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Balkan Family Structure and the European Pattern

Demographic Developments in Ottoman Bulgaria

By Maria m. Todorova

Publication Year: 2006

This study, which is an updated, extended, and revised version of the out-of-print 1993 edition, reassesses the traditional stereotype of the place of the Balkans in the model of the European family in the nineteenth century on the basis of new source material and by synthesizing existing research. The work first analyzes family structure and demographic variables as they appear in population registers and other sources, and the impact of these findings on theoretical syntheses of the European family pattern. On most features, such as population structure, marriage and nuptiality, birth and fertility, death and mortality rates, family and household size and structure, as well as inheritance patterns, the Balkans show an enormous deal of internal variety. This variability is put in a comparative European context by matching the quantifiable results with comparable figures and patterns in other parts of Europe. The second section of the book is a contribution to the long-standing debate over the zadruga, the complex, collective, joint or extended family in the Balkans. Finally, the book considers ideology and mythology and the ways it has adversely affected scholarship on the family, and broadly on population history.

Published by: Central European University Press


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pp. 1-3

Title Page

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p. 4-4

Copyright Page

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pp. 5-7

Table of Contents

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pp. vii-viii

List of Tables and Figures

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pp. ix-x

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Preface to the Second Edition

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pp. xi-xii

My cordial thanks are extended to Sorin Antohi who kindly urged me, during our wonderful stay at the Wissenschaftskolleg in Berlin in 2004–2005, to submit Balkan Family Structure and the European Pattern to the Central European University Press for a second edition. The book appeared in 1993 in a very small print and, a couple of years later, was already out of print. In 2002, a Bulgarian translation was published in Sofia.1
The present edition is an updated and revised version of the first. Some minor changes have been made in the text, chiefly updating names, improving explanations, rectifying errors, and adding references. While I have not undertaken...


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pp. xiii-xiv

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I. Introduction

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pp. 1-12

Speaking about the falling rate of out-wedlock conceptions in Europe during the latter half of the nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth century, Edward Shorter observed:
This precipitous drop in illegitimate fertility extended to virtually every province of every country in Europe, save Bulgaria. (What was happening in Bulgaria, nobody knows) (Shorter 1977, 83).
Apart from the fact that “nobody knows” should be translated as “the author does not know” or as “there is nothing available in the English language,” this is a statement typical of most works in historical demography, with their tendency to venture into the stormy sea of broad comparisons. On one hand, little...

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II. Population Structure

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pp. 13-28

Bulgaria’s first census was held in 1880. The results, which were for the autonomous Principality of Bulgaria only (today’s Northern Bulgaria), were published in 1881. The semi-autonomous province of Eastern Rumelia (today’s Southern Bulgaria) held a census in 1884. In the interval between the unification of Bulgaria in 1885 and the First World War, general censuses of the population were held in 1887, 1892, 1900, 1905 and 1910. The latter three censuses were the first to be carried out after the so called “General Population and Housing Census Law” was passed in 1897. In terms of program, organization and methodology, they...

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III. Marriage and Nuptiality

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pp. 29-54

A Bulgarian proverb states: “A man who has not been born shall not die; he who does not marry is not a man” (Marinov 1892b, 5). Like most concise and categorical statements, this one, too, summarizes simply but eloquently the folk outlook on the three main stages of transition in human life: birth, marriage and death. The second element of this triad, the only one that people choose or avoid, was given the same inevitable and obligatory character as the other two biologically determined elements. What demographers had called the “traditional marriage pattern,” characterized by early and universal marriage, finds here its...

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IV. Birth and Fertility

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pp. 55-78

If only a married man was considered a man,1 only a woman with children was considered a woman. It was widely accepted that by the end of one year after the wedding the wife should be pregnant. If this had not occurred she was to resort to a wise-woman. Infertility was thought in some places to be caused by “stale blood,” and the reason for this was held to be that the woman in question had not been properly treated in her youth against infertility. The treatment itself, called klinene, consisted in applying a hot little stone to the groin of the little girl. If nothing helped, and the woman was pronounced to be infertile, she was condemned to a life of scorn, and treated as a potential whore. It is true that...

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V. Death and Mortality

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pp. 79-98

This data in this chapter are derived from the only comprehensive sources for the mortality of the population: the Libri mortuorum of the Catholics. Of the series of death registers known to exist today, there are some 22 covering different periods of 5 settlements in the Plovdiv district of Southern Bulgaria: the town of Plovdiv and 4 villages (see Appendix I). For three of the settlements (Plovdiv and two villages) the registration begins in the late 1830s and 1840s; for the other two villages the series begins in 1818 and in 1874.1 Although in the case of the death registers the entries continue uninterrupted to the present day, they are not always backed up by a full series of corresponding birth (baptismal)...

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VI. Family and Household Size and Structure

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pp. 99-126

A variety of approaches and criteria (anthropological, sociological, juridical, economical, etc.) have brought about an ambivalence in the treatment of these key notions. This is particularly so in the case of the family, where the traditional ambivalence of the notion of family is reflected in its treatment as a kinship network, on one hand, and on the other, as a household entity (Mitterauer 1984, 6).
The 1972 volume of the Cambridge group on Household and Family in Past Time insisted on an important distinction between family and household, namely the fact, that the domestic group might include nonrelatives. In certain instances this might become too rigorous an approach, especially when ideas like the consciousness...

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VII. The Problem of the South Slav Zadruga

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pp. 127-152

Before embarking on a survey of definitions of the zadruga and the various criteria used for these definitions, it is necessary to very briefly explain the term zadruga. This Slavic word was not used to designate a family form of any kind in any of the South Slavic vernaculars. It existed only in its adjectival form (zadružen, zadrugarski, etc.), meaning communal, united, joint, corporative, and other synonyms, and would be used to define “work,” “relations,” and so on. The first time it appears as a noun, and used subsequently, to designate a certain family type, is in Vuk Karadžić’s Serbian dictionary, published in Vienna in 1818...

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VIII. Conclusion

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pp. 153-166

The explanations for the existence of the zadruga have been manifold and with a few exceptions have had implicit or explicit ideological connotations. It is not the task of this work to present an exhaustive historiographical overview of theories on the zadruga (see Vinski 1938, 42–47; Popović 1921; Mandić 1949, 131–155). However, a sketch of the main trends will help explain the roots of some contemporary evaluations.
It was already mentioned that, until recently evolutionist thinking was predominant in the field of family history. Whereas evolutionist theories, reducing family development to a movement from the complex to the individual...

Appendix I: The Sources

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pp. 167-172

Appendix II: The Liber Status Animarum of Seldzhikovo

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pp. 173-184

Appendix III: Ideographs of the Liber Status Animarum of Seldzhikovo

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pp. 185-192

Appendix IV: Note on the Plague

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pp. 193-194

Appendix V: A Marriage Contract

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pp. 195-198

Appendix VI: On the Epistemological Value of Family Models: The Balkans Within the European Pattern

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pp. 199-212


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pp. 213-240


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pp. 241-249

Back Cover

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p. 265-265

E-ISBN-13: 9786155053863
Print-ISBN-13: 9789637326455

Page Count: 265
Publication Year: 2006

Edition: 1st