pdfVolume 3 Issue 2 CONTENTS

Łukasz Sommer

Historical Linguistics Applied: Finno-Ugric Narratives in Finland and Estonia

Finno-Ugricity is one of the linguistic concepts whose meaning and usage have been extended beyond the boundaries of linguistics and applied in identity-building projects. The geographically and historically related cases of Finland and Estonia provide a good illustration of the uses of linguistic scholarship in the service of nationalism. More elusive than ties of “Slavic kinship” and not as easily translatable into a pan-ethnic ideology, the concept of Finno-Ugric kinship has nevertheless had a steady presence in the development of Finnish and Estonian identities throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, entangling the two countries’ linguistic traditions in a web of national engagements. In both cases, the original idea of linguistic kinship was subject to non-linguistic interpretations so as to highlight and contextualize various aspects of the Finnish and Estonian self-images, notions of collective past, and cultural heritage. In both cases, the concept proved highly flexible.

Keywords: Finland, Estonia, Finno-Ugric studies, historical linguistics, ethnicity, nationalism

What is Finno-Ugric?

In an article published in 2009, Stefan Troebst notices the problematic nature of “Slavic studies” as a unitary field of research. As he points out, there are two academically institutionalized areas of study with strong links to the “Slavic world”; however, he goes on, “while the historical field of East European history has […] emancipated itself from the ‘Slavic world’ as a framework of reference, Slavic philology remains chained to it.” He then quotes German Slavicist Norbert Franz, who suggests that one sensible way of integrating the field would be to focus on the “discourse of Slavicity” [Slawen-Diskurs].1

That philology’s connection to its titular language(s) should be perceived as “enchainment” is not obvious. After all, language affiliation is what defines a philology in the academic taxonomy of departmentalized fields. If anything, it seems that Slavic philology lends itself to this kind of criticism particularly easily because of the relative geographical consistency of its titular language area. The overlapping of “Slavic” and “East European” is extensive and easy to take for granted, while the discrepancies (i.e. the non-Slavic-speaking parts of Eastern Europe) may easily come to be seen as proof of the insufficiency of the “Slavic” label, a notion reflected by the frequent use of the combination “Slavic and East European.” Originally, however, it results from the assumption that the language-based concept of “Slavicity” encompasses so much more than language that it should work just as fine as a name for a whole region.

Paradoxically, in the case of “Slavicity” this assumption is perhaps more accurate or usefully descriptive than in most other cases. The problem discussed by Troebst, it seems, does not concern Slavic studies in particular, but the very notion of “philology”: an area of study defined by language and therefore expected to combine linguistics and literary studies as parts of one field; expected, at the same time, to focus on language and/or literature, and yet somehow to transcend them, covering other spheres of knowledge concerning a geographical or cultural area. It rests on the old Humboldtian idea that language, in all its diversity, is so central to “mankind’s spiritual development” that it should form the fundamental criterion in the classification of the human world—cultures, ethnicities, nations, parts of the world or trends in world history. The Slavic case is relatively unproblematic in this respect; there are other philologically defined areas of study whose linguistic foundations have a much more limiting effect than in the Slavic case.

Finno-Ugric studies is a case of an institutionalized field in which the Humboldtian glottocetrism (i.e. the notion of language as the ultimate core of human nature and linguistics as the ultimate core of any human science) proves poignantly inadequate in providing extralinguistic frameworks. The name refers to a family of languages, divided into several subgroups and scattered across Northeastern Europe (parts of Scandinavia, the east-Baltic coast, Russia between the Volga and the Urals), Central Europe and Western Siberia. They are geographically dispersed and their mutual affinity is close only within particular branches, especially when it coincides with territorial proximity—as in the case of Finnish and Estonian. The same pattern applies to communities of speakers, who represent a variety of ethnic, cultural and religious affiliations. Even the oldest elements of their cultural heritage tend neither to cover the entire language group nor be exclusively “Finno-Ugric.” The distant nature of linguistic kinship combined with the lack of any non-linguistic bonds that would encompass all speaker communities arguably make the Finno-Ugric family more like the Indo-European, another broad, highly diverse group that includes e.g. German, Rumanian, Ukrainian, Lithuanian, Greek, Welsh, Sanskrit and Persian, all bound by a reconstructed proto-language. In fact, the linguistic concept of Finno-Ugric kinship was established at about the same time as the notion of an Indo-European proto-language, i.e. late in the eighteenth century, along with the rise of comparative and historical linguistics. This parallelism, however, is not reflected in the two groups’ institutional academic status. Indo-European studies have a distinct identity: they belong to the field of historical linguistics, devoted to the study of the common origins of the Indo-European language family. The academic position of Finno-Ugric studies as a field with departments of its own makes it more of a traditional “philology,” parallel to Slavic, Germanic or Romance studies. The proto-Finno-Ugric linguistic heritage may be the core area of interests, but the name is also used as an umbrella term that covers the study of particular languages of the group, as well as Hungarian, Finnish and Estonian literatures, and, to some extent, the ethnography of Finno-Ugric-speaking peoples. The linguistic connection thus serves as the basis for lumping together a number of largely unrelated research areas, suggesting an extralinguistic community that in fact hardly exists.2

There is one aspect of “Finno-Ugricity,” however, where the concept convincingly transcends linguistics and acquires a historical and cultural dimension. Compared with the periods of time involved in the inquiries of historical linguists, it is a relatively recent phenomenon, because it has to do with the emergence of modern nationalism and the growth of linguistics as a science. Starting in the eighteenth century, the discovery of a linguistic affinity between Finnish, Estonian, Hungarian, Sámi (Lapp) and a number of indigenous languages of Russia3 has been elaborated upon by nationalist-minded intellectuals of the three countries in order to develop and reinforce concepts of pan-ethnic kinship. Constructed as they may have been, these concepts did affect collective self-images and, to some extent, actual policies of the emergent national movements. The ways in which the notion of Finno-Ugric kinship stimulated the collective imagination bears some resemblance to the better known and more effectively politicized ideologies of Slavicity. The direction proposed by Franz and Troebst for Slavic studies, focusing on the “discourse of Slavicity,” seems at least as sensible for the Finno-Ugric equivalent.

Origins of the Concept

The Pan-Slavic movement was in fact a point of reference for the early Finnish proponents of Finno-Ugricity. In 1844 the young intellectual Zacharias Topelius, later known as one of the grand old men of the “Fennoman” movement and the person who introduced the notion of “national history” to the wider public, published an essay on “Finnish Literature and its Future,” in which he made the following remark:

Two hundred years ago few would have believed that the Slavic tribe would attain the prominent (and constantly growing) position it enjoys nowadays in the history of culture. What if one day the Finnish tribe, which occupies a territory almost as vast, were to play a greater role on the world scene than one could expect nowadays? […] Today people speak of Pan-Slavism; one day they may talk of Pan-Fennicism, or Pan-Suomism. Within such a Pan-Finnic community, the Finnish nation should hold the leading position because of its cultural seniority […].4

The boldness of the Pan-Slavic parallel makes Topelius’ statement rather unprecedented, but as it so happens it sprung from a tradition that was about a quarter of a century old at the time, i.e. about as old as Finnish nationalism and national discourse.

The linguistic kinship itself had been recognized somewhat longer. The idea formed gradually in the course of the eighteenth century and came to be solidly established by its last third. According to most of the early concepts, Finnish was a central point of reference for other related languages, and the family was usually referred to as “Finnic.” This terminological tradition continues in today’s term “Finno-Ugric,” which has been in use since the 1860s and reflects the fact that the foundations of modern Finno-Ugric studies were laid by demonstrating the common origins of the already recognized “Finnic” language group and Hungarian.

Despite the Finno-centric terminology, the early period of Finno-Ugric language studies was marked by the absence of Finnish scholars. For a long time, due to the peripheral position of the country and of its only academic center, the Royal Academy of Åbo (Turku), Finns played virtually no role in the field. Throughout the eighteenth century, most significant works were published in Stockholm, Göttingen and St. Petersburg. Meanwhile, some Finnish scholars still produced old-fashioned studies based on supposed affinities between Finnish and Hebrew or Finnish and Greek. Outside the academia, there had always been some popular awareness of linguistic affinities between the closely related Baltic Finnic dialects spoken in Finland, Estonia, Russian Karelia or Ingria, especially in the border regions, where language contact was frequent. The scientific concept of linguistic kinship, however, had to be brought from abroad. Until 1883, when the Helsinki-based Finno-Ugric Society was founded, the most important center of Finno-Ugric research was the Imperial Academy in Petersburg. The polyhistor H. G. Porthan, the most distinguished figure of the Finnish Enlightenment, was a useful source of knowledge about Finland and its language for foreign scholars, particularly A. L. Schlözer. His contribution to Finno-Ugric studies, however, was of local importance. It consisted of making use of the knowledge of the Finno-Ugric language family in his historical works and thus making it accessible to the local educated public. This in itself was not without significance. Through Porthan’s works, the notion of Finno-Ugric kinship played a role in shaping the early Finnish historiography, serving as a point of reference in the reconstruction of the country’s distant past before Swedish rule.5

After 1809, when Finland became part of the Russian Empire as an autonomous Grand Duchy, a national movement began to emerge and language acquired new significance. Spoken by the majority but marginalized by Swedish in the spheres of high culture, administration, science and education (beyond the most elementary), Finnish was now endorsed as a foundation of national identity. Starting in the second decade of the century, the Fennomen, many of whom spoke Swedish as their mother tongue, stressed the symbolic value of Finnish and strived to elevate its social and cultural position. The growing importance of Finnish stimulated the development of linguistic studies in Finland, including the study of languages related to Finnish.

The trend was characteristic of its time: the political relevance of language and comparative and historical linguistics were intellectually backed and stimulated by the Herderian concept of language as organically interwoven with the mind, simultaneously reflecting and affecting the speaker’s perceptions and thoughts, both individually and collectively. This concept made language the most reliable marker of nationhood, and it was easily extended into the belief that the common origins of two or more languages establish a natural bond between the nations who speak them. The discovery of the relationship of most European languages to Sanskrit gave powerful impetus to the emergent Indo-European studies and the whole field of comparative and historical linguistics. Throughout the nineteenth century and well into the twentieth, it also stimulated the imagination of many European intellectuals, giving rise to new ways of thinking about history, cultural and spiritual heritage, national identity and race. Finnish nationalism was quick to follow the trend, integrating linguistics into its agenda. With the eastern border open, the Russian interior became accessible to Finnish scholars, allowing field studies on Finno-Ugric languages and their speakers. The authorities in St. Petersburg were eager to support scientific exploration of the Empire’s vast but still largely unexplored natural and cultural resources. The Finns’ interest in Finno-Ugricity was also a welcome trend in that it seemed to strengthen Finland’s eastern bond, while distancing it from Sweden. With financial and organizational support from the Imperial Academy of Sciences, Finnish expeditions into Russia were undertaken starting in the 1820s. The pioneers Anders Johan Sjögren (1794–1855), Matthias Alexander Castrén (1813–1852) and August Ahlqvist (1826–1889) established a research tradition before it was fully institutionalized with the founding of the Finno-Ugric Society in Helsinki in 1883. By that time, Finno-Ugric studies were tightly interwoven with the Finnish national project, and the concepts of “kindred languages” and “kindred peoples” were part of its discourse.

The Pros and Cons of the Eastern Connection

What was the attraction of Finno-Ugricity to the aspiring national movement? To a large degree, it was welcome as a linguistic, cultural and historical alternative to the Swedish heritage. Having decided, as the popular slogan has it, to be Finns rather than remain Swedes or turn into Russians, and having chosen language as the common denominator to consolidate Finnishness in statu nascendi, Finland’s patriots had to face the challenge of evaluating the Swedish legacy. The 1809 treaty kept most of it intact, with Swedish as the official language, though now, within the new borders, it clearly had become a minority language, spoken by little more than 10 percent of the population. Before 1809, its usage had been steadily rising for several centuries, but it was a slow process that involved some migration from “Sweden proper” and the very limited upward mobility of pre-modern society. It is not clear how the language situation in Finland would have developed had the country not been cut off from Sweden. Some scholars believe the nineteenth century would have brought top-down linguistic assimilation of the Finnish-speaking majority.6 By 1809, in any case, no coordinated top-down attempts at assimilation had yet begun, but sociolinguistic hierarchies had solidified and Finland’s cultural and intellectual life were nearly monopolized by Swedish. Even in the changed political situation, it took a century to reverse this trend. In 1844, when Topelius was formulating his Pan-Finnic vision, Finnish was just beginning to transcend its traditional position of a spoken vernacular which was seldom used in written form which beyond the church. National literature written in Finnish was still a theoretical postulate rather than a cultural fact, and it would remain so for another quarter of a century, despite all the symbolic significance of the national epos Kalevala (first edition in 1835, second in 1849). The first Finnish-language high school was opened in 1858. Five years later, an imperial decree stated that Finnish would be raised to the status of state language alongside Swedish within two decades. In practice, overcoming the social and cultural supremacy of Swedish took about twice that time. The Finno-Ugric kinship was thus a useful emblem of the Finns’ distinct identity: a unique, ancient heritage that was neither Swedish nor Russian. At the same time, it was a suitably eastern connection, linking the Finns with other peoples of the Empire, and therefore acceptable to the Russian authorities.

One might argue there was also a distinct attraction inherent in the very idea of belonging to a greater family of nations. Early in the nineteenth century, it provided Finno-Ugricity with some prestigious parallels. First and foremost, there was the Indo-European language family, a discovery still relatively fresh that fascinated some of the greatest minds of the European academies and made linguistics a trendy, rapidly developing, intellectually dynamic branch of science. There were also the increasingly visible Pan-Slavic and Scandinavist trends, a sign that linguistic affinity can acquire more direct political relevance. The link between academic linguistics and the national cause can be seen in a letter written by M. A. Castrén in 1844 to Johan Vilhelm Snellman, philosopher, journalist, statesman, and probably the most influential theoretician of the Fennoman movement. Convinced as he was that Finnish had to be studied, standardized and developed as a language of high culture, Snellman had serious doubts about the relevance of Castrén’s far-ranging comparative research to the objectives of the national movement. Reproached for his supposed escapism, Castrén replied:

I am determined to show the Finnish nation that we are not a solitary people from the bog, living in isolation from the world and from universal history, but are in fact related to at least one-sixth of mankind. Writing grammars is not my main goal, but without the grammars that goal cannot be attained.7

Castrén classified the Finno-Ugric group as part of an even broader Ural-Altaic family, together with the Mongol, Turkic (e.g. Turkish, Tatar, Kirghiz) and Tungusic (e.g. Manchu, Evenki) languages, a popular notion among nineteenth-century linguists, supported by Rasmus Rask, Wilhelm Schott and Max Müller.8 In a public lecture made in 1849, he pointed to the Altai as “the cradle of the Finnish people,” elaborating on the alleged cultural affinities between the peoples of this great family.9 By placing the Finns’ uniqueness in a supranational constellation, language kinship lent itself to a somewhat Hegelian reading and could be seen as a means of gaining legitimate access to “universal history.”

Historicity was indeed a challenge for the theoreticians of Finnish nationalism. Attempts to create a glorious image of the Finnish past dated back to earlier times. As early as 1700 the local patriot Daniel Juslenius adapted some concepts of Swedish antiquarianism in order to craft an image of the Finns as an ethnic group that was related to a number of renowned ancient tribes (i.e. the Vandals), claiming they had once created a great civilization that had been destroyed by the Swedes. He went so far as to produce a list of Finnish kings who had ruled before the Swedish conquest. Over a century later, when the need for a historical self-image became much more urgent than it had been in Juslenius’ times, this kind of uncritical attitude was no longer an option. In his controversial lecture of 1843, Zacharias Topelius stated that before 1809, the Finns had had no history of their own, but had been part of Swedish history. Starting with Yrjö Koskinen, a new ethnocentric Finnish historiography was born, in which Suomen kansa, “the Finnish people” (meaning nation), was presented as an independent historical subject rather than part of Swedish history. Indeed, its distinctly non-Swedish, “Turanian” origins were mentioned at the outset.10 To claim the status of a historically distinct entity, a nation which had only recently won some degree of political independence needed other criteria of historicity than the political. The search for a past of one’s own affected the making and the early readings of the Kalevala. Consciously hovering between the roles of an erudite folklorist and self-styled national poet, Elias Lönnrot, heir to the illiterate epic singers, produced a monument of the oral poetic tradition that was simultaneously genuine and forged. He selected, reworked and rearranged his primary material into a national mythology that could be referred to as a vision of the Finnish past—prehistoric, pre-political, but nevertheless distinctly Finnish in its splendor.11 The nationalist message that he labored to convey in the epic lacked a specific Finno-Ugric dimension, but the archaic nature of the poetry and the ancient setting suggested a heritage going all the way back to the common origins of the Finno-Ugric peoples and thus transcending “Finnishness” defined by political borders. Indeed, much of the material was collected in the White Sea Karelia, outside the Grand Duchy of Finland, and the form and style of the songs itself was not exclusively Finnish, but part of the cultural heritage of most Baltic Finnic peoples: the Karelians, the Estonians, the Votes. The Finno-Ugric kinship was part of the linguistic-ethnographic packet that provided the Finnish claims to historicity with handy references.

On the other hand, the concept had its drawbacks. Unlike the Indo-European heritage, which had links to the ancient traditions of India, Persia, Greece and Rome, Finno-Ugricity had very little to offer in terms of cultural and historical prestige. To some degree the comparative-historical linguistic approach could be seen as emancipatory: with the philosophical foundations provided by Herder, the Schlegels, Humboldt et al., it seemed to liberate the perspectives on Finnish from traditional cultural hierarchies, allowing it to be analyzed and described in strictly linguistic terms as a language among other languages, on equal grounds with Latin, Greek or Hebrew. However, even the strictly linguistic perspective was not judgment-free, and in particular, it was not free from Indo-Euro-centric bias. The concept of language and thought as an inseparable whole was elaborated into hierarchic typologies in which certain types of grammatical structures were seen as particularly effective in stimulating intellectual development, and therefore superior. Abundant in organic metaphors, the linguistic discourse of the period showed a strong tendency to favor the “organic” over the “mechanical”: internal transformation of stems over suffixation, inflection as a whole over agglutination, synthetic structures over analytical. Finnish had some allies among the comparativist greats: Rask praised the aesthetic quality of its structures and sounds, and Schott spoke with great reverence about all “Tataric” (i.e. Altaic and Finno-Ugric) languages. The dominant tendency, however, was to situate the heavily inflected Indo-European languages as the highest language-making achievement in the history of mankind. Sanskrit, Greek and Latin featured particularly high in this scheme, closely followed by German, while the characteristically agglutinative Finno-Ugric structures were deemed intellectually and/or aesthetically inferior, a result of the mechanical assembly of separate elements, a poorly made mosaic,12 a failed attempt at inflection, indicating weaknesses of the nation’s “inwardly organizing sense of language.”13

On the whole, it was not a very favorable approach to Finnish, especially given that the criteria of evaluation were not free of extra-linguistic considerations. Despite all the internal rigors of the comparative method, one of its main attractions was that linguistic genealogies and reconstructed proto-language forms promised to offer new analytical perspectives on the history of peoples. The development of linguistics was closely followed by that of physical anthropology, and it was common for linguistic classifications to be interpreted as simultaneously ethnic or, indeed, racial. Already in the previous centuries, scholars had tended to associate the Finns with (depending on the currently dominant spatial images of Europe) the barbarian North or the barbarian East. In the growingly racialized nineteenth-century scientific discourse this “Scythian” image of the Finns was acquiring “Mongol” features, and this called their European credentials into question.14 Some Finnish scholars were painfully aware of this unfavorable bias inherent in the intellectual school which inspired them so profoundly as linguists and patriots. The Orientalist Herman Kellgren, very Fennoman-minded and at the same time a follower of Humboldt’s language philosophy, addressed some of the sensitive issues head-on, analyzing Finnish from a Humboldtian perspective and arguing that Finnish was in fact an inflected language and therefore perfectly able to meet the requirements of the Humboldtian language ideal.15 Castrén, though convinced of the importance of linguistic bonds, was aware that the emphasis on allegedly kinships carried some inconvenient implications. In his lecture about the Altaic “cradle,” he mentions the chilly reception of the Finno-Ugric idea in Hungary:

This is hardly surprising, for the idea of being related to the Lapps and the Samoyeds stirs us up, too. That same feeling—the commendable desire to have distinguished and splendid ancestors—has driven some of our scholars to seek our cradle in Greece or in the Holy Land. We must, however, give up all possible kinship with the Hellenes, with the ten tribes of Israel, with great and privileged nations in general, and console ourselves with the notion that “everyone is heir to his own deeds” and that real nobility has to be achieved with one’s own skill. Whether the Finnish nation will manage to make itself a name in history is uncertain; what is certain is that the generations to come will judge us by our own achievements and not by those of our ancestors.16

In a letter to Snellman, he also argued that linguistic kinship does not imply racial affiliation:

As the results of my current expedition are going to prove that the Finnic languages are related to the Samoyedic and that the Finns are evidently related to the Turks and the Tatars, the next task for linguistics will be to demonstrate, through the Samoyedic languages, the Finns’ affinity with the Tunguses. From the Tunguses we are led all the way to the Manchu, and all roads lead us to the Mongols, because they are believed to be related to the Turks, the Samoyed, the Tunguses and the Manchu. We should then start getting used to the idea that we are descendants of those despised Mongols, but with the view to the future we can also ask ourselves: is there really a noticeable difference between the Caucasian and the Mongolic race? I think not. The naturalists may say all they like about the differences between Caucasian and Mongolic skulls, but what matters is that a European Finn has Caucasian features while an Asiatic Finn has Mongolic features; that Turks look European in Europe and Asiatic in Asia.17

Behind these issues of historical, linguistic or racial prestige, there was also the question of civilizational affiliation. Finnish nationalism owed its initial impetus to the great transition of 1809; it was separation from Sweden and autonomy within Russia that made Finland a sharply delineated territory and a single administrative unit, stimulating the development of Finnishness as a cultural and political concept. On the other hand, there was the Swedish legacy of self-definitions, in which Russia figured as the political archenemy and the cultural other. Embracing autonomy, Finland’s elites accepted the new political loyalties, but the cultural estrangement was harder to overcome. A poem written in 1809, dedicated and recited to Alexander I at the Diet of Porvoo by the poet and history professor Frans Michael Franzén, can be seen as an early symbolic attempt to tackle this confusion. The Emperor is welcomed and thanked as a benefactor of the “orphaned” Finns, while Finland is referred to as a “child of the East,” who has spent its childhood years under Sweden’s civilizing rule, but now is returning home.18 Franzén was a disciple and close collaborator of Porthan’s, and indeed the whole formula seems to be an adaptation of Porthanian concepts on Finnish history—those of Finns as a people with eastern origins (as demonstrated by linguistic evidence), who owe their enlightenment to their contact with Scandinavians. The language kinship, though unmentioned in the poem, is an important part of this concept; thus already in 1809, it was referred to with the aim of helping the Finns accept the new situation and open up to the east.

Throughout the nineteenth century, Finnish nationalism struggled to keep equal distance from Sweden and Russia, and much of its focus was on overcoming the cultural domination of Swedish. At the same time, however—the debt of the Finnish nationalists to Russia and their anti-Swedish stance notwithstanding—the Finnish national movement remained deeply conditioned by the pre-nationalist identity of Finland’s elites and by the long durée legacy of Swedish rule. This included public institutions, traditions of social order, the relatively strong position of peasants, Lutheranism as the official religion, and, last but not least, the high literacy rate in Swedish and in Finnish.19 All this contributed to a social landscape very different from Russian, which had formed the pre-nationalist identities of Finland’s elites and which was on the whole favorable to the development of the national movement. For all the urgency of the new tasks, such as linguistic emancipation or the recreation of the historical narrative, the emergent notions of Finnishness remained culturally tied to Scandinavia, and this fundamental orientation was ultimately something the Fennomen had no intention of abandoning, even if some of the anti-Swedish rhetoric would suggest otherwise.

The concept of Finno-Ugricity did little to change this orientation, and indeed sometimes it had the opposite effect, as it brought cultural contradictions to the surface. In 1844, Snellman wrote to Castrén, “It is a great fortune in our misfortune that the power which is suppressing the Finns’ national awareness is not the same as that which blocks them from political independence.” As Finno-Ugric studies in Finland developed, more scholars had the opportunity to travel to East Karelia, the Urals or Siberia, and encounter the “kindred peoples” whose political and cultural lives were determined by one and the same power—and their impressions were not always enticing or encouraging. Facing Finno-Ugricity in the field had an alienating effect.

One of the more characteristic examples was August Ahlqvist, who started his career as an enthusiast of romanticized Finno-Ugricity, but soon turned into a hard-headed Scandinavian Occidentalist, despite his unchanged commitment to the Finnish language. He made his debut in 1847 with “Fairy Tale, or an Ethnographic Dream,” in which the Castrénian concept of the Altaic cradle becomes a folk legend, which the narrator, an ethnographer, hears from an old Karelian. The sisters’ names allude to Finno-Ugric peoples. Their initials, if put together, spell the word VAPAUS “freedom,” and, as in Topelius’ Pan-Finnic vision, the sister representing Finland plays the leading role.20 In the 1850s, after several research expeditions to East Karelia, the Volga Region and Siberia, Ahlqvist’s attitude began to change. The poverty, backwardness, low social position and weak sense of ethnic identity among the Finno-Ugric-speaking peoples of Russia are recurrent themes in his travel reports. Over time, he increasingly perceived the Finns’ position within the Finno-Ugric family as unique and privileged because of their close ties to the cultural heritage of Western Europe, Northern, Germanic and Protestant in particular.21 In one of his best known linguistic works, he argued that much of the Finnish “cultural vocabulary” consists of old Germanic and Baltic loanwords.22 In 1875, in a speech delivered at the quadricentennial celebration of the (Swedish-made) fortress of Olavilinna, he spoke of a Finnish “debt of gratitude” towards Sweden, whose rule had saved the Finns from the misfortune of their linguistic relatives who ended up in Russia. This phrase antagonized much of the Fennoman millieu.23 From an unreserved enthusiasm regarding panethnic kinship anchored in language, his views evolved towards an appreciation of cultural bonds. The Occidentalist development can also be traced in some of Ahlqvist’s poems (published under the penname Oksanen). In Suomen valta (“The Finnish Realm”), which was published in 1860, he presented the image of a Finland that transcended the boundaries of the Grand Duchy, one defined by the community of “Finnish speech and Finnish mind” and encompassing the territory between Äänisjärvi, Pohjanlahti/Auran rannat, Vienan suu (Onega Lake, The Gulf of Bothnia, Aura’s shores, Viena’s delta), i.e. all of Karelia.24 By 1868, his concept of Finnishness had shifted westward, as shown in the poem “Meidän vieraissa-käynnit” (“Our visit-making”), in which the Finns’ neighbors are characterized as peoples one might visit. The kind-hearted Lapp is dismissed as too uncivilized, the Ingrian is in fact Russian and therefore alien, and the food they both serve (the Lapp’s reindeer hearts and kidneys, the Ingrian’s sauerkraut) scare the Finn off. The Estonian, a close kinsman, is an object of pity: enslaved in his own country, he does not even get to speak in the poem. The “German knight” speaks instead, telling the Finn to back off from the shore. Only Sweden remains a proper place to visit, praised as “Finland’s source of light” and, indeed, “Finland’s great mother.” 25

Panfennicism – Finnocentricism – Greater Finland

One element that remains stable in Ahlqvist’s thought, from the romantic visions of 1847 to his late praise of the Swedish legacy, is his view of the Finns’ special position within the Finno-Ugric family. This conviction formed the core of his changing notions of Finno-Ugricity, which he shared with Topelius and many other Fennomen, and indeed, it indicates one of the main attractions of the Finno-Ugric idea. Unprestigious as a source of historical and cultural references, it nevertheless provided Finnish ascendant nationalism with a context in which the Finns could see themselves as a civilizational avant-garde, the best educated, most thoroughly modernized, most “European” member of the family, as well as the one with the most thoroughly developed national culture. It was not so much Ahlqvist’s disdain for the less fortunate kindred peoples which made his statements controversial as his growingly outspoken view of Finland as having been civilized by external force. The idea that the Finns themselves would naturally qualify as civilizers and awakeners of other Finno-Ugrians was not contested; on the contrary, the notion of language kinship was consistently used to construct an imagined community in which the Finns were naturally predestined to lead. Ahlqvist’s youthful tale of the five sisters is one of those acts of construction, as was Topelius’ prediction of Pan-Fennicism under Finnish leadership. The concept found additional support in the traditional ethnolinguistic nomenclature, which favored the Finns and their language. The contemporary term “Finno-Ugric” became widespread only in the second half of the nineteenth century, “Ugric” being the new element, whereas in most of the earlier taxonomies the group figured as “Finnish” or “Finnic” (even if it was classified as a branch of a larger “Turanian” or “Altaic” family). The basic terminology used by the Fennomen thus seemed to legitimize their claims to tribal eldership. Thirty years after his Pan-Finnic vision, Topelius published the famous Boken om vårt land or Maamme kirja (“The Book of our Country”), a school textbook of Finland’s geography, history and cultural traditions. There, he stated that “the Finnish language does not belong to any of those (i.e. Romance, Germanic or Slavic languages), but stands in the forefront of its own great department of Finnic languages (italics mine – ŁS).”26 The perception of eastern Finno-Ugrians as poor relatives endangered by Russification rather than material for Pan-Fennicism did not weaken the Fennomen’s sense of mission: the founders of the Finno-Ugric Society in 1883 were strongly motivated by the notion of Finns being naturally predisposed and in fact obliged to form the main center of Finno-Ugric research; voices were raised that emphasized the national responsibility of Finnish scholars to support and educate kindred peoples and helpd save their languages from extinction. According to some, the imminent assimilation of Finno-Ugric peoples in Russia would make Finns the rightful heirs of their cultural legacy.27

The Fennomen’s belief in the Finns’ special position in the Finno-Ugric group was particularly suggestive and politically potent when it involved the areas near Finland where Baltic Finnic languages or dialects were spoken. In this case, proximity, border changes and long traditions of cross-border contacts coincided with close linguistic affinity, comparable to Slavic or Scandinavian linguistic bonds. However, unlike in the cases of the Slavic and Scandanavian languages, Finnish nationalism had no serious rivals in the area. This, combined with the Finno-centric terminological tradition mentioned above, made the area prone to be included in the still forming and therefore expandable spatial images of Finland and Finnishness. The line between Finnish dialects and closely related Finnic languages was fuzzy, much like the one between a regional branch of the Finnish nation and a separate kindred people. This was particularly true of Karelia, which for centuries had been divided, culturally as well as politically, between Russian and Swedish zones of influence. The religious divide (Lutheran vs. Orthodox) reinforced the political, giving a double meaning to the word “Karelian”: in the Swedish part, Karelians became one of the ethnic subgroups of the Finns (along with the Finns Proper from the southwest and the Tavastians from the center of the country), while in Russia they remained more of a separate people. There were also linguistic divisions with various degrees of similarity to Finnish. After 1812, the once Swedish part of Karelia became a province of Finland, but the Russian part also became an object of interest to some of the Fennomen. As a distant and backward periphery, it was a gold mine for folklorists, including Elias Lönnrot, who created the Kalevala. The high status of the Kalevala in the canons of Finnish culture strengthened the perception of all Karelia, and its eastern parts in particular, as an ur-Finnish land of ancient songs. Ahlqvist’s broad outline of Finland’s “spiritual” borders in Suomen valta was a reflection of this concept.

Other linguistic and national borderlines in the Baltic Finnic area also proved flexible. Several years before Suomen valta, in one of his travel reports from Russian Karelia Ahlqvist characterized Ingrian Finns, all Karelians, Votians, Estonians, Livonians and Vepsians as “Finns living in Russia, outside the borders of Finland,” and this broad definition of Finnishness was not without political overtones:

Most of these Finns, together making up about one-million people, live in territorial continuity with Finland, and even separate from Finland (or better still together with it) they could form a small state (italics mine - ŁS), although one must note that there is a gulf of several centuries between most of these peoples and the Finns from Finland in terms of education and culture.28

The notion of all Karelians being part of the greater Finnish nation was not left uncultivated. Throughout the nineteenth century, Karelia was an object of growing fascination to many Finnish intellectuals and artists; it occupied a special place in the Finnish self-image as a territory that was somewhat exotic and different from mainstream Finnishness yet at the same time represented its ancient source. In the twentieth century, cultural Karelianism acquired a political dimension, and in the first years of independence Finland made a number of unsuccessful attemtps to annex Russian Karelia. Despite interwar Finland’s policy of restoring ties with Scandinavia and reaffirming its position as part of the emergent Nordic community, the idea of a Greater Finland lingered on in politically influential milieus, e.g. the Academic Karelian Society, and it was briefly realized during World War II, when Finnish troops advanced all the way to Petrozavodsk.29 Following the military defeat in 1944, the notion of Greater Finland collapsed, as did the entire culture of politicized Pan-Fennicism; Finno-Ugric studies retreated to the academia and kept a rather low profile throughout the Cold War.

The Unequal Brotherhood

More complex was Finland’s relation with Estonia, a territory clearly distinct from Finland and the only Finno-Ugric nation in the region with a well developed national movement. In this case, Pan-Finnic aspirations met a dynamic national ideology with its own self-images and its own readings of the linguistic bond. Separated from Finland by the sea, Estonia in the nineteenth century was in many ways culturally closer to Finland than Russian Karelia. It was predominantly Lutheran, relatively modern and economically more developed than most of the Russian Empire, with high literacy and an old, if feeble, literary tradition in the local language. Unlike the Orthodox Karelians, Vepsians or Votes, the Estonians were not exposed to massive assimilatory trends. In the nineteenth century, they became one of the three Finno-Ugric communities to be integrated and mobilized by the nationalist message. Estonian nationalism emerged later than Finnish nationalism, and its development was slowed down by unfavorable socio-historical circumstances. Finnish nationalism was launched by members of the Swedish-speaking elite, who were determined to “be Finns” and attempted to appeal to the Finnish-speaking majority, while in Estonia the local German elite was not motivated to embrace Estonian identity or support the national movement. From on the outset, Estonian activists were keen to watch their more succesful “linguistic relatives,” and Finland was present in the Estonian-language press as early as the 1820s. Starting in the 1840s, Finnish activists began to visit Estonia, and prominent representatives of the two national millieus were in regular contact.30 The interest was thus mutual, but not symmetrical. The Finns were perceived as more advanced in the pursuit of their national goals, but also as more successful in retaining their original national uniqueness. Meanwhile, Finnish reports and comments on Estonian affairs, though generally sympathetic towards the kindred nation and its struggle for its cause, were not free from patronizing accents. Ahlqvist’s Meidän vieraissa-käynnit is a good example. Some Fennomen were skeptical about the Estonians’ potential as an aspiring nation, finding them too small and the dominant German culture too powerful.31 Even linguistic works were affected by this attitude. One example is the frequent classification of Estonian as genetically or otherwise subordinate to Finnish.32 In Finland this was a tradition going back to the eighteenth century,33 but now it was adopted on both shores of the Gulf of Finland and reflected in language planning policies. Some Finnish scholars suggested linguistic cooperation to bring the two literary languages closer to each other. In 1822, the journal Beiträge zur genauern Kenntniss der estnischen Sprache published an article by the influential Finnish activist I. A. Arwidsson in which he advised Estonians to reform their orthography according to the Finnish model,34 while August Ahlqvist considered, as a young man, the possibility of creating one common literary language for Finns and Estonians. The idea was rather eccentric and Ahlqvist abandoned it as soon as he learned more about Estonia’s linguistic realities.35 Otherwise, cooperation did develop, but the results were unilateral. Estonian language planners were keen to follow inspirations from Finland, but Estonian influence in Finnish was hardly noticeable. This trend continued for well over a century.36 In 1917–1919, when Estonia was struggling for political independence, the ephemeric concept of political integration with Finland had supporters among influential statesmen of both countries.37

Among many other aspects of national image-building, this tradition of unequal brotherhood affected Estonian perspectives on the Finno-Ugric heritage. Finnish nationalism made Finno-Ugricity part of its message early on, whereas in the case of Estonian nationalism it was adopted at a later stage and, again, the Finnish model played an important role. The Estonians’ role in the nineteenth-century development of Finno-Ugric research was insignificant. Before independence, they carried out practically no field research of their own, at least not beyond the borders of the Baltic Provinces.38 While Finnish scholars tended to perceive their nation as central to the whole concept of Finno-Ugricity, their Estonian colleagues largely adopted the Finnocentric perspective, acknowledging their own position as secondary. It took political independence and the Estonization of the University of Tartu for the Estonians to develop Finno-Ugric studies of their own and simultaneously integrate Finno-Ugricity into their canons of national self-image.39

Epilogue: Memory, Survival and Nation Branding

As the idea of Finno-Ugricity seemed to be in retreat in Finland, it began to acquire new meanings in Soviet Estonia. Apart from the fact that Estonian scholars had easier access to Finno-Ugric territories in Russia than scholars from Finland, language kinship again became a historical and cultural point of reference and provided politically acceptable forms with which to convey national-minded messages, or more acceptable, at least, than the Baltic or Scandinavian links that interwar Estonia used to highlight in its unsuccessful attempts to join the emergent Nordic community.40 The ethnographic films by Lennart Meri, which were directed between 1970 and 1988, provide an interesting example of Finno-Ugricity used to articulate politically delicate statements on the Estonian identity and its current condition. Better known to the world as the first post-Soviet president of independent Estonia (1992–2001), in the Soviet times Meri was a popular author of travel books in which he frequently transcended reportage to venture out into idiosyncratic, erudite, highly imaginative historical meditations. In his films, later collectively retitled “The Film Encyclopaedia of Finno-Ugric Peoples,” he explores the notion of Finno-Ugricity as a common spiritual heritage, reflected in the most archaic layers of language and culture. Memory is a recurrent theme, featuring alternately as a reliable safeguard of identity, operating deep beneath the conscious (e.g. through the old vocabulary or folk superstitions), and as a vulnerable resource that requires deliberate cultivation and therefore relies on individual responsibility for the collective heritage; in both variants, it is tightly bound to the no less prominent theme of survival. Meri’s narrative can be seen as a continuation of the nineteenth-century tradition of romanticized ethnography and linguistics, but it gradually shifts towards the indigenous peoples’ perspective. Through a series of cautious signals, Finno-Ugricity is reinterpreted: from a bond of an imagined ancient past it becomes a modern bond of common experiences: foreign domination, dispossession, and endangerment.41

At the same time, the Finno-Ugric bond had other meanings, too, the most tangible of which was the mass following of Finnish television, after its signals began to reach northern Estonia in 1971. This was indeed one of the rare situations when the core linguistic dimension of Finno-Ugricity became a real cultural asset for the Estonians, bringing virtual access to the physically inaccessible world on the other side of the iron curtain. The tradition of Nordic yearnings returned to Estonia’s public discourse as soon as the country reclaimed independence; the concept of Estonia as a Nordic rather than a Baltic or East European country was propagated steadily throughout the 1990s as part of the official cultural policy. President Meri himself was active in promoting this trend, but it was the Foreign Minister (and currently President) Toomas Hendrik Ilves who proved to be particularly inventive. In 1999, he proposed the concept of “Yuleland,” a region spreading across the north of Europe, from the British Isles to Finland and Estonia (but not to Latvia), a community of “Protestant, high-tech oriented countries form[ing] a Huntingtonian sub-civilization, different from both its southern and eastern neighbors” with a shared cultural heritage symbolized by the common word for winter solstice (yule, jul, jol, joulu, jõul).42

For all its focus on modernity and economic success, Ilves’ prehistoric references and his implicit belief in the political relevance of philology bring his arguments close to the rhetoric Meri employed back in the 1970s and 1980s. But the Finno-Ugric link was even more directly present in his Nordic campaign. In 1998, Ilves argued at a public forum that Finland was an example of successful national rebranding which should be just as available to Estonia: “Finland marketed itself into a Scandinavian country. (…) Why should Finland be more of a Scandinavian country than Estonia? We’re all the same Finno-Ugric sort of swamp people. But the point is that they turned themselves into Scandinavians. […] My vision of Estonia is doing the same thing.”43

In the Estonian nation branding campaign, one might argue, Finno-Ugricity has proven to be a highly rotatable category in the construction of identities and historical affiliations. Originally established to help Finnish nationalism achieve symbolic emancipation from Sweden, it became attractive to the Estonians as a link to the more successful Finland, and then, with Finland’s Nordic identity reaffirmed, as a direct passage to Scandinavia.


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1 Stefan Troebst, “Slavizität,” Osteuropa 59, no. 12 (2009): 12–13.

2 This popular misapplication of linguistic terms and of the kinship metaphor beyond historical linguistics accounts for some of the resistance to Fenno-Ugricity in the Hungarian tradition as well as for some forms of Fenno-Ugric enthusiasm elsewhere. See Johanna Laakso, “Interpretations and misinterpretations of Finno-Ugric language relatedness” (paper presented at the 45th Annual Meeting of Societas Linguistica Europaea in Stockholm, 30.08.2012, available at https://www.academia.edu/1896628/Interpretations_and_misinterpretations_of_Finno-Ugric_language_relatedness, accessed July 2, 2014) for a concise, sober discussion of both phenomena.

3 The less known Finno-Ugric languages include Karelian, Votian, Livonian, Vepsian, (closely related to Finnish and Estonian and used in the vicinity of the Baltic Sea), Komi, Udmurt/Votyak, Mari/Cheremis, Erzya, Moksha (between the Volga and the Urals), Khanti/Ostyak and Mansi/Vogul (West Siberia). Together with the Samoyed languages of Northwestern Siberia (e.g. Nenets, Nganasan), the Finno-Ugric languages form a greater Uralic family. Some linguists classify the Samoyed languages as part of the Finno-Ugric group, thus treating the terms “Finno-Ugric” and “Uralic” as synonyms.

4 Zacharias Topelius, “Den Finska Literaturen och dess Framtid,” Helsingfors Tidningar 40 (May 22, 1844): 2.

5 Henrik Gabriel Porthan, “Paavali Juustenin Suomen piispain kronikka huomautuksin ja asiakirjoin valaistuna” in Valitut teokset, transl. from Latin by Iiro Kajanto (Helsinki: SKS, 1982), 155–60; Günter Johannes Stipa, Finnisch-ugrische Sprachforschung von der Renaissance bis zum Neupositivismus (Helsinki: Suomalais-ugrilainen Seura, 1990), 226–28.

6 Michael C. Coleman, “You Might All Be Speaking Swedish Today: Language Change in Nineteenth-Century Finland and Ireland,” Scandinavian Journal of History 35, no. 1 (2010): 44–64.

7 Letter from October 18, 1844 in Johan Vilhelm Snellman, Snellmanin kootut teokset. Osa 7: elokuu 1844 – toukokuu 1845. (Helsinki: Edita Oyj, 2002), 142.

8 Nowadays the Uralo-Altaic family is an obsolete concept. In fact, even the idea of Turkic, Mongol and Tungusic languages (according to some versions, also Korean and Japanese) forming one Altaic family is not universally accepted.

9 Mathias Alexander Castrén, “Über die Ursitze des finnischen Volkes (Vortrag in der litterarischen Soirée am 9. November 1849)” in idem, Kleinere Schriften (St. Petersburg: Kaiserliche Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1862), 107–22.

10 In the nineteenth and early twentieth century the term “Turanian” was applied to various non-Indo-European languages (and their speakers) of Eurasia, often acquiring a racial meaning; in this case, as in the case of the manner in which it was used by Max Müller, it is synonymous with the equally obsolete term “Uralo-Altaic.” Yrjö-Koskinen [Yrjo Sakari], Oppikirja Suomen kansan historiassa (Helsinki: Suomalaisen Kirjallisunden Seuran kirjapainossa, 1869), 1–4. Otherwise, Yrjö-Koskinen’s interests in the Finnish people’s past were largely limited to the administrative territory of Finland. The “Turanian” opening served mainly to make a sharp distinction between the Finns and the Swedes as “peoples.” Cf. Matti Klinge, A History both Finnish and European: History and the Culture of Historical Writing in Finland during the Imperial Period, transl. from Finnish by Malcolm Hicks (Sastamala: Societas Scientiarum Fennica, 2012), 194–95, 210–16; Timo Salminen, Aatteen tiede. Suomalais-Ugrilainen Seura 1883–2008 (Helsinki: SKS, 2008), 16–17.

11 The romantic interpretation of the Kalevala as a depiction of distant historical events and proof that the Finns had had a heroic period of history like the Greeks was subject to dispute among the Fennomen, opposed by the Hegelian J. V. Snellman. More on the discussion in Pentti Karkama, J. V. Snellmanin kirjallisuuspolitiikka (Helsinki: SKS, 1989), 19–20, 138–45.

12 Max Müller, Lectures on the Science of Language (London: Longman, Green, Longman and Roberts, 1861), 278–79.

13 Wilhelm von Humboldt, On Language: On the Diversity of the Human Language Construction and its Influence on the Mental Development of the Human Species, transl. from German by Peter Heath (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 106–07.

14 Aira Kemiläinen, Finns in the Shadow of the “Aryans”: Race Theories and Racism (Helsinki: Finnish Literature Society, 1998), 46–50, 59–95; Anssi Halmesvirta, The British Conception of the Finnish “Race,” Nation and Culture, 1760–1918 (Helsinki: SHS, 1990).

15 Herman Kellgren, “I hvad mån uppfyller Finska språket fordringarne af ett språkideal?” in Fosterländskt album II (Helsingfors: A. C. Öhman, 1845), 118–88; Herman Kellgren, Die Grundzüge der finnischen Sprache mit Rücksicht auf den ural-altaischen Sprachstamm (Berlin: F. Schneider & Comp, 1847), 45–47.

16 Castrén, “Über die Ursitze des finnischen Volkes,” 122. See Tiborc Fazekas, “Die Rolle der soziologischen und ideologischen Komponenten in der Entstehung der ungarischen Finnougristik 1850–1892” in History and Historiography of Linguistics, vol. 2, ed. Hans Josef Niederehe, Konrad Koerner (Amsterdam–New York: John Benjamins Series, 1990), 747–57.; László Kontler, “The Lappon, the Scythian and the Hungarian, or Our Former Selves as Others: Philosophical History in Eighteenth-Century Hungary,” Cromohs – Cyber Review of Modern Historiography 16 (2011): 131–45, and Stipa, Finnisch-ugrische Sprachforschung, 255–56, 331–32; for more informaton about the Hungarian reception of the discovery of Finno-Ugric kinship.

17 Letter from March 17, 1846 in Snellman, Snellmanin kootut teokset, 419.

18 Frans Michael Franzén, “Untitled [“Prins! hwars dygd, stöd för jordens halfway klot…”],” Åbo Tidning 27 (5 April 1809): 2–3; cf. Klinge, A History both Finnish and European, 20.

19 Even the sociolinguistic hierarchies were not as sharp and exclusive as in some of the neighboring areas, where most of the linguistic majority was subject to serfdom (as in the German-dominated Estonia) or where the religious tradition did not favor literacy (as in Russian Karelia).

20 August Ahlqvist, “Satu. Kansantieteellinen unelma kirjoitettu v. 1847,” Suometar nos. 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 (1847).

21 This approach also affected Ahlqvist’s attitude towards Hungary, the one Finno-Ugric-speaking country with state traditions and a vibrant national culture at the time. Although he remained in close contact with a number of Hungarian intellectuals, Ahlqvist considered Hungary too distant, geographically and culturally, to be a model from which Finland could benefit. Tuomo Lahdelma (“August Ahlqvist ja Unkarin kulttuuri” in Kulttuurin Unkari, ed. Jaana Janhila (Jyväskylä: Atena Kustannus, 1991), 9–41, 25–45) points out that Ahlqvist’s perception of Hungary as provincial and peripheral was a logical corollary of view of the Protestant Germanic North as the core of European culture.

22 August Ahlqvist, Die Kulturwörter der westfinnischen Sprachen. Ein Beitrag zu der älteren Kulturgeschichte der Finnen (Helsingfors: Voss, 1875).

23 August Ahlqvist, “Olavinlinnan 400-vuotisessa juhlassa 29 p. Heinäk. v. 1875” in Suomalaisia puhe-kokeita (Helsinki–Porvoo: Werner Söderström, 1889), 1–14.; Rafael Koskimies, Nuijamieheksi luotu. Yrjö Koskisen elämä ja toiminta vuosina 1860–82 (Helsinki: Otava, 1968), 196–205.

24 August Oksanen [Ahlqvist], Säkeniä. Kokous runoutta – ensimmäinen parvi (Helsinki: Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura, 1860), 4–5. The poem is also interesting for its double debt to the German nationalist tradition. Its overall concept, i.e. the poetic vision of “the real Finland” as defined by language, bears strong resemblance to Des Deutschen Vaterland (1813) by Ernst Moritz Arndt, while the form and meter were modelled on Das Lied der Deutschen (1841), better known as the national anthem of Germany, and indeed the poem was sung to the same melody by Joseph Haydn. The territorial definition of the “Finnish realm” by four natural borders, too, is an echo of the German song.

25 August Oksanen [Ahlqvist], Säkeniä. Kokous runoelmia – toinen parvi (Helsinki: Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura, 1868), 65–73. Like the reference to the Finnish “debt of gratitude,” the poem was controversial among Fennomen. It even provoked a polemic in verse from the self-taught Ingrian peasant poet Jaakko Räikkönen, who stood in defense not only of his own home province, but also of the Estonians, the Lapps and a number of Finno-Ugric peoples, criticizing Ahlqvist for having abandoned his kin and “made friends with Swedish, an alien tongue,” – “Suomelle” in Kustavi Grotenfelt, ed., Kahdeksantoista runoniekkaa. Valikoima Korhosen, Lyytisen, Makkosen, Kymäläisen, Puhakan, Räikkösen y.m. runoja ja lauluja (Helsinki: Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura, 1899). Ahlqvist’s literary activities also reflected this westward trend. He rejected the notion that Finnish poetry should remain faithful to the archaic folk tradition embodied by the Kalevala. Instead, he made a point of following European forms, e.g. writing the first Finnish sonnet and introducing hitherto unfamiliar metric forms into Finnish verse.

26 Sakari [= Zacharias] Topelius, Maamme kirja. Lukukirja alimmaisille oppilaitoksille Suomessa, transl. from Swedish by Johan Bäckwall (Helsinki: G. W. Edlund, 1876), 152.

27 Salminen Timo, “In between Research, the Ideology of Ethnic Affinity and Foreign Policy: The Finno-Ugrian Society and Russia from the 1880s to the 1940s,” in The Quasquicentennial of the Finno-Ugrian Society, ed. Jussi Ylikoski (Helsinki: Societé Finno-Ougrienne, 2009), 227; Salminen, Aatteen tiede, 24.

28 August Ahlqvist, Muistelmia matkoilta Wenäjällä 1845–1858 (Hämeenlinna: Karisto, 1986), 59–60.

29 Mauno Jääskeläinen, Itä-Karjalan kysymys. Kansallisen laajennusohjelman synty ja sen toteuttamisyritykset Suomen ulkopoliitikassa vuosina 1918–1920 (Porvoo–Helsinki: Helsingin Yliopiston, 1961).

30 Kari Alenius, Ahkeruus, edistys, ylimielisyys. Virolaisten Suomi-kuva kansallisen heräämisen ajasta tsaarinvallan päättymiseen (n. 1850–1917) (Oulu: Pohjoinen, 1996), 47–50.

31 E.g. Yrjö-Koskinen, one of the most ardent fighters for the advancement of Finnish in Finland, expressed deep skepticism about the potential of analogous options for Estonian. He predicted that German would have to remain the dominant language of cultural and intellectual life even among patriotic Estonians, or else it might be replaced by Finnish: “Many Estonians believe Finnish would be the most agreeable tool of higher education […] In fact, Finnish grammar is the source from which the Estonian language derives its rules of correctness.” (Yrjö-Koskinen [Yrjo Sakari], “Wiron kirjallisuutta,” Kirjallinen kuukauslehti 7 (1868): 179–83, see also Marko Lehti, “Suomi Viron isoveljenä. Suomalais-virolaisten suhteiden kääntöpuoli,” in Suomi ja Viro yhdessä ja erikseen, ed. Kari Immonen and Tapio Onnela (Turku: Turun yliopiston historian laitoksen julkaisuja, 1998), 85–91.

32 The Estonian linguist and orthography reformer Eduard Ahrens characterized the Estonian language as a “daughter of Finnish.” In his view, it was a language that could not be properly learned without knowledge of Finnish (Eduard Ahrens, Grammatik der Estnischen Sprache Revalschen Dialektes (Reval: Laakman, 1853), 1). Early in the twentieth century, the Estonian ethnographer Mathias Johann Eisen stressed the secondary position of Estonian even more emphatically in his Eestlaste sugu (“The Estonian Kin”) which was, incidentally, the first popular-scientific presentation of the Finno-Ugric languages and peoples in Estonia. In it, he divided the Finno-Ugric languages into seven “main languages” rather than sub-groups, and made Finnish one of them. “Finnish is the largest in the (Baltic-Finnic) group, hence the entire family is called Finnic or Common Finnic (Ühis-Soome). Science thus does not put Estonian, but Finnish in the forefront, because it is used by a larger group of people.” M. J. Eisen, Eestlaste sugu (Tallinn: Eesti Keele Sihtasutus, 2008), 23–24.

33 In 1700, Daniel Juslenius (Aboa vetus et nova/Vanha ja uusi Turku/Åbo förr och nu/Turku Old and New (Helsinki: Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura, 2005), 45) referred to Finnish as the “parent language” (mater) of Estonian, Permic and Lapp. Porthan (“Paavali Juustenin Suomen,” 161) characterized Finnish and Estonian as “dialects of the same language.”

34 Adolf Ivar A(rwidsson), “Über die estnische Orthographie. Von einem Finnländer,“ Beiträge zur genauern Kenntniss der estnischen Sprache 15 (1822): 124–30.

35 August Ahlqvist, Kirjeet. Kielimiehen ja kaukomatkailijan viestejä 1845–1889 (Helsinki: Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura, 1982), 26–27; Eemil Saarimaa, “Ahlqvistin ja Lönnrotin kirjeenvaihtoa suomen ja viron kirjakielen yhdistämisestä,” Virittäjä, no. 8 (1910): 131–33.

36 Kari Alenius, “Kieli kulttuurivaikutusten ilmentäjänä. Suomen ja Viron tapaus” in Suomi ja Viro yhdessä ja erikseen, ed. Kari Immonen and Tapio Onnela (Turku: Turun yliopiston historian laitoksen julkaisuja, 1998), 144–47.

