Bulgarian Muslims between Empire and Nation

Episode 518

hosted by Andreas Guidi and Jovo Miladinović

In 1878, following the Congress of Berlin, Bulgaria became a de facto independent principality. Not anymore under Ottoman rule, the Muslims of Bulgaria navigated this political shift by redefining their place as a minority of a nation-state. The community underwent a political polarization between traditional notables and a group pushing for reforms within Muslim institutions. In this episode, we discuss how these reformists engaged with state and nation-building in Bulgaria by highlighting their connections with the broader Muslim world. Not only did Bulgarian Muslims contribute to the rise of the Young Turk movement, they were also part of a transnational space in which intellectuals and activists debated issues such as the place of Islam in modern society, the value of education, and the question of political relationship with non-Muslim rulers.

This episode is cross-listed with The Southeast Passage.

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Contributor Bios

Milena Methodieva is a scholar of Ottoman, Balkan, and Turkish history. She is Assistant Professor at the Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations at the University of Toronto, Canada. Her scholarship focuses on the political, social, and intellectual transformations in the late Ottoman empire, its successors in the Balkans, and modern Turkey. In her new research project, she focuses on migration to explore the unraveling of the Ottoman imperial world and the emergence of nation-states in the Balkans and modern Turkey.
Andreas Guidi is Lecturer of Modern and Contemporary History at the University of Konstanz, Germany. After his joint Ph.D. at the Humboldt University in Berlin and the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris, he is preparing a monograph tentatively entitled “Youth between Empires: Generations, Fascist Colonialism, and the post-Ottoman Mediterranean in Rhodes”. His post-doc project investigates how smugglers and illegal trade contributed to constructing a transnational modern Mediterranean.
Jovo Miladinović is an academic staff member at University of Konstanz. His research explores the history of Balkan and Mediterannean borderlands during the 19th and 20th century.

Further Listening
Dimitris Stamatopoulos 156
Balkan Historiographies and the Legacies of Empire
Nathalie Clayer 268
Religious Pluralism in the Late Ottoman Balkans
Kelly O'Neill 304
Crimea and the Russian Empire
Leyla Amzi-Erdoğdular 198
Late Ottoman Bosnia and the Imperial Afterlife
Kalliopi Amygdalou 337
Izmir & Thessaloniki: from Empire to Nation-State


Episode No. 518
Release Date: 24 January 2022
Recording Location: Toronto / Berlin
Audio editing by Andreas Guidi and Jovo Miladinović 
Music: The Southeast Passage Theme, by Giulio Stermieri; Eridi Kalmadı Dağların Karı, performed by Seval Eroğlu; Kanun Taksimi 
Images and bibliography courtesy of Milena Methodieva


The Muslim education board with students and teachers from the rüşdiye and the Hacı Mehmed primary school in Russe, Source: Uhuvvet 117, 9 August 1906. Courtesy of Hakkı Tarık Us Library, Istanbul

The Aladja Mosque in Plovdiv, early 20th century (Wikimedia Commons)

Select Bibliography

Nikolay Antov, The Ottoman “Wild West:” the Balkan Frontier in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2017).

Ebru Boyar, Ottomans, Turks and the Balkans: Empire Lost, Relations Altered (London: I. B. Tauris, 2007).

Ali Eminov, Turkish and Other Muslim Minorities in Bulgaria (London: Hurst, 1997).

Nevena Gramatikova, Neortodoksalniat isliam v bǔlgarskite zemi. Minalo i sǔvremennost (Sofia: IK Gutenberg, 2011).

M. Şükrü Hanioğlu, The Young Turks in Opposition (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995).

M. Şükrü Hanioğlu, Preparation for a Revolution: the Young Turks, 1902-1908 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001).

Kemal Karpat, Ed., The Turks of Bulgaria: The History and Political Fate of a Minority (Istanbul: Isis Press, 1990).

Osman Keskioğlu, Bulgaristan’da Türkler: Tarih ve Kültür (Ankara: Kültür ve Turizm Yayınları, 1985).

Bernard Lory, Les Balkans: de la transition post-ottomane à la transition post-communiste (Istanbul: Isis, 2005).

Justin McCarthy, Death and Exile: the Ethnic Cleansing of Ottoman Muslims, 1821-1922 (Princeton: Darwin Press, 1995).

Milena Methodieva, “How Turks and Bulgarians Became Ethnic Brothers: History, Propaganda and Political Alliances on the Eve of the Young Turk Revolution,” Turkish Historical Review 5 (2014), 221-262.

Anna Mirkova, Muslim Land, Christian Labor: Transforming Ottoman Imperial Subjects into Bulgarian National Citizens, 1878-1939 (Budapest: Central European University Press, 2017).

Mary Neuburger, The Orient Within: Muslim Minorities and the Negotiation of Nationhood in Modern Bulgaria (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2004).

Alexandre Toumarkine, Les Migrations des populations musulmanes balkaniques en Anatolie (1876-1913) (Istanbul : Isis, 1995).

Zhorzheta Nazǔrska, Bǔlgarskata dǔrzhava i neinite maltsinstva, 1879-1885 (Sofia: Lik, 1999).

Erik J. Zürcher, “The Young Turks – Children of the Borderlands?” International Journal of Turkish Studies 9: 1-2 (2003), 257-86.


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