Settlement of the territorial periphery of Aksaray in Cappadocia, situated at the foot of mount Güney, 1480 m. above sea level. In fact, the dwellings were built in the area between the four ravines that crossed the settlement. Gelveri was divided into two parts, which broadly corresponded to the history of its organization as a settlement as well as to its architectural evolution: the lower district (in Turkish: Asağı Mahalle) and the upper district (Yukarı Mahalle). The lower district, which corresponded to the old part of the settlement, comprised approximately 150 dwellings, most of which were rock-cut. In that part of the settlement were located the dwellings of the poorest sections of the population, as well as these of the Muslims. The upper district was formed through the settlement’s expansion and corresponds to the next phase in its architectural evolution. Most dwellings were built and in many cases had two stories. This part of the settlement accommodated people from the economically and socially upper sections of society and included the economic centre of Gelveri. It hosted the market and the weekly market. The development of the upper district is estimated to have begun in the middle of the 19th century.
Gelveri was administratively divided into 4 quarters: Henkemeci mahallesi, Sokak mahallesi, Orta mahallesi and Panagia or Meriem mahallesi. Evidently, in the inhabitants’ everyday practice, the settlement was divided into many smaller quarters, which were named after locations and buildings or people associated with them.
A number of theories have been put forward concerning the origin of the settlement’s name: according to one of them, Gelveri originated from Kellivara, another name for the settlement. This claim should probably be called into question, given that the monastery of Kellivara is located on the mount Latro, very far from Gelveri. Others assert that Gelveri’s location is identified with that of the settlement Karvala , which was mentioned in epistle 203 of Gregory the Theologian. Still, regardless of whether any of these claims is accurate, it is important to note that in the sources as well as in the relevant bibliographical references, Gelveri is referred to as Kelveri, Kellivara and Karvali. As for the settlement’s establishment, it has been held that Gelveri was formed by the union of small residential districts that belonged to the area later to be called the lower district.1
The population of the settlement was a mixture of Turkish-speaking Christians and Muslims, the latter being a minority. According to the oldest testimony of the size of the population, dating back in 1815, there were 300 houses, the majority of which were rock-cut on the mountain slopes and inhabited mainly by Christians. Further testimony regards the period from the end of the 19th century until 1924 and asserts that Gelveri’s Christian population oscillated between 2.780 and 4.000, whereas that of the Muslims between 200 and 250.2
It is not possible to determine the exact period of Gelveri’s establishment. It might be the case, though, that, while from the middle of the 18th century the community has already started to take form, there have been some difficulties, which needed to be overcome until the beginning of the 19th century. According to spoken testimony, towards the end of the 18th century, the arbitrariness of the local powerful ayan Salak Mustafa generated problems. The inhabitants of Gelveri were obliged to appeal to the central government. Solak Mustafa was removed and the situation normalized.
The gradual economic improvement due to immigration was also depicted on the organization of the residential space of the settlement and the creation of the upper district. The revolution of the Young Turks in 1908 generated increased expectations for the Christians of Gelveri but also for the entire Ottoman Empire. This euphoria was overshadowed by the persecution of the Armenians in Adana in 1909 and the fear that the Orthodox Christians would receive the same treatment by fanatics of the surrounding villages. During the Balkan Wars, the inhabitants of Gelveri were rallied to the Ottoman army for the first time; it should be noted that there have been no reports of serious discrimination against them. However, some amongst them defected to Greece and returned after the amnesty proclamation at the end of war. The situation seemed to change after 1914, when several immigrants returned to Constantinople and hided in Gelveri, apparently in order to avoid conscription. The discrimination policy against Greek Orthodox populations applied throughout World War I did not affect the Christians of Gelveri. In fact they were just reproached with acting against the Ottomans, accusations that remained unverified. After Greece joined the war, Christian stores in Aksaray were boycotted for two months; it wasn’t long before this negative climate affected Gelveri. A few isolated incidences in the relations between Christians and Muslims were also reported during the period 1919-1921. After their arrival in Greece, refugees from Gelveri settled in the residential area of Nea Karvali, in Athens and in Thessaloniki.
3.1. Agricultural production
In Gelveri, the creation of an agricultural surplus intended for the market had rather limited feasibility, as agricultural production was barely able to meet the inhabitants’ needs. They cultivated wheat, barley, corn, fruits and opium. The only marketable products were wine, raki, and a kind of vegetable glue made from the root of tracanth and used for fabric starching and hide burnishing in the tannery industry. Demand of the first two products resulted in the promotion of wine-growing, especially during the period before the exchange of populations. Domestic animal farming was also developed, geared exclusively towards self-consumption. The Christian inhabitants of Gelveri did not work merely as farmers. In their majority, however, they owned some land, which they cultivated for their families’ needs. Immigrants entrusted their land to tenants, Christians or Muslims, whose obligation was to give the family of the landowner a share of the crop, usually half.