37 Seppo Zetterberg, Suomi ja Viro 1917–1919. Poliittiset suhteet syksystä 1917 reunavaltiopolitiikan alkuun (Helsinki: Suomen Historiallinen Seura, 1977), 35–49; Marko Lehti, “Suomi Viron isoveljenä. Suomalais-virolaisten suhteiden kääntöpuoli” in Suomi ja Viro yhdessä ja erikseen, 104–09.

38 Sirkka Saarinen,”The Myth of a Finno-Ugrian Community in Practice,” Nationalities Papers 29, no. 1 (2001): 44; Eduard Vääri, “Eestlaste tutvumine hõimurahvastega ja nende keeltega kuni 1918. aastani” in Hõimusidemed. Fenno-Ugria 70. aastapäeva album (Tallinn: Fenno-Ugria, 1997); trükis ilmumata, http://www.suri.ee/hs/vaari.html, accessed June 30, 2014.

39 Ergo-Hart Västrik, “Archiving Tradition in a Changing Political Order: From Nationalism to Pan-Finno-Ugrianism in the Estonian Folklore Archives” (Paper prepared for the conference “Culture Archives and the State: Between Nationalism, Socialism, and the Global Market,” May 3–5, 2007, Mershon Center, Ohio State University, USA), 6–7. http://kb.osu.edu/dspace/bitstream/handle/1811/46903/FolkloreCntr_2007conference_Vastrik7.pdf?sequence=1, accessed June 30, 2014.

40 More on these attempts in Marko Lehti, “Non-reciprocal Region-building: Baltoscandia as a National Coordinate for the Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians,” NORDEUROPAforum, no. 2 (1998): 19–47; Vahur Made, “Estonia and Europe: A Common Identity or an Identity Crisis?” in Post-Cold War Identity Politics: Northern and Baltic Experiences, ed. Marko Lehti and David J. Smith (London: Frank Cass, 2003); Łukasz Sommer, “Ugrofińskie pogranicza nordyckości,” Przegląd Humanistyczny, no. 1 (2012): 73–83. Mart Kuldkepp, “The Scandinavian Connection in Early Estonian Nationalism,” Journal of Baltic Studies, no. 3 (2013): 313–38.

41 Lennart Meri, Soome-ugri rahvaste filmientsüklopeedia, DVD Eesti Rahvusringhääling ([1970–1997] 2009).

42 Toomas Hendrik Ilves, “Estonia as a Nordic Country,” Speech by Toomas Hendrik Ilves, Minister of Foreign Affairs, to the Swedish Institute for International Affairs, (14 December 1999), http://www.vm.ee/?q=en/node/3489, accessed June 10, 2014, presently not available.

43 Quoted in Julia Keil, “Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia: a Baltic Union? About the Cooperation Between the Three Baltic States” in Estland, Lettland, Litauen – drei Länder, eine Einheit? ed. Antje Bruns, Susanne Dähner and Konstantin Kreiser (Berlin: Geographisches Institut Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, 2002), 113.

pdfVolume 3 Issue 3 CONTENTS

Judit Gál

The Roles and Loyalties of the Bishops and Archbishops of Dalmatia (1102–1301)

This paper deals with the roles of archbishops and bishops of Dalmatia who were either Hungarian or had close connections with the Hungarian royal court. The analysis covers a relatively long period, beginning with the coronation of Coloman as king of Croatia and Dalmatia (1102) and concluding with the end of the Árpád dynasty (1301). The length of this period not only enables me to examine the general characteristics of the policies of the court and the roles of the prelates in a changing society, but also allows for an analysis of the roles of the bishopric in different spheres of social and political life. I examine the roles of bishops and archbishops in the social context of Dalmatia and clarify the importance of their activities for the royal court of Hungary. Since the archbishops and bishops had influential positions in their cities, I also highlight the contradiction between their commitments to the cities on the one hand and the royal court on the other, and I examine the ways in which they managed to negotiate these dual loyalties.

First, I describe the roles of the bishops in Dalmatian cities before the rule of the Árpád dynasty. Second, I present information regarding the careers of the bishops and archbishops in question. I also address aspects of the position of archbishop that were connected to the royal court. I focus on the role of the prelates in the royal entourage in Dalmatia, their importance in the emergence of the cult of the dynastic saints, and their role in shaping royal policy in Dalmatia. I concentrate on the aforementioned bishops, but in certain cases, such as the examination of the royal entourage or the spread of cults, I deal with other, non-Hungarian bishops of territories that were under Hungarian rule. This general analysis is important because it provides an opportunity for a more nuanced understanding of the bishopric role and helps highlight the importance of the Hungarian bishops, who constitute the main subject of this essay.

Keywords: Church history, Dalmatia, roles of bishops, Kingdom of Hungary, royal policy

Historical Context

Stephen II, the last descendant of the Croatian royal dynasty, died in 1091 without an heir. After his death, the Hungarian king Ladislas I (1077–95) attempted to acquire rule over Croatia and Dalmatia during a chaotic period in which different groups fought for the throne of Croatia. The Hungarian king had family ties to the late king of Croatia and Dalmatia, Zvonimir, as Ladislas’ sister was his wife. Ladislas managed to take hold of part of Croatia, but an attack by the Cumans against Hungary hindered his advances in Croatia and Dalmatia in 1091.1 That year, he made Álmos, his nephew, king of Croatia and Dalmatia, but Álmos’ rule was probably only titular, and his title symbolized the aspiration of the Árpád dynasty to assert its rule more than it did the Árpáds’ actual control of the territory.2

The Hungarian kings did not attempt to seize Croatia and Dalmatia in the following few years mostly because Ladislas I died (1095). Furthermore, the first crusade went through Hungary (1096) and King Coloman (1095–16) had to deal with internal affairs.3 The struggle of the Árpád dynasty to establish its rule over this region ended with the victory of King Coloman. First he led his army to Croatia, where he defeated Peter, who had claimed the throne of Croatia in 1097. After his victory, Coloman struggled with internal affairs, so he could not confront Venice. The internal and external circumstances let Coloman reassert his rule over the region, and he was crowned king of Croatia and Dalmatia in Biograd in 1102.4

Coloman seized Zadar, Šibenik, Split, Trogir, and the islands in 1105, three years after his coronation.5 The king of Hungary had to contend with Venice for control of the coastal lands, and the Italian city state attacked and a year later seized the part of Dalmatia that was under the rule of Coloman’s son, Stephen II (1116–31). The king tried to recapture the coastal territories in 1118, but he failed, compelling him to make peace with Venice for five years.6 When the five years of the peace had elapsed, the king of Hungary led an army to Dalmatia in 1124 and seized control of north and central Dalmatia, except for Zadar. The success was only temporary, because Venice retook these lands in 1125.7

King Béla II (1131–41) was active in Dalmatia, since he seized Central Dalmatia in 1135/36. He probably also captured certain Bosnian lands during this military campaign. The relationship between Dalmatia and Hungary changed significantly during the first years of Stephen III’s (1162–72) reign. He was constantly at war with Byzantium between 1162 and 1165. Manuel I Comnenos, the Byzantine emperor, seized Central Dalmatia, and his ally, Venice, captured Zadar by 1165.8 Stephen III tried to restore his rule in 1166/67, and he managed to maintain control over Šibenik and the surrounding territories for a short time. The emperor seized this land again in 1167.9

When Manuel died in 1180, King Béla III (1172–96) took control of the territory again. First, he captured Central Dalmatia in 1181. A year later, Zadar also fell under Hungarian rule. Venice tried to seize the city in 1187 and 1192/93, but the attacks were unsuccessful. After Béla III’s death, his son Emeric succeeded him. He had to struggle with his brother for rule. Duke Andrew defeated him in Mački (Slavonia) in 1197, and he maintained control over Croatia, Dalmatia and a part of Hum between 1197 and 1204.10 The fight with Venice continued in 1204 when the Italian city seized Zadar during the fourth crusade. King Béla IV (1235–70) attempted to retake the city in 1242, but he was defeated in 1244, and Zadar remained under Venetian rule throughout the rest of the period under discussion.11 After the death of Béla IV, royal power weakened in Hungary and groups of noblemen competed for rule, using the young king, Ladislas IV (1272–89). The kings of Hungary did not pay much attention to Dalmatia. After the death of Béla IV, in all likelihood no Hungarian king visited the coastal territories. The lack of royal power also let the local elites strengthen their authority, and this period was the time when the Šubić noble family took the control over a great part of North and Central Dalmatia.

The Role of the (Arch)bishops in Dalmatia before the Rule of the Árpáds

Before launching into an analysis of the role of bishops in royal policy, it is important to consider the roles that bishops had before the beginning of the rule of the Árpáds in Dalmatia. The bishops and archbishops played important roles in the cities in the tenth and eleventh centuries, since they took part both in the ecclesiastical and the secular lives of their communities. They had important positions in the secular administration of the cities and in their foreign affairs as well. The cities often sent the bishops to serve as diplomats, such as in case of the negotiations before King Coloman entered Dalmatian cities in 1105.12 Their role was based on the landholdings of the Church, which were acquired by donations and purchases.13 The charters were dated by the bishops’ tenure of office. Even as early as the tenth and eleventh centuries, in municipal documents their names were given honorary mention after the kings or princes and before the cities’ priors and other magistrates. They were members of the decision-making assemblies and witnesses to or issuers of the charters in internal affairs. The bishops seem to have taken part in the resolution of all questions that required the judgment of the magistrates. They promoted the founding and the defense of monasteries, and they were members of the city council. The Croatian royal dynasty, the Tripimirović dynasty, also maintained very close relationships with the cities’ bishops. The Croatian rulers gave donations to the Church as early as the ninth century, but with increasing intensity as of the mid-tenth century.14 The bishops had very important roles in diplomacy, especially in communication between the cities and their rulers.15

The Bishops and Archbishops

The majority of the (arch)bishops under discussion in this study belonged to the archbishopric of Split. When the city was under the rule of the kings of Hungary, the Church of Split always had Hungarian archbishops or archbishops who had close ties to the royal court. The first Hungarian archbishop of Split, Manasses (cc. 1113–16), was a nobleman. He became the archbishop of the city around 1113, and his tenure in office came to an end when Venice seized Split in 1116.16 When King Béla II recaptured Split in 1136, Gaudius (1136–53) became the archbishop of the city, and he belonged to the elite of Split.17 According to Thomas the Archdeacon, he had close ties to the kings of Hungary.18 His tenure in office ended when he consecrated the bishop of Trogir uncanonically, and Pope Eugen III removed him from the administration of his orders in 1153.19 It should be mentioned that in official documents Gaudius was referred to as the archbishop of Split until 1158.20 While Gaudius was still alive, a Hungarian prelate, Absalom (1159–61), was elected as the archbishop of the city instead of him.21 When he died, he was succeeded by Peter Lombard (1161–66), who was the former bishop of Narni.22 As Split came under the rule of Byzantium, the city had archbishops appointed by Pope Alexander III.23 When Béla III took back the city, he insisted on the former custom of the election of the archbishops.24 A certain Peter, who was a member of the Kán family (one of the most powerful families in Hungary, with close ties to the southwestern part of the country),25 became the archbishop around 1185, a position he held until 1190.26 When he left Split and became the archbishop of Kalocsa, he was succeeded by another Peter (1191–96), who was the former abbot of the monastery of Saint Martin in Pannonhalma.27

When Duke Andrew and King Emeric were fighting for the throne of Hungary, the former stayed in Dalmatia for a relatively long period in 1197 and 1198, when he seized control of part of Hum. Andrew not only exerted an influence on the secular life of the region, he also made decisions in ecclesiastical cases. While the kings of Hungary did not order the direct election of a certain bishop or archbishop in Dalmatia, Andrew intended to install loyal archbishops in Split and Zadar. He wanted to win the support of the cities against his brother, so he gave ducal grants to the Church more often than had been done in the past, and he tried to influence the cities through his own prelates.28 Andrew ordered a certain A. to be the archbishop of Split and Nicolas, the former bishop of Hvar, to be the archbishop of Zadar.29 Regarding the archbishop of Split, we know only the first letter of his name and that he was the leader of the city’s Church for a short time, because Pope Celestin III ordered Bishop Dominic of Zagreb, Archbishop Saul of Kalocsa and Bishop Hugrin of Győr to investigate the ducal elections in 1198. The results of the investigation were clear, since, following the death of Celestin, Pope Innocent III, excommunicated both of the elected archbishops.30 The archbishopric see of Split became vacant after the excommunication, and it remained so until 1200. The first document to make mention of the vacancy of the archbishopric of Zadar was a letter issued on March 2, 1201.31

Duke Andrew held Dalmatia, Croatia and a part of Hum under his rule during the fight with King Emeric,32 so when Bernard of Perugia (cc. 1200–1217), the former educator of Emeric, became the archbishop of Split in 1200, this was supposed to be a huge help and advantage for the king.33 According to Thomas the Archdeacon, Bernard was loyal to Emeric, and he was never hostile towards Duke Andrew and served his interests as well. He was a learned prelate who fought against heretics in Bosnia and Dalmatia. Bernard died in 1217, when King Andrew II was leading a crusade and staying in Split.34 The king asked the citizens and the clergy to elect his candidate for archbishop, a certain Alexander the physician, but they refused him.35 In the course of the following two years, the archbishopric see was empty in Split. There is mention in the available sources of a certain “Slavac”36 and at least six other archbishop-elects, but either they were not confirmed or they did not want to become archbishops.37 When Andrew II returned from the crusade, Guncel (1219–1242) was elected as the leader of the archbishopric in Split. He was a member of the Kán family and, more importantly, he was related to Nicholas, ban of Slavonia (1213, 1219, 1229–1235),38 who helped him become the archbishop of Split.39 Guncel died in 1242, around the time of the Mongol invasion of Hungary. The citizens and the clergy of Split elected Stephen, the bishop of Zagreb.40 He was a member of the Hahót-Buzád family, another important noble family from southwestern Hungary, and he fled from Hungary with King Béla IV and other magnates during the Mongol invasion. When he was in Split, the citizens and clergy elected him archbishop, but he was never confirmed.41 He was followed by Hugrin (1244–48), another Hungarian prelate from the rich and powerful Csák family. His uncle, also called Hugrin, was the former archbishop of Kalocsa, and the family was also connected to southwestern Hungary.42 He served both as the archbishop of Split and the count of the city, appointed by Béla IV.43 When he died, the suffragans of the archbishopric of Split elected a certain Friar John (1248–49) as archbishop.44 In the following year, Pope Innocent IV promoted Roger of Apulia (1250–66) instead of John and sent him to Split. These two prelates were exceptional, because they were elected without the Hungarian kings’ counsel or consent. Thomas the Archdeacon mentions that Béla IV was displeased by this.45 The last archbishop to serve in the period in question was John (1266–94), who was a member of Hahót-Buzád family, like Stephen, the former archbishop-elect of Split and bishop of Zagreb.

During the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, there were only three consecrated archbishops and eight archbishop-elects who were elected without the kings’ participation in Split. When Split was under the rule of Byzantium, Girard of Verona and Rainer were the archbishops of the city. A certain Slavac and six unknown archbishops were elected between 1217 and 1219, when Andrew II went on a crusade. A certain John was elected by the suffragans of the archbishopric after Hugrin died in 1248, but he was never consecrated. The last exception is Roger of Apulia, who was elected through the intervention of Pope Innocent IV in 1250.

The archbishopric of Split was probably the most important ecclesiastical center for the kings of Hungary, because this archbishopric was the metropolitan see of almost all of the lands under Hungarian rule in the Eastern Adriatic. In addition to the archbishopric of Split, other ecclesiastical centers also frequently had Hungarian bishops. Samson became the bishop of Nin in 1242, and he served until his death in 1269.46 In all likelihood, King Béla IV had been able to exert some influence on his election to the position, because Nin had a strategically important position near Zadar, when the latter city fell under Venetian rule in 1244. His name is mentioned in five charters.47 Two of them were confirmations of the royal privileges of the city of Nin48 and one was a confirmation of Ban Roland about a grant to the Church.49 He was given land by King Béla IV while he was the bishop of Nin, an estate referred to as Lepled in Somogy County.50 The bishopric of Senj had two bishops of Hungarian origin in the thirteenth century. Thomas the Archdeacon mentioned John, but this is the only reference to his tenure in office. The available sources indicate only that he was appointed by Archbishop Guncel and he was Hungarian.51 The other bishop of Senj was Borislav, who is mentioned in charters from 1233 and 1234.52 The dearth of sources does not allow us to draw many conclusions regarding the lives of these bishops, but it is reasonable to assume that the important geographical position of Senj drew the attention of leaders, secular and ecclesiastical, to the Church of the city. Senj was important because one of the most important medieval roads to Dalmatia went through it, and also because the lands that were under Venetian rule were situated in Northern Dalmatia. Thomas Archdeacon also mentioned a certain John whom Archbishop Guncel of Split wanted to appoint before his death in 1242.53 Trogir had two bishops who were connected somehow to the royal court. However, it is also worth mentioning the name of Treguan (1206–1254), who followed Bernard of Perugia from Hungary to Split. Later, he was asked to be the bishop of Trogir, but he was different from the other bishops under discussion. His election was not influenced by the royal court, and while he served as the leader of the Church of Trogir, he was not given this position simply because he was close to the king. The second bishop was Stephen, a former canon from Zagreb County, who held office between 1277 and 1282.54

The Election of the Bishops and Archbishops

The dearth of sources makes it difficult to draw any far reaching conclusions regarding the process of the election of each of the bishops and archbishops in question. The diplomatic sources provide little information about the elections, especially in the twelfth century. Only Thomas the Archdeacon gave a detailed description of the process in Split during the period under examination, up until 1266. But it should be noted that he was an eyewitness to these events only between 1217 and 1249, since he was born at the beginning of the thirteenth century and died in 1268.55 I will focus primarily on the elections that took place in Split during this time.

The election of the archbishops and bishops in Dalmatia was not merely an ecclesiastical matter in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Both the laity and the clergy took part in the process, because the bishops of the cities were involved in secular administration and had considerable influence on the life of the city. The election of the prelates was a communal decision which sometimes resulted in arguments between the chapter of Split and the laity.56 Split had the right to elect its own archbishop, a privilege that was confirmed by the kings of Hungary as well.57 In spite of this, the Church of Split always had an archbishop with a close relationship to Hungary when the city was under the rule of the Árpáds, and the royal court influenced the decision. How can one explain this apparent contradiction between the privilege of the city on the one hand to elect its own archbishop and the fact, on the other, that Hungarian archbishops were consistently elected? It order to arrive at an understanding of this, it is important to analyze the election of the archbishops who were contemporaries of Thomas and to whose election he himself was a witness.

Archbishop Guncel was elected in 1219 after a period of two years, during which at least seven archbishops were elected but never received the pallium (the ecclesiastical vestment that in earlier centuries was bestowed by the pope on metropolitans and primates to indicate the authorities granted them by the Holy See). Prior to his election, the chapter of Split did not agree about the new archbishop, and some of the canons led by Peter the deacon sought to elect a Hungarian archbishop to ensure the favor of the king towards the Church and the city. In spite of the protest of the other part of the chapter, which wanted to elect a prelate from amongst themselves, the citizens and the clergy elected Guncel.58 His appointment and election were supported by Ban Gyula of the Kán family, a relative of Guncel, who sent a letter to the city in support of Guncel’s election.59 This kind of support from the Hungarian elite was not unusual, or more precisely from the bans of Slavonia. When the bishopric see of Trogir was vacant in 1274, Ban Henrik wrote a letter to Trogir to attempt to convince them to elect Thomas, who was part of his retinue.60

When Guncel died, the laity and the clergy decided to elect Bishop Stephen of Zagreb, who was in Split because he had followed King Béla IV during the Mongol invasion.61 A year later, he withdrew from the election. The canons, together with Franciscan and Dominican friars, tried to elect a new archbishop, without the participation of the laity. The new archbishop was Thomas the Archdeacon himself. This was the first attempt of the chapter to hold an election in which only the canons and the clergy were allowed to take part. The whole process came to a close at the beginning of the fourteenth century, and the chapter succeeded in electing the archbishops without the participation of the laity.62 The community protested against this new process. A general assembly was convened and they threatened the clergy with possible sanctions if the laity were to be excluded from the election.63 Around that time, war had broken out between Split and Trogir, and King Béla IV supported the latter. As a result of the royal support, Split sent envoys to the king, who asked them to elect Hugrin, the former provost of Čazma, as the new archbishop. Under pressure from the laity, the chapter finally elected Hugrin, who was also appointed by the king to be the count of Split.64 After the death of Hugrin, the laity did not take part in the election of a certain Friar John and Roger of Apulia. The former was elected by the chapter and the suffragans of the archbishopric, and Roger was appointed by the pope with the disapproval of the king, who later criticized the failure to obtain royal consent as part of the process of the election.65 Indications of direct royal influence in the aforementioned elections can be found only in the case of the election of Hugrin.

These elections, the diplomatic sources, and the earlier parts of Thomas’s work reveal a few major characteristics regarding influence of the Hungarian court on the processes of the elections. First, the election of an archbishop who was close to the royal court was not only in the kings’ interest. Since archbishops played a major role in the city’s diplomatic affairs, it was necessary to have someone who would be able to curry the favor of the court. Second, the election of the bishops with the participation of the clergy and the laity was not the practice in the Kingdom of Hungary, where the kings influenced the election of the prelates.66 Third, the process of the election could become customary during the period under examination. Until the mid-thirteenth century, when the archbishopric became vacant, a general assembly was convened in which the clergy and the laity decided about the archbishop.67 The role of the king during the election probably can be found in the description of Thomas the Archdeacon of King Béla IV’s second visit to Split. Thomas mentioned that King Béla IV was angry when he visited Split because of the circumstances of Roger’s election. He claimed that the city should have asked for his consent, and the archbishop should have been someone from the Hungarian Kingdom.68 The unwritten rule of the election of an archbishop from Hungary and the necessity of making a request for the king’s consent probably became a custom by the last decades of the twelfth century at the latest. Probably both were part of the process in the case of the archbishopric election at the beginning of the 1180s. In 1181, Pope Alexander III ordered King Béla III not to intervene in the election of the archbishop, because the city had the right to elect its own prelate.69 The king probably tried and later managed to enforce the royal custom, because Peter became the archbishop of Split.

Some understanding of the legal situation in Hungary also sheds light on the contradiction between the privilege of Split on the one hand and the influence exerted by the court in Hungary on the elections on the other. First, as noted, the process by which the archbishops were elected in Split was unknown in the Kingdom of Hungary. Second, the royal privilege of towns to elect their own archbishops, a privilege that was confirmed by the kings, did not exist in Hungary.70 Third, the unwritten custom law was strong during the period under examination, and it was more important than the written word in Hungary.71 These three elements and the natural interests of Split in currying the favor of the court explain the apparent (but only apparent) contradiction: the city and the royal court had common interests with regards to the office of the archbishop. The main conflict of interest existed not between the king and Split during the majority of the period, but lay rather between the aspirations of the chapter of Split (or a certain part of the chapter) and the city, because the former sought to elect a local archbishop from amongst themselves, while the city’s and kings’ political interests led to the election of the aforementioned bishops. This does not mean that the city and the kings never had arguments about the elections (indeed this probably took place in 1181 and in 1217), but at least until the mid-thirteenth century the election of a new archbishop was not merely a matter of the interests of the kings.

Moreover, the nobility which had a strong position in southwestern Hungary, was also able to influence the elections, and not merely in the case of the archbishopric of Split. Many of the archbishops of Split belonged to noble families, such as the Csák, Kán, and Hahót-Buzád families, and in two cases the bans of Slavonia tried to convince cities to elect relatives or beneficiaries of their sympathies. This took place for the first time in Split in 1219 and for the second time in Trogir in 1274. Alongside the archbishops of Split, there were other bishops in Dalmatia who were Hungarian. The election of these bishops could be influenced by the archbishopric of Split, because they all belonged to its metropolitan see. The royal court and the Hungarian magnates could also influence the events, and this may have been another factor, alongside the desire of the cities to have Hungarian bishops, that prompted the election of figures with ties to Hungary, but the dearth of sources do not allow us to draw any far-reaching conclusions.72

Dalmatian Bishops in the Royal Entourage

Regular and occasional visits to Dalmatia had several functions for the kings and dukes of Hungary. The personal presence and related representative acts could have functioned as means of securing and expressing the rule of the kings over the region symbolically.73 Their solemn presence, supported by the royal army and the entourage (including high magnates and prelates from the kingdom), was visual proof of the presence of royal power in Dalmatia. The king was surrounded by bishops and archbishops, and secular leaders were also part of his entourage.74 When the kings or the dukes of Croatia and Dalmatia visited the coastal territories, their entourages not only played practical roles, but also had representative and symbolic functions. The decisions regarding the people who accompanied the kings and dukes during their visits from the kingdom were important, as were the decisions concerning who, from the local region, joined their retinues. In this part of this essay, I examine the royal entourage, and especially the role of the Dalmatian bishops and archbishops in it.

King Coloman definitely visited Dalmatia in 1102, 1105, 1108, and 1111. During his visits, several prelates and high officials followed him to the new territory of the kingdom. In 1102, he was accompanied by, at the very least, the bishops of Eger and Zagreb.75 Three years later, in 1108, several counts, the count palatine, and the archbishop of Esztergom accompanied him.76 In 1111, the archbishops of Esztergom and Kalocsa, the bishops of Vác, Pécs, Veszprém, Győr, and Várad (Oradea), several counts, the count palatine, and other noblemen and prelates were among Coloman’s entourage from the kingdom, more precisely from the territory of the kingdom not including the recently seized lands.77 There is not much information regarding the officials and prelates who followed the king from Dalmatia during Coloman’s reign. In 1105, at the very least Archbishop Gregory of Zadar and Cesar the count of the city were with him when he entered and stayed in Zadar.78 After Coloman’s death, one can assume that Béla II and Géza II also visited Dalmatia. The latter probably traveled to Dalmatia at least once in 1142.79 The archbishops of Esztergom and Kalocsa and the bishops of Veszprém, Zagreb, Győr, Pécs, and Csanád were with Béla II in Dalmatia.

Stephen III probably also visited this territory around 1163, and he was accompanied by local bishops from Nin, Skradin, and Knin, the count of Split, and other secular officials of the region in 1163. The charter that was issued that year was the first source that provided information about the “Dalmatian” entourage of the kings. During the conflict between King Emeric and Duke Andrew, the latter spent a relatively long time in Dalmatia in 1198 and 1200. Andrew had his own court, including a ban, while the king also appointed his own officials to Croatia, Dalmatia, and Slavonia, so the number of office-holders doubled between 1197 and 1200.80 In addition to the members of his own court, Duke Andrew was accompanied by the prelates and secular leaders of Dalmatia, including the archbishop-elect of Zadar, the archbishop of Split, the bishops of Knin and Skradin, and the count of Split and Zadar.81 When Andrew II led a crusade and visited Dalmatia in 1217, he was accompanied by the magnates from Hungary and the bishops of Dalmatia, who surrounded the king during his visits in Dalmatian towns. Later, Duke Béla and Duke Coloman were also escorted by Guncel (the archbishop of Split), the bishops of the region, and the local secular elite when they visited Dalmatia in 1225 and 1226.82 The entourages during the period in question included both the highest elite from Hungary and the Dalmatian archbishops and bishops, together with the secular leaders of the region. The role of the Church was significant during these visits. Hungarian and Dalmatian prelates surrounded the kings, and this entourage may have created a sacral atmosphere around the rulers of the land. Moreover, when the kings and dukes made solemn entries into Dalmatian cities during the period under examination, the archbishops and bishops of the coastal region played an important role in the ceremonies. Duke Andrew made ceremonious entries into Trogir in 1200 and Split in 1217 as king, and the accounts of these events are the most detailed sources regarding these solemn occasions. In both cases, the duke and the king were surrounded and escorted by the local bishops, and they led him into the cities, while the secular elite did not play any significant role comparable to that of the prelates.

The Bishops and the Cult of Saint Stephen of Hungary in Dalmatia

The cult of saints of the royal dynasty could be used to legitimize the new ruling dynasty in Croatia and symbolize royal power over the lands. One of the two sources that testify to the appearance of the cult of saints of the Árpád dynasty in Dalmatia can be connected to the archbishopric of Split. A capsella reliquiarum was found during the archeological excavations in Kaštel Gomilica between 1975 and 1977 at the church of Saints Cosmas and Damian.83 This territory is situated a few kilometers from Split, and the church was built in the mid-twelfth century. The foundation and construction of the edifice can be connected to two archbishops of Split who were connected to the royal court of Hungary. Archbishop Gaudius launched the construction and Absalom, the archbishop-elect, consecrated the church in 1160.84 The most interesting part of this church from the perspective of the focus of this essay is the aforementioned capsella reliquiarum, which contains the following inscription:


According to this source, the cult of Saint Stephen of Hungary appeared in Split relatively soon after the coronation of Coloman. The spread of the cult of the dynastic saint was more significant in Slavonia, but it also had some influence in the coastal lands.86 Promotion of the dynastic cult was an important part of the symbolic royal policy, and the appearance of the cult of Saint Stephen was probably connected to the role of the (arch)bishops in royal policy. Saint Stephen’s relic could have been brought to Split either by Gaudius or Absalom, because according to Thomas the Archdeacon Gaudius enjoyed the favor of the king.87

The reliquary in Kaštel Gomilica is not the only piece of evidence indicating the early appearance of the cult of Saint Stephen in Dalmatia. In Knin, a bishopric that belonged to the metropolitan province of the archbishopric of Split, a church that was dedicated to Saint Stephen of Hungary was probably built during the twelfth or the thirteenth century.88 Since the first written piece of evidence regarding this church is from the fourteenth century, one can assume but not conclude with certainty that this church belonged to the early period of Hungarian rule in this territory. The construction of a church in Knin dedicated to St. Stephen, a city that had served as the center of the Croatian bishopric (episcopus Chroatensis) as of 1078, could have been a symbolic gesture of considerable importance.89 It is impossible to reconstruct the exact role of the bishops of Knin in the spread of the cult of St. Stephen, but it can be assumed that the role of the Church was significant, as it was in the case of the archbishopric of Split.

The Archbishops and Bishops of Dalmatia between the Cities and the Royal Court

Most of the Hungarian bishops in Dalmatia were connected to the archbishopric of Split, because it was the ecclesiastical center of northern and central Dalmatia and the lands under the rule of the kings of Hungary. Most of the sources can also be connected to this ecclesiastical center, and we can assume that the other bishops of Hungarian origin played similar role in their cities. The role of the archbishops of Split emerged after King Coloman of Hungary seized the city in 1105 and a new Hungarian archbishop was elected in 1113. The basis of the new (arch)bishopric role may have been connected to their previous importance in foreign cases. They were the representatives of their cities, like the bishop of Trogir, who mediated between Trogir and King Coloman in 1105. The (arch)bishops under examination here were not only the ecclesiastical leaders of their cities and played important roles in the secular life of the communities, they also became instruments in the effectuation of royal policy in Dalmatia.

According to Thomas the Archdeacon, the archbishops of Split often left their see and went to the royal court.90 I would venture the hypothesis that during these visits they served as ambassadors sent by the city to the king. The available sources reveal little regarding the details of these visits, but it seems likely that the archbishops of Split were not the only representatives of the Church to visit the court. They were probably also joined by other bishops. For example, Trogir sent Bishop Treguan to Ancona to negotiate with the city,91 and one can safely assume that cities were also able to send their bishops to the royal court if necessary. Bishop Grubče of Nin visited the mainland when he was journeying with Guncel from Hungary, but the aims of his visit are unclear.92 It can be assumed that the bishops and archbishops were the connection between the cities and the king. The archbishops of Split and possibly other bishops visited the royal court not merely as envoys of their cities, but also as participants in royal events. Archbishop Bernard of Split, for instance, was among the visitors at the coronation of King Ladislas III in 1204.93

In addition to the role played by the archbishops and bishops as mediators between the royal court and the coastal lands, the prelates also had roles of particular importance for the royal court in other cases. The bishops and archbishops of Dalmatia were not part of the royal council and the royal court. The reason for this lies in the policy of the court, which did not want to integrate Dalmatia into the Church organization of the mainland, with the exception of an attempt initiated by Duke Coloman.94 This policy notwithstanding, the bishops and archbishops in question here played important roles for the court. They served not only as ecclesiastical leaders, but in many cases also as representatives of the kings. When Venice attacked Zadar during the fourth crusade, Archbishop Bernard of Split hired ships for the defense of the city. Bernard paid with the king’s money, probably because King Emeric ordered him to do so.95 It can be assumed that Bishop Samson of Nin played a role in the foreign policy of King Béla IV. After Venice seized Zadar, by 1244 Nin had emerged as an important city, since it is situated only fifteen kilometers from Zadar. Samson, as probably the first Hungarian bishop of the city, was elected during the king’s stay in Dalmatia, and the Church of Nin received royal grants in subsequent decades.96 Archbishop Hugrin of Split was a key figure during the peace negotiations between Trogir and Split in 1245.97 Hugrin acted according to the wishes of Béla IV, and peace was made in favor of Trogir.98

The archbishops of Split played important roles in the royal policy concerning Bosnia throughout the twelfth century and at the beginning of the thirteenth. The Bishopric of Bosnia fell under the jurisdiction of the archbishopric of Split in 1192 (it had been under the jurisdiction of the metropolitan province of Dubrovnik).99 The change in ecclesiastical organization can be connected to the royal policy towards Bosnia, since the subordination connected the Kingdom of Hungary and Bosnia on the ecclesiastical level, which was an expression of royal aims in the region. According to the sources, the bishop of Bosnia tried to ignore this change and still visited the archbishop of Dubrovnik for consecration in 1195.100 The kings attempted to compel Bosnia to recognize their authority and the jurisdiction of the archbishopric of Split until the 1210s, but their lack of success led to a change in royal policy. The bishopric of Bosnia became the suffragan of the archbishopric of Kalocsa in 1247.101

The bishops and archbishops had important roles in and considerable influence on the lives of their towns, and they held office for life, while the secular leaders of the towns were usually only elected for a year.102 The kings of Hungary did not influence the election of the secular leaders of the cities until the 1240s, when King Béla IV appointed Hugrin count in Split, and until 1267 Trogir and Split had Hungarian counts, who were the bans and in certain cases dukes of Slavonia at the same time. Apart from this short period, for the rest of the period under discussion the most direct and permanent representatives of the royal court were the bishops and archbishops in Dalmatia.

The royal grants that were given by the kings of Hungary to the Church in Dalmatia also indicate the importance of the ecclesiastical centers and their prelates in the political relationship between the royal court and Dalmatian cities in the period up until the mid-thirteenth century.103 It should be noted that in the case of the archbishopric of Split the archbishops were given honorary mention and highlighted in the royal grants given to the Church of Split, while this was not the practice in Hungary or Dalmatia.104 As is clear, the most important political centers often had Hungarian archbishops and bishops, and most of the royal grants that were bestowed were given to the Church in these cities. Until communal development led to the separation of the secular and ecclesiastical powers in towns, the Church had considerable sway over the cities, and the Hungarian prelates could influence them or secure their loyalty to the royal court.105


The bishops and archbishops played important roles in the lives of the Dalmatian cities, and after the beginning of the rule of the Árpád dynasty in Dalmatia these roles became more significant and structured. Until the mid-thirteenth century, the (arch)bishops of Dalmatia had an important place in the royal entourage in Dalmatia. They may have played a role in the appearance of the cult of Saint Stephen, and they were representatives of the kings in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, except for a short period between 1245 and 1267. The bishops and archbishops were not only representatives of the kings, they were also entrusted by their cities with important tasks and expected to maintain good relations with the king. If the interests of the court and the interests of the community in question were similar, the loyalty of the bishops and archbishops was essentially an irrelevant question. It was only an issue when the kings and the cities had quarrels or differing interests in contentious cases. During the period in question, probably the most significant example of the latter was the war and the peace negotiations between Trogir and Split in 1245, when Archbishop Hugrin did the bidding of the royal court and reached a settlement in favor of Trogir.


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Klaić, Nada. Povijest Hrvata u razvijenom srednjem vijeku [History of the Croats in the High Middle Ages]. Zagreb: Školska knjiga, 1976.

Klaić, Vjekoslav. “O hercegu Andriji” [About Prince Andrew]. RAD 136 (1898): 206

Kovačić, Slavko. “Splitska metropolija u dvanaestom stoljeću, Krbavska biskupija u srednjem vijeku” [The Ecclesiastical Province of Split in the Twelfth Century, the Bishopric of Krbava in the Middle Ages]. In Zbornik radova znanstvenog simpozija u povodu 800. Obljetnice osnutka krbavske biskupije održanog u Rijeci 23–24. travnja 1986. godine [Collected Papers of the Conference on the Occasion of the 800th Anniversary of the Incorporation of the Bishopric of Krbava]. Rijeka: Kršćanska Sadašnjost, 1988.

Kovačić, Slavko. “Toma Arhiđakon, promicatelj crkvene obnove, i splitski nadbiskupi, osobito njegovi suvremenici” [Thomas Archdeacon and Archbishop of Split, and Especially His Contemporaries]. In Toma Arhiđakon i njegovo doba. Zbornik radova sa znanstvenoga skupa o držanog 25–27. rujna 2000. godine u Splitu [Thomas Archdeacon and His Age. Collected Papers from the Conference Organized 25–27 September 2000, Split], edited by Mirjana Matijević-Sokol and Olga Perić, 41–75. Split: Književni krug, 2004.

Makk, Ferenc. The Árpáds and the Comneni. Political Relations between Hungary and Byzantium in the 12th Century. Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó, 1988.

Matijević-Sokol, Mirjana. Toma arhiđakon i njegovo djelo. Rano doba hrvatska povijest [Thomas the Archdeacon and His Age. The Early Period of the Croatian History]. Zagreb: Naklada Slap, 2002.

Novak, Grga. Povijest Splita [History of Split]. Vol. 1. Split: Matica hrvatska, 1957.

Ostojić, Ivan. Metropolitanski kaptol u Splitu [The Metropolitan Chapter of Split]. Zagreb: Kršćanska sadašnjost, 1975.

Pauler, Gyula. A magyar nemzet története az Árpád-házi királyok alatt [The History of the Hungarian Nation in the Árpád Era]. Vols. 1–2. Budapest: Magyar Könyvkiadók és Könyvterjesztők Egyesülése, 1899.

Ruiz, Teofilio F. A King Travels: Festive Traditions in Late Medieval and Early Modern Spain. New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2012.

Sekelj Ivančan, Tajana. “Župna crkva … sancti Stephani regis circa Drauam – prilog tumačenju širenja ugarskoga političkog utjecaja južno od Drave” [The Parish Church ... sancti Stephanis regis circa Drauam – a Contribution to the Interpretation of the Spread of Hungarian Political Influence South of the Drava]. Prilozi Instituta za arheologiju u Zagrebu 25 (2008): 97–118.

Smičiklas, Tadija. Codex diplomaticus regni Croatiae, Sclavoniae et Dalmatiae. Vols. 1–18. Zagreb: JAZU, 1904–1934. II.

Steindorff, Ludwig. Die dalmatinischen Städte im 12. Jahrhundert. Studien zu ihrer politischen Stellung und gesellschaftlichen Entwicklung. Vienna: Böhlau, 1984.

Steindorff, Ludwig. “Stari svijet i nova doba. O formiranju komune na istočnoj obali Jadrana” [Old World and New Age. About the Formation of Communes on the Eastern Adriatic]. Starohrvatska prosvjeta 16 (1986): 141–52.

Strohal, Ivan. Pravna povijest dalmatinskih gradova [Legal History of the Dalmatian Cities]. Zagreb: Dioničkatiskara, 1913.

Szabados, György. “Imre és András” [Imre and Andrew]. Századok 133 (1999): 85–111.

Szende, Katalin. “Power and Identity. Royal Privileges to Towns of Medieval Hungary in the Thirteenth Century.” Unpublished manuscript with the permission of the author.

Szovák, Kornél. “Pápai–magyar kapcsolatok a 12. században” [The Relationship Between Hungary and the Papacy in the Twelfth Century]. In Magyarország és a Szentszék kapcsolatának ezer éve [A Millennium of the Relationship of Hungary and the Papacy], edited by István Zombori, 21–47. Budapest: METEM, 1996.

Zsoldos, Attila. Magyarország világi archontológiája (1001–1301) [The Secular Archontology of Hungary (1001–1301)]. Budapest: MTA BTK TTI, 2011.

1 Gyula Pauler, A magyar nemzet története az Árpád-házi királyok alatt, vol. 1 of 2 (Budapest: Magyar Könyvkiadók és Könyvterjesztők Egyesülése, 1899), 201.

2 Márta Font, “Megjegyzések a horvát–magyar perszonálunió középkori történetéhez,” in Híd a századok felett. Tanulmányok Katus László 70. születésnapjára, ed. Péter Hanák (Pécs: University Press, 1997), 12.

3 Nada Klaić, Povijest Hrvata u razvijenom srednjem vijeku (Zagreb: Školska knjiga, 1976), 486–91.

4 Pauler, A magyar nemzet, 214–15.

5 Ferenc Makk, The Árpáds and the Comneni. Political Relations between Hungary and Byzantium in the 12th Century (Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó, 1988), 14.

6 Ibid., 18–20.

7 Ibid., 21.

8 Ibid., 96–98.

9 Tadija Smičiklas, Codex diplomaticus regni Croatiae, Sclavoniae et Dalmatiae, vol 2 of 18 (Zagreb: JAZU, 1904–1934.), 115–16. Hereafter CDC.

10 György Szabados, “Imre és András,” Századok 133 (1999): 94.

11 Makk, The Árpáds, 122–23.

12 Damir Karbić, Mirjana Matijević-Sokol, and James Sweeney. Thomae archidiaconi Spalatensis Historia Salonitanorum atque Spalatinorum pontificium (Budapest: CEU Press, 2006), 96. Hereafter Historia Salonitana.

13 Joan Dusa, The Medieval Dalmatian Episcopal Cities: Development and Transformation (New York: Peter Lang, 1991), 71–72.

14 Neven Budak, “Foundations and Donations as a Link between Croatia and the Dalmatian Cities in the Early Middle Ages (9th–11th c.),” Jahrbuch für Geschichte Osteuropas 55 (2007): 490.

15 Ivan Strohal, Pravna povijest dalmatinskih gradova (Zagreb: Dionička tiskara, 1913), 280–323; Dusa, Episcopal Cities, 76–83.

16 On Manasses see: Tamás Körmendi, “Zagoriensis episcopus. Megjegyzés a zágrábi püspökség korai történetéhez,” in “Fons, skepsis, lex”. Ünnepi tanulmányok a 70 esztendős Makk Ferenc tiszteletére, ed. Tibor Almási, Éva Révész, and György Szabados (Szeged: Szegedi Középkorász Műhely, 2010), 250–52.

17 Slavko Kovačić, “Toma Arhiđakon, promicatelj crkvene obnove, i splitski nadbiskupi, osobito njegovi suvremenici,” in Toma Arhiđakon i njegovo doba. Zbornik radova sa znanstvenoga skupa o držanog 25–27. rujna 2000. godine u Splitu, ed. Mirjana Matijević-Sokol and Olga Perić (Split: Književni krug, 2004), 47.

18 Historia Salonitana, 104–05.

19 Ibid., 104–07.

20 CDC, vol 2, 86.

21 Absalom was mentioned as minister around 1160. See: CDC, vol. 2, CDC, vol. 2, 90–91.

22 Historia Salonitana, 106.

23 Mirjana Matijević-Sokol, Toma arhiđakon i njegovo djelo. Rano doba hrvatska (Zagreb: Naklada Slap, 2002), 172–76.; Slavko Kovačić, “Splitska metropolija u dvanaestom stoljeću, Krbavska biskupija u srednjem vijeku,” in Zbornik radova znanstvenog simpozija u povodu 800. Obljetnice osnutka krbavske biskupije održanog u Rijeci 23–24. travnja 1986. godine (Rijeka: Kršćanska sadašnjost, 1988), 18–20.

24 CDC, vol 2, 175.

25 István Katona, A kalocsai érseki egyház története (Kalocsa: Kalocsai Múzeumbarátok Köre, 2001), 109–10.

26 Matijević-Sokol, Toma arhiđakon i njegovo djelo, 178.

27 László Erdélyi, A pannonhalmi főapátság története, vol 1 (Budapest: Szent István Társulat, 1902), 120, 613.

28 Szabados, “Imre,” 98.

29 CDC, vol. 2, 307.

30 Szabados, “Imre,” 99; CDC, vol. 2, 307.

31 Ibid., vol. 2, I 3–4.

32 Vjekoslav Klaić, “O hercegu Andriji,” RAD 136 (1898): 206.

33 Szabados, “Imre,” 100; Ivan Armanda, “Splitski nadbiskup i teološki pisac Bernard iz Perugie,” Kulturna baština 37 (2011): 33–48.

34 Attila Bárány, “II. András balkáni külpolitikája,” in II. András és Székesfehérvár, ed. Terézia Kerny and András Smohay (Székesfehérvár: Székesfehérvári Egyházmegyei Múzeum, 2012), 144.

35 Historia Salonitana, 162–63.

36 Slavac (Slavicus Romanus) is mentioned as electus or electus archiepiscopus between 1217 and 1219. See: CDC, vol. 2, I 164, 170, 172.

37 CDC, vol. 2 , I 182.

38 Attila Zsoldos, Magyarország világi archontológiája (1001–1301) (Budapest: MTA BTK TTI, 2011), 43–44.

39 Historia Salonitana, 168.

40 Stephen is mentioned as archielectus from July 1242 until November 1243. See: CDC, vol.4, 155, 183, 196, 205.

41 Historia Salonitana, 306–07.

42 Ibid., 292–93.

43 Ibid., 350.

44 John is mentioned as archielectus between December 1248 and May 1249. See: CDC, vol.4, 373, 394.

45 Historia Salonitana, 350–51, 366–67.

46 Ibid., 305. 9. j.

47 CDC, vol. 4, 202, 240; vol. 5, 390, 426, 505–06.

48 Ibid., 202, 230.

49 CDC, vol. 5, 390.

50 Ibid., 505.

51 Historia Salonitana, 304.

52 CDC, vol. 2 , I 459–60.

53 Historia Salonitana, 354.

54 CDC, vol. 4, 168–69, 309, vol 6, 407.

55 Historia Salonitana, xxiv.

56 Grga Novak, Povijest Splita, vol. 1 (Split: Matica hrvatska, 1957), 373.

57 György Györffy, “A 12. századi dalmáciai városprivilégiumok kritikája,” Történelmi Szemle 10 (1967): 47.

58 Historia Salonitana, 166–69.

59 Ibid., 168.

60 Archive of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts, LUCIUS XX-12/13, fols. 3–4.

61 Historia Salonitana, 306.

62 Novak, Povijest Splita, 373.

63 Historia Salonitana, 327.

64 Ibid., 350.

65 Ibid., 366.

66 About the problem see Kornél Szovák, “Pápai–magyar kapcsolatok a 12. században,” in Magyarország és a Szentszék kapcsolatának ezer éve, ed. István Zombori (Budapest: METEM, 1996), 21–47.

67 Novak, Povijest Splita, 373.

68 Historia Salonitana, 366.

69 CDC, vol. 2, 175.

70 Katalin Szende, “Power and Identity. Royal Privileges to Towns of Medieval Hungary in the Thirteenth Century,” unpublished manuscript with the permission of the author.

71 Monika Jánosi, Törvényalkotás Magyarországon a korai Árpád-korban (Szeged: Szegedi Középkorász Műhely, 1996), 45–66.

72 Historia Salonitana, 305–07.

73 Teofilio F. Ruiz, A King Travels: Festive Traditions in Late Medieval and Early Modern Spain (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2012).

74 Mladen Ančić, “Image of Royal Authority in the Work of Thomas Archdeacon,” Povijesni prilozi 22 (2002): 29–40.

75 CDC, vol. 2, 9.

76 Ibid., vol. 2, 19.

77 Ibid., 24.

78 Ibid., 15.

79 Ibid., 49–50.

80 Szabados, “Imre,” 97.

81 CDC, vol. 2, 308–09; 309–10.

82 Ibid., I 251, 259.

83 Joško Belamarić, “Capsella reliquiarum (1160 g.) iz Sv. Kuzme i Damjana u Kaštel Gomilici,” in Studije iz srednjovjekovne i renesansa umjetnosti na Jadranu, ed. Joško Belamarić (Split: Književni krug, 2001), 201.

84 Daniele Farlati, Illyricum sacrum IV (Venice: Sebastiano Coleti, 1769), 172, 180.

85 Belamarić, “Capsella,” 201.

86 Tajana Sekelj Ivančan, “Župna crkva … sancti Stephani regis circa Drauam – prilog tumačenju širenja ugarskoga političkog utjecaja južno od Drave,” Prilozi Instituta za arheologiju u Zagrebu 25 (2008): 97–118.

87 Historia Salonitana, 104.

88 Mladen Ančić, “Knin u razvijenom i kasnom srednjem vijeku,” Radovi Zavoda za povijesne znanosti HAZU u Zadru 38 (1996): 84–85.

89 On the “Croatian bishop” see Miho Barada, “Episcopus chroatensis,” Croatia Sacra 1 (1931): 161–215.

90 Ivan Ostojić, Metropolitanski kaptol u Splitu (Zagreb: Kršćanska sadašnjost, 1975), 21.

91 Farlati, Ilyricum, IV 339

92 Historia Salonitana, 206.

93 Ibid., 140–41.

94 About Coloman’s reform see Ivan Basić, “O pokušaju ujedinjenja zagrebačke i splitske crkve u XIII. stoljeću,” Pro tempore 3 (2006): 25–43.; György Györffy, “Szlavónia kialakulásának oklevélkritikai vizsgálata,” Levéltári Közlemények 41 (1970): 234.

95 Historia Salonitana, 148–49.

96 CDC, vol. V, 636–37.

97 Novak, Povijest Splita, 124.

98 Ibid., 123–24.

99 CDC, vol. 2, 251–53.

100 John V.A. Fina, The Bosnian Church. Its Place in State and Society from the Thirteenth to the Fifteenth Century (London: Saqi, 2007), 111.

101 Katona, A kalocsai egyház, 148.

102 Novak, Povijest Splita, 373.

103 Judit Gál, Hungarian Horizons of the History of the Church in Dalmatia: the Royal Grants to the Church. (MA Thesis, Central European University, 2014).

104 For example: CDC, vol. 2, 47, 54; IV 243.

105 Ludwig Steindorff, Die dalmatinischen Städte im 12. Jahrhundert. Studien zu ihrer politischen Stellung und gesellschaftlichen Entwicklung (Vienna: Böhlau, 1984), 157–59; Ludwig Steindorff, “Stari svijet i nova doba. O formiranju komune na istočnoj obali Jadrana,” Starohrvatska prosvjeta 16 (1986): 149–50; Irena Benyovsky Latin, Srednjovjekovni Trogir. Prostor i društvo (Zagreb: Hrvatski institut za povijest, 2009), 41; Novak, Povijest Splita, 279.


pdfVolume 3 Issue 3 CONTENTS

Antal Molnár

A Forgotten Bridgehead between Rome, Venice, and the Ottoman Empire: Cattaro and the Balkan Missions in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries

A key element in the history of the missions that departed from Rome as of the middle of the sixteenth century is the functioning of the mediating structures that ensured the maintenance of the relationship between Rome as the center of the Holy Roman Empire and the territories where the missionaries did their work. On the Dalmatian coast of the Adriatic Sea, Ragusa, which today is the city of Dubrovnik, was the most important bridgehead, but Cattaro, today Kotor, also played a significant role as a point of mediation between Rome and the Ottoman Empire. My intention in this essay is to present the many roles of Cattaro in the region, focusing in particular on its role in the maintenance of communication between Rome and missions to the Balkans. Cattaro never lost its Balkan orientation, even following the weakening of economic ties and the loss of its episcopal jurisdiction, which had extended over parishes in Serbia in the Middle Ages. Rather, in the sixteenth century it grew with the addition of a completely new element. From 1535 to 1786 Cattaro was the most important center of the postal service between Venice and Istanbul. As of 1578, the management of the Istanbul post became the responsibility of the Bolizza family. Thus the family came to establish a wide network of connections in the Balkans. I examine these connections and then offer an analysis of the plans concerning the settlement of the Jesuits in Cattaro. As was true in the case of Ragusa, the primary appeal of the city from the perspective of members of the Jesuit order was the promise of missions to the Balkans. In the last section of the essay I focus on the role Cattaro played in the organization of missions for a good half-century following the foundation of the Propaganda Fide Congregation in 1622. Four members of the Bolizza family worked in the Balkans as representatives of the Propaganda Congregation in the seventeenth century: Francesco, Vincenzo, Nicolo and Giovanni. I provide a detailed examination of the work of the first three, including the circumstances of their appointments, their efforts to unite the Orthodox Serbs with the Catholic Church and protect the Franciscan mission to Albania, their roles as mediators between Rome and the areas to which missionaries traveled, the services they rendered involving the coordination of missions, their influence on personal decisions and the appointments of pontiffs, and their political and military roles during the Venetian–Ottoman war.

Keywords: Cattaro, Venice, Ottoman Empire, Catholic missions, Balkan trade

A Desideratum for Research: Mediatory Structures between Rome and the Missions

One of the important and yet, at least until now, only rarely studied elements of the histories of the missions that departed from Rome as of the middle of the sixteenth century, and in particular of the missions that, after 1622, were organized by the Propaganda Fide Congregation (Sacra Congregatio de Propaganda Fide) is the mechanism of the mediating structures that ensured the maintenance of the relationship between Rome and the areas to which the missionaries traveled. The maintenance of ties to the missionaries was first and foremost the task of the nuncios, but given the territorial, organizational, and functional peculiarities of papal diplomacy they were ultimately unable to perform this duty satisfactorily. As a consequence of this, the missionary system became a multi-level structure. The connection between the two most distant points, Rome and the areas in which the missionaries were stationed, was ensured by a nunciature or a representative of some other level of the diplomatic system, as well as a network of agents.

