Bulgarian Folk Songs

Bulgarian Folk Songs (Cyrillic: Бѫлгарски народни пѣсни,[note 1] modern Bulgarian: Български народни песни, [ˈbəlɡɐrski nɐˈrɔdni ˈpɛsni], Macedonian: Бугарски народни песни, [ˈbugɑrski ˈnɑrɔdni ˈpɛsni][note 2]) is a collection of folk songs and traditions from the then Ottoman Empire, especially from the region of Macedonia, but also from Shopluk and Srednogorie, published in 1861 by the Miladinov brothers. The Miladinovs' collection remains one of the greatest single works in the history of Bulgarian folklore studies and has been republished many times.[4] The collection is considered also to have played an important role by the historiography in North Macedonia.

Bulgarian Folk Songs, collected by the Miladinov Brothers Dimitar and Konstantin and published by Konstantin in Zagreb at the printing house of A. Jakic, 1861.
A letter from Dimitar Miladinov to Victor Grigorovich from February 25th, 1846 about his search for Bulgarian folk songs and artifacts in Macedonia.[1]
Letter from Konstantin Miladinov to Georgi Rakovski from 8 January 1861 to explain the use of the term Bulgarian in the title of the collection.[2]
Announcement of the Miladinov Brothers on the publication of "Bulgarian Folk Songs" in the newspaper "Dunavski Lebed" issued by Georgi Rakovski , Feb. 7, 1861.[3]



The two brothers were interested in Bulgarian folklore. This inspired them to compile the collection. Dimitar was the first one to start collecting songs. He was advised to begin this by the Russian Victor Grigorovich in 1845. Between 1844 and 1847 Grigorovich made a tour through the Ottoman Balkans. Dimitar promised to send some folk songs later to him. He and his brother started to collect folk songs. In 1857 Konstantin took the collection prepared by them to Moscow with the hope of publishing it there, but could not find a publisher. One of the main problems was that the materials were written down in Eastern South Slavic, but with Greek letters. In Moscow he received the encouragement of the Bulgarian students there. Vasil Cholakov assisted, providing him with songs, and taking a direct part in transcribing the songs taken down by the Miladinov brothers, in preparing for publishing their collection.[5] The 660 songs were collected mainly between 1854 and 1860. Most of them by the elder brother, Dimitar, who taught in several Macedonian towns (Ohrid, Struga, Prilep, Kukush and Bitola) and was able to put into writing 584 folk songs from the area. The songs from the Sofia district were supplied by the Sofia schoolmaster Sava Filaretov. Those from Panagyurishte area, were recorded by Marin Drinov and Nesho Bonchev. Rayko Zhinzifov, who went to Russia with the help of D. Miladinov, was another collaborator.

In 1860 Konstantin addressed Croatian Bishop Joseph Strossmayer who sympathized with the Bulgarian people, with an appeal to publish the collection. Originally, the book was written using Greek orthography. He answered Konstantin's letter positively, but insisted the folk songs should be written in the Cyrillic alphabet. As result the collectin was published in Zagreb in 1861, and it was dedicated to Strosmayer. The book represents an anthology of 660 folk songs, but also folk legends, traditions, rituals, names, riddles, and proverbs.[6] The collecting was highly assessed by its contemporaries - Lyuben Karavelov, Nesho Bonchev, Ivan Bogorov, Kuzman Shapkarev, Rayko Zhinzifov and others. The Russian scholar Izmail Sreznevsky pointed out in 1863 that the Bulgarians are far from lagging behind other peoples in poetic abilities. Elias Riggs, an American linguist in Constantinople, translated some songs into English and sent them to the American Oriental Society in Princeton, New Jersey. In 1862, Riggs wrote the collection presents an interesting picture of the traditions and fancies prevailing among the mass of the Bulgarian people. The collection compiled by the Miladinov brothers also played a great role in the development of the modern Bulgarian literature.[7][8]

The Miladinov Brothers Collection has been published many times in Bulgaria. The second edition came out in 1891, already in Bulgarian Principality. The third one was released in 1942, the fourth, in 1961, etc.

