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Author: Kapiton Smirnov; translated by Hristo Pavlov

Editor's Note: The subject "physical and population geography" has been under surveillance in some previous publications of the booklist - cf., Penkov, I and Hristov, T; Mishaykov, D; Bozhikov, D; Razboynikov, S and Razboynikov, A. Since thematically geo-demography is questionable in itself, furthermore the book at hand from author Kapiton Smirnov is only an intermediate step in a larger and fully conclusive study. The copy at our possession is in a very bad condition, but hopefully in readable state. The precious status of this monograph is secluded in the timeframe of its publication - namely, the immediate inauguration of the Principality of Bulgaria (1878), but before the first official census in the country at year 1880. Thus the contained information here is compiled indirectly from existing secondary sources: 1) Turkish Salnamos 1830-1878; 2) Data from the provisional Russian administration; 3) Other sources of indefinite origin and mainly travelogues. We made a check in collateral sources and there are wide discrepancies of numbers and denominators. Henceforth, we accept the thesis launched by some demographers that firstly reliable data can be found in the "Bulgarian Almanac" from 1908, ditto.


TURKEY, or the OTTOMAN EMPIRE (q. v.), includes large portions of the continents of Europe. Asia, and Africa, and consists of Turkey Proper, which is under the direct rule of the sultan, and of several dependent and tributary states. The arrangements sanctioned by the Berlin Congress in 1878 have largely changed the size and organization of the empire. Turkish affairs could not soon be expected to settle into equilibrium; and on most subjects reliable statistical results are at best approximate. In any case, it is necessary for an understanding of Turkey as it now is, to begin with Turkey as it was before the last momentous war with Russia.

The Almanach de Gotha of 1878 gave the following estimates of the area and population of the Turkish empire before the sweep-tug changes agreed to at Berlin:








Montenegro, formerly a tributary state, had been virtually independent for many years.

The population of the various provinces, even of European Turkey, has always been difficult to ascertain. The most satisfactory estimate was probably one made before the vilayet of Herzegovina was separated from Bosnia, and published in 1876 in the Vienna journal "Monatsschrift für den Orient". This was based on the "Salnamos", or official almanacs of the vilayets, and shows at the same time the distribution of the religions in the provinces, but it takes account only of the male population.


Constantinople, not included in any of the six vilayets, had a total population of 680,000. The total male population of European T., excluding the vassal provinces, was 4,976,000. The entire population of both sexes might, therefore, be assumed to exceed 10,000,000. The proportion of Non-Moslems to Moslems given above (57 to 43) probably understates the numerical predominance of the former.

Many of these estimates have of course become obsolete since the Berlin Congress of 1878 (see History of the Ottoman Empire). This Congress, which met primarily to revise the 'preliminary' treaty of San Stefano, concluded between Russia and Turkey at the close of the war of 1877-78, has revolutionized the relation of the Porte to the subject Christian principalities and provinces, alienated large portions of hitherto Turkish territory, and inaugurated what must necessarily be a new era in the history of the Ottoman empire. The principal results of the Congress's work are treated under the several heads of the states they chiefly concern (see ROUMANIA, SERVIA, MONTENEGRO, BULGARIA, etc.), but must here be briefly summarized.

The vassal states Roumania and Servia, as well as Montenegro, were declared independent, and each obtained a change or extension of territory; Roumania. which had to yield up its portion of Bessarabia to Russia, received in compensation the Dobrudscha, cut off by a line from Silistria to Mangalia. Servia was considerably extended to the south. Montenegro received an important addition to its territory, chiefly on the Albanian side, including the port of Antivari. (Dulcigno with its district was added in 1880.) What was formerly the Turkish vilayet of the Danube, was, with the exception of the Dobrudscha, now Roumanian, made into the tributary but automatic principality of Bulgaria, its southern boundary being the Balkan range. A large territory to the south of the Balkans was organized as the separate province of Eastern Roumelia, and though remaining directly under the military and political authority of the Sultan, secured the right of having a Christian governor-general and administrative autonomy.

