Introduction / History Rumelian Turks are a remnant of the Ottoman Turks who swept through Serbia and Eastern Europe during the fourteenth century. For five hundred years the Ottoman Empire controlled the European Balkan Mountain region. At its peak, the empire encompassed the Balkan Mountains, Arabia, and North Africa.
With the breakup of the Ottoman Empire after World War I, Serbia and Montenegro became part of the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovene, which was later known as Yugoslavia. In 1946, it was recreated as the Federal State of Yugoslavia and consisted of six republics. Four republics (Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia, and Bosnia-Hercegovina) declared their independence in 1991-92. In April of 1992, the remaining two republics formed a new, smaller Yugoslavia, now known as Serbia and Montenegro. The area's broad ethnic diversity and war-torn history continue to make it one of Europe's most tense regions.
What are their lives like? During the long Ottoman Empire reign, Rumelian Turks often settled in Balkan towns and served as military personnel or administrators, or worked as craftsmen. After Yugoslavia, Greece, Albania, Bulgaria, and Romania became independent countries in the nineteenth century, a large number of Rumelian Turks returned to Turkey and settled on land given to them by the government. The local people still refer to their villages as immigrant villages.
Even though Ottoman Turks ruled the Balkans for centuries, they were always an ethnic minority. Religious, linguistic, and social differences kept them from intermarrying with the local populations in large numbers. When they did intermarry, Turkish men usually married Muslim, non-Turkish women. Polygamy (having more than one spouse) is prohibited by state law.
Today, many things in Yugoslavia reflect the influence of the lengthy Turkish Ottoman occupation. There are a number of Ottoman-style, domed mosques with pencil-thin pillars, modeled after those in Istanbul. The wooden houses decorated with latticework windows and containing separate quarters for men and women also have a Turkish flavor. Also, many of the marketplaces have specialty stores that are grouped together.
Lamb, a favorite meat of Turks, is typically prepared as a pilaf (rice and oil cooked with small bits of meat). Musaka (roasted meat and eggplant) and kapama (mutton with spinach and green onions) also are popular dishes. The Turks, who relish sweets, are especially fond of Turkish delight (a gummy confection usually cut in cubes and dusted with sugar). The Muslim religion forbids drinking alcoholic beverages; instead, the Turks drink lots of strong coffee and yogurt.
What are their beliefs? Rumelian Turks are virtually all Muslims. Turks adhere to the five essential "pillars" or duties in Islam: (1) A Muslim must affirm that "there is no god but Allah and Mohammed is his prophet." (2) Five times a day he must pray while facing Mecca. (3) He must give an obligatory percentage (very similar to tithes) on an annual basis. (4) He must fast during Ramadan, the ninth month of the Muslim year. (5) He must try to make at least one pilgrimage to Mecca in his lifetime.
The Yugoslavian Communist government that was established after World War II tolerated Muslim religious observances and institutions, including Islamic schools. However, Muslim Turks were required to follow the compulsory state educational system.
What are their needs? The violent civil war against Bosnian Muslims begun by Bosnian Serbs in 1992 put additional pressure on the Yugoslavian Muslim communities because Yugoslavia provided the Bosnian Serbs with weapons and ammunition.
Very few Rumelian Turks in former Yugoslavia are known to have become Christians. They desperately need committed workers to show them Christ's love.
Prayer Points * Ask the Lord of the harvest to send forth Christian laborers to live and work among Rumelian Turks.
* Pray that God will raise up prayer teams to break up the soil through worship and intercession.
* Ask God to use the small number of Rumelian Turkish Christians to share God's love with their own people.
* Ask the Lord to bring forth a strong and growing Rumelian Turkish Christian presence for the glory of His name!