Volume 6 Issue 4 CONTENTS


The Heads and the Walls. From Professional Commitment to Oppositional Attitude in Hungarian Sociology in the 1960–1970s: The Cases of András Hegedüs, István Kemény, and Iván Szelényi

Ádám Takács

Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest

In most of the state socialist countries in Eastern Europe, sociology remained a perpetual source of ideological quarrels from the beginning of the 1960s to the mid-1980s. With this context in mind, this paper offers an analysis of some of the decisive aspects of the development of Hungarian sociology from the early 1960s to the mid-1970s. In particular, the discussion focuses on three central figures, András Hegedüs (1922–99), István Kemény (1925–2008), and Iván Szelényi (1939), and their intellectual developments from committed and professional sociological work to the adoption of a deeply critical attitude towards socialist social development. An examination of the similarities in their intellectual development, especially as far as their political confrontation with the regime is concerned, offers a context for a discussion of some of the topical issues of the professional, institutional, and ideological aspects of academic work in state socialist Hungary and the ways in which genuine scholarly achievements could give rise to oppositional attitudes and social dissidence.

Keywords: Kádár era, Sociology, Social Criticism, Oppositional Attitudes, András Hegedüs, István Kemény, Iván Szelényi

In most of the state socialist countries in Eastern Europe, sociology remained a perpetual source of ideological quarrels from the beginning of the 1960s up to the mid-1980s. Even if party and state authorities often recognized the usefulness of sociology for their purposes, especially in periods when economic and social reforms were on the agenda, the sociological approach to the study of society never ceased to be regarded as a challenge to Marxist-Leninist ideology. The critical potential of sociology lay precisely in the fact that concrete and empirically grounded research devoted to the social facts of labor conditions, housing, lifestyle, healthcare, education, poverty, etc. tended to reveal the less familiar and gloomy side of the building of socialism. At the same time, sociology could also challenge communist ideology on its own level, namely by calling into question the social model which had been officially proposed under the label of “advanced socialist society”. By adopting sociological perspectives in their critical work on social conditions, social scientists started to discover and examine networks of relationships among social forms, stratifications, and developments which until then had gone largely unnoticed, as well as hierarchical relations of particular social strata existing and acting within the conditions prevailing under socialism. In doing so, they not only sought to rearticulate, if not explicitly to call into question, the Marxist conception of class system, but also to reconsider the Marxist-Leninist economic and social principles of the socialist model in the name of new strategies of social modernization. Thus, by the end of the 1960s, progressive Marxist sociologists in several Warsaw Pact countries, supported by reform-communist circles, tended to envisage themselves as the genuine mediators in the regime-society relationship. By taking as their starting point the empirical analysis of the given social reality, they were advocating a critical reappraisal of the ideological principles of the sate socialist regime itself.1

With this context in mind, I aim in this paper to provide an analysis of some of the decisive aspects of the development of Hungarian sociology from the early 1960 to the mid-1970s. In particular, I focus on three central figures: András Hegedüs (1922–99); István Kemény (1925–2008); and Iván Szelényi (1939). Their otherwise somewhat disparate intellectual trajectories from committed and professional sociological work to the adoption of a deeply critical attitude towards various elements of sate socialist social development and politics played fundamental roles in the subsequent formation of the profile of the cultural and political opposition, both within and beyond the social sciences in Hungary.2 I offer a comparative study of the work and careers of these scholars, whose critical attitudes towards the regime were acknowledge by the mid-1970s at a minimum with their dismissal from their academic jobs. What makes this subject worth studying is also the fact that, unlike other groups of scholars who played decisive roles in the newly forming democratic opposition in Hungary (for instance members of the “Lukács school” in the 1960–70s3 or the so-called “reformist economists” of the 1980s4), the sociologists in question never in fact formed a group. Rather, they had different backgrounds, different academic affiliations, and often contradicting views on the role and design of sociological research. Yet there were also striking similarities in their intellectual development, especially as far as their political confrontation with the regime is concerned. A comparative study of their careers and contributions, thus, offers a perspective from which to examine (1) the modes by which professional, institutional, and political aspects of academic work could play formative roles in the development of a social critical approach to state socialism; (2) the ways in which genuine scholarly achievements could influence the birth of oppositional attitudes and social dissidence; (3) the forms of comportment among party authorities, with regards to which the limits of political tolerance and the effectiveness of reprisals were always dependent on a certain ideological flexibility adapted to academic situations and on a network of formal and informal institutional and personal relations.

