Events - Part 24

posted by mh on 2006/10/30 14:45

[ Events ]

This week (November 1-5, 2006) in Bucharest: the Third International Congress on Islamic Civilization in the Balkans, organized by the Istanbul-based IRCICA. A digest of topics and abstracts of probable concern to [BalkanCities]-readers, and their main points as far as could be gathered from the abstracts (a 95-page document! – schedule), has been made available here. [click “more” below] ---
It is, firstly, very positively noted that some scholars from Turkey will present their research on Ottoman Balkan cities based on the temettuat registers at the Ottoman Archives in Istanbul [see also this recent book, including case studies of Samokov and Pazardzhik]. The registers, hitherto seldom used for the study of cities in the Balkans (and only made available by the archives less than two decades ago) were a never repeated project undertaken in the 1840s to collect data on income and property, in order to apply a new and more fair tax regime, but also contain much information about demographic and social aspects. On the base of these registers, Sema Altunan will present the professional distribution in Varna, and Arzu Terzu her study of the town of Macin (in Dobruca=Dobrogea=Dobrudja). Among other sources, these registers were also used in Osman Koksal’s research on Shumen as an Ottoman military camp, as well as by Neriman Ersoy Hacisalihoglu, who aims to reconstruct the demography of Plovdiv in the 19th century.

Ottoman Athens (a "terra incognita of mainstream Modern Greek
historiography") in the 18th century was studied by Gulcin Tunali Koc according to the ahkam defters (registers of imperial orders). Mehmet Aykac will shed light on life in Elbasan in the 17th century through an analysis of court records; a source which will also provide the basis for the presentation by Kamil Colak and Numan Elibol on inter-confessional relations in Ruse between 1650 and 1700. While the paper title (“An experience of coexistence in the Balkans”) may sound a bit romantic, the authors will indeed, as can be inferred from the lengthy abstract, discuss both positive and negative events between the communities according to this first-hand source: “There were positive relations between the two groups concerning matters such as standing as guarantors to one another, lending loans, keeping the non-Muslim households that are unable to pay the poll tax exempt from it [or] being a witness. Negative relations are observed in the following matters: Killing, wounding or beating people, attacking houses, highway robbery, setting houses on fire, theft, bribery, problems related to loans, insulting, collection of unjust taxes by the tax collectors, [or] asking money from the non-Muslims on the part of Muslims during the repair of churches“.


A number of presentations also take up the topic of endowments (vakifs) and/or their patrons: Mustafa Güler will speak about the endowments of Hatipzade Yahya Pasha in Belgrade, Mustafa Ozer about those built under the patronage of Mustafa Aga in Athens, and Ahmet Yaramis about those commissioned by the ayan of Vidin, Osman Pazvantoglu. The endowments in Ruse will be presented by Meral Bayrak and Meryem Kacan Erdogan; that of Karitena/Arkadia (on the Peloponnese) by Levent Kayapinar.

Auspiciously, also the theme(s) of architecture and urbanism in the Ottoman Balkans will be very well represented. Asking "Balkan City or Ottoman City?”, Grigor Boykov will demonstrate by taking the examples of Plovdiv, Stara Zagora, Pazarcik, and Asenovgrad that patterns of urban development in the Ottoman period were not normative but could be quite dissimilar. Merita Dollma will discuss urban development in Albania during the Ottoman period, while Valentino Dimitrovski will deliver a speech on "traditional Turkish architecture and urbanism in Macedonia". A related topic, Zoran Pavlov will argue that "the Ottoman Mosque in Macedonia" (title) was "very important for the development of a separate direction in the Ottoman school – the Balkan type." The 15th and 16th century mosques of Prishtina will be discussed by Ramadan Shkodra, the tomb of Pasha Beg at Skopje by Aneta Tanevska, and the Ottoman architectural monuments in the Kichevo region in Macedonia by Feti Mehdiu. Suleyman Kiziltoprak will then discuss the charming kulliye of Mehmet Ali in Kavala in the light of the donor’s vakfiye (foundation deed), composed by a council convened in Cairo in 1813. Kiziltoprak will present "different stages of this complex from the beginning and finally its present state in the light of visual materials."

Next to religious monuments, quite a few commercial-educational buildings or ensembles will be discussed as well: Mehmel Tuncel will speak about the formation of bazaars in Balkan cities, Sabaheta Gacanin about Ottoman libraries in Bosnia. Hatica Car-Drnda will discuss "Education institutions in Mostar during the 16th century", claiming to have discovered three medreses hitherto not known in the literature. The medreses of Elbasan, as reflected in Ottoman sources, will be discussed by Yusuf Kucukdag. Mustafa Eravci will speak about the monuments of Dervish orders in the city of Sarajevo. The dervish lodges of one particular order, the Sa'diyee, were studied by Hur Mahmut Yucer. Sibel Ceylan and Volkan Marttin will speak about the Belgrade Fortress: "[W]e shall try to prove that contrary to some exaggerations, a state suffering from economic difficulties did not just build palaces but also built or repaired fortresses and other buildings with social functions.")

