Little has been written in English on life in the Trabzon region (Figure 1) on the Black Sea coast in north-eastern Anatolia (now in the Republic of Turkey) during the Russian occupation from April 1916 to February 1918, in World War I.
by Sam Topalidis1 and Russell McCaskie2 2018.
(1. Pontic Historian, 2. Research Associate)
Little has been written in English on life in the Trabzon region (Figure 1) on the Black Sea coast in north-eastern Anatolia (now in the Republic of Turkey) during the Russian occupation from April 1916 to February 1918, in World War I. This paper utilises the research by Dr Halit Akarca who had access to and translated documents into English from the Russian archives and our analysis of the Russian texts by Sergei Rudol’fovich Mintslov (1916; 1923) (Note 1). The period of Russian army occupation was a ‘trying time’ with widespread diseases and food shortages causing misery on both soldiers and civilians. Brigands were also responsible for thefts and murders in the Trabzon countryside.
2. 1914 to March 1917
Russians capture Trabzon
In November 1914, Russia declared war on the Ottoman empire. From then up to March 1915, Russian warships bombarded Trabzon six times. It was estimated that Trabzon was further weakened over the winter of 1914–15 with up to 6,000 Ottoman soldiers and civilians dead from typhus. In January 1916 the Russian Caucasian army commenced its major offensive against the Ottoman Turk forces with its objective the port of Trabzon (Nekrasov 1992; Rogan 2015). (Note 2.)
In late March, two Cossack Infantry brigades totalling 18,000 men and 4,300 horses were transported from Novorossiysk, Russia to Rize, east of Trabzon (Figure 1) (Halpern 1994). By 13 April Russian General Liakhov [commander of the maritime forces of the Caucasian army corps] had 21 battalions of 20,000 infantry with 30 field guns. On 16 April, Liakhov’s troops had advanced to a position 13 km to the east of Trabzon (Allen and Muratoff 1953).
On 18 April 1916, a deputation of the [Pontic] Greek population appeared in the Russian lines and informed them that the Ottoman Turks had evacuated Trabzon by the morning of 16th April (Allen and Muratoff 1953). On the eve of the Russian occupation of Trabzon, the Turkish provincial governor abandoned the town and entrusted its administration to the Greek Orthodox metropolitan, Chrysanthos (Note 3) (Ligue Nationale du Pont Euxine 1919).
When the Russians captured Trabzon on 18 April (Figure 2) (Nekrasov 1992), we believe around 12,000 Greeks lived in the town. The town was left in the control of the Greek gendarmes [a body of armed Greeks serving as an armed police force for the maintenance of public order] (Akarca 2014). Mintslov (1923) observes there were only a couple of dozen elderly Ottoman Turks left in Trabzon when the Russian troops entered the town. However, a significant number of Turks stayed in the surrounding villages (Akarca 2002). Later, the Russian troops occupied Gümüşane (pronounced Gumushane—south of Trabzon, Figure 1) on 18 July 1916 and Erzincan on 25 July (Allen and Muratoff 1953).
The Russian Caucasian army in the greater Trabzon region was reinforced in May 1916 with the transfer of the 123rd and 127th Infantry Divisions comprising a total of 34,000 men to Kavata Bay (eight km east of Trabzon) (Nekrasov 1992).
On entering Trabzon the Russians discovered closed shops full of goods while the administration buildings and [Ottoman Turk] houses had been plundered by the Greeks. In June, General Liakhov appointed the local Greek Orthodox metropolitan Chrysanthos as governor of the town (Mintslov 1923). The Russians established a temporary military organisation headed by General Iablochkin (head of the Russian 5th army) (Akarca 2014).
The Russian administration - 1916
The first months of the Russian occupation of Trabzon were chaotic. Several Russian military officers with conflicting responsibilities existed alongside a civilian Greek administration—a scenario which exacerbated the chaos due to the conflicting lines of authority. The troops looted the abandoned districts with the evacuated buildings being destroyed in search of firewood. Ottoman Turks began to return to the town but as they could not speak Russian, they could not defend their rights against the soldiers. The Pontic Greeks, represented by Chrysanthos, managed some defiance against the troops (Note 4) (Akarca 2014). In June, Major General Shvarts was appointed as commander of the fortified region of Trabzon. Mintslov reported to General Shvarts and he in turn reported to General Iablochkin. General Shvarts’ area of control was over 700 km2 (Mintslov 1923). As the Ottoman Turk population in Trabzon increased, they soon constituted a serious refugee problem (Akarca 2014).
