29.08.2014

Author: Tusa Enache

Communities and Traditions at Bulgarians and Romanians in Dobrogea. Part 3

Kinship within communities 

             Speaking of kinship, we have to explain the way families in Dobrogea communities were organized and the relations within families were structured. The greatest part of the members of these ethnicities was concentrated in rural areas which usually show an accentuated diversity (136). Rural monographies define realities that we cannot overlook and that give us information about kinship in communities.
 
             At the level of Romanian anthropological research, the methodological cooperation between social anthropology (ethnology) and sociological research claim two aspects concerning the reality of the community development: the greatness of rural world at historical scale and the persistence of an important rural element in the Dobrogean space until nowadays (137). The Dobrogean village offers an environment suitable to living for almost 70% of the population in Dobrogea. A great part of the everyday life was within the family or within the community. There were particular events like marriage or birth but also long periods where nothing was happening, where the time passed without any peculiarity in the community (138). Joys and difficult times, feats and dramatic moments, fidelity and infidelity represented something extremely important for every family (139). This way, families were usually organized traditionally and there were not frequent situations when newly wed decided to leave their families to create some new space for living. Usually, the newly wed had a dwelling within community, close to other relatives in the same street close to the basic family. Mixed marraiages were very rare exceptions or with a reason like assimilation of a small group by a larger one, aspect that was alos rare in Dobrogea. A history of the couple is not yet fundamentally researched for the Dobrogean space but for sure, marriage did not mean only social and sentimental engagement, but was an element of cohesionwithin families and community (140). When they decided to get married there was a certain relation between the young, they used to know each other like Germans and Italians but also some Romanians that were living in Dobrogea. This rule was not general, there were cases when the young did not know each other before marriage, the marriage was already set by the girl’s and boy’s parents. Matrimonial understandings relied upon some material reasons, the boy had to have a small property while the girl’s family provided them a certain endow (141).
 
             The young couple had the opportunity to meet at reel, at evening parties, balls, weddings or certain visits. Bulgarian or Romanian boys and girls enjoyed themselves at reels or weddings, singing, usually with habitual harmonica or other instrument dancing polka or waltz, already caring for each other, starting at this age, usually this attitude was not allowed by Bulgarian or Tatar parents where the young were prone to more restrictions. The adolescence was carefully controlled at Turkish, Tatars, Bulgarians, Greeks, Armenians and even Romanians.
 
             At Germans (142) and Italians adolescence was free for both sexes. As a result, there were illegitimate children that could be met in German and Italian families. Starting a family meant marriage that was actually the basis for in-law relatives (143). Deciding a marriage was made by the future spouses with their parents’ agreement so that most marriages relied upon feelings of love but sometimes even necessity. Most times, marriage took place within the same social group or within the same ethnicity, rules that were established through the existence of social status (endow or fortune). When those getting married came from different groups, there were real family tragedies. Marriage was preceeded by matchmaking that was done by parents, relatives or even someone foreigner, but usually a trustworthy person and then parents agreed upon the fortune. There was no discussion about the dower, this can be seen in the financial status of the boy, that he had in his parents’ household. After all the details were set, there came the engagement that used to be done on Saturday evening in the girl’s family. The engagement was performed in the presence of the priest that assisted the ceremony when the match maker was asking the following question: "The young are present. Do you agree with this marriage?”. The answer was positive because if the answer had been negative, the question would have never been asked.
 
             At Greeks, there was a very carefully controlled preservation of marriages according to some authors from those times. It is Nichita Bonciug asserting that „the Greeks, avoided by the inhabitants of neighbouring villages, marry only individuals from the same community or Bulgarians from the same village; Bulgarians bring girls from other villages but only rarely, girls refusing to go to the Greeks” (144).  Among ethnicities existing in Dobrogea, Greeks had close relations with Bulgarians, relating with each other, by arranged marriages, but also with Greeks from close cities, very rarely with Turkish or Romanians (145). The most representative customs are those of Bulgarians, taken from Bulgarians by affinity. The most important traditions were of January, 6th, at Epiphany, when after the religious service at the church there was the baptism of the horses.
 
             After this event there was organized a contest on horseback, where the winners got prizes. Another custom that was often encountered at Greeks was that when groups of carol singers, after going in every house, had another custom  „the sprinkling of the newly wed”. This action means drenching of the newly wed boys in a groove full of water or in the water of a river (146). After that, at the bridegroom’s house it is organized a party where the relative take part together with the wedding godparents of the two spouses. Next morning, it is the bride’s turn who , according to the custom, used to hide from the wedding sponsor (godmother) to escape sprinkling.
 