Macedonian controversyEdit

After World War II the Collection's historical context and its authors' national identity became a source of dispute and disagreement between the newly created Macedonian scientific community and its Bulgarian colleagues.[9] Although, there was no clear separating isogloss into the Eastern South Slavic dialects then, a distinct Macedonian standard was codified in Yugoslavia in 1945.[10] Despite some pro-Bulgarian sentiments still persisted there,[11][12] a separate Macedonian nation was also formed.[13] In postwar Yugoslav Macedonia the collection was published for the first time in 1962 and afterwards in 1983 under the title "The Collection of the Miladinov Brothers".[14] The reference to Macedonia as Western Bulgaria in the foreword was removed. The Brothers called Macedonia Western Bulgaria, because they disliked the first name since it was a Greek term.[15][16][17][18][19] Every references to Bulgarian and Bulgarians were replaced with Macedonian and Macedonians. However, after the fall of Communism in 1999, Dimitar Dimitrov, a Bulgarophile and minister of culture, provoked a series of public scandals that resulted finally in his dismissal. Under his auspices the collection of the Miladinov brothers, was reissued under its original title, which caused serious protests of Macedonian historians.[20] As result the Macedonian State Archive displayed a photocopy of the book in cooperation with the Soros Foundation and the text on the cover was simply "Folk Songs", the upper part of the page showing "Bulgarian" has been cut off. Bulgarian scholars have accused their Macedonian colleagues of forging the original edition of the work of the Brothers by deliberately deleting the word “Bulgarian” from the Collection. These Bulgarian arguments have strong support in international academic circles.[21]

Macedonian researchers claim allegedly the Eastern Bulgarian songs were actually bought out from Cholakov upon Strossmayer’s insistence. In this way “Bulgarian" designation appeared shortly prior to the book’s publication. Cholakov also specified Konstantin Miladinov's 100-forint debt. It was the exact sum Cholakov demanded for a dispatch of 100 Eastern Bulgarian songs and an authorization to Miladinovs to attach the “Bulgarian” ethnonym thereto. In fact, Miladinovs did not seek authorization and their idea was to have songs from all the Bulgarian lands, not only from Western Bulgaria, as they called Macedonia. Because of that, they aspired to these Eastern Bulgarian[22] songs collected from Cholakov.[23] Thus in the preface to the Collection, the Brothers expressed their greatest thanks to Cholakov, among all their associates.[24] Macedonian scientists insist also, the collection is as an example of literature written in Macedonian,[25] and it was published under this title because its authors were forced to use Bulgarian language.[26] However at that time, there were no standardized Bulgarian or Macedonian languages with which to conform.[27] Educated Bulgarian and Macedonian Slavs then, called themselves Bulgarians[28] and worked together to create a common literary standard, called Bulgarian.[29][30] However in North Macedonia some researchers argue that during the rise of nationalism in the Ottoman Empire the term Bulgarian was not used to designate any ethnic affiliation.[31][32] Today in North Macedonia the pupils do not have the access to this collection in original, while the museums there also refuse to display it, because of the Bulgarian labels in the text.[33] Under such circumstances generations of students there were educated in pseudo-history.[34] In March 2021, a shipment with the original edition of the book, which was intended for the Cultural Center of Bulgaria in Skopje, was not allowed on the territory of North Macedonia, which provoked an official protest from the Bulgarian side.[35]

Sample of the first song in the bookEdit

English language Bulgarian orthography Macedonian orthography Original orthography

Yoan Popov left,
to go on Easter,
on Easter, to plow,
when he reached the halfway,
A Samovila came out,
A Woodland Faerie,
his roads she barred:
- Go back, Yoan Popov,
Do not go on Easter,
on Easter, to plow!

Кинисал ми Йо'ан Попов,
да ми о'ит на Великден,
на Великден на оранье.
И ми пойде до пол-пъти,
и излезе Самовила,
Самовила Самогорска,
пътищата му предстрети:
- Врат' се, врати, Йо'ан Попов,
не одай ми на Великден,
на Великден на оранье!

Кинисал ми Јо’ан Попов,
Да ми о’ит на Велигден
На Велигден на орање,
И ми појде до пол-пати,
И излезе Самовила
Самовила Самогорска,
Патиштата му предстрети:
„Врат’ се, врати Јо’ан Попов,
Не одај ми на Велигден
На Велигден на орање!”

Кинисалъ ми Јо’анъ Поповъ,
Да ми о’итъ на Велигденъ
На Велигденъ на оранѥ,
И ми пойде до пол-пѫти,
И излезе Самовила
Самовила Самогорска,
Пѫтища-та му предстрети:
„Врат’ сѣ, врати Јо’анъ Поповъ,
Не одай ми на Велигденъ
На Велигденъ на оранѥ!”