By July 1916 almost every able-bodied man, woman and child were working on military construction projects and received Russian roubles and bread in payment (Akarca 2014). Mintslov (1923) states (in June) the Russians required up to 1,000 Greek labourers each day in the town to help in the building of fortifications. He noted wryly the Greeks were reluctant to work, preferring to sit in their coffee houses playing dice. The Greek indifference, he states, may be understandable as the Russians had little to offer the Greeks—they were simply providing a different administration over them.
The majority of Greeks did not leave their villages or towns, in order to work on the construction projects (Note 5). Those who did volunteer to work for the Russians were requested to work only four days a week. But despite the good pay and commission, not enough Greek workers appeared for work and as a result, the Russians rounded up all able-bodied people and forced them to work. This included The Turkish refugees who became the favoured labourers for the Russians (Akarca 2014).
Description of life in Trabzon
In 1916, Mintslov (1923) reported an outbreak of diseases in the Trabzon region. In July, there was some kind of gastric fever with 30% of the military personnel ill. There was also a flea, fly and mosquito infestation. In August, the Russians forbad horses and cows in Trabzon due to the fly problem. (The fly problem must have been severe as the Russians offered the locals 15 Russian roubles for every pound of flies they caught.)
In August, it was reported there were two types of hospitals in Trabzon, one for the military which had no medicine and operated with old equipment; the other run by the Red Cross had no doctors but was supplied with everything in abundance (Mintslov 1923).
In September, 1,200 people were evacuated by ship to Batum, Georgia (Figure 1), of whom only 15 were wounded, the rest were suffering from disease. Trabzon was full of sick soldiers and some had died. In hospitals, over 600 people were suffering from typhus. A cholera outbreak occurred due to the poor sanitary conditions and influenza and malaria was still evident in the Trabzon region. Due to these health issues a significant death toll was recorded (Mintslov 1923).
By early 1917, the influx of Russian soldiers and starving refugees rendered Trabzon susceptible to epidemics. In January it was reported that an ‘orgy’ of thieving was evident in Trabzon and the police force struggled to prevent crime (Mintslov 1923).
According to Dickerman [his source is unknown] before World War 1, the ethnic population of the town of Trabzon comprised 57% Ottoman Turks, 26% Orthodox Greeks, 14% Armenians and 3% Catholics (Akarca 2002). The population of the town of Trabzon just before World War 1 would have been less than 44,000 people (Topalidis 2015).
Mintslov’s survey was published in November 1916 (Note 6) and a summary of his findings was also printed in his Russian Newsletter, Listok, in the same month. His survey included a count of the population of Ottoman Turks, Greeks, Armenians (Table 1) and farm animals in Trabzon and Platana (called Akçaabat, pronounced Akchaabat, by Turks—Figure 1) and the many surrounding villages. The 207 settlements covered included villages up to at least 25 km (straight line distance) south of Trabzon. (It is believed that it took less than four months to complete his survey.) He stated that of the nearly 62,700 people recorded, 67% were Ottoman Turks and 32% Greeks. (His survey excluded Russian troops and overseas dignitaries e.g. Consuls.) He recorded only a meagre 0.3% Armenians (Table 1), a tragic result of the massacres (genocide) of the Armenians in 1895 and 1915. Of the total population recorded, there were relatively fewer adult male Ottoman Turks (34%) compared to adult female Turks during the war. Among the Greek population, Mintslov’s survey suggests a similar outcome with relatively fewer adult Greek males (41%) compared to adult Greek females (59%). The number of children reported was low, probably affected by death due to the many diseases present, the absence of adult males to procreate more children and under-reporting.
Table 1: Population survey in the combined Trabzon and Platana region 19161
1. Excluded Russian troops and foreign dignitaries.
2. The number of children recorded is low, due to the deaths caused by disease, the absence of adult males to procreate and under-reporting.
