Akhism Culture  

Akhism is an organization that enabled the people who lived in Anatolia between the 13th and the 19th centuries to be trained in the field of art and profession, that improved them on moral grounds, and that organized the working life based on the good person merits. Akhism is a socio-economic order in which virtue, honesty, fraternity, charity, in brief all good merits are combined.

When we examine the history of the tradesmen and craftsmen community, we see that “Akhism” and “Turkish-Islamic Guild” occupy an important place because these two institutions and orders had been the determinative elements of the Ottoman society for many years. Some researchers base the origins of Akhism on Turkish-Islamic Guild which is especially developed among the Arabs in the East. However, they agree on that Akhism is an institution which is considerably different from Turkish-Islamic Guild and specific to the Anatolian Turks.

Anatolia became the second homeland of the Turks within the second half of the 11th century. In order to be able to live and take root against the local merchants and craftsmen, the Turkish craftsmen and merchants who migrated from Asia had to establish an organization among them. Furthermore, the Turks considered that they could produce solid, durable and standard goods by means of such organization. This necessity resulted in the establishment of the solidarity and inspection organization for tradesmen and craftsmen, in other words Akhism, the religious-moral principles of which already exist in the rules and regulations of Turkish-Islamic guild. On the other hand, the arrival of Ahi Evran, who is the master of tanners and Akhism, to Anatolia coincides with such dates.
Consisting of the harmonic combination of morality and art, Akhism was established as an organization by Ahi Evran in Anatolia in the 13th century.
The word “Ahi” is Arabic and means “brother/my brother”. However, some researchers suggest that the word “Ahi” is originated from the word “aký” which means generous, open-handed and brave in Turkish language. It is supposed that the word “aký” was turned into the word “ahi” which means “my brother” in Arabic language in a period during which the Turkish institutions and terms increased in Anatolia. Akhism established by Ahi Evran in Anatolia in the 13th century refers to the tradesmen and craftsmen association operating as subject to certain principles.

Ahi Evran
The researchers have different views on the life and personality of Ahi Evran. It is understood from the documents that Ahi Evran was a very successful person in organizing the tradesmen-craftsmen of leather workmanship. Ahi Evran established Akhism organization by making use of Turkish-Islamic guild which has undertaken great and essential duties in providing religious and moral information for centuries and the rules and regulations of Turkish-Islamic guild. Ahi Evran rendered Akhism, being the harmonic combination of morality and art, very estimable so that Akhism had directed tradesmen and craftsmen, had organized their social and working life, had played an essential role in the establishment of the guild of janissary for centuries and the statesmen deemed entering into this organization as a great honor.

The Ottoman Emperor Orhan Gazi is an Ahi and used the sobriquet “ihtiyarüd-din”, being one of the sobriquets used by the Ahis along with their names. Likewise, it is said that the Sultan Murat I is an Ahi as well. Ahi Evran served for improving the economic life of the people, enabling them to have professions and relieving them from the exploitation of religion. He started to serve by organizing shoemaker and saddler tradesmen. He gained a great reputation and respect with his superior skill, moral soundness and justness in a short span of time. He became Ahi Father, the president of the organization he established.
The foundations of Akhism were laid so solid and the principles of Akhism were so harmonized with the requirements and truths of the society that Akhism was subsequently taken as an example also for the municipal services of cities and towns and for the inspection of such services, and was formalized in the form of governmental regulations and statutes or codes of laws.
The Ahis imposed various penalties on the tradesmen who did not comply with the standards and produced low quality goods and services especially in the period of Ottomans. In this period, quality, standard, manufacturer-consumer relationships, which cannot be exactly applied even in our day, were determined by very severe rules.

Gedik Organization (Monopoly Organization)
Akhism occurred as a national organization specific to the Turks and played an essential role in the Turks’ taking root in Anatolia, including the protection of consumers. The structure of Ahi Community specific to the Muslims continued until the 17th century. As the non-Muslim sovereignty area of the Ottoman Empire expanded, there occurred the necessity for the people who were the members of various religions to collaborate. In this way, the new organization which was established without religious discrimination and which did not lose anything from its previous nature was called “gedik”. The word “gedik” is Turkish and means monopoly and privilege. The word “gedik” was officially encountered with in 1927, but the monopolistic character of gedik goes back to much earlier periods.
The gedik system continued until 1860. In those days, it was impossible for someone to engage in art and trade by opening a shop unless he was promoted to any vacant mastership position from apprenticeship and foremanship position, in other words unless he became a gedik owner. However, those persons who held charter of privileges could engage in art and trade. These charters covered the provisions such as increasing and decreasing the number of tradesmen, preventing the owners from increasing their rents, preventing those who were not gedik owners from engaging in art and trade, giving the vacant gediks to the apprentices and foremen of the tradesmen, and preventing foreign persons from being accepted to the craftsmanship.
There were two types of gedik, namely immovable or movable. The movable gediks were individual and enabled their owner to perform their art and trade at any place. Since the immovable gediks, however, belonged to such places as shop, store and workshop, it was impossible for their owners to perform their art and trade in another place. In the case that the gedik owner intended to migrate to another place, he had to officially transfer his gedik and change his bill. In this case, formal research and investigation were performed again. The gediks could be increased and decreased because of the needs of the society, transfers and modifications.

