Author Topic: History of preislamization and islamization in bosnia and herzegovina  (Read 5441 times)

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Offline Тоска

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Islamization had the biggest influence on culture and society in Bosnia from 15th to 19th
century. The social-historic range and facts of pre-history and history of islamization are
necessary in understanding material as well as spiritual culture of muslims and other religious
communities in BiH. Islamic religion and its art influenced the way of thinking, the way of
life, social and family organization, literature etc, what formed folk characteristics, unique
among South Slavs and Slavs in general.

1First written documets of inhabitants refer to Illyrians. Archaeological excavations also give
evidence of their spiritual living, based on strong conection with nature. The supreme god was
Silvan, imagined as hairy male being with goat legs and horns. His companion Diana (Thana)
was godess of hunting with an arrow in her hand. Over 300 monuments dedicated to them was
found all over Bosnia. Illyrians also believed in mountain fairies, water nymphs etc.

After conflicts with Roman coquerors and after the last revolt in 9. AD, this whole area came
under roman rule. Colonists immigrated from all over the Roman Empire spreading the roman
language. At that time in antique Bosnia there were 40 different beliefs in 52 different gods.
In 5th or 6th century AD two new groups appeared: Slavs and Avars populated the lowland
of Bosnia, while Illyrians, who were already mixed with Celts, Goths, Hunsand Alans,
withdrew to the mountains. The first written traces of bosnian state appeared as early as the
4th century, but »Horion Bosona«, the name of Bosnia, is mentioned in 935.
It is hard to claim unity of original ethnic origin in medieval bosnian state. The first news
about heretics in BiH appeared in the 12th century when governor Kulin with his family and
more than ten thousand citizens practiced »the wrong belief«. Those accusations brought the
country and the governor into a difficult position because the pope threathened with the
crusade for propagating heresy. To avoid this, the wise ruler pretended to except catholicism,
but he really stayed a member of the Bosnian Church, an indigenous christian sect considered
heretical by both the roman catholic and eastern orthodox churches. However, in the year
1234 the war started and lasted for three years. Crusaders didn't achieve anything significant
except plunder and killings.

The Church of Bosnia and its dualistic-gnostic teachings have roots in the 9th and 10th
century in Persia, Bulgaria and Macedonia. Dualistic gnosticism became mass movement
during the middle ages in west Europe.One charateristic is the opposition of good and bad,
where material is identificated as bad. Since leading class differed from ordinary members on
material status, connectios with feudal class and taking part in state business, it reflected
negatively inside this religious and social movement. Those contradictions, bigger and bigger
social distinctions, fights among feudal lords and royal authority, preassure from Hungary and
the catholic church lead to exploitation of peasants and farmers. Early ottoman records write
about devastation, abandoned villages, escaping of residents and taking their land from them.
They also testify about pursuing bogomils -followers of the Church of Bosnia, masacres and
taking their land. The ottoman army also took part in invasions and plunder. So the number of
those followers reduced by the end of the Bosnian Kingdom, were not really physically

1-West indoeuropean tribe who settled on territory of west Balkan.
2-Peoples in Europe using the celtic languages which were once predominant over a wide area from Ireland and
Portugal in the west to northern Italy and Slovakia in the east
3-East Germanic tribe who supposingly came from Scandinavia.
4-Nomadic or half-nomadic cavalry from Central Asia.
5-Iranian nomadic group.
6-Byzantine emperor Constantine VII. in De administrando de imperio describing the territories which he
reigned over.

destroyed. They could convert to christianity on the outside just because of persecution of
authority and really stay members of the Bosnian Church, so called kryptobogomils.
Social circumstances, which define history of all nations, defined the history of Bosnians and
their culture. After the christian-bogomil medeval bosnian state, in 1463 the Ottoman dynasty
began to rule. They brought their own civilisation of islamic East. At that time slavic-islamic
ethos was creating inside which were constituted spiritual and aesthetic characteristics.
Society of medieval states identificated life with religion and its ordinance, therefore the state
of Bosnia also had foundations in christian faith. Three populations and three christian
confessions; bogomilism, orthodoxy and catholicism were not religiously compartmented
nation by the end of Ottoman rule in 1878.

Bogomilism ideologicaly shaped collective resistance of bosnian society against hungarian,
srbian and papal aggression. That explaines fundamental reasons of islamization in BiH,
although it doesn't mean mainly bogomils as the biggest part of population embraced islam
and present the basis of islamization. During first decade of the Ottoman rule the number of
islamizated feudal lords was quite big while the number of islamizated peasants and
townsmen was minimal (Hukovic, Kasumovic, Smailovic, 13). The fact that bogomils
opposed catholicism and orthodoxy and defended themselfs against Hungarians and the pope
doesn't necessarily mean they excepted islamic reign and religion just like that. However,
with the arrival of Ottomans the hiding stopped so they could express their faith.
Franciscansare present on bosnian territory since 13th century. Their province of Bosna
Srebrena is the only institution continuously working since the middle ages. Replacing
dominicans, they came to Bosnia to unroot teachings of »bosnian christians« and organized
franciscan community there. With the arrival of Turks, they got certain guarantees for their
activities based on decree by sultan Mehmeda II in 1463. Although turkish local authorities
not always respected the document, it was still of certain importance.

Bosnian Croats are one of three constituent nations in Bosnia and Herzegovina which makes
around 14% of todays population (estimated in 2004). They mostly live in west and south
areas of BiH, less in the central and north part.