3. The number of Armenians is very low due to their massacre (genocide) in 1895 and 1915.
Source: Mintslov (1916, p. iii).
Kitromilides and Alexandris (1984–85) identified the Greek population of the Anatolian ‘dioceses’ [metropolitanates] in the 1910–12 ‘Greek census’ and included 60,564 Greeks in the Trebizond diocese [Trabzon metropolitanate, Figure 3].
In August, Mintslov reported there were lines of Greeks and Turks stretched out along the roads both east and west going to Trabzon to get corn, due to food shortages. Robbery from brigands was becoming such a problem that Mintslov issued instructions in August for the organisation of armed peasant militia in each settlement so they could defend themselves. He was not confident that the Greeks would make effective use of the weapons (Mintslov 1923). (It is assumed that weapons were made available to settlements that required protection, regardless of their ethnic composition.)
In the same month, it was reported that the distribution of food to the populace was problematic. There was a cattle plague in the mountains, there were no horses available or cars in Trabzon and transport was minimal. Due to the war, almost half of the fields were uncultivated due to the lack of labour (Table 1) and part of the harvest remained ungathered. Food prices were expensive. Trabzon was full of unemployed locals who left fields unworked, (implying that food could have been produced). Logistically it was very difficult to bring food into the area. Admiral Prince Putiatin (in charge of all ports of the coast) had decided to stop transporting food to Trabzon (Mintslov 1923).
There were several Greek newspapers published in Trabzon during the Russian occupation and a Turkish daily newspaper appeared in late January 1917. The Russian military Newsletter Listok was the main method of communication for the Russian administration with the [Russian] residents of the town. There are no samples of this newspaper printed in any language other than Russian (Akarca 2005). Its first issue was November 1916, with Mintslov as its editor (Mintslov 1923).
Figure 3: Metropolitanate of Trabzon (MHTP. TPAΠEZOYNTOΣ) in Greek. Scale: 65 km TPAΠEZOYΣ (Trabzon) to PIZOYΣ (Rize).
Source: XAPTHΣ TOY ΠONTOY, (original scale 1: 2.000.000), Athens, (c. 1919) Dimosth. P. Vasiliadou at: www.pontosworld.com/index.php/photos/maps/595-pontus-republic-c-1919
Other than religious activities, theatres, cinematographic shows and concerts stimulated the otherwise boring life of the Russians in remote Trabzon. In addition to demographic changes and construction works, a further aspect of the social life in the town was the activities of social organisations. There were military ceremonies, parades and Russian-Orthodox holidays and the incorporation of the town folk into the Russian administration of the town (Akarca 2014).
Until the end of 1916 the Trabzon town council comprised only Greek residents. In December, General Shvarts appointed the Russian officer Dr Kefeli as its head and also added two Muslim Turk residents to the council, as the number of Ottoman Turks had increased in the town (Akarca 2005). In protest, the leader of the town council, Fostiropoulos and his aide, Triftanidis and all members of the council submitted their resignation. Mintslov suggested the Greeks hated Dr Kefeli primarily because he was a Karaim whom they detest (Mintslov 1923). (The Karaim were a Jewish sect that rejected the Talmud, a collection of writings that cover Jewish law and tradition, see: www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/3347866/jewish/What-Is-the-Talmud.htm)
Rent for the abandoned Turkish properties was collected by the town council and half of the revenue was used to finance municipal projects. The rest was deposited in the Russo-Persian bank in the name of the original Turkish owners of the properties. The appointment of Dr Kefeli benefited the local Ottoman Turks as Kefeli and his wife, who both spoke Turkish, became intermediaries between Turkish speaking men and women and the Russian authorities. As a consequence, Turks started to receive more aid. A school for Muslim boys was opened as there were no schools for Muslims up to the end of 1916 during the Russian occupation (Greek schools were already open) (Akarca 2008).
