The Afterlife of Ottoman Europe
Muslims in Habsburg Bosnia Herzegovina
Leyla Amzi-Erdogdular



WHEN THE FORMER TURKISH foreign minister Ahmet Davutoğlu spent the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr in Bosnia Herzegovina in 2011—symbolizing the new Turkish foreign policy approach that has since been labeled “neo-Ottomanism”—he evoked emotional reactions from officials and the general public. He attended the congregational prayer on the occasion of Bajram, as Eid is known in Bosnian and Turkish, held in the early sixteenth-century Gazi Husrev-beg Mosque, restored to its glory after it was targeted during the siege of Sarajevo in the Serbian aggression war of 1992–1995. The historic mosque is situated in the Baščaršija district, Ottoman Sarajevo’s bazaar and core of the city, built in the fifteenth century. With Davutoğlu in attendance, the Reis ul-ulema Mustafa Cerić (the highest Muslim religious authority in Bosnia Herzegovina) stated in his sermon, “Today was a day for which we have waited for centuries.” According to accounts, after the Eid prayer, an elderly man approached the foreign minister. After shaking his hand, he asked: “Where have you been? You are 150 years late!”

Less than 150 years earlier, in 1878, the Ottoman Empire had reluctantly accepted the stipulations of the Berlin Treaty that relinquished its province of Bosnia Herzegovina to Austria-Hungary without any specifics on extent or duration of the mandate. This understanding achieved at the Congress of Berlin created a number of gray areas in which the Habsburg and Ottoman empires attempted to assert claims and maintain their spheres of interest. Because the occupation and administration were new and legally vague concepts, both empires and their shared subjects had an opportunity to exploit the ambiguities. Milestones in the Habsburg takeover of the province—the initial military occupation (1878), conscription (1882), and annexation (1908)—were also causes of international controversy that led the two empires to throw around their diplomatic weight. Subjects reacted by inciting further diplomatic action to secure their positions within both empires. As a result of the ambiguities of the Berlin Treaty, the province remained nominally under the sovereign authority of the Ottoman sultan until 1908. Taking advantage of the turmoil during the Young Turk Revolution, Austria-Hungary annexed the province and fully incorporated it into their domains, remaining so until the monarchy’s dissolution in 1918.

The Habsburg occupation of Bosnia Herzegovina was markedly different from other territorial losses in Ottoman Europe. Ottoman withdrawal from Eastern Europe since the late seventeenth century was concurrent with the process of de-Islamization of the lost peoples and regions, making this consistent method so common that it is still overlooked by contemporary scholars who discount the practice as expected without considering its concrete consequences. Upon Habsburg occupation of Bosnia Herzegovina however, the Muslim population was protected by the incoming administration and was considered vital for the Habsburg plans in the province. This is in contrast to the experiences of Muslims in post-Ottoman Greece, Serbia, Romania, and Bulgaria. In those regions, even after wartime violence targeting them, the remaining Muslims continued to be victims of policies meant to exclude and ultimately expel them in order to make the new nation-states ethnically and religiously uniform, which would, in turn, solidify the new nations’ claims to land.

Bosnia’s diversity fascinated European travelers, although the rest of the Ottoman Balkans were just as diverse, if not more so, in terms of religious and linguistic variety. While nation-states carved out of Ottoman Europe worked to homogenize their populations after separating from the Ottoman Empire, Bosnia Herzegovina was able to preserve its diversity—and specifically its Muslim population—precisely because of Habsburg rule. The Habsburg administration hoped for Muslim cooperation in disengaging the province from the Ottoman Empire and incorporating it into Habsburg domains. The policies focused on attracting and persuading Bosnian Muslims to seek patronage from the Habsburg emperor in order to view him, not the sultan, as protector of Bosnian Muslim interests. This unique situation in the former Ottoman Balkans, where Muslims continued to command political presence, allowed Bosnian Muslims to actively strengthen their place and to reinvent their ties to the Ottomans; they were in a relatively comfortable position compared to that of Muslims in other post-Ottoman nation-states.

The Afterlife of Ottoman Europe: Muslims in Habsburg Bosnia Herzegovina explores the Ottoman continuities—cultural, social, and political—during the Habsburg administration, and the enduring influence of the Ottoman Empire, an influence perpetuated by the imperial state from afar and supported by the empire’s former subjects in Bosnia Herzegovina. In particular, this book focuses on the ways that Bosnia’s Muslims responded to new sociopolitical circumstances and navigated their Habsburg and Ottoman loyalties. In concentrating on Bosnia Herzegovina after the Berlin Congress, the chapters that follow analyze the Ottomans’ efforts to maintain their sphere of influence in the region through a deep reliance on Muslim loyalties. They show how the Ottoman experience transformed in reaction to the strategic and political circumstances that overlapped with the context of the Habsburg Monarchy.

The aim of the 1878 Berlin Congress was to resolve what European states had come to call the Eastern Question of Turkey in Europe, which they situated in the discourse of “liberation of a people from the spiritual domination of the Ottomans” and “progress of the West toward the East.”1 Ottoman efforts to implement reforms, centralize their administration, and suppress peasant uprisings were all grouped together to form a new European understanding that the Ottomans were unable to rule their Balkan provinces, and specifically their Christian subjects. In the words of Karl Marx, the Balkans were a “splendid territory [that] has the misfortune to be inhabited by a conglomerate of different races and nationalities, of which it is hard to say which is the least fit for progress and civilization,” and where the “attempts at civilization by Turkish authority” have failed due to the “fanaticism of Islam.”2 Similarly, the rise of the Eastern Question was to be found in the presence of an “alien substance,” that is, the “Ottoman Turk,” in the “living flesh of Europe.”3 Although explicit Orientalism that juxtaposed the civilized West to the barbaric East, with overtures of Islamic “fanaticism,” have faded from scholarly literature, the historical paradigm set at this time continues to burden Balkan historiography into the twenty-first century.4 Maria Todorova observed this “remarkable similarity” and “amazing continuity” in rendering the Ottoman Empire backward and any problematic phenomena to be a consequence of its legacies.5 Historians, then, to appeal to nineteenth-century European intellectual sensibilities, constructed a record of nationalist struggle impeded by a foreign “Asiatic” empire.6

