Demographic and Economic Status of Petrich 15th- 17th centuries

Demographic and Economic Status of Petrich 15th- 17th centuries

Written by Сотир Иванов (директор ИМП)

The current demographic and economic survey of the Bulgarian Christians in Petrich town covers the 15th-17th century period for several reasons. The 14th century includes the whole political, religious, demographic, and economic cataclysm caused by the Ottoman’s conquest; cataclysm associated with the chaos inflicted by the disappearance of the old state and regional structures, and the imposition of new Ottoman institutions which needed time to start function properly. Unlike the 14th century, the political and demographic climate was very different in the 15th and 17th centuries. The 15th century was associated with new military and political successes of the Ottoman state, and its establishment on the conquered territories. It reached its peak in the following 16th century; in the 17th, it was still a force to be reckoned with. The governmental shifts inside the state did not lead to a change in the Ottoman political line. The administration was not deeply shaken by the government instability and the riots , i.e. for the Petrich population in the town and region, the 15th-17th centuries were relatively homogeneous in their economic and political dimensions. Demographic and economic development during this period is well documented in the Ottoman registers of 1488/89, 1519, 1530, 1570, 1616, and 1665 . From the 18th century onwards, feudal strife and centrifugal processes began in the Ottoman Empire, the Renaissance nucleus and the national liberation movements of the Balkan Christian peoples, already bearing new trends.

The economic and demographic processes in Petrich in the 15th century are closely related to the time and the way of area's conquering. The Ottoman invaders reached Belasitsa Mountain and the Rupel Pass after the battle of the Maritza River from 22 September 1371. The defeat of the Christian forces at Chernomen compelled Konstantin Deyan, under whose rule Petrich was at the time, to accept the vassalage of Sultan Murad and thus to preserve his possessions.

Although Konstantin Deyan was a vassal of the Sultan, his possessions were not protected from plunder. The notice of Irina from Melnik’s sale as a slave in the Cretan market in the spring of 1382, and the siege and seizure of Serres in 1382-1383 are associated with devastations in the Petrich region. According the research of V. Kanchov, P. Petrov, R. Mihalacic, and Hr. Matanov, the town of Petrich was conquered after 17 May 1395. Konstantin Deyan fell at the Battle of Rovine. According to the Ottoman conquest’s policy his lands were annexed to the Empire after a long period of considerable internal autonomy .[3].

Undoubtedly, the conquest which comes in phases leads to a number of fatal consequences for the Petrich region. People are starting to leave before the conquerors' arrival. The warning akindji's incursions and various tribal groups leads to destruction and devastation, murders, kidnappings, evictions. The Ottoman administration eliminated the old feudal hierarchy, and through the system of Miri lands and Timar landowning it placed even the smallest possessions under the direct control of the central power . As a result, the Petrich area underwent ethnic changes in two directions. In the first case, it is a voluntary islamization in order to preserve social and feudal privileges. This is the case of the islamization of Christian sipahi, whose relative numbers are significant in south-western Bulgaria.

The second major emphasis in this ethnic change is rooted in the principles of Ottoman expansion, which include the colonization of conquered lands with a predominantly Mohammedan population, which aims to establish bases for a lasting rule. This is in full force for Petrich, whose location is of strategic importance from a military point of view. Representatives of the Ottoman military and administrative power immediately established themselves in the city . The first colonists were the Yuruks, followed by Tatars, and many Muslim clergies. Specific information on the Islam’s penetration is contained in an Ottoman register from the end of the fifteenth century, which states that there are fifty Christian and eight Muslim households in the village of Kromidovo .[7]. От друга страна, след като завоеванието е вече факт, османската администрация се стреми да гарантира живота и имота на българското християнско население, да възстанови реда, да създаде условия за добро функциониране на тимарската система и за редовни данъчни постъпления.

The Ottoman's expansion in the region led to Petrich becoming a city from the interior of the empire which means that its strategic military location disappears. As Hristo Gandev points out, Petrich falls into the intermediate zone between the eastern and western regions and remains relatively unaffected by Islamic colonization in the 15th century . On the other hand, since the conquest is already a fact, the Ottoman administration seeks to guarantee the life and property of the Bulgarian Christian population, restore order, create conditions for the proper functioning of the Timar system and for regular tax revenues.

