*** Bulgaria


Bulgasrian boy tunics
Figure 1.--The child here looks like a girl, but we think is a boy. The portrait was taken in 1915. It looks like he is wearing a dress, but it is a tunic--a boy's garment. Along with the tuniuc he wears a lace collar and knee pants with long stockings. Girls did not wear knee pants with dresses. Notice the ripple/wave styling. That was more popular in Bulgaria than ringlets for long hair.

Bulgaria is a small Balkan country which along with Greece, Italy, Spain, and Portugal represent Europe's southern tier. Although a small country, it has a widely diverse terrain encompassing Black Sea coastline, rivers, and a rugged mountainous interior. Because of its geogrphy, Bulgaria became a cultural and ethnic melting pot with Greek, Slavic, Ottoman, and Persian capped eith Germanic and most recently Communist influences. It thus developed a rich heritage of traditional dance, music, costumes and crafts. Situated at the foot of domed Vitosha mountain is Bulgaria's capital, Sofia, one of Europe's earliest citis dating to the 5th century BC. Bulgaria was an early Ottoman conquest and Ottoman rule lasted until the late-19th century. This long Ottomn era is one of the reasons that Bulgaria economic development lagged behinf that of much of the rest of Europe. Bulgaria made some progress since independence (1870s), but remined lrgely agricultural. The economy was damaged by more than four decades of Communist rule. The Communists attempted to industrialize alargely agricultural country. They made some progress in the physical plnt, but Communist industry was highly ineffcent meaning hat workers could not be paid living wages or Bilgarian products compete in the world market. As a result of Bulgaria's diverse history, there are destinctive folk fashions, similar in many ways to neighboring Greece. The eliete in the 19th century basically followed European, especially French fashions. Bulgaria acquired a German monarchy in the 19th century which was another European fashion inflence. Modern Bulgarian boys dress in the current pan-European fashion. What we today see as folk styles continued in rural areas as populr dress into the 20th century.


Bulagaria is a small Balkan country bordering on Greece, Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, and Turkey. It is set in a strategic location on the Black Sea near the Turkish Straits. It thus dominates key land routes from Europe to Middle East and Asia. Which is why Bulgaria has proen to be a cultural and ethnic melting pot with Greek, Slavic, Ottoman, and Persian capped eith Germanic and most recently Communist influences. After liberation from the Ottomans, the Balkan countries fought a series of wars and the modern boundaries were not set until after world war II. Because of the south loction, Bulgaria has a more moderate climate than most of Europe. There are cold, damp winters and hot, dry summers. Bulgaria along with Greece, Italy, Spain, and Portugal represent Europe's southern tier. Although a small country, it has a widely diverse terrain encompassing Black Sea coastline, rivers, and a rugged mountainous interior. There are lowlands in the north and southeast. Natural resources include bauxite, copper, lead, zinc, coal, timber, and a large area of arable land. bout half of the land is suitable for agriculture. Aarable land totals 30 percent and about 15 percent used for pasture. About 35 percent of the land is forested. The country has a range of enviromental problems. The most serious is air pollution from industrial emissions. This is largely a problem due to Communist era indusrial development. This began during the Stalinist era which placed an emphsis on heavy industry. During this ansd the subequent Comminist era, little or not attention was given to enviromental concerns. Post-Communist Bulgaria is thus faced with the difficult decesion of closing outdated, poluting plants and thus increasing unemployment in a weak economy. There is also significant water pollution both from factory discharge and untreated urban sewage. Bulgarian forests are being damaged by air pollution, especially acid rain. Algricultural areas shows signs of heavy metal contamination from Communist era metallurgical plants and other industrial plants.