A product of the "Project of Preparing an Inventory of the Turkish Cultural Assets Abroad", Neval Konuk will talk about the Ottoman-period clock towers in Bulgaria, certain that "these important cultural monuments of the Ottomans ... were not examined in detail from a scholarly viewpoint in order to indicate their significance regarding Turkish art and architecture". Mesut Idriz will present a "historical survey" of "Ottoman Manastir versus Contemporary Bitola". Niculina Dinu will talk about the Ottoman tiles found in a recent excavation inside (?) the Greek church at Braila, believed to date from the 17th/18th centuries. In the same region, but on the theme of migration, Ayla Efe will speak about the re-settlement of Muslim refugees from Russia in the province of Silistra in the Tanzimat period. Another group, the Kilimli Arabs, had requested their own re-settlement from Lebanon to the Dobruca in the 19th ct, as will be discussed by Yusuf Halacoglu.

A number of presentations will also circulate around rather “non-mainstream” topics: Mehmet Inbasi, for example, will deal with the utilitarian bridges over the Danube the Ottomans built during their campaigns against Poland in the 17th century ("these bridges are not the monumental stone bridges, which symbolize the Ottoman architecture tradition. They were just built in order to make passing possible.") Also Osman Tutal's presentation on coffee houses ("where the memories of forty years are transformed") sounds rather promising; the abstract starting as follows: "Coffee-houses were among the most important places where the introvert social structure of the city was broken and the public life of the masses of people took place despite the isolation of religious and cultural activities by Ottoman ethnic structure from the sixteenth century onwards." Halit Cal will talk about "Door Knobs-Handles of Prizren", coming to the conclusion that they do not look very different from those in eastern Turkey. Concerning some long-lost Ottoman territories, Marius Diaconescu will present a manuscript he excavated in Hungary that sheds light on the organization of the "beylik" of Oradea before it was lost to the Habsburgs in 1693, while Mehmet Tutuncu will present a 17th ct. manuscript describing Islamic monuments in Hungary (Budapest) and Slovakia [!] (Uyvar/Nove Zamky) that have long disappeared as well. In separate presentations, both Otilia Craioveanu and Yildirim Aganoglu will talk about the Adakale island in the Danube, which remained Ottoman up until 1923, simply because it name was not mentioned in the Treaty of Berlin (1878).

Next to (apparently) many younger scholars (as should be the aim of every conference), a few scholars already known for previous output will be present as well: The title of the paper of the restless and highly esteemed Machiel Kiel will be (in customary lengthiness): "At the cutting edge of the old Islamic world: Dabarsko polje 1458/2006: The rise and fall of Islam and Islamic culture in a Hercegovinian-Dalmatian and Montenegrin border area." He will demonstrate how, within only a century, this "nahiye of Dabra" (the highland valley east of Stolac) became 90% Muslim, and furthermore discuss the emergence of the small town of Predol[j]e and a few architectural monuments in that area (e.g. the curious mosques with minarets that look like bell-towers of churches); some of which have unfortunately not survived the devastation of 1992-95. Kemal Karpat, himself a native of that town, will speak about Babadag (Sari Saltuk) in Dobruca during the sixteenth century according to the tahrir defters. Amir Pasic will share his thoughts on the "past and future" of Ottoman architectural heritage in the Balkans. Hakki Acun, author of a book on clock-towers in Anatolia, will talk about a hamam in Prizren. Mehmet Ibrahimgil (who has published quite a lot on Ottoman architecture in the Balkans) will present the Dervish Bey Mosque in Dobrich, the earliest one in Dobruca and, with an inscription date of "1298", predating both the formation of the Ottoman state and its spread to the Balkans. Yordanka Bibina and Kalina Peeva will speak about the Ottoman cultural heritage in the Smolyan region ("there is still a dearth of studies on the monuments located in villages outside the cities"), while Orlin Sabev will present a paper with the alluring title: "A reading provincial society: booklovers among the Muslim population of Ruscuk (1695-1786)". Studied through the tereke defters (inheritance inventories), his conclusion is that Ruse was “one of the major Islamic cultural centers of the Balkans in regard to the amount of bibliophiles.”

In conclusion, it is very positive to see that many scholars from Turkey now display a lively interest in the urban history of the Balkans during the Ottoman period, basing their studies on the (previously not always consulted) materials from the Ottoman archives. Another positive point is that, among the dozens of topics discussed, the Ottoman history of what is now Romania and particularly the Dobruca (the Black Sea hinterland), a region not often featured in the available literature, is unusually well-represented, which apparently has to do with the country in which the conference is convened. The proceedings from this conference, when eventually published, will therefore almost certainly constitute a lasting contribution to scholarship in this field.

(As I myself will not be able to attend this conference, any first-hand reports from presenters or attendees would be greatly appreciated.)

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