3.2. Manufacturing production, trade, immigration
The limited potential to boost agricultural production, coupled with the lack of safety conditions, one the one hand, and the isolation of the area due to a bad transport network, on the other, urged a large number of the male population to migrate. The main reception centres for the Gelveriotes (the inhabitants of Gelveri) were Constantinople, where migrants had their own shops selling grocery goods, butter, tahin (sesame paste) and olive oil, and the developing urban centres of Cilicia, where most migrants had temporary jobs as drapers, grocers, potters and animal traders or vended oil and tahin.
Immigrants originating from Gelveri, yet not as numerous, were also to be found in Egypt, Bulgaria, Russia, Romania and America. The existence of a community established by the Gelveriotes in the capital of the Ottoman Empire towards the middle of the 18th century testifies that the wave of immigrants must have begun very early on. Immigration continued throughout the 19th century, but it wasn’t until the construction of a railway network that it actually exploded. During the first two decades of the 20th century, although 25% of the inhabitants of Gelveri were immigrants,3 there is no evidence of depopulation or dereliction as witnessed in other settlements of Cappadocia. The fact that they maintained close contact with their families, but also with the community, played an important role in this respect.
The people who remained in Gelveri were engaged in manufacture and trade. According to spoken testimony but also to the community records, in Gelvery existed blacksmiths, cobblers, potters, builders and stone dressers. There are also references to drapers, leather and animal vendors, grocers, alcohol merchants – wine and raki, carriers and money-lenders. Certain people expanded their activities abroad by collaborating on a permanent basis with traders from Gelveri, who had moved to Constantinople and Mersin.
4. Society – Institutions – Community
Administratively, Gelveri belonged to the kaymakamlık of Aksaray, mutasarrıflık of Niğde, vilayet of Konya (Ikonio). The supreme administrative authority of the community until 1914 was the body of muhtars. In Gelveri were elected 4 Christian muhtars, one for each quarter, and one Muslim. They were in charge of the tax collection, the maintenance of a population register and the cadastre. In 1914, when Gelveri was upgraded to municipality, appeared a new official administrative authority: the mayor. The office was elective, the mayoralty lasted four years and to stand as a candidate one should dispose of land property. The mayor was assisted by a board of five trustees –four Christians and one Muslim as the general secretary– in the performance of his duties.
Alongside the mayor and the muhtars, who constituted members of the Ottoman administrative mechanism, existed a communal authority concerning solely the Christian inhabitants, the so called "dimogerontia". Its members were commissioned with the management of churches and schools, the collection of certain taxes in cooperation with the muhtars, the distribution of forced labor and the keeping of public order in the area. For that purpose they appointed salaried employees, night watchers, haywards and the so-called "nerokrates", who were responsible for the water distribution. The dimogerontia of Gelveri, also called Synodos (Assembly), consisted of 8-12 members (dimogerontes). The dimogerontes needed to be over 25 years old and were elected by the community members by universal suffrage. Their tenure lasted one year, but could be extended up to 3 years.
The metropolitan who, in accordance with the regulations of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, was the supreme supervisor of all Christian communities in his jurisdiction, ratified their election. After 1908, separate committees were established for schools and churches. A Gelveri School Ephorate was also established in Constantinople from 1856 onwards. It addressed educational issues in cooperation first with the dimogerontia and later with the school ephorate.
The election to office was practically a sole privilege of the members of the higher social group of Gelveri, namely the çorbacı (notables). Notwithstanding its unofficial status, opposing tendencies have emerged among its members, who claimed the various offices in the community for themselves.
Ecclesiastically, Gelveri belonged to the diocese of Ikonio. The settlement was the see of the metropolitan’s commissioner, who was entrusted with monitoring the affairs of the church not only in Gelveri but also in the neighboring villages.
In the beginning of the 20th century, there were three churches in Gelveri: St Gregory the Theologian, Virgin Mary and StsAnargyroi; seven priests performed the services. Apart from the aformentioned churches, there were also numerous chapels and oratories within as well as in close proximity to the settlement.4 The most outstanding amongst them was St Gregory where, according to tradition, was kept an ossuary with the relics of the saint, later to be transferred to the church of the same name erected in Nea Karvali.
The church of St Gregory, Gelveri’s main church, was cruciform with dome. It dates to 1806, but it wasn’t until 1834 that the inhabitants were allowed to restore it. It is important to mention that the temple’s courtyard was the meeting place of the members of dimogerontia. This same location was also chosen for the wealthy and prominent members of the community cemetery, while the rest of the people were buried in a designated area outside the parvise. Extremely important for the inhabitants’ religious cults was the pilgrimage to the Holy Places, known as hatziliki. The pilgrims left Gelveri at the end of November and returned after the first Sunday after Easter. They were both men and women, coming from the upper strata of the population.