Vlachs is a term covering several related ethnic groups, descendants of roman colonizers and
latinised populationin Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe. The word is allegedly of
germanic and slavic origin meaning Romans or romanic people. Early ottoman documents
show settlement of orthodox half-nomadic stockmen, Vlachs, in eastern Herzegovina, central
and northern Bosnia. Metropolitan, the orthodox bishop, got headquarters in Sarajevo in 1532,

while first churches in Vrhbosniare mentioned since 1616.

Today bosnian Serbs make around 38% of population. They are found mainly in east and
south part of Bosanska Krajina. Since the end of bosnia war in 1995 they mostly live in
smaller entity where they make around 90% of population after ethnic conflict.

First Sephardi Jews as ethnic religious community appeared in present Bosnia and
Herzegovina in 15th century fleeing from spanish and portugese inquisition. Regardless of
some restrictions, they had certain autonomy. They brought their culture and the way of life
which affected local peoples, while they adopted some characteristics of new enviroment. But

7-Austrian-Hungarian Empire gained bosnian territory on Congress in Berlin.
8-Mendicant religious order of men tracing their origin to Francis of Assisi (1181-1226).
9-Middle ages: 5th century (the fall of western Roman Empire) -1492 (discovery of America).
10 -Illyrians, Thracians and Daco-Romanians.
11 -Sarajevo.

one thing is sure: certain level of assimilation of old nations, ethnic and religious groups is a
fact. Their language is ladino, derived mainly from old castilian (spanish), hebrew, Turkish
and some Greek.

Jewish community on BiH territory still exists today. Its presence is confirming a synagogue
in Sarajevo just like jewish cemeteries in Sarajevo and Tuzla. Jews, as well as Bosniaks, are
considered religious, national and ethnic group.

Excepting islamic religion didn't mean only transition from one faith to another, but also
excepting authority and social order along with class and material interest. Ottoman structure
of society brought important tax reliefs and facilities in social status, that is equalisation with
privileged classes. Muslim peasant easier spreaded his land, because ottoman reign took the
land of christian farmer on behalf of the muslim one.

Rough survey of outer and inner factors of social, religious and political backround explains
the reasons for excepting islamization, ottoman social and political order from point of view
of peasant's of all three confessions. Although everyone could practise their own faith under
muslim rulers, reality was often very different and belivers were to exile.

Newer researches show Vlachsto be a majority as islamizated population on certain areas.
Farmers as cosial class were islamizated untill middle of 17th century, therefore it could be
assumed that there wasn't mass transition of bogomils to islam. Also, the catholic church was
pushed aside for a long time, badly organized and material weak just like orthodox one,
which didn't have connections strong enough with the Nemanjic state .

Changing the nature and positions of towns into oriental-islamic influenced islamization of
city folk. Enormous means were invested into it. The site by main routes made trade and craft
flourish and material and spiritual culture was developing. Excepting islam was a condition
for peasants to come to town and to include themselves into city life. Catholic population also
embraced it eventually or they were pushed into certain part of it called varoš. That's how
transformed towns took part in islamization of peoples.

Bosniaks were closer to the Ottoman empire than european powers. Bosniak aristocrats
gained the right to carry ottoman titles of beg, aga, paša... Noblemen from middle age began
to rise till full local autonomy paying taxes to the sultan. Turks showed big attention to the
bosnian part of the empire since that was a main border territory with the Austrian empire and
Venetian state and was also used as a base for military operations against christians. It was
special areainside Ottoman empire where present bosnian language was one of the official
languages. There were no foreigners ruling but Bosniaks themselfs, which was a very
important step toward independence and what made Bosnia special and privileged compared
to other countries in Ottoman empire.

Though under the rule of foreigners, it is important to mention that there was continuity of
creating a mother tongue. Parallel using several scripts gives it special value. Bosnian cyrillic

12- Ottoman documents from 1470's and 1480's testify about settlements of orthodox half-nomadic stockbreeders
Vlachs in areas, destroyed by war, in central and northern Bosnia. Ottoman authorities actively took part in it. As
distinguished from other christian groups in Bosnia, they were exempted from paying harac (a kind of tax which
was left for leasers haraclije to collect). In boudary parts taxes on sheep were smaller and vlach dukes got some
property. They were allowed to carry weapons because they were in ottoman military service and they were
supposed to take an active part in defendig borders. Ottoman decrees from the end of 16th century show that
Vlachs in northern Bosnia mostly abandoned nomadic way of life.
14- In the year 1580 was formally found Bosnian eyalet -administrative subdivision of Ottoman empire. First
center was in Banja Luka, then was movet to Sarajevo in 1639, then to Travnik in 1697 and again to Sarajevo in
1850, which got the name after many sarajs -mansions.

is called bosancica dates back to the 10th/11th century. This script is significant to bosniak as
well as bosnian history and linguistics, since it is native to Bosnia. Another script was used
arebica, while first signs of renaissance opened a path for srbian (Vuk Karadzics) cyrillic;
Austria brought latin alphabet which finally dominated over others in this literature and

Islamization comprehended all social classes and was important in forming social, mental,
religious and cultural ethnic; this represents not only embracing faith, but also civilization of
islam, its courses, vision of world, law, culture and aesthetics. Islam efected social, economic,
political organization of society as well as ethisc of individual and family. Bosniak connection
to ottoman structure pushed christians to social, political and moral opposition, therefore
many connected themselfs with national-liberational movements in the 19th century
becoming orthodox Serbs and catholic Croats. What they certainly have in common is ethnic
and linguistic baics.

Adapted arabic script for writing down native language; also appeared among muslims in Spain, Albania,
Bolgaria, Poland, China and former Dutch colonies.


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