Amasya | Commerce - The Ipranossian Brothers
Author: Lerna K. Yanık, 17/05/2022 (Last modified 17/05/2022)
No mention of commercial life in Ottoman Amasya in the late 19th and early 20th century would be complete without the story of the Ipranossian Brothers. Known as Ipranossian Brothers—Yeprem/Ipranos Ipranossian (1848-1921) and Marouke Ipranossian (1856-1920/21) descent from a family that already had established a textile business based in Amasya —a center of production for bogassi style textiles that were fashionable in the 18th and 19th century.  Ipranossian Brothers inherited their family textile business that had ties with Crimea and Braşov, Romania,  and built a vast network of stores around the Ottoman Empire selling textiles and a variety of goods, with branches established in Constantinople and European cities, including Milan, Brussels, and Manchester.
The exact date of arrival of the Ipranossian Brothers to Constantinople to expand their business is unclear. According to Simonian, around the 1890s, it was first Yeprem Ipranossian who settled in Istanbul with his family.  While there is no entry for Ipranossians in the 1885 Annuaire Oriental, the 1889-1890 Annuaire Oriental locates the “Ipranossian Freres” branch in Constantinople in Yaldisly Han at number 15.  By 1895, the Ipranossians had established 40 branches around the Ottoman Empire, most notably in Anatolia, adding three more branches (Mersin, Adana, Tarsus) to the already existing ones in 1909.  During these years, their vast network grew not only in the Ottoman Empire but also around Europe. Though we do not have any information about the exact time when the Ipranossians established their branches in cities like Milan and Brussels, in the late 1890s/early 1900s, Ipranossian Brothers were able to start a branch in Manchester, England--a city known not only for its textile and yarn mills but also a bustling hub of global commerce. Lured by a combination of economic opportunities that this city offered and the political unrest that engulfed the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, the first Armenian immigrants had already started arriving in Manchester in the late 1850s.  The Ipranossian Brothers, as a business, were latecomers  to the city. However, it quickly became one of the prominent businesses held by Ottoman subjects, exporting textiles and yarn back to the Ottoman Empire, to be sold by their network of branches. In September 1900, for example, “a” Mr. Ipranossian, reportedly, along with the prominent members of the Ottoman community in Manchester, attended a reception held by the Ottoman Consul General in Liverpool to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of Sultan Abdulhamid’s accession to the throne. 
The plan of the Ipranossian commercial school in Amasya (Source: Başbakanlık Osmanlı Arşivi (BOA), İAZN.00085.00032.002).
In Amasya, the Ipranossians established two schools—one for commerce and one for girls. The commercial school aimed at training the necessary staff needed to run their vast network of businesses started in 1898 on the top floor of the local Armenian school established in the courtyard of Sourp Nigoghos Church.  The girl’s school was established shortly later than the commercial school in the very same building.  However, the plans to move the commercial school to the Nergisoğlu building were cut short because of the Armenian Genocide.  The correspondence between the family and the state authorities between 1907 and 1909 details the blueprint of the new building and the school's curriculum.  Nevertheless, Ipranossian’s benevolence was not only for Armenians. For example, a “Madam Abranosyan” is listed as one of the benefactors of the Turkish Red Crescent Society in the Society’s 1911-1913 Year Book.  According to Simonian, this was Yeprem Ipranossian’s wife—Makrouhi Ipranossian, and her benefaction was awarded with a medal from the Turkish Red Crescent Society. 
While Yeprem/Ipranos and Marouke Ipranossian brothers established a business empire in a very short time, later joined by Yeprem/Ipranos’ three sons Garabed, Mihran, and Berdj. Mihran would complete a degree in Paris, France, first at L’Ecole des Sciences Politiques (later renamed Science Po) in 1913  and then, in 1916, write a thesis on French colonial administration at the University of Paris, Faculty of Law.  In 1908, Mihran also was the publisher of the Arevdur newspaper—a newspaper devoted to news about commerce and finance in Armenian—in Constantinople. 
