Several historians have studied the development of cities over the Balkans during the Ottoman period. The explorations shed light on how the urban planning in the Balkans looked like and whether those cities could be labeled either Ottoman or a Balkan. However, the Balkan urbanism in the Ottoman era does need a much more profound approach. With the decline of the Cold War period, there was a revival of ethnic, national and linguistic identities in many parts of the world. The result was a new channel of expression within a group and community that led to a conflict of interests. With boundaries between groups getting better defined and demarcated, it was only natural to see tensions surface between different ethnic and religious communities. The demographic, cultural, and institutional origins of the Ottoman Empire is still a puzzle to the historians. The structure and internal changes of that society surfaced due to the pastoral nomads and Turkmens in the period. There is considerable historical evidence supporting exodus of Turkish tribes and spread of Mongol over Asia Minor that led to the Turcoman tribes looking for good pasture lands into neighboring Christian lands. Following the era of struggle brought still more immigration and massive population movement in 1277 (The Question of the Emergence of the Ottoman State 2015). Some examples can be seen in the war between Bosnian Muslims and Serbians or the far-reaching conflicts between Azerbaijan and Armenia as stated by Kucukcan (49).The Ottoman city carries a resemblance to any Islamic city. The visual contrast between the Ottoman cities and the Western cities is great against the element of the skyline. The Ottoman city with its domes and minarets created pleasant from a distance but fiale4d to impress at close because of the low residential architecture and poor sanitation. The most exquisite structures of these sites were their religious structure and public baths (Gharipour and Ozlu 103). What is particular about the people of the Balkans forging their independence is their inability to overcome the enmity between civilization and obscurantism as well as the struggle between Islam and Christianity. The overlapping of ethnicity and religion demonized the Turks who are seen as oppressors of Balkans and their desire to conquer Christian lands. The media further strengthened this perception. The Ottoman presence lasted for over five hundred years in the Balkans. The cultural and the religious impact of the Ottomans can be felt to this day, even though the Ottoman political rule concluded with the commencement of the twentieth century. The region underwent significant socio-cultural and political changes with the encounter with Ottoman culture. One can see the significance of the cultural heritage of the Ottomans even today, especially regarding the religious identities. The sporadic wars between the Russians and Ottomans plus the Balkan Wars have reshaped the region and have had a lasting effect upon all the communities. The Islamic phenomenon in the Balkans was denied by the Islamic entities and the Ottoman tradition. The Ottoman Empire left behind a strong cultural and religious legacy for the Balkans. The Turkish – Muslim communities in Bulgaria and Greece belong to the Ottoman legacy and manage to preserve their unique identities despite the projects of nation-building. The communities have faced political pressures and struggled for survival as Ottoman legacy. The Turkish presence in Europe can be traced back to the late 1950’s when several thousands of Turks arrived in Europe. A large number of Muslim nomads were transferred to Europe as the state policy under the encouraged immigration. The new Mulish immigrants did not mix with the Christians and developed their own settlement patterns (Azerbaizan 50).
Aleppo, which is the current metropolis of Syria, was superior and immersive regarding magnitude, population, and opulence. It made a lasting impression during the Ottoman period. Most of the city's buildings were made of locally quarried stone and during the Ottoman centuries, it was surrounded by gardens watered the Quwayq River that has largely vanished now. The visitors commented on its charm, order, and cleanliness. The city was not known for in political nor cultural greatness but the trade (Daniel, Goffman and Masters 17). It is the much wider geography of the region that established Aleppo as a commercial center. However, despite its geographical advantages, the city was never a pre-eminent political center of greater Syria.
Sofia, one of the urban agglomeration in the Balkans was raided to the status of capital around the middle fifteenth century. The city boasts of a large number of public and religious buildings. The Westerners commented on the public baths as they described the city and their role in the urban development. Sofia’s public baths occupied the focal point of urban landmark (Gharipour and Ozlu 101). The Western travel literature was expanding because of the scientific mission and journeys undertaken during the twentieth century, with the advent of modern tourism. The public bath shaped the urban fabric of the Ottoman cities. The expansion of Ottoman turns influenced the economic power of the region as well as changed the demographic and ethnic structure of the Balkans. With the Ottoman conquest of the Balkans, several nomads, soldiers, artisan, merchants and farmers settled in these areas. The systematic state policy of the Ottomans encouraged development and populating of new towns with Turkish-Muslim inhabitants so as to strengthen the presence of the Turkish in the Balkans. The ethnic and cultural diversity was maintained because of the policy of recognizing and tolerating other nationalities and cultures. The Ottoman bureaucracy was encouraging a multi-ethnic society. The North-Eastern Bulgaria in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries as the constitution of Public Islam as Heterodox based on the relations between Turcoman and the Turks. This was a synthesis of earlier beliefs in the area and the Islamic characters and resulted in the development of ethnoreligious heterodox communities in the Balkans such as Bedreddinis, Bektasihs, and Kizilbashis (Zişan Furat and Er 2). Balkan Muslims faced challenges at the beginning of the twenty-first century as the body of Muslims integrated into the European Union. Religious and intellectual leadership found it challenging to maintain the vitality of the indigenous Islamic traditions. Islamic identity was associated with being a Turk and Balkan Muslim identity was seen to have its roots in the Ottoman times. Muslim identity in the Balkans has been conserved with architectural heritage and there are several examples of Ottoman architectural heritage in the mosques and archives. The architecture has played a contemporary role in maintaining Muslim identity. Since 1991, a fear of Islamic arc that stretches from Istanbul to Bosnia-Herzegovina passing through Macedonia, Bulgaria, Albania, and Kosovo has emerged. Turkey is often projected as the protector of Muslim minorities and expanding its political influence (Gangloff 3). The former provinces of the Ottoman Empire have seen stormy debates and wars as well as several peacekeeping missions that saw Turkish troops passing through the Balkans. The Ottoman legacy is slowly changing, and the ties between Turkey and the Balkan countries have seen new changes. The above historical and geographical examples from the region show that the land has experienced different cultures and religions for centuries. It is true that there has never been a undeviating approach to the presence of Islam in the Balkans and there will always be more to explore on transformation and continuity in the Balkans regarding Islam. The conservation of architectural heritage has survived the politics and cultural transformation in this region.
Daniel, Eldem, Goffman Daniel and Masters, Bruce " The Ottoman City between East and West Aleppo, Izmir, and Istanbul" Cambridge University Press 1.1 (1999): 1-228. Print
Gangloff, Sylvie. "The Impact of The Ottoman Legacy On Turkish Policy In The Balkans (1991- 1999)." Iowa 1.1 (2005): 1-19. Print.
Gharipour,Mohammad and Ozlu, Nilay. "The City in the Muslim World: Depictions by Western Travel Writers." Routledge 1.1 (2015): 1-332 . Print.
Kucukcan,Talip. "Re-claiming Identity: Ethnicity, Religion and Politics among Turkish-Muslims in Bulgaria and Greece" Journal of Muslim Ministry Affairs 19.1 (1999): 491-65. Print.
"The Question of the Emergence of the Ottoman State." Halil Inalcik International Journal of Turkish Studies. 2015. Web. 5 Dec. 2016.
Zişan Furat, Ayşe and Er, Hamit ."Balkans and Islam: Encounter, Transformation, Discontinuity, Continuity." Cambridge Scholars Publishing1.1 (2012): 1-18. Print.