Physical anthropology and ethnogenesis in Bulgaria, 1878-1944

in Focaal
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This article engages with the commonly encountered claim that Bulgarian physical anthropology "features a long, fruitful, and honorable existence," by discussing Bulgarian anthropology's contribution to the controversial issue of ethnogenesis. With the Russian influence waning from the mid-1880s on, the pioneers of Bulgarian anthropology were largely influenced by the German example. But the first generation of Bulgarian anthropologists' tradition of "racial liberalism" (Benoit Massin) was lost after World War I. On the eve of World War II a debate on racism raged among Bulgarian intellectuals. By the time blood group analysis had joined anthropometrics, adherents of a closer collaboration with the Third Reich used it to argue for the Bulgarian nation's non-Slavic origins. In 1938 they even disrupted a lecture given by the biologist Metodiy Popov when he wanted to stress the Bulgarians' ethnic relationship with the other Slavic nations, and to repudiate the idea of a hierarchy of races. During the Socialist period a new generation of anthropologists went on to investigate the Bulgarian ethnogenesis using the term "race", although this clearly contravened the 1950 UNESCO statement on the race question.