Around 1914, Ipranossian Brothers established a shipping company to complement the Ipranossian business network. Ship registers in England indicate a purchase of a ship named “Toro” by “Ibranosyan and Hasan Kadı Bey” from Munzone, Mineo & Co. in 1914, which, upon the ship’s purchase, would be renamed “Turan.”  In 1918, another cargo ship named “Ankara” was bought by İbranosyan Kumpanyası from Debreli Fuad Bey.  However, this vast business network and the shipping company that the Ipranossian Brothers established would come to a sudden halt in 1915. According to Bryce Report, in August 1915, Marouke Ipranossian, along with other merchants of provincial origins, were deported to Anatolia.  The documents in the Ottoman archive also show that some of his family members still residing in Amasya at the time also faced deportation and ended up in Aleppo.  In Simon Arakelyan’s memoirs, Marouke Ipranossian would be spotted in a jail cell in Kayseri in September 1915,  where he was brought to the Military Court for trial for, possibly, some alleged link to Armenian “revolutionaries.”  In November 1915, however, Marouke Ipranossian would be released from prison and allowed to return to İstanbul only after converting to Islam and renaming himself Ahmet Sırrı-- to save his life and his confiscated property.  While his first name would be Turkified as Ahmet Sırrı, in respect to some “Mutassarıf Sırrı” who was instrumental in his conversion, the last name of the family would be changed to Abranoszade. From then on until his reconversion into Christianity in late 1918, Marouke Ipranossian would go with the name Abranonszade Ahmet Sırrı. 
Marouke Ipranossian, after being released from his prison until his death in September 1920 in a train accident near Sid—northwest of Belgrade-- in Serbia, would attempt to resume his business and revive the shipping company.  The trip that cost him his life was a business trip that had taken Marouke Ipranossian to Europe, and the accident had happened on his way back to Constantinople. During his visit to major European cities, Marouke Ipranossian reportedly was planning to transform his company into a limited company, -- a likely attempt that the businessman was trying to raise capital for his business. During these years, Marouke Ipranossian would also become the lead person in charge of collecting contributions to the Armenian Independence Loan in Constantinople. The newly founded Republic of Armenia had launched the Armenian Independence Loan in June 1920, which aimed to collect 20 million USD by issuing a 10-year bond paying 6%. The Loan was thought to become a panacea to the economic troubles of the newly established country, particularly the rampant inflation that plagued the country’s economy.  Alexandre Khatisian was sent abroad to raise the amount from Armenians worldwide. During Khatisian’s visit to Constantinople, Marouke Ipranossian promised 50,000 Turkish Liras to the Armenian Independence Loan, with the rest of the Armenian community of Constantinople promising to contribute 2 million Turkish Liras.  Moreover, at the meeting which brought Khatisian, Ipranossian, and other prominent merchants of Istanbul, Ipranossian vowed to do whatever it took for the success of the Loan. 
1) Amasya, 1902. The Ipranosian family. Seated, left to right: Maryam Ipranosian (nee Nergizian); Srpouhi Ipranosian (later Ebeyan; Maryam’s daughter); and Maryam’s mother, her first name unknown. Standing: Zabel Ipranosian (later Gulbengian; Maryam’s daughter) (Source: Kapriel H. Simonian, Houshamadyan Bondagan Amasyo [Memory Book of Pontic Amasya], Saint Lazarus Island (Venice), 1966).
2) Amasya, 1908. The graduates and faculty of the Ipranosian Commercial School. In the first row and on both sides of the diplomas are the pictures of the Ipranosian brothers, Marouke and Yeprem (Source: Kapriel H. Simonian, Houshamadyan Bondagan Amasyo [Memory Book of Pontic Amasya], Saint Lazarus Island (Venice), 1966).
Marouke Ipranossian’s death in a train accident prevented him from fulfilling his pledge to the fund that would form the Armenian Independence Loan. While the news of his death would even make it to the newspapers in the United States as the death of the man “reputed to be the richest man in Armenia” and “the leader of the Armenian Loan,”  the news of his funeral would make to newspapers in England as “grim Constantinople comedy.”  The reason why Marouke Ipranossian’s funeral was turned into a “comedy” was that the Armenian Patriarch Zaven refused to perform the funeral rites for Marouke Ipranossian because Marouke Ipranossian had died without fulfilling his pledge to the Armenian Independence Loan and that Marouke Ipranossian’s body would not be laid to rest until his heirs paid what businessmen had promised to the loan. Patriarch Zaven’s demand that Marouke Ipranossian’s share is produced by his heirs would lead to negotiations between the Church/Armenian community and Marouke Ipranossian’s heirs that would go on for several months until early January 1921.  Khatisian, in his memoirs, states that Marouke Ipranossian’s heirs did not pay the sum that the businessman pledged to the fund.  As a result of this non-payment by Marouke Ipranossian’s heirs, the Church refused to perform the religious rites and let Marouke Ipranossian’s body be buried. The late businessman's body could only be laid to rest in the Armenian Cemetery in Şişli on January 14, 1921, with a very low-level ceremony performed by the kahanas of the Sourp Yerourtutyun Church in Pera and only after the Bolshevik takeover in Armenia by way of implication, made the Armenian National Loan null and void.  His brother Yeprem Ipranossian died in August 1921 and was buried next to Marouke Ipranossian.
