THIRD INTERNATIONAL CONGRESS ON ISLAMIC CIVILISATION IN THE BALKANS

1-5 November 2006 / Bucharest, Romania

Between November 1 and November 5 there took place in Bucharest the Third International Congress on Islamic Civilisation in the Balkans, organised by the Research Centre for Islamic History, Art and Culture (IRCICA) in collaboration with the Centre for Turkish Studies of the University of Bucharest and Romanian Academy.

The conference was attended by 110 participants from different countries: Turkey, USA, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Albania, Germany, the Netherlands, Iran and Malaysia.

The aims of the symposium were to further knowledge of, and research in, Islamic civilisation in the Balkans in terms of its many representations, and throughout the long history of its presence there, from the fourteenth century till today.

The conference was opened in the opulent surroundings of the Great Hall of the highly prestigious Romanian Academy of Sciences, in the presence of diplomatic representatives of Islamic countries in Bucharest. Dr. Halit Eren, Director General of IRCICA and organiser-in-chief of the conference, took the floor and noted the aims of the conference, outlined its history over two previous such events (Sofia, 2000; Tirana, 2003), noted the size and importance of the participation and wished the conference a positive outcome.

Addresses were in turn made by Professor Mihai Maxim, Director of the Centre for Turkish Studies of the University of Bucharest as well as of the Romanian Cultural Institute in Istanbul; by Professor Yusuf Halaçoglu, President of the Turkish Historical Society; and by Professor Ionel Haiduc, President of the Romanian Academy.

Dr. H. E. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, Secretary General of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), and Mr. H. E. Traian Basescu, President of Romania, both conveyed their most sincere wishes to the organisers and the participants, and deeply regretted their being unable to attend the opening ceremony as planned. The opening speeches by the noted dignitaries were followed by the conference plenary papers; there were delivered in turn by Professor Kemal Karpat of the University of Wisconsin, Professor Michiel Kiel of the University of Utrecht and the Netherlands Cultural Institute in Istanbul, and Professor Mihai Maxim.

Professor Karpat gave a lecture on the population, professional and religious structure of the town of Sari Saltuk, Babadag and its vicinities, in which he noted the importance of appeciating the actual every-day reality of this Muslim community through proper scientific procedure. All too long, noted Professor Karpat, scholars had dealt with history from an elevated stand-point, in which the importance of the every-day life of the society was ignored or belittled. This reality was, in part at least, the result of the nature of the evidence at the scholars disposal, which did not allow an integrated approach to the actual 'hands on' nature of life in various communities. Too little attention was still being given to furthering the pioneering work of individuals such as Professor Halil Inalcik through the study of the Tahrir defters, our most important source for writing history of this type. In the case of Sari Saltuk, the opportunity was presenting itself for a study of this Muslim community in Ottoman times in terms of its actual social structures, which itself would, in turn, allow the way Islam shaped Balkan life to be appreciated meaningfully, in a way never before attained.

Professor Kiel spoke on the history of the Dabarsko Polje region, today within the Serb enclave of Bosnia-Herzegovina, between the year 1458 and today. Professor Kiel noted in systematic and scientific fashion, the rise of Islamic culture in the region as the outcome of a slow process of Islamization during the sixteenth century. In addition he outlined the demise and extinction of this culture over the last century and particularly over the last decade. Professor Kiel's lecture was of great significance in the documentation and evaluation of historical material, which in the case of Dabarsko Polje offered a unique potential for appreciating the still-not fully understood nature of the process of Islamization of Bosnia-Herzegovina in early Ottoman times, Dabarsko Polje being a region where conversion to Islam amongst its Slav population was overwhelming. Professor Kiel also noted the sad present-day outcome of the area as a result of recent political events, an area to which he had been a past visitor. Last July he paid his first visit there for almost twenty years in order to assess the state of the monuments in the wider area, at great personal danger to himself, and from which visit he collected material which he showed to participants.