The study of this complex institution is interesting not only in the case of missions to distant lands, but also in the European context and in particular in the context of the Balkans. Anything that was sent from Rome to one of the missionary centers in the inner areas of the Balkans—whether one is speaking of letters, money, devotional objects, books, or even missionaries themselves—had to travel through many different stations. In the case of Italy, these stations were the cities along the coast of the Adriatic Sea (Venice, Ancona, Loreto, and, towards the Albanian territories, Lecce). On the Tyrrhenian coast, Naples and Livorno were the important partner cities of the Propaganda Congregation.1

The nuncios themselves comprised part of the mediators who worked in the Italian cities. After 1622, the most important pastoral duty of the nunciature was to provide assistance for the missions of the Propaganda Congregation. At the same time, the nuncios who performed traditional diplomatic and political tasks in general did not have sufficient experience with the workings of the missions, nor for that matter were they adequately committed to the task. They also lacked the appropriate infrastructural and informational background in order to ensure effective oversight and organization of the spread of the faith.2 For this reason, the papal emissaries (thus the nuncio of Venice or Naples) sought colleagues already in Italy who in practice saw to these tasks for them. In Ancona, initially the governor and later the members of the Sturani family, who had resettled from Ragusa, maintained ties with the missions in the Balkans, while in Venice Marco Ginammi, who for decades was the most important publisher of “Illyrian” books (in other words Croatian and Bosnian books), was the most important agent of the Propaganda Congregation.3

Ragusa was the most important bridgehead on the other side of the Adriatic Sea, but Cattaro and to a lesser extent Perasto (today Perast) were also significant points when it came to trade with the Ottoman Empire. Ragusa and Cattaro differed both from the perspective of the political situations of the two centers and their economic ties, and because of these differences each city participated differently in the organization of the missions. As a tributary of the Ottoman Empire, Ragusa was effectively an independent city-state with a relatively broad scope of action in foreign affairs. In contrast, after a brief period of independence, as of 1420 Cattaro was under Venetian rule, and as the capital of Venetian Albania (Albania Veneta), it became an important strategic base, situated near the Ottoman Empire and the coastal routes between the Levant and the northern Adriatic. In the case of Ragusa, commercial ties and in particular the network of colonies and mercantile settlements provided the necessary background. Cattaro was able to participate actively in the missionary work in the Balkans because of its essential role in the Venetian postal service. The geographical position and traditional political network of the two cities strongly influenced the direction and range of the mediatory roles of Ragusa and Cattaro in the Balkans. Ragusa primarily served as a mediatory with Bosnia, Serbia, Bulgaria, and to a smaller extent Albania, as well as parts of Hungary that were occupied by the Ottomans. Cattaro mainly provided support for the work of missionaries in Montenegro and Albania.4

Cattaro between Two Worlds

In the course of the history of the region, Cattaro and the surrounding area, including the bay of Cattaro (Bocche di Cattaro, Boka Kotorska), shared the fate of the other territories along the southeastern coast of the Adriatic. After almost 500 years (with some interruptions) of Byzantine rule, it recognized the authority of the Dioclea-Zeta rulers and then the Serbian Nemanjić dynasty (1186–1371).5 From the death of Stephen Dušan tsar of Serbia in 1355 to 1420, Cattaro existed essentially as an independent city-state. At the beginning of the fifteenth century, the city sought the patronage of Venice (which was expanding the sphere of its influence into Dalmatia) several times, but the Venetian Republic only accepted the offer in 1420. Until the fall of the city state in 1797, it remained under Venetian authority, though it maintained complete autonomy in internal affairs.6 Venetian Albania (Albania Veneta) was created as an administrative unit in the second half of the fifteenth century. It extended from Cattaro to Alessio (Lješ, Lezhë) in Albania, but following the occupation of the cities lying on the shore of Albania and southern Montenegro by the Ottoman Empire, it essentially was limited to the territory around the bay of Cattaro.7 From a Venetian perspective, the Cattaro-bay essentially was the gate to the Levant and a tool with which to isolate Ragusa economically.8 In the course of the seventeenth century, Cattaro became increasingly significant from a military and commercial perspective, first and foremost in the course of the struggles with the pirates of Dulcigno and Castelnuovo and the Ottomans. This gave the city a great sense of self-importance. Its inhabitants were convinced (correctly) that their city ensured the position of Venice in the southern parts of the Adriatic.9

As of the Middle Ages, Cattaro was a bastion of Western Christianity in the Catholic-Orthodox and later Catholic–Muslim borderlands. It was therefore home to a rich system of sacral institutions. Given the city’s strong sense of Catholic identity, like Ragusa it also had a strong sense of commitment to the spread of the faith through the work of missionaries, which in the case of Cattaro found expression first and foremost in opposition to the Eastern Orthodox Church.10 Given the geographical position of the city and its economic and strategic position (which grew stronger under Serb rule), as of the Middle Ages it had close ties to the rest of the Balkan Peninsula. Merchants from Cattaro monitored most of the trade with Serbia, and many patricians held important offices in the Serbian royal court. Merchants from Cattaro founded their own colonies in the more important Serbian mining and trading centers, and like the merchants of Ragusa, they developed a significant trade network in the Balkans and throughout the Mediterranean Sea.11

When Serb rule came to an end, during the decades of anarchy in the southwestern Balkans the economic circumstances were nowhere near as favorable as they had been. Cattaro was largely driven out of trade in the Balkans, and the city turned to trade along and across the Adriatic Sea. However, this did not mean that the city broke its ties to the Montenegrin hinterland. Under Ottoman Occupation, Montenegro became part of the Sanjak of Scutari. In the course of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, it won an increasing degree of independence within the framework of Ottoman rule.12 The wealthy merchants from Cattaro maintained close economic ties to the Montenegrin tribes. Ships from Cattaro, Perasto, and Perzagno (today Prčanj) brought agricultural produce from Montenegro and Albanian and Greek territories to Venice and other ports on the Adriatic Sea, and caravans bearing Italian textiles and industrial products departed from the coastal cities to communities in the mountains. The trade of goods constituted a significant source of wealth both for the tribal leaders and the merchants of Cattaro. During the two major wars of the seventeenth century between Venice and the Ottoman Empire, these relationships had important political and military consequences.13

The fact that Cattaro belonged to the Serbian state and that merchants from Cattaro settled in the Balkans had a consequence that was interesting from the perspective of canon law. When the city was under Serbian rule (towards the end of the thirteenth century), the bishops of Cattaro acquired jurisdiction over the Catholic parishes in Serbia. They strove to maintain this jurisdiction later, when the city became independent and when it came under the rule of Venice, but with the occupation of much of the Balkans by the Ottoman Empire they lost it. The Catholic parishes continued to function with support from Ragusa and under the authority of the archbishop of Antivari, while the bishops of Cattaro found compensation for the loss of their positions in the Balkans in efforts to convert the local and the Montenegrin-Serb Orthodox communities.14

The Center of Postal Service between Venice and Istanbul

Cattaro did not lose its Balkan orientation, even following the weakening of economic ties and the loss of its episcopal jurisdiction. Rather, in the sixteenth century it grew with the addition of a completely new element. The city served as a natural point of departure for Venice towards the Balkans, and because of this, from 1535 to 1786 Cattaro became the center of Venice’s postal service to Istanbul and the center of Venice’s ties to its baylo in Istanbul.15 In 1578, the senate concluded a contract with Zuanne (Giovanni) Bolizza, a representative of the Bolizza family, one of the most important noble families of Cattaro, and his siblings. According to the agreement, the Bolizza family was obliged to maintain four boats each of which was to be manned by a crew of eight and also an unspecified number of couriers. The boats could not be used to ship goods or merchandise, only letters. They also had to pay three Montenegrin tribal leaders, who would accompany and protect the couriers in the course of the dangerous parts of a journey.16

In the fifteenth century, the Bolizza (or Bolica) family became one of the most important mercantile and seafaring dynasties of the bay of Cattaro. The family played an important role in the exchange of goods in the Balkans and on the Adriatic Sea. In addition, in the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries several members of the family gained prominence as ecclesiastical writers and scholars who had completed university studies. At the beginning of the seventeenth century, Zuanne’s son Francesco took over supervision of the postal service. His work met with the full approval of his Venetian commissioners. And of course he too did not fare poorly. According to a report made in 1627 by rector Pietro Morosini, Francesco set aside no small fortune by changing the money that was sent from Venice.17 He was involved in trade in the Balkans in several ways. In addition to his diplomatic post, the courier service run by him ensured continuous business correspondence, and as a representative of Venice he maintained close ties to people in the Ottoman Empire and in particular in neighboring Montenegro, ties of which he clearly made use in his business dealings.18 The fact that three members of the family, Francesco, Vincenzo, and Nicolo, became Knights of the Order of Saint Mark indicates the importance of the family and its close ties to powerful circles in Venice.19

The parameters of the postal service organized by the Bolizza family are relatively clearly documented. The stops in the trip from Cattaro to Istanbul are listed in a famous report of 1614 by Mariano Bolizza (in all likelihood he was also one of Zuanne’s sons).20 It is worth noting the details of this journey, which was of considerable importance from the perspective of Venice’s communication with the Balkans, because the monograph by Stéphane Yerasimos, which examines the travelers and the conditions of travel within the Ottoman Empire and is regarded as authoritative among historians, is rich with detail regarding the routes to Ragusa and Vienna, but hardly mentions Cattaro as an important destination.21 Shipments departed from Cattaro to Istanbul twice a month. Following the arrival of the boats from Venice, a courier delivered letters to the Montenegrin villages next to Cattaro, from where mailmen who had been taken into service took them (usually by twos) to their final destinations. In Montenegro, escorts who had been entrusted with the task by the tribal leaders took the couriers to Plav. From Plav on, the route was no longer dangerous. In general it took roughly a month for a letter to reach its final destination, some 10–12 days on the sea and 18–22 on land.

The Perspectives for the Foundation of a Jesuit College in the Balkans

The possibility of establishing missions to the Balkans first came up when plans were made to settle Jesuits in Cattaro. Local and Italian churchmen began to consider the advantages of the city as a possible center for Catholic missions departing for the inner areas of the Ottoman Empire. In spite of the fact that the Jesuit order only succeeded in establishing a permanent mission in the Ottoman Empire in 1583, the Jesuits of the sixteenth century, who regarded the question of spreading the faith in broader, even global terms, always entertained visions of sending missions to the Ottoman Empire.22 In the sixteenth century, there was little real chance of launching missions to Ottoman lands from the Hungarian Kingdom. In contrast, given its pugnacious Catholicism and good relations with the Turks, the Republic of Ragusa, a kind of southern gate opening onto the Ottoman Empire, represented a much more promising base for missions to the Balkans.23 Like Ragusa, Cattaro was appealing to the Jesuits as a possible point of departure for missions. Under the leadership of Tommaso Raggio, the first three members of the order arrived in Cattaro in 1574 at the summons of bishop Paolo Bisanti. They worked in the city until 1578, to the great satisfaction of the churchgoers and the prelate. 24

In several letters, P. Raggio, the leader of the mission, reported to his superiors on the work that was being done in Cattaro and the possibilities of establishing a monastery. The long-term goal was clear: taking advantage of Cattaro’s relations to other communities in the Balkans, to organize missions to spread the faith that would depart from the city for Balkan territories under Ottoman rule. A few months after having arrived in Cattaro, Raggio proposed founding a college of twelve people, and he emphasized the favorable welcome and the support he had been given by the bishop and the rector. At the same time, in his view the question of real importance lay in the possibility of approaching Muslims, for on the basis of his personal experience, the “Turks” of Castelnuovo (today Herceg Novi) and its surroundings belonged to the same nation as the people of Cattaro, and they had been much more amicable with them than was typical, so Raggio thought that it might be possible to win their confidence.25 A more intensive orientation in the Balkans came two years later, when Raggio, having learned of the efforts of the vladika of Cetinje (the head of the Church in Montenegro until 1852) to enter in communion with the Pope of Rome, sought to travel with Teodoro Calompsi, the recently appointed bishop of Scutari, to Ottoman lands (to Scutari, Alessio, and Skopje) to meet with the vladika and the patriarch of İpek (today Peć) and discover what for him must have seemed a kind of promised land, in other words the Balkan peninsula. Cattaro’s commitment to the Jesuits did not wane, and so Raggio again proposed the foundation of a college, in support of which he cited three (in his view decisive) arguments. First and foremost, the lively interest of the people of Cattaro in questions of religion and education gave good reason to hope that there would be numerous devoted followers in the residence who would be well-suited for missions to Serbia. Second, the city was the last bastion of the Venetian territories in the east, so it was the best-suited for maintaining relations with Istanbul and all of Asia Minor. Finally, news of such developments in Cattaro would prompt the people of Ragusa to take similar steps and found a similar college, since, given the rivalry between the two cities, Ragusa could hardly stand by and watch as Cattaro, a poorer city, overtook them.26 Raggio wrote to his superiors of his plan for an itinerary through Skopje many times. He wrote a letter to the patriarch of İpek, Gerasim, who was a member of the Sokolović clan and thus a relative of Sokollu Mehmed Pasha. He sought to persuade Gerasim to enter a union with the Catholic Church. And by using his ties to the Turks of Cattaro, he sought to obtain a passport that would guarantee him complete freedom of movement.27

In 1578, the Jesuits left the city. The notion of founding a college was raised again roughly fifty years later by bishop Girolamo Bucchia, who governed the diocese for twenty-two years. In a letter addressed to Claudio Acquaviva, the new General, the prelate essentially repeated Raggio’s line of reasoning: Cattaro was distant from the other colleges of the Order, but at the same time its connections with Venice were excellent because of the role it played in the operation of the postal service, thus it could also be seen as quite nearby. In addition to the work that could be done in the city, the Jesuits would also be offered the possibility of converting the Orthodox Christians as far as Istanbul.28

From the perspective of this inquiry, the proposal that was put together by the bishop in May 1600 was the most interesting. In it, he requested the assistance, in the foundation of a Jesuit residence in Cattaro, of the short-lived Saint Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith (1599–1602), which was under the direction of Cardinal Giulio Antonio Santoro.29 The memorandum clearly mirrors the exciting interconnection of the anti-Ottoman military plans that characterised the papacy of Clement VIII (1592–1605) with the missions. The bishop again emphasized the strategic position of Cattaro from the perspective of traffic in the Balkans. A Jesuit residence in Cattaro could play a key role from the perspective of missions to the Balkans. It could function as an informational center of the Holy See while at the same time, because of the common language and the routes that led to other areas of the Balkans, the Jesuits would be able to work effectively in all of the parts of the peninsula occupied by the Ottomans. According to the Bishop, the Ottoman Empire was in a state of general political and military decline. The leaders oppressed both Muslims and Christians alike, the administration of justice was inefficient and ineffective, and thus in the event of an attack by Christian armies the Turks would join them. Because of the postal service, Cattaro was in daily contact with the Ottoman capital, and according to reports coming out of Istanbul, with a well-coordinated assault Christian armies, in unison with the Janissaries, could even capture the capital, or at least so the Bishop wrote. From this perspective, as a base for missionaries Cattaro would have tremendous significance, since following the recapture of conquered territories the priests waiting in ready on the border could immediately begin their efforts to systematically reconvert the Muslim and Orthodox population. According to Bucchia, who clearly feared possible competition from Protestants, the common people would accept whichever faith they heard first.

The Congregation entrusted Cardinal Bellarmino with the task of discussing plans concerning Cattaro with the General of the Jesuit Order. However, after this there is no further mention of the issue in the sources in Rome.30 On February 10, 1601, the Venetian senate forbade the rector in Cattaro to do anything in connection with the settling of Jesuits without an explicit decree from the senate, and it requested a thorough report on any steps that had already been taken and on the supporters of the Jesuits. The explanation for this caution on the part of Venice lies in its aversion to the Jesuit order, but more importantly in its fear of a possible link between the appearance of the Jesuit priests and the anti-Turk movements.31 Given the great cataclysms of the seventeenth century and the squalor and uncertainty that came in their wake, the notion of settling Jesuits in Cattaro was dropped entirely, but the experiences of the intensive gathering of information proved useful in the efforts of missionaries in the eighteenth century.

The Bolizza Family in the Service of the Propaganda Fide Congregation

The Mandate

Following the foundation of the Propaganda Fide Congregation, the institutionalization of the missions gained new momentum, and so the role of the gateways to the Ottoman Empire also became increasingly important. Ragusa was the most important of these gateways, but Cattaro was also an important link to Montenegro and northern Albania, with which the city traditionally maintained strong ties. In Cattaro, on the basis of the experience of previous decades, Francesco Bolizza, the director of the Istanbul postal service, seemed the most suitable person for this task.

In the course of the seventeenth century, four members of the Bolizza family worked as delegates of the Propaganda Congregation to the Balkans, precisely those four individuals who had managed the Venetian postal service in Cattaro and who had been made knights by Venice: Francesco, Vincenzo, Nicolo and Giovanni. In this essay, I examine the work and careers of the agents of the missions only up until the era of the wars of reconquest. I do not examine the work of Giovanni Bolizza, who was active during the Morean war (1684–99). There are no precise data concerning when they began their service. In a note written in 1644, Francesco Ingoli, the secretary of the Congregation, praised the work of Francesco Bolizza on behalf of the missions and claimed that he had established contact with the supreme authority of the missions in Rome some seventeen years earlier.32 At the same time, his name comes up in the records of the Propaganda Congregation (which survived almost in their entirety) in the course of 1636 and 1637 in connection with a possible union of the Paštrovići population, a coastal tribe in Montenegro, with the Pope of Rome.33 In the registry of the Congregation the first letter addressed to Bolizza was dated July 25, 1637. In the letter the cardinals thank him for the assistance he provided for the Franciscan mission to Albania and the help he gave to Francesco Leonardi (de Leonardis), the archdeacon of Traù (today Trogir), who was working to promote union.34 This suggests that over the course of almost a decade he occasionally provided support for the work of the missionaries in the Balkans. Following the foundation of the reformed Franciscan mission in northern Albania and the work of Francesco Leonardi in the Paštrovići district, this mandate became official. From then on, he served as the person responsible for the Congregation in the Balkans (responsale della Congregazione per l’Illyrico). He had an extremely complex array of duties, which primarily involved maintaining relations, protecting the missions, and to some degree also overseeing them.35

In 1653, Francesco died in Cattaro.36 His brother Vincenzo took his place in the coordination of the missions and the organization of the postal service. He is the only one whose official document of appointment survived. On August 24, 1654, he was appointed to serve in his brother’s place as the Balkan liaison of the Congregation and the protector of the Albanian missions (corresponsale della Sacra Congregazione de Propaganda Fide e procuratore delle missioni di Albania). He was granted all of the privileges and exemptions usually enjoyed by the officials of the Congregation.37 Vincenzo continued in his brother’s footsteps. He regularly reported on the work of the missions and he forwarded shipments and defended the missionaries during the difficult years of the Cretan War.38 He died on August 24, 1662, after having served for eight years.39

His nephew Nicolo, the son of Antonio Bolizza, presented himself to the Congregation immediately following his uncle’s death. He took over the tasks pertaining to the missions. He was helped in this by the fact that, like his uncle, he was named by Venice to serve as the overseer of the people living in the borderlands of the Ottoman Empire (sopraintendente alle genti di questa giurisditione fuori della città). He saw to unfinished affairs, forwarding the monies and shipments that had remained in his uncle’s care and making proposals regarding priests for the missions.40 No decision was taken, however, regarding the official appointment of a new agent, so after one year he addressed an official request to the Congregationthrough the Franciscan monk fra Marco di Lucca, that like his predecessors, he too be named Balkan commissary.41 But this never actually came to pass. The Franciscans and the Venetian nuncios supported him, the latter arguing that if Venice was satisfied with his oversight of the postal service then the Congregation could also entrust him with the task of providing assistance for the missions.42 However, Andrija Zmajević, the abbot of Perasto, whose views on Balkan affairs carried considerable weight in Rome, had a very poor opinion of him. He regarded him as a man of questionable morals who sought only to further his own interests and put politics ahead of religious questions, yet he felt Nicolo had to be treated with care, since, given the prestige he commanded, he could do a great deal to harm the missions if he were to turn against them. Zmajević therefore suggested that he should be used and thanked for his service, but never given an official appointment.43 So the Congregation allowed him to serve but never appointed him to any position, and thus ensured that he was not granted the usual privileges, honoring his service only with occasional thanks and some gifts of money.44

Church Union and the Coordination of the Franciscan Mission

Francesco Bolizza created the foundation of the family’s long-term mandate from Rome by accepting two important issues related to the missions: the movement for union in the southern territories of the Balkans and the provision of protection and assistance for the Albanian reformed Franciscan mission.45 The movement for Church union in the southwestern territories of the Balkans has been thoroughly dealt with by Croatian and Serbian historians,46 so I will limit myself here to mention of only of a few of the most important details. The Serbian population of the communities that were under rule of Venice and the authority of the archbishop of Antivari and the bishop of Cattaro were continuously joining the Catholic Church. The Paštrovići district (in other words the swath of land under Venetian rule stretching from Budva to Spič) was located in the borderlands of the spheres of interest of several centers of the Eastern Orthodox Church (Istanbul, İpek, and Venice, as the seat of the Orthodox archbishop of Philadelphia). Rome’s ambitions regarding expansion and union soon reached the peripheral area, the status of which, from the perspective of its ecclesiastical jurisdiction, was uncertain. Following the foundation of the Propaganda Congregation, these strivings gathered strength. As the actual proprietor of the area, however, Venice regarded the question of the Church union as marginal. Rome had the favor of the local officials at most, who were more or less eager in their support. The expert assessments of Fulgenzio Micanzio, the Servite monk who was also a theological counsellor for Venice, offer clear evidence of this. Micanzio, who was a colleague and successor of Paolo Sarpi and also a faithful adherent to Sarpi’s anti-Rome mentality, opposed the Church union, which in his view was theologically unfounded and politically dangerous. As an heir to Sarpi’s anti-curial views, Micanzio harshly criticized any endeavors by the Holy See in this direction.47

In 1636, Vincenzo Bucchia and missionary Serafin Mizerčić managed to unite the Orthodox villages of Paštrovići to Rome with the assistance, first and foremost, of Antonio Molin, the provveditore generale of Cattaro, and Francesco Bolizza. In the same year, the Congregation sent Francesco Leonardi, the archdeacon of Traù, to Paštrovići as a missionary to work in the recently united villages and strengthen their unity.48 Francesco Bolizza provided assistance to Leonardi from the outset, drawing primarily on the system of relationships in the Balkans and cooperation with the Ottoman authorities.49

Leonardi’s ambitions went well beyond the conversion of the village population, which amounted to little more than a few thousand people. He envisioned a union that would include first Montenegro and then all of Serbia. In his plans, he found a faithful supporter in Francesco Bolizza.50 In January 1638, the knight of Cattaro paid a visit as an emissary to the pasha of Bosnia. In the course of his return trip, he met with Mardarije, the vladika of Cetinje, whom he encouraged to enter in communion with the Catholic Church. Boliza’s and Leonardi’s schemes gave rise to the idea of Montenegrin Church union and the founding of a Montenegrin Franciscan mission.51 One year later, they invited Mardarije to Cattaro. They managed to convince him of the necessity of union. They hoped, by gaining his confidence and support, to influence Pajsije Janjevac, the patriarch of İpek (and thus all of Serbia) to unify with the Catholic Church. In 1639, Mardarije departed for Rome in order to convert to Catholicism, but because of the growing suspicions of the Ottomans, Bolizza persuaded him to abandon his travels, and so in 1640 instead of making the journey to Rome himself, he sent two Serbian monks, one of whom, Vizarion, was to become his successor, to the Eternal City under the guidance of Leonardi.52 Eventually Mardarije made his profession of faith in the Mahine (Majine) monastery (which was in Venetian territory), to which he retreated after having endured several months in Turkish captivity. In July, 1641, Bolizza and Leonardi traveled to Cetinje in order to settle the details of the trip to İpek with Mardarije and his assistant, Vizarion. After Leonardi made several unsuccessful attempts, in 1642 he managed to gain an audience with the patriarch (under the auspices of Bolizza and in the company of two monks), whom for months he attempted to convince of the need for union, though not surprisingly his efforts were in vain.53

Alongside the efforts to promote the Church union, the other primary front of the missions in the southwestern parts of the Balkans was the mission of reformed Franciscans in Albania. Francesco Bolizza played a key role in the organization and defense of this mission as well.54 In 1632, Giorgio Bianchi, the bishop of Sappa, met with Bonaventura Palazzolo, a reformed Franciscan missionary, in Rome. Earlier Palazzolo had worked in the Lucerne valley. Bianchi convinced him to continue his missionary work in Albania. At Bianchi’s request, in 1634 the Congregation founded the Albanian reformed Franciscan mission. The first missionaries arrived in Ragusa in early October. In December they continued to Albania. One year later, the Congregation named Palazzolo the prefect of the mission. By the end of the decade they had established two houses of worship on the territory of northern Albania.55 The creation of the legal and financial foundations of the mission were clearly the work of Francesco Bolizza. Taking advantage of his good relations with the Ottoman authorities, he managed to obtain a letter from the pasha of Bosnia guaranteeing the inviolability of the missionaries.56 He corresponded a great deal with the Congregation in order to obtain appropriate funding for the Franciscans. When necessary, he took them food, clothing, and other supplies at his own expense.57 The letters of the Ottoman military leaders of Scutari to Francesco Bolizza reveal that he regularly used his political and mercantile ties to intercede with the Ottoman officers in Albania in order to ensure the safety of the Franciscans.58 These letters also make clear that he was in close and regular contact with the captains, the sanjak-beys, the aghas, and the janissaries of Scutari, not only because of his role in the postal service but also because he was a mediating figure in the trade between the Ottoman officers and Venetian merchants.59

Nonetheless, the mission was one of the most dangerous in the parts of the Balkan Peninsula that were under Ottoman rule. Several Franciscans were martyred. In 1644, two highwaymen killed two friars, and over the course of the next few years the storms of the Cretan War swept away the achievements of the mission. Because of the anti-Turkish machinations of the Albanian Catholics and in particular the bishops, in February 1648 two missionaries and their assistant Giorgio Jubani (a secular priest) were impaled on the stake. With the exception of one friar, the others escaped to Cattaro with the help of Bolizza. Their residences of worship were destroyed by the Turks.60 They soon returned, however, and they not only rebuilt their former settlements, they also founded new residences.61 In 1675, there were eleven missionaries working at four different sites in Albania. In Cattaro they had theirs own hospitium, which provided lodging for traveling missionaries and a place of rest for the sick. The superior of the hospitium helped ensure the smooth operation of the missions.62 Following Francesco’s death, his two successors provided continuous support for the work of the Albanian Franciscans.63 Nicolo wrote a recommendatory letter in the interests of helping the Franciscans to the Ottoman commander of Alessio, Sinan Bey, who, in response to Nicolo’s prompting, provided them with protection and made it possible to renovate the missionary settlement of Pedena and found a settlement in Pulati.64 In 1663, he freed the missionary Francesco da Pedaccoli from Turkish captivity using his own money.65 Of the many services Francesco Bolizza rendered for the Propaganda Congregation, it was clearly the provision of assistance for the Albanian Franciscan mission that was valued most. As of 1637, every year Rome sent him a letter of thanks in which the cardinals expressed their gratitude for his support of this important cause.66

The Transmission of Correspondence and Shipments

One of the most important functions of the agent of the missions was to ensure that the various consignments were forwarded to the center in Rome and the territories where missionaries were active, which in the case of Cattaro meant Montenegro and Albania. The forwarding of letters between Rome and places in the interior of the Balkan Peninsula was a recurring topic of the agents’ correspondence (clearly this task fell on their shoulders because of the work they did with the organization of the postal service).67 By studying circles who sent and received these letters in the Balkans, we can gain some sense of the territorial range of the influence of the agents of the Cattaro missions. Missionaries who were active around the city and along the southern seashore (in the areas around Grbalj, Luštica, Paštrovići, Budva and Antivari) turned as a matter of fact to the Bolizza family for assistance,68 but sometimes even letters from or to distant parts of Dalmatia, such as Traù, went through Cattaro.69 Most often the letters were sent to the reformed Franciscans in Albania and the Albanian bishops. Almost all of their correspondence went through Cattaro.70 The Bolizza family also handled correspondence between the Orthodox monks of Montenegro, Catholic missionaries, and Rome. 71

Letters to destinations in the inner parts of the Balkan Peninsula were sent on in part with couriers or occasional messengers who took postal deliveries to Istanbul and in part with the missionaries themselves.72 The Venetian nuncio had relatively little influence over the organization of the Balkan missions,73 but given Cattaro’s strategic position, he played an important role as a link to the former territories of Albania Veneta.74 He had a say in the selection of the bishops who served in the missions and the organization of the apostolic visitations, and he provided missionaries who were passing through with lodging. He also gathered information regarding the territories where the missionaries were active and had letters, provisions, and devotional objects forwarded to the Balkans.75 The other route was between Ragusa and Ancona. The trip to Venice involved a significant detour, so the Cattaro agents often explicitly requested that mail from Rome be sent by the shorter and therefore frequently more secure route from Ancona.76

In addition to letters, the agents often sent money to the missionaries and bishops. Giovanni Domenico Verusio, the procurator of the Balkan missionaries, accepted the provisions that were sent by the Propaganda Congregation and sent a receipt to Cattaro via Venice or Ancona and Ragusa. The Cattaro agents paid the missionaries directly on the basis of bills of exchange using the monies that had been entrusted to them by the Congregation or they forwarded the sums to the places where the missionaries were active. They then sent the receipts confirming payment back to Rome.77 In 1659, Vincenzo Bolizza sent the Propaganda Congregation the statements of accounts concerning the payments that had been made to the Albanian Franciscans between 1650 and 1658.78 The statements indicate the nature of the payments. Most of the receipts concern the general supplies that were provided for the missionaries, but monies were sent to the missions for many other purposes as well, including payment of ransoms for people who had been taken captive and wages for the captains who accompanied the missionaries on their travels, the people who carried their baggage, and their armed escorts. One could also mention the costs of travel on the open seas and the purchase of Turkish clothes for the missionaries.79

Information, Proposals, and Recommendations Concerning the Missions

In addition to the roles they played in the delivery of both goods and people, the most important task of the agents was to provide information regarding the missions. In general they did this continuously, but at times they also responded to concrete requests of the Congregation. In almost all of their letters, the members of the Bolizza family included reports on the work of the missions, including details regarding the arrival of missionaries, their travels, their achievements, and their failures. They also mentioned the dangers that threatened the missions and, in some cases, the liquidation of a mission. Clearly no one in the area had more knowledge of the Albanian and Montenegrin missions than their “father,” Francesco Bolizza. Francesco not only sent information to Rome regarding individual cases, in 1649 he submitted a comprehensive report in which he described the undertakings that were under the supervision of the city of Cattaro.80 In this report he clearly outlines his vision concerning the possibilities for spreading the faith in the southern parts of the Balkans. He regarded the work of the reformed Franciscans in Albania as the most valuable enterprise, and he was saddened that the mission had been temporarily liquidated. He also considered the efforts that had been made in the interests of Church union important, but he clearly recognized the limitations: the priests who had been sent by the Congregation worked to great effect in the city and the surrounding Venetian territories, but given the threats of conflict and war they were unable to make headway into the Ottoman Empire. He regarded the idea of appointing the priests of Cattaro missionaries as similarly nonsensical, since they were obliged, as recipients of prebendal and parochial remuneration, to reside in the city and therefore could not go on missions. And indeed they did not go on missions, but rather merely regarded commissions given by the Propaganda Congregation as supplementary pay. On the basis of his first-hand knowledge of the area, Francesco Bolizza described the areas where the missionaries were active, and he included a sketch of the area that he himself had done and also a map of the missions in the southern Balkans that had been made by a cartographer from Ragusa.81

The protection and administration of the missions, the continuous need to address tasks pertaining to life within the missions and questions of subordination and discipline, and the importance of providing information for the supreme authorities of the missions and in some cases cooperating in the enforcement of decisions were all factors that significantly increased the importance of the roles of the agents in the life of the missions. Many times the question of the extension of the mandate of a missionary depended on them, as did the appointment or transfer of a bishop. Because of the prestige he commanded in the eyes of important figures of power in the Balkans (the heads of tribes and Ottoman leaders), Francesco Bolizza in a sense became the leader and coordinator of the missions for which Cattaro was the center. He strove to ease the rivalry between local figures of the Church in Albania and the Italian Franciscans, and he attempted to mollify the strife between the Albanian bishops.82 He saw the unlimited rise in the number of bishops and missionaries as one of the causes of discord, and he believed that a smaller number of priests would be able to work more effectively and with less conflict.83 The career of a missionary in the southern part of the Balkans depended to a great extent on his relationship with the Bolizza family, and the recommendations of the agents were always regarded with favor in Rome.84

The supreme authority of the missions often sought Francesco Bolizza’s advice when it was time to choose someone to serve as bishop in the region. His greatest triumph in this regard was the appointment of his close colleague Francesco Leonardi. Thanks in large part to his influence, in 1644 the Propaganda Congregation transferred Giorgio Bianchi, the archbishop of Antivari, to the bishopric of Sappa and appointed Leonardi in his place.85 After Leonardi’s death, Francesco recommended fra Gregorio Romano, who was working in Albania, for the post, first and foremost because of his familiarity with the local conditions.86 This time, however, he did not prevail. The pope appointed Giuseppe Maria Buonaldi, a Dalmatian Dominican, instead. Buonaldi proved a poor choice, however, in part because he did not speak the local language nor was he familiar with local customs. Francesco Bolizza repeatedly informed the Congregation of the details of Buonaldi’s failures. A foreigner to the area, he was hated by his followers and eventually had to leave the diocese. He died in Budva in 1652.87 Francesco Bolizza recommended other people who enjoyed his favor for various positions in the Church hierarchy. For instance, he suggested Andrea Bogdani and Giorgio Vladagni as candidates for the Ochrida archbishopric,88 Giorgio Uscovich for the bishopric of Sappa,89 and Giovanni Battuta for the position as vicar of Budva.90

Francesco’s successors, Vincenzo and Nicolo, played considerably smaller roles in the formation of the Church hierarchy in the Balkans and the organization of the missions. Following in his brother’s footsteps, Nicolo fought primarily against attempts to make missionaries out of the canons of Cattaro. In the wake of the Cretan War, Giovanni Antonio Sborovacio, the bishop of Cattaro, sent two of his canons, Luca Bolizza and Giovanni Pasquali, to work as missionaries among the Serbs who were flooding into the territory of the diocese.91 According to Nicolo, however, the canons were interested only in the allowance provided to missionaries, and only in their imaginations did they journey to territories where there was need of missionaries.92 In October 1662, he recommended Miho Bratošević, a priest from Ragusa who had excellent command of the local language, as a candidate to serve as a missionary among the Orthodox of Luštica and Kartoli. He asked that the Congregation provide an annual income of 25 scudo.93 According to Andrija Zmajević, however, Nicolo supported Bratošević only because it was in his own interests, for Bratošević dwelt in Nicolo’s home and helped him write letters in Serbian, and Nicolo hoped simply to use the funds given by the Congregation in order to provide wages for his own personal translator.94

Advantages for the Agents

Finally, one might well raise the question, of what use was all this to the agents? Why did they accept these tasks, which required a great deal of work and put considerable responsibilities on their shoulders? Clearly this position, like the service of a cardinal or of the Holy Office, gave one influence in a network of connections.95 The political and social prestige of the position alone made it worthwhile to serve as a representative of the Propaganda Congregation in the Balkans, for it added Rome to the Venetian and Balkan network, and this drastically increased the influence and importance of the Bolizza family. It is no coincidence that all three of the Bolizza brothers clung tenaciously to the position, and they strove to ensure the favor of the men they had to thank for it, primarily cardinal-prefect Antonio Barberini, by rendering faithful service and offering gifts, first and foremost fine caviar (bottarga) from the Scutari lake.96 In return, Barberini gave them medals and pictures.97

Francesco Bolizza strove to take advantage of his privileged position not only in the interests of the missions, but also in his own personal interests. In 1647, he requested exemption from the prohibition of marriage among relatives for the children of patricians of Cattaro, including his own daughter. On the basis of a city decree, a member of the nobility could only marry another member of the nobility, but of the forty families that had been in the city at the time of the passage of the law in 1412, only twelve remained.98 Bolizza sought to win admittance to the Collegio Urbano for his illegitimate child, but as the boy had not reached the required age, he had to send him to a boarding school, but the Congregation paid the costs as an expression of gratitude for Bolizza’s service.99 He also turned to the Congregation on several occasions for church indulgences. In 1638, he was granted the grace of a privileged altar, though at the same time the cardinals suggested that he rethink the plans for the construction of a church in the Cattaro garden. They felt he should found a seminary in the palace instead for 24 Dalmatian pupils, thereby solving serious problems that were arising because of the lack of a theological institute in Dalmatia. Had he done this, the pope would have granted the seminary and its church every necessary privilege.100

Because of their dual mandates, by the middle of the seventeenth century the members of the Bolizza family had become the most important political figures in Cattaro. During the Cretan War they played roles that were of decisive importance from military and diplomatic perspectives, and the leaders of the Montenegrin, Hercegovinian, and northern Albanian tribes considered Francesco and Vincenzo Bolizza their most important negotiating partners on the side of Venice (with the exception of the Cattaro rector).101 As early as the late 1630s, Francesco Bolizza had established contact with the leaders of the Montenegrin and Albanian tribes, which were rising up against the Ottoman authorities because of extraordinary taxes. These leaders offered to help Venice in the event of an attack launched by Christian forces against the Ottoman empire.102 As of the early seventeenth century, the military leader of the Montenegrin tribes was the vladika. During the prelacy of Ruvim II. Boljević (1593–1636), the monastery of Cetinje became the center of the struggle against the Turks in Montenegro. His successor, Mardarije, continued in his footsteps, as he was a strong supporter of Church union.103 Following the outbreak of the Cretan War, Francesco Bolizza was the number-one mediator between Venice and the Balkan tribal leaders. The initial fervor of anti-Ottoman sentiment among the tribes soon began to flag after they gained first-hand experience of Venice’s defensive strategy and modest military presence, so they did not risk openly turning against the Ottomans. An excellent example of this is the undertaking in 1649 that targeted the taking of Podgorica. The some 300 Venetian troops who marched against the city under the leadership of the Ochrida archbishop, the bishop of Sappa, and Vincenzo Bolizza, were joined only by a small group of people from the Kuçi tribe, and the undertaking accordingly failed. It became clear that Venice was not able to achieve any lasting military victories in Montenegrin territories. The leaders of the tribes continuously urged Francesco Bolizza to induce Venice to play a more active military role, in vain.104 Influenced by their disappointments, in the 1650s the Montenegrin tribes temporarily drew closer to the Ottomans.105 But instances of minor tensions notwithstanding, Francesco and Vincenzo Bolizza maintained the trust of the tribal leaders and in particular the leaders of the Kuči and the Klimenti (Këlmëndi) tribes, who regularly informed them about Ottoman troop movements and continuously complained about the increasing tax burdens and the destruction wreaked by the Ottomans. The tribal leaders also repeatedly assured them of their faithfulness to Venice, and sometimes they even prevented incursions by Turkish troops into Venetian territories.106

The Bolizza brothers were in constant contact with the two most prominent Ottoman leaders of the region, Çengizade (Čengić) Ali, sanjak-bey of Hercegovina, and Jusufbegović, sanjak-bey of Scutari. Both were Bosnian aristocrats typical of the Venetian–Ottoman borderlands who kept their own dynastic interests in mind and maintained good relations with Venice, executing the orders of the Porte with measured enthusiasm and generally more concerned about their profits from trade with Venice than the glories of military conquest.107 These relations were sometimes important sources of a wealth of information. Vincenzo Bolizza was almost a “spy-master” for Venice in the southern territories of the Balkans.108 For instance, in 1657 he acquired knowledge of the plans for a Turkish attack against Cattaro months before the actual assault.109 Following the attacks against the coastal regions and primarily the siege of Cattaro in 1657, the Venetian authorities expelled the Montenegrin tradesmen (and in particular the tradesmen from Podgorica) from the cities under their rule, first and foremost from Cattaro. Again Bolizza interceded on their behalf. Following the fiasco in Cattaro, the Montenegrin tribes no longer joined forces with the Ottomans. Instead, largely as a consequence of Vincenzo Bolizza’s mediation, in 1600 they entered a formal alliance with Venice.110 In the last years of the war, the biggest problems were caused by the ravages of marauding pirates, Hajduks, and Uskoks. Vincenzo and Nicolo Bolizza labored tirelessly to try to mitigate their impact on the lives of the people of Cattaro.111


This overview demonstrates quite clearly that alongside Ragusa, Cattaro was the most important bridgehead on the east coast of the Adriatic, looking towards the Ottoman Empire. This had important economic and political consequences, but it was also important from the perspective of the Church. In the Middle Ages, Cattaro developed important ties with the communities in the interior of the peninsula. In the early Modern Era, its strategic importance grew primarily because of the role it played in the organization of the postal service. For the missions that departed from Rome for the southern territories of the Balkans, as of the end of the sixteenth century Cattaro, which was under Venetian rule, was the primary base, as is clearly illustrated by the attempt (in the end unsuccessful) to settle Jesuits and the mandates of the Bolizza family, which oversaw the functioning of the postal service.

The basic tasks of the members of the Bolizza family who served as commissaries of the missions remained essentially the same over the course of decades, as did their geographical range. However, their significance changed dramatically, depending on shifts in the emphasis on the practice of spreading the faith and the prevailing political and military situation. Clearly Francesco was the most influential and striking figure, in part simply because of his personality and in part because of the enormity of the tasks that awaited him and the economic trend caused by the Cretan War. Vincenzo was given a role in the organization of relations in the Balkans, even while his brother was still alive, and in his work as an agent in the second period of the war he followed closely in his brother’s footsteps, although in all likelihood he was not as resolved a personality. Nicolo, in contrast, was only given a role towards the end of the war, when the family no longer enjoyed quite the same wealth of connections as it once had. The critical accusations made by abbot Zmajević can perhaps be explained not only as perceptions of actual moral failings but as part of an effort to force laymen out of the organization of missions. The turning point came after the outbreak of the Morean War: Nicolo’s brother and successor, Giovanni di Antonio Bolizza, again was given an important military and political role, first and foremost in the organization of anti-Turkish movements. As a consequence of this, the Propaganda Congregation came to value his services more highly.112

Archival Sources

Archivio Segreto Vaticano (Città del Vaticano)

Archivum Arcis, Armaria I–XVIII

Congregazione del Concilio, Relationes Dioecesium

Archivio storico della Sacra Congregazione per l’Evangelizzazione dei Popoli o de “Propaganda Fide” (Rome)

Acta Sacrae Congregationis

Lettere e Decreti della Sacra Congregazione

Scritture Originali riferite nelle Congregazioni Generali

Scritture riferite nei Congressi



Fondo di Vienna

Miscellanee Diverse

Archivum Romanum Societatis Iesu (Rome)


Epistulae Externorum


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Translated by Thomas Cooper

1 To this day there is no general presentation of the institutional structure of mediation. Even the monumental historical work that was published on the occasion of the 350th anniversary of the founding of the Propaganda Fide Congregation devotes little attention to the topic: Sacrae Congregationis de Propaganda Fide Memoria Rerum. (350 anni a servizio delle missioni 1622–1972), vols. I/1–III/2, ed. Josef Metzler (Rome–Freiburg–Vienna: Herder, 1971–1973).

2 Giovanni Pizzorusso, “«Per servitio della Sacra Congregatione de Propaganda Fide»: i nunzi apostolici e le missioni tra centralità romana e chiesa universale (1622–1660),” Cheiron 15, no. 30 (1998): 201–27. For more on the bitter complaints of Viennese nuncio Mario Alberizzi regarding the difficulties of maintaining relations with the missionaries, see Archivio storico della Sacra Congregazione per l’Evangelizzazione dei Popoli o de “Propaganda Fide” (hereinafter APF), Scritture riferite nei Congressi (hereinafter SC) Ministri, vol. 1, fol. 143r–144r.

3 Antal Molnár, Le Saint-Siège, Raguse et les missions catholiques de la Hongrie Ottomane 1572–1647. Bibliotheca Academiae Hungariae – Roma. Studia I (Rome–Budapest: Accademia d’Ungheria in Roma, 2007), 336–37.

4 Antal Molnár, “Baluardi mediterranei del cattolicesimo sul confine d’Europa: Ragusa e Cattaro tra missioni romane, politica veneziana e realtà balcaniche,” in Papato e politica internazionale nella prima età moderna. I libri di Viella 153, ed. Maria Antonietta Visceglia (Rome: Viella, 2013), 363–72.

5 The most recent overview of the history of the territory of what today is Montenegro: Antun Sbutega, Storia del Montenegro. Dalle origini ai nostri giorni (Soveria Mannelli: Rubbettino, 2006). For considerable data on the Middle Ages: Giuseppe Gelcich, Memorie storiche sulle Bocche di Cattaro (Zara: G. Woditzka, 1880). For more on the history of Cattaro and Albania Veneta in the early Modern Era in a broad context: Josip Vrandečić and Miroslav Bertoša, Dalmacija, Dubrovnik i Istra u ranome novom vijeku. Hrvatska povijest u ranome novom vijeku 3 (Zagreb: Leykam international, 2007). The most thorough studies of the history of Cattaro in the late Middle Ages and the early Modern Era: Pavao Butorac, Kotor za samovlade (1355–1420) (Perast: Gospa od Škrpjela, 1999); Idem, Boka Kotorska u 17. i 18. stoljeću. Politički pregled (Perast: Gospa od Škrpjela, 2000). Unfortunately, I was unable to consult an older study of the history of Cattaro under Venetian rule: Antun St. Dabinović, Kotor pod Mletačkom Republikom (Zagreb: Union, 1934). Two recently published collections of essays on the cultural history of the bay of Cattaro are worthy of mention here: Miloš Milošević, Pomorski trgovci, ratnici i mecene. Studije o Boki Kotorskoj XV–XIX. stoljeća (Belgrade–Podgorica: CID–Equilibrium, 2003); Lovorka Čoralić, Iz prošlosti Boke (Samobor: Meridijani, 2007).

6 On the administration of Dalmatia Veneta see the studies by Ivan Pederin, which are rich with data: Ivan Pederin, “Die venezianische Verwaltung Dalmatiens und ihre Organe (XV. und XVI. Jahrhundert),” Studi Veneziani, n. s. 12 (1986): 99–163; Idem, “Die venezianische Verwaltung, die Innen- und Aussenpolitik in Dalmatien (XVI. bis XVIII. Jh.),” Studi Veneziani, n.s. 15 (1988): 173–250; Idem, “Die wichtigen Ämter der venezianischen Verwaltung in Dalmatien und der Einfluss venezianischer Organe auf die Zustände in Dalmatien,” Studi Veneziani, n.s. 20 (1990): 303–55. Summarizing: Benjamin Arbel, “Colonie d’oltremare,” in Storia di Venezia dalle origini alla caduta della Serenissima, vol. 5, Il rinascimento. Società ed economia, ed. Alberto Tenenti and Ugo Tucci (Rome: Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana, 1996), 947–85, 971–74.

7 An exemplary monograph on the history of Albania Veneta in the Middle Ages: Oliver Jens Schmitt, Das venezianische Albanien (1392–1479). Südosteuropäische Arbeiten 110 (Munich: Oldenbourg Verlag, 2001). An overview of the Venetian presence and influence in Montenegro and Albania: Saggi di Bruno Crevato-Selvaggi, Jovan J. Martinović, Daniele Sferra, Caterina Schiavo, and Pëllumb Xhufi, L’Albania Veneta. La Serenissima e le sue popolazioni nel cuore dei Balcani, Patrimonio Veneto nel Meditarraneo 6 (Milan: Biblion, 2012). For more on the administation of the region of the southern Adriatic Sea, see the study by Bruno Crevato-Selvaggi, Fonti per la storia dell’Albania veneta, ibid., 69–110, 70–76.

8 The most recent overview of Venice’s expansion into the Levant: Giuseppe Gullino, “Le frontière navali,” in Storia di Venezia dalle origini alla caduta della Serenissima, vol. 4, Il rinascimento. Politica e cultura, ed. Alberto Tenenti and Ugo Tucci (Rome: Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana, 1996), 13–111. On the influence of the wars between Venice and the Ottoman Empire on the region see: Marko Jačov, “Le guerre Veneto-Turche del XVII secolo in Dalmazia,” Atti e memorie della Società Dalmata di Storia Patria 20 (1991): 9–145, and in particular 46–48, 89–93, 121–26.

9 In his ad limina report of 1592, bishop of Cattaro Girolamo Bucchia characterized his role in the borderlands in the following way: “[Catharus] … antemurale ipsius Italiae quodammodo esse videtur.” Archivio Segreto Vaticano (hereinafter ASV) Congregazione del Concilio, Relationes Dioecesium, vol. 208, fol. 2r.

10 A work that remains useful to this day and is rich with data on the history of the diocese of Cattaro in the Middle Ages and the Early Modern Era: Daniel Farlatus, Illyricum Sacrum, vol. 6, (Venice: Sebastianus Coleti, 1800), 421–518. An excellent short overview: Slavko Kovačić, “Kotorska biskupija – Biskupska sjedišta u Boki kotorskoj u daljoj prošlosti,” in Zagovori svetom Tripunu. Blago kotorske biskupije povodom 1200. obljetnice prijenosa moći svetoga Tripuna u Kotor. Katalog izložbe, ed. Radoslav Tomić (Zagreb: Galerija Klovićevi dvori, 2009), 22–37. A monograph of exemplary thoroughness on the history of the bishopric in the late Middle Ages: Lenka Blehova Čelebić, Hrišćanstvo u Boki 1200–1500. Kotorski distrikt (Podgorica: Pobjeda–Narodni muzej Crne Gore–Istorijski institut Crne Gore, 2006). With short interruptions, from 1172 to 1828 the bishop of the city was the suffragan of the archbishop of Bari in southern Italy. Francesco Sforza, Bari e Kotor. Un singolare caso di rapporti tra le due sponde adriatiche (Bari: Cassano, 1975); Giorgio Fedalto, “Sulla dipendenza del vescovado di Cattaro dall’arcivescovo di Bari nei secoli XI e XII,” Rivista di Storia della Chiesa in Italia 30 (1976): 73–80.

11 Sbutega, Storia del Montenegro, 44–116 passim. A study rich with detail on Cattaro’s trade with Dalmatia and the Balkans in the Middle Ages: Jovan J. Martinović, “Trgovački odnosi Kotora sa susjednim gradovima u prvoj polovini XIV. v.,” Godišnjak Pomorskog muzeja u Kotoru 51 (2003): 5–185, 77–84.

12 Sbutega, Storia del Montenegro, 116–49. Historiography in the nineteenth century and the early twentieth century tended to emphasize Montenegro’s independence within the Ottoman Empire. However, following the publication of Branislav Đurđev’s doctoral dissertation, which is based on Ottoman sources, Yugoslav historians reconsidered these formerly accepted conclusions in the course of heated debates. Branislav Đurđev, Turska vlast u Crnoj Gori u XVI. i XVII. vijeku. Prilog jednom nerešenom pitanju iz naše istorije (Sarajevo: Svjetlost, 1953). On the historiography of the debates, see: Bogumil Hrabak, “Posleratna istoriografija o Crnoj Gori od kraja XV do kraja XVIII veka i udeo Istorijskih zapisa u njoj,” Istorijski zapisi 33 (1980–84): 5–29, 11–15. Đurđev has also studied and written on the tribal development of Montenegro under Ottoman rule: Branislav Đurđev, Postanak i razvitak brdskih, crnogorskih i hercegovačkih plemena (Titograd: Crnogorska akademija nauka i umjetnosti, 1984).

13 Sbutega, Storia del Montenegro, 125, 140, 159.

14 Two superb studies examine the history of the authority of the Cattaro bishops in the Balkans: Ivan Božić, “O jurisdikciji kotorske dijeceze u srednjovekovnoj Srbiji,” in idem, Nemirno pomorje XV veka (Belgrade: Srpska književna zadruga, 1979), 15–27; Blehova Čelebić, Hrišćanstvo u Boki, 183–88.

15 For a thorough presentation of the postal service between Venice and Istanbul and the role of Cattaro, see: Luciano De Zanche, Tra Costantinopoli e Venezia. Dispacci di Stato e lettere di mercanti dal Basso Medioevo alla caduta della Serenissima. Quaderni di Storia Postale 25 (Prato: Istituto di Studi Storici Postali, 2000). For a short summary, see: Idem, “I vettori dei dispacci diplomatici veneziani da e per Costantinopoli,” Archivio per la Storia Postale 1/2 (1999): 19–43, 25–38.

16 De Zanche, Tra Costantinopoli e Venezia, 53–54.

17 Ibid., 56.

18 On the Bolizza family see the studies by Lovorka Čoralićnak cited in the footnote below.

19 An old and poor overview of the history of the order: Ricciotti Bratti, “I cavalieri di S. Marco,” Nuovo Archivio Veneto 16 (1898): 321–43. On the knights of Cattaro see: Lovorka Čoralić, “Kotorski plemići iz roda Bolica – kavaljeri Svetoga Marka,” Povijesni prilozi 31 (2006): 149–59; Idem, “Bokeljski patriciji u mletačkoj vojnoj službi – cavalieri di San Marco,” Acta Histriae 16 (2008): 137–54.

20 Šime Ljubić, “Marijana Bolice Kotoranina Opis Sanžakata Skadarskoga od godine 1614,” Starine JAZU 12 (1880): 164–205, 186–89. A more recent publication of the account, without mention of Ljubić’s publication: Rossana Vitale d’Alberton, “La relazione del sangiaccato di Scutari, un devoto tributo letterario alla Serenissima da parte di un fedele suddito Cattarino,” Studi Veneziani, n. s.o 46 (2003): 313–40, 334–36. On the reconstruction of the route, see the supplementary map. It is often difficult and sometimes impossible to identify the place names used by Mariano Bolizza. On this, see the writings that address the account from the perspective of the history of the postal service: Velimir Sokol, “Jedan suvremeni izvještaj o Crnogorcima u kurirskoj službi Venecije u 17. vijeku,” PTT Arhiv 9 (1963): 5–37; De Zanche, Tra Costantinopoli e Venezia, 22–23.

21 Stéphane Yerasimos, Les voyageurs dans l’Empire Ottoman (XIVe–XVIe siècles). Bibliographie, itinéraires et inventaire des lieux habités, Conseil Suprême D’Atatürk pour Culture, Langue et Histoire, Publications de la Société Turque d’Histoire, Serie VII – No. 117. (Ankara: Imprimerie de la Société Turque d’Histoire, 1991), 38.

22 Molnár, Le Saint-Siège, 134–39.

23 Miroslav Vanino, Isusovci i hrvatski narod, vol. 1, Rad u XVI. stoljeću. Zagrebački kolegij (Zagreb: Filozofsko-teološki institut DI, 1969), 14–31.

24 Ibid., 32–40.

25 Tommaso Raggio SJ–Everhard Mercurian SJ, Cattaro, December 7, 1574, Archivum Romanum Societatis Iesu (Rome, hereinafter ARSI) Italia (hereinafter Ital.), vol. 145, fol. 306r–307r.

26 Raggio–Mercurian, Cattaro, February 15, 1576, ARSI Ital., vol. 150, fol. 175r–176v.

27 Ibid., February 27, May 1, ARSI Ital., vol. 150, fol. 216r–217r, vol. 151, fol. 64rv. Raggio had not yet traveled to the Balkans. In 1584 he journeyed to the inner regions of the peninsular in the company of Aleksandar Komulović, the apostolic visitor. Vanino, Isusovci, vol. 1, 38; Molnár, Le Saint-Siège, 119–20.

