[back to the Balkan Project intro page] || [back to the Athens Workshop page]


THE BULGARIAN NATIONAL MOVEMENT

IN THE LIGHT OF MIROSLAV HROCH'S ANALYSIS

OF NATIONAL REVIVAL IN EUROPE


Raymond Detrez

 

          1

          2

          3

          4

          5

          6

          Notes



1. In his book Social Preconditions of National Revival in Europe Miroslav Hroch paid little attention to the national movements in the Balkans.[1] With the Bulgarian national revival (or ‘Renaissance’, văzraždane) he dealt only very briefly in the concluding chapter. The developments in the Balkan provinces of the Ottoman Empire were analyzed more thoroughly in his other major work, In the national interest, which contains a number of remarks that concern Bulgaria as well. [2] This contribution aims to elaborate on two related issues: (1) to what extent Hroch’s analysis can be applied to Bulgaria and the Ottoman Balkans in general, and (2) what are the idiosyncrasies of the Bulgarian national movement in the light of the general European model Hroch proposes.

[back to top]

 

2. A first observation concerns the terms ‘oppressed nation’, used by Hroch throughout his Social Preconditions (…), and ‘non-dominant ethnic group’, used in In the national interest. In regard to the Balkans under Ottoman rule these terms seem rather problematic. Although the Ottoman Empire was created by (the leaders of) a Turkish tribe, this neither implied that ethnic Turks occupied a dominant position within the Empire, nor that non-Turkish ethnic groups were by definition ‘oppressed’. In fact, there existed a privileged religious community, the Muslims, and a number of other religious communities, mainly Orthodox Christians and Jews that were treated as second-hand citizens and discriminated against. The Muslims may be considered as the dominant group, however, they were not an ethnic group, let alone a nation. Not all Muslims in the Ottoman Empire were Turks. ‘The ruling elites in the Empire were the Ottomans,’ Hroch writes, ‘and not ethnic Turks, and defined themselves in terms of religion and customs rather than modern national identity.[3] Turks had no more rights than other Muslims. Christian Turks, the so-called Gagauzes, were treated in the same way as other Christians. The term ‘Turk’ being used by the Ottoman elite to refer disparagingly to uneducated tribesmen or peasants makes clear to what extent the members of the Ottoman ruling elite distinguished themselves from the Turkish ethnic community and to what extent the Ottoman Empire was in fact ‘ethnically unmarked’.[4]

The Orthodox Christian community consisted of Bulgarians, Greeks, Serbs and other ethnic or national groups, considering themselves ‘oppressed’ or at least discriminated against. However, up to the emergence of nationalism in the course of the 19th century they felt ‘oppressed’ as members of a religious community and not as members of a particular ethnic group or nation. Albanians, Greeks, Bulgarians, Serbs and others who had embraced Islam would have full access to all Ottoman military and administrative functions – including that of Grand Vezier, the second man in the Empire after the sultan – and would thus become members of the ‘oppressing’ elite, in spite of their alleged belonging to an ‘oppressed nation’.

Although Ottoman Turkish – a hybrid language, based on the Turkish grammar, but overlaid by Arabic and Persian loan words and incomprehensible to the common Turk – was the ‘official’ language in the Empire, no efforts were made towards what Hroch calls ‘the linguistic assimilation of the whole population in the name of the unity of the state and in the interests of a rationalization of administration’.[5] The Christians in the Empire were free to have education and divine services in the vernaculars or sacral languages they preferred. The use of some languages like Albanian and Bulgarian in education and worship was forbidden by the Patriarchate of Constantinople, which autonomously regulated these matters, and not by the Ottoman government as such; Ottoman authorities took action against offenders of this ban only at the insistence of the Patriarchate. As a result, ethnic groups in the Ottoman Empire preserved their linguistic identity. In addition, the millet-system offered the opportunity to non-Muslim religious communities to preserve their religious identity as well. It is significant that the 19th century Bulgarian nationalists justified their struggle for national independence by referring to Ottoman tyranny, administrative arbitrariness, corruption, inefficiency, backwardness et cetera, but rarely accused the Ottoman government of carrying out a deliberate and systematic policy of linguistic or ethnic assimilation.[6]

