History of Macedonia 1354-1833
IX. The Russo-Turkish war of 1768-1774 and its repercussions upon Macedonia
2. Disturbances in Macedonia during the Russo-Turkish war (1768-1774)
__1_ — __2_ — __3_
1. Α general picture of the impact which the deterioration of Russo-Turkish relations and the subsequent war (1768-1774) had upon mainland Macedonia may be formed from information afforded by the Venetian consul in Thessalonica. In March 1768, he writes that an order from the Sultan was promulgated for the mustering of all the sipahis of Rumeli and their dispatch to Azov. In July, he writes that the beylerbeyi of Rumeli was moving from his seat at Monastir to Bosnia, accompanied by many paşas and a large army, and that he was making feverish preparations for assuring adequate quantities of ammunition and other supplies. Again, in October of the same year, a number of beys from Central Macedonia (Mehmet Bey of Yenitsá, Hasan Ağa of Kateríni, Habenderoglu of Kilkís, the Bey of Édessa and Karaman of Ohrid) had been ordered to muster infantry and cavalry and to march under the command of Karaman to Jassy in Moldavia. As a further measure to ensure adequate
supplies of cereals for the Ottoman empire, the Sultan forbade their export .
For the unfortunate rayas the outbreak of Russo-Turkish hostilities brought in its train a continuous series of impositions and oppressive measures. Amongst the hardest hit were the Greek communities of Thessalonica and the surrounding villages . At the end of December 1768, a Sultan's ordnance, formulated the month before, was broadcast among the Greeks of Thessalonica and its environs, commanding them to hand in their arms within three days on pain of death for any disobedience. However, it is interesting to note that the Turks met with a certain amount of resistance when they came to implement this measure in the surrounding villages . The order was withdrawn in the following month (January 1769) , by which time the inhabitants had no doubt been disarmed.
In September 1769, Turkish deserters were drifting back to their home-villages in Macedonia, preying on the countryside as they went, plundering, ill-treating and murdering any wayfarers who were not escorted by guards . In January 1770, the entry of the Russian fleet into the Mediterranean and its arrival off the coast of the Peloponnese caused the Turks to fear an attack on Thessalonica, and they reinforced the city's garrison — an operation which inflicted fresh economic hardship upon the Christian rayas . June saw the recruitment of the warlike Yürüks and their dispatch for garrison duty to the castles of the Peloponnese . Within Thessalonica itselt the disorderly behaviour of the Janissaries  caused havoc, the situation deteriorating even further upon news of the defeat of the Turkish fleet at Çeşme . The recruitment of 1.500 Janissaries took place in May of 1771, and young Moslems were exhorted to take up arms and make their way to the army camps. The wealthier people were subjected to economic exactions, including the 'Dönmes'
1. Mertzios, Μνημεϊα, pp. 403-404.
2. See Mertzios, ibid., pp. 405-407, 410.
3. Mertzios, ibid., p. 406. See the order which had general application for all the rayas "of the left side of Rumeli" in Vasdravellis, Ἀρχεῖον Βέροιας - Ναούσης, pp. 182-184.
4. Mertzios, ibid., p. 407.
5. Ibid., p. 408. 6. Ibid., p. 410.
7. Vasdravellis, ibid., pp. 184-185. See also pp. 185-186.
8. Mertzios, ibid., pp. 411 ,412.
9. Ibid., pp. 413-415, 416.
(the Judaeo-Moslem followers of Sabbethai Sevi described in chapter VII) .
Further anxiety was created by the appearance of privateers in the Thermaïc Gulf , which seem to have operated frequently in league with Greek agents based on the coast. Thus, for example, we find the inhabitants and elders of Platamón being accused of having knowledge of pirate-vessels that had plundered a ship belonging to Venetian subjects, for it was from Platamón that the corsairs had put to sea and thither that they had retired after completing their piratical foray .
Every kind of disorder and acts of arbitrary injustice were the rule in many other provincial cities. In Sérres, for instance, the voyvoda and the ayân (dignitary) Mustafa Ağa Zade, to ensure that they could sell their own cotton (the chief product of the plain of Sérres) at exorbitant prices, fixed its price themselves and compelled in threatening terms the representatives of foreign trading companies to buy the cotton at this price .
