- 2 The figure in the parentheses indicates the number given to each employee in the tables below.
- 3 The Bab-ı Meşihat was the ministry responsible for administering the Sharia courts and medreses und (...)
- 4 For this collection, see Zerdeci 1998, Agmon 2004. For the Meşihat Archives, see Aydın, Yurdakul an (...)
- 5 The registers of the general personnel records of the civil officials [Sicill-i Umumi, or Sicill-i (...)
- 6 In spite of its title designating the ulema, Albayrak’s book contains the biographies of some lower (...)
1This is the curriculum vitae (hereafter, CV) of Ömer Ağa (#10)2, a lower government employee in the late Ottoman Empire who worked at the office of the Şeyhülislâm [Bab-ı Meşihat]3. This CV is found among the personnel records collection [Sicill-i Ahval Dosyaları] preserved in the ‘Meşihat’ Archives of the Istanbul Mufti’s Office4. The personnel records of the late Ottoman ulema and officials5 have been utilized as main sources for biographical studies of the Sharia judges and the middle- and higher-ranking officials (for the judges, Agmon 2004, Akiba 2005; for the officials, Baltaoğlu 1998, Bouquet 2007, Findley 1989, Clayer 2005). In addition, there are biographical anthologies compiled from these sources. Apart from a random collection from the personnel records in the Meşihat Archives by Sadık Albayrak (1996)6, these anthologies concern the ulema and officials originating from a particular region or school, or occupying a certain position (for the ulema, Mardin 1956-66, Korkusuz 1996; for the officials, Ardel 2005, Çankaya 1968-71, Dağdelen 2004, Yüksel 2004, 2005). However, the personnel records collection also includes biographical records of ancillary workers who constituted the lowest stratum of the bureaucracy and came from a different, lower background compared to the rest of the government personnel. These records have not drawn scholars’ attention until now, but they can provide valuable sources for a social history of people from modest background in the late Ottoman Empire.
- 7 For the examples of CV questionnaire, see Albayrak 1996: 452, Bouquet 2007: 76, Sarıyıldız 2004: 17 (...)
2The system of personnel record registration was introduced in the Ottoman state in 1879 (Bouquet 2007, Çetin 2005, Sarıyıldız 2004). Each official was required to submit his CV by filling in a questionnaire printed on a large sheet of paper (after 1914, in four pages)7. The CV would be kept in a dossier set aside for each official, together with other documents concerning his career. The content of the CV and information about the ensuing career after the preparation of the CV would be recorded in a special register at the Commission for the Personnel Records [Sicill-i Ahval Komisyonu] in the Sublime Porte or in its equivalent at the Personnel Records Department [Sicill-i Ahval Müdiriyeti] in the Meşihat. The personnel record dossiers [Sicill-i Ahval Dosyaları] including original CVs are now only available and catalogued in the Meşihat Archives (Zerdeci 1998).
- 8 Düstur, ser. 1, 4: 64, ‘Ahval-i memurin sicilli komisyonu ta’limatı’, art 1.
- 9 Düstur, ser. 1, 5: 971, ‘Memurini mülkiyenin tercümei hallerinin sureti kayıd ve tahririni ve tefer (...)
3During the first three decades after their introduction, the personnel records did not cover the ancillary workers. The first instructions for the personnel records issued in 1879 concerned the officials ‘from Grand Vezirs to county administrators’ [sadaret-i ulyadan nahiye müdirlerine]8. The second instructions issued in 1887 explicitly stated that ‘servants [hademe] such as custom-house watchmen and patrols, and court ushers and bailiffs are exempted from the personnel record’ [gümrük mubassır ve kolcuları ve mahkeme muhzır ve mübaşirleri misillû hademe sicilli ahvalden müstesnadır]9. This rule was still valid when this recording system was applied to the Meşihat personnel in 1892. After the Young Turk Revolution of 1908, however, the scope of registration expanded to encompass all the minor employees working at various public offices and departments.
- 10 Sami 1317-18, 1: 208, s.v. ‘odacı’: ‘A man who gives services to every bureau and department in the (...)
- 11 See Sami 1317-18, 2: 1302, s.v. ‘muhzır’: ‘Court servants who are charged with bringing the concern (...)
- 12 Cf. Hanna 2007: 177.
4As a result, the collection of the personnel record dossiers in the Meşihat Archives contains the original CVs of the ancillary workers serving at the bureaus of the Şeyhülislâm’s central office and the Sharia courts throughout the empire. These workers were collectively called ‘hademe’, meaning servants. Typical among this category are ‘odacıs’ or office boys who were employed to provide various services in the office bureaus including cleaning, watching the bureaus, and running errands10. The personnel records collection also shows that the Meşihat employed workers with more specialized duties, such as porters [hammal], gardeners [bağçevan], shoe-keepers [pabuççu], watchmen [bekçi], doormen [kapıcı], paper distributors [müvezzi’], and coffee makers [kahveci]. Ushers [muhzır] of Sharia courts were sometimes also included in the category of ‘hademe’, as seen in the definition in a contemporary dictionary categorizing them among the ‘court servants’ [mahkeme hademesi]11 and also in the stipulation of the 1887 instructions cited above. For an ongoing research project on a social history of the lower government employees in the late Ottoman Empire, I have found and collected 74 CVs of ancillary workers (including ushers) who served at the various bureaus of the Bab-ı Meşihat or at the Sharia courts in Istanbul. In this article, I will focus on the issue of the literacy—in a broader sense of the word, encompassing access to and use of the written words12—of those workers by reevaluating their CVs and other related documents. The CVs made direct reference to the literacy—the languages the workers spoke, read and wrote. They also contained information about the education that the workers received, which was instrumental in shaping their particular type of literacy and the values they placed on it. However, information written in the CVs cannot be properly understood without knowledge about the practice of writing CVs. Thus, the main thrust of this article is to examine how the CVs were produced and how literacy worked in this practice. In the first place, I will survey the profiles of the workers, which will reveal that their places of origin were mostly clustered in Istanbul and Anatolia. Nevertheless, their cultural (especially linguistic) background and educational opportunities varied widely with the place of origin—there were rich opportunities for post-primary education in Istanbul whereas the people from the Kurdish speaking area of Eastern Anatolia certainly had a disadvantage in learning to write Ottoman Turkish, the official language. Consequently, the workers in the Meşihat did not constitute a homogeneous group. Thus, for this study focusing on the literacy, it is more meaningful to concentrate on the people from the particular region. In fact, there were a significant number of workers in the Meşihat who came from the same locality, namely, Pütürge in Eastern Anatolia. Since Pütürge had distinctive linguistic and educational conditions, I mainly examine the workers from Pütürge in this study and also refer to the rest of the sample to amplify the argument with more examples. Hereafter, I refer to those from Pütürge as ‘Pütürgeli’ using Turkish suffix ‘–li’ (meaning ‘coming from’).
- 13 Mehmed Ağa (#6) served for ten years under the corresponding secretary [mektubî] Mustafa Tevfik Efe (...)
5The lower employees usually worked as apprentices before they became regular employees. Until 1890s, most of the regular workers, as well as apprentices, had not been salaried but had been given fees for their service (or assigned shares of the fee income of the bureau). In a sense, their position was similar to that of the personal servants to the ulema dignitaries, which was based on an informal patron-client relationship. Two of the workers from Pütürge had actually been in personal service of high-ranking ulema before they officially entered the state service13.
- 14 MA, Sicill-i Ahval Dosyaları (here after SA dos.), no. 321, İsmail Derviş Efendi (receiving 450 kur (...)
- 15 One document refers to the ‘necessity for the ushers to be among the group of ‘okur yazar’ [muhzırl (...)
- 16 E. g., MA, SA dos. 280, Karac (?) Ağa (Mekke); SA dos. 282, Osman (Şumnu).
