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Voisinages fragiles

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Anastassios Anastassiadis

Une aire en mutation : les transformations dans l’Empire ottoman et l’espace balkanique au XIXe siècle et leur impact sur les questions confessionnelles

“Not only Catholics, but even Gypsies”: An Episode of the Bulgarian Uniate Movement

« Pas seulement catholiques, mais même Gitans » : un épisode du mouvement uniate bulgare

Andreas Lyberatos

Résumé

La conversion au catholicisme en 1861-1862 d’un nombre considérable de la population bulgare de la ville de Malko Tărnovo est un des grands succès du mouvement uniate bulgare. L’intérêt de la présente étude est d’utiliser pour la première fois la correspondance d’Antim de Preslav (futur premier Exarque bulgare), qui était envoyé par le Patriarcat de Constantinople pour ramener à l’Église orthodoxe « les brebis égarées ». La correspondance d’Antim éclaire non seulement les conditions socio-économiques et politiques nécessaires au développement du mouvement uniate à Malko Tărnovo, mais livre également des renseignements inestimables sur la manière dont les adhérents du conflit Orthodoxe/Uniate fonctionnaient et estimaient leur position dans le conflit même. Examinant de près les documents, l’étude conteste les avis établis sur le mouvement uniate bulgare, émanant des conceptions essentialistes de la nation et de la religion, en découvrant les manières complexes avec lesquelles les particularités culturelles, ethniques ou religieuses, éléments de l’habitus d’une population, s’entrelacent et se transforment par la dynamique sociopolitique conduisant vers la formation de la nation.

Texte intégral

  • 1 The Bulgarian Uniate movement represents a significant (though short-lived) current and phase of th (...)
  • 2 See below, n. 35.
  • 3 The French Assumptionists of Emmanuel d’Alzon and the Polish Ressurectionists were the two congrega (...)

1The conversion of a considerable part of the population of the Thracian town of Malko Tărnovo (Tırnovacık, nowadays in Bulgaria, very close to the Bulgarian-Turkish border) and its environs to Catholicism in 1861-62 was one of the most significant successes of the Uniate movement gathering momentum from 1859 onwards among the Bulgarians living in the Ottoman Empire.1 Although the time of the conversion is still not punctually identified,2 it seems that the conversion of Malko Tărnovo’s inhabitants gave considerable energy and optimism to the Uniate activists at a very difficult conjuncture: the Bulgarian Uniate Patriarch Iosif Sokolski had deserted (willingly or not) to Russia (6-6-1861) and the organized support of the new mission of the French assumptionists had not yet arrived in Ottoman Thrace.3 On the other side, the success of the Uniate movement in Malko Tărnovo alarmed Russian diplomacy and the Patriarchate, which sent one of its promising bishops, Antim of Preslav (later first Bulgarian Exarch), to Malko Tărnovo to stop the conversion and bring the “lost sheep” back to Orthodoxy.

  • 4 Todev Ilia 1994, p. 196; Vataški Roumen 2005, p. 88-9; Elenkov Ivan 2000, p. 148-149.
  • 5 Popajanov Georgi 1997; Milkov Todor 1899; Kiril Bălgarski 1962. For an account of local historiogra (...)
  • 6 Most of Exarch Antim’s documents were burnt after his death in accordance to his own will. The few (...)

2References to this significant Uniate episode have been made in many works of a more general character, narrating either the development of the Uniate movement among the Bulgarians in general, or the development of the Bulgarian national revival movement in Thrace.4 Since the aim of these works is to inscribe the episode in a wider narrative, either national, pro- or anti-Catholic, they do not focus on the concrete circumstances and the local background which enabled the development of the movement in Malko Tărnovo. Fortunately, local historians of the town and biographers of Exarch Antim have partially filled these gaps by furnishing more detailed accounts of the story.5 Still, these accounts rely heavily on oral testimonies gathered many years after the development of the events in question. The present paper is based on the hitherto unused correspondence of Antim during his mission in Malko Tărnovo, comprised of several drafts of his reports to the Patriarchate of Constantinople and other letters addressed by him to various persons, as well as original letters addressed by the Patriarchate and other parties to Antim.6 This rich archival material not only complements the story, but also to a considerable extent gives us the opportunity to tackle questions related to the local socio-economic and political dynamics. More importantly though, this material provides invaluable insights concerning the ways the people of Malko Tărnovo, local leaders, intermediaries and outsider agents, acted and perceived their position within a conflict where “nation” and “religion” appear closely and interestingly intertwined.

Social conflict

  • 7 The first serious episode of the Bulgarian Union in Kilkis (Kukuš) is associated with a struggle ag (...)
  • 8 Kiril Bălgarski 1962, p. 238-239.
  • 9 Milkov Todor 1899, p. 23; Kiril Bălgarski 1962, p. 153.
  • 10 NA pri BAN, f.144, a.e. 1028 (24-10-1862)
  • 11 Even the pro-Uniate newspaper Bălgarija of Dragan Cankov, usually reporting with great zeal any ins (...)

3Developing against the background of the general legitimization crisis of the Orthodox Church, the case of Malko Tărnovo and the conversion of a part of its population to Catholicism are marked, nevertheless, by an important particularity. The struggles which lead to the development of the Uniate movement in the region are not associated with protests against the Archbishop of Adrianople Kyrillos and the ecclesiastical taxation imposed by him on the Orthodox believers of his diocese.7 This type of agitation seems to have been widespread in the neighboring regions and dioceses by that time.8 Immediately prior to his arrival in Malko Tărnovo, Antim was sent by the Patriarchate on a special mission to check the complaints of the Orthodox Christians against the Archbishop of the neighboring diocese of Vize Matthaios, who was eventually proven guilty of embezzlements and anti-canonical behavior and dismissed.9 During his mission, Antim receives petitions from villages of the bishopric of Sozoagathoupolis, asking him in the most dramatic tone to protect and “liberate” them from the hands of their priests and bishop, using at the same time the threat of adopting the Catholic Union “like the inhabitants of Malko Tărnovo”.10 Such desperate appeals are lacking in the case of Malko Tărnovo, where the issue of ecclesiastical taxation seems to have been of secondary importance compared to the long history of intense social conflicts in the town and its environs.11

  • 12 Interesting for example, though ostensibly wrong, is the information on the social conflict in the (...)

4The social roots of the conversion of part of Malko Tărnovo’s Orthodox population to Catholicism have been acknowledged by most of the aforementioned historiographers, some of which provide us with shorter or longer accounts of the story with varying credibility and scholarly precision.12 Antim’s papers contain plenty of references to the social prehistory of the Uniate movement in the town and its environs. Filtered by his own views and those of his informants, Antim’s notes and comments definitely need to be cross-checked at least with official documents on the issue, something which remains to be done. Still, they can furnish us for the moment with a more detailed version of the events and give us a better idea of the causes and workings of social conflict in the town. We will confine ourselves here, for the sake of brevity, to giving the gridlines of the quite complicated story and providing some points and comments.

  • 13 The Russian officer G. Eneholm estimates in 1829 that Malko Tărnovo had 650 houses and 3500 inhabit (...)
  • 14 NA pri BAN, f.144, op. 1, a.e. 999. The report is written with a different handwriting from that of (...)
  • 15 Ibid.
  • 16 Popajanov Georgi 1997, p. 84-86.

