DISPOSSESSION AT THE CROSSROADS OF THE NOMADS, LOCAL BURSAN VILLAGERS AND BALKAN-CAUCASIAN IMMIGRANTS

By Elcin Arabaci
Submitted to Session P4859 (Rethinking Pastoralists and Pastoral Nomadism in the Ottoman Empire, 2017 Annual Meeting
Hist
Ottoman Empire;
19th-21st Centuries;
LCD Projector without Audio;
This paper focuses on two complicated legal disputes among the yörüks [Turcoman nomads], refugees from Balkans and Caucasus, and Muslim and Armenian peasants in Bursa over the sharing of common pastures. Using Ottoman archival sources, I examine two historical cases from 1891 that triggered armed conflicts, and resulted in numerous injuries and a few deaths. These incidents indicate that the yörüks in the province of Hüdâvendigâr, who were forced to settle in the region in the 1860s were still struggling with difficulties caused by their forceful sedentarization, including cultural disputes with the local villagers and dispossession. Once the yörüks had lost their usufruct rights over common pastures on their winter camping sites on the Bursa plain due to the Land Law of 1858, they had to encounter the calamity of the turning into landless peasants.

Sharing common pastures must have been already a matter of tension between the local villagers after the Land Law of 1858, because these cases show that after this law the villagers claimed and took the possession of common pastures. However this tension could grow into armed conflicts when the central bureaucracy attempted to settle immigrants from the Balkans and Caucasus on already disputed lands in the aftermath of Russo-Ottoman War of 1877-78. When these settlements occurred on the pastures encircled by non-Muslim communities, armed conflicts for pastures might have laid the seeds more violent sectarian conflicts of the First World War years.