From Reformism to Revisionism: The Case of András Hegedüs

In the interviews he gave in the 1980s, András Hegedüs often described his political and scientific attitude in the period following his return from Moscow in 1958 as entirely “apologetic.”5 To be sure, after being prime minister in the last eighteen months of the Hungarian Stalinist regime marked by the dictatorship of Mátyás Rákosi, Hegedüs hardly seemed like someone who would have this attitude. In fact, as he reaffirmed in his memoirs, he was apologetic not only toward the socialist system that came in the wake of the events of 1956 in Hungary, but also toward the new political line represented by the Kádár regime itself. This apologetic attitude was certainly facilitated by the fact that, unlike most of the Rákosi regime’s political leaders, Hegedüs was neither expelled from the communist Party nor subjected to any disciplinary proceedings. There are reasons to believe that Kádár and his inner circle considered Hegedüs a possible ally in the fight against the revisionist tendencies within the Party, represented by the remaining followers of Imre Nagy. In 1961, Hegedüs was offered the position of Vice-President at the Central Statistical Office. It would be difficult to interpret this transfer as anything other than a reward for his loyal attitude toward the new regime. As a matter of fact, this attitude found clear expression in his post 1956 publications.6 Nevertheless, instead of taking the position, Hegedüs expressed his desire to devote himself to full-time scientific work and, more specifically, to sociology. His request received the full support of some prominent party members, including György Péter, the head of the Statistical Office, and Hegedüs was given the mandate to organize and lead the Sociological Research Group to be set up under the auspices of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences beginning in March 1963.

In the secondary literature based on the memoirs of many others in the field, Hegedüs’ name is inseparable from the rehabilitation and re-institutionalization of sociology in Hungary.7 In fact, the Sociological Research Group of the Academy was the first, and for quite some time the only, independent institute in socialist Hungary in which advanced research in the field of sociology could be carried out. Even more importantly, Hegedüs himself appeared to have been convinced at this point that sociology ought to be part of an “enlightenment process” the impact of which should spill over the barriers of even Marxist philosophy and ideology.8 Thus, by late 1963, Hegedüs’ intellectual position appeared fairly secure, and it seemed as if, over time, it would solidify even further. He was invited by the party leadership to take over the position as editor-in-chief of the political-cultural monthly Valóság [Reality], which, in line with an earlier decision of the Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party (HSWP) Politburo, was to be turned into a journal with a “comprehensive and scientific profile.”9 Due to his new function, Hegedüs also became a member of the “Theoretical Working Group” of the HSWP, which functioned alongside the Central Committee. This move seemed a sign of an increasing political trust in him.10

This tendency, however, did not last long. One year later, at the “Nationwide Ideological Conference” of the HSWP, the journal Valóság was condemned for its ostentatious attitude and lack of self-criticism.11 Also, an important document entitled “Some Current Ideological Tasks of the Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party: Guidelines by the Central Committee,” which was approved by the Central Committee in March 1965, harshly criticized sociological research in Hungary for its “abstract reasoning” and its “uncritical borrowings from the dubious achievements of bourgeois sociology.”12 The Guidelines also condemned Valóság for its “erroneous views,” “incorrect, bourgeois attitude,” “oppositional tendencies,” and “decadent approach.”13 These acts earned Hegedüs the label of “revisionist” for the first time and eventually triggered his removal from his position at the journal in June 1965.