The Bulgars invaded and soon dominated the Balkans in the 7th century. They accepted Christianity under Tsar Boris I in the 9th cetury. Tsar Simeon greatly expanded Bulgarian territory in the 10th century. The Christian kindoms in Bulgaria and the rest of the Balkans were conquered by the Ottomon Turks in the 14th and 15th centuries. The modern Bulgarian state originated with the defeat of Ottoman Turk forces by the Russian Army and Bulgarian volunteers in 1878-79. The great powers intervened to prevent the creation of a strong Bulgarian state under the influence of the Russians. Instead a Bulgarian state was created which was nominally left under the jurisdiction of the Ottomans and two other liberated areas were returned to the Ottomans. Still some of Bulgaria was libetated and a Bularian nation created. The Bulgarian royal dynasty was restablished in the 19th century after the decline of Ottomon rule. A member of the German royal family was selected for the Bulgarian monarchy. German families were chosen despite the fact that Bulagria was in large part created by the Russian Tsars in their wars with the Ottoman Turks. Bulagria participated in the Balkan Wars and then the two World Wars. Despites it ties with Russua, Bulgaria participated in the two world wars, both times as a Germany ally. During the Cold War, Bulgaria was a slavish Soviet satellite.


The area of modern Bulgaria during the anient era was Dacia. We have no inormation on he Davian economy at this time. Dacia was conuered by the Emperor Trajan -- imortakized on Trajan's Column in Rome (105-106 AD). The ecconomy was thus assimilated into the Roman imperial system. Even after the collpase of the Western Empire, the are awa eiher controlled or the ecoomy hevily influenced by Byzantium. As a result, the Balkans generally was apart of the European Christin world and economic conditions similar to the rest of Europe. The modern East/West split in economic development did not yet exist. In fact, Estern Europe was during the earky medieval era the more advnced region. This all changed with the Ottoman conquest (14th century). As a result, Bulgaria did not experience the Renaissance, the Reformation, nd the enlighment with all the technolgical and modernizing infliences associated with those movements. Other the Ottomans the economy was largely based on agriculture and crafts> Trade was the only developed sector. The first modern factory opened in Sliven (1836). There was, however, very limited industrial development during the Ottoman era. One author reports some prpgress (1860s). Thus Bulgaria emerged as an independent country (1870s) a basically backward agricultural country. Land reform became a major issue in Bulgaria. With independence some industrial development and other economic progress occurred. Bulgaria was damaged by the Balkan Wars (1911-13 and World War I (1914-18). The country recovere in after the War. German economic policy drew Bulgaria into the German economic orbit (1920s-30s). Some limited industrialization occured by the time of World War II and the subsequent Communist seizure of power, but the economy remained largely agicultural (1945). The economy was largely undamaged by the war, more than four decades of Communist rule left the country still one of the poorest in Europe. The Communists attempted to industrialize a largely agricultural country. They made some progress in the physical plant and living staudards did rise for a time. Communist industry was highly ineffcent meaning hat workers could not be paid living wages or Bilgarian products compete in the world market. And the Comminists were responsivke for severe envoromental damage. One of the few successes was developing the tourism sector. Tourist resorts appeared along the Black Sea coast and the mountain regions after the stalkinit era attracting Western Europen tourists with hard currency. Bulgarian began its emergence from Comminist rule (1989). They entered the European Union (2007). The country hs achievd some impressive growth rates, verging 6 percent (2004-08). The economy benefitted from bank lending, consumption, and foreign direct investment. Bulgarian officis have showed a commitment to economic reforms and responsible fiscal policies. The global recession reduced domestic demand, exports, capital inflows, and industrial production. The GDP contracted by 5.5 percent (2009) nd recovery has lagged. The Government has maintained many market friendly poliies suh as ow, flat corporate income taxes. Other Government performance has been disappointing. There are reports of public corruption, a weak judiciary, and organized crime.


