In nineteenth-century, urban space in the Balkans underwent a drastic change. The urban population constantly expanded, with Christians especially increasing in number. Owing to energetic activity on the part of non-Muslim merchants and artisans, the urban economy as a whole flourished in many parts of the peninsula; and the very scenery of the cities was changed substantially as well. Alongside centuries-old mosques and hammams (public baths), the city centre was now furnished with European-style buildings, such as city halls, community houses, clock towers, schools and the elegant residences of wealthy merchants.
Traditional Balkan historiography has posited that the basic driving force underlying these changes was the emergence of a national bourgeoisie.1 Such a view regards the changes in the urban space as a prelude to national independence. The same period, however, was the time when reform-minded Ottoman bureaucrats attempted to introduce a European-style rule to wide-ranging fields of administration, with particular concern for the renovation of the urban space. In this chapter, There were significant effects of Ottoman municipal reform on the modernisation of Balkan urban space.
The once prosperous ancient urban civilization of the Balkans had almost died out by the time of the Ottoman conquest. The Ottomans brought with them a new flavour of urban culture from the Middle Eastern Islamic civilization. Towns were initially built for the Ottoman administrative authorities and for the army garrisons. Gradually, in many towns, there began to appear Islamic foundations that provided the infrastructure for the various economic activities of Muslim merchants and artisans, who quickly took over from local Christian mercantile classes, and dominated the urban space.
Source: The City in the Ottoman Empire: Migration and the Making of Urban Modernity
Edited by Ulrike Freitag, Malte Fuhrmann, Nora Lafi and Florian Riedler