2. It was during the Russo-Turkish war that the Albanian chieftain, Mehmet Pasha of Scutari (Shkodër) took advantage of the disorder that was rife throughout the Ottoman empire to acquire a considerable amount of power in Albania, Western Macedonia and Serbia and life was made very difficult for the inhabitants of those parts. Hoping to obtain Mehmet's goodwill the Sultan began addressing him with the flattering title of 'Vezir' , but all in vain. Albanian forces and bands of brigands never ceased to be active throughout the region.
In the midst of this anarchy it was the more flourishing towns and cities of north-west Greece which not unnaturally attracted the attentions of these maurauders. Consequently, the communal authorities sought to put themselves under the protection of strong beys in their respective districts, paying them a certain sum of money in return. But the inhabitants were often in no position to fulfil their side of the bargain and incurred a great deal of hardship as a result. In such circumstances the inhabitants found themselves obliged to compound the debt (Turk. borç) by selling their lands either publicly or privately, or by leaving
1. Mertzios, Μνημεῖα, p. 419.
2. Ibid., p. 420. 3. Ibid., p. 425. 4. Ibid., p. 424.
5. Ibid., p. 277. See the relevant information and bibliography about this figure in G. T. Kolias, Σελίδες ἀλβανικῆς ἱστορίας, «Ἀθηνᾶ» 49 (1939) 244-245.
home altogether. Thus the threats of a borçlı, as these beys were termed, could be responsible for the dissolution of whole settlements. Many businessmen were forced to move to other towns, or to migrate abroad to the places where they had originally made their fortunes, such as Venice, Austria and Hungary. In consequence, the population of Moschópolis, to take just one example, began to dwindle markedly and its trade was drying up. In 1768 and 1769, the situation had become desperate. The citizens were so depressed by their weight of anxieties that they decided to quit their city in secret. On 2 September, the tragic exodus of the citizens commenced and lasted three whole days. "Not a dog remained in the place", says an entry in the records of the monastery of the Forerunner. As soon as the abandonment of the city became known, a swarm of Albanian robbers poured into Moschópolis, plundering the rich houses and the churches. As for the inhabitants, they dispersed and settled themselves permanently in various places: Korytsá, Yánnina, Delvináki, Ampelákia, Thessalonica, Pelion, Sérres, Monastir, Veles, Belgrade, Budapest, Vienna, etc., where they were to make a considerable contribution to the economic life wherever they established themselves .
About a hundred families settled at Hrupista, where they engaged in the manufacture of coarse woollen cloths or in agriculture. At the beginning of the following century this village contained some 2.000 inhabitants, of which two-thirds (i.e. about 1.300) were Moslems . This being so, the villagers originating from Moschópolis must have exceeded in numbers the Bulgarians, who, as Hadji Kalfa told us a century earlier , were the only Christians in that district.
Α good number of Moschopolites settled at Kleisoúra (also known as Vlachokleisoúra ).
During this period, swarms of Turco-Albanians plundered and devastated the Vlach-speaking villages in the districts of Grámmos, Nítsa, Nikolítsa, Linotópi, and Virtyánik, forcing the inhabitants to migrate to the interior of Macedonia and found new colonies in the more remote areas. The majority of the people from Nítsa and Nikolítsa settled in Krûsovo, while those from Linotópi, accompanied by a few Albanian-speaking inhabitants of Kolónia and Bithkoúki, went to Megárovo, Treste-
1. See Vacalopoulos, Δυτικομακεδόνες ἀπόδημοι, pp. 25-26.
2. G. Α. M(ano), Résumé geographique de la Grèce et de la Turquie d'Europe, "Collection des Résumés géographiques", vol. 5, Paris 1826, p. 537.