The constant equating of Ottoman with Islamic and Turkish in historical and political discourses not only rendered established Muslim communities across the Balkans as alien but also stigmatized religion, architecture, language, arts, and other regional aspects of Ottoman heritage as backward—leading to policies of “de-Ottomanization” and “de-Islamization,” and justifying ethnic cleansing and genocide.7 Denying the role of the Ottoman past in the Balkans’ historical and cultural legacy continues in nation-state historiographies serving to repudiate the imperial hybridity and communal experience of the region.8 For much of the twentieth century, scholars treated Muslims in southeastern Europe as an anomalous remnant of Ottoman rule and the site of the East–West encounter—as a symbolic bridge and occasionally the physical location of a clash of civilizations. Others concentrated on nationalist narratives, developmentalism, and models of state rule over ethnic and religious minorities. None, however, addressed Muslims’ own endeavors to grapple with the changing circumstances and their reconfigured ties with the former imperial center. That is the focus of this book.

Muslims in Ottoman and Habsburg Bosnia Herzegovina

The geographic boundaries of Bosnia Herzegovina that were established after the Berlin Congress roughly corresponded to the province’s Ottoman borders, with the exceptions of border areas of Herzegovina awarded to Montenegro in 1878 and Novi Pazar Sandžak (Ottoman Turkish sancak, meaning district), which remained Ottoman. The parameters of Habsburg Bosnia Herzegovina continue today as the borders of independent Bosnia Herzegovina.9 The Ottoman and Habsburg administrations both surveyed the population of the province in confessional terms: they distinguished Muslims, Orthodox Christians, Catholics, Jews, and Roma.10 These classifications stemmed from what is broadly considered as the Ottoman “millet system,” yet the Habsburg administration continued to group the Bosnian population according to religion, and not language, as it did in its other domains. Bosnia’s population approximations in the mid-nineteenth century range from 900,000 to 1,050,000, and these doubled by the second decade of the twentieth century.11 Despite overall population growth, the size of the Muslim population declined to less than 40 percent of the total population (measured in Habsburg censuses) as a result of uprisings, war, and migrations in the volatile period of 1875–1878.12

Over a period of four decades, Bosnian Muslims transformed from prominent members of the Ottoman imperial polity, governed by a Muslim ruler, to minority subjects of the Habsburgs’ Christian empire, with which they had a history of conflict. The period analyzed here reflects a gradual separation from the Ottoman Empire, the reassessment of new loyalties and ties with both states, and changes in organization and relationships within the community. This period saw two major Muslim responses to the Habsburg occupation: first, the migration of Slav Bosnian Muslims to the Ottoman territories; and second, among those who stayed, an attempt to sustain relations with the Ottoman Empire in the realms of religion, politics, culture, and socioeconomic involvement. Migration was justified with religious rhetoric, including discussions of whether it was acceptable for Muslims to live under a non-Muslim ruler and the extent of religious freedoms under such a sovereign. The reality, however, was that most migrants had underlying political and socioeconomic motives. For those who stayed amid an ethnoreligious local politics in which emerging national groups relied on the support of powerful European states with regional interests, Bosnian Muslims, too, learned to use their religious and political clout. Ottoman imperial allegiances and sentiment played an important role for Muslims’ strengthening and restructuring of ties with the Ottoman Empire, which they considered their Great Power protector.

In this study, I show how imperial continuities evolved to respond to the diplomatic initiatives of both empires: questions of sovereignty, occupation, migration, and minorities, as well as the activities of Muslims who negotiated their place both within the two empires and in Europe, informed by the realities of new geopolitical inevitability. In addition to questioning the definitiveness of the break with the Ottoman Empire for its subjects, I analyze Ottoman efforts to maintain a sphere of influence in the region through reliance on Muslim loyalties. My research shows that Ottoman policies did not always follow a singular direction or strategy. While the sultan might have implied one message to encompass Muslims worldwide representing the Pan-Islamic rhetoric of the caliphate, the workings of consuls, diplomats, administrators, and officials of the Migrants Commission reveal a different logic and interests based on concrete local and regional considerations that ultimately affected policy implementation and outcomes. The Ottoman cabinet and consuls, for instance, continuously advised the sultan against encouraging migration—not necessarily out of lack of sympathy for the Muslim cause in Bosnia Herzegovina, but precisely for the purpose of maintaining a strong Muslim presence in the legally ambiguous former Ottoman territory. They assumed that those Muslims who stayed would, in turn, promote Ottoman interests in the region. The Ottoman Imperial Treasury and the Migrants Commission found migration equally problematic, but from a financial and logistical perspective, given the costs and feasibility of such large-scale transportation and settlement. Ambiguities in the Ottoman attitudes regarding the position of Balkan Muslims reflected their practical considerations and the changing perceptions of the Ottomans about themselves.13 These oscillations likewise affected the understanding of the various actors about what was at stake in transforming the patterns of Ottoman association and the dynamics of these connections.