Professor Mihai Maxim, the third plenary speaker, dealt with three, interconnected, aspects of the problem of the study of Islamic civilization in the Balkans. One aspect was on the older ideas on the nature of this civilization, which were based to a sizable extent, not on actual material evaluation, but rather on past preconceptions dictating how particular testimony had to be judged. These were the 'old cliches', of which he listed a number, and which he in turn proceeded to overturn given the advent of two elements. One was the archival material on the Ottoman period, which in the case of Romania, was of a varied nature and dispersed throughout various countries, and which only recently was beginning to be evaluated in integrated fashion. The second was the nature of the methods used in the study of the sources, new approaches having allowed new insights into what an Ottoman document had to offer in terms of history, this in turn allowing a progressive revision of older views in the context of an integrated approach dealing with Balkan Islamic culture at large.

Following the plenary presentations, a decision of the organisers to create an Association for the Study of Islamic Culture in the Balkans was presented and was warmly greeted by all those present. Certain guidelines were oulined, in preliminary form, of the intended make-up and workings of this association, but the details were left to be dealt with later, after due consideration by, and input from, interested individuals.

The opening session having come to an end, the participants were transferred to the Majestic Hotel in central Bucharest where the proceedings began, in comfortable and amptly equipped surroundings, in three separate auditoriums. The proceedings continued over the following three days. Speakers were divided into one of thirty sections on the basis of organisational and scholarly considerations. The presentations, ninety-eight in all, presented by one hundred individuals, were of a high scholarly quality, and each made one special contribution to the overall picture of Islamic civilisation in the Balkans. The papers dealt with every conceivable aspect of Islamic life in the Balkans over the past five and a half centuries. History, art, architecture, archaeology, literature, philology, language and folklore. Nonetheless a distinct propensity was noticed for dealing with certain matters in particular, these being Ottoman-era architectural remains, studies based on the use of Ottoman-era archival documentation, as well as the history of population movements, while certain regions in particular (the Romanian ones of the Dobruca, Ada Kale, Rusçuk) proved to be a popular topic for investigation, though this was not surprising given the host venue of the conference.

There follows a note on the personal contribution of each of the participants, in the order that the papers were presented at the conference itself.

Mustafa Balcı (Prane Plan TV, Tirana) and Yüksel Özgen (Ankara) analysed existent Ottoman archival evidence in Albania, in particular on defters that had not yet been classified.

Yusuf Halaçoğlu (Turkish Historical Society) presented archival evidence, which he in turn evaluated, on the settlement of Beirut Arabs in the Dobruca in the mid-19th century.

Nagy Pienaru (Iorga Institute, Bucharest) outlined aspects of the early Ottoman heritage on the Trans-Danubian Principalities.

Esma Arıcan (Istanbul) compared the material and literary evidence on mosque construction in Kossovo, particularly in the 16th century.

Örcün Barışta (Marmara University) spoke on the architectural perculiarities of Ottoman bird-houses in central Eastern Thrace.

Grigor Boykov (Bilkent University) looked at models of urban development in nothern Thrace during the earlier Ottoman period as an indicator of social sophistication.

Otilia Craioveanu (Bucharest University) outlined the nature of the various social changes that the Danubian island of Ada Kale underwent following its annexation by Romania.

Ali Arslan (Istanbul University) examined the role of the Ottoman and Romanian states in the emancipation of the Wallachian Orthodox Christians from the Greek-controlled Istanbul Patriarchate.

Mualla Uydu Yücel (Istanbul University) attempted to present an outline of the role of Ottoman rule in the survival in the Balkans of 10th century Turkic settlers from the north.

Ayla Efe (Anadolu University) surveyed the demographic changes that the Silistre province underwent due to the 19th century Ottoman-Russian conflict.

Mehmet Aykaç (Turkish Embassy to Tirana) used court record documents to outline the institutional structures and culture of the Albanian kaza of Elbasan in the 17th century.

Kamil Çolak and Numan Elibol (Osmangazi University) looked at the relations between Muslims and non-Muslims in Rusçuk, and the degree of Ottoman protection in this regard, based on Şeriyye court records and decrees.

