Exoticism: The Balkans, Bulgaria and the past
The American-based Bulgarian historian and historiographer Maria Todorova has illustrated how Western perceptions of southeastern Europe have developed in a marginalising, and mainly negative, manner (M. Todorova 1994). Todorova examines the invention and use of the term 'Balkan' from its origins in the Turkish phrase for 'wooded mountain' and notes the word's early use, in the late eighteenth century, to describe the Stara Planina mountains which run across the middle of modern Bulgaria (M. Todorova 1994: 462). From the 1820s, the term was commonly used for the geography of the region as a whole. By the beginning of the twentieth century, however, the term had come to connote a political atmosphere as well as a geographic region, and featured in discussions and debate on the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-8 and the First and Second Balkan Wars at the start of the twentieth century. Todorova also suggests that in these discussions a stereotype arose in which the inhabitants of the Balkans were identified as superstitious, irrational and backward peasant societies (M. Todorova 1994: 460-70).
[Back to Index]