It was agreed that Herzegovina and Bosnia, excepting a small portion of the latter, should be occupied and administered by Austro-Hungary, and thus in large measure alienated from the Porte; Spizza and its sea-board, immediately north of Antivari, was incorporated with Dalmatia; Greece was to receive additional territory; the Congress recommending that the rectified frontier should run up the Salambria River from its mouth, cross the ridge dividing ancient Thessaly from Epirus, cut off the town of Janina so as to leave it to Greece, and descend the Kalamas River to the Ionian Sea. In Crete the reformed government promised in 1868 was to be immediately and scrupulously carried out. In Asia the changes were much less considerable; the port of Batum. henceforth to be essentially commercial, Kars and Ardahan, with a portion of Armenia, were ceded to Russia, and Khotour, east of Lake Van, to Persia; the Porte engaging to carry out at once much needed administrative reforms in Armenia and elsewhere. By the 'conditional convention' made in 1878 between Turkey and the United Kingdom, the English government undertook to defend the Porte's dominions in Asia, and received in return the right to occupy and administer Cyprus. The rectification of the Greek frontier was not arranged till 1881. After endless negotiations and procrastination, which for a while seemed almost certain to lead to war, the Porte agreed to cede, and Greece to accept, a considerable portion of territory, though less than the Congress of Berlin had recommended. The new frontier gives to Greece all Thessaly south of the watershed forming the northern boundary of the valley of the Salambria (anc. Peneus), including the towns of Larissa and Trikhala; and in Epirus follows the line of the Arta River, leaving the town of Arta to Greece. The fortifications of Prevesa are to be destroyed by the Turks, and the Gulf of Arta is to be neutral.

The area and population of Turkey in Europe have now to be thus arranged:


TURKEY IN EUROPE — generally hilly and undulating, is traversed by a mountain system which has its origin in the Alps, enters T. at the north-west corner, and runs nearly parallel to the coast, under the names of the Dinaric Alps and Mount Pindus, as far as the Greek frontier. This range sends numerous off-shoots east and west; the great eastern off-shot being the Balkans (q. v.) range, with its numerous branches to north and south. The rivers of Turkey are chiefly the tributaries of the Danube; the Muritza, Strumo, Vardar; the Narenta, Drin, and Voyutza.

On the high lands, the cold is excessive in winter, owing to the north-east winds, which blow from the bleak and icy steppes of Southern Russia; and the heat of summer is almost insupportable in the western valleys. Violent climatic change is, on the whole, the ruin in European Turkey; but those districts which are sheltered from the cold winds, as the Albanian valleys, enjoy a comparatively equable temperature. The soil is for the most part very fertile; but owing to the positive discouragement of industry by the oppressive system of taxation which was long in force, little progress has been made in the art of agriculture, and the most primitive implements are in common use. The cultivated product include most of those usual in Central and Southern Europe — viz., maize, rice, cotton, rye, barley, and millet. The mineral products are, iron in abundance, argentiferous lead ore, copper, sulphur, salt, alum, and a little gold, but no coal. The wild animals are the wild boar, bear, wolf, wild dog, civet, chamois, wild ox, and those others which are generally distributed in Europe. The lion was formerly an inhabitant of the Thessalian Mountains.

TURKEY IN ASIA — This portion of the Turkish empire is more hilly than the other. The two almost parallel ranges, Taurus and Anti-Taurus, which are the basis of its mountain-system, cover almost the whole of the peninsula of Asia Minor or Anatolia (q. v.), with their ramifications and off-shoots, forming the surface into elevated plateaux, deep valleys, and enclosed plains. Prom the Taurus chain, the Lebanon range proceeds southwards parallel to the coast of Syria, and diminishing in elevation in Palestine, terminates on the Red Sea coast at Sinai. The Euphrates, Tigris, Orontes, and Kizil-Ennak are the chief rivers. On the whole, Turkey in Asia is ill supplied with water; and though the mountain slopes afford abundance of excellent pasture, the plains, and many of the valleys, especially those of the Euphrates, Tigris, and Jordan, are reduced by the parching droughts of summer to the condition of sandy deserts. In ancient times, these now desert districts were preserved in a state of fertility by artificial irrigation; but during the six centuries of almost constant war which convulsed this once fair region, the canals were neglected, and have, ever since the rise of the Osmanli power, remained in an unserviceable condition. Nevertheless, the fertile portions produce abundance of wheat, barley, rice, maize, tobacco, hemp, flax, and cotton; the cedar, cypress, and evergreen oak flourish on the mountain-slopes; the sycamore and mulberry on the lower hills; and the olive, fig, citron, orange, pomegranate, and vine on the low lands. The mineral products are iron, copper, lead, alum, silver, rock-salt, coal (in Syria), and limestone. The fauna includes the lion (east of the Euphrates), the hyena, lynx, panther, leopard, buffalo, wild boar, wild ass, bear, wolf, jackal, jerboa, and many others; and the camel and dromedary increase the ordinary list of domestic animals.

