Bulgari, Şchei, Sloveni, Sârbi and Greci

Throughout the centuries Romanians have employed various terms as designations for Bulgarians. Some of these terms are restricted within specific timeframes but it seems that Romanians at all times had alternative terms at their disposal. Whenever there is terminological choice, it becomes possible to express additional characteristics of the referents in question. Thus, according to the locals both 'Bulgarians' and 'Serbs' reside in the village Ciorogârla on the outskirts of Bucharest. The Bulgarians arrived in Ciorogârla from the Elena Region at the beginning of the twentieth century whereas the Serbs, who also came from northern Bulgaria, had settled one century earlier (Младенов, М. С. 1993: 30).

The ethnic term bulgari, sg. bulgar is very old in Romanian. It is mentioned as a geographic term in Romanian territory in Wallachian Bulgarian documents from the first quarter of the fifteenth century and is used in Romanian literature from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century as well as in folklore and, occasionally, in geographic terminology (Iordan, I. 1963: 262–264; Младенов, М. С. 1993: 29–30; Vătăşescu, C. 2005: 144). This ethnic term is current today not only as a designation for Bulgarians but also with the meaning ‘market gardeners’, a trade many Bulgarians in southern Romania practice (Weigand, G. 1900: 120; Mihăilă, G. 1960: 68; Младенов, М. С. 1993: 26; Vătăşescu, C. 2005: 149). If a given ethnic group has a preference for a certain occupation, speakers may denote the occupation with this group’s name and, vice versa, use the occupational term as an ethnic term; cf. for instance the contemporary Albanian terms arixhinj lit. ‘bear-ward’ but also ‘Roma’, çobën lit. ‘shepherd’ but also ‘Aromanian’ (Kahl, T. 2012).

Romanian şchei, sg. şcheau, was inherited from Vulgar Latin *sclavus, a variant of slavus ‘Slav; slave’, also borrowed in the Balkans in Albanian shqe, sg. shqa. Romanian şchei refers sometimes to Slavs in general, or to Serbs but most often to Bulgarians. The meaning ‘slave’ is preserved in Albanian along with the other meanings of the word which can also denote Orthodox Bulgarians or Serbs or Orthodox Christians in general, including Greeks (Vătăşescu, C. 2005: 146–149). Based on the Romanian literature of the sixteenth and the seventeenth century, we can conclude that, by that time, the Romanian şchei was already rare. However, it was and continues to be well documented in geographic terminology (Brezeanu, S. 2002).

The Romanian slovean ‘South Slav’ is only used in old Romanian literature (Vătăşescu, C. 2005: 146).

The ethnic term sârbi, sg. sârb is employed in Romanian to refer to Serbs but since the seventeenth century also to In a characteristic fashion it may be used simultaneously with the ethnic term bulgari to refer to a population of the same type. Here is an indicative example from the end of the nineteenth century: “Only Romanians live in the county [Vlaşca] with the exception of the villages Udeni, Drăghineşti, Iepureşti-Sârbi, where one encounters Serbs. There is a large number of Bulgarians on the Danube River bank in the villages Malul, Slobozia, Paraipani, Găojani, Bila, Şopârleşti and Gurgueţi, who are considered today simply Romanian. Many of them have forgotten their language and do not preserve even their traditional Bulgarian costumes” (Lahovari, G. I., C. I. Bratianu, G. Tocilescu 1898-1902, 5: 766). As the texts in this Corpus demonstrate, the same Bulgarian Bjala-Slatina dialect is spoken in the villages Udeni, Drăghineşti and Bila. Bulgarians (Младенов, М. С. 1993: 25). It also is frequent in For a map of the distribution of micro-toponyms with the component sârbi see Младенов, М. С. 1993: 445, and also Donat, I. 1962.geographic terminology, precisely in the territory inhabited by Transdanubian settlers. The Transdanubian settlers themselves, as the recordings in this Corpus amply indicate, also use this term for Some reasons why Transdanubian Bulgarians go along with this practice are presented in Младенов, М., Б. Нягулов, Н. Жечев 1994: 380. self-identification, concurrently with the ethnic term българи. ‘Bulgarians’. Moreover, (Славкова, М. 2005: 281). regarding Krušeto, Gorna Orjaxovica Region also see Дончева, Т. И. 2005: 44. According to Vasilka Aleksova, fieldwork among Romanian-speakers in Letnica and Aleksandrovo, Loveč Region(2009) and Duševo, Sevlievo Region (2010) has confirmed this usage. the Romanian-speaking minority population in eastern Bulgaria (the so-called рудари) also refers to their Bulgarian neighbours as sârbi or сърби. The Romanian Dialect Atlas shows that the ethnic term sârb in Muntenia, where Transdanubian settlers reside, may also mean ‘market gardener’ (Vătăşescu, C. 2005: 149).

In the Romanian context, one also may find that the term greci ‘Greeks’ refers to ethnic Bulgarians (Романски, С. 1914: 56; Велики, К. Н., В. Трайков 1980: 10; Младенов, М. С. 1993: 25, 27).

