An Overview of Rize's History
CULTURAL DETAILS OF RIZE
The ancient geographer Strabo of Amasya (66 B.C.-21 A.D.) states in his famous treatise, Geography, that in the mountains south of Trabzon and Giresun lived the Tibarenes and in former times the Tzans, also known as the Macrons. He goes on to write that after Trabzon comes the Colchis region, in the upper stretches of which lies the highly rocky Mt. Skydises, joined to the Moskhia range and its hills occupied by the tribe of Heptakometes.
The first written mention of Rize is made by Arrianus in a work named Periplo (Ship's Voyage). Dated at 131-132 B.C., the work records how its author, the governor of Cappadocia, made an inspection tour of the Eastern Black Sea territories that were part of his jurisdiction, first visiting the Roman Empire's Eastern Anatolian frontier garrisons before pushing on to the Black Sea coast in the Trabzon (Trebizond) region.
Although Arrianus describes the entire coast east of Trabzon, we will confine ourselves to his remarks on the region that concerns us here.
Sailing east of Trabzon with three vessels, on the first day Arrianus cast anchor in the harbor of Issiporto/Hyssos/Sürmene or as it is known today Araklý, and he inspected the Roman garrison, consisting of some 20 cavalry and a number of footsoldiers, in a fortress on the southern edge of Araklý's marketplace. Setting sail eastward once again they met with a storm blowing from the southeast, and after many tribulations made land at Athens, today's county seat of Pazar.
The author tells us that he believes the name of the town derives from that of the goddess Athena; but in A History of the Georgian People (London, 1932) W.E.D. Allen asserts that many Black Sea place names thought to be Greek in origin are actually Laz, and that in this language Athenai means “place of the shade.”Rhizaion (Rize), generally taken as Greek for “brass,” according to Allen is in fact a Laz word meaning "place where people and soldiers gather," while Mapavri (today's Çayeli) signifies “leafy.”
Listing the rivers and streams eastward from Trabzon, Arrianus names the Isso/Hyssus (tody's Karadere) 33 km. distant, the Ofi (Solaklý Deresi) 17 km. further east, the Psicro (Baltacý Deresi) some 5 km. east of that, still 5 more km. further the Kalo (lyidere), the Rizio some 23 km. east of the Kalo, the Ascuro/Askaros (Taþlýdere) roughly 5 km. further on, and the Adieno (Çayeli Deresi) some 1 2 km. east of that. From here he reports that it is another 34 km. to Athens (Pazar), and thence no more than 1300 m. to the Zagati (Pazar-Zuga Deresi).
Reporting that the Ofý (Solaklý) River divides the land of the Colchis from Tsannica, Arrianus states that the Tzans were even at that time a fýercely warlike people and sworn enemies of the Greek colonialists who inhabited Trabzon. Paying tribute to the Romans, and governed by no king, the Tzans occupied the territory stretching from Gümüþhane/Canca south of the city to the Solaklý River on the east, being concentrated in the Karadere Valley roughly in the center.
Xenephon, in travelling from the Bayburt region to Trabzon, had descended into the Karadere Valley from Mt. Thekhes/Madur, and there had entered the country of the Makrons; said by Strabo to be identical with the Tzans. Place names which preserve a trace of this people are Zanike/Canike (now the village of Yiðitözü, in the same valley close to the shore near Araklý) and Canayer (now the village of Buzluca), site of the medieval Sürmene/Sousoumania. Arrianus relates how the Tzans live armed to the teeth and devote themselves to banditry, not even bothering to pay the tribute they owe the Romans.
The author denotes the territory east of the OF-Solaklý River as the land of the Colchis, whereas Xenephon, who reached Trabzon from Eastern Anatolia in February of 400 B.C., gave Trabzon and Giresun as their country. This is important, for it shows that during the intervening five centuries the Colchis had been forced to withdraw eastward.