In Bosnia Herzegovina, the Muslim reading public was aware of nationalist movements and Pan-Slavism in Eastern Europe. In addition to their established ties with the sultan, they held out hope that the Young Turk movement would bolster Ottoman power. Islamic reform and revivalist movements in the Ottoman Empire, India, and Egypt, as well as conditions of institutional and educational reorganization among Russian Muslims and those in post-Ottoman Bulgaria, provided comparative reference for Muslims’ existence in Habsburg Bosnia Herzegovina. What has been variously termed “Pan-Islam(s),” “interislamic networks,” and “Muslim cosmopolis” incorporated Bosnia Herzegovina in its intellectual spheres and geographic reach.14 The Afterlife of Ottoman Europe contributes the Bosnian outlook to the robust revisionist literature on transimperial Islamic networks and the impact of their exchanges at the turn of the twentieth century. Travel for education and work, migration and return, and the continuation of family and commercial relations all played a role in enduring ties with the Ottoman Empire. Proliferation of print and the availability of steam and rail travel further enhanced the reading public’s access to global information about developments and major debates worldwide. Muslim intellectuals in Bosnia, not least for their polyglot education, navigated the diverse Islamic intellectual domains in the Ottoman Empire and beyond. Such comparative references helped them rationalize and come up with solutions expressed in Islamic idiom for their own particular circumstance in Bosnia Herzegovina. Bosnian Muslims’ efforts at shaping their own Islamic modernity—advanced within the Habsburg system—in turn became a model in the Muslim world. Remarkably, Hamidian attempts to harness Pan-Islam as a policy that could benefit the Ottoman Empire vis-à-vis the imperial powers in the international arena had a modest effect on these developments, despite colonial empires’ disquiet as they ruled over much of the world’s Muslims at the time.

Public opinion, too, came to have an increasingly important role in both empires. The Ottoman establishment became concerned with the resonance of its policies among subjects, in the Muslim world, and in Europe. Austria-Hungary sought to show the success of its inclusive imperial model in the midst of nationalist and pan-nationalist movements afflicting the domains of the Dual Monarchy. Muslims in Bosnia used the prospect of migration to Ottoman lands as leverage in their negotiations with Habsburg and Ottoman authorities, as well as local political allies and foes, counting on the potential complications Muslim migration would cause for all parties involved. Dual Monarchy investigated how other empires—Russia in Central Asia, France in North Africa, and Great Britain in India—dealt with their respective Muslim populations and acted to incorporate Islamic institutions into their state system. They were tapping into the “imperial cloud”—the shared, collective imperial knowledge, pointing to yet another transimperial perspective.15 In an attempt to attract the allegiance of their Muslim subjects, Austria-Hungary encouraged and revitalized several features of the Ottoman administration. Most significant was the Habsburg modification of provincial Islamic institutions, working to diffuse the role of the sultan-caliph at the height of Ottoman Pan-Islamic efforts, and in effect creating their own Habsburg Muslim millet.

For both empires, Bosnia Herzegovina was indicative of the dilemma in the long nineteenth century over how to resolve the contradictions of maintaining the supremacy of a territorially vast, multireligious empire along with modern principles of sovereignty and legitimacy that were increasingly based on ethno-linguistically homogeneous nation-states.16 The afterlife of the Ottoman Empire in Habsburg Bosnia exposes legacies of an empire that no longer held effective control in the province, but was still actively trying to find ways of remaining relevant in its lost territories in the Balkans. All the while, the former subjects and other regional actors engaged with the Ottomans in order to fortify their interests, thus exposing and acknowledging the Ottoman presence and endurance of its authority, albeit transformed and diminished. These were individuals and groups who allied around common causes; some diverged at different times and disagreed about whether to oppose or support the Habsburg administration and what their role should be in these endeavors. They were political activists, bureaucrats, intellectuals, clergy, teachers, landlords, peasants, and nationalist activists of various persuasions, who had a choice of venues and coalitions through which they worked to advance their interests. The relationship of the Ottoman Empire with Austria-Hungary was further enhanced due to their common interests in containing the nationalist movements that worked to undermine imperial legitimacy and rule in southeastern Europe as supported by other European powers and, in particular, Russia.

Transimperial Loyalty and Local Agency

Bosnian Muslims were Slavs (and Slavic speakers), imperial subjects of the Habsburg and Ottoman empires, and adherents to Islam associated with the rest of the Muslim world. Seeing themselves as members in these different categories provided Muslims with social environments and imagined communities, allowing for a distinctive trajectory of Muslim life in Bosnia Herzegovina.17 In this period, characterized by both rupture and continuity, different aspects of provincial social and political circumstance, imperial competition, and the changing international order shaped Muslims’ responses and affected their allegiances. With that recognition, this book necessarily shifts away from the fixation on national histories and scholarly works on “late” and “incomplete” Muslim nationalization to investigations of imperial ties.

Focus on imperial continuities and the imperial connections maintained and restructured does not deny the existence of various ways of nationalization, but shows that these developments were not singular, linear advances as they are often presented in national historiographies and particularly in approaches to studying Bosnia Herzegovina. Furthermore, they are not unique to Bosnia Herzegovina, as scholarly studies show “national indifference” along other hybrid identities in systems of fierce nationalist competition in other regions of Eastern and Central Europe.18 Acknowledging and investigating this diversity and range also helps put nationalization and its effects in perspective. Long-term processes of nationalization in Bosnia date back to the Ottoman period and to the endeavors of Serbia and Croatia and their nationalist activists in Bosnia Herzegovina, who equated liberation from empire with the conquest of land and people they imagined as part of their respective nations. Confessional differentiation became key to understanding the national dimension of the Bosnian population: Catholics were equated with Croats, Orthodox Christians with Serbs, and Muslims with Bosnians or Bosniaks (Bošnjaks). Much of Bosnian history in the long nineteenth century was written through the lens of nationalism and Bosnian Muslim nationalization, focusing on the province’s peripheral yet exceptional status for having a considerable Muslim population.

