Ahmet Faruk Peker / SARAJEVO
I know that the history of the Balkans is not really a specific topic, yet, after all this is the Balkans Congress and somebody had to discuss it.
When we are talking about approximately 10.000 years of history, it is impossible to discus seven a small part of it in a 30 minute speech. Thus, I will try to give a brief definition of the term "Balkans , and we will take a little peek into its history, and its position and highlight the most glorious times of Balkan in the history, if we have enough time. Nevertheless, I will also briefly discuss how these nations settled in Balkans, and how the Balkans emerged and its demographics changed throughout the history.
Firstly, I should explain the etymology of the word Balkans. The word, Balkans, it derives from Turkish language, there are two basicexplanations for its meaning; one of them is a chain of wood mountains, and the other is Baland Kan which means honey and blood in Turkish, which famous actress, director and a humanitarian Angelina Jolie, choose as title of her new movie, the land of honey and blood.
Geographically, as you can see in the map; the region lies from Istanbul to Ljubljana, and toas far as Italian city Trieste. The region is also sometimes called as the Southeastern Europe, especially due to humiliating connotation of the term Balkans. Mostly Slovenia, Croatia and Greece, like to call themselves as in Southeastern Europe but for us, we are proud to be from the Balkans.
We are Balkanians
The way we walk, the way we talk, the way we dress, our music, our dances, I mean you cannot see a brother from Berlin dancing to kolo, but go to Sarajevo, Skopje, Sofia even with little differences, a brother who comes from, Novi Pazar, can start dancing kolo, at a wedding in Istanbul, and, he will fit in. And what about our coffee! call it a Serbian coffee, Turkish coffee, Bosnian coffee, they are essentially the same, you cannot simply compare that to an Italian espresso. Thus, we are not some sophisticated southeastern European, we are Balkanians.
Let us proceed to how these nations who are currently residing in this territory have settled in these lands.
Currently in Balkans there is;
Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia (partly), Kosovo, Italy (Partly),Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania (Partly), Serbia (Partly), Slovenia (partly), Turkey (Partly)
As I said in the beginning Balkans has 10.000 years of history. In this long time, many different civilizations settled here, many other ceased to exist. Let's take a look on which civilizations, have lived in Balkans and how today's existing Balkan nations have,immigrated and settled in this territory.
Before the second millennium, some antique cultures, lived here, and ceased to exist, including a Butmir Culture who settled in the outskirts of Sarajevo. After them, Greek tribesarrived the region and even though somewhat they are evolved, they still exist in the area.
Illyrians settled around North Albania and Bosnia Herzegovina's Konjic and for the matter of fact, this region of ex. Yugoslavia was called as Illyria at that time. Further on Dacians and Thracians settled in Thrace.
Later on classical Greek culture spread in the region and followed by the domination of Alexander the Great, as he conquered Illyria and rest of the Greek tribes. I think it is also proper to say that, Balkans were the center of the world when Alexander the Great, conquered most of the known world. (300BC)
After death of Alexander the Great Illyrian Kingdoms once again rose in the region until they are defeated by The Romans in the Illyrian Wars (around 200BC). After a while struggling with them finally Romans began to rule the area with the beginning of new millennium. However Greek culture stayed strong within the region. Also, Christianity spread in the region within the Roman Empire later that era.
Later on Great Immigration from East or the Invasion of Barbarians changed the demographics of the region which was stimulated by a Turkic tribe, the Huns. In the Great Immigration of the people, in the early Christian centuries, the Goths, Huns and Slavs all pass this way some of them settling. Balkans has been an area where energetic tribes confront settled civilizations.
Between 5th and 6th century Huns invaded the region, marched through as far as Italian city of Rome itself. In this march some of the Germanic tribes, they allied with Attila the Hun,while the others who challenged them were pushed through inside of Europe. This was the first existence of Turkic tribes in the Balkans. ( Later on Turkic nomadic Bulgar tribes settled in here and they were assimilated with slavs as forming Bulgaria, which is also related tobogomils but we will come to that) After the death of Attila, when the Huns was lead back to Asia by his youngest son, Slavs settled in the territory left by the Germanic and Turkic tribes.