6Among the ancillary workers, the court ushers had a distinguished status, especially after the general reorganization [tensikat-ı umumiye] of the bureaucracy in 1909 when the salaries were rearranged. From September 1909 on, most ancillary workers began to receive monthly salaries ranging between 200 and 400 kuruş. Ushers’ salaries just after the reorganization were relatively higher than others’: only one usher received 200 kuruş while the salaries of two ‘head ushers’ [ser-muhzır] were 450 and 600, respectively14. This favorable treatment might have been related to their special role in the judicial institution. More significantly, the office of usher became restricted to those who were literate [okur yazar] after the general reorganization15. Some former ushers were transferred to the position of ‘hademe’ in 1909 apparently because of this new criterion16. The term ‘okur yazar’ is a Turkish equivalent of ‘literate’, deriving from the verbs, ‘okumak’ [to read] and ‘yazmak’ [to write], and meaning ‘qui sait lire et écrire’ (Bianchi, Kieffer 1850, 1: 253, s.v. ‘okur yazar’). It is significant for this study that the ability to read and write was considered to be a basic requirement for ushers, since it indicates that literacy was a special attribute among the ancillary workers. Thus, they cannot be regarded as equals in terms of their status and literacy. It is important to note that, before the reorganization of 1909, the positions of ushers and other lower employees had not been strictly differentiated in the sense that there had been ushers who were unable to read or write.
- 17 For the foundation of the Pütürge sub-district, see Işık 1998: 618, 624-626.
7All of the 74 ancillary workers were Muslim males. Since the Meşihat was characteristically an Islamic institution, understandably its staff was restricted to Muslims. As for the places of origin, 18 of them were born in Istanbul, whereas most of the rest came from Anatolia. Four came from the Balkans, one from Crimea, and only one from the Arab lands. Most remarkably, there were 15 workers who came from Pütürge. Pütürge was a small sub-district created in 1893 near Malatya in Eastern Anatolia, belonging to the province of Mamuretülaziz (Elazığ). Bringing together two counties, Şiro and Gerger, it was a conglomeration of villages with the village of İmron (in the former Şiro county) being the center of the sub-district17. According to the Ottoman provincial yearbook for Mamuretülaziz, the languages used in the Şiro side of Pütürge were mainly Kurdish and partly Turkish (Işık 1998: 369). In fact, among the 15 workers from Pütürge, five declared that they spoke Kurdish in addition to Turkish in their CVs, and two among them referred to Kurdish as their mother tongue [lisan-ı maderim]. As we shall see in the following section, not all the workers mentioned the languages they spoke. Therefore, more workers from Pütürge might have known Kurdish; most of them might have been bilingual in Turkish and Kurdish. Thus, the Pütürgeli workers had a distinctive linguistic background.
- 18 MA, SA dos. 385, Hasan Efendi (#9), population certificate, 4 Haziran 1321 (17 June 1905).
8It can be said that the Pütürgeli workers were culturally, economically, and socially marginalized in the Ottoman society. Although most (or perhaps all) of the Pütürgeli workers came from the sub-district center of İmron, their social background was predominantly rural. Information is available regarding the father’s occupation of ten workers, out of whom seven appear to have come from peasant background (here, including the workers found in the registers). One Pütürgeli was himself a peasant before coming to Istanbul18. It appears that many people of İmron relied on agriculture for their livelihood (see also Işık 1998: 369). Exceptionally, the father of Hüseyin Ağa (#12), İsmail Bey, can be considered as one of the local notables since he was a member of the administrative council of the Pütürge sub-district. It is rather interesting that, in spite of İsmail Bey’s honorable position, his son became a humble government employee. Two workers, both of whom were sons of peasants, had been engaged in commerce before entering into state service (#6, #14). They might have been engaged in a kind of peddling or seasonal migration. In fact, people of Pütürge are known to have migrated to large cities since the Ottoman times until today because of the paucity of agricultural production (Malatya İl Yıllığı 1967: 166; Şentürk and Gülseren 1993: 44). Employment in the Meşihat must have been only a part of the larger network of migrant workers from Pütürge in Istanbul. Concentration of the migrants from the same locality in a similar profession is a characteristic of ‘chain-migration’ (see Behar 2003: 107-108). The two examples of workers whose fathers were also serving at the Meşihat (#3, #18) and a worker who succeeded to the post of his maternal uncle (#5) fit well into the pattern of chain-migration. Characteristically, the Pütürgelis mainly served in the central office of the Meşihat, employed as servants. Because of their distinctive background as well as their important presence at the Meşihat, I found it useful to take up especially the Pütürgeli workers.
9I have also found three Pütürgeli workers in the personnel records registers [Sicill-i Ahval Defterleri] in the Meşihat Archives whose CVs were not included among the collection of dossiers (see table). However, since the description in the registers was not a faithful copy of the original CV but a summary of the CV and the related documents, I will only use the records in the registers as supplementary sources. In the analysis where the exact phrasing is not very important, I will also refer to the registers.
- 19 For a discussion about the terminology used for language ability in the CVs, see also Bouquet’s art (...)
- 20 For facsimile reproductions of the CV including this notice, see Baltaoğlu 1998: 357, Kütükoğlu 199 (...)
- 21 Salâhi 1313-22, 3: 263, s.v. ‘kitabet’: ‘Yazı yazmak, bir maddeyi kavaidine muvafık surette kaleme (...)
10The CV questionnaire includes a question about one’s spoken and written languages19. The original question required the respondents to explain ‘in what languages [the respondent] writes or only speaks’ [hangi lisanlarla kitabet veyahud yalnız tekellüm eylediği]. The form that had been in use since 1892 until 1914 gave an additional notice which instructed that the phrase ‘I speak and write’ [tekellüm ve kitabet ederim] should not be used when the respondent was not accustomed to or known for speaking and writing certain languages but [only] had an ordinary knowledge of their grammar [usul] and vocabulary [lûgat]. In that case, the respondent was instructed to state, ‘I learned and am familiar with [the language] [okudum âşinâyım]’(Sarıyıldız 2004: 129)20. The word ‘kitabet’ here meant not just writing but was used to designate ‘correct writing’ (Redhouse 1968: 669) or ‘to write up an item according to the rules’21. It is likely that what was intended by ‘kitabet’ was competence to draw up official documents (Bouquet 2007: 245; Findley 1989: 347).
- 22 MA, SA dos. 297, Hasan Efendi (Erbaa).
- 23 Compare the CV of Bekir Ağa (Kangırı) (MA, SA dos. 338), and its summary in the register (MA, Sicil (...)
- 24 MA, SA dos. 306, Mehmed Ata Efendi (Ağa) (İstanbul); SA dos. 889, Mehmet İzzet Efendi (İstanbul).
11Among the entire lower employees whose CVs have survived, only a few used the term ‘kitabet’ (four cases, not including any Pütürgeli). Indeed, the only worker who wrote ‘I speak and write Turkish’ [Türkçe tekellüm ve kitabet ederim] following the instructions was a former scribe who was later appointed as a court usher22. Instead, most of the workers expressed their ability (or inability) to write with the Turkish verb, ‘yazmak’ [to write] coupled with ‘okumak’ [to read]. The most common expression to declare literacy was thus, ‘I read and write Turkish’ [Türkçe okur yazarım]. Four Pütürgeli workers used this phrase. This usage is in marked contrast to the terminology of the Sharia judges, as a quick browse through the CVs of more than 200 judges that I have chosen as a sample of another study (Akiba 2005) reveals that a large part of them adopted the cliché, ‘tekellüm ve kitabet’. It appears that the clerks of the civil administration preferred the phrase, ‘okur yazar’, judging from the published biographical collections based on the personnel records registers of the civil officials (Ardel 2005; Dağdelen 2004; Yüksel 2005). Nevertheless, about 30 to 40% of them still used the word, ‘kitabet’, and it is not certain if the scribes of the registers copied faithfully the wording of the original CVs. At least one scribe at the personnel records bureau of the Meşihat did convert the original expression ‘kitabet ve kıraat’ [to write and read] into ‘okur yazar’ when he wrote the entry of the register23. In any case, the preference of ‘okur yazar’ in the CVs of the workers might suggest that the word ‘kitabet’ was intentionally avoided to imply that they were not skilled in formal writing. One Pütürgeli worker, Mehmed Efendi (#17), was reported in the register to have been able to ‘read and write a little’ [birazca okuyup yazdığı]. Among the non-Pütürgeli workers, some were also modest enough to admit, ‘I read and write as much as possible’ [mümkün mertebe okur yazarım], or ‘I know reading and writing to some degree’ [bir mikdar okumak yazmak bilirim]24. Conversely, Mehmed Arif Efendi from Eğin (#19) declared that he could read and write ‘fluently’ [selis olarak]. This is presumably because he had learned, rather exceptionally, calligraphy [hüsn-i hat] as well as Arabic grammar and a bit of Persian [sarf-ı arabî ile bir mikdar farsî]. These nuanced answers indicate that there was a wide range of ability in reading and writing among the workers and also suggest that those who declared to be ‘okur yazar’ without a qualifier were not always skilled writers.