5The major developments of the Tanzimat period in the Ottoman Balkans, i.e. the collapse of the Ottoman command economy, economic-cum-demographic upsurge and political deregulation and gradual “liberalization”, combine themselves in the case of Malko Tărnovo to produce an explosive configuration conditioned by the particularities of the town and its region. Following the general trend in the European dominions of the Ottoman Empire, Malko Tărnovo experiences from the 1830’s onwards a steady growth of its nearly exclusively Bulgarian population, which almost doubles by 1870.13 During the same period, commercial development accompanies and modifies the traditional brands of the local economy, i.e. sheep-breeding and timber and charcoal production. Charcoal production - an important complementary occupation of the townspeople and the peasantry working on the big farms (çiftliks) surrounding Malko Tărnovo - was particularly important for the Ottoman state, since it was furnishing this necessary material to the Imperial mines and ironworks situated in the neighboring village of Samokovdzhik (Samokovcık, Malăk Samokov) and producing ammunition for the Ottoman army. The abolition of corvée labor under the reforms and the transformation of the system of compulsory provision of charcoal to Samokovdzhik provided one of the hot issues of the developing conflict within the Orthodox community of Malko Tărnovo. According to a report included in Antim’s papers, the older system, which provided for the compulsory supply of certain ratios of charcoal by each of the seven subdistricts (kaza) of the district (sancak) of Rodosto to the imperial foundry of Samokovdzhik was replaced by a new system, according to which the kazas were paying the equivalent of their ratio in money (5 para per okka of charcoal), and the whole production was assigned to the inhabitants of Malko Tărnovo and the surrounding villages.14 According to the same report, the notables of the town undertook the organization of the enterprise, supplying the villagers with the necessary equipment, at the same time taking advantage of their naivety and exploiting them ruthlessly.15 It has to be stressed here that some of the most prominent among the notables, such as Ioannis Kalkandzioglou (Ivan Kalkandžiev) or Hadži Edriu (Gedro) Čorbadži, were active in the export of timber and charcoal via the small ports on the Thracian coast of the Black Sea, a trade which according to local oral traditions reached its apogee during and after the Crimean War.16

  • 17 For the case of Plovdiv, see Lyberatos Andreas 2009.
  • 18 NA pri BAN, f.144, op. 1, a.e. 1000/1.
  • 19 NA pri BAN, f.144, op. 1, a.e. 1002/4.

6Although our sources do not inform us of the time and reasons for the change in the charcoal supply system, they do make clear that the reason for the mounting social discomfort in Malko Tărnovo, which turned to outcry after 1856, was the ruthless exploitation of the villagers during the Crimean War. As in other parts of the Ottoman Balkans,17 in Malko Tărnovo too the war and its exigencies occasioned a temporary regression to the mechanisms of command economy, a regression which furnished local notables with extraordinary opportunities to amass power and wealth. Antim reports that it was during the second term of Ioannis Kalkandzioglou’s service as head of the community (proestos or chorbadzis), i.e. in 1853-55, that this formerly just notable of “official descent”, in alliance with the greedy notable Vasileios Stamou, started to exploit the people and aroused great discontent in Malko Tărnovo.18 As soon as the war ended and the new reform edict (Islahat firmani) was proclaimed, the people of Malko Tărnovo, following the suggestions of the young leader of the poor Stefan Gančev from Pirot, sent a delegation to Istanbul to obtain a decree (firman) by which to diminish their charcoal supply obligations from 900000 to 350000 okka yearly. The issuing of the decree not only caused great expenses to the community for bribes, but also provoked the reaction of the beys of Vize reluctant to undertake part of the charcoal production. The lawsuits which followed caused further expenses for the community of Malko Tărnovo and led to the definitive split into two opposing parties, as Stefan Gančev openly accused the notables Kalkandzioglou, Stamou and others that “[…] they usurped considerable sums of community money during the Crimean War on the occasion of the extraordinary wheat taxes and charcoal supplies […]”.19

  • 20 NA pri BAN, f.144, op. 1, a.e. 1003/4, a.e. 1000/12.
  • 21 NA pri BAN, f.144, op. 1, a.e. 1000/7, 37.

7It is out of the scope of this paper to follow in detail the successive lawsuits and protracted struggles between “the party of the poor” and that of the notables, struggles which led to the lynching and death of Ioannis Kalkandzioglou and the exile of Stefan Gančev. Two points need nevertheless to be stressed. Firstly, the new administrative and judicial structure of the Tanzimat period, characterized by a proliferation of institutions and instability of decisions, provided the competing parties with the opportunity to appeal to different authorities and bodies, according to established ties and networks and tactical alliances. The differences between the two parties were brought successively before the governor (müdür) of Malko Tărnovo, the small council (küçük meclis) of Vize (kaza level), the big council (büyük meclis) of Rodosto (sancak level), the Governor General (Vali) of Adrianople and eventually reached the Supreme Court of Judicial Ordinances (ahkâm-i adliye) in Istanbul.20 Bribery of Ottoman bureaucrats at all levels financially exhausted both parties, which even agreed, at a point of temporary conciliation, to compensate their leaders from the treasury of the community.21

8Secondly, the issue overtly at stake, i.e. the appropriation of community money by the notables on the basis of falsified registers, was probably of less importance (though liable to punishment) in relation to their other activities which provoked the development of the passionate, stubborn and long-lasting struggle of “the party of the poor” against them. As Antim reports:

  • 22 NA pri BAN, f.144, op. 1, a.e. 1000/14.

[…] the poor had great complains against the notables of their village, especially against the deceased Ioannis [Kalkandžioglou] and first and foremost [against] Vasileios Stamou, who was oppressing the poor in his private dealings, falsifying bills by adding excessive interests on top of interests and extracting from them money violently, through imprisonments, without any right, and eventually rendered them his debtors and slaves.22

  • 23 Patriarchal and Synodical letter to the notables of Malko Tărnovo, 1-5-1862, NA pri BAN, f.144, op. (...)

9Usury was such an important and persistent component of the social conflict that, after suggestion by Antim, the Patriarch and the Holy Synod addressed a special letter to the notables of Malko Tărnovo (1-5-1862), stressing the sinful and anti-Christian nature of the practice of usury and threatening that if they don’t stop exploiting the poor, “[…] the Holy Church of Christ will take without any delay the necessary measures for the suppression of the abuses and dishonest usury”.23 The patriarchal letter remains reticent on the Uniate problem. Yet, Antim is quite clear on the impact of the ruthless usurious exploitation of the poor by the notables:

  • 24 NA pri BAN, f.144, op. 1, a.e. 1000/14. Similar explanation gives Antim Preslavski in his letter to (...)

[…] And this is probably the main and only reason which led the poor to embrace the Union; because the poor were shouting: if you don’t liberate us from their hands [i.e. the hands of the notables], we are going to become not only Catholics, but even Gypsies (ου μόνον Κατόλικοι αλλά και Κατσίβελοι θα γίνωμεν).24

Conversion

  • 25 See Walter Christopher 1984; Todev Ilia 1994, p. 223. For a concise overview of the French Catholic (...)
  • 26 I borrow the expression “laboratory of conversion” from Bertho-Lavenir Catherine 2004, p. 9.

10The Union of part of the population of Malko Tărnovo with Rome was not the outcome of systematic missionary activity offering the local population better education and prospects for their children and a rational organisation of community and ecclesiastical institutions. In the early 1860’s this type of activity, which would bear certain fruits in the decades to come, was just setting out in Ottoman Thrace.25 If the post-Crimean war development of the Eastern Question and the struggle of the Bulgarians against the Patriarchate set the political framework for the development of the Uniate movement, the “laboratory of conversion” was in our case the four-year long grass-roots social movement of the poor of Malko Tărnovo.26

  • 27 NA pri BAN, f.144, op. 1, a.e. 999.

11Mass mobilization, the threat (and exercise) of mass violence and even that of mass desertion from the village were employed by the “party of the poor” as means to counteract the moves of the notables, which were economically more powerful and better positioned in the networks of the Ottoman and Orthodox establishment. At a critical point in the struggle, when the leader Stefan Gančev and five other representatives of the poor were slandered by the notables and imprisoned in Adrianople, 200 to 300 men, women and children travelled all the way to the General Governor’s headquarters in Adrianople (paşa kapısı), demanded and eventually achieved the release of their representatives and the resumption of the process of inspection of the notables’ bills. The role of women in this mobilization, as well as in the lynching of Ivan Kalkandžiev,27 is remarkable. As Antim comments, “women have greater influence than men in Malko Tărnovo”, and therefore were instrumental for the dissemination of Uniatism. He then refers to the aforementioned mobilization at the paşa kapısı and stresses the role of the “notorious” Theodora Soparka, “[…] a cunning, fearless and stubborn babbler woman, who at a previous point of time stood at head of circa 180 men, women and children and presented herself in front of the Governor of Adrianople, whom she managed to astonish with her brave and strong words.” And he ends his reference to her in this way:

  • 28 NA pri BAN, f.144, op. 1, a.e. 1000/35. The newspaper Bălgarija (br.9/11-6-1862) reports that Sopar (...)