To be sure, the Ottoman attitude in regard with ethnic issues was inspired by indifference rather than by tolerance. For the rest, the Ottoman Empire was an extremely centralized and oppressive state, allowing some degree of representation and participation in decision making only at the lowest level of neighbourhood and village communities. Before the Tanzimat, the Ottoman reform program which started in 1839 and aimed to modernize the Empire, Ottoman subjects – Muslims as well as Christians – were almost completely deprived of political rights and even after the introduction of the Tanzimat some forms of religious (not ethnic) discrimination continued to exist.

The use of terms like ‘oppressed nations’ or ‘non-dominant ethnic groups’, implying the occurrence of dominant nations or ethnic groups that happen not to be oppressed, seems to be inadequate when discussing Ottoman rule in the Balkans. The oppressive nature of the Ottoman Empire cannot be denied and should not be minimized, but no nation or ethnic group was oppressed as a nation or as an ethnic group, as Hroch’s terminology suggests, nor did the Ottoman administrators take any systematic measures, threatening the cultural identity of ethnic communities. It is fully justified to speak, as Hroch does, of an Ottoman dominant group, consisting of members of different ethnic groups, and oppressing a part of the empire’s subjects on the basis of their religious affiliation – however, without any ethnic or national indiscrimination.

[back to top] 


3. If the Bulgarian nationalists in the 19th century considered the Bulgarians to be oppressed as an ethnic or national community, in the sense that their survival as an ethno-cultural community with its own language and other cultural distinctive features was threatened, it was not by the Turks, but by the Greeks. The Bulgarian nationalists considered the Greeks in the Bulgarian cities, more specifically the Greek patriarchal clergy and the Greek commercial bourgeoisie (the latter consisting, to be sure, not only of Greeks, but also and even overwhelmingly of Hellenized Bulgarians) as their main oppressor. The patriarchal clergy and bourgeoisie ‘oppressed’ the Bulgarians by forcing them to educate their children in Greek schools, by imposing divine services exclusively in Greek and by exerting strong social pressure in order to Hellenize the Bulgarian urban population. The clergy exerted this Hellenizing influence ever since the Rum milleti (Orthodox Christian community) was established, shortly after the fall of Constantinople in 1453. All Orthodox Christians in the Ottoman Empire were subordinated to the Patriarchate, which was dominated by Greeks. Especially the episcopal seats in the major Balkan cities turned into centres of Hellenization. Greek was introduced as the language of the divine services and the ecclesiastic administration in many Slavic bishoprics. It became the only language taught at school and spoken among educated people. Even the Cyrillic script sank into oblivion; Bulgarian was sometimes written in Greek characters.

Till the beginning of the 1870s, that is till the eve of national independence in 1878, the Bulgarian national movement was focused on the struggle for a Bulgarian national church, independent from the Rum milleti or the Patriarchate of Constantinople, which in spite of its ecumenical mission was generally perceived as a ‘Greek’ church. In the Ottoman state, cultural, administrative and even political independence from the Patriarchate could only be obtained through the establishment of a separate millet or religious community. The subsequent coordinated actions, carried out by national leaders supported by the vast majority of the Bulgarian population in order to be recognized as a separate millet constitute the so-called Bulgarian ‘church struggle’, which finally resulted in the establishment of the Bulgarian Exarchate in 1872. Significantly, in their confrontations with the Patriarchate, the Bulgarians often relied on the Ottoman authorities as allies.

