Wednesday, 4 June 2008


Many political and cultural commentators are making noises at the moment about the population explosion of European Muslims, partly through immigration but mostly through the higher birthrate.

An essay by Vincensio Poggi, SJ, a professor of Near Eastern History at the Pontifical Insititute gives the ironic counterpart to this from the middle-late Ottoman period. Praising the Ottoman millet system for its success in holding together such a diverse empire and in ensuring some supression of ethnic and religious violence, Poggi notes that the Christians and Jews of Anatolia reproduced faster than the Muslims.

1520-35 / 358,000 Christians in Anatolia

1570-80 / 571,000 Christians in Anatolia [there must have been some importations?]

Growth rate of 9.8% as opposed to a Muslim growth rate of 9.3% [per what, Poggi doesn’t say, unfortunately for this tidy mind]

1831 – dhimmis constituted 11.3% of the population of Ottoman territories

1881 – this rose to 20.6%

1906 – 25%

‘Christians in the Second Ottoman Era’, in Habib Badr, ed., Christianity: A History in the Middle East (Beirut: World Council of Churches: 2005 [Arabic original edition, 2001), pp.655-673. This is a mammoth book.

Cynics among us might notice that the Muslims dealt with this by several significant culls. Armenians, Assyrians and Greeks did not do too well out of the final years of the Ottoman Empire or during the chaos surrounding the founding of the Turkish Republic. Indigenous Christians in the Middle East today are also not exactly being allowed to thrive…