             Finally, she is found and sprinkled with the help of a bunch of basil to which it is attached a small golden coin. The bridegroom, envious on his bride because she escaped less drenched, took a loom of fresh water and drenched her. The party continued until the evening when, in the center of the village, there was organized a party with musicians. All  newly wed but also unmarried young people took part at it, and later on there was another important event for the Greek communities from rural environment „The Day of the Old Man” (147). An important role in the community life was represented by the Bulgarian popular costume. This ws made of a very long kerchief called „gear” dormed with something called „zalle” (tinklings). 
 
             The costume was made in velvet or wool of different colours, and at hands and at the hem dress there was attached some lace. The masculine costume was made up of a cap in lamb wool adorned with beads, white shirt and his coat and trousers were from black wool. This costume was worn on occasion of some important feastsbut also when going caroling by girls but also boys (148). All these customs are still in use, although Bulgarians in Dobrogea borrowed Romanian habits, too used at birth but alos at wedding. It is sad the fact that young people, in few cases, choose to transmit traditions, and the language spoken by Bulgarian communities in Dobrogea started to be penetrated by more and more pronounced Romanian influences after `50 (149). Other important traditions took place on occasion of Saint Dumitru feast, a feast that was very important at Greeks when Greek woem showed their culinary gifts. On this day, there was sacrificed a lamb, usually the battering ram, it was blessed with holy water and then cooked in the oven of a househol where there gather 5 to 7 sacrificed lambs. After this Turkish custom, women started „children’s stealing”(children between 1 to 3 years old). The habitude is prepared before with the help of the respective child. After this ritual, the child was put to bath, was given gifts and next day, he was returned to the respective family. The person that „steals” had an important role in raising of the child being the confident of the respective family.
             
             Although Romanian sources maintain the fact they were majority in Dobrogea, there is a relevant establishment claiming that no community did not have absolute majority  because there had not appeared a framing relying upon clera categories of ethnicities. More than that,  we can assert that even though there was no physical dominant, not in political or cultural field had been imposed any of ethnicity with a particular feature. Thereby, Paul Traeger claims that the romanization that had accomplished successfully  „did not have the necessary time and probably nor the interior force to attractively and devoutly influence foreign elements” (151).
 
             Traeger,  in his turn, offers a positive image of Bulgarians about whom he claims that ”a powerful national cosciusness combined with a certain political orientation, prevails undoubtedly among Bulgarians” (152). Certainly, there is an image motivated by situational allaince of Germans and Bulgarians in the detriment of Romanian spirit manifested very reasonably at the beginning of the 20th century.  The Bulgarians that Traeger speaks about, cultivated carefully and consistently their schools and their irredentist spirit as well asthe creation of national organizations and manifestations that could define a type of political culture of Bulgarian origin.
 
             Tatars, a second important group after Romanians had ethnic and religious feelings and not a political consciousness based upon an inexistent political culture in those times. 
 
             The others Dobrogea etnicities, like Russian-Lipovens, Armenians, Greeks or Jewish did not try to define a relationing to political model proposed by Romanian State as a model of cohesion because  these perceived it as an attempt of acculturation. The Russian-Lipovens were really isolated by other communities living this way because they were considered to be sectarian and used to separate even among themselves. Even German colonies were mentioning separation between them relying upon religious membership between Catholics and Protestants,  there are no villages in which these two confessions could live together. In conclusion, there were no unitary regions of relationing to ethnic space existing few regions with communities ethnically compact. However,  there were very few regions where villages were inhabited only by two ethnicities unlike localities with six or eight ethnicities. 
 
             There are some similarities between the wto states belonging to Balkan space Romania and Bulgaria (153). A comparative analysis is necessary due to the fact that both states claim the domination of Dobrogea after dismantling of The Ottoman Empire and The Peace Congress from Berlin 1878. Social and economic difference could not have been overcome no matter what economical measures the governments of these states would have taken due to the fact there was a strong opposition from ethnicities living in Dobrogea and the ottomanization process kept on acting.
 
