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Fellow Seminar

16 April 2020

Dr. Stoyan Shivarov will present online via Zoom his research proposal on the topic: "Lost Pages: (Ottoman) Turkish Language Periodicals in Bulgaria (1878 - 1944). Muslim Tradition versus Nationalism" on 16 April 2020 (Thursday) at 16:30h.


Seminar Presentation 1

The Ottoman Turkish language periodicals, published in Bulgaria in the 1878 - 1944 period, were a unique phenomenon within the post Ottoman Balkans. Not only for the significant number of newspapers and magazines published, but also because many among them continued to be printed in Arabic script years after 1928, when Turkey adopted its variant of the Latin alphabet. The newly reestablished Bulgarian state was in reality not a model unitary state, but a multiethnic country with significant minority populations. Bulgarian authorities recognized this and printed the „Bulgarian State Gazette" in both Ottoman Turkish and Bulgarian for the first two years of its run. However, the majority of the (Ottoman) Turkish periodicals were private enterprises. It is also worth mentioning that not all of their owners were of Turkish descent. There were also Bulgarian publishers who sought wider readership and even Europeans who experimented with such publications. The language of the periodicals evolved over time as new and modern words were entering directly from Bulgarian, making it especially unique. In the 1930s a new phenomenon emerged - certain periodicals started experimenting with Latin script. At first they were quite cautious in their use and the new script articles often coexisted on the same page as those in Arabic script. The main goal of the project is to utilize the publications in those periodicals to reconstruct the image of the Turkish speaking minority population in Bulgaria, which was far from the homogeneous entity it is often deemed to have been. While earlier special case periodicals will be also considered, the temporal focus of the research would be the 1923 - 1944 period when the internal division within the ummah reached its peak. The latter is related to the varied opinions about the reforms of Mustafa Kemal (Atatürk) and especially the polemics on the introduction of the new Latin script, which one could speculate literally led to an Alphabet war. An important subtopic are the official political party newspapers, mainly those of the Bulgarian Communist Party and the Bulgarian Agrarian National Union. Publications in these will be analyzed in the context of the segregation within the Muslim ummah as well as the distinction between their Bulgarian and (Ottoman) Turkish version.

Seminar Presentation 2

(Abstract for the fellow seminar to be held on 16th April 2020)

After presenting the outline of the project back in November 2019, I will now delve into the specific research that I have conducted during the last months. As previously stated, my focus is on the (Ottoman) Turkish language periodicals published between 1923 and 1934; between two coup d'états that shaped both internal policies and international relations of the Bulgarian state. The number of (Ottoman) Turkish language periodicals published during this timeframe of eleven years turned out to be 43. In comparison during the whole 1878 - 1944 period, I discovered around 120 such periodicals mentioned in various catalogs. Undeniably, it was this 1923 - 1934 period when newspaper publishing in Bulgaria flourished. Readership increased with population growth and increase of literacy. Although the relative share of Muslims in Bulgaria shrank, their absolute number increased by around 70 000 between 1920 and 1934. Of the 43 periodicals published during the 1923 - 1934 period, I was able to physically locate only 33 of them. Furthermore, virtually all of these have a great number of issues missing. Plovdiv's Public Library holds 22 of these periodicals with the rest being located in Bulgarian National Library and several regional libraries (Shumen, Pleven). Single issues can be found in regional State Archives as well (Smolyan, Shumen). Content analysis allowed me to identify two distinctive groups among these 33 titles. Eight of these periodicals seem to oppose the largerly Kemalist inspired modernisation of the Muslim community in Bulgaria. Yarın (1934), Seda-î Islam (1931), Örfan (1931) and Medeniyet (1933 - 1944) were the most vocal opponents of Mustafa Kemal's ideas being adopted among Bulgarian Muslims. Yarın, the only one from these to be completely political, boasted circulation of 7000 which was huge for that time and I consider that number a ploy. In comparison the official newspaper of the Grand Mufti Medeniyet, partly funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Confessions (as evident from a number of archival sources from the 166К fond of Central State Archives) had circulation between 1750 and 2750. However, the conservative periodicals generally tend to avoid overtly political statements and focus on moral issues and nasihat. Of course, the 1924 abolition of Khalifate was not forgotten even in the 1930's and often mentioned on the pages of these newspapers. Nevertheless, the attitude of the conservative periodicals is clearly visible even without thorough consideration; all of these newspapers stuck to the Arabic alphabet. Medeniyet for example continued to be printed solely in Ottoman Turkish up to 1944. Periodicals that supported modernisation of Bulgarian Muslims and closer ties with the Kemalist movement, form the second group. Although they were far more numerous, they seem less coherent and more nuanced. Staunchly pro-Kemalist Turan (1928 - 1934) that was openly attacking these cahil ile geri kafalı hocalar and which which had numerous problems with Bulgarian authorities was more of an exception. Many of the rest often presented local and international news as well as useful information such as currency exchange rates with editorials not so common. At times their stance in this conservative vs progressive clash was evident only from their swift adaptation of Latin script after 1928. I focused exclusively on a number of periodicals published by Mehmed Behçet. The latter was without doubt the most prolific Muslim journalist / publisher / intellectual in Bulgaria during 1920's. During 1923 - 1927 he published seven periodicals. All of them contain editorials and opinion pieces (arguably in every single issue). All of his periodicals presented staunch proponents for modernization of the Muslim minority and were constantly bashing the conservative religious leaders. However, that did not stop M. Behçet from criticizing in his Ehali (1921 - 1924) the backwardness of the recently established Turkish Republic and Mustafa Kemal's reforms for being superficial. It was a surprising discovery to find an order in the State Archive in Ankara banning Ehali newspaper from entering Turkey. An editorial, published in a small regional (Ottoman) Turkish language newspaper in Oryahovo with circulation of mere 1200 was able to strike a nerve in the Kemalist authorities for "insulting Turkishness". However, some special case periodicals like Çiçek children magazine, published in the beginning of 1929, proved to be quite elusive. According to the available catalogs, this was the only Turkish language periodical to be run by a woman (Fevziye Calil). Despite being listed in the catalogue of the Bulgarian National Library (call number В 5357), the periodical itself could not be found. Another special case is the Christian evangelist newspaper / magazine Hakikat Şahidi (1933 - 1945). Completely apolitical, funded by a German religious organization and detached from the authentic interests of the Muslim minority in Bulgaria, Hakikat Şahidi became one of the longest surviving (Ottoman) Turkish language periodicals. Content analysis proved to be useless in this instance as the pages of Hakikat Şahidi contain mostly translation of biblical texts. An integral part of this project is the research on the attitude of Bulgarian authorities towards the periodicals of both the traditionalists and modernists. I have yet to examine the archival fonds of Bulgarian Ministries of Interior and Foreign Affairs for more direct evidence to support a number of claims from several different secondary sources.

Stoyan Shivarov is an Ottomanist and archivist. His research focuses on ethnic, religious and cultural minorities in the Balkans and in Asia Minor with an emphasis on Anatolian Bulgarians and Muslim minorities in the post Ottoman Balkans. He is also interested in the attitudes of the Ottoman state towards the Orthodox Church and the restrictions forced upon non Muslim Ottoman subjects. He is also actively working on publishing Ottoman archival sources. Stoyan Shivarov holds BA degree in Turkology as well as a MA in History. In 2018 he received his PhD in History from Sofia University "St. Kliment Ohridski".



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