During the Russian occupation, there were two Russian archaeological investigations carried out in the town of Trabzon from May to October 1916 and from June to October 1917. They were headed by the preeminent Byzantine scholar, Professor Fedor Ivanovich Uspenskii. In an August 1916 issue of Faros, one of the Greek Newspapers in Trabzon, it was announced that mosques built by Ottoman Turks could continue to have Islamic services. However, Islamic services were not allowed in the seven mosques which had been converted from Greek Orthodox churches (e.g. St Sophia (Figure 4), St Eugenios (Plate 1), Panayia Chrysokephalos (Plate 2) and St Philip) because they were to undergo archaeological research.
These seven former Greek Orthodox churches were not transferred to the Greek authorities, a decision which created friction between the Greeks and members of the archaeological expedition. After the archaeologists took control of these former churches, Russian soldiers, officers and the high command plundered the historical artefacts. The temporary storage-museum at the former Panayia Chrysokephalos church could not be protected and was sacked [probably by the Greeks who wanted to keep their relics] when the Russian scholars left in October 1916 (Akarca 2008; 2014).
In 1917, Uspenskii had uncovered the skeleton of Trebizond’s Byzantine emperor Alexios IV [reign 1417–29] near the former Panayia Chrysokephalos church (Plate 2). The remains of Alexios IV are now with the Pontic Greek community in Greece (Bryer and Winfield 1985) entombed in the Panayia Soumela monastery near Veria in northern Greece (Note 7). (If modern DNA analysis of the remains of Alexios IV were possible, we wonder what insightful information remains undiscovered?)
In August 1916, Mintslov noted that apart from his direct duties he was associated with the Armenian Committee in Trabzon. After the 1915 Armenian deportations from the Trabzon region, Armenian homes and specifically their 198 trading shops were left in the town (Mintslov 1923). The Turkish police had subsequently stored much of the furniture from Armenian homes in the new Armenian church in Trabzon, in the prelacy compound, where the Armenian school was located. The Armenian school had reopened by October 1916 (Surmelian 1946), which suggested that there were enough Armenian students to warrant the opening of such a school (Note 8).
Mintslov found (in August) that 60 former Armenian shops appeared to be completely empty. The Armenian Committee had its own assembly hall and a two-storey house both of which were filled with goods, objects and books to almost half the height of the rooms. He suspected that the Committee had been engaged in widespread extortion allowing Committee members to become rich. As a result General Shvarts ordered the Committee to be quickly closed down and all premises sealed (Mintslov 1923).
Figure 4: St Sophia church – water colour painting by N. D. Protasov 1917, The Archive of the Russian Academy of Sciences, St. Petersburg Branch at: http://ranar.spb.ru/rus/vystavki/id/561/ viewed April 2018.
Plate 1: Yeni Cuma mosque—former St Eugenios church (Kokkas 2005, p. 131).
Plate 2: Ortahisar mosque—former Panayia Chrysokephalos church (Chrysanthos 1933, p. 923).
The maintenance of law and order was a constant and major challenge. In August, Mintslov was placed in charge of a committee to organise supply provisions to the Trabzon region. He was also tasked to pursue ‘robber gangs’ [brigands]. An influx of Armenians into the Russian held territory led some of them to organise into gangs, which visited robbery and murder as they wreaked revenge on the remaining Ottoman Turks. At the same time, Greeks complained of daily animal theft, killings and robberies, by either Armenians, Russians or Cossacks. Mintslov’s task to pursue these brigands was enormous as he had only 30 soldiers at his disposal, instead of a company of soldiers (Mintslov 1923). (Note 9.)
Later in August, Mintslov’s 30 Russian soldiers captured 11 Armenian brigands in the mountains. There were complaints about Armenian brigands robbing Turks and Greeks, even though the Greeks had done them no harm. Robberies were also perpetrated by the Turks (Mintslov 1923).
Life in Platana
In July 1916, famine and cholera was reported in Platana (the town 14 km west of Trabzon). In August, it was reported that a Russian Lieutenant Biriukov who was trying to restore order in Platana, had treated the Greeks roughly. The town was observed to be mostly empty. In October, with sea transports remaining unloaded in Platana for up to three days, hunger and disorder abound. The Russian sailors there were reported to be thieves or dealers in contraband. There were daily reports of two or three shops being ransacked and a sailor being detained. Turkish tobacco in warehouses in Platana was given to Russian soldiers who seemed to be able to on-sell it in Batum (Georgia, see Figure 1). There was an ineffective Russian administration in place (Mintslov 1923). According to Mintslov’s (1916) survey, the town of Platana had 2,122 Greeks and Ottoman Turks (Russians were not counted).