We do not have much information from Bulgaria until the late 19th century. Bulgaria in the 19th century was one of the most backward areas of Europe, in part because of the control by the Turks and the disorders accompanying the Balkan Wars and the struggle for independemce. Turkish fashions were important because Bulgaria did not gain its independence until the late 19th century. Thus Bulgarian boys, especially rural boys, still commonly wore what would now be called folk dress. The elite in the 19th century basically followed European, especially French fashions. I think most well-to-do families probably subscribed to French fashion magazines. Bulgarian boys in the early 20th century still commonly dressed in traditional styles. The exception was the relatively small urban population which adopted Western fashions. This dichotomy gradually changed duting the iter-War era. And after World war II, traditional dressm evcen in the countryside largely disappeared. We do not have much information on the post-War era. Bulgarian boys by the time the Communist era ended was similar to that of the rest of Europe, although generally low incomde levels affect fashion. Modern Bulgarian boys dress in the current pan-European fashion.


We have little information on Bulgarian garments at this time. We have, howevr, begun to build an archive we can use to expand this setion. We have noted children and adults boys wearing what might be called folk or peasant garments, especilly in rural areas. Bulgaria as still a largely agrarian country with a still largely rural population. Folk styles in the the 19th and early 20th century ws still widely worn by the peasantry and in rural areas. We still have, however, few detils. Bulgarian boys in urban areas also wore Western European fashions by the late-19th century. We notice what seems to be some French influence here. And the large German clothing industry as well as a German monarchy were also influnces. European fashions in the 19th century seem primarily worn in the cities and by the upper and middle class. We note many of the same basic garments such as tunics and sailor suits. Some of the detailing on tunics and other garments seems destinctly Bulgarian. Most European boys had stripes on their sailor suits for detailing as were worn by actual sailors. Many Bulagrain boys wore sailor suits with more elaborate embroidery, although our information is still very limited.

Folk Costumes

Bulgaria has some destinctive folk fashions, similar in many ways to neighboring Greece. Folk outfits for boys and men include pants, shirts, and vests for men. A common feature for boys and men was a kind of leggings. Women and girls wear decorative aprons and dresses. The girls' aprons and dresses boys' shirts are commonly embroidered in bright colors. The various regions used destinctive colors and motifs. Red is an especially important color in Bulgarian folk wear. Other colors such as black, green, and white are also important and vary regionally. Children in rural areas were still wearing traditional dress as ordinary clothes in the early-20th century while standard European stules were more common in towns and cities. Boys in rural areas more commonly wore traditional styles. I am not positive about the influences here, but several centuries of Ottoman rule must have been a factor. As in many other European countries we see city boys in the early-20th century being dressed up in traditional costumes for photographs. Today traditional styles are worn for special events and festivals.


We see a number of popular styles in Bulgaria. One important style was sailor suits. Wether or not a country had a navy does not seem to be important. Sailor suits seem popular all over Europe. We also see folk embroidery work on vrious garments giving common European styles a Bulgarian look. As was the case in many countries, we note some parents dressing children in identical or coordinated outfits. Our Bulgarian archive is not large enough to give an idea of how common this was. And as common in many European countries, we note that sailor suits were one of the most popular styles for these identical family outfits. This was especially true for mixed gender groups.


We do not have a lot of information about activies Bulgarian boys engaged in and the clothes associated with those activies. Bulgaria for several centuries was part of the Ottoman Empire. We are not sure if any popular sctivites resulted from this long era. We know very little about children's play in Bulgaria. Some activities seem fairly standard such as school and youth groups. As in much of Europe, music seems important. Some children learned musical instruments. We motice some boy choirs. Religion of course was important during the Ottoman era. Most Bulgarians remained faithful to Orthodox Christianity. The Communist Government imposed by the Soviets after World War II conducted an atheism campaign which affects modern attitudes toward religion. We do not notice any special interest in sports. As in most countries, football seems the primary sport. Wrestling seems popular.