Fahameddin Başar (Istanbul University) looked at the settlement of Akinci families in the Balkans and their role in political, building and cultural activities there.

Agop Garabedian and Rumiana Komsalova (Bulgarian Academy of Sciences) presented and outline of the existing views on the origins and function of the Ottoman millet system, especially in regard to the Balkans.

Amir Pasic (IRCICA) gave an overview of the stages in the architectural heritage status in the Balkans during Ottoman and post-Ottoman times.

Bülent Bilmez (Bilgi University) set forth the complexities inherent in the appreciation of Islamist-Nationalist Albanian intellectual thought in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Ataullah Bogdan Kopanski (International Islamic University, Malaysia) set out the rise and fate of Polish Muslims in the context of East European inter-state relations.

Arzu Terzi (Istanbul University) used Temettuat defters to reconstruct the socio-economic structures of Maçin in Romania in respect of its Muslim and non-Muslim populations.

Ayten Ardel (Ottoman State Archives, Istanbul) used the Sicill-i-Ahval defters to provide information on the lives of Ottoman bureaucrats of Romanian origin.

Yıldırım Ağanoğlu (Ottoman State Archives, Istanbul) looked at the functioning of the uniquely placed Ottoman territory of Ada Kale on the basis of existing archival evidence.

Hatice Akın and Hatice Çetin (Akdeniz University) set out the role of the Ottoman millet system in the formation of ethnic identities in the Balkans.

Entela Muco (Albanian State Archives, Tirana) used land registry defters from the Albanian State Archives to assess the issue of land-ownership during Ottoman times.

Mesut Aydıner (Mimar Sinan University) used the Ahkam defters of the later 18th century to look at aspects of Ottoman social life in the Danubian regions.

Hatice Oruç (Ankara University) looked at the complexities in any classification of the Mufassal and Icmal Tahrir defters of the Sancak of Bosnia.

Osmal Tutal (Anadolu University) looked at the rise and function of the tradition of the Ottoman coffee-house as an institution of social change.

Aneta Tanevska (Conservation Institute, Skopje) made comments on various aspects of one of the most significant of Ottoman mosques surviving the present-day Skopje, namely the Aladja Mosque of the 15th century.

Eugen Nicolae (Institute of Archaeology, Bucharest) tried to offer solutions to the curious phenomenon of the presence of Christian symbols on the 14th century Ottoman coins discovered in large numbers in Moldavia.

Dean Sakel (Boğaziçi University) noted the connections to Nafplion, the largely Muslim city and early Ottoman ‘capital' of the Morea, of the only explicitly Ottoman Muslim history to be written in Istanbul, though not in Turkish, in the sixteenth century.

Niculina Dinu (Braila Museum) noted the emergence of Ottoman-era tile sherds from the under-floor of the modern-era Greek church in Braila and commented upon their possible origins.

Mustafa Eravcı (Kocatepe University) used historiographic and archival data to outline the history of the tekkes and zaviyes of Sarajevo.

Hasan Sevil (Istanbul) dealt with the cultural and religious aspects of the mourning ceremony of the Rifai religious lodge of Jakova (Macedonia).

Hür Mahmut Yücer (Istanbul) dealt with the origins and spread of the Sa’adiyye religious order in the Balkans over the past half century.

İbrahim Maraş (Ankara University) looked at the nature of, and sources on, 19th century Islamic mysticism in the Balkans, with a special view to the geographical movements of its followers.

Cemal Öztürk (Istanbul) used archival evidence to chronicle the rise and spread of the Ramazanilik order in the Balkans.

Shahriar Shojaee-Pour (Baqir-ul-Ulum University, Iran) brought out the essentially Persian elements inherent in Balkan Muslim culture during the Ottoman period.

Elizabeta Koneska (Museum of Macedonia, Skopje) looked at the present-day survivals of the once-numerous dervish orders in the region of Macedonia.

