THE LOCAL COLOUR OF THE WESTERN PARTS

Ethnologically, the Bulgarian population of the Western Parts belongs to the regions west of Sofia where the Bulgarian towns of Tran, Kyustendil, and Radomir are situated.

The most widely spread anthropological type on both sides of the border is characterized by relatively sharp features, a medium size and a slim and shapely body construction. Until as late as the restoration of the Bulgarian state in 1878 these territories were  quite poorly developed socioeconomically even by the low Balkan criteria. Thus, for example, in Bosilegrad there were  still vestiges of the archaic Turkish semi-feudal land ownership system involving a great number of indigent, landless population, while in most of the other Bulgarian regions the peasants regularly owned the land they cultivated. By the end of the 19th century the zadruga was in existence, in which clans of 30-40 people lived together and tended their land in common - a widespread practice among the Serbs of that time, but an anachronistic occurrence in Bulgaria. On the other hand, Tsaribrod lies at the central road linking Europe and Istanbul and running through Belgrade, Sofia, and Plovdiv, so that the pulse of big international trading had always been felt in this town. Many an European traveller from the 15th-18th centuries have left us lively descriptions of Tsaribrod and its surrounding areas, including the customs, folk costumes and folklore of the local people. All of them point out the remarkable tidiness of the Bulgarian homes starting from this place and reaching as far as Turkish Thrace. They were especially impressed by the women - with their beautiful folk dress, ornaments all over, and with their cubit and a half high headgear, which made them look like "genuine princesses".

The folk legends, tales, and songs would tell romantic stories of mysterious lakes and impregnable fortresses, of invincible heroes and formidable monsters. Especially strong was the popular belief in  woodland fairies  - samodivas, mythical blonde maidens, who often did evil things. Not far from Bosielgrad  there is a vast stretch of land which people were afraid to till, because they believed it was the samodivas' gathering place for dancing and orgies. Linked with the Bosilegrad area is also the first written evidence (the mid-18th century) of the hussars - ordinary brigands at that time, who with the assistance of Serbia and Austria were later "transformed" into the light cavalry of the same name known throughout Europe.

Of particular interest is the local dialect spoken on both sides of today's Bulgarian-Serbian boundary. It is smoothly merged into the other Bulgarian dialects, to the south and north, to the east and west, but is at the same time conspicuous for a number of exotic characteristics many of which have analogues in the Serb language. In the first place, those are the vestiges of inflected forms. Such traces are to be found very rarelyin the dialects spoken in the rest of the Bulgarian regions. However, unlike the other Slavic languages (in which there were as many as 6-7 cases in the medieval period) the analytical pattern is predominant in the Bulgarian dialects and the standard Bulgarian language.

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More about the Western Parts - Materials prepared under the project on the "Social charter of the Bulgarian ethnic minority in Serbia including analysis of the social, demographic, economic and human issues of the population inhabiting the border area" by the SOLIDARITY Humanitarian Organization with the sponsorship of the Open Society Foundation, Belgrade

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