World, Culture, Europe

Ottoman legacy in Bulgaria cries for help

Many Ottoman mosques, baths in Plovdiv city need restoration

Ottoman legacy in Bulgaria cries for help

By Ihran Radoykov

PLOVDIV, Bulgaria

The historical and cultural artifacts of the Ottoman era in Bulgaria's southeastern Plovdiv city have fallen into ruin.

The city, which gained its independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1878, has 53 mosques and 42 Turkish baths, the majority of which have been damaged over time while the remaining need urgent restoration and repair.

A bar has been built inside Taskopru Mosque, hurting Muslim sentiments, while most of the graves in the Muslim cemetery have disappeared. Orta Mezar Bath awaits restoration after an arson attack.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Ahmet Pehlivan, head of the Council of Plovdiv Muslims, said they seek to revive the cultural and historical legacy of the Ottoman era in the city.

"Unfortunately, these artifacts that should be a source of inspiration to the people have fallen victim to the vicissitudes of time and are ruined due to lack of care," he said.

Taskopru Mosque, which was closed for worship between 1944-1989 during the rule of the communist regime, was transformed into a restaurant where alcohol was served.

Following the intense reaction by the Muslim community, the restaurant was moved outside; however, an alehouse still serves right next to it.

"That alcohol was sold in the mosque did upset us, the Muslims. A bar is still present inside the mosque. We want to remove the bar, and bring the mosque to its former glory with the help of restoration experts. We expect the support of the local Muslim community and Turkey, which has never left us alone," Pehlivan said.

Located right in front of Taskopru Mosque and visited by Turkish, Armenian and Bulgarian people, Orta Mezar Bath is also in a weary shape.

Dating back to the 15th century, the bath faced an arson attack in 2016 and its roof collapsed. The local community believed that the fire was deliberately started so that a new building could replace the bath.

The historical Turkish-Muslim Cemetery located near the central city is part of Ottoman legacy facing an urgent need of restoration.

One cannot recognize the cemetery if it was not for a few barely visible tombstones.

Pehlivan recalled that Demir Church in Istanbul and the Bulgarian cemetery in Turkey's northwestern Edirne city were restored with the special support of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

"The same sensitivity should be shown by the Bulgarian side over the Ottoman legacy in Plovdiv," Pehlivan added.

On the other hand, Cifte Bath building in the central city of Plovdiv is among the rare Ottoman artifacts that have not faced a similar fate.

The bath, with the efforts of the municipality and private sector, is in fine shape. It dates back to the 16th century and today serves as a museum.

Concerts are occasionally held in Cifte Bath, and it will host some cultural activities in Plovdiv, which has the honor of being "European Capital of Culture" in 2019.

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