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ The original title of the book was written in an unstandardized Bulgarian orthography.
  2. ^ The book is known in North Macedonia as the Collection of the Miladinov brothers (Macedonian: Зборникот на Миладиновци, [ˈzbɔrnikɔt nɑ milɑˈdinɔft͡si]).

External linksEdit


  1. ^ "...In the meantime my efforts concerning our Bulgarian language and the Bulgarian (folk) songs, in compliance with your recommendations are unsurpassed. I have not for one moment ceased to fulfill the pledge which I made to you, Sir, because the Bulgarians are spontaneously striving for the truth. But I hope you will excuse my delay up till now, which is due to the difficulty I had in selecting the best songs and also in my work on the grammar. I hope that, on another convenient occasion, after I have collected more songs and finished the grammar, I will be able to send them to you. Please write where and through whom it would be safe to send them to you (as you so ardently wish)..."
  2. ^ "...But I implore you to publish the foreword I sent you in your newspaper, adding a word or two about the songs and especially about the Western Bulgarians in Macedonia. In the foreword I have called Macedonia - Western Bulgaria (as it should be called), because the Greeks in Vienna are treating us just like sheep. They consider Macedonia a Greek province and they are not even able to understand that it is not a Greek region. But what shall we do with the Bulgarians there who are more than two million people? Surely the Bulgarians will not still be sheep with a few Greeks as their shepherds? That time has irrevocably passed and the Greeks will have to be satisfied merely with their sweet dreams. I think that the songs should be distributed chiefly among the Bulgarians, and this is why I have fixed a low price."
  3. ^ The ad among others states: Six years ago we began collecting poems from all parts of Western Bulgaria, i.e. from Macedonia, approx. from Ohrid, Struga, Prilep, Veles, Kostur, Kukush, Strumica and other places; but also from Eastern Bulgaria.
  4. ^ Charles A. Moser, A History of Bulgarian Literature 865–1944, Vol. 112 от Slavistic Printings and Reprintings, Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co KG, 2019, ISBN 3110810603, p. 85.
  5. ^ Simeon Simeonov, Vassil Cholakov in the Folklore of the Bulgarian National Revival, Journal: Български фолклор, 1979, Issue No 3, pp. 31-43. Language: Bulgarian.
  6. ^ Mary Lee Knowlton (2005). Cultures of the World: Macedonia. Marshall Cavendish. ISBN 9780761418542.
  7. ^ Люлка на старата и новата българска писменост. Академик Емил Георгиев, (Държавно издателство Народна просвета, София 1980)
  8. ^ Петър Динеков. Делото на братя Миладинови.(Българска акдемия на науките, 1961 г.)
  9. ^ Bechev, Dimitar (2009). Historical Dictionary of the Republic of Macedonia. p. 149.
  10. ^ Roland Sussex, Paul Cubberley, The Slavic Languages; Cambridge Language Surveys; Cambridge University Press, 2006, ISBN 1139457284, p. 71.
  11. ^ "At the end of the WWI there were very few historians or ethnographers, who claimed that a separate Macedonian nation existed.... Of those Slavs who had developed some sense of national identity, the majority probably considered themselves to be Bulgarians, although they were aware of differences between themselves and the inhabitants of Bulgaria.... The question as of whether a Macedonian nation actually existed in the 1940s when a Communist Yugoslavia decided to recognize one is difficult to answer. Some observers argue that even at this time it was doubtful whether the Slavs from Macedonia considered themselves to be a nationality separate from the Bulgarians.The Macedonian conflict: ethnic nationalism in a transnational world, Loring M. Danforth, Princeton University Press, 1997, ISBN 0-691-04356-6, pp. 65-66.
  12. ^ Yugoslav Communists recognized the existence of a Macedonian nationality during WWII to quiet fears of the Macedonian population that a communist Yugoslavia would continue to follow the former Yugoslav policy of forced Serbianization. Hence, for them to recognize the inhabitants of Macedonia as Bulgarians would be tantamount to admitting that they should be part of the Bulgarian state. For that the Yugoslav Communists were most anxious to mold Macedonian history to fit their conception of Macedonian consciousness. The treatment of Macedonian history in Communist Yugoslavia had the same primary goal as the creation of the Macedonian language: to de-Bulgarize the Macedonian Slavs, and to create an national consciousness that would inspire identification with Yugoslavia. For more see: Stephen E. Palmer, Robert R. King, Yugoslav communism and the Macedonian question, Archon Books, 1971, ISBN 0208008217, Chapter 9: The encouragement of Macedonian culture.