For a time, however, Hegedüs’ dismissal from Valóság brought about no drastic change in the course of his intellectual career. On the contrary, his critical behavior had in fact channeled him towards the reformist party circles within the HSWP leadership, whose importance happened to be on the rise due their role in preparing the new economic reforms to be launched in January 1968. In 1965, Hegedüs was invited to take part in the work of the “Preparatory Committee for the Reform,” run under the auspice of the Economic Board operating next to the Central Committee. Hegedüs was asked to organize and oversee one of the eleven workgroups designed to assist the Preparatory Committee. His group was tasked with investigating “interaction between economic and social relations.”14 In this period, with respect to his own scientific work, Hegedüs continued to both extend and sharpen his theoretical sociological research. On the one hand, he devoted himself to critical analyses of socialist society from a structural point of view.15 On the other, he pushed the limits of critical analysis to new levels concerning the place and role of sociology within the system of Marxist social sciences, as well as concerning sociology’s claim to tackle some of the most vital social problems related to the building of advanced socialist society in general, and in Hungary in particular.16

Without doubt, the emphasis on sociology’s task of providing scientific self-knowledge for socialist society sums up the credo of Hegedüs’ vision of Marxist sociology. But it is also clear that his radical reformist endorsement of the critical function Marxist sociology could play in socialist society is separated, if at all, by only a thin line from the promotion of truly “revisionist” ideas. After all, Hegedüs’ Marxism seemed ready to jettison the classic Marxist theses on social development the moment the sociological analysis of the concrete social realities proved them false. At this point, however, he also believed that his ideas had essentially been confirmed by recent political and social developments and especially by the new economic reforms under preparation in both Czechoslovakia and Hungary. In an essay published in 1967 in the Hungarian literature monthly Kortárs [Contemporary] entitled “Reality and Necessity: The ‘Self-Criticism’ of Socialist Society as a Reality and a Necessity,”17 he went so far as to assert the “historical necessity” of the emergence in socialist society of a new type of critical attitude designed to reshape the relationship between the party and society.

The fact that in August 1968 it was not sociologists, but Warsaw Pact troops who readjusted the regime-society relationship in Czechoslovakia ultimately triggered the escalation of Hegedüs’ situation within his party. On August 21, along with the Hungarian sociologists and philosophers protesting in Korčula, the Party members of the Sociological Research Group condemned the intervention and Hegedüs addressed a petition to the Central Committee on the issue. In its report to the Politburo on this case, the Scientific, Educational and Cultural Board of the Central Committee made it clear that the protest issued by Hegedüs and his comrades against the intervention in Czechoslovakia was in reality only the most recent chapter in a far-reaching story. The document noted that since 1966, the Agitprop Committee had brought up the issue of the “negative tendencies” manifested in “Hegedüs’ theoretically and ideologically dubious ideas” several times. In conclusion, and as a way to solve the situation, the report proposed the removal of Hegedüs from the leadership of the Sociological Research Group.18

After 1968, Hegedüs’ research activity in sociology underwent a reorientation. In a somewhat programmatic study entitled “For the Healthy Development of Marxist Sociology,” which Hegedüs wrote right after his removal from the Sociological Research Group and which was published in the Társadalmi Szemle [Social Review], the theoretical monthly of the HSWP,19 he urged the continuation and even intensification of sociological research on social structures and social stratification under socialism. Hegedüs nevertheless did not entirely abandon the idea of advocating a radical “reformist position” when it came to sociological issues related to socialist development. This ambition, for example, was clearly manifest in the studies he devoted in this period to the sociological analysis of the question of “bureaucracy” under socialist conditions.20 Also, his views on “social progress” under socialist circumstances soon came under ideological attack.21 To be sure, it was precisely with reference to these lines of research that the accusations of revisionism against Hegedüs could be relaunched, accusations which eventually would lead to his expulsion from the party and his exclusion from academic and cultural life in general.