Ali Akbar Ziaee (Sarajevo) pointed out the possible extent of allegiance to Sufi orders by the present-day Albanian population.

Hakkı Acun (Gazi University) made use of a range of evidence to demonstrate that the one-time Ottoman bathhouse known as the Şemseddin Ahmed Bey Vakıf was in actual fact a ‘çifte-hamam’, not a single-division one as till now believed.

Halit Çal (Gazi University) looked at the intricacies of Ottoman-era door knobs in terms of Prizren as a case study of special interest.

İsmail Altınöz (Gaziantep University) dealt with the legal status of Balkan gypsies in the Ottoman era based on Tahrir defters in the Ottoman State Archives.

Hilal Kazan (Istanbul) presented an overall picture of Balkan Ottoman-style calligraphers based on a range of available sources.

Mehmet Tunçel (Ankara University) made a comparative examination of the constitution of the Ottoman bazaar and related buildings in no fewer than twelve Balkan cities.

Mehmet Tütüncü (SOTA, the Netherlands) looked at now-lost Ottoman inscriptions as recorded in the 17th century Epistolae Itineraria of Jacob Tollius.

Mehmet Zeki İbrahimgil (Gazi University) looked at the significance of recent discoveries allowing the dating of the Mosque of Jeglarsi as the earliest mosque in Dobruja.

Mesut Idriz (International Islamic University, Malaysia) provided aspects of interest on the socio-economic and cultural life of Bitola (Manastir) during Ottoman and post-Ottoman times.

Mariya Kiprovska (Bilkent University) looked at the status of members of the Mihaloğulları family both as gazi warriors and patrons of dervish hospices.

Halil İbrahim Yakar (Gaziantep University) made a general evaluation of Turcological Studies in Poland from the Ottoman period onwards, laying special emphasis on the case of Krakow.

İbrahim Kelağa Ahmet (Ankara University) provided an outline of the present-day conditions of, and background to, bilingual education in Muslim minority schools in Western Thrace.

Orlin Sabev (Bulgarian Academy of Sciences) provided a survey of the reading culture, and as such the interests, of 18th century Muslim Rusçuk.

Mustafa Güler (Kocatepe University) provided an outline of the educational and building activities of Hatipzade Yahya Paşa in the Balkans in the earlier 18th century.

Yusuf Küçükdağ (Selçuk University) examined the schools and medreses in Elbasan mentioned in Ottoman literary sources on the basis of present-day Ottoman State documents.

Aurel Valcu (Institute of Archaeology, Bucharest) looked at the penetration of Ottoman coins into the Romanian lands in the 17th and 18th centuries, as well as the evidence of counterfeiting as an element in this regard.

Sabaheta Gacanin (Objekat University, Sarajevo) looked at the nature and state of vakıf and private library collections in Ottoman-era Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Liliana Boscan (Bucharest University) looked at the complexities of Romanian-Turkish relations during the 1920s and 1930s.

Hatica Car-Drnda (Objekat University, Sarajevo) detailed the till-now unappreciated presence of medreses in 16th century Mostar.

Osman Köksal (Osmangazi University) used a range of Ottoman and later documents to chronicle the Ottoman military and civilian heritage in Şumnu.

Yuko Saito (Istanbul) used Ottoman archival documents to assess the effects on the environment of the Balkans of the construction of the Rumeli Railways.

Yordanka Bibina and Kalina Peeva (Bulgarian Academy of Sciences) presented the recorded and photographic documentation from their field-work on the Ottoman-era monuments of the Smolyan region of Bulgaria.

Aziz Namzi Şakir (Sabancı University) presented examples of Ottoman-era tomb epitaphs from the East Rhodope Mountains.

Sibel Ceylan (Mardin) and Volkan Marttin (On Sekiz Mart University) looked at the Ottoman and Turkish contributions to the development of Belgrade in terms of its present-day distinctive monumental assets.

Süleyman Kızıltoprak (Mimar Sinan University) provided aspects of the till-recent state of Mehmed Ali Paşa’s külliye in Kavala in the light of his Vakfiye.