In 1490, Petrich has 476 non-Muslim households, and Petrich kaza (or vilayet as indicated in the register of 1488/89) has 2,098 full and 200 widowed households . Despite its considerable demographic size, a negative fact is that every tenth family is widowed; the imposition of the Ottoman administration and colonization is also associated with the killing of a portion of the Bulgarian male population. However, by the end of the 15th century, Islam was penetrating relatively slowly into the Petrich region, a fact that is also confirmed by the presence of a large number of Christian sipahi. If we multiply the full households by a factor of 5, and the widowed by a factor of 4, confirmed by historical statistics, we will see that at the end of the 15th century there were some 2,380 people in the city, and in the Petrich kaza – some 10,318 people . Statistics show that at the end of the 15th century, Petrich was one of the few Bulgarian cities that retained a significant Christian population. However, some inaccuracy is possible regarding the population of the city, because the register gives the number of tax households 476, without specifying the proportion of widowed families or possibly unmarried men.

In the first decades of Ottoman rule, Petrich was the center of а nāḥiyah included in the Strumishka kaza, which during this period was the largest in the Sanjak of Kyustendil. In addition, the city became part of the hâss of the Kyustendil sanjakbei (Mehmed Bay in 1519). This is not accidental, because the Petrich field brings considerable income which is traditionally paid to prominent figures in the Ottoman feudal-administrative system.

In the sixteenth century, during the heyday of the Ottoman Empire, the tenets of demographic and economic principles laid down in the previous century were strongly developed. The Ottoman Empire experienced a real demographic explosion – between 1520 and 1580 the population increased by 41% in the Bulgarian lands; the Christian population increased by 8% annually . At the beginning of the sixteenth century, in Beylerbej Rumelia, the Muslims made up 18% of the total population. Despite the fact that Christians are subordinate in the empire, they retain a partial identity and avoid the assimilation through faith and religious institutions. Not only do they pay specific taxes – i.e. jizya (in 1527 jizya amounts to 750,000 ducats, i.e. 42% of the treasury's revenue in the European part of the Ottoman Empire) and ispençe, but they are also subject to a number of discriminatory measures that show their lower status .

Bulgarians were allocated in thirteen neighbourhoods, most of which bear the names of priests serving there, such as Pop Trayko's neighborhood; there are also Pop Slave's, Pop Dimo’s, and Pop Valcho’s neighborhoods. This is not accidental because it is the priests who become the pillar of the Bulgarian spirit and Christian morality, and the population is grouped around them.

In the 16th century, the muslimization became one of the main factors for reducing the demographic growth and, later, for the decline of the Bulgarian identity. Newly converted to Islam accounted for 35% of Muslims in 1519. To get the actual population in Petrich, we need to multiply the number of full-time households (461) by a factor of 5 and widows by a factor of 4. Unmarried people are not taken into account, because they were part of a family of five or four. As a result, we get 2,605 Petrich Christians and 300 Muslims .[13].

Eleven years later, the register of 1530 shows a steady demographic picture. Non-Muslim households decreased by 1 and numbered 620 tax units, while Muslim households numbered 55, of which 6 were unmarried men. If we apply the well-known household conversion formula, we get that the non-Muslim Bulgarian population of Petrich amounts to 2,681 and the Muslim population to 245, or the total number of Petrich population in 1530 is 2,926.

The register of 1570 clearly shows two demographic trends: for the first time in the 16th century, a sharp decrease in the number of Bulgarians by 34% and also an increase in the Muslim population by 48% . However, the Christian element continues to be dominant. The register lists a total of 409 non-Muslim households, of which 266 are full-time, 36 widowed, and 107 unmarried men. According to our familiar formula, we get that the total number of Bulgarian Christians in Petrich is 1,474. Muslims in the city have 139 families, of which 38 are unmarried men or a total of 505 Muslims. Christians live in 11 separate neighborhoods – two with the name Pop Trajko, Pop Dimo, Pop Slav, Timurhan, Pazar, Veselin, Dulboshnitsa, Musa, Dushkan, Shirban, Priboy. Two neighborhoods: Banitza and Kozle are of mixed population and the neighborhood called Mosque is entirely Muslim. The village of Lyashnitsa with its seventy Christian and four Muslim households is not included in the population of Petrich because it pays taxes to another feudal lord, Mustafa Celebi, an emin at the office of the Sultan, and since the end of the 16th century it was formed as an independent settlement .

