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DREAMING CONSTANTINOPLE: AN ALTERNATIVE VERSION OF PETKO TODOROV AND NIKOLAY RAYNOV

Nikolay Aretov
Institute for Literature (Bulgarian Academy of Sciences) Bulgaria

Abstract: Constantinople has a key place in Bulgarian national mythology. In many texts (folklore, chronicles, literature), it is presented as a great city that had to be seized or that was conquered by alien infidels. Petko Todorov and Nikolay Raynov, two important writers from the early 20th century, introduced an alternative version of the attitude towards the capital of the Byzantine Empire. In it, the Bulgarian ruler King Simeon refuses to subdue the city because they do not want history to recollect them as barbarians and destroyers. Such an attitude could not be interpreted as dominant or representative for its time. Nevertheless, it suggests the existence of some overtones in the overall image of the city and directs towards an ambivalent interpretation of Constantinople in the imagination of the Bulgarians.

Keywords: Constantinople, Petko Todorov, Nikolay Raynov, Alternative Version


 

 

AN ATTRACTIVE ENEMY: THE CONQUEST OF CONSTANTINOPLE IN BULGARIAN IMAGERY

Nikolay Aretov
Institute for Literature (Bulgarian Academy of Sciences)

Abstract: The Ottoman conquest of Constantinople was a critical event in the history of the Balkans, that left its profound imprint on the notions of Bulgarians of their past and of their self-image. Behind the seemingly unambiguous evaluation of this event – a defeat of Christendom that has to do with the fall of the Bulgarian Kingdom – an observer could trace one more complicated, ambivalent picture. The paper marks some of its premises:
A) The city was unsuccessfully attacked by Bulgarians several times in the past and they still think themselves through the prism of these wars.
B) Byzantines (Greeks) and Ottomans (Turks) are the traditional enemies in the Bulgarian national mythology. Their conflict and their interrelations as a whole generate different reactions, multiple plots.
C) In the nineteenth century when the foundations of Bulgarian nationalism were set up, Constantinople (Istanbul) was probably the city with the largest Bulgarian population and the stage for many of the important events in the Bulgarian society.

This paper offers а brief review of the main types of Bulgarian texts from the 19th and early 20th centuries dealing with the fall of Constantinople, comparing them with some Byzantine sources, with some Greek and other interpretations of this event and focuses on one not so popular dramatic work, written in verses by Svetoslav Milarov in the early 1870s. Here the ambivalent attitude of a part of Bulgarian society to the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople was more visible.

Keywords: Conquest of Constantinople, Bulgarian Nationalism, Bulgarian Literature, Svetoslav Milarov, Mental Geography, Historical Imagery