The Black Sea region has been an important place for many nations to establish domination throughout the history due to its geo-strategic location. It is kown that the Black Sea region was inhabited by several tribes even before the historic periods. The oldest tribe known to have settled in the region in the mid of the XVI. century is Gashkas. The following tribe Cimmerians around 695 B.C captured the arae between Black Sea Ereğli (Pontos Heraclia) and Trabzon (Trebizond). However, they could not resist agains the İskit pressure and had to move to Crimea and its neighbourhood. In addition, according to the Georgion sources recorded in IV. B.C. the Kipchaks on the banks of Çoruh (Hapsoros) are claimed to have emigrated to the region along with the Scythians It is claimed that the tribes who had settled in the eastern Black Sea and had a kinship with the Turks are Cimmerians and Scythians. Furthermore, it is stressed that although there have been diff erent opinions regarding the origins of these tribes, there is strong evidence that they are included in the Turkish cultural circle.
From VII. century B. C. onward, with the establishment of the Greek colonies on the southern coast of Black Sea, such as Sinop (Sinope), Samsun (Amisos), Ordu (Kotyora) Giresun (Keresoun) and Trabzon (Trebizond) a new period which deeply aff ected the history of eastern Black Sea started. However, at the beginning of VI. B. C. they had fallen under the reign of the Persians, who conquered the eastern part of the region and then had fallen under the domination of the Macedonians in 334 B. C. Yet, the Persian dynasty, Mithridates established the “Pontos State” in 298 B.C in the region. As a result, the ties of the Blak Sea with the ancient Greek world started to weaken; because after they declared their independence they refused to admit being the representative of Greece. But Mithridates lost the struggle because of the expansion policy of the Roman Empire and the region fell under domination of the Roman Empire and Trabzon became an important military base for the Roman Empire. During the reign of the Byzantine Empire, the eastern Black Sea started to develop and change both politically and culturally. Due to the administrative importance of the region a new Thema called Chaldea, whose center was Trabzon, was founded. Moreover, unlike the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire closely followed the expansionist policies of the Persians in the region and as a result of taking some necessary measures and making some necesarry interventions, the Byzantine Empire could have managed to preserve its existence in the region.
After the Byzantine Empire established its domination over the Persians, it started to carry out some religious and socio-cultural activities in the region. For example, in the VI. century it made the Christianity the offi cial religion and made the Greek the offi cial language for worship. As a result of this, some radical changes occurred in the history of the ethnic structure of the region. In that way, it is claimed by some Turkish researchers that some non-Greek and Turkish groups were also amalgated in the pot of the Orthodox Christianity by losing their identities. Tellioğlu asserts that Greeks also started to lose some of the characteristics of their ethnicity through the interaction with these indigenous tribes. As a result, they became the part of the Orthodox community. To him, unlike the Greek ethnicity and culture a new group called Rum (Romanio) apperaed in the region. Thus, he stresses that the term Rum (Romanio) should not be understood to refer to the Greek ethnicity but should be used politically for someone who is the subject of the Roman Empire and geographically for the land of the Romans. Paralellel to this, Speros Vryonis also thinks that the interpretation of what are apparently geographical terms as denoting ethnic groups has been more harmful than helpful.
Trabzon, located on north eastern part of Anatolia in the Black Sea region has preserved its importance throughout the history; because the town is nearly the only port in the region and its location enables it to reach the inner parts of Anatolia and even over via eastern Anatolia to reach southern Caucasia and Persia. Moreover, the town continued to be a gate between the east and the west from the year 1258 when the international travels were not safe in the Mediterranian to the time when the Black Sea became the the Lake of the Ottoman. For instance, the French traveler Rubriquis (1240), Englih Consul Langley (1292), the Spanish traveler Clavijo (1404) and the priests travelling from India to China and Sumatra all used Trabzon to reach their destinations.
It seems that the interest shown towards the region increased not only due to romantic and cultural interest of the Eurepean Renaisssance and the Enlightenment to the antiquarian period but also due to a diff erent preoccupation interwoven with the political and economic interests of the Western powers such as England to decide whether to preserve the unity of the Ottoman Empire against the expansion of Russia or not in the XIX. century. Therefore, the ones who visited the region were the merchants, consuls, travelers, missionaries, botanists. historians and art historians.  In addition, the increasing interest in Trabzon is related to a number developments in the XIX. century, such as the interest in the Persian trade, the opening of the Black Sea to the trade of international trade, the emergence of the steam ships which made the travels much safer, the trade treaty signed with the European powers in 1838, which abolished the custom walls, etc., all of which developments made the town an important spot for the Persian trade in the fi rst two-third of the XIX. century.
The purpose of this study is to deal with and analyze some claims of some Western travelers and researchers about the existence of the Crypto-Christians in Trabzon (Trebizond) and its vicinity in the XIX. century. Thus, it is aimed to make some contributions to the political and socio-cultural history of the region. Before discussing the claims made about the Crypto-Christians in Trabzon and its vicinity in the XIX. century, some general information will be given regarding the town before the Ottoman conquest and after the Ottoman conquest in order that the subject can be clearly understood.
1. Trabzon before the Ottoman Conquest
To Cahen, the incursions of the Turkish tribes into Anatolia can be divided into two stages: the fi rst one is the incursions into the deep parts of Anatolia that lasted until the Malazgirt Battle in 1071, However, after these incursions were over, they did not try to settle there and went back to their bases in the east. Unlike this, after the Malazgirt Battle, Turkish groups started to settle in Anatolia. Shortly, after the Malazgirt Battle between Alp Arslan and Roman Diogenes, the emperor of Byzantine Empire, the gates of Anatolia were completely opened for the Turks. Following the Malazgirt Battle, the Byzantine Empire started to lose its authority not only in every part of the Anatolia but also in the eastern Black Sea where the Turkish tribes had the domination.
It is understood that the region of northern Asia Minor was exposed to the upsetting eff ects of the Turkish invasions during the latter half of the 11th century during the reign of VII Ducas (1071-78), and the whole of the coastal region lying from Ereğli (Heraclia) to Trabzon as well as the hinterland around Yeşilırmak (Iris) and the lower Kızılırmak (Halys) were raided and plundered by the Turkish tribes. After the conquests of 1080, in this political climate, the demographic structure of the eastern Black Sea considerably changed in favour of the Turks through the settlements of the Turkish tribes in the places such as Artvin-GümüşhaneBayburt, except for Trabzon and its vicinity.
