Page 630 - Kosovo Metohija Heritage
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 alex Dragnich and Slavko Todorovich
compliment or a punishment when the Ottomans took more male children from one area than from another. Serbs were trying to hide their boys, only to realize later that the ones who were taken away fared much better in life.
Because religion, not nationality,
was the fundamental factor in the Ot-
toman concept of governing, it was pos-
sible for a raja child to become a grand vi-
zier of the Ottoman sultan. Mehmed Sokolović,
a Serbian child from a village near Višegrad, was a Otto- man grand vizier. He built that famous bridge on the river
Drina, the subject of the book by Serbian Nobel Laureate, ivo andrić. in general, it can be said that com- pared to today’s totalitarian societ- ies, where party and creed adherence is a must, Ottoman rulers come out rather liberal. as long as one was a devout Muslim, that was sufficient
allegiance for the sultan. and allegiance he got. Mehmed Sokolović served three sultans in a row with the highest possible loyalty and fidelity.
as the islamization process was taking place, it took root better in some areas, among certain classes and in certain environments. For example, the process was much faster in albanian and Bosnian areas than in the region of Serbia’s former state. accepting islam in albanian regions was a less painful process, because the albanians did not have an autocephalous Church, and their Christianity, whether Byzantine or Latin, had not become as integral in albanian life and remained either Greek or italian. and in Bosnia the widely spread Bogomil sect did not hold Or- thodox Christianity in high esteem.
Wealth and material position were also important fac- tors that entered into the decision process at times of con- version. Town dwellers, landowners, and military oriented personalities had to think in terms of islam, if they wanted to preserve what they had and to take part in new accumu- lation. Those with professional skills—artisans, doctors, scholars, and administrators—could not expect to fare well if they stuck to their old faith. This, however, was not true of the common people and the peasants.
all of this played a role in defining the new stratifica- tion of the society under Ottoman rule, as well as the pow- er balance among national groups. Undoubtedly, the bal- ance was shifting, and as far as the albanians and Serbs
Above on top: Circular floral design, asia Minor, 16th century
Above left: The Lion, symbolizing Ali, is made up of calligraphy forming words meaning “In the name of the lion of God, the face of God, the victoriousAli.”Theimagecomesfromadervishwall-hangingmadein Turkey, 18th–19th century
were concerned, it was shifting drastically in favor of the albanians, to the detri- ment of good relations between them. With over 30 grand viziers of alba- nian descent during Ottoman rule, the top policy- making machine was indeed saturated with people of alba-
nian stock.
No one knew the effect of the nation-
ality background better than the Dubrov- nik colony of merchants in Constantinople. Never did they have it better than when Sokolović was the grand vizier. Never were they hated and envied more in Constantinople than when Djivo Djurdjević and Pavle Sorkočević, the two senators from the city republic, could come, just as many other Slavs of rank, and ask for an audience and be received by the grand vizier with sym- pathy and understanding. The Serbian historian, Radovan Samardžić, describes such an instance almost poetically in
his book on Sokolović:
“Sokolović took great pleasure in talking with Dubrov-
čani because he could talk with them in his mother tongue, without witless, muddle-headed, and dangerous interpret- ers obtaining firsthand detailed, and exact evaluation of conditions in europe ... More than that, he experienced a personal satisfaction, impregnated with indefinable mel- ancholy, on hearing in his own language all those expres- sions, thoughts, and slices of life, which to his own Turks, even if they still knew the language, were becoming for- eign ... and when occasionally he would, with jesting sar- casm, frolic upon their poltroonery, easily detectable sly- ness, and clumsily hidden egoism, he [still] never ... let them return to their quarters unhappy or discouraged.”
One could contend that in this particular case the prom- inent Serbian historian had fallen prey to unscientific sen- timentality, but there is no doubt that, as far as the process of islamization was concerned, albanians in general showed themselves much more pliable than Serbs. The weight of their albanian tradition must have been a lighter burden. Theirs is the famous saying: “Ku este shpata este feja” (Your faith is where the sword is). First class warriors, fascinated by guns, used to discipline and obeying when ruled by a strong hand, the albanians represented a much better me- dium to be cast into the Ottoman mold than the individu- alistic and unpredictable Serbs.
in Ottoman society, which had several centuries to go before being seriously challenged, this was a crucial dis- tinction that would decide the potential for advancement. after the Serbian Patriarchate was abolished (1556), it was a blessing for the Serbs to have had Mehmed Sokolović in a position of power, and he reopened the Patriarchate (1557) and placed his brother, Makarius, in charge. But the Serbs badly needed another Mehmed in 1766, when the Patri- archate was once again abolished. Unfortunately for them, one or two Serbian candles, at best, were not enough in

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