Muslim Land, Christian Labor

Transforming Ottoman Imperial Subjects into Bulgarian National Citizens, 1878-1939
$90.00 / €79.00 / £71.00
Publication date: 
304 pages, 2 maps, 2 tables, and 2 figures

Focusing upon a region in Southern Bulgaria, a region that has been the crossroads between Europe and Asia for many centuries, this book describes how former Ottoman Empire Muslims were transformed into citizens of Balkan nation-states. This is a region marked by shifting borders, competing Turkish and Bulgarian sovereignties, rival nationalisms, and migration. Problems such as these were ultimately responsible for the disintegration of the dynastic empires into nation-states.

Land that had traditionally belonged to Muslims—individually or communally—became a symbolic and material resource for Bulgarian state building and was the terrain upon which rival Bulgarian and Turkish nationalisms developed in the wake of the dissolution of the late Ottoman Empire and the birth of early republican Turkey and the introduction of capitalism.

By the outbreak of World War II, Turkish Muslims had become a polarized national minority. Their conflicting efforts to adapt to post-Ottoman Bulgaria brought attention to the increasingly limited availability of citizenship rights, not only to Turkish Muslims, but to Bulgarian Christians as well.

List of Maps, Tables, and Illustrations
List of Key Ottoman Turkish and Bulgarian Terms
Note on Names, Transliterations, and Dates


The Eastern Crisis, Russia’s “Civilizing Mission” in the Balkans, and the Emergence of Eastern Rumelia

Repatriation, Postwar Reconstruction, and the Limits of Pluralism in Eastern Rumelia

An Experiment in Pluralistic Governance: Emigration and the Emergence of National Politics

Anchoring Unified Bulgaria on “Muslim” Land

Muslim Land vs. Bulgarian Labor: The Cost of Building a Modern Capitalist Nation

Land, Nation, Minority

Debating Community and Citizenship


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"Anna Mirkova’s Muslim Land, Christian Labor is an excellent contribution to the scholarship on Islam and identity formation in modern Bulgaria. Drawing on archival material from Sofia, Plovdiv, Kŭrdzhali, and Istanbul, the author charts the intersection of Christian and Muslim landholding patterns from the Treaty of Berlin (1878) until the outbreak of the Second World War. Lucidly written, well organized, and insightful. The broad chronological scope provides a productive perspective that is conducive to comparative studies of the transition from empire to nation. The Central European University Press deserves praise for continuing to produce such high quality monographs on specialized topics in Eastern European and Eurasian history."
"The author focuses on the judicial issues concerning land holdings and transference during the period of the revived Bulgarian state, especially in the ephemeral region of Eastern Rumelia, which is now the southern area of Bulgaria. As a part of the issues of land ownership transference, the author also examines the wider consequences of the emigration of the Turkish and other Muslim minorities of Bulgaria to Turkey. This is an excellent study for those who wish to understand the legal processes by which the Bulgarian nationalist order replaced the imperial Ottoman establishment in the agricultural economy. Overall Mirkova demonstrates the determination of the revived Bulgarian state to maintain its authority over a system of land ownership based upon law and to use this authority to develop or modernize the agricultural segment of the economy, even if this law was not always exercised fairly to Bulgaria’s Muslim minorities."