Nurdan Şafak (Istanbul) used Ottoman archival material to outline some of the legal and cultural perculiarities of former Ottoman landed possessions in present-day Greece.

Peter Mentzel (Utah State University) used archival material from a range of countries as well as secondary literature to argue that in the case of the railways, the Ottomans left a valuable legacy in the Balkans.

Akitsu Mayuzumi (Tokyo) looked at the International Relations dimensions of the career of Pazvanoğlu Osman Ağa.

Zoran Pavlov (Macedonian Ministry of Culture, Skopje) looked at the stylistic and typological perculiarities of mosques in the region of Macedonia throughout the Ottoman era.

Fatma Ayhan (Gazi University) provided an outline of the influence on European fashion of Ottoman-era dress forms.

Hasan Demiroğlu (Istanbul University) outlined the mostly neutral attitude of the Yıldız newspaper in Kazan toward events in the Balkans at the turn of the 20th century.

Levent Kayapınar (Abant İzzet Baysal University) looked at the Ottoman Evkafs in Karitena in the Morea in terms of the city’s conquest as well as the later Ottoman institutional presence there.

Meral Bayrak (Ferlibaş) and Meryem Kaçan Erdoğan (Osmangazi University) used a range of State Archive material to outline the foundation and development of Rusçuk’s numerous vakıfs.

Sema Altunan (Anadolu University) used Ottoman archival material to bring out a vivid professional portrait of the town of Varna in the 19th century.

Nuri Tınaz (İSAM) made observations on the cultural and identity difficulties faced by Balkan Muslims since the demise of Eastern Bloc socialism.

Ramiza Smajiç (Institute of History, Sarajevo) combined archival material with both collective memory and the practices of tradition to build up a portrait of the visualised past existing in Ottoman Bosnia.

Valentino Dimitrovski (Macedonian Ministry of Culture, Skopje) made an effort to bring out the distinctive Macedonian element in Ottoman architecture and urban practice generally throughout the Balkans.

Mehmet İnbaşı (Atatürk University) looked at a range of aspects of the strategic works undertaken for crossing the Danube during the Ottoman campaigns of the 17th century.

Yücel Yiğit (Balıkesir University) looked at the socio-economic structures of Prizren as a case study on the Ottoman urban heritage in Europe.

Ali Aksu (Cumhuriyet University) focused on the history and present-day state of the office of müftü in Romania, and expressed opinions for the better functioning of the institution for the good of inter-religious dialogue.

Neval Konuk (Marmara University) looked at the eleven extant and many now-lost clock-towers in the Balkans as indicators of a unique expression of Ottoman art and architecture forms in the region.

Oya Dağlar (Istanbul Ticaret University) examined the activities of the Red Cross in Romania during the Balkan Wars, its exemplary cooperation with the Red Crescent and the contributions of these efforts to inter-ethnic friendship.

Cezmi Eraslan (Istanbul University) used Ottoman State documents to help determine the extent to which the Ottoman state tried to maintain contacts with Balkan Muslims after it lost sovereignty over these regions.

Halil Bal (Istanbul University) presented information on the foundation and publication activities of the printing house in Rusçuk in the 19th century.

Giray Sanur Bozkurt (Istanbul) made an overview of the Turkish presence in Romania over the ages.

Sumiyo Okumura (Istanbul) made suppositions on the Muslim contribution the distinctive White Ground Chintamani rugs of Transylvania.

Mustafa Bilge (İSAM) noted the importance of the published and unpublished reports of the Ottoman statesman Ahmed Djewdet Paşa for the social and administrative history of the Balkans in the mid-19th century.

Gülfettin Çelik (Marmara University) looked at the attitudes of the Ottoman state toward the partial abandonment of the Balkan lands by its Muslim populations in the half century leading up to the Great War.

Neriman Ersoy Hacısalihoğlu (Istanbul University) looked at the population breakdown of the city of Filibe (today’s Plovdiv) during Ottoman times in terms of the professional practices of its Muslim population.

