History of Macedonia 1354-1833

A. Vacalopoulos


IX. The Russo-Turkish war of 1768-1774 and its repercussions upon Macedonia


3. Anarchy in Macedonia after the end of the Russo-Turkish war



Despite the termination of the Russo-Turkish war in 1774, peace was not restored in the interior of Macedonia. On the contrary, Albanian mercenaries, who had gone into the Peloponnese to put down the Greek insurrection, created such a reign of terror in the Greek inhabited areas and brought such misery to Greek and Turkish populations alike, that the restoration of law and order became a matter of prime importance. What is more, a number of local ağas and beys had set themselves up as independent petty tyrants, their rivalry exploding into frequent bloody clashes.


The mutual strife in which the beys of Central Macedonia were constantly engaged provide a typical example. One of the oldest and most powerful Turkish land-owning families in those parts was that of the Habenderoglu, whose estates began from the Doïráni district and stretched over some 14 kazas. They were all-powerful and lorded it over the neighbouring beys and rayas with impunity; for the paşas of Thessalonica, well provided as they were with rich gifts from the Habenderoglu, closed their eyes to their tyrannical conduct. Everyone who had influence with the Sultan was likewise bribed into silence.


At the time we are speaking of, the chief of the Habenderoglu (despite the fact that he was not the eldest son) was a man named Abdil Ağa. By virtue of his boldness and ingenuity, this man had succeeded in winning over the Janissaries of Thessalonica. He had readily taken into his fold all who fled to him to escape the law and had enlisted these fugitives in the powerful 72nd Company.


Around the year 1769, Abdil Ağa had clashed for various reasons with Hasan Ağa, the Yürük bey of the region which was inhabited by those 'descendants of the conquerors' mentioned earlier in this book. With the assistance of 3.000 Albanians, whom he had recruited in anticipation, Abdil Ağa succeeded in overthrowing the Yürük leader, who had been entrusted by the Porte with the task of wiping out Abdil and his family with him. The Porte did not take any immediate, retaliatory measures, since it was preoccupied with the war with Russia. Indeed, even after peace was concluded, the successive paşas of Thessalonica did nothing, since they were still being plied with gifts by Abdil.


However, after 1777 disorder broke out once more in Central Macedonia. The ağas of Strumica decided to avenge themselves on the Albanian, Osman Bey, an ayân of Petrítsi, over a quarrel that had cropped up between thenı at the time of the annual trade-fair at Dólia. In the





ensuing clash, the ağas had got the worst of it and sought the help of Abdil Ağa. The latter marched with alacrity against Osman Bey in May 1778 with 3.000 men, and taking him by surprise in his seray, forced him to take flight after some slight resistance. Abdil wrecked Osman's seray and the houses of his followers, and installed a new Turkish ayân, before he retired to his base, carrying away all the Albanian's moveable property and his wives and children as well.


Not unnaturally, Osman Bey, who had fled to his compatriot, Chaoush Bey of Demir Hisar, was determined to get his own back on Abdil Ağa. With the assistance of Chaush Bey and another Albanian, Talib Bey of Melnik, he commenced retaliatory operations which lasted up till October 1778, with Abdil losing a substantial number of his men in the exchanges.


Things quietened down somewhat throughout the autumn and the following winter, which was quite a severe one. But at the beginning of March 1779, the three ağas, with 3.000 Albanians, launched a surprise attack on the new ayâns seray at Petrítsi, and overcame him in spite of his desperate resistance. They then turned upon Abdil Ağa, threatening his seray at Doiráni. Abdil Ağa concluded that flight offered the best solution, for in addition to the three ağas now confronting him, the Porte had given instructions to Koutzos Zade, an ayân of Sérres, to march against him with other ağas and a force of 1.500 men. Abdil also feared the intervention of the Kaptan Paşa, Hasan, who was just at that moment starting out from Constantinople to punish the Albanians of the Morea, who were running riot there. Nor were his fears ill-founded. Hasan Pasha had indeed instructions to impose some order in the regions he passed through to reach his final destination.


On 13th May, the Kaptan Paşa arrived at Kavála and summoned the commander of the castle to his camp. But the latter had left two days previously on the pretext that an emergency required his presence elswhere [1]. On the 15th of that month, the Kaptan Paşa reached Sérres, where anarchy was rife. As the Venetian consul at Thessalonica tells us, the Greek rayas of the Sérres, Doïráni and Melnik regions, and even the local Turks as well, were suffering untold hardship at the hands of the Albanian bands, which were behaving with their customary ferocity [2]. As Hasan Pasha was entering Sérres all the ağas rushed to



1. M. Lascaris, Salonique a la fin du XVIIIe siècle, Athens 1939, pp. 33-37.


2. See also reports of 29 May and 4 June 1779 of the Venetian consul in Thessalonica in Mertzios, Μνημεῖα, pp. 425-426.





receive him with a great parade of humility. He punished lightly a number of them, against whom he had heard complaints from the peasants; and among these happened to be Chaoush Bey of Demir Hisar. Recognising him, the Kaptan Paşa told him that he would like to have a word with him privately. He prevailed upon him to summon to Sérres his two comrades in the war with Abdil Ağa, the Albanians Talib Bey of Melnik and Osman Bey of Petrítsi, and persuade them to meet the Kaptan Paşa and to have no fears. At first, Talib Bey refused to appear, for he distrusted the Pasha. But deceived by his serene behaviour, he agreed to meet Hasan at the village of Póros. He was told to bring with him no more than two officers and fifty of his soldiers, and these were to remain outside in the courtyard of the house while the meeting was taking place. In the brief encounter that ensued, the Kaptan Paşa upbraided Talib Bey for the disorders which be and his companions had provoked, and slew him on the spot. As for Talib's retainers, they were disposed of in the courtyard, while Ghaoush Pasha was dispatched in an adjoining room.


