I'm wondering about the percentage of Christians in Asia Minor/Anatolia in the early 19th century. There were significant Muslim immigration and Christian emigration later.

Immigration: 19th century expulsion of Circassians (Muslims in religion) from Caucasus by Russians. Also, in 19th-20th century expulsion or voluntary immigration of Muslims from Balkans, after independence of Balkan states.

Emigration: Greeks in many waves, 1821, 1912-15, and their last exodus in 1922-24 after the Greek military disaster in Asia Minor and the forced relocation of reminder Greeks to state of Greece. Armenians, emigration of the reminder after the Armenian Genocide.

From what I've read most Circassians resettled in Ottoman Anatolia. The same applies for Balkan Muslims. Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople's statistics, there where about 2.2 million Greeks, Christian Orthodox faith in 1912 Anatolia. There were also slaughters of Greeks and emigration to state of Greece after the Greek Revolution of 1821, which decreased their numbers. About 1 million Armenians, according to Armenian genocide numbers, were in Anatolia before the genocide, let's assume until 1900. Couldn't find much data on number of Assyrians/Syriacs of Christian faith (Oriental, Nestorian etc) probably less than a million. With a total population of about 13-14 million in Anatolia at the start of 20th century, about 3 million Christians, some thousand Hebrews, the rest Muslims, Christians were a sizable number at about 22-25% (I also expect Ottoman statistics of the era to report less Christians than their real numbers, that's why I believe Christians could be up to 25%). So before Circassian and Balkan Muslim resettlement to Anatolia and also before the first slaughter of Greeks and expulsion in 1821 from Anatolia, could Christian population in Anatolia be somewhere between 30-40% in the early 19th century?

All these numbers are debatable, gross estimations and assumptions from personal amateur reading. That's why I'm looking on scientific research on the matter. Guide me if you have knowledge of any such research.

  • 1
    First, I wouldn’t mix up ethnicity with religion. Second, in that area the Christians were there well before the Muslims, so not the immigration were not the only source of Christians. Third, the Ottoman Empire were not a democracy, so they had no incentive to underreport a minority group. Especially if that minority groups pays a significant extra tax.
    – Greg
    Sep 2, 2020 at 2:17
  • The Ottoman state used the system of millet which, at least from the 19th century and later, described ethno-religious groups. It was pretty mixed in that part of the world. It still is in some cases; see Maronite, Druze, Yezidis, which are such an ethno-religious group, without their own language or state (at least the latter two). I referred to immigation of Muslim (coming in Asia Minor) and emmigration of Christians (leaving). They surely underreported since European powers intervened to protect Christian communities, later on the Balkan states did the same.
    – Krackout
    Sep 3, 2020 at 8:43
  • So it was beneficial for the Ottoman state to present reduced numbers of Christians, to reduce Christian states pressures for Christian communities protection. Of course this statistics had nothing to do with tax collecting; this was not a state of law and order, whoever had power and arms acted as they like. That way many Kurdish tribes for example were in essence independent, paying a minimal tribune or nothing at all to the central government.
    – Krackout
    Sep 3, 2020 at 8:47

2 Answers 2


The analysis by Abdolonyme Ubicini, as transcribed by Wikipedia based on research into the 1844 Ottoman census by Kemal H. Karpat and compiled in Ottoman Population 1830-1914, breaks down only as fine as the European and Asian halves of the Ottoman Empire; and gives a break down of 20% Christian and under 1% Jewish:

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As the English translation of Ottoman Population 1830-1914 in the Digital Archive is still under copyright, any more detailed breakdown will likely require access either to that book or the primary Ottoman source records.

  • Thank you for the source. The data of the era are very inaccurate and politically biased. In the very same wikipedia page you referred, 1914 official Ottoman Census for Anatolia: Muslims 13.390.000, Armenians 1.173.422, Greeks 1.564.939. So much different from Ubicini's some years earlier. That's why I'm searching for a modern, unbiased, neutral research on the subject. Perhaps the most credible statistics are much later, in 1924, after treaty of Lausanne and population exchange between Turkey and Greece. The Anatolian Greeks relocated to Greece were numbered to 1.5m. So they could be much...
    – Krackout
    Jun 21, 2020 at 21:25
  • ... more before the devastating events for them, especially during and after WWI.
    – Krackout
    Jun 21, 2020 at 21:26

You have to go back a bit in order to understand the population shifts in Anatolia. In the year 1000, before the arrival of the Turks, more than 90% of Anatolia was Christian. This was about 6-7 million people. After the arrival of the Turks, the christian population started getting killed or expelled en masse from the Anatolian lands, so that by 1950, it was more than 90% Muslim Turk. This replacement happened largely between 1900-1925, with the genocides of Armenians (1-1.5million), Greeks (~1million), Assyrians (~0.5million) and Kurds. The total Christian population that was exterminated by Turks in Anatolia was probably in the range of 3 million in the 20th century alone, but around 3 more million perished (killed or forced to move) in the centuries before that (with e.g. multiple massacres between 1400-1900). As previous comments say, the Ottoman census of the late 19th century grossly under-reported Christian numbers, because they were aware that these numbers might be used to curve up their empire, hence the genocides to prevent further curving up. So I think that the true numbers of Christian populations in Anatolia could also be deduced by these basic numbers starting from 7 million at around the 11th century, gradually down to about 4 million by the early 19th century, and extrapolating for the different ethnic subgroups of the various Christian populations. This should a fair but rough approximation.

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