WE, THE BULGARIANS ~ ORIGINS AND DEVELOPMENT OF OUR LANGUAGE
Author: Vladimir Kotlyanin
This particular book on ethno-linguistics has few precedents in Bulgarian literature. It was obviously written by an educated philologist since the print format of the presented material is quite elaborate — contained are data on grammar and phonetics of more than 20 European languages, plus Chinese and Japanese. The identity of the author, Vladimir Kotlyanin, is unknown and the only knowledge on him stems from the fact that he attended lectures of Prof. Louis Leger in Paris, academic year 1908/1909. Thus Kotlyanin seems to be a self-made linguist unregistered by the Bulgarian university authorities. He was also born from Kotel, capital of an ancient Bulgarian civilization, where (doubtfully?!) much of the famous Revival Bulgarian linguists come from. Here the author makes a short retrospect on Dr. Petar Beron, Georgi S. Rakovski, Tzani Ginchev, etc. who were the primal authorities on which the thesis of the monograph is based.
Otherwise, the volume at hand is strictly a nationalistic and chauvinist reading. Published at times right before the Balkan Wars and WWI, it reflects the state of political affairs in the region. For instance, the scornful attitude towards Serbs and Greeks is palpable but the interested analyst could consult a vice verso attitude — cf., Radosavljevich's "Who are the Slavs?". Kotlyanin's book should be rightfully classified as "grey" literature. Eventually, a next generation of university scholars produced Prof. Stoyan Romanski and Prof. Stefan Mladenov who delved very deeply into the subject of Indo-European linguistics.
We are definitely not going to retell the whole book but should examine several instances from the text that seemed amusing and even debatable to a lay linguist:
1. Russians don't have a language of their own. Modern Russian is unmodified Old Church Slavic (Bulgarian);
2. Serbs doesn't represent a nation in itself. They are the westernmost part of the Bulgarians (Shoppes, Macedonians, Arnautes) that used a degenerated version of Bulgarian language which crippled words through omissions;
3. Greeks originated from North Africans. This is allusion to the Phoenicians (Cadmus, thence Plato's "Academia") that brought alphabet to the Greek islands and mainland;
4. Germans come from the french word "guerre" or warlike. Their language is a compound one which used one root word to make dozens of derivatives. Perhaps that's why there were also so many philosophers (thinkers) of German extraction;
5. French are shy and parsimonious in their language. They wouldn't even wash their hands if someone did this before them, they would just refresh (je lave mes maines);
6. Turks are god-forsaken people which doesn't mean that their ancestor revolved from the Gardens of Eden. Their language is compared to Chinese and Japanese, meaningless to Europeans but self-contained to religious adherents.
Addendum: Ancient Greek and Latin author when speaking for the Bulgarian lands often refer them as lands of the Thracians. Since the latter did not left written sources on their language some scholars thought them as dead entity. However, recent theories in the second half of the 20th century and especially research by Prof. Vladimir Georgiev revived the hypothesis of a living Thracian language.
The Byzantine authors are very parsimonious in their historical references on the Bulgarians and their two kingdoms in the Medieval ages. Since Slavic literature in the period from VII to XIV cc. is very scanty and includes mostly compilation works and translations (i.e., with occasional marginal notes from the contributor) — subsequently, we are not commenting on this issue but specialist studies do exist in the field and interested ones could be redirected in the Medieval literature, per se.
Systematic studies on Bulgarian toponyms during Ottoman ages doesn't exist a priori. Some Turkish travelers mentioned about the Bulgars in their writings but those were occasional remarks only, as for instance the travelogue of Evliya Chelebi. Most often than not, the bulgarian masses in the times before Paissi Hilendarski (1762) have co-existed as a mutiny of the vast Slavic populations on the Balkans. A separate chapter consist the relations of the bulgarian Catholics and their communications with Vatican and the Pope (i.e., notably the works of Peter Bogdan, Krustyu Peykich, Ksaver de Peyachevich, etc.).
The Slavic enlighteners of the type of Vuk Karadzhich, Pavel Safarik and especially, Yuri Venelin, traditionally were known as the "first discoverers of the Bulgarians". However, their enigma persisted until year 1878 and their Liberation from the Turks. Henceforth appear the first consolidated effort to associate the landmass and its population with something derived from the language and mentality of the Bulgarians. Knowledgeable contributions on Bulgarian etymology was firstly done by Dr. Petar Beron in his philosophical system called "Panepistemie" (1861-1867). Revolutionary and journalist Georgi S. Rakovski was also a keen antiquarian and published firstly his "Index or Omnibus on the bulgarian language, lifestyle, mentality, folklore, etc" (1859), where etymological associations are profusely linked with events from history. Other popular folk tribunes like Petko Slaveykov, Lyuben Karavelov and most notably Dimitar Marinov delved, albeit perfunctory, on the etymological issues but left no organized body of knowledge behind them.
The first modern scholar to entice and beguile Etymology on a scientific basis was Prof. Ivan Shishmanov — viz., ostensibly so in numerous publications but the most important being "Critical Review on the Origin of the Proto-bulgarians from linguistic standpoint with Etymology of the name Bulgar" (1900). This remarkable book hasn't been appreciated by bulgarian scholars even until now, hundred years later. The modern stanzas of bulgarian language were comprehensively thought firstly by titular professors in Sofia University from the 1920s and 1930s — Prof. Benyu Tzonev and Prof. Stefan Mladenov. Their etymological contributions are two too many to be discussed in this short article.
So we leave these historical reminiscences for further enhancement and later re-considerations. Last but not least, we wish to say few words on the author Vasil Mikov. Despite the fact that he was curator of the National Archaeological Museum in the 1950s and he was subjected to total neglect as scholar until his death (1957). He was stranded as reactionary, collaborator to fascists, anti-republican and so on; as a result, his main works were seldom cited as primary source. To be exact, we wish to pinpoint just another mentor that was condemned by the communists but left a precious contribution to the worldwide treasure of bulgarian heritage. Prof. Gavril Katzarov (died c. 1958), was eminent with his studies on Thracology. He could be even named as founder of the discipline in Bulgaria from the years before the World War I. Main contributions were written in the period between the two Great Wars, some dozen full length books and numerous articles in bulgarian and foreign journals. Yet his namesake is not mentioned in the pantheon of bulgarian science, neither he is acknowledged as citation of importance in bulgarian classical literature.
Copyright © 2010 by the author.