“A chronological selection from the archives of the Ottoman Bank”

Ottoman Bank Archives, one of the collections at SALT Research, not only
shed light on the history of the Ottoman Bank, formerly the central bank and
the treasurer of the Ottoman Empire, but also offer a representation of life
during this period. The archives narrate the story of the little-known world of
the late Ottoman and Early Republican period in which the bank played a central

archival documents presented in five different exhibitions in the Google
Cultural Institute display the significant changes, developments and crises
experienced over an 80 year period, from the Ottoman Bank's founding until
1933, when it gained a private bank status.

Bank Museum - 1856-1880 - The Founding Years & The Difficult Times

Bank Museum - 1881-1894 - Redressing the Situation

Bank Museum - 1895-1894 - The Expansion Period

Bank Museum - 1914-1920 – War and Crisis

Bank Museum - 1921-1931 - A New Balance & Epilogue"

"1921 - 1930   A NEW BALANCE OF POWER

It was wise
of the bank management to have taken seriously the nationalist movement
centered in Ankara. After the establishment of the Republic of Turkey in 1923,
the bank received positive signals from Ankara, the new capital of the state.
As a result of negotiations held in 1924 and 1925, the Ottoman Bank was able to
maintain its right to operate within the boundaries of the new Turkish state,
though with a price to pay. The bank was to eliminate its “Imperial”
status, increase the number of Muslim-Turks in its staff, and extend credit
opportunities to the government. In short, the Ottoman Bank had to make
considerable efforts to adapt itself to the ideology and needs of the country’s
new rulers. Yet, the bank's overall performance was good: it was the only
institution that continued to operate in the Republic while still bearing the
name Ottoman. Moreover, due to the government's incapacity to institute its own
central bank, the Ottoman Bank was able to preserve its status as the state
bank. It was not before 1931, when the Central Bank was finally established,
that the Ottoman Bank abandoned all its official prerogatives, and acquired a
totally private and ordinary status.


Strained Relations 1923 - 1925

By offering some services to the nationalist forces throughout the War of Independence, the Ottoman Bank had increased its chances of making a smooth transition into the new regime. However, it was clear that the adaptation process would be rough. The institution appeared to certain circles in Ankara as contradictory to the Republic’s foundation due to its foreign capital, its imperial past, and close ties to its non-Muslim clientele and staff. Such elements were bound to create zones of friction with the new power structure emerging in Ankara. A number of articles in the press voiced the animosity felt by these circles. More realistic analyses stressed the need to reach a compromise. Until the state was able to establish its own central bank, Turkey had to work with the Ottoman Bank, which was ready to comply with the new conditions at hand. The bank management believed that yielding to some of the demands would help survive in this new political climate. Although, the bank suffered from occasional political pressure and arbitrary measures, it was evident that the institution's future depended on its capacity to remain active in Turkey.

Article, 1925-01-31, From the collection of: Salt
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A French translation of an article published in Tevhid-i Efkâr (Union of Thoughts), strongly criticising the Ottoman Bank. 31 January, 1925

Article, From the collection of: Salt
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An article published in Hakimiyet-i Milliye (National Sovereignty) and supporting the idea that the government should come to an agreement with the Ottoman Bank. 1925.

Corespondance, 1925-04-26, From the collection of: Salt
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Kemaleddin Sami Pasha's words to deputy general manager Berc Kerestedjian upon the bank's refusal to grant a credit requested by Ibrahim Bey, deputy of Ertuğrul. 26 April, 1925

Agreements with the Ankara Government 1924 - 1925

Despite considerable opposition, the state signed an agreement with the Ottoman Bank. The government was in no position to sacrifice an institution that still constituted one of its most solid financial and economic links to the West. Negotiations between the bank management and bureaucrats in Ankara were finalized on 10 March 1924. According to the agreement, the Ottoman Bank's concession was prolonged, including its privilege of issue, and in return, the bank agreed to extend its financial support to the government, mostly through credits opened to the government and state banks. The greatest change to be undertaken by the bank was increasing the number of its Muslim-Turkish personnel. However, because of the opponents interference, the 1924 National Assembly did not ratify the agreement. Following another year of negotiations, a supplemental agreement was authorized on 22 April 1925, and the bank's status acquired some certainty. Consequently, the bank was able to maintain its status as the state bank, however, as Prime Minister Ismet Pasha confirmed, this was only a temporary solution, until the day a real state bank was established.

Agreement, 1924-03-10, From the collection of: Salt
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The agreement signed between the government and the Ottoman Bank. 10 March, 1924

Agreement, From the collection of: Salt
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The supplemental agreement signed between the government and the Ottoman Bank. 22 April, 1925

Letter, 1928-01-17, From the collection of: Salt
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A passage from the report on the conversation between the general manager of the Ottoman Bank, Pierre de Sorbier de Pougnadoresse, and Prime Minister Ismet Pasha. 17 January, 1928

Adjustment Efforts 1924 - 1931

Implementing the requirements of the 1925 agreement began by raising the Muslim-Turk population among its staff together with their salaries, and the obligation to use Turkish as the official language instead of French in the bank's accounting and administrative documents. The bank opened Turkish language classes for its non-Turcophone staff, and began systematically favoring Muslims over non-Muslims in its recruitment of Turkish citizens. The results satisfied the Ankara government, since from 1927 to 1933, the proportion of Muslim employees rose from 30% to 60%, and their salaries from 23% to 40%. The bank also saw to the immediate fulfillment of its other duties under the terms of the new agreement. In the fall of 1925, it opened credit lines of 750,000 liras and 2,000,000 liras to İş (Business) and Ziraat (Agriculture) Banks, respectively, thus enabling these institutions to acquire additional funding for their growing operations. 

Agreement, 1925-11-02, From the collection of: Salt
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The credit agreement signed between the Ottoman Bank and the İş (Business) Bank. 2 November, 1925

Letter, 1924-11-19, From the collection of: Salt
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A letter sent by general manager Louis Steeg to Finance Minister Abdülhalik Bey [Renda] declaring the bank's intention to substantially increase the proportion of the bank's Muslim-Turkish staff. 19 November, 1924

Chart, From the collection of: Salt
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The proportion of Muslim-Turkish employees and of their salaries from 1920 to 1933

"1931 - EPILOGUE

After the establishment of the Central Bank of Turkey in 1931, the Ottoman Bank underwent
a final series of important changes. The privileges it had enjoyed since 1863,
first with the Ottoman sultanate, and then with the Turkish state had no longer
any standing. As an ordinary commercial bank, its operations were now limited
to deposit and credit operations. The Ottoman Bank's only remaining privilege
as a foreign institution was that it was allowed to operate within Turkey under
the same conditions as Turkish banks. However, in the face of the growing
competition of state-sponsored banks, and from the 1940s onwards, of local
private banks, its share of the market decreased steadily. The Ottoman Bank
soon became a small bank catering to the needs of a restricted but loyal
clientele. The bank was sold in 1996 by its major shareholder Paribas to Doğuş
Group and served under this new identity for another five years. In 2001,
following the severe crisis that shook the Turkish economy and financial
markets, it merged with Garanti Bank, thus putting an end to its 145 years of

Credits: Story

Kurgu ve anlatım / Concept and narrative—Edhem Eldem, Boğaziçi Üniversitesi

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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