This woman, with the power of persuasion that has, could and can carry along the whole village and the [inhabitants of the] surrounding farms, so that I did not spare neither words nor money and I tried by all means to buy her off and persuade her to stop acting in favour of the Uniates.28

12Nevertheless, despite the impressive mass mobilization, the struggle of the poor against the notables of Malko Tărnovo reached an impasse in late 1860, when the notables managed to have the leader Stefan Gančev arrested and condemned to exile in Niš. And it was only under the threat of a definitive defeat, and faced with the prospect of excessive repressions by the notables, that the leaders of “the party of the poor” decided to accept the protection offered to them in Adrianople by the lay Bulgarian Uniate leader Konstantin Kurukafa. Here is the version of the story offered by Antim. Four out of the forty supporters of Stefan Gančev gathered in Adrianople at the time of his trial decided to return to Malko Tărnovo to gather signatures from the čiftliks in favour of Stefan:

  • 29 NA pri BAN, f.144, op.1, a.e. 1000/37.

At that time Hadzhi Andreas, one of the notables ordered the field guards (kurucu) to arrest and imprison them. They got scared and escaped to Adrianople, where they learned that Stefan was condemned to exile. Thus, the 40 supporters of Stefan were left in great desperation. Thirty-eight of them declared out of fear themselves Catholics, while the Orthodox archbishop of Adrianople, although informed in time, did not care to stop them. One of them, Georgios Žekou, went to him and told him: “the others are declaring themselves Catholics, what are you doing?” And the bishop replied to him: “you did very well by not registering (signing) yourself as Catholic; as for the others, if they signed, let them be Catholics”…, and thus the 38 along with a certain Aleksandros Athanassiadis, a Catholic, and two members of the council of Vize returned to Malko Tărnovo and started to register more Catholics.29

  • 30 Antim Preslavski to Ecumenical Patriarch (draft), n.d., NA pri BAN, f.144, op.1, a.e. 1004. In the (...)
  • 31 NA pri BAN, f.144, op.1, a.e. 1003; a.e. 1000/33-34.
  • 32 In 1865, a couple of years after the mission of Antim in Malko Tărnovo, Konstantin Kurukafa, former (...)
  • 33 NA pri BAN, f.144, op.1, a.e. 1000/36. The arrest of Stefan Gančev and the 5 other leaders of the p (...)

13The role of the Orthodox Archbishop of Adrianople Kyrillos before and after the conversion of part of Malko Tărnovo’s population to Catholicism is a recurring theme in the notes and letters of Antim Preslavski, who severely criticises his fellow prelate for his apathy and indifference vis-à-vis the development of the Uniate movement among his flock. It is characteristic that Antim twice puts in the mouth of Kyrillos the expression the poor were allegedly shouting: “What makes them [the Uniate propagandists] bolder is the inertia of the archbishop of Adrianople […]. Many times, as if he was totally stranger, he repeats: ‘if they want to, let them be not only Catholics, but even Gypsies...’.”30 Antim complains repeatedly that Kyrillos does not assist him in his mission: he does not forward him the money the Patriarchate sends to him on time, he does not assist and protect the priests brought back to Orthodoxy by him, etc.31 Antim remains mostly silent on the probable existence of political concerns or economic motives which could explain Kyrillos’s behavior.32 What is clear though from his writings is that Kyrillos was not only indifferent vis-à-vis the poor people of Malko Tărnovo who turned Catholics, but also, on the contrary, he was steadily supporting the party of the notables, as much before the conversion as after. As Antim reports, at the most critical point of the trial and exile of Stefan Gančev, “[…] the archbishop of Adrianople did not show any care or protection to them [i.e. to the poor], neither at the Archbishopric nor before the Porte, because he was always in favour of the party of the notables”.33 Three years after Antim’s mission, in 1865, the “redeemed to Orthodoxy” poor of Malko Tărnovo again addressed Antim Preslavski on the occasion of new repressions by the notable Vasileios Stamou. Antim keeps the following note in the margins of their letter:

  • 34 Inhabitants of Malko Tărnovo to Antim Preslavski, 30-7-1865, NA pri BAN, f.144, op.1, a.e. 1017.

Vasileios Stamou, notable of Malko Tărnovo, after he had vanished the poor, ‘drinking their sweat’ with many slanders and injustices, he moved on after my departure seeking more money […]. The archbishop of Adrianople is protecting him.34

14As we have already pointed out, it was not the ecclesiastical taxation, but the lack of intermediation and protection on the part of the Orthodox archbishop which led part of the people of Malko Tărnovo to embrace the Union with Rome. Even if the Uniate episode makes the case special, the example of Malko Tărnovo is more widely illustrative of the complex networks of power at the local level which incited the revolt against the Patriarchate and its prelates during the Bulgarian Revival Movement. The archbishops were not a target per se. They were representatives of wider constellations of power, domination and exploitation of the working poor.

15The Bulgarian Uniates of Adrianople thus appear at a moment of defeat for the anti-notable movement in Malko Tărnovo and propose their protection to the party of the poor. At first sight, they seem to “pick up a ripe fruit”. According to views, such as Antim’s, which stress the loose ties of the inhabitants of Malko Tărnovo and especially those of the peasants of the neighbouring čiftliks to the official Orthodox religion ( “these people have no idea of religion”), one should expect that the conversion was easy and smooth. On the contrary, the contract-type letter given by the Uniate agent Aleksandar Anastassiou to the prospective Uniates of Malko Tărnovo reveals that the Uniate propagandists had to overcome the suspicion of the villagers vis-à-vis the changes their move might effect on their traditional beliefs and mode of life:

  • 35 NA pri BAN, f.144, op. 1, a.e. 1027. The date of the letter (3rd of January 1861) poses a serious p (...)

[…] while I have come as a representative of the Bulgarian [Uniate] Church here in Malko Tărnovo with the protection of the Vali Pasha of Adrianople to register the Christians here to recognize the Bulgarian and not the Greek Patriarch, some of the Christians are suspicious that a heresy is here involved; therefore I promise that our church in Kiriçhane [in Adrianople] and all our priests are Orthodox Christians […] and therefore I give this letter to the Christians that if at any time in the future we teach them any heresy or any other law, and if our faith abstains as little as a man’s hair from the Greek faith and law, then we are obliged to give them back their signatures and to pay them back any expenses they have done until that time.35

  • 36 NA pri BAN, f.144, op. 1, a.e. 1000/10.

16According to Antim, Konstantin Kurukafa approached the leaders of the poor in Adrianople without mentioning anything about Catholicism and the Pope. He just told them that they were dividing the Bulgarians from the Greeks and that they would enjoy protection if they decided to recognize the Bulgarian Patriarch. They were afterwards brought to the Uniate Church of Adrianople, where they did not notice any changes in the ritual, apart from the use of Bulgarian language. The Bulgarian Uniate leader Dragan Tsankov was there and spoke to them with nationalist zeal against the Orthodox clergy and managed to persuade them.36

  • 37 Dragan Cankov’s Bălgarija (g. IV, br. 9/ 11-6-1862) claims that Georgios Žekou also received from A (...)
  • 38 The proper ritual which accompanied Antim’s first victory on 21st of April 1862 is very interesting (...)

17For the subsequent dissemination of Uniatism among the poor of Malko Tărnovo, Antim draws his information from the aforementioned Georgios Žekou Lolioglou, one of the leaders of the poor, whose redemption to Orthodoxy was one of the first and critical victories of Antim’s mission. His repentance required not only the deployment of the persuading skills of Antim, but also his guarantee that the convert will be pardoned and even assisted by the notables of Malko Tărnovo.37 By the time of his redemption, which was accompanied by a highly dramatic and exemplary ritual38, Georgios confessed to Antim that he was urging the inhabitants of the surrounding farms to sign themselves Catholics by saying to them “that they are going to pay less taxes, to escape the oppression of the gendarmerie (zaptiye) and that the notables will not be able to do injustices to them”. Since they were at that time under pressure from the demand of 90000 kuruş that Vasileios Stamou had raised against them, they started registering themselves as Catholics:

  • 39 NA pri BAN, f.144, op. 1, a.e. 1000/11.