In March 1917, the town council at Platana was abolished and was managed by one person from the Trabzon town council. Kefeli went to Platana and removed 30,000 roubles from its coffers and returned to Trabzon (Mintslov 1923).
Life in the Maçka - Gümüşane region
In Maçka (pronounced Machka), 25 km south of Trabzon, most houses were destroyed—burnt by the Ottoman Turks. This area had notoriety because the Turks had killed many Armenians there. Beyond the area of Russian control, around 100 km south of Trabzon, there was no administration (Mintslov 1923).
On 18 July the Russians occupied Gümüşane (Allen and Muratoff 1953). In the same month, the civilian Turks sought help from Stastolidis, the Greek head of the municipality. According to his report to General Shvarts, there were up to 30,000 Turks in need of everything including bread (Akarca 2014).
In mid-October Mintslov wrote to General Ianushkevich [Chief of Staff to Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolayevich, Commander in Chief of the Caucasus Army] that the whole region down to Gümüşane (Figure 1) was on the verge of famine. Hunger and growing illness were leading to disorder among the population which could force Trabzon to be inundated by refugees from the countryside (Note 10) (Mintslov 1923).
The impressive Greek Orthodox Soumela monastery, perched precariously on the side of a mountain is located in splendid isolation south-east of Maçka (Figure 1). In early September 1916, Mintslov and the metropolitan of Rodopolis, Kirillos, visited the monastery. The five monks there told Mintslov that during Easter [Easter Sunday in 1916 in the Julian calendar was on 10 April], Turkish soldiers forced entry into the monastery. The monks escaped and went to Livera. The Ottoman Turks stayed at Soumela for two months until Russian troops were in the vicinity. The Turks took some items—silver kitchen utensils, some expensive carpets, one library book—everything else including furniture was left untouched. Happily, the Turks did not ruin anything nor did they touch the famous Panayia Soumela icon. The monastery was rich, it owned houses in the surrounding area. The monastery’s frescoes had been scratched—apparently this was done by Greeks as well as Russians (Mintslov 1923).
3. Effects of the Russian Revolutions—March 1917 to January 1918
The hardships of war [and myriad other catastrophic failures] brought down the Russian monarchy in the 1917 revolution. Tsar Nicholas II abdicated on 15 March and a provisional government headed by Alexander Kerensky assumed power (Rogan 2015). With the 1917 revolution, construction projects in Trabzon were halted and with military leadership in disarray, the Russian troops lost their will to stay in the occupied Ottoman lands. The Russian forces faced an array of challenges. The local inhabitants around Trabzon began refusing to pay their taxes. Since thousands of soldiers were transferred to Russia through Trabzon there was a dire need for accommodation. As a result of the influx, soldiers damaged some of the churches and mosques. New authorities emerged in the town, with Chrysanthos being the most important and influential (Akarca 2008; 2014).
Kerensky’s new provisional government removed the authority of the Russian army officers over the troops, who would now be commanded by elected ‘soldier soviets’. In the occupied Ottoman territory, chaos ensued. After the election of an executive committee in Trabzon, composed mostly of soldiers, things became much quieter. Over spring and summer an uneasy calm settled over those parts of eastern Anatolia occupied by the Russians. The Ottoman Caucasus army, held its positions without firing a shot for the rest of 1917 (Rogan 2015).
The Bolsheviks under Lenin, seized power in Russia on 7 November 1917 [the ‘October Revolution’ under the Julian calendar] and sued for a negotiated peace. ‘The Ottoman Turks could hardly believe their luck.’ The ‘Young Turks’ met with representatives of the Russian Caucasus army and concluded a formal armistice on 18 December. In the Russian-occupied territories of eastern Anatolia, the armistice left a power vacuum. By the end of December 1917, Russian soldiers in Trabzon began to commandeer vessels and leave Anatolia. Many of these soldiers, who had gone months without pay, looted shops. Disorder in the town was magnified in the surrounding countryside, as armed Turkish gangs [brigands] gained control of areas from which the Russians withdrew. By the end of January 1918, the American Consul in Trabzon reported the ‘Turkish bands are getting more audacious and the Russian soldiers obnoxious’ (Rogan 2015, pp. 355–56).