- 25 MA, SA dos. 670, Abdi Efendi (Istanbul), draft of the CV summary. Abdi Efendi had already stated in (...)
- 26 MA, Defter no. 1918, Register of Meclis-i İntihab-i Hükkâm-ı Şer’ [Committee for Selection of the S (...)
- 27 Ibid.; MA, SA dos. 620, Raşid Ağa (Bitlis), CV, 29 Cemaziyelevvel 1328/26 Mayıs 1326 (8 June 1910).
12In fact, the division between those who were ‘okur yazar’ and those who were not was not always evident. As mentioned earlier, the position of court usher was restricted to those who were ‘okur yazar’ after 1909. A literate worker, Abdi Efendi from Istanbul (#20), was once discharged from the office of usher at the Court of Waqf Inspection [Mahkeme-i Teftiş-i Evkaf] in November 1911 because of his alleged illiteracy, but he was later reinstituted after it was understood that he was ‘okur yazar’25. Rifat Efendi, a servant at the Galata Sharia court, wrote to the Meşihat in November 1909 that he was appointed as ‘hademe’ in the general reorganizations despite the fact that he was ‘okur ve yazar’. The Galata court was asked whether he was literate and found that he was26. In his place, Raşid Ağa from Bitlis (#21) was relegated to the position of ‘hademe’ from that of usher at the Galata court since it was understood that he was unable to read or write27. These examples show that there was sometimes ambiguity as to where to draw the boundary.
- 28 Compare also the duties of ‘mübaşir’, the court usher in the Nizamiye courts: Düstur, ser. 1, 4: 27 (...)
13Preferred use of the phrase ‘okur yazar’ in the workers’ CVs might also be considered in such a way that, for the senior officials at the Meşihat, it was sufficient to know whether the workers were able to read and write Turkish. First of all, it must be noted that the ability to read was not asked in the questionnaire. The original question asked what languages the respondent spoke and wrote. However, many among the whole sample (39 out of 74) noted whether or not they were able to read. A Pütürgeli, Osman Efendi (#11), declared, ‘I speak and read Turkish’ [Türkçe tekellüm eder okurum] whereas among the non-Pütürgeli workers, Hüsni Ağa from Kemah (#22) only noted, ‘I read Turkish’ [Türkçe okurum], entirely bypassing the original question about spoken and written languages. Presumably, they were able to read but unable to write—so-called semi-literate—just like Ahmed from Malatya (#23) who stated, ‘I read Turkish, [but] I do not write’ [Türkçe okurum yazım yoktur]. Apparently, the author of the questionnaire had not expected semi-literacy. Nevertheless, the ability to read alone would be of help in the workplace. As mentioned above, after 1909 the position of court usher was restricted to those who were ‘okur yazar’, which indicates that being literate was an important distinction among the workers. One document related the necessity of literacy of the ushers with the importance of service of process [muamelât-ı tebliğiye] conducted by ushers. This might suggest that the ability to read was more essential for the ushers as they were required to read the names and addresses written on the documents to deliver the summons but not expected to draw up official correspondences28. Second, the language in question was Turkish, namely, Ottoman Turkish or Turkish written in the Arabic alphabet. Turkish had been made the sole official language of the Empire by the Ottoman Constitution of 1876 and was the common language in the Meşihat and the Sharia courts in Istanbul during the later period. Although Arabic was partially used in the legal documents, daily correspondences were all in Turkish. Since the lower employees at the Meşihat were not required to read Arabic legal textbooks, understand French letters, or serve in the Greek-speaking regions, what was crucial for them was whether they could read and write Turkish, but not what they knew. The language that Mehmed Efendi (#17) claimed to read and write was not specified in the record because it was apparently obvious to the readers. Consequently, it is assumed that when preparing the CV, the worker was instructed to state whether or not they could read and write Turkish.
- 29 MA, SA dos. 319, Hacı Salahaddin Efendi (Boyabad); SA dos. 322, Mehmed Ali Efendi (Gebze); SA dos. (...)
14However, the more important issue may lie not in how one’s literacy was expressed but rather in why it was not mentioned since only six Pütürgeli workers gave information about their written language. The same is true for the spoken language, which was specified by six Pütürgelis. First of all, it can be generally assumed that the omission of information indicates that there was no positive record considered worthy of special mention. Therefore, when one was silent about his written language, there is a fair possibility that he was unable to write very well. This interpretation is corroborated by the fact that four out of the six Pütürgeli workers with no entry about language were reported to have received primary education ‘a little’ [biraz, bir mikdar] or ‘for a [short] time’ [bir müddet]. Second, the omission could have happened when the information was too usual and natural to be mentioned or when there was complementary information. For example, Pütürgeli Halil’s record (#18) does not include information about language, but he is most likely to have been literate judging from the account that he had graduated from the rüşdiye [upper elementary] school and continued to study at medrese. There are three other similar examples among the non-Pütürgeli workers, who received medrese education but omitted to write their language ability29. As for the spoken language, when a worker declared his ability to write Turkish but did not specify whether he spoke Turkish, it is natural to consider that he could also speak Turkish. In other cases that lack the information about the spoken language, it was probably omitted because it was not as crucial as the written language and also because it might have been deemed too usual for the workers in Istanbul to speak Turkish. To be sure, there were workers who spoke a language other than Turkish as five Pütürgeli workers noted that they spoke Kurdish. Considering their background, most probably the rest of the Pütürgelis also spoke Kurdish although some of those who came to Istanbul at a younger age might not have been able to speak Kurdish fluently (for example, #14, #17, #18). Presumably, the Kurdish speaking ability was considered less worthy of mention since there were few opportunities to take advantage of it in the workplace. It is rather remarkable that two Pütürgelis especially referred to Kurdish as their mother tongue. However, this might reflect the scribe’s disposition since their CVs were apparently written by the same scribe (see below). Actually, the scribal practice was one of the important factors that determined the content of the CV. Lack of certain information in the CV can also be attributed to the scribes’ tendency to shorten the answers—a point to which we shall return later.
15According to their CVs, most of the Pütürgeli workers claimed to have received some form of primary education. In the late Ottoman Empire, two types of elementary schools for Muslim children existed. One was the traditional Qur’an school and the other was the state-run, new style school created in the course of Ottoman reform movements since the mid-19th century. In the 1870s, the ‘new method’ [usul-i cedid] began to be applied to the latter school, and after the 1880s it came to be known as ‘mekteb-i ibtidai’, instead of ‘sıbyan mektebi’ or ‘mahalle mektebi’, which since then has designated only Qur’an school (Kodaman 1988: 68, 71-72, Somel 2001: 108-109). The new method represented a new understanding of pedagogy, which introduced a class system and a new set of curriculum covering practical, non-religious subjects such as mathematics and geography as well as the new educational method of writing, which was at the core of the usul-i cedid (Somel 2001: 171-172). In theory, it was fundamentally different from the teaching method of writing practiced in the Qur’an school.
- 30 For the Ottoman Qur’an schools, see Kara and Birinci 2005, Ergin 1977, 1-2: 82-96, Somel 2001: 252- (...)