The name of the mixed neighborhoods shows that they are purely Christian in origin and that the increase in the Muslim population is due not only to natural growth but also to a purposeful islamization. In 1570, new Muslims accounted for 19% of all Muslims and were found using the "son of Abdullah" formula. Muslims are much more, including those second or third-generation Mohammedans, who can no longer be identified by name or other additional information . English traveler George Frederick Abbott, who visited the city in 1900, was left with the impression that the Mohammedans in Petrich are predominantly of Bulgarian origin .

In the 16th century, there was a desire for the voluntary adoption of Islam in order to evade the Shariah discrimination. According to this religious law, only conventional Muslims can be full members of the Ottoman state, while the non-Muslims have a lower status. It is believed that non-Muslims exist only because of the mercy of the conquerors, hence the non-Muslims cannot play any political or administrative role in a country based on a law that they do not recognize .[18].

The tendency for a sharp decrease of the Christian population in the Petrich region persisted and intensified in the 17th century, when in the kaza the number of Christians decreased from 2,690 to 1,348 households for the period from 1616 to 1665, i.e. in 50 years they decreased by 49.9%. The urban Christian population declined even more dramatically to 62 households. Taking the beginning of the period under consideration as a starting point, we find that for the period from the end of the 15th century to the second quarter of the 16th century, i.e. for 175 years, Petrichka kaza’s Christian Bulgarian population has decreased significantly – about 66.7%. For a shorter period of 146 years (1519-1665), the non-Muslim population of Petrich has decreased by as much as 90% .

The significant decrease in the Bulgarian Christian population, especially since the mid-16th and during the 17th centuries, is due to a number of factors: voluntary and violent muslimization, the hajduk movement, high mortality from epidemics, famine or natural disasters, and migration. Petrich Muslimism is relatively well illustrated in the Ottoman registers. Evidence of the Bulgarians' resistance movements in the second half of the 16th and 17th centuries is the numerous sultans’ orders to the cadies within the Kyustendil Sanjak, to the kadii and beys of Ohrid, Skopje, Bitola, Köprülü, Kichevo, and others. A typical example is the Sultan's order of 10 October 1573, which warns local governments to protect themselves from violence against raya so as not to provoke hajduks. Particular care should be taken by the Sultan's staff when collecting children for the Janissary Corps. It is explicitly stated that the raya should not be looted and that there should be no diversions from the route specified in the order . The population of the Petrich region does not put up with foreign domination and uses various means of resistance against the Ottoman authorities, which provokes appropriate punitive measures and repression.

At the end of the 16th and the beginning of the 17th centuries, the Hajduk movement became more active in the Petrich region. The insolence of some Hajduks goes as far as walking dressed as sipahis or janissaries. Evliya Çelebi, who visited Petrich twice in 1651-52 and 1670, also gives specific information about the hajduks:

"Because in these mountains there are many hajduks and outlaw-unbelievers, and no decent people can live in this city, so the village is not so lively ... Also, 40 - 50 unbelievers-hajduks are caught every day, along with their dumbbells and their flags. The captured infidels were tortured in all corners of this stockade Petrich, in the town of Kyustendil, in the stockade of Dupnitsa, in the towns of Samokov, and Sofia ."[21].

Particular development is seen in the Hajduk movement in the Petrich region during the War of the Holy League in the years 1683-1699, a period during which the powerful Karposh rebellion broke out. The chronicle of Silahdar Findikli Mehmed Aga confirms the revolts of the Bulgarians, as well as the cruel measures taken to suppress them .[22].