One could argue that the Patriarchate of Constantinople was an Ottoman institution and as such a tool of Ottoman oppression. In fact the Patriarchate rather pursued its own policy, steering a middle course between its traditional loyalty to the Ottoman government, its ecumenical mission and material interests, and the conflicting ambitions of its increasingly ethnically divided and conflict-riven flock. Therefore the Greek clergy cannot be considered as merely an extension of Ottoman power. In spite of its collaboration with the Ottoman authorities, it acted as a separate social or interest group.

Closely linked to the representatives of the Patriarchate was the Greek commercial bourgeoisie. Although there existed a Turkish commercial bourgeoisie as well, consisting of shopkeepers, artisans and merchants, to the Bulgarians the ‘dominant bourgeoisie’ they felt oppressed by was not Turkish, but Greek. Obviously, the Christian artisans and merchants had only limited contacts with their Muslim colleagues, isolated from the latter as they were within their own millets and guilds. The Greek bourgeoisie constituted a kind of Christian establishment within the Ottoman Empire. It closely collaborated with the Ottoman authorities as well, but whenever necessary also defended its own economic and social interests against Ottoman interference.

The Greek bourgeoisie, dominating the guilds and the church and city councils, exerted an equally strong Hellenizing influence on the Bulgarian peasants, who had established themselves in the cities. In most cities, it was impossible to become a member of a guild without speaking Greek and adopting a Greek lifestyle. The newly Hellenized Bulgarians turned into even more convinced Greeks than the (ethnic) Greeks themselves, despising everything that might have reminded them of their Bulgarian origins.

This ‘oppression’ of Bulgarians by Greeks appears to be close to the kind Hroch seems to have in mind when operating the terms ‘oppressed nation’, respectively ‘non-dominant ethnic group’ in his publications. However, in this case neither, the terms ‘oppressed’ and ‘non-dominant’ can be used without reservations. The question is what exactly should be understood by ‘Greeks’, ‘Hellenization’ and ‘Hellenized’.

At first glance, the Hellenization of the urban segment of the Bulgarian population up to the 1840s seems to be an undisputable case of ethnic assimilation of a ‘non-dominant ethnic group’ – the Bulgarians – by a ‘dominant’ one, consisting of (ecclesiastic) officials and a bourgeoisie – the Greeks. This is how the Bulgarian nationalist writers in the 19th century described what happened and how traditional Bulgarian historiography has continued to describe it. However, the picture they drew – and still draw – is rather misleading. In fact, the process of Hellenization had a rather spontaneous character, resulting from more or less normal cultural interaction between people in a socially divided bilingual environment. The measures taken by the Patriarchate were inspired by pragmatic rather than assimilatory aims. It was never the purpose of the clergy to turn all Bulgarian Orthodox Christians into a compact population with a Greek ethnic consciousness. In most Slavic villages, services in Church Slavonic survived and the correspondence between the episcopal seats and the village priests was often maintained in Slavonic.

However, the process of Hellenization did not result in the Bulgarian urban population becoming ethnic Greek. The fact that up to the 1850s many Bulgarians called themselves ‘Greeks’ does not mean they considered themselves to be ethnic Greeks. The word ‘Greek’ had different meanings, only one of them being ‘ethnic Greek’. All Orthodox Christians were called ‘Greeks’, although they obviously were not Greeks – as their ignorance of the Greek language indicates. The word for ‘Greek’ most currently used was Romaíos or Romiós, which means ‘Roman’, ‘Byzantine’, ‘Orthodox Christian’. Bulgarians called themselves Romaíoi to denote their Orthodox Christian religious affiliation. The ethnic connotation of the word was completely irrelevant to them.

A second meaning of the word Greek was that of ‘city-dweller’, ‘educated’ or ‘sophisticated’ person. Here the ethnonym ‘Greek’ was used to denominate not a religious, but a social group. A Bulgarian was born a ‘Greek’ in the sense of Orthodox Christian, but could also become a ‘Greek’ in the sense of a well-doing city-dweller due to upward social mobility. Prior to the 1840s, ‘becoming a Greek’ had little to do with changing ethnic identity; it was merely a question of social promotion. Speaking Greek and adopting a Greek lifestyle were considered as the cultural distinctive features of the urban social elite.

