Ottoman Policies on Circassian Refugees in the Danube Vilayet in the 1860s and 1870s by Ventsislav Muchinov

Journal of Caucasian Studies (JOCAS)
September 2016, Vol. 2

This article examines problems related to the large-scale immigration of Circassians into the Danube Vilayet of the Ottoman Empire in the 1860s and 1870s. It looks at the overall process of immigration of Circassian refugees and the actions taken by the Ottoman authorities in order to settle them and help them adapt to the social and economic life of the region. It further analyses the
results of the Ottoman policies in relation to the “Circassian issue” that strongly influenced the overall socio-political developments of this sizable Bulgarian region.

Keywords: Circassians, Ottoman Empire, Danube Vilayet, Bulgarian lands, refugee crisis

The mass migration of Circassian refugees into the Ottoman Empire began after the Crimean War of 1853–1856 and accelerated dramatically in the 1860s following the final conquest of the Caucasus by the Russian Army. These waves of migration included, according to different estimates, from a few hundred thousand people to over a million refugees (muhajirs) that were settled in the Ottoman territories in the Balkans, Anatolia and the Arab provinces.1 Nevertheless, despite the importance of this phenomenon, it has never been highlighted in Bulgarian historiography, and for many years it has only been mentioned in various regional studies (Damyanov, 1967; Penkov, 1967; Grancharov, 1982; Zayakov, 1986; etc.) and in some nationwide studies in Bulgarian history (Istoriya na Balgaria 1987, 78–80). The short-lived Circassian immigration into the Bulgarian lands has only recently begun attracting the attention of Bulgarian researchers (Balkanski, 2011; Muchinov, 2012; Muchinov, 2013; Dobreva, 2013). The problems related to the Circassian immigration into the Danube Vilayet in 1860s and 1870s are the focus of this article because it is exactly in this large administrative unit (which included the Bulgarian lands between the Danube River and the Stara Planina Mountain, together with Sofia and Niš Sanjaks) that of the Circassian refugees, who had arrived in the European territories of the Ottoman Empire, a large part settled.

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