From this perspective, Muslims were in a liminal position, having been appropriated into the Serbian or Croatian national body, while simultaneously being the “terrible Turk” and the “other” of stock nationalist narrative. Edin Hajdarpasic showed that nationalists viewed native Bosnian Muslims as (br)other: a figure that is neither “us” nor entirely “other.” Serbian and Croatian nationalists perceived Bosnian Muslims as their brothers (“our Turks”), since they shared language, customs, and ancestry, and as potential participants in the triumph of South Slavic unity, conditioned by their emergence from the backwardness their Muslimness epitomized. As an interpretive device exposing the reversibility of processes of national identification, the (br)other concept reveals that “us” and “them” binaries are challenged and continuously redefined by the nationalists themselves.19 Nationalism and the nationalizing processes to stake claims on Bosnia Herzegovina were unfinished and multidirectional, engaging nationalists as well as the Habsburg and Ottoman empires.20

Exploring the shifting realities that characterized the late imperial period contributes to an understanding of subjecthood and citizenship at the turn of the twentieth century that was based not on political allegiance, as is assumed today—almost exclusively tied to nation-states and ethnicities—but on parallel, overlapping, and composite loyalties. Recognizing it as an interactional relation, loyalty implies the possibility of alternatives.21 The notion of belonging to the Ottoman polity and holding loyalty to the Ottoman state and sultan existed alongside local, regional, religious, occupational, linguistic, ethnic, and other identities, and it was often influenced by pragmatic considerations. These social agents’ expressions of loyalty were affected by their existence in intersecting networks with connections of varying intensity at different times.22 Loyalty, in this sense, presents as a more nuanced device than sole focus on nationalism.

Contrary to common historiographical assumptions that post-Ottoman Muslims in southeastern Europe lingered on as indolent recipients of imperial and national policies, or even as zealous Muslims who were “stuck” living in the past and unable to adjust to modernity, The Afterlife of Ottoman Europe shows that these imperial subjects understood the limits of their predicament and sought ways to remain relevant in the developments pertaining to the future of the province and their place within it. Bosnian Muslims insisted on religious, human, and civil rights in their petitions to both empires, each of which claimed to champion these privileges in order to legitimize its right over the province and to build allegiance among the population. They similarly employed their potential to migrate in negotiations counting on its undesirability for both states. Taking up this perspective allows for focus on agents’ “subjective capacities” to engage in both sociohistorical processes and its narrative constructions.23

The emphasis in this book on Muslim agency, that is, their “capacity for action” within the Habsburg and Ottoman “organizational terrain,” demonstrates the role of Muslims’ own endeavors to shape their self-perceptions, community organization, and institutions.24 What is more, their efforts influenced imperial considerations and policies by “pulling in” the empires to advance their own interests.25 Inspired by Pierre Bourdieu’s reflexive sociology and emphasis on the strategies that social agents employ, The Afterlife of Ottoman Europe offers an understanding of how Bosnians made sense of their world and actions they undertook to navigate the boundaries and leverage the potential of their environments. Bourdieu considered these strategies a product of agents’ experiences of social space—their “practical sense.” These practices, more than structures such as societal rules, inform social actions within the limits and possibilities of their social environment. When analyzed in this way, individuals are revealed to be agents who actively negotiate their social environment rather than passively follow predetermined societal structures.26

Evaluating Bosnian Muslim activity in the Habsburg provincial system, I distinguish between levels of integration into the new sociopolitical structures of the Habsburg and Ottoman empires, as well as emerging notions of alternative Muslim modernity. Muslim political parties, religious institutions, and educational organizations all functioned within the Habsburg provincial system, yet they incorporated Ottoman laws, practices, and symbolic ties to Istanbul. In publications Bosnian Muslims portray themselves as part of overlapping global communities of Muslims, Slavs, and citizens of the “civilized” world. These actors’ environment was located at the intersection of imperial and national, as well as European, Ottoman, Balkan, and Muslim intellectual trajectories—which are often considered separate and even contradictory. Yet, the overlap of these affiliations shaped the ways people in the province mediated and experienced modernity.

The Afterlife of Ottoman Europe evaluates the distinct features of the empire that continued to structure the lives of subjects and their understanding of place, identity, and future prospects. Challenging the view that Ottoman provinces stopped being Ottoman in a meaningful sense after their formal separation from the empire, this book addresses the chief historiographical issue regarding Muslims in Bosnia Herzegovina after 1878: how Bosnia’s Muslims maintained and transformed relations with Istanbul specifically and the rest of the Muslim world generally, while at the same time substantiating accommodations with the new authorities in Vienna. Bosnian Muslims’ watershed moment did not come about with the separation from the Ottoman Empire; instead, the empire continued to live on in the imperial institutions, administrative and state practices, traditions, and loyalties that were reproduced and repurposed in the post-Ottoman context.

My emphasis in The Afterlife of Ottoman Europe is on the loyalties that were possible in the imperial milieu, to assess fluid notions of sovereignty and legitimacy, defined through interactions between empires and their subjects.27 The question of loyalty has been observed in the Hungarian Habsburg national experience based on language and ethnicity and as supranational, defined by allegiance to the Habsburg dynasty and empire.28 Comparable questions were raised with regard to Jewish loyalties and communal transformations in the post-Habsburg Austrian Republic and Weimar Germany.29 While scholars wrote extensively on citizenship and political allegiances in instances of fragmented and mixed sovereignty,30 and analyzed the causes and consequences of imperial collapse for multiethnic societies triumphed over by national discourses,31 little has been written on loyalties of former Muslim and non-Muslim Ottoman subjects, as in Bosnia Herzegovina.32 Analyzing allegiances as parallel and overlapping in the imperial framework further reveals the role of empire and its continuities in the postimperial state formations.