16In the Qur’an schools, which were by far more widespread than the new style schools, education was centered upon the recitation of the Qur’an. Recitation and rote learning were the fundamental pedagogy and the objective in itself. According to the practices prevalent in Turkish speaking areas in Ottoman Anatolia and the Balkans, children who entered the Qur’an school would be first initiated into the Arabic alphabet, the primary objective of which was to read the Qur’an in Arabic30. Whereas reading was deemed central to religious education, writing formed a special branch of art, that is, calligraphy [hüsn-i hat]. As Osman Ergin, the author of the Turkish Education History, noticed, writing in the Qur’an school was equivalent to calligraphy but did not mean composition (Ergin 1977, 1-2: 86). Some children would seek a calligraphy teacher when their Qur’an school’s teachers did not give writing lessons, which was frequently the case. Those who mastered a certain style of writing (such as sülüs, nesih, or rık’a) would be given a diploma [icazet]. Accounts from autobiographies suggest that the sülüs style was first learned and that the rık’a style, which was the most frequently used style in the late Ottoman bureaucracy and also in the private letters, was learned later (Abdülaziz Bey 2000: 64, 72-74; Kara, Birinci 2005: 55, 266, 429, 437-439, Somel 2001: 261). Children who finished reciting the Qur’an would proceed to read Turkish textbooks on catechism and other subjects although many children would leave school before then and not all Qur’an schools provided those lessons. In some Qur’an schools, Persian was also taught through memorizing some textbooks.
- 31 Osman Nuri [Ergin]’s personnel record is found in BOA, Sicill-i Ahval defterleri 176/329. It does n (...)
17As the features of education at Ottoman Qur’an schools had very much in common with their equivalents in the pre-modern and modern Middle East (e.g., Eickelman 1978), we may assume that the approach toward the holy books and writing in the Qur’an schools in the Kurdish speaking regions of Anatolia was very much similar to that in the Ottoman core regions. In fact, the historian Ergin himself was born in the village of İmron in 1882, which would later become the center of the Pütürge sub-district. Although none of his biographies suggests his Kurdish origin, at least it is certain that he was living in the area where Kurdish was predominantly spoken. According to his own account, he learned from one hoca [teacher] during winters for three years, memorized some surahs of the Qur’an, and finished reciting the Qur’an two times. Although he committed the verses of the Qur’an to memory by reciting, he did not learn the alphabet (Ergin 1977, 1-2: 84-85, n. 5; Ünver 1962: 164)31. He certainly exaggerated the ‘defect’ or ‘backwardness’ of old style education, as did other late Ottoman autobiographers who usually criticized the Qur’an schools against the standards of ‘new method’ pedagogy (see Fortna 2001: 20-22). In any case, we can assume that just as in the Turkish speaking areas, teaching of writing Kurdish or Turkish was not central, though not totally absent, in the Kurdish speaking regions. Among the Pütürgeli workers, Osman Efendi (#11) claimed to read Turkish after having been educated at a sıbyan school in İmron in the 1890s, suggesting that Turkish textbooks were possibly used in some Qur’an schools in Pütürge.
- 32 Books such as Turkish fatwa collections and books of formularies of legal documents [sakk mecmuası] (...)
18Traditionally, the only institution of formal education after the Qur’an school was the medrese [madrasa]. In the medrese education, students would learn Arabic grammar first, and then logic, rhetoric, religious principles [akaid], jurisprudence [fıkh], and other subjects, sometimes including Persian. Except for some legal manuals32 and Persian textbooks, all the textbooks were in Arabic although Turkish was sometimes written in the marginal notes of the textbooks. Again, reading and writing Turkish was not formally taught in classes. Medreses in the Kurdish speaking regions were not very different, judging from the biographies of the ulema born in Diyarbakır in Southeast Anatolia (Korkusuz 1996). Persian could have been more prevalent as it was similar to the Kurdish language. No medrese existed in Pütürge in 1907 (Işık 1998: 368). The only Pütürgeli worker who received the medrese education attended his lessons in Istanbul (#18).
- 33 In his memoir, the late Ottoman historian and statesman Cevdet Paşa recalls having participated in (...)
- 34 BOA, Sicill-i Ahval Defterleri, 166/441, Halil Rifat Efendi.
19Criticism against medrese education became a popular theme in the publications during the early twentieth century, in which the absence of Turkish lessons in the medrese was also targeted. One Ottoman autobiographer stated that most of the medrese students were very poor at Turkish reading despite their ability to read Arabic texts (Kara, Birinci 2005: 128). However, many scholars, legal experts, religious leaders, and bureaucrats had been educated in this way at Qur’an schools and medreses for centuries, but become able to read and write Turkish. In Kurdish speaking regions, we can find many ulema with traditional education who could write Turkish and Kurdish as well as Arabic and Persian (Korkusuz 1996). Contrary to our association of literacy with schooled education, writing was not necessarily taught in formal lessons at schools, but it was often learned on the individual initiative. Seeking a calligraphy teacher outside school is one example of this initiative. Dale Eickelman pointed out, regarding the traditional learning in Morocco, that ‘peer learning’ among the students was as important as formal lessons (Eickelman 1978: 503-505). In the Ottoman medreses, too, the students could develop their Turkish (Kurdish, Persian) literacy through ‘peer learning’ or some reading circles outside the class33. Besides, the scribal skills of writing official documents used to be learned through apprenticeship at the scribal offices (Findley 1989: 63-70; Abdülaziz Bey 2000: 85-89). There is also an example of one Pütürgeli, Halil Rifat Efendi (b. 1877), who only learned the elementals of the religious sciences [mukaddemat-ı ulum-ı diniye] at sıbyan school and eventually became a scribe of the sub-district population registry34. Presumably, he acquired the scribal skills through on-the-spot training, while education at the sıbyan school might have provided the basis for it. This echoes Brian Street’s argument on ‘maktab literacy’, which will be touched upon below.
- 35 Düstur, ser. 1, 2: 185, ‘Maarif-i umumiye nizamnamesi’, art. 6; Ibid., ser. 1, 2: 237, ‘Mekâtib-i s (...)
- 36 The 1907 yearbook of Mamuretülaziz shows there were two ibitdai schools in İmron (Işık 1998: 368), (...)
20As mentioned above, the ‘ibtidai’ school or the ‘new method’ school was created especially to improve the method of teaching writing–––writing of Turkish. One Ottoman document of 1882 cited by Bayram Kodaman emphasizes the need for elementary schools [mekâtib-i iptidaîye] that would teach Turkish reading and writing and the four arithmetical operations [Türkçe okuyup-yazma ve dört işlem] to the children of the common people (Kodaman 1988: 116). Already in 1869, the regulations for the public education stipulated the teaching of the alphabet according to the ‘new method’ [usul-i cedid] in the primary schools, and the government soon commissioned the writing of a new alphabet textbook that would facilitate reading of easy Turkish books35. Subsequently, new alphabet textbooks began to appear, which were intended to initiate children into reading Ottoman Turkish instead of Arabic. The most famous one was Elifba-i Osmanî [Ottoman Alphabet] of Selim Sabit Efendi, in which children would learn how to pronounce the letters by reading familiar words (not by reading the holy book) (Akyüz 1993: 177, 184; Georgeon 1995: 175). Orthography [imlâ] and calligraphy were also integrated into the regular curriculum of the state primary schools (Kodaman 1988: 88). After ibtidai school, some children would enter the rüşdiye school, or upper-elementary school, where they would have lessons on Turkish, Arabic, and Persian as well as religious and non-religious subjects. In İmron, the center of Pütürge, there were two ibtidai schools in 1907, one for boys and the other for girls36. Presumably, they opened not earlier than the formation of the Pütürge subdistrict in 1893. Although two workers (#9, #15) claimed to have studied in Pütürge’s rüşdiye school, I have not been able to find any other source that indicates its existence. If there were one, it must have been built between 1907 and 1911 because the provincial yearbook of 1907 contains no mention of it and the rüşdiye school was abolished in 1913 (one worker claimed to have studied two years at the rüşdiye school).