The negative factor for the Bulgarian Christian population's decrease is the high mortality in this period, caused by plague and other epidemics, famine, and natural disasters. All this compensates for the high birth rate and often minimizes the natural growth effect. Despite the high mortality rate in the first half of the 16th century, an annual growth of about 8% was observed in Bulgarian and neighboring lands. For Petrich town this is reflected in the increase in the Christian population from 476 to 621 households. This trend is likely to persist until the mid-16th century because the register of 1530 again indicates a relatively high demographic potential of Bulgarian Christians: 621 households. In the 17th century, a transition between two epochs, in 49 out of all 59 kaza, mainly on the territory of the lands, the Christian population decreased by 25%, while for Petrich region it was even more drastic – by 49.9%. Just a few years after the register was drawn up from 1665, in 1673, almost everywhere in Bulgarian lands a plague had occurred .[23].

Migration movements of the population should be taken into account when analyzing the demographic status of Bulgarian Christians in Petrich and the region. The decrease in the number of non-Muslims in the 17th century was due to migration to southeastern Bulgaria; a fact confirmed by dialectological, ethnographic, and archival materials. The reasons for the changes in the Petrich demographic should also include the early development of the farmstead and the continued efforts of taxpayers to avoid registration in the tax lists by all means possible. This implies a small percentage of the Bulgarian population that did not enter the registers.

The period from the 15th to 17th centuries, i.e. from the Ottoman’s conquest of Petrich to the emergence of the first revival processes in the city, there are two demographic trends: an increase in the Christian population at normal rates for the Middle Ages to the middle of the 16th century, and then a sharp decrease in the second half of the 16th and 17th centuries. There are many reasons, but we must point out political and religious as permanent acts. Although violent Muslims and colonization are gradually disappearing, the constant pressure applied by central and local government remains, as well as religious discrimination. A closed, encapsulated society, in which change – be it political, economic, or cultural – is not allowed, often forces individuals’ or group’s islamization in the name of survival or social success. Only with the advent of the Revival period did the Bulgarians in Petrich receive a new spiritual and political ideal, which encouraged them to seek new avenues of development.




For the analysis of the economic status of Petrich in the 15th-17th centuries it is necessary to look at both the particular historical material for the town and the overall trends in the Ottoman empire, because they create the framework and main directions for development. First and foremost, the agricultural sector occupies a major place in the economy, but most of the arable land is property of the state (Miri) - 87% in 1528. For their work, the peasant receives a portion of the property’s income (tasarruf-saving), which is inalienable, while it is cultivated and inherited – it cannot be shared. The urban economy is in the hands of the esnafs, whose labor guarantees the stability of their members and leads to stagnant local economic life. Each esnaf has its own privileges, its places of sale or production, a strict hierarchy, and a lack of initiative. The Ottoman economy is a guided economy in which state intervention is manifested in many ways: strict regulation of production; price fixing; requisitions of labor, goods, and even capital; authoritarian orientation of part of the trade movements; and export ban . The economy of capitulation, the depreciation of money - especially after 1566, the price revolution - as a result of the influx of silver , migration, corruption among the administration, and discrimination against the Bulgarian Christian population must be added to all this. The medieval way of thinking and economic behavior cannot be overcome; conditions for stable prosperity and quality change in production and trade, in the quality of life, cannot be created. Therefore, despite the favorable climatic conditions, centuries-old traditions and experience in agricultural production and crafts, despite the favorable demographic potential during the 15th - 17th century, the economy in Petrich developed only within the traditional medieval frameworks.

The Mufassal defter for the Sanjak of Kyustendil from 1570-73 was crucially important for characterizing economic life in the sixteenth century. Economic development from 1519 to 1570 is clearly positive, given the annual income of the feudal lords of the city. If the Kyustendil Sanjakbei generated income from Petrich of 58,603 akçe in 1519, then in 1570, Omer, Osman, and Ali – sons of Yunus Bay, had an income of 33,719; 25,021, and 23,999, for a total of 83,741 akçe. The income from the village of Lyashnitsa, amounting to 15,613 akçe and taken by Mustafa Chelebi, emin at Sultan’s office, is also included here.

An indicator of the volume of production and the diversity of the crops grown is the amount and variety of taxes and fees owed by the citizens: for 412 cargoes of wheat – 10,300 akçe; for 628 mixed wheat goods – 9,420 akçe; broadside for 3,720 madras – 22,320 akçe; a chestnut brooch – 2,852 akçe; gardening tax – 509 akçe; tax for hives – 554 akçe; linen liner for 1,105 octa – 2,210 akçe; for 45 millers a tax of 1,350 aches, etc . Silkworm rearing has also been developed, with the annual income of the beetle bean from this production being 3,000 akçe – the highest income from this type of activity compared to other feudal lords in the southwestern Bulgarian lands.