Tracing Imperial Continuities: Studies and Sources

Focus on Muslims in my analysis of Habsburg Bosnia Herzegovina allows for a perspective that takes ruptures as well as continuities into consideration and elucidates the ways in which imperial projects overlapped in the province. Set in a transregional framework, this study engages with the theoretical discourses that consider imperial legacies and their imprint on the present.33 Structured as such, it focuses on transimperial subjects as actors in interimperial and postimperial histories to contribute to the developing historical reassessment globally.34 Afterlives of Empire as an analytical heuristic then, offers a view into Ottoman imperial continuities as perpetuated by the Habsburg and Ottoman empires and their subjects. It informs a novel perspective about the complexity and nonlinearity of historical processes, as expressed in the strategies of imperial states and their subjects’ intersecting interests and compound loyalties. This approach underscores the role of historical actors who maintained imperial continuities in diverse settings and for different reasons, while revealing the open-endedness of such processes. As a method, it led to an understanding of “Ottoman half-lives,” in the case of post-Ottoman displaced persons and the constructions of their pasts that were dependent not only on their own understanding of it but also its political attention and recognition;35 and it was explored in theoretical approaches to post-Ottoman topologies—the existence and experiences of multiple pasts in different times.36

In this book, I introduce Ottoman sources to the study of the Habsburg period in Bosnia Herzegovina for the first time. Centering Ottoman material allows me to trace the many ways in which the Ottoman Empire continued to exist in institutional, community, and individual lives in the province. I contextualized a variety of previously untapped Ottoman archival materials from the Turkish State Archives, from library and archival sources in Turkey and Bosnia Herzegovina, and from print papers, periodicals, pamphlets, and literature—all of which allowed me to conceptualize this new take on the ways that former Ottoman subjects continued and restructured ties with their previous center. Primary materials provided insights into the logic of Ottoman imperial policies in their lost territories and contemporaneous ideas of sovereignty, extraterritoriality, allegiance, and nationalism. Individual and group petitions, policy proposals, local and regional administrative reports, and publications exposed an array of strategies and solutions that these actors had proposed and employed. The sources provide not only the view from the Yıldız Palace and the diverging views of Ottoman administrators, but also how they transect with the interests of former subjects in Bosnia Herzegovina, Muslim and Orthodox Christian clergy, Ottoman and Balkan intellectuals, and merchant elites. Diverse multilingual source material presents us with change over the Habsburg decades and the political transformations in the province, regionally, and internationally.

As perhaps the most studied period of Bosnian history, the Habsburg era has long attracted scholarly attention in German and South Slavic languages, setting 1878 as a point of rupture when the enlightened European government replaced the despotic Ottoman regime, but ended with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914, which ushered in World War I.37 Several important studies had been published in English until the war in the 1990s attracted wider scholarly interest in Bosnia Herzegovina and its immediate post-Ottoman period.38 Major works in English that explore the dynamics of the Habsburg Bosnian administration, the movement for Islamic religious and educational autonomy, the Habsburg “civilizing mission,” and the province as the site of convergence of multiple political movements and external nationalization processes extensively use Bosnian Habsburg source material. Building on this existing rigorous research, The Afterlife of Ottoman Europe contributes an Ottoman perspective, expanding the historical conceptualization of the period by investigating the lasting Ottoman impact through previously unexplored source material.

Emphasizing multiple Ottoman perspectives through new sources also intervenes to contribute an outlook across area studies. This book departs from the historiographical and disciplinary convention that locates the end of the Ottoman period in 1878 and views the Habsburg arrival and its rule as a historical rupture, introducing the province to Europe and into the modern world. In fact, the very switch from Ottoman studies of Bosnia Herzegovina to (East and/or Southeast) European studies is projected back to this juncture. Such a perspective creates an absurd situation wherein Southeast Europe belongs to East European studies, whereas its Ottoman period is studied as part of Ottoman and Middle East studies. Following geopolitical demarcations relevant to the Cold War, nation-state borders of the mid-twentieth century outlined each area’s boundaries.39 Such boundaries are not only inadequate for contemporary study of regional diversities and their borderlands, exposing “geographies of ignorance,”40 but they are even less appropriate when projected back in time. The Balkans are not the only region of the world afflicted with what scholars call “cartographic violence” and “cartographic surgery.”41 To develop a transregional and interimperial perspective in the analysis of Habsburg Bosnia, I built upon strategies employed to transform the spatial limitation of area studies and illustrate a more sophisticated texture of transregional interactions and networks: “scaling” regional space to imagine configurations that include borderlands and transnational flows; examining areas as intersecting arenas formed around social geographies that change through historical processes; and focusing attention on connections in historically durable patterns across Muslim Asia and its interregional dynamics concealed by area divisions into South and Central Asia, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East.42

Moving away from the conventional area studies approach to the Muslim question in Southeastern Europe, The Afterlife of Ottoman Europe addresses these shortcomings head-on by considering the Ottoman context of Bosnia Herzegovina even after the Ottomans’ withdrawal from the region, as well as the significance of Islamic intellectual history to the history of Bosnia Herzegovina and Eastern Europe. Turning to primary materials in multiple languages and scattered across the former imperial domains, I have constructed a comprehensive picture of Bosnia Herzegovina’s history outside the typical geographic and disciplinary confines. My assessment shows that Ottoman European regions such as Bosnia Herzegovina must be integrated into the scholarly study of Islam and of Muslim modernity, which are usually examined in Middle Eastern and South Asian contexts. In this vein, the book contributes to revisionist studies that tap multilingual sources to promote new ways of envisioning Muslim modernity. This is not a one-sided (or two-sided, for that matter) account of European influences and Muslim reactions, as we have seen so often. Instead, it is a larger story of an interconnected, transimperial world that demonstrates the importance of taking into account European imperial connections and continuities with the Middle East.

Book Structure and Scope

The narrative presented in the following pages underscores the lasting impact of empire on contemporary perceptions of political allegiance, international law, and extraterritoriality, showing that it was concrete conditions and actions at the turn of the twentieth century that shaped the modern understanding of categories such as citizens, minorities, and migrants, which are habitually assumed to be fixed abstractions. Because of their status as Muslims, and because religion separated Muslims from other subjects and, later, from other citizens, various dimensions of Islam assumed political relevance in the post-Ottoman period. Islamic legal norms and discourses were interpreted by imperial administrators and nationalist activists, whereas the ulema was called upon to articulate Muslims’ rights and assumed a vocal political presence influencing communal and political organization. It is in this context that the confessional dimension mediated the social, political, and legal aspects of Muslims in the post-Ottoman Balkans at the turn of the twentieth century. Modern notions—such as laws of occupation, sovereignty, and citizenship, have developed out of practices from this period, as have state–subject negotiations at regional and transimperial sites. The activities of Bosnian Muslims in responding to societal challenges show their concern for concrete solutions to questions of migration; political activity in the Habsburg and Balkan nationalist environments; preservation of the autonomy of Islamic religious institutions in the state apparatus; and reassessment of Bosnia’s place and ties in Eastern and Central Europe, with the Ottoman Empire, the caliphate, and the Muslim world.