At the beginning of the XIII. century when Constantinople was taken by the Latins during the IV. Crusade campaign, the center of Orthodoxy was plundered and raided by the Latins and the Komnenos dynasty had been overthrown for nearly twenty years. The two members of this overthrown dynasty, Alexious and David appeared in Georgia and they founded a state on the Black Sea, the center of Which is Trabzon.
During the reign of Alaaddin Keykubad (1220-1237) one of the results of his campaigns towards the eastern Black Sea was to abolish the Beylik of Mengücekoğulları. Thus the State of Türkiye Seljuk became the neighbour with the Greek State of Trebizond on the south eastern border of the Black Sea. When the Mongols defeated the Seljuks in Kösedağ in 1243 the Seljuks became subject to the Mongols and the Greek State of Trabzon having taken side with the Seljuks also had to admit the domination of the Mongols. From the mid of the XIII. century onwards when the relations between Byzantine Empire and the Greek State of Trabzon weakened, the Greek State of Trabzon could not succeed in stopping the Turkish advance in the west of mountanious region after Sinope was taken in 1264 by Muineddin Pervane.
From the last quarter of the XIII. century onwards, Chepnis started to appear in the western part of the Black Sea owing to the increase of the Mongol infl uence in Anatolia. Chepnis moved to the west during the fi rst invasion of the Seljuks and most of them settled in Paphlagonia and also on the borders of Kingdom of Trabzon, which led to Sinope’s having been taken by the Seljuks. In the XIV. century Chepnis advanced the eastern part of the Black Sea and took the area of Plibanoties (Harşit) valley. Meeker also points out that by the late XIII. century there were a great number of Chepni Turks living in the western part of the region around Sinope. The advance of the Ottomans between the years 1419-1428 started to threaten the existence of the Greek State of Trabzon and caused the Ottomans to consider Trabzon within their domain. Even though the Greek State of Trabzon did struggle to stop the threat of the Ottoman through the collaboration with both the Catholic world and the Akkoyunlu State, it did fail and eventuallly in 1461 Trabzon was captured by II. Mehmed and became the part of the Ottoman State.
2. Trabzon after the Ottoman Conquest
When Trabzon was conquered, all the towns between Giresun and Hopa, which were once within the domain of the Greek Sate of Trabzon became the land of the Ottomans and they were organized under the administration unit called Sanjak Referring to Orhonlu, Bostan states that from 1461 to the end of the XVI. century, the policy of the settlement both into the town and out of the town, mostly through exiles, had been applied, but the voluntary settlement had taken place in Trabzon as well. However, there have been diff erent accounts about the conquest of the town and what happened to the people living there. However, upon the authority of Tursun Bey, Lowry argues that the acoounts about the conquest of Trabzon should be critically read and that he asserts that the accounts given by some authors such as Fallmerayer, Finlay, Miller, Babinger and Janssens based on the authoriy of Chalcocondyles are not reliable. In addition, he alleges that the accounts and observations of Tursun Bey, the most prominent of the Ottoman historians and who was the only witness of the conquest should be dealt with carefully in that he is the only one who says that the local poeple of Trabzon stayed in the town and did not move out of the town. Lowry thinks that the accounts of Tursun Bey refutes the opinions of Chalcocondyles and Fallmerayer. In addition, before the conquest of the town what we know about the people of Trabzon is the information obtained by the Spanish traveler Pero Tafur, Who visited the town in 1436-38. Tafur says that the number of people living in Trabzon is 4.000. But Bryer known for his studies on the Black Sea acknowledges that the number given by Tafur is supposedly not too low when the sudden deaths or plaque in the town was taken into consideration and that the number of the population of Trabzon must have amounted to 6.000 in the XIV. century, but just before the conquest the population of the town had decreased to 4.000-5.000. 
To Lowry, due to lack of some reliable statictics about the population of Trabzon, it is more reasonable to accept the estimated number of 4.000/5.000 given by Tafur and Bryer. In additon to this, he asserts that in the first tahrir of Trabzon after the conquest of the town this estimated number of the population of the town given by Tafur and Bryer must have increased with the new settlers in the town. From the date of 1461 to the end of the XVI. century there are four tahrir defters, which are dated as 1486, 1520, 1554 and 1583. According to the first tahrir defter of 1486, the estimated number of both Muslims and non-muslims in the town is 7574 in total, 761 of whom are mustahfız ( a soldier in charge of defending a castle) and azeban ( a military class). 
In 1486 the population of the Muslims was %26.73 while the population of the non-muslims is %73.27. Moreover, the Muslims lived in the area surrounded by the walls while non-muslims lived mostly out of the walls of the town and in the suburbs of the east and the west. In 1520, one community, 23 parishes including mustahfız and azeban used to live in Trabzon and the total population of the town was 7753, %22.19 of which was Muslims and %77.18 of which was non-muslims. Bostancı states that in the period of 34 years between 1486–1520 the population of the Muslims decreased at the rate of %17.73 while the non-muslim population increased at the rate of %8.72. To Bostan, the major reason for the decrease in the Muslim population results from the termination of the transfer of the population due to the war with the Safevis and the Memlukes and in addition to that, the reason of the population transfer out of the town must have played another role in that as well. In 1554 the population which consisted of 44 parishes and one community reduced to 6.525, %46.16 of which was Muslims and %53.284 of which was non-muslims. As is seen, in the period of 34 years between 1520–1554 whereas the Muslim population increased at the rate of %75.11 the Christian population decreased at the rate of%71.73. Bostan argues that the reason for the increase in the Muslim population and decrease in the Christian population resulted from the settlements both into town and out of the town.