Horticulture and viticulture had a strong development in the Petrich region in the 16th and 17th centuries. Local apples are exported not only to Thessaloniki and Serres, even to Sofia as Evliya Chelebi testifies. The economic importance of the production of wool, which finds a market not only domestically but also abroad, is of great importance. Moreover, manufacturers prefer to sell it abroad, where the price is significantly higher than the regulated state price of 12 asprons. The wool extracted in the Petrich region and the surrounding mountainous regions is collected in Thessaloniki, where it is processed into cloth and sent to Constantinople for central distribution for the needs of the army.

Cotton production occupies an important place in the export of the Petrich region in the 16th - 17th centuries. Even in the 18th century, the scale of this production remained, as evidenced by French ambassador Cousineri. In his travel notes it is stated that the number of cotton bales exported to Germany, the Czech Republic, and Poland from the Petrich region amounts to more than 30,000 bales (7 - 8 thousand loads) .[27].

Evlia Celebi, who visited the city in 1651-52 and in 1670, leaves a picturesque description of Petrich and its business activities:

: "... There are all 240 not so well urbanized houses with gardens. There are only two neighborhoods. One is the Pasha’s hass and the other is Sheikh-zade Mustafa aga’s free aiameth. There is a mosque and a chapel and only one unclean bathroom. There are only 50 shops ... Chestnuts are like in Bursa and are exported in many areas, even to Sofia. "[28].

The Jizya register of 1665 provides additional information on the development of crafts among Bulgarians in Petrich . The register lists two bakers, two pasty-makers, one mason, one ironmonger, one saddler, one tailor, two curriers, one fur-dresser, and two makers of goat's-hair rugs and bags. According to this data, out of 62 households, 13 are involved in agriculture and handicrafts. No leading economic activity is observed. The register describes various types of crafts related to the direct servicing of the population: processing of cotton and raw materials of animal origin; preparation and repair of tools of labor; food production, etc. The crafts in Petrich are developed entirely on the basis of the medieval heritage. There is no specialization in the individual agricultural or craft industries and market orientation. The reasons can be found both in state regulation, as well as in religious discrimination and financial insecurity. A factor in the decline in economic activity in the second half of the 17th century was the sharp decline in the number of Christians, and probably of Muslims in Petrich.

The Dolyansky Fair, which dates from the 15th to the second half of the 19th century is of great importance for Petrich region's economic life. A complete description of the fair's location was left by Evliya Celebi, who visited these lands in 1670; the exact location is still undiscovered but probably it is in the land of nowadays Strumeshnitsa village.

"It is a lively and well-maintained fairground, overgrown with trees, vast meadows and pastures, amidst a flat and fertile wide area full of birds. It looks like a fortress with gates on all four sides, with numerous single-storey and two-storey buildings with many rooms resembling large inns. On the left and right side of the main road, covered with quadruple stones, there are a total of over 1,000 shops, completely covered with tiles ... Once a year, hundreds of thousands of people from Rumelia, Arab countries, Persia, India, Samarkand, Balkh, Bukhara, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and all corners of Europe, in short, all traders of the seven climates by land and sea are flocking with their goods at this fair. "

Evliya Çelebi's information is validated by numerous Ottoman, Greek, French, Dubrovnik, German, Jewish, and Armenian letters and documents, as well as numerous coin finds . The importance of the Dolyansky Fair for the Petrich region is enormous. Over the course of 40 days every year, various goods and raw materials are exchanged there, production experience is gained and important contacts are established. For the Petrich people, this is of socio-political and cultural importance because they meet with peers from all over the country.

The demographic and economic period of the 15th and 17th centuries is filled with many difficulties. Political and religious discrimination puts a great deal of pressure on the demographic sphere and in the economy, medieval regulation of the production, price-fixing, authoritarian requisition of labor, goods, and even capital. Despite the difficulties, the Bulgarian self-awareness in Petrich remains, albeit within narrow limits. The economic activity reported by the tax registers of Bulgarians shows that even in the absence of market orientation and financial stability, production and trade in Petrich remain at a relatively high level.

