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ISSN 1409-6900 | UDK 82+7     Blesok no. 82 | volume XV | January-February, 2012



                     Peer-reviewed journal
Blesok no. 82January-February, 2012

Balkan Heteroglossias

Contemplations on the forgotten, the lost and the new Balkans

p. 1
Ljubica Spaskovska

In the first half of the eighteenth century, the wife of the then British ambassador to Constantinople, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu “noted that in the capital ‘they speak Turkish, Greek, Hebrew, Armenian, Arabic, Persian, Russian, Sclavonian, Walachian, German, Dutch, French, English, Italian, Hungarian; and what is worse, there is ten of these languages spoken in my own family’” (Mazower 2001: 51).
    Nome est omen
? Perhaps. But, it might be equally unimportant if etymologically the term Balkans alludes to the mythological king Haemus, to the Greek word for blood (Аιμοσ, Greek/Haemus, Latin), the Balkan mountain range, or indeed to the Ottoman syntagm evoking honey and blood. In fact, the Balkans have a thousand different faces – to be found in the social sciences, in literature, in the national mythologies, or in the most intimate understandings of its inhabitants. It probably has more faces than one could imagine.
    Not long ago I read that on the streets of the Charshiya[1] in Korcha, Albania one can hear people conversing in Albanian, Turkish, Roma, Macedonian, and yet they all manage to understand each other. I was surprised. I read that once many of the old Orthodox temples in Kosovo were visited as sacred places both by Serbs and Albanians. And I was surprised. I found out that the father and the grand-father of my great-grand father spoke fluent Ottoman. And I was surprised. I found out that the local Ottoman land-owner by the name of Alim Bey helped the people of my grand-mother’s village in Strumica build an Orthodox church and a vernacular school in the late nineteenth century. In Prizren I saw an old Orthodox, Catholic and an Islamic temple, only few minutes from each other; in Szentendre (St. Andrew) in Hungary I encountered an oasis of Slavic/Serb culture, while in Skopje, Prishtina and Sarajevo I heard that the baklavas or the coloured Easter eggs shared with your neighbour have a special taste. And that did not surprise me.
    The building in which I grew up is right next to the Charshiya and from my window I can see the minaret of the Mustafa Pasha Mosque and the bell tower of the Church of the Holy Saviour. Everyone who grew up or has worked in the Charshiya would tell you that the Skopje Charshiya also signifies a world-view, a moral code, lessons that one could learn only there. Still, it is the only place in Skopje


1. The Ottoman ‘business’ quarters, a traditional market neighborhood of shops, cafés, and artisans’ workshops in the ‘old town’ of many Balkan cities, where people from different religious and ethnic background congregate(d) on daily basis

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