             The carelesness with which birocracy from Bulgaria and Romania could control the political process has different explanations in both cases. This question represents one of the main reasons of comparison between Romanian and Bulgaria, offering us a really clear explanation for the different political evolution in the two states. If in Romania we have an agricultural and electoral reformation partially controlled by older elites to save existent state model, in Bulgaria, it is not a reformation but a peasant revolution, questioning the nature of birocratic state created after 1878 and offers a new original way of development. The attempt to redefine social structure of Romania after World War I by economical reorganization of the agricultural sector meant attacking the main factor of regress and an attempt to reorganize the grounds of political system (154). Bulgaria was in a similar situation in 1918, most population working in agriculture. This obstacle that both states had to overcome in order to get close to the Occidental ideal had been avoided until 1918.  Okey’s thesis, referring to the independence of East Europe can be regarded as a starting point to observe how this independence manifested in two cases with similar evolutions across the 20th century. I have analysed by now the import political model that the Romanian State adopted immediately after 1878 to try to explain the reason for which the political rights of Dobrogea inhabitants had never existed after 1878 and until 1909, for three decades (155). The demographic rebirth of the Dobrogea region but also the transformations that took place at the end of the 19 century and beginning of the next century, were imposed by The Law of Organization of Dobrogea (1880) and The Agrarian Law (1882),  favoring the return of Moslem refugees, which in the new legal frame become interested by properties held in  Dobrogea (156). More than that, Romanian authhorities allowed the settlement of Bulgarian and Romanian refugees from the counties assigned to Tzarist Empire. Next to these, there established Romanians from  Brăila, Ialomiţa, Banat, Transilvania etc. (157).This way, there is a demographic raise at urban and rural level, passing through some modifications during Balkan wars between 1912-1913 while many Bulgarians, Serbians, Albanians and Turkish will emigrate in this period from Dobrogea. The social change appeared slowly appreciating implicitly or explicitly the charm of the difference if we take into account only the precarious material situation that the inhabitants of Dobrogea had from 1878.
 
             Among these elements defining a situation of social tension there appear many changes in administration and relations of political community or diplomatic excellency.  Lacking any tradition and school of political thinking, Romanian space characterized by exploratory activities, ideas importations and taking over models of modernization like: liberalism, protectionism, free trade (158). Ideological confrontation of these trends and models appeared among the followers from one side or another, debates increasing in the past decades of the 19th century. This ideological balance but also the support of one influence or another that were to determine social change resulted from political membership, position towards government, national interest but also external influences and sometimes specific interest of the partisans (159). The Dobrogea space, characterized by strong, cultural Ottoman traditions founded on religious dogms but also upon a culture of social submission, was influenced in the respect of social change but also in the matter of political system profoundly influenced by liberalism (160). This political trend used to quicken the way of social organization by imitating some models or brands of social change like the matrix of interrculturality. 
 
             Beliefs, customs but also myths related to the construction of a new building and its decoration at Romanians and Bulgarians proved their interethnic complementarities and local traditions (161). Because of this reason, there are met other common practices related to a certain tradition like setting some objects at the house’s foundation for richness or setting a wooden cross adorned with a towel and flowers that is put on every layer of masonry until you reach the roof. The magic symbolism of interior decorations was visible in the use of fabrics generically named towels (Ştergar) at the Romanian population and geaulâc or cevre at Turkish and Tatars. Zou could see on these fabrics all sorts of common patterns like: the tree of life, the tulip, the vineyard as a symbol of life, different geometrical figures (162). These patterns can be encountered in all areas with Moslems and Romanians. At the end of the 19th century, the surface dwelling replaces the one half-burried and are integrated some geographical features of exterior influence of Romanian space (163).
 
             Influences of the ethnographic regions of Oltenia and Transylvania had reached Dobrogea through the peasants from the Oltenia Field colonized in the village of Dobrogea, but also through  Transylvanian sheperds that came with the flocks for wintering in Dobrogea.
 
             The mocans (sheperds), as I have previously mentioned) came to Dobrogea ever since 1877 and many of them did not leave anymore but settled pirely Romanian villages and imposed a certain type of construction psecific to mountain area, involving stone that Dobrogea had plenty of. Most dwellings yet, were made in clay with water and chaff serving to the house consolidation of these houses of fence, and was used, in a mix with horse droppings, to consolidate external walls, strenghten with wooden forks and wattles or reed bunches. Interior walls were smoothed with clay and painted for disinfection. 
 
