Marko Tsepenkov

Marko Kostov Tsepenkov (Bulgarian and Macedonian: Марко Костов Цепенков) (1829, Prilep, Ottoman Empire; now North Macedonia — 1920, Sofia, Kingdom of Bulgaria) was a Bulgarian folklorist from Ottoman Macedonia.[1] In his own time, he identified himself,[2] his compatriots[3] and his language as Bulgarian.[4][5][6][7][8][9]

Marko Cepenkov

After WWII, his native dialect was reclassified as part of the newly codified Macedonian language,[10][11][12] and according to the subsequently developed Macedonian historiography, he was an ethnic Macedonian writer and poet.[13][14][15] Though, per Macedonian researcher Blaze Ristovski, there isn't a single document ever, where Tsepenkov presented himself as an ethnic Macedonian.[16]


He was a writer and collector of folk literary works. His family moved to Prilep from village of Oreovec. His father, Kosta, lived in Kruševo for a period of time, before Marko Cepenkov was born. Since his father was a traveler, Cepenkov earned the opportunity to travel. He lived in Ohrid and Struga and visited other places in the country by the time he was fourteen. Cepenkov was educated in small Greek schools. In 1844 he moved to Prilep, where he attended the private school of Hadji pop Konstantin Dimkov and father Aleksa, for two years. He also became a tailor and while working in the shop he met a lot of people who would tell him folk stories. Cepenkov was also a good narrator and knew a lot of folk stories. Since then he became a collector of folk stories and other folk works. In 1857 Cepenkov was a teacher in Prilep. After he met Dimitar Miladinov he started collecting more and more folk works: songs, stories, riddles, and others. In that time he knew more than 150 stories and wrote one to two stories per week, as he mentions in his Autobiography. Marko Tsepenkov contacted with other figures of the Bulgarian National Revival period who noted down folklore, such as Kuzman Shapkarev and Metodi Kusev. He was influenced by the works of Georgi Rakovski, Vasil Cholakov, Ivan Blaskov and Dimitar Matov.[17]

He moved with his family to Sofia in 1888, where he was to live the rest of his life.[18] Here he was encouraged by Prof. Ivan Shishmanov, who includes his recordings in several volumes of the “Collection of works of the popular spirit” (SBNU). In this collection, published until in 1900, Cepenkov publishes many tales and legends, songs, a great number of beliefs and curses, interpretations of dreams, magic formulas, habits and rites, proverbs, riddles and folklore for children. Between 1896 and 1911, he published about 10 of his poems and his play "Cane Voivoda," which confirmed his own creative and literary pledge. He also wrote about a dozen songs with patriotic themes, and his "Autobiography". Cepenkov was in close relations with his countryman, then Metropolitan of Stara Zagora, Metodi Kusev. The "Institute of Folklore" of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences works today with the complete edition in six volumes of these folk materials. His collected folk works were published in ten books in Skopje in 1972. A selection of his folktales have been published in English, such as 19th Century Macedonian Folktales by the Macquarie University in Sydney in 1991. In his honor, the Macedonian institute for folklore is named after him.