Known history of the Slavs date back to around 1500 years ago, the Slavs were first referred by this name in AD 518 by Byzantine sources. Now we come to a very controversial topic, in the sources of Michigan State University, which I found during my research that Slovenes were the first to arrive in Balkans around 6th century.
Around the 7th century, Croatians and Serbians arrived to region. Western Frankish missionaries affected the Croatians and made them Catholics. In 879 AD a Croatian state was recognized by the Pope. South Slav tribes lacked anything like a strong king; they were merely ruled by village chiefs and warlords which evolved into nobility.
And Croatia later on existed as a feudal state under the kings of Hungry.
Serbians arrived to Balkans around at the same time as Croatians with identical culture and language. The Serbs were closer to Byzantine so Serbian took Byzantine culture and became Eastern Orthodox.
Serbs were survived by the Ottomans
When Serbia was conquered by Turks in 1400s, the impact of the Ottoman conquest was reduced for most peasants, because the Ottomans had already accepted the preserved Byzantine practices being used by the Serb. Serbs not only survived physically, but were able to preserve much of their culture as well as their lives.
This quotes which I encountered in Michigan State University sources is a neutral source that they are neither Turkish nor Serbian, in fact may prove that Ottoman did not impose Imperialnor Colonist politics. They encouraged inhabitants to preserve their culture and identity not only in Serbia but in all regions they controlled.
Ladies and gentleman; Two options occur when a country takes over new lands;
Either there is to clean the existing population or
To Co- inhabit the area, co – existence with them
Now here what colonizers did was trying to exterminate the existing settlers, make slaves of them, change their culture and degenerate them and for the matter of fact clean those who opposed them, disobeyed them. History is full of these examples as in Algeria, South America, Africa, French Indonesia and so on.
However Ottoman accomplished to co-exist with them. As you see how preserved Serbian, Greek, Orthodox identities. Ottoman also never enforced slavery. In fact Slavery is notapproved in Islam. Prophet Muhammed always advised on his followers to release their slaves.
Here might come a question in your mind that why Bosnians became Muslims, did Turks force them or did Bosnians betray to Serbians and Croatians? Keep that question in mind, we will come to that.
When we talk about, where Bosnians come from originally, this is where the topic gets most controversial, partially for that reason wars were fought, tragedies lived, and people suffered and lost their lives.
As we come to historical and scientific facts tough, I have to be objective. In the researches I have conducted, I tried to find as much as information as possible (and even after this Congress, I will try to continue this I might add), I figured out that there is no single, certain answer to where Bosnians come from, as I said this is a very controversial topic, now if you let me, I will briefly explain these information and tell you my own humble opinion.
In this Michigan State University's report, they say and I'm quoting "Bosnia is a geographic, not ethnic or linguistic entity. Medieval Bosnia was a border zone between Croatia and Serbia, just as it is today. The chief ethnic marker of the so-called "Bosnians" today is their Islamic faith, and this come about only later. In terms of language and descent, the modern Bosnians are of the same origin as Croats and Serbs. I do not subscribe to this point of view.
First of all this theory is not presented with historical documents or proof. Their only basis are speaking the same language and living between these two lands of Croatia and Serbia.
Ladies and gentlemen it is a fact that first written historical record about Bosnia was in the work of Constantine Porfirogenet (Byzantine Emperor and writer), the name of this book is De Administrando Imperio. It was written in between 949 – 955. He mentioned in this document two cities of Bosnia which are Katera and Desnik. That written fact may be seen as birth certificate of State of Bosnia.