Neither to the (ethnic) Greeks was Greekness much related to Greek ethnicity. The uneducated Greeks saw themselves as Orthodox Christians in the first place. The Greek elite considered the Greek nation as a religious and even more as a cultural community, including people with very different ethnic backgrounds, rather than as an ethnic community with its own exclusive and objective distinctive features. Even the fiercest defenders of Greekness among the Greek urban elite had only a limited interest in the customs and traditions of the common Greek people – at least before Greekness started to be interpreted in a more exclusive ethnic and genealogic way later on in the 19th century. In the meantime, however, Bulgarian Orthodox Christians, displaying some knowledge of Greek and sharing the Greek cultural values, could be members of the Greek (romaíikos) community and eventually become members of the Greek (ellinikós) nation. Of course, the Greek language was considered to be the ‘native’ language of a specific ethnic community, but being used as a sacral language in the Orthodox churches all over the Balkans and as a lingua franca by Balkan merchants, it was – almost like English in the modern world – largely deprived of its ethnic connotation – the more so as ‘official’ Greek, katharevousa, was a rather artificial language, which Greeks also had to learn as if it were a foreign language. Greek had grown into a common, ethnically more or less neutralized, shared means of communication of all Orthodox Christians in the Empire. In the same way should be understood the well-known Introductory Teaching, written in 1802 by Daniil of Moschopolis (a Vlach, by the way), in which Albanians, Vlachs and Bulgarians were urged ‘to abandon their barbaric tongue, speech and customs’ and ‘to acquire the tongue and speech of the Greeks’ in order to greatly benefit ‘in [their] professions, // And in all [their] commercial undertakings.[7] A more pragmatic, ‘non-ethnic’ approach to linguistic assimilation is hardly imaginable.

The ‘Greek lifestyle’ the Greek bourgeoisie promoted had in fact little in common with the traditional way of life of the Greek peasants and fishermen, who were considered as the guardians of the authentic Greek cultural traditions. Actually, this Greek lifestyle was the alafranga (literally ‘in the Frankish way’) – a more or less orientalized, but fundamentally Western European, more specifically French way of dressing and behaving.[8] What corresponded to ‘Greekness’ in the mind of the Greek bourgeoisie was Europeanness rather than the cultural distinctive features of the Greek ethnic community. So neither in the sense of imposing the Greek lifestyle, Hellenization implied ethnic assimilation.

Most of the well-to-do city Christian city-dwellers, with whom the Bulgarians wanted to merge, were in favour of the preservation of the Ottoman Empire and considered the idea of founding a small Greek (ethnic) state as contrary to their economic interests. They felt Ottoman citizens rather than Greek nationals. This political attitude also facilitated the Bulgarian Romaíi identifying themselves with them.

According to Hroch, the fact whether a given ethnic group possesses a bourgeoisie of its own is ‘a basic situation’, having a decisive impact on the development of the national revival movement.[9] Therefore the question, whether the Bulgarians had their own bourgeoisie class ‘belonging to them ethnically’ deserves particular attention. To Hroch, the Greek bourgeoisie was ethnically alien to the Bulgarian nation and might be considered even as a ‘dominant ethnic group’. How meaningful is it, however, to characterize this Greek ruling class as ethnically alien to the Bulgarians in a situation, where ethnic distinctions were irrelevant and unimportant and the only relevant social frame of reference was not the ethnic, but the Orthodox Christian community; where the majority of that Greek ruling class actually was of Bulgarian ethnic origin; where Greekness exteriorized one’s being a member of the social upper class rather than his or her ethnic identity?

