The Contribution ofNon-Muslims to Bursa


Although today only 40-50 non-Muslim householdsdwell in Bursa, it is understood from the documentsthat lately, non-Muslims were living herein a very comfortable atmosphere. It can be easilyseen that Christians, Muslims, and Jewish had livedin harmony in Bursa. Jewish people were runningbusinesses of jewelery, tailoring, and banks andGreeks were working taverns and silk business.Muslims were working as administrators and farmers.These working fields and various differentfactors betwen these communities were not conflictingbecause they were complementary to each otherand they were in need of each other. The nonmuslimneighborhoods had common chests as welland money and goods were left in these chests. AGreek priest could borrow money from a Muslim,and a Muslim could entrust his money to a priestwhen going to hadj (pilgrimage). Most of the non-Muslims were knowing an art and they were welloff. They were choosing the administrators, watchmen,and religious men of their own neighborhood.They were very free in terms of religion as well.For example, when Gregory Palamas, Thessalonikiarchbishop, was held captive, he was treated as areligion man not as a war captive. Thus, the archbishopwas telling in his letters that, “He was seeingthe Christians, under administration of Turks, ina complete freedom”. Another Christian researcher,Paul Wittek says: “Turks are in a very tolerant relationwith Jewish and Christian people and Ottomansfollow a politics facilitating the coalescencebetween differences of individuals.” Before Republic,there were 10 churches in city center and 100churches in overall of Bursa. There were 3 synagoguesin the city centre as well. Today, there are 2churches and 2 synagogues open for practicing religiousservices. There was no serious conflict betweenGreeks-Armenians and Turks until 1920. Neitherin 1894-96 nor in 1909 Armenian events, noproblem occurred in Bursa and on the contrary thecorrespondent of Tanin newspaper Ahmet fierif,denoted that observation: “Especially after the Declarationof Constitution, non-Muslim citizens, especiallyChristians, are wondering around freely incomplete safety, and many people belonging to differentreligions are living in Bursa in perfect harmony.”It is seen that the Greeks, Armenians, and Jews inhabitingBursa had serious contributions to the cultureand art of the city. Many non-Muslim Bursa citizenssuch as; famous physician Aristidi Pafla, historianHasan S›rr› Orikagas›zade, and the best specialistof the foremost richness of Bursa, silk productionKevork Torkomyan, an author of Armenianorigin Ohannes Deroyentz, and a famous composerand vocalist of Armenian origin Bemim fien,have all presented serious contributions to the Turkishscience, art, and culture.Briefly, both during the conquest of Bursa and theRepublican Era, citizens of Bursa and its administratorshave approached different cultures and ethnicelements within framework of tolerance andequality and not interfered with the religious practisesand rituals of non-Muslims.