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Orthodox Christians in the Kadı Courts: The Practice of the Sofia Sheriat Court, Seventeenth Century

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The attitude of Balkan Christians to Ottoman rule has been subject to various, often contradictory, assessments. In this essay I examine one aspect of this subject, namely, the Christian attitude toward the sheriat court as a judicial institution, as reflected in kadı sicils from Sofia and other Balkan cities and in documents issued by Orthodox Christian ecclesiastical authorities from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries. Examination of these sources reveals that Christians frequently chose the sheriat judge over that of the church courts. In most cases this behaviour can be explained by the desire of the Christian litigants to seek out the court that would provide the most favourable solution to the dispute. The participation of Christians in sheriat court proceedings strengthens the impression that they did not avoid the sheriat court in practice, despite the hostility manifested by Christian religious authorities toward such behaviour. Indeed, the sources point to relatively smooth relations between the two communities in the Ottoman Balkan provinces in the period immediately preceding the national awakening of Balkan peoples.

Affiliations: 1: Sofia


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