Ispanakçı Viranesi: Family Connections

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Prior to that, however, some attention must be given to the historical background of a precise location situated within Kasap ƒlyas. There was indeed, in the mahalle, a particular area that was very densely populated by people originating from Arapkir and its surroundings toward the end of the nine-teenth century. This site had, as a matter-of-fact, served as a well-defined and localized migrant-shelter to this group of people ever since the last decades of the eighteenth century. The formation process and the evolution of this migrant-shelter might possibly point toward a particular and interesting Istanbul/Ottoman model of rural migration, social mobility, and integration in urban life.
This portion of the Kasap ƒlyas mahalle where these Arapkirlis were concentrated was known as Ispanakçı Viranesi. The existence of this name is documented from the middle of the nineteenth century, and it appears as such in the official 1885 census documents. Elderly inhabitants still remem-
ber it today, and the location is still associated with the migrants from Arapkir. The area called Ispanakçı Viranesi was neither a particular street, nor a group of streets or a square but an irregular conglomerate of rather run-down houses that occupied a very large plot of land. This plot of land, situated at the nothernmost tip of our mahalle, was connected to Yokuœçeœme Street by a short and narrow passageway, the homonymous Ispanakçı Viranesi Street (Fig. 3.1).
According to the 1885 census, Ispanakçı Viranesi and Ispanakçı Viranesi streets together contained about thirty-five houses in which a total of 272 people, that is, about twenty-nine percent of the Muslim population of the neighborhood, was then living.13 More than half of these residents of Ispanakçı