Then firstly came [the Uniate] priest Kojčo, and next month, when they were 200 and more, the priest Ivan Vaklidov arrived, under the instigation of whom they occupied the school and they burned the books because they were Greek. They were also telling them that, as they become more, they should also occupy the church and that there were very rich Bulgarian people in Europe, that Brunoni (the Catholic delegate of the Pope in Istanbul) had offered to the Bulgarian Treasury in Galata 9.000.000 kuruş, another had offered 4.000.000, and that they are going to pay for the refurbishment of the church, build a school and even offered them to send their children in Europe to study. They were telling them that the Pope is only a guarantor and nothing more.39

  • 40 NA pri BAN, f.144, op. 1, a.e. 1000/18-9, 28.

18The “redeemed” Georgios Žekou also gave to Antim extensive information on the political and dogmatic discussions he had had with the Uniate priest Ivan Vaklidov, trying understandably to stress his own disaccord and dissatisfaction with the answers he received from him. Antim seems to have so much liked Žekou’s confession that he even tried to reproduce it using literary conventions (influenced by platonic dialogues and even enumerating acts in the fashion of a theatrical play). Despite the reserve with which one should treat this intermediated and filtered information, it nevertheless reflects the difficult position which the Uniate movement had been brought to after the desertion of the Uniate Patriarch Iosif Sokolski to Russia and as a result of the opposition of the greatest part of the Bulgarian leaders to the Uniate movement. False images of power and backing, like the rumor that Napoleon of France had Bulgarian ancestry and was therefore supporting the Bulgarian Uniates, treacherous assertions, e.g. that the Orthodox are Catholics too because they are using the word “Catholic [church]” in their Apostle’s Creed, and warnings against the coming Antim, that although a Bulgarian he was bribed by the notables and as a Phanariot he would distort the truth, all seem to have been employed to counterbalance the lack of answers to the most serious questions about the support and footing the Uniate movement was enjoying at this critical phase in Istanbul.40

Antim’s mission: redemption and resistance

  • 41 Patriarchal and synodical letter to the priests and notables of Malko Tărnovo announcing the missio (...)

19Refuting the “deceitful arguments” of the Uniates was one of the main actions of Antim Preslavski, who arrived in Malko Tărnovo in early April 1862, sent by the Patriarchate on demand of the notables and accompanied by Pahomij Rilski, a Bulgarian monk of ambiguous personality and highly adventurous career.41 Antim’s rank and experience, his preaching in Bulgarian language understandable by the people of Malko Tărnovo and the surrounding villages he visited, and his ability as a gifted orator contributed much to the success of his mission. The dogmatic side was after all not the most important component of the question. The “revelation of Catholic deceit” and the systematic evocation of tradition along with the threat of the catastrophes awaiting those who betray the “paternal religion” seem to have been enough as far as the ideological “discursive” strategy of Antim was concerned. Nevertheless, the success of his mission did not depend so much on that, as on his ability to act as a power figure and impose the conciliation of the two parties. As he himself confesses to the Patriarch after the initial success of his mission:

  • 42 Antim Preslavski to Konstantinos Typaldos (draft), NA pri BAN, f.144, op. 1, a.e. 998.

[…] those who “spat out” Catholicism, people totally uneducated and so ignorant of religion as to hold their becoming Catholics not a change of religion, but a deliverance of their sufferings, there is serious danger that they will return to Catholicism if they do not see their political matters evolving favorably to them, since local politics here have been so disturbed because of the long lasting oppression of the notables who use the others as slaves […].42

  • 43 Bălgarija, g. IV, br. 9, 11-6-1862. The newspaper gives in detail the sums of money distributed to (...)
  • 44 Draft of a letter by Antim to a person of high standing not mentioned by name (he adresses the addr (...)
  • 45 NA pri BAN, f.144, op. 1, a.e. 1000/33.
  • 46 NA pri BAN, f.144, op. 1, a.e. 1004. In another letter Antim complains to Kyrillos of Adrianople be (...)

20Antim’s strategy evolved in mainly three directions. Firstly and most importantly, he tried to win over the “intermediaries”, lay and clergy, who were heading the party of the poor, now Uniates. As the pro-Uniate newspaper Bălgarija accused him, he spent considerable sums of money, both in cash and obligations in the name of the Patriarchate, to buy off the lay leaders of the Uniates.43 This strategy did not always prove successful. As he himself confesses he was deceived by three Uniate leaders (Ioannis Karadžendemis, Theodoros Petkou and Jovan Stojan), who came to him crying and asking him to pardon them and help them because they were heavily indebted. After they signed themselves Orthodox, Antim gave them cash and obligations and persuaded the notables to lend them money to pay off their debts. Despite the fact that they all gave written proofs of their repentance, they soon returned to Catholicism.44 The fact that the most important among the leaders, Ioannis Karadžendemis gave a letter of obligation that he would pay everything back if he returned to Catholicism, lends itself as evidence that perhaps we don’t have in this case a deliberate fraud and that the persons in question were in an urgently pressing situation. What is still obvious, is that Antim’s mission and the Uniate-Orthodox struggle over the loyalty of Malko Tărnovo’s poor gave to them, or at least to the most prominent among them, fair space to manoeuvre in negotiating the terms of their adherence to the competing dogmas. The rewards for the Uniate priests who returned to Orthodoxy were not only of a directly pecuniary character. Pope Kaloudis was re-ordained Orthodox priest by Antim receiving at the same time letters of recommendation to prelates of neighbouring dioceses, asking them to allow him to make a tour to bless and collect alms in their dioceses.45 Partenij Hilendarski received from Antim money, as well as a letter to archbishop Kyrillos of Adrianople with the demand to assist Partenij in taking back his personal things from the Uniates of Adrianople and to give him 1000 kuruş to buy two horses and leave for his monastery in Mount Athos.46

  • 47 NA pri BAN, f.144, op. 1, a.e. 1000/14, 34.
  • 48 NA pri BAN, f.144, op. 1, a.e. 1000/9.

21The second direction of Antim’s action was exerting pressure on the notables of Malko Tărnovo to withdraw or limit their claims against the poor. Acting as a judge and pacifier, Antim summoned on the 24th of April 1862 “many people both from the notables and those of the lower class”, he inspected the bills and reached the decision that the claims of Vasileios Stamou on the villagers were unfounded. A letter declaring any demands by the notables illegal was signed, “[…] and the poor were very happy and left the place thanking the Great Church for the care and providence she showed to them”.47 As we saw above, Antim asked for a special Patriarchal letter to the notables of Malko Tărnovo condemning usury. The reaction and resistance of the notables, although not openly referred to by Antim, must have been considerable: asking for a letter of recommendation from the Patriarchate, by which either he or Pahomij could act as legitimate representatives in front of the Vali of Adrianople (given archbishop Kyrillos’s total indifference), Antim even remarks that sending into exile some of the notables of Malko Tărnovo could prove necessary for the pacification of the village and the return of the Uniates to Orthodoxy.48

  • 49 NA pri BAN, f.144, op. 1, a.e. 1000/29, 35.
  • 50 NA pri BAN, f.144, op. 1, a.e. 1000/8. Ensuing conflicts between the beys of Vize and the notables (...)
  • 51 NA pri BAN, f.144, op. 1, a.e. 1000/28, 30, 40. In his draft letter to the Patriarch (a.e. 1000/40) (...)
  • 52 NA pri BAN, f.144, op. 1, a.e. 984: “Njakolko biografični svedenija kato dopălnenie na izdadenata p (...)
  • 53 NA pri BAN, f.144, op. 1, a.e. 1000/40. Antim refrains in his letters from any critical comment aga (...)