After all, by the end of 1972, the Kádárist party leadership had come increasingly under pressure from both its own hardliners and Moscow, each of which were demanding a revision of the allegedly overly liberal economic policies of the party.22 Under these circumstances, Kádár was all too keen to demonstrate, to those inside and outside of his party, that the reform of the Hungarian economy and society was firmly under the control of the HSWP and that no deviation from the official Marxist-Leninist dogmas would be tolerated. As a result, there was a sudden change in the ideological climate and in the line that divided what could be tolerated as a legitimate Marxist “discussion” of the questions of existing socialism and what was to be rejected on the grounds of its assumed anti-Marxist content. Not surprisingly, the ideas defended by Hegedüs, along with those promoted by the members of the Lukácsian Budapest School, fell soon prey to this ideological fervor, which sought to cleanse Hungarian Marxism of its new leftist wildings.

In January 1973, speaking before the Nationwide Ideological Conference in Budapest, György Aczél, the Agitprop Secretary of the Central Committee, left no doubt about who was to blame for “denying the existing socialist practices.” He named Hegedüs among others, and he accused him of “calling into question the fundamental theses of Marxism.”23 As a consequence, during a debate held in March 1973 under the auspices of the Cultural Political Work Collective the severely “anti-Marxist platform” of several social scientists and philosophers, including Hegedüs, Mária Márkus, Mihály Vajda, Ágnes Heller, György Márkus, György Bencze, and János Kis, was unanimously condemned.24 On the basis of this report, the Central Committee of the HSWP prepared a proposal for the Politburo. The Politburo accepted the proposal and decided to publish a final resolution on the case.25 It also ordered the Hungarian Academy of Sciences to take several measures against the scholars in question. Hegedüs, Vajda, and Kis was expelled from the HSWP, and all the scholars involved were dismissed from their academic jobs on the grounds of their “incapability for scientific work.” (They were offered lowering-rank positions as scientists or research assistants.)

Since none of the social researchers in question accepted the new jobs offered by the Academy of Sciences, their academic carriers in socialist Hungary were definitively over. As far as Hegedüs was concerned, after having accepted various advisory positions in large communist companies and after having been quickly dismissed from them at the order of party authorities, he retired in 1976.26 His sporadic collaboration with the increasingly significant democratic opposition movements in Hungary during the 1970 and 1980s had often been hindered by his unbroken belief in the possibility of a pluralistic socialist society without the implementation of a pluralistic political party system. But his role as critical sociologist and his vision of the enlightened moderation of the society-regime relationship in communist Hungary were doomed to be relegated, at least until the end the socialist period, to the realm of academic folklore. In a volume published in English on Hungarian sociology in 1978 and edited by his successors at the Sociology Institute of the Academy of Sciences, the main text of the brief introductory study devoted to an assessment of recent sociological research in Hungary made not a single mention of his name.27

The Empirical and the Illusionary: The Critical Sociology of István Kemény

One could characterize the sociological career of István Kemény as that of a strong character who was recurrently compelled to do empirical analyses of delicate topics—social stratification, poverty, the conditions of working class, the behavior of economic leaders, the problems faced by the Roma populations—related to the first two decades of the socialist reality in Hungary under Kádár. The unusual nature of his career was determined by the very historical event that served as the alpha point for both his career and the regime itself, namely the 1956 revolution. Having originally been sentenced to four years in prison for allegedly having participated in a “seditious conspiracy” during the revolutionary events, Kemény was released from prison in 1959.28 Between 1960 and 1969, he worked as librarian at the National Széchenyi Library in Budapest. In 1963, he was asked to join as assistant a newly launched group research project conducted by the Central Statistical Office on the question of “social stratification” in Hungary. By accepting this invitation, Kemény succeeded in part in adopting sociology as his main profession and became involved in one of the most instructive and challenging empirical sociological research projects in Hungary at the time.29 Since it used the term “stratification” (“rétegződés”) as one of its keywords, the 1963 survey challenged the view according to which the tendency of socialist society to lose gradually its original class structure should necessarily be understood as an improvement towards social homogeneity. In fact, as the project demonstrated, the loosening of class constraints had led to a more differentiated and not less imperious system of social stratification.30