28 Girolamo Bucchia–Claudio Acquaviva SJ, Cattaro, April 23, 1583 ARSI Epistulae Externorum, vol. 14, fol. 86rv.

29 ASV Archivum Arcis, Armaria I–XVIII, nr. 1728, fol. 1r–2v. On the functioning of the Sacred College of Cardinals, which was a predecessor to the Propaganda Fide Congregation see: Molnár, Le Saint-Siège, 123–24.

30 APF Miscellanee Diverse, vol. 21, fol. 70r.

31 Jovan N. Tomić, Građa za istoriju pokreta na Balkanu protiv Turaka krajem XVI i početkom XVII veka, vol. 1, (god. 1595–1606 – Mletački Državni Arhiv), Zbornik za istoriju, jezik i književnost srpskog naroda II, Spomenici na tuđim jezicima VI (Belgrade: Srpska kraljevska akademija, 1933), 320.

32 “Merita questa gratia il detto signor cavallier havendo servito la Sacra Congregatione 17 anni in circa per responsale per l’Illyrico sovvenendo del suo e diffendendo dette missioni, e per l’authorità che ha colli principali Turchi, ha liberato 3 missionari d’Albania tenuti 3 mesi in catena da Turchi con molti patimenti.” APF Scritture Originali riferite nelle Congregazioni Generali (hereinafter SOCG), vol. 42, fol. 115v.

33 Marko Jačov, Spisi Kongregacije za propagandu vere u Rimu o Srbima, vol. 11, (1622–1644). Zbornik za istoriju, jezik i književnost srpskog naroda. II odeljenje, vol. 26 (Belgrade: Srpska akademija nauka i umetnosti, 1986), 253, 256, 310–11, 314, 316, 326–27.

34 APF Lettere e Decreti della Sacra Congregazione (hereinafter Lettere), vol. 17, fol. 81v.

35 He himself often recalled his services, for instance in 1649: APF SOCG, vol. 265, fol. 28rv.

36 Čoralić, “Kotorski plemići,” 155.

37 APF Fondo di Vienna (hereinafter FV), vol. 4, fol. 215r.

38 Marko Jačov, Le missioni cattoliche nei Balcani durante la guerra di Candia (1645–1669), vols. 1–2. Studi e Testi 352–53 (Città del Vaticano: Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, 1992), vol. 1, 494, 585, 610, 617.

39 APF SOCG, vol. 302, fol. 315r.

40 Jačov, Le missioni cattoliche, vol. 2, 305–10; APF FV, vol. 4, fol. 166r, 168r. Earlier Nicolo had already been in contact with the Balkan bishops. In 1652, he acted in the issue involving provisions for the bishop of Durazzo. APF SOCG, vol. 266, fol. 101r.

41 APF FV, vol. 4, fol. 214r, 216r, 242r. I could not find the official document of Francesco Bolizza’s appointment. Indeed in light of details discussed here, he probably never received any such document, but rather was continuously made a representative of the Congregation.

42 APF Acta Sacrae Congregationis (hereinafter Acta), vol. 34, fol. 126r–127r.

43 APF FV, vol. 4, fol. 200rv; APF Acta, vol. 33, fol. 199rv. (December 16, 1664).

44 Ibid., vol. 34, fol. 126r–127r. (June 16, 1665).

45 On the basis of the documents cited below, Radonić’s classic monograph also frequently makes mention of Francesco’s Bolizza’s activities: Jovan Radonić, Rimska kurija i južnoslovenske zemlje od XVI do XIX veka. Posebna izdanja SAN 155. Odeljenje društvenih nauka, Nova serija 3 (Belgrade: Srpska akademija nauka, 1950) passim (ad indices).

46 Janko Šimrak, “Sveta Stolica i Franjevci prema pravoslavnoj crkvi u primorskim krajevima,” Nova revija vjeri i nauci 9 (1930): 22–38, 81–92, 407–21; Carolus Nežić, De pravoslavis Jugoslavis saec. XVII. ad catholicam fidem reversis necnon eorum conceptu Romanae Ecclesiae (Rome: Pontificia Universitas Urbaniana, 1940) 23–36; Vjekoslav Dabović, De relationibus catholicos inter et schismaticos in Ecclesia Catharensi saec. XVII. Dissertatio ad lauream consequendam in Facultate Theologica, Pontificium Atheneum Urbanum de Propaganda Fide, Rome, 1947, manuscript, Biblioteca della Pontificia Università Urbaniana, Dissertationes 54 C 42, 51–72, 184–204; Radonić, Rimska kurija, 112–51, 396–401.

47 Olga Diklić, “«Quando in affari spirituali si interpongono interessi temporali.» La conversione degli ortodossi di Pastrovicchi nei consulti di Fulgenzio Micanzio,” Studi Veneziani, n. s. 55 (2008): 15–81. Bolizza himself complained to the antiunionism of Venice: Jačov, Spisi Kongregacije, 596–97.

48 For an overview of the history of the region: Lovorka Čoralić, “Iz prošlosti Paštrovića,” Historijski zbornik 49 (1996): 137–59. On Leonardi’s personality and work see: Idem, “Prilog životopisu barskoga nadbiskupa Franje Leonardisa (1644.–1645.),” Croatica christiana periodica 55 (2005): 79–95.

49 Jačov, Spisi Kongregacije, 253, 256, 314, 316, 326–27, 331.

50 Bolizza wrote many letters in which he reported to the Congregation on the state of the union. Most of these have been published by Jačov in the aforementioned publications of sources. See also: APF SOCG, vol. 42, fol. 108r, vol. 172, fol. 33rv.

51 Jačov, Spisi Kongregacije, 340–41, 343, 347–52.

52 Ibid., 380–82, 412–13.

53 Nežić, De pravoslavis Jugoslavis, 10–14; Radonić, Rimska kurija, 128–51.

54 For the most recent overview of the history of the Albanian missions see: Angelantonio Spagnoletti, “Il mare amaro. Uomini e istituzioni della Chiesa tra Puglia e Albania (XV–XVII secc.),” in Papato e politica internazionale, 373–403.

55 For a presentation of the history of the mission see: H.[enri] Matrod, “Les Franciscains en Albanie au XVIIe siècle,” Études Franciscains 36 (1924): 5–28; Fernando Granata, “L’Albania e le missioni italiane nella prima metà del secolo XVII in base a documenti inediti,” Rivista d’Albania 3 (1942): 226–48; Basilius Pandžić, Historia Missionum Ordinis Fratrum Minorum, vol. 4, Regiones Proximi Orientis et Paeninsulae Balcanicae (Rome: Secretariatus Missionum O.F.M., 1974), 98–101.

56 APF SOCG, vol. 263, fol. 82r–84r. (Francesco Ingoli’s summary of the history of the mission.)

57 Ibid., vol. 60, fol. 468r, 469r, 483rv, 484r, 485r.

58 For instance, in 1641 in the interests of fra Cherubino da Trevi, who was part of the Këlmëndi mission: APF SOCG, vol. 164, fol. 171r. He wrote regularly not only to the Ottoman authorities, but also to the leaders of the Këlmëndi and Kuči tribes, asking them to defend the Franciscans from the Turks. APF FV, vol. 4, fol. 206rv.

59 Jačov, Spisi Kongregacije, 310–11, 474–75, 535–36; APF SOCG, vol. 164, fol. 205r, 206r.

60 Basilius Pandžić, “De Donato Jelić, O.F.M. Missionario Apostolico,” Archivum Franciscanum Historicum 56 (1963): 369–89, 373–74; Jačov, Le guerre Veneto-Turche, 69–71. Bolizza recalled the executions of the Franciscans and the temporary liquidation of the mission: APF SOCG, vol. 126, fol. 50r, vol. 265, fol. 28rv.

61 On the basis of the report sent by Bolizza to Rome, in 1651 prefect Giacinto da Sospello sent six friars back to Albania and two to Luštica, while two remained in Cattaro. APF SOCG, vol. 265, fol. 305rv.

62 Bolizza also reported on the operation of the hospitium in 1649: APF SOCG, vol. 299, fol. 47r.

63 APF SOCG, vol. 302, fol. 170r, 218r, 254rv, 256r.

64 Jačov, Le missioni cattoliche nei Balcani durante la guerra di Candia, vol. 2, 564–65.

65 APF FV, vol. 4, fol. 206r; APF Lettere, vol. 39, fol. 136r.

66 APF Lettere, vol. 17, fol. 81v, 103v, vol. 18, fol. 18rv, vol. 19, fol. 135rv, vol. 20, fol. 39v, 127rv, vol. 21, fol. 22r. The same in the case of Vincenzo Bolizza: APF Lettere, vol. 39, fol. 136r.

67 The agents mentioned the postal service in almost all of their letters, so in what follows I refer to the precise sites in the sources only as examples.

68 Jačov, Le missioni cattoliche, vol. 1, 26–27; APF SOCG, vol. 126, fol. 44r, 46r, vol. 164, fol. 204r.

69 APF SOCG, vol. 172, fol. 26r.

70 Ibid., vol. 60, fol. 470r, 471r, vol. 126, fol. 48r, vol. 164, fol. 161r–221v. passim, vol. 265, fol. 209r, vol. 266, fol. 76r; APF Lettere, vol. 39, fol. 60v, 61v–62v, 136r.

71 Nežić, De pravoslavis Jugoslavis, 71, 92.

72 APF SC Albania, vol. 2, fol. 53r.

73 Molnár, Le Saint-Siège, 333.

74 The contact person of the nuncio in the Balkans was always the Cattaro agent. APF SOCG, vol. 303, fol. 72r, 168r, 170r.

75 See the examples between 1659 and 1663, APF SOCG, vol. 303, fol. 23r, 25r, 29r, 32r, 34r, 36rv, 40r, 44r, 54rv, 58r, 60r, 66rv, 72r, 74r, 83r, 87r, 95r, 99r–100v, 105r, 114r, 168r, 170r, 172r, 213r, 237r, 240r.

76 APF SOCG, vol. 352, fol. 104r; APF FV, vol. 4, fol. 206rv.

77 Jačov, Le missioni cattoliche, vol. 1, 53–54, 62, 68; APF SOCG, vol. 164, fol. 168r; APF FV, vol. 4, fol. 42r, 166r, 168r.

78 APF SOCG, vol. 299, fol. 15r. In 1654, he sent Francesco’s account book to Rome immediately after Francesco’s death. The mission had 210 reale at the time. M. Jačov, Le missioni cattoliche, vol. 1, 475.

79 APF SOCG, vol. 299, fol. 16v–18r, 19r.

80 For a comprehensive report on the Albanian missions see: Jačov, Le missioni cattoliche, vol. 1, 266–70.

81 APF SOCG, vol. 265, fol. 192rv. Regrettably, I found neither the drawing nor the map made in Ragusa in the archives of the Propaganda Congregation. In addition to the letter cited, see: APF SOCG, vol. 265, fol. 69r, 70r, 150r.

82 APF SOCG, vol. 164, fol. 161rv, 217r. In 1677, Nicolo Bolizza resolved the dispute between Giovanni Pasquali and Dominik Bubić regarding the settling of accounts: Marko Jačov, Le missioni cattoliche nei Balcani tra le due guerre: Candia (1645–1669), Vienna e Morea (1683–1699). Studi e Testi 386 (Città del Vaticano: Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, 1998), 410.

83 APF SOCG, vol. 164, fol. 187r–188r, vol. 172, fol. 19r.

84 Ibid., vol. 164, fol. 182r; Jačov, Le missioni cattoliche, vol. 2, 213.

85 Nežić, De pravoslavis Jugoslavis, 13–14; Čoralić, “Prilog životopisu barskoga nadbiskupa,” 84; APF SOCG, vol. 42, fol. 96r, 109rv.

86 Jačov, Le missioni cattoliche, vol. 1, 36–37; APF SOCG, vol. 172, fol. 9rv. He also recommended him for the episcopal seats of Sappa and Scutari: APF SOCG, vol. 176, fol. 369rv, vol. 172, fol. 11rv, 16r.

87 APF SOCG, vol. 265, fol. 106rv, 211r, vol. 266, fol. 136r.

88 Ibid., vol. 265, fol. 69r, 124r.

89 Ibid., vol. 176, fol. 374r, 388r.

90 Ibid., vol. 172, fol. 10rv.

91 Jačov, Le missioni cattoliche, vol. 1, 608–09.

92 APF FV, vol. 4, fol. 164rv.

93 Ibid., fol. 181r–183v, 206v; Jačov, Le missioni cattoliche, vol. 2, 305, 307–09.

94 Ibid., fol. 200r.

95 On the network of familiares of the local inquisition courts see: Adriano Prosperi, Tribunali della coscienza. Inquisitori, confessori, missionari (Turin: Einaudi, 1996), 180–93.

96 APF SOCG, vol. 164, fol. 198r, vol. 172, fol. 21rv, vol. 265, fol. 271r.

97 Jačov, Spisi Kongregacije, 442.

98 APF SOCG, vol. 176, fol. 375r, 376rv.

99 Ibid., vol. 42, fol. 106r, 110r, 115v. The later documents of the case, APF SOCG, vol. 172, fol. 2r; Jačov, Le missioni cattoliche, vol. 1, 270.

100 APF Lettere, vol. 17, fol. 103v, vol. 18, fol. 18rv.

101 The sources regarding their political and diplomatic work are held in the Venetian State Archives, primarily among the reports of the Dalmatian provveditore generale and the Cattaro rectors. A bound collection of Francesco Bolizza’s letters is held in the Biblioteca Marciana in Venice (Cod. It. VII. 922 = 8847). The systematic study of these documents will enable historians to shed light on the role of the Bolizza family in Venice’s politics and policies with respect to the Ottoman Empire.

102 Gligor Stanojević, Jugoslovenske zemlje u mletačko-turskim ratovima XVI–XVIII. vijeka. Istorijski institut u Beograd. Posebna izdanja 14 (Belgrade: Istorijski institut u Beograd, 1970), 193–94.

103 Sbutega, Storia del Montenegro, 134–36.

104 Stanojević, Jugoslovenske zemlje, 212–13, 219.

105 Sbutega, Storia del Montenegro, 140.

106 Stanojević, Jugoslovenske zemlje, 216, 221–23, 230, 231, 238, 239, 246–50, 254.

107 Domagoj Madunić, “Frontier Elites of the Ottoman Empire during the War for Crete (1645–1669): the Case of Ali-Pasha Čengić,” in Europe and the ‘Ottoman World’: Exchanges and Conflicts (sixteenth to seventeenth centuries), ed. Gábor Kármán and Radu G. Păun (Istanbul: The Isis Press, 2013), 47–82.

108 This is an apt term used by Madunić: ibid., 57.

109 Stanojević, Jugoslovenske zemlje, 243, 244.

110 Ibid., 229, 257.

111 Ibid., 277, 281.

112 Giovanni Bolizza was particularly helpful in enabling Vizarion, the vladika of Cetinje, and Arzenije Crnojević, the patriarch of İpek, develop closer ties to Venice. Until his death in 1706, he served the Propaganda Congregation. Like Francesco, he too earned the gratitude of the supreme authority of the missions with his support for the Franciscan mission in Albania. Radonić, Rimska kurija, 395, 397–400, 424, 474, 504–07, 516.


The postal route between Venice and Istanbul in the early 17th century

pdfVolume 3 Issue 3 CONTENTS

Dževada Šuško

Bosniaks & Loyalty: Responses to the Conscription Law in Bosnia and Hercegovina 1881/82

Doing military service to protect the borders of a state and the security and safety of its citizens is a clear indicator of loyalty. Furthermore, military service is a measure of the extent to which a citizen identifies with the norms and values of a state. When Austria–Hungary, as a leading European power, was granted the right at the Congress of Berlin to occupy and administer Bosnia, the Muslim Bosniaks, who once had been the guardians of the westernmost border of the Ottoman Empire, suddenly had to deal with non-Muslim rulers and found themselves a religious minority in Austria–Hungary, an overwhelmingly Christian empire. A key occasion to demonstrate allegiance to their new state came in 1881 with the issue of the Conscription law. Bosniak Muslim soldiers had to serve in an army led by non-Muslims. An insurrection occurred and a heated discussion was initiated to find an acceptable answer to the question of whether or not it was permissible for a Muslim to live under non-Muslim rule and whether a Muslim could serve in the military under a non-Islamic flag. Thus, modernist and reformist thought became an important force in assessments and reassessments of traditional concepts of Islam. Contemporary fatwas, newspapers, witness reports, and archival documents offer crucial insights into the discourses and reasoning of the Bosniaks at the time when these changes were taking place. Many important political decisions concerning Bosnia and Hercegovina were discussed in the Gemeinsamer Ministerrat. However, its proceedings during the years in question have not yet been edited and remain inaccessible. Nonetheless, the accessible sources in Sarajevo shed light on the efforts of the Bosniaks to accommodate themselves to the new ruler and adapt to and identify with “Western” norms and values. Furthermore, these sources demonstrate that as long as the territorial integrity of Bosnia and the religious rights of the Muslim communities were respected, Bosniaks displayed loyalty, military courage, and devotion to the state.

Keywords: Bosniaks, loyalty, Bosnia, Austria–Hungary, Conscription law, military service, uprising, Orthodox, Serbs, migration, Islam


The Berlin Treaty, which was signed in July, 1878, stipulated that Bosnia and Hercegovina1 would be “occupied and administered” by Austria–Hungary, while the sovereignty of the Ottoman Empire was preserved. Soon it became clear that this provision was theoretical and that Bosnia would be treated as a third state within the Monarchy.2 The Conscription law, which came into force in 1882, provided additional evidence of this, since it effectively ignored the Sultan’s de iure sovereignty and recruited soldiers from among the inhabitants of Bosnia for the Austro–Hungarian military. The bilateral Convention between the Ottoman Empire and Austria–Hungary, which was signed nine months after the Congress of Berlin (April 21, 1879), confirmed that the Austro–Hungarian Kaiser possessed administrative, judicial, financial and military sovereign rights in the territories in question. Gradually, the Austro–Hungarian administration embraced all spheres of life with the aim of performing a cultural mission and essentially effectuating an annexation, i.e. integrating the new lands into the Monarchy. Hence, the Bosniaks3 were at once confronted with non-Muslim rulers and different norms and values in the spheres of the military, politics, administration, economy, culture and education. Participation in the Austro–Hungarian military was a litmus test for loyalty to non-Muslim rule.

The Concept of Loyalty

When it comes to loyalty, the term itself is usually understood as a form of sincerity, fidelity, allegiance and affiliation which requires reciprocity. In a socio-political sense, loyalty involves faithfulness to the state, service in the military, protecting the borders of the state and the security and safety of its citizens, paying taxes to the state, obeying the laws, and serving national interests in general.4 Loyalty is self-evidently perceived as a basic duty of each citizen involving expectations and moral values. These expectations go back to the French Revolution and the understanding of the French term citoyen (citizen), who was expected to serve in the military, go to war, and even die for the state.5 From the perspective of political and military loyalty, a time of war is seen as litmus test. In cases of emergency and states of defense against an external enemy, loyalty is crucial, and it is tested.

The question arises, how difficult was it to distance Bosnian Muslims from old loyalties (basically to the Sultan) and establish new allegiances to Austria–Hungary? For instance, Croats or Catholics identified themselves more readily with predominantly Catholic Austria–Hungary and thus were preferred when it came to service in the administration and military.6 However, the smooth functioning of Austria–Hungary in Bosnia depended on the loyalty of the Bosniaks as well. They had to strike a balance between their personal sentiments on the one hand and practical advantages on the other when negotiating their loyalties. However, as inhabitants of the westernmost border of the Ottoman Empire (which was constantly attempting to expand or defend its territory), the people of Bosnia had not only served in the Ottoman military but had also participated in the expansion and defense of Ottoman lands. This history of conflicts between Bosnia and its neighbors explains why the question of loyalty at the beginning of Austro–Hungarian occupation was not as simple as perhaps had been expected. Nonetheless, the Conscription law obliged all male citizens not only to protect the borders of Bosnia, but also to defend the territory of the whole Monarchy.7 Furthermore, as Jörn Leonhard argues, military service in the multi-ethnic army of Austria–Hungary functioned as an instrument of integration and cohesion. Austria–Hungary wanted to create within the military units a feeling of unity and equality, particularly among members of the younger generations. 8

This was also a component of the cultural mission and the modernization process applied by Austro–Hungarian authorities in Bosnia. The modern states that began to emerge in the nineteenth century indeed had higher expectations with regards to loyalty than pre-modern tributary states. Instead of being merely a tax-paying subject of the monarch, the citizen was expected to show personal devotion, attachment, and loyalty to the state. Thus, in Bosnia the modernized bureaucracy, railway construction, infrastructure, mining industry, health system, educational system etc. were expected to elicit a positive response from the “citizens” in the form of identification with the state. In addition to modernization in infrastructure, modern states also offered their citizens equality in front of the law, political participation and social permissiveness. A citizen of a modern state was expected to serve the country out of inner conviction and motivation, and not because he was forced to.9

Historical Context

Even before 1878, the Minister of foreign affairs Gyula Andrássy claimed that Bosnia’s internal and external instability, which was caused by the uprising of 1876 during the Eastern Crisis, could only be resolved by strong Austro–Hungarian leadership. 10 Aware of ethnic and social tensions (including even “Communist aspirations” among the kmets), the Habsburg officials in Bosnia regarded ensuring stability, security and prosperity their main task. 11 The government knew that it would take a long time to create peace in the occupied province, but on the other hand, representatives of the empire expressed willingness not to spare energy and to build efficient state institutions (administration) and install a strong and visible government that would be led by a military commander. 12 Thus, the Austro–Hungarian occupation was presented as a necessity as well as a peacebuilding mission, but also meant the consolidation of circumstances in the Balkans and an obstacle to the territorial expansion of Serbia, i.e. to the creation of a southern Slav state.13 The decision to pass the Conscription law undoubtedly has to be analyzed in the light of the secret Treaty of Three Emperors, which was concluded on June 18, 1881. The text of the treaty states that (1) Germany, Austria–Hungary and Russia would take a neutral stance in the event of war and (2) Russia and Germany would respect Austria–Hungary’s interests in the Balkans and its new position according to the Treaty of Berlin. Interestingly, there was an additional protocol that went into detail regarding Bosnia: “L’Autriche-Hongrie se réserve de s’annexer ces deux provinces au moment qu’Elle jugera opportun.”14 Hence, Austria–Hungary was given the right to annex Bosnia and Hercegovina. It merely had to decide when the annexation would take place. Russia’s change of mind is interesting, as it obliged itself not to oppose an annexation. On the other side, Austria–Hungary obliged itself not to oppose a union of Bulgaria and Eastern Rumelia. Strikingly, both the annexation and the union meant a clear infringement on the terms of the Berlin Treaty.15 Additionally, Article 5 of the Austro–Serbian agreement, signed on June 28, 1881, says:

If Austria–Hungary should be threatened with war or find herself at war with one or more other Powers, Serbia will observe a friendly neutrality towards the Austro–Hungarian Monarchy, including therein Bosnia, Hercegovina and the Sanjak of Novi-bazar, and will accord to it all possible facilities, in conformity with their close friendship and the spirit of this Treaty.16

Benjámin von Kállay, who was soon to become the most influential administrator of Bosnia, pushed for annexation.17 Later, Kállay stated that the Western part of the Balkan Peninsula had never been seen as an integral part of the Ottoman Empire.18 Thus, the Sultan’s sovereignty was definitely negated. Austria–Hungary could ask its new subjects to protect the borders of the Monarchy.

The Conscription Law

While the Conscription law was applied all over the Monarchy, Boka Kotorska, and particularly the villages in Krivošije, showed resistance to Austro–Hungarian rule as early as 1869.19 The division of Bosnia between Austro–Hungarian occupation and administration on the one hand and the Sultan’s sovereignty on the other hindered the Monarchy’s call for recruitment.20 However, as early as January 1881 sessions of the common government discussed a draft of the Conscription law in Bosnia (Entwurf eines Wehrgesetzes für Bosnien). On October 24, 1881, the provisional conscription law for Bosnia and Hercegovina was approved and issued, together with a Decree that was issued to the provincial government (Verordnung an die Landesregierung) on November 4, 1881.21 On November 5, another Decree addressed the treatment Muslim citizens were to be given as members of the military (Behandlung der Mohammedaner während der activen Militärdienstzeit).22 Eventually, on August 11, 1912 the Conscription law was passed.23 However, the people of Bosnia reacted negatively, particularly to the provisional law adopted as mentioned in 1881, which was in force as of January 1, 1882. This is why often the Conscription law is usually referred to as a law of 1882.24

The decree related to the Conscription law was addressed to the people of Bosnia and Hercegovina and was published in the Sarajevo newspaper Sarajevski list.25 According to the text of the law, the existence of the armed forces is a necessity in all countries, as without the armed forces the state would not be able to maintain peace and order or protect the lives and property of its citizens against external enemies. The law also contains the following assertion:

Henceforth, the time has come for the sons of the country to fulfill their duty, and without regard to religion they shall honorably bear weapons to protect the home country. […] No one, whatever religion he may belong to, shall be hindered in the fulfillment of his religious duties.26

The decree declares that the Kaiser und König accords the same respect to all religions, as well as to the creeds and sentiments of the peoples of his empire and the customs and habits of Bosnia, and that he will not tolerate any preferential treatment for any group among his subjects.

The provisional conscription law, which consists of 36 articles issued in German and Bosnian, sets the duration of military service, the age of the conscripts, preconditions, exemptions, consequences for conscientious objection to military service, identification of conscripts, conditions for sending substitutes, and conditions related to the reserve. In the context of this inquiry, the following details are relevant: The law obliges all male citizens of Bosnia between the ages of 17 and 36 and fit for military service to participate in the protection of the country and the Monarchy. Various segments of Bosnian society were exempted. The Conscription law excluded, first, criminals who had been sentenced for a crime or a delinquency committed due to acquisitiveness and, second, men who had been born in 1858 or earlier or had served the Turkish military or were still serving Turkish troops. Article 11 is most interesting, particularly in terms of religion, as it enumerates the religious positions that were exempted from military service: priests, chaplains, monks, imams, Shari’a judges, Muslim lecturers (muderis ), Friday prayer leaders (hatib), religious scholars (shaykh), Sufis (dervish) and religious teachers (hodža). Doctors were also exempted, as were veterinarians and pharmacists who were practicing their professions. Interestingly, Article 12 expands the exemption to include theology students who were studying at an institution of higher education that was acknowledged by the Ministry. Furthermore, Article 13 exempts a single male relative (husband, son, brother, grandson) in a family the members of which were dependent on the income or labor of that single male.

Of utmost importance is the Decree related to the treatment of the Muslims during their military service, which was attached to the provisional conscription law and published in the Sarajevo newspaper a few days later.27 This supplement to the Conscription law demonstrates the intention of the Monarchy to attract the Bosniaks, nurture loyalty among them, and motivate them to serve the Kaiser instead of the Sultan. The Decree included precise and detailed guidelines regarding the treatment of the Muslim conscripts of Bosnia. It prescribes respect for the religious laws and customs in eight points. First, “soldiers of Muslim faith” are given days off on Fridays as well as the three days of Ramadan Bayram (Eid al-Fitr) and four days of Kurban Bayram (Eid al-Adha). Second, Muslim soldiers were allowed to have a separate kitchen with their own pots and pans, to cook their own food, and to buy necessary things. The cookware was to be branded in order to ensure that it would not be mixed up with the pots and pans of the non-Muslims, because as the text says, “[i]n all cases, attention must be paid to the fact that Muslims are prohibited from eating pork, lard, wine and the meat of clubbed animals.”28 If the cookware were to be mixed up, new implements were to be purchased. Thus, Muslim soldiers would be assured that they would only eat halal food. Furthermore, the law stipulates that there were to be no restrictions regarding when meals were to be served. This allowed Muslims, who would sometimes fast (particularly during the month of Ramadan), the liberty to adapt their meal times according to their religious calendar. Third, at medical examinations, the Islamic understanding of indecent parts of the body was to be respected. Hence, medical examinations were to be performed individually in a separate room, where only the doctor and the patient were present. Fourth, Muslims were free to perform the Friday prayer (Juma) between 11:00 o’clock and 13:00 o’clock as well as the Bayram prayers (Eid) in a mosque. If there was no mosque nearby, then a special room was to be designated for that purpose. Additionally, for the religious ablution, the necessary number of metal washbasins and pots was to be provided. Fifth, in the case of a funeral, the reception was to be conducted silently, accompanied by readings from the Qur’an without music. Sixth, Muslims were allowed to purchase whatever they felt would be necessary for themselves. Seventh, imams were to be appointed to lead the prayers for the Muslim soldiers and to provide spiritual care.29 According to the eighth and final point, some Muslim soldiers were to be taught nursing in order to enable them to look after fellow Muslims who had been injured or fallen ill and to provide spiritual care for the dying and even wash corpses.


After the provisional conscription law was announced on November 4, 1881, the provincial government in Sarajevo adopted several measures to implement it. In addition to security measures, steps were taken in order to assess people’s mood and sentiments. Baron Dahlen, who was the head of the provincial government (Landeschef) and general commander in Bosnia (1881–1882), ordered all districts (kotar) to inform him precisely about the reactions of the masses and the district councils (medžlis) to the Conscription law.30

Having received information from people on the ground, Dahlen sent a report to the Common Ministry of Finance in Vienna, which was in charge of Bosnia, to inform it of the situation in Bosnia after the proclamation of the Conscription law. This report, which is dated December 11, 1881, characterized the atmosphere as extremely tense and explosive, particularly in Foča and Eastern Hercegovina. The report states that: (a) Muslims were applying en masse for emigration to the Ottoman Empire, which was understood by Dahlen as part of a strategy to convince the authorities to refrain from enforcing recruitment; and (b) members of the Orthodox Church would be willing to serve in the military if the agrarian question were to be resolved, i.e. if lands were to be taken away from Muslim landlords and given to the kmets (Orthodox). Interestingly, although the situation was very delicate, the Austro–Hungarian government in Bosnia decided not to modify its principles in agrarian policy. They wanted to preserve good relationships with the Muslim landowners and hoped that the landowners would call for peace among the Muslims and influence them positively.31 Austria–Hungary indeed had the support of loyal landowners and religious scholars, such as Mehmed beg Kapetanović-Ljubušak (an intellectual and politician), Mustafa beg Fadilpašić (the mayor of Sarajevo), Muhamed Emin Hadžijahić (a prominent religious scholar), Mustafa Hilmi Hadžiomerović (the Mufti of Sarajevo and the future head of the Islamic Community, or Reisu-l-ulema), and particularly Mehmed Teufik Azapagić (an influential religious scholar on whom I go into more detail later in this essay).

In a report sent from the German Consulate in Sarajevo to Berlin dated December 4, 1881, the Consul said that the Conscription law came as a surprise to the people, as they had believed that Bosnia would return to Turkish rule. The report describes the atmosphere among the Bosniaks and Serbs as follows:

The introduction of the conscription is—to the extent that one can tell—not welcome among the citizens. The Muslims do not want to grasp that they will no longer serve in the military of the Sultan, but rather in the military of the Christian sovereign. [...] The Greek-Orthodox population does not seem to be happy about the new measure because their sympathies do not lie with the Austro–Hungarian Monarchy. Many people—especially the Muslim inhabitants—under the first impression of the provocation, immediately expressed the intent no longer to remain in the country. Indeed, many Muslim families (in Sarajevo allegedly more than one hundred) applied for passports in order to emigrate. [...] according to what I have been able to ascertain, the public mood, following the publication of the conscription law, is very excitable. [...] the concerns and objections that could be raised against military service for religious reasons were dulled by the issue of the special provisions that cleverly took these objections into consideration.32

Before going into detail regarding the reaction of the Muslim Bosniaks, one should note that before the Congress of Berlin Bosnia and Austria–Hungary had only come into contact with each other on the battlefield. Austria–Hungary had attempted to occupy Bosnia on several occasions, and cities and towns had been overrun and partially burnt down in the course of these incursions.33 Thus, the occupation and administration of Bosnia, to use the terminology of the Berlin Treaty, was regarded by many Bosnian Muslims as a kind of final victory of an old enemy. It meant, first and foremost, a psychological challenge for the Muslims, as they felt themselves compelled to become citizens of an “infidel” state. The people simply felt lost and disoriented, as the Ottoman Empire did not protect them from the new ruler, nor did the Sultan send a clear message regarding how to conduct themselves in the new situation. The Bosniaks identified the Sultan, Istanbul, and the Ottoman Empire with Islam, and they feared that separation from the Ottoman Empire might also mean separation from their religious identity. Additionally, they assumed that Austria–Hungary would reform the system of inherited feudal rights without regards to their religion or the societal system. This “shift of civilizations,” empires, a change of the sides of the world, of East and West, as well as a “shift of masters” explain why masses of Bosniaks showed resistance in the first months of Austro–Hungarian occupation, and why, when this failed, they fled from Bosnia to remaining Ottoman lands immediately following the occupation in summer 1878.34

One of the most visible responses of the Bosniaks to the encounter with Austria–Hungary was migration to remaining Ottoman lands (Arabic hijra, Bosnian hidžra) and the abandonment of their estates and properties. The religious and cultural link with the Ottoman Empire, the (feared and real) harshness of the new political and military system towards its opponents, the (anticipated and actual) proselytism of the Catholic church, the preference given to colonists, the change from a barter and natural economy to a money-oriented economy, the impoverishment of craftsmen due to the massive import of industrial goods, and the increase in the cost of living encouraged the Bosniaks to leave and look for a better life elsewhere.35

One of the waves of migration came in 1882, after the provisional conscription law had been issued.36 According to Kapidžić, this came as surprise to the Austro–Hungarian authorities in Sarajevo and in Vienna.37 They thought that their policy of siding with the Muslim landowners would bring about the opposite result. They failed to realize that Austro–Hungarian rule was perceived as aggressive occupation by the broader Muslim masses, who had not forgotten the inhumane and harsh treatment to which they had been subjected by Habsburg forces in the course of earlier military clashes. Significantly, Austro–Hungarian authorities tried to downplay the importance of the massive waves of migration, as they sent a negative image to neighboring states and the European great powers. Migration waves might well be understood as a sign of discontent with the new emperor, which could seriously compromise Austria–Hungary. The local press could do little to inform the outside world of the mood in the region due to very strong censorship. However, a few voices at least indirectly accused the new authorities of not doing anything to stop the mass migration of Bosniaks.38 Sarajevski list published a report about a telegram from Istanbul dated December 4, 1881 stating that diplomatic circles had not noticed any Ottoman opposition to the Conscription law. Since Sarajevski list was a state organ, rumors about resistance from the Porte regarding the Conscription law were invented by the people and circulated. The general argument made by Austria–Hungary was that soldiers must be recruited to keep order and peace.39

The Conscription law, according to which Bosniaks should serve an “infidel” army, caused unrest and a sense of uncertainty, particularly from a religious-legal perspective. It crushed the last hope and illusion that Austria–Hungary would only remain in Bosnia for a certain period of time, and it gradually began to become clear that with the Conscription law the Monarchy was trying to strengthen its position in the territory.40 Middle-class Bosniaks in particular were against the idea of Muslims serving in the army of a non-Muslim state, but Austria–Hungary continued to assume that it would not face military resistance among the Muslims. In contrast, the Austro–Hungarian authorities did expect resistance among the Orthodox, since in the Ottoman Empire they had not had to serve in the military.41

While predominantly Muslim Bosniaks in northern Bosnia put up only passive resistance and often perceived the prevailing law and order ushered in by the authorities as a relief after decades of instability in Bosnia, Muslim feudal lords in southern Bosnia (i.e. Hercegovina) were very much opposed to the new order, even if the kmets still had to pay dues to the Muslim landowners. They occupied a position in a social structure that made them quite closed to anything new and unfamiliar.42 Nonetheless, there was a tendency among the Austro-Hungarian authorities (with some success) to curry the favor of Muslim Bosniaks who were perceived as the “most likable” from both of these two groups. According to one account, “the Orthodox found the first reason for dissatisfaction in the tendency of the government, which soon became apparent, to win over Muslims who initially were rebellious but who were recognized as the most sympathetic.”43

Furthermore, the Bosniaks were regarded as “softer and more passive,” while the impoverished Orthodox in Hercegovina were seen as people who were much more willing to fight:

From youth, they are used to fighting with nature and people, they have an unrestrained mind, guided by a self-confidence that has grown excessively during a long-term fight against their oppressors, the whole character of a Hercegovinian stands in sharp contrast to the naturally softer and more passive Bosniak. [...] Thus, he moves, followed by his wife and child and meagre cattle, to the mountains in order to join a četa of a bandit chief whose name in the course of time evolves into a sort of nimbus of national heroism.44

The reactions in Bosnian cities were characterized by passive resistance. In Foča, about 80 Bosniaks asked for permission to emigrate, while others refused to pay taxes or did not appear before the court. In the district of Bihać and Travnik, an intense migration movement took place, and petitions were sent to the Sultan. Furthermore, another report was sent by the German Consulate to Bismarck in Berlin on January 20, 1882 describing the situation in Bosnia in comparison with the situation in Hercegovina. According to the report, the majority of the Muslim population remained calm, particularly as the Sultan did not protest against the Conscription law. Furthermore, the Muslims gradually realized that it would be unrealistic to hope for Bosnia’s return to Ottoman rule, and that if the Muslims had to choose from among the Christian rulers of the Balkans, then Austria–Hungary would prove a much more prudent choice than hateful Serbia or Montenegro.45

Similarly, Dahlen was not terribly worried about these parts of Bosnia, but he was acutely concerned with eastern Hercegovina, where the situation had become explosive.46 A peaceful solution became impossible. Much earlier, individual cases of robber bands (razbojničke bande) were sanctioned in Krivošije (then eastern Herzegovina, today Montenegro), as several sources indicate, such as the newspaper Sarajevski list, which reported on it.47 Since Hercegovina had a common border with Montenegro, the territory of which had expanded towards Hercegovina with the Treaty of San Stefano (and cut off with the Berlin Treaty), Montenegro was particularly interested in regaining strategic cities in Hercegovina, such as Trebinje, Bileća and Gacko. Thus, the Orthodox Montenegrins had strong sympathies with the neighboring Orthodox Hercegovinians, and they supported them in the upcoming rebellion. The agrarian conditions combined with the Conscription law made things difficult first and foremost for families who lost a son (i.e. necessary labor) when he went to the army, but it was also a motive for political agitation.48 The Orthodox who owned neither land nor domiciles argued that they did not know what they were supposed to protect.49 Furthermore, rumors were spread according to which Christians would have to send all their sons to the military and Muslim recruits would have to convert to Catholicism and serve the military abroad.50 Thus, to some extent the Muslims and Orthodox had a shared opposition to the Conscription law. Major General Eduard Kählig puts it as follows:

Thus, both parties were dissatisfied with the conditions of the Austro–Hungarian administration, which introduced a policy of full equality among the confessions. The Muslims wished for the return of Turkish rule, while the Greek [Orthodox] envisioned a reunion with tribal relatives in Montenegro.51

The strategy of Serbian leaders was to advocate for a Serbian-Muslim brotherhood against the “foreigners” (Austrians). Also, some middle-class Muslims were eventually forced to take part in the insurrection, as Mehmed Rašidović, a Bosniak Sergeant in the Austrian services, later estimated.52 Eventually, popular discontent led to a rebellion in the beginning of January 1882, though Austria–Hungary initially did not want to use force and attempted to influence people through their elders and clerics.53

Nonetheless, the aim of the insurgents was to dislodge Austro–Hungarian power (“Abschüttelung der österreichischen Herrschaft”).54 By February 26, however, the rebellion had largely been crushed, even if encounters with insurrectionists continued into the following months and even the summer, as Kählig describes in his diary.55 As Kählig notes, on August 18, 1882 a celebratory lunch was held in Avtovac for the Kaiserparade where Joseph Haydn’s hymn “Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser” was sung and a toast was raised to “Seine Majestät unsern Kaiser und König und Allerhöchsten Kriegsherrn.” Several Muslim and Orthodox dignitaries were among the guests. Interestingly, Kählig mentions the efforts that were taken to cook the meals without lard in order to respect the religion of the Muslim guests. He concludes, “Orient and Occident were peacefully together here.”56 In the following period, the Muslim Bosniak population in particular began to show increasing trust for the Austro–Hungarian authorities and cooperated on a daily basis with the representatives of the military.57 Impressed by their capabilities, devotion to duty, and self-sacrifice, the Bosniaks eventually stated, “Ihr könnt wirklich alles!”58 This statement could be interpreted as an indication that the Bosniaks had gradually come to welcome the presence of the system and the new rulers. In the end, they adopted a more open stance with regards to the process of modernization through daily, close contacts with the new authorities, soldiers, officers, and even neighbors (German settlers). Life under non-Muslim rule turned out to be acceptable. Kählig concludes that in general the Muslims were rather silent, sweet-tempered and friendly. They did not lack intelligence, but they had to be treated with strictness, benevolence and justice.59

A major role in quelling the uprising was played by Mehmed beg Kapetanović, a leading political figure and intellectual of the time.60 He knew how to take a chance politically and personally and how to profit from the change of system, and he gave clear proof of his loyalty to Austria–Hungary. Kapetanović was the first Muslim to be knighted and thereby made part of the Central European nobility in 1881, when Duke Württemberg, Landeschef of Bosnia from 1878 to 1881, nominated him as “Ritter.” Kapetanović was sent to Hercegovina in December 1881 in order to counteract the uprising and the campaign to establish a common Serbian–Bosniak front. Although the local Austro–Hungarian officials did not always follow his advice (for instance his suggestion to form local Muslim “Pandur” militia units as armed frontier security guards, which he supported by citing the Latin slogan, “if you want peace, prepare for war”), his expedition to the local Bosniak communities in eastern Hercegovina (Mostar and Nevesinje) during the crisis doubtlessly contributed to the collapse of the Montenegrin–Serbian strategy. 61 His reports from this mission provide a detailed account of the situation in eastern Hercegovina.62 Kapetanović observed a great deal of unrest, for which he blamed not only the “enemy” (local Serbs or “Greeks”), but also newspapers in Montenegro and Istanbul, and even the Ottoman ambassador in Vienna. He accused them of agitating among the local Bosniaks against the Austro–Hungarian authorities. Whereas some of the Hercegovinian Bosniaks were obviously upset enough to join the Serbian movement on the grounds of “local” conditions and sentiments, others wanted to emigrate. Since Kapetanović was better informed, he warned them about Serbian national aspirations and goals. He advised the Bosniaks to cooperate with Austro-Hungarian authorities, as it was their fate (“vom Schicksal bestimmt”) to live under Austro-Hungarian rule: “the only salvation for the Bosnian-Hercegovinian Muslims lies in Austrian strength, and everything else leads to disaster.” In his reports he also pointed out that the many rumors notwithstanding, the number of those who actually wanted to emigrate was comparably small. He vigorously urged the authorities to encourage more participation among the Bosniaks and their religious leaders, and also to make efforts to further their integration into the new administrative structures, for instance by installing a new municipal authority (Magistrat) in Mostar, appointing a Mufti from the government, and renovating the mosque in Nevesinje. Thus, Kapetanović gave valuable recommendations and hints to the Austro–Hungarian administration regarding how to mollify the Bosniak population with symbolic gestures. His suggestions were met with the immediate approval of by Landeschef Dahlen and the Common Minister of Finance, to whom they had been forwarded. The decision was made to observe, in cooperation with the police, the contacts of local leaders with Istanbul and the Ottoman embassy in Vienna. The Ministry of War was to be advised about the influence of the political press from Istanbul and Montenegro. The Bosnian government was advised to follow the suggestions that were made in the report and to draw a distinction between Muslims and people of other confessions, to secure the tolls and deliveries for the Agas, and to allow for the creation of Muslim Pandur-units. It was to be kept in mind that some officials might have turned against the Muslims, but this was not to be allowed to cloud clear political analysis.63 In order to gain the loyalty of the people, a gradual approach was to be adopted in the application of the Conscription law.64 Furthermore, amnesty was to be given to the insurgents. Many Muslims gave up resistance and plans to migrate:

Many Muslims gave up the initial intention to leave the country rather than to submit to the oppressors. They realized that the government had not cut back privileges, but instead insisted on strict fulfillment of the duties of the kmets, asked emphatically for payment of duties, and did not hinder the free practice of religious and public customs and traditions.65

Around the same time, the new Minister of Finance Kállay was appointed to rule over Bosnia. Kállay introduced a policy shift and for two decades (1882–1903) played a key role in the modernization of Bosnia and winning the sympathies of the Bosniaks. He realized that the Bosniaks, who were the landowners and descendants of the medieval Bosnian aristocracy, were loyal and should be used as means of preserving stability.66

Theological Debates

Enes Karić claims that the first years of Austro–Hungarian presence in Bosnia were a “time of hush and great silence” due to the dramatic shifts in “civilizations and masters,” a time during which the “Bosnian Muslims largely withdrew among themselves”:

[T]here is no record of a single epistle (risala) or book written by Bosnian Muslims between 1878 and 1882, when they may be said to have been in a state of cultural and civilizational shock. One could say that this was the ‘discourse of silence’ or ‘discourse by silence,’ however self-contradictory the term may seem.67

However, Austro–Hungarian authorities tried to influence broad Muslim masses through religious scholars. They were supposed to convince the Muslims of Bosnia not to emigrate and to serve in the Austro–Hungarian military. The Sarajevo mufti Mustafa Hilmi Hadžiomerović (1816–1895) played an important role not only in this regard, but also in establishing a separate Islamic Community that further distanced the Muslims from the Ottoman Empire and incorporated them into the Austro-Hungarian system. Hadžiomerović completed his higher education in Istanbul and worked as high school teacher in Bosanski Novi and Sarajevo, where he was appointed as mufti in 1856. With the establishment of Austro–Hungarian rule, Hadžiomerović issued several fatwas (religious legal rulings) in which he rationalized non-Muslim rule as long as the ruler was just, respected by his subjects and allowed religious scholars to perform their functions.68 Furthermore, he issued a fatwa (included among the documents published by Omer Nakičević) in which he called on Muslims to follow the Conscription law and serve in the Austro–Hungarian military.69 On October 13, 1882 the Ministry of Finance sent the following message to the Kaiser in Vienna confirming Hadžiomerović’s fatwa according to which Muslims would serve in the military:

Mustafa Hilmi Effendi Hadžiomerović, the Mufti from Sarajevo, who was appointed by the Porte, is a very devoted and reliable person to Your Majesty, and has [....] issued a fatwa on our request according to which the Muslims have been asked to submit to the Conscription law. Thus, I think that the appointment of this loyal person through the Porte is a very opportune circumstance that can be used perfectly by Your Majesty to appoint him [....] as Reisu-l-ulema.70

With the establishment of the Islamic Community in Bosnia in 1882, Austria–Hungary appointed Hadžiomerović as the very first Grandmufti (Reisu-l-ulema) of Bosnia, with the approval of the Porte. He held this office for eleven years until 1893. Robin Okey makes the following observation in this regard:

The fact that the Sultan was anxious for an Austro–German–Turkish alliance, and in March 1882 had empowered the Mufti of Sarajevo to choose all Bosnian religious officials, smoothed the way for an inauguration of the new hierarchy, with Mufti Omerović as Reis and a Medžlis of four ulema, corresponding to the Catholic chapter and the Orthodox consistory.71

At the same time, a heated discussion was initiated among various scholars to find an acceptable answer to the question of whether or not it was permissible for Muslims to live under non-Muslim rule, whether Christian Europe and European culture were acceptable for Muslims, whether Bosnia under Austro–Hungarian rule could be treated according to traditional Islamic principles of Dar al-Islam (House of peace) or as Dar al-harb (House of war), and whether a Muslim could serve in the military under a non-Islamic flag. This bipolar classification of the world was very much thrown into question when Muslim societies became an integral part of non-Muslim rule, mainly due to colonization. The division of the world into Dar al-Islam on the one hand (understood as an area of the world in which Muslims can practice their religion freely under the rule of Islam) and Dar al-harb on the other (generally meaning lands in which Muslim law is not in force) exerted a strong influence on attitudes among Muslims. However, it soon became clear that this categorization was overly simplistic, as there were cases of non-Muslim rule under which Muslim subjects enjoyed religious liberties, for instance in Austria–Hungary. Nonetheless, many questions still remained, such as how to survive as a Muslim outside an Islamic state, how to maintain links with Muslim countries, and how to preserve Islamic identity and still be modern:

In the 1880s hijra (migration) from Bosnia was growing so fast that it roused the ‘ulamā’s72 concern for the future of Muslims in Bosnia. Such anxiety, in fact, reflected the Muslims’ loyalty to Bosnia and to the Ottoman Empire. In this new situation these ‘ulamā’ came to see that it was the vatan (Bosnia) and not the din (Islam) that was in danger, as [the] continuation of hijra would gradually empty Bosnia of its Muslims.73

Fatwas were issued and articles were published in the local press. Among the first was a writing by Hafiz Muhamed Emin Hadžijahić (1837–1892), a respected theologian from Sarajevo, who had studied in Istanbul and taught at Gazi Husrev-beg medresa (the Muslim high school founded by Gazi Husrev-beg). He exhorted Muslims not to leave the lands of their birth and warned of the negative consequences of hijra (migration), such as the disappearance of Islam in certain areas as well as demographic losses of Muslims in Bosnia. He concluded that Bosniaks should stay in their home country even if this meant living under Austro–Hungarian rule.74 A recently published collection of witness reports of Bosniaks who had migrated to Ottoman lands and returned to Bosnia confirms the economic and psychological impact of these upheavals.75 Obviously the migrants were curious but misinformed. They expected a better life and were persuaded that in Turkey they would be given fertile land, housing and cattle. However, the reports of 308 migrants who chose to return reveal that they were met with an array of challenges, beginning, for instance, with their ignorance of Turkish, but also including unemployment, lack of income and finances, as well as lack of food and clothing. They also had to contend with low living standards, disease, barren and rocky land, poor housing, the new condition of being a foreigner, discrimination against Bosniaks, and the unreceptiveness of the locals. This combination of factors prompted them to return to Bosnia, sometimes on foot. Many of them begged for money in order to survive and be able to return to Bosnia.76 For example, Mehmed ef. Jahić from Banja Luka noted that eight members of his family decided to leave for Turkey, where they were told to settle down in Ankara. There they were given only one room of six square meters where they had to eat and sleep. After months of no improvement, they spent their savings, started begging, and decided to make the journey home on foot, which took them three months. According to his account, almost all Bosniaks suffered similar hardships. He concluded that he would never go to Turkey, nor would he advise anyone else to go there.77 Some admitted in these reports that they had fled to Turkey in order to avoid serving in the Austro–Hungarian military.78

Another religious scholar who was even more influential than Hadžijahić was Mehmed Teufik Azapagić (1838–1918), of whom I made mention earlier.79 He received his University degree in Istanbul and then returned to Bosnia to become the director of a high school in Sarajevo and later in Tuzla, while at the same time also serving as a Shari’a judge (kadi). When Austria–Hungary occupied Bosnia, he became a loyal and devoted protector of the new order, and soon he was appointed as the mufti of Tuzla. In 1893, after Hadžiomerović’s retirement, Azapagić was appointed as Reisu-l-ulema, a position he held until his retirement in 1909.80 Azapagić wrote an influential treatise entitled “Risala fi al hijra” (Treatise on migration) in Arabic in 1884 in order to address questions that were topics of debate in theological circles of the time.81 In 1886, in order to address the broader audience, he published it in Turkish in the Bosnian newspaper Vatan.82 Although his treatise contains the word “migration” in its title, it is about life under non-Muslim rule in general. He was of the opinion that the Muslims of Bosnia should not migrate, but rather should stay in their dwelling places as long as they were not forced to abandon their religion and were able to perform their religious duties. Karić describes the discourse of migration (hidžra) versus the discourse of staying (watan/homeland) as follows:

The discourse of watan or staying (or of homeland and patriotism), as exemplified by the short epistle Risala Concerning Hijra by Mehmed Teufik Azapagić from 1884, was also the choice made by the Islamic Community Rijaset83 (founded in 1882). In its fatwas, views and activities, Rijaset promoted a new interpretation of hijra. Its advocates claimed that emigration to Turkey did not amount to performing hijra according to its original purposes. Therefore, a “hijra” to Turkey could hardly compare with the Prophet’s hijra from Mecca to Medina in 622. Practically speaking, at the end of the nineteenth century Bosnian Muslim authorities re-evaluated classic Muslim views on hijra. The new discourse of adaptation is clearly visible in officially issued statements about the then current issues. A good example is Rais al-ulama Hilmi ef. Hadžiomerović’s (1816–1895) support for the new law of conscription into Austria–Hungarian army, with which he encouraged Muslims to join in.84

Azapagić was unquestionably one of the leading reformist thinkers of the time in Bosnia, as he took into consideration the real political and societal circumstances (context). His hope was to contribute to the progress and advancement of Muslim Bosniaks, while applying human rationale and trying to analyze the messages and sources of Islam (Qur’an and Hadith). He reinterpreted Qur’anic verses and adapted the experiences of the prophet Mohammed to the challenges of his time. At the beginning of the revelation of Islam to the prophet Mohammed, flight from Mecca was necessary because Muslims were oppressed and they resolved to leave Mecca for a better place. Azapagić quoted a saying from the Prophet according to which after the liberation of Mecca there would be no more obligatory migrations. Thus, he came to the conclusion that migration cannot be a religious duty.85 On the other side, the contemporary Ottoman Shaykhu-l-Islam issued a fatwa in 1887 according to which Muslims should migrate to Ottoman lands. While many imams at the time felt that it was a religious duty for a Muslim to flee Austro–Hungarian rule, Azapagić raised his voice against these teachings and also consulted other scholars. He was influenced by the reasoning of Mohammed Rashid Rida, an Egyptian thinker. In 1909, in an article published in the journal Al-Manar on emigration (hijra), Rida wrote the following regarding the situation of the Bosniaks under Austro–Hungarian rule:

Hijra is not an individual religious incumbency to be performed by those who are able to carry out their duties in a manner safe from any attempt to compel them to abandon their religion or prevent them from performing and acting in accordance with their religious rites.86

Azapagić states that there is no religious justification for migration as long as the people in a country are not oppressed, forced to do things contrary to Shari’a, compelled to perform immoral acts, abused, or made the subjects of accusations for their beliefs. For him, devotion to Islam was not shown by leaving one’s home country or place of dwelling.87 For Azapagić, Dar al-harb would become Dar al-Islam if Islamic religious rites and observances such as Friday prayers (juma) and Bayram prayers were allowed and practiced, even if the majority of the population of the country in question was non-Muslim or did not belong to an Islamic country.88 The position of a Shari’a judge (kadi) had always been of key importance, but Azapagić believed that it would be acceptable if among the Muslims a non-Muslim judge were to be appointed if the Muslims were satisfied with him.89 Furthermore, having analyzed various hadith and the lives of the first generations of Muslims, he came to the following conclusions:

A country in which Christians are in power and Muslims are governing their religious affairs essentially is not in the hands of Christians. Governing and regulating specific affairs means a certain independence. It is said: regulating things and governing them is as if you surrender power to someone […] I claim that it is permissible to accept non-Muslim rule because the ashab90 were allowed to follow Yazid […].91

The Qur’an in the sura Mumtahanah, verse 8–9, which Azapagić quotes, reminds believers that friendly relations with unbelievers who are not hostile to the Muslim community are permissible and even desirable:

Allah does not forbid you from those who do not fight you because of religion and do not expel you from your homes – from being righteous toward them and acting justly toward them. Indeed, Allah loves those who act justly. Allah only forbids you from those who fight you because of religion and expel you from your homes and aid in your expulsion – [forbids] that you make allies of them. And whoever makes allies of them, then it is those who are the wrongdoers.92

Additionally, he states that “respecting a ruler is like respecting Allah,” and that it is a Qur’anic principle to behave kindly to others, including believers and unbelievers, as well as rulers.93 According to Fikret Karčić, Azapagić was the first Bosniak scholar in modern times to recognize the importance of the territorial dimension for Muslim communities in non-Muslim surroundings.94 The importance of Azapagić’s interpretation lies in the modernist or reformist approach towards traditional concepts of Islam (hijra, Dar al-harb, Dar al-Islam etc.). While Azapagić’s elaboration influenced future generations of Muslim scholars, there was also a voice calling for migration. Omerović ibn Husein Taslidžali, known as Bosnali Omerović-baba, advised Bosniaks to migrate, but not to Istanbul, as it had become too Western. He encouraged migration to lands in which Shari’a law was applied, such as Syria, Palestine and the Sinai in the Near East. His perspective, according to Karčić, was typical of scholars who lived on the borderlands of the Muslim world and who were disappointed with the corruption and incompetency of the disintegrating Ottoman Empire, leading them to a traditional, conservative and anti-modern understanding of religion.95 However, Azapagić’s view was ground-breaking and popular on both the Muslim and non-Muslim sides.

