Macedonian Muslims

Macedonian Muslims

Ethnic group
group=Macedonian Muslims Македонци-муслимани

caption=Mosque in Western Macedonia
poptime=40,000 [Gallagher, Tom. "The Balkans In The New Millennium: In the Shadow of War and Peace, p. 85. (Routledge, 2005)]
(some sources claim 80,000-200,000)

popplace=Republic of Macedonia:

80–120,000 [M. Apostolov, "The Pomaks: A Religious Minority in The Balkans", (1996) According to some opinions the Slav Muslims in Eastern Albania are Bulgarians - Асенова, Петя. Българо-албанската интерференция в Голо бърдо (Албания), в: Българите извън България. Сборник с материали от международен симпозиум - Бургас юни 1997, Велико Търново 1997, с. 124-127, Бояджиев, Тодор. Българите в Голо бърдо Албания), в: Българите извън България. Сборник с материали от международен симпозиум - Бургас юни 1997, Велико Търново 1997, с. 57-60, Mangalakova, Tanja. Ethnic Bulgarians in Mala Prespa and Golo Brdo, Problems of Multiethnicity in the Western Balkans, Sofia 2004, p. 298-319]
langs=Македонский язык]

langs=Macedonian, Albanian, Turkish
related=other ethnic Macedonians, Gorani, Pomaks, Bosniaks, all other South Slavs

The Macedonian Muslims (Macedonian: Македонци-муслимани, "Makedonci-muslimani"), also known as Muslim Macedonians [Kowan, J. (2000) Macedonia: The Politics of Identity and Difference, p.111 ] or Torbeš (the latter name is slightly pejorative), are a minority religious group within the community of ethnic Macedonians who are Muslims (primarily Sunni, although Sufism is widespread among the population), although not all espouse a Macedonian national identity. They have been culturally distinct from the majority Orthodox Christian Slavic Macedonian community for centuries, and are linguistically and racially distinct from the larger Muslim ethnic groups in Macedonia: the Albanians and Turks.


The Macedonian Muslims are largely the descendants of Orthodox Christian Slavs from the region of Macedonia who converted to Islam during the centuries when the Ottoman Empire ruled the Balkans. The main factor prompting their conversion was manifold. Non-Muslims were generally regarded by the state and Ottoman society as being of a subordinate status. They were treated differently under the legal system, were subjected to the jizya, a tax that ensured non-Muslims protection by the state and relieved them from military duties. Nevertheless, the payment of the jizya cannot be taken as the only reason for conversion. Muslims also had to pay an obligatory tax as well, called zakat every year. Converts also benefited from the prestige accorded to the religion of the ruling class of the empire - in practice, Christianity was the religion of a conquered class. [Jean W. Sedlar, "East Central Europe in the Middle Ages, 1000-1500", p. 190. University of Washington Press, 1994. ISBN 0295972904] In addition, the various Sufi orders (like the Khalwati, Rifa'is and Bektashis) all played a role in the conversion of the Macedonian Slav population.

Areas of settlement

The largest concentration of Macedonian Muslims can be found in Western Macedonia and Eastern Albania. The Centar Župa Municipality is populated by a large number of Macedonian Muslims although for personal reasons most of the population chooses to identify as Turks. Most of the villages in the Centar Župa and Debar regions are populated by Macedonian Muslims. The Struga municipality also holds a large number of Macedonian Muslims who are primarily concentrated in the large village of [ Labuništa] . Further North in the Debar region many of the surrounding villages are inhabited by Macedonian Muslims. The Dolna Reka region is also primarily populated by Macedonian Muslims. They form the remainder of the population which emigrated to Turkey in the 1950's and 1960's. Places such as Rostuša and Tetovo also have large Macedonian Mulsim populations. Most of the Turkish population along the Western Macedonian border are in fact Macedonian Muslims. Another large concentration of Macedonian Muslims is in the so called [ Torbešija] which is just south of Skopje. The last major concentration of Macedonian Muslims in Macedonia is in the centre of the Republic of Macedonia, surrounding the Plasnica municipality and the Dolneni municipality.

The Macedonian Muslim population of Albania and Kosovo can be primarily found along the Macedonian border. A large proportion of the Gorani population identify as Macedonians. There have been reports that Macedonian language textbooks have been distributed in Kosovo to Gorani school students.