3. See p. 265 of this book.
4. G. A. M(ano), ibid., p. 539.
níki, Tsarnoúsi and Birína. Others again proceeded to Pisodéri, Néveska, Kleisoúra, Blátsi, Gópesi, Hrúpista, Kateríni, Vlacholívado, Kokkinoplós, Séli, Belkaméni, Negováni, Résna, Yiankovétsi, and other places. At a later date, Vlach-speaking people from Krûsovo, Megárovo and other places were to make their way to Monastir and reinforce the Moschopolites already settled there. The Vlach-speaking inhabitants were mainly merchants in woollen articles, tailors and gold-smiths. At Monastir they had their own market, the Vlah Çarşı . But there were many Vlachs who continued their former nomadic way of life to even as late as the second World War (1939-1945), basing themselves in various parts of what is now Yugoslav Macedonia, around Kótsana and Istip, in the villages of Mezdri, Mustafin Erdeli, Urbice, Dorfuli, Tarainc. In the winter months they would load up all their household possessions onto long lines of horses and lead their flocks to winter pasturage in the Greek districts around Gevyeli, Strumica and Istip . Other Koutsovlachs settled at Kossovo, Novi Pazar, Ferizovik, Pristina, etc., while in Albania they were to be found at Durazzo, Kavaya, Fieri, Valona, Tirana, Berat, Elbasan, Scutari, etc. . Some went to Bulgaria, and a great many to Rumania . In Eastern Macedonia Koutsovlachs settled at Sérres, Dráma, Xánthi, Kavála and Nevrokop, and formed communities at Áno Tzoumayiá, Káto Tzoumayiá, Peristéra and a colony at Philippópolis .
This period of Turkish occupation is reflected in a variety of documents , traditions, songs and 'memoranda'. The phrase 'Weep all ye who come after us', which I found at the foot of a 'memorandum' of 20th July 1785 in the liturgical month-book for July, at the church of St. Athanasios at Samarína, and which made reference to the Albanian forays, expresses the despair experienced by the inhabitants of the rural areas during that frightful period. Another 'memorandum', written in the same book exactly a year later, demonstrates the relief the inhabitants felt at having managed to pay off their borç to the Albanians, Osman Bey and Yusuf Ağa .
1. Vacalopoulos, Δυτικομακεδόνες ἀπόδημοι, p. 26.
2. Trifunaski, The origin of the Vlachs and their former way of life (Serbo-Croat), «Simpozium...», Sarajevo 1963, pp. 172-178.
3. Katsouyiannis, Περὶ τῶν Βλάχων, B', p. 26.
4. Katsouyiannis, ibid., pp. 25-26.
5. Katsouyiannis, ibid., pp. 27-28.
6. See Vasdravellis, Ἀρχεῖον Βέροιας - Ναούσης, pp. 186 ff.
7. See Vacalopoulos, Δντικο μακεδόνες απόδημοι, p. 26. where the relevant bibliography may be found.
Even within the sheltered precincts of the Holy Mountain, peace and quiet had been rudely shaken, though the monks and powerful 'Phanariots' had only themselves to blame. The ceaseless quarrels that went on between the monasteries (between Iveron and other monasteries, but most of all between Lavras and Vatopediou) gave the Sultan an excuse to send a special commissioner to Athos in 1764. The latter took a census of the monks and imposed yet further taxes, over and above the usual poll-tax and tithe-tax. The economic situation in the monasteries deteriorated to such a degree within the next tenyears that by 1777 the debt owed to the Turkish treasury by Ayiou Panteleimonos, Kastamonitou, Esphigmenou and Dionysiou had reached 150.000 kuruş, and an interest rate of 5% was fixed on its payment . The monasteries' intolerable plight was to continue for many years to come .
3. At this point we might examine the part played by Macedonian Greeks in the insurrection that took place in the Peloponnese in 1770, and in the Russian operations in the Aegean. It is clear that the northern Greeks shared wholeheartedly the aspirations of their southern compatriots, and were eager to assist in their struggle to realise those hopes and longings which had gripped the race for centuries past.
With his moving accounts of the hardships suffered by his fellow-countrymen, George Papazolis from Siátista, a captain in the imperial body-guard of Catherine II of Russia, succeeded in capturing the interest of the three Orlov brothers (particularly Gregory, who enjoyed the Tsarina's favour), and was himself sent to Greece to make preparations for the insurrection of 1770 . Athanasios Vaïnakis of Moschópolis is also mentioned as being personal secretary to one of the Orlovs .
