Pearls of the Crown
The National Library St. St. Cyril and Methodius
The National Library of Bulgaria presents its monthly series Pearls of the Crown. The title, chosen because of the double meaning of the word Crown in Bulgarian (used to denote both head adornment and Corona-virus), seeks to emphasize the need to promote culture, knowledge and books during the Covid-19 pandemic. Pearls of the Crownhas an online format, and each month, it reveals interesting stories and facts regarding documents, manuscripts and books preserved in the National Library’s archives. This month’s focus will be on the Oriental Collection.
Along with documents about Bulgaria and other Balkan and European countries, hundreds of thousands of archival units are stored in the Collection which contains valuable information about the Arab countries during the Ottoman period of their history. Some of these documents are Ottoman population registers from the 19th century identifying the inhabitants of many Bulgarian towns, neighbourhoods and villages.
The practice of keeping records has been known since ancient times. Many medieval rulers used it, keeping in their treasury important royal documents that fixed contracts, agreements and regulations, along with other valuable artefacts. To a much greater extent, the organization of this kind of archives is characteristic of the Ottoman Empire, which controlled vast territories of the Balkans, North Africa, all of Asia Minor and other regions. The Ottomans managed to build their own system for preserving documents and over time, they accumulated many official papers that were stored in various imperial institutions.
Since 1846, the archives have taken a more modern form. It was the Grand Vizier Mustafa Rashid Pasha who founded the Hazine-i Evrak (Treasury of Documents) in which were stored many official papers, documenting the activities of the central imperial institutions. Various lists, dating from the first half of the 15th century, bear the names of the inhabitants of the vast Ottoman territories, while the creation of these records falls under different categories: taxes on production (tahrir defteri), payers of jizya – paid only by non-Muslims (ciziye defteri), property registrations (temettuat defteri), etc.
Censuses and population registers (nüfus defteri) were established during the 19thcentury. The Ottomans conducted four general censuses – in 1831, 1881, 1905 and 1914 – and one of the purposes of this type of registration was for the inhabitants to obtain passports (tezkere-i osmaniye).
Please follow the link for further information and pictures: http://nationallibrary.bg/wp/?p=70655