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12 Mar 2024

THE BALKANS History, Religion and Society – ed. Sevba Abdula, Semran Murtezani


The Balkans could not exist with positive agendas in the formation and writing of 19th and 20th-century world history. As a region with an imperial legacy, it struggled to achieve phenomena such as balance, stability, trust, and security amidst numerous internal and external processes such as migration, nationalization, irredentism, imperialism, communism, failed states, and wars. In this context, the Eastern Question was influenced by concepts and descriptions such as Balkanization and ethnic nationalism. Since 1990, and especially after 2000 with the EU integration processes, it is possible to say that the Balkans have moved closer to political, cultural, and economic balance and stability. Consequently, research on the region’s history, dynamics, sociology, and economy has increased.

The study of Balkan history generally involves understanding the rich and complex history of the region, its ethnic and religious diversity, the transition from empires to nation-states, dynamics of conflict and cooperation, changes in the post-Cold War period, integration processes with the European Union, and regional/international interventions for regional stability. Since 2000, research units based in Athens, Istanbul, Belgrade, Sofia, Sarajevo, etc., have begun to include cultural studies, microhistorical studies, migrations, biographies, thereby creating a rich literature on the region.

This volume aims to make a small contribution to the emerging research trends in the field of Balkan studies. In this volume, young and qualified researchers from various countries in the Balkans examine topics ranging from military borders to migrations, periodicals to orphan institutions, and the Çanakkale War to dervish lodges.

The first part of the work consists of four articles under the title ‘Military Frontier, Bosnia, Uprising, and Serbia.’ Okan Büyüktapu examines ‘The Formation of the Ottoman Military Frontier in Bosnia-Herzegovina (16th-17th Centuries).’ The article, adapted from his doctoral dissertation, delves into the formation process of the Ottoman Empire’s military border regions in the Balkans, particularly focusing on how these borders were established in Bosnia. Büyüktapu provides an in-depth analysis of the Ottoman Empire’s strategies to establish natural boundaries, taxation possibilities, defense priorities, and borders suitable for conquests. Additionally, it details Ottoman border defense policies in Bosnia, including long-term planning and constant revisions based on current circumstances. In summary, Büyüktapu offers an in-depth perspective on how the Ottoman military frontier in the Balkans was established and maintained, the changing frontier policies in Bosnia over time, and how these processes related to the overall Ottoman military strategy. On the other hand, Dajana Barušić, in her study “The Bosnian Revolt of 1849-1851 and Ömer Lütfi Pasha”, examines the revolt of the aghas and beys in Bosnia between 1849-1851, who opposed the implementation of the Tanzimat. Since there was no press in Bosnia during this period, the events and reactions mainly received attention in neighboring Serbia and were covered in detail in the Serbian Newspaper (Srpske Novine). Tanja Cerevski’s “Constitutional Developments in Serbia and the Evaluation of the National Oriented Politics of Prince Mihailo Obrenovic (1860-1868)” analyzes the transformations in the political structure of Serbia during the reign of Prince Mihailo, the efforts to pursue national goals, and how these efforts affected the overall political structure of the Balkans. This period is recognized as an important phase of transformation and development of national consciousness in Serbian history and the history of the Balkans in general. The last paper in this chapter is by Emina Mostic, titled “What’s Up In Ottoman Studies in Post-War Bosnia And Herzegovina.” She underlines the need for objective research in Ottoman studies in Bosnia and Herzegovina and emphasizes the importance of understanding local history in the context of the wider history of the Ottoman Empire. Mostic argues that thorough research requires familiarity with both local and Ottoman sources, as well as a willingness to learn from scholars in Bosnia and beyond.

