Author: Лена Кирилова

Dobrogea – multi-faceted and colourful

Ethnographic specificity of the population of Dobrogea

„All around, as far as one's eyes could see, there are only fields, still green, but already high, thick and forming ears. In the middle of this sea, the villages remain like small and lonely islands, the roads become narrow and deep corridors and when a cart goes through them, from afar neither the horses, nor the wheels could be seen; along with the waves of wheat stems, just like boats, only the boxes and the people in them are visible. There are two main colours in this landscape: the blue serenity of the sky and the greenness of the fields. But mesmerizing here are not the variety and diversity, but the mystical beauty of everything which is infinite and immense. The whole field radiates the joy of happy motherhood, the abundant fruit ripens among the splendor and lavish beauty of the whole nature. Involuntarily one wants to bow down before this colossal work, the soul is filled with admiration for the powerful beauty of the earth ...” 
In this way the writer Yordan Yovkov, fascinated by the beauty and infinity of Dobrogea, expressed his love and captured the spirit of this boundless plane where the wheat and the bread of Bulgaria are born; a marvelously beautiful piece of land that has gathered all the wasteful colourfulness of nature – the yellow sun of the fields, the enchanting greenery of the meadows, the scattered autumn colours of the black earth; where the blue serenity of the morning merges with the golden sunset of the ripe wheat; where time and space intersect in the infinity and the white swallow flies free ... And in the all-embracing whiteness of hope the colourful mosaic of events and human destinies shines, threads of ancient cultures interweave and legends of ancient beginning emerge ...

Thousands of years ago the sky and the earth of Dobrogea were not separated. Once they were a boy and a girl who were in love. But evil forces envied them and separated them. During the day the Earth withered and dried in grief for her beloved one and draught burned the fields, at night the Sky cried and his tears poured the wheat. And just for a moment, in the distant horizon, the lovers united into a burning and yearned kiss. The word was spread around the world that if one gets to that kiss, and if one passes under its rainbow, they will discover the secret of immortality and eternal happiness. Many tribes rushed to Scythia Minor, hundreds of brave men perished, but no one succeeded. And then the son of the great Kubrat left with his horsemen ... The brave warriors reached the banks of the Danube, defeated in battle the evil forces and passed under rainbow of the kiss. And a miracle happened – the curse was spoiled, and at the place where the Earth and Sky united again into the great beyond, Bulgaria was born – blessed and eternal ....

Ancient is the history of Dobrogea region. In this land, on the crossroads between East and West, the "door" between Europe and Asia on the Balkans, different tribes and peoples meet, some lived here for a while, others for longer, but they all chose the plane for their home and left their mark. Cradle of the Bulgarian statehood and its greatness, the land of the ruler Dobrotitsa is not only a place where in the VII century Bulgaria and the Bulgarian nationality were born, but it is also the land that reminds us of who we are and where we come from, and which keeps the fertile roots of the Bulgarian spirit; the most wonderful place where one can return to the beginning, to go down the colourful path of the Bulgarian tradition, walked by the people of Dobrogea through the centuries, to rediscover the beauty of the created and preserved to this day original folk art, customs and folklore.

The traditional heritage reflects the tumultuous historical destiny of the area, the complex political situation and dynamic ethnocultural development. Times of devastation after the Ottoman invasion in the XIV century, of desolation and the assimilate pressure of the continuous Russo-Turkish wars of the XVIII - XIX century, and of depopulation alternate with periods of relative political calm, rapid colonization, active migratory movements in the region and raise of its economic significance, and despite all crucial events, the continuity of the Bulgarian population has maintained. A complex combination of geographic, economic, political and other factors from the end of the XIV century until the middle of XX century brings to the area settlers from different regions, looking for salvation or work, a temporary living or permanent new home. The fates of entire villages, clans, individual human experiences intertwine; there are conditions for a very culturally diverse regional and local tradition; the colorful ethnographic mosaic of Dobrogea is being arranged. In this primordial Bulgarian land we meet the descendants of settlers from Sliven, Kotel, Elhovo, Provadia, Shumen, fromThrace and the Balkan mountains, from Macedonia and Northern Dobrogea, Moldova and Bessarabia, and wherever you might think of ... Grebentsi, Shikovtsi, mountaineers, Thracians, Glavantsi, Kapantsi for centuries coexist in close cultural and everyday life contact, they interact with each other, they intertwine the features of their own life and create a unique traditional culture – one and only in its regional diversity, united in its Bulgarian root. Not surprisingly the colorful composition of the population and the specifics of the region give the researchers a reason to note that Dobrogea represents in a miniature an ethnographic picture of half of Bulgaria.

