As the years pass, and as one generation gives way to the next, our collective knowledge of the villages of our forefathers slips slowly away. It is my sincerest hope that this web site will provide a forum to share information about Efkere, Turkey, a village in central Anatolia.
The information presented in this web site has been obtained from several sources: First-person written accounts, interviews with former residents of the village, Arshag Alboyadjian’s 1937 book entitled Badmootiun Hye Gesaria, as well as other literary sources which are credited in the site. I am also indebted to people all over the world who have written to me with valuable input after having seen this web site.
Origins and Development
Efkere was located approximately 18 kilometers northeast of Kayseri (Gesaria), Turkey, at 38.78° latitude and 35.67° longitude (38°46’60N, 35°40’0E), at an altitude of 4311 feet. The region is now referred to as the Bahcelli district of the town of Gesi, which is a part of the greater Kocasinan district of Kayseri.
The exact origins of Efkere are unclear. It is known that the monastery located in this village, Surp Garabed, dates from at least the 12th century, and some Armenians hold that the monastery was founded by St. Thaddeus in the 1st century. Others believe that the village was founded by St. Gregory the Illuminator, who is said to have rested here when traveling from Caesarea to Armenia at the beginning of the fourth century.
The origin of the name Efkere is also uncertain. It may be from the Greek word, Yevkaria, which means “sacred place”, or “sanctity”. Surp Garabed Monastery was believed to have housed some of the remains of St. John the Baptist, and is therefore considered a “sacred place”.
The name may also derive from the Armenian words hevk arav, which means “to have panted”. St. Gregory the Illuminator, carrying the remains of St. John the Baptist (Surp Garabed in Armenian), is traditionally believed to have become exhausted and rested in this region on his way to Armenia from Caesarea. Climbing the steep hills leading into the village, he panted, hevk arav.
This village has had numerous names, including Efkereh, Evkere, Hevkere, Hefkarah, Evgere, Yevkara, Yebgara, and Evkar. Turkish scholar Hüseyin Cömert notes that, in a census taken in 1500 of Kayseri and the surrounding villages, it is listed as “Efekere”. It seems to have been referred to most commonly in Turkish and Armenian sources as Efkere by the beginning of the 20th century.
This relatively small village was populated primarily by Armenians throughout its history, although Turks were also present during at least a part of this time. According to “16th Century Kayseri” by Mehmet Inbaşı (information kindly provided by Hüseyin Cömert) there were 122 Christian families in Efkere at this time, with 6 flour mills (although two were not in operation). In 1618, Simeon Lehatsi noted that there were 300 Armenian households in the “big village in front of St. Garabed’s”. This figure did not increase greatly over the years. Almost 300 years later, in 1914, Bishop Drtad Balian recorded that there were 500 Armenian households and 50 Turkish households in the village.
According to the 1831 Ottoman census, Efkere was comprised of five separate neighborhoods: Cavdarli (Armenian residents), Demirci (Armenian residents), Han (Armenian residents), Kuzey (Armenian residents), and Cesme (Turkish residents). Click here for a partial list of the residents listed in those records.
The village of Efkere was divided into an eastern and western section by a brook, Darsiakh Suyu. The western portion of the village was almost adjacent to the monastery. A five minute walk from the northern corner of the monastery’s hill would lead one to the first street in the western portion of Efkere.
Alboyadjian described Efkere in the following manner in his 1937 book, Hye Gesaria:
When you walk on that first street [of western Efkere] and lift up your eyes, you shall see a charming scene…A brook flows towards the South, from within the gradually rising valley, babbling sweetly and cooling the groves lining its banks…[Efkere’s] stone houses, bearing the grace of those of an Armenian village, climb on both sides in such a way that often the roofs of the houses of the lower streets have become the courtyards of the houses immediately above them. The middle of the upper streets of the left, that is, the Eastern hill, vaunts a beautiful church with a charming dome – a truly magnificent sight. Next to it is the modest school of the elevated village. The hilly parts of Efkere…are sights that, justifiably, please the heart of any visitor; the residents of those areas are the Armenians consisting of nearly five hundred households. On this side, towards the North, in a slightly widened part of the valley…is the Turkish colony, consisting of fifty families.
According to Dzotzikian, in Western Armenia (Leylekian Publishers, 1947), “Evkere’s houses are made of stone. They are huge, durable, and have more than one floor.”
Darsiakh Suyu was the principle source of water for the entire village. In Efkere, two water-mills were placed along its path, and some of the water was diverted into a lake on the northwestern side of the village. This lake did not replenish itself, and individuals in Efkere worked daily during the summer to fill this lake with water from Darsiakh Suyu. The lake, or pond, was called Haft or, in Turkish, Efkere Göleti. The gardens and crops throughout Efkere were irrigated during the summer by water from this lake.
Near this lake was an open area named Bar Galer, or the Dance Gallery. Here the townspeople would gather for celebrations such as Easter, play their musical instruments and dance, from whence the name was derived.
Two photographs of Eastern Efkere, both prior to 1915. In each, Surp Stepanos Church is the domed structure near the center. The first photograph was taken from Western Efkere, on the southwestern plateau, at or near the site of Surp Elia’s chapel. The second photograph was also taken from Western Efkere, but the perspective has now changed approximately 90 degrees, and one is looking at the front of Surp Stepanos Church.
By the beginning of the 20th century, the majority of Armenians in this village earned their living as blacksmiths. A smaller number were merchants, farmers, and money-changers in Kayseri and Constantinople.
Carpet weaving was carried out by many of the women.
A market was present in the village consisting of 20-30 shops, where business was carried out both with residents of Efkere and of neighboring villages. This business area was most likely located in Eastern Efkere, on the southern side.