In 1802 a community school was already operating in Gelveri, closely linked to the church of St Gregory. For a long time, teaching was undertaken by priests and was based on religious principles. In 1856 the Gelveriotes of Constantinople decided to reorganize the school in concert with the dimogerontia. In 1857, new teachers were employed and, in 1862, a new school was built. In 1890 the school was upgraded; the girls’ school and the nursery occupied a different floor than the boys’ school. The courses of the boys’ school lasted 6 years, while these of the girls’ school only 4.5 In 1912 wealthy notable Chatzi-Agas Loukidis had a new school built, assisted by the inhabitants’ contributions. The educational situation deteriorated with the outbreak of World War I in 1914 and remained critical until 1924.
In 1884, the Gelveriotes of Constantinople established the Educational Society “Nazianzos”. As stated in the society’s statute, the members’ aim was to preserve and develop the schools of their homeland, as well as to provide for teachers, books and writing material for the poor students. In 1889 the society merged with the department of Gelveri’s school ephorate located in Constantinople. It was reconstituted in 1908 and remained active until its dissolution in 1924.
In 1908, again in Constantinople, immigrants from Gelveri established the Charitable Society of the town of Kelveri ‘St Panteleimon’ (Filanthropiki Adelphotis Komopoleos Kelveri “Agios Panteleimon”). The members of the society provided social welfare services, assisting financially their poor compatriots. They were also entrusted with the task of sending a doctor to Gelveri to offer his services for about a year. In 1911 "St Panteleimon" merged with "Nanzianzos", which acquired its property and took over its tasks.
In Gelveri operated 4 guilds: the farmers’ guild, with the name "Dimitra" (Demeter, 1887), the potters guild ("Keramos"), the oil merchants guild ("Omonoia", 1890), in which participated the merchants of Constantinople, and the blacksmiths guild "Ifaistos" (Hephaestus). All 4 guilds merged in 1909 with Nanzianzos.
1. Καρατζά, Ε., Καππαδοκία: Ο τελευταίος ελληνισμός της περιφέρειας Ακσεράι – Γκέλβερι (Καρβάλης) (Athens 1985), pp. 147-159.
2. Πετρόπουλος, Δ. – Ανδρεάδης, Ε., Η θρησκευτική ζωή στην περιφέρεια Ακσεράι – Γκέλβερι (Athens 1971), pp. 63-64, with detailed relative evaluations. The testimonies of Ανδρεάδη, Α., Η Καρβάλη (typed manuscript, Centre for Asia Minor Studies, ΚΑΠΠ 11), p. 8, who amounts the total population to 5,000 people, including 4,400 Christians and 600 Muslims, and of Χριστόπουλου, Μ., Αι εις τας μητροπόλεις Καισαρείας και Ικονίου υπαγόμεναι ελληνορθόδοξοι κοινότητες (typed manuscript, Centre for Asia Minor Studies, ΚΑΠΠ 45) (Chania 1939), p. 67, who talks about just 750 Christians and 130 Muslims, are very different from the rest of the testimonies.
3. Καρατζά, Ε., Καππαδοκία: Ο τελευταίος ελληνισμός της περιφέρειας Ακσεράι – Γκέλβερι (Καρβάλης) (Athens 1985), p. 290, and Πετρόπουλος, Δ. – Ανδρεάδης, Ε., Η θρησκευτική ζωή στην περιφέρεια Ακσεράι – Γκέλβερι (Athens 1971), p. 64.
4. Αντωνόπουλος, Σ., Μικρά Ασία (Athens 1907), p. 219; 'Στατιστική της Επαρχίας Ικονίου', Ξενοφάνης, 3 (1905), p. 44 and Πετρόπουλος, Δ. – Ανδρεάδης, Ε., Η θρησκευτική ζωή στην περιφέρεια Ακσεράι – Γκέλβερι (Athens 1971), pp. 65-68.
5. Καρατζά, Ε., Καππαδοκία: Ο τελευταίος ελληνισμός της περιφέρειας Ακσεράι – Γκέλβερι (Καρβάλης) (Athens 1985), p. 237. In 'Στατιστική της Επαρχίας Ικονίου', Ξενοφάνης 3 (1905), pp. 44-45, the boys' school is reported to have had seven grades. Χριστόπουλος, Μ., Αι εις τας μητροπόλεις Καισαρείας και Ικονίου υπαγόμεναι ελληνορθόδοξοι κοινότητες (typed manuscript, Centre for Asia Minor Studies, ΚΑΠΠ 45) (Chania 1939), p. 68, amounts the number of grades at the boys' school to eight.