Subtext | urban migration in Ottoman Empire
Notes from The Spectacles of Identity
Throughout history, many members of the local elites joined the central government and settled in the capital Istanbul, bringing along their families and their own close ties to their original country, locality, and community. The migration to Istanbul of relatives of the high dignitaries was illustrated even during the devşirme period when Grand Vizir Mehmet Sokollu (Sokolovich) (1505-79) brought to Istanbul dozens of his Slavic relatives as had his predecessors, the Grand Vizir Rustem paşa (Okupovich) and the husband of Sultan Süleyman’s daughter, Mirimah1.
In fact, throughout Ottoman history, there was a steady migration of local and regional elites and their relatives and friends to Istanbul. Initially slow, the migration and urbanization of the elites and social mobility, in general, accelerated in intensity and scope during the nineteenth century after millions of Muslim subjects immigrated and settled on lands still under the sultan’s rule.
The seriye sicilleri of Antep, one of the most complete and best-preserved in Turkey, recorded a continuous inflow of countryside people into the city. Some joined the ruling strata either in cooperation with or defiance of the central government, but many remained destitute and ready to move elsewhere. An infusion of the culture of the rural tribal people into that of the ‘upper’ urban stratum accompanied the social influx.
It is clear that each migration has a context of its own defined by the history, experience, and normative rules of the society in which it takes place. One cannot study migration in Muslim lands by ignoring the Koranic tenets on the subject, the Muslim calendar, which begins with an act of migration, and the fact that Prophet Mohammad himself was a migrant in Medina.
The Koranic obligation of the receiving community to help settle the migrants and accept them as brothers played a crucial role in the assimilation of the immigrants in the Ottoman state and Republican Turkey.2
Samarcic 1996: 32, 71-83