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HISTORY OF TERRITORIAL DWELLINGS ON BULGARIAN LANDS

Author: Marin Devedjiev

 

This monograph deals with matters on historical geography and particularly dwells on the theme of agglomerations and urbanization at the Balkan lands. A complicated narrative such as this is beyond doubt not merited by the dignitary of a single book. Happily enough we use the work of Prof. Marin Devedjiev as only a platform for further debates and reminiscences, while the definitive study awaits to be written. Thus, to be coherent in our presentation we stretch the time-period apart from the beginnings and the endings subsequently, marking very well a boundary from 681 to 1444 A.D., with spell of 763 years that distinguished a Bulgarian presence in the Middle Ages. The next thing to do was to clarify on the sources, complicated as it has been, but accentuating on Arab and Byzantine authors. As a result of this the geography of a provisional term "Ethnicon Bulgaricum" should be attempted to elucidate within the evidence of extant sources and augmented by new research, mainly archaeological (cf., "Geza Feher. Role and Culture of the Bulgarians. Sofia, 1997" from the booklist as starting point of the narrative, but expand also on P. Dobrev, D. Dimitrov, I. Bozhilov, Y. Tabov, L. Tonev, A. Beshkov, etc. where on many instances occasional commentaries have been made by the author).

What appears at first sight is that the ancient Bulgarians were a non-definite compact mass of travelling nomads, coming from as far as Tibet and making several states in the intermediate before establishing themselves on the Balkans. The western literature sources are extremely rigid on this "primary hypothesis" and especially on their skills as crafty mason-builders; moreover, equally rigid are the estimates for their cult worships as dual heretics Manicheans, Paulicians or simply Burdjans. Aside from those geo-historical presuppositions, the Bulgarians have a well established record on at least two prolegomena at the Balkan Peninsula from 9th to 11th centuries 1) the adoption of Christianity as an official religion, that linked the state and its culture to these of the most spiritually advanced peoples; and 2) the introduction of Slav writing in Bulgaria, that opposed Byzantine influence and provided impetus to the country's independent cultural development.

We are not going to comment here on the latter premises, which are self-explanatory to a large extent and form the backbone of modern Bulgarian culture. Given in two consecutive formats, herewith are presented the unyielding instances which more often than not came from Arab and Byzantine references:

French translations on the Arabs, which consisted a dawn in modern Arabistics. This epoch started with travelers and authors of Arabic geographical science. The documented evidence on the Balkan lands are never single-handedly narrated, but based often on "heard-and-seen" oral transcripts. Thus we may state with good confidence that several Arabs witnessed on the Bulgars (or Burdjans) throughout the Islamic centuries 800 to 1200 A.D. The dates from the Hegira are often confused, names are displaced, but information is ostensibly there. Thus, authors like Abu Muslim, al-Nadim, al-Gaihani, al-Masudi, al-Idrisi and Ibn Battuta could be cited as references; altogether, the last three were the first to appear in translated literature: 1) al-Masudi (a. 956) and his "Book of Admonishment and of the Revision" (Kitab at-tanbih w'al-ishraf), translated by Bernard Carra de Vaux into French, "Macoudi, Le livre de l'avertissement et de la revision", Paris, 1897 + earlier translation of the same with parallel Arabic text from C. Barbier de Meynard and Pavet de Courteille, edits. "Macoudi, Les prairies d'or", 9 vols., Paris, 1861-1877; 2) al-Idrisi (a. 1154) with a complete, though insufficient, translation of the "Roger Book" was published by Amedee Jaubert, "Geographie d'Idrisi, traduite de l'arabe en francais, Recueil de voyages et de memoires public par la Societe de Geographie", Vols. 5 and 6, Paris, 1836-1840 + we owe to R. Dozy and M. J. De Goeje a critical edition of the section dealing with Spain and Africa, "Description de l'Afrique et de l'Espagne par Edrisi", Leiden, 1866, Arabic text with French translation and notes; 3) Ibn Battuta (1325-1354), the last great Arab to visit Constantinople before the Turks, who superseded in his writings all the previous from the milieu and was equal in his times only to Marco Polo.

German translations on the Arabs, which are the most dubious but were probably made at the court of Ottoman sultan. These consist the foundation of Bulgarian studies on the subject: 1) Vasil Avramov (1929), with two books covering almost every extant source, including Arabic, on the passes of Stara Planina (or Hemus mountain). Though controversial, the author wrote "Jubilee Almanac Pliska-Preslav" and "Bulgarian-Byzantine War from 1190" on total 630 + 240 pp., with numerous references, diagrams and notes. Here the main German text has remained W. Tomaschek's "Zur Kunde der Haemus-Halbinsel, II. Die Handelswege in 12 Jahrhundert nach den Erkundigungen des Araber Idrisi. Wien, 1887". Among other sources are references made from Crusaders of the West, compiled with precision from Anna Comnena, Niketas Choniates, etc. and giving altogether a distorted view on the Latins; 2) Konstantin Jirechek (1932), who wrote earlier his "Die Heerstrasse von Belgrad nach Constantinopel und die Balkanpasse. Prague, 1877", but now it appeared in new translation with notes and references, total 160 pp. This book uses miscellaneous sources on the Balkan lands, like re-edited "Tabula Peutingeriana", "Itinerarium Antoni Augusti", "Itinerarium Hierosolymitanum", "Itinerarium Verantius", etc; 3) Geza Feher (1940), has been given also wide credit for two earlier works "Bulgarisch-Ungarische Beziehungen in den V-Xen Jahrhunderten. Pecs, 1921" and "Ungarns Gebietsgrenzen in der Mitte des Xen Jahrhundertes. U.F., Bd. II, Heft I, April, 1921".

 

 

Copyright 2009 by the author.