Soon the Bosniaks realized that Austria–Hungary did not pose a threat to their religious identity, and when World War I broke out, the Bosniaks formed an elite military unit as part of which they proved their utmost loyalty to Austria–Hungary.

A correspondent of the “Berlin Daily” (Berliner Tageblatt) wrote about the “Holy war in Berlin”96 and the Bosniaks who were accommodated in the Vienna Rudolfskaserne (Rudolf barracks) and fought in Poland as part of the infantry.97 There were 600 Muslims living in the barracks, who were described as tall men with typically Slavic features. The correspondent gave a detailed description of a Friday prayer led in the barracks by the military imam Husein efendi Durić. The imam wore a dark grey officer’s coat and a grey fes, like the Bosniak soldiers. The Friday prayer was performed meticulously with recitations from the Qur’an, a Friday sermon (khutbah) in Arabic and Bosnian, and a common prayer in a separate room on carpets provided for the Muslim soldiers. In the khutbah, the imam informed the soldiers of the jihad fatwa issued by the Shaykhu-l-Islam in Istanbul. He alleged that Russia, England, France, Serbia and Montenegro had formed a plot against Islam and Muslims, so jihad had to be waged against them, as they were enemies of Islam. No Muslim was permitted not to take part in this jihad. The prayer concluded with the words “Let us pray for the glory and victory of our ruler the glorious Kaiser and King Franz Joseph.” The praying Bosniaks did not react in any particularly distinctive way, but the correspondent made the following observation:

The faces did not reveal anything regarding the proclamation of jihad. The Bosniak does not like to reveal his feelings through gestures or exclamations; yet the call for jihad will be seen in the battlefield, as they know from their ancestors how to fight for an idea.98

Assuming the correspondent was astute in his powers of observation (and not simply writing something he hoped his editors would like), the attitude he discerned among the Bosniaks could be interpreted as a sign of readiness to show devotion to a cause, which is a form of loyalty. Furthermore, the correspondent describes another officer who assisted the imam and who was a scholar from the prestigious Al-Azhar University in Cairo. This again indicates that even a religious scholar who was educated in the Ottoman Empire, in the oldest Islamic University, adapted to the new situation and sided with Austria–Hungary.

Bosniak soldiers not only protected the borders of their new homeland, they were also deployed during World War I to various battlegrounds abroad. Bosniak regiments were sent primarily to the Russian and Italian fronts. On the Russian front, Bosniaks fought in Galicia between the Vistula and Bug Rivers. Many of them did not make it back home. On the Italian battleground, Bosniaks had to participate in nine theaters of fierce fighting between the Austro–Hungarian and the Italian armies around the province of Gorizia, close to the city of Trieste. Thus, many Bosniaks lost their lives fighting on the side of Austria–Hungary during World War I. In the cemetery of Lebring, District Leibnitz, in Steiermark, Austria there is a burial ground for soldiers in which one finds 805 Bosniak graves. Interestingly, each grave has a fes, the typical Bosniak male head cover, on top of the grave marker. This cemetery is referred to as the “Bosniakenfriedhof,” and it is testimony to the loyalty of Bosniaks to Austria–Hungary. The commemorative plaque reads: “In memory of the brave Bosniaks who heroically defended the common Austrian fatherland in World War I to the very last.”99


The Treaty of Berlin stipulated that the Ottoman Empire had to withdraw from Bosnia and that Austria–Hungary would administer and occupy the newly acquired territory. The new political and military system meant a dramatic change for the Bosniaks. Suddenly they found themselves a religious minority under the rule of a predominantly Catholic empire. Their main fear was that they would lose their religious identity. Many of them migrated to remaining Ottoman lands. When the Conscription law was passed, another wave of migration occurred in Bosnia, and in Hercegovina there was an uprising. The Conscription law was indeed one of the ways of bringing the sovereignty of the Sultan to an end and completing the annexation of Bosnia. Bosniak hopes that the Sultan might return were crushed, and additionally Bosniaks found themselves compelled to address the question of whether or not it was permissible for a Muslim to serve in a non-Muslim military. Further questions regarding the life of a Muslim in a predominantly non-Muslim country arose. Thus, religious scholars faced the challenges of the time, analyzed the possible consequences of migration, and reinterpreted Islamic sources in order to find new responses to the circumstances. This all gave momentum to the rise of a reformist trend in Islamic thought according to which life under non-Muslim rule was acceptable as long as the religious rights and practices of Muslims were respected. Austria–Hungary showed respect for the religious needs of the Bosniaks and issued separate rules and regulations for Muslim soldiers. The Bosniaks, in turn, gradually realized that Austria–Hungary did not pose a threat to their religious identity, and they showed allegiance to Austro–Hungarian authority and responded to the expectations of the state, such as serving in the military in times of peace and times of war.

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1 For the sake of simplicity, I use the term Bosnia instead of Bosnia and Hercegovina in the rest of this essay.

2 Mustafa Imamović, Pravni položaj i unutrašnjo-politički razvitak BiH od 1878–1914 (Sarajevo: Bosanski Kulturni Centar, 1997), 31.

3 Historically “Bosniak” is the term used to refer to all inhabitants of Bosnia regardless of their religion, but due to political processes in the nineteenth century (processes that were influenced by the so-called Spring of Nations), gradually the Orthodox began to refer to themselves as Serbs and the Catholics slowly came to identify themselves as Croats. Thus, the term Bosniak came to refer to Muslims only. In this essay I use the term to refer to Muslim Bosniaks. When I mention the Orthodox or Catholics, I often use these terms interchangeably with the terms Serbs and Croats.

4 Anna Stilz, Liberal Loyalty. Freedom, Obligation, and the State (Princeton–Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2009), 93.

5 Martin Schulze Wessel, “‘Loyalität‘ als geschichtlicher Grundbegriff und Forschungskonzept: Zur Einleitung,” in Loyalitäten in der Tschechoslowakischen Republik 1918–1938. Politische, nationale und kulturelle Zugehörigkeiten, ed. Martin Schulze Wessel (Munich: Oldenbourg, 2004), 12.

6 Hamdija Kreševljaković, Izabrana djela IV. Prilozi za političku istoriju Bosne i Hercegovine u XVII i XIX stoljeću (Sarajevo: Veselin Masleša, 1991), 73–167.

7 Eventually, Bosnians would have to fight against the Ottoman Empire, i.e. against the Sultan.

8 Jörn Leonhard and Ulrike von Hirschhausen, Empires und Nationalstaaten im 19. Jahrhundert (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2011), 81–85. In comparison to Austria–Hungary, Great Britain didn’t introduce general conscription until 1916, as it regarded itself as a naval power.

9 Martin Schulze Wessel, ed., Loyalitäten in der Tschechoslowakischen Republik 1918–1938. Politische, nationale und kulturelle Zugehörigkeiten (Munich: Oldenbourg, 2004).

10 Horst Haselsteiner, “Zur Haltung der Donaumonarchie in der Orientalischen Frage,” in Der Berliner Kongress von 1878, ed. Ralph Melville and Hans-Jürgen Schröder (Wiesbaden: Franz-Steiner Verlag, 1982), 232–34.

11 Zur Orientierung über den gegenwärtigen Stand der bosnischen Verwaltung (Vienna: Aus der Königl. Hof- und

Staatsdruckerei, 1881), 1.

12 Ibid., 1–5. Thus, the heads of the provincial government in Bosnia (Landeschef) were always military commanders.

13 Imre Ress, “Versuch einer Nationsbildung um die Jahrhundertwende,” accessed August 5, 2014,


14 Die Große Politik der europäischen Kabinette 1871–1914. Sammlung der diplomatischen Akten des Auswärtigen Amtes, vol. 3 (Berlin: Auswärtiges Amt, 1922), 176–79. The Treaty of Three Emperors remained secret until the end of World War I, although there were rumors in the press about the annexation of Bosnia. The treaty still followed the spirit of the “great reformer,” Russian Czar Alexander II, and his friendly policy towards Berlin. Alexander II was assassinated in March 1881, and under the reign of his successor Alexander III relations with the Central European powers declined.

15 Ernst S. Rutkowski, “Der Plan für eine Annexion Bosniens und der Herzegowina aus den Jahren 1882/83,” in Mitteilungen des Oberösterreichischen Landesarchivs, vol. 5 (Graz–Cologne: Hermann Böhlaus, 1957), 116. Rutkowski (116–23) describes the evolving debate whether to remain with the occupation or to attempt to annex Bosnia.

16 “Treaty of Alliance between Austria–Hungary and Serbia. Belgrade, June 16/28 1881,” in The Secret Treaties of Austria–Hungary 1879–1914, ed. Alfred Francis Pribram (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1920), 51.

17 Ibid., 119.

18 Benjámin v. Kállay, Die Lage der Mohammedaner in Bosnien. Von einem Ungarn (Vienna: Adolf Holzhausen, 1900), 9.

19 The developments in Boka played a role for the Serbs only, not the Bosniaks.

20 Hamdija Kapidžić, Hercegovački ustanak 1882. godine (Sarajevo: Veselin Masleša, 1973), 75.

21 Verordnung der Landesregierung für Bosnien und die Hercegovina vom 4. November 1881, Zahl 2679/P., betreffend die Kundmachung des provisorischen Wehrgesetzes für Bosnien und die Hercegovina, accessed February 2, 2014, http://alex.onb.ac.at/cgi-content/alex?aid=lbh&datum=18819004&seite=00000695.

22 Auszug aus dem Circularerlasse der Landesregierung für Bosnien und die Hercegovina vom 5. November 1881, Z. 2698/Pr. betreffend der Behandlung der Mohammedaner während der activen Militärdienstzeit, accessed February 2, 2014, http://alex.onb.ac.at/cgi-content/alex?aid=lbh&datum=1881&page=756&size=28.

23 Gesetz vom 11. August 1912, betreffend die Einführung eines neuen Wehrgesetzes für Bosnien und die Hercegovina, accessed on February 2, 2014,


24 Provisorisches Wehrgesetz für Bosnien und die Hercegovina, accessed February 2, 2014, http://alex.onb.ac.at/cgi-content/alex?aid=lbh&datum=18819004&seite=00000697.

25 Sarajevski list, 4, no. 102, November 4, 1881.

26 Verordnung, 4 November 1881, 696.

27 Sarajevski list, 4, no. 105, November 11, 1881.

28 This meant that the meat for Muslims had to come from animals that had been butchered according to the principles of Islam. Such meat is called halal meat.

29 Christoph Neumayer and Erwin A. Schmidl, eds., Des Kaisers Bosniaken. Die bosniakisch–herzegowinischen Truppen in der k.u.k. Armee. Geschichte und Uniformierung von 1878 bis 1918 (Vienna: Verlag Militaria, 2008), 110. The military imams in the Austro–Hungarian army from 1882 until 1918 are listed, including the cities in which they performed their military duty as imams: Mehmed ef. Kokić (1992–1888, Sarajevo), Mehmed ef. Bećiragić (1888–1895, Vienna/Sarajevo), Ahmed Šukri ef. Bajraktarević (1891–1904, Vienna/Sarajevo), Asim ef. Doglodović (1895–1902, Vienna), Hašim ef. Dženanović (1902–1914, Vienna/Budapest/Graz/Sarajevo/Trieste), Hafiz Abdullah ef. Kurbegović (1904–1918, Vienna; from 1914 as military mufti; received medal of Kaiser Francis Joseph), Salih ef. Atiković (1909–1918, Graz), Hafiz Ibrahim ef. Jahić (1909–1918, Budapest) and Osman ef. Redžović (1914–1917, Trieste). There were also some 100 military imams in reserve (cf. enumeration in Zijad Šehić, “Vojni imami u bosanskohercegovačkim jedinicama u okviru austrougarske armije 1878–1918,” Godišnjak Bošnjaćke zajednice kulture „Preporod” 6, no. 1 (2006): 309–21.

30 Kapidžić, Hercegovački ustanak, 81.

31 Ibid., 81–82.

32 German Consulate to Bismarck, Sarajevo, December 4, 1881. Nacionalna i Univerzitetska Biblioteka Sarajevo. Original in German.

33 To this day people in Bosnia recall Eugene of Savoy, who burned down Sarajevo.

34 Enes Karić, “Aspects of Islamic Discourse in Bosnia-Herzegovina from Mid 19th till the End of the 20th Century: A Historical Review,” in Sehrayin. Die Welt der Osmanen, die Osmanen in der Welt; Wahrnehmungen, Begegnungen und Abgrenzungen. Illuminating the Ottoman World Perceptions, Encounters and Boundaries, ed. Yavuz Köse (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2012), 286.

35 Srećko Džaja, Bosnien-Herzegovina in der österreichisch–ungarischen Epoche, 1878–1918. Die Intelligentsia zwischen Tradition und Ideologie (Munich: n.p., 1994), 209; Imamović, Pravni položaj, 109; Zoran Grijak, “O nekim važnijim aspektima problema konverzija na katolicizam u Bosni i Hercegovini u austrougarskom razdoblju u svjetlu neobjavljenih arhivskih izvora,” in Međunarodna konferencija, Bosna i Hercegovina u okviru Austro-Ugarske 1878–1918, održana u Sarajevu 30. i 31. marta 2009, Zbornik radova, ed. Filozofski Fakultet u Sarajevu (Sarajevo: Filozofski Fakultet u Sarajevu, 2011), 143–65; Aydin Babuna, “The Berlin Treaty, Bosnian Muslims, and Nationalism,” in War and Diplomacy, ed. Hakan Yavuz (Salt Lake City: The University of Utah Press, 2011), 203; Sandra Biletić, “Iskustva bosanskohercegovačkih povratnika iz iseljeništva za vrijeme austro-ugarske uprave (1878–1903),” Građa Arhiva Bosne i Hercegovine 5, no. 5 (2013): 20–182.

36 There are several estimates of the number of migrants. According to Imamović, around 150,000 Bosniaks fled to remaining Ottoman lands between 1878 and 1918. See Imamović, Pravni položaj, 113.

37 Kapidžić, Hercegovački ustanak, 83.

38 Osman Lavić, “Iseljavanje Bošnjaka Muslimana iz BiH za vrijeme Austro-Ugarske vladavine i risala Mehmeda Teufika Azapagića,” Anali Gazi Husrev-begove biblioteke 17–18, (1996): 123.

39 Sarajevski list, “Brzojavne vijesti,” 4, no. 116. December 7, 1881; Kapidžić, Hercegovački ustanak, 80.

40 Kapidžić, Hercegovački ustanak, 83.

41 Ibid., 81.

42 Der Aufstand in der Hercegovina, Süd-Bosnien und Süd-Dalmatien 1881–1882. Nach Authentischen Quellen dargestellt in der Abtheilung für Kriegsgeschichte des k.k. Kriegs-Archivs. (Vienna: n.p., 1883), 4. The original text is as follows: “So began ein Theil der einsichtsvolleren mohammedanischen Classen sich nach und nach mit der neuen Ordnung der Dinge auszusöhnen. In Bosnien wenigstens, vollzog sich dieser Umschwungs ziemlich rasch; die Masse der mohammedanischen Einwohner der nördlichen Gegenden hatte ohnedies schon während des Einmarsches der k. k. Truppen eine ziemlich passive Haltung beobachtet und empfand daher auch die spätere strenge Handhabung der gesetzlichen Ordnung, die überall herrschende Sicherheit und Erleichterung des Verkehres bald als eine Wohlthat. Im südlichen Theile Bosniens dagegen, sowie hauptsächlich in der Hercegovina, wo alle Gegensätze weit schärfer auftreten, verhahrrten die fanatischen Begs, wiewohl sie der Gewalt weichen mussten, innerlich im alten Hass und der angeborenen Verachtung gegen alles ihnen Fremde und Neue: sie konnten die Schmach nicht verwinden, ihre frühere unbedingte Herrschaft durch das österreichische Regime gebrochen zu sehen, und begriffen nicht, wie die geknechtete Rajah die gleichen Rechte wie sie selbst, vor dem Gesetze geniessen sollte. Unter diesen, so recht eigentlich die alte türkische Feudal-Herrschaft repräsentierende Gesellschaftsclassen fanden Sympathien für die österreichisch-ungarische Verwaltung nur sehr schwer Eingang.”

43 Ibid., 5.

44 Ibid., 7, Eduard von Kählig, Vor zwanzig Jahren. Lose Blätter der Erinnerung an die Bekämpfung des Aufstandes in der Hercegovina im Jahre 1882 (Graz: Leykam, 1902), 9–10. Kählig also gives an interesting description of the temper of Hercegovinian people.

45 German Consulate, Sarajevo, January 20, 1882. Nacionalna i Univerzitetska Biblioteka Sarajevo.

46 Bericht des Präsidiums der Landesregierung für Bosnien und die Hercegovina vom 27. Januar 1882: An das hohe k.u.k. Minsterium (Bureau für Angelegenheiten Bosniens und Hercegovina); IV. Situationsbericht; includes: Dahlen, Hohes Minsterium. Sarajevo, January 27, 1882. Arhiv Bosne i Hercegovine Zajedničko Ministarstvo Finansija Odjeljenje za Bosnu i Hercegovinu (hereinafter ABIH ZMF) Präs. 218/1882. Cf. Kapidžić, Hercegovački ustanak, 82–83.

47 Sarajevski list, “Uvaćeni ajduci,” 4, no. 113, November 29, 1881; Kählig, Vor zwanzig Jahren, 13.

48 Babuna, “The Berlin Treaty,” 53–58.

49 Kapidžić, Hercegovački ustanak, 83.

50 Der Aufstand, 12.

51 Kählig, Vor zwanzig Jahren, 11. The aforementioned “Greeks” were not Greeks in a national sense, but Orthodox citizens of Bosnia who gradually started regarding themselves as Serbs in the course of nineteenth century and the rise of the Serbian nation state. Often sources refer to the Orthodox population as Greeks or Greek-oriental people. In comparison, the Muslim population of Bosnia is often referred to as Turks or Mohammedans.

52 “...liegt der nähere Grund der Insurrektion des mohamedanischen Elementes darin, daß diese Leute meistenteils wohlhabend sind und zum Schutze ihrer Habe sich der Insurrektion anzuschließen bemüßigt waren. Der ausgeübte Zwang wird dadurch erhärtet, daß diejenigen, die an der Insurrektion nicht teilgenommen haben, ihrer Habe beraubt worden sind.” Mehmed Rašidović: Hohe Landesregierung! Sarajevo, October 12, 1882, (Abschrift) ABiH ZVS 1970/1882.

53 Kapidžić, Hercegovački ustanak, 75–76.

54 Ibid., 78.

55 Kählig, Vor zwanzig Jahren, 101.

56 Ibid., 95.

57 Ibid., 117.

58 Ibid., 120.

59 Ibid., 118.

60 Kapetanović is often quoted as Mehmed beg Kapetanović-Ljubušak to denote his place of birth Ljubuški.

61 ABiH Präs. ZMF 3038 30/12 1881; Präsidium der Landesregierung für Bosnien und Hercegovina: Hohes Ministerium. Sarajevo, February 14, 1882 ABiH ZMF 358/82.

62 Präsidium des Bureau für die Angelegenheiten Bosniens und der Herzegowina: Landesregierung Sarajevo legt vor den Bericht des Reg. R. Mehmed Bey Kapetanovic über die Situation in der Herzegovina. Ibid., January 15–20,1882. Prezidijalni spisi (ABiH ZMF Pr.) 62/1882, including: Dahlen, Präsidium der Landesregierung für Bosnien und die Hercegovina: Hohes Ministerium. Sarajevo, December 29, 1881 (see also ABiH ZVS Präs. 3460/1881); Abschrift der Übersetzung eines Berichtes des Regierungsrathes Kapetanovic d.d. Mostar, 16. December 1881 an das Präsidium der Landesregierung. The corresponding file in the documentation of the Bosnian government (ABiH ZVS Präs. 3460/1881) contains additional reports from regional and local authorities in Mostar and Nevesinje.

63 Dahlen, Präsidium der Landesregierung für Bosnien und die Hercegovina: Hohes Ministerium. Sarajevo, December 29, 1881 ABiH ZMF Präs. 3460/1881; Landesregierung Sarajevo legt vor den Bericht des Reg. R. Mehmed Bey Kapetanovic über die Situation in der Herzegovina; ibid., January 15, 1882 62 1882; cf. Robin Okey, Taming Balkan Nationalism. The Habsburg ‘Civilizing Mission’ in Bosnia, 1878–1914 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), 52.

64 Kapidžić, Hercegovački ustanak, 80.

65 Der Aufstand, 5.

66 Interestingly, Kállay’s perception of Bosniak national identity is an adaptation of the contemporary Hungarian national policy, according to which the aristocracy and the landowners played a nation-building and nation-keeping role. See Ress, “Versuch,” s.p.

67 Karić, “Aspects,” 286.

68 Ismet Bušatlić, “Hadži Mustafa Hilmi-efendija Hadžiomerović,” Islamska misao 82 (1985): 3–8.

69 Omer Nakičević, Istorijski razvoj institucije Rijaseta (Sarajevo: Rijaset Islamske Zajednice u BiH, 1996), 83.

70 Vermerk über Vertrag betreffend die Einsetzung eines Reis-el-Ulema und eines Medžlis-el-Ulema für die Cultus-Angelegenheiten in B-H. ABiH ZMF Pr. 1939/1882. Interestingly, Benjámin Kállay personally gave a lecture to the Kaiser about this topic. He consulted Kutschera as well and included his remarks. Vortrag betreffend die Einsetzung eines Reis ul Ulemas u. Medželis Ulema für die Kulturangelegenheiten der Mohamedaner in B. u. H. Vienna, October 13, 1882; seq. ibid. 1957/1882.

71 Okey, Taming Balkan Nationalism, 48.

72 ‘Ulamā’, Arabic word for scholars.

73 Muhamed Mufaku Al Arnaut, “Islam and Muslims in Bosnia 1878–1918: Two Hijras and Two Fatwas,” Journal of Islamic Studies 5, no. 2 (1994): 248.

74 Lavić, “Iseljavanje,” 126.

75 Biletić, “Iskustva,” 20–182.

76 Ibid.

77 Ibid., 35. The reports of other returnees contain similar accounts of experiences in Turkey.

78 Ibid., 48.

79 Mehmed Teufik Azapagić was born in Tuzla and studied in Istanbul. He was mufti of Tuzla and first director of the Shari’a school in Sarajevo. In 1893 he was appointed Reisu-l-ulema, and he held this position until 1909.

80 Lavić, “Iseljavanje,” 126.

81 Interestingly, when Bosnia was part of the Ottoman Empire, alongside Bosnian, which was the daily vernacular, Arabic was the language of theology, Turkish the language of administration and Persian the language of literature and poetry. Even after Bosnia had fallen under Austro–Hungarian rule, educated people knew how to express themselves in all of these languages. With new generations of students completing their degrees primarily in Vienna and with German as the language of the new administration, German became a further commonly known language.

82 The Gazi Husrev-beg Library in Sarajevo holds two manuscripts of this treatise in Arabic. Osman Lavić translated the treatise: Mehmed Teufik Azapagić, “Risala o hidžri”, trans. Osman Lavić, Anali Gazi Husrev begove biblioteke 16–17, (1990): 197–222.

83 Rijaset is the central administrative and executive organ of the Islamic Community in Bosnia.

84 Karić, “Aspects,” 286–87.

85 Azapagić, “Risala o hidžri,” For the purpose of this paper, translations from Bosnian to English were done by the author.

86 Rida quoted in Al-Arnaut, Islam, 253.

87 Azapagić, “Risala o hidžri,” 201–02.

88 Ibid., 203.

89 Ibid., 204.

90 Ashab were the followers and friends of the prophet Mohammad who witnessed his sayings and actions.

91 Azapagić, “Risala o hidžri,” 205–06. Yazid I, son of Muawiya, Caliph 610–83. Yazid was a violent ruler who approved the killing of the prophet’s grandson Husein and often he is accused of even being a non-believer. Thus, if it was acceptable to live under Yazid’s rule why would it not be acceptable to live under Austro–Hungarian rule?

92 Ibid., 206. Translation of the Qur’anic verses accessed on May 13, 2014 http://quran.com/60/8-9.

93 Azapagić, “Risala o hidžri,” 207.

94 Fikret Karčić, Bošnjaci i izazovi modernosti. Kasni osmanlijski i habsburški period (Sarajevo: El Kalem, 2004), 113.

95 Ibid., 115–16.

96 On November 11, 1914, a fatwa was issued by the Shaykhu-l-Islam in Istanbul. The Statute for Religious and Cultural Autonomy, §141, allowed Bosniaks to ask the Shaykhu-l-Islam for his legal opinion in critical issues of dogma as well as in questions relating to Shari’a. On November 26, 1914, he addressed a letter in Bosnian to the Grandmufti, the head of the Islamic Community in Bosnia (Reisu-l-ulema), Mehmed Džemaludin Čaušević. In that letter, the Shaykhu-l-Islam analyzed the political context of his fatwa, a binding order, calling for Jihad against Russia, England and France. Thus, all Muslims were to side with and fight for Austria–Hungary and Germany. On the other side, the Shaykhu-l-Islam stressed that the Muslims should behave amicably and live peacefully in countries that respected the treaties and were kind to Muslims. Thus, it would have been against this fatwa for Muslims under the rule of England, France, Russia, Serbia, Montenegro, and their allies to fight against Germany and Austro–Hungary, which were the allies of the Ottoman Empire.

97 Karl Aspen, Kriegsanekdoten. Heitere und ernste Tatsachen aus dem Jahre 1914/1915 (Regensburg: J. Habbel, 1918), 200–02.

98 Ibid., 202.

99 Onlineprojekt Gefallenendenkmäler, accessed August 22, 2014. http://www.denkmalprojekt.org/2009/lebring_kgs_wk1_stmk_oe.htm.

pdfVolume 3 Issue 3 CONTENTS

Klara Volarić

Between the Ottoman and Serbian States: Carigradski Glasnik, an Istanbul-based Paper of Ottoman Serbs, 1895–1909

In this essay I investigate Carigradski glasnik (Constantinople’s Messenger), an Istanbul-based periodical written by Ottoman Serbs between 1895 and 1909. This journal was a direct product of Serbian diplomatic circles in Istanbul aimed at audiences in Ottoman Macedonia, a region which was claimed by Greek, Bulgarian and Serbian countries as their own national territory and which soon became a political arena for the spread of national propaganda intended to persuade the Slavic-speaking Orthodox population of its respective Greek, Serbian, or Bulgarian national roots. Carigradski glasnik propagated the idea of Serbian nationhood and fought for the establishment of a Serbian Millet. Essentially, it was an attempt to create nationhood from above, propagating “Serbianness” as envisioned by its editors and Serbian diplomats. It was engaged in the dispute over Ottoman Macedonia, which in the historiography is known as the Macedonian question.

Keywords: Ottoman Macedonia, national consciousness, propaganda, newspaper, print media, Serbia, Young Turks, national struggle

Following the establishment of the Bulgarian Exarchate in 1870, the struggle over Ottoman Macedonia intensified. Bulgaria and Greece emerged as the most serious contenders. They promoted concepts of Bulgarian and Greek nationhood in Ottoman Macedonia and also fostered the nation-building process within their own borders. Each of these countries tried to legitimate their claims to Ottoman Macedonia, but the Berlin Congress in 1878 put the Greek–Bulgarian struggle into question because some of the decisions that were made at the Congress affected the situation in Ottoman Macedonia. Specifically, in addition to the fact that Ottoman Macedonia emerged as an international problem and came to be regarded by the great powers as a region that needed to be reformed, Serbia, after having lost Bosnia and Herzegovina, also decided to attempt to establish and strengthen its position there.

However, the intention of Serbian diplomatic circles, and therefore of Carigradski glasnik, was not to undermine Ottoman sovereignty but rather to act in accordance with it. Unlike Bulgaria, which fostered revolutionary activities in the region from 1895 in order to sever Ottoman Macedonia from the Ottoman Empire and eventually annex it, Serbia calculated that it was in its interests that Macedonia remain within the Ottoman Empire. As a latecomer to the struggle for control of the territory, Serbia had to consolidate its position in the region. For this, it needed an ally, which is why the Serbian state supported and acted within Ottoman sovereignty. Each country had the same aim: to keep Ottoman Macedonia within the Ottoman Empire. For this reason, Carigradski glasnik operated fully in accordance with Ottoman press regulations. Moreover, it was published in Istanbul, under the strict surveillance of the Ottoman censors, and the editorial staff went out of their way to demonstrate the utmost loyalty of the Ottoman Serbs to the Sultanate. Since Carigradski glasnik diligently propagated the image of the Ottoman state, on some occasions it was hard to believe that the paper was actually a product of Serbian irredentist plans in the region.

As the periodical of Serbian diplomatic circles, Carigradski glasnik promoted Serbian nationhood as a stable, fixed and clear entity that had existed from time immemorial and that therefore distinguished the Serbian nation from the other nations in the Ottoman Empire, especially from the Slavic Bulgarians. This was the main mission of Serbian diplomatic circles in Istanbul. Thus, the main mission of the periodical was also first to convince its readers that shared aspects of culture such as language and specific celebrations were evidence of shared Serbian nationhood and second to emphasize the (alleged) loyalty of the Serbian nation in the Empire in order to obtain Millet status.1 Furthermore, although the Serbian diplomatic mission propagated fixed Serbian nationhood and the owners and editors of Carigradski glasnik were employed for this matter, the personal data of the two last owners did not reveal a strict and well-defined notion of Serbian nationhood, but rather a fluid sense of national identity, which was quite common among the local Macedonian population. Nevertheless, unlike most of the recent scholarship on Ottoman Macedonia (e.g. Jane Cowan’s or Victor Roudometof’s edited volumes on Macedonia),2 which approaches the study of nationhood from above (i.e. from the perspective of the state elites, who—like Carigradski glasnik—propagated a clear and fixed concept of nationhood) even when discussing its appropriation on the ground, I do not interpret nationhood from this perspective which sees fluid nationhood as a-national, but rather I interpret it as changeable form of practice.

This paper is divided into two sections: in the first section I analyze how Carigradski glasnik defined and propagated Serbian nationhood during the rule of Sultan Abdülhamid II and the early Young Turk period, and in the second section I focus on fluid nationhood exhibited by Kosta Grupčević and Temko Popović, the last two owners and editors of Carigradski glasnik. The first section is based almost entirely on my findings in Carigradski glasnik, while the second section is based on the secondary literature, mostly on the work of Tchavdar Marinov, Bernard Lory, Paschalis Kitromilides, Victor Friedman and others who touch upon some aspects of nationhood in Ottoman Macedonia.

Carigradski Glasnik and Serbian Nationhood during the Hamidian and the Early Young Turk Periods

Ottoman Serbs were not recognized as a Millet in the Ottoman Empire, but since the abolishment of the Peć Patriarchate in 1776, Ottoman Serbs had again become part of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, where they remained until the fall of the Ottoman Empire. For the Ottoman Serbs, not being recognized as a Millet presented certain difficulties, since they were deprived of religious and educational autonomy. This was an aggravating circumstance given that Bulgarians, characterized as the worst enemy of both Serbs and Greeks, obtained Millet status in 1895, granting them complete jurisdiction over their own religious and educational affairs. Another problem that was particularly serious in the context of the Greek-Bulgarian-Serbian war of statistics (in which quantity meant more than quality) was the fact that the Ottoman Serbs officially did not exist in the Ottoman Empire.3 This was the result of the 1881 and 1903 Ottoman censuses, which were based on denominations, i.e. on Millets. As the Ottoman Serbs were not recognized as a Millet, and the Millet was seen as a basis for counting “collective consciousness”, this meant that Ottoman Serbs were not officially recognized in the Empire. Rather they were registered accordingly as part of the Ecumenical Patriarchate or even the Bulgarian Exarchate. In addition, because these censuses were seen as the basis upon which Balkan irredentist claims were tested, the Greeks and Bulgarians challenged the Serb’s right to legitimate territorial claims in the region.4

Nevertheless, this problem, known as нуфијско питање (nüfüs question) in Serbian scholarship, was seen as two-sided. Namely, many Serbian diplomats, including Stojan Novaković, thought it was useless and even counterproductive to insist on solving the nüfüs question because the real number of the Ottoman Serbs would be revealed, and perhaps this would not be in the interests of the Serbian state. In their opinion, Serbian nationhood was de facto recognized because Serbia could more or less equally participate in the struggle for Ottoman Macedonia through Serbian consulates, schools, and churches, and this was what mattered.5 However, generally the Serbian government did not share this opinion, and on a few occasions it tried to solve this problem. Carigradski glasnik was engaged in this issue as well because it was charged with the task of constantly emphasizing the Serbian presence in the Ottoman state and propagating and defining Serbian nationhood in the Empire. According to an issue of the periodical published in 1899, “if the nation wants to be preserved as a nation, then it should have its own church and school. This is especially necessary here, where one nation lives together with other nations.”6

Naturally, this periodical pursued its aims in accordance with Ottoman press laws and procedures and also with consideration of the political atmosphere of the period. During Hamidian period, in which most of the issues of Carigradski glasnik were published, the constant assurance of loyalty to the Sultan was necessary in order to survive. Not only did the Ottoman state demand affirmations of loyalty from the periodical, Serbian diplomatic circles also came to realize that Serbian national goals could only be achieved with the assistance of the Ottoman Empire. Loyalty to the Sultan was usually expressed in the following words:

The Serbian nation in His vast Empire is well-known for its humble loyalty, every time and on every occasion it warmly prays to the Lord Almighty for the good health of its Master, who also cares for His subjects.7

This day in the hearts of all loyal subjects of the Ottoman Throne raises great joy, especially in the heart of Serbian nation. This is a chance for the Serbian nation to express its great love for its Divine Master, as well as its gratitude for the benefactions and mercifulness with which He lavishes his faithful Serbs.8

Avowals of loyalty to the Sultan and affirmations of the strong image of the Ottoman Empire in publications like Carigradski glasnik were carefully monitored, as clearly illustrated by the press collection found in the Yıldız Palace archive, which, according to Selim Deringil, ranged from well-known publications like The Times to “obscure Serbian or Bulgarian publications.”9 However, no matter how obscure Carigradski glasnik might have been for the Ottomans, the fact that it was read not just in Ottoman Macedonia (a region that was rife with tensions), but also outside the Ottoman Empire was grounds enough for the Ottoman image management teams that Deringil describes to pay special attention to its content.

Due to the meticulousness of the Ottoman censors, during the Hamidian period Carigradski glasnik resembled more an Ottoman propaganda paper than a Serbian one. It operated within the bounds set by Ottoman press regulations and imperial sovereignty, which demanded utmost loyalty to the Sultan, who was portrayed as the benevolent father who took care of his good-hearted and naïve children in the organs of the print media that thrived during his reign. Throughout the period, Glasnik operated according to these rules. Although violence was a constant fact of life in Ottoman Macedonia, until the Young Turk revolution and the liberalization of the Ottoman press this paper usually wrote about Ottoman Serbs as the most loyal subjects of Sultan Abdülhamid. The paper particularly stressed its loyalty during the Armenian massacres. Oddly enough, Armenian publications did the same thing. On a few occasions in 1896, Carigradski glasnik did publish notes on articles appearing in Armenian periodicals in which there was constant emphasis on Armenian loyalty to the Sultan, distancing the Armenian population from the troublemakers.10

Carigradski glasnik used every opportunity to praise the devotion of Ottoman Serbs to the Sultan, in contrast to the other, disloyal Christian communities of the Empire, and the periodical represented the Serbs as subjects who deserved to be recognized as a Millet. The usual tropes perpetuated the notion that Ottoman Serbs were one of the rare nations that had had to fight and endure a calamitous fate over the course of its existence, but despite all the obstacles, they always managed to survive and preserve the Serbian name and nation. For instance, one finds the following lament in an 1898 issue of the periodical:

There is no nation under the sky that has passed through harder and more horrible times than the Serbian nation. Every Serb who has even minimally investigated the past life of his nation, will know what these troubles were, when they took place, and how difficult they were. In addition, there are not many nations like the Serbian one, which has amazingly resisted its accursed fate; with great faith in the Lord and the Holy Orthodoxy, and with great pride in its name and nationhood.11

Not surprisingly, contributors to Carigradski glasnik claimed that it was only during the years of Abdülhamid’s reign that Ottoman Serbs finally enjoyed prosperity, because they were allowed to bolster their nationhood and freely proclaim it in the Serbian schools, which were seen as the battlefields of nations. Certainly this represented an allusion to the “book and pen” struggle in Ottoman Macedonia, where religion and education bolstered nationhood. For this reason, it is not surprising that Carigradski glasnik’s call to school resembled a call for war:

Run to school, you little Serb! This call is aimed to you because you have great and divine duties to your name. Nowadays nations are competing on the field of cultural progress. Instead of a battle of swords, we have a battle of minds. This battle determines the survival or decline of the individual and the nation. School is the one thing that will prepare you for this cultural game. So go to school, you too little Serb. School is the sacred duty that will prepare you for cultural work and the game on this field, on which, whether you like it or not, you must show yourself. The Serbian nation showed that it has the talents and abilities that are necessary for culture. In school you will strengthen your mind and raise your heart. Without this, one cannot be a Serb.12

Excerpts from articles show how Glasnik’s writers discussed Serbian nationhood as something timeless and unchanging and something that distinguished Serbs from all other nations. For instance, in an 1898 issue of the periodical one author made the following contention:

Nationhood cannot be lost even when deceived individuals take different names or when different names are imposed upon them forcefully. The armor of our nationhood is our past, language, folk songs and customs and above all slava13–the service–and many other characteristics that distinguish the Serbian nation from other nations.14

Slava, this is our national characteristic. Slava is the most distinguished feature by which we differ from other Slavic nations. Language, customs, tradition, folklore, even physhiognomy also differentiate us from them.15

This notion of clear-cut lines between the ethno-religious communities of the Ottoman Empire was used by the authors who contributed to Carigradski glasnik to prove the “separate existence” of the Serbian nation. Celebrations of exclusive Serbian saints like Saint Sava were meant to contribute to the preservation of Serbian nationhood among the local population in Ottoman Macedonia. For Carigradski glasnik, Serbian nationhood in the Ottoman state was clear. It did not have to be imposed upon the local population, but rather developed and was preserved from the Bulgarian, Greek or even Ottoman attempts to restrain and even deprecate the Serbian nation. For this reason, Carigradski glasnik paid as much attention to the celebrations of such occasions, such as the slava or Saint Sava, as it did to the yearly inaugural celebrations of the Sultan. The subscribers were encouraged to send descriptions of the festivities that were taking place throughout areas where Ottoman Serbs lived in order to bolster and stress the clear uniqueness of Serbian nationhood in comparison to nationhood of other peoples.16 Furthermore, such celebrations fostered the Serbian “imagined community” (to use Benedict Anderson’s term):

On Sava’s day, the entire scattered Serbian nation will be united in their thoughts, and all those thoughts concentrate around the Serbian nation as the defender of the Holy Orthodoxy and the Serbian name; around the revival of Serbian education and progress; around saint Sava, the grandest of the grand among Serbs. There is no Serbian pupil who does not know of his enlightener; there is no Serb who would not pay adequate respect to those who laid the foundations of Serbian education.17

Hence, although operating within the limits of Hamidian censorship and the political atmosphere of the time, in which loyalty to the Sultan had to be continuously stressed, Carigradski glasnik managed to promote Serbian nationhood even on occasions such as the Sultan’s birthday or anniversaries of ascension. On such occasions it used discourse of “we” and “them” in order to distance Ottoman Serbs from other nations and show that the Ottoman Serbs deserved a separate Millet.

Only after the Young Turk revolution and the passage of less restrictive press regulations did Carigradski glasnik begin to advocate Serbian interests more openly. Immediately following the revolution very little changed in the discourse. Abdülhamid remained untouchable, and the proclamation of the constitution was entirely attributed to him. The following passage from a 1908 issue of Carigradski glasnik points to how the Ottoman Serbs and other communities actually did expect meaningful changes from the Young Turk regime:

Sweet months of His Rule were accompanied by a harsh fate. Reformed glorious Turkey had to save the country from danger that was threatening from the outside. This attempt was stopped by the evil will of the Sultan’s advisors, whose personal interests were more important than the public one. In their irresponsibility they brought the country to the edge of doom. The voice of suffering and the exhaustion of the people reached the Throne of our Almighty. On 11 June our divine Ruler brought an end to these intrigues. 11 June is a day of freedom, a day of progress, a day of a rejuvenated Turkey! In the rejuvenated constitutionally free Turkey the Sultan Abdülhamid celebrates the thirty-third year of his coming to the Ottoman Throne. This thirty-third year is the most glorious in the reign of our divine Sultan. It is the beginning of the renaissance of our homeland based on the equality and brotherhood of all the Ottoman nationalities with the protection of civil freedom and safety. With him begins the Resurrection of our native land in all possible cultural directions. Long Live Constitutional Sultan Abdülhamid II! Long Live!18

These lines were written only a month after the revolution, so some of the big changes in the discourse, at least regarding Abdülhamid, could not be perceived. However, the reserved and loyal stance regarding the Sultan remained until the very end, that is to say, until the counterrevolution and Abdülhamid’s deposition in April 1909. The same could not be said for some other periodicals, like the satirical press, which had been banned during Hamidian era but resurrected after the Young Turk revolution and which began to criticize the Sultan.19

The dethronement of the Sultan was seen as a “historical act” with which the Ottoman Empire ridded iteslf of a despot comparable to Caligula or Nero. This suggests that Carigradski glasnik was playing it safe, waiting until the actual dethronement of Abdülhamid. Only then, after fifteen years, did Carigradski glasnik change its rhetoric concerning Abdülhamid, transforming him from an adored patriarch into a monster:

…and exiled Abdul Hamid, intellectual culprit not just for the bloody rebellion in the army and its consequences, the blood fight in Istanbul on 11 April—but also for all the evils and misfortunes that our Fatherland endured during the 33 years of his calamitous and bloody governance. Abdul Hamid, the main obstruction towards progress and the prosperity of the Ottoman Empire, is removed from our path.20

After the Young Turk revolution, not only did the Sultan become a monster; gradually the Young Turks’ state also came to be portrayed as a monster as well. Like other communities in the Ottoman Empire, the Ottoman Serbs expected too much from the Young Turk regime. When their expectations were not met, euphoria gave way to disenchantment.21 When the Hamidian patrimonial discourse was replaced by Ottomanism, according to which loyal subjects of the Sultan became Ottoman citizens equal in their rights, everyone expected that at least some of their problems would be solved. As Carigradski glasnik wrote, the news concerning the re-proclamation of the constitution was welcomed with great joy, especially because the Ottoman Serbs believed that the anarchical situation in Ottoman Macedonia would come to an end, and even more importantly, that Serbian nationhood would be finally recognized in the Ottoman Empire. As one contributor to a 1908 issue of the periodical wrote:

In all the places were the Serbian nation lives, the proclamation of the constitution was welcomed exceedingly, enthusiastically and gladly. The new days after the constitution were welcomed by the Serbian nation with the same feelings as were felt by all the other nations in the Empire. If anyone had suffered and struggled, it was the Serbian nation. It hoped that once this would come to an end, the days of freedom would come, when life would be guaranteed, if nothing else. Earlier its nationhood was not recognized. Like some little foster child in folk tales, it was placed here for a bit, there for a bit; it was added to the Patriarchate, then to the Christians, sometimes it was part of the Exarchate; but no one wanted to recognize this nation as a nation, as had been done with the Greeks, Bulgarians and the rest of the population. Its schools and churches were often closed, teachers and priests were sent to prison, and it simply waited patiently and hoped that better and kinder days would come.22

However, Carigradski glasnik soon realized that the new political atmosphere was not as promising as had been hoped. The paper stressed that the Ottoman Serbs were certainly among the first to salute the changes introduced by the Young Turks because they expected that the proclamation of liberty and equality would be introduced into the provinces where the Ottoman Serbs mainly lived. However, soon after Glasnik expressed disappointment with the fact that none of these promises was kept in Ottoman Macedonia, the paper warned that guerilla bands were still the masters in the region, sometimes even backed by the representatives of the Ottoman authorities. For instance, in February 1909, Ottoman Serbs from Prilep defended two Serbian monasteries from Bulgarian bands, and on this occasion they sent a letter to Ottoman authorities, including the parliament, in which they demanded the protection of their rights. In the following passage I provide the complete text of the letter because it illustrates disillusionment with the new regime (which was prevalent among all of the Ottoman communities) and it also provides an example of how Ottoman Serbs portrayed themselves and the tropes they used when addressing the Young Turk authorities. Namely, they accepted the “official” discourse of the regime. Ottoman Serbs were not operating within a paradigm of loyalty anymore. The key terms became freedom and equality.

The Ottoman Serbs from Prilep and the surroundings gathered today at the national assembly to protest that the Bulgarian attacks on Serbian property are tolerated. They protest because Ottoman authorities protect Bulgarians and therefore cause damage to the Serbian nation and its property. They express their dissatisfaction with the Ottoman authorities for having allowed the Bulgarian entrance into distinctly Serbian monasteries: Zrze and Slepče; and not only that they allowed it, but that the gendarmerie offered it for the sake of maintaining peace and order. Zrze and Slepče are villages inhabited by Ottoman Serbs, and the monasteries are financed by entirely Serbian villages, which also provided them with estates. Bulgarians have no right to them, and will not have them because now our Fatherland enjoys peace and order. There are no Bulgarian villages near these monasteries; so Bulgarians have no legitimate right to claim them.

We are protesting against the terror that Bulgarian bands are inflicting and that is tolerated when they walk armed through our villages and force villagers to be Bulgarians, which was the case in Dolman and Dabnica; while a Serb is not tolerated even when he is unarmed.

The Serbian nation is deeply saddened when, in the times of freedom and equality, the Ottoman authorities treat it unjustly and separate it from the other nations. For example, while Greeks and Bulgarians have bells on their churches, for Serbs this is strictly forbidden, and police even come to take the bells down, as was the case here in Prilep.

The Ottoman Serbs from Prizren and its surroundings legitimately demand back the monastery in Treskavac because it is situated in the middle of the Serbian population, which has maintained and financed it. Bulgarians violently—with the help of their bandit troops—took the monastery, and now it is illegitimately in their possession.

The Ottoman Serbs from Prilep and its surroundings are always prepared to give their lives for the happiness and progress, as well as for the preservation, of the Ottoman Fatherland; they do not want what is not theirs, however, they will defend what is theirs until the last breath.23

Although dissatisfaction with the annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina was expected (Carigradski Glasnik published the article under the symbolic title Српска голгота [Serbian Golgotha]),24 major discontent actually only came after the elections of the senate and parliament. Namely, of 40 senators elected by the government, 30 of them were Muslims, one was a Jew, while the rest were Christians. Among the Christians, all the communities were represented except the Ottoman Serbs. This obviously indicated that the Ottoman Serbs were not going to be recognized as a nation, which was accompanied by general frustration about the Ottoman Serbian position in the Empire. As one contributor to a 1908 issue wrote:

Injustice towards the Serbs in Turkey! Is this so horrible or so new? Is this the first, or will it be the last injustice against the Serbian nation in Turkey? Is this why we ponder and write about it? We do not know anything other than injustices, which have been coming, one after another, since time immemorial.

The Serbian nation, which consists of two million people in Turkey, is not represented in the Senate. On the other hand, Jews have their representative, although they do not live compactly as a nation but only as trade colonies; Bulgarians are represented, although they only live in Edirne vilayet and not in other parts of Turkey (because Slavic Exarchists in Salonika, Kosovo and Bitola vilayets cannot be considered Bulgarians), even Macedonian and Epirus Romanians who number barely 200,000 people, only the Serbs from the Government did not get a single senator.

Will they defend themselves by saying that there are no Serbs in Turkey, or that Serbian nationhood is not recognized in Turkey? But Serbs are in Turkey, the election for the national deputies has shown it. The three Serbs elected as national deputies from the Kosovo and Bitola vilayets have shown to the Bulgarians and all the others who say there are no Serbs in Turkey [that they are mistaken]. (…) It is the duty of these Serbian deputies to discuss this issue in the parliament and to insist categorically on solving this injustice to the Serbs. How this will be resolved is a matter for the Government, which after all committed this injustice.25

Throughout this interregnum period until December 1909, when Carigradski glasnik was closed, early euphoria over the new regime was replaced by frustration because of the failure of the imperial authorities to recognize Serbian nationhood and the “sale” of Bosnia and Herzegovina to Austria-Hungary. In short, the motto “we do not know justice, but we are tired of injustice”26 became a popular Ottoman Serbian catchphrase after the Young Turk revolution.

Facts on the Ground: “Reckless” Serbian Propaganda and Fluid Nationhood

Although operating within different Hamidian and Young Turk frameworks, Carigradski glasnik managed to propagate Serbian nationhood successfully. This propaganda was accompanied by affirmations of utmost devotion to the Ottoman state, which was not just a tactic that allowed Carigradski glasnik to be published continuously, but was also a framework advocated by Serbian diplomacy. What one notices on the basis of the sections above is the clarity and decisiveness with which this periodical discussed Serbian nationhood. Ottoman Serbs were well-defined and separated from the other Ottoman communities, despite the fact that they did not have religious or educational autonomy, nor were Ottoman Serbs recognized as a nation within the Empire. What one can conclude on the basis of the writings that were published in Carigradski glasnik is that its editors were not fighting for the implementation of Serbian nationhood within the local Ottoman Macedonian population (because it was obviously implemented), but rather were fighting for the right to exercise this nationhood. Nevertheless, nationhood on the ground in Macedonia was generally not well-defined, even if Carigradski glasnik suggested in spite of this.

Serbian diplomatic circles did not have a clear idea concerning who was actually living in Old Serbia and northern Macedonia, both of which were regions that the Serbian state claimed. Stojan Novaković, the leader of Serbian diplomatic circles in the Ottoman Empire, was even against the recognition of the Serbian element in the Empire because no one actually knew how many people regarded themselves as Ottoman Serbs. For this reason, the creation of established and elaborated Serbian diplomatic action that would infuse Serbian nationhood into the local population was of the utmost importance. However, neither Serbian diplomacy nor Serbian national workers acted together smoothly on the ground in Ottoman Macedonia.

For instance, the Serbian Ministry of Foreign Affairs managed to open four consulates in Priština, Salonika, Bitola, and Skopje charged with implementing Serbian national action, i.e. spreading Serbian nationhood through religion and education on the ground. Yet remarkably, these four consulates barely communicated with one another. For instance, in a letter from 1894 written to the Serbian Ministry, Branislav Nušić, the Serbian consul in Priština, stated that he might have exaggerated when said that consulates exchange more than two letters per year. Even more, these institutions were spending excessive amounts of money even though Serbia always complained about the budget, and many projects were halted for this reason. As expected, the Serbian administration in the Ottoman Empire suffered from sluggishness and ineffectiveness. According to Nušić, Serbian were the only consulates in Ottoman Macedonia that were composed of consuls, vice-consuls, correspondents and translators. In some consulates, for instance in Skopje, the vice-consul sat at home all day long because he did not have anything to do in the office.27

Indeed, complaints about the conduct of Serbian policy in Ottoman Macedonia were not rare. A report written by the Russian consul in Prizren almost ten years after Nušić’s complaints shows how the professional propagandists, as Lory describes teachers and priests, did not always act as such. Namely, on several occasions in 1903, the aforementioned Russian consul wrote to the Serbian Ministry of Foreign Affairs informing it that the Raška–Prizren’s metropolitan Nićifor was not popular among the local population. According to the Russian consul, Serbian policy in Ottoman Macedonia was reckless:

Serbia here conducts propaganda and spends 100,000 Francs per year to win the love of the people (narod). However, it constantly angers them and spreads embarrassment and disunion. Rather than acting in the interests of the community, it only creates intrigues and damage, which should not be tolerated. First of all, it is reckless to support the consul Avramović, whom people loathe, and the silly metropolitan (vladika) Nićifor. Recently they organized an orgy in the Gračanica monastery, where Serbs even beat up Avramović. This was even reported by “the press”. Metropolitan Nićifor does not behave like a pastor, but as an evil demon of the people. In Peć the metropolitan’s regent, Obrad the priest, defended Albanian criminals in front of the Ottoman authorities, and as a result, the people of Peć no longer invite him to their homes. In Đakovac for a long time the Serbs have not been on good terms with their priest. However, Nićifor does not care. In Prizren he does not recognize the municipality, and he does not engage with national work. The population of Prizren asked me several times to protect them from such a metropolitan. Someone should open Serbia’s eyes to its flawed policy here. It should be forced to stop thinking, and rather start working in consent with its people and with our support.28

The authors of Carigradski glasnik articles also warned that even the lower Serbian clergy were lazy when it came to promoting national interests or fostering a sense of national unity. In an article published in 1897, the periodical mentioned that in the remote villages, where schools had not been established, the priests were the only workers on the national front, but instead of engaging with illiterate peasants and reading Carigradski glasnik to them, these priests were rather content to perform mere ceremonies, take their wages, and then leave the villages immediately afterwards.