In 1583, the population of Trabzon which consisted of 54 parishes, one community and mustahfız and azeb (a military class) amounted to 10.984, %55.38 of which was Muslims and %44.62 of which were Christians. In the period of the 97 years between 1486–1583 the Muslim population increased at the rate of % 200,39 whereas the Christian population decreased at the rate of % 13.22. To sum up, it is understood that in the period of 97 years the general population of the town increased from 7.574 to 10.984. In percentage, this increase is equal to % 45.02. Bostan asserts that it is mainly related to the settlement policy followed by the Ottoman State between the years 1540–1566. However, Lowry states that the reason lying behind coercive resettlement in the years of 1540’s is that many Christians were exposed to coercive resettlement due to the ethnic imbalance in the tahrir defter of 1520 and they were replaced by many new emigrants in Trabzon.  Moreover, he alleges that in the XV. and XVI. centuries the population increase in favor of the Muslim population must have resulted from the Islamization of the inhabitants in the town on the basis of patronyms of the converts in the tahrir defters. In that sense, Lowry claims that most of the converts who took the name of Abdulllah (the slave of God) are Christians and so it is much easier to find out who converted to Islam. However, Bostan argues against Lowry pointing to the fact that on the contrary to What Lowry claims in the tahrir defters between 1486–1583 there has been no record of the information showing that the persons having taken the name of Abdullah are the converts; beacause in the years between 1486–1583 the names of the new Muslims were not registered or they were registered under their Christian names. Moreover, he states that according to archive records between 1486-1583, the number of the persons who converted to Islam is 10, 8 of whom were men and, two of whom were women. In addition, out of these ten persons, the names of the fathers of only two persons are Abdullah and one of these was registered as a slave. Furthermore, in his book, Bostan also states that some of the new muslims had taken the original Turkish names such as Balyan, Hoşkadem, Doğan, Balaban, Uğurlu, Turak, Timur, Budak, Gazi, Arslan, Aydın, Tengrivermiş, Karagöz, Bali, Karaca, Şahkulu, Pervane, Memi, Kurd, Durmuş, Bhara, Eyne Bey, Kya, Turali and it should be noted that some of the names of the non-muslims have original Turkish names as well. Moreover, the names of some places where non-muslims live within the Sanjhak of Trabzon are Turkish. Thus under the light of this information Bostan points to the fact that Christian Turks had been living in the region just before the conquest.
As can be seen, the ethnic structure or the ethnicity of the Pontos region is a complicated issue to talk about. In addition, there have been some diff erent opinions and hypotheses adopted by both Turkish and Western researchers regarding the population of the inhabitants of Trabzon and the issue of conversion after the conquest of the town in 1461. However, it should be noted that as Meeker states that even though the Pontic people were able to keep their own faith before the incursions of the Turks, large numbers of them were eventually inclined to convert to Islam. In time, they and the Turks merged to form the Black Sea Turkish population, especially at the end of the XVI. century. Moreover, by the late XIX. century around four-fi fths of the population of the eastern coastal region were Muslims and the very large majority of these were Turkish-speaking. The regions in which Greek-speaking populations descended from the Byzantine period survived into the XIX. century. In this sense, Pontos was the most important region.
3. The Claims Related to the Crypto-Christians in Trabzon and its Vicinity in the XIX. Century
In the works of some Western travelers and researchers regarding the religious structure of the town in the XIX. century are there some claims about the existence of the Crypto-Christians. This issue emerged in some villages in the vicinity of Trabzon after the Islahat Edict (1856) when some people declared that they were Christians and it gained an international dimension when those demanded the help of foreign consuls. Rightly, Bryer states that the Tanzimat was only the beginning of the end but a better date is 18 February 1856 when the Sultan Abdul Mecid neatly anticipated the Treaty of Paris 30 March by issuing the Hatt-i Hümayun and after 1839 there were no martyrs, for the Porte reaffi rmed the principle of freedom of religion within the Ottoman Empire. As a result of giving new rights to Christians in the Ottoman Empire, they felt more secure. Even though they were Christians they pretended to be Muslim in order to benefi t from the advantages of being a Muslim. When the social, political and economic conditions became appropriate for them, they emerged out of their woodwork to declare themselves. Thus they demanded help from the Western powers to investigate the matter and the the British Consulate asked for a detailed report about the condition of the supposed Crypto-Christians from the consul in Trabzon Following this, this issue not only became the agenda of the Ottoman Empire but also came to the agenda of the Western countries which followed it very carefully.
Bryer in his article “The Crypto-Christians of the Pontos and Consul William Giff ord Palgrave of Trebzionde” mentions that the fi rst evidence about secret Christianity in Kurum lies in the archontic house dated 1825, which was built to accommodate both faiths. In addition to this, he states that the earlier reference to them seems to be made by Smith and Dwight, two American divines, who passed through Trabzon in 1833. On the way to Trabzon Smith gives some accounts about the cultivators and the inhabitants in the vicinity of Trabzon and he says that the inhabitants of that valley are not Laz but of Greek descent and that many of them have been professedly converted to Mohammadanism. However, according to information given to him by a realiable authority it is a mere pretence because they practice neither circumcision nor any any of the rites of the Moslem religion and they are secretly attached to the Greek church and they have priests to perform its rites for them. In the following sentences, Smith goes on to say that their names taken from the Old Testament are a common ground between Muslims and Christians. Although Bryer does not mention it in his article, Bijişkyan, who made a visit to the town in 1817, made some references to these Crypto-Christians. For instance, Bijişkyan gives some accounts regarding them and he mentions that there is a group called Gromtsi among the Greeks and they are half-Muslim and half-Christian. To him, even though these people are sincere Christians, they practice deception. In addition, he states that the faith of these people who never change from one generation to another is alike. As can be understood from the accounts of Bijişkyan, he makes some criticisms about the insincere attitude of these people. Unlike Bijişkyan, Smith points out that though he is inclined to the opinion that sincerity even in a false faith is more favourable to the admission of truth than hypocrisy or skepticism, he would still suggest that the cord which binds these people to the forms of Christianity may advantageously be seized by a missionary to attach them to its spirit. The clear accounts of Smith actually can be interpreted to verify the important role of the missionary activities upon the conversion or apostasy cases in the following years, especially after the Tanzimat and Imperial Edicts, Actually, in the libeal atmosphere of the Tanzimat the missionaries caused many Christians to convert their sects such as Protestant or Catholic and in the later years they also paved the way for many communities (although they are Christians) having lived under the Muslim identity for a long time to convert to their own faith. Türkan on the authority of the Ottoman archives points to the fact that the most important factor that lies behind it is undoubtedly the supporters of these missionaries such as England, France and America. For instance, in the accounts of Smith this can clearly be observed. Namely, before leaving Trabzon, Smith focuses on the suitableness of the town for the missionary station to be established. Furthermore, it is very interesting for him to suggest that it be a suitable place to establish a missionary station for the Greeks rather than the Armenians, for the large number of the former is very high not only in Trabzon but also in the other parts of the country. As can be seen from these accounts, Smith points to the suitability of Trabzon for their station in terms of the high population of the Greeks in the town rather the Armenians.