POSSESSIONS IN AFRICA — Tripoli is a vilayet of the Ottoman Empire. Egypt, under its hereditary khedive, is still tributary to the Porte, though of late years the relations of the tributary state to its suzerain have been gradually becoming looser. Tunis, till 1881 under Turkish suzerainty, is since that year practically a French protectorate. See the articles TRIPOLI, EGYPT, TUNIS.

INDUSTRY, MANUFACTURES, AND TRADE — Notwithstanding the primitive state of agriculture in T., the extreme fertility of the soil makes ample amends for this defect. The products are wax, raisins, dried figs, olive oil, silks, red cloth, dressed goat-skins, excellent morocco, saddlery, swords of superior quality, shawls, carpets, dye-stuffs, embroidery, essential oils, attar of roses, opium, corn, plum-brandy, etc. The exports include also wool, goats' hair, meerschaum clay, honey, sponges, drugs, madder, gall-nuts, various gums and resins, and excellent wines; the imports are manufactured goods of all kinds, glass, pottery, arms, paper, cutlery, steel, amber, etc. Previous to the recent Russian war the average annual value of the imports of Turkey in Europe was estimated at £18,500,000, and the exports at £10,000,000. Trade has dwindled to about one-third of its former dimensions since the war. The exports from the whole of the Turkish Empire to Great Britain amounted, in 1879, to £7,705,594; and the imports thence to £3,473,461. The countries which trade with T. are, in order of importance, Persia, Great Britain, France, Austria, Russia, Egypt, etc; and the principal ports of the empire are Constantinople, Trebizond, and Smyrna. The mercantile marine of Turkey is small. In 1879 it comprised only some 230 sea-going ships (a dozen of them steamers), of a total tonnage of 34,800 tons. In 1878 there were over 780 miles of railway open for traffic in European Turkey; in the Asiatic part of the empire, about 175 miles.

POPULATION — A more heterogeneous aggregation of races than that which constitutes the population of the Turkish empire can hardly be conceived. Turks, Greeks, Slavs, Roumanians, Albanians, are largely represented, besides Armenians, Jews, Circassians, etc., and Frank residents. In European Turkey, the Turks are estimated at 2,200,000; the Slavs, including the Bulgarians of the principality, at near 2,000,000; the Greeks at 1,030,000; the Albanians at 1,250,000; and the Roumanians at 1,000,000. Then in Asia there may be 4,450,000 Turks, not to speak of those in Africa; of Turkomans, 100,000; of Kurds, 1,000,000; of Syrians 190,000 — all in Asia: 1,000,000 Greeks; 2,400,000 Armenians (partly in Europe); as well as Jews, Arabs (in Asia and Africa), Druses, Franks or Western Christians, Gypsies, Tartars, Circassians and other kindred races, Copts, Nubians, Berbers, etc. Of these, the Greeks and Armenians are traders; the Slavic people and the Albanians are the chief agriculturists in Europe, and the Osmanlis, Armenians, Syrians, and Druses in Asia. Of the whole population about 25,000,000 are Mohammedans, and 15,300,000 Greek and Armenian Christians.

ADMINISTRATION, RELIGION, EDUCATION — The government of T. has always been a pure despotism; the constitution granted in 1876 and revoked in 1878 was only nominal. The power of the Sultan (also called Padishah, Grand Seignior, Khan and Hunkiar) is much limited by the sheikh-ul-islam, the chief of the Ulemas (q. v.), who has the power of objecting to any of the sultan's decrees, and frequently possesses more authority over the people than his sovereign. The supreme head of the administration, and the next in rank to the sultan, is the grand vizier (sadri-azam), under whom are the members of the cabinet or divan (menasybi-divaniié), including the president of the council, the ministers of foreign affairs, of war, of the navy, of artillery, of the interior, of justice, of finances, and the other heads of departments of the administration. Governmental crises are frequent, especially of late; but palace intrigues are always a chief power in the state. The governors of the vilayets, or provinces, are styled valis; each vilayet is divided into sanjaks, or livas, ruled by inferior officers; each liva containing a number of cazas or districts; and each caza a number of nahiyehs.