[1] Р. Мантран. “История на Османската империя”, С., 1999, с. 278.

[2] Хр. Гандев. “Българската народност през ХV век. Демографско и етнографско изследване”, С., 1972 г., с. 110; Е. Грозданова, П. Груевски. Населението на Петрич и Петричка каза според поименния регистър от 1665 г., Исторически преглед, 1982 г., кн. 2, с. 114 – 123; Е. Грозданова. Промени на демографския облик на българските земи през ХVІІ век., Исторически преглед, 1985 г., кн. 7, с. 20 – 37; Турски документи за историята на македонскиот народ. Опширни пописни дефтери от ХV и ХVІ век., Т. V, ч. 3, Скопjе, 1982 г., с. 555 – 645.

[3] Хр. Матанов. “Югозападните български земи през ХІV век”, С., 1986 г., с. 128.

[4] Р. Мантран. “История на Османската империя”, С., 1999 г., с. 311; В. Мутафчиева. “Османска социално-икономическа история”., С., 1999 г., с. 29 – 61.

[5] Л. Макавеева, А. Мельов. Демография, сб. “Пирински край, Етнографски, фолклорни и езикови проучвания”, С., 1980 г., с. 12.

[6] Сашо Попов. Проект за обсъждане. Миналото на Петрич и петричкия край, С., 1980 г., с. 71.

[7] Хр. Гандев, Цит. съч., с. 93.

[8] Хр. Гандев, Цит. съч., с. 110.

[9] Е. Грозданова, П. Груевски. Цит. съч.,с. 120.

[10] Хр. Гандев. Цит. съч., с.55.

[11] Р. Мантран. Цит. съч., с. 223; Е. Грозданова. Цит. съч., с. 30.

[12] Жорж Кастелан. “История на Балканите ХІV – ХХ век”, Пловдив, 2002 г., с. 126; Е. Грозданова, Цит. съч., с. 34.

[13] Е. Грозданова, Стефан Андреев. “Българите през ХVІ век”, С., 1986 г., с. 108 – 109; Е. Грозданова, П. Груевски. Цит. съч., с. 120.

[14] Турски документи за историjата на македонскиот народ. Опширни пописни дефтери от ХV и ХVІ век., Т. V, ч. 3, Скопjе, 1982 г., с. 555 – 645.

[15] Тур. Документи. Цит. съч., с. 606.

[16] Хр. Гандев. Цит. съч., с. 115 – 116.

[17] “Етнография на Македония”. Авторски колектив, Т. 2, С., 1992 г., БАН, с. 19.

[18] Ж. Кастелан. Цит. съч., с. 109.

[19] Е. Грозданова. Цит. съч., с. 20.

[20] Македония во ХVІ – ХVІІ век, Институт за национална история, Скопjе, 1955 г., с. 81 – 90.

[21] Евлия Челеби, Пътепис, С., 1972 г., с. 281.

[22] Ал. Матковски, К. Аручи. Македониа во Silahdar Tarihi на Ф`нд`клили Силахдар      Мехмед-ага (1668-1694), Историjа, Скопjе, 1977 г., с. 150.

[23] Е. Грозданова, П. Груевски. Населението на Петрич и Петричка каза според поименния регистър от 1665 г., “Исторически преглед”, 1982 г., кн. 2, с. 122.

[24] Р. Мантран. Цит. съч., с. 224.

[25] Халил Иналджък. “Османската империя. Класическият период 1300 – 1600”, С., 2002 г., с. 139.

[26] Турски документи… , Цит. съч., с. 595 – 598.

[27] С. Попов. Цит. съч., с. 74.

[28] Евлия Челеби. Пътеписи, С., 1972 г., с. 280 – 281.

[29] Е. Грозданова. Цит. съч., с. 116.

[30] Евлия Челеби. Пътепис, С., 1972 г., с. 277 – 278.

[31] Проф. Петър Петров. Долянският панаир, “Македонски преглед”, 1994 г., кн. 4, с. 80 – 81; Инвентарна книга № 2, Нумизматика на ГИМ – Петрич – инв. № 293 до № 298.