Cambridge Chronicle, Volume XLVIII, Number 18, 6 May 1893
BULGARIA | Something of this Country, Us People und Us Customs

Below Is an at>stract uf the very interesting lecture delivered last week at the Hhcjiard Memorial church by Mr Stoyau Vutralsky, a native Bulgarian who Is a student at Harvard. Mr. Vatrahiky is a man of tine presence, a specimen of well-developed manhood physically. He Is a very pit-using sjieaker, with a ready wit aud a rare faculty of lmjiurtlng lv format ion. Durlug his residence In this couutry he has acquired our language aud speaks It with idiomatic accuracy. Mr. vatralsky told us In private that ou meeting, for the first time, three of our foremost men of letters. John (J. Whittler, Oliver Wendell Holmes and
Edward X. Hale, each of them asked him the same question: „How did you learn to speak our language so well.“ The following abstract is somewhat disconnected, as all abstracts must be, and consequently does not do the lecturer full justice. He must be seeu and his entire lecture heard to be appreciated to the fullest extent. Tbe Bulgarians of today Inhabit three provinces on the Balkan Peninsula, in southeastern Europe, the provinces known in classical times as Moesla, Thracla and Macedonia. The three taken as a unit make the Bulgaria of the Bulgarians. I would hare you bear In mind this distinction, for I am yet to meet the American who could give me a correct definition of Bulgaria. Remembering that every map on the subject In English is misleading, as well as every encyclopaedia from Britannic., downwards, I do not wonder that every American mistakes Moeaian Bulgaria for the whole country; but the province between the Balkans and the Danube, as a matter of fact, Is no more Bulgaria than New England is the Uulted States. I repeat, tbe laud of the Bulgarians embraces, In southeastern Europe, three provinces, anciently known as Moesla, Thracia and Macedonia. The three taken as a unit make the Bulgaria of the Bulgarians. Politically, the country is now divided into two almost equal parts; Macedonian Bulgaria with a part of southeastern Thracia, still under Turkey, and the Principality of New Bulgaria, under its own national government. The name Bulgaria can be confined to the Principality ot Bulgaria only In the sense that the Principality is the most important portion of the land of the Bulgarians. The climate of Bulgaria varies according to latitude, elevation and exposure tothe winds. It is safe to state that it differs but little from the New England climate, the difference being in favor of Bulgaria. It is more clement and healthier: for it rarely has New England’s extremities ot weather, and never such sudden changes. Next to Switzerland and Montenegro, Bulgaria is the most mouutainous country in Kurope. The main mountain ranges are the Balkans, from which the whole peninsula takes its name, and which separates Moeslan from Thracian Bulgaria; and the Khodopes, that divide Thracian from Macedonian Bulgaria. Both the Balkans and the Rhodopes contain localities unsurpassable in the majestic grandeur and the wild beauty or their scenery. Of the plains the most important are the Thracian plain in the basin of Marltsa, between the two great mountain chains; aud that on tbe Danubian slope. There are besides a great number of tablelands and valleys, some of which are the most fertile to be found on the whole continent of Kurope. The most interesting of these Is the Valley of Tounzha in Thracian Bulgaria, better known as the Valley of Roses. This Bulgarian valley is without a rival upon the face of the earth, aud the Garden of Kden Is its best synonym known. Many travellers have tried their hands to describe It; but all attempt of pen and the brush fall to picture, or even to suggest, tbe truth. The Bulgarian kingdom south of the Danube, founded by Asparukh In 079 A. D., reached the zenith of Its power in the ninth century, under the illustrious Tsar Simeon. His father Boris, who was converted to Christianity by Oreck missionaries, sent him to Constantinople to be educated with the imperial princes. Thus Simeon received the best training of his time. On ascending the Bulgarian throne, he raised the kingdom of Bulgaria, both in power and civilization, to a degree never known In its history. Simeon then assumed the Imperial title, „In Christ Ood, the faithful Tsar and Autocrat of all the Bulgarians and Orecks,“ which the humiliated Greeks had to acknowledge: for the Eastern Empire became one ot the nations that paid him tribute. He also founded an independent patriarchate, and thus placed the Bulgarian church on a level with Rome and Constantinople, the first step of Its kind in history. In addition to all these, and above alf these, Tsar Simeon, like his contemporary King„Alrred of Wessex, laid the corner stone of a national literature. A scholar himself, he made his court a harbor