  13. ^ Stefan Troebst sees the Macedonian process of nation building as a perfect example of Gellner's theory of nationalism. Since the foundation of the Yugoslav Macedonia this construction was conducted in haste and hurry: “National language, national literature, national history and national church were not available in 1944, but they were accomplished in a short time. The south-east-Slavic regional idiom of the area of Prilep-Veles was codified as the script, normed orthographically by means of the Cyrillic Alphabet, and taken over immediately by the newly created media. And the people have been patching up the national history ever since. Thus, they are forming more of an “ethnic” than a political concept of nation. For more, see: One Macedonia With Three Faces: Domestic Debates and Nation Concepts, in Intermarium; Columbia University; Volume 4, No. 3 (2000–2001) and Stefan Troebst, "Makedonische Antworten auf die ‘Makedonische Frage" 1944-1992: Nationalismus, Republiksgründung, nation-building in Südosteuropa, 7-8/1992, 431.
  14. ^ Миладинова, М. 140 години "Български народни песни" от братя Миладинови. Отзвук и значение. сп. Македонски преглед, 2001, Македонският научен институт, бр. 4, стр. 5-21.
  15. ^ In the announcement by the Miladinov Brothers about the subscription for their collection called Bulgarian Folk Songs, published in Belgrade by Konstantin Miladinov on February 7, 1861 in the Bulgarian newspaper Dunavski Lebed, issue № 20, he wrote: "We started collecting folk songs six years ago from all parts of Western Bulgaria, i.e. Macedonia... as well as from Eastern Bulgaria. These folk songs will be supplemented with traditional rites of betrothal and match-making from Struga and Kukush; proverbs, riddles, legends and about 2,000 words which have become obsolete or differ from other dialects". For more see: D. Kossev et al., Macedonia, documents and materials, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, (in English) Sofia, 1978, p. 48.
  16. ^ On 8 January 1861, K. Miladinov wrote to the Bulgarian weakener G. Rakovski to explain his use of the term ‘‘Bulgarian’’ in the title of his and his brother’s collection of Macedonian folk songs: ‘‘In the announcement I called Macedonia West Bulgaria (as it should be called) because in Vienna the Greeks treat us like sheep. They consider Macedonia a Greek land and cannot understand that [Macedonia] is not Greek.’’ Miladinov and other educated Macedonians worried that use of the Macedonian name would imply attachment to or identification with the Greek nation For more see: Andrew Rossos Macedonia and the Macedonians: A History. Hoover Institution Press, 2008, ISBN 0817948813, p. 84.
  17. ^ Miladinov suggested that Macedonia should be called “Western Bulgaria”. Obviously, he was aware that the classical designation was received via Greek schooling and culture. As the Macedonian histotrian Taskovski claims, the Macedonian Slavs initially rejected the Macedonian designation as Greek. For more see: Tchavdar Marinov, Famous Macedonia, the Land of Alexander: Macedonian identity at the crossroads of Greek, Bulgarian and Serbian nationalism, p. 285; in Entangled Histories of the Balkans - Volume One: National Ideologies and Language Policies with Roumen Daskalov and Tchavdar Marinov as ed., BRILL, 2013, ISBN 900425076X, pp. 273-330.
  18. ^ Dimitar Miladinov's most famous literary achievement was the publishing of a large collection of Bulgarian folk songs in Zagreb in 1861 under the title Bulgarian Folk Songs. He published the volume with his brother Konstantin (1830-1862) and even though most of the songs were from Macedonia, the authors disliked this term as too Hellenic and preferred to refer to Macedonia as the "Western Bulgarian lands". For more see: Chris Kostov, Contested Ethnic Identity: The Case of Macedonian Immigrants in Toronto, Peter Lang, 2010, ISBN 3034301960, p. 72.