The provincial governors have no longer the power of life and death; and their power of practicing extortion on those under their rule has been greatly diminished. The variable imposts, are, however, farmed, but considerable restrictions are imposed on the farmers to prevent oppression. The established religion is Mohammedanism, but all other creeds are recognized and tolerated; and since 1856, a Mussulman has been free to change his religion at pleasure, without becoming liable to capital punishment, as was formerly the case. Education was long neglected, but in 1847 a new system was introduced; and since then, schools for elementary instruction have been established throughout T.; and middle schools for higher education, and colleges for the teaching of medicine, agriculture, naval and military science, etc. Many wealthy Turks, however, send their sons to France or Britain to be educated. The newspapers published in T. are not all printed in Turkish: several of them are printed in Greek. French, and other languages.

REVENUE AND DEBT — The Turkish government has never published an account of the actual revenue and expenditure of the empire. Estimates were given, but the budgets were so constructed as either to show a surplus, or to make the income and disbursements balance one another, while it was notorious that there were heavy deficits year by year. Years before the war of 1877, the Turkish exchequer was evidently on the brink of insolvency, as was manifested by the violent expedients proposed for escaping from part of its liabilities. In 1875 a decree reduced the interest payable on the debt to one-half the proper amount; and another decree in 1876 announced that no further payments would be made till the internal affairs of the empire should allow of it. The enormous expenditure of the war, and the loss of valuable provinces, have only added to the utter disorganization of Turkish nuances.

The first budget that admitted a deficit was that of 1874-75, where the revenue was given at £22,552,300, and the expenditure at £22,849,610. In 1875-76 the revenue was estimated at £19,106,352, and the expenditure at £23,143,276. In 1878-79, the revenue was guessed at £14,000,000; expenditure (with part of the war expenses) were £50,000,000. At the end of 1880, the newspaper "Times" estimated the available annual revenue at £9,450,000, and the budget expenditure was nearly £12,000,000.

Between 1854 and 1874, when the borrowing power of T. came to an end, fourteen separate loans had been contracted to meet deficiencies. At the end of that period, the foreign debt of T. amounted to £184,981,783. The internal and floating debt was stated in 1878 at £75,000,000; and the government had issued vast quantities of caimés or paper money, probably to the nominal value of £90,000,000.

NAVY AND ARMY — The navy consisted in 1878 of 15 large armor-clad vessels, 18 smaller iron-clad, and 45 other steamers. During the war of 1877-78, five iron-clad and three other steamers were sunk or taken; and since, three iron-clad have been sold to England.

In the course of the war with Russia, T. contrived to put on a war footing no less than 752,000 men, including reserve and irregular troops. At the end of the war, the disorganized remnant amounted to about 120,000 men. Extraordinary efforts have been made to keep up the army: in 1880, when it had seemed necessary to call out the reserves, the empire actually had an army of 300,000 men, well armed and fairly equipped. According to the reorganization progressing in 1880, the military forces of the empire consist of active army (nizam), two regiments of landwehr (redif), and a landsturm (mustafiz). When the reorganization is complete, there should be, on the war footing, an available force of 468,000 infantry, 64,800 cavalry, 57,600 artillery, 10,800 pioneers, and 9000 of the military train; total, 610,200 men.


Picture 1: Extract from K. Smirnov's "Zemleopisanie", issued in Plovdiv, 1879. Biographical Note: — Kapiton Ivanovich Smirnov was born in 1827. He received his education at the Main Pedagogical Institute. Worked as director of the 2nd St. Petersburg High School. His "Academic Book of Geography" withstood dozens of publications. Died in 1902 .

(i). This is p. 40 from the mentioned book. Among other things and it is said here that the administrative division of the Principality comprises 14 "okrugs" and 56 "okoliya" — roughly corresponding to "sanjaks" and "caazas" from the previous boundaries. Each sub-division has a number of population ("zhiteli") which is the equivalent of the previous "nahiyehs". In this case the town of Sofia has been enumerated with 20 200 population, an estimate that comes correct as back-calculated from 1905 census (82 000 population).



Copyright © 2008 by the author.