21These four types of schools, Qur’an school and medrese, ibtidai, and rüşdiye schools, are educational opportunities that the Pütürgeli workers utilized. However, it is not easy to discern the type of primary school from the terminology in the CVs. On the one hand, although until 1870s the term, ‘ibtidai’, had never been officially used to designate the primary school, Yusuf Ağa (#2), born in İmron in c.1848, claimed he had attended the local ibtidai school [mahalli mekteb-i ibtidaisi]. Presumably, he preferred to apply the term ‘ibtidai’ retrospectively to the Qur’an school he had attended. On the other hand, Hüseyin Ağa (#7), born in c.1877, also stated that he had learned the Qur’an and the catechism [ilmihal] at an ibtidai school. In this case, the school might have been a new style one whose central curriculum was still religious, as was the case in many ibtidai schools (see below). Since no new style school existed in Pütürge during his childhood, he was either referring to the Qur’an school as ibtidai or attending the ibtidai school in another town (the former is more likely). These examples suggest the possibility that some of the workers of later generation might also have used the term ‘ibtidai’ for the Qur’an school. The term ‘primary education’ [ibtidaî tahsil, tahsil-i ibtidaî] is also used in the CVs, which by definition does not necessarily mean formal education, as in the case of Mehmed Ağa (#16), who received ‘primary education’ from his peasant father. One distinguishing marker of the new style schools was that a diploma [şehadetname] was to be granted as a certification of the student’s completion of the prescribed program. In fact, the questionnaire asked whether the respondent had any diploma or license (‘icazetname’, which was given after the completion of the medrese education). Hasan Efendi (#9) claimed that he had had diplomas from the ibtidai and the rüşdiye schools of Pütürge before 1906 although both of the diplomas had allegedly been lost during the war (the Balkan war of 1912). While I do not intend to discredit his account of lost diplomas, the rüşdiye school he claimed to have attended could not have been in Pütürge since there had been no rüşdiye school at least before 1907. Halil Efendi (#18) also reported to have a diploma from the rüşdiye school in Istanbul. Diplomas are more frequently mentioned when they were not obtained. Five Pütürgeli workers stated that they had no diploma although they had received a primary education, which suggests that they did not go to a new style school or they left the school before graduation.
22In fact, the workers’ CVs indicated that many of them did not go to primary school regularly. Noticeably, a significant number of the workers admitted that they had attended the primary school for only a short period. For example, Hüseyin Ağa (#12) had a primary education ‘to some degree’ [bir mikdar] at the village school, while Osman Ağa (#14) learned at the ibtidai school ‘for a [short] time’ [bir müddet]. Indeed, six out of the 18 Pütürgeli workers recounted their primary education with certain reservations, and none of those six claimed to be literate. There are three workers who did not mention their educational background in their CVs. As in the case of language, lack of information possibly means that they received little education or attended school ‘for a short time’. One of them (#5) declared that he did not know reading or writing, while the other two made no mention of the language they read or wrote (#4, #8).
23The table (see annex) shows a significant generation gap that existed among the Pütürgeli workers. None of the workers who were born before 1884 and educated only in their hometown claimed to be able to read or write. There was no ibtidai school in Pütürge in their childhood. One worker from the earlier generations went to an ‘ibtidai’ school in Istanbul (#17), and he is reported to have been able to read and write ‘a little [birazca]’. No one continued to study at rüşdiye school or medrese. In contrast, out of eight Pütürgelis of the later generations, four claimed to be literate in Turkish, and two among them attended the rüşdiye school. Above-mentioned Halil (#18) was probably also literate in Turkish and at least knew a bit of Arabic since he graduated from the rüşdiye school in Istanbul and studied at medrese for five years. These achievements of the later generations may reflect the impact of the formation of the sub-district center and the subsequent foundation of an ibtidai school in İmron although the Pütürgeli workers at the Meşihat did not represent the general Pütürge inhabitants.
- 37 For the rüşdiye schools in the province of Mamuretülaziz, see Salname-i Nezaret-i Maarif-i Umumiye (...)
- 38 MA, SA dos. 350, Hüseyin Ağa (Eğin).
24The generation gap, however, should not be overemphasized. First, in spite of the great divide in their approaches toward writing—in theory—between the Qur’an and the new style schools and of the severe criticism directed against the Qur’an school by the new intelligentsia, in practice, the distinction between two approaches was not obvious. As Benjamin Fortna argues, the new textbooks on alphabet were sometimes also used in the Qur’an schools, the pedagogical method and the curriculum overlapped each other, and, above all, religious subjects were also given importance in the new style schools (Fortna 2001: 17-18). Even the rüşdiye schools had usually only one or two teachers in the provinces37. There is one non-Pütürgeli worker, who was unable to write after studying at rüşdiye school for two years38. Some non-Pütürgeli workers of earlier generation, however, claimed to be literate although they had only received primary education before the introduction of ‘the new method’. Similar conditions could have existed also in Pütürge, as exemplified by the case of aforementioned Halil Rifat Efendi, a Pütürgeli scribe of an earlier generation. In the Kurdish speaking areas such as Pütürge, Turkish might have been given more importance in the new-style schools. In the bilingual milieu of Pütürge, however, Turkish could have been also learned in some Qur’an schools as suggested by the above-cited example of Osman Efendi (#11). Second, it cannot be said that Pütürgelis generally became more education-oriented after 1890, because Hüseyin Ağa (#12), born in c.1892, was only educated ‘a little’ [bir mikdar] in a village school (presumably indicating the Qur’an school of İmron) in spite of his family’s distinguished status (his father was a member of the local council—see above). Third, we do not know for sure to what degree the Pütürgeli workers of the earlier generations were able to read and write since they did not specify their ability to read and write, except for one who admitted his illiteracy. I have already mentioned that, in such cases, they probably did not read and write very well. However, they could have been able to read and write, or only to read, to some degree. At least, they probably learned some of the basic knowledge of literacy. Brian Street, a leading theorist of the ‘New Literacy Studies’, has pointed out that the literacy acquired in Qur’an schools [maktabs] in an Iranian village—what he calls ‘maktab literacy’—provided knowledge of ‘understanding links between speech and print’. He argues that ‘even those who got little beyond rote learning had also to learn some further complexities to be found in Arabic script’. This knowledge included, for example, ‘the basic convention that Arabic script has to be read from right to left and from top to bottom of a page’ (Street 1984: 152-153). This kind of basic literacy might have helped the Pütürgelis work in the milieu where they were surrounded by piles of papers and registers. Moreover, they could also develop through rote learning, ‘the ability to use particular Qur’anic verses in appropriate contexts’, as Dale Eickelman noted of the Moroccan Qur’an schools (Eickelman 1978: 494). This type of ability might have given the workers an air of importance before the visitors. Street further argues that ‘maktab literacy’ could develop into ‘commercial literacy’ used in the fruit transactions between the villagers and the village ‘tajer’, or entrepreneur (Street 1984: 158-180). This might be the case for Pütürgeli Mehmed Ağa (#6), who learned at sıbyan school and later engaged in commerce for several years. Lastly, we do not know to what degree those who claimed to be literate were able to read and write. As mentioned above, being ‘okur yazar’ did not necessarily mean being skilled in formal writing, and the boundary between those who were ‘okur yazar’ and those who were not was not always clear. There are several indications, as we shall see, suggesting that even the former did not always write their CVs for themselves.
25In the following sections, I examine the process in which the CV was produced in order to understand the characteristics of the text of the CV and to locate it in the broader context.
- 39 Düstur, ser. 1, 4: 66, ‘Ahval-i memurin sicilli komisyonu ta’limatı’, art 13; Düstur, ser. 2, 6: 82 (...)
- 40 Düstur, ser. 1, 4: 66, ‘Ahval-i memurin… ta’limatı’, art. 13; Ibid., 5: 966, Memurini mülkiyenin... (...)
- 41 Hasan Efendi’s (#9) CV carries the signature instead of the seal.
- 42 Düstur, ser. 2, 6: 823.
- 43 E. g., MA, SA dos. 15, Hüseyin Ağa (Kangırı), CV, 30 Teşrinisani 1337 (30 Nov. 1921).