             In those times, there appears an opinion trend in negotiations accompanying different interests between communities and citizens and which reflected the interactional texture of diversity and interculturality in Dobrogea. In this respect,  Tudor Şoimaru, said about Constantza in 1936: „it was born out of coffee yeast, Oriental Aphrodite…... With a sherbet of rose and and a Turkish coffee with cream you have a unique philosophy. No drama, no soul ecuations. Oriental-like locations, where next to coffees, clients could play craps, backgammon or gordum and smoke tobacco for a relatively low price” (165). 
             Constanţa and Dobrogea, generally, did not have any Moslem peculiarities: „the inns open by Greeks and Bulgarians or those from Orient had taraf members that played melodies specific to this ethnicityies of Turkish arabesks (manele) (166). After 1880, the signs of interculturality do not limit only to meeting places, music or parties but also papers of local administration. “At the meeting of Parish Council from March, 26 1881, under the patronage of mayor Panait Holban, in the presence of  Hafuz Regep and counsellors George Caridia, Ion H. Stoian, Odisea Despoti, Gebrail Frenchian, Zat Celebi (it was missing Abdul Selim and Solomon Japhet), it is analysed the error of contractor David Birnfeld concerning the contract on the city lighting [...]” (167). According to the research of the documents from those times, we can see that the city was ruled and administred by representtaives of several ethnicities, more precisely 12 ethnicities (Bulgarians included) existent in Dobrogea and there is information according to which: „they represented all clerks in Dobrogea” (168). After the construction of the bridge over the Danube from Cernavoda, belonging to Anghel Saligny, Constantza becomes an embarking place for Istambul.
       
             The places of display and offensive of the new ideas and mentalities in modern  Dobrogea were newspapers, administration, court, theatre, shops, salons, public markets, curative places. Time itself has a new signification and was associated to the idea of movement, exchange, profit, transactions, constructions and industrial improvements etc. The two pictures juxtaposited of the past and future in traditional cultures tended to exclude themselves in the “politically correct“ definition and desirable of the trend to modernize Dobrogea quite outdated and with great gaps on multiple levels. This solidarity had more motivations that resulted from a community feeling of economical interests, from acultural feeling, from religious or ideological constraint (169). One of the most often methods used for socialization within community was walking in the promenade area of the city. There are assertions according to which “this exhibition of clothes and jewels and without the meeting of youth that used to flirt with each other was needful for the intellectual evolution of the town” (170). We must notice that ethnic minorities in Dobrogea like: Tatars, Turkish, Greeks, Armenians, Lipovens, Bulgarians, Macedonians, Jews kept their own culture, that in time turns an important element in Dobrogea, with a special, cosmopolitan charm that with time, it turns into a social change dimension. More than that, the ethnicities above defended their rights in different publications. For instance, the manager of the publication: „The Star of Dobrogea, The Sheet of Local Interests”, Basile Brănişteanu (171) publishes among others „The Status of Macedo-Romanian Society” (172), and in 1883 he donates 10 lei (173) for the schools from Macedonia. Another publications of minorities in Dobrogea appeared since 1896, like „Sadakat” („Loyalty”), Turkish weekly magazine and  „Şark” („The Sunrise”), Turkish newspaper with Arabian letters and irregular publication. In both of them it was a plea for the rights of Moslem population (174). 
     
             Romanian press but also that of ethnicities in Dobrogea presented cultural life with all its manifestations: local and national events and feasts, visits of royal family as well as other personalities of those times, the opening of some important cultural institutions, monuments. The starting of the first world conflagration stops culture publications for a while, their issues being resumed between the wars.
 