There have been numerous examples of this phenomenon in the course of history. For instance, Arrianus records that the Laz people lived around Taupse at that period. Furthermore, he says that the country beyond Pazar is not worth visiting, being nameless and deserted, implying not only that the Colchis lived mainly to the west of Pazar, but also that in later centuries the Laz, under pressure from neighboring peoples, were constrained to migrate into the relatively quieter lands east of Taupse.
Based on the information supplied by Arrianus we can list the peoples living east of Trabzon as (in order eastward from the lands of the Tzans and Colchis) the Machelones, Heiniochis, Zydritaes, Laz, Absilaes, Abhaz, and the Sanigaes who lived around Sohum.
After eliminating the Pontus Kingdom and gaining sway over the central and eastern Black Sea as well as the Crimea, Rome at first governed the region that includes Rize as part of the province of Cappadocia. Later it was to be part of another province, Pontus Polemoniacus. At the outset securing the empire's eastern borders through small, sponsored kingdoms, the Romans later changed this policy and sent out legions.
Rize was one of the regions guarded directly by Roman garrisons. Murdered in the Rize citadel by Romans during the early days of Christianity and later canonized, St. Orientos was declared the patron of the site where he had been killed. The fact that there is a church in his name in the citadel shows how important the latter was to the region. Furthermore the Notitia Dignitatum, a Byzantine document from the fýrst half of the 5th century, lists Rize as a military base in Trabzon with a cavalry division in the Pontic II Legion.
The Rize citadel gained further in importance during the time of the Eastern Roman/Byzantine Emperor Justinian (527-565) when the realm was at war with Persia. The Tzans living south and east of Trabzon revolted and the Byzantine forces took refuge in the city fortresses. The folk inhabiting the southeasterly Black Sea region known as Colchis were also disaffected with Roman rule, being par- ticularly disgruntled that commerce was a Roman monopoly. The Lazica people living between the Fash and Rion rivers rose up
against Byzantium and requested support from the Sassanids. Seeing that all passes in the region were in hostile hands, the Byzantine garrison in the regional center Petra were forced to burn their homes, tear down the walls, and retreat toward Trabzon. In the aftermath, the southeastern stretches of the Black Sea coastal region became a theater of war between Byzantium and Iran, and the Byzantine frontier retracted to Asparos west of the Çoruh.
To make this frontier secure Justinian devised a line of defence, repairing the Rize citadel and placing a series of small fortresses between it and the legion headquarters at Trabzon, manning the redoubts with Bulgar Turks whom the Byzantine army had defeated in 530 in the Balkans.
During the reign of the Byzantine emperor Heraclius (610-641) Anatolia again became the scene of war between Byzantium and Persia, particularly important developments occurring when Heraclius marched on Iran in 622-28, and when he formed an alliance with the Khazar Turks. Reinforcing his might with Liz, Abhaz and Georgian troops, in 626Heraclius wintered at Sürmene in the village of Canayer/Buzluca two km. south of Kalecik, which is west of the county of Araklý. Here he met with the Khazar King Yabgu, and the two formed a pact whereby the king was promised Heraclius' daughter Eudocia in return for 40,000 troops to be used as an ancillary force against the Persians.
Shortly after the Battle of Manzikert (1071) the Trabzon area became the target of Turkish raids, in 1073 and 1074 falling into the hands of the raiders. With the collapse of Byzantine power in the region, the territory east of Rize also suffered raids and pillaging on the part of the Georgians. In 1075 Byzantium sent an army under Thedore Gavras, who wrested the region from the Turcomans and restored Byzantine supremacy, for which he was rewarded with the Dukedom of Haldiya and made governor of Trabzon.
Ruling the Trabzon area independently of Byzantium, Thedore Gravas halted the pillage-bent Georgian incursions in 1089 and then succeeded in taking Bayburt from the Turks. Following his defeat near Bayburt by the army of Ismail, son to Gümüþtekin Ahmet Daniþmend Gazi, in a battle where Thedore Gavras lost his life, his son Gregory Gavras was made governor in Trabzon, a post thereafter held by Costantine Gavras, both men ruling independently of Byzantium and sometimes collaborating with the Turcoman emirates in the region to maintain their status.