4. The Final Russian Withdrawal—February 1918
In January 1918, Chrysanthos, alerted Ottoman General Vehid Pasha to the damage that the Ottoman Turk brigands were doing to the Christians. He then distributed arms to the Greeks for their own protection. As a result, Tsita of Soumena and the districts of Kapikioi, Livera, Hamsikoy and Santa were saved from destruction (Greek Patriarchate 1919).
When the remaining Russians left in February 1918, half the Greeks from the Trabzon region left with them (Chrysanthos 1933). According to Kwiatkowski, the Austrian Consul in Trabzon, 30,000 Greeks from the Trabzon region, of which 8,000 were from the town were forced to leave with the Russians in late February 1918 (Photiades 1987).
Chrysanthos reported, in addition, that the total number of his Greek Orthodox flock of his large metropolitanate had been reduced from 52,000 in 1914 to 23,000 by 1919 (Vryonis 2007). (Kitromilides and Alexandris (1984–85) as mentioned previously, state that the population in 1910–12 was nearly 61,000.)
Contrary to the agreement between the Russians and the Ottomans, Ottoman soldiers crossed the borders of Russian occupied territory. Trabzon fell to the Ottoman Turks on 25 February 1918 (Note 11). Incoming Turkish sea-borne reinforcements began to disembark in the port (Plate 3) (Erickson 2001).
Plate 3: Trabzon harbour from Boz Tepe (2003).
Life in the Trabzon region during the Russian occupation in World War 1 (April 1916 to February 1918) was a trying time for the local population with the prevalence of many diseases and the lack of food. However, life was ‘relatively’ better than in areas adjacent to the Russian occupied regions, where the Greek population was exiled under Ottoman guards with little or no food, for apparently security reasons (so they couldn’t potentially collaborate with the invading Russian forces), resulting in the deliberate death of many thousands of Greeks from starvation and exposure. This was part of the Ottoman Turk genocide of its Christian subjects (Armenians, Assyrians and Greeks) and other minorities.
This work describes life in the Trabzon region during the Russian occupation during World War I and is based primarily on Russian but uses other sources which open a different ‘window’ of events from those written by Greek or Turkish sources.
Sergei Rudol’fovich Mintslov was a Russian army officer posted to Trabzon from May 1916 to March 1917. Mintslov (1923), which was written in the form of a diary, used the Julian calendar which is 13 days before our Gregorian calendar. In this paper his original dates have been converted to Gregorian dates. Mintslov was born in 1870 and was a resigned military officer who returned to service in the Russian army during World War 1. He graduated from the Nizhny Novgorod Archaeological Institute and prepared a number of bibliographic works (Great Soviet Encyclopedia 1974). Mintslov is famous in his own right as a prolific writer and book collector.
The encroaching Russian army had an effect on Christian villages near the front. For example, on 10 March 1916, the Greek Orthodox cleric of Gümüşane [pronounced Gumushane] reported to Chrysanthos, the Greek Orthodox metropolitan of Trabzon, that the Ottoman Turks had conscripted all males [male Christians] between 15 and 51 years of age from Gümüşane and its environs into the dreaded labour battalions (Vryonis 2007).
Chrysanthos’ metropolitanate [see] of Trabzon extended 115 km west (to Kesap) and 165 km east (to Hopa) of the town of Trabzon on the Black Sea (Figure 3). It was north of the three great Greek Orthodox monasteries of Soumela, Peristereota and Vazelon and the area of Maçka (pronounced Machka), 25 km south of Trabzon which were part of the metropolitanate of Rhodopolis (Kiminas 2009). Mintslov (1923) calls Chrysanthos a young man of great intellect who speaks excellent French and German, but no Russian. [He also spoke Demotic Greek and probably Pontic Greek.]