The listed ethnic terms can be divided into two groups according to their taxonomic level. By this criterion the hypernyms şcheau and slovean contrast with the hyponyms bulgar, sârb and grec.

hypernymsşcheau / slovean

If the use of more general terms as designations of specific referents (such as bird instead of skylark) raises no questions, the expansion of terms of the same rank (such as nightingale instead of blackbird) requires special attention. For an overview of the proposals made see Младенов, М. С. 1993: 25–26, 29–30 and Vătăşescu, C. 2005. The explanations proposed so far are not completely satisfactory. According to one hypothesis, rural Romanians see no difference between Serbs and Bulgarians, perhaps because they cannot distinguish between their languages. Another proposal claims that Romanians forgot about the existence of Bulgarians after the Second Bulgarian Empire fell under Ottoman rule. In the opinion of some scholars, the ethnic term sârbi started gradually to replace the ethnic term bulgari as a designation for Bulgarians because, on the one hand, Serbs preserved their influence in Wallachia during the Ottoman period and, on the other hand, after the sixteenth century Slavic literature in Resava orthography predominated in the Romanian principalities. Others point out that Bulgarians were not included among the ethnic groups in the Romanian lands whose members held tax and other privileges. Yet another explanation attaches significance to the proliferation of the meaning of bulgar as ‘market gardener’ and attributes the preference for the ethnic term sârbi as a designation of Bulgarians to an attempt to avoid confusion. And finally, it is assumed that, since descendants of Proto-Slavic *sьrbъ may designate different Slavic groups (as for example the Sorbians in the eastern part of Germany), speakers of Romanian treated sârbi as a hypernym on par with şcheau and slovean.

Among the information provided above about the Romanian ethnic terms used to designate Bulgarians there are facts that contradict the proposed explanations. In addition, some arguments may be dismissed: could it be that Bulgarians were not included in legal documents granting privileges for certain groups precisely because the authors of these documents knew them under a different name – sârbi? Other arguments such as the visible physical and cultural Serbian presence in Wallachia cannot serve as a sufficient justification for the presumed lexical change sârbi ‘Serbs’ ˃ ‘Serbs; Bulgarians’. Yet other arguments face obstacles of chronological nature.

We believe that the option to attach a broader meaning to the Romanian ethnic terms sârb and grec and the lack of such an option in regards to bulgar depend on the self-identifications of these nations: Serb Србин, Bulgarian българин and Greek Έλληνας. An ethnic term as a denotation of a given group consists of a complex of specific distinctive features. These complexes may display different structures. For instance, religious affiliation and language may be assigned different slots in an ethnic term’s semantic structure. Religious affiliation is not a core feature of the ethnic term българин ‘Bulgarian’, as shown by the existence of terms such as българо-мохамеданин ‘Moslem Bulgarian’ and българи католици ‘Catholic Bulgarians’. In other words, one need not be Orthodox Christian in order to be considered Bulgarian. On the other hand, language is not a core feature of the ethnic term Έλληνας ‘Greek’, cf. Έλληνες σλαβόφωνοι ‘Slavic-speaking Greeks’. This means that one need not be a native speaker of Greek in order to be considered Greek.

The characteristics of the ethnic term Срби stood clearly out in the context of the mass displacements of population caused by the disintegration of Yugoslavia (1991–2006), the military actions that accompanied this process and the replacement of The Štokavian Serbo-Croatian dialect, the basis of both the former Serbo-Croatian language and the standard languages that replaced it, was named after the interrogative pronoun što, šta, ‘what’ to which in other dialects – the Čakavian and the Kajkavian in Croatian territory and the Šćakavian in Croatia and Bosnia – correspond the pronouns ča, kaj and šća, respectively. The second isogloss, used in the classification of Serbo-Croatian dialects, distinguishes them according to their descendants of Proto-Slavic . For our purposes here it suffices to mention the relevant subdivision of Štokavian into Ekavian, traditionally spoken in Serbia (cf. mleko ‘milk’ ˂ *mlěko), and Ijekavian, represented in Croatia, Montenegro and Bosnia (cf. mlijeko ‘milk’ ˂ *mlěko). For a more detailed classification of the Serbo-Croatian dialect continuum from a diachronic perspective see Popović, I. 1960. the relatively uniform Serbo-Croatian standard language with the Croatian, Serbian, Bosnian and, most recently, Montenegrin languages. As an outcome of the migration processes from the end of the twentieth century, large groups of Croatians and Serbs moved from Serbia and Bosnia to Croatia and from Croatia and Bosnia to Serbia. Since neither Serbs from Croatia and Bosnia, nor Croatians from Serbia and Bosnia differ in linguistic terms from their Serbian, Croatian or Bosnian neighbours, the resettled refugees faced difficult choices in their new places of residence when trying to decide whether to preserve their customary speech patterns or adopt those accepted in their new homeland by the locals denoted by the same ethnic terms as the refugees. While Ekavian pronunciation is unanimously perceived in Croatia as Serbian and therefore avoided, both Ekavian and Ijekavian pronunciation are treated as Serbian in Serbia (Petrović, T. 2006; Žmegač, J. Čapo 2007: 21, 35 note 17).

Attempts at an alternative use of the ethnic term Срби based on language and regardless of the religious affiliation of referents, such as that undertaken by Vuk Karadžić in his article “Srbi svi i svuda” (К(араџић), В. С. 1849: 1–27) did not take root. Religious affiliation is at the core of the ethnic term Срби (one must be Orthodox Christian to be considered Serbian), whereas language takes a peripheral position, allowing for a great deal of variation. Such a structure of the ethnic term makes it possible to encompass Orthodox Bulgarians under Срби.

Apparently, the Romanian counterparts sârb, bulgar and grec of the ethnic self-identifications Србин, българин and Έλληνας reflect the heterogeneous structures of their complexes of distinctive features. This is what makes these Romanian terms capable of designating partially overlapping groups of referents.

Author: Olga Mladenova.
The author thanks Vasilka Aleksova and Tanja Petrović for their valuable comments on an earlier version of it.
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© Olga Mladenova & Darina Mladenova 2001-2013

Ethnic Terms for Transdanubian Bulgarians. Dialectology.

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