Smith also makes some comments on the Greeks living in Trabzon stating that they descend from the genuine Greek race referring to the accounts about the existence of their ancestors on the southern shore of the Euxine (The Black Sea) and goes on to say that there might have been several Greek colonies along the coast to the westward. In addition, to him, a missionary station in Trabzon might give them a great chance to extend their arms far and create a good eff ect in that direction. As is seen, the activities of the Protestant missionaries just before the Tanzimat in Anatolia can give us a clear idea of their interest in the nonmuslims who are the rayas of the Ottoman Empire. Especially, as is pointed out by Smith, their interest in Greeks is more obvious since they outnumber other non-muslim groups. Moreover, his claims about the ethnic origins of the Greeks are not objective; because as has been mentioned before, the Black Sea has always been the place where too many indigenous tribes and the communities had lived and Milesians from the Western Anatolia is only one of those who settled and established the fi rst commercial colonies in the region. Thus, his accounts based on the idea that Trabzon was established by the Greeks does not refl ect the truth. In addition, the great interest of the Western travelers and researchers under the infl uence of the Hellenic culture on which Western culture is based seems too eff ective in their accounts related to the Ottoman lands as in the example of Trabzon. Therefore, it can be said that the missionaries seem to have played a crucial role to awaken the Christians. In this context, for instance, Cyrus Hamlin, one of the outstanding names of the Protestant mission in İstanbul, once wrote: There appears to be a shifting of the sands, not only from Christianity to Islam and vice-versa, but also among the other religions of Ottoman society. 
Besides the Protestant missionaries, the Catholic missionaries are seen to have played an important role among the missionary activies carried out in Trabzon as well. For instance, in the XIX. century, when the demographic structure of the Armenians is examined in the town, it seen that the Catholic Armenians had more population when compared with the Protestant Armenians because of the old Catholic missionary activities in the town. For instance, within the framework the Catholic missionary acitivites, a goup of Mekhitarist (Mihitarist) from Venetia came to Anatolia in 1848 and establised a school in Trabzon. Similarly, in 1852 the French nuns also founded a school in which 60 students could attend. Fréres des Ecolés Chrétiennes missionaries carrried out some activities and established a school in the town in 1881 as well. Moreover, fi ve of these missionaries had been working as a teacher at that school in 1885.
Smith also gives his estimation about the population of Trabzon based on the number of the households. To him, the number of Greek households is nearly 500, Armenians 250 households, Catholic Armenians 80-90 households and the Muslims are 3.500-4.000 households. By referring to the person who gave him information about the population of the town, he points out that the population of the town is not more than 15.000. In addition to Smith, some estimations of Western travelers and consuls related to the population of Trabzon can be given as examples. For instance, the French consul Outrey, giving the physical details of the parishes in Trabzon, states that the parishes in Trabzon contain 25.000 inhabitants. The estimation of English consul James Brant in 1835 is nearly similar to Outrey. Brant says that the population of Trabzon is between 25.000-30.000, 20.000-24.000 of whom are Muslims, 3.500-4.000 of whom are Greeks and 500-2000 of whom are Armenians. Another American Protestant missionary Southgate, who visited the town in 1837, gives diff erent numbers about the population. To him, in the castle there have been 5.000 Muslim households equal to 25.000 people and besides these, the Greeks are 2.500, Armenians are 1.200, the Catholic Armenians and the Franks are 300. Thus the total population of Trabzon is 27.000. For the year 1839, based on the number of the households, Texier estimates that the number of the households of Muslims are 6.000, the Greeks’ households are 1.500 and the Armenians’ households are 500. The total number of the households in Trabzon is 8.000. Another traveler Ainsworth points out that the estimations of the travelers regarding the population of the town are the subject of confl ict and he estimates that the population of the town is 25.000. Referring to the archbishop Constantin, Falmerayer, who stayed in Trabzon for a long time, says that Turks are 5.000 households, the Greeks are over 400 households, Armenians are nearly 300 households, Catholic Armenians including the Franks are 98 households. To him, the total population of the town is roughly 30.000-33.000.
For the latter half of the XIX. century, for instance, in 1854 Sandwith estimates that the population of Trabzon is 20.000 without giving any details about the population of the ethnic groups. For the year of 1858, Mordtman says that the population the Trabzon is 60000 in total. To a consuşar report in 1860, the Muslims are 40.000, the Greeks are 10.000, the Armenians are 3.600 and the others are 2100, the total population of Trabzon is 55.800. Besides these estimations, in 1879 Barkley estimates that the total population of Trabzon is 37.000. Cuinet gives the estimation of 37.000 regarding the population of Trabzon in 1891. Lynch, who visited Tabzon in 1893 estimates that the total population of the town is 45.000.
Smith also recommends that as well as in the interior parts of the region they establish a station in Gümüşhane and it might be an important branch for them. Why Smith gives importance to the establishment of a station in Gümüşhane should be evalauted well. As Bryer points out, the villages such as Torul, Zigana, Kurum, Stavri, and Santa as described as “Christian heartlands” lie on the summer road from Trabzon and the supposed Crypto-Christians naturally must have drawn the attention of the numerous Western travelers and missionaries who crossed the Pontic Alps into Armenia. Namely, it is understood that the existence of such Crypto-Christians in the region would be a good target audience for the future activities of the missionaries. Meeker also asserts that some villagers such as Kurumlis set a good example of the fact that even though they were registered as Muslims and had the Muslim identity in their relations with the state they go on to practice their Orthodox faith and rites. Besides these, Smith also gives some information about the peasants inhabiting around Trabzon. He mentions that as far as they were told, they were of the Greek race and spoke Greek language. He goes on to say that as has been already mentioned, they are of the Muslim religion though they are still secret Christians. Smith also gives the examples of the districts of Sürmene and Of, about 6 hours east of Trabzon where there are many Greek Muslims. To him, in this district there are 30 or 40 villages, threefourths of which were formerly Christians. Smith explains that the Christian population in the district due to the oppression of the Turks had to convert to Islam long ago, but despite this they still speak Greek. Bryer points to the fact that those people commonly assumed to be the descendants of Christians converted to Islam through force, but despite this they went on practicing their old faith. However, Bryer stresses the fact that actually the origins of the Pontic CryptoChristians can be attributed to the establishment of the Highland Greek refuges in the late XVII. century.