Recorded as taking part in this insurrection are the elderly Ziakas of Grevená , the Thessalo-Macedonians Zidros and Lazos from Olympus, and Blahavas of Hásia. In fact, after the revolt had been crushed, these men carried on the fight with such determination that the Turkish government was finally forced to grant them an amnesty. These rebel-chiefs dominated all the region stretching from Édessa to Platamón.
1. Ger. Smyrnakis, Το Ἅγιον Ὄρος, Athens 1903, pp. 150-155.
2. St. Papadopoulos, Μακεδονικὰ σύμμεικτα, «Μακεδονικὰ» 6 (1964-1965) 152-153.
3. See Kontoyiannis, Οἱ Ἕλληνες, pp. 68-81.
4. Mertzios, Μνημεῖα, p. 190.
5. See G. Koromelas' article «Ζιάκας» in Μεγάλη Ἑλληνικὴ Ἐγκυκλοπαιδεία.
Zidros is reported not to have permitted any Turkish and Albanians bearing arms to circulate in the Elasson - Olympus region . In 1808, when the traveller Leake was passing through those parts, he was shown, outside Kokkinoplós, the grave of an Albanian chieftain who had been killed in a fight with the klephts of Olympus .
After 1770, the well-sung klepht, Dem. Totskas, and his three sons, Kyriakos, Stergios and Varkis, were operating with their bands in the Olympus and Grevená regions . In the Pindus Totskas fell upon a force of 3.000 Albanians who were returning home from the Peloponnese with prisoners and booty. He set free the women and children and seized the booty. Sometime later, he was murdered at the behest of Kurd Pasha at Dervíziana in Epirus, where his grave was preserved up to the end of the 19th century . In 1772 Luigi Sotiris of Levkas, on the orders of the admiral Gregory Spyridov, organized a band of some 300 or more Macedonians, who distinguished themselves in various operations .
It seems very likely that a number of Thessalonians took part in the war on the Russian side. Athanasios Hypsilantis, the author of 'After the Fall', relates that when he was sailing in the Black Sea, in 1778 as Dragoman for the Turkish fleet, he chanced to meet on the Turkish flag-ship a Greek slave from Thessalonica. "I asked him", continues Hypsilantis, "why he had been made a slave, and he replied "Because I have been with the 'Muscovites'; but as I heard that these were to have been pardoned, I did not leave for the Crimea. There are now more than 60 islanders chained up in the galleys for this reason" .
1. Kasomoulis, Ἐνθυμήματα, vol. 1, pp. 17-18. See other details in I. K. Vasdravellis, Οἱ πολεμικοὶ ἄνδρες τῆς Μακεδονίας κατὰ τὴν προεπαναστατικὴν περίοδον, «Μακεδονικὰ» 7 (1966-1967) 49-53.
2. W. Μ. Leake, Travels in Northern Greece, vol. 3, London 1835, p. 335.
3. Kasomoulis, ibid., vol. 1, pp. 11, 16. Regarding Totskas, see additional details in Chr. M. Enisleides, Ἡ Πίνδος καὶ τὰ χωριά της. Σπήλαιον – Γρεβενὰ - Σαμαρίνα, Athens 1951, p. 71. See also p. 116. Vasdravellis, ibid., pp. 53-55.
4. Ι. Lamprides, Ἠπειρωτικὰ μελετήματα, τεῦχ. Γ', Κουρεντιακὰ καὶ Τσαρκοβιστιακά, Athens 1888, pp. 69-70.
5. Protopsaltis, Ἡ ἐπαναστατικὴ κίνησις, ΔΙΕΕ 14 (1960) 61.
6. Athan. Komnenos Hypsilantis, Ἐκκλησιαστικῶν καὶ πολιτικῶν τῶν εἰς δώδεκα βιβλίων Η', Θ', καὶ Ι', ἤτοι τὰ μετὰ τὴν ἅλωσιν (1453-1789) (from an unpublished ms. of the holy monastery of Sinai), published by Archim. Germanos Aphthonides of Sinai, Constantinople 1870, p. 578.
[Back to Index]