over the centuries europe has earned itself a reputation as the land of christians even though the 11th and 16th centuries marked massive schisms within the fate the european continent’s ties to christianity couldn’t be severed and as the muslim ottoman empire pushed its way onto the christian lands the europeans were not afraid to fight back against this new religion.
still not every Christian remained as such and some europeans converted bosnia is a perfect example of this curious circumstance this video is sponsored by kamikoto a japanese steel knife brand steel making has been at the beating heart of honshu japan’s largest island for more than eight centuries from traditional techniques with its distinctive layered patterns to iron processing sword.
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around the world kamikoto is currently having their black friday offer and on top of this they are offering our viewers an extra fifty dollars off with the discount code in elegia so use my link in the description or go to kamikoto.com for the extra fifty dollars on top of their black friday sale bosnia and herzegovina is a country in the balkans tucked neatly between croatia serbia and montenegro and essentially surrounded by roman catholics and eastern orthodox christians within bosnian borders.
roughly half of the population is muslim orthodox christianity makes up around 31 percent of the population followed by roman catholics at 15 percent but with so much christian influence from all around why does bosnia still have so many muslims the islamization of bosnia can actually be traced back to before the first entry of the ottoman empire although islam was yet to be introduced to the area bosnia was not quite as Christian.
as any of its neighbors had been and this made it much more open to welcoming a new faith back when the christians began to send missions throughout the balkans in the 9th century bosnia appears to have been a bit neglected during the process at first the sea of rome and the sea of constantinople tried to divide the balkans between each side’s sphere of influence but once the great schism occurred.
in 1054 the presence of catholicism and orthodoxy became more clear-cut and split with the catholics dominating croatia and the orthodox doing the same in serbia the intention was to nominally leave bosnia to the roman catholics but the faith never really had strong enough roots to make the bosnians loyal to the western church and since the eastern church hadn’t tried much either the region ended up being a weird echo of the neighboring faith.
the orthodox church did eventually get a bit of a foothold but the catholics were no longer their only competition by now an unofficial bosnian church had been established that would eventually become fully independent of both east and west and for now began to encroach upon the catholic influence in the center north and west of bosnia this quickly became a problem for rome.
in 1199 the neighboring ruler vukon wrote a letter to pope innocent iii expressing his concerns for what he viewed as a heretical church and people including the bosnian leader kulin himself accusations began to mount against the ruler over the next couple of years as multiple authoritarian figures including the king of hungary himself.
joined the wave of critics kulin soon tried to quell the brewing tensions by reaffirming his loyalty to the catholic faith and practice but not much was done back in the bosnian church to prove that after kulin’s death in 1216 romans sent a new mission into bosnia to try and reconvert the locals but their preaching fell on deaf ears angered by this and backed by the Hungarians.
who were eager to expand their own authority into bosnia the new pope pope pinourius iii called for a hungarian crusade into bosnia as a punishment for what the west still deemed as heresy between 1225 and 1250 multiple crusades would be attempted and shut down by the bosnians while pope gregory ix ousted the catholic bishop of bosnia.
in 1234 for being a supposed heretic in 1252 now under pope innocent iv rome tried to place the bishop of bosnia under the hand of the hungarians which swiftly prompted angered refusal from the locals many bosnians now denounced catholicism and solidified the existence of the independent bosnian church this predictably created even more conflict between rome and bosnia.
which would continue on and off for some time during this era the bosnians became targets of both the western and eastern churches and many were persecuted by the surrounding faiths which viewed them as heretical this created a situation unlike what could be found in the rest of the balkans in bosnia neither rome nor constantinople could be trusted and that meant that for many neither could the faiths this left the bosnian church.
as the only reliable option but the church was still young and with a stained reputation the ottoman turks began their conquest of bosnia in the 1380s and took the first step in introducing islam to the region still just as they had done when the hungarians launched their crusade the bosnians fought valiantly against their invaders their disloyalty to the authority.
in rome and constantinople may have affected the religious life of bosnia but it surely didn’t mean that the locals were open to being conquered subsequently the ottoman campaign lasted for decades as the bosnians simply refused to give in by 1451 the turks were able to set up a military administrative unit but it wouldn’t be until 1460.
that the kingdom of bosnia would really fall into ottoman hands at first this successful conquest was not an automatic trigger for bosnians converting to islam one of the reasons why the ottoman empire had been able to expand as much as it did was because of its ethnic and religious tolerance which would therefore be put into place in capture bosnia as well there was not a mass conversion executed by force or anything of the like but nonetheless.
there would quickly be incentives established for those bosnians who wish to do so as was typical in ottoman vassal states christians were allowed to remain christian but they faced restrictions and risks that muslims did not there were some extreme examples such as with the janissaries but in general these instances could be found in policies relating to taxation and privileges that typically demoted christians to second class citizens trading rights the ability to participate.
in politics and other freedoms were stripped from non-muslims under ottoman rule which worked well to incentivize their subjects to convert this tactic was successful to an even higher degree in bosnia as well likely due to the pre existing circumstances surrounding bosnian christians as the ottomans continued to consolidate their power in the former kingdom more and more bosnians began to stray away from not only the catholic and orthodox churches.
but even the bosnian church the lack of any strong loyalty to one specific faith made it a lot easier for the bosnians to be convinced while some made the change more for the environmental benefits others actually found more appeal in this new faith than they had seen in that of the deceitful rome or overbearing constantinople and even their own local church.
as a result there was a gradual shift towards islam throughout bosnia over the next few centuries as the ottomans remained in control it’s estimated that roughly two-thirds of bosnia were muslim by the start of the 17th century and the influence of islam would remain until the bosnian uprising in 1831 ousted their ottoman conquerors while the exact percentage of muslims in bosnia may have shifted after the turks departed a peculiar thing happened no one tried to re-christianize the bosnians even when the austro-hungarians annexed bosnia.
in the early 20th century everyone had more or less given up on the whole mission and conversion ordeal and when the december constitution solidified bosnian freedom of religion that was essentially the end of that bosnia’s muslim population was there to stay to recap the reason why bosnia is seen as a muslim nation and does in fact have a large muslim population is mostly due to the ottoman era but also connected to the relationship that the nation shared with the christian east and west being labeled.
as heretics by both sides of your faith would be greatly dissuading and it’s not easy to start your own church the people of bosnia learned these lessons first hand throughout history this left the nation much more open to the concept of considering or even converting to a new religion and when you add to that the option of gaining back your rights and freedoms as a class citizen it doesn’t seem surprising at all that islam became the leading influence in ottoman bosnia.
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