As can be understood from the accounts of Smith, he seems to have carried out a detailed research not only in Trabzon but also in the vicinity of Trabzon so as to understand the ethnic and religious structure of the region and collect some information to be used for their missionary activities in the future. In his book, Meeker also deals with the confusing guestion of who Ofl us really are and he puts forward the idea that Ofl us represented the formation of a local state society as a result of complicated process of conversion or apostasy, migration and transformation. To him, as the historic traces are preserved by means of the local customs and traditions, like the other pastoral inhabitants on the eastern shores, they have become every sort of polemic. Moreover, Meeker mentions that the conversion of the Christians and the migrations of the Muslims increased continuosly during the XVII. century and probably a large number of Christians might have been said to convert to Islam rather than the individual cases. Even if Ofl us were offi cially registered as Muslims, it is possible to think that the population of Of might have had diff erent trends of faith, but the real reason does not seem like that, because the regular increase in the number of the Muslims in the district caused the population of the Christians to decrease sharply and this was mostly related to the tradition of departures from the district and the conversion. Meeker acknowledges that the signs of the transformation can be easily be seen towards the end of the XVII. century. Namely, the Christians through conversion or apostasy and the Muslims through transformation merged to create a new state society. On the other hand, Bryer alleges that he followed some Pontic scholars who carried out researches on the region in terms of using the term “apostasy, but he acknowledges that the there are some intresting aspects about the whole aff air, for there is no literary or monumental evidence to indicate that there is any Greek settlement in Of and Tonya during the middle ages and therefore he suggests that it be further investigated.
The second Western traveler to mention the Crypto-Christians in the region is the British geologist Hamilton, who visited the town in 1836. While he was giving some information about the inhabitants of the villages around Trabzon, he mentions that the most interesting thing that drew attention both in the town and in the closer mountains of the town is the fact that there were some Greek Turks or Turkish Greeks. Hamilton claims that these people, though actually Christians, secretly practice the religious rites of the Greeks. In addition, having adopted the offi cial religion of the state they practice circumcision and also attend the mosques very cautiously. They attend all the ceremonies that the Muslims attend as well. In the accounts of Hamilton, unlike the others, he is the fi rst to mention the existence of the Crypto-Christians in Trabzon. From his accounts, it is understood that there have been some Crypto-Christian living in Trabzon as well. Moreover, Hamilton puts forward some allegations regarding the origin of these goups, To him, they might be the descendants of the Macrons (an indigenous ancient tribe), who performed circumcision, but they were no aware of their past and they think that they had this tradition from the Muslims. It is seen that like most of the travelers he explicitly tries to make some ethnic evaluations and analyses referring to the ancient historical background of the town.
Another Western traveler who visited Trabzon towards the end of the fi rst half of the XIX. century is Joseph Wolff , a Protestant missionary like Smith and Dwight. Wolff states that besides Turks and some European Christians, the town is inhabited by the Armenians and Greek Christians, In addition, he alleges that in and around Trabzon are there great numbers of villages inhabited by Greeks who outwardly profess the Muhammedan religion, but they secretly practise Christianity. To him, they have carried it on since the establishment of Muhammedanism in Constantinople. They have their own priests, who, in secret, are ordained by the Patriarch of Constantinople, and by the Bishop of the Greek church in Trabzon. Under the light of the accounts of the Protestant missionary Wolff , it is seen that the priests of the Crypto-Christians living in the district are secretly ordained and it can be claimed that there are some Crypto-Christians around Trabzon. Another point to be focused on here is that it is possible to say that these groups started to declare themselves before the Imperial Edict (Islahat Fermanı). However, he does not mention the existence of the supposed CryptoChristians in the villages of Santa, Kurum and Stavri in the district of Gümüşhane.
At the beginning of the latter half of the XIX. century the next taveler who arrived in Trabzon is Frederick Walpole. He does not provide detailed information about the existence of the supposed Crypto-Christians in the region; nevertheless, he makes some remarks on them in his book. To him, he was given very little information about the people living in Trabzon; because these people are more interested in commerce than any other matter. However, as far as he was told by some people, it is said that there are Greeks among the population of the town, and they have Muslim names and live in secluded mountains, and practice the rites of Greek religion.
As is seen, while some travelers mention the existence of the CryptoChristians in or around Trabzon before the Tanzimat and in the following years after the Tanzimat, some do not provide any information about them. For instance, Sandwith, who visited the town in 1854 during the Crimean War, is one of those. Although Sandwith gives a detailed account of the mines in the district of Gümüşhane (Argyropolis), he does not mention the existence of any of the Crypto-Chrisitians in the region. He even states that all the miners are Greeks from the district of Krom, not far from Gümüşhane, and these people are sent to work at all the mines in the Ottoman lands. Therefore, it is very interesting for him not to mention any of the Crypto-Christians, though Krom, as has been mentioned before, is considered as one of the heartland districts supposed to have been inhabited by the Crypto-Christians. Like Sandwith, some travelers such as Ainsworth, Wagner and Layard do not remark on them, either.  In this context, Bryer rightly alleges that it is a working hypothesis that these people might have adopted a secrecy of faith around the capture and brief occupation of Gümüşhane (Argyropolis) in Chaldea in 1829. However, Bryer states that the clue to their origins can be better found in an unrelated event of the same period. By 1829 the famous declining silver mines of Gümüşhane were in their last gasp and were closed. After the mines closed by stages there were several options open to those Greeks who, by not paying haraç or any other service, were now neither offi cially Christian nor Muslim. In addition, while some went to Russia, others went to work in the mines at Ak Dağ in 1832 and to the alum mines of the north of Koloneia (Şebinkarahisar) signifi cantly taking their special status with them. For example, referring to Jenning, who benefi ted from the judicial records for Matzouka (Maçka), Bryer proposes that the bulk of the Crypto-Christians of the Pontos owe their origin to this special status in relation to a Chaldean mining economy. Bryer suggests that it is probable to say that embracing both faiths as in the example of the people in Pontos and having become Crypto-Christians started nearly at around the period of the Russian capture and the brief occupation of Gümüşhane in 1829 because none of the 25 travelers who visited the region mention them between the years 1796 and 1833. In other words, after the mines were closed, it seems that Kurumlis, for instance, wished to embrace not the best of the worlds, but obligation to neither. Moreover, they looked not to the Church, but instead they turned their face to the Western Powers to preserve their special position.