The effort to transform and modernize, as articulated in the Bosnian Muslim discourse, was equally situated in European and Islamic intellectual traditions. By considering the role of Muslims and Islam in Habsburg Bosnia Herzegovina, we can see that a nuanced understanding of southeastern Europe is possible only by looking beyond geohistorical and disciplinary divisions. The history of Muslims is essential to the story of Europe, and the European Muslim experience is indispensable to the scholarly study of Muslims and Islam.

Chapter 1 analyzes the Habsburg occupation of Bosnia Herzegovina and its negotiations with the Ottoman Empire to define the unwritten implications of the Berlin Treaty. In contrast with the struggles of Bosnian notables to sidetrack Ottoman efforts at centralization in the early nineteenth century, the eventual occupation prompted them to seek support in asserting Ottoman sovereignty over Bosnia Herzegovina. They hoped that under the circumstances of a legally ambiguous occupational regime, the Ottoman Empire would limit Habsburg plans in the province that now threatened the status of Muslim notables, religious institutions, and rights to land, all tied to the Ottoman legal order and sociopolitical structures. The Habsburg Empire, on the other hand, interpreted the treaty as expanding its reach and established itself in Bosnia Herzegovina and the Balkans.

Chapters 2 and 3 investigate Bosnian Muslims’ migration to the Ottoman Empire and the debates generated in response to the broader population movements that characterized the last Ottoman century. In Chapter 2, I evaluate the petitions for migration and related Ottoman consular and administrative reports to contextualize reasons for migration and diplomatic consequences. Migrants hoped to return, which drove many to settle in regions closest to Bosnia Herzegovina, seeing their relocation as temporary. As a political act, migration was a response to different aspects of the Habsburg administration and a show of loyalty to the Ottoman Empire. Chapter 2 discusses the significance of Muslim demographic presence in Europe and what that meant for the Ottoman and Habsburg empires.

Chapter 3 examines the desirability of migration from Ottoman, Habsburg, Bosnian and Serbian vantage points. Whether a Bosnian madrasa student seeking a fatwa on migration from the renowned Egyptian Islamist reformer Rashid Rida; itinerant preachers advising that Muslims can only be subjects of a Muslim ruler; conflicting Ottoman positions; and the worries of administrators, intellectuals, and nationalists about demographic dominance in the province—migration debates permeated Habsburg Bosnia. Debates on whether and where Muslims should migrate occurred in similar fashion in Bulgaria, Crimea, Bosnia, Egypt, and across the Ottoman empire, reflecting the religious and political implications for migrants. These Bosnian migrations were part of large population movements at the turn of the twentieth century that would critically transform the demographics of Southeastern Europe and the Middle East. The motivation behind these debates and emerging views on minorities as problematic have had an important role in shaping the aftermath of world wars, population transfers, and the current understanding of population politics in the region.

Chapter 4 analyzes imperial competition over Bosnia Herzegovina. With the legally ambiguous occupation of Bosnia after the Berlin Congress, the sultan was still sovereign, but the population was expected to show allegiance to the new ruler—the emperor. The Ottoman Empire competed with Austria-Hungary to uphold its presence in Bosnia Herzegovina, and this resonated in the province and influenced public opinion in Europe and globally. Whereas the Habsburg Monarchy occupied and administered the province, the sultan extended his caliphal protections over Bosnian Muslims and Orthodox Christians.

Chapter 5 analyzes the petitioning practice and emphasizes the activity of Muslims in asserting their role within the state by appealing to both empires. It considers Bosnian Muslim organization and political mobilization. Muslim endeavors to maintain ties with the caliphate in Istanbul, and the Habsburg efforts to sever them, produced the Islamic Community—an official, semiautonomous religious organization rooted in the Ottoman system that still functions as an independent institution today, having outlived the Habsburg Empire, the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, and the Republic of Yugoslavia.

Chapter 6 focuses on the transformation of Muslim ties to the Ottoman Empire in light of the new political situation in the period after 1908, when the Habsburg Monarchy annexed Bosnia Herzegovina. Claims of Ottoman sovereignty in Bosnia became obsolete, and the Young Turks shifted the Ottoman focus to the territories remaining under their control. This period in Bosnia was characterized by social and civic organization, the proliferation of the press, and national movements. The first elections and engagement with representative government in the Bosnian provincial assembly began in 1910. The Muslim experience of political participation and mobilization in the Habsburg period became instrumental in safeguarding their rights and religious institutions in the postimperial period.

Finally, the Epilogue considers Bosnian Muslim intellectuals and cultural reformers: a former member of the Ottoman parliament and a Habsburg mayor; Pan-Islamist graduates of the University of Vienna; and writers, publishers, and ulema. These individuals developed a particular European Islamic modernist discourse rooted in the Ottoman concepts of modernity that were transformed within the Habsburg framework. The Epilogue argues for incorporation of Islamic intellectual discourse and cross-regional exchanges as integral to the history of Southeastern Europe.


1. Leopold von Ranke, The History of Servia, and the Servian Revolution: With a Sketch of the Insurrection in Bosnia; the Slave Provinces of Turkey, trans. Mrs. Alexander Kerr (London: Bohn, 1853), 459.

2. Karl Marx, and Eleanor M. Aveling, The Eastern Question: A Reprint of Letters Written 1853–1856 Dealing with the Events of the Crimean War (London: S. Sonnenschein & Co., 1897), 4.

