Religions: Islam

The arrival of Islam in Macedonia

Ever since the earliest decades of the Ottoman rule in Macedonia, social and economic changes took place. The Ottomans established their fief-landowner system, followed by all institutions on which the military and economic power of the Ottoman Empire was relying upon. However, it does not mean that the Ottomans thus completely abolished the existing local feudal relations. On the contrary, they continued and adjusted the majority of them to their needs. To that extent, the Ottomans also had a more tolerant attitude towards all such members of the Macedonian feudal aristocracy who somehow served the Ottoman state. Such Macedonian feudalists were named "spahii - hristijani" (Christian feudalists). A part of them also converted into the Islam faith.

Simultaneously with the establishment of the Ottoman government in Macedonia, an intensive colonization was advancing. In the productive and strategically significant locations the colonists from Asia Minor built Turkish settlements. The Turks also inhabited the towns. That lead to fundamental changes in the life of the Macedonian towns. As an outcome of the inflow of the Turkish element, all towns became rather Oriental in shape. A large-scale construction of mosques, Turkish baths, dervish monasteries, market places, Turkish inns, etc., started. Also the names of certain towns were changed. Foe example, Skopje was renamed into Iskip, Stip - Istip, Bitola - Monastir, Tetovo - Kalkandelen, Veles - Kuprulu, etc. The Ottomans also formed a small belt of rural settlements inhabited with Turkish livestock breeders (from Asia Minor), named "juruci" and "konjari". Such settlements emerged in the regions of Strumica, Radovish, Kocani, Ovce Pole, Nevrokop, Thessaloniki, and elsewhere.

The intense Turkish colonization of Macedonia was combined by the broad Islamization of the Macedonian rural and urban population as well. The majority of the Islamized Macedonians retained their native language, traditions, etc. In spite of severe pressures and harassment, many of the Macedonian feudalists resisted and opposed the Islamization. Such Macedonian frontmen even protected the subjugated nation, often acting unitedly with the Macedonian churchmen. Among such defenders were the local village mayors from the region of Kratovo: Marina, who financed the decoration of the monastery of St. Prohor Pcinski (1489); Dimitar, whose name is mentioned in a 1563 transcript of Gospel; Nikola Vucic, who roofed the Lesnovo monastery with lead panels; Giorgi Kratovski, member of a rich family, who was burned alive by the Ottomans in 1515 because he refused to convert into Islam and marry a Turkish girl; and others. Also a large number of towns confronted the Islamization by the inhabitants resettling in great numbers into the villages. Thus the Macedonian villages developed into the main strongholds for resisting the Ottomans.
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