Ruling Trabzon independently of Byzantium for three generations, cooperating with the Turcomans in doing so, the Gavras family, some of whom, like Hasan ibni Gavras, converted to Islam and served the Seljuk state, are seen by a number of historians as forerunners of the Comnenos dynasty which in 1204 was to pro- claim an empire in Trabzon and found a state.
When the Comnenos family was toppled from the Byzantine throne in a revolution, two of its scions, small children, were spirited from the capital by followers of their relative, Queen Thamara of Georgia, and taken to the Cholchid region. At the time of this escape the elder of the two, Alexius, was four years old. Eighteen years later, in 1204, when Istanbul was plundered by the Crusaders, the Byzantine rulers fled to territories as yet unoccupied by the Latins. While this was happening in the west the Comnenos brothers, Alexius and David, had appeared on the eastern coast of the Black Sea with an army given by Thamar and largely manned by Cuman Turks. Capping a successful westward march they seized Trabzon.
During the reigns of the Georgian King George III (1156-1184) and Queen Tamara (1184-1212) the Kýpça-Cumans had fallen on hard times because of the disintegration of the northern Black Sea states, and thereby been available as mercenaries, armies formed of which enabled Georgia to expand. Highly-ranked Cumans in the Georgian Army later converted to Orthodox Christianity and were posted to frontier regions confronting Muslim Turks.
The Kumbasars living at present in the mountain villages of Rize's Ikizdere county belong to the Kubasar family which, having commanded the Georgian army and then in advanced age been the subject of intrigue at the hands of Queen Thamar, left their freehold and withdrew into the Rize Mountains. And the Curtan/Cordans, who have given their name to an Arhavi village, the Arhavi uplands, and the mountains of this region, are members of another Cuman clan of that name. Villages with the name Cuman in the counties of Sürmene and Of also are relics of the Cumans who settled here at that epoch.
From 1214 onward this state founded by the Comnenos family maintained its existence by paying tribute to the Seljuks, Ghaznavids, Mongols and Ilhanids. When the emirates appeared, it was via alliances formed through marriage to the Turcoman emirs that the state subsisted.
A center for textiles and commerce at this period, Rize was at the same time administratively tied to the Greek Kingdom in Trabzon. The lands to the east of Rize were a separate administrative unit of the empire.
On his return from a journey as envoy to Tamerlane for the king of Spain, Clavijo passed in September of 1405 through the Hemþin region, which he called Arakuel and says paid fealty to Pir Hodja Bey, the Emir of Ispir. Clavjo reports that the inhabitants of the Hemþin region, dissatisfied with their ruler, had plotted with the Emir of Ispir to whom they dispatched said ruler after capturing him. The Emir, after throwing the man in prison, had sent a Muslim ruler to the region with a Christian lieutenant.
Asserting that “although they claim to be Christians and Armenians the people of the region are in fact barbarian tribes, a pack of thieves and bandits,” Clavijo provides information which in fact can shed light on the history of these parts. As the present article is not concerned with exploring the ethnic history of the region, we will content ourselves with pointing out that the Hemþens who lived here prior to Ottoman rule had their ancestor in common with the White Sheep Turks, and that they converted to Islam at a later date than the latter.
Among the strongest pieces of evidence for this thesis is the statue of a ram/sheep on the site of an ancient tomb where a forest now stands, on a small hill overlooking the Furtuna Deresi Valley in Çamlýhemþin's Aþaðýçamlýca (Aþaðýviçe) neighborhood. Another ram/sheep statue in the valley is that found in Ülküköy. One branch of the sheepherding White Sheep Turks was the Pornak/Purnak tribe, from whom derives the name Purnak which is so widespread in the uplands of Hemþin, also famous for sheepherding. There is an interesting type of large hinge attached to doors and still found in Hemþin houses dating back several centuries. The product of skillful iron-working, one side is a wolf's head and the other a stylized ram's head; and this is but one of the ethnographic materials in the region which, stemming from a very ancient culture, have survived to the present day.