Mesut Erşan (Eskişehir) looked at the political, social and economic consequences of Caucasian immigration into the Balkans in the later 19th century.

Vehbi Başer (Balıkesir University) looked at the memory of Balkan immigrants to Anatolia during the century of Ottoman decline, partly as this was reflected in the causes of the migration and in the journey itself.

Kemal Yakut (Anadolu University) looked at the position of the Romanian and Turkish governments towards Romanian Turkish migration to Turkey in the opening years of the Turkish Republic.

Mehmet Hacısalihoglu (Yıldız Teknik University) looked at toponymical changes in certain regions of Bulgaria as a reflection of the demographic changes brought about by an exodus of their Muslim populations.

Dragica Zivkova (Skopje City Museum) looked at various representatives in the Skopje City Museum of the use of coins in jewelry, which was characteristic of the region of Macedonia in the later 19th and early 20th century.

Ahmed Zildzic (Oriental Institute, Sarajevo) used Bosnia as a case study with which to draw conclusions about the relationship between the material Ottoman heritage and its cultural manifestations.

Silvana Rachieru (Romanian Cultural Institute, Istanbul) looked at the problems facing the Muslim communities of Dobruja in terms of their political allegiances following the region’s annexation to Romania.

Gülçin Tunalı Koç (Goettingen, Germany) presented an account of political, economic and social matters during the Ottoman governance in Athens based on a reading of the Mora Ahkam defters of the later 18th century.

A happy aspect of the conference was the participation of the directors of the Ottoman State Archives from both Ankara and Istanbul. Sessions were presided over by session chairpersons, who had been well chosen on the basis of scholarly background, as well as of directional and linguistic abilites. Speakers were allowed fifteen minutes to present a summary of the conclusions of their research, and this was by and large adhered to. At the conclusion of each group of presentations, questions and comments were welcomed from the audience, and these turned out to be both numerous and valuable in terms of the criticism of the material presented.

Of definite note was the exhibition organised by the Romanian State Archives at their premises in Bucharest. The exhibition, of exceptional scientific quality, involved the display of archival material in Turkish, Romanian, Greek and Slavic, form as early as the fourteenth century. Its launch, on the opening day of the conference, was attended by several dignitaries, including the Turkish Ambassador to Bucharest.

The conference closed as if had begun, in the Great Hall of the Romanian Academy, with concluding remarks and an evaluation of the proceedings through open and unimpeded remarks from the podium from those assembled. Dr. Halit Eren thanked the participants for their contributions and spoke of the interest in their soon appearing in print. A list of participants offered valuable criticsm of the proceedings, and the academic committee made a point of noting this for the benefit of future academic gatherings on Islamic Civilisation in the Balkans.

So faired the academic side of the Third International Congress on Islamic Civilisation in the Balkans. It would however be an enormous oversight to ignore here the gratitude that was widely felt by participants towards the organisers of the conference for contributing not only to its scientific success, but also to its organisational perfection. The participants were never for a moment allowed to think for themselves about nutritional requirements or the appreciation of the cultural attractions of the host city. Participants delighted in being present in the highly impressive surroundings of the nineteenth-century Great Hall of the Romanian Military Club as well as enjoying the spectacle of Romanian folk art, including that of the Islamic culture of the Dobruca region. The Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs hosted the conference participants in the admirable surroundings of the reception centre usually reserved for foreign dignitaries, while the Turkish Ambassador to Bucharest invited participants to a cocktail in the nineteenth-century premises of the Turkish Embassy. Finally, participants were guided by professionals through sites of historic interest in the city, as well as to Bucharest's present-day functioning mosque.

All the above, the success of the Third International Congress on Islamic Civilisation in the Balkans in both scientific and organisational terms, was due to the hard work of the organisers, Dr. Halit Eren in particular, but hardly less so Prof. Mihai Maxim as well, while a special note of thanks ought to be reserved for the secretaries of the respective organising institutions, Güler Doğan and Silvana Rachieru.