and a source for learning, such learnlngas the age afforded. Around him gathered a noted band of writers, to whose work the tsar himself contributed, pen In hand. There begin and from him date the earliest and the most venerable monuments of Slavic letters. Those afterwards and the Bulgarian nlphaliet passed to Russia aud elsewhere and became common property of the Slavic world. Tsar Simeon’s reign is the golden era of Bulgaria. After the reign of Tsar Simeon the Bulgarian kingdom imsscd through many vicissitudes, had Its nils and downs, until it was conquered by the Turks at the end ot t he fourteenth century. Pot five centuries after thnt Bulgaria wan counted with the dead. Iv my address I shall lie obliged frequently to refer to that „anti-human IpMlmtno! humanity“ as Mr Gladstone has properly characterized the Turk the author of Bulgaria’s unspeakable wrongs. For as the story of the Garden of Kden is
I never i i.l. i. without i. 1.1. ii.. to i ii. arrival ..t Halan Hi, ~ 1,, (with its ~,.,,,,.,, tou* oousequences not only to our tirat I parental, but their descendants aa well;) ao the story of llulgaria cannot i„. properly told without uiin .inn to the loot- . prlnta of the Turk on her rich plalua, fair ‘ hill:., and Uauliful valleys; without pointing to the :.<:„ i…. of ruin and denotation throughout the land, rulna and doaolatious that relate a ghastly tale of the Turkish .1.11111111..11, i inn i, ii of the fearful oonai queuoes, «n,iii, ; therefrom, nut only to , our martyred HulKariau fathers, hut to ua, their iinii.i i limn.. .1, „,. niiuiiii, aa well. The Turkiah Kmpire lauowadaya apokeu of aa „the sick man;“ but hMory tells ua that there waa a time when thla sick man waa the healthleat of flenda. The advent of the Tin ki, in Kurope can he likened unto that of a billiard, or a cyclone, crusblug ami carrying Irrealatihly everything before It. All Kurope could not atay their progreaa. And „Wherever they went.“ aa Mr (lladatone deacrlhed thenmarch, „a broad line of blood marked the track behind them, and aa far aa their dominion reached, civiliiatlou dtsapiwartd from view.“ Nit mil. .1 aa llulgaria la on the gatewjay from Aaia into Kuroiie, ahe waa the tlrst prey of the Turka, Our country waa completely crushed, the leadera exterminated, the people enslaved and our own Iwautiful land became our hell of oppression. The annals of the world contain no sadder record, no tale more full of pathos, than the storey of llulgaria under the Ottoman rule, ror live centuries we were abandoned by (Jod and forgotten by man; a • five hundred years’ hiatorv, whose duly record was injustice, ami cruellies, anil wrongs, and bitter tears and constant prayer of the oppressed, „How long, 0 Lord, how long!“ The Turks crowued their rule In llulgaria in 1876 by a general massacre, In which more Hum 12,000 Bulgarians, mostly women and children, were butchered. This massacre aroused the sympathies of the civilized world and called in Kussiau interference, the result of which was the resurrection of llulgaria. Now let us turn and examine the every day life of the people as It is seen in the rural districts of Bulgaria. Let it be remembered that in Bulgaria there is a difference, and a great difference, between the peasants and the city people. The city people, since the liberation, have changed and are perjietually changing their dwellings, their costume and their mode of life, after the manner of the nations they take for civilized; while the peasants stand today where their fathers stood many centuries since. The Bulgarian peasantry do not live scattered shunt upon their farms as the American farmers do, but cluster into villages and hamlets, and at a distance from their Held possessions. The village houses are scattered over the plain with very little pretension of order or system, ami the streets are largely left to take care of themselves. The houses, as a rule, are very primitive structures. Now and then you notice a two-Btory, stone-built bouse, but the majority of them are Bhapeless wooden frames, and on inspection you will find that the iuside of the houses harmonise with their exterior, the furniture being aa primitive as their occupants are rude and simple. But it would be a mistake to conclude from this that they are either poor or unhappy. For each Bulgarian peasant, owning his house and soma laud. Is a little land-lord, and knows neither luxuries nor wants. Removed from the gay cities and the ways of men, here they pass their lives in seclusion, Industry and happiness. Knowing very little of this big world, their wants are few and easily supplied. The chief occupations in the rural districts are farming, stock raising and shepherding. In winter time, a farmer’s life is quite otherwise than romantic or praiseworthy. The farmer bas but little to do besides feeding his cattle and felling trees for Are. The rest of his