When Uzun Hasan came into the Çoruh river valley in 1458, then held by the Atabeks, he added the Ispir region directly to the territories of the state, so that Hemþin also came under White Sheep sway. The country as far as the coastal town of Rize and Pazar, however, belonged to the Trabzon Kingdom. Then in 1461 Mehmet II personally led a campaign to conquer Trabzon, and the territory as far as the Çoruh River, including Hemþin, came undeý Ottoman rule.
Prior to this conquest an alliance had been forged among the Trabzon Greek Kingdom, the Megrel Dadyan, the King of Kartli and the Çoruh Atabek, with the White Sheep Turks, rivals to the Ottomans, included as protectors. The plan was for the alliance to join forces with other Turcoman emirs and with a crusade to be organized by the Pope, to swoop down upon the Ottoman and destroy him. It was when he became aware of this plot that Mehmet mounted a campaign in 1461 and struck at the nerve center of the alliance, the Trabzon Kingdom.
Before leaving the region Mehmet gathered together the Greek denizens of Trabzon, loaded them onto ships, and sent them to Istanbul.Then, because the surrounding fortresses and towns had been conquered along with Trabzon, he appointed men to rule them and only then departed. The fýrst step taken by the new gov- ernor of Trabzon, fleet admiral Kasým Bey, was to revise the local system of government along Ottoman lines.Thus the territories comprising the presentday province of Rize were organized into three nahiyes: Rize, Atine (Pazar) and Lazmaðal. In addition the nahiye of Rize, having a fortress, was endowed with a cadi, thus becoming a jurisdiction known as a kaza.
The oldest extant Ottoman document concerning Rize is a register dated 1483 which lists various administrators of the region.
In reorganizing the territory Kasým Bey deported certain persons to Rumelia, in addition to those Mehmet II had deported to Istanbul, and this too is recorded in the 1483 register. Among those deported were a Turkish Christian named Todoros Altemur and one Cori Sasmasnos, both of whom “owned vineyards,” as well as one Þemseddinoðlu who had been “prominent in the region” prior to the conquest.
Another functionary to effect deportations from Rize to Rumelia was Umur Bey, who before his posting to the Trabzon area had been governor of the province of “Rum.”
As these deportations gradually took place, the conquest of Trabzon was immediately followed by resettlement of another kind, as families were brought from provinces along the Central Black Sea and in Central Anatolia and given homes in the fortresses and towns of the newly acquired territory. In addition to these forced relocations there were those who voluntarily left those areas and came to settle in Trabzon and its environs.A handful of mostly Chepni families began to trickle in following the conquest, and this turned into a larger influx of Chepni groups in the 16th century.
But the influx was not confined to these.When Mehmet II conquered Karaman and eliminated the Karamanian Emirate, families were deported en masse to Istanbul, with some being sent to the Trabzon and Rize area where the luckier ones were given fiefs.
During Mehmet II's reign fairly large populations were relocated from Rumelia to this region, Albanians constituting the most numerous group. Inspection of the same register shows that many of these Albanians were given fýefs in the Rize area, and also that families arrived from such Balkan cities as Kosova, Siroz, Yeniþehir and Kalkandelen, in Rize as in other places being endowed with fiefs.
During Yavuz Sultan Selim's term as Trabzon governor (1481-1511) the events taking place in Eastern Anatolia marked a new phase in the history of the region. Little knowing that one day the Saffevids would pose a great threat to their own nation, the Ottomans had stood by indifferent as the Saffevids destroyed their mortal enemies the White Sheep Turks, massacring the populations; but Yavuz Sultan Selim recognized the danger and as White Sheep Turks fled the slaughter he welcomed and setlled them in the Trabzon Sanjak, a great many of them ending up in the Rize area.
When Yavuz became sultan his victory at Chaldiran was followed by the conquest of Eastern and Southeastern Anatolia, and the elimination of the Dulkadir Emirate from the country around Marash. Many families from this emirate were relocated to the Trabzon Sanjak, being settled in the nahiyes east of the city, and in large part in and around Rize. As many surnames in that region are simply taken from ancestral places of origin, they reveal much about where families came from during Yavuz's term as governor and his reign as sultan.
