#016 – Balkan Migrants in Turkey: Naturalization, Identifications, and Associations

with Elif Becan


An example of Tabiiyet Beyannamesi (citizenship certificate) of a Muslim family from today Provadia, Bulgaria, arriving in Turkey in 1934

The repatriation of Muslim refugees from the lost territories in the Balkans to Anatolia became an urgent issue for Ottoman territorial and settlement policies since the war against the Russian Empire in 1877-1878. After the foundation of the Republic of Turkey and until the 1950s, this practice continued, although migrants were settled along new criteria of identification with the state: Islam, post-imperial legacy, and bonds to the Turkish nation. Beside the bureaucratic process of naturalization, however, the integration of Balkan Muslims into Turkish society followed different patterns and results. In this episode, we discuss the dynamics establishing a “mutual loyalty” between the migrants and the state, through factors such as neighborhood communitarianism, founding of associatons, and reappropriation of historical terms such as “Evlad-i Fatihan” (Children of the conquerors).

Elif Becan is a Ph.D. Candidate at the CETOBaC/EHESSin Paris. Her doctoral research focuses on the categorization of outsiders through the case of populations of Albanian origin in Turkey in the first half of the 20th century. Born in Karachi, she grew up in Istanbul before moving to Paris. Rumor has it that she is searching a lead to trace immigrants to Middle-Earth, in order to reveal their so far hidden contributions in the concoction of the legendary wines of Esgaroth.

To cite this episode: Becan, Elif; Guidi, Andreas (2017): Balkan migrants in Turkey: Naturalization, identifications, and associations, The Southeast Passage #016, 09.02.2017, http://thesoutheastpassage.com/podcast/becan-balkan-migrants-turkey-associations

Further Reading:

Aymes, Marc (2014): Gouverner par formulaire. In Anne Mailloux, Laure Verdon (Eds.): L’ enquête en questions. De la réalité à la “vérité” dans les modes de gouvernement, Moyen âge – Temps modernes. Paris: CNRS éditions, pp. 131–138.

Baklacıoğlu, Nurcan Özgür (2015): Between neo-Ottomanist kin policy in the Balkans and Transnational Kin Economics in the EU. In Journal on Ethnopolitics and Minority Issues in Europe 14 (3), pp. 47–72.

Brubaker, Rogers (2004): Ethnicity without groups. 1. paperback ed. Cambridge Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press.

Clayer, Nathalie (2001): Islam et identité nationale dans l’espace albanais (Albanie, Macédoine, Kosovo) 1989-1998. In Archives de sciences sociales des religions 46 (115), pp. 161–181.

De Rapper, Gilles (2000): Les Albanais à Istanbul. Istanbul: IFEA (Les dossiers de l’IFEA Série la Turquie aujourd’hui, 3).

Erdem, Y. Hakan (2014): Turks as Soldiers in Mahmud II’s Army. Turning the Evlad-ı Fatihan into Regulars in the Ottoman Balkans. In Sabine Rutar (Ed.): Beyond the Balkans. Towards an inclusive history of southeastern Europe. Wien u.a.: LiT (Studies on South East Europe, 10), pp. 227–246.

Hersant, Jeanne (2005): Les associations de migrants originaires de Thrace occidentale (Grèce) à Bursa et Zeytinburnu. Pratiques politiques et figures du notable. In European Journal of Turkish Studies (2). Available online at http://ejts.revues.org/368.

Kirisçi, Kemal (1996): Refugees of Turkish Origin. “Coerced Immigrants” to Turkey since 1945. In International Migration 34 (3), pp. 385–412. DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-2435.1996.tb00534.x.

Kurtoglu, Ayça (2005): Mekansal Bir Olgu Olarak Hemşehrilik ve Bir Hemşehrilik Mekanı Olarak Dernekler. In European Journal of Turkish Studies (2). Available online at http://ejts.revues.org/375.

Pezo, Edvin (2009): ‘Re-conquering’ Space. Yugoslav Migration Policies and the Emigration of Non-Slavic Muslims to Turkey (1918-1941). In Ulf Brunnbauer (Ed.): Transnational societies, transterritorial politics. Migrations in the (Post-)Yugoslav region 19th – 21th century. München: Oldenbourg (Südosteuropäische Arbeiten, 141), pp. 73–94.

Toumarkine, Alexandre (2005): Le développement des associations de hemşehri en Turquie (1933-2003) à l’échelle nationale et départementale. In European Journal of Turkish Studies (2). Available online at http://ejts.revues.org/409.

Trix, Frances (2017): Urban Muslim migrants in Istanbul. Identity and trauma among Balkan immigrants. London, New York: I.B. Tauris (Library of modern Turkey).

Yıldız, Ahmet (2001): Ne mutlu Türküm diyebilene. Türk ulusal kimliğinin etno-seküler sınırları : (1919 – 1938). 1. baskı. İstanbul: İletişim (İletişim yayınları Araştırma – inceleme dizisi, 107).


Some founders of the association “Vardarlılar Yardımlaşma Derneği” renamed “Rumeli Türkleri Derneği” in 1967

Pictures from Hasanbaba, Tokat, Turkey. The village is populated by many Albanian speakers. Photos by Elif Becan

Tabiiyet Beyannamesi from 1941 attached to the decision of Council of Ministers concerning naturalization of 648 foreigners from Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and Romania in March 1942. Ankara, Başbakanlık Cumhuriyet Arşivi – – 9.126.13 Ek – 1-1215


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