MESA Banner
Fate of Armenian Family Wealth: Confiscation of Property in Ottoman Aintab during the First World War
Drawing upon primary sources from Armenian, Ottoman-Turkish, British, and French archives, as well as memoirs, personal papers, local newspapers, periodicals, testimonials, and oral accounts, this paper focuses on affluent Armenian families and the fate of their wealth in Ottoman Aintab in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. From 1895 until 1915, Muslims and Armenians of Aintab, who had previously coexisted in relative harmony, turned against one another, with the former committing inconceivable acts against the latter. In this study, the lens through which intercommunal and state-minority relations are viewed is primarily an economic one, but in the broad sense of that term, with political economy entailing law, commerce, property relations, and socioeconomic tensions. Economic rivalries were over- laden on ethno-religious hierarchies in the late nineteenth century in Aintab. The seizure and transfer of property of well-off Armenian families undergirded popular support for the deportation and ultimate elimination of their fellow citizens. These families had constituted the middle and upper middle class of the Aintab population, and they had predominated in manufacturing, agricultural production, and interregional trade. Thus, their expulsion was a moment for opportunity, for the bandits who robbed Armenians of their personal belongings on the road and especially for Aintab’s Muslim elites, who seized the assets and properties the Armenians left behind. What would happen to the properties of leading wealthy Armenian families left behind, and how would they be managed? What mechanisms of the process of confiscation were used? Who benefited from this process? Did the Committee of Union Progress, then Ottoman ruling government, distribute property of prominent Armenian families to Aintab gentry and its inhabitants in exchange for their support? If so, which institutions were involved? What kinds of laws, rules, and regulations did state authorities enact for the confiscation of property of these families? These will be the guiding questions in this paper. They cut across a number of research areas in Ottoman and Middle Eastern history, some of which have been more thoroughly explored than others. To answer these questions, this paper examines the personal histories of three families in Aintab, the Yacoubians, Danielians, and Nazaretians, which shed light on how thousands of Armenian families lost their wealth.
Geographic Area
Ottoman Empire
Sub Area