time he spendß, together with his hard-earned Bavfngs, at the village krutchma (khan, wineshop). But the arrival of the spring Empties every Bulgarian village of Its male population. As soon as the merry notes of the cuckoo are heard, the rising sun never overtakes a villager with the women folk at home. He rises with the lark and works on the farm, which, as 1 said, is a considerable distance from his home and returns late in the evening. During the summer months, „the laboring season,“ as they call It, the farmer needs all the help he can get, as, In the absence of any machinery, everything must he done by hand; therefore he summons his wife and children, everybody in fact who can assist with rake, or Bickle, or scythe, in the garnering of the harvest. The help of his family In the Held Is a necessity; the ripe corn will nut wait; hired labor is hard to find just then, and unite as often he cannot afford it. Nor does his wife object to working in the field with him; she had made up her mind alH.ut it when she consented to marry a farmer. Happily thelliilgarians are brought up with the Idea that work Is both virtue sun blessing at once. Thus July and August are not only the busiest, but also the merriest seuon for the country folk in Bulgaria. The sight In tho Held is Inspiring. Rich and lieAiitifiil the waiting fields stretch before you as far ns your eye can reach: „Acres on acres everywhere, \ The look of sn.illt.ft i.lcnty wear, That lellsof lusaler’s thoiifthtfill care.“ Sturdy men arc scattered now ingniuiis now alone, who „Hcneath the fervid sun mow their swnrths; You can see their scythe-blades flashing At the ‘i.n of the hay.’ Here Is a flock of frollciug children, who, mistaking work for play, with childish glee help „Mamma“ and their elder sisters and brothers to gather aud pile up the hay Into stacks; further ou Is a large company of youug meuand maideus benaIng lv a row, sickle In baud, before the yielding field. These are the rt-upera for some rich farmer. Like com|>anie*., busy, youthful aud gleeful, are seen scattered all over the plain; and songs, merriment aud laughter, wafted by the sighiug breeze, Kreet your ears from every direction. Thus with soug the day heglno aud thus It ends. The typical shepherd Is a man who devotes his whole life to the care of a Hock of sheep. I say man, tiecause shepherdesses are nut very common. The constant watch of the shepherd is required fur tbe protection of his stupid aud helpless animals from the ever huuger-viguaut wolf, ou the one hand, aud to protect the cultivated land from tbe sheep, on the other,–for the farms have neither hedge nor feuee about them. The true shepherd is as devoted to the welfare of his sheep as a conscientious kindergarten teacher is to ber tender puliils. He leads them to green pastures and ceeps them away from the poisonous herbs. He carries over obstructions those that cannot cross them, finds the way for the lost, tenderly binds tbe broken leg and fondly hugs ami kisses the young, frolicsome lamb. He salutes many of them by name as you sulute your nelghl>ors, aud can call them aa fast as the teacher reads the register at school. He Is all eyes for their safety, all arms for their protection; tht-ir Ih’liht in time of need, their shield In time of danger, their physician iv time of sickness, their frieud and guard la v angel at all times. That is what the word shepherd or pastor means, and that Is why our Saviour called Himself the Good Shepherd. Now let us return to the village and see how theyßpend their pastime. The most popular amusement In the country is the national cycling dance called khoro. Excepting tbe clergy, it is danced by all sorts aud conditions of men; by peasantry and Intelligeucla; by soldiers and civilians; by olllcers of high and low order, both state and military; iv the shepherd’s hut in the Balkan valley and in the prince’s palace at Sophia. The young people especially seem never to tire of It. They dance it in season aud out of season, on every possible occasion. No holiday, festival, wedding feast, or patriotic celebration, no jollification of any kind whatever la complete without khoro. Khoro itself is composed of a number of men and women holding hands, or, still more commonly, holding the sashes or belts around each other’s waists, so that they form a chain of human links. Thus linked, the chain bends ita two ends inward and closes in a circle: or it is left open, iv which case it has t lie appearance of a crescent. The size of the circle, or the length of the crescent, is limited only by the number of partakers In it. As to whether tbe members of the khoro are some scores or several hundred. The khoro thus formed is ready for the music. As soon as the musicians begin to play some well-known air, the people composing the khoro commence to move with uniform Bteps and skips corresponding to the