The 1832/33 Ottoman Property Survey of Cyprus
The survey was compiled in response to a significant decline in the population of the island. In a major new attempt to collect and produce knowledge on the socio-economic conditions of the province, the Ottoman state took measures to record and understand the economy and society of the island. The survey is recorded in four volumes deposited in the Ottoman Archives in Istanbul (ML.VRD.TMT.d.16542–5) totalling 1,386 pages. By clicking on the relevant volume image, you can browse the households and individuals recorded on each page of the relevant volume.
The 1832/33 property survey is kept at the Ottoman Archives in Istanbul(ML.VRD.TMT.d.16152-5). While it was miscatalogued as being part of a novel typology of fiscal survey known as temettüat that aimed to modernise tax-assessment and collection (Osmanlı İdaresinde Kıbrıs, 2000), it was in fact an ad hoc endeavour that aimed to simply record land and different kinds of property, without any mention of taxation, as recent research has demonstrated (Aymes, 2009).
The register was compiled in response to the significant non-Muslim population decline that alerted Istanbul the year before. As the documentation of the officer charged with compiling a preliminary settlement survey of 1832 declare, the usual 2 : 1 ratio of non-Muslims to Muslims had changed to the favour of the latter (BN, ST1042: 20r). The decline in the number of Christian taxpayers (which, it has to be mentioned, is not the same as the population of the Christians at large), was due to any, or a combination of, the following reasons: (a) population flight to the neighbouring continental provinces in south Anatolia or northwest Syria; (b) conversions of Christians to Islam to escape the poll tax that was exclusive to the non-Muslims; (c) the registering of poverty-struck Christians as servants in commercial farms (çiftliks) or monasteries, which meant that they would not have to pay tax paupers; (d) the direct or indirect employment of local Christians in European consuls, which meant that they would enjoy European protection and, more importantly, exemption from direct taxes.
In other words, apart from migration, the fall in taxpayer numbers did not necessarily entail actual population decline in real numbers. This is something we know because it was a recurring phenomenon in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Cyprus, and in the cases where actual population decline was involved because of epidemics or some other disaster like an earthquake, this was explicitly mentioned. More interesting is the response of the Ottoman capital to the vicissitudes of taxable population: it located Cypriot migrants and offered tax-breaks for their return. This had less to do with their loss of revenue in Cyprus and more with the fact that labour-intensive economy of the island based on cereals, cotton, silk, wine production suffered greatly from the loss of man- and woman-power. That this phenomenon was recurring meant that those who had fled to neighbouring coastlines returned to enjoy the tax-breaks only to leave a few years later on account of the once more negative economic and social conditions (Hadjikyriacou, 2011: 141-147).
The empire-wide 1831 male population census manifested the disruption of the usual 2 : 1 ratio, indicating worsening socio-economic conditions (Theocharides and Andreev, 1996). The Ottoman capital took an additional measure this time, which was the undertaking of a land and property survey. The production of knowledge on the state of the economy and society was a new measure to address the challenges of administration on the island.
Entitled Register of land and property on the island of Cyprus [Defter-i emlak ve arazı … der cezire-i Kıbrıs], the survey was compiled in four volumes of 1,386 pages in total. There is a total of 792 geographic objects (districts, subdistricts, towns, villages, Islamic convents (tekkes), monasteries, etc.). Settlements are organised by district (kaza) and subdistrict (nahiye), and then divided by town (kasaba), administrative centre (nefs), and village (kariye). Towns and large villages were also subdivided in their quarters. Monasteries, tekkes, çiftliks or other smaller settlements were recorded at the end of the lowest level of settlement category (i.e. villages or quarters).
