Millets in Nation-States: The Case of Greek and Bulgarian Muslims, 1912-1923

Katsikas, Stefanos. 2009. Millets in Nation-States: The Case of Greek and Bulgarian Muslims, 1912-1923. Nationalities Papers, 37(2), pp. 177-201. ISSN 0090-5992 [Article]

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This paper attempts to shed light on the life of Balkan Muslims in the post-Ottoman period by examining the legal framework with reference to the powers of their two major political organs – namely the Muslim priesthood (muftis offices) and the community councils - in Greece and Bulgaria in the period following the end of the two Balkan Wars to 1923. It argues that, in many ways, Greek and Bulgarian minority laws are in line with certain provisions of international treaties concluded by both states, which in turn were inspired by the way that non-Muslim millets were organized in the Ottoman Empire during the second half of the 19th century and the early years of the 20th century. The state laws and international treaties aspired to secure a millet status for Greek and Bulgarian Muslims: i.e. the chief muftis became the religious and political leaders of these communities and assumed a role similar to that which non-Muslim religious leaders (milletbashis) had in the Ottoman Empire; muftis, like non-Muslim local religious leaders in the Ottoman state did, ruled the affairs of the Muslim communities with the assistance of elected local community councils. However, the legal framework by itself could not secure a ‘millet life’ to Greek and Bulgarian Muslims for reasons related to weaknesses of the very same millet system and the nationalist environment of both states in which that system was to be applied.

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March 2009Published

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23 Nov 2011 08:19

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29 Apr 2020 15:31

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