Turkish rule – History of Ohrid

Ohrid | 0 comments

Medieval Ohrid was the hilly terrain above the Lake enclosed by ramparts preserved till this day. Probably the Medieval marketplace and downtown were located in the plain outside the ramparts.

The structure and the position make the fortress an important monument of Medieval Ohrid. The exact period of its construction is still unknown. Historical sources reveal that ancient Lychnidos was a fortified town. It is estimated that the oldest ramparts were built out of larger pieces of cut stone without mortar way back in IV century BC In the late Classical period the fortress was reconstructed and mighty. There are several preserved portions of the ramparts with four brick layers from that period (a building technique common for that period – opus micstum).

The stone ramparts are organically connected to the terrain and follow its contours. Their overall formats and building technique are utterly Medieval. The same can be said about the Citadel located on the top of the hill that dominates the settlement.

This fortified town had four main gates. One is located in the lower part of the town near the Lake (The Lower Gate), the second in the upper part (The Upper Gate), the third in the eastern wall (The Main Gate), and the forth in the northern wall (The Iron Gate).

The exact date of Ohrid’s fall under the Turkish rule cannot be determined accurately. However, the inscription in the church St. Ilija, located in the village of Elsani in the Ohrid region dating back from 1408 is considered to be accurate evidence of the presence of the Turks.

Based on Turkish documents, it is assumed that Ohrid fell under the Turks in 1395 and that it was seized by Chandarli Hairudin Pasha who became the vizier, the position of the supreme military commander, the second in power after the Sultan himself.

Ohrid was of extreme importance for the conquering plans of the Turks. The sanjak of Ohrid was among the oldest that were established in the Balkan part of the Turkish Empire. A ruler called sanjak- bey governed it. It is believed that the first sanjak-bey was the Ajdinian Guneid-bey who, apparently took up that position in 1406.

The Turkish conquest, colonization, and islamization of the local inhabitants had a great impact on the external appearance of the town. The first Muslim buildings in Ohrid were built as early as the XV century. Thus, in Plaosnik (Imaret) the Turks converted the old Clement’s monastery St. Patheleimon into a mosque. It is quite possible that this was the first mosque in Ohrid that was probably used by the first Turkish colonists. The mosque is known as the Imaret mosque. A school, a Turkish chapel and a number of other facilities were built near the mosque. Later, in XVI century, the cathedral church St. Sofia was also converted into a mosque.

According to the census carried out by the Turks in 1582, the municipality of Ohrid covered 88 villages, while the municipality Debarca 32 villages, i.e., 120 villages in total, that indicate a highly dense network of settlements. The total number of inhabitants in the two municipalities was 18,243: 13,592 in Ohrid, and 4,561 in Debarca.

Based on the names of the heads of the families covered by the census, we can conclude that the majority of the population was Macedonians. However, also the presence of the non-Slavic inhabitants was evident, mostly Albanians and Vlahs. In this respect there is a significant difference between the municipalities of Debarca and Ohrid: exclusively Macedonians inhabited the former.

The traveler – storyteller Evliya Çelebi in one of his documents states that Ohrid had 17 Muslim temples, seven primary schools, 77 baths, and three public canteens. In XVII century downtown Ohrid covered a large part of the lower town. It had all the buildings necessary for carrying out craft and trade activities. Apparently, there were 150 shops, three free of charge taverns, and three inns, as well as seven well-equipped cafés. Few records exist concerning the development of Ohrid in XVIII century, however it is evident that the town was expanding. Thus, at the end of the same century the foundations of Dolno and Gorno Vlasko communities were established.

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