In the Priština, Novi Pazar and Peć sanjaks there is no one in the villages. The priest comes, finishes his ceremonies, takes what is his, and leaves. And this is repeated continuously. And yet we imagine that the task of a true Serbian priest is not just to finish ceremonies, charge and leave, no! We imagine, as this is what being a priest means, that he should pause and educate villagers about religion, virtues and something similar. Furthermore, the priest should inform peasants about the news regarding agriculture. We are writing articles on agriculture, but not for the citizens, because this is not their concern; we are writing them for peasants, and as they are illiterate—as we know very well—we were and we are counting on priests and teachers, but especially on priests, because teachers cannot reach as far as priests can.29

With the teachers the situation was not much better, since Carigradski glasnik again reported that some teachers spent more time in the local bars than they did in schools, or were behaving violently:

First, we must emphasize the unpleasant fact that some places from the heartland inform us, and we know this from the personal experience as well, that a worm of suspicion erodes relationships between the teachers. The teachers working together within the same school and within the same community should live together in brotherhood and harmony, like priests in the temples of education and like national intelligentsia; instead, in most cases, they slaughter one another like yellow crazy ants, complaining about one another, contriving devious intrigues to destroy one another; in one word, they are disgracing their holy educational mission, as well as their positions as national workers.30

Along with the (dis)organized Serbian propaganda campaign, the efforts to spread Serbian nationhood were equally ineffective on the ground. However, this was not something peculiar to the Serbian nationalists. Even the more elaborate and aggressive Bulgarian propaganda campaigns, which involved employed guerrilla activities and coercion, faced the same problem. In fact, Greek, Bulgarian and Serbian elites had to use many tools, including coercion, in order to create a sense of nationhood among the local Christian population in Macedonia. Jovan Jovanović-Pižon, who was in charge of the consular affairs in the Ottoman Empire, asserted that Serbia should support the local Slavic population, be sensitive to their needs, and not be violent, but rather full of appreciation. Only if Serbia were to do this would the “amorphous and nationally hermaphrodite mass start to have trust in national workers who represent Serbian national thought there. Only in areas where we have devoted and skillful national workers will our national cause develop.”31 According to Jovanović-Pižon, it was natural to assume that “professional propagandists” were the ones who were most interested in educating and spreading “Serbian national thought” in Ottoman Macedonia. This was expected to be the case with the owners and editors of Carigradski glasnik as well. However, unlike Nikodim Savić, who was the first owner and undoubtedly felt like a Serb, the other two owners, Kosta Grupčević and Temko Popović, exhibited more fluid understandings of nationhood, which was characteristic for the Slavic population of Ottoman Macedonians.

Both Grupčević and Popović were born in Ohrid. They were Ottoman Macedonian upper-middle class intellectuals who were educated in Greek schools. According to Lory’s assertion, according to which school teachers were professional propagandists in the service of the Balkan states and in charge of spreading national ideologies,32 it is quite surprising that Greek education did not manage to infuse in Grupčević and Popović the feeling of Greekness, which Kitromilides defines as “a voluntary identification [that] had to be instilled and cultivated through a crusade of national education.”33 Instead, Greek education developed a vague feeling of Macedonianness, which Marinov identifies as supra-national identity “intended to bring together—under the common denominator of ‘Macedonian people’—members of different ethnic, confessional and national groups.”34 In other words, Macedonianness is a direct consequence or, more precisely, construct of the competing Balkan ideologies. Marinov provides a few examples of how this Macedonianness found expression. However, these examples yield only one conclusion: it is not quite clear what Macedonianness means because all the Macedonian intellectuals defined it and expressed it in a different way, including Grupčević and Popović. According to Marinov, “there are historical personalities from late Ottoman Macedonia whose identity largely ‘floated’ between the Serbian and the Bulgarian national option,”35 and between them appeared the third Macedonian option, which was used by Serbian diplomatic circles as “a possible counterweight to Bulgarian influence in Macedonia.”36 Stojan Novaković concretely assumed it would be much better to use the already present vague sense of this Macedonianness, and turn, harness and mold it to Serbian advantage, instead of attempting to impose Serbian nationhood directly upon Macedonians.37 This was obviously the case with the two owners of Carigradski glasnik, who turned from the Greek education they had been given and their vague sense of Macedonianness to Serbian nationhood.

Historians do not know precisely when Grupčević and Popović came into contact with Serbian diplomatic circles or an official Serbian “state” agenda. The first trace of their pro-Serbian activities dates from 1886, when both of them, along with Naum Evro and Vasil Karajovov, established the anti-Bulgarian secret Macedonian Committee in Sofia. Probably around this time they came into contact with Serbian circles, because they moved to Belgrade as soon as Bulgarians learned of their activities.38 In 1887, Grupčević and Novaković were trying to publish a newspaper entitled Македонски глас (Macedonian voice) in Istanbul in a Macedonian dialect, but they never got permission to do so. However, they clearly expressed their intention to start a paper in Istanbul that would promote Serbian interests.39 The fact that this paper, the harbinger of Carigradski glasnik, was meant to be published in the Macedonian (probably Ohrid) dialect confirms that Novaković intended to bring that dialect gradually closer to the Serbian language. Although this paper was never published, we can trace this idea in the work of Temko Popović, who in 1887 published the anti-Bulgarian pamphlet on the Macedonian dialect and Serbian orthography.40 We do not know when Grupčević and Popović, along with Novaković, abandoned this idea, but what is certain is that in 1888 Popović sent a letter to Despot Badžović in which he made the following statement:

The national spirit in Macedonia has reached such a state that Jesus Christ himself, if he were to descend from heaven, could not convince a Macedonian that he is a Bulgarian or a Serb, except for Macedonians in whom Bulgarian propaganda has already taken root.41

However, ten years later Grupčević and he were involved with Carigradski glasnik, the paper that was published in standard Serbian and that clearly advocated Serbian ideas. Obviously their Macedonianness turned into Serbianness, which indicates that fluid nationhood was not something reserved for illiterate peasants in Ottoman Macedonia, but was even found among urban intellectuals acting as promoters of the Serbian national idea.

This is one of the many examples to which recent historiography on Macedonia frequently refers, always with the same conclusion, namely that Macedonians had no sense of nationhood, but rather expressed blurred and fluid identities that were, as Marinov has shown, shaped and created under the influence of the Balkan ideologies. However, expressing multiple national identities does not necessarily mean that these persons were a-national simply because they did not represent “the existence of some ‘genuine’ or ‘proper sense of national identity’ that all the members of a certain well-bound collectivity or ‘group’ are equally, absolutely and constantly aware of.”42 In Rogers Brubaker’s fashion we can rather say that they exhibited nationhood as a form of practice that changes and adapts to different circumstances.43 In this sense, Grupčević and Popović did not represent a-national blur and fluid character, as studies on Macedonia suggest. Rather, they represented nationhood as different forms of practice. Thus, their nationhood was not fixed, but it was also not a-national or fluid. Rather, it was a response (or set of responses) to the interplay of different factors, depending on the current Macedonian context. In other words, “these elites formed a kind of ‘middle class’ which adopted discourses and strategies linked to changes in their political and social positioning, as well as to their search for power or their efforts to remain in power.”44

Grupčević and Popović’s case brings us to the problem of the appropriation of nationhood, more specifically, how nationhood tends to be researched from above. In other words, historians have tended to examine how Balkan states imposed nationhood on local populations, and how the local population showed a fluid and a-national sense of nationhood. Even when scholars are investigating this appropriated nationhood on the ground, they approach the problem from an “imperial” perspective, defining nationhood as a fixed substantial entity envisioned by state elites (much as it was presented in Carigradski glasnik), and not as a discourse prone to change. Jovanović-Pižon noted that the Macedonian question and the implementation of nationhood could not be solved through religion or education because populations were looking for alternatives that would help them address their everyday problems.45 As Basil Gounaris has shown in his study of the Patriarchate-Exarchate race for the local Christian population, the battle for new members was not based on religious rhetoric but rather on the personal, economic or simply pragmatic concerns of local peasants.46 Lory also stresses that the local inhabitants in Macedonia “gave free rein to the propaganda programs that they considered advantageous to them, in that they provided free education. We are struck by the very short-term vision with which educational issues were treated. Only the families of major merchants had any genuine educational strategies for their offspring. Trades people, who were more numerous in Bitola, were very vulnerable to economic fluctuations and to life’s misfortunes such as illness, deaths, or fires.”47

In other words, choices regarding nationhood were determined primarily by pragmatic and not idealistic factors. Branislav Nušić, the vice-consul in Bitola in 1892, vividly described responses to Greek, Bulgarian, and Serbian propaganda among the local population of one entirely Slavic-speaking village:

The church is Greek, the school is Exarchal, two priests are “Serbomans”48… In the house of Vanđel—the priest—Serbian books are hidden in a basement; periodicals from Sofia are on the table; one son is a student in Belgrade; the second son is an Exarchal teacher in Skopje; the third son is a former student of the Austrian Catholic mission; and two children are attending Exarchal elementary school. Рriest Vanđel even holds a han in his house.49

However, we should not make the mistake of jumping to the generalization that the entire Macedonian population expressed multiple identities and was pragmatic regarding nationhood. Although it is difficult to discuss how Carigradski glasnik was appropriated on the ground and how it was accepted among the local population as opposed to professional propagandists (like priests or teachers), we still can assume that it created an “imagined community” by bringing people together around shared characteristics that were described by Carigradski glasnik as the features of Serbian nationhood. As Fox and Miller-Idriss stated, “nationhood is also implicated in the choices people make. People ‘choose’ the nation when the universe of options is defined in national terms. Reading a nationalist newspaper or sending one’s child to a minority language school can thus be defined and experienced as national choices.”50


Although Serbia only entered the battle for Macedonia in 1885, approximately ten years later it managed to achieve its main goals: opening Serbian consulates, promoting Serbian priests into higher ecclesiastical positions, opening schools and Serbian societies in Ottoman Macedonia, and finally establishing a Serbian paper that would propagate Serbian interests in the region within the limits of Ottoman press regulations. This indeed seems impressive on paper, but the situation on the ground was far too unwieldy for these strategies to work effectively. The Serbian state spent a considerable amount of money on a rather disorganized propaganda campaign, national workers often did not work in a professional or coordinated manner, consulates were unaware of one another’s activities despite the fact that they were not physically distant from one another, and the great gap between Serbian national workers and the local population was not bridged well.

Under these circumstances, only Carigradski glasnik diligently completed its mission. However, because of Ottoman press regulations it was forced to present a euphemized reality that local readers simply did not buy into. In spite of these facts, this paper managed to bring its readers (Serbian national workers, educated and the illiterate population to whom Carigradski glasnik was read) together, focusing on topics that, according to the paper, constituted aspects of Serbian nationhood, such as language, celebrations, folk songs and customs. In this sense, Carigradski glasnik certainly propagated Serbian nationhood in a manner in which it was envisioned by Serbian elites and members of the intelligentsia.

It was a “war of statistics,” as Gounaris has called it, in which quantity was much more important than quality. This was one reason why certain Serbian diplomatic circles were terrified of solving the nüfüs question. The urban intelligentsia from the region sometimes displayed multiple and shifting loyalties despite the efforts of the schools they attended. The case of Kosta Grupčević and Temko Popović illustrates this well. Although they attended Greek schools they did not become “Hellenized” Macedonians, but rather gradually became (Macedonian) Serbs. On the other hand, the illiterate rural population did not have time to contemplate nationhood. Only coercion or pragmatic interests yielded results. However, the somewhat mixed nature of these “results” is illustrated clearly by the citation from Nušić. Three seemingly different propaganda campaigns had a strong effect on the careers of people in a single family. The cultural identities of the Balkans were entangled indeed.

Archival Sources

Arhiv Srbije (AS) SN, 128, Letter from Novaković to Ristić, 1887.


Primary Sources

Carigradski glasnik

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“Свештеницима” [To the Priests]. 3, no. 7 (1897).

“Искрена реч” [Honest Word]. 3, no. 26 (1897).

“Пред школским спратом” [In Front of School Doors]. 3, no. 33 (1897).

“Реч у своје време” [The Word in Its Own Time]. 4, no. 2 (1898).

“Леп пример” [Nice Example]. 5, no. 6 (1899).

“7. Децембра” [December 7]. 5, no. 50 (1899).

“19. август 1903. године” [August 19, 1903]. 9, no. 34 (1903).

“Мисли у очи светосавског славља” [The Thoughts around Saint Sava’s Celebration]. 10, no. 2 (1904).

“Српска народност после устава” [Serbian Nationhood after the Constitution]. 14, no. 31 (1908).

“19 Август” [August 19]. 14, no. 34 (1908).

“Неправда спрам Срба у Турској” [Injustice towards Serbs in Turkey]. 14, no. 50 (1908).

“Насртај на српске манастире” [Attack on Serbian Monasteries]. 15, no. 7 (1909).

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“Хоћемо праву слободу и потпуну једнакост!” [We Want Real Freedom and Complete Equality!]. 13, no. 18 (1909).


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Ristović, Aleksandar. “Реферат Јована Јовановића о односу Србије према реформској акцији у Солунском, Битољском и Косовском вилајету” [Jovan Jovanović’s Expert Opinion on the Position of Serbia Regarding the Reform Action in the Vilayets of Salonika, Bitola and Kosovo] Мешовита грађа 31 (2010): 325–86.

Temko Popov letter. Accessed May 17, 2014. http://documents-mk.blogspot.hu/2011/01/temko-popov-letter.html.

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Brubaker, Rogers. Ethnicity without Groups. Cambridge–London: Harvard University Press, 2004.

Brubaker, Rogers. Nationalism Reframed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

Brummett, Palmira. Image and Imperialism in the Ottoman Revolutionary Press, 1908–1911. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2000.

Cowan, Jane, ed. Macedonia: The Politics of Identity and Difference. London: Pluto Press, 2000.

Deringil, Selim. Well-Protected Domains. London–New York: I.B. Tauris, 1998.

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Friedman, Victor A. “The Modern Macedonian Standard Language and its Relation to Modern Macedonian Identity.” In The Macedonian Question: Culture, Historiography, Politics, edited by Victor Roudometof, 173–201. New York: Columbia University Press, 2000.

Gounaris, Basil C. “Social Cleavages and National ‘Awakening’ in Ottoman Macedonia.” Accessed July 22, 2014. http://www.macedonian-heritage.gr/VirtualLibrary/downloads/Gounar01.pdf.

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Jagodić, Miloš. “Нуфуско питање: проблем званичног признавања српске нације у Турској, 1894–1910” [Nüfüs Question: Problem of Official Recognition of the Serbian Nation in Turkey, 1894–1910]. Историјски часопис 57 (2008): 343–54.

Kechriotis, Vangelis. “The Modernization of the Empire and the Community ‘Privileges’: Greek Orthodox Responses to the Young Turk policies.” In The State and the Subaltern. Modernization, Society and the State in Turkey and Iran, edited by Touraj Atabaki, 53–70. London–New York: I.B. Tauris, 2007. Accessed June 29, 2014. https://www.academia.edu/1545927/The_Modernisation_of_the_Empire_and_the_Community_Privileges_Greek_responses_to_the_Young_Turk_policies.

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Lory, Bernard. “Schools for the Destruction of Society: School Propaganda in Bitola 1860–1912.” In Conflicting Loyalties in the Balkans, edited by Hannes Grandits, Nathalie Clayer, and Robert Pichler, 46–63. London–New York: I.B. Tauris, 2011.

Marinov, Tchavdar. “Famous Macedonia, the Land of Alexander: Macedonian Identity at the Crossroads of Greek, Bulgarian and Serbian Nationalism.” In Entangled Histories of the Balkans. Vol. 1, edited by Roumen Daskalov and Tchavdar Marinov, 273–333. Leiden: Brill, 2013.

Marinov, Tchavdar. “We, the Macedonians: The Paths of Supra-Nationalism (1878–1912).” In We, the People: Politics of National Peculiarity in Southeastern Europe, edited by Diana Mishkova, 107–38. Budapest: Central European University Press, 2009.

Roudometof, Victor, ed. The Macedonian Question: Culture, Historiography, Politics. Boulder, CO: East European Monographs, 2000.

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Višnjakov, Jaroslav Valerijanovič. “Македонски покрет и преврат у Србији 29. маја 1903” [The Macedonian Movement and the Coup d’Etat of May 29, 1903 in Serbia]. Tokovi istorije 3 (2010): 6–22.

Yosmaoğlu, İpek K. Blood Ties: Religion, Violence, and the Politics of Nationhood in Ottoman Macedonia, 1878–1908. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2013.

1 According to mainstream historiography, Ottoman society was not united but was strictly divided into religious communities, that is to say, Millets. This interpretation sees religious communities within clear cut-lines and defined religious identities; a system where religious institutions operated within a set of privileges supposedly granted to them by the Ottoman governments. This set of privileges, the cornerstone of the Millet system, essentially meant the right to independent communal affairs, for example a juridical or education system. Nevertheless, with the emergence of national ideas in the 19th century, defining Ottoman subjects in terms of religious affiliation was no longer adequate. The Rum Millet under the Ecumenical Patriarchate did not just consist of the Orthodox Christians as its members became Orthodox Greeks, Bulgarians, or Serbs, just to mention a few. Specifically, Bulgarian and Serbian national elites started to perceive the Ecumenical Patriarchate as a Greek Patriarchate. This led Bulgarian and Serbian elites to plead for recognition of their Millet i.e. national status in the Ottoman Empire. This recognition also meant the right to lead their own educational and religious affairs where Bulgaria and Serbia could launch their own national propaganda campaigns in their respective, Slavic languages. While the Bulgarians secured Millet status when the Bulgarian Exarchate was established, the Serbs living in the Ottoman Balkans remained under the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate.

2 Jane Cowan, ed., Macedonia: The Politics of Identity and Difference (London: Pluto Press, 2000); Victor Roudometof, ed., The Macedonian Question: Culture, Historiography, Politics (Boulder: East European Monographs, 2000).

3 Basil C. Gounaris, “Social Cleavages and National ‘Awakening’ in Ottoman Macedonia,” 5, accessed July 22, 2014, http://www.macedonian-heritage.gr/VirtualLibrary/downloads/Gounar01.pdf.

4 İpek K. Yosmaoğlu, Blood Ties: Religion, Violence, and the Politics of Nationhood in Ottoman Macedonia, 1878–1908 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2013), 149.

5 Miloš Jagodić, “Нуфуско питање: проблем званичног признавања српске нације у Турској, 1894–1910”, Историјски часопис 57 (2008): 345–48.

6 “Народ ако хоће да се одржи као народ, треба да има своју цркву и школу. Особито је то нужно овде, где један народ живи у друштву са другим народима.” “Леп пример,” Carigradski glasnik, hereinafter CG 5, no. 6 (1899): 1.

7 “Српски народ у његовој пространој Царевини, који је добро познат са своје поданичке верности, свагда и у свакој прилици топло се моли Свемогућем за повољно здравље свога Господара, који и њему поклања своју високу пажњу.” “19. август 1903. године,” CG 9, no. 34 (1903): 1.

8 “Овај дан који у срцима свију верних поданика Османског престола побуђује велику радост, особито је подгрева у срцима српског народа, јер се њему овом приликом указује прилика да изрази како своју превелику љубав према свом Узвишеном Господару, тако исто и захвалност према свима доброчинствима и милостима, којима своје верне Србе Он обасипље.” “7. Децембра,” CG 5, no. 50 (1899): 1.

9 Selim Deringil, Well-Protected Domains (London–New York: I.B. Tauris, 1998), 136.

10 “Јермени” [Armenians], CG 2, no. 35 (1896): 1.

11 “Нема ваљда да под капом небеском народа, који је пролазио кроз тежа и мучнија времена од народа српскога. Сваки Србин који је ма и најповршније проучавао минули живот свога народа, знаће у чему су, када и колико биле те недаће. Али, исто тако, и мало народа који је, као српски, необичном издржљивошћу одолевао мало наклоњеној судбини својој, те живом вером у Господина Бога и Свето Православље, а поносан именом и народношћу својом.” “Реч у своје време,” CG 4, no. 2 (1898): 1.

12 “Стога похитај у школу, и ти Српче драго! Тебе се особито тиче тај позив јер те очекују велике и свете дужности према имену твоме. На пољу културнога напретка данас се надмећу народи. Место мачем и коњем дошла је борба умом, борба, која је одлучнија за живот, за опстанак или пропадање било појединца, или народа. За ту културну утакмицу спремиће те школа. Па хајде у школу, и ти Српчићу. Школа је тај свети задатак да те спреми за културни рад и утакмицу на томе пољу на коме се ти, хтео не хтео, мораш показати, а српски народ је показао да има свих способности и услова који су потребни за културу. У школи се челичи ум и облагорађава срце. Без тога Србин не може бити.” “Пред школским спратом,” CG 3, no. 33 (1897): 1.

13 The Slava is a family religious celebration that takes place in Serbia and denotes celebrations on the day of the specific saint who was chosen as a protector of a family. Every family has its saint protector, who is passed on from father to son. Unlike other Orthodox countries, in which saint days are not associated with family celebrations, in Serbia this custom was present from the Middle Ages and is considered to be a specifically Serbian tradition.

14 “А народност се у суштини не губи чак ни онда, кад заведени појединци друго име узимају, или им се оно намеће. Народносни нам је штит прошлост, језик, песме и обичаји, а нарочито слава – служба – и много других одлика које српски народ оштро од других народа разликују.” “Реч у своје време,” CG 4, no. 2 (1898): 1.

15 “Slava, то је наче народно обележје. Слава је најистакнутија особина по којој се ми разликујемо од осталих народности словенскога стабла. Разликују нас од њих и језик, и обичаји, и предања, и ношња, па и сам изглед лица.” “Слава,” CG 1, no. 50 (1895): 1.

16 Peter Alter, “Nineteenth-Century Serbian Popular Religion: The Millet System and Syncretism,” Serbian Studies 9 (1995): 88–91.

17 “Цио раштркани српски народ биће на Савин дан уједињен мислима, а све те мисли концентришу се око браниоца св. Православља и српског имена, око препородитеља српске просвете и напретка; око највећега међу највећим Србима – Св. Саве. Нема тога српског ђаћета које не зна за свога просвјетитеља; нема тога Србина који не био одао достојно поштовање ономе, који постави чврсти темељ просвете српске.” “Мисли у очи светосавског славља,” CG 10, no. 2, (1904): 1.

18 “Медене месеце Његове Владавине пратила је тешка коб. Реформисана славна Турска требала је да спасе земљу од опасности које јој с поља претиле. покушај је насео на злој вољи саветника Круне којима је лични интерес био пречи од општега народнога. У својој неодговорности они су земљу били довели готово до ивице пропасти. Глас напаћеног и измученог народа допро је и до престола Свемогућњега. Једанаестог Јула наш узвишени Владар учинио је крај вршењу сплеткама. Једанаести јуна је дан слободе народне, дан напретка, дан подмлаћене, васкрсле Турске! У подмлаћеној уставној слободној Турској Султан Абдул Хамид прославља по тридесет и трећи пут дан свог ступања на Престо Османа. Тридесет и треће лето је најславније у Владавини нашег узвишеног Султана. Оно је почетак препорођаја наше домовине на основи jеднакости и братства свих народности Отоманске Империје уз заштиту личне слободе и сигурности. С њим почиње Васкрс нашега завичаја у свим могућним културним правцима. Живео уставни Султан Абдул Хамид Хан II! Живео!” “19 Август,” CG 14, no. 34 (1908): 1.

19 Palmira Brummett, Image and Imperialism in the Ottoman Revolutionary Press, 1908–1911 (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2000), 66–67.

20 “...и отеран у изгнанство Абдул Хамида, интелектуалног кривца не само за крваву војничку побуну и њене последице, крваве борбе у Цариграду 11 априла, ‘већ и за сва зла и недаће, које су нашу Отаџбину снашле у току 33 године његове несрећне и крваве владавине. Главна сметња Абдул Хамид уклоњен је с пута, који води напретку и преображају Отаџбине.” “Хоћемо праву слободу и потпуну једнакост!,” CG 15, no. 15 (1909): 1.

21 The euphoria about the new regime, which was gradually replaced by disappointment and discontent, has been well-documented in the secondary literature. For example, see Vangelis Kechriotis, “The Modernization of the Empire and the Community ‘Privileges’: Greek Orthodox Responses to the Young Turk policies,” in The State and the Subaltern. Modernization, Society and the State in Turkey and Iran, ed. Touraj Atabaki (London–New York: I. B. Tauris, 2007), 53–70, accessed June 29, 2015,


22 “На свима странама, где живи српска народност, васпостављење устава дочекано је и бурно и одушевљено и радосно. Нове дане после устава српски је елеменат дочекао са оним истим осећањима која су обузела и остале народности царства. Ако је ико раније патио и мучио, то је био он. Надао се да ће и том једном доћи крај, да ће доћи дани слободе кад ће бити сваком зајемчен бар живот, ако ништа друго. Раније му није била призната ни народност. Као како пасторче у народним причама, њега су туткали час овамо, час онамо те је придодаван патријаршистима, те придодаван хришћанима, неким делом убрајан у егзархисте, али никако му се није хтело да призна, да он има своју народност, као што је то било случај са Грцима, Бугарима и осталима. Затварали су му школе, цркве, терали у апсане учитеље и попове, и он је све мирно сносио увек у нади да ће синути и њему бољи и лепши дани будучности.” “Српска нардоност после устава,” CG 14, no. 31 (1908): 1.

23 “Срби Османлије из Прилепа и околине, скупљени данас на народном збору, протестују што се дозвољава, да Бугари насрћу на њихову имовину. Протестирају што се од стране власти Бугари протежирају на штету српског народа и његове имовине. Изјављују своје негодовање што су државне власти допустиле да Бугари уђу у чисто српске манастире Зрзе и Слепче, па не само што су их пустиле, већ су им и жандарме, ради веће сигурности, дале. Зрзе и Слепче села су насељена Србима Османлијама и манастири њихови издржавани су од села чисто српских, која су им и непокретна имања поклањала, те Бугари никаква права на њих немају, нити ће моћи имати, пошто је у нашој отаџбини завладао ред и поредак. Бугарских села нема у околини оних манастира и толико је од њих далеко, те никаквог законског ослонца не могу имати, да својину манастира себи протежавају, пошто ту немају свога елемента.

Протестујемо против терора који врше бугарске чете, којима се кроз прсте гледа кад иду по српским селима наоружани и сељане терају да буду Бугари, као што је скоро случај био у Долману и Дабници, док се Србину на пут стаје и не наоружаном.

Српски народ налази се ожалошћен, кад и му у времену слободе и једнакости власти неправду чине и од других га народности одвајају, као на пр. Док Бугари и Грци по црквама могу слободно звона подизати, дотле се Србима и њиховим црквама забрањује да им силом чак полиција скида звона, као што је случај овде у Прилепу био.

Срби Османлије из Призрена и околине с правом траже, да им се преда манастир Трескавац, јер се налази у средини српског живља који је тај манастир за толико стотина година чувао и издржавао. Бугари насилним путем ‘помоћу њихових разбојничких чета овај су манастир отели и данас га незаконито пригежавају.

Срби Османлије у Прилепу и околини биће увек готови за срећу и напредак, као и за очување, Османске Царевине живот и све жртвовали, али тако исто изјављују: да туђе неће, а своје ће до последне капи крви бранити.” “Насртај на српске манастире,” CG 15, no. 7 (1909): 1.

Interestingly, Bulgarian documents offer a different perspective. Bulgarian monks from the area around Prilep complained in 1909 about the expropriation of the monasteries by Serbian villagers in 1906. The Young Turk authorities (re)placed these monasteries under the Exarchate. However, nearby Serbian villages refused to become part of the Exarchate, so the Bulgarian monks requested help from the Bulgarian state. The money given by the state was used to hire Albanians to collect the harvest yields from Serbian villagers. However, the Serbs refused to comply and resisted, while Ottoman authorities refused to interfere. I thank to Gabor Demeter for providing this information, found at Sofia, цда, ф. 313к. оп. 2. а.е.10. л. 31.

24 “Српска голгота,” CG 15, no. 13 (1909): 1.

25 “Неправда Србима у Турској! Зар је то тако страшно и тако ново? Зар је то прва, или ће бити последња, неправда српском народу у Турксој, те се сада ишчуђавамо и о томе пишемо! Ми и не знамо за ништа друго, него само за неправде, које се нижу једна за другом, од како нас је.

Српски народ, који у Турској броји два милијона душа, није заступљен у Горњем Дому Парламента наше Отаџбине, а заступљени су Јевреји, који нигде не живе компактно као народ, него само као трговачке колоније; заступљени су Бугари, који сем у једренском вилајету и нема у садашњим границама Турске (јер ми Словене егѕархисте у солунском, косовском, и битољском вилајету не можемо сматрати за Бугаре) – заступљени су маћедонски и епирски Румуни којих једва има 200,000 душа, само Срби нису добили од Владе ни једног сенатора.

Хоће ли се онда бранити тиме што ‘Срба нема у Турској, или што српска народност није призната у Турској? Али Срба има у Турској, показали су то избори народних посланика. Три Србина, изабрана народна посланика из косовског и битољског вилајета, запушили су уста Бугарима и многим странцима који веле да нас нема (...) Дужност је Срба народних посланика да ово питање покрену у Скупштини и да категорички траже да се та неправда учињена Србима, санира. Како ће се то учинити, то је ствар Царске Владе, која је ту неправду и учинила.” “Неправда спрам Срба у Турској,” CG 14, no. 50 (1908): 1.

26 “Ми за Правду не знамо, а неправде смо сити,” idem.

27 Miloš Jagodić, “Извештај Бранислава Нушића о путовању из Приштине у Скадар 1894. године,” Мешовита грађа 31 (2010): 281–84.

28 “Србија овде води пропаганду и траћи до 100.000 франака годишње да би придобила љубав народа, међутим она стално срди народ и сеје међу њима смутњу и раздор. Уместо да се усклади с Bољом народа, она само ствара интриге и штети народу што се не сме допустити. Пре свега, безумно је подржавати конзула Аврамовића кога народ мрзи и шашавог владику Нићифора. Недавно су направили пијанку у манастиру Грачаници при чему су Срби пребили Аврамовића, о чему је писано у ‘Штампи’. Митрополит Нићифор се не понаша као пастир, већ као зли ђаво народа. У Пећи је намесник митрополита поп Обрад заступао Арнауте зликовце пред турским властима. Пећанци га више не позивају к себи. У Ђаковцу Срби одавно нису у добрим односима с свештеником. Ипак, Нићифор се не осврће на то. У Призрену не признаје општину и не бави се народним пословима. Призренци су ме више пута молили да их заштитим од таквог митрополита. Треба Србији отворити очи о њеној политици овде. Натерати је да не митингује, већ да ради у корист своју и народа у сагласности с народом и нашом подршком.” Jaroslav Valerijanovič Višnjakov, “Македонски покрет и преврат у Србији 29. маја 1903,” Tokovi istorije 3 (2010): 19.

29 “У приштинском, новопазарском и пећком санџаку по селима нема никога. Осим тога, парох дође, сврши обреде, добије његово па оде. И то тако непрестано бива. Ми пак замишљамо, да задатак правог свештеника Србина није само да сврши обред, да се наплати и да иде – не! Ми замишљамо, и то као нераздвојно са свештениковом службом, да свештеник треба да стане, па да укућанима и њиховим гостима да који зрео савет о вери, о грађанским врлинама и томе слично, а осим тога да их упозна са новостима из пољопривреде. Ми што доносимо чланчиће о пољопривреди, не доносимо их за грађанство, кога се они ништа не тичу. Ми их доносимо за сељаке: а пошто су они неписмени – то је нама добро познато тамо – рачунали смо и рачунамо на свештенике и на учитеље, али нарочито на свештенике, јер они други не могу да допру донде докле могу свештеници.” “Свештеницима,” CG 3, no. 7 (1897): 1.

30 “Морамо да на првоме месту истакнемо немилу чињеницу, како нам из неких места из унутрашњости јављају, а и сами из сопственог искуства знамо да црв неслоге подгриза у неколико наше учитељство. У место да учитељи који служе у једној школи, у једном месту, живе братски и другарски, како би доликовало њима, као свештеницима у храмовима просвете, као народној интелигенцији, они се, у већини случајева кољу као жути мрави, негодују један против другога, прибјегавају ниским интригама, да би један другога скрхали, једном речју, раде онако како је зазорно и за њихов свети положај наставнички, и за особни позив и положај њихов као народних васпитача.” “Искрена реч,” CG 3, no. 26 (1897), 1.

31 “аморфна и у погледу националних осећања хермафродитска маса становништва почне с поверењем гледати на људе, који у тим странама представљају српску народну мисао. У којим смо крајевима имали раднике вештије и послу преданије, тамо је наша народна ствар и напредовала.” Aleksandar Ristović, “Реферат Јована Јовановића о односу Србије према реформској акцији у Солунском, Битољском и Косовском вилајету,” Мешовита грађа 31 (2010): 366.

32 Bernard Lory, “Schools for the Destruction of Society: School Propaganda in Bitola 1860–1912,” in Conflicting Loyalties in the Balkans, ed. Hannes Grandits, Nathalie Clayer, and Robert Pichler (London–New York: I.B. Tauris, 2011), 53.

33 Paschalis Kitromilides, “‘Imagined Communities’ and the Origins of the National Question in the Balkans,” European History Quarterly 19 (1989): 169.

34 Tchavdar Marinov, “We, the Macedonians: The Paths of Supra-Nationalism (1878–1912),” in We, the People: Politics of National Peculiarity in Southeastern Europe, ed. Diana Mishkova (Budapest: Central European University Press, 2009), 111.

35 Tchavdar Marinov, “Famous Macedonia, the Land of Alexander: Macedonian Identity at the Crossroads of Greek, Bulgarian and Serbian Nationalism,” in Entangled Histories of the Balkans, vol. 1, ed. Roumen Daskalov and Tchavdar Marinov (Leiden: Brill, 2013), 315.

36 Ibid., 317.

37 Ibid., 315–17.

38 Victor A. Friedman, “The Modern Macedonian Standard Language and its Relation to Modern Macedonian Identity,” in The Macedonian Question: Culture, Historiography, Politics, ed. Victor Roudometof (New York: Columbia University Press, 2000), 185.

39 AS, SN, 128, Letter from Novaković to Ristić, 1887.

40 Marinov, “Famous Macedonia...,” 318.

41 Temko Popov, letter, accessed May 17, 2014, http://documents-mk.blogspot.hu/2011/01/temko-popov-letter.html.

42 Marinov, “We, the Macedonians…,” 108.

43 See Rogers Brubaker, Ethnicity without Groups (Cambridge–London: Harvard University Press, 2004); Nationalism Reframed (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996).

44 Hannes Grandits et al., “Introduction,” in Conflicting Loyalties..., 10–11.

45 Ristović, “Реферат Јована Јовановића...,” 345.

46 Gounaris, “Social Cleavages…,” 5–7.

47 Lory, “Schools for the destruction…,” 54.

48 Serboman is a pejorative term used by Bulgarians for Slavic-speaking people in (Ottoman) Macedonia who claim to be of Serbian ethnicity, support Serbian national ideas, or simply refuse Bulgarian national ideas.

49 “Црква је грчка, школа егархијска, два свештеника су “Србомани”...У кући свештеника – поп Ванђела – српске књиге скривене у подруму, софијске новине на столу, један син питомац српски у Београду, други ехзархијски учитељ у Скопју, трећи бивши питомац аустријске католичке мисије, а два детета посећују егзархијску основну школу. Поп-Ванђел држи у својој кући и хан.” Slavenko Terzić, “Конзулат Краљевине Србије у битољу (1889–1897),” Историјски часопис 57 (2008): 338–39.

50 Jon E. Fox and Cynthia Miller-Idriss, “Everyday nationhood,” Ethnicities 8, no. 4 (2008), 542.

pdfVolume 3 Issue 3 CONTENTS

Nadine Akhund

Stabilizing a Crisis and the Mürzsteg Agreement of 1903: International Efforts to Bring Peace to Macedonia

„Though I am in the service of the Ottomans for the reorganization of the gendarmerie, my position is essentially an international one and I must consider myself someone working under the mandate of the Great Powers, who have accepted the Mürzsteg Plan.”

General de Robilant1

In 1903, the Macedonian Question was at the roots of the first concerted European international intervention. The Mürzsteg Agreement, which was signed by the six great powers and the Ottoman Empire, was an attempt at common European diplomacy.
The Mürzsteg Agreement, which was reached following the failure of the Illinden uprising launched by the Macedonian Revolutionary Organization, placed the three vilayets of Macedonia under the collective control of the great powers. Drawing on diplomatic reports, in this essay I emphasize the “spirit of Mürzsteg” and trace the process of the establishment of an international military and civil administration. The Mürzsteg Agreement gave a substantial peace-keeping role to a large group, including diplomats, military missions, two Civil Agents and their Ottoman counterparts. The paper studies the implementation of the Agreement. How did the ill-defined document lead to the emergence of new maps of Macedonia? In addition to the existing Ottoman administrative map, two others appeared as the three vilayets were divided into five international sectors, each of which was under the control of one of the great powers, and a “religious or mental map” of the region the site of bitter, violent religious-civil conflict began to emerge in 1904, when the two Orthodox churches of the Patriarchate and the Exarchate launched a campaign to convince the populations to declare themselves either Greek or Bulgarian.
In conclusion, the paper assesses the legacy of the Mürzsteg Agreement. This short but meaningful episode represented an innovative approach in the policy of the great powers that was based on emerging concepts such as negotiation, collective action, and dialogue in a recognized international mandate. The concerted intervention of the six great European powers in Macedonia belongs to a broader process of evolution in the history of European international relations, a process that yielded more palpable results after 1918 with the establishment of the League of Nations and the emergence of a new, if short-lived, international order.

Keywords: Macedonia, international intervention, Mürzsteg Agreement, national question, administrative reforms


In the fall of 1903, the Macedonian question acquired an international dimension for the great powers, the neighboring Balkans states, and the Macedonian national movement (IMRO), which indeed played the leading role in the affairs of this Ottoman province. The particular context in Macedonia offered a unique opportunity to the great powers to launch an international intervention based on the emerging concept of collective diplomacy, which resulted in an agreement later imposed on Sultan Abdülhamid II (1876–1909).

Several parameters shaped the Macedonian Question. The term “Macedonia” reflected a shifting and evolving concept in both time and space, both as a geographical expression and as a historical region. By 1900, the region was an Ottoman territory and a stake for the new Balkans states of Serbia, Greece, Romania and autonomous Bulgaria, which were struggling with the significant influence of the neighboring empires of Austria–Hungary and Russia. The Macedonian question was a plural reality as there was no “single Macedonia,” but rather several Macedonia(s) that coexisted simultaneously. The administrative Macedonia was composed of three Ottoman districts, the vilayets of Salonika, Monastir and Kosovo.2 The multi-ethnic Macedonian population included less than 3,000,000 inhabitants. From the perspective of religion, Macedonia was divided between two Orthodox churches, the Patriarchate and the Exarchate, not to mention the division between the Christians and the Muslims and a substantial Jewish community living in Salonika.3 Finally, Macedonia as a potential state faced two major ongoing challenges, namely the building and recognition of its national identity and the delineation of its borders.

The entrance of Macedonia into the international arena resulted from the Illinden uprising, which was triggered by the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO), the goal of which was to free the three vilayets from Ottoman rule.4 In October 1903, after three months of fighting, the revolutionary forces of 20,000 to 30,000 comitadjis were defeated by Ottoman III Army Corps.5 However, from IMRO’s point of view the uprising brought a partial diplomatic success, as the attention of the great powers was finally directed towards the Macedonian Question. Why was there an international intervention? Without giving too much credit to international public opinion, one should note that the European press covered the uprising in a manner that prefigured the press coverage of the Balkans Wars ten years later. As an editorial in the L’Illustration emphasized, the press offered daily coverage of what was happening only “40 hours away from Paris.”6 Also several committees, among them the Balkan Committee in London, were acting as influential groups and pleading the cause of the “Macedonian people.”7 Nevertheless, the decisive role was played by the great powers or “the group of Two+Four,” which led to the Macedonian Question gaining international status. On one side, Austria–Hungary and Russia occupied a decisive position in the region because of their geographical proximity, combined with their traditional and historical ties to the Balkans, best represented at that time by the compromise of 1897.8 On the other side, France, Great Britain, Italy and Germany had long-standing cultural interests in the region, as well as more recently developed economic interests. The railroad network was built thanks to invested funds from Paris, Vienna and Berlin.9

The origins of the international intervention were twofold. First, the immediate origins of the Mürzsteg Agreement were to be found in IMRO’s program. Created in 1893, IMRO was the first organized movement that claimed “Macedonia” as an autonomous entity within the Ottoman Empire. IMRO’s leaders, mostly schoolteachers, spread revolutionary propaganda with the intention of fostering a Macedonian national identity. At the same time, the revolutionary committees, the comitadjis, conducted an armed struggle against any Ottoman’s interests and structures. The Macedonian movement succeeded in establishing a climate of “permanent uprising” that was described at length by diplomats and travelers of the time.10 Second, the more distant origins of the intervention lay in the Berlin Treaty of 1878, which created a legal precedent for the involvement of the great powers in an Ottoman territory. Article 23 foresaw the implementation of reforms allowing Christians to participate in rulings on administrative matters with rights equal to those held by the Muslims. However, until 1903 these reforms were not implemented by the Ottoman authorities.

Using the Macedonian context this paper demonstrates how a shift toward a new international order took place with the Mürzsteg Agreement. The six great powers decided on a common solution for the Ottoman province and then unilaterally imposed a new administrative regime. This intervention was also influenced by new concepts, including the reestablishment of security and peace in devastated areas and the protection of civilian populations from military casualties. These concepts would play an increasingly significant role in the politics and diplomacy of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.11

International Control in Macedonia and the “Spirit of Mürzsteg”

On 25 November, 1903, in the aftermath of the Illinden uprising and two months of intense negotiations, Sultan Abdülhamid II reluctantly accepted the Mürzsteg Agreement, a reform plan consisting of nine Articles. In accordance with the agreement, the three vilayets were placed under the collective international control of Austria-Hungary, Russia, France, Germany, Great Britain and Italy. The Mürzsteg Agreement simultaneously represented a break-up and the outcome of the international policy conducted up until then by the great powers in the Balkans. It was a break from the policy of intervention, which primarily took the form of military campaigns, and contributed significantly to the formation of the modern Balkan states and the defense of the Orthodox populations. With the Mürzsteg Agreement, the great powers rejected the military option and opted for the concerted action of peacemaking.

The international intervention was binding for two years, it was renewed in 1905, and it applied to a clearly delimited space, the three vilayets. It also constituted a break from the traditional practice of military occupation, which meant the continued presence of troops on conquered (or liberated) territories, as was the case, for instance, in Bosnia Herzegovina in 1878.

The agreement was also the culmination of a process of implementation of reforms, which had begun with the discussion of changes in 1878 that had come up again in 1896. In fact, the new approach of the great powers in Macedonia was linked to and indeed closely followed two similar cases. One was Armenia (1895–96), where no intervention took place, and the other was Crete (1897–98), which can be seen as a “pre-Mürzsteg operation.” As Alois von Aehrenthal, Austrian Ambassador in Bucharest and later in St. Petersburg, commented with regards to the attitude of Vladimir Nikolayevich Lamsdorff, foreign minister of the Russian Empire from 1900 to 1906, “from the beginning, the Count [Lamsdorff] was partisan to follow the modus procedendi as implemented in Crete.”12 At the time, unrest and violence near Kustendil (vilayet of Kossovo) and Melnik (vilayet of Salonika) led to the partial extension of a series of reforms, originally promulgated on 20 October, 1895 for the Armenian vilayets, to be partially extended to those of Macedonia in 1896.13 A supervisory committee was appointed to monitor the local authorities, control taxes, and encourage applications from non-Muslim elements in the administration. In 1897, following the brief Greek–Ottoman war and other continuous troubles, the island of Crete was placed under the supervision of the six great powers. However, Germany and Austria–Hungary withdrew their troops from the intervention in 1898. Following serious trouble in Macedonia during the winter of 1902, an embryonic reform program was adopted in December of 1902. Louis Steeg, the French consul in Salonika, suggested the nomination of foreign inspectors to supervise security as well as foreign instructors to command the gendarmerie.14 Later, in February of 1903, a specific six-point plan, the Viennese Plan, was set forth by Austro–Hungarian and Russian ambassadors. However, in the case of Mürzsteg, the concerted action of the six powers became a reality for four continuous years.

How was this international intervention undertaken? What was the mechanism? During the winter of 1903, Austria–Hungary and Russia played the leading role in the process of internationalizing the Macedonian Question. These two traditionally warring powers became the mediators and the leaders of a negotiated solution. This approach transformed what was originally a simple provincial revolt against the Sultan’s government into a matter of international diplomacy that required a consensus among seven parties to arrive at a settlement acceptable to all. First, Vienna and Saint Petersburg, while rejecting the military option, tried to maintain their exclusive position in Macedonian affairs, based on the status quo of 1897. However, they had to compromise, as France and Great Britain showed a stronger interest in the situation in Macedonia, even going so far as to suggest the venue of an international conference and the appointment of a Christian governor.15 The result was the Mürzsteg Agreement, an Austrian–Russian initiative taken to involve but at the same time to limit as much as possible the role and the influence of the other great powers, namely, France, Great Britain, Germany and Italy. The idea was to admit them as limited partners while emphasizing the concept of “Two+Four” even more and using Article 23 of the Berlin Treaty. Count Agenor Maria Adam Goluchowski, a Polish-born Austrian statesman credited with a détente in relations between the Austro–Hungarian Monarchy and the Russian Empire, wrote to his ambassador in Russia that the two Empires must on “the contrary keep more than ever in our hands the management of the affairs of the Balkan peninsula,” and he was skeptical about the Sultan’s willingness to agree with the concept of autonomy implied in Article 23.16 Ultimately, the agreement was simply imposed on the Ottoman government.

The Mürzsteg plan was based on three main concepts. In the short term, it reestablished security and order in the three vilayets with the collaboration of the Ottoman authorities. It also ensured assistance for the civilian populations, who had suffered greatly from months of fighting. From Vienna, Goluchowski used the terms “humanitarian action” and “pacifying action” in several reports to assess the conditions of civilians in terms of post military conflict situations related to the emerging international law.17 Finally, for the longer term, the Mürzsteg Agreement was designed to restructure the gendarmerie and the civil government radically through the implementation of reforms supervised by foreign officers and to provide for substantial representation of the Christians elements. The Mürzsteg Program was conceived as a form of combined civil and a military international control.

According to Article 1, Russia and Austria–Hungary were granted two administrators or Civil Agents to assist the Ottoman General Inspector in charge of the implementation of the reform program.18 Appointed in December of 1902 as part of the reform plan enacted by the Sultan, the Inspector General Hussein Hilmi Pasha (1857–1922) worked his entire life for the Ottoman government and enjoyed the confidence of Abdülhamid. Hilmi Pasha had previously been posted in Asia Minor, Damascus, and Yemen, where for seven years he demonstrated his skills as administrator. The French journalist Michel Paillares, who met him in Macedonia in 1904, wrote of him, “[h]e is a charmer, enjoyable, pleasant to meet... he has a prodigious capacity at work, he is of a tireless activity.”19 Heinrich Müller Roghoj (1853–1905), who was sent from Vienna, was familiar with the Balkans, since he had served in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1879. He spoke Turkish, Serbian, Bulgarian and Russian. As Consul General, he was stationed in Odessa. Nicolas Demerik, the Russian Civil Agent, had previously been posted in Beirut and Monastir. The Civil Agents took several steps immediately to address the issues linked to the aftermath of the insurrection. They secured funds to help refugees, who primarily sought refuge in Bulgaria, and rebuilt destroyed villages. They also oversaw the appointment of Christian rural guards in the villages, a function that was normally assumed by Muslims, who were responsible for significant tensions and even mistreatment of non-Muslim populations.20 In addition, they received peasant delegations and filed their complaints against the abuses of the administration. However, the decisions regarding the practical outcomes of these cases remained in the hands of the Ottomans. To assess the situation, the Civil Agents took inspection tours across the vilayets and visited prisons. However, they were escorted by Ottoman officers and used translators. Until their departure in 1908, these two men remained under the close supervision of Hilmi Pasha. If the relationships between the three men were cordial despite a certain ambiguity, the overall results of their actions remained limited. The Civil Agents certainly exerted a moral influence, as Hilmi Pasha had to take into consideration their constant presence at his side. According to a Russian report, the officers were “an element of European permanent control.”21

The reform of the gendarmerie, as defined by Article 2 of the Mürzsteg plan, foresaw the introduction of Christian elements in this military corps, which functioned primarily as a rural police force and traditionally was largely dominated by Muslims elements.22 The gendarmerie was a preventive and repressive police responsible for public security. The organization of the reform was entrusted to an Italian General, Emilio Degiorgis (1844–1908).23 The three vilayets were divided into five sectors, each placed under the control of one of the great powers, with the exception of Germany. Berlin, seeking to preserve its good relations with the Sultan, decided to take on only the leadership of the new gendarmerie school created in Salonika. In each zone, an officer mission sent by the great powers was responsible for the reorganization of the local police in agreement with the Ottoman authorities. In May of 1904, the officers moved into their respective sectors, namely, France and Great Britain to Serres and Drama (Northeast of Salonika); the Russians to the southern section in the vilayet of Salonika; the Austrians to Uskub–Skopje (vilayet of Kossovo); and the Italians to the west of Monastir. The manner in which the sectors were divided up among the great powers clearly illustrated how Vienna and Saint Petersburg maintained their leadership in the Macedonian question. Because of its own strategic military interests, Vienna wanted to withdraw the districts where the majority population was Albanian from the reforms and also to prevent the vilayet of Monastir from being assigned to Italy. Indeed, if Rome succeeded in establishing its influence in Albania, notably among the Catholic-Albanian population, Italy would eventually control the Adriatic Sea, at the north point of which was Pola (today Pula in Croatia), the Austro–Hungarian naval military base. After negotiations, the Albanian districts were excluded from the reforms, but the vilayet of Monastir was assigned to Italy. From 1904 to 1908 the relationship between Rome and Vienna remained tense. In addition, it was essential for the double monarchy to control the region around Uskub because of its proximity to Serbia. Vienna paid particular attention to the territorial ambitions of Belgrade, which were aimed at creating a “Greater Serbia” that would include the vilayet of Kossovo. As Russia was assigned the southern area around Salonika, these two powers held de facto control over the north–south strategic line of communication, Uskub–Salonika.

Between 1904 and 1908, 48 officers were sent to Macedonia, a low figure given the task at hand.24 Originally, 60 officers were to be engaged, a temporary workforce that was to be increased up to 200, along with further implementation of the reforms. However, the opposition of the Sultan led the great powers to revise this figure.25 The officers signed an individual contract for two years, then renewed it in 1906. They entered the Ottoman army with a rank superior to the rank they held in their own national army. In 1904, following the Vienna Plan, six officers from Norway, Sweden and Belgium were posted in Macedonia, two in the vilayet of Uskub, three in the vilayet of Salonika and one in the vilayet of Monastir.26 Their mission was to reorganize the gendarmerie. The Sultan tried to integrate them into the officer corps newly hired, but the great powers refused. These six officers were not officially assimilated into the Mürzsteg Agreement. Diplomatic sources only mentioned them individually, and it seems that they were not treated as group with a specific status.

According to diplomatic and military sources, the Christian people greeted with relief the arrival of the foreign officers, who “were welcomed as a safeguard against administrative arbitrariness.”27 In each sector, the officers requested the dismissal of the officers and policemen they evaluated as incompetent. However, as he had done with the Civil Agents, the Sultan refused to grant the officers the right to make decisions, and the Ottoman officials left pending requests for an indefinite period. The foreign officers’ role was limited to providing suggestions and advice. Until 1908, the Sultan refused to yield, despite repeated requests from the chiefs of the military missions. Colonel Verand, Chief of the French mission, felt obliged to clarify the meaning of his men’s mission: “First, it has been established that foreign officers do not have the effective command, you do not have the right to give orders.”28 The officers were also responsible for providing a better sense of duty and discipline to the Ottoman gendarmes and reorganizing the network of gendarmes-posts, known as the karakols, “the very basis of the reorganization, since the foundation of this institution guarantees the service of a good gendarmerie.”29 By 1908, a total of 184 karakols had been built and fully equipped.30

In each sector, the officer responsible conducted inspection tours to supervise the working of the service, an essential function according to Colonel Verand. Because of the limited number of officers, each one supervised a large territory. During halts, he made sure that the villages were patrolled and the local gendarmes did not commit abuses, such as brutal searches or arbitrary arrests, and also engaged in talks with local leaders. Most of the officers knew at least one of the languages spoken in the area, or they learned Turkish.31 While improvement of the situation remained relative, the presence of the officer certainly encouraged the Ottoman military to show more restraint and limit excesses against civilians. On the ground, these officers met with the peasants who had taken part in the battles of the previous summer or been victims of the revolt and repression. The officers drew attention to the miserable conditions in which these peasants lived. They then realized that their mission had a complex political aspect. To what extent could they or should they denounce the abuses of an administration that had just hired them? Several officers sensitive to the fate of the peasants defended them in their reports. Michel Paillarès, who visited the French sector twice in 1904 and 1905, described at length how the officers felt “invested with a reforming zeal that would fix everything, straighten all.”32 Until 1908, this issue remained unresolved. The fine line between the matters linked to the reorganization of the police force and matters that were more political remained unclear, as the peasants who joined IMRO’s cause complained purposely (or not?) about abuses committed by the gendarmes. Despite difficult living and hard working conditions, the officers performed their duties in the best possible way given the narrow margin of maneuvering. According to the reports from the French and Austrian missions, the daily living conditions were difficult. Isolation was often mentioned, as was uncertainty and communication problems resulting from IMRO’s attacks, as well as the difficult climate, health problems, and cases of malaria.