Remnants of the relatively old population of Dobrogea are the so called Grebentsi, settled mainly in the Danube villages in the region of Silistra and Tutrakan. Their name is associated with a characteristic element in the form of a comb in the covering of the head of the bride. Grebentsi live today in the villages of Garvan, Kaynardzha, Kalipetrovo, Vetren, Srebarna, Aydemir, Popina and others.

To the old Bulgarian population we can associate the Shikovtsi – settlers from Provadia, Shumen, and Novi Pazar, established in Dobrogea at the beginning of the XIX century. The etymology of their name is explained by the peculiarities of their speech – the characteristic use of the sound "shi" and the use of " -ши, -шъ" instead of "ще" – the Bulgarian for "will" – "ши кажа", "шъ дойда” (pronounced "shi kazha", "shi doyda" instead of "shte kazha", "shte doyda"). They prevail in the villages of Kalipetrovo, Professor Ishirkovo, Strelkovo.

The origin of the name of the Vayatsi, settlers from the mountainous villages of Erkech, Golitsa, Kozichino, is also connected with peculiarities in their speech – they use the particle "va" ("ва") instead of "be" ("бе") – „къде, ва”. They settled in abandoned villages in the region of Dobrich, Silistra, Varna, as the most compact mass is in the villages of Debrene, Gen. Kiselovo, Solnik, Shtipsko and others.

To the population from the Balkan mountains regions belong the residents of Kotel. Among them the most numerous group is the one of the Kotel shepherds with their herds who came and settled in Dobrich, Balchik, Harsovsko, Kyustendzhansko and other settlements, as well as settlers after the fire in Kotel in 1894.

The most mass migrations to and from Dobrogea are related to the Russo-Turkish War of 1828 - 1829. There is a huge group of Thracians – immigrants from Sliven, Yambol and other places in Thrace. They prevail in the villages of Mali izvor and Alfatar. Bulgarians from the regions of Edirne, Lozengrad and Strandzha settle in Batovo, Obrochishte, Tsarkva and Staro selo.

In the villages of Vladimirovo, Glavan /Silistra region/, Geshanovo, Sarnets come settlers from Glavan - Haskovo region. They are known in Dobrogea as Glavantsi.

The settlers from Razgrad are Kapantsi, they came in Dobrogea at the beginning of the XIX century and are established mainly in the village of Babuk.

The group of the migrants from North Dobrogea is also very large. After the return of Southern Dobrogea to Bulgaria in 1940, they settled compactly in different villages in the region - Sokolovo, Stozher, Dabovik, Gurkovo, Stefan Karadzha and others. The composition of this population is quite colorful, but actually the main part is from Shumen, Provadia, Thrace, the Balkan mountains and various places of South-Eastern Bulgaria. Emigrated after the Russo-Turkish wars of the first half of the XIX century, these Bulgarians had lived for some time in Bessarabia and later returned to their homeland and settled in Northern Dobrogea.

This exceptional diversity and mixture of ethnographic groups who came from different parts and regions and brought in Dobrogea the characteristics and specifics of their own customs and traditions, create the conditions for a unique wealth and variety of folk culture and the prerequisites for its greater vitality and preservation until quite later time, compared to other areas of Bulgaria.

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