There is one important lacuna in the register. For some unspecified reason, the Muslim inhabitants of Nicosia were not included unless they are recorded as absentee property-holders outside of the city. The possibility of missing pages from the register is excluded because the names of the Christian property-holders follows the opening statement declaring the purpose of the register. While in every other first page of the other three volumes and every other mixed settlement entry which opens with the Muslims (as the superior religion), the first page of the Nicosia register opens with the non-Muslims. It is also highly unlikely that a separate register would be compiled solely for the Muslim property-holders of Nicosia, for this would be a fraction of the other four register. The most likely speculation as to why the Muslims of Nicosia are not included would have to revolve around the issue of property, given that this is purpose of the register. Yet, Muslim residents of Nicosia who hold property outside of the city are explicitly recorded as such. Such is the case of Mustafa son of Mustafa, resident of Nicosia, who owned property in the village of Kaimakli (Ott. Mesokelepsi nam-i diğer Ka’imaklı) (OA, ML.VRD.TMT.d.16152: 16).
The main unit of the census is the household (hane). Different kinds of Ottoman registers use the same term, but depending on the nature of survey concerned, and it can be an entirely different kind of collective unit. For example, the household in a tahrir register (like the previous example examined in this paper) is not necessarily the same as a family household. The former is a fiscal-productive unit and the latter is a demographic one. Subsequent uses of hane for monetary (and not in-kind, as in the tahrir surveys) taxes such as avariz or cizye also have a different fiscal purpose and may not therefore be taken to be the same as a nuclear family. Along the same lines, we have to assume that the household in the Land and property survey is a property-owning one, for the only members of the household that are explicitly mentioned are those who hold property (unless someone is mentioned to define someone else, e.g. son of…, wife of…). There is a total of 20,194 households recorded and 25,134 persons (heads of household who may or may not own property, property-owning members of the household, or names of people used to define others).
|Properties shared between the imam of Larnaca Mehmet Efendi son of Ali, and his brother.|
|250 dönüm||1,275 kuruş|
|3 dönüm||90 kuruş|
|Properties shared between the imam, his stepmother and his sister|
|At the village of Pirga (Ott. Pirka)|
|At the village of Anglisides (Ott. Anglisya)|
|At the village of Anafotida (Ott. Anafodiya)|
|At the village of Menogia (Ott. Menoya)|
|At the village of Kofinou (Ott. Köfinye)|
|[Properties of] the aforementioned imam's wife|
|Properties held solely by the said imam|
|Total: 7,725 kuruş|
What do entries look like? Following the district or subdistrict heading and the settlement name, individual property holders are recorded. Each household entry is introduced by the head of the property-owning household, and then the full or shared property of each other property holder is recorded. Table 2 shows the first entry of the central quarter (Mahalle-i Baş) of Larnaca, also known (nam-i diğer) as Sotira (Ott. Sodira). It concerns the household of the Imam of Larnaca (Ott. Tuzla) Mehmet Efendi son of Ali. When the location of the property is mentioned, it means that the property is outside of the holder’s place of residence, where all other properties are found.
We have codified the recording of property and land-holding in three main groups: overlying objects (buildings, trees), land use (by kind of cultivation), and animals. It was quite different to the 1572 census which recorded the volume of taxable production in that the 1832/33 survey records number of trees or size of plots of land. Another difference which is worth mentioning is how cereals are being aggregated in the latter survey (grain for human consumption and fodder grain), which the 1572 one offers the data on the volume of each kind of grain individually (wheat, barley, vetch, oat, millet).
Given that the 1832/33 survey provides data to the individual property-holder level and does not simply aggregate it at the village level like the 1572 fiscal survey, the organisation of data was much more complex and required a more elaborate system than tabular data entry in a spreadsheet. Thus, by using the CIDOC CRM (http://www.cidoc-crm.org) as a conceptual guide we designed and developed an object-oriented web-based Content Management System using the Django web framework and the Python programming language. Overall, there was a total of 1,053 taxonomic categories and 233,514 entries. The group of research assistants (Zeynep Akçakaya, Yener Koç, Dimitris Giagtzoglou, Sefer Soydar, Nesli Ruken Han) transcribed and entered the data with a total of more than 180,000 log entries.
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