To complete the picture of the international police, one should note the reactions of the Muslim populations. Overall the Muslims remained hostile to and irritated by the Mürzsteg program, which was perceived as a set of measures in support of Christians in a country where the official religion was Islam. The officers were seen as a symbol of military occupation with its resulting constraints. Captain Falconetti, French officer commented that the Turks “have adopted the conspiracy of silence, their attitude passive, quiet, while monitoring closely every move of the officer.”33 Colonel Léon Lamouche noted that “the Ottoman military regarded the foreign intervention as a deep humiliation for their country.”34 Up to 1908, the Ottoman authorities reluctantly implemented the reforms, following the direct orders of the Sultan. A complex personality, Abdülhamid II reigned for 32 years. Paul Cambon, the French ambassador to Istanbul, emphasized his acute intelligence and his comprehension of state affairs, guided by an extraordinary will to remain in power.35 Abdülhamid had one objective, that was to preserve the territorial integrity of the empire and, consequently, to limit the intervention of the great powers, which was intolerable to him, as he was highly conscious of his political, spiritual and dynastic authority.36

The Meanings of the Mürzsteg Agreement: Its Consequences, Limits, and Legacy

Intended originally only to be in effect for a limited period of time, the text of the Mürzsteg Agreement is relatively short, and the nine Articles were inadequately written in an assertive simple style, without an introduction. Overall, the agreement relied on a paradox, a fundamental misunderstanding, which was to become the cause of trouble and violence from 1904 to 1908. For the great powers, the Mürzsteg Agreement was viewed as a means of maintaining the status quo, a guarantee of stability which, although somewhat uncertain, was seen as preferable to the departure of the Turks and the disorder that would certainly follow. As the text was valid for all the Christians, it eliminated the national claims of Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria. However, the Christian people perceived the agreement as a guarantee of help from the great powers, and they later used it to justify their respective independence movements in Macedonia. During the spring of 1904, violence broke out and again there were massacres. This bloodshed involved not only the IMRO, but also national movements sustained by the Greek, Serbian, Bulgarian and even Romanian governments eager to achieve the “one nation within one state” concept. By then the delimitation and recognition of borders as part of the shaping of national identities had been fully integrated into the state building processes in the Balkans, as had happened earlier in the nineteenth century in the rest of the region. Despite its weaknesses and its malfunctions on the ground, in this context the Mürzsteg Agreement can be viewed as an attempt to move beyond the border concept. The establishment of an international administrative system could have transcended the national issues linked to the delimitation of borders. Unfortunately, the agreement produced the exact opposite, as one of its immediate outcomes was the emergence of a “second mental map” of Macedonia based on a combination of national and religious criteria.

What was the substance of Macedonian national identity in the aftermath of Illinden? In 1904, the concept was not strongly noticeable on the ground. “There is a Macedonia, but there are no Macedonians” is a concise formula that summarizes the impressions of diplomats.37 The fact is that IMRO failed to awaken Macedonian national sentiment, as the defeat of the insurrection clearly demonstrated. The movement was probably too “young.” Indeed barely a decade had passed since its foundation. In addition, it was weakened by internal dissensions further worsened by personal antagonisms between its leaders. In 1904, people who had expected real change with the implementation of the reforms had grown disappointed. The text of Mürzsteg acted as a catalyst, worsening the situation considerably. The region found itself torn apart by bitter, violent religious-national conflict. Here one can speak of the emergence of “mental and even religious borders” in Macedonia. The two Orthodox Churches, the Patriarchate and the Exarchate, sustained by Athens and Sofia respectively, launched a campaign to “convince” the populations to declare themselves either Greek or Bulgarian. This conflict had a double origin. First, the Bulgarian Exarchate was basing its strategies on the firman (decree) of 1870, according to which if two-third of the inhabitants of a locality opted for the Exarchate, they could join the Bulgarian Church. The territory under the Exarchate jurisdiction included parts of Eastern Macedonia. Around 1900, the influence of the Patriarchate declined significantly, and the number of Exarchate bishops multiplied. Second, Article 3 of the Mürzsteg Agreement, the content of which was ambiguous, indicated a future “modification in the delimitation of administrative units in view of a more normal grouping of different nationalities.” In the Ottoman context, people defined themselves by their religious affiliation, such as Patriarchate, Exarchate, or simply Orthodox Christians, Muslims, Jews etc. As Albert Malet indicated in 1903, “in Turkey, it is the religion, or rather the Church which determines nationality: one depends on the other and the Turks recognize a nationality only if it has an ecclesiastical hierarchy of its own.” 38 However astute this insight may have been, it did not exclude the fact that some people also felt genuinely Greek, Bulgarian, Serbian, or even Macedonian, more specifically in urban areas, where education was on the rise.

Since the notion of Macedonian national identity was limited, the Greek, Bulgarian, Serbs movements and IMRO, by anticipating future Ottomans decisions, estimated that membership in one of the two Churches would be the criteria retained by the Ottomans, not nationality. In fact, in 1905, the Ottoman authorities launched a census based on religious affiliation, a long, complex undertaking that began with the counting of houses. In her recent book, İpek Yosmaoğlu argues on the basis of Ottoman records that since the Ottomans had decided the census throughout the empire before the agreement, it was not the trigger of the violence.39 However, the two Orthodox Churches, the Patriarchate and the Exarchate, adopted a radical position. The role of the Churches became instrumental, as the clergy, including several bishops, openly took up the Greek, Bulgarian, or Serbian national point of view.40 Religious affiliation and national identity therefore became closely interconnected. Joining the Patriarchate meant being “Greek,” while being affiliated with the Exarchate meant being “Bulgarian.” From 1904 to 1908, the diplomats noted a general decline in the situation and the exacerbation of hatred and daily violence, which they described as an open war among Christians.41 Furthermore, the role of the two Churches became overtly political, serving the unachieved national ambitions of the Balkan governments. “The conflict of nationalities in Macedonia arose as a fight between Churches more than as a fight of races,” commented Steeg.42 “The most odious attacks are between Bulgarians, Serbs and Greeks,” wrote Goluchowski, and “the murders follow, one after the other, the acts of wild revenge multiply.”43 In 1907, alarmed by the gravity of the situation, the great powers attempted to provide a better definition of Article 3. In September, an Austrian–Russian note was sent to Athens, Sofia and Belgrade indicating that the territorial delimitation “will not in any case take into consideration the national changes resulting from the terrorist activities... this delimitation will instead be based on the principle of the status quo ante.”44 However, the weak and vague formulation only added to the complexity of the situation and brought no improvement. The outcome was complex, as Macedonia, still an Ottoman territory with the vilayets administration, was divided along international delimitations as defined by the great powers and simultaneously along religious lines best represented by the fight between the two orthodox Churches and running along a North–South division of the region. The political and administrative delimitation did not correspond to the mental-religious ones.

The international efforts to stabilize the situation in Macedonia were undertaken by a large and substantial international group of military and non-military individuals. This group was formed to implement the reforms. Can one talk about “good governance”? Can this group be described as “professional experts” sent into the field? The mechanism was highly complicated and multiple actors were involved at different levels. On the civil side, there was the General Inspector and the two Civil Agents, who reported directly to their ambassadors. Both men were also in contact with their consuls in Macedonia and occasionally met with the ones from France, Great Britain, Italy and Germany, who watched over them closely. The two Civil Agents were crucial elements whose role and impact could have been decisive if they had had stronger personalities. Here, Vienna and Saint Petersburg bore some responsibility. Steeg and his Austro–Hungarian colleague, August Kral, described the Russian agent, Nicolas Demerik, as a weak, hesitant man, who was not very active or involved and had fragile health.45 According to Michel Paillares, Demerik was a mere shadow of his Austro-Hungarian colleague, and he simply approved of everything he was told.46 Heinrich Müller de Roghoj also had health problems and died in 1905. He was replaced by Richard Oppenheimer, who had previously been posted at the Pireus. On the military side, the international military commission included no less than 15 people. The general in charge of the reorganization of the gendarmerie was assisted by two officers, one Italian and one Russian. The six military delegates were chiefs of the military missions without a former contract with the Ottomans authorities. Finally, the six military attachés from the great powers were included as part of the commission, so as not to forget the officers in their sectors. Symbolically, the meetings between the six ambassadors or the military delegates always took place at the Austro-Hungarian embassy under the patronage of Ambassador Heinrich Calice (1830–1912), the doyen of the diplomats posted in Istanbul.

Adding to the complexity of the system, the Mürzsteg program did not define the relationship between the Civil Agents and their military counterparts precisely. The former were to “watch over the implementation of the reforms and the appeasement of the populations,” while the latter were in charge of the reform of the gendarmerie.47 As noted above, the officers sent the peasants’ complaints to the Civil Agents or the ambassadors, who occasionally transmitted them to the Ottoman authorities. Could the reorganization of the gendarmerie be placed under the supervision of the Civil Agents? Certainly not, but in 1904 the Austrian–Hungarians did suggest subordinating the international military structure to a mixed council under the control of two representatives from Vienna and Saint Petersburg.48 The initiative was taken by the Austro–Hungarian military attaché, Vladimir von Giesl. Hilmi Pasha approved it, as he estimated that the more complex the international administration became, the less efficient it would be. The French, British, and Germans rejected the project and it was abandoned. If the relationships between the Civil Agents and the General Inspector remained cordial and courteous (though dominated by Hilmi Pasha), the relationships between the Civil Agents and General Degiorgis were tense. Their personalities were too divergent for them to have been able to find a common language. Degiorgis showed a non-conformist and debonair attitude regarding the Ottomans, which seemed too familiar and shocked Müller de Roghoj and Demerik.49

Behind the Mürzsteg Agreement lay the political game of the great powers, wavering between support for the somewhat justified national aspirations of the Christians in Macedonia and maintenance of the political stability of the region by tolerating the heavy-handed approach of the Sultan. While they had been unanimous in setting up the agreement, each used it to reinforce its own position in the region and further its own political or economic influence within the Ottoman Empire. In Macedonia, each chief of the military delegation, i.e. each officer, remained first and foremost a delegate of the Great Power he represented, and thus linked to its politics, traditions and customs. Occasionally, some found themselves in contradiction with representatives of the other great powers. There is little trace in the reports of any sense of solidarity between the officers or the chiefs of the mission.

Finally, the reforms comprised of the superimposition of an existing administration without the introduction of any real changes. They consisted of a multiplication of complex international machinery, the functions of which remained inadequately defined. Nevertheless, on the one hand, the text of Mürzsteg provided a common basis for collective action among the great powers and prevented the abandonment of the reforms. The text thus helped to maintain the integrity of the Ottoman Empire, which was increasingly fragile. On the other hand, one must recall the European international context, as the years between 1904 and 1908 correspond to the strengthening of the military alliances, the Triple Alliance and the Triple Entente, further reducing the likelihood of any long-term policy based on cooperation among the great powers.

In addition to these considerations, one should also ask the question regarding the reality of the Macedonian issue. To what extent did support for the Macedonian cause or the promotion of the partition of the vilayets between the Balkans states present a real interest for the great powers from the perspective of international policy? As a map of the region makes clear, since the railway network consisting of three major lines that allowed access to the Mediterranean Sea, the port of Salonika was of the greatest potential interest to the great powers. The town had 150,000 inhabitants and occupied the third rank in terms of economic activity after Istanbul, Beirut and Izmir (Smyrna). The modernization of the infrastructures of this port was completed in 1905. The true importance of Macedonia thus would be more one of an economic than political nature.

Between 1905 and 1907, the Mürzsteg Agreement produced an unexpected outcome by ending the exclusive domination that Vienna and Saint Petersburg had maintained not only in Macedonia but in the Balkans since 1897. The weight of the “Agreement for Two” dominated the Macedonian question, thus slowing the process of application of the reforms, as the two powers, while neutralizing their traditional rivalry in the area, also slowed down as far as they could the meddling of Paris, London, Berlin and Rome. In 1905, the great powers further pursued the implementation of the reforms laid down in Articles 4 and 8 of the Mürzsteg program in finance and justice. However, the implementation of these reforms was never more than partial, indicating both the strength of the Sultan’s position and the limits of the international consensus.

In Macedonia, the financial situation was reaching a critical point as the deficit for the three vilayets reached more than 600,000 Turkish pounds.50 The governors had to answer to the sudden orders from the Sultan, who was asking for more funds. Numerous administration officials had not been paid for months. Extortion of funds and corruption were common, especially among members of the police force. The financial reform resulted from an Austro–Russian initiative, and it was the last one taken by the two ambassadors, each of whom was an expert in Ottoman policy. Both Heinrich Calice and Ivan Zinoviev51 played a key role in the process. The first had been stationed in Istanbul since 1880 and the second since 1897. They proposed placing the income, expenditures and annual budget of the three vilayets under the triple control of Hilmi Pasha, the two Civil Agents and the supervision of an international financial commission of four delegates named by France, Great Britain, Italy, and Germany. This project was promptly rejected by Abdülhamid. The Sultan then requested an increase in tariffs of 3 percent, from 8 percent to 11, to meet the extraordinary expenses resulting from the situation in Macedonia. Multiple notes, drafts and counter-drafts were exchanged between the Sultan and the representatives of the great powers, using the ambassadors of Vienna and Saint Petersburg as intermediaries. In November of 1905, the Sultan persisted in his refusals. At the proposal of the Austro–Hungarian government, the powers sent an international squadron of eight battleships and an armed force of 3,000 men to conduct a naval demonstration under the walls of Istanbul.52 On 25 November, the international force left Piraeus for the island of Mytilene and then Lemnos and seized the customs, post and telegraph offices. On 5 December, the Sultan yielded. Macedonian finances were placed under the control of the international financial commission, which remained active until 1908. The most serious defect according to a French report was that military expenses were not included among the responsibilities of the financial commission.53 Its enforcement also was limited because of the troubled situation in Macedonia and the misunderstandings among the members of the commission.

Here one should note that the military option, as a coercive method, was indeed a significant part of the Mürzsteg program. It carried considerable weight as a potential threat to guarantee the implementation of the reforms. The Sultan protested against such “direct interference” by foreign representatives “in purely domestic affairs of the country, as such action prejudiced its independence and its sovereign rights, which the powers had repeatedly and solemnly committed to respect.”54 As France, Great Britain, Germany and Italy were represented in the permanent institution, recognized by the Ottoman government, this financial reform ended the “exclusive control” that Vienna and Saint Petersburg had maintained over the Macedonian Question within the Mürzsteg Agreement. Furthermore, if the gendarmerie reform was part of an agreement signed for only a limited period of time, the financial reform resulted from a separate text fully acknowledged by the consensus of the great powers and the Sultan.

Two years later, in 1907, at Russia’s initiative, the great powers proposed to establish international control over the Macedonian judicial system, which was undermined by corruption, and to introduce Christians into the courts of justice.55 Based on a complex arrangement, the functioning of the justice system would be supervised by six inspectors (three Christians and three Muslims) and would be dependent on the Financial Commission. The great powers could not agree either on the procedure to nominate the inspectors or on the question of whether or not they were to be from Europe, as was suggested by London, or subjects of the Ottoman Empire, as was favored by Vienna. Following several unsuccessful meetings between the six ambassadors in Istanbul, the project was finally adjourned in February 1908.

At another level, the Mürzsteg Agreement and the observations made in the diplomatic sources demonstrate a turning point in international affairs within diplomatic circles of the time. As already noted, the military option was disregarded and collective action was taken. The pragmatic approach chosen by Vienna and Saint Petersburg was guided by the increasing interest shown by Paris and London in Macedonia. One can describe the approach of the great powers in this regard in terms of contemporary crisis management theory. The foreign offices of the great powers opted to respond to and address the crisis with a certain opportunism, as Paris and London would finally have been able to play a larger role in Macedonian affairs, or, at least as they hoped, would have the option to do so. The collective intervention as undertaken in Macedonia belongs to a wider movement that was slowly emerging at the same time. A concept of international law was emerging as a corollary of the Peace Movement that appeared on the European stage at the end of the Crimean war. The Peace Movement linked economic prosperity to peace that can only be achieved through collective diplomacy. War was not going to disappear, but the rules of war should be codified through international law. Also, prevention of conflict appeared as a solution, along with collective foreign intervention to diffuse any crisis and thus ameliorate tensions. The Mürzsteg Agreement was framed by the Peace Movement, as best represented by the two Hague conferences of 1899 and 1907.56 However, the Peace Movement was swimming against the tide, as ultimately the war movement proved to be stronger.57

Finally, one should note that several of the concepts included in the Mürzsteg Agreement revolved around one major idea, namely the fates of civilians during times of war. The conditions of the civilian in a time of war acquired an official status ten years later, at the end of the Balkan Wars of 1912–1913, with the international commission sent by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace to investigate the treatment of civilians.58 These concepts, which included the needs of the Christian population in the aftermath of the uprising, the issues of the refugees and displaced peoples, their return, the examination of crimes that were committed during the insurrection, and certain practical measures, such as the exoneration of taxes for civilians in order to improve living conditions of victims and refugees, were emphasized in the Carnegie Report. In addition, one of the major figures at the Carnegie Endowment, Paul d’Estournelles de Constant (1852–1924), the director of the Carnegie European office in Paris and a convinced peace activist, was also involved in the cause of the Macedonian people. In 1903, he organized a large meeting in Paris to draw the attention of the French government to the miserable living conditions of the “oppressed Christian people” in the three vilayets.59


How should one assess the legacy of the Mürzsteg Agreement? It has been largely dismissed for its failure to bring peace and stability to Macedonia. Until recently, historians interpreted the international intervention merely as an Austrian–Russian manoeuver, arguing that Saint Petersburg was deeply involved in the Far East and Vienna refused to go to war for an ill-defined Macedonian entity. If the agreement was largely dominated by Saint Petersburg and Vienna, it was also based on a strong refusal to choose the military option, combined with the equally strong will to implement reforms through collective negotiation. The mechanism was highly innovative for its time, and the fact that, in accordance with its provisions, representatives of the six great powers sat together in discussion was an achievement in and of itself.

The program of Mürzsteg put Macedonia in a peculiar position, placing it, a territory of the Ottoman Empire, under the control of the six great powers with the reluctant agreement of the Sultan. While the Mürzsteg Agreement failed to establish autonomy or independence in Macedonia, it reinforced the perception of the region as a single political entity that in the future could become an independent state. The agreement represented an innovative approach in the foreign policy of the great powers, based on negotiation and collective action in a recognized time-limited international mandate.

Archival Sources

Archives du Ministère des Affaires Etrangères (Paris) (AMAE), CP Turkey vol. 26, 29, 39, 42, 46, 52, 54, 139.

Österreichisches Haus-, Hof- und Staatsarchiv (Vienna) Politisches Archiv (ÖHHStPA PA), XII, Turkey, 323, 324, 328, 329, 338; XXXVIII, 393; XXXIX, 2.

Service Historique de l’Armee de Terre (Paris) (SHAT), Turkey 7N1647 ; DP, Series 4–5.


Akhund, Nadine. “The Great Powers Policy in Macedonia before 1914” (in German). In Der Erste Welkrieg auf dem Balkan, edited by Jürgen Angelow, 13–34. Berlin: Bebra Verlag, 2011.

Brooks, Julian. „A ’Tranquilizing’ influence? British ’Proto-peacekeeping’ in Ottoman Macedonia 1904–1905.” Peace and Change 36, no. 2 (2011): 172–90.

Cambon, Paul. Correspondance 1870–1924. Vol. 1. Paris: Grasset, 1940.

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (Joseph Redlich–Justin Godart– D’Estournelles de Constant–Walther Schücking–H. N. Brailsford–Francis W. Hirst–Paul Milioukov–Samuel T. Dutton). Report of the International Commission to Inquire the Causes and Conduct of the Balkan Wars. London–Washington: Carnegie Endowment, 1914.

Georgeon, François. Abdul Hamid II, le sultan Calife [Abdul Hamid II, the Sultan Caliph]. Paris: Fayard, 2003.

Gounaris, Basil K. „The Macedonian Struggle 1903–1912. Paving the Way for the Liberation.” In Modern and Contemporary Macedonia, vol. 1, edited by I. Koliopoulos and I. Hassiotis, 508–29. Thessaloniki: Papazisis–Paratiritis, 1992.

Lamouche, Léon. Quinze ans d’histoire balkanique 1904–1918 [Fifteen Years of Balkan History 1904–1918]. Paris: Payot, 1928.

Lange-Akhund, Nadine. The Macedonian Question 1893–1908. From Western Sources. Boulder: East European Monographs, 1998.

Malet, Albert. “En Macédoine.” Le Correspondant, 10 March, 1903.

Mitrova, Makedonka. “The European Diplomacy and the First Railways in Ottoman Macedonia.” In Просторно планирање у Југоисточној Европи (до другог светског рата) [The Spatial Planning in Southeastern Europe (Until the Second World War)], edited by Bojana Miljković-Katić, 549–68. Belgrade: Institute of History–Institute for Balkan Studies of SANU, 2011.

Paillarès, Michel. L’imbroglio macédonien [Imbroglio in Macedonia]. Paris: Stock, 1907.

Perry, Duncan M. The Politics of Terror: The Macedonian Liberation Movements, 1893–1903. Durham: Duke University Press, 1998.

Rodogno, Davide. Against Massacre. Humanitarian Intervention in the Ottoman Empire 1815–1914. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2012.

Soward, Steven W. Austria’s policy of Macedonian Reform 1902–1908. East European Monographs, 260. New York–Boulder, Col.: Columbia University Press, 1989.

Yosmaoğlu, İpek. Blood Ties. Religion, Violence and the Politics of Nationhood in Ottoman Macedonia 1878–1908. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2013.

1 „Tout en étant au service ottoman pour la réorganisation de la gendarmerie, ma position est essentiellement internationale et je dois me considérer comme le mandataire des Grandes Puissances qui ont accepté l’entente de Mürzsteg.” Österreichisches Haus-, Hof- und Staatsarchiv (Vienna) Politisches Archiv, (hereinafter ÖHHStA PA) XII. Turkey, vol. 328, Para to Aehrenthal, Salonika, June 20/2, 1908.

2 Since in this essay I examine the foreign policy of the Great Power on the basis of diplomatic and military archives, I choose the toponyms used in the reports, Salonika not Thessaloniki, Monastir not Bitola, Uskub not Skopje.

3 The highly mixed population included Bulgarians, Greeks, Serbs, Vlachs, Gypsies, Turks and Albanians. By 1900, the Jewish population was estimated around 70,000 of 150,000 inhabitants.

4 The organization bore several names over the course of its development. I use the most commonly found, IMRO.

5 Duncan M. Perry, The Politics of Terror: The Macedonian Liberation Movements, 1893–1903 (Durham: Duke University Press, 1998).

6 February 28, 1903. See also Le Matin, Le Temps, Neue Freie Presse, The Daily News.

7 Davide Rodogno, Against Massacre. Humanitarian Intervention in the Ottoman Empire 1815–1914 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2012), 235.

8 In May 1897, the Austro–Russian compromise established an informal division of the Balkans under the form of an exchange of letters.

9 Makedonka Mitrova, “The European Diplomacy and the First Railways in Ottoman Macedonia,” in Просторно планирање у Југоисточној Европи (до другог светског рата), ed. Bojana Miljković-Katić, (Belgrade, Institute of History and Institute for Balkan Studies of SANU, 2011), 549–68.

10 See the accounts from H. N. Brailsford, Victor Berard, Albert Sonnichsen, and Albert Malet. Around 1900, the French consul Louis Steeg (in Salonika) and the Austro–Hungarian August Kral (in Monastir) provided detailed descriptions of how IMRO was disrupting the Ottoman administrative network.

11 This essay follows a previous one: Nadine Akhund, “The Great Powers Policy in Macedonia before 1914,” in Der Erste Weltkrieg auf dem Balkan, ed. Jürgen Angelow et al. (Berlin: Bebra Verlag, 2011), 13–34.

12 ÖHHStA PA XII Turkey, vol. 323, Aehrenthal to Goluchowski, Vienna, September 4, 1903. Vladimir Lamsdorff (1845–1907), foreign minister (1900–06). Agenor Goluchowski (1849–1921) foreign minister (1895–1906).

13 Archives du Ministère des Affaires Etrangères (Paris, hereinafter AMAE), CP Turkey, Arch. Amb. Macédoine vol. 139, Veillet-Dufreche to Cambon, Salonika, June 19, 1896. In 1895, tensions between Christian and Muslim communities concerning the lake of Van were rising. Also, Article 61 of the Berlin Treaty provided for the introduction of reforms in Armenia.

14 AMAE CP Turkey, vol. 29, Steeg to Delcassé, Salonika, December 15, 1902.

15 Nadine Lange-Akhund, The Macedonian Question 1893–1908. From Western Sources (Boulder: East European Monographs, 1998), 142. In September 1903, Lord Lansdowne, the British foreign minister, proposed the nomination of a Christian governor chosen outside of the Balkans, recalling the one in Eastern Rumelia after 1878.

16 ÖHHStA PA XII Turkey, vol. 316, Goluchowski to Calice, Vienna, September 4, 1903.

17 Ibid.

18 The Civil Agents “are obliged to accompany the General Inspector everywhere, call his attention to the needs of the Christian population, indicate to him the abuses committed by local authorities, transmit their recommendations to the ambassadors in Istanbul, and inform their governments of all what happens in the country.” The original text was in French.

19 Michel Paillarès, L’imbroglio macédonien (Paris: Stock, 1907), 328.

20 ÖHHStA PA XII Turkey, vol. 329, Calice to Goluchowski, Jenikoj, June 20, 1906. In 1906, out of 6,840 Bekdjis, 3,581 were Muslims and 3,259 were Christians.

21 AMAE CP Turkey, vol. 42, Report of Zinoviev published in Le Messager Officiel, November 23, 1904.

22 Reorganized in 1879, the gendarmerie was placed under the supervision of the War Ministry.

23 E. Degiorgis was nominated as “general réorganisateur.” After his death in 1908, his successor was General Mario Nicolas de Robilant (1855–1943).

24 ÖHHStA PA XII Turkey, vol. 323, Memorandum, Vienna, March 30, 1904.

25 Ibid., vol. 324, Calice to Goluchowski, Yenikoj, August 17, 1904. 54 officers and 140 non-commissioned officers.

26 Lange-Akhund, The Macedonian Question, 137–38.

27 AMAE CP Turkey, vol. 42, Steeg to Delcassé, Salonika, October 5, 1904.

28 Service Historique de l’Armee de Terre (hereinafter SHAT) (Paris) Turkey 7N1647, Report Colonel Verand, July 15, 1905.

29 ÖHHStA PA XII Turquie, vol. 328, report général de Robilant, Vienna, July 1908, 12.

30 Ibid., Report Robilant, 86.

31 SHAT officer’s file, DP, Series 4–5. In the French mission, eight officers spoke German, eight Turkish, six Bulgarian and/or Serbian, two Greek and two Arabic languages.

32 Paillarès, L’imbroglio, 314. Paillares toured the French sector twice, along with captain Foulon and captain Sarrou.

33 SHAT Turkey 7N1647, L. Falconetti: Mission française en Macédoine. Deux ans au service du sultan Abdul Hamid en 1905 et 1906.

34 Léon Lamouche, Quinze ans d’histoire balkanique 1904–1918 (Paris: Payot, 1928), 64.

35 Paul Cambon, Correspondance 1870–1924, vol. 2 (Paris: Grasset, 1940), 361.

36 François Georgeon, Abdul Hamid II, le sultan Calife (Paris: Fayard, 2003).

37 AMAE CP Turkey, vol. 26, October 15, 1901. Baron d’Avril. Brochure sent to Delcassé.

38 Albert Malet, “En Macédoine.” Le Correspondant, March 10, 1903, 981.

39 İpek Yosmaoglu, Blood Ties. Religion, Violence and the Politics of Nationhood in Ottoman Macedonia 1878–1908 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2013), 148–54. The author is introducing an entirely new insight regarding the international intervention and Ottoman policy.

40 Belgrade asked for the restoration of the Patriarchate of Peć, which had been abolished in 1766, and supported the claims from the Serbian population, located mainly in the vilayet of Kossovo.

41 Ibid., vol. 52, Bouliniere to Pichon, Athens, May 10, 1907.

42 Ibid., vol. 54, Steeg to Pichon, Salonika, October 4, 1907.

43 ÖHHStA PA XII Turkey, vol. 329, Goluchowski to Aehrenthal, Vienna, December 11, 1904.

44 AMAE CP Turkey, vol. 54, Austro–Russian note, September 30, 1907.

45 Ibid., vol. 39, Steeg to Delcassé, Salonika, February 8, 1904.

ÖHHStA PA XXXVIII Monastir vol. 393, Kral to Goluchowski, December 21, 1903.

46 Paillarès, L’imbroglio, 330.

47 For details about the officers, see Akhund, The Macedonian Question, 173–86.

48 ÖHHStA PA XII, Turkey, vol. 325, Muller to Goluchowski, Salonika, May 1, 1904.

49 ÖHHStA PA XXXIX, vol. 2, Muller to Goluchowski, Monastir, July 3, 1904, AMAE CP Turkey, vol. 45, Reverseaux to Rouvier, Vienna, July 26, 1905.

50 Steven W. Soward, Austria’s policy of Macedonian Reform 1902–1908. East European Monographs, 260 (New York–Boulder, Co.: Columbia University Press, 1989), 112.

51 Ivan Zinoviev (1835–1917): Russian diplomat, he was posted in Romania (1872–76), Persia (1876–83) and Stockolm (1891–97). Nominated ambassador in Istanbul in 1897, he remained there until 1909. Defending a moderate approach in the Macedonian affairs, he criticized his colleague posted in Sofia, Bachmedieff for his openly pro-Bulgarian attitude. However, Zinoviev was personally “protecting”/in favor of the Serbian population living in the vilayet of Kossovo.

52 Austria–Hungary, Russia, France, Great Britain, and Italy. Germany refused to take part, but offered moral support.

53 AMAE CP Turkey, vol. 46, Boppe to Rouvier, Therapia, October 26, 1905.

54 Ibid., October 1, 1905.

55 ÖHHStA PA XII Turkey, vol. 338, Aehrenthal to Goluchowski, Saint Petersburg, January 23, 1906.

56 The Hague conferences of 1899 and 1907 gathered 26 and 44 states to discuss world issues. They constituted the first attempt to provide an institutional framework for the Peace Movement.

57 The rejection of the military option is valid only for Macedonia, as the Greek–Ottoman war (1897), the Boxers rebellion (1901), and the Russian–Japanese war (1905) demonstrated.

58 Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Report of the International Commission to Inquire the Causes and Conduct of the Balkan Wars (London–Washington: Carnegie Endowment, 1914).

59 Rodogno, Against Massacre, 235. The author provides an in-depth description of the public meeting.


pdfVolume 3 Issue 3 CONTENTS

Gábor Demeter and Krisztián Csaplár-Degovics

Social Conflicts, Changing Identities and Everyday Strategies of Survival in Macedonia on the Eve of the Collapse of Ottoman Central Power (1903–12)

The present study aims to identify certain social dividing lines, fractures and motivations that accelerated the rise in political murders and everyday violence after the Ilinden Uprising. The contribution of foreign intervention (including both the attempts of the great powers to settle the question and the propagandistic activity of neighboring small states) and local traditions (customs) to the nature and extent of violence are also investigated. The authors will also consider the shift in the support policy of neighboring small states from construction to destruction—including the issues of economic benefit and local acceptance at a time when selection of an identity no longer entailed only advantages, but imposed threats as well. During this period the boundaries between the various types of violent action triggered either by religious and school conflict or customs gradually faded, while Chetas became highly organized and self-subsistent through cultivation and smuggling of opium and tobacco and expropriation of state and private property. In order to trace the territorial and cultural patterns of violence as well as specific and general motives, the authors conducted a statistical analysis of quantitative data regarding victims and perpetrators.

The study is based on the comparison of Austro–Hungarian and Bulgarian archival sources in order to check the reliability of data. The study area—the Sanjak of Skopje in Kosovo Vilayet—is suitable for examining problems related to the birth of modern nations: the ethnic and religious diversity of this sanjak makes it possible to investigate both the tensions that existed within and between the Eastern Orthodox and Muslim religious communities as well as the impact of small states with territorial pretensions on this region.

Keywords: everyday violence, Macedonia, IMRO, victims, perpetrators


In the aftermath of the 1878 Great Eastern Crisis, the remainder of the Balkan Peninsula had irreversibly become a frontier zone1 of the Ottoman Empire, a territory in which the collapsing central government was in direct contact with the rival great powers and the dynamically modernizing nation states nurturing expansive ambitions. This new situation sparked violence on the Ottoman side of the border, aggression that authorities either failed or did not even attempt to stop. By the end of the first decade of the twentieth century, Ottoman central power almost totally collapsed in the Kosovo Vilayet, leaving a vacuum for the propagandistic activity of small states. This manifested itself in the competition for souls, schools and religious posts between Serbians and Bulgarians proclaiming nationalistic views and aspirations abroad (a revival of ethnic mapping) and in the establishment of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO) in 1893. This initial phase of the Macedonian question culminated in an attempt to relieve the oppressed peasantry in the course of the Ilinden Uprising in 1903 with the active contribution of 15,000 guerillas and the local population.2 The subsequent plundering of 100 villages committed mainly by irregular Ottoman forces finally elicited the intervention of great powers to secure peace in the European Ottoman provinces. The suppression of the Ilinden Uprising and the cooperation of Macedonian nations provided a warning to Greece as well, prompting the vigorous awakening Greek propaganda.

The present study3 focuses on the period after the Ilinden Uprising until the outbreak of the Balkan Wars, and aims to identify certain social dividing lines, fractures and motivations that accelerated the escalation of everyday violence. The authors will also investigate territorial and cultural patterns of violence, specific and general motives as well as the contribution of foreign intervention (including both the attempts of the great powers to settle the question and the propagandistic activity of neighboring small states) and local tradition (customs) to the nature and extent of violence. The authors have also examined changes in the support policy of neighboring small states, including the issues of economic benefit and local acceptance at a time when the selection of an identity no longer entailed only advantages, but imposed threats as well.

The location to be investigated is the ethnically mixed Sanjak of Skopje in Kosovo Vilayet (organized in 1875–78) between the years 1903 and 1912 with a view toward the neighboring territories in order to assess the specific or general character of the evaluated events. The study area is suitable for analyzing problems related to the birth of modern nations: due to the ethnic and religious heterogeneity in the Sanjak of Skopje, tensions within and between its Eastern Orthodox and Muslim religious communities can be easily identified and demonstrated (Map 1, Table 1). Moreover, the sanjak was located close to the borders of small states with territorial pretensions toward this administrative unit of the Ottoman Empire, thereby adding an extra ingredient to the boiling pot.

In using the expression “everyday violence,” the authors refer to those acts of violence which took place among the civil population on a daily basis and were not connected to the law-enforcement activity of the authorities (military reprisals, border clashes, etc.).4 The theory of Georg Elwert provided an important methodological basis for the present work. He stresses that the weakening of the state creates a market and demand for violence in society (Gewaltmärkte), which is operated by communities organized for trading in violence and coercive measures as commodities (Gewaltgemeinschaften). These Gewaltgemeinschaften [vendors] are formed primarily for economic reasons, though economic factors are also abundant on the demand side as well (economic rivalry between groups over scarce resources usually appears under the guise of ideological conflict and in the form of prejudice against “the other”). These groups, which gradually take control over the monopoly over the use of force from the state, have their own dynamics, including operating conditions and laws.5

This phenomenon was examined primarily by sociologists and historians through case studies, concentrating on the reasons for violence and the formation of communities trading in violence. However, the internal cohesion and integrative power of these structures, as well as their regulative functions and social spheres of action are considered to be under-investigated. The uniqueness of this study is that it approaches the problem from economic aspects as well, stressing that special economic conditions triggered and accelerated the escalation, ethnicization and nationalization of violence in Macedonia. The authors would also like to draw attention to the practice (Gewaltpraxis) and yearly cycle of violence. Beyond the social life and background of Gewaltgemeinschaften, the victims of violence can also be examined at different levels.6

This investigation utilizes a special type of source—the observations of Austro–Hungarian consuls regarding everyday violence in comparison with contemporary Bulgarian consular reports. From a methodological point of view, a combination of Austro–Hungarian and Bulgarian archival sources (a comparison of data obtained from independent observers and participants in events) can be used in order to avoid partiality, since even the different terminology in Austrian and Bulgarian documents reflects differences in interpretation of the events.7 The re-interpretation of some sources using a comparative approach would also be worthwhile.

The limits of this study do not allow us to examine the origin of all fault lines and interactions: the authors therefore focus on the tensions between Muslims and Christians and the antagonism between Patriarchists and Exarchists.8 This chapter applies a statistical analysis of quantitative data regarding victims and perpetrators, tracing patterns, differences and general features. Analysis of selected individual case studies and the role of economic background will be published elsewhere.







Kriva Palanka



Maleš (Osmanie)












36,282 (10%)


Exarchist (Bulgarian)










178,711 (50%)









19,334 (5.5%)

Muslim (Pomak)




20,076 (5.5%)








3,162 (1%)

Ottoman (Muslim)










83,223 (23%)











6,713 (2%)










54 357



Table 1. Ethnic composition in the kazas of the Sanjak of Skopje in 1903 based on Austro–Hungarian consular reports.9 Minorities such as Greeks and Jews that composed under one percent of the population are omitted.


However, prior to the discussion of the social conflicts, it is necessary to make some general remarks in order to place the subject of our investigation in its historical (and historiographical) context. In this article, the authors aimed to investigate whether analysis in earlier scholarly works regarding the main fault lines or the nature and forms of violence can be considered realistic and if this analysis can be validated using a larger database and numerous concrete examples or whether it should be revised.

First general remark. As a consequence of the Tanzimat reforms, the differences between Muslims and Christians had been gradually diminishing, which deeply frustrated the Muslim community that was in the process of losing its privileges. However, economic inequality did not decrease as the landlords were mainly Muslims, which frustrated the Christians, who remained economically subjugated to the landlords (half of Macedonian land was in large estates called chiflik, while one-third was in waqf [Islamic land endowment] and only the remaining one-sixth was in the hand of freeholders in 1910).10 And since not all Muslims were rich, the abolition of their privileged position eliminated the last factor that differentiated them from the Christian rayah. These Muslim inhabitants of the central Balkans formed one of the most conservative religious groups in the empire, refusing to live within the framework of a modern state and harboring no desire to be treated equally to Christians. Therefore the reforms satisfied neither Muslims nor Christians, nor did they reinforce trust towards the viability of the state. The reforms had brought about confrontation between the Muslims and the central government, but the true victim of their anger and frustration was the local Christians, whom the state failed to protect. After 1878 the situation deteriorated further when 40,000 Muslim refugees from Bosnia and the Sanjak of Niš arrived to Kosovo Vilayet (constituting one-third of the population in Priština, a quarter of the population in both Vučitrn and Gilan and ten percent of the population of Skopje).11 At the same time, vengeful neighboring small states were established. These muhajir families had lost everything they had during the war and the Ottoman government declined to provide them with support. Fleeing from the Austro–Hungarian occupation or from the Serbian army, the absence of state support and the pressing need to provide for their families prompted these refugees to take desperate measures. They expelled thousands of the local Slavic peasant families, mainly from eastern Kosovo, which then fled to Serbia (Mala Seoba). The Muslim refugees, however, assimilated with the local society over the long term, and thus formed a social stratum in the province that could be best characterized by its constant restlessness.12

Second general remark. By the final third of the nineteenth century, the social changes that had reached the Balkans had transformed or abolished the majority of the formerly existing identity patterns. This world was in transition in a religious, social and economic sense as well. The identity of the local, South Slavic-speaking Eastern Orthodox peasantry was also in crisis, though it was not the recognition of Christians as equal citizens that challenged this identity. This occurrence took place too late, as it almost coincided with the birth of modern nationalistic ideas in the neighboring small states—and as mentioned earlier, equal citizenship did not represent a real alternative, since neither Muslims nor Christians were satisfied with the reforms.13 The arrival of nationalism created new fault lines within the population, such as religion had earlier, but without erasing the old differences. The several types and layers of identities were overlapping one another, creating chaos in minds, rivalry between the political ideologies (loyal-liberal and nationalistic-revolutionary) and an upsurge in social change, which was exploited by national movements. The latter current was more popular, partly because it offered a solution to social inequalities as demonstrated in IMRO’s response to the land hunger of peasants. Furthermore, in the present case,14 not only religious and nationalistic divisions tended to face one another at the same time,15 but in addition to the collision of competing internal ideologies, an external threat also manifested itself as a transmitter of the nationalistic idea, which offered a real alternative (a smallholder society with private property) for the oppressed.

While in the Ottoman Empire opportunity for an essentially sectarian identity to develop and transform into something new (the “Ottoman nation”) arose at a rather slow pace, the numerous and elaborated national ideologies suddenly seemed to “flood” the local population. And soon enough, a violent rivalry broke out among the representatives of the different South Slav national creeds.16 These ideologies were no longer (or not only) promoted or propagated by the national church subjected to/or allies of the Ottoman state, but by patriot foreigners from the nation states built on a secular society or by the local intelligentsia, resulting as well in a multiplication of agents and ideologies, which presented average people with a difficult choice.17


Map 1. Kaza-level religious and ethnic map of the Sanjak of Skopje by Zsolt Bottlik

The Background of Tensions and the Social and Spatial Patterns of Violence

Nationality and denominational-sectarian conflicts claimed the most victims in Skopje Sanjak in the period from 1903 to 1908. The conflict can be classified into three major groups, two of which are under investigation in this study. The first type of religious conflict is represented by the rivalry between Patriarchists and Exarchists beginning in the 1870s.18 Since the Skopje Sanjak was a collision zone of interests (spornata zona, contested zone) located between Serbia and Bulgaria, this phenomenon is not unique, although the proportion of Patriarchists did not exceed 10 percent compared to the 50 percent of Exarchists. However, these tensions were not limited to this region—the same phenomena occured in the Vilayet of Bitola (Monastir), Shkodra (Iškodra) and Saloniki (Selanik). This is demonstrated by the case of the Eastern Orthodox secondary grammar school in Prizren at the turn of the century; the Bogoslovie conflict that led to the cancellation of several school years as the result of constant fighting between pro-Bulgarian and pro-Serbian factions and during which the reciprocal murder of Serboman and Bulgarian Orthodox priests continued until the arrival of a “neutral” clergyman sympathizing with Austria–Hungary; as well as some cases in the series of Karadag incidents from 1907 (see below).19 Atrocities over debated symbolic places usually dominated in the first phases of these conflicts, followed by struggles against symbolic personalities and culminating in the fight against the local population.

From a sectarian aspect, the Muslim–Christian conflicts (second type) proved to be the most serious among the peasantry in Kosovo Vilayet. A typical source of conflict was the Muslim raids on Christian churches, the perpetrators of which were hardly ever captured by Ottoman law-enforcement forces. The latter often encouraged such attacks in order to punish Cheta (četa) groups, but it had greater impact on the civilian population than on paramilitary groups. A good example of this type of attack is a February 12, 1907 Muslim Albanian raid in which Eastern Orthodox churches in the villages of Zubovce, Požaranje and Galata near Gostivar were ransacked and burned down. These villages were maintained jointly by the Serbian and Bulgarian religious communities of Gostivar, where the denominational identity was still stronger, than national identity. However, the delinquents were known to be Muslim Albanians originating from surrounding villages, the authorities did nothing in spite of the fact that even foreign consuls were voicing protest to the Grand Vizier.20 We must also stress that this sectarian dividing line was not identical to dividing lines between nationalities: for example, in Shkodra Vilayet (today west Kosovo), the Muslim Albanians launched attacks on the shrines of the local Christian Albanians as well.21

The third type of religious conflict took place between Muslim communities (Bektaşi–Sunni; rural–urban; citizen–official). Our statistical analysis will stress that conflict of this type was not negligible in the Skopje Sanjak. The three types of conflict often appeared together in the same area: sometimes their motives can be traced back to sectarian differences, sometimes to customs law, though they can also be attributed to economic, social or personal antagonism and were often encouraged by foreign pressure.

The Skopska Crna Gora (Karadag) Mountains, located north of Skopje, represented one of the major hotspots of nationalistic tension beginning in 1907 (the same was true for the kazas of Kriva Palanka, Kočani and Radovište), as this was the zone in which Albanian, Serbian and Bulgarian interests collided and overlapped. (Serbian refugees from Stara Srbija had settled here in numerous villages between 1689 and 1739, and these refugees were not obedient to the Bulgarian Exarchate). Conflict broke out following a number of unrelated murders. One of the killing sprees was provoked by Serbians when they attacked an Albanian village led by Voivode Petko Ilić. Another incident took place in the village of Brodec: during a raid Bulgarian attackers killed two Serbian men and kidnapped seven more whom were never found. The motives remained unknown in both cases. In addition to the constant Bulgarian and Serbian propaganda and the activity of infiltrating irregular foreign troops, the situation was exacerbated further by the fact that the peasants of Skopska Crna Gora lived in traditional communities in which unwritten customs of the family blood feud entailed obligations on family members. The two series of events infuriated the local communities, which wished to avenge the dead. A few months later everybody was fighting with one another. In this case, the local conflicts stemmed from the consequences of local customs over which state law had seemingly no authority whatsoever,22 while the presence of foreign influence complicated the situation even further. Authorities did nothing, although the local people had asked not only them, but the consulates of the great powers to intervene as well. The subsequent peace negotiations were led by an Archimandrite from a local monastery named Sava, who unsuccessfully tried to make peace based on unwritten customs instead of official law. Although his efforts were thwarted by the local Albanians, who did not wish to give besa for the peace, his activity clearly illustrates that local people did not trust the official Ottoman administrators and that local customs were much more authoritative than imperial law.23

Problems occurred not only at the Ottoman–Serbian border, but by 1907 along the Bulgarian frontier zone as well. Here the local traditions were exacerbated by the propaganda and paramilitary activity of small states. The equality of citizens meant nothing in these periphery areas where local communities and identities were still stronger than the imperial identity that attempted to secure/impose civil rights. These traditional communities became more susceptible to nationalism if it occurred together with the defense of local interests and traditions. The Bulgarian consul in Skopje enumerated in a notebook more than 750 cases of violence committed by Serbs and Greek bands in 1906–07. The list starts with the activity of Georgi Kapitan, who crossed the border with his Serbian Cheta and captured six hostages in two raids, then returned to Skopska Crna Gora, which served as his hinterland.24 It was a perfect base of operations: while promoting Serbian objectives, at the same time Kapitan could also avenge the previously cited atrocities committed against his host community. Local aspirations and state priorities intertwined, and those taken captive could never be sure whether they were being held for ransom to promote the Serbian cause or would be victims of blood feud.

Even more interesting, two more Serbian Chetas were reported from the region of Kratovo and Štip in January 1907 in spite of the bad weather conditions and the fact that the location was far away from the Skopska Gora borderland. (The bands often operated far away from their hideouts in distant kazas to hinder the activity of authorities). These attacks were of different character: in February, Ivan Stajkov kidnapped the starešinas (chiefs, elders) of Stariprad village and forced the village to declare its loyalty to Serbia by taking up Serbian identity.25 These acts were definitely not connected to any vengeful act.

These changes in national consciousness were not permanent or irreversible: in many cases villages changed their identity quickly, if another Cheta appeared. Even religious and national categories were often mixed within a village. The intruders usually inquired about the nationality of residents (Serb, Bulgarian, Greek), though priests answered according to religious category (Exarchist, Patriachist), which did not satisfy the intruders.26 The timing of the above-mentioned raids has more significance than the acts themselves: these events took place in winter, and cannot be explained by simple banditry, the goal of which was to collect food and other means of subsistence. Since the villagers stayed in their dwellings during winter, an attack on them was riskier during this period than during the summer, when potential victims were working in the fields. Therefore the previously mentioned Cheta groups can be regarded as well-trained, organized and determined units in comparison to a simple band of robbers without deep-rooted nationalistic commitments.27

Thus at least three different motives of Cheta activities can be discerned: their aims could be social (local revenge), economic (self-sustainment or weakening the economic basis of the enemy) or political (promoting national propaganda). Political results could also be achieved through the former two motives. Very often the frequency of the raids showed yearly fluctuation. During spring, the exhausted raw core of Chetas gained strength and supplies in the villages of target areas, and by wandering from village to village (partly for security reasons, partly in order to gather men for their cause), increased their number to between 20 and 40 men. Todor Alexandrov commanded a band of this type in Kratovo kaza in 1910.28 The peak of their activity was the late summer, when villagers collected the harvest far from their relatively secure dwellings. Winter attacks were quite rare: local people referred to snow as the “white police,” which was more efficient than the Ottoman authorities or the international gendarmerie operated by the great powers between 1903–08.29 Increased winter activity can be regarded as a peculiarity of Chetas supported by small states, while their other feature is the relatively great number of Cheta-band members. For example, the Cheta of Ivan Stajkov consisted of 30 men in February,30 which means that it was more than the “bare core.”

Based on the above mentioned, two general tendencies began to gain ground concerning the organizational basis of Chetas following the turn of the century. The first was that denominational (sectarian) and national categories were mixed and combined in all conceivable ways (similarly to the goals and motifs explained earlier). The second was that at the same time a new social stratum emerged in the vilayet: being a Cheta member became a lifestyle. Its members were destitute and therefore radical men (regardless of their religion or nationality) who simply tried to profit from the chaos.31 Besides the irregular troops arriving from abroad, which were fighting to realize national ambitions, and local revolutionary forces (like IMRO), these mercenary bands32 also created their own armed corps and under the banner of national goals they essentially lived off the terrorized population, as they could be hired to intimidate and assassinate local leaders. These groups were often balancing between banditry, freedom fighting, terrorism, and sometimes even functioned as auxiliary forces of Ottoman authorities (when maintaining public order or leading punitive actions). At any rate, this had a long tradition in Balkan countries.33 Several photographs of these frequently multi-ethnic or religiously mixed bands can be found in the military archives of the great powers (Photo 1). These Cheta leaders could easily be convinced to change their allegiances. The same happened to Ivan/Jovan Babunski, former Bulgarian Cheta leader from village Martulica, considered to be a Serbian agent from 1907 on, who tried to intimidate the dwellers of Kriva-Kruša (Veles) as described in a letter captured by the Bulgarian Lieutenant Colonel Nedkov in Skopje.34

The social acceptance of the phenomenon (band activity) was not unequivocal. Balogh mentioned that by the end of the eighteenth century, ten percent of Christians (and one-third of young men) had been involved in such a movement at least once in their lifetime.35 This proportion was even higher in Macedonia at the beginning of the twentieth century. IMRO had 35,000 supporters in 1906 in the Skopje Sanjak, constituting more than ten percent of the Ottoman administrative unit’s population. Considering that IMRO was an organization that relied mostly on Exarchists (promoting Macedo-Bulgarian or Bulgarian interests),36 one cannot avoid the assumption that all Exarchist households were conscripted as sympathizers of the IMRO (Table 2): this is the only reason that could explain the high ratio of supporters of IMRO compared to Exarchist families37 (25 percent on average, each head of family). However, supporting the IMRO was still a better choice than to fall victim to a hired band (without genuine political commitment).

Nevertheless, this does not mean that these men were activists, able and willing to fight at any time, but rather that they were used as messengers or that their infrastructure (animals, storage places) was exploited by activists. Furthermore, those who were conscripted (even if they remained passive toward the cause) had to pay the “revolutionary tax.” This—in addition to the official tithe that at that time was around 12–15 percent—represented a further additional burden, paid willingly or under coercion.38 This financial resource, though important, was not the sole source of income for the IMRO. Beyond this, foreign support and regular economic activities (see later) were regarded a major sources of revenue as well.

One must conclude that these people were considered primarily to be a taxable population rather than real fighters (and their willingness to fight may be also questioned), because according to a report from 1906, the 6,000 IMRO supporters in the Skopje kaza possessed only 250 rifles (including 190 old Berdans) with 17,000 cartridges and 85 revolvers with 1,550 bullets (Table 2).39 Generally only one-tenth of the supporters had rifles, and the highest ratio was measured in Kočani and Štip (11–13 percent). Here the ammunition-to-weapon ratio was over 100 (explaining the escalation of violence in 1911–12) and the ratio of older weapons was extremely high. We may assume that older weapons from the Crimean War were stored at home by peasants due to the deterioration in public security,40 while Mannlichers and revolvers had been distributed among active members through smuggling.


Photo 1. An example of hiring people of different ethnic background for the national cause: the ethnically and religiously mixed Chetas of the Serbian First Lieutenant Gutriković in Kaza Kumanovo 1908. Source and copyright: Kriegsarchiv (Vienna) AOK-Evidenzbureau, Kt. 3483.41


Kidnapping, ransom, mass theft of animals, blackmail, threatening letters, the disinterest of Ottoman authorities and bribery, as Ikonomov enumerated the methods in 1911, forced many villages to convert (often temporarily) to a new identity.42 The village of Kanarevo (Kumanovo kaza) decided to become Serboman after the starešina was threatened and bribed.43 Bulgarian priests were arrested in Krastev Dol and in Radibuš by Ottoman authorities, and soon Serbian priests arrived to replace them.44 Ruginci, Orah and Podarži Kon became Serboman due to violence committed by Bulgarian Chetas.45 In some cases the conversion of a village was not a sudden act—it took years and the two parties often continued to live together: this kind of coexistence happened in the case of Stačna, Teovo, Oreše, etc. (Very often social or economic tensions within the community were the explanation for the situation). Nevertheless this phenomenon could also serve as a source of recurrent violence. In other cases, settlements changed sides many times: this happened with particular frequency after 1908, the reestablishment of the constitution and the disarmament of Chetas: see the case of Oreše, Izvor, Rankovski, etc., which became Bulgarian settlements after Serbia temporarily lost Ottoman support, then changed sides again by 1910, when Serbian propaganda became revitalized again (Table 3a).46

The instruments cited above served not only to promote forced Serbianzation or Bulgarization of the villages, but provided food and income for the Cheta as well to sustain their activity as these units were often operating far away from their hinterland. The identification of Serboman villages in kazas distant from the Serbian border may indicate areas of local support for Serbian Chetas (Table 3b).

Beyond taxation, pillaging and “requisition,” another source of income came from state subsidies: the Bulgarian consulate in Skopje warned the government that Serbian agents received 300,000 dinars for the Serbianization of the vicinity of Kratovo (this amount is equal to the annual salary of 350 teachers or 150 military lieutenants). These agents had bought weapons (one witness, a major of the international gendarmerie, mentions 200 rapid-fire guns) instead of creating schools, buying land or bribing local leaders, and only a small sum was spent on securing the loyalty of local people.47 The small states with claims to this territory recognized quite quickly that the destruction of existing (infra)structures was more cost-effective and its effect was more permanent than establishing churches, schools and buying land; therefore beginning in 1908 (following the withdrawal of the great powers and their failure to stabilize the situation and after the radicalization of Young Turks) there was a radical shift from soft methods to hard methods.48 This transformation clearly indicates the beginning of the third phase of the Macedonian question, which was characterized by nearly unlimited violence and coercion.