While the negotiations between the Church, the Armenian community, and Marouke Ipranossian’s heirs went on, the Kemalist government in Ankara would seize and auction off the Ipranossian business network claiming that Marouke Ipranossian aka. Ahmet Sırrı Abranoszade was still a Muslim, and according to law, a Muslim could not leave any inheritance to Christian heirs.  The seizure of the Ipranossian property by the Kemalist government in Ankara even became part of the parliamentary debates in the Grand National Assembly in Ankara in January 1921. The revenue from the auctioned Ipranossian property was thought to be around 700,000 to 800,00 Turkish Liras and was planned to finance the budget deficit of the government in Ankara, which was fighting the National War of Liberation at the time.  Likewise, the two ships that belonged to the Ipranossians, Turan and Ankara (Ankara was later renamed Şahin)— were confiscated by the Ankara government,  and Şahin was used until the ship’s sinking in October 1923.  The newly reestablished İpranos Shipping Company that owned these ships, on the other hand, would not be taken over by the newly established state but would be dissolved on the grounds that the company’s shares were predominantly held by the Muslims and the shareholders of the company were asked to come forward for payment later in the early 1930s.  Despite these confiscations by the Kemalist government, the heirs of Marouke and Ipranos Ipranossian still stayed in Turkey in the early 1920s. For example, the 1923 Directory of Constantinople Chamber of Commerce lists three different entries with the last name “Abranosyan.” “Abranosyan Karabet, Mihran, Berec” located in Dilsizzade Han and “Abranosyan Marouke Ticarethanesi” located in “Aşir Efendi Caddesinde Basiret Han, 27”. The third “Abranosyan” entry is “Abranosyan Karabet,” located at Şark Caddesi. While the first two entries list the members of the “Abranosyan” family’s specialization area as “banker ve manifatura,” i.e., bankers and traders of fabrics, the third entry solely lists “Karabet Abranosyan,” with a professional specialty as “manifatura.”  The company, or whatever has remained from the Ipranossian Brothers, seems to be broken into two by the heirs of the late Marouke Ipranossian and Ipranos/Yeprem Ipranossian. However, the family’s attempts to continue their business in Constantinople became a temporary affair of state. A search in genealogy indexer  locates Ipranos/Yeprem’s descendants: Garabed, Berdj, and Mihran—moving abroad. The last time the Ipranossian name appeared in the Annuaire Oriental in Turkey was in 1923. In 1925, for example, three brothers were listed as partners in Ipranossian Brothers in Bucharest. In 1936, Garabed appeared in a Berlin phone directory. In 1950, Berdj Ipranossian will be spotted in an Argentinian immigration directory with his son Radu, arriving in Argentina from Cannes, France. 
The story of the Ipranossians is not one story but a story of multiple themes. It is one of capital benefiting from the windfall of the capitalist expansion in the period preceding immediately before World War I. It is also one of dispossession and dispersion. It is also a provincial kavaratzi businessman rising to prominence in the center. Ipranossian’s story, in other words, is truly an Armenian one—local, national, but equally global at the same time.
-  Halil İnalcık, Türkiye Tekstil Tarihi Üzerine Araştırmalar (İstanbul: Türkiye İş Bankası Kültür Yayınları, 2021), p. 112.
-  Gabriel H. Simonian, Houshamadyan Bondagan Amasyo [Memory Book of Pontic Amasya], (Venice: St. Lazarus Island of Venice, 1966), p. 503.
-  Ibid, p. 504.
-  Annuaire Oriental (Ancien Indicateur Oriental du Commerce De L’Industrie de L’Administration et del Magistrature: 10eme Année 1891 (Cervati Freres and Cio: Constatinople), p. 241.
-  Zartonk Oratert, 4 November 1938.
-  Joan George, Merchants in Exile: The Armenians in Manchester England, 1835-1935, (Princeton and London: Gomidas Institute, 2002), p. 23.
-  The list that Joan George has compiled fom Slater’s Directories of Manchester, Salford and Suburbs, 1901, 1902 and 1903, locates Ipranossian Bros. as merchants at 11 Peter Street, see George, Merchants in Exile, p. 236.