The exact numbers of Macedonian Muslims are not easy to establish. The writer Ivo Banac estimates that in the old Kingdom of Yugoslavia, before World War II, the Macedonian Muslim population stood at around 27,000. [Ivo Banac, "The National Question in Yugoslavia: Origins, History, Politics", p. 50 (Cornell University Press, 1989)] Subsequent censuses have produced dramatically varying figures: 1,591 in 1953, 3,002 in 1961, 1,248 in 1971 and 39,355 in 1981. Commentators have suggested that the latter figure includes many who previously identified themselves as Turks. Meanwhile the Association of Macedonian Muslims has claimed that since World War II more than 70,000 Macedonian Muslims have been assimilated by other Muslim groups, most notably the Albanians [Hugh Poulton, "Who Are the Macedonians?", p. 124. (C. Hurst & Co, 1995)] (see Albanization).

It can be estimated from the 43,534 Turks in Western Macedonia, the Studeničani municipality, [ Torbesija] area and Dolneni municipality that over 75% are Macedonian Muslims. Along with 5 to 10% of both the Macedonian and Albanian populations in Western Macedonia which equates to between 23,736 and 47,472. It can be estimated that the Macedonian Muslim population in the Republic of Macedonia between 55,000 and 80,000.

Language and ethnic affiliation

Like their Christian ethnic kin, Macedonian Muslims speak the Macedonian language as their first language. Despite their common language and racial heritage, it is almost unheard of for Macedonian Muslims intermarry with Macedonian Orthodox. Macedonian ethnologists do not consider the Muslim Slavs a separate ethnic group from the Christian Macedonian Slavs, but instead a religious minority within the Macedonian Slav ethnic community. Intermarriage with the country's other Muslim groups (Albanians and Turks) much more accepted, given the bonds of a common religion and history.

Some Turkish ethnologists have claimed that the Macedonian Muslims are in fact Slavicized Turks, although this interpretation is not widely supported. [Victor A. Friedman, "Language in Macedonia as an Identity Construction Site", in "When Languages Collide: Perspectives on Language Conflict, Language Competition, and Language Coexistence", p. 267, ed. Brian D. Joseph (Ohio State University Press, 2003)] The Macedonian writer Jakim Sinadinovski has similarly claimed that the Macedonian Muslims are not, in fact, Slavic Macedonians; this prompted a strong reaction when his thesis was first published in 1988. [Jakim Sinadinovski, "Macedonian Muslims, Then and Now]

When the Socialist Republic of Macedonia was established in 1944, the Yugoslav government encouraged the Macedonian Muslims to adopt an ethnic Macedonian identity.Fact|date=February 2007 This has since led to some tensions with the Macedonian Christian community over the widespread association between Macedonian national identity and adherence to the Macedonian Orthodox Church.Duncan M. Perry, "The Republic of Macedonia: finding its way", in "Politics, Power and the Struggle for Democracy in South-East Europe", ed. Karen Dawisha, Bruce Parrott, p. 256. (Cambridge University Press, 1997)]

Political activities

The principal outlet for Macedonian Muslim political activities has been the Association of Macedonian Muslims. It was established in 1970 with the support of the authorities, probably as a means of keeping Macedonian Muslim aspirations in control. [Hugh Poulton, "Changing Notions of National Identity among Muslims", in "Muslim Identity and the Balkan States", ed. Hugh Poulton, Suha Taji-Farouki (C. Hurst & Co, 1997)]

The fear of assimilation into the Albanian Muslim community has been a significant factor in Macedonian Muslim politics, amplified by the tendency of some Macedonian Muslims to vote for Albanian candidates. In 1990, the chairman of the Macedonian Muslims organization, Riza Memedovski, sent an open letter to the Chairman of the Party for Democratic Prosperity of Macedonia, accusing the party of using religion to promote the Albanisation of the Macedonian Muslims. [] . A controversy broke out in 1995 when the Albanian-dominated "Meshihat" or council of the Islamic community in Macedonia declared that Albanian was the official language of Muslims in Macedonia. The decision prompted protests from the leaders of the Macedonian Muslim community.


Many Macedonian Muslims are involved in agriculture, and also work abroad. Macedonian Muslims are well-known as fresco-painters, wood carvers and mosaic-makers. In the past few decades large numbers of Macedonian Muslims have emigrated to Western Europe and North America.


* [ Literature about the Islam and the Muslims on the Balkans and in Southeast Europe] bg icon
* [ Muslims of Macedonia]

ee also

* Macedonians (ethnic group)
* Greek Muslims
* Muslim Bulgarians
* Pomaks
* Gorani
* Islam in the Republic of Macedonia
* Islamic Community of Macedonia


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