26First of all, we do not know exactly who wrote each CV. Despite the regulations that instructed the employees to fill in the form by themselves39, it is quite obvious that those who were unable to write did not write their CVs. Certainly, they had scribes write on their behalf. In fact, the CV questionnaire that had been in use until 1914 included a notice which instructed that the CV should be written in the respondent’s own handwriting if possible [mümkün ise kendü hatt-ı destiyle yazılması], recognizing the exception (Sarıyıldız 2004: 131). Although the regulations also stipulated that each respondent should sign and stamp his personal seal at the end40, usually each CV only bore the seal but did not carry the signature. In a typical CV, the seal was stamped just below the date and the position of the employee (in place of a signature) to overlap with the fiscal stamp put on the lower part of the document. Since the CVs of many Sharia judges also lacked signatures, the lack of signature does not necessarily mean the actual writer was different. Even when there is a signature, its special style makes it difficult to discern whether or not the signature and the text were written by the same person41. Moreover, since the seal was deemed more important, the scribe could have written the name of the employee as well as his position before he stamped his seal. The instructions of 1914 prescribed that an excuse should be written on the CV when the respondent could not write by himself42. However, this clause was not regularly observed since such an excuse is not found even in the CVs submitted after 1914 by the workers who were unable to write43. Overall, there is no explicit reference in the CVs to the involvement of the scribes. Nevertheless, the stylized manner in which the text of the CVs was composed, together with special terms and fixed expressions, appears to have required some sort of scribal expertise. Moreover, they were usually written in such neat handwriting (mostly in rık’a style) that looks more skillful than that of some Sharia judges. We have already observed that even the workers who declared themselves to be literate were not always skilled in formal writing, as suggested by the terminology in the workers’ CVs (non-use of the term kitabet) and also by the nature of their duties that did not require writing. Thus, I suppose that most of the workers’ CVs or, perhaps, all of the existing 15 CVs of the Pütürgeli workers, were written by the scribes.
- 44 Thus, it resembles the literacy event that Baynham was involved in at the visa office of the French (...)
- 45 In the CVs, ‘şöhret’ usually denoted a kind of family name, a name given to one’s family line, such (...)
27The scribes who wrote the workers’ CVs left no trace with regard to their identity. Presumably, they were either clerks in their workplaces or public writers. The latter, commonly called ‘arzuhalci’ [petition writer] or ‘köşebaşı yazıcısı’ [literally, street-corner writer], were common figures in front of the official buildings where they would provide services for those people who needed to submit petitions or other kinds of official papers. The former might have been better acquainted with the literary convention of the official CV, which only concerned the government employees although the workers might have found public writers of good quality just outside the gate of the Bab-ı Meşihat. In any case, the scribes functioned as mediators of literacy, who, by the definition of Mike Baynham, made ‘his or her literacy skills available to others, on a formal or informal basis, for them to accomplish specific literary purposes’ (Baynham 1995: 59-60). Baynham and Masing further elaborate the definition of ‘mediation’ by distinguishing it from ‘scribing’: ‘scribing being a tendency towards the faithful transmission of a message without any intervening shaping on the part of the messenger, mediation involving an active process of transformation/recontextualization’ (Baynham & Masing 2000: 192). In this sense, too, the act of the scribes of the CVs can be characterized as ‘mediation’. Certainly, the scribes did not act like a secretary who types faithfully what the director dictates. Rather, writing the CV involved oral interactions between the scribe and the worker since the former had to ask questions to which the latter would reply. Even for the workers who were able to read, they probably needed some guidance to understand how to fill in the sheet. The prearranged questions on the questionnaire were too difficult to comprehend as they were written in a highly complicated style with lengthy sentences. Presumably, the scribes did not read the prearranged questions literally but instead divided them into several short questions to guide the workers as to what and how to answer. Thus, the involvement of the scribes in the process of writing the workers’ CVs means that the oral communication was a necessary component of this literacy event44. After getting the answers, the scribes would then combine several elements into one sentence rather than writing down the replies literally. Some traces of this process of interaction can be observed in the CVs. Noticeably, the CVs of the lower employees were generally simple and concise. For example, Hüseyin Ağa (#7) answered to the first question of the questionnaire very briefly: ‘My name and nickname [şöhretim]45 is Berberoğlu Hüseyin, my father is Ahmed Ağa’. However, the first question actually asked more detailed information about the respondent and his father’s identity, such as his father’s occupation and place of origin, the respondent’s religion (or nationality) [milliyet] and citizenship [tabiiyet], and whether he was of any well-known lineage [ma‘ruf sülâleye mensub]. It can be supposed that the scribe asked Hüseyin several short questions instead: ‘What is your name and nickname?’ and ‘What is your father’s name?’ On the other hand, the second question was much simpler, only asking the place and the date of birth [mahal ve tarih-i velâdeti] with a short note about the form of the date. However, the answer was usually a sentence, such as ‘I was born in the İmron village of the Pütürge sub-district in 1296 by the fiscal calendar’, suggesting the composition by the scribe. As mentioned earlier, the way the scribe asked the question about language affected the wording of the answer. The preferred use of the phrase ‘okur yazar’ suggests that the scribes asked the workers whether they were able to read and write, but not what languages they spoke or wrote. Information about language or education was sometimes omitted, which may also reflect the scribes’ inclination to cut the answer short. In this way, the scribes played a key role in interpreting and transforming the written text as well as the spoken words.
- 46 This interrogation was conducted in connection with the Albanian uprising in Yakova (Gjakovë in Kos (...)
28Considering the importance of the oral interaction, the text of the CV might be comparable to that of an interrogation report, which was also concerned with one’s identity. Here is one example of such a report dated 1885 (Prifti 1978: 495)46.
Q: What are your name and your father’s name? How old are you? Where are you from? Are you literate? [Okur yazar mısın?] What is your occupation? What is your nationality?
A: My name is İbrahim. My father’s is Said. I am 35 years old. I am from the Kurile quarter of the town of Prizren. I do not know reading or writing [Okumak yazmak bilmem]. Previously I was a guardsman of the Regie (the Tobacco Monopoly). Now I do not work. I am a subject of the Ottoman Empire. [Continues to the next questions and answers].
29Noticeably, this is similar to some parts of the CV and reminiscent of the actual conversation between the scribe and the worker. Nevertheless, the two are basically different in that the interrogation report was produced as a record of the oral interaction itself (though not its faithful reproduction) and under the heavily one-sided power relation between the questioner and the respondent. Another genre of document, namely, the petition, has also been supposedly prepared through oral communication between the petitioner and the petition writer and written in the name of the petitioner. The style of its text, however, was usually more literary and decorative than that of the CV in order to attract the attention of the addressee (the CV has no specific addressee). Although the analysis of the text of the petition is beyond the scope of this article, many petitions are found in the dossiers of the workers as they requested for an appointment, a leave, a pension, or a resignation.
- 47 The model CV was reproduced in Sarıyıldız 2004: 169; Bouquet 2007: 74. For the distribution of the (...)
30Another important element in the process of writing the CV was copying. The scribes based their writings not only on the workers’ oral answers but also on the written materials. Just after the creation of the system of the personnel records, a model CV was printed and distributed to each bureau in order to show how to fill in the form47. The existence of the model explains the formulaic expressions, which recurred in the CVs. Although it is not certain whether the same model was used 30 years later (the form of the CV had been partly modified during those years), it is likely that the scribes had with them some kind of model CVs when writing for the workers.
- 48 Mehmed wrote, ‘… tekellüm ederim’ instead of ‘tekellüm eylerim’ [the same meaning].
- 49 It should have been ‘lisan-ı maderzadım’, rather than ‘lisan-ı maderim’. See Sami 1317-18, 2: 1254, (...)
