Slavka Dragonava, "Gözler, Kemal. Les villages pomaks de Lofça aux XVe et XVIe siècles d'après les tahrir defters ottomans" (Notice bibliographique), Études balkaniques / Balkan Studies, XXXVIII, 2 (2002) p.162-164.


Études balkaniques - Balkan Studies is published by Institut po Balkanistika (Institute of Balkan Studies) (Sofia-Bulgaria).


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Translated Title: The Pomak Villages of the Region of Lovech, 15th-16th cc.
Publication: Balkan Studies (2/2002)
Author Name: Draganova, Slavka;
Language: English
Subject: Review
Issue: 2/2002
Page Range: 162-164
File size: 133 KB
Price: 2.5 Euro (€)
Summary: Review of the book of the Turkish scholar Kemal Gözler "Les villages pomaks de Lofça aux 15 et 16 ss. d'après les tahrir defters ottomans"
Keywords: Ottoman tahrir defters; Pomak villages of the region of the Bulgarian town Lovech



Gözler, Kemal. LES VILLAGES POMAKS DE LOFÇA. AUX XVe ET XVIe SIÈCLES D’APRÈS LES TAHRIR DEFTERS OTTOMANS. Ankara: Société turque d’histoire, 2001. 118 p.




Kemal Gözler is an associated professor at the Faculty of Economics and Administrative Sciences of Uludağ University, Bursa. His longterm research on the pomaks of Lofça successfully resulted in a monograph published in French by the Turkish Historical Society (Türk Tarih Kurumu)

Kemal Gözler’s monograph is written in a concise, readable, and interesting manner. It is based on statistical data from tahrir defters of 1479, 1516, 1545, and 1579, preserved in Başbakanlık Osmanlı Arşivi, Istanbul, and Tapu ve Kadastro Genel Müdürlüğü, Ankara, except for the register dating from 1479 which is preserved in the Oriental Department of SS Cyril and Methodius National Library, Sofia, translated into Bulgarian by Rusi Stoykov. Salname-i Vilayet-i Tuna of 1873 preserved in the Library of the Turkish Historical Society is also used for a comparison between the situation in the early Ottoman period, on the one hand, and a much later period, on the other.

The author has made use of almost the whole literature on the problem, which is presented in a comprehensive bibliography. The indices of place-names and subjects make this short monograph available as a detailed encyclopedic reference book. The map enclosed at the monograph’s end is a wonderful illustration of the studied pomak villages.

In the preface the emphasis is laid on the history of the problem and the historiography related to it. By stating that the pomaks are a Muslim community speaking Bulgarian language, Gözler tactfully points out that not only the Bulgarians, but also the Turks and the Greeks have aspirations concerning that group. According to the Greeks the pomak language contains a lot of old Greek words. Some Turkish researchers, on the other hand, put the emphasis on the religious Islamic tradition ignoring all the issues related to the pomak language and cultural traditions. And finally, the Bulgarians consider them victims of a cruel Islamisation.   

The author points out that nowadays the pomaks are settled in Bulgaria (around 300,000 in number), Macedonia (around 400,000), Greece (around 30,000), and Turkey, where they are considered not pomaks, but Turks whose first or second language is Bulgarian. Gözler estimates presumably their total number as being 500,000, but prior to the last Ottoman-Russian war of 1877-1878 and consequent emigration to the above-mentioned states the pomaks lived in only two areas: the Rhodopes mountain (around 500,000 in number), and the region of Lofça/Lovech (around 100,000). Several times in the monograph the author reminds that actually the villages of the Lofça pomaks belonged to different administrative units such as the kazas of Lofça, Plevne/Pleven, Rahova/Oryahovo, and İvraca/Vratsa[1].

Since the previous basic publications are mainly devoted to the Rhadope pomaks, Gözler’s study is focused only on the pomaks of Lofça. The main issue the author intended to question is whether the Lofça pomaks were Bulgarians who have been converted to Islam, or colonists from Anatolia.

The following chapter takes into consideration the various theses concerning the origin of the Lofça pomaks. As for the Turkish historiography, however, the author points out that this topic was not studied. The Bulgarian scholars unanimously regard the pomaks as being of Bulgarian origin, but converted to Islam. The Bulgarian Marxist historian Petar Petrov speaks about two periods of mass Islamisation.

During the reign of Selim I (1515-1516) when the Bulgarians who settled in Northern Bulgaria were killed, or forced to move to the mountainous regions, or converted to Islam.

The mid-17th century, when in connection with the decay of the Ottoman Empire, the Ottomans undertook mass Islamisation of the Bulgarian population in the Rhodope region. Yet to the North the colonized tatars of Crimea contributed to the mass conversion to Islam of the Bulgarians inhabiting the villages of Balgarski Izvor, Leshnitsa, Galata, Gradeshnitsa, Asen, Dragolin Dol, Peshterne, Oreshene, and Dobrevtsi.

