Blood Ties: Religion, Violence and the Politics of Nationhood in Ottoman Macedonia, 1878–1908

Publication Year



The region that is today Macedonia was long the heart of the Ottoman Empire in Europe. It was home to a complex mix of peoples and faiths who had for hundreds of years lived together in relative peace. To be sure, these people were no strangers to coercive violence and various forms of depredations visited upon them by bandits and state agents. In the final decades of the nineteenth century and throughout the twentieth century, however, the region was periodically racked by bitter conflict that was qualitatively different from previous outbreaks of violence. In Blood Ties, Ipek K. Yosmaoglu explains the origins of this shift from sporadic to systemic and pervasive violence through a social history of the "Macedonian Question."

Yosmaoglu's account begins in the aftermath of the Congress of Berlin (1878), when a potent combination of zero-sum imperialism, nascent nationalism, and modernizing states set in motion the events that directly contributed to the outbreak of World War I and had consequences that reverberate to this day. Focusing on the experience of the inhabitants of Ottoman Macedonia during this period, she shows how communal solidarities broke down, time and space were rationalized, and the immutable form of the nation and national identity replaced polyglot, fluid associations that had formerly defined people’s sense of collective belonging. The region was remapped; populations were counted and relocated. An escalation in symbolic and physical violence followed, and it was through this process that nationalism became an ideology of mass mobilization among the common folk. Yosmaoglu argues that national differentiation was a consequence, and not the cause, of violent conflict in Ottoman Macedonia.

Table of Contents

Note on Transliteration
1. The Ottoman Empire, the Balkans, and the Great Powers on the Road to Mürzsteg
2. Education and the Creation of National Space
3. Territoriality and Its Discontents
4. Fear of Small Margins
5. A Leap of Faith: Disputes over Sacred Space
6. Logic and Legitimacy in Violence

Reviews and Endorsements

Blood Ties is a most welcome addition to the history of the Balkans and will quickly become a classic. This is a very interesting book that goes beyond the Balkans: Ipek K. Yosmaoglu traces the origins of collective violence through a multiplicity of historical sources and demonstrates that violence is not a consequence but a formative element of emerging nationalisms.”—Fatma Muge Gocek, University of Michigan, author of Rise of the Bourgeoisie, Demise of Empire: Ottoman Westernization and Social Change

“In Blood Ties, İpek K. Yosmaoğlu draws on a wealth of archival material to tell the complex story of the scramble for Ottoman Macedonia from the Crimean War to the 1908 Young Turk Revolution. Deftly written, her account is a must-read for anyone interested in the construction of modern identities, great power diplomacy, and the interconnecting logics of nationalism, democracy, and ethnic violence.”—Mustafa Aksakal, Georgetown University, author of The Ottoman Road to War in 1914

“Yosmaoğlu's riveting and multifaceted study of Ottoman Macedonia adds to the extensive literature on the Macedonian Question at two levels: first, it constitutes the first systematic study of Ottoman sources related to the area (triangulated with French, British, and, sporadically, Greek accounts), and second, it provides an unambiguously bottom-up depiction of events at the community level. Yosmaoğlu partakes in a new scholarly trend—led by Isa Blumi, Christine Phylliou, and Ryan Gingeras, among others—to integrate imperial (Ottoman) and national (Balkan) viewpoints in one coherent narrative....[H]er ability to analyze conflicting accounts, empathize with the plight of Ottoman subjects, and reject stereotypes about the Balkans is admirable.” Theodora Dragostinova, Slavic Review

“"Blood Ties is a meticulous case study belonging, in a broad sense, to a body of work showing how nationalism was ill-suited to the Balkans. In that respect, it certainly has a wider appeal that goes beyond the field of (late) Ottoman history studies. It is an inspiring read on the broader subject of nationalism, ethnicity and violence.” —Aleksandar Pavlovic, University of Belgrade, European History Quarterly (46/4)

Cornell University Press