LODGE ALİ KOÇ -- THE ROLE OF FREEMASONRY IN THE LIBERATION OF SERBIA AND THE POLISH INDEPENDENCE MOVEMENT
by RW Bro. Celil Layiktez P.Asst. G.M.
Lodge Zetin Dali No. 146 Grand Lodge of Turkey
Editor of TESVYYE (The Level)
The Masonic Magazine of the Grand Lodge of Turkey
Sinopsys: In 1850 Serbia was an autonomous state in the boundaries of the Ottoman Empire, having Russia's protection. Austria as well as the Ottoman Empire wanted to absorb Serbia. A masonic lodge, called Ali Koç, with a Turkish master, had Serbian brothers aiming at a republican Serbia, while the Turkish brothers wanted a return to a full Ottoman rule. Although the aims were opposite, they had momentarily joined forces to destroy the status quo in Serbia, which had to be the first step of their plans. Poland was under Russia's occupation and revolutionary Polish brothers, in the same lodge, were organizing a Polish revolutionary group against Russia, in France and England, using their masonic connections. Austria sent a known Hungarian freemason to spy on the lodge, the Grand Vizier, although Freemasonry was banned at that time in the Ottoman Empire, was also trying to pull the ropes of the lodge.
This essay is based on the various reports of the spy freemason, and of the Austrian and Serbian security officers.
1. Serbia in the 1850s. The Serbian revolution against the Ottoman rule started in 1804. After the 1828 -29 Ottoman war with Russia, Serbia became an autonomic princedom in the boundaries of the Ottoman Empire, while getting also Russia's protection. After the 1875 revolt of Bosnia Herzegovina against the Ottomans, Serbia together with Montenegro and with the support of Russia started a war against the Ottoman Empire. In 1878 Serbia won its complete independence, while Bosnia-Herzegovina was annexed by Austria.
2. Freemasonry in the Ottoman Empire in the 1850s. In 1826 Mahmud II abolished the Janissaries in a bloody confrontation, to create a modern army. The Janissaries were members of the Bektashi sect which was banned for this reason. As Bektashism had many similarities with freemasonry, it was also banned and known freemasons were sent into exile. The activity of the Ali Koç Lodge happened in this period and it is understood that the Grand Vizier  supported covertly the political activities of this Lodge.
THE ALİ KOÇ  LODGE
(As it was published in)
CASSELL'S ILLUSTRATED FAMILY PAPERS
(London, June 9 1855, Saturday)
FREEMASONRY IN TURKEY -- Although for the last thirty years it has been supposed that freemasonry existed in Turkey, yet it was only about five years ago that anything certain was ascertained on the subject. About that time a commercial traveler, a freemason, while in Belgrade, was introduced into a Turkish lodge by a Christian professor, and there met with a most brotherly reception. The Turkish freemasons call themselves Dervishes, and continue to be Musulmans, but they have the same ceremonies and the same signs as the freemasons of Europe, and pursue the same objects of humanity and benevolence. They appear to have raised themselves above the prejudices of Islamism, as they do not admit polygamy, and women were present, unveiled, at the banquets of the lodges. The Lodge of Belgrade, called Ali-kotch, is composed of seventy members. Its master, Tzani-Ismail-Zcholak-Mehemet-Saede , is at the same time grand master of all the lodges in European Turkey, and is in relation with all the lodges of the Turkish empire, and also with those of Arabia and Persia. Those in the Ottoman empire are numerous. Constantinople alone has nine, the most famous of which is the Convent of the Turning Derviches of Serekedschi Tecka. In Persia the order counts 50,000 members. The Turkish Freemasons wear, as a distinctive mark, a small brown shawl, ornamented with different figures, and a dodecahedron of white marble, about two inches in diameter, highly polished, and having red spots, which signify spots of blood, and are a remembrance of Ali, who introduced freemasonry into Turkey, and was punished with death for so doing.
Revolutionary Activities of the Alì Koç Lodge
In the spring months of 1851, General Apel, commandant of the third army in Pest was informed that a Masonic Lodge was established in Belgrade. He called Dr. Levis, who was a professor at the Industrial College (School) in Pest and a known freemason, and convinced him to bring personally a letter to General Krajnter, commander in chief at Zemun . Dr. Levis brought the letter to General Krajtner on the 9th of July. General Apel was asking for information about the lodge installed in Belgrade, both for himself and for Vienna, its members' identities, excluding its humanitarian activities, its political views and whatever political targets it had in Serbia.
Next day, that is on the 10th of July, Dr. Levis went to Belgrade. According to his report, because of an Islamic holiday, he reached Belgrade with some difficulty and stayed there for five days. In this short time he was able to collect a lot of information on the said lodge and wrote a report for General Krajtner, sending copies to Baron Apel (General), to the Minister of Defence and to the Minister of Security, Baron Kempen, in Vienna.