There is a well-known distinguished fact which Bosnians have been subscribed to BogomilChurch before being Muslims. Let's take a short look at what Bogomilism is;
There are two explanation of what it means, one of them is a person who loves God and the other comes from Armenian, which means a person who worships. This Bogomil religion has first come out of Bulgaria which was found by Turkic – Slavic Bulgars in 927 writes "IsmailHodzic in his research bogomilism and bogomils of Bosnia". After its foundation,bogomilism soon spread around the Europe, including Serbia, Istanbul, Greece, Italy, Russia,France and Bosnia under different terminologies.
Bogomils after have been put under pressure and being punished have escaped to Bosnia and under rule of Bosnian Ban Kulin, - in that thime there was a Banate in Bosnia- Bogomilismbecome official religion in Bosnia and Bogomils were called as Babun, Katar and Pataren.This new Bosnian church protected the country from outer enemies with local Bosnnianwarlords and landlords.
In Bogomil faith, instead of Jesus, Jehuda or Simon was crucified and God saved Jesus, which ideology is more similar to Islam rather than Christianity. Bogomils also believed Muhammed would be the new prophet. They prayed 5 times a day, they didn't have pictures and crosses. And there are a lot more attributes of Bogomilism which absolutely clashes with Both Catholic and Orthodox Christianity. Thus It was the destiny of Bosnians to become Muslims, they were willing to do that.
Later on the last King of Bosnian Kingdom Stephan Tomas has stopped spreading ofBogomolisim in his reign and he sentenced three bogomils who come to negotiate him and sent them to Rome. He is also known to take commands and ask help from the Catholic leader Pope. After Stephan Tomas refused to pay his tribute by broking his agreement with Ottoman State, Fatih Sultand Mehmed Han has organized a campaign on him and for the matter of fact he both saved Bogomil Bosnians from brutality of the King Stephan Tomas and also dealt with the tribute payment. His real target was not to save Bogomils but to take tribute from Stephan, however as a result of this war where Fatih Sultan Mehmed defeated StephanTomasevic; Bosnians Bogomils were protected from the brutality and sufferings from him.Thus Bosnian lands were annexed to Ottoman State.
Sultan Mehmed(Fatih)Han also issued a firman that shortly protects all rights of the residence including their lives and faiths. After that era Islam has rapidly risen in the Bosnia region, even including family members of Tomasevic. Pasha Yiğit Bey and following him a mixture of Bosnian and Turkish Begs including İshak Beg, İsa Beg İshakoviç and GaziHüsrev Beg ruled in Bosnian Sanjak.
Also with the Kapetan system, Bosnian Kapetans acquired lands and possessed wealth, which gave Bosnians a somewhat economic independence. Another fact is that from Balkan residents of the Ottoman states, they have also become successful statesmen, governors and generals not in only their homelands but also in other regions of Ottoman lands, even some of them rose as high as becoming Pashas, Vezirs and Sadrazam which is the highest rank one can achieve in Ottoman State other than the Sultan himself. Several of them were HersekzadeAhmet Paşa, Lala Mustafa Paşa and the legendary Sokullu (sokolovic) Mehmed Paşa.
So looking at all these facts, two things we can say;
Bosnians were already different from Serbs and Croats as belonging to Bogomil faith as a Slavic language speaking nation.
Bosnians were not forced to become Muslim, in fact their all rights were protected with the firman of Sultan Mehmed(Fatih), they choose Islam themselves. 35.000 Bosnians became willingly Muslims near Jahice.
Ottoman helped Bosnian Bogomils to be saved from the brutal management of Stephan Tomas.
Ottoman didn't rule these lands but Bosnians and Turks ruled here together and in cooperation with other Balkan nations, Balkans have become center of the Europe and even world for centuries.
As Professor Ahmet Davutoğlu wrote in his book "Küresel Bunalım" "Global Crisis" "Balkans in history, has always been periphery; - which means not an active component, existing around the center - In Roman period, Byzantine period, Balkans was periphery. The single moment where Balkans has been center is when Serb and Bosniak origins ruled in Ottoman".