Τα Βαλκάνια: Eκσυγχρονισμός, ταυτότητες, ιδέες (The Balkans: Modernization, Identities, Ideas), a collection of 36 contributions examining various aspects of modern and contemporary history of the Balkans, is published as a tribute to Professor Nadia Danova, the prominent Bulgarian scholar whose research career—for almost half a century—has focused on the modern Balkans, with particular interest in the intertwined Greek and Bulgarian history, society, and culture in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The book is a translation of a prior Bulgarian edition, which was edited by Yura Konstantinova et al. and published by the Institute for Balkan Studies and Center of Thracology at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences in 2011. A year earlier, at its inception, the volume was envisioned to be published in both Bulgaria and Greece, and the Institute for Mediterranean Studies in Crete undertook that task. The collection includes chapters by Bulgarian, Greek, and other European scholars, most of them with significant contributions to the field of Balkan studies. In the Greek edition, a new introduction and a few new chapters are added, and, according to the Greek editor Andreas Lyberatos, the volume can be considered as a “fraternal” but not totally identical book (xvi). The contributions are arranged in three broad sections: Modernization and Education; Mentalities and Identities; and History of Ideas.
As Lyberatos has noted, Professor Danova occupies a significant and crucial role in Balkan historiography and acted as a “vital conduit” (syndetikos krikos, xi) between the Bulgarian and Greek academic communities. Her research lies within a tradition of Bulgarian scholars who tried to write about Bulgarian-Greek relations in a balanced way. Keeping in mind that both the Greek and Bulgarian historiographies developed simultaneously with their respective nation-state building, history played (and unfortunately still does play) a major ideological role. Danova was one of the researchers who during the Cold War and afterwards engaged in challenging the mutual distrust and in deconstructing the negative stereotypes by presenting a “world of Bulgarian-Greek contacts that was more complex and more noble” than previously assumed (xv). It is the idea of academic dialogue that affirms the professional and rejects the ideological use of history that has motivated the editors and contributors of this collection.
The first part, “Modernization and Education,” encompasses 11 contributions. Four chapters deal with the socio-economic aspects of modernization ranging from the impact of the incorporation of the Central Balkans into the world economy on local trade and crafts (Svetla Ianeva) to the status of the Greek merchants as a demographic minority in eighteenth-century Rumelia, the Balkan part of the Ottoman Empire, also known as “Turkey-in-Europe” (Svetlana Ivanova). The other two chapters analyze the [End Page 196] transition from slavery (and its ambiguous semantics) to wage labor (Christos Hadziiosif) and the commercial correspondence of K.G. Foteinof, a nineteenth-century Bulgarian merchant who lived mostly in Smyrna (Evelina Razhdavichka-Kiessling). Other contributions examine the world of books, such as Dimitrios Darvaris’s private library as evidence of rationalist learning (Vaso Seirinidou); conceptualizations of public health in three nineteenth-century Greek medical manuals (Anna Matthaiou and Popi Polemi); and censorship of the Ottoman press (Krasimira Daskalova). A third group of texts is focused on educational institutions and fashioning student identity, such as at Robert College (Orlin Sabev) and the Paris School of Architecture (Aleksandar Kostov), as well as on asymmetrical negotiations expressed in the correspondence between young offenders and their mentors in postwar Thessaloniki (Efi Avdela). Lyberatos’s contribution explores the emergence and dissemination of mechanical clocks and modern perception of time as a form of cultural transfer and a marker of sociocultural transformations that occurred among both Muslims and non-Muslims (138).
The second section, “Mentalities and Identities,” comprises 14 chapters, many of which deal with issues of alterity from a variety of perspectives: from theoretical tensions between Orientalism, Occidentalism, Balkanism, and nationalism (Nikolay Aretov) to “sexialization” of Islam in three Bulgarian texts (Olga Todorova), to the Greek “surprise” (366) at the incipient Bulgarian nationalist activities (Alexis Politis), to contemporary Greek perceptions of Bulgarians (as expressed by Sotiris Walden), to...