Hroch remarks that ‘[s]ome of these people [members of the bourgeoisie of the oppressed nation, R.D.] were able to improve their social position or gain an education, and arrived at a point where they were compelled to decide between two different available national alternatives.[10] In Ottoman society prior to the 1840s social divides ran along religious rather than ethnic lines and this dilemma did not really exist. No choice between ‘two national alternatives’ had to be made: the ‘Greek’ alternative was not of a national, but of a class nature and left the fundamental identification with the religious community completely intact.

[back to top]


4. A striking particularity of the Bulgarian national movement is that it largely skipped Hroch’s Phase A and immediately started with the ‘agitation’, typical of Phase B.[11] The long introduction to Paisiy of Hilendar’s History of the Bulgarian Slavs (Istorija slavjanobolgarskaja), which ushered in the Bulgarian national revival in 1762, is a seditious nationalist pamphlet. It contains fierce appeals to the Bulgarians to be proud of their Bulgarian origin, language and history, and to reject Greek cultural dominance. At variance with what Hroch considers to be typical of Phase A, Paisiy’s historical account was not a scholarly, let alone an academic work; it was aimed to fuel the exhortative message given in the introduction by referring to the heroic military exploits of the Bulgarians tsars, especially when fighting the Byzantines, and to the many Bulgarian saints and patriarchs. The latter were just as relevant, given the Greek cultural influence exerted through the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Paisiy incited his readers to read aloud his History to others and to copy and distribute it. Travelling trough the Bulgarian lands, he tried to find a large audience for his ideas, to make the Bulgarians aware of their situation and convince them of speaking and studying in Bulgarian.

What is surprising about Paisiy’s History is not its lack of scholarly or academic qualities – up to the 1870s, hardly anyone among the Bulgarians had had the necessary training to write a scholarly or academic text –, but the nationalist agitation. Paisiy’s attempts to spread his History shows a kind of organizational, almost conspiratorial approach. These features are typical of Phase B rather than of Phase A. In Paisiy’s case, the ‘enlightened interest’ in the language, history, literature and culture of the ethnic community, which Hroch attributes to Phase A, is shut out by his effort ‘to persuade members of the non-dominant ethnic group that they were actually members of a nation with a value of its own and the right to the same attributes of other nations already in existence’, which Hroch considers a distinctive feature of Phase B.[12] One may argue that in Paisiy’s case Phase A and Phase B coincide chronologically, but even then the features of Phase B are predominant all the same.

In his periodization of the Bulgarian national movement, Hroch seems to ignore Paisiy’s History. He dates the beginning of the Bulgarian national movement in the 1840s.[13] In fact, there are good reasons to do so. Paisiy was a rather isolated phenomenon, a kind of lonely forerunner. In the late 18th century, his example was followed solely by pope Spirodon from Gabrovo, who completed his Short History of the Bulgarian Slavic People (Istorija vo kratce o bolgarskom narode slavenskom) in 1792. Although about seventy copies – or rather adaptations – of Paisiy’s History were produced throughout the 18th and the 19th century, Paisiy’s influence on the formation of the Bulgarian national ideology was rather limited. He is relatively rarely referred to by the 19th century Bulgarian nationalist ideologists. His History – in an adaptation by Hristaki Pavlovič – was printed for the first time in Budapest only in 1844. When Marin Drinov published the first major article on Paisiy in 1871, he was all but forgotten. Spiridon’s History went unnoticed until it was published in 1900 by Vasil Zlatarski.[14]

Already in the 1830s, the Slav population in Vraca, Skopje, Samokov and other towns requested the Patriarch to replace the Greek bishops in their respective dioceses by a Bulgarian one. After the 1839 Hatti şerif (Imperial Rescript ) of Gülhane, which introduced the Tanzimat, the Bulgarian struggle for an independent church gained momentum. The Bulgarians cunningly interpreted the abolishment of religious discrimination, proclaimed by the sultan’s rescript as regulating the relations between Bulgarians and Greeks, while it actually dealt with the status of Christian vis-à-vis Muslim subjects. In 1844, the first Bulgarian national leaders Neofit Bozveli and Ilarion Makariopolski for the first time formulated the Bulgarian national demands.[15] Initially, these demands were still very humble and did not really challenge the authority of the Patriarch: Bulgarian bishops in the Bulgarian dioceses; divine services in Church Slavonic; Bulgarian ecclesiastic representatives in Istanbul, defending the interests of the Bulgarians with the Sublime Porte; a Bulgarian church in Istanbul; a Bulgarian newspaper.

