramatic fall to 16.500. Drought, locusts, malaria and bad management, in particular in the Paphos and Famagusta regions all played their part. The burden of taxation due to the population decrease added to the problem. The biggest problem however was the black death that swept Europe. This caused immense population decrease throughout the continent. To assume that Cyprus was completely unaffected by the black death is wrong. After 1641 the Ottomans took some measures to alleviate the problem. Taxation was reduced, the plague and black death seems to have subsided and people began to return back to Cyprus, albeit in small numbers. In addition new Pasha’s were posted to Paphos and Famagusta, while the Nicosia Pasha retained his position. In the 1643 census the population showed some recovery with an increase of 1,348 to 17,848 households. Strangely Lurucina showed a healthy increase from 27 households (Christians) to 41 during the period from 1572-1643. a brief look at certain villages also give us an interesting picture.
It’s clear from the above that some villages rode the storm better than others. Perhaps Lurucina and Ayo Sozomeno were isolated and may have suffered less from the plagues in particular? The increase in the Christian population of Lurucina in particular contradicts the myth that most Christians in the village converted to Islam in order to save tax. If that was the case there would not have been a 50% increase between 1572 and 1643. While we cannot dismiss some conversions to Islam, in particular from the Catholic church, it’s also possible that some converted to the Orthodox faiths. While Cyprus as a whole showed a decrease of almost half of its population in the corresponding period. The extra tax (Cizye) which Christians paid, made them exempt from military service. The only reason any family would have converted were if they either believed in a new religion, or as in the case of some Latins to save their lives. Apart from the few Latin families who were transferred during the siege of Famagusta no other documented evidence has come to light to confirm the oral or mythological history that the people of Lurucina originated from the Latins.
From the early 1700 to mid 1700s however disaster was to decimate the long suffering peasant population yet again. Unlike the period up to the mid 1650s, this period affected the people of Lurucina badly. Drought, locusts and famine took its toll. By 1831 only 25 Christian males were registered of which 18 have been found to be over 15. (These are recorded on the families of Lurucina website) The Muslim population was by then 104 Males. But the interesting and most important aspect of the Muslim families is that the vast majority seems to have been settled in Lurucina in the mid to late 1700s. These came from Manisa, Antalya, Silifke, Kofinou/Kofunye, Pirga (Arabic) Karpaz, Dali, Kalopsidya, Albania and Bosnia, and some unconfirmed places of origin. There are a few families that we don’t have any knowledge of their place of origin. These could have been in the village before the new settlers which eventually comprised the vast majority of the population. Until some archive information is found to confirm this however, we are not in a position to say with any degree of certainty. One thing we are certain about is that from the late 1700s to the start of British rule in 1878 the Muslim element increased at a much faster pace, reaching a peak in 1946 at 1717 Muslims and 99 Christians.
Today’s people of Lurucina are spread far and wide. Only 390 were recorded in the 2011 census. Most who left have settled in the UK, Australia, Turkey and all over Cyprus. Akdogan/Lisi has the largest concentration with Kyrenia mostly from UK based Lurucina folk. Many people have a powerful attachment to their once beautiful village, and many dream of one day returning. This of course is mostly nostalgic, but the recent restoration works in the village has given a new lease of hope for many who visit the village on their holidays to Cyprus. The dream of returning for permanent settlement is no doubt just a yearning. In the absence of a Cyprus solution and the isolated nature of the village seems to almost condemn this once thriving village to a shadow of its former self. Perhaps the myth of its founding Latin beauty Lorenzia is still watching over the valley, and beckoning its children to return to the bosom of her heart. In the meantime however, Lorenzia can only shed a tear for her lost children spread across the globe.
For more history and information about Lurucina/Akincilar visit http://www.familiesofluricina.moonfruit.com