In this sense, Russia showed great interest in some non-muslim groups for the purpose of putting a barrier to England on the Indian route. That’s why Russia always got in touch with those groups and provided every sort of support to realize its aim. As can be seen, especially from the accounts of the missionary travelers, the spiritual, social and economic seperation had already started in the region long before the Imperial Edict, because by means of the eff orts made and the activities carried out by Russia, Crypto-Christians started to declare themselves and convert to Christianity. However, it should be noted that the great number of declarations took place after the date of 18 February 1856, when Sultan Mecid neatly anticipated the Treaty of Paris of 30 March bu issuing Hatt-i Hümayun. The eff ect of both was that the Porte reaffi rmed the principle of freedoom of religion within the Ottoman Empire, and a watching brief to see that it was not left a dead letter was transferred from the Russian Tsar to the victories of the Crimean War. Thus, some supposedly registered as Muslims emerged out of the woodwork to declare themselces under British and French and Russian protection. In addition, Tanzimat was just the beginning of the end beacuse as is pointed by Bryer, a better date was 1856 when the Islahat Edict was declared, for the death sentence not being practised and the declaration of the Islahar Edict gave the opportunity to some groups of secret Christians to declare themselves. For instance, soon after the the declaration of Islahat Edict, the secret Christians in Trabzon gave petitions to the consulates of England, France, Austria, Russia and Greece and demanded that the Ottoman State accept them as Christians. As is stated by Palgrave, in that sense, Russia seems to have played an important role in it. Actually it is possible to say that these groups were being used as a pawn for the political and economic purposes of the Great Powers, especially for Russia aiming to expand the south of the Black Sea and Caucasus. On the other hand, England, trying to secure its commercial route in India, showed a great interest in the issue. For instance, the British Embassy asked for detailed information about the issue from the English consul in Trabzon.
Besides Russia and England, it is possible to say that another country that has infl uence on the Greeks in Trabzon is Greece. Even if it not as strong as Russia, because of the policies she followed, she managed to have an infl unce on the Greeks in Trabzon. For instance, Yerasimos states that after a while the interest of the Greeks in Trabzon towards Russia changed in favour of Greece, the Greek consuls infl uenced the Greeks and as a result of this, the people started to identify themselves with the interests of Greece. The Greek Elites, who are well-educated and have international connections are deeply aff ected by the notions of the French Revolution and the Greek revolt, which is the result of this. The majority of the people living in the Province of Trabzon did not have a national awarenes until the middle of the XIX. century. The national awarenes is the artifi cial product of the period after the Tanzimat. Thus, soon after Greece was established, it started to become the spokesman of Helenism both politically and culturally. In this sense, Greece became one of the important factors that aff ect the situation of the Orthodox Greeks. The Greek consul in Trabzon did not hesitate to be the defender of the Greek irredantizm (expansionist nationalism). For instance, the French consul in his report clearly states how the Greeks in Trabzon openly voiced and defended the Crete revolt saying that they are very eager to see that the Turks would be expelled from the island. In addition to the foundation of Greece and the policies followed, one of the actual factors that have an eff ect on the eastern Black Sea Greeks are the developments in the educational field in connection with Greece. In XIX. century the new elite class who are educated and wealthy, especially under the leadership of the teachers, the doctors and the merchants used the schools along with the churches in order to spread the nationalism among the Orthodox Christians. In order to legalize the creation of this new ethnic group historically, especially the educationalits made great eff orts and many students were sent to Athen. When they returned, they would teach Xenophon and classic Greek. In this sense, for instance, in his accounts abaut a school he visited in Gümüşhane, Southgate says that he was deeply aff ected when he witnessed that the children in that school could speak Greek as well as the children in İstanbul.
In fact, the accounts of the majority of the XIX. century travelers do not provide much information to signify any relations between the Pontic Greeks and Greece. However, W. J. Childs, who visited Anatloia at the begimnning of the XX. century sets a good example. He narrates an incident when he was in Samsun saying that a boy came towrds him carrying a collecting-box and asked for a contribution for the aid of the Hellenic navy. The boy told him that the aid is not only for the navy but for the navy of all Helenic people. Moreover, the traveler mentions that Samsun can not descend from the old Greek Amisus (Samsun), but its people are largely Ottoman Greeks. Besides this, much of the trade and wealth are in their hands. Moreever, he stresses that like all foreign Greeks they look to Greece and contribute money to it, especially to its navy with open-handed generosity; because they hope that the Greek Empire will be reestablished amd Constantinople will be the capital again. Childs also adds that they had subscribed 12.000 pounds for the naval service and they were preparing another contribution. The accounts of Childs clearly indicate that the Ottoman Greeks in the eastern Black Sea have the strong feelings of nationalism towards Greece and identify themselves with her. Moreover, it is very striking that they freely ask for and collect money in the streets for the Greek navy despite the fact that they are the subjects of the Ottoman Empire.
Similar to what is narrated above by Childs, in an Ottoman document dated 10 May 1902, it is stated that an Orthodox priest named as Kirilus had been trying to provoke the Stavris. According to the report, even though that person pretended to be the subject of the Ottoman, although he was in fact Greek from the Korfu island and he was collecting money from the Stavri community for the Philiki Etheria, which is the Greek national organisation. He even caused some Muslims to convert to Christianity. All these developments created mcuh concern for the governor of Ankara. As is seen, this event sets a good example to show how some Greek priests also carry out some activities in the region in favour of Greece.