After the declaration of the Imperial Edict of Reorganization and the commencement of the trade agreements with foreign states, it was understood that the deep-rooted monopolistic practices were maleficent in the improvement of art and trade, and the maintenance of the gedik order and the principle of monopolistic practice was not considered advantageous any longer and abated by the government since it was required and desired for commerce and industry to be improved.
In the Ottoman period, craftsmanship and artisanship experienced their golden age until the 18th century. The traditions of Akhism and the lonca organization (the guild organization) which was subsequently established improved this class in terms of either quantity or quality. Also, the State contributed to this improvement and ensured the maintenance and security of the trade routes via the officials called pass guards.
Akhism received its share from the decline of the Ottoman Empire as well and it gradually became degenerated. In conclusion, the loncas gradually became corrupted and the assignments were started to be made to the gediks in accordance with the favoritism, not with the morals. The tradesmen could not sell the goods they produced.
In this period, the State experienced an exact decline. Eventually, the loncas were completely removed in 1912 so that Akhism system, which continued for 700 years and played determinative role in the economic, social and cultural life of the Anatolian people, vanished.
In the period of Union and Progress, there were sought such solutions that would reverse this wheel of decline experienced by the tradesmen and craftsmen, and such formulas as encouragement of this sector by the State and the good operation of the apprenticeship system were focused on. However, Akhism system declined as the Ottoman Empire since no result was obtained.

Organization of Tradesmen – Craftsmen and TESK In the Republic Period
With the establishment of the Republic, the Craftsmen’s Association and Craftsmen’s Union Law no 5373, being the commencement of today’s modern organization of the tradesmen-craftsmen sector, was enacted; and the organization of tradesmen-craftsmen gained its current structure with the Tradesmen and Craftsmen Law no 507 put into force in 1964 and the Tradesmen and Craftsmen Occupational Organizations Law no 5362 coming into force within 2005.
Our Confederation and its sub-organization carry on its operations regarding our tradesmen and craftsmen, being the mainmast and stability factor of the country also in our day, by trying to maintain its principles originated from Akhism.
As the senior institution of an organization originated from Akhism, our Confederation has always protected Akhism and has served for maintaining the principles of Akhism. Therefore, Akhism Celebrations have being held with a great enthusiasm by the contribution of the civilian authorities and local administrations as well in the provinces included within the scope of the regulation in cooperation with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism in accordance with the Regulation on Celebrations of Akhism Culture Week coming into force by being published in the Official Gazette dated 2.7.1988 and no 19866 since 1988, and in our 81 provinces in cooperation with the Ministry of Industry and Commerce in accordance with the Regulation on Celebrations of Akhism Culture Week coming into force by being published in the Official Gazette dated 13.07.2008 and no 26966 since 2008. Within the framework of the celebration programme, panels and conferences related to Akhism are organized, festivals are set up, our tradesmen and craftsmen who are selected by the provinces, who are successful in their professions and who have moral principles as required by their professions are given certificates and presents, and exhibitions-fairs are opened in our provinces. Our Confederation also leads and supports the Turkey-wide great meeting held together with the executives of the tradesmen and craftsmen organizations coming from throughout the country in our Kirsehir province, which is deemed as the center of Akhism, in every year. There are made researches and publications in order to conserve, develop and adopt Akhism to the recent conditions.
Occupying an essential place in the history of the tradesmen and craftsmen sector, Akhism still lives in our day with either its essence or associations. Today, the institutions such as Halk Bank, Craftsman’s Cooperative, Bag-Kur being of great importance in terms of the tradesmen-craftsmen sector, originate from Akhism Organization. For this reason, the celebrations of “Akhism Week” are held with a great enthusiasm in the tradesmen and craftsmen sector and in the tradesmen and craftsmen occupational organizations.




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