31They could refer to the CVs of other workers. For example, three workers at the bureau of the Meşihat, Yusuf (#2), Ömer (#10), and ‘Küçük’ (‘Small’) Mehmed (#24)—the first two from Pütürge and the last from Malatya—unanimously noted ‘I speak my mother tongue, Kurdish [lisan-ı maderim olan Kürdce tekellüm eylerim]’48. Their CVs were written on 26 May (Mehmed), 30 May (Yusuf), and 9 June 1910 (Ömer), respectively. Since the handwriting looks very similar, it can be attributed to the same scribe. Although Ömer is reported to have been literate in Turkish, it is unlikely that all the documents were produced from his pen, considering the sequence of events (Ömer was the last to write). Among the workers’ CVs, the phrase ‘lisan-ı maderim [my mother tongue]’, which was not appropriate as an idiom49, only appeared in these three, suggesting that it was the scribe’s preference. Since the other parts of the CVs also include expressions similar to one another, most probably the scribe wrote Yusuf’s and Ömer’s CVs by following the model of Küçük Mehmed’s, or there was another model for all three CVs. Remarkably, some part of the CVs of Yusuf and Mehmed is almost identical. Both of them wrote:
I learned to some degree… I don’t have a school diploma. I only speak Turkish and my mother tongue, Kurdish.
- 50 ‘… bir mikdar tahsil gördüm. Mekteb şehadetnamem (şehadetnam [sic, Mehmed]) yoktur. Yalnız Türkçe v (...)
In 1289, I was made apprentice to the position of servant of the Meşihat [daire-i Meşihat ağalığı] during ex-Şeyhülislâm late Kara Halil Efendi’s tenure of office50.
- 51 According to Mehmed’s CV, he worked as an apprentice until the end of 1314 by the Rumi Calendar, an (...)
32The following part of both CVs is also strikingly similar in content as well as wording: they worked until the end of 1314 of the Rumi calendar for a monthly allowance of 300 (Yusuf) or an average of [vasatî] 400 (Mehmed) kuruş from the [fee] income [aidattan] [of the bureau] and then began to receive a monthly salary of 190 kuruş, which gradually increased to 380 kuruş. By the general reorganization implemented on 1 Eylül 1325 (14 September 1909), they were appointed to new positions with the salary of 400 kuruş [icra kılınan tensikatta dört yüz guruş maaşla hademeliğine/kapu ağalığına tayin], at which they were performing their duties [el-yevm ifa-yı vazife etmekteyim] at the time of preparing the CVs. Curiously, Kara Halil Efendi was in fact not in the office of Şeyhülilslâm in 1289 (A.H., or by the Rumi calendar, that is, March 1872–March 1873 or March 1873–March 1874), but much later in 1877–78. In Yusuf’s CV, ‘Kara Halil’ was deleted and the name ‘Turşucuzade Muhtar Bey’—the Şeyhülislâm during November 1872 and June 1874—was noted in the margin (apparently by the same scribe), below which Yusuf’s seal was stamped. The repetition of the mistake confirms that some part of Yusuf’s CV was copied from Mehmed’s (perhaps a draft or a copy of Mehmed’s CV, as his was not corrected). Since Mehmed’s CV includes several other errors in spelling and date without correction51, the scribe apparently wrote Yusuf’s CV with more care, but only later found that the name of the Şeyhülislâm was not consistent with the date.
- 52 MA, SA dos. 294, Yusuf Ağa (#2), the list [pusula] of the documents he submitted with his CV.
- 53 The population certificate was a kind of identity card, including information about the holder’s id (...)
- 54 Similarly Mehmed’s (#4) population certificate indicates his birthplace as ‘Malatya’, although his (...)
- 55 MA, SA dos. 5399, Hasan (#13), CV, 28 Temmuz 1336 (28 July 1920); population certificate, 1 Şubat 1 (...)
- 56 Although the pronunciation is quite different, ‘İmron’ is spelled Elif-Mim-Re-Vav-Nun, whereas ‘Me’ (...)
33The model CVs and the CVs of other workers were not the only sources of reference for the scribes. According to his CV, the said Yusuf was born in the town of Malatya ‘in 1266 A.H., or 1264 by the Rumi calendar’. However, according to a list in his dossier52, Yusuf submitted two population certificates [nüfus tezkiresi]53, one of which mentioned his date of birth as 1266 and his address as the Hatib quarter, İmron, Pütürge, noting that he obtained it from his hometown [memleketinden]. The list shows that the other population certificate was issued in Istanbul, indicating that he was born in Malatya in 1266 A.H., or 1264 by the Rumi calendar. Apparently, the scribe only referred to the latter when he wrote Yusuf’s CV. This is also confirmed by the repeated error in the date: 1266 A.H. (November 1849–November 1850) did not coincide with 1264 by the Rumi calendar (March 1848–March 1849). Even if he had seen the former population certificate or had heard the exact information from Yusuf, as a scribe based in Istanbul, he might have found Malatya, the nearest large city to Pütürge, sufficient to identify the Pütürgelis (as did the clerk of the population registry in Istanbul) since not many people in Istanbul were expected to know where Pütürge was. Likewise, both the CV and the population certificate of Mustafa Ağa (#3) show his birthplace as Malatya, whereas in one document attesting his term of office he was referred to as ‘Şirolu Mustafa Ağa’, suggesting that he was from Şiro, the former name of Pütürge54. There are many other cases in which the description in the population certificate about the birthplace coincides with that in the CV. For example, Hasan (#13) was born in the village of ‘Me’mun’(or Mamun, Mamon) in Pütürge in 1310 A.H. or 1308 by the fiscal calendar according to his CV. Likewise, his population certificate also indicated his birthplace as the village of ‘Me’mun’ in Pütürge and his date of birth as ‘1310/1308’55. As I could not locate ‘Me’mun’ in the sub-district of Pütürge, I suspect that it was a mistake by the clerk of the population registry in Istanbul, who confused ‘İmron’ with ‘Me’mun’ probably when copying the village name from another paper56. These examples show that the scribes often copied the contents of the population certificate rather than writing down what the workers said.
- 57 In pre-Ottoman times, the model documents were known as ‘shurut’.
34It should be noted that the use of model documents and copying was a widespread practice in the Ottoman bureaucracy. It is known that the Sharia judges and court scribes routinely referred to example documents compiled in a manual book called ‘sakk mecmuası’ (Kaya 2005)57. In the Sublime Porte, the document processing mainly involved extracting, summarizing, quoting, and copying, resulting in the repeated appearance of the same text in various types of documents in the archives (Takamatsu 2006). The characteristic aspect of the process of writing the CVs of lower employees was that they were written in the name of the workers, who were actively involved in the process.
- 58 For a discussion about ‘collaborative writing’, see Shuman 1993.
35An inquiry into the practice of writing CVs reveals that it was a collaborative activity58. As a result, the authorship cannot be attributed to a single person, but rather it was multiple, not only in the sense that each CV was the product of the oral exchange between the worker and the scribe but also that some part of the text was copied from other written materials.
- 59 Instruction written on the reverse side of the CV. See Sarıyıldız 2004: 132, and also the later reg (...)
- 60 For the latest discussion about written documentation in the Sharia court, see Ergene 2004, 2005. F (...)
36For the Ottoman bureaucracy, the multiple authorship was not preferable but was at least approvable so long as the CV appeared to have been written by the respondent himself and, as a sign of authenticity, bore his personal seal. A more important issue was the factuality of its content. According to the regulations, the employees were required to attach to their CVs the documents that would serve as proof of the statements in the CVs59. This principle was quite different from the procedure in the Sharia court, where only oral testimony was, in principle, accepted as proof. Even when the written document was presented, it had to be authenticated by witness testimonies. Although Ottoman practice varied in time and place, the validity of written documents in the Sharia court procedure remained dubious at most until the late nineteenth century when new regulations were issued to justify the use of properly prepared legal documents60. However, adherence to documentary processing belonged to a tradition of the Ottoman bureaucracy and the procedure of validation of the CV was part of it.
37The workers normally submitted their population certificates or their copies as proof of their answers for the first and second sections of the CV questionnaire concerning their identity and the date and place of birth. The date of birth was especially crucial since forced retirement was set at the age of 65. Apparently, the workers knew the importance of such written evidence. For example, Mehmed Ağa (#4) stated,
I was born in Pütürge in 1277. The certificate for my reserve military service [redif kağıdı] in my possession confirms this. On my population certificate issued in Istanbul, [the year of my birth was] mistakenly written as 272. I sincerely request that this point be corrected and that my CV be accordingly registered.