In 1969, Kemény was asked to join the Sociological Institute of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences as a full-time research fellow. This change of status meant that Kemény immediately became involved in several empirically based research projects initiated and run by different institutes. One of the most interesting among them was devoted to the so-called “low income population” in Hungary. This research was run in effect by a work group within the Central Statistical Office. According to Kemény’s memoirs, the interest in the study of “poverty” in socialist Hungary was already present in the 1963 national survey, but György Péter, the president of the office, firmly opposed this idea, since he believed that if the Office as state institute “started to study poverty, this would suggest that it [socialist Hungary] was a system in which poor people could be found.”31

Kemény’s participation in the survey and the attention he devoted to the living conditions of the “low income” population became the foundation for his reputation. It can be said that this was one of the groundbreaking research initiatives in which he proved himself as a sociologist working with statistical means, but willing to go beyond the simply descriptive level of survey data to analysis of what these findings reveal about the living conditions under state socialism. Kemény’s task of translating the statistical category of “low income” into terms of the people’s real living conditions, and especially the living conditions of blue-collar workers, revealed hitherto unnoticed—or rather denied—aspects of socialist reality. Even before this research project officially terminated in 1972, he had an opportunity to give a lecture in 1970 on the topic at one of the annual sessions of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, in which he did not hesitate to talk about the phenomenon of “poverty” in socialist Hungary. In fact, he was in all likelihood the first social scientist to use this term openly in an academic speech in the post-1956 period in Hungary.

In his talk, Kemény claimed that it was misleading to draw a strict limit based on a minimum income per head in a household, as was proposed by the Central Statistical Office, in order to define a person or a family as belonging to the “low income” category. Instead, he argued that the descriptive use of the “low income” category should include consideration of concrete living and housing conditions, including family composition, cost of transportation, whether someone lived in or had a sublet, whether someone lived in an urban or rural setting, etc. According to Kemény, this would enable a more nuanced understanding of the poor as people “who were not able to live like others do.”32 With this definition in mind, Kemény was keen to demonstrate new social inequalities in the socialist reality in Hungary. According to him, poverty as a real condition affected the lifestyle, social habits, educational standards, and everyday practices of those concerned.33

Not surprisingly, Kemény’s talk at the Academy created instant havoc in the Party headquarters. Although initially both Népszabadság [People’s Liberty] and Társadalmi Szemle published positive overviews of Kemény’s talk (which, however, failed to mention the term “poverty” in their account), more drastic consequences soon followed.34 Kálmán Kulcsár, the head of the Sociological Institute at the time, was immediately ordered to dismiss Kemény from the Institute. Kulcsár did as he was told, but since Kemény had already been conducting another ongoing survey in the Institute concerning the Hungarian Roma populations, the Party headquarters was contacted again in order to determine what to do. Finally, the decision was made to allow Kemény to keep his job on a monthly basis, i.e. by “signing on the first day of each month a work contract which would last to the last day of the month” and repeating this until the survey was completed.35 Kemény finished his survey on the Roma in late 1972, after which his status at the Institute was terminated.