(136) Barbu ȘTEFĂNESCU, Rural sociability, Violence and Ritual și ritual, University Publishing House from Oradea, 2004, p. 21,
(137) Alexandru ZUB, History and FInality. At the Search of Identity, Ediția a-II-a, Polirom Publishing House, Iași, 2004, p.246.
(138) Ioan SCURTU, Daily Life of Romanians during Interwar Period, Rao Publishing House, București, 2001, p. 76.
(139) Paul L. BERGER, Henry KELLNER, Le marriage et la reconstruction de la realite, Editura Centurion, Paris, 1980, pp.23-28.
(140) Ibidem, p.30.
(141) Endow also refers to dowry.
(142) Constantin BRĂTESCU, Two German Ethnographic Statistics in Dobrogea, May 15, 1917; May 17, 1918, în Archives of Dobrogea, vol.II, nr. 1 1919, p. 61.
(143) Ioan SCURTU, Daily Life of Romanians during Interwar Period, RAO Publishing House, București, 2001, p.43.
(144) Nichita BONCIOG, art. cit., p. 52.
(145) Besides Moslems and Romanians, in the Kazas of Dobrogea there were Bulgarians, Russians, Lipovens, Greeks , Armenians and Jewish.Adrian RĂDULESCU, Ion BITOLEANU, The History of Dobrogea, Ex Ponto Publishing House, Constanța , p.251.
(146) Narcisa ȘTIUCĂ, Coordinates of Family Life at Greeks from Izvoarele, Tulcea, in, Interethnicity in central and East Europe, Collection Minorități, vol. IV, Museum Complex Arad, 2002, p.53.
(147) Organized in the central area of the community from the locality, the party meant choosing the old woman, this one receiving gifts and money from the women participating at the event. The old woman of the village was an interesting character of Greek community. She had a very important role being midwife but also a curer of the sick. She knows many treatments for children, but also for different diseases. Tha party was to honour the good deeds of this character..
(148) Ibidem, p. 58.
(149) Ibidem, p. 59.
(150) Romanian survey counted 52, 52% Romanians in comparison to 47,48% of other ethnicities.
(151) Paul TRAEGER, op. cit., p. 284
(152) Ibidem.
(153) Richard J. CRAMPTON, Bulgaria 1878-1918, East European Monogaphs, Boulder Distributed By Columbia University Press , New York, 1983, pp. 29-33.
(154) Anton CARPINSCHI, Culture of Recognition, Publishing House of Academic Foundation Axis, pp.24-27 mostly subchapter Globalization, multiculturalism and need to recognition where the author defines multiculturalism in the conceptual-analytical context, of thinking positions specific for political ideologies.
(155) In this respect Constantin Scheletti, parliamentarian, ex-magistrate and public laywer fost magistrat, wa sput in jail and menaced „ with exile to Dobrogea,because he does his bestto make citizens hate and despise Government duet o not granting political rights to Dobrogea citizens. Constantin SCHELETTI, Dobrogea and its Political Organization, Tipografia Română, Tulcea, 1880, pp.45-51.
(156) Gheorghe DUMITRAȘCU, în, Aspects of Situation in Dobrogea during November 1878- May 1883. Activity of the first prefect of Constantza, Remus Opreanu, in, Annuary of The History and Archaeology Institute A.D. Xenopol,tom XVIII, Iași, 1981, p.297.
(157) Local officials reveived and registred requests of settlement in Dobrogea from Tecuci, Covurlui, Tutova, Muscel, Dolj, Mehedinţi, Râmnicu-Sărat, Buzău.
(158) Radu-Dan VLAD, L`idustrialisation de la Roumanie dans la vision de Petre S. Aurelian, in, Revue Roumaine d`Histoire, XXIII, nr. 3, 1984, p. 258.
(159) Daniela BUȘĂ, art.cit., p.77.
(160) Gheorghe PLATON, Romanian Liberalism in 19th Century: emergency, stages, forms of expression, in, Culture and Society, Studies concerning Romanian past, București, 1991, pp.94-96.
(161) Răzvan LIMONA, op. cit., p.125.
(162) Paulina POPOIU, Anthropology of habitati in Dobrogea, Oscar Print Publishing House, București, 2001, p.138; you can revise Răzvan LIMONA, Population of Dobrogeaduring interwar times, Harvia Publishing House, Tulcea, 2009, p.125.
(163) Argentina BĂRBULESCU, Architecture, Peasant House, Village Churches,Maria Magiru, (coord.), Dobrogea –Ethnographic Study- Local Romanians, vol.I, Popular Art Museum, Constanța 2003, p.81.
(164) Ibidem.
(165) Tudor ȘOIMARU, Constantza 1936, in, Păuleanu Doina, (coord.) Constantza 1878-1928. The Performance of Late Modernization, vol.1, Ed. Arcade, Constanţa, 2005, p. 139.
(166) Nicolae G. IONESCU, Euterpe at Tomis, 1981 în, Păuleanu Doina, op.cit., p. 129.
(167) D.J.A.N. Constanţa, file no. 1/1881, f. 14.
(168) Petre GRIGORESCU, Former Times and Today, 1901 in, Păuleanu, Doina, op.cit., p. 138.
(169) Ion RÂȘNOVEANU, Fashionable Preoccupations in Interwar Dobrogea, in, Valentin Ciorbea, (coord), ***Dobrogea 1878-2008-Open horizons by European mandate, Ex Ponto Publishing House, Constanța, 2008, pp. 437-439.
(170) Ioan ADAM, Pitoresque Constantza with Its Surroundings, București, Minerva Publishing House, 1908, p. 35.
(171) It is not Macedonian as we tend to believe.
(172) „The Star of Dobrogea. The Page of local Interests.”, year. I, no. 1, November 27th, 1879.
(173) The Equivalent of two days effort of a worker with the bullock cart with 4 axes or 4 days of physical labour of a worker, as it appears in the documents of Central National Archives, Constanţa Town Hall, files16/1879, 22/1890 and and content from Constanţa prefecture, file 1/1905-1912.
(174) Ali-Ekrem MEHMET, From the History of Dobrogea Turkish, Bucureşti, Kriterion Publishing House, 1994, p. 182-187.

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