Balkan Nations and Ottoman Empire: The Rejected Legacy Cover Image
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Балканските народи и Османската империя: Едно отхвърлено наследство
Balkan Nations and Ottoman Empire: The Rejected Legacy

Author(s): Nikolay Aretov
Subject(s): Cultural history
Published by: Институт за литература - БАН
Keywords: Ottoman Empire; Balkans; Legacy; cutlure; Nationalism

Summary/Abstract: The Ottoman legacy is a curious topic in Bulgarian cultural studies. Despite the overall quest for prestigious legacies and heritages (Antique, Thracian, even Byzantine, not to mention Slav and Proto-Bulgarian), it is still neglected and even rejected. Mass consciousness admits some traces and influences in the field of material culture, in cuisine, rarely in traditional costumes and even more rarely in customs. The Ottoman legacy is often seen as a “legacy of shame” from which modern Bulgarians should deliberate themselves. The paper is trying to deal with some aspects of the complex problem of interferences, border phenomena, mechanisms and arguments that deny the Ottoman legacy. It focuses on some cases in which rejection in fact appears to be confirmation, like when one’s own identity is based on the rejection of some other identity (Ottoman, Turk, Muslim) using its proper matrix. Not infrequently own “high” traditions are succeeded by foreign “low” traditions in a text and a situation. In other instances one could trace curious coexistence of rejection and glorification of the alien and Turk in particular. This was typical for some canonical literary works, dedicated to the struggle for national independence (such as the memoirs of Zachari Stoyanov), and for modern text of culture too. The author attempts to see these phenomena in the context of national mythology. All of us are inclined to think of national mythology as built mainly on the basis of narrations of the great ancestors’ glorious deeds. The narrations of suffering and traumatic events that consolidate the community through other mechanism supplement the general picture. It is not so obvious that some important events in which “ours” overcome “enemies” are either missing, or appear later, or are presented modestly. Other victories, either real or easy to imagine, do not have the place we expect them to have. The present paper points at some similar cases in Bulgarian context and some possible explanations. Bulgarian national mythology’s main plot is the abducted treasure narrative – Bulgarians were first and foremost victims and then liberators and avengers. This plot has its inverted mirror image variations in which heroic Bulgarians abducted “other’s” women, books, faith. It had its ground in history, but its presence in national mythology is limited, the reasons for that being rather complex and not so clear. In certain cases they have to do with so called ressentiment. One of these inverted mirror image variations of the abducted treasure plot unexpectedly became actual in the late 20th century in connection with the name change of the Muslims in Bulgaria. These events have enormous myth-generating capacity that can go in diametrically opposed directions and have not yet fully shown its potential.

  • Issue Year: 2008
  • Issue No: 1
  • Page Range: 55-66
  • Page Count: 11
  • Language: Bulgarian