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CRADLE OF THE OLD AND NEW BULGARIAN LITERATURE

Author: Emil Georgiev

 

We continue to issue reports on the archive of Prof. Emil Georgiev, which for its in-depth is unsurpassed as a study base on Slavistics literature. The primacy of this material in bulgarian language doesn't exclude from it a singularity of matter that otherwise would be inaccessible either because of language barriers or difficulty to obtain in visu. Thus the titular /i.e., E. Georgiev/ has often reiterated that the similarity between the various Slav dialects is greater than the sheer discourse; consequently, as comparing this rapport to a similar counter-position — viz., the legitimacy and common ancestry of various Western dialects as German, French, etc. — Georgiev concludes that lexical distances are smaller among the Slavs and greater among the Westerners, which makes the former a more convenient sample for research.

The above observation has found its back-up with with numerous examples in the monograph at hand. This examples constitute one leading thematic point — cf., the lending power of various Slav dialects and the mutual intercourse and association of their corresponding literatures. Simplified explanation as this seldom gives a rationale for defending a thesis, except in the cases when wealth of illustrative material is used or say a sophisticated analytical methods, like content-analysis, are being performed.

The limited purpose aims for this project would prevent us to further inquire in this area of expertise, which in its robustness should be delved in appropriate book format. To be true to the reading spirit of our booklist and we should present ultimately only a few from the multiple parallels that Prof. E. Georgiev has discussed in his books.

Firstly, on Paisi and his role in the Bulgarian Risorgimento — cf., the introductory material above and also the one from "E. Georgiev. Azi, Buki and Vedi of Bulgarian Gramercy. Sofia, 1981". Despite the wide proficiency of materials in English language on the Bulgarian revival and our efforts to corroborate on Paisi Hilendarski were rather unlucky. We could distinguish only one American scholar that has performed research on the titular — viz., Dennis Hupchick. From the Bulgarians we could distinguish only two books published by Sofia Press in English — viz., a monograph from Velcho Velchev and the "Slav-Bulgarian History" itself.

On the informative value of Paisi's narrative we should be succinct. Written in the year 1762, this book constitute an effort when historiography was still in its Dark Ages. On the other hand that doesn't mean that as a document written in vernacular and it lacks authenticity. While citing profusely on major authorities of the day, such as Cardinal Caesar Baronio and Benedictine monk Mauro Orbini, the humble Paisi of Hilendar doesn't transcend some tradition and folklore. Consider his colloquial attitude towards the Medieval bulgarian tzars — viz., this is the primeval sign of the non-belligerent approach of the author. His list of the Bulgarian Tzars is comparable only to one another cleric from the same time, which is the croatian Andrija Kačić-Miošić who in 1756 wrote a semi-book or semi-apology like Paisi Hilendarski. Both are deplorable for their ignorance and conformity to tradition.

Still further come several other monastic historiography works on Bulgaria, written in the same time-period and by people professed as Bulgarians. Close to Paisi's history and written in the year 1761 is Blasius Kleiner's "History of Bulgaria". The latter was Franciscan monk from Transylvania and much greater erudite than our Athonian predecessor. As a matter of fact Kleiner's history is on a very high professional level and accordingly his list of Bulgarian monarchs with accompanying historical events is untowardly valid some 100 years later.

Emblematical as he was, Paisi's followers were not late to come. In 1792, the bulgarian Jeromonach Spiridon wrote yet another history. The fate of this scholar was totally obscured until lately, when his work was acknowledged as not being duplicate of Paisi's; thence, in the 1990s appeared several copies of Spiridon's history. That man who awaits retribution as a second-hand historian and Risorgimento activist, has a well documented biography from the cloister of Nyamtsu, in Moldavia. The book by Spiridon is twice the length of Paisi's history and much more detailed. We shall be back with more information on this bulgarian masterpiece.

Secondly, we shall try to fill a gap on the chronology of the evolving bulgarian historiography. Much time before the establishment of the Bulgarian Literary Society in Braila /1869/ and the officialdom of Marin Drinov's collegiate work — explicitly, we wish to co-notate some ancestors before that date. This is not an effort to deprecate the work of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences /BAS/, since what we are talking about are stitches that have to be incorporated in the body of Bulgarian culture sooner or later.

It is commonly approved that the Russians contributed most to the revival of the Bulgarians — a state-of-art, which is subject to the admonition that Moscow has become the Third Rome and preserver of Christianity. For a time being, we Bulgarians, have been wondering how much exactly Bulgaria owes to its greater brother Russia and as if patriotism has to be scaled. That is prone to become falsehood if we look at the reciprocate value of the coin, with reference to how much inspiration and glory did the northern neighbors receive from medieval Bulgaria. Here are some answers.

In 1828-29 during the consecutive Russian-Turkish War, many intellectuals from the North seek reassessment of their cultural heritage. We have already written some commentaries on Yuri Venelin. Another russian deserved also commensurate attention and this time for a poetic impulse — viz., Viktor Teplyakov and his "Letters from Bulgaria" /1832-1836/. The countryside of Moesia and Thrace is given a beautiful descript, an idyllic landscape evolves which have much in common with Byron's elegies in his "Child Harold".

Another exemplary is the historical novelist Alexander Weltman, called deservedly a Russian Walter Scot. The historical fiction "Rayna, Princess of Bulgaria" was written in year 1843. There comes an immense adventure epos where the heroes are all noble Bulgarians, fighting the lusty and sly Byzantines. The love story between princess Rayna, daughter of King Peter, with the mighty warrior Svetoslav of Kiev has been lying in the center of the narrative. Exquisite in details, the author and commentator gives his impressions on a long forgotten land and its people. The pages on the glory of Simeon, who is related to as almost a saintly character are enigmatic. The Romans couldn't defeat the invincible Tzar and his army, so they consecrate the bulgarian majesty with black magic, ditto.

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Miscellaneous: The idea of Pan-Slavism in the new bulgarian literature has been unambiguous but flourished in the 1960s and 1970s mainly due to the efforts of Soviet scholars in the field. This collaboration started with the works primarily of Prof. N. Derzhavin and later was continued by his most staunch pupil Prof. E. Georgiev from Bulgaria. The effect is good flow of literature on Slavic studies together with the perception that the Bulgars are none other than some of the South-Slav population of Eastern Europe that amalgamated at one time or another various warrior tribes of Hunno-Bulgars invading the Balkan peninsula.

Thus the rising nationalism of the 19th century found difficulty to accommodate the Bulgarians in the family of an evolving Indo-European concept. They (i.e., the Bulgarians) were thought to be more Aryan than Semitic, but that ultimately didn't solve the question of their ethnicity or geographical dispersion proper. As a matter of fact, what the works of Prof. E. Georgiev did were a re-iteration of the notion from early XIX c. — cf., Yuri Venelin, Vuk Karadjich, etc. on the "resurrected Slav Phoenix of the Balkans".

Thus far, another similar trend from the Bulgarian Enlightenment has been rivaling on a concurrent basis — cf., the idea of Macedonization and Balkanization of the bulgarian ethnos. For a good review on the question with many references see "Iliya Konev. Bulgarian Revival and the National Enlightenment /3 vols/. Sofia: Izdatelstvo BAN, 1983-1998".

 

Picture 1: Sample illustration on the text above.

(i). Prof. Emil Georgiev (1910-1985) is the doyen of Slavistics and Bulgaristics literature in Bulgaria.

 

 

Copyright © 2008 by the author.