These records, pertaining to the fýrst two decades following the Ottoman conquest, also make it possible to answer vain historical speculation concerning the region. The registers prove, for example, that there is no substance to claims that following the conquest the local people were forced by the Ottomans to convert to Islam
This record also makes it possible to state, contrary to claims made in Laz histories by those with ulterior motives, the Baltaoðullarý were not originally a Laz family but one of those brought to the region from the Balkans and endowed with a fief. There is also proof that prior to the conquest the Laz of this region voluntarily coexisted with the Ottomans, that Ottoman rule left the guarding of its frontier to Laz who had not yet become Muslim, and that thanks to the Ottoman umbrella the Laz were fýnally able to resist the Georgians and Abhaz who for centuries had robbed, oppressed and plundered them. The Ottoman records mention three great plundering raids made in the region (Rize and Pazar) between 1 461 and 1483. The first was carried out by the Georgians, the second by Georgians and Armenians, and the third by Megrels (denoted in the register as Mamiyan Infýdels). There is also mention of villagers who fought alongside the Ottoman soldiers in repelling infidel raids, and were rewarded with exemption from certain taxes. As for defence of the frontier, it was left to the Laz of the region, while other local Christians were enlisted as irreaulars to help defend the region and join in campaingns.
In order to put a halt to this pillaging, while still Trabzon governor Yavuz Sultan Selim conscripted locals, marched on Georgia, and made a number of conquests, being aided in this campaign by an Orthodox Christian, the Atabek of the Þavþat-Ispir region, Mirza Çabuk, who acted as guide. This comradeship persisted during the Chaldiran campaign. This peaceful coexistence in later centuries would be furthered when the local peoples voluntarily converted to Islam, with an even closer merging. Thanks to the security provided by Ottoman rule, the folk of the region no longer experienced the frustration of working all year only to see the harvested crops taken from them in raids.
This was the situation until such time as the Ottoman Empire began to wane, when the Abhaz crew, plagued by famine and poverty, set their sights on the prosperous lands under Ottman rule along the Eastern Black Sea coast. Their method was to approach in caiques, plunder the shoreline villages, and return.
In 1571 Abhaz pirates came in ships to raid the village of Sidere/Derecik near Arhavi.After looting the village and killing some of its inhabitants, the pirates took 47 of them prisoner and sailed away. At about the same time two shiploads of Abhaz raided the village of Makriyalu/Kemalpaþa in the same manner. The Porte commanded the Cadi of Arhavi, the Bey of Trabzon and the Bey of Batum to join forces, muster the vessels of the region, and put paid to these Abhaz depredations.
Meanwhile the Megrel Dadya had twice come with his subject Abhaz to raid Ottoman territory in nine great caiques fit out with guns and large cannon. When it was learned that both the pirates and the Megrel Dadya were procuring powder and weapons through trade with Kefe an action was mounted, and a force carried in caiques dispersed the buccaneers.
The Bey of Batum, who had commanded these troops, advised the Porte that Iskender Bey and the Abhaz pirates had made a habit of plundering the province of Gurel every year. Send me a thousand men, he said, and I will have the lands beyond Sohum pillaged in reprisal. The answer came that until the war with Cyprus and the Venetians were concluded no men could be spared; that the region must be defended using whatever troops were available locally, while those who supplied the pirates with arms and provisions, whether by sea or via Kefe, should be tracked down and captured. Among the measures taken was to forbid sea travel to the region.
To counter this coastal threat, caiques were mustered, the property of the state, to patrol the offshore waters constantly. But the problem was never completely solved; the Abhaz were indeed brought under control, but in the following century the Russian settlement policy meant that Cossacks relocated along the Ottoman- Russian frontier fulfilled the same nefarious role.
In 1647, the Cossacks having seized the fortress of Gönye, the governor of Erzurum attacked them with a force that included the famous traveller Evliya Çelebi, who in his renowned journal gives detailed information about the Cossack pirates' coastal raids, the measures taken to oppose them, and the action mounted to take back the fortress.