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Author: Stefan Vatev



Races of Europe, 1939 (Chapter XII, section 15)

East of the Illyrians and north of the Macedonians lived, in classical times, the Thracians. Their territory reached beyond the Danube on the north to the border of Scythian country, and on the east to the Black Sea. In the period of their greatest power, between 450 and 300 B.C., they were a numerous and important people; Herodotus called them the most numerous west of India. The southern Thracians were more or less Hellenized culturally, the northern ones in later times were Romanized, and were also influenced by the settlement of Goths among them. The invasions of the South Slavs, however, put an end to what remained of their ethnic identity.

The Thracians are introduced here, at this late date, because they were not discussed in Chapter VI, along with the other Indo-European-speaking peoples of the Iron Age. The reason for this omission is that no skeletal material worthy of mention has been described which can be associated with them. A single skull which was probably Thracian, however, was dolichocephalic and leptorrhine. Classical descriptions of Thracians make them tall, powerful, and apparently fair. As such they fit into the general scheme of the Iron Age Indo-European-speaking peoples.

Bulgaria was once Thracian country; a few centuries after its Romanization, it was submerged by a Slavic invasion, the advance guard of the movement which brought Slavic speech into Serbia. This Slavic invasion, which resulted in a permanent settlement of the country, was followed by a further invasion of still heathen Ugrian tribes under Turkish leadership, similar to the movement which brought the ancestors of the Magyars to Hungary. The subsequent history of Bulgaria was the opposite to that of Hungary; the Bulgars, who had left their eastern Russian home before the rise of the Bolgar Empire, kept their Ugrian name, but gave up their language, in favor of the speech of their Slavic predecessors. Whereas the Magyars became Catholics, the Bulgars adopted Orthodox Christianity. The next invaders of Bulgaria of importance were the Ottoman Turks, who took over the fertile Danubian farm lands, and settled large colonies of Asiatic Turks on them. Sporadic invasions of Tatars from South Russia mingled themselves with this Turkish body. At the time of the Russian conquest of the Caucasus, many Moslem Cherkess fled to Bulgaria to avoid submission to Christians.

Since the war, many of the Turkish peasants have left Bulgaria, and many of the Cherkess as well. There are still islands of these people throughout the country, but especially in the eastern lowlands, and there are minor colonies of Greeks, Tatars, and Rumanians. To the west, the Bulgarians occupy the greater part of Yugoslavian Macedonia, and border in this neighborhood on the Albanians. To the south, they extend to the head of the Aegean, where their settlements are interspersed with those of Turks and Greeks. Most of the Bulgarians are still Orthodox Christians, but a large minority, especially in Macedonia, is Moslem.

The stature of the Bulgarians varies regionally from 166 cm. to 168 cm.; the tallest are found in Macedonia, and also in the very northeastern part of Bulgaria. There is a strong social segregation on the basis of stature; students at the Sofia Military Academy had, in 1906, a mean stature of 171.5 cm.; other socially selected samples rise to 170 cm. The Bulgar colonists who live in the Crimea have a mean of 169 cm., those in the Rumanian Dobrudja, 167 cm. The mean cephalic index of over 5000 Bulgarian soldiers is 79.6; this varies within the kingdom of Bulgaria from 80.8 in the north, to 79.9 in the southwest, and 78.2 in the south. Christian Bulgars of Macedonia have a mean of 83.3, while in the region of Monastir this rises to 85. Moslem Bulgars are less brachycephalic, with a mean cephalic index of 80.5. In the neighborhood of Salonika small local samples of Bulgars are actually dolichocephalic, with a mean of 76.4, and in the neighborhood of Adrianople in Turkish Thrace, the mean is only 78.3. Bulgarian émigrés in the Crimea have a mean of 78.7.

Thus within the Bulgarian people there is a strong tendency toward dolichocephaly, strong enough to impress mesocephaly upon the nation as a whole. The strongest expression of this tendency is found in the southern part of the kingdom, and beyond Bulgarian territory proper. True brachycephaly are found only among the Macedonian Bulgars who live in close contact with Albanians.