Postponing the start of the Bulgarian national movement to the 1840s does not really make developments in Bulgaria fit better into a Phase A and B. Even then, the start of the political agitation period is still not proceded, let alone introduced by any influential scholarly or academic publications on history, language and folklore - except for Paisiy’s unfathomable and almost forgotten History of the Bulgarian Slavs. This does not mean such publications were completely absent or did not play a part in the Bulgarian national movement. They were written, however, not by Bulgarians, but by foreigners. Especially Russian historians, philologists and ethnographers produced a great number of pivotal books. Yuriy Venelin’s Ancient and modern Bulgarians …(Drevnie i nynejšie bolgare …) in three volumes appeared in 1829-41; Viktor Grigorovič published his Outline of a Journey through European Turkey (Očerk putešestvii po evropejskoj Turcii) in 1848; Pëtr Bezsonov’s collection of Bulgarian oral literature was brought out in 1855.

Especially the work by Yuriy Venelin exerted an enormous influence on many Bulgarian intellectuals. Their self esteem was boosted by the interest the Russians took in Bulgarian medieval culture and in the fate of the Bulgarian people under Ottoman rule. However, they did not feel urged to write something ‘scholarly’ and ‘academic’ themselves. Bulgarian intellectuals limited their scientific activities mainly to collecting folksongs, mostly directly or indirectly invited to do so by Venelin. Vasil Aprilov helped Venelin collect Bulgarian folksongs, but his own collection was never published. In 1842 Ivan Bogorov’s Bulgarian folksongs and sayings (Bălgarski narodni pesni i poslovici), the first collection of folk-songs compiled by a Bulgarian to be published, appeared in Budapest. From the 1850s on, the Constantinople Herald (Carigradski vestnik) and other Bulgarian newspapers started publishing articles on Bulgarian folklore. From then on, Bulgarian popular culture and especially Bulgarian oral literature were systematically collected and described by Bulgarian writers like Georgi S. Rakovski, Petko Slavejkov, the brothers Miladinov and Ljuben Karavelov.[16]

It is interesting that many Bulgarians – Vasil Aprilov, Jordan Hadžikonstantinov-Džinot, Zahari Knjažeski, and later Ljuben Karavelov and Najden Gerov – wrote articles and books on Bulgarian history, language and popular culture in Russian and published them in Russia. They intended to bring the Bulgarians to the attention of the Russians, who were expected to play a decisive military and diplomatic role in the liberation of the Bulgarians from Ottoman domination. For the common Bulgarian reader, however, these publications were almost inaccessible.

One may argue with good reason that the articles and books on Bulgarian history, language and culture, written in the 1840s and 1850s by Bulgarian authors on behalf of Bulgarian readers, were too scanty to constitute a real Phase A. More important is, however, that they did not precede Phase B, but coincided chronologically with it. Moreover, these publications were not at all inspired by ‘enlightened curiosity’; they can be specified more adequately as a particular form of agitation. Many of them, and in particular those written by Rakovski, were characterized by an unbridled romantic imagination that overtly aimed at revolutionizing the readership.

In fact the Bulgarian national movement already from the very beginning also displayed many features reminding us of Phase C – a fact that went not unnoticed by Hroch.[17] Typical of Phase C, according to Hroch, is that the national movement has grown into a mass movement and that ‘signals coming from the patriotic centre could awaken a response in all regions and mobilize thousands of people’.[18] This is exactly what happened in Bulgaria from the 1840s onward. Mass meetings were organized, petitions were sent to the patriarchate and the Ottoman government, divine services in Greek were boycotted, Greek teachers and priests were expelled. Most of this often happened after consultation with or at the instigation of the informal central political organization of the Bulgarians, the Bulgarian community in Istanbul.