music. All begin very slowly at first, Increasing the movement as they go forward, backward, then to the right, led by the leader, who is at the extreme right of every dancer. So continues to move this chain of human links, now with a slower pace, how With a quicker step, In a zigzag line around, until it reaches the point it started from, and without stopping for a single moment, It whirls on as before, until the music stops playing. The music, however, does not stop, but only changes the air, and the dance, without breaking, alters Its movements correspondingly. As soon as the musicians are tired others take their place. If there are no such substitutes, the strain of the melody is taken up by four maidens with fine voices, who sing, two-by-two in turn, and the khoro continues continues dancing. I remember instances when the khoro-dance was formed in the morning and broke only at sunset. Besides supplying amusement for the people, this national danoe does still another service: the practical value of the Bulgarian khoro is that it furnishes the chief occasion for the young people to become acquainted with each other, and thus, more than anything else, diminishes the unlucky chances In the matrimonial lottery. For It is here at the khoro where most of the Bulgarian love matches take place. Falling In love—how can I describe it? The first step of the process Is the same everywhere. The eyes do the first service: they tell the first story. At work or at play, shy glances meet In rapid succession, and no sooner one pair meets another pair of sparkling, magnetic eyes than both faß
to the ground. Then comes . little red on the cheek, followed by a suppressed sigh which no one but tlod hears. But love, like a cough, cannot be hid. Immediately half envious heads are put together and fingers are pointed. But the victim aces them not, he hear, them not. As tn America, In Bulgaria It la the young man that makes the first advances Once pleased with her apia?arance, he of course, wants to sound her mind on the delicate subject. He goes and dances next to her .nil Introduces himself by talking to her. I.lko little children, they neither feel the need of nor ask for any formal Introduction. Hhniild she regard his advance* unfavorably, she pretends some reason for not dancing any more. This, however, he Interprets, and in nine unci out of ton Interprets correctly v giving him the mitten. If, on the other hand,
I hi. pi-wpecla look encouraging, i„ a.k. her for a flower from in. mauy that •!•• I. 1., i hair. Klowera …. the Bulgarian valoiitlnua. HtioulU Ilia inul.l. ~ grant his rv.iueal, It is interpreted as lavurlug hla advance.. Hut her .nin.i. ,„, may prevent her from ……. ,in.,. the favor asked, lie then allows liiiusell the liberty ol taking a flower without her imrmlsalon, aud uolea her protestations as to whether they are made lv good .ariio.t or only for mere form. Being assured that their attraction Is mutual, their subsequent meeting. are apt i.. i>. ……. ifrequi hi …nn in,- n,,, attraction develops luto attachment aud real love, when ….I, lo the other become a i>.-.,,. fir.,- (Unit love), used in the sense of beat love. Thus they enter!he aei-ond stage of love’s drama called courtship- or aaour Bulgarians characteristically terui it, „Pooling.“ We know how courtlugU done in America- I mean you know. Au .ulhorlty tella us his experience thus: „Every evening, ralu or shine, I make a call ‘twlat eight and ~.„. «… her, who soon will be niln.— l.tttle Anuie Uoouey.“ li.-si.b-. thin call, which generally lake. place iv the parlor, and often lasts until ‘.wiit’ twelve and one o’clock A. M. American lovers are seen every summer night in every public park aud at every atreet comer of every city. Cau the Bulgarian lovers receive . permiasiou from their parents who always have to aay the big say in the matter -get permiasiou to 00 likewise? Not . bit of it. It mattera little whatlhe prospective son-in-law llkea or thinks, or what the notioua of his little Anuie might be on the subject, Did Mm Hoouey objects to it. She object* to leaving him alone with her daughter; belter not before they are engaged, the old folks think. If the mother regards tbe match favorably she haa no objectlou for them lo do all the „fooling“ they like at the AAoro or the hi tiYiiAii, within sight, If not hearing, of the crowd, but not otherwise. Custom aud the old folks declare thla to be tbe only proper way: but the young people cannot say amen lo It. How could for the seuonof sederota. or the khoro even, which Ukea place but once in several months? Away from the loved one the days .re ages. Then their hearts suggest, „Where there is . will there ia a way;“ after which some interesting happeuinga begin to happen. Coming home from the field, his w.y always happens to lead by her house, and she happens to be outside in the garden when he approaches it, where