22Last but not least, Antim tried, always with the backing of the Patriarchate, to win over or buy off the Ottoman officials at various levels. While the governor of Malko Tărnovo, Hüsnü Efendi, seems from the beginning to have been easily won over,49 Antim reports to the Patriarch that the Governor (müdür) of the subdistrict (kaza) of Vize created many obstacles and it was necessary to spend a lot of money in order to bring into Malko Tărnovo two members of the Vize council to register those who return to Orthodoxy.50 More complicated seems to have been the case of the Governor General (Vali) of Adrianople (and former Grand Vezir) Mehmed Kibrisli Paşa, known as a conservative figure opposing the Tanzimat reforms. Despite his dispositions, he seems in our case to have been in close contact with the French Consulate of Adrianople and strongly supported the Uniates evoking the Tanzimat principle of “freedom of religion”.51 According to some views, Mehmet Kibrisli was seeing the Bulgarian Uniate movement as a counter-force to the emigration and settlement of Bulgarians to southern Russia propagated by Russian agents in his vilayet.52 Despite his initial support for the Uniates, it seems that, probably after pressure by the Patriarchate, he assumed a more neutral stance in front of the escalating Orthodox-Uniate conflict in Malko Tărnovo.53

  • 54 For the violent episodes, see Carigradski Vestnik, g. XII, br. 18, 28-4-1862, br. 39, 4-10-1862; (...)
  • 55 Todev Ilia 1994, p. 197, 199, 202; Carigradski Vestnik, g. XII, br. 25, 16- 6 -1862, br. 32, 4-8-18 (...)
  • 56 NA pri BAN, f.144, op. 1, a.e. 1000/29; Bălgarija, g. IV, br. 9, 11-6-1862.
  • 57 Bălgarija, IV, br. 13, 9-7-1862.
  • 58 Antim Preslavski to K. Dželepoglou (draft), NA pri BAN, f.144, op. 1, a.e. 1000/23.

23Antim’s presence and action in Malko Tărnovo quickly bore fruits and after a couple of weeks’ struggle which included violent episodes, a great part of those who had declared themselves Uniates started to return to Orthodoxy.54 From the 1000 families in Malko Tărnovo which had, according to Courrier dOrient, embraced Catholicism, there remained by June 1862, according the French Consul in Adrianople Champoiseau, only 270, a number which by the end of the year was further diminished to 60 families.55 After their initial embarrassment and defeat (Antim and the Orthodox party managed to reoccupy the school with the support of the governor Hüsnü Efendi, and the Uniate priests and teachers left for Adrianople)56, the Uniates returned to Malko Tărnovo, this time at a higher level of representation, as both the new Uniate bishop of Adrianople Raphael Popov and the lay leader Konstantin Kurukafa arrived in the town on the 20th of June 1862 backed with letters from the Paşa enabling them to register their followers, thus stopping their flee to the Orthodox camp. The two month long struggle, during which the two parties mobilized all kinds of support (diplomatic, local, the press of Constantinople, etc.), was thus brought to a culmination as the arrival of the Uniate representatives was accompanied not only by that of the Orthodox archbishop Kyrillos of Adrianople (he arrived the previous day), but also by the unprecedented for Malko Tărnovo arrival of 25 members and representatives of the Council of Vize to the town, headed by the Governor (müdür) of Vize, in order to solve the problem of the terms of the registration of Malko Tărnovo’s inhabitants.57 Annoyed, not so much by the arrival of his disliked fellow prelate as by the shortage of coffee and sugar caused by the numerous Viziote representatives, Antim ordered from his merchant friend K. Dželepoglou two okkas of each article, “[…] as their need is indispensable”.58

  • 59 Antim Preslavski to Patriarch and Holy Synod (draft), NA pri BAN, f.144, op. 1, a.e. 1000/40.
  • 60 Bălgarija, IV, br. 13, 9-7-1862.
  • 61 NA pri BAN, f.144, op. 1, a.e. 1000/42.

24The extraordinary council which was formed amidst demonstrations by the Orthodox party and under the presidency of the Governor of Vize and the participation of the higher representatives of both Churches caused a temporary end to the period of “ambiguity” and “flexibility”, as the inhabitants of Malko Tărnovo and its surrounding farms were obliged, under “interpellation” by the state authorities and the competing Churches, to declare a religious “identity”. The procedure is highly characteristic and interesting: after Antim’s objection that the Uniate delegates did not have the right to confirm the declaration of the 198 families initially registered as Catholics without asking them, the Council decided to give a deadline of three days within which those who wished to return to Orthodoxy were obliged to present themselves in front of the Council and renounce Catholicism. The two parties initially agreed and gave letters of guarantee that they would abstain from any violent agitation during the three days period. Nevertheless, as Antim writes to the Patriarch, the “evil minded Jesuits”, seeing that around 50 families came and renounced Catholicism, protested that the Orthodox party was using threats and violence against the Uniates in order to bring them in front of the Council, as a result of which the procedure was interrupted and the Council departed for Vize.59 The newspaper Bălgarija also reports the interruption of the process, repeating the accusations of the use of violence by the Orthodox party and presenting the number of the families returned to Orthodoxy as only 26.60 Whether violent or not, the pressure of the Orthodox party on Malko Tărnovo’s Uniate poor must have been quite strong: Antim writes to the Patriarch that “[…] every night and day not only are we working zealously but we use many people, on foot and on horse, to go around and support those who are unstable in their faith, and all this is achieved through money”.61

  • 62 NA pri BAN, f.144, op. 1, a.e. 1003/2.
  • 63 NA pri BAN, f.144, op. 1, a.e. 1003/1.
  • 64 NA pri BAN, f.144, op. 1, a.e. 1004.

25The departure of the Council of Vize did not prevent Antim from trying to complete his mission. He soon departed for Vize where he managed to obtain another 10-day deadline for those who would like to return to Orthodoxy, yet this time they would have to present themselves to Vize. This time however, as he writes to Kyrillos, the people did not even want to come to Malko Tărnovo from the surroundings, since in the middle of the summer they were occupied with harvesting.62 Kyrillos replied that the process had been completed and the presence of Antim in Malko Tărnovo was not necessary any more. Antim replied in a severe tone to him that he should forward his demand to the Great Church and invited him to Malko Tărnovo “[…] to taste himself the sweetness of Malko Tărnovo’s affairs and learn how unnecessary is his presence there”.63 Ostensibly in a bitter mood, he writes to his mentor Konstantinos Typaldos that he has suffered a lot, and that although his mission is partially successful, it is not stable, as he fears that the “redeemed” could at first chance return to the “deceit of Catholicism” if their demands and problems are not solved.64

Religion or nation?

26The story of the initial phases of the Uniate movement in Malko Tărnovo, as it is presented and complemented by the material from Antim’s archive, provides enough evidence to question what I would name a “double essentialism” in the interpretation, in our case, of the Bulgarian Uniate movement.

  • 65 For a characteristic example, see Žečev Tončo 1985, p. 41.
  • 66 Vataški Roumen 2005, p. 16.
  • 67 From a different perspective it is fully legitimate to ask: Is there not an instrumentalization of (...)
  • 68 We should also remark that this step, which from an essentialist point of view was not a “truly” re (...)

27The distinction between essential and superficial, between form and content and so on, is dependent on and concomitant to the choice of a dominant perspective from which “history” has to be seen. Most often thus, the Bulgarian Uniate Movement is viewed as a quasi religious one. The Union with the Holy See has been predominantly considered by Bulgarian historiography as an essentially political move aiming at the national emancipation of the Bulgarians from the Phanariot yoke of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.65 As it is stated in one of the most recent works emanating from a nationalist anti-Catholic position, “[…] it is well known, that the Uniate movement among the Bulgarians in 1860 is not a true religious one. There are mostly political aims that are pursued through it, on a confessional basis, i.e. religion is used for political purposes”.66 Apart from the “religious” essentialism inherent in the conception of a “true” religious movement, the schema of instrumentalization of religion by nationalism is emanating from a top-down perspective on historical phenomena, in this case the perspective of the national revivalists and nation-builders.67 The material we examined shows that for the people of Malko Tărnovo, caught in unprecedented social conflicts producing a severe social schism, the transgression of confessional boundaries was not at all an easy choice. Becoming Catholics, or… even Gypsies (!), was a step towards a break within the community, a step taken with consciousness of its extremity and, we could deduce, fear of its novelty and consequences, accompanied of course at the same time by hopes and chances.68

28The following description by Antim of the procedure of “declaration” of the inhabitants of the neighboring čiftlik of Megalovo before the Ottoman authorities, characteristic of the ambiguity of the situation and the relation between registration and identity, will introduce us to our second point:

  • 69 NA pri BAN, f.144, op. 1, a.e. 1000/28.