-  Liverpool Mercury, 3 September 1900.
-  Simonian, Houshamadyan Bondagan Amasyo, p. 505-506.
-  Ibid.
-  Ibid, p. 506.
-  Hadi Belge, “Osmanlı Taşrasında Bir Azınlık Ticaret Okulu: Surp Nikgos Abranosyan Ticaret Mektebi,” in Zührem Yaman, ed., Sosyal, Beşeri ve İdari Bilimler Alanında Uluslararası Araştırmalar VI, (İstanbul:Eğitim Yayınevi, 2021), pp. 953-985.
-  Ahmet Zeki İzgöer and Ramazan Tuğ, Padişah’ın Himayesinde: Osmanlı Kızılay Cemiyeti 1911-1913 Yıllığı (Ankara: Türk Kızılayı Yayınları, 2013).
-  Simonian, Houshamadyan Bondagan Amasyo, p. 512.
-  Le Temps, 4 July 1913.
-  https://catalogue.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/cb306356017
-  Zakarya Mildanoğlu, Ermenice Süreli Yayınlar, 1794-2000 (Aras Yayıncılık: 2014), p. 95.
-  “Lillie,” available at https://www.hhtandn.org/hartlepool-ships-and-shipping/shipbuilding/206/Withy%27s%20shipyard/ship/1178/lillie (Accessed 6 April 2022).
-  “SS Şahin,” available at https://www.wrecksite.eu/wreck.aspx?248403, (Accessed 28 March 2022).
-  The Treatment of Armenians in the Ottomen Empire, 1915-1916: Documents Presented to Viscount Grey of Fallodon (London: Sir Josephy Causton and Sons, 1916), p. 16.
-  Oya Gözel Durmaz, “Tehcirde Ermeni Bir Tüccarın Hikayesi: Maruke İpranosyan,” in Yok Edilen Medeniyet: Geç Osmanlı ve Erken Cumhuriyet Dönemlerinde Gayrimüslim Varlığı, eds., Ararat Şekeryan and Nıvart Taşçı (Istanbul: Hrant Dink Vakfı Yayınları, 2017), p. 117, fn 5.
-  Simon Arakelyan, Ankara Vukuatı: Menfilik Hatıralarım (İstanbul: Aras Yayınları, 2017), p. 138.
-  Gözel Durmaz, “Tehcirde Ermeni Bir Tüccarın Hikayesi: Maruke İpranosyan,” p. 116-117.
-  Ibid, p. 117-119.
-  Ibid, p. 121.
-  Ibid, p. 122-123.
-  Arev, 6 October 1920.
-  Richard Hovannissian, The Republic of Armenia: From London to Sevres, February-August 1920, Vol.3 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996), p. 282, 284.
-  Hovannissian, The Republic of Armenia: From London to Sevres, February-August 1920, p.286; Al. Khatisian, Hayasdani Hanrabedutyan Tzakumu yev Zarkatsumu, (Beirut: Hamazkayin, 1968), p. 229.
-  Hayrenik, 4 August, 1920.
-  New York Tribune, 28 September 1920.
-  Leicester Daily, 23 February 1921.
-  Leicester Daily, 23 February 1921; The Orient News, 5 November 1920; The Orient News, 10 December 1920; Nouvelliste Valaisan, 25 November 1920.
-  Khatisian, Hayasdani Hanrabedutyan Tzakumu yev Zarkatsumu, p. 229.
-  The Orient News, 16 January 1921; Djagadamard, 14 January 1921; Leicester Daily, 23 February 1921.
-  The Orient News, January 16, 1921; The Orient, 10 November 1920.
-  TBMM Zabıt Ceridesi, 3.1.1337, 128. İçtima, p. 141.
-  Gözel-Durmaz, “Tehcirde Ermeni Bir Tüccarın Hikayesi: Maruke İpranosyan,” p. 122-123.
-  “SS Şahin,” available at https://www.wrecksite.eu/wreck.aspx?248403, (Accessed 28 March 2022).
-  Gözel Durmaz, “Tehcirde Ermeni Bir Tüccarın Hikayesi: Maruke İpranosyan,” p.123.
-  Dersaadet/İstanbul Ticaret ve Sanayi Odasında Kayıtlı Olan Banker, Tüccar ve Komisyoncuların İsimleri (1923), (İstanbul: İstanbul Ticaret Odası Yayınları, 2008).
-  https://genealogyindexer.org/ (Accessed 3 April 2022).
-  https://cemla.com/buscador/ (Accessed 3 April 2022).