Dr. Levis' report:
".... there is a secret society called Freemasonry in Belgrade. The aims of this organisation conflict with the genuine objectives of freemasonry, which are humanitarian principles and goals. The target of the Belgrade Lodge is to destroy the status quo, its activities and politics are democracy oriented.
The lodge has 204 members. The members are Turkish, Serbian, Hungarian and adventurers from the entire world. Among the Turkish and Serbian members of the lodge are many prominent citizens and high level government employees. There are proofs that the Ottoman Grand Vizier in Istanbul is following closely the affairs of the lodge. The Belgrade Lodge is the biggest lodge of Christians and Turks in the Balkans, and the branches of Vidin, Svishtov, Rustchuk, Varna and Napoli (?) are attached to this lodge. The general assembly of the lodge will be held on the coming 5th of August and all the branches will be represented in this assembly.
The lodge meets in the evenings; all the members wear Turkish garments. In one meeting, all attending 40 members were wearing French clothes. Strangely, some Turkish women attended this meeting. 6 fully armed Turkish guardsmen were guarding the entrance of the lodge.
The President of the Belgrade Lodge is a Turk named Mehmet Sait Ismail. He is well respected by the people and the Pasha of Belgrade. Probably the Pasha himself, or his interpreter Ahmed Efendi  is a member of the lodge, but this information has not been confirmed. The lodge has two secretaries: a Turk and a Christian. The Christian secretary is Professor Shultz. A member of the lodge, Toma Vucic Perishic is a dangerous person, a rich Polish man, nicknamed Moro, a captain borne in Morava, commander of the Serbian military school, the president of the Polish Committee Doushe are all freemasons members of the lodge. Count Tiskilevic, Professor Charles Aren, the wife of the Czeck Wilhem Vof-Aren and governess of Knez's children, etc, are all members.
The Turkish members of the lodge want to bring back the rule of the Janissaries, the Christians are republicans. One thing is important, to reach their respective aims of returning to the past or aiming at the future, the two groups have formed an alliance in the form of a brotherhood. The only way their mutual aims could be realised is through a revolution and both groups labour conjointly in this direction.
The Belgrade Lodge is in contact with the revolutionary organisations of all countries. The correspondence is sent either by post or by private dispatch carriers. For this, they use trustworthy Turks and Hungarians travelling from Belgrade to Austria and other lands. Letters are sent to addresses of the above mentioned Moro, to Nikola Shapovic or Shlezinger. Packets from Vienna arrive via Zemun to Belgrade and are delivered to their recipients without being opened. The Zemun post office does not have the possibility to control the contents of these packets."
General Krajnter has added his personal information to Dr. Levis' report. It seems that he has received a membership card for the Belgrade lodge, written in Turkish. The General believed that Levis could learn the secret plans of the lodge, and that furnishing this information in time to the government would be rewarding for him. Krajnter tried to convince Levis to work for him. Levis, although accepting in principle this mission, pointed to the dangers he would be facing and asked to be paid in advance and also to be assured to have a permanent professorship. If these conditions were accepted, he would be present at the 5th August general assembly and would introduce himself to the members of the Belgrade Lodge as a professor of foreign languages; he would also establish himself in Belgrade or Zemun.
On the 15th July 1851 the Austrian Minister for Foreign Affairs Shvancenberg informed the Austrian Consul in Belgrade Radosavljevic, of Dr. Levis' mission. Radosavljevic, on his side, informed Pest that a masonic lodge had been created in Belgrade, that a Turk named Mehmet Sait Ismail had been elected master of the lodge, that he was attached to Knez Milosh, liaising thus with Freemasons in Pest and that the real object of the lodge was the destruction of the Belgrade government.
When Levis returned to Pest he briefed General Apel on what he had learned about the lodge. Apel had the information confirmed from other sources, added this intelligence to Levis' report and sent his new report to the security Minister Kempen on the 7th September 1851.
According to this report, the name of the Belgrade Lodge was Ali Koç. The members had special signs of recognition; the master of the lodge was Mehmet Sait Ismail. The lodge was in contact with the French National Lodge in Paris. It had 204 members, the majority of which were Turkish small merchants. Three French, two Germans and four Serbians were members of the lodge. Shultz was responsible for the correspondence in German, while Ahna (Ahmed?) Efendi cared for the correspondence in French, Turkish and Hungarian. (A. Ivic, "The creation and Working of the First Belgrade Lodge", VREME, No. 3196)
Information about the Belgrade lodge was continuously fed to Vienna. The above is the only information available in the Viennese archives.