The aim of the 1971 survey on the Roma population was to offer a comprehensive view of the social situation of Roma in Hungary, including their “linguistic and ethnic composition, settlement types, regional distribution, housing conditions, family size, number of children and live births, education, the effects of industrialization in the 1950s and 1960s, employment, and income levels.”36 Nonetheless, the research carried out under Kemény’s leadership between 1970 and 1971 was new and unusual in several respects. Most importantly, in setting up the basic analytical categories of the project, Kemény refused to attribute particular importance to the ethnic character of the population under study. As he stated, “in our research we classified as Roma all people whom the surrounding non-Roma community considered Roma.”37 The enabled him and his team to sidestep the task of providing a scholarly (chimerical) definition of who was Roma and who was not, but perhaps more importantly, it allowed them to focus their efforts on what they considered the essential sociological aspects of the population under study. “The Roma question is fundamentally not an ethnic question, but a question of social strata,” the study concluded in the summary of its findings.38 This indicated that Kemény’s sociological approach to the Roma followed in the footsteps of his earlier survey on poverty in that he privileged questions of social stratification over questions of social segregation or ethnic identity. Also, Kemény was far from sharing the optimism of some of the communist leadership, who considered the rapid transformation of the working and living conditions of the Hungarian Roma population as an unqualified form of progress towards social assimilation. Although the 1971 survey confirmed the facts related to the drastic changes in employment and to some extent the amelioration of living conditions, in other areas (especially in housing and schooling practices) it noted severe drawbacks.

If the 1971 survey on the Roma population did not cause a political scandal, this was due primarily to its accuracy and the indisputably scientific nature of its methods, but also to the fact that the circumstances of the Roma communities were far from being in the forefront of academic or social debates in Hungary at the time. Nevertheless, the whole body of the research material was released only in 1977 as an internal bulletin published by the Sociological Institute of the Academy, and it had no table of contents and no ISBN number.

By the time the Roma survey had been completed at the end of 1972, Kemény’s monthly based contract at the Sociological Institute had expired and had not been extended. Meanwhile, the historian Miklós Laczkó, who at the Institute of History of the Academy of Sciences was given the task of preparing a research project on the Hungarian working class, contacted Kemény and asked him to do a survey on Hungarian workers.39 The Institute of History itself was asked by the Scientific Board of the Central Committee to carry out this research, and the director of the Institute, Zsigmond Pál Pach, was convinced by Laczkó to employ Kemény for this task. To be sure, this choice was not unfounded, since Kemény’s earlier research on the working class had even drawn some attention in broader public forums.40 But a closer look at this situation reveals very well the inherently contradictory and unstable processes through which, in an academic environment, communist functionaries sought to assess the party’s ideological expectations. In fact, the research initiated at the History Institute on members of the working class had already clearly indicated the changing ideological circumstances which, in the short run, had brought to a standstill the economic reforms and triggered the official political rehabilitation of the doctrine of the “leading role of the working class” in Hungary. Under these circumstances, Kemény, with his 1956 legacy and bad academic reputation, did not in principle have a chance to return. But precisely because ideological and scientific expectations were suddenly and inextricably mixed, informal ties gained increasing significance. Pach was undoubtedly a loyal party functionary, but he could be convinced to take the risk of reinterpreting the meaning of “ideologically sound” as a characterization of potential colleague in light of an alleged need of expertise. And in doing so, he was clearly ignoring the fact that Kemény had already been prohibited from carrying out academic research in another scientific Institute belonging to the same establishment.

The survey on the Hungarian workers began on September 1972 and was finished by the end of 1973. In part, Kemény used most of the descriptive categories developed in his earlier research on social stratification, the working class, poverty, and the Roma populations, applying these categories to workers.41 One of the most striking aspects of Kemény’s descriptive study on the working class was the strong emphasis on the forms of social cohesion, which correlating closely with workers’ morale. Workers showed significant shared commitment to common concerns, including mutual recognition of expertise, solidarity in struggles for better earning and working conditions, and a shared interest in technological improvement. However, in light of Kemény’s survey (which was based on interviews), these forms of cohesion were delineated as forms of common strategies of negotiation and tactics of circumvention directed against the various forms of administrative power represented by the management and directors of the factory or the party. In the preface to the French edition of his book on workers, Kemény described the general strategy followed by the Hungarian working class as one of “permanent resistance,” according to which they sought “to obey the instructions in appearance only.”42