Undoubtedly, the emergence of Crypto-Christians and conversions in large goups caused some reactions among Muslims. This reaction can easily be seen in the lines of “Long Street has turned to mud/ The Kurumlis have turned infidel” gibed by local local Turks. These people who emerged as secret Christians in 1857 and throughout the XIX. century had a number of names in Pontos such as Kurumlis, Stavriatoi, Santaoi or closet-Christians.  However, Muslims were aware of the existence of such Crypto-Christians. This is valid for the places where these groups lived together with the Muslims. It can be said that the reactions of the Muslims against these groups might arise from the application of the represantative of the Crypto-Christians to the British Consul Alex Stevens or as Hamilton states, from the existence of the Crypto-Christians in the center of Trabzon. However, both in the accounts of the travelers and despatches of the British Consul in Trabzon, no information is provided about whether the conversions led to some upheavals among the inhabitants in the town or not. Moreover, White draws the attention to the nature of the secret character of the Crypto-Christianity and remarks as follows:
“The meaning and value of secrets change and are negotiated and renegotiated regularly. Secrets and secrecy are social acts, constantly aware of audiences and publics [...]. When we realize how poorly secrets are kept, how selective and managed tellings leak information to a wide variety of audiences, it seems clear that secrets ironically are ways of making information known”.
Thus, it should not be surprising that the authorities and the people of Trabzon were not disappointed when in 1857 some of the Kromlides declared their return to Christianity. The last traveler to remark on the Crypto-Christians in the districts of Of and Sürmene is H. F. B. Lynch, who visited the town in the year of 1893. Even though nearly none of the travelers and researchers provide no information about the Crypto-Christians inhabiting in the district, it seems interesting that Lynch remarks on them in his work at the end of the XIX. century. Any travelers’ and researchers’ not remarking on them can be intrepreted as the fact that the aff air might have lost its appeal for most of the Western powers parallel to their social and economic interests.
First of all, he states that there villages in Trabzon, the population of which are Muslims and they resent being called any other name than Osmanlı. Lynch also stresses that their Greek origin is determined both by history and the traditions and they retain some of them. Except for the other travelers and researchers, probably Lynch is the fi rst one to remark that those people are actullay integrated into the Ottoman society and they never imagine being called any other name than Osmanlı wheras the other travelers do not mention such an integration. In the following lines, especially he gives some accounts of the villages of Sürmene and Of lying on the east of Trebizond. Lynch asserts that those Greeks are now known for their theological eminence just as they are formerly under the reign of the Greek Empire of Trebizond. Moreover, Lynch writes that
“…with this diff erence, that wheras in those days they supplied the Church with bishops, it is now mollahs that they furnish to Islam. Yet, fanatical as they are, they still hold to certain customs which connect them with the old faith they once served with distinction, and have no doubt, since persecuted with equal zeal.”
Lynch goes on to say that here in the case of an illnes a Madonna image is put above the sick- bed in order to recover from the illnes. In addition, he mentions that the suff erer sips the forbidden wine from the old cup of the Communion, which is considered as an invalulable object by all the people. However, when they are asked why they do so, they can not give a reasonable answer. As can be understood, unlike the other travelers, Lynch stresses the fact that the inhabitans in the districts of Of and Sürmene retain some of their old customs unconsciously. Namely, he does not refer to the fact that they perform the rites of their old faith secretly. On the contrary, he implies that the practices and rites of their old faith are incorporated into the new one. Similarly, Umur also focuses on the fact that after the Ottoman conquest, in Trabzon and its vicinity between the years H. 921 (M. 1515) and H. 991 (M.1583), the Islam and Turkishness especially during the last 30 years had increased and become dominant in the lower parts of Baltacı and Solaklı. Apart from the small groups of the Christians here and there, he stresses the fact that it is reasonable to admit that there were also the ones who converted to Islam and participated in the Turkish society. To Umur, this participation and conversion do not violate the purity of the Turkish race, because such things can be observed for all the nations in the world as well and none of the nations has been able to preserve its ethnic purity. Similarly, Meeker states that the descendants of the Christians must have considerably served to profess Muslim, because based on the Trabzon Province Yearbook (TVS) dated 1888, he mentions that despite the fact that many people speak Turkish, sometimes some of the courses are given in Greek in the theological schools (medrese) of Of.
To some researchers, whereas the classical Ottoman/Islamic law puts a death sentence for the converts from Islam, the rulers in the Tanzimat period chose to remain silent when they confront such cases; because they worked hard to “avoid the imperial headache”, referring to Deringil. However, contrary to what is claimed, in the studies based on the Ottoman archives it is clearly seen that the authorities made great eff orts and tried to take some measues against the cases of the conversions. For instance, it can be said that one of these poeple is Ahmet Şakir Pasha, who worked as a general inspector in Anatolia. During his inspection travels, he wrote a great number of detailed reports about the matter based on the thoughts of the persons to whom he had assigned duty in the region. Moreover, in the fi le of the reports are there some telegraphs, reports or the petitions about the sobject of conversion. In the Layihas written by him, he points out that the education level of the poeple and their religious knowledge be raised, the new schools be opened and the quality of education in the schools and the boarding schools to be opened and in the industrial schools be raised as well. Besides these, he recommended that the schools to increase the religious awareness of the people be opened and the Muslims should not need the obligation to attend the Christian and foreign schools. Similarly, in Trabzon the authorities were seeking for some solutions regarding the matter. For example, in a report written about the conversions in the Trabzon Province, it is highly stressed that while the education is given in modern schools in line with the principles of modern education in the places where Greeks and Armenians live, let alone the schools there has been no masjid for the Muslims to give religious knowledge. Besides this, according to the Ottoman documents, the Ottoman State closely followed the cases of conversions and exiled the converts to the places where the Muslims are densely-populated. Furthermore, the Ottoman State registered the people as “mutanassır” in Gümüşhane town and its vicinity in order to prevent them from their conversion to Christianity just because of the fact that a militray service is not demanded from the non-muslims. Thus, it did not exempt them from the militray service. Especillay in Anatolia, the Ottoman State seems to have focused on the issue more seriously and closely followed the situation of these people through writing to the provinces so that the foreign countries could not manipulate them as a political means.