After the invitation, two persons came and after they were asked, they were registered Catholics. After that came Ioannis, the most prominent among the villagers, and when he was asked if he accepts Catholicism he said no […]. Another came and when asked how he would like to be registered, he said Bulgarian under the Bulgarian Patriarch. However, when he heard [by Antim] that he would be registered as Catholic under the Pope, and that the Pope is an antichrist, he immediately went out of the room.69

  • 70 NA pri BAN, f.144, op. 1, a.e. 1000/27.
  • 71 Holzer Bernard, Todev Ilia 1998, p. 270.

29A series of other similar references in Antim’s papers confirm that the evocation of “Bulgarian” identity was crucial for the dissemination of Uniatism in Malko Tărnovo. As we saw, the Uniate agents presented the conversion as a separation of the Bulgarians from the Greeks. And it is more than evident that their success was based on a Bulgarian popular proto-nationalism (in Malko Tărnovo, as in many other places) well under way to becoming a full-fledged national political movement. It is not only the Greek book-burning that we referred to above or the debate on the fates of the Bulgarians between Ivan Vaklidov and Georgios Žekou that could serve as illustrations. The “redeemed” inhabitants of Megalovo excused themselves to Antim “[…] saying that if they signed themselves Catholics, they did so only to separate themselves from the Greeks, and not from the Orthodox faith”.70 Yet the Greeks that they wanted to separate themselves from were not quite Greeks, but the Bulgarian notables of Malko Tărnovo, the exclusion of whom from their communal affairs they tried to effect by firstly embracing Uniatism and subsequently petitioning the delegate of the Patriarchate Antim Preslavski. Similarly, a couple of years later, the Assumptionist Victorin Galabert, visiting Malko Tărnovo with the Uniate bishop Raphael Popov, refers to the Greeks and the Greek party of Malko Tărnovo. The Bulgarian editor of Galabert’s Journal hastens to correct the missionary noting that there were no Greeks in Malko Tărnovo, but only Bulgarian Patriarchists.71 It is, however, again evident that what was a “Greek” or a “Bulgarian” in a period of deep socio-political transformation was not a “given” for all, but the product of an open political contestation and a complex socio-ideological process.

30The case of Malko Tărnovo represents an interesting variation on the theme of Bulgarian national revival, illustrating the complex ways in which religious and ethnic cultural characteristics, elements of the habitus of a population and not given “essences”, are intertwined and transformed by the socio-political dynamics leading to nation formation. As such an example, it begs further research and attention.

Archives

31Archive of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (Naučen Arhiv pri Bălgarskata Akademija na Naukite [NA pri BAN]), Sofia.

Bibliographie

Bibliography

Bertho-Lavenir Catherine 2004

Bertho-Lavenir Catherine, Missions, Paris, Fayard, 2004.

Elenkov Ivan 2000

Elenkov Ivan, Katoličeska cărkva ot iztočen obrjad v Bălgarija, Sofia, Katoličeska apostoličeska ekzarhija, 2000. Eneholm G. 1938

Eneholm G., “Beležki vărhu gradovete otvăd Balkana”, Arhiv za poselištni proučvanija 1 (1938), 121 (Bulgarian translation. Original published in St. Peterbourg, 1830).

Holzer Bernard, Todev Ilia 1998

Holzer Bernard, Todev Ilia (eds.), Victorin Galabert: Journal. Tome Premier (1862-66), Sofia, Universitetsko izdatelstvo “Sv. Kliment Ohridski”, 1998.

Kalkandžieva Daniela 1997

Kalkandžieva Daniela, “Katolicismăt v bălgarskite zemi i zalezăt na Osmanskata Imperija (vtora polovina na xix vek)”, Rodina, 1997/I-II, p. 166-186.

Kiril Bălgarski 1956

Kiril Bălgarski, Ekzarh Antim (1816-1888), Sofia, Sinodalno knigoizdatelstvo, 1956.

Kiril Bălgarski 1962

Kiril Bălgarski, Katoličeskata propaganda sred Bălgarite prez vtorata polovina na xix vek. T. I (1859-1865), Sofia, Synodalno izdatelstvo, 1962.

Lyberatos Andreas 2009

Lyberatos Andreas, Οικονομία, πολιτική και εθνική ιδεολογία: η διαμόρφωση των εθνικών κομμάτων στη Φιλιππούπολη του 19ου αιώνα [Economy, Politics and National Ideology: the Formation of National Parties in Philippoupolis/Plovdiv during the 19th c.], Irakleion, Panepistimiakes Ekdoseis Kritis, 2009.

Milkov Todor 1899

Milkovtodor, Antim părvi Bălgarski Ekzarh. Životăt i duhovnoobštestvena mu dejatelnost, Plovdiv, Tărg. pečatnica, 1899. Popajanov Georgi 1997

Popajanov Georgi, Malko Tărnovo i negovata pokrajnina. Antropogeografski i istoričeski proučvanija. 2-ro fototipno izd, Jambol, Nar. Park Strandža, 1997 [1-o izd. Burgas, 1939].

Rajčevski Stojan 1998

Rajčevski Stojan, Netlenni svidetelstva. Istoriografija na proučvanijata na Malko Tărnovo i na negovata pokrajnina, Burgas, Nar. Park Strandža, 1998.

Sofranov Ivan 1960

Sofranov Ivan, Histoire du mouvement bulgare vers lÉglise catholique au xixe siècle, Roma-Paris-New York-Tournai, Desclée, 1960.

Tăpkova-Zaimova Vassilka, Guénova Ludmila 2000

Tăpkova-Zaimova Vassilka, Guénova Ludmila, “Les Écoles catholiques françaises en Bulgarie”, in Stancheva R. L. et al. (ed.), Interférences historiques, culturelles et littéraires entre la France et les pays dEurope Centrale (xixe et xxe siècles), Actes du colloque international, 3-4 mai 1999, Institut Français Sofia, Sofia, Institut d’Études Balkaniques, Académie Bulgare des Sciences, 2000, p. 150-156.

Todev Ilia 1994

Todev Ilia, Bălgarsko nacionalno dviženie v Trakija 1800-1878, Sofia, Akademično izdatelstvo “Prof. Marin Drinov”, 1994.

Vataški Roumen 2005

Vataški Roumen, Bălgarskata pravoslavna cărkva i rimokatoličeskite misii v Bălgarija (1860- 30-te godini na xx vek), Šumen, Univ. izdatelstvo “episkop konstantin Preslavski”, 2005.

Voillery Pierre 1980

Voillery Pierre, “Un aspect de la rivalité franco-russe au xixe siècle: les Bulgares. Pénétration française et missions catholiques”, Cahiers du monde russe 21,1 (1980), p. 31-47.

Walter Christopher 1984

Walter Christopher, “Raphael Popov: Bulgarian Uniate Bishop: Problems of Uniatism and Autocephaly”, Sobornost 6/1 (1984), p. 46-60.

Žečev Tončo 1985

Žečev Tončo, Bălgarskijat velikden ili strastite bălgarski, Plovdiv, Hristo G. Danov, 1985.

Asompsionistite i Bălgarija 1862-2002, Catalogue of Exhibition in Plovdiv (11-11/ 2-12-2002), Sofia, 2002.