The violent activity of infiltrating irregular foreign troops increased the high mortality rate (caused by local tradition) even further. Due to the escalation of violence, both the IMRO and former Vrhovists49 organized meetings where they—at least verbally—pointed out that peasants should be kept away from the violence and should not be considered as target groups. These agreements were not only driven by social sensitivity, but by economic rationale as well. Since land revenue constituted a significant proportion of the income of IMRO, it was in the fundamental interest of the organization to secure the safety of peasants living in areas under its control to promote the cultivation of lands. Through the use of its armed forces, IMRO compelled peasants to work the land and often prescribed what to grow on the fields. Surprisingly, this coercive agriculture was economically rational in a certain sense as the IMRO favored crops with greater added value than that of the wheat traditionally grown in the region. One hectare of land sown with poppy seed resulted between 10 and 15 kilograms of opium (if the plantation was not set on fire by rivals) with an average price of 25 to 30 francs per kilogram, thus producing total revenue of between 300 and 450 francs per hectare. This significantly exceeded the revenue derived from other crops (one ton of wheat was about 130-150 francs and the average yield did not exceed one ton per hectare, while the ratio of harvested wheat was only 5 to 1).50 By monopolizing trade in opium and tobacco, IMRO was able to create self-sustaining Chetas that were wedged between peasant and trader expropriating the profits. Since this was a risky enterprise as both adversaries and the government tried to hinder this activity, the mobility of Chetas decreased when they had to defend the harvest. Economic oppression and permanent migration generated by political tension led to desertion of arable lands. By 1912 only 400,000 hectares of land was under cultivation in Kosovo Vilayet out of the total 3.2 million acres as a result of the growing violence.51

Although an armistice between the two organizations (IMRO and Vrhovists) was desirable, efforts to conclude such a truce were more or less futile,52 partly as a result of the growing activity of Muslim bands prior to 1908. The latter attacked not only local peasantry, but also launched attacks against the gendarmerie led by international officers. This special form of violence was carried out not against the officers themselves, but against local Christians serving as privates in the gendarmerie in order to discourage them from participation in police forces.53 Nevertheless, this category is not included in the term “everyday violence” used by the authors.

Not only the armed corps, but the propaganda and ideologies promoted by the neighboring states also battled with one another in the region even during the relatively peaceful period prior to the Ilinden Uprising.54 The target groups (and propagators) of these ideologies were primarily Eastern Orthodox priests and village teachers,55 who—based on their functions within the community—were able to disseminate this message most efficiently. The peasantry was targeted directly to a lesser extent owing to its illiteracy. The greatest influence shaping the identity of villagers was undoubtedly exercised by the priest and the teacher: the village usually followed the national identity pattern(s) that they represented or were forced to represent.56

The fight for supremacy evidently required organizational infrastructure beyond human capital: apart from schools and churches that were considered outposts of the state, which were immobile, though able to control the “Raum und Boden” and were thus most exposed to physical attacks, a network of background institutions responsible for securing optimal conditions was also created.57 The Bulgarian state refrained from directly imposing its own agents on Macedonian Bulgars: the influence of the Bulgarian state over school affairs prior to the Ilinden Uprising was realized through Macedonian-born Slavic teachers educated in Bulgaria (who were influenced by Bulgarian propaganda). This strategy could enhance confidence of local society towards the Bulgarian state, while the Bulgarophile Macedonians were able to (re)create their own intelligentsia. Out of a total of 1,239 professors and teachers in the Bulgarian schools of Macedonia in 1902, 1,220 were native Macedonians and, in addition to the 15 Bulgarian-born Bulgars teaching in Macedonia, there were 450 Macedonian Bulgars teaching in the schools of liberated Bulgaria.58 The numbers also reflect the great role of the Macedonian-born population in Bulgarian political life.59

The dynamic increase of Serbian schools between 1896 and 1901 is the product of the following factors: despite the existence of the supporting organizational background, the Serbian presence was relatively insignificant in Macedonia prior to 1903; however, Serbian propaganda was increasing (with support from Ottoman authorities) compared to Bulgarian propaganda. This phenomenon provided a warning to the Bulgarians, and between 1901 and 1910 the number of teachers in Bulgarian schools almost doubled, which also reflects changes in the support policy in comparison to that previously mentioned.







843 / 785 / 1359

1,306 / 1,220 / 2,203

43,432 / 40,000 / 78,519


77 / 178 /

118 / 321/

2,873 / 7,200 /


/ 924/

/ 1,400 /

/ 57,500 /


Table 4. The result of “peaceful” propaganda: schools in Macedonia in 1896 /1901/1910. Jacob Gould Schurman, The Balkan Wars: 1912–1913 (London: Humphrey Milford, 1914), accessed September 16, 2014, http://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/11676/pg11676.html and D. Misheff, The truth about Macedonia (Berne: Pochon-Jent, 1917).


Even after the involvement of the Great Powers, the provinces were still crying for relief.60 Between May 1904 and May 1905, 111 violent cases committed by Chetas were reported within the boundaries of Macedonia by a Bulgarian source, including those targeting authorities (these should not be included in the term “everyday violence,” but can be compared to them). This means that these atrocities claimed an average of seven victims. This high number reveals that these incidents and conflicts were not accidental or of personal character, but were planned in advance as a part of a campaign of intimidation and revenge symbolizing a special type of warfare. This source does not reveal whether the proximity to borders or distance from central administration had an effect on the escalation of violence (while in the case of Austro–Hungarian consular reports, such an investigation could be carried out), nor does it provide an account of the interethnic character of conflict, contrary to the Austro–Hungarian consular reports.

Based on the above mentioned report of Shopov, most of those arrested in Macedonia were Bulgarians (80 percent, a result of either the activity of Bulgarians or the prejudice of authorities, because their ratio within the population did not exceed 60%), though almost two-thirds of them were found not guilty. Among those who were convicted, Bulgarians were not overrepresented: 20 percent of arrested Bulgarians were sentenced to several years in prison: this represents 79 percent of all imprisoned, while Bulgarians constituted 80 percent of those arrested. The ratio of imprisoned Serbs was also around 20 percent in comparison to the number of Serbs arrested. Among the acquitted, Serbs were overrepresented (80 percent of arrested Serbs were freed), while the investigation process was the longest in case of Greeks due to the fact that they were often not Ottoman but Greek citizens,61 contrary to Bulgar(ian)s, who were mainly recruited from the territory of Macedonia and not from Bulgaria.

According to the data collected by Shopov, Greek Chetas preferred to capture people alive and hold them for ransom, which means that the Greek struggle for Macedonia was in its initial phase: 70 percent of captured were held by Greeks, while the proportion of atrocities committed by Greek forces was only 27 percent. This practice was quite rare in case of Serb and Bulgar offenders: 66 percent of those who died were killed by Bulgarian Chetas, although the latter were involved “only” in 50 percent of encounters. The ratio of murders committed by Serbs/Bulgars was 80 percent among the victims of Serbian/Bulgarian violence. Compared to this, murders constituted only 33 percent of Greek violence. The proportion of the victims of Ottoman authorities constituted “only” 17 to 20 percent of all victims and those who died among them were underrepresented (Table 5).

But the most convincing evidence of the failure of the Ottoman authorities and the international intervention to maintain public order and of the increasing anarchy that ensued after the turn of the century are the detailed statistics compiled by Austro–Hungarian consuls listing the victims of the social conflicts. These are conflicts (contrary to those discussed above) that cannot be tied unambiguously to the activity of Chetas or authorities, thus falling under the category of “everyday violence.” A typical example of consular reports is the document written in Skopje in 1905 enumerating all acts of everyday violence that occurred in the sanjak between May 11 and September 13 of that year.62


11. Mai

Fatima und Tochter Zarifa aus Treskavec

Getötet, Täter unbekannt

27. Mai

Koce aus Podoreš


16. Juni

Demendezi aus Jargerica

getötet, Täter angeblich Comité-Rache

17. Juni

Stojan aus Jargerica

getötet, Täter angeblich Comité-Rache

19. Juni

Avram Jane dessen Frau und Tochter aus Rozbunar

verwundet, Täter 3 unbekannte Mohammedaner

20. Juni

Risto Konstantin aus Radovište

verwundet, dtto

20. Juni

Traman Dimitrija aus Delina

schwer verwundet, Täter angeblich Türken

28. Juni

Kristo Ile aus Vratica

der Tatverdächtig der Mohammedaner Damjan [sic!]

12. Juli

Jovan Velko aus Šipkovica


16. Juli

Angelko Trajan, Jordan Postol, Mike Lazar, Mike, Petre Stojan, Tase Gjorgje: Hirten aus Radoviste

von einer mohammedanischen Bande gefesselt und durch Messerstiche getötet

17. Juli

Stojan Niko u. Gam: dtto


19. Juli

Trajce Zafir aus Kance

getötet, Täter Rara Ahmed

12. August

Dane Jane und Sohn David, Koce Ilia aus Vrahovica

getötet, Täter mohammed. Comités

18. August

Tašo Georgiev aus Radovište

getötet, Täter unbekannte Comités

21. August

Ilija und Arif aus Vrahovica

getötet, Täter 3 Mohammedaner

25. August

1 unbekanntes Comité-Mitglied bei Gmerdeš


3. September

File Risto aus Jargaica

getötet, Täter unbekannt

3. September

Todor Spasov aus Kanče

getötet, Täter Türken aus Promet

3. September

Panče Ilo aus Skoruša

getötet, Täter Türken aus Promet


Table 6. List of violent activities in Radovište kaza (cited in the original language): officially five
political murders were recorded among the 20 cases, but only one victim was a committee member.63

In Kaza Radovište: Getötet 23, Verwundet 4, vermißt 2.


Dated from 1905 this list enumerating 285 victims in a period of four months from a smaller area looks to be more detailed compared to the report of Shopov containing 772 victims in a period of one year throughout Macedonia. Cases were reported for each kaza giving the name and religion of perpetrators and victims (see Table 6), which makes the list more valuable and informative than Shopov’s report. Note that the cases enumerated here took place after the intervention of the great powers (Mürzsteg, 1903), therefore it also demonstrates the powerlessness of the recently organized international gendarmerie. This list provides the possibility of tracing certain phenomena and to observe certain tendencies (the spatial pattern of violence, the role of border areas, the correlation between the ethnicity and religion of perpetrators and victims, etc.), though the cause of conflicts still remain obscure. Although the names of the victims and the perpetrators do not provide unquestionable evidence of their nationality, the sectarian composition may be more or less precisely reconstructed, thus permitting an investigation of religious or ethnic tensions.64

But this did not represent the peak of violence by any means. After the failure of international intervention, the number of people killed increased quickly: in 1908 a total of 1,080 “political murders” were committed throughout Macedonia (while in 1905, the number of all victims of Chetas—including all types: dead, injured and missing—was only 772), claiming among its victims 649 Bulgarians, 185 Greeks, 130 Muslims, 39 Serbs, 36 Vlachs and 40 soldiers according to the report of the Englishman Harry Lamb.65 Compared to their proportion of the entire population, Muslim victims seem to be underrepresented and Bulgarian victims a bit overrepresented. The reinstatement of the constitution in 1908 proved to be more effective than any other earlier measures: over the last five months of that very year, only 71 political murders took place, constituting seven percent of all murders, while during the first four months of the year it almost reached 50 percent.66 One cannot avoid the assumption that the armistice among bands in 1908–1909 as a consequence of the rise to power of the Young Turks contributed to the stabilization of the situation to a greater degree than the constitution and the parliamentary elections, events that rarely entail immediate results.

Comparing the Bulgarian and the Austro–Hungarian sources one may arrive to the following conclusions: first, that violent acts committed by Chetas became more frequent between 1905 and 1908 in Macedonia (772 killed and injured compared to 1,080 killed); second, that Austro–Hungarian documents are more detailed and therefore more suitable for conducting further analysis; and three, that everyday violence (or acts not reported as political murders) was apparently as frequent as political violence. (Just to compare the two types of violence: during the first four months of 1908, 450 people were killed by Chetas throughout Macedonia, while in the first four months of 1905, 197 people were killed in everyday violence within the much smaller area of the examined sanjak).

In some places of the Sanjak of Skopje in 1905, the average number of victims per attack exceeded four or five (like in the Bulgarian statistics with Cheta involvement, where seven victims per attack were counted), which makes it evident that in these cases not simply personal antagonism or economic conflict, but rather ideological or intergroup tensions represented the source of violence. The names and occupations in Table 6 reveal that many of the victims (especially the four women) can hardly be identified as members of paramilitary units (their activity may have been confined to providing information or supplying troops) and that in many cases they were victims of blood feuds motivated by rivalry between communities or were victims of punitive actions or intimation on the part of Chetas. Based on the high average number of victims per attack, the Bulgarian source focuses much more on the activity of Chetas, emphasizing the paramilitary-revolutionary character of the violent acts, while the Austro–Hungarian report enumerates single cases as well, when perpetrators were not Cheta members, though their actions fit into the category of everyday violence.67

The fearless early usage of coercion and violence against civilians and activists as well is clearly confirmed by a document called “Reglement für die Bulgarisch-Adrianopeler Revolutionären Comités”68 dating from the year 1900. These revolutionary committees had their internal secret police as well, which was divided into two branches. The duty of the first branch, the investigative police, was not only to observe foreigners, non-Cheta members and government officials, but to examine the deeds and actions of Cheta members as well. The second branch was called the executive secret service, the task of which was not only to support the leaders in case of internal crisis, but also to punish activities reported by the observers. The revolvers mentioned in the document summarizing the resources of the IMRO from 1906 were used by this branch of secret police. In addition to the spies and Ottoman bureaucrats who impeded the activity of revolutionaries, not only activists, but even members of the civil population were allowed to kill regardless of their ethnicity if they threatened the goals of the committees and disregarded the first warnings and fines. This punishment was extended to Bulgarians living either in Bulgaria or abroad if they engaged in activity serving to exacerbate discontent among revolutionaries. Even those were sanctioned who had acted under pressure, were forced to commit violence or were tortured by enemies of the committee. Mentioning the name of a committee member to the authorities or in public for the second time also entailed a death sentence.69 These punitive measures could also have been in the background of the escalation of everyday violence, as very often the community did not know of killings or did not dare inform authorities of them. (It is also not surprising that communist activists and ideologists visiting the Balkans and well acquainted with the Macedonian cause, like Trotsky, implemented these methods effectively in organizing secret police in their homeland. Even the terms used, such as “Arbeit”, reappear in these documents).

Neither the high concentration of IMRO weapons nor the ethnic heterogeneity of districts always resulted in the escalation of violent activities. The activity of IMRO cannot alone explain all forms of “everyday violence:” in Kočani, which was well-supplied with ammunition, everyday violence was rare, although here Albanians and Muslims also lived together with Bulgarians. The extent of violence was also relatively low in Veles, although IMRO had plenty of bullets and weapons and half of the district was Turkish. In Kriva Palanka and in Kratovo, the high ratio of victims measured to the total population (Table 7) at first glance seems to be due to the fact that an extremely high 22 percent of the population supported the IMRO (Table 2). However, the percentage of sympathizers supplied with weapons was quite low here (five percent). Furthermore, both territories were mainly Exarchist in character, therefore neither interethnic tensions nor the clashes with the Turkish authorities can explain the spread of violence here (these conflict types are excluded from the term “everyday violence.”)70







Christian victims

Muslim victims



Victims per 1,000 Inhabitants


8 (average of 5 killed)




30 (2 f)

19 (4 f, 1 c)

3 (1 f)

52 (7 f, 1 c)







21 (1 f)



49 (1 f)


Kriva Palanka





15 (4 f)






































25 (2 f)

3 (2 f)





11 (average of 4 killed)





13 (1 f)



















159 (9 f)

58 (7 f, 1 c)

70 (1 f)

287 (17 f 1 c)



Table 7. Types of violent activity and the territorial and religious distribution of victims in Skopje Sanjak between May 11 and September 13, 190571 f = females; c = children



Christians Altogether


Muslims Altogether

Unknown Cases


Against Christians

Against Muslims

Against Christians

Against Muslims



















Kriva Palanka











9 + 1*







































Table 8. The religious and territorial distribution of perpetrators committing crime between May 11 and September 13, 1905 (only known perpetrators included) 72

* Muslim attackers and one unknown victim.


As the authors pointed out earlier, the Austrian source offers possibilities for deeper investigation (cases committed by soldiers or police are not included!). Most of the victims (including deaths, injuries and missing) were Christian (55 percent) (Tables 7–8). The proportion of Muslims was 20 percent, while 25 percent remained unknown. Compared to their proportion of the entire population of the sanjak (40 percent), Muslim victims were somewhat underrepresented (Table 1). With regard to the perpetrators, these ratios are not more than estimates, as more than 50 percent of cases remained unresolved. This demonstrates the low effectiveness of imperial and international authorities. Based on known cases, Muslims mainly attacked Christians (22 percent of the total, four times more frequent than Muslim attacks on Muslims), while the proportion of Christian perpetrators committing violent crime against Muslims was only four percent of the total (Table 8). Attacks within the Muslim community ranged up to six percent of the total, while violence between Christians constituted more than 14 percent of the total in Skopje Sanjak (this was a greater percentage value than that of Christian crimes against Muslims!). One may arrive to the conclusion that the Exarchist-Patriarchist rivalry was more important here (compared to the relatively small ratio of Patriarchists in the territory) than the hostility of Christians towards Muslims and that violence within the Muslim community was more frequent than violence toward other communities.

The spatial pattern of violence can be investigated too: in Štip kaza Christians primarily attacked Christians, while Muslims in Štip, Kumanovo and in Radovište mainly attacked Christians. These phenomena were not connected to ethnic predominance: in Kumanovo, Muslims composed only 30 percent of the population, while in Štip they constituted the majority. In the vicinity of Kriva Palanka and Kratovo,73 all known Christian attacks were targeted against other Christian communities. This may be explained by the fact that though these kazas were ethnically homogenous, the national conflict between Bulgars and Serboman troops was fierce (one should not forget that 50 percent of cases were unresolved, therefore the numbers have limited statistical relevance). The spatial distribution of victims and perpetrators (Table 9–10) shows that the largest absolute numbers of victims were located in Skopje, Štip and Kumanovo kazas. Nevertheless, these absolute numbers are not representative, as these kazas had larger populations. The proportion of victims measured against the total population is more representative. With this in mind, victims of violent activities were overrepresented in Kumanovo, Kriva Palanka, Kratovo, and especially in Radovište and Štip kazas. These territorial units were located in the mountainous periphery far away from the administrative center and from the Vardar-axis (which was serving as the main connection route to adjacent areas).





Kriva Palanka
































Table 9. The proportion of perpetrators and victims compared to the population in the sanjak (considered as 100 percent) in 1905 (in order to examine underrepresentation and overrepresentation). 74 Kočani and Maleš were omitted due to small case number.



Christian Victims/

Christian Population

Muslim Victims/

Muslim Population

Christian Perpetrators/

Christian Population

Muslim Perpetrators/

Muslim Population

Distance from Center*

Distance from State Border





































Table 10. Spatial and religious differences of violence in 1905 based on the comparison of victims and perpetrators. Values over 1 indicate overrepresentation.

Kriva Palanka and Kratovo was omitted due to the large proportion of unknown delinquents, Kočani and Maleš was omitted due to small case numbers

* Distance from the center or from the border was measured using graph theory based on the number of nodes (local centers) that had to be passed in order to reach the territory in question.


The same conclusions can be made with regard to the data on perpetrators. Measured against the entire population, perpetrators were overrepresented in Skopje, Radovište and Štip, nearly the same kazas in which the ratio of victims compared to population was the largest. In the latter two kazas, the proportion of perpetrators and victims was twice as high as the proportion of the population of the kaza compared to the total population of Skopje Sanjak (Table 9). This is not surprising, since based on the conscription of 1903 the proportion of Muslims was quite high in these places (see the map of Kančov or the map published in Carnegie Report).75 Based on the absolute numbers of perpetrators and victims, these attacks were the bloodiest, reaching an average of between four and five deaths per attack. Christian victims measured against Christian population were overrepresented in Skopje, Radovište and Štip kazas, but it did not mean that Christian victims76 were killed solely by Muslims (see Tables 8 and 10), while Muslim perpetrators compared to Muslim population were overrepresented in Kumanovo, Radovište and Veles. Muslim victims and Christian perpetrators were not overrepresented anywhere.


Proportion of Christians vs. Proportion of Christian Victims*


Proportion of Muslim Perpetrators vs. Distance from Administrative Center


Proportion of Christians vs. Proportion of Christian Perpetrators*


Percentage of Unknown Cases vs. Distance from Administrative Center


Proportion of Christians vs. Proportion of Muslim Victims*


Percentage of Unknown Cases vs. Distance from Border


Proportion of Christians vs. Proportion of Muslim Criminals*


Proportion of Muslim Criminals vs. Distance from Borders


Percentage of Christian Victims vs. Percentage of Christian Perpetrators


Proportion of Muslim Victims vs. Distance from Borders


Proportion of Muslim Victims vs. Proportion of Muslim Perpetrators


Percentage of Muslim Victims vs. Distance from Center


Percentage of Christian Victims vs Proportion of Muslim Perpetrators


Percentage of Muslim Perpetrators vs. Percentage of Christian Perpetrators



Table 11. Correlation table between variables related to violence in 1905 (only those who are known to have committed crimes are included)

* Substituting Christians with Muslims, the strength of correlation does not change.

Contrary to some well–distinguished territorial patterns, violence in the sanjak (as a total) was characterized mainly by weak correlations, thus general features are overshadowed by local patterns. Although significant, but reversed correlation was measured between the proportion of Christian victims and the proportion of Christian perpetrators (k=–0,78),77 other relations did not show such strong correlation due to the previously mentioned ethnic heterogeneity and due to the diversity of conflict types enumerated earlier (Table 11).78

Since perpetrators were mainly Muslims both in kazas with a Muslim majority (Štip) and with a Muslim minority (Veles), while victims were Christians, the pattern of violence at the kaza level was not determined solely by the religious character of the population, but by other factors (distance from borders, violence among those of the same religion). Violence in central territories was relatively rare (even despite the higher population density), while it was more frequent in peripheral kazas along the Bulgarian and Serbian borders. We may assume that Christian perpetrators were overrepresented along the Bulgarian border and in Slavic-speaking territories, while Muslim perpetrators were more frequent in the Kumanovo, Veles and Radovište kazas along the Muslim-dominated Vardar-axis. As the distance measured from the centers grew, the proportion of Muslim perpetrators decreased (r=–0.8). The clearance rate also draws attention: a general tendency is that police were the most inefficient along the easily penetrable Bulgarian border. Unresolved cases ranged from 60 percent (Maleš) up to 100 percent (Kočani!) in the peripheries.79 Spatial differences regarding violence and driving factors were collected to summarize our analysis in Table 12.


Summarizing that mentioned above we can draw the following conclusions:

the borders between the different types of violent actions triggered either by sectarian and school conflicts or by customs law gradually faded;

the supporting policy of small states shifted irreversibly from construction to destruction;

the activity of the irregular troops was limited only by the change of seasons (neither Ottoman authorities nor the withdrawal of support could stop them any longer);

Chetas became highly organized and self-subsistent groups through involvement in agriculture (opium, tobacco, smuggling) or expropriation of state and private properties;

loyalty to the state also faded: in addition to troops pursuing nationalist ideas, ethnically and religiously mixed mercenary bands also existed and were hired;

the representatives of the state did not even attempt to address the economic and political problems. Their violent and intolerant interference, despite the temporary successes, hastened the escalation of conflict into anarchy;

the “usual” social conflicts (between public officers and citizens, security forces and inhabitants, etc.) also became uncontrollable,80 and became overshadowed by the new types of conflict; the practices of Chetas were adopted by other violent (state and guerilla) organizations;

the nationalistic movements declared total warfare in which, compared to the years prior to 1903, not only were the Ottoman administration or military forces and the active members of the movements (ideologists, like teachers and priests) regarded as targets, but the passive masses as well, as they could provide shelter, information, ammunition and an economic base for rivals;

the economy had collapsed by 1912, fields remained uncultivated due to the wave of violence, which triggered emigration.

On the eve of the First Balkan War there was no functioning state administration and economy in the Sanjak of Skopje, which had turned into a frontier zone.

Archival Sources

Österreichisches Haus-, Hof- und Staatsarchiv (ÖHHStA, Vienna), Politisches Archiv, VII. 434; XXXVIII. 399, 430; 19 Nachlaß August Kral.

Централен Държавен Архив, (ЦДА, Sofia), ф. 331k. oп. 1; 332k oп. 1; 335k. oп. 1.

Kriegsarchiv (Vienna) AOK-Evidenzbureau, Kt. 3483.

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1 The term is used here in the Turnerian sense.

2 The second phase is the intervention of the great powers in 1903–1908, the third is the revival of violence after the failure of these Powers to settle the questions.

3 Research in the Austrian State Archives was conducted within the framework of the project “Politics and Society in Late Ottoman Kosovo. An Edition of Austro–Hungarian Consular Reports from Kosovo, 1870–1913” funded by the Austrian Science Fund FWF (Projekt Nr. P 21477-G18); project leader: Prof. Oliver Jens Schmitt; main researcher: Eva Anne Frantz; part time co-worker in 2010–11 (one month each): Krisztián Csaplár-Degovics; part time co-worker (2013-): Daniela Javorić. We would like to express our gratitude to Eva Anne Frantz for sharing the results of her research and her unpublished Ph.D. dissertation with us. The elaboration of this paper has been funded by the János Bolyai Research Scholarship of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.

4 The methodological approach and idea of this study to focus on everyday violence in the Sanjak of Skopje stems from Eva Anne Frantz, “Gewalt als Faktor der Desintegration im Osmanischen Reich – Formen von Alltagsgewalt im südwestlichen Kosovo in den Jahren 1870–1880 im Spiegel österreichisch–ungarischer Konsulatsberichte,” Südost-Forschungen 68 (2009): 184–204, esp. 184–87. Different forms of coexistence including violence in the Vilayet of Kosovo is also the topic of Eva Anne Frantz, “Muslime und Christen im spätosmanischen Kosovo: Lebenswelten und soziale Kommunikation in den Anfängen eines ethnopolitischen Konflikts, 1870–1913” (PhD diss., University of Vienna, 2014). With regard to this question see also Eva Anne Frantz, “Religiös geprägte Lebenswelten im spätosmanischen Kosovo – Zur Bedeutung von religiösen Zugehörigkeiten, Eigen- und Fremdwahrnehmungen und Formen des Zusammenlebens bei albanischsprachigen Muslimen und Katholiken,” in Religion und Kultur im albanischsprachigen Südosteuropa, ed. Oliver Jens Schmitt (Vienna: Lang, 2010), 127–50; and Eva Anne Frantz, “Violence and its Impact on Loyalty and Identity Formation in Late Ottoman Kosovo: Muslims and Christians in a Period of Reform and Transformation,” Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs 29, no. 4 (2009): 455–68. A German research group investigating the comparative historical and sociological interpretations of the role of communities based on trading in violence also served as an inspiration to the authors. The logic and terminology of the present study are based on the questions, aspects investigated and frameworks defined by Forschergruppe “Gewaltgemeinschaften”: Finanzierungsantrag und Forschungsprogramm 1. Juli 2009 bis 30. Juni 2012. November, 2008, Justus-Liebig-Universität-Giessen, 15–39.

5 Georg Elwert, “Gewaltmärkte, Beobachtungen zur Zweckrationalität der Gewalt,” in Soziologie der Gewalt. Sonderheft der Cologneer Zeitschrift für Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie, ed. Trutz von Trotha (Opladen: Westdeutscher Verlag, 1997), 86–101.

6 Winfried Speitkamp, “Einführung,” in Gewaltgemeinschaften. Von der Spätantike bis ins 20. Jahrhundert, ed. Winfried Speitkamp (Göttingen: V&R Unipress, 2013), 8–12 and Hannes Grandits, Nathalie Clayer, and Robert Pichler, “Introduction,” in Conflicting Loyalties in the Balkans: The Great Powers, the Ottoman Empire and Nation-Building, ed. Hannes Grandits et al. (London: Tauris, 2011), 3–5.

7 It is important to note that the word “Bulgarian” is not equivalent to “Exarchist” in Austro–Hungarian documents. Österreichisches Haus-, Hof-, und Staatsarchiv, Politisches Archiv (hereinafter ÖHHStA PA), VII/Fasz. 434, Rappaport to Pallavicini, March 21, 1907, No. 330, Beilage No. 26, 5. See also the Kral consul’s map from 1903 in Nachlass Szapáry, ÖHHStA. Cited also by Толева,Тeодора. Виянието на Австро-Унгария за създаването на албанска нация, 1896–1906 (Sofia: Ciela, 2012), 540–44 (maps). By contrast, in the reports of the Bulgarian consul in Skopje, the term “Bulgarian” is synonymous with Exarchist. The word “Bulgarian” instead of “Exarchist” often occurs even in Exarchist ecclesiastical documents. See: Централен Държавен Архив (Sofia, hereafter ЦДА), ф. 331k. oп. 1. a.e. 309. л. 31. In Bitola, for example, “Bulgarian school,” “Bulgarian church” are used. There were even Patriarchist Bulgarian villages according to Bulgarian sources (some of them were converted as a result of Serbian propaganda, though some were not affected).

8 The debate between Muslim communities of different origin and identity is not investigated here.

9 ÖHHStA 19. Nachlässe, Nachlaß August Kral, Kt.2, “Statistische Tabelle der Nationalitäts- und Religions-Verhältnisse im Vilajet Kossovo (1903).”

10 Adolf Strauss, Großbulgarien (Posen–Leipzig–Warsaw–Budapest: Mitteleuropäischer Buch- und Lehrmittelverlag, 1917), 52–60. There were 15,000 chiflik owners and only 10,000 freeholders in the region.

11 Osmanli Arşiv Belgelerinde. Kosova vilayeti (Istanbul: T.C. Başbakanlik. Devlet Arşivleri Genel Müdürlüğü, 2007), BOA, Y. PRK. UM, 1/99. 332–34.

12 Konrad Clewing, “Mythen und Fakten zur Ethnostruktur in Kosovo – ein geschichtlicher Überblick,” in Der Kosovo-Konflikt. Ursachen-Akteure-Verlauf, ed. Konrad Clewing and Edvin Pezo (Munich: Bayerische Landeszentrale für Politische Bildungsarbeit, 2000), 46–47; Karl Kaser, “Raum und Besiedlung” in Südosteuropa. Ein Handbuch, ed. Margaditsch Hatschikjan and Stefan Troebst (Munich: Beck, 1999), 53–72; and Oliver Jens Schmitt, Kosovo. Kurze Geschichte einer zentralbalkanischen Landschaft (Vienna–Cologne–Weimar: Böhlau, 2008), 79–84, 153–56.

13 In contrast to Bulgaria, where economic prosperity grew together with the replacement of Spahis (as layers that were not cost effective) and resulted in the economic emergence of the Bulgarian smallholder in the 1850s, in Macedonia the peasants remained economically deprived under Muslim landlords with no hope for prosperity after 1873–78, when U.S. and Russian crops invaded western markets, thereby decreasing prices. It was the crop boom of the 1840s (thus an external source) that prolonged the existence of the Ottoman Empire, not the reforms themselves. These reforms did not create economically favorable conditions (it was only a successful response to existing opportunities), but to the contrary: the tax reforms of Midhat Pasha providing a surplus for the central government could be carried out due to the favorable economic situation. This was absent in the 1870s, when the Empire continued its reforms and deeply contributed to the failure of social modernization. Gábor Demeter, A Balkán és az Oszmán Birodalom I (Budapest: MTA BTK TTI, 2014), 176–334.

14 The same thing had also taken place in France (1789–1815) and Central Europe (1848–49), leading to violence there as well.

15 In Europe the religious opposition preceded the occurrence of the latter by centuries and religious wars fought then were violent as well.

16 Schmitt, Kosovo, 160–67.

17 We use the model of Oliver Jens Schmitt, who drew a distinction between traditional and ethnicized identity patterns. The Macedonian case (the ethnicization of South Slavs) is similar to the Kosovo case. During the first phase the Orthodox millet undergoes a nationalization process, therefore a new “Slavic” identity is created to oppose the Greek Church. Within the Millet so-called “Konfessionsnationen”—confessional nations—were evolving. (After the abolition of the Patriarchate in Ipek [Peć], the goal of the Greek Patriarchate to uniformize the population failed with the exception of Vlachs mainly because this kind of assimilation could rely only on the urban Greek population, which simply did not exist in either Macedonia or Kosovo after the numerous Albanian raids in southern Macedonia in the 1820s that broke up the “Greek” Orthodox merchant communities.) The problem is that the fragmentation of the Christian Millet did not stop, because not only one center was created: the ethnicization/nationalization of religious identity took place not in contrast to the Muslim community, but within the Christian community. Based on its territorial autonomy, the Serbian identity was rather nationalized-secularized, while the Bulgarian identity (established in the Church) was national-religious. In the second stage, a civilian élite was formed that questioned the leadership of the priests, finally overthrowing the latter. Third stage: the neighboring Eastern Orthodox small states interfere in this process by sending teachers and priests to influence the target groups.

Although the religious identity was completely dissolved by the new, evolving ethnic identity, ethnicized identity patterns remained quite fluid among Eastern Orthodox South Slavs. Even in 1903 in the Sanjak of Prizren 17,000 Eastern Orthodox Exarchists (Bulgarians?) and 22,000 Patriarchists lived together: half of the Slavs in Kosovo were still not Serbian or Serbianized. Had Bulgaria started its nation-Church building 30 years earlier, the present Slavic population in Kosovo would be Bulgarian. According to Schmitt, this type of ethnicization reached only five percent of the population. In 1865, only 150 students studied Serbian in Peć: thus a narrow, but resolute and devoted national élite was formed. While the nationalization of this élite seems to be obvious, Schmitt did not find any evidence that the same process took place among the peasantry by the year 1900. Prior to the establishment of schools for the illiterate masses, the Church was the only institution that could transmit national(istic) ideologies. Therefore the role of the school system and the verbal transmission of ideologies through the Church is evident, like the mobilizing effect of promising land to the landless. Schmitt, Kosovo, 159–72.

18 This conflict was not only religious in nature as the Exarchate served the nation-building aspirations of Bulgaria. The Exarchate was quite popular among the South Slav peasantry, partly due to the cheaper education system and partly due to the language of liturgy (which could serve nationalistic goals, i.e., mentioning the name of Bulgarian rulers during the liturgy instead of Serbians or Muslims, as was the case with regard to the Varnava affair late in 1913, when Tsar Ferdinand of Bulgaria was mentioned in a village under Serbian occupation). Compared to this, the Greek Patriarchate was more popular in urbanized areas and among literate communities, which tended to pay a higher price to acquire knowledge, thus promoting the emergence of their social class.

19 ÖHHStA PA, XXXVIII/ Kt. 399. Prizren (1899–1900). Accounts on similar conflicts can be read in the dissertation of Frantz, “Zwischen Gewalt,” 161–78. and Bernard Lory, “Schools for the Destruction of Society: School Propaganda in Bitola, 1860–1912,” in Conflicting Loyalties in the Balkans, 45–63. For the role of Church see Katrin Bozeva-Abazi, The Shaping of Bulgarian and Serbian National Identities 1800–1900 (Skopje: Institute for National History, 2007), 143–92.

20 ÖHHStA PA, VII/Fasz. 434, Rappaport to Pallavicini, February 12, 1907, no. 14/pol. (Beilage no. 131. res Rappaport to Oppenheimer, 8).

21 Ibid. For similar conflicts see: Natalie Clayer, “The Dimension of Confessionalization in the Ottoman Balkans at the time of Nationalisms,” in Conflicting Loyalties in the Balkans, 89–109.

22 ÖHHStA PA, VII/Fasz. 434, Rappaport to Pallavicini, July 27, 1907, No. 55/pol, 17 and October 29, 1907, no. 71/pol, 14.

23 For information about the Lebenswelt of mountains and plains, including social norms corresponding to geographical attributes and constraints, see Frantz, “Zwischen Gewalt,” 63–79. and Eva Anne Frantz, “Soziale Lebenswelten im spätosmanischen Kosovo, 1870–1913. Zur Bedeutung von Berg und Ebene, Ökologie und Klima,” in Studime për nder të Rexhep Ismajlit me rastin e 65-vjetorit të lindjes, ed. Bardh Rugova (Prishtinë: KOHA, 2012), 261–73, esp. 262.

24 ЦДА, ф. 335k. oп. 1. a.e. 396.

25 Ibid. The Bulgarian consul was not alone in his collecting of data. The lack of public security due to the significant decrease in Ottoman power by 1903 prompted Austro–Hungarian consuls to start keeping statistics on violent activities in their own districts as well.

26 See D. Stavropoulo Livanios, “Conquering the Souls: Nationalism and Greek Guerilla Warfare in Ottoman Macedonia 1904–1908,” Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies 23 (1999): 204 and 210–11. See also Balogh Ádám, A nacionalizmus szerepe a görög politikai gondolkodásban [The Role of Nationalism in the Greek Political Thinking] (Szeged: SZTE, 2006).

27 In winter the food supply was scarce, which may have encouraged bands to undertake risky operations, though finding shelter and covering up tracks was also harder. Simple banditry was more abundant during the summer.

28 ÖHHStA PA, VII/Fasz. 434, Heimroth to Eduard Otto, July 30, 1910, no. 56/pol., 8.

29 Ibid., Heimroth to Pallavicini, February 5, 1911, no. 6/pol., 12.

30 ЦДА, ф. 335k. oп. 1. a.e. 396.

31 The Greeks indeed organized their paramilitary units this way from 1904, hiring men (mercenaries in fact), often regardless of their nationality who were not devoted to the Greek national movement, but had knowledge of local conditions and therefore offered a higher rate of success or effectiveness.

32 Irregular troops were organized for a number of reasons. Troops fighting against Ottoman rule were the first to appear (up to the 1860s). They were followed by irregular armies organized on a sectarian basis: the Patriarchists and the Exarchists (1870s). After 1878, a third group emerged: they fought against the Ottoman Empire and for modern national goals, and in the Skopje Sanjak they were originally Serbs and Bulgarians. The latter split further after the 1890s, when war broke out between IMRO activists and Vrhovists in Macedonia. After 1878 “nationalist” Albanian paramilitary units also appeared in Kosovo Vilayet in addition to mercenary troops and bashibazouks.

33 The Hajdut and Klepht movement which has been active in the Balkans for centuries also had impact on the survival and persistence of these “traditional” forms of violent behavior. See Balogh, A nacionalizmus, 16.

34 ЦДА, ф. 335k. oп. 1. a.e. 259. л. 109–10.

35 See: Balogh, A nacionalizmus, 16.

36 The IMRO officially considered Macedonia to be an indivisible territory and claimed all of its inhabitants to be Macedonian regardless of their religion or ethnicity. In practice, most of their followers were Bulgarians. Basically it opposed foreign propaganda according to its statute of 1902 prior to Ilinden as well as after it in 1906. Cindy C. Combs and Martin W. Slann, Encyclopedia of terrorism (New York: Infobase Publishing, 2009), 135.

37 Stanford J. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey, vol. 2, Reform, Revolution, and Republic: The Rise of Modern Turkey 1808–1975 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977), 209.

38 ÖHHStA, PA, XXXVIII. Konsulate (1848–1918), Kt. 430. Üsküb (1900), Nr. 212. Pára an Goluchowski, handgeschrieben, Üsküb, September 17, 1900, Statut und Reglement der bulgaro-macedonischen Comités (ins Deutsche übersetzt) (3+14. Beilage, getippt): Cap. XI: Materielle Mittel der Comités “Auferlegte Hilfsbeiträge werden zur Einschüchterung oder mit Gewalt von Personen abverlangt, die wohl helfen können aber nicht wollen.”

“Art. 47. Zur Deckung der nöthigen Comité-Auslagen, jedoch hauptsächlich zur Bewaffnung der Arbeiter erhalten die Comités die Mittel 1/ aus den monatlichen Beitragleistungen der Mitglieder, die ihnen im Verhältnisse zu ihrer materiellen Lage bemessen werden; 2/ aus Opfern, die entweder freiwillig oder auferlegt sind. Anmerkung: Freiwillig sind diejenigen Unterstützungen, die sowohl von den Mitgliedern als auch von Personen gegeben werden, die sich nicht entschlossen haben, Arbeiter zu werden, jedoch mit der ’Arbeit’ sympathisieren, dieselbe zu fördern wünschen und zu diesem Zwecke gewisse Summe geben…”

39 Биярски, Цочо and Ива Бурилкова, eds., Вътрешната македоно-одринска революционна организация. (1893–1919). Документи на централните ръководни органи, vol. 1, Архивите говорят, 45. (Sofia: Universitetsko Izdatelstvo Sv. Kliment Ohridski, 2007), 608–09, Nr. 209.

40 Although the number of weapons stored at home was large, this does not indicate a greater probability of everyday violence. The number of violent acts committed by non-Cheta members was very low in Kočani, though high in Štip.

41 Published by the permission of Kriegsarchiv of Vienna.

42 ЦДА, ф. 335k. oп. 1. a.e. 205. л. 112–25.

43 Ibid., a.e. 396. л. 5–7.

44 Ibid., a.e. 205. л. 112–25.

45 Ibid.

46 Ibid.

47 Ibid., a.e. 396. л. 5–7.

48 By the end of 1908, the Greek Cheta organizer, Colonel Danglis, acquired 10,000 guns with one million rounds of ammunition, and more than 50 Greek military officers worked legally in Macedonia after relinquishing their ranks, while the Bulgarians had already distributed more than 30,000 weapons. See, Balogh, A nacionalizmus, 88.

49 The left wing of IMRO officially supported autonomy, while the right wing (Vrhovists) fought for the unification of Macedonia with Bulgaria.

50 The total opium harvest in Skopje Sanjak reached 100,000 kgs, generating revenue of up to 2.5-3.0 million francs, which of course stemmed not entirely from fields controlled by bands. Strauss, Großbulgarien, 52–60.

51 Strauss, Großbulgarien, 52–60.

52 ÖHHStA PA, VII/Fasz. 434, Rappaport to Calice, August 12, 1906, no.75/pol., 4. (Komitadschis Congress in Küstendil) and Rappaport to Pallavicini, November 28, 1906, no. 94/pol., 8.

53 ÖHHStA PA, VII/Fasz. 434, Pára to Calice, August 15, 1902, no. 92/res, 3.

54 One of the methods included ethnic mapping by Belić, Gopčević and Cvijić on the Serbian side. By this time ethnic mapping had definitely become a political instrument that was often very distant from reality.

55 When conquering Macedonia in 1913, Serbs imprisoned nine out of ten teachers. История на македонскиот народ, vol. 4 (Skopje: INI, 2000), 73.

56 Bozeva-Abazi, The Shaping of Bulgarian and Serbian National Identities, 41–88 and 120–23.

57 The involvement of the state in these affairs progressed through several stages as Schmitt demonstrated using the example of Serbian activity in Kosovo Vilayet. Two basic conditions had to be fulfilled to reach success: a strong middle class, craftsmen and merchants serving as donators for the new ideology, and the institutionalization of ideology through the contribution of the state. Apart from schools—the first Serbian school was established in Prizren in 1836 to challenge Greek cultural domination—this included: the establishment of the Serb cultural commission in Belgrade in 1868 in order to hinder the Islamization of Eastern Orthodox people; availability of state stipends in Serbia; the foundation of Družstvo Svetog Save in 1886 to coordinate cultural activities that could not be undertaken by the Church; the foundation of seminary for priests in Prizren in 1871, thus the state took over tasks from the Church. The Serbian state opened the consulate in Prishtina by 1889. The main goal of this consulate was to spread national propaganda; another aim was to disseminate unfavorable stereotypes about Albanians in order to inhibit rapprochement between local Slav and Albanian communities. Although Serbian scholars had already written their idealistic-ideological works and disseminated them both locally and in the West by the time Bulgaria became independent, these works focused mainly on Bosnia-Herzegovina, thus the redirection of aims and instruments toward Macedonia required time. Schmitt, Kosovo, 160–65.

58 Radoslav Andrea Tsanoff, “Bulgaria’s case,” Reprinted from The Journal of Race Development 8, no. 3 (1918): 296–317.

59 A Macedonian, General Bojadzhiev, was Bulgarian Minister of War during the campaign of 1915, while Nikola Genadiev, who was a minister in the Radoslavov cabinet in 1913, was also of Macedonian origin and Andrey Lyapchev, who served as minister several times prior to 1914 and a prime minister after 1918, was also born in Macedonia.

60 Frantz, “Zwischen Gewalt,” 134–60.

61 87 out of the 255 known Greek Chetniks were Greek subjects, while another 21 arrived from Crete in 1905. ЦДА, ф. 332k. oп. 1. a.e. 17. л. 544–55.

62 ÖHHStA PA, VII/Fasz. 434, Pára to Calice, September 16, 1905., no. 86/pol., 12. Sicherheits-verhältnisse im Amtsbezirke in der Zeit von 11. Mai bis 13. September (mit Beilag). All other statistics presented below are based on this material.

63 Ibid.

64 Ibid.

65 Balogh, A nacionalizmus, 87. This work cites British Documents on the Origins of the War, 1898–1914, vol. 5, The near East: The Macedonian problem and the annexation of Bosnia 1903–9, ed. George Peabody Gooch and Harold Temperley (London: His Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1926), 246, 289 and 293.

66 Balogh, A nacionalizmus, 87.

67 Austro–Hungarian documents clearly indicated if the victim was a Cheta member, though of course could not accurately detail the background of all victims. Furthermore, Cheta activities can be revenged on peaceful population as well by Cheta perpetrators, thus the classification of these acts as “everyday violence” is not unequivocal. In many cases the low clearance rate hindered the objective judgment of the situation. Outsiders may describe an event as “everyday violence” that had at least indirect relations with revolutionary activity.

68 ÖHHStA, PA, XXXVIII. Konsulate (1848–1918). Kt. 430. Üsküb (1900), Nr. 212. Pára an Goluchowski, handgeschrieben, Üsküb, September 17, 1900, Statut und Reglement der bulgaro-macedonischen Comités.

69 Ibid.

70 The high number of weapons can be explained by the infiltration of Serbian irregulars into these borderland districts from neighboring Serbia. Since the clearance rate was quite low in borderland areas, perpetrators could be foreigners serving in irregular units. Clearance rate was the lowest in peripheral areas, where the violence seemed to be the worst (Kriva Palanka, Kratovo).

7171 ÖHHStA PA, VII/Fasz. 434, Pára to Calice, September 16, 1905, no. 86/pol., 12.

72 Ibid.

73 The majority of the populations in Kriva Palanka and Kratovo were Christian (81.6–90.7 percent), although these kazas were small in terms of their total populations.

74 Based on ÖHHStA PA, VII/Fasz. 434, Pára to Calice, September 16, 1905., no. 86/pol., 12.

75 Among the interior kazas Skopje, Radovište and Štip had Muslim majorities (52.8–56.6 percent), while in Kumanovo and Veles Christians constituted the majority (63.4–70.3 percent).

76 Most of the victims here were also Christians.

77 Meaning that if the proportion of Christian perpertators is great, the proportion of Christian victims is low, and where the proportion of Christian victims is great, the proportion of Christian perpetrators is low.

78 The correlation coefficient between the Christian population (percentage) and Christian perpetrators is also high, though remained under 0.5. Clashes between Christians elevated this number, while Christian–Muslim clashes tended to decrease it. The value of the coefficient demonstrates that conflict of both types was abundant in the area. There is no close relation between the proportion of Muslim victims and Christian perpetrators or between Muslim victims and Muslim perpetrators on sanjak-level as a result of the same factors, since conflicts may occur in the Muslim–Muslim relation as well as the Muslim–Christian relation.

79 While in the case of Kumanovo, Radovište and Veles this was only between 27.2–40.1 percent.

80 ÖHHStA PA, VII/Fasz. 434, Rappaport to Pallavicini, 28.01.1908, no. 5/pol, 14.





Egri Palanka






All members








35, 132

In Towns









IMRO Supporters as Percentage of Total Population









IMRO Supporters among Exarchists









Rifles (Mannlicher and Berdan, Gras)









Old Rifles from the Crimean War
























55, 000












Bullet / Weapon









Weapons to Supporters in Percentage









Bombs, Dynamite









Bulgarian Villages

no data


no data





over 220

Serbian Villages









Turkish Villages










S-4, T-9







S-9, T-21

Ethnic Character









Dominant Character of Violence in 1905

Muslim against Christian

Muslim against Christian

Low Case Number

Christian against Christian



Muslim against Muslim;

Muslim against Christian












Table 2. The forces of IMRO and the ethnic distribution of the population in 1906. Data calculated from: Биярски, Цочо and Ива Бурилкова, eds., Вътрешната македоно-одринска революционна организация. (1893–1919). Документи на централните ръководни органи, vol. 1, Архивите говорят, 45 (Sofia: Universitetsko Izdatelstvo Sv. Kliment Ohridski, 2007), 608–09. Nr. 209.



Never Exarchist

Became Serboman between 1889–1903

Became Serboman between 1903–1908

Became Bulgarian again after 1908

Skopska Kaza

Banjani,* Gornjani,* Čučer,* Brovec,* Kučevišta,* Kučkovo*

Raženičino, Pakoshevo, Novo Selo, Gorno Orizari, Vizbegovo, Vučedol, Dolno Slivari

Tavor (12), Pobože (15+60)


Veleška Kaza


Rudnik (45+10**), Bašino selo (34+150), Bogomila, Orahovdol (32+58), Kapinovo (14), Mokreni (64), Nežilovo (30+38), Teovo (50+60), Gabrovnik (12+19), Omorani (96+17), Lisiče (19+58)

Vladilovci (75+2), Smilovci (36), Oreše (73+29), Pomenovo (45), Starigrad (43), Novoselo (28+15), Izvor (44+16), Martinci (39), Stepanci (60), Nikoladin (46+83),

Oreše, Izvor, Nežilovo, Novoselo, Smilovci, Pomenovo, Vladilovci, Orahovdol

Kratovska Kaza


Šalkovica (13), Šopsko Rudari (20+75), Kratovo town (340+550 Muslim)



Kumanovska Kaza

Staro Nagorično* (130 was never exarchist of the 145),

Dumanovci (34+6), Četirci (62)

Karlovci (15), Koinci (25), Vragoturci (42), Maložino (60), Ramno (67), Arbanaško (42), Dlbočina (40), Dejlovci (62), Žegnjane (50), Stepanci (45), Kokino (50), Bajlovci (114), Osiče (15), Ženovino (33), Alinci (48), Breško (12), Svilanci (24), Kanarevo (46), Drenak (82), Orah (85), Ruginci (65), Bukovljani (24), Čelopek (62+15), Dobrača (12+6), Strezovci (40+13), Janinci*, Pelinci*, Beljakovci (52+21), Kučkarevo (10)


Palanečka Kaza


Stačna (20+12)

Carcorija (75), Dobrovnica (55), Lukje (140), Ogut (125), Podarži kon (116), Metirevo (55), Osiče (50), Baštevo (33), Gaber (102), Dlbočnica (69), Petrilica (305), Ljubinci (24), Radibuš (127), Stečna (32), Gulinci (45), Opošnica (90), Krivi kamen (27), Rankovci (135), Vražogranci (15), Ginovci (75), Milutinci (72)

Ginovci, Radibuš, Milutinci, Osiče, Krastov dol, Lukje (100+40), Ogut, Baštevo***, Carcarija***, Dobrovnica***, Dlbočnica***,

Gaber (14+88), Rankovci

Tetovska Kaza


Brezno, Rogačevo, Staro Selo, Vratnica


Dolna Lešnica

Gostivarsko Kaza


Zubovci (50+50),

Balil dol (30+50 Muslim), Dobreše (40+110 Muslim), Vrutok (24+45), Pečkovo (17+15), Leunovo (79+38+16 Muslim), Mavrovo (121+31), Nikiforovo (77), Železni Rečani


Kočanska Kaza



Nivičane (60+8), Gradče (32), Leški (21), Pašadžik (12), Pantalej (14+28)

Nivičina, Gradče, Leški, Pašadžik


Table 3a. Settlements accepting the authority of Patriarchate between 1889–1908

* Never Exarchist, mostly refugees from Stara Srbija between 1689–1739 in the so-called Skopska Crnagora.

** The first number in brackets represents Patriarchist households, the second Exarchist. Muslims are usually indicated.

*** Patriarchist Bulgarian villages. ЦДА, ф. 335k. oп. 1. a.e. 205. л. 112–25.


Skopska Černogoria

Nikola Janković, Angelko Slavković +10 men


Ivan Martulčanec (Azot) + 10 men, Dušan (Orahovdol) + 10 men

Egri Palanka

Georgi Skopjanče(to) (Kozjak Mts.) + 10 men, Spas Garda (Petralica)


Jovo Kapitan, Denko Genin, Pop Dičo vojvoda


Turkish-Serbian mixed Cheta led by the Serbian teacher from Kočani with the approval of the kaymakam


Petko Kapitan (Staro Nagoričano)

Porečie, Kičevo, Azot

Grigor from Nebregovo with 30 men, Stefan with 10 men, Ivan Dolgač(ot) with 15 men, Pavle from Bač (Albania) with 7-8 men around Dibra


Ivan/Jovan Babunski and 15 men, Boško vojvoda from Vir with 10 men


Table 3b. Location of Serbian Cheta leaders in 1907 (approximately 170 men). Стайко Трифонов, Величко Георгиев, eds., История на българите в документи,
vol. 1 of 2. 1878–1912 (Sofia: Просвета, 1996), 290–91.




Still under Investigation

Ethnic Group

1,607 (80%)

313 (20%)

993 (62%)

301 (18%)


349 (17%)

79 (22%)

99 (28%)

171 (50%)


52 (3%)

4 (8%)

41 (80%)

7 (13%)


2,008 (100%)

396 (20%)

1,133 (55%)

479 (25%)





Captured Alive


68 (61%)


320 (81%)

65 (16%)

Bulgarian Chetas

(total cases: 391)

30 (27%)


93 (33%)

165 (61%)

Greek Chetas
(total cases: 270)

13 (12%)


96 (86%)

13 (11%)

Serbian Chetas
(total cases: 111)

111 (average of seven people per confrontation)


509 (66%)

243 (31%)

Total: 772




Related to Turkish Authorities


Table 5. Distribution of violent acts between ethnic groups in 1905 thoughout Macedonia according to Shopov. ЦДА, ф. 332k. oп. 1. a.e. 17. л. 544–55.




Kriva Palanka



Maleš (Osmanie)




Distant from Center (x),

Near Borders (y)










Proportion of Unresolved Cases is Significant










Proportion of Muslim Population is Significant










Proportion of Victims Compared to Population is Significant










Proportion of Perpetrators Compared to Population is Significant










Muslim–Christian Conflict










Christian–Christian Conflict










Muslim–Muslim Conflict










Majority of Known Perpetrators is Muslim










Majority of Known Perpetrators is Christian










Christian Victims Are Overrepresented










Muslim Victims Are Overrepresented











Table 12. Summary table: characteristics of wave of violence in 1905, Sanjak of Skopje (May 11–September 13, 1905)


Map 2. Kaza level map of the religious distribution of victims and perpetrators in the Sanjak of Skopje by Zsolt Bottlik