- Hardcover: 358 pages
- Publisher: Stanford University Press; 1 edition (October 16, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0804768676
- ISBN-13: 978-0804768672
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 7 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,401,096 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Dönme: Jewish Converts, Muslim Revolutionaries, and Secular Turks 1st Edition
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"The book is clearly written and provides much data and analysis on the cultural, social, economic, and political life of the Dönme . . . This is a major study of a community that contributed greatly to the growth of Salonika and to the emergence of modern Turkey."
"In Baer's hands, the story of the Dönme becomes . . . a rather familiar modern morality play―a story of strangeness annihilated by the pressure of sameness." (Adam Kirsch)
"Baer is dealing with an extremely important and sensitive topic. That the followers of Rabbi Shabbattai Tzevi did not really convert, but continued to practice their religion in secret, continues to be a widespread belief in Turkey. This unique book is of great relevance and significance to modern Turkey in understanding the fate of the many communities that were caught in between the transition from empire to nation state in the Middle East." (Resat Kasaba University of Washington, editor of Cambridge History of Modern Turkey, Vol. 4)
"At last, an engaging yet non-sensationalized history of the Dönme that places their history in the broader context of the later Ottoman empire and emergent Turkish Republic, showing how this group―so vital to the Empire's many later gains, its transition to a republic, and its 'cosmopolitan' character―ended up largely erased from the historical record." (K. E. Fleming author of Greece―a Jewish History)
"Marc David Baer vividly describes how this ancient, secret sect of Jews, about which little has been written until now, fit into the Islamic world without being found out." (Jewish Book World)
"Part detective novel, part historical account, Baer's illuminating study wades through centuries of myth, an ingenious array of sources (archival, oral, architectural, literary, and epigraphic), across the boundaries of nations, and through the life and death of the Ottoman empire in order to reconstruct the history of a misunderstood group-the descendents of the sect of Shabbatai Tzevi, the seventeenth century false messiah and Jewish-to-Muslim apostate. More than the history of a single ethno-religious group, this vivid book meditates on how modern boundaries (those that divide Muslim from Jew, Greek from Turk, secular from pious, nationalist from traitor) are constructed, maintained, and mythologized." (Sarah Abrevaya Stein, University of California Los Angeles)
About the Author
Marc David Baer is Associate Professor of History at the University of California, Irvine. His first book, Honored by the Glory of Islam: Conversion and Conquest in Ottoman Europe (2008), won the Albert Hourani Prize from the Middle East Studies Association.
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It must have been very hard to find and analyse the material and sometimes conflicting verbal communications thoroughly. Marc has created a really good material presenting the situation on this very sensitive subject of cultural, economic, and religious interactions and the transformation, considering the participation of dönmes in society and management not only during the Ottoman times but also within the young republic.
Read, understand and learn!
Some Jewish followers returned to the fold. Others converted along with him. Some completely left the fold. Many Ottoman Jews were of Spanish Descent so converting to another religion was deemed an acceptable way to save your life.
Those Jews who converted to Islam and secretly followed his teaching were called the Donme. Outwardly they were Muslims but in private they followed Shanbtai Tvi's teaching in secret. For two hundred plus years the Donme had a twisting and turning history in Turkey.
Alienated from other Jews and quasi excepted by Turkish Muslims the Donmeh were able to carve out a niche for themselves. There were three sects of Donme. The kapnanci, Karakas and Yakubi.
The first two groups of Dinmeh allied themselves with certain school of Sufi Islam. The Kapansi were allied with the Bektashi school. The second Karakas was allied to the Mevlevi school. The Yakubi were unaligned.
The Dinme kept themselves apart from everyone else in the Ottoman Empire. They married amongst themselves, went to their own schools, built their own mosques, had their own graveyards and neighborhoods. The different groups did not even mix with the other groups of Donme.
The Karrakas group openef the Tarraki school. The Kapanci opened their own school called something like Teriket. The schools taught a progressive curriculum of European languages and business acumen. They also taught morals and the values of hard work.
Each group of Dinmeh lived in their own neighborhood. Their style was rich and some what different then the rest of the Turks. Many of the houses were interconnected with underground tunnels. This served for rituals , secret meetings and safety.
The Dinme were not recognized as having their own millet. They were considered Muslims albeit with some suspicion as to how sincere they were. The Dinme had their own mosque with their own variation on Jewish practice and Muslim practice. They also had their own communal leader complete with their own laws and jails. The Turks frowned on such autonomy.
The Dinme became part of Ottoman society , even rising I to high positions of government . They were also successful business people, often times importing tobacco and timber. The Donme were also well travelled.
Their main city of habitation was in Salonica , located on the Grecian part of the Ottoman Empire . In 1909 change was in the air. Many Donme played an active role in Young Turks and their reform. So did the Sufis and the Masons. Many Donme were Masons. The Masons took an active role in helping the Young Turks come to power.
It was during this time that serious suspicions fell upon the Donmeh. The Islamist accused them of promoting immorality and undermining the spirit of Islam. The secularist felt they were not genuine Turks and were trying to undermine the Turkish nation
World War I would bring profound changes for all Ottoman citizens. Armenians and Greeks were massacred. The treaty of Lausanne innaygurated a swap of populations between Greece and Turkey. Muslims to Turkey and Christians to Greece. It was not easy for newcomer and neither side really trusted the Dinme. People were short changed on property exchanged and new comers with different customs were not always welcome with open arm.
The World War II years brought even more negative change. Being Turkish was a racial category. Jews, Donme , Armenian , and Christians were given a wealth tax and forced into conscripted labor. In the end the Dinme were forced to assimilate.
This was a worthwhile read.
There are still some mysterious parts which probably need more light to be shed upon but I think this will require another book and maybe further interviews. The author says that the topic was considered to be very sensitive by some of the people he interviewed and some of them who accepted to give information refused to do so after a week. I think this shows that the topic is still very alive for these group of people whom Muslims did not consider real Muslims and claimed that they were Jews, yet at the same time Jewish communities plainly claimed that those people were not Jews and followed the orders of a false prophet, a heretic according to them. As if this was not enough, those 'dönme' people from Thessaloniki were also engaged with Sufi orders to complicate the analysis even more. I guess when people are looking for clear-cut categories, black and white distinctions, not being identified 'cleanly' with a 'well established and more or less accepted' category poses a lot of problems for some.
I really wonder what the reactions will be when (and if) this book is translated into Turkish, it may put an end into some of the conspiracy theories (because the author claims that based on his research the people who were supposed to follow Sabetay Sevi are no longer a closed group, they married with other people and assimilated into the general Turkish population long time ago) or at the same time it may trigger even more conspiracy theories (thinking about Dr. Yalçin Küçük, a famous Turkish author who is one of the champions of these kind of conspiracy theories, I'm inclined to believe that this option is a strong one).
I sincerely recommend this book to anybody who wants to understand the early years of Turkish Republic as well as the Ottoman period with its events that led to the new country better. The reactions as well as strategies employed by a very interesting and highly intellectual group of people who really had a very mysterious position and did not marry outside of their group for a very long time is anything but boring. Dr. Baer wrote one of the most exciting history books I've read for a long time. If only I could go back in time to visit that fountain built by Hamdi Bey, the mayor of Selanik then, and which delivered cherry juice...