The Armenian Dialect of Efkere
The spoken language of Ottoman Armenians varied from region to region, and often from village to village. To a certain extent, the Armenian language of Efkere also had its own characteristics.
The following is from Arshak Alboyajian’s Badmootiun Hye Gesaria, from 1937:
The village had a mixed population but, despite this, had managed to preserve its mother tongue.
As I’ve mentioned, their dialect was a corrupted Armenian, mixed with Turkish, and the abundance of Turkish words could be considered a result of the proximity between the Armenian and Turkish residents of the village.
Kr. T. Yorejian (see Manzoumeyi Efkear no. 1196, June 3, 1905), despite this, assures us that “Efkere is the only village in the region of Cesaria which has been subjected less to foreign influence and has adopted fewer foreign customs” and that Efkerites were “protective of their tradition, if not obsessive about it”. In the section about language, he says that “the language of this village, in comparison to the dialects of other villages has changed very little and bears very little foreign influence. It also has its own peculiarities and corruptions. The ga particle deserves attention, corresponding to gor – here it is placed before the verb, instead of after it. For example – ga glla (glla gor), ga gertam (gertam gor), ga goulam (goulam gor), and so on. The future tense is similar to krapar, for example yertali em (bidi yertam), ellali em (bidi ellam), kali em (bidi kam). It contains a lot of krapar forms and styles, as well as a select bouquet of provincial words, compiling a collection of which would not prove uninteresting to linguists”.
Unfortunately, as far as we know, nobody has done this.
Fortunately, there are surviving written examples of the language of the Armenians of Efkere, particularly from the years immediately prior to the First World War. Much of this is in the form of letters written in Armeno-Turkish, in which Armenian letters are used to write Turkish words. An example of this is included below, which is a portion of a letter written from Efkere on September 17, 1912.
Efkere Ermeniler’inin konuştuğu dilden, özellikle Birinci Dünya Savaşı döneminden, günümüze ulaşan yazılı örnekler mevcut olduğu için mutluyuz. Bunun büyük bir çoğunluğunu, Türkçe kelimelerin Ermenice harfleriyle yazıldığı Ermeno-Türkçe yazılan mektuplar oluşturmaktadır. Aşağıda, bunlara bir örnek olarak 17 Eylül 1912’de Efkere’den yazılan mektubun bir kısmı verilmektedir.
Transliteration (the letters in superscript refer to the line of text in the original letter):¹saniyen bu tarafda bir ufacık kölera savuşıturduk allah çok şükür ²taraf taaluk bir kederimiz yok köyden otuz tene kadar telef ³oldular ama acı verecek birinci hancı Artin ağa ikinci xx⁴xx Serkis Pıçakci tükken konşusu üçüncü Keleşoğlu xx dördüncü ⁵Güllünün kaynı Nişan gerisi h-koca koltuk ufak defek sekiz ⁶tene kadar islamdan emniyet yok allah rahmet eylesin* ne hal ⁷ise allaha çok şükür geçdi* velakin bu hasdalık ne ise hasda ⁸olmadık adam kalmadı idi* eyle geçdi bu kolera* Evkere havası çok ⁹yardım etdi* havası kötü ola idi telef çok olur idi* geçdi getdi* ¹⁰velakin Garabed, bir pıçak arkası kaldı idi Verkine* gedeyor iyi çok ¹¹şükür allah bize bağışladı* şimdi çök eyidir* Misak her ¹²vakit sahib oluyor* esgi bildiyin gibi deyil* kucağından bırakmaz ¹³Misak* ağana yazarık dersek iki eli kanda ise Verkineyi kucağı¹⁴na alır* beylece malumınız arz-u xxx
Secondly, we suffered from a minor cholera epidemic. Thank God we do not have any grief. Approximately 30 people died in the village. However, the most sorrowful [deaths according to us] were firstly, the inn-keeper Artin Agha; secondly, the knife-maker at next door, Sarkis; thirdly, Keleshoghlu…; fourthly, Nishan, the brother in-law of Güllü; the rest is eight people among the Muslims. There is no security [nothing is certain]. May they rest in peace. Whatever it was, it is over. There was no one who was not infected. So passed this cholera! The climate here in Efkere helped a lot. If the weather was bad, there could have been more losses. Anyway, it went away. However, Garabed, Verkine became like the back of a knife [got very skinny]. God spared her for us. Now, she is very well. Misak takes care of her all the time. It is not like you knew before. He never puts her down from his lap. If we tell him that we will write you [to complain about Misag] he puts her on his lap even if he is in a very difficult situation. So this is the news.
Other letters also exist from Efkere during this time period which are written solely in Armenian, and therefore it is difficult to determine to what extent Armenian versus Turkish was spoken in Efkere, or if one particular language was chosen over another for certain occasions – i.e.: business transactions, schooling, social interaction amongst Armenians.
Members of the Kojaian and Shahbazian families, Efkere, probably 1914.
Prominent Citizens of Efkere
S.M. Dzotzikian, in Western Armenia (Leylekian Pusblishers, 1947), relates that “The Armenians of Evkere were, at one time, the center of glory, thanks to one of their sons. That native Evkeretzi was philosopher and Armenologist Nahabed Rousinian, a unique figure of Western Armenian literature, and one of the explorers of the 19th century. After that, other individuals appeared, like the lawyers Marcos and Krikor Kalayjian, Yenovk Armen, Hagop Dep Hagopian, Jekayiblian, Dr. Garabed Miaserian, Balian Levon, Drs. Martiros and Bedros Kalayjian, and so on. Native Evkeretzi lawyer Haji Stepan Boyajian, who had also represented the Sultan, belonged to these ranks as well. Another of the loved sons of Evkere’s Armenians was Khachig Devletian, the celebrated doctor known by all in the regions of Gesaria.”