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ECONOMIC GEOGRAPHY OF BULGARIA

Author: Ignat Penkov and Todor Hristov

Editor's Note: We have prepared a cycle of reviews on geographic issues and anthropogeography. This branch of knowledge which has direct relevance to medical geography have been a result of painstaking collaboration between various techniques and methodologies of space-time dimension versus the background of population health. Thus the necessity of separate textbook or syllabus is obvious, however for the purposes of a public health curriculum there is still not available a suitable material in bulgarian language. To fill the gap and we decided to present several quasi-functional monographic works and books that contain some material or separate chapters that have relevance to the situation in Bulgaria. The truth is we find in the literature search some references for congresses held on the topic of medical geography - i.e., a total of five national congresses and symposia were held in the 1970s and 1980s - however, a serious institutional effort has not been created, neither there has been an affiliation or departmental organization to sustain that branch of public health knowledge. As of this date, medical geography is being lectured within the course of the Department of Disaster Medicine. This book from Prof. I. Penkov have been an early endeavor to consolidate the geographic science in Bulgaria with special reference to population and economic resources. Further reviews are necessary to fulfill the subject, ditto.

 

The conceptual entity of economic geography evolved around several notions. We intend to make a short introduction to the subject which reflects our personal view, however other interpretations are possible that are not in total concord with ours.

LAND ECONOMICS: Apart from von Thunen's theory on borderline land use, most emphasis has been laid on the development of urban land use. The concept of "Landschaftgeographie" was developed by german geographers in the late 19th century and reflected the view of scientifically defined geographical regions with landscape morphology, involving the investigation of all that was visible on the earth's surface and the characteristic phenomena associated with an existing regional scheme. This same precincts were evolved later by English and American scholars into the science of "land economics" - viz., the one that deals with the economic utilization of the surface resources of the earth and with the physical and biological, economic and institutional factors that affect, condition and control people's use of those resources. The subject is often subdivided into rural and urban sub-fields.

ANTHROPOGEOGRAPHY: A somewhat misleading term which has been broadly interpreted as geography of the people or "geopolitics". The concept was developed by F. Ratzel in his "Anthropogeographie", 1882 and 1891, which demonstrated the possibility of studying scientifically the relations between human communities and their geographical environment, including their distribution over the earth. Geopolitics itself came to mean a science of the state as realm in space. The Nazi's Germany under Hitler leadership brought much disrepute to the term, which used the idea that competition for power would lead to the concentration of that power in the hands of a very few, large states which would use this as quasi-scientific justification to further expand by any means possible. The growth of such states was assumed to be inevitable, the result of "natural laws". Right after the Second World War it has been suggested that political geography suffered as a result of the general reaction against the "Geopolitik", but those who used the term loosely were poorly informed since the distinctions are clear - viz., "geopolitics" as concerned with the spatial requirements of the state, while political geography examines only its spatial economic conditions.

THEORETICAL GEOGRAPHY: This highly-ordered structure is out of the domain from our discussion.

POPULATION GEOGRAPHY: We shall restrict ourselves strictly to the case of Bulgaria. There is wealth of material, which treats the geographic explorations of our lands from antiquity until today. Most of the information comes from foreign sources and these are the travelogues of educated men that passed through our country and left descriptions with memoirs from their voyage. Our conditional pre-assumption is that until mid 19th century there was no such thing as clear distinction between the sciences of history and geography. The industrial revolution which was followed shortly by a cultural one, subsequently it didn't give fundamental definitions to such epochal techniques as "cartography" or "book-printing", while all data records give evidence that geography /i.e., illustration with maps/ and history /i.e., science of book writing/ evolved around those premises. Whatever the debates and chronology facts, they appear in different review sources and monographs that describe the population on this lands through the ages. We are not in a position to discuss this topic right now, however we can drop our attention slightly on the matter for the time course at the end of 19th century and following. First map, apparently printed by bulgarian is that from Alexander Hadji Russet in Strasburg /1843/. Later in the 1860s and 1870s it was our great revivalist and office-printer Hristo G. Danov that contributed actively to map printing. During the Russian-Turkish War /1877-1878/ and for the purposes of topography during war time, we have witnessed a major resurgence of maps printed by the Austrian Government Printing Office. After liberation and for a period of some twenty years there were no significant geographic efforts from the bulgarian side, while this was time for preparation of personnel cadres in geography science. The Sofia University didn't have a Department of Geography until year 1898, when Atanas Ishirkov became a first tenure in the field. The latter had studied in Leipzig and Berlin, became a staunch follower of the german geographic school and wrote down the first textbook in geography for education purposes /1910/. His creative work was succeeded after an early death in 1930s, subsequently by a whole cohort of scholars in geography and mainly with anthropocentric incline of research - viz., K. Dronchilov, I. Batakliev, D. Yaranov, G. Gunchev and others. A special report on the anthropogeography inclination at the bulgarian lands should be written and special attention should be called on the diversity of approaches and methods used in these surveys. Finally, after WWII and the socialist transition of Bulgaria and its neighboring countries - viz., this period of development for the geography science should also be described from a modern perspective, although it has evidently suffered from the mainstreams of Marxist-Leninist thought.

 

Picture 1: Coal basins and deposits in Bulgaria.

 

Erratum:

(i). Following generally accepted international standards and according to the degrees of carbonification all types of coal are to be found in Bulgaria. Principal deposits of coal took the lion's share in the industrialization of post-WWII /i.e., World War II/ socialist Bulgaria in the several decades of unprecedented economic growth.

(ii). Until the mid-1980s, however, it was evident that socialism and market economy are incongruent and this necessitated further transition with changes in the economic schemes. This map which illustrates the distribution of coal resources in the country comes to give some errors in the socialist economy, which used to concentrate in a quasi-planned manner people and other economic resource for the fulfillment of short term tasks and objectives. This led to instant success in the beginning, but in the long run it has resulted in major disproportions of both human and capital asset.

(iii). The marked dots on the map are places where huge human agglomerations grew during the period of socialist reconstruction of Bulgaria. This major coal-miners villages are now in total disrepute and neglect, since major alternative sources of energy have appeared at a lower productive cost. The migration pattern of the country has suffered seriously as result of displacement of large masses of people from the abandoned coal-basins agglomerations further to the urban centers of the country. A part from this jobless people have migrated abroad, too.

 

 

Copyright 2006 by the author.