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Oryentalistlerin Gözüyle
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Ottoman History Writing



Nuruosmaniye Kütüphanesinde Bulunan Bazı Kazasker Ruznamçeleri



Europe''s Muslim Capital



Changing Perceptions of the Ottoman Empire: The Early Centuries



Christians, Jews and Muslims in the OttomanEmpire: Lessons for Contemporary Coexistence



Islamızatıon In The Balkans As An Hıstorıographıcal Problem: The Southeast-European Perspectıve



The Guilds Of Jerusalem in Ottoman Period

 
  ISLAMIZATION IN THE BALKANS AS AN HISTORIOGRAPHICAL PROBEM:THE SOUTHEAST-EUROPEAN PERSPECTIVE


ANTONINA ZHELYAZKOVA


Islamization processes in the Balkans differ strongly from one region
to the next, and so do the corresponding historiographies. However,
paradoxically, the volume of writings and the intensity of controversy
within the different national historiographies bear no necessary
relationship to the number of Muslims resident, or formerly resident,
in the states concerned. Thus the causes, consequences and dimensions
of Islamization have not aroused a great deal of interest in
Albania, although in this country, seventy percent of the population
are Muslim. At the same time, Islamization has constituted a favorite
topic for Bosnian historians, who ever since the 1950s, have published
primary sources and also produced some solid secondary works.
They have focused on Balkan history since the Ottoman conquest
and, especially, on the ensuing demographic changes. In the course
of their researches, they have developed a number of hypotheses
concerning the timing of Bosnian Islamization and the number of
people involved; much thought has been expended on the possible
role of the dualist Bogomils in sparking off the movement of conversion.
Although the percentage of the Muslim population within Bulgaria
is much lower than in Bosnia, Bulgarian authors have tended
to approach this issue not in a spirit of scholarly detachment, but
in a romantic-sentimental fashion. To a certain extent, this has been
the outcome of Bulgarian state policy. Especially in recent decades,
but not only then, official bodies have encouraged both professional
historians and literary people to write on Balkan Islam and Bulgarian
ethnogenesis in the sense of what happens to be the current government's
attitude. By contrast, quite a few Macedonian historians
working in Skopje have approached this problematique in a more
detached fashion, concentrating on local history. In the course of their

research, they have exploited Ottoman sources, particularly taxation
surveys (tahrir defterkri}, which allow a glimpse of the social structure
of Macedonian villages. 1
However, some Macedonian and Albanian historians, to say nothing
of their Serbian colleagues, have become entangled in the disputes
between certain national states and ethnic groups, involving
territories currently contested, such as the Kosovo. This has led to
debates which, occasionally and to some extent, are relevant to our
problematique of Balkan Islamization. Discussions concerning Albanian
migrations, the ethno-religious composition of the Kosovo or
Tetovsko populations, or the history of certain other regions shared
by Albanians and Slavs, at times turn out to be relevant to the study
of Balkan Islamization.
A similar focus on ethnicity is also typical of much of Greek historiography.
There are some excellent studies concerning the last
centuries of the Byzantine Empire, and now almost thirty years ago,
the Greek-American historian Speros Vryonis published his still standard
work on the Turkification and Islamization of vast territories
of Asia Minor. 2 But otherwise, Islamization as a research topic has
not greatly interested Greek scholars. More often they have sought
to provide arguments for the autochthonous character of grecophone
populations living in presently disputed territories, or to prove
that in conformity with the ideology of Panhellenism, these territories
always have been controlled by Greeks.
Turkish historiography includes numerous studies on the methods
by which the Ottoman rulers consolidated their power over the
Balkans, while demographic and ethnic changes resulting from the
conquest have been highlighted as well. However, the dissemination
of Islam throughout the Balkans, which implied both immigration
and the conversion of large numbers of local people, as well as the
adaptation of the Muslim religion to local beliefs, have interested
only a few Turkish scholars. Moreover, when these topics are studied,
it is often not because of their intrinsic interest, but because of their
connection to socio-economic processes and political events. Religious
history definitely is not the strongest point of Turkish historiography,
especially not where the Balkans are concerned.
A study of the historiography concerning the process of Islamization
throughout the Balkans cannot but reflect this diversity among
national historiographies. In the present paper, the space devoted to
individual Balkan countries varies according to the intensity with
which Islamization has been treated by the historians of the state in
question. Two specific problems have been accorded priority: On
the one hand, I have highlighted the formation of Islamic communities,
an issue which cannot be separated from the question of
Ottoman colonization and intra-imperial migrations. Secondly, I have
emphasized the reactions of the conquered populations: How did the
presence of larger or smaller Islamic communities, whose link with
the central Ottoman state might be more or less obvious, affect the
self-image and identity of a given Balkan population?

Adanir, Fikret(Editor). Ottomans and the Balkans : A Discussion of Historiography.
Leiden, , NLD: Brill, N.H.E.J., N.V. Koninklijke, Boekhandel en Drukkerij, 2002. p 225.




1 See, for example, M. Sokoloski (ed.), Turski dokumenti z. a istoriyata na makedonskiot
narod, vol. 17
(Skopje, 19631997).
On tahrir defterkri in general see Bistra Cvetkova,
"Les tahrir defterkri comme sources pour 1' histoire de la Bulgarie et des pays balkaniques",
Revue des Etudes Sud-Est Europeennes 16 (1978), No. 1, 91104,
and Heath
W. Lowry, "The Ottoman Tahrir Defterleri as a Source for Social and Economic
History: Pitfalls and Limitations", in idem, Studies in Defterology. Ottoman Society in the
Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries (Istanbul, 1992), 318.
2 Speros Vryonis Jr., The Decline of Medieval Hellenism in Asia Minor and the Process
of Islamization from the Eleventh through the Fifteenth Century (Berkeley, Los Angeles, London,
1971).






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