Ortaylı also states that freedom of the choice of religion and conscience reached such a degree in the XIX. century that some groups who converted to Islam offi cially but to keep their real faith secret did not hesitate to declare themselves to convert to their own faith. Even if it is considered as Tanassur (being Christian) by the Islam Sheria, it was seen that it was not evaluated and regarded like that. As far as it is understood, the situation of the Crypto-Christians in Pontos, due to some social, economic and political developments on the side of England such as the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 and not replacing any consul after Palgrave, Trabzon seems to have lost the interest of England. The recognition of 12.000-30.000 Kurumlis as Christians would only come to the agenda in 1910, but through the diplomatic eff orts of Russian and French rather than England. In Bryer’s wordsr, it seems that it has resulted from the fact that becoming a Christian lost its appeal because Christians had to do their military obligations and they had the hope of Russia capturing Trabzon to be realized fi ve years later.
Trabzon has always consisted of several ethnic groups since it was founded. One of these ethnic groups has been the Christians. This Christian community have always drew the attention of Western travelers and researchers. Western travelers and the researchers seem to have been preoccupied with the existence of the Christian population after the Ottoman conquest of the town in 1461 and have questioned what happened to them. In the studies carried out by some of them, it is mostly observed that they are in favour of the idea that the Christian population was forcibly exposed to Islamisation and Turkifi cation after the Ottoman conquest. To them, most of the Christians had to apostasize and convert to Islam. In other words, they generally base their claims and arguments solely on the conversion or apostasy ignoring the other factors such as the coercive settlement policy of the Ottman Empire, social, political and economic factors, all of which are interwoven with one another. Therefore, some fanatic and extremist arguments should be used with caution so as to be able to understand and make more objective analysis on the subject.
As the Ottoman Empire started to lose power and got weaker, especially in the XIX. century some cases of being Christian (Tanassur) are observed to have taken place in Trabzon and its vicinity. Firstly, it should be noted here that nearly no reference is made to the existence of the Crypto-Christians in the acocunts of Western travelers and researcher before the XIX. century. As far as it is seen in the accounts of the travelers, the earlier references to them date back to 1812 when Bijişkyan visited the region. No traveler except Bijişkyan remarks on them until the Campaign of 1828-29 is over. Therefore, it is not accidental for some missionary travelers to mention them after this date; because during the brief occupation of Russia in Gümüşhane, Russia got in touch with the Christians inhabiting in the region Thus, it seems that there is a close link between the the War of 1828-29 and the references made to Crypto-Christians in 1830’s in the accounts of some travelers.
Secondly, when compared with the other travelers, Protestant missonaries such as Smith, Wolf and Southgate seem to have showed great interest in the Crypto-Christians and give more detailed information about them. Especially, the accounts of Smith provide some important clues and help us understand the role of the missionaries about how these groups can be an important target audience to be manipulated for the Protestant mission. Thus it seems that they try to form an ethnic origin for these people claiming that they come from the Greek race and speak Greek as most of the Western travelers tend to repeat in their works in the XIX. century so as to realize their objectives and ease their work. Similarly, when giving information about the inhabitants in the region, Hamilton is observed to be establishing some links between the ancient indigenous tribes in the antiquarian period and the people living in Trabzon and its vicinity. Furthermore, unlike the others, in the accounts of Hamilton, even though he does not mention his source, he makes some remarks on the existence of some Crypto-Christians inhabiting in Trabzon. This allegation needs questioning and needs further research in the studies to be carried out in the future. Moreover, in a later date of 1893, unlike the other travelers, Lynch takes a look at the matter in a diff erent way. It is seen that he makes more objective narrations on the inhabitants of the town pointing out that these people do not imagine being called any other name than Osmanlı and states that they are amalgated in the pot of the Osmanlı culture and they do practice the rites of their old faith just without being aware of them. In fact, it can be said that though given in a later date, the accounts of Lynch give more plausible answer to the endless and insoluble arguments that have been put forward relating to the demography and the ethnic structure of the region. More probably, it might be better to mention the blend of several cultures integrated into one another during the course of the history rather than make some remarks on the continuity of only one ethnic group.
It should be stressed here that the rights granted to non-muslims in 1839 (Tanzimat) and 1856 (Islahat Edict) contributed to the increase in the morale of the non-muslims; because in this liberal atmosphere they felt more secure to declare themselves and tend to convert to their real faith in order to gain some social and economic benefi ts from Great Powers rather than prefer to be an earnest Christian. For instance, even though the Kurumlis converted to Islam in the XVII. century in order to get the mining concession, not paying haraç and exempt from the military service, on a large scale they tended to declare themselves openly and convert to their real faith, especially when the mines lost its economic attraction in Gümüşhane in the fi rst half of the XIX. century. Thus, as far as it is refl ected in some native and Western studies, it is possible to say that the Crypto-Chrtistians inhabiting in such districts as Kurum, Santa, Stavri and Torul converted to their real faith so as to gain some social and economic benefi ts, especially after the mines were closed. As a result of some of socio-economic changes that took place in the region, these people had a tendency to abandon their region through the motivation of Russia or to be able to get a new status. It should be also noted that some Western consulates such as England, France and Russia took a close look at the matter and sent some regular reports to their embassies in Constantinaple when the matter was hot for their own socio-economic interests. Besides these consulates, it seems clear that Greece also closely watched the matter and paid careful attention to it.
It seems that the information collected by the travelers and researchers have politically been used as well. In this sense, the two political aims which these researches served for should be focused on. The frst one is that the CryptoChristians in the region have become known on the international platform and their existence and their life styles have been deciphered. This seems to have been used in order to awaken the Christianity in the region. The second one is that as in the example of Greece she developed some approaches through the contact with her kins and co-religionists within the context of her expansionist natinalism and the Megali idea policies regarding the manipulation of these groups. In the XIX. century, the activities carried out in the region regarding the Pontic Greeks’ identifying themselves with Greece clearly indicates it. Thus, as a result of these activities, it is undestood that the artifi cial Pontus issue, which still keeps its actuality in the present time was revived and brought to the international platform. In order to analyse the issuue more deeply, it is necessary to take the political background of the issue into consideration, carry out some comparative studies in which the information provided by the travelers and researchers and the Ottoman archive documents are comparatively studied, to put forward the existence of the CryptoChristians in terms of the statistical data in the region in an objective way and to study their place in the other ethnic groups. With such comprehensive studies, the real face of the Pontus issue can be deciphered.
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