In order to deny that thesis, in the following chapter Gözler dwells on the nature and significance of the above-mentioned tahrir defters as a reliable source. Such registers included the male inhabitants and were of two types: detailed (mufassal tahrir defterleri), and synoptic (icmal tahrir defterleri). The registers of the first type namely point the names of the male taxpayers thus revealing the change of the Christian names with Muslim ones. The registers of the second type list just the total number of the Christian and Muslim households (hane). During the period in question the tax-unit of hane was of three variants in accordance with the marital status: “married”, “single” (mücerred) and “widow” (bive). They, however, are not of big importance for the study itself, but the author felt himself obliged to point out their numbers as appearing in the registers. The hane statistics in the salname of 1873 did not follow that differentiation.

Gözler stresses on the fact that during the period in question not the vernacular language, but the religion was the basic criterion in registering the population. In this respect, the author considers the expression “Son of Abdullah” (veled-i Abdullah) an indication about the conversion of the Lofça pomaks. Most of the researchers are convinced that expression was attributed to the Muslim name of persons who were newly converted to Islam. The exact meaning of ‘AbdullahAbd al-Allah in Arabic) is ‘servant of ‘Allah’ and it could be met as a personal name, too. Therefore the Turkish historian Feridun Emecen is not flatly convinced that ‘Son of ‘Abdullah’ always meant a person converted to Islam. Besides this, Gözler points out that often the tahrir defters include Muslim personal names followed by Christian surnames. Therefore the author considers the use of the surname ‘Abdullah just a hypothetical indication about the conversion to Islam. On the other hand, he specifies that he will use the expression ‘Son of ‘Abdullah’ instead ‘converted to Islam’.

In the next chapter Gözler presents his arguments about the reasons to choose a specific number of pomak villages to be taken into consideration. The author confined his study to forty villages located in the today’s municipalities of Kneja, Byala Slatina, Roman, Yablanitsa, Teteven, Ugarchin, Lukovit, Cherven Byrag, and Belevo. He argues the relevant studies of Felix Kanitz, Constantine Jirecek, Lyubomir Miletic, Vasil Savov, Vasil Mikov, Atanas Isirkov, Geno Ivanov, Bistra Cvetkova, Petar Petrov, and Bernard Lory, in which the number of the pomak villages in the region is estimated as being sixty four, and agrees that those villages were forty in number. His main argument is connected with his view that a part of these villages remains outside the region inhabited by pomaks being probably Turkish settlements. Yet in the salname of 1873 some of the villages presumably regarded as pomak were without Muslim inhabitants or the villages themselves are not extant. Probably this view is correct, but I would like to point out that some data of the salname are not correspondent to the information, concerning the kazas, drawn by the author from Cedvel-i Mizan Vergi ve Nüfus. Therefore the researchers should better use the Tanzimat registers, and not the salnames[2].

Stating here that the primary Ottoman registers are more reliable than the salnames, I should point out my impression that Gözler’s study is exclusively precise and accurate. The documentary material is summarized in very useful tables. Each of the forty villages is presented with a kind of ‘visit card’ including data from tahrir defters and the salname of 1873.

Kemal Gözler draws the conclusion that a considerable number of the male Muslim inhabitants of the pomak villages in the region of Lofça were ‘son of Abdullah’: 42 percent in 1516, 72 per cent in 1545, and 21 per cent in 1579. Conversion to Islam, however, was a gradual process. In a century 4,90 per cent of the Christian population was converted to Islam. According to the author, that fact denies the idea of the fast mass Islamisation of the Christians in the region of Lofça.


[1] In a recently defended PhD thesis Iva Kjurkchieva suggest to refer to these pomaks as ‘Pomaks of Teteven’ since today their villages belong to the municipality of Teteven. Her doctoral dissertation studies the pomaks’ etnology from the 1920s to the 1990s. See Кюркчиева, И. Светьт на Българските мюсюлмани от Тетевенско – преход към модерност. София, 2002 (unpublished).

[2] Draganova, S. Tuna Vilayeti’nin Köy Nüfusu. Ankara: TTK, 2002 (Chapter II).


Gözler, Kemal. LES VILLAGES POMAKS DE LOFÇA. AUX XVe ET XVIe SIÈCLES D’APRÈS LES TAHRIR DEFTERS OTTOMANS. Ankara: Société turque d’histoire, 2001. 118 p.



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Editör: Kemal Gözler

İlk konuluş Tarihi: 2006

10 Mayıs 2010