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Fellow Seminar

02 May 2019

Dr. Hristo Hristozov will present his research proposal on the topic: "Ecology of Religious Shift in the Ottoman Mountains: Long-term Environmental Changes, Social Transformations and Conversion to Islam in the Nevrokop District, 15th - 18th C." on 2 May 2019 (Thursday) at 16:30h at CAS conference hall.


My project challenges the historiographic concept of mass conversion to Islam in the Nevrоkop (modern Gotse Delchev, Bulgaria) region by providing an alternative explanation on the question of how the Rhodope Mountains became dominated by local Muslim population in the course of 15th to the 18th c. For decades Islamic religious proselytism in the Ottoman Balkan mountains was considered as a phenomenon isolated from the specific social and economic development of the highlands. In the Bulgarian historiography this resulted in the emergence of two opposite theses that were trying to interpret the predefined view of mass or highly intensive conversion to Islam which was the major feature of the mountainous life in certain Balkan areas.

The focus of my study is centered on the human-natural interconnection of overpopulation in the Early Modern mountains and how it defined the mutual relation of both social and environmental changes in the area of Ottoman Nevrokop. The dynamics of settlement network and the organization of rural economy are going to trace the sweeping ecological transformations during the human conquest of the studied highlands. Moreover, the high quality quantitative and qualitative data extracted from the Ottoman sources will reveal the whole range of demographic adaptations to the harsh mountainous space such as migrations, birth control and mortality and how these influenced the mountainous life. Combining a variety of written archival and natural records such as dendrochronology and pollen analyses the study will try to shed light on different climatic events and outbreaks of disease as agents of change. I believe that only a deep study of human-natural co-relation has the potential to provide an accurate explanation on the religious shift in the Rhodope Mountains, i.e. how the Christian Nevrokop area became a Muslim cultural space.

Hristo Hristozov is a research fellow at the Center for Regional Studies and Analyses at the University of Sofia "St. Kliment Ohridski". His major research interests are in the field of Ottoman social and economic history and Environmental history. In 2017 Dr Hristozov defended his PhD thesis titled Environment and Population in Ottoman Rhodope Mountains, 16th - 17th c. During his research he had the opportunity to work in the Ottoman Archives in Istanbul, Turkey and spend an academic year in the Leibniz - Centrum Moderner Orient in Berlin, Germany. Currently, along with his CAS project Dr. Hristozov is carrying out a study of the interconnection between migrations and environmental transformations in the 16th c. Ottoman Thrace.




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