We do not yet have much information on Bulgarian families. We are just beginning to build up an archive of Bulgarian images. As with many poorer European countries, the phptographic record is somewhat limited. These family image provide valuable sociological information nd are useful in putting boys' fashions into a period context. We get to see the outfits the whoe family was wearing. Most of the early Bulgarian images we have found seem to be prosperous families. Unlike America, working-class families do not seem to have been able to afford photographic portraits. We note a prosperous family in 1899, probably from Sophia. There are five children. The youngest wears a sailor suit with bloomer knickers. His slightly older brother wears a regular knee pants suit. We note a portrait of a Sofia family in 1900. The family is identified as the Markovsky family. The portrait based on the clothing could have eaily been taken in Germany. We believe that German styles were inflential throughout central and eastern Europe. It is a good example how the Sofia elite had thorogly adopted European styles. The father has a German-style moustache. We have information about a Jewish family during the Holiocaust--the Bauruch family.


We have infirnmation onthev ijstitutionjsnaffectigb children's lives. Here there is an ovderkap with activities. Of course the most important institutionn affecting children in any counntry is schools. And we have some limited infornmation on Bulgarian schools. The long period of Ottoman control inhibited the development of public schools. Also important is religion which in Bulgaria is primarily churches especially the Orthodox church. The importance of religion declined in the 20th century, especially after Stalin imposed a Communist regime on the country (1945). Youth groups have played an important role. The most important was the Scouts. After World War II and the imposition of Communism on Bulgaria, the Scouts were banned and the Young Pioneers became a mandatory mass movement. We do not have a lot of information on charitable groups. The only one we have some information on is the country's Red Cross which had active youth auxileries.


We have very limited information on Bulgarian hair styles at this time. We do not note any destinctive Bulagraian styles. We note boys with close-cropped hair in the late-19th century. It seems to be a style associated with school, but actually we do no know much about it. Large numbers of school age boys had these close crops. After World War I we see these close crops when this style was becoming less common in Germany. A popular style for girls was the ripple/wave style we see here (figure 1). It was primarily a girls' hair style, but like ringlet curls in the West, younger boys mightvhave gheir hair waved. We do not see mny Bulgarian children with ringlets, but quite a few with waves. We do not have much 19th century photography. Wevnotice these waves styles in the early-20th century.


Art is a very important soure of information on any country. HBC has an extensive section on art, especially European art. Bulgaria is a rare country for which we have no art information. Weare not sure why this is. One reason of course is that Bulgaria is a rekatively small country, but we have found are infornation on many small countries. We exopect fior Bulgaria it is the long period of Ottoman control beginning in the medieval era.


We do not yet have much information about photography in Bulgaria. We think trends were very silimar to those in the rest of Europe, especially Germany. The general pattern in the Balkans after the various countries achieved independence was for foreigners to setup studios. So far the earlist photigraphs we have found are from about 1880. As most are undated, they could date from the late-1870s. The Bulgarian Historical Archive (BHA) with its adjoining "Portraits and Photos" Collection is part of the Manuscript - Documental and Literary Heritage Division in the St. St. Cyril and Methodius National Library. The BHA collection began in 1879 when together with archive collections and some separate acquisitions also begins the collecting of photographic materials of historical importance. We note Germans setting up studios. Because of centuries of Ottoman rule, Bulgaria and the Balkans in general were extremely backward technologically. This meant that modern trends were rapidly introduced in Bulgaria during the 19th century. The first Bulgarian photographer we notice is Georgi Danchov (Георги Данчов) (1846–1908). He began as a revolutionry aginst Ottoman control and was an artist, subsequently becoming involved with photography. We do note some rather dated trends in the early-20th century. We do not yet have a large enough archive to know how common this was. We have not yet found any early photographic formats (Daguerreotypes and Ambrotypes) from Bulgria. That does not mean that none exist, but if they do they were clearly not very common. We only begin seeing Bulgarian images with the appearance of albumen printing. The earliest images we have found so far are cabinet cards. We are not yet sure about CDVs.


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Created: November 20, 1999
Last updated: 12:57 PM 10/4/2023