From the letter written by the Austrian Security Minister Kempen to the Austrian consul in Belgrade on the 9th February 1855, asking further information on the lodge, we understand that his curiosity had not been satisfied. The consul, obtaining or buying new information wrote his final report to Kempen on the 27th February 1855. This is his report:
"This lodge was created 6-7 years ago in Belgrade and it has actually 140 members. Shultz, borne in Saxonia, professor at the Knez school is a member of the lodge. Ali is the founder of Freemasonry in Turkey. The symbol of the Belgrade lodge is a marble pedestal with red dots and about twenty grooves carved on it. The red dots symbolise the blood of Ali. Alongside the lodge's social benevolent activities, it has also political goals.
Almost all the Muslim clergy living in the Istanbul convents are freemasons. Their protector is the brother of the Sultan, Reshid Pasha and Ali Pasha are lodge members.
Mehmet Sait Ismail is a 60 year old Turk. To people who share his ideas he claims that in the near future the Belgrade Lodge will initiate big events amazing the whole world. He often travels for the benefit of the political activities of the lodge.
I could not learn how this lodge communicates especially with Austrian lodges and with lodges on the international level. My informant on the subject told me that Mehmet Sait Ismail is a honorary member of the Leipzig Lodge and that he has good relations with a well known freemason in Pest named Dr. Levis. When Levis came here for a few days three years from now, he was continuously in the company of the master of the lodge. Levis had told then that many political dissidents and refugees were admitted to the lodge.
Last year Ismail stayed a few months in Vienna. He wanted to travel to Leipzig from there. But, as he spoke only Turkish and Serbian and as he could not find a trustworthy interpreter, he changed his mind and went back to Belgrade.
This trip was for the lodge's benefit. Mehmet Sait Ismail knew that Mr. K. was a mason, but he wanted to learn if Count Westmorkland (sic) and Lord Redilajf (sic) were masons too.
The secretary of the lodge is Jasha Adjem. Confirmation is needed to know if this secretary is the same person as the Pasha's interpreter, Ahmed Efendi and if Ahmed Efendi is a mason." (A. Ivic ?)
It is confirmed by D. Stanjakovic that Toma Vucic Perisic had been initiated into freemasonry when he was in Istanbul during his first exile in the years 1840-41. Knez Adam Czartoriski's deputy Mihail Czaykovski had been operative in Toma Vucic Perisic's exile.
Knez Adam Czartoriski (1770-1861) was the leader of the 1830 Polish revolution. The objective of the revolution, under the influence of the French Revolution of July 1830, was to re-establish Poland's independence. The revolution was unsuccessful. Polish refugees took refuge in various European countries and continued their revolutionary efforts from there.
Knez Czartoriski was the leader of the rightist Polish political refugees. He had escaped to London and moved from there to the "Hotel Lambert" in Paris. From there, for more than thirty years, using many agents, he conducted efficiently a secret organisation. The Balkans were the scene of conflicts of interest among the big powers, and especially after 1840, Polish refugees were very active in this geography.
As the pro Slavic and against Russia activities of the Polish refugees coincided with the ideologies and objectives of England and France, these two countries sponsored Knez Czartoriski. All the members of Knez Czartoriski's organisation were freemasons; freemasons were in power in the governments of England and France.
The politics of England and France were focused on Austria and Russia. Apart from the political and strategic advantages these two powers were after, one has to take into consideration the masonic links. The populations of Russia and Austria were mainly Catholic and Orthodox, tsarism and feodalıty were dominant in these countries and the pressure of anticlericalism was a helping factor.
Using financial aid and their political influence, England and France are in a loyal cooperation with the Polish refugees, and thus they apply their political pressure directly on the independence movements in the Balkans.
Czartoriski being once a close friend of Tsar Alexander I, and using his masonic channels helped the Western political views to take hold in the Balkans and in this way helped the political aspirations of the small Balkan countries. (V. Czubrovilovic).
In 1841 when Adam Czartoriski decided to use the Eastern problem in fomenting a European war, the polish politics had to be revised. Czaykovski  was sent to Istanbul as the head of the Polish agents. (V. Vuçkovic)
Zoran D. Nenezic -- MASONI U YUGOSLAVIJI (1764-1980); Printed in 1984 (P. 171-174) with handwritten notes by Prof. Thierry Zarcone in the margins.
(1) Prime Minister of the Otoman Empire
(3) Gani Ismail Çolak Mehmet Sait
(4) The temple and convent of the Mevlevi (Whirling Dervishes) at Sirkeci, Istanbul
(5) Ali Koç
(6) Suburb of Belgrade
(7) Efendi: mister, gentleman
(8) Knez Adam Czartoriski's deputy Mihail Czaykovski