3. J. A. R. Marriott, The Eastern Question: An Historical Study in European Diplomacy (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1940), 3.

4. For Ottoman contemporaneous responses to Orientalism, see Zeynep Çelik, Europe Knows Nothing About the Orient: A Critical Discourse from the East, 1872—1932 (Istanbul: Koç University Press, 2021). On how the Orientalist continuities in the Balkans inform ongoing georacial imaginaries, see Piro Rexhepi, White Enclosures: Racial Capitalism and Coloniality along the Balkan Route (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2023)

5. Maria Todorova, Imagining the Balkans (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 182. Also, Fikret Adanir and Suraiya Faroqhi, eds., The Ottomans and the Balkans: A Discussion of Historiography (Leiden: Brill, 2002).

6. Mark Mazower, The Balkans: A Short History (New York: Modern Library, 2000), xxxviii–xli.

7. Todorova, Imagining the Balkans, 180. Mazower, The Balkans, xxxviii. On the processes see Machiel Kiel, Studies on the Ottoman Architecture of the Balkans (Aldershot, Hampshire: Variorum, 1990); Ahmet Kuş̧, Ibrahim Dıvarcı, and Feyzi Şimşek, Rumeli’de Osmanlı Mirası: Bosna Hersek—Kosova / Ottoman Heritage in Rumelia: Bosnia Herzegovina—Kosovo (Istanbul: Nildem Brokerliği, 2010); Dijana Alić and Maryam Gusheh, “Reconciling National Narratives in Socialist Bosnia and Herzegovina: The Baščaršija Project, 1948–1953,” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 58:1 (1999): 6–25; and Rusmir Mahmutćehajić, “On Ruins and the Place of Memory,” East European Politics and Societies 25:1 (2011): 153–192. For contemporary continuities see: András Riedlmayer, “Convivencia Under Fire: Genocide and Book Burning in Bosnia.” In The Holocaust and the Book: Destruction and Preservation, ed. Jonathan Rose, 266291 (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2001); András J. Riedlmayer, “Crimes of War, Crimes of Peace: Destruction of Libraries During and After the Balkan Wars of the 1990s,” Library Trends 56:1 (2007): 107132; and Lejla Gazić, “Destruction of the Institute for Oriental Studies During the Aggression Against Bosnia Herzegovina, 19921995,” in Orijentalni Institut u Sarajevu, 1950–2000, eds. Amir Ljubović and Lejla Gazić, 3035 (Sarajevo: Orijentalni Institut, 2000).

8. Suhnaz Yilmaz and Ipek K. Yosmaoglu, “Fighting the Specters of the Past: Dilemmas of Ottoman Legacy in the Balkans and the Middle East,” Middle Eastern Studies 44:5 (2011): 677. Also see, L. Carl Brown, ed., Imperial Legacy: The Ottoman Imprint on the Balkans and the Middle East (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996).

9. On Bosnian borders throughout centuries, Ratimir Gašparović, Bosna i Hercegovina na geografskim kartama od prvih početaka do kraja XIX vijeka (Sarajevo: Akademija nauka i umjetnosti Bosne i Hercegovine, 1970).

10. Adem Handžić, Population of Bosnia in the Ottoman Period: A Historical Overview (Istanbul: Organisation of the Islamic Conference, Research Centre for Islamic History, Art, and Culture, 1994). On Ottoman population and demographic categories, see Kemal H. Karpat, Ottoman Population, 1830–1914: Demographic and Social Characteristics (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1985).

11. Đorđe Pejanović, Stanovništvo Bosne i Hercegovine (Beograd: Naučna knjiga, 1955), 12–28.

12. Mark Pinson, The Muslims of Bosnia-Herzegovina: Their Historic Development from the Middle Ages to the Dissolution of Yugoslavia (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1994), 81–82.

13. For an overview, see Selim Deringil, “From Ottoman to Turk: Self-Image and Social Engineering in Turkey,” in Deringil’s The Ottomans, the Turks and World Power Politics: A Historical Dictionary of Titles and Terms in the Ottoman Empire (Piscataway: Gorgias Press, 2010), 165–176.

14. Seema Alavi, Muslim Cosmopolitanism in the Age of Empire (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2015); Faiz Ahmed, Afghanistan Rising: Islamic Law and Statecraft between the Ottoman and British Empires (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2017).

15. Christoph Kamissek and Jonas Kreienbaum, “An Imperial Cloud? Conceptualizing Interimperial Connections and Transimperial Knowledge,” Journal of Modern European History 14:2 (2016): 164–182.

16. Alan Mikhail and Christine Philliou, “The Ottoman Empire and the Imperial Turn,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 54:4 (2012): 738. Also, Dominic Lieven, Empire: The Russian Empire and Its Rivals (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001).

17. Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (London and New York: Verso, 1991).

18. Tara Zahra, “Imagined Noncommunities: National Indifference as a Category of Analysis,” Slavic Review 69:1 (2010): 93–119; Pamela Ballinger, History in Exile: Memory and Identity at the Borders of the Balkans (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003); and Dominique Reill, “A Mission of Mediation: Dalmatia’s Multi-National Regionalism from the 1830s–60s,” in Different Paths to the Nation: Regional and National Identities in Central Europe and Italy, 1830–70, ed. Laurence Cole (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), 16–36.

19. Edin Hajdarpasic, Whose Bosnia?: Nationalism and Political Imagination in the Balkans, 1840–1914 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2015), 17; employing nationalism as a never-ending process: Étienne Balibar, Masses, Classes, Ideas: Studies on Politics and Philosophy Before and After Marx (New York: Routledge, 1994), 203; and the liminal “other,” Zygmunt Bauman, Modernity and Ambivalence (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1991), 65–73.

20. Hajdarpasic, Whose Bosnia?, 197–198.

21. Caroline Humphrey, “Loyalty and Disloyalty Along the Russian–Chinese Border,” History and Anthropology 28:4 (2017): 402.

