By Ismail Veli …..

Much talk about the settlement of Turks in the aftermath of the Ottoman conquest of Cyprus has persisted for nearly 450 years. Forgetting the politics of today, and the never ending debate among many who simply argue about the statistics of demography, I would like to go beneath the surface and find out who some of these individuals really were.

Nearly every conquest in history has been followed by some degree of colonisation. The destruction of the Venetian rule in Cyprus in 1572 left many villages, (in particular in the Mesoria plains) with empty homes which were abandoned by the Latins who fled in fear of not only the new conquerors who were Muslims but the local Orthodox Greeks who struggled under a feudal system of massive taxation and oppression due to not only religious differences but class difference. Not that any new conquerors would be angels of liberation. That is not the subject of this article however.

Were the new settlers from Anatolia forced to be settled on the island? Were they all Muslims? or did many simply seize the opportunity to settle in new lands gifted to them? Again these are intricate questions that need much research. Fortunately in acquiring many Ottoman documents dating to that period, it has given me an opportunity to simply look at individuals as opposed to generalising the situation. This is what I mean by going beneath the surface, uncovering the layers of immense information and trying to look at individuals from different backgrounds.

First let me clearly state that not all settlers were Muslims, the concept of Turkishness or otherwise did not exist at the time, Ottoman subjects of the empire were mostly recorded by their religion.

The archives in the Muhimme defter XIX,  Iskan defteri (settlement book) and the Kamil Kepeci defteri/book No; 2551 are amazingly detailed. In addition county records, for example in 1572-3, Ilgun in Anatolia recorded a total of 48 households, of these 6 volunteered while 27 were persuaded/pressured  while 2 were forced to settle in Cyprus. Many were tradesman, some tricksters, while others were thieves.

The vast majority were farmers however. Kulfal son of Mehmed who was from the Aksaray village of Gicikapu, a tailor, who had 2 daughters and volunteered to go to Cyprus, while the farmer Elvan, son of Aydin from Almazli, was happy to migrate, with 2 sons and 2 daughters any new land gifted to him would give him an opportunity to advance his family fortunes. There were also ironmongers like Hasan, son of Mehmed, with 2 daughters from Karaman who volunteered to move.

Dimid son of Nikofor (clearly a Christian) from Karaman was a farmer. Some comical titles like Deli Mehmed (mad Mehmed) son of Bektas had 3 sons, was a farmer from the Sakir area of Rum or Karaman. Vasil son of Yani had no recorded profession. Some males simply emigrated with their elderly parents, many did not have any listed professions. Some like Mahmud bin Ismail and Avdul bin Ibrahim did not end up going but offered others in their place which seems to have been accepted.  Avdul sent Htdir bin Ali. These persons lived in Maltindi in the province of Nigde. 2 Christian brothers Karaids and Karano sons of Siralokos had different ideas. Karaids went to Cyprus, Karano went and subsequently returned back to Enegi in the district of Urgub in Anatolia. Istelanos son of Peke may have been a friend of the 2 brothers as he was from the same village but changed his mind while travelling and simply went back home. Many Christians that were recorded were sent from the regions of Aksaray, Andugu, Develu-Karahisar, and Urgup, Kochisar and Nigde. Tailors, shoemakers, muleteers, metal workers, tanners, pack saddle makers and wool fluffers to name a few were sought after. This was in order to make the population self sufficient in different aspects of skills required in the period in question.

Non-Muslims were often registered for example as Aristos Veled-i Andreas, meaning Aristos son of Andreas. The Muslims on the other hand would be registered as Ali bin Mustafa, Ali son of Mustafa. Therefore the recorded name with ”Veled” or ”Bin” could be significant. Many names with ”Veled” were also recorded with what were Muslim names. This can get very confusing, but the reason for this is not something that I’m qualified to say with 100% certainty.

No doubt it’s not possible to list thousands in an article. Some strange things did occur however, for example the Ottoman state used the opportunity to force many thieves, troublemakers, and vagabonds etc to leave Anatolia. Some tried to flee rather than go but were hunted down and forced to leave.

The above information is from the translations of Turan Gokce, from the Prime Ministerial Ottoman archives Muhimme Defter of 1572-73.