The Bulgarians of the kingdom have heads of moderate size, with a mean length of about 189 mm. and a breadth of 150 mm.; they are comparable in this respect to the longer-headed Greeks. Their faces, however, are narrower than those of most Balkan peoples; the minimum frontal mean is 105 mm., the bizygomatic 139 mm., and the bigonial 108 mm. As with the Greeks, the jaw is wider than the forehead, but both widths are much narrower than with the latter. The face height, 121 mm., is moderate, the facial index, 87, mesoprosopic. On the other hand the upper facial index, 55, is relatively high. The ratio between the two facial indices assumes a Mediterranean position. The nasal diameters, 55 mm. by 36 mm., yield a moderately leptorrhine index, 65.

So far, the metrical position of the main group of Bulgarians is that of a moderately tall-statured Mediterranean group, with the addition of some brachycephalic agent in a minor numerical position. The pigmentation of the Bulgars, while lighter than that of the Greeks, is predominantly dark. About 25 per cent have pure dark eyes, about 15 per cent light and light-mixed; the remaining majority are dark or evenly mixed. The head hair is dark brown or very dark reddish brown in almost the entire group; even among children, definitely blond combinations of hair, eye, and skin color do not exceed 10 per cent of the whole. Among adults light head hair is rare. The beard, however, shows the same tendency to disproportionate lightness found among Albanians, Montenegrins, and Cretans, but not among Greeks; the brunet colors found in about 90 per cent of the head hair occurs in only 50 per cent of the beards. Medium and light brown beards account for most of the rest. There is a notable absence of ash-blonds in this group.

Most of the Bulgars have straight nasal profiles; concave forms are found principally in the northwest, adjoining Serbian territory, where they amount to 12 per cent. Convexity is rare among all Bulgarians, but least so in Macedonia. The snubbed tip so characteristic of northern and eastern Slavs is by no means unknown among them, but is in the minority.

The Bulgarians are a composite people, with the following racial elements easily discernible: (a) medium to tall-statured Atlanto-Mediterranean; (b) partially blond Neo-Danubian, of typical snub-nosed form; (c) Nordic; (d) Dinaric, with the usual Alpine corollary; (e) brachycephalic central Asiatic Turkish or Tatar form. The basic element is the Atlanto-Mediterranean, which probably goes back to the Neolithic; the Neo-Danubian is probably of both Slavic and Ugrian introduction, although some of it may be older; the Nordic may be of several origins, including Thracian; the Dinaric is simply the result of Bulgarian admixture with local elements in Macedonia; the Turkic is found mostly in eastern Bulgaria, and then among townsmen and shepherds rather than among agriculturalists. Of these varied elements, the first two are the most important, and the first more than the second. The presence of a strongly entrenched Atlanto-Mediterranean population of Neolithic date in all of the lowland Balkans south and east of the Iron Gate is becoming increasingly evident. In Bulgaria it is geographically most concentrated along the southern ethnic periphery, and among Bulgarian colonies abroad, as in the Crimea.



Addendum: We continue our systematic reviews on anthropology issues in Bulgaria. Already in a previous title from the booklist we mentioned about the first major Bulgarian anthropology study held in the period 1998-1907 under auspices of Ministry of Education. Dr. Stefan Vatev initiated the research proposal but in chronological aspect we should mention that firstly his efforts were streamed in another direction. In 1898, Vatev approached the Ministry of War with a structured questionnaire to make anthropological measurements on cohort of 6000 soldiers. His application received a decline, while on invitation from the German Society for Anthropology he received funding for mass examination of Bulgarian pupils on assessment of their hair, skin and colour of eyes. Subsequently, it was Dr. Krum Dronchilov (1889-1925) who undertook the non-benevolent work to examine the soldier's body proportions during First World War. The latter was also student to Prof. Felix von Luschan in Berlin and followed the same educational agenda of German anthropology, namely to look for traits of the "Nordic race" or "Aryanism". As of Dronchilov's untimely death, Dr. Vatev continued the job with the whole set of data — soldiers, school pupils and crania from ossuaries of Bulgarian monasteries.