Journals & periodicals

Bălgarija, 1862-3

Carigradski Vestnik, 1862

Notes

1 The Bulgarian Uniate movement represents a significant (though short-lived) current and phase of the Bulgarian Church movement, i.e. the movement for the creation of a Bulgarian hierarchy independent from the Orthodox Patriarchate of Constantinople. As a significant phase of the Eastern Question, the Bulgarian Church Question evolved as a field of intense confrontation between the Great Powers of the time (Russia, France, England, Austria-Hungary), especially after the end of the Crimean War. For the Bulgarian Uniate movement, which developed under the protection of predominantly French diplomacy, see among others: Sofranov Ivan 1960; Kiril Bălgarski 1962; Voillery Pierre 1980. For an overview of the Bulgarian historical literature on the Uniate movement with a critical tone on its pro-Russian inclinations, see Kalkandžieva Daniela 1997.

2 See below, n. 35.

3 The French Assumptionists of Emmanuel d’Alzon and the Polish Ressurectionists were the two congregations invited by Pope Pius IX to work among the Bulgarians. The first Assumptionist superior in Plovdiv and Edirne, Fr. Victorin Galabert, arrived there in 1862. Walter Christopher 1984; Holzer Bernard, Todev Ilia 1998. See Asompsionistite i Bălgarija 1862-2002, Catalogue of Exhibition in Plovdiv (11-11/2-12 2002), Sofia, 2002.

4 Todev Ilia 1994, p. 196; Vataški Roumen 2005, p. 88-9; Elenkov Ivan 2000, p. 148-149.

5 Popajanov Georgi 1997; Milkov Todor 1899; Kiril Bălgarski 1962. For an account of local historiography on Malko Tărnovo, see Rajčevski Stojan 1998.

6 Most of Exarch Antim’s documents were burnt after his death in accordance to his own will. The few surviving documents were gathered by Symeon, Bulgarian archbishop of Varna and Preslav, with the eventually unrealized aim to write Antim’s biography. Milkov Todor 1899, p. 4. Thus they ended up to Symeon Varnenski’s archival collection in the Archive of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (Naučen Arhiv pri Bălgarskata Akademija na Naukite, further here: NA pri BAN), where they remained long unutilized by Bulgarian historians, probably because of linguistic and reading difficulties (the greatest part of the source material is in Greek language, while a considerable part of it consists of drafts of Antim’s reports and letters written hastily in pencil and difficult to read).

7 The first serious episode of the Bulgarian Union in Kilkis (Kukuš) is associated with a struggle against the bishop of Pelagonia Meletios.

8 Kiril Bălgarski 1962, p. 238-239.

9 Milkov Todor 1899, p. 23; Kiril Bălgarski 1962, p. 153.

10 NA pri BAN, f.144, a.e. 1028 (24-10-1862)

11 Even the pro-Uniate newspaper Bălgarija of Dragan Cankov, usually reporting with great zeal any instances of agitation against ecclesiastical taxation, confines itself in the case of Malko Tărnovo to nothing more than a passing reference to the tax-gathering tour (devr) of archbishop Kyrillos. Bălgarija, g. IV, br. 13, (9-7-1862).

12 Interesting for example, though ostensibly wrong, is the information on the social conflict in the town, drawn from the Catholic newspaper Istina (1940-41) and reproduced uncritically by Ivan Elenkov in his aforementioned work. This version of the events represents a very interesting example of myth-making: Stefan Gančev, the leader of the poor, is renamed as the more impressive “Stefan Zagorec”. When dying, poisoned by the greedy notables, he says to his fellow-villagers: “Only the Catholics will save you from the notables”. Elenkov Ivan 2000, p. 148-149. In this way, the real event of the alleged poisoning of Stefan (Antim speaks of Stefan’s cunning trick in order to agitate the people) is turned by the myth-making consciousness into a testament, given by the leader before his death to the people. Needless to say, Stefan Gancev did not die poisoned by the notables, but was condemned and sent, in full health, to exile. On the contrary, as we shall see, the victim of the story was the notable Ivan Kalkandžiev, who was lynched by the agitated supporters of the allegedly poisoned Stefan Gančev.

13 The Russian officer G. Eneholm estimates in 1829 that Malko Tărnovo had 650 houses and 3500 inhabitants. Most of the sources from the early 1870s suggest that the population of the town along with its dependencies, i.e. farm settlements (čiftliks, kolibi) amounts to 7-8000 souls. Eneholm G. 1938, p. 92-93.

14 NA pri BAN, f.144, op. 1, a.e. 999. The report is written with a different handwriting from that of Antim. It was either dictated by Antim, or it was composed by a different author.

15 Ibid.

16 Popajanov Georgi 1997, p. 84-86.

17 For the case of Plovdiv, see Lyberatos Andreas 2009.

18 NA pri BAN, f.144, op. 1, a.e. 1000/1.

19 NA pri BAN, f.144, op. 1, a.e. 1002/4.

20 NA pri BAN, f.144, op. 1, a.e. 1003/4, a.e. 1000/12.

21 NA pri BAN, f.144, op. 1, a.e. 1000/7, 37.

22 NA pri BAN, f.144, op. 1, a.e. 1000/14.

23 Patriarchal and Synodical letter to the notables of Malko Tărnovo, 1-5-1862, NA pri BAN, f.144, op.1, a.e. 1010. As is stated in the reply of the Patriarch and the Synod to Antim, the Patriarchate decided to refrain in the first phase to condemn certain notables, as Antim had proposed, and confined itself to the aforecited reproofs and suggestions. NA pri BAN, f.144, op. 1, a.e. 1015, 1-6-1862.

24 NA pri BAN, f.144, op. 1, a.e. 1000/14. Similar explanation gives Antim Preslavski in his letter to his mentor Konstantinos Typaldos (draft), 20-8-1862, NA pri Ban, f.144, op.1, a.e. 998.

25 See Walter Christopher 1984; Todev Ilia 1994, p. 223. For a concise overview of the French Catholic Education in Bulgaria, see Tăpkova-Zaimova Vassilka, Guénova Ludmila 2000.

26 I borrow the expression “laboratory of conversion” from Bertho-Lavenir Catherine 2004, p. 9.

27 NA pri BAN, f.144, op. 1, a.e. 999.

28 NA pri BAN, f.144, op. 1, a.e. 1000/35. The newspaper Bălgarija (br.9/11-6-1862) reports that Soparka received 360 kuruş from Antim.

29 NA pri BAN, f.144, op.1, a.e. 1000/37.

30 Antim Preslavski to Ecumenical Patriarch (draft), n.d., NA pri BAN, f.144, op.1, a.e. 1004. In the same letter he provides a slightly different version: “[…] he says many times that if they want to be not just Catholics but even Turks, I don’t bother.”

31 NA pri BAN, f.144, op.1, a.e. 1003; a.e. 1000/33-34.

32 In 1865, a couple of years after the mission of Antim in Malko Tărnovo, Konstantin Kurukafa, formerly the most active leader of the Uniates of Adrianople, approaches Antim informing him that he could bring back to Orthodoxy the secretary of the Uniate bishop Raphael Popov and the teacher of the Uniate Bulgarian school in Adrianople. He asks Antim to protect them and he explains why he has not mentioned anything to Kyrillos of Adrianople: “For Kyrillos the Union is in his interests (kurt dumanlı havayı sever). Kyrillos does not care if there was or there is Uniate movement to the detriment of the Great Church, since it is not to the detriment of his treasury”. Konstantin Kurukafa to Antim Preslavski, Edirne, 23-8-1865, NA pri BAN, f.144, op.1, a.e. 1026.

33 NA pri BAN, f.144, op.1, a.e. 1000/36. The arrest of Stefan Gančev and the 5 other leaders of the poor at an earlier point in the conflict, was effected after the appeal of the notables to the Archbishopric of Adrianople. Crucial role in this arrest was played by both the archdeacon of the bishopric and the archbishop of Trikala Meletios, who testified to the Governor that Stefan and his companions were “the destructors of Malko Tărnovo”. NA pri BAN, f.144, op.1, a.e. 1000/5, 6.