22. Ibid.

23. Michel-Rolph Trouillot, Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (Boston: Beacon Press, 2015), 24.

24. Saba Mahmood, Politics of Piety: The Islamic Revival and the Feminist Subject (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005), 18; and Timothy Mitchell, Colonising Egypt (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1988), xi.

25. I borrow the description recognized by Faiz Ahmed in “Contested Subjects: Ottoman and British Jurisdictional Quarrels in Re Afghans and Indian Muslims,” Journal of the Ottoman and Turkish Studies Association 3:2 (2016): 328.

26. Pierre Bourdieu, The Logic of Practice (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1990); and Pierre Bourdieu, In Other Words: Essays Towards a Reflexive Sociology (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1990).

27. For the late Ottoman context, see Selim Deringil, The Well-Protected Domains: Ideology and the Legitimation of Power in the Ottoman Empire, 1876–1909 (London: I. B. Tauris, 2011); Isa Blumi, Foundations of Modernity: Human Agency and the Imperial State (Hoboken: Taylor & Francis, 2011); and Michelle U. Campos, Ottoman Brothers Muslims, Christians, and Jews in Early Twentieth-Century Palestine (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2010).

28. Péter Hanák, “Die Parallelaktion von 1898. Fünfzig Jahre ungarische Revolution und fünfzig Jahre Regierungsjubiläum Franz Josephs,” in Der Garten Und Die Werkstatt: Ein Kulturgeschichtlicher Vergleich Wien Und Budapest Um 1900 (Wien: Böhlau, 1992), 101–115, also discussed in Laurence Cole and Daniel L. Unowsky, eds., The Limits of Loyalty: Imperial Symbolism, Popular Allegiances, and State Patriotism in the Late Habsburg Monarchy (New York: Berghahn, 2007), 2–3.

29. Michael Brenner and Derek J. Penslar, eds., In Search of Jewish Community: Jewish Identities in Germany and Austria, 1918–1933 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1998).

30. Michael Hanagan and Charles Tilly, eds. Extending Citizenship, Reconfiguring States (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 1999).

31. Karen Barkey and Mark von Hagen, eds., After Empire: Multiethnic Societies and Nation Building: The Soviet Union and the Russian, Ottoman and Habsburg Empires (Boulder: Westview Press, 1997); Uri Ra’anan, Maria Mesner, Keith Armes, and Kate Martin, eds., State and Nation in Multi-Ethnic Societies: The Breakup of Multinational States (Manchester, New York: Manchester University Press, 1991); Aviel Roshwald, Ethnic Nationalism and the Fall of Empires: Central Europe, Russia and the Middle East, 1914–1923 (London: Routledge, 2001); Lieven, Empire.

32. David Henig traces contemporary continuities in “Crossing the Bosphorus: Connected Histories of ‘Other’ Muslims in the Post-Imperial Borderlands of Southeast Europe,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 58:4 (2016): 908–934; and in the context of the Middle East: Michael Provence, The Last Ottoman Generation and the Making of the Modern Middle East (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2017). For non-Muslim loyalties see: Eva Anne Franz, “Catholic Albanian Warriors for the Sultan in Late-Ottoman Kosovo: The Fandi as a Socio-Professional Group and Their Identity Patterns.” In Conflicting Loyalties in the Balkans: The Great Powers, the Ottoman Empire and Nation Building, edited by Hannes Grandits, Nathalie Clayer, and Robert Pichler, 182–202 (London and New York: I. B. Tauris, 2011).

33. Ann Laura Stoler, Imperial Debris: On Ruins and Ruination (Durham: Duke University Press, 2013); Mikhail and Philliou, “The Ottoman Empire and the Imperial Turn”; Nile Green, “Rethinking the ‘Middle East’ After the Oceanic Turn,” Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 34:3 (2014): 556–564; Karen Barkey, Empire of Difference: The Ottomans in Comparative Perspective (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013).

34. Alavi, Muslim Cosmopolitanism; James L. Gelvin and Nile Green, eds., Global Muslims in the Age of Steam and Print (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2014); Ahmed, Afghanistan Rising; and Lale Can, Spiritual Subjects: Central Asian Pilgrims and the Ottoman Hajj at the End of Empire (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2020).

35. Peter Loizos, “Ottoman Half-Lives: Long-Term Perspectives on Particular Forced Migrations,” Journal of Refugee Studies 12:3 (1999): 237–263.

36. Nicolas Argenti, ed., Post-Ottoman Topologies: The Presence of the Past in the Era of the Nation-State (New York: Berghahn, 2019).

37. Comprehensive works on different aspects of the Habsburg period appeared in Bosnian already in the first half of the twentieth century. See works cited here by Adem Handžić, Hamdija Kapidžić, Hamdija Kreševljaković, Dževad Juzbašić, Muhsin Rizvić, and Nusret Šehić.

38. Peter F. Sugar, Industrialization of Bosnia-Hercegovina: 1878–1918 (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1963); Robert J. Donia, Islam Under the Double Eagle: The Muslims of Bosnia and Hercegovina, 1878–1914 (Boulder: East European Quarterly, 1981); Robin Okey, Taming Balkan Nationalism: The Habsburg Civilizing Mission in Bosnia, 1878–1914 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007); Hajdarpasic, Whose Bosnia?

39. Willem van Schendel, “Geographies of Knowing, Geographies of Ignorance: Jumping Scale in Southeast Asia,” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 20 (2002): 655.

40. Ibid.

41. Ahmed, Afghanistan Rising, 4; and van Schendel, “Geographies of Knowing,” 652.

42. van Schendel, “Geographies of Knowing”; Green, “Rethinking the ‘Middle East,’” 557–558; and Magnus Marsden and David Henig, “Muslim Circulations and Networks in West Asia: Ethnographic Perspectives on Transregional Connectivity,” Journal of Eurasian Studies 10:1 (2019): 11–21.