  1. ^ Stojan Genchev, "The Ethnographic Interests of Marko Tsepenkov" in "Bulgarian ethnology", 1980, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, issue No: 4, pp. 49-56, Language: Bulgarian. The article paints the picture of Marko Tspenekov, a Bulgarian of the National Revival period, and an indefatigable collector of folk art and folklore. The importance of his work for a complete study of Bulgarian folk culture in the second half of the 19th century is shown. Marko Tsepenkov's relations with other Bulgarians of the National Revival period who noted down folklore, such as D. Miladinov and K. Shapkarev are shown, as is the influence which the works of G. S. Rakovski, V. Cholakov, I. Bluskov and D. Matov had on him and his collaboration with Ivan Shishmanov. In consequence of this research work Marko Tsepenkov's place in the general process of studying Bulgarian folk culture, a process connected with the Bulgarian National Revival is established, as well as his place in the history of Bulgarian Ethnography.
  2. ^ A letter from 1917 signed by M. Tsepenkov as a "Bulgarian book-seller" in: Macedonia. Documents and materials, Sofia 1978, III, N 143
  3. ^ Facsimile from the last poem in his "Autobiography", where Cepenкov wrote: "I will leave an etern remembrance to my kind Bulgarian nation"
  4. ^ "Concise encyclopedia of languages of the world", Keith Brown, Sarah Ogilvie, Elsevier, 2008, ISBN 0-08-087774-5, p.120.
  5. ^ In Cepenkov's tales a Macedonian speaking Christian is a Bugarin, a Macedonian speaking Muslim is a Pomak ... and the Macedonian language is called Nashincki or Bugarcki. "Developing cultural identity in the Balkans: convergence vs divergence", Raymond Detrez, Pieter Plas, Peter Lang, 2005, ISBN 90-5201-297-0, p. 27.
  6. ^ "Еве ми трага од лугье — си рекол сам со себе Сильан. Арно ами що знам, що лугье кье бидат? Ако се[т] бугари, арно, — кье се разберем; ами ако се[т] турци или власи, или арнаути, како кье се разбирам, за да сборуам?" Фолклорно наследство: Вълшебни и новелистични приказки, Марко Костов Цепенков, Institut za folklor (Balgarska akademia na naukite) Тодор Живков, Издател Академично издателство "Проф. Марин Дринов", 2001 стр. 127.
  7. ^ "Си тоарил еден Бугарин еден товар и поминал пред баждарница за да влези во градо. Излегол баждарџијата да му сака баждар, арно ама не знаел по бугарцки да зборува, ами турцки". Simpozium posveten na životot i deloto na Marko Cepenkov, Prilep, 15-17 noemvri 1979, Blaže Koneski, Издател Društvo za nauka i umetnost, 1981, стр. 115.
  8. ^ ..."Од сликовницата за Силјан Штркот, една од најпознатите македонски народни приказни, децата може да научат дека нивниот омилен јунак, прилепчанецот Силјан, е Бугарин. Во изданието на издавачот "Лист", Силјан признава дека неговиот јазик е бугарски..." Силјан Штркот од Прилепско - Бугарин?! Весник "Дневник", Број 1770 од 18 март 2006 год. Archived 2016-03-04 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ Антонова-Василева, Л. Речник на прилепския говор (по материали от М. Цепенков). – В: Марко Цепенков. Фолклорно наследство. Т. I- IV. София. Акад. изд. “Проф. М. Дринов”, 1998 - 2007, 383-496.
  10. ^ The Macedonian partisans established a commission to create an “official” Macedonian literary language (1945), which became the Macedonian Slavs' legal “first” language (with Serbo-Croatian a recognized “second” and Bulgarian officially proscribed). D. Hupchick, The Balkans: From Constantinople to Communism, Springer, 2002, ISBN 0312299133, p. 430.
  11. ^ "The obviously plagiarized historical argument of the Macedonian nationalists for a separate Macedonian ethnicity could be supported only by linguistic reality, and that worked against them until the 1940s. Until a modern Macedonian literary language was mandated by the communist-led partisan movement from Macedonia in 1944, most outside observers and linguists agreed with the Bulgarians in considering the vernacular spoken by the Macedonian Slavs as a western dialect of Bulgarian". Dennis P. Hupchick, Conflict and Chaos in Eastern Europe, Palgrave Macmillan, 1995, ISBN 0312121164, p. 143.
  12. ^ In one respect, however, Macedonian nationalism threw up a problem which the Communist Party could not ignore: the question of the status of the Macedonian language. If, as Dr Johnson remarked, languages are the pedigrees of nations, then the Slav inhabitants of Macedonia were by any reasonable linguistic criteria part of the Bulgarian nation... The construction and dissemination of a distinctive Macedonian language was the medium through which a sense of Macedonian identity was to be fixed... The past was systematically falsified to conceal the fact that many prominent ‘Macedonians’ had supposed themselves to be Bulgarians, and generations of students were taught the pseudo-history of the Macedonian nation. The mass media and education were the key to this process of national acculturation, speaking to people in a language that they came to regard as their Macedonian mother tongue, even if it was perfectly understood in Sofia. For more see: Michael L. Benson, Yugoslavia: A Concise History, Edition 2, Springer, 2003, ISBN 1403997209, p. 89.
  13. ^ Because in many documents of 19th and early 20th century period, the local Slavic population is not referred to as "Macedonian" but as "Bulgarian", Macedonian historians argue that it was Macedonian, regardless of what is written in the records. For more see: Ulf Brunnbauer, “Serving the Nation: Historiography in the Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) after Socialism“, Historien, Vol. 4 (2003-4), pp. 161-182.
  14. ^ Numerous prominent activists with pro-Bulgarian sentiments from the 19th and early 20th centuries are described in Macedonian textbooks as ethnic Macedonians. Macedonian researchers claim that "Bulgarian" at that time was a term, not related to any ethnicity, but was used as a synonym for "Slavic", "Christian" or "peasant". Chris Kostov, Contested Ethnic Identity: The Case of Macedonian Immigrants in Toronto, 1900-1996, Peter Lang, 2010, ISBN 3034301960, p. 92.
  15. ^ 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 a separate 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.
  16. ^ "Службена белешка", Скопје, 1974 година.
  17. ^ The ethnographic interests of Marko Tsepenkov, Bulgarian Ethnology (4/1980), Genchev, Stojan; Issue: 4/1980, Page Range: 49-56.
  18. ^ Списание България - Македония, брой 4-5, 2009 г. 180 години от раждането на Марко Цепенков. Мисията: Събирач на приказки, пазител на духовни съкровища.

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