Osman Bey, the third member of the alliance, happened at that moment to be at the close company of Abdi, Paşa of Thessalonica, who was following some way behind the Kaptan Paşa with a view to assisting the latter should the need arise. When, therefore the Kaptan's emissary arrived in his camp with orders that the head of Osman Bey be handed over to him, Abdi Pasha did not tarry in carrying out the command. The heads of the three allied beys were presented to the Sultan at Constantinople along with those of 29 of the beys' more important officers. This was a signal for the proscription of all the Albanians who found themselves on Greek soil. From henceforth, Turks and Greeks were free to kill any Albanian they met.


The time had now come to settle some old scores which the Porte had with the Habenderoglu family, and the Kaptan Paşa turned his attentions in their direction. At Doïráni he found the younger brother, Abdourahman Ağa and beheaded him. The two elder brothers, Husein and Abdil, had managed to make their escape, thus prolongihg for a while their stormy existence. Anxious to complete his journey, the Kaptan Paşa delegated to Abdi Pasha the task of running the two fugitives to earth, and Husein and Abdil were not able to escape their fate for very long. The property of the Habenderoglu family was given to Yusuf Bey, a member of the Evrenos family, who undertook in exchange to pay a sum of 50 purses into the public treasury.


The entry of the Kaptan Paşa into Thessalonica on 27th May in-





spired such awe that "one could hear the whirr of a fly's wing anywhere in the city". Continuing his journey southwards, he passed by Kateríni, which was administered by two Albanian brothers, the sons of the notorious Arnaout Hasan. After all that had happened so far, there could be little doubt as to the fate that awaited them, and the elder of the two made no hesitation in taking himself off with 100 companions to the inviting refuge of Mt. Olympus. The younger brother, however, presented himself to the Kaptan Paşa and succeeded in saving his life under the condition that he would in future employ no Albanian in his service; should he transgress this injunction, he would be punished with death.


Abdi Pasha stayed on in Thessalonica with over a thousand men to complete the business of the Kaptan Paşa and to drive out the Albanians from the surrounding district [1]. As a matter of fact, the number of Albanians living in those parts and in the city itself was quite considerable. They were mostly soldiers in the service of the various ağas, but a respectable number of them were engaged in various crafts. The French consul Arasy reports that they numbered as many as 4.000. But after their undisguised persecution only a very few out of that lively crowd were left in Thessalonica: little more than 60 in fact, who were Albanians that had married local women. About 100 others, who were employed in the customs, were obliged to stay awhile until Turks arrived from Constantinople to replace them [2].


While these events were taking place in Eastern and Central Macedonia, an Albanian brigand by the name of Soulios Starova was making his presence felt in the Ohrid district. About the middle of 1779 he committed a series of appalling murders, his victims being merchants on their way to the trade-fairs. The beylerbeyi of Rumeli, who had his headquarters at Monastir, eventually went into action against him [3].


The domination of the countryside by these Albanians, coupled with a general spread of brigandage, induced the inhabitants of a number of Western Macedonian villages to migrate to quieter surroundings. Thus we find the people of Katránitsa, Ostrovo, Grameníki, Khorovîna, Yerakína, Okhta, Králmisa, Tsigán, Yakína, Dérzhovo, Drósylo, Nisí, Fídiza, Aëtós and Kókova moving to quieter regions such as those of Thessalonica, Sérres, Flórina, Djoumá Pazár, Véroia, Édessa, Náousa and Yenitsá. However, the complaints of the zaïms and sipahis led the



1. Lascaris, Salonique a la fin du XVIIIe siècle, pp. 37-40.


2. Svoronos, Le commerce, p. 9.


3. Mertzios, Μνημεῖα, p. 278.





Sultan to order the return of these people to their native villages, unless they had been away for more than ten years [1].


Throughout this stormy period the inhabitants of Macedonia lived and worked within a close framework of community and guild organization, having close ties with what churches and monasteries had survived (a great number of monasteries — particularly in the urban centres — had by this time disappeared; thus for instance from the wealth of monasteries that Thessalonica could once boast, one alone had survived, and that belonged to the Oecumenical Patriarchate [2], i.e. the monastery of Vlateon, that stands to this day).


Α typical example of the guilds' activities is the record that on 2 January 1777, the rufet of wine-dealers dedicated an icon representing the scene of Candlemas (the Presentation in the Temple) to the church of the Holy Apostles at Thessalonica, which had been painted at the guild's expense [3].


Another item of note is that the guilds of Kozáni under their guild-presidents were officially assembled together to decide on the issue of documents bearing episcopal confirmation and drawn up to codify the hitherto unwritten regulations which used to define working conditions, the relations between members, and guild obligations.


In this connection, we find in a letter of Ignatius, Bishop of Sérvia and Kozáni, written in 1768, a record of furriers, tailors, shoe-makers, builders, butchers and grocers [4]. With the passage of time (especially after 1777) these guilds were supplemented by others (coppersmiths, saddlers, etc.) [5], a fact that illustrates the all-round economic development of Kozáni and a growing trend towards systematic organization.



1. Vasdravellis, Ἀρχεῖον Βέροιας - Ναούσης, pp. 210-211. For the dispersal of other inhabitants of Macedonia in 1767 see also of same author, Ἀρχεῖον Θεσσαλονίκης, pp. 265-266.


2. Mertzios, Μνημεῖα, p. 368.


3. Stamoulis, Συμβολή, ΕΜΑ 12 (1962) 53.


4. See Kalinderis, Αἱ συντεχνίαι, p. 23 ff.


5. Kalinderis, ibid., pp. 21 ff.


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