The subset of children measurements gave rather unexpected results. The data from 236,884 pupils in the Principality of Bulgaria revealed a predominance of "mixed" and "dark" types, while the "blond" type was running in the boundaries of about 9%. Compared to 30% blondness in Germany this was a deviation from "Nordicism". Next Dr. Vatev attempted to compare in his school statistics anthropological differences between Bulgarian and minority children (Turks, Pomaks, Armenians, and Jews). Ironically, this led to more unwelcome results where the data of 54,734 ethnic minority pupils yielded 13% "blondness" for Turks and Pomaks compared to their Bulgarian counterparts. Thus Dr. Vatev was forced to evade a final assessment of the racial origin of Bulgarians. He received more criticism by Prof. Stefan Jurinich (a Croat, working as zoologist in Bulgaria) on the pages of journal "Bulgarski Pregled". Jurinich argued that somatic traits of pupils — e.g., colour of hair — could possibly change after sexual maturity. Vatev produced no solid counter-argument but defended himself with reference to Dr. Rudolf Virchow in Germany whose example he had only followed. The maturation problem was further expounded by him in articles on Child Hygiene published in the 1920s. As we said already, research from Dr. Vatev was omnibus in its essence and he had dealt also with multiplicity of issues such as "race and first female menstruation", "occurrence of deformations and monstrosities among children", etc.

While browsing our personal archive on Dr. Vatev we found some inconsistencies that deserve commentary. Originally it appeared that military officials were against bodily measurements performed in the Bulgarian Army — ostensibly, that would resolve on tactical power of the enemy. But three years later in 1901, Dr. Vatev got permit from the Statistical Directorate that was gathering nationwide data including on military recruits. Thus his sub-sample increased with 31,469 soldiers interviewed at army admission plus data on 5,024 junkers at High Military School. Courtesy to the Russian statistician I. V. Jurkevich, who worked in Bulgaria for 20 years after the Liberation, military data was incorporated in the whole analysis as sub-group 20-25 years old. This didn't brought substantial change in overall results which significantly fall bellow the 30% barrier. On the other hand the methodology of the investigation revealed some misnomers that gave relative "bias" to the final results. Virchow's correspondence table divided the traits (hair, skin and colour of eyes) accordingly in 11 separate groups. While in Germany yellow hair, white skin and blue eyes matched perfectly to a uniform "blond" type, the case in Bulgaria varied with some extremes. For instance, people with black hair, white skin and grey eyes were classified as "dark". Those non-Aryans that match roughly to the Europoid "brunet" type comprised some 34% of the whole Bulgarian population (2nd + 3rd type in Virchow's correspondence table). Eventually, Frenchness not Germanness was characteristic feature for the Bulgar nation; even at that early phase the hidden Mediterranean component in Eastern Balkans was evident from anthropological surveys.

Common denominator for good anthropometry research was the use of photography. The photographic method in craniology was used by Dr. Vatev as early as year 1907. We still consider his monograph "Foreign Literature on the Anthropology of Bulgarians. Sofia, 1909" as the most important publication in the field. Despite the fact that later in the 1930s he expanded the survey with new material (photometric series of Bulgarian types by geography location, plus, anthropology map of nationwide "cephalic index") — viz., the early endeavors of this really towering physician deserve admiration, ditto.

Supplement: Anthropology map of Bulgaria based on nationwide "cephalic index" — originally was followed the administrative division of the country from 1901 but subsequently four typological districts were formed, 1) South Bulgaria, the Thracian group, dolichocephalic 76,29 to 77,97; 2) South-West Bulgaria, the Sofia group, mesocephalic 78,37 to 79,75; 3) North Bulgaria, the Tarnovo group, brachycephalic 79,90 to 81,77; and, 4) West Macedonia, the Ohrid group which is partially given here with Kystendil, Dupnitza and Samokov, hyperbrachycephalic 81,94 to 85,20

Thus within the Bulgarian people there is a strong tendency toward dolichocephaly, strong enough to impress mesocephaly upon the nation as a whole. The strongest expression of this tendency is found in the southern part of the kingdom, and beyond Bulgarian territory proper. True brachycephaly are found only among the Macedonian Bulgars who live in close contact with Albanians.


Picture 1: Sample illustration in the text above.

(i). Photometric series of Bulgarian types by geography location — clockwise, Tarnovo group (brachycephalic); Thracian group (dolichocephalic); Sofia group (mesocephalic); and, Ohrid group (hyperbrachycephalic).



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