they have . chat on the sly; when she govs to the village well to draw water, he happens to lie .boat and they hare another of those short but sweet chats; or, when her mother commissions her to do some errand, they inevitably happen to meet accidents will happen, you know—.nd, If no alien eye is suspected to see it, the well known, „nev-er-tell-anybody“ smack-salute I. . sun outcome. Into th. particulars of the rural Bulgarian betrothal and marriage, which bat for days, accompanied hv feasting, dancing, singing and merrymaking, with almost countless ceremonies, I shall not now enter. Generally speaking young Bulgarians find it no mora difficult to fall in love than young Americans do; but they do not seem to be able to fall out of It aa easy as you wiser folks do th. thing in thla oountry. Divorces .nd .van broken an- „“,,■;» Buffriguarded hoar, that .lie had been engaged four times, and evidently she is ready for tbe fifth I Let me again remind you to Iwar in mind that the life I have described is characteristic of rural Bulgaria only. If I had described the scenes of life in one of our larger cities it would be not unlike describing some of your western town.. I shall now say . taw words .boat N.w it.brans, without which no address on Bulgaria would be complete. What doe. the term New Bulgaria mean? As I have already said, in other words, for nearly five hundred years Bulgaria was buried •live in a political sepulchre known to the world aa Turkey in Kurope. In his war on Turkey in 1877-1878, Alexander 11, Ts_r of the Russians, proved the angel of God who rolled the stone away and restored Bulgaria to a new life. Her previous existence having been entirely forgotten, Bulgaria appeared to the world outside as a new nation; to the outsider, there appeared as a political birth what actually wu the political resurrection of Bulgaria. This is what we ell New Bulgaria. New Bulgaria is in government a limited or constitutional monarchy. The supreme authority in the land ia the Constitution, which was framed and ratified in 1879. The head of the state, under the Conatiut ion, is the Prince, who Is the commander-in-chief of the army. The reigning prince is Ferdinand I. The legislative authority is vested in a single Chamber, called the National Assembly of Bulgaria, th. members of which arc elected by universal manhood suffrage. The executive power is vested under the Crown, in . Council of six Ministers. Aa In Kngland, the preaident of this council, the prime minister, la the practical head of the government. The preaent prime minister ia Stefan Stambouloff, the moat rem.rk.ble son of N.w Bulgaria. The Bulgarian constitution is on. of the best, one ot the most democratic charters of liberty given to any people. I cannot say tha same thing of the government; but attheaametimel am not inclined to anathematize the men who are in charge of it. Why? Because the const it ut ton ia not only above the muses, but even above the classe*. Their experience ia extremely short, merely of . decade’s duration. He who expects from Bulgaria at the age of . dozen years the wisdom snd the behavior of . state centuries its senior in constitutional lite, expect* the Impossible. And you muat rememember that even v it Is, Bulgaria ir the freest country In southeastern Kurope. After describing In detail the marvelous progress New Bulgaria hu made since its liberation from „the unspeakable Turk,“ for a confirmation of his words, Mr Vat ralsky read the following testimony by President Washburn of Roberta college, who is probably the beat informed American on the subject: „It is only a few years since this people, who had been five hundred years under the Turkish rule, were left to shift for themselves, with a country half ruined by war and massacre, without a man of any experience in government in th. nation, wilh few educated men, with two complicated administrations to organise, .nd with all sorts of foreign intrigue, to hinder them: but I found everything going on v quietly and regularly v in an old country. Beat of all, I found all clasaea anxious to Improve upon what they have done, and more conscious of their defects than I wu. Kxoept at Sophia, the finest new buildings thai 1 aaW were the school houaea, and every effort is being mad. to educate all the people. On the whole I do not think we can find an example in hi. lory of a n.tlon which hu made eqa.l progress. under auch circumstances In so short . time.“ Finally Mr V.tralsky said: „Among the nations lhat haver sympathised with ns In Olir Strugglo for iu.l..|a<ii,l..|u-•• and light, you Americana have been Ihe foremost. In the name of mv motherland I alncerelv thank you tor the put, and we hop. that you will continue to bless ua with your aympathy and thus cheer our hearts and strengthen …..,is for the great work before ua.“

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