Hroch is right pointing out that Phase A in Bulgaria ‘lasted longer but was very extensive’.[19] In fact the interest in history, language, customs et cetera as a means of political agitation lasted throughout Phase B and even Phase C, to acquire a Phase A ‘scholarly and academic’ character only when national liberation was about to be achieved and mainly afterwards, in the framework of the educational and scientific institutes created by the independent state, when a whole generation of young Bulgarian scholars had been trained abroad. However, [i]f independent research submitted information that was in conflict with the national ideology, it gained entry into the system of purposefully constructed national communication with difficulty, and usually had very little impact on national life and national demands.[20]

[back to top]


5. According to Hroch, the Bulgarian national movement belongs to the ‘insurrectional’ or ‘insurgent type’.[21] The Bulgarian church struggle only ‘foreshadowed the coming of the national movement’, which thus seems to be reduced mainly to the (abortive) organization of a network of revolutionary cells by Vasil Levski and the April 1876 Uprising.[22] The mainstream of the Bulgarian national movement, however, is the precisely the church struggle, which aimed to achieve Bulgarian independence through democratic reforms, negotiations and diplomatic pressure. The extent of violence resorted to by the participants in the Bulgarian church struggle was limited to exchanging punches and throwing stones, and that on the whole far more people – from leading intellectuals and members of the clergy to simple parishioners and school teachers – were in one way or another involved in the Bulgarian church struggle than in the famous April 1876 Uprising. In traditional Bulgarian historiography, this fact has always been neglected out of a misplaced contempt for the ‘reformist wing’ in the national movement and as a result of blind adoration of the heroic freedom fighters. The famous – or notorious – chetas (guerrilla units) enjoyed little support with the population. The April 1876 armed insurrection owed its desired result – national independence – more to the cruel retaliations by the Ottoman irregulars and the ensuing Russian military intervention of 1877-78 than to the martial exploits of the Bulgarians. The Bulgarian national movement was in its essence a non-violent movement and given its stress on education and cultural elevation, it reminds us in many respects of the Central European type of national revival.

[back to top]


6. Summing up, it may be said that the terms ‘oppressed nation’ and ‘non-dominant ethnic group’ are rather inadequate to describe the situation of ethnic groups in the Ottoman Empire before the dawn of nationalism. There was a lot of oppression and discrimination, but never on the basis of ethnicity or nationality. The perception of such communities as ‘oppressed nations’ or ‘non-dominant ethnic groups’ is based on a modern interpretation of human and civil rights, which attributes to the preservation of language, cultural identity et cetera an importance it never had before the 19th century.

The Rum milleti should be perceived as a separate body politic within the state, providing all Orthodox Christians of whatever ethnic background with a fundamental social, political and cultural frame of reference. It contained several social strata, among which the upper class distinguished itself from other social strata trough ‘Greekness’ in the sense of a Balkan variant of French cosmopolitan sophistication.

Finally, Hroch’s distinguishing three subsequent phases in the development of European national movements does not seem to be valid in Bulgaria without serious reservations. (It even remains to be seen whether it is valid at all.) Assuming the Bulgarian national movement reflects Hroch’s periodization only in a ‘blurred’ way, it may be interesting to explain this blurredness referring to the theory of ‘accelerated development’, proposed by the Russian literary historian Georgi Gačev in his book The Accelerated Development of Literature (Uskorënnoe razvitie literatury). Gačev hypothesizes that during the 19th century, Bulgarian literature, having missed a number of major European intellectual and artistic currents like Renaissance, Baroque, and Enlightenment, made a kind of huge overtaking manoeuvre, passing through all the missed stages in an accelerated way, compressing them and sliding them one into the other.[23] The Austrian Balkanologist Peter Gerlinghoff was inclined to consider Gačev’s accelerated development as one of the most striking common features in the history of Balkan literatures.[24] Recently, Sorin Alexandrescu detected a similar phenomenon in Romanian literature.[25] The phenomenon of accelerated development does not involve only literature, but society as a whole. It could shed a light on the social and cultural preconditions, having caused the ‘blurredness’ of Hroch’s periodization in Bulgaria and the Balkans.