  19. ^ The struggle over the historical legacy of the name “Macedonia” was already under way in the nineteenth century, as the Greeks contested its appropriation by the Slavs. This is reflected in a letter from Konstantin Miladinov, who published Bulgarian folk songs from Macedonia, to Georgi Rakovski, dated 31 January 1861:On my order form I have called Macedonia “Western Bulgaria”, as it should be called, because the Greeks in Vienna are ordering us around like sheep. They want Macedonia to be Greek territory and still do not realize that it cannot be Greek. But what are we to do with the more than two million Bulgarians there? Shall the Bulgarians still be sheep and a few Greeks the shepherds? Those days are gone and the Greeks shall be left with no more than their sweet dream. I believe the songs will be distributed among the Bulgarians, and have therefore set a low price for them. For more see: Spyridon Sfetas, The image of the Greeks in the work of the Bulgarian revolutionary and intellectual Georgi Rakovski. Balkan Studies, [S.l.], v. 42, n. 1, p. 89-107, Jan. 2001. ISSN 2241-1674. Available at: <https://ojs.lib.uom.gr/index.php/BalkanStudies/article/view/3313/3338>.
  20. ^ Contested Ethnic Identity: The Case of Macedonian Immigrants in Toronto; 1900 - 1996, Chris Kostov, Peter Lang, 2010, ISBN 3034301960, pp. 93-94.
  21. ^ Lazarević, Dragana 2015. The politics of heritage in the West Balkans: the evolution of nation-building and the invention of national narratives as a consequence of political changes. Cardiff University, PhD Thesis, p. 323.
  22. ^ In fact today these areas are in West and Central Bulgaria.
  23. ^ “e-Journal VFU”, Варненски свободен университет "Черноризец Храбър, Брой 12, 2019 г. Д-р Димитър Маринов, Три страници от началото на българската ономанистика, стр. 10-30.
  24. ^ Mariya Mitskova, The papers of Vasil Cholakov in the context of dialectological researches during the Bulgarian National Revival period. Paisii Hilendarski University of Plovdiv; Research papers, vol. 54, Book 1, part A, 2016 – Languages and literature, p. 77; (in Bulgarian).
  25. ^ Michael Palairet, Macedonia: A Voyage through History (Vol. 2, From the Fifteenth Century to the Present), Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2016, ISBN 1443888494, p. 102.
  26. ^ Sonja Stojmenska-Elzeser, National Poets and Cultural Saints of Europe: Macedonian (questionnaire), Institute of Macedonian Literature, Ss. Cyril and Methodius University in Skopje, 2016.
  27. ^ The Bulgarian Ministry of Education officially codified a standard Bulgarian language based on the Drinov-Ivanchev orthography in 1899, while Macedonian was finally codified in 1950 in Communist Yugoslavia, that finalized the progressive split in the common Macedonian–Bulgarian pluricentric area.
  28. ^ Up until the early 20th century and beyond, the international community viewed Macedonians as regional variety of Bulgarians, i.e. Western Bulgarians.Nationalism and Territory: Constructing Group Identity in Southeastern Europe, Geographical perspectives on the human past : Europe: Current Events, George W. White, Rowman & Littlefield, 2000, ISBN 0847698092, p. 236.
  29. ^ Bechev, Dimitar (2009). Historical Dictionary of the Republic of Macedonia Historical Dictionaries of Europe. Scarecrow Press. p. 134. ISBN 0-8108-6295-6.
  30. ^ From Rum Millet to Greek and Bulgarian Nations: Religious and National Debates in the Borderlands of the Ottoman Empire, 1870–1913. Theodora Dragostinova, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH.
  31. ^ Миладиновци. Зборник, 1861-1961. Димитар Митрев: По Трагите Од Подвигот На Миладиновци. Главен Уредник: Славко Јаневски.) 1962.
  32. ^ For more see: The Macedonian Conflict by Loring M. Danforth.
  33. ^ Phillips, John (2004). Macedonia: Warlords and Rebels in the Balkans. I.B.Tauris. p. 41. ISBN 186064841X.
  34. ^ The past was systematically falsified to conceal the fact that many prominent 'Macedonians' had supposed themselves to be Bulgarian, and generations of students were taught the "pseudo-history" of the 'Macedonian nation." For more see: Michael L. Benson, Yugoslavia: A Concise History, Edition 2, Springer, 2003, ISBN 1403997209, p. 89.
  35. ^ Minister Zaharieva summons North Macedonia’s Ambassador to Sofia over slander campaign. Radio Bulgaria, 3/27/21.