Part Two consists of four articles under the title ‘Ottoman Empire, Wars, and Implications.’ Naime Yüksel Karasu examines the life and influence of Hazinedarzade Ali Aga, an important local actor in 18th-century Salonica. While detailing the activities of local families in provincial administration and their complex relations with the Ottoman central government, the study highlights the rise of Hazinedarzade Ali Aga and his role in provincial administration. It also reveals how the military, political, and social dynamics of the 18th-century Ottoman Empire were shaped by the rise of local powers. İzzetin As, in his study titled “The Cretan Problem and Institutional Efforts for Orphans in Crete,” provides valuable research by detailing important issues on the island of Crete during the last periods of the Ottoman Empire, especially focusing on institutional efforts for orphans. Within this framework, As reveals that migrations in Crete caused significant social and economic problems, particularly for orphaned children. He examines the institutions established and measures taken for orphans and orphaned children in Crete under Ottoman rule and after the annexation of Greece. Additionally, he explores efforts to meet the basic needs of these children, such as education, shelter, nutrition, and healthcare. Mustafa Öztürk examines the Dönmeh schools opened in Thessaloniki before the Second Constitutional Monarchy and their role in the Ottoman modernization movements. With the 1869 Maarif Regulation, a period of innovation in education began, during which the Dönmeh community in Salonica established various schools that embraced modern educational approaches. These institutions included Şemsi Efendi School, Feyziye Schools, Terakki School, and Trade School. Unlike other Muslim schools of the period, these institutions were notable for their modern teaching methods, curricula, and qualified educators. The progress in education, spearheaded by the Dönmeh community, continued to have an impact during the Second Constitutional Era and Republican periods, with graduates attaining important positions at various levels of the state. The paper discusses in detail the impact of these educational institutions in Salonica on Ottoman and Turkish modernization, the contributions of their graduates, and their historical development. Inspired by his doctoral dissertation, Yusuf Ziya Altıntaş’s “The Balkan Deadlock of the World War I and the Ottoman-German Alliance” examines the events that followed the secret alliance treaty signed between the Ottoman Empire and the German Empire at the beginning of World War I and its effects on the Balkans. Specifically, it details the Ottoman efforts to obtain war materiel from Germany, but the failure of the shipment of materiel through the Balkans due to a series of political and military obstacles. The Balkans served as a strategic transit point for the Ottomans and Germany, but the neutral attitudes of Balkan states such as Serbia, Romania, and Bulgaria turned the region into a blockade. The study comprehensively analyzes the strategic importance of Balkan geography during World War I, as well as the effects of the war on the states and peoples of the region, diplomatic maneuvering, and military operations that influenced the course of the war.   In the third chapter, Balkan Periodicals and Discussions, Besnik Emini, Faton Pllana, Omer Merzić, and Hakan Ayaz contribute with their studies. Besnik Emini analyzes two newspapers published in Skopje between the two world wars, “Hak” and “Pravi Put,” which featured bilingual texts in Serbian and Turkish. “Hak” was published between 1920 and 1924, while “Pravi Put” was published in 1937. Both newspapers were the only bilingual publications in Skopje after the Ottoman Empire, targeting Muslim readers from various ethnic groups. Despite their short publication period, these newspapers serve as important historical sources regarding the issues of that time. Faton Pllana’s study focuses on the formation and development of Albanian historiography between World Wars I and II, particularly during the era of nationalist historiography. It examines the efforts of Albanian intellectuals to approach history with a critical and scientific perspective. The study delves into the publications and various journals of this period, notably “Hylli i Dritës,” “Agimi,” and “Dituria.” It highlights that while these journals may not have met the standards of scientific publications, they were valuable for Albanian historiography, publishing numerous articles on political, cultural, and historical matters of the time. In summary, it offers a comprehensive analysis of the development of historiography in Albania between World Wars I and II, as well as the role of journals in shaping Albanian historiography. The article discusses the contributions of publications from this period to the advancement of Albanian historiography, particularly their focus on the Ottoman era. Another article in the third part is by Omer Merzić. He presents several observations on the British reports regarding the Bosnian uprising of 1831-1832. The study examines the context of Ottoman reforms and their impact on Bosnia, the involvement of foreign powers, particularly the British Empire, in Ottoman internal affairs, the dynamics of the Ottoman Empire during reform periods, reactions from various societal segments, technical challenges and misinformation encountered in British newspapers’ coverage of the uprising, and the influence of regional and global politics on the narrative and reporting of events in the Ottoman Empire. Hakan Ayaz presents the final study in this chapter. Inspired by his master’s thesis, he examines the Silah Newspaper published by Hasan Tahsin in Salonica during the Second Constitutional Era Period and its coverage of Balkan-related news. Ayaz reveals that Hasan Tahsin aimed to provide detailed accounts of the difficulties faced by Turkish and Muslim communities during the Balkan Wars and other significant events. The study seeks to extract insights about the Balkans of that era from the news and articles in Silah newspaper, contributing valuable information to Balkan history. It underscores the newspaper’s significance as a source for understanding Hasan Tahsin’s personality, military and political stances, and the evolving dynamics in the Balkans during the waning years of the Ottoman Empire.

The last chapter, Balkans, Greece, and Sufism contains many valuable articles. Dimitra Patronidou discusses the fate of exchangeable Muslim properties in the city of Drama after the 1923 population exchange between Greece and Türkiye. Focusing on the exchangeable properties of the “Varos” area, the study details the change in the demographic composition and architecture of the city. It reveals the presence of a vibrant Muslim community in the area before the exchange, with numerous mosques and Ottoman public buildings. After the exchange, these properties were cataloged, appraised, sold, or rented, significantly transforming the social and urban landscape of the area. The handling of exchangeable properties is portrayed not only as an economic process but also as part of broader social, cultural, and urban changes in the post-exchange period, emphasizing the transformation from a predominantly Muslim community to one integrated into the Greek state. Burcu Taşkın examines the impact of the Lausanne Peace Treaty and other bilateral treaties on the protection of minority rights in the Balkans. The article provides an in-depth analysis of the recognition and protection of minority rights and the challenges faced by ethnic and religious groups in the Balkans. The current situation, historical context, and future perspectives of minority groups are assessed in the light of regional and international policies. Mehmet Cemal Öztürk provides a comprehensive analysis of the various Halveti tekkes located within the borders of modern Greece, highlighting the spread of Islam and Sufi traditions in the region, especially during Ottoman rule. The study details the presence of more than 325 tekkes in present-day Greece and highlights significant concentrations in Salonica, Serres, Crete, Tripolitsa, and other cities. The study reflects the important but under-researched influence of Sufism, particularly the Halveti order, in shaping the religious and cultural landscape of the Balkans during the Ottoman period. It calls for more scholarly attention to better understand the social, cultural, and religious dynamics of the region. The final paper in this edition is by Faruk Yılmaz. In this study, he analyzes Mounīrī Belgrādī’s Nisāb al-Intisāb wa Ādāb al-Iktisāb, emphasizing the diversity of Sufi formations in the Balkans. The study examines the historical spread of Islam in the region, emphasizing the role of orders such as Qadirism, Naqshbandism, Halvetism, Mevlevism, and Bektashism.

The Balkans History, Religion and Society - ed. Sevba Abdula, Semran Murtezani

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