34 Inhabitants of Malko Tărnovo to Antim Preslavski, 30-7-1865, NA pri BAN, f.144, op.1, a.e. 1017.

35 NA pri BAN, f.144, op. 1, a.e. 1027. The date of the letter (3rd of January 1861) poses a serious problem. The hitherto established view in historiography is that the Uniate movement in Malko Tărnovo evolved at the end of 1861 and beginning of 1862, at a point when the Uniates were trying to reorganise themselves after the humiliating desertion (willingly or not) of their Partiarch Iosif Sokolski to Russia. This seems to be in accord with the references made by Antim to Petăr Arabadžijski (the successor of Iosif Sokolski) as the head of the Bulgarian Uniates at the time of the conversion of the inhabitants of Malko Tărnovo. If we hold as authentic the letter of Aleksander Anastassiou, then we have to deal either with repeated efforts by the Uniates of Adrianople to attract support among the people of Malko Tărnovo or Antim’s references have to be dismissed as inaccurate (Petăr Arabadjijski was the head of the Bulgarian Uniates at the time of Antim’s mission).

36 NA pri BAN, f.144, op. 1, a.e. 1000/10.

37 Dragan Cankov’s Bălgarija (g. IV, br. 9/ 11-6-1862) claims that Georgios Žekou also received from Antim the considerable sum of 11.290 kuruş.

38 The proper ritual which accompanied Antim’s first victory on 21st of April 1862 is very interesting: Georgios Žekou confessed before Antim his crime of abjuration, he signed and stamped a declaration of repentance, “spitting out” Catholicism and asking for the forgiveness of the Great Church. After that, Antim gathered the notables and asked them to forgive and help him because he was suffering from poverty. He then summoned the flock in the church where, after Pahomios’s preaching, Georgios read the Apostle’s Creed in front of Christ’s icon and Antim read a wish for the repentant. The redeemed was then successively kissed by the notables and his other fellow Orthodox. He was then sent with one of the priests to the local governor to be registered again as an Orthodox. NA pri BAN, f.144, op. 1, a.e. 1000/13. The exemplary use of Georgios Žekou’s repentance provoked the ironic reaction of Bălgarija (g. IV, br.4/ 7-5-1862), which reported that, after the ritual, Georgios was kissed by the notables “like a young bride” and then carried around the village to pay visits to the houses of the villagers as a “Karakačan’s disciple (cirak)”.

39 NA pri BAN, f.144, op. 1, a.e. 1000/11.

40 NA pri BAN, f.144, op. 1, a.e. 1000/18-9, 28.

41 Patriarchal and synodical letter to the priests and notables of Malko Tărnovo announcing the mission of Antim and Pahomij, 1-3-1862, NA pri BAN, f.144, op. 1, a.e. 1013. For Pahomij Rilski, who successively embraced Catholicism and Islam (!), see Popajanov Georgi 1997, p. 303. Popajanov gives us the hitherto more detailed account of Antim’s mission, based heavily on Milkov Todor 1899, 296 ff.

42 Antim Preslavski to Konstantinos Typaldos (draft), NA pri BAN, f.144, op. 1, a.e. 998.

43 Bălgarija, g. IV, br. 9, 11-6-1862. The newspaper gives in detail the sums of money distributed to certain persons. Georgi Popajanov holds these accusations as invalid.

44 Draft of a letter by Antim to a person of high standing not mentioned by name (he adresses the addressee in the following way: Εκλαμπρότατε!), NA pri BAN, f.144, op. 1, a.e. 1000/26.

45 NA pri BAN, f.144, op. 1, a.e. 1000/33.

46 NA pri BAN, f.144, op. 1, a.e. 1004. In another letter Antim complains to Kyrillos of Adrianople because he did not eventually help the monk who returned to Orthodoxy. NA pri BAN, f.144, op. 1, a.e. 1003/ 2 & 3. As we learn from two Partiarchal letters to Mount Athos and Hilendar monastery (1 & 9-3-1863), the monk in question continued to show anti-Patriarchate dispositions and the Patriarchate, on the basis of information received by Antim, ordered his detention in the monastery. NA pri BAN, f.144, op. 1, a.e. 1021, 1022 & 1023. Without success was, according to Bălgarija (g. IV, br. 4, 7-5-1862), the effort of the “Russian-phanariot agents” Antim I Pahomij to buy off the Uniate pop Kojčo (Kiril).

47 NA pri BAN, f.144, op. 1, a.e. 1000/14, 34.

48 NA pri BAN, f.144, op. 1, a.e. 1000/9.

49 NA pri BAN, f.144, op. 1, a.e. 1000/29, 35.

50 NA pri BAN, f.144, op. 1, a.e. 1000/8. Ensuing conflicts between the beys of Vize and the notables of Malko Tărnovo, might have been the reason why the council of Vize was from the beginning in favor of the party of the poor and, subsequently, of the Uniates of Malko Tărnovo.

51 NA pri BAN, f.144, op. 1, a.e. 1000/28, 30, 40. In his draft letter to the Patriarch (a.e. 1000/40) Antim mentions that the local governor of Malko Tărnovo was severely threatened because he had not put into practice 22 (!) orders issued by Mehmed Kibrisli Paşa in favour of the Uniates.

52 NA pri BAN, f.144, op. 1, a.e. 984: “Njakolko biografični svedenija kato dopălnenie na izdadenata po ruski ot Nina Popova biografija na Hegovoto Blaženstvo”. The tenaciously negative stance of Mehmed Kibrisli Pasha towards the Bulgarian emigration movement is also reported by the British Consul in Adrianople John Elijah Blunt. Mehmed Kibrisli told him that he received orders by the Porte to promote this movement but he “[…] said that he would do all in his power to arrest the movement in question, as he firmly believed that its success would prove highly prejudicial to the interests of the Empire.” National Archives, F.O. 195/1862, Blunt to Bulwer, Desp. No 2, 27-3-1862. For the active protection of the Uniate movement by Mehmed Kibrisli Pasha, see in detail Todev Ilia 1994, p. 194, 197-198.

53 NA pri BAN, f.144, op. 1, a.e. 1000/40. Antim refrains in his letters from any critical comment against the Vali. In one case, he even ‘thanks’ him for not having accepted false accusations made against the Orthodox by the Uniates.

54 For the violent episodes, see Carigradski Vestnik, g. XII, br. 18, 28-4-1862, br. 39, 4-10-1862; Bălgarija, g. IV, br. 2, 23-4-1862.

55 Todev Ilia 1994, p. 197, 199, 202; Carigradski Vestnik, g. XII, br. 25, 16- 6 -1862, br. 32, 4-8-1862.

56 NA pri BAN, f.144, op. 1, a.e. 1000/29; Bălgarija, g. IV, br. 9, 11-6-1862.

57 Bălgarija, IV, br. 13, 9-7-1862.

58 Antim Preslavski to K. Dželepoglou (draft), NA pri BAN, f.144, op. 1, a.e. 1000/23.

59 Antim Preslavski to Patriarch and Holy Synod (draft), NA pri BAN, f.144, op. 1, a.e. 1000/40.

60 Bălgarija, IV, br. 13, 9-7-1862.

61 NA pri BAN, f.144, op. 1, a.e. 1000/42.

62 NA pri BAN, f.144, op. 1, a.e. 1003/2.

63 NA pri BAN, f.144, op. 1, a.e. 1003/1.

64 NA pri BAN, f.144, op. 1, a.e. 1004.

65 For a characteristic example, see Žečev Tončo 1985, p. 41.

66 Vataški Roumen 2005, p. 16.

67 From a different perspective it is fully legitimate to ask: Is there not an instrumentalization of the national movements by the missionaries or the Orthodox clergy pursuing their own agenda?

68 We should also remark that this step, which from an essentialist point of view was not a “truly” religious one, produced after all, and despite the efforts of the Orthodox Church, a Uniate community which still remains to this day.

69 NA pri BAN, f.144, op. 1, a.e. 1000/28.

70 NA pri BAN, f.144, op. 1, a.e. 1000/27.

71 Holzer Bernard, Todev Ilia 1998, p. 270.

Auteur

Institute for Mediterranean Studies/FORTH, Rethymno, Crete.
Much of the preliminary work for this paper was done during my stay at Princeton, where I held a Post-doctoral Research Fellowship at the Program in Hellenic Studies (2006-7). I would therefore like to express my earnest gratitude to the Program for its support.

© École française d’Athènes, 2013

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