Viranesi had been born in or around Arapkir. Besides, in 1885, more than two thirds of the total number of Arapkirlis (i.e., those who were born in or around Arapkir) officially residing in the Kasap ƒlyas mahalle were living within Ispanakçı Viranesi. Rural migrants from a particular geographic region of the Ottoman Empire were therefore clustered in a portion of our neighborhood.
In Ottoman Istanbul, the term Virane (literally, ruins) usually designated a plot of land on which a house had been partly or totally destroyed by fire.
The long-run implication of the usage of this term is that the burned-out plot of land has been thereafter either neglected, or completely abandoned by its legal owners. With the passage of time, this plot of land becomes eligible for parceling out, if not for outright and illegal occupation by a squatter
settlement, and thus is a candidate for progressive slummification. On the Ispanakçı Viranesi had formerly stood a mansion (konak) known as Ispanakçı Kona™ı that belonged to the Ispanakçı family, from which it had got its name. Some members of this family had close connections with Arapkir
and its region. Ispanakçızâde Hâfız Mustafa Paœa (d. 1779) was the first owner of the Ispanakçı mansion. It was him, perhaps, who built or purchased it. Born in Erzurum, this high-ranking Ottoman official served first in the Topkapı Palace where he was raised to the rank of kapıcıbaœı. He was then
named Paœa and was appointed superintendent of the silver mines (maden emini) of Ergani and Keban, barely twenty miles away from Arapkir. It is this last city that he chose as his permanent residence during his tenure of office in the silver mines. He was made a vizier in 1768 and appointed governor of Erzurum the next year. Governor of Damascus in 1773 and of Konya in 1774, he was dismissed the same year. Appointed governor of Bagdad in 1776, he was called back from his post a year later and was ordered to reside in Diyarbakır.
Ispanakçızâde Hâfız Mustafa Paœa must in some way have strongly displeased the imperial authorities of the capital, for he was executed in Diyarbakır in 1779. His body was brought to Istanbul and buried in the Kasap ƒlyas mahalle,14 just a few paces from his own konak. His body was laid to rest in the garden of the small Abacızâde mosque and dervish convent (tekke), both of which were later completely destroyed by fire. This small convent, belonging to the Rufâî order of dervishes, was situated toward the upper end of Yokuœçeœme Street, at the northeasternly tip of the mahalle. In his exhaustive compendium of Istanbul mosques and shrines written in the 1770s, Ayvansarâyî Hâfız Hüseyin Efendi describes the location of the small Abacızâde tekke and mescid simply as “next to the Ispanakçızâde konak.”15 This means that the family house of the Ispanakçızâdes was already so well-known within Istanbul around 1770, that it could be used as a topographical landmark for describing the location of neighboring, and probably less prestigious, public and private buildings. Mustafa Paœa had therefore most certainly acquired the mansion that came to be known by his family name before his appointments to the provinces, perhaps in the 1750s or 1760s, while still a kapıcıbaœı at the Topkapı Palace. Ispanakçızâde Mustafa Paœa’s family and dependents were indeed living in the konak at the time of his death.
It is Ispanakçızâde Hâfız Mustafa Paœa himself who provides the missing link between the Ispanakçı mansion and the migrant shelter peopled by the Arapkirlis that later took shape in the same location. What we know of Mustafa Paœa’s career gives us clues as to the inception of the long-lasting connection between Kasap ƒlyas and the waves of migrants from Arapkir.
First of all, while on duty there, this high-ranking Ottoman official seems to have taken a liking to Arapkir and to its inhabitants. He undertook to act as a public benefactor of sorts, and, as some of the governors and grandees of the empire posted in the provinces used to do, tried to leave a lasting imprint on his town of residence. After the governor of the province of Sivas, whose seat of government, however was situated about a hundred miles away, he was the most powerful man in Arapkir. At the time when he was a superintendent of the silver mines of Ergani and Keban (certainly a very lucrative job), and a resident of the neighboring Arapkir, Ispanakçızâde Mustafa Paœa built a public library in this town. He also established and endowed a philanthropic foundation, again in Arapkir. The revenues of this vakıf were to be spent for the needs and the upkeep of the “Ispanakçızâde public library,” as it later came to be known. This public library was, for some time, also used as a mosque, or rather as a prayer room, during the nineteenth century.16
Second, during his residence in Arapkir it is highly probable that Ispanakçızâde Mustafa Paœa surrounded himself with an immediate entourage composed of locals. His retinue, servants, followers, and workers of various sorts, were locally recruited. In fact, every vizier, governor, or grandee of the empire invariably had with him at the time such a retinue. This was a largely non-kin group of followers, a “large household” composed of servants, attendants, and personnel of various kinds. For a vizier or a governor, having such a large retinue was a necessity in the exercise of his official
functions. It was obviously an outward sign of his social status too, as they helped him in both his public and his private affairs. With men of his retinue, the high-ranking Ottoman official acted both as an employer and as a promoter, a protector, and often as a lifelong patron.
In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries many people sought such employment and for the protection that supposedly went with it. In a political body largely devoid of a land-based hereditary aristocracy like the Ottoman Empire, these patronage relationships were particularly crucial. Entering
the service of a high-ranking official constituted, among other things, one of the main avenues for upward social mobility as well as for geographic mobility from the provincial centers to the capital. This was the case before the Tanzimat reforms, which tried to centralize and standardize accession and promotion procedures within the state bureaucracy. In the pre-Tanzimat period, being part of a vizier’s household was quite an enviable position.
The canonical model of the whole process was, obviously, the Imperial Palace, the Sultan’s household, and the royal road to political power. This is reflected in the vocabulary used to describe such a widespread web of patronage relationships. People who were part of a high-ranking official’s retinue
were collectively called the the people at [the/his] gate (kapı halkı). The act of passing through that real and symbolic gate that led to being part of his household was, then, designated by a verb meaning to be affiliated to a gate (kapılanmak). Similarly, those who had already passed through the most prestigious of all of the symbolic gates, that which led to the imperial Palace and to being a modest member of the imperial household, were called the servants/slaves of the gate (kapıkulu).
This was the web of relationships in which Ispanakçızâde Hâfız Mustafa Paœa, vizier, governor of many Ottoman provinces, and owner of a large konak in Istanbul, found himself. It is more than probable that Mustafa Paœa, surrounded on all sides by Arapkirlis, exercised his patronage to promote their social and geographic mobility. Arapkir was, as we shall see, a city that had a long-standing local tradition of migration. Mustafa Paœa, as the benefactor of this town, also exercised his benevolence by encouraging or helping some of the citizens to move to the imperial capital. While in official duty
and residence in Arapkir, some of his local protégés were brought or sent, either as butlers, lackeys, stablemen, gardeners, caretakers, or as servants of various kinds, to Mustafa Paœa’s real and permanent household, that is, to the familial Ispanakçı konak in Kasap ƒlyas.
Those Arapkirlis who thus got to be “affiliated to Mustafa Paœa’s gate” were housed either in his konak in Istanbul, or in its immediate vicinity. The first nucleus of migrants from Arapkir to the Kasap ƒlyas mahalle came to settle in or around the Ispanakçızâde mansion during the third quarter of the eighteenth century. They thus constituted a first small local center of attraction for a succession of migratory movements that were to last for more than a century and a half.
As to the Ispanakçızâde family konak itself, it did not survive its first owner for very long, as it was totally destroyed in the large Istanbul fire that wrought havoc in our neighborhood in 1782, just three years after Mustafa Paœa’ execution. The existing documents strongly suggest that Ispanakçızâde
Hâfız Mustafa Paœa’s family left the mahalle after the fire, and that the family mansion was never rebuilt. The records have kept a few traces of his son and of some of his grandsons. One of his sons, ƒbrahim Yümnî Paœa had a military career and died in Van in 1819. A younger son and two grandsons
Tahir Mehmet bey (d. 1843), Mustafa ƒzzet Efendi (d.1862), and Cemaleddin ƒbrahim Efendi (d. 1888) became ulemas,17 that is, they were members of the official religious hierarchy. We do not know for certain whether any of the descendants continued to live in or around Kasap ƒlyas. If they did, there are
no traces. None of the members of the Ispanakçızâde family were buried in or anywhere near the Kasap ƒlyas mahalle, anyway.
Besides, there is no trace in the local documents of another konak having ever been built in the same location. A court case dated November 1809, for instance, mentions the existence of “a plot of land belonging to the inheritors of Ispanakçıbaœı” in the mahalle.18 Thirty years after his death, the family
name of the first owner of the konak had been almost forgotten by the locals (Ispanakçıbaœı instead of Ispanakçızâde). But the plot of land on which the Ispanakçızâde Mustafa Paœa’s mansion had formerly stood had not yet been totally neglected or abandoned by his descendants, who still claimed owner-
ship. Indeed, the term virane, bearing the connotation of a general neglect, does not appear in the records before the middle of the nineteenth century.
The migrants from Arapkir were already in the mahalle, though, and long before the census of 1885, the records bear traces of their presence.


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