During the Russian occupation (1916–18) Chrysanthos tried to ensure that local Ottoman Turks did not suffer unbearably. His humanitarianism continued during the Russian occupation with the hospitality of thousands of Turkish refugees in Trabzon against the revenge of the Armenians in the Russian army (Clark 2006). Gibbons (1916, pp. 38–9) states:
As a result of the war of 1877, Turkey [the Ottoman empire] was compelled to cede a portion of Armenia to Russia. The Armenians of these territories and of the Caucasus have been for nearly 40 years under Russian rule, and are naturally, as Russian subjects fighting against Turkey [the Ottomans].
Chrysanthos should not be seen as an Ottoman or Russian collaborator. While his intercession was appreciated by the local Russian authorities [Mintslov, who knew Chrysanthos, was sympathetic to him, but General Shvarts (more details following) was not], it caused suspicion at the headquarters of the Russian Caucasian army. General Iudenich, Commander-in-chief of the Russian Caucasian army, would accuse the metropolitan of being a spy (Akarca 2014).
Mintslov (1923) stated in June 1916 that Chrysanthos’ interference in Russian-Greek affairs had some merit as the Greeks had no other defender. Chrysanthos saw the Russians as foreigners.
This is contrary to some commentators who state there was a bond between the invading Russian forces and the Greeks in north-eastern Anatolia because of their Orthodox religion.
Sam Topalidis’ maternal grandfather, Yanis Papazoglou, went to Trabzon in 1916 from his village on the outskirts of Trabzon to work for the Russians. Prior to the end of February 1918 when the Russians finally left Trabzon, Yanis also helped the Russians demolish fortifications and remove the armaments from Boz Tepe (Grey Hill) overlooking the harbour (Figure 2). His extended family and nearly all his relatives (as well as Sam’s father’s family) left Trabzon with the exiting Russians (Topalidis 2013).
Platana, 14 km west of Trabzon, (Akçaabat in Figure 1) was counted as a single settlement, however Trabzon was not. Trabzon may have been described by its individual neighbourhoods. It is difficult to identify these neighbourhoods from the translated Russian names. We believe that Mintslov must have used population data on the number of Greeks kept by the Greek Orthodox metropolitanate of Trabzon and Rhodopolis (south of Trabzon) and the Ottoman population counts to help him compile his survey.
During his expeditions in the Trabzon region, Uspenskii collected over 400 manuscripts. He sent some of these valuable manuscripts to Petrograd. Greek antiquities were also taken to Russia. In June 1917, Leontidis, a Greek journalist from Trabzon accused the Russian scholars of smuggling four trunks of valuable objects to Russia (Üre 2014).
Some Armenian children were believed to have been protected by Greeks and some Ottoman Turks during the tragic 1915 deportation of Armenians from Trabzon. Note that Mintslov’s (1916) survey, which was published in November, only recorded five Armenian children in the whole Trabzon and Platana region (Table 1). It is believed this was an underestimate of the real number.
In October 1916, Mintslov (1923) reported that the well-known Ottoman Turk, Shefket-Bey, defended the Armenians during the Ottoman rule. Shefket’s wife and son were killed by the Ottomans. Chrysanthos gave a disgusting opinion about Shefket-Bey and with the information that Colonel Dynga (in charge of the Police) had—Shefket was arrested. He was eventually released and he agreed to work for the Russians—particularly for Dynga.
Even though there was a food shortage, on December 1916, Mintslov (1923) reported that hazelnuts [of which the surrounding area was famous] were exported to Russia.
Sam Topalidis’ maternal grandparents left Trabzon in February 1918. The extended families boarded a Russian ship at the port (Plate 3) just before 17 February 1918. There was snow and it was bitterly cold. Once the families boarded, the Ottoman Turks fired cannon which lasted five days. The Russians returned the Turkish fire. Because there were so many Greeks wishing to escape people huddled on a barge exposed to the elements towed behind one of the ships. They sailed to nearby Batum where the authorities there told the Russians to go to Sokhumi, because the Ottoman Turks were close by. (A wise decision.) They disembarked in Sokhumi, 240 km from Trabzon.
We are very grateful to Dr Halit Akarca for sending some copies of Listok, the Russian Newsletter at Trabzon and Mintslov’s (1916) ‘Statistical report of the Trabzon region’.
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