38I suspect that Mehmed himself was aware of the problem and asked the scribe to write in a way reminiscent of the style of the petition, rather than merely copying the population certificate. Unfortunately, his wish to postpone the date of forced retirement was declined and his date of birth was registered as 1272 (1856-57). He died before retirement.
- 61 MA, SA dos. 328, Ömer Şakir Efendi (İstanbul, muhzır of the court of Rumeli Kazaskeri). Hasan Efend (...)
39Apart from the population certificate, few workers submitted the documents pertaining to their appointments and salaries. The fourth section of the questionnaire was concerned with one’s appointments and salaries. This section was generally the most detailed and longest part of the CV, usually including the information about the date of first entrance into state service, the date of the first salaried appointment and the amount of that salary, the amount of the salary just before and after the general reorganization of 1909, and any changes in position and their dates (see Ömer’s CV above). The exact information about the dates and amount of the salaries was important for both the workers and the bureaucracy since the duration of government service and the total amount of salary received provided a basis for calculating one’s pension. Nevertheless, most of the workers’ CVs were far from satisfactory for that purpose. Some workers only noted the month or the year of their first appointment, and others omitted the dates and the amount of salary increases only by saying ‘[my salary] gradually reached… kuruş’ [tedricen … guruşa iblâğ]. On the one hand, the scribes might not have considered detailed information necessary to mention. On the other hand, the workers might not have remembered the details of their appointments and salaries accurately. Since they rarely submitted the documents concerning their appointments, it appears that references to the written records were not usual when this part of the CV was prepared and that few workers had such documents at hand. There are several exceptions among the non-Pütürgeli workers. For example, Şaban Ağa from İşkodra (Shkodër) in northern Albania (#25), a gardener of the Meşihat, stated in his CV that the records about the salaries were inquired about at the accounting department [muhasebeden sual olunmağla]. Consequently, the dates of salary increases were meticulously recorded in his CV. Some court ushers (but not all) mentioned that they had received appointment letters, which, they indicated, had been also recorded in the court registers [sicillât]61.
- 62 See also, Düstur, ser. 2, 6: 822, ‘Sicill-i ahval-i memurin nizamnamesi’, art. 10.
- 63 Similarly, 21 years of Bekir Ağa’s (#1) service before he began to receive a salary was not include (...)
40When the workers did not present proof pertaining to their appointments and salaries, the burden of proof fell on the state. The officials at the personnel records department had to request the information from the related departments before the preparation of the lists of appointments [müddet-i hidmet cedveli] after the workers’ retirement or death for the calculation of pension62. As a result, in many instances, the officials modified the information written in the CVs when they drew up the lists. In the case of abovementioned Yusuf (#2), he declared that he had entered government service in 1289 as an apprentice and begun to receive a salary from the beginning of 1315 by the Rumi calendar (March 1899). However, the list of appointments shows the date of his first salaried appointment as the beginning of 1313 (March 1897), and the entire period of his apprenticeship was disregarded63. Presumably, the officials could not find records of his apprenticeship, which was rather an informal position.
- 64 Düstur, ser. 2, 6: 822, ‘Sicill-i ahval-i memurin nizamnamesi’, art. 11.
- 65 MA, SA dos. 341, letter of testimony dated 12 Mayıs 1334 (12 May 1918).
- 66 MA, SA dos. 385, Correspondence between the personnel record department of Istanbul Mufti’s Office (...)
- 67 In Hasan’s case also, the oral testimony and approval was written in the note of the Administration (...)
41Indeed, the officials at the personnel records department frequently found that no documents existed concerning the workers’ earlier appointments and salaries. In such a case, the letters of testimony [şehadetname] prepared by the worker’s former colleagues would be received as evidence according to the regulations64. For example, Mustafa Ağa (#3) declared in his CV that he had started to work at the Court of Waqf Inspection [Mahkeme-i Teftiş-i Evkaf] in 1311 A.H. (July 1893–July 1894) and to receive salary later in Ağustos 1318 (1902). However, after correspondences with several bureaus of the Waqf administration from December 1917 to May 1918, it turned out that there was no written record of the date of his entrance into service. Thus, three scribes at the Court of the Imperial Waqf [Evkaf-ı Hümayun Mahkemesi] jointly submitted a letter of testimony confirming that Mustafa entered the court at the beginning of 1310 by the fiscal calendar (14 March 1894)65. Apparently, the officials had a great difficulty in tracing the records of appointment before the implementation of the salary system. Even for the later period, the establishment of the particular date was sometimes difficult. Hasan’s (#9) entrance into service at the Administration of Orphan Funds in Istanbul [Dersaadet Emval-i Eytam Müdiriyeti], allegedly on 3 Teşrinisani 1322 (16 November 1906), was only certified in 1925 by the oral testimony and approval [ifade ve tasdikleri] of some functionaries who had served there since the founding of the Administration66. For one more example, aforementioned Küçük Mehmed from Malatya (#24) stated in his CV just like Yusuf, that he had become an apprentice at the office of Meşihat in 1289. In contrast with Yusuf’s case, his statement was finally attested to by the letter of testimony signed by the clerks of the records department [Evrak Kalemi] and the accounting department [Muhasebe Kalemi], dated 1 Ağustos 1333 (1 August 1917), who declared that Mehmed had served as hademe at the bureau of Meşihat from 5 Nisan 1289 until 1 Mart 1313 (17 April 1872—13 March 1897). One may wonder how these clerks successfully remembered the exact date after 45 years when they could not find the written records. In the cases of Mustafa and Hasan, the testimonies were produced after 24 and 19 years respectively. These cases suggest that the testimonies do not necessarily point to the facts. Rather, they served for the bureaucratic formality because the officials needed some exact date to be registered and it should be confirmed by the written document67.
42The introduction of the system of filing and registration of the personnel records to the lower government employees during the early twentieth century signaled the state’s attempt to broaden control over its personnel. The state was concerned with establishing, restricting, or denying the rights to receive appointments, promotions, salaries, pensions, and other kinds of reward. To this end, it was necessary to identify the employees individually and keep track of all the events that occurred to the public life of each individual. The system of filing and registration was based on the principle that all the procedures should be done in writing.
- 68 For the importance of the networks in the practices of literacy, see Baynham 1995: 64-68.
- 69 I am grateful to the two anonymous referees for valuable comments and suggestions. I also thank Mar (...)
43However, this principle was undermined and sometimes reduced to mere formality when the bureaucracy was confronted with the lower employees from Pütürge. First, the rule of conformity between the author and the writer of the CV was ignored by the involvement of mediators. Although this was not uncommon in the scribal practice and the worker’s seal secured the authenticity of the content, the CVs that included written statements such as ‘I am unable to write’ were apparently self-contradictory. Besides, the self-consistency of the document was also distorted when the scribes of the CVs replicated the mistakes or copied someone else’s CV. Although reference to other written documents and copying from them might have been desirable if authentic sources were referred to, some official documents, such as population certificates, could have included errors or dubious information. Furthermore, the workers rarely submitted the written proof of their statements besides their population certificates. This was not because they were ignorant of the principle, but rather, their careers during the previous century were rarely documented, especially when they were given fees for their service. As a result, the CVs included a lot of information based on memory. The officials at the Meşihat were obliged to seek proof only to have recourse to oral testimony as a last resort. Thus, oral communication played an important role at the beginning and the end of the procedure of filing and registering personnel records. Their culturally and socially marginal position notwithstanding, the Pütürgeli workers were not totally deprived of access to the written culture of the Ottoman bureaucracy. They knew the value and usage of written documents such as the population certificate and, above all, through the mediation of the scribes, they were able to prepare their own CVs to claim their rights and ask the state to recognize their identities and their careers. They could also compose various kinds of petitions in collaboration with the scribes. They developed their social networks68, in which they could find support to survive in the Ottoman bureaucratic world. The most important was the network of co-locals, but the network in the workplace could also serve their interests as in the cases of testimony about their earlier appointments and also in the cases when the clerks at the bureaus of the Meşihat wrote their CVs on their behalf. The CVs of the lower employees should not be read merely as the sources of data about their background and careers, but also as the records of their activities and practices that involved literacy69.
44See annexed PDF image