[back to top]


Notes

1.             Miroslav Hroch. Social Preconditions of National Revival in Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985. [back]

2.             Miroslav Hroch. In the National Interest. Prague: Charles University, 1996. [back]

3.             Hroch, In the National Interest, 49. [back]

4.             Roderic H. Davison. Turkey. A Short History. Huntingdon, England: The Eothen Press, 1988², 3. [back]

5.             Hroch, Social Preconditions, 132. [back]

6.             They occasionally accused the Ottomans of having forcibly Islamized parts of the Bulgarian population, but these measures admittedly belonged to the past and had not had a systematic character. The Balkan historiographic tradition of blaming the Ottoman Empire for having attempted to assimilate its subjects is of more recent date. [back]

7.             Richard Clogg. The Movement for Greek Independence. A collection of documents. London: The MacMillan Press, 1976, 91-2. [back]

8.             Needless to say that ‘alafranga’ often was a poor and rather hilarious imitation of European lifestyle, ridiculed not only by Bulgarian, but also by Greek satirical writers. The Bulgarian playwright Dobri Vojnikov ridiculed in his comedy Civilization Wrongly Understood (Krivorazbranata civilizacija, 1871) the abundant use of French words by doctor Margaridi, a Greek defending ‘European values’. See also Alexandros Kalphoglou’s Moral Versification, a satire against ‘Francophilia’ in Greece, written in 1794. (Clogg. The Movement, 91-2.) [back]

9.             Hroch, Social Preconditions, 8. [back]

10.           Hroch, Social Preconditions, 12. [back]

11.           Hroch, In the National Interest, 13. [back]

12.           Hroch, In the National Interest, 13. [back]

13.           Hroch, ‘National Self-Determination from a Historical Perspective’, Canadian Slavonic Papers/Revue canadienne des slavistes 37 (1995), no. 3-4, 284. [back]

14.           Charles A. Moser. A History of Bulgarian Literature 865-1944. The Hague, Paris: Mouton, 1972, 43. [back]

15.           We cannot agree with Hroch (Social Preconditions, 140) that the Orthodox clergy in the example of Bulgaria ‘appear only marginally’. Among the main leaders of the Bulgarian church struggle were many members of the clergy, and some of them like Neofit Bozveli and Ilarion Makariopolski played a decisive political role. [back]

16.           Hristo Vakarelski. Etnografija na Bălgarija. Sofia: BAN, 25-51. [back]

17.           Hroch, Social Preconditions, 28. Hroch holds that ‘the national movement had already attained a mass character under the conditions of feudal society (…)'. [back]

18.           Hroch, Social Preconditions, 28; In the National Interest, 14. [back]

19.           Hroch, Social Preconditions, 178. [back]

20.           Hroch, In the national Interest, 57. [back]

21.           Hroch, Social Preconditions, 28; In the National Interest, 57. [back]

22.           Hroch, Social Preconditions, 142. [back]

23.           Georgi Gačev. Uskorënnoe razvitie literatury. Moskva: Nauka, 1964. [back]

24.           Peter Gerlinghoff. ‘Die Stellung der Literaturwissenschaft in der Balkanologie’. Zeitschrift für Balkanologie 8 (1971-72), nr. 1-2, 27-31. [back]

25.           Sorin Alexandrescu. La modernité à l’Est. 13 aperçus sur la littérature roumaine. Piteşti: Paralela 45, 1999, 20-21. [back]


[back to top]