In 1973 the Scientific, Educational and Cultural Board of the Central Committee organized a debate at Institute of History on Kemény’s manuscript. The text was harshly criticized by leading Hungarian historians, such as Iván Berend T. and György Ránki.43 This was followed by a series of events which adhered to a well-known political logic. First, Kemény’s manuscript on the Hungarian working class was rejected for publication. Then, in March 1974, the Institute of History was ordered to terminate his contract, and virtually at the same time Kemény was prohibited by the Party authorities from participating in any research or publication initiatives. In 1975, the National Educational Institute led by Iván Vitányi tried unsuccessfully to hire Kemény to take part in a research project.44 After this, Kemény attempted to engage in various research initiatives using his colleagues as cover, but in January 1977, he decided the situation was hopeless and resolved to leave Hungary for France.

Iván Szelényi and the “Immanent Critique” of Socialist Society

In a recent essay written on the development of Hungarian sociology in the 1960s, Iván Szelényi argued that between 1966 and 1968, Hungarian sociologists began to realize that empirical research in itself does not necessarily lead to value-free or apologetic results. Empirically grounded sociological investigations were increasingly perceived as having the potential to provide critical insights into the social determinants of socialist society.45 According to Szelényi, by the end of 1960s, there were two general but not mutually exclusive trends that provided the impetus and the intuitive backdrop to these critical approaches. On the one hand, there was an approach which aspired to offer an “ideological critique of socialist society.” This approach was influenced by György Lukács46 and his school, and it was championed by Hegedüs. It sought to contrast the reality of established social conditions in existing socialism with the Marxist ideals. A different approach, on the other hand, was advocated by more empirically-minded sociologists, such as Szelényi himself, who were carrying out a “critique of socialist ideology.” This approach focused on some of the internal inequalities and contradictions of socialist society, which reflected the regime’s ideological blind spots and therefore favored the elaboration of an “immanent” critique of socialist ideology and social reality.47

Szelényi’s account of this topic is worthy of consideration from a historical point of view in part because in some of his writings published in the early 1970s he had already made clear his position on the critical function of sociology. In fact, in the methodological part of his dissertation Settlement System and Social Structure, submitted in 1972 for the degree of “candidate of science” (kandidátus, the equivalent of a PhD degree), he outlined the principles of social criticism in sociology in terms very similar to those presented in his more recent writings. In his dissertation, Szelényi drew a sharp distinction between “social critique” and “critique of ideology,” and he argued that, unlike the former approach, which appeals to transcendent values in order to influence collective will and prompt action allegedly needed to build a better society, the latter seeks to analyze ideology critically as a social product serving actual interests.48

Szelényi joined the Sociological Research Group of the Academy in 1963 at the invitation of Hegedüs, first as a part-time research fellow and then, from 1967, as a full-time research fellow. His first work on housing conditions in one of the slum-areas in Budapest (coauthored with Ferenc Nemes) marked his entry into the field of sociology.49 In 1968, Hegedüs was forced, for political reasons, to resign from the leadership of the Sociology Group, and his position was taken over by Kálmán Kulcsár. At the time, Szelényi was tasked with the part-time supervision of the newly established “Sociological Laboratory” at the Social Science Institute, working under the Central Committee of the Party. A year later, he published his work (coauthored with György Konrád) on the sociological problems faced by the communities living in the new housing projects in Hungary,50 and shortly after this, he also took over the direction of the regional sociological department at the Institute of Sociology of the Academy of Sciences. Simultaneously, Szelényi also began a teaching career at the Karl Marx University of Economics in Budapest, and he similarly was given a teaching position in sociology at the Political Academy of the party.51 Thus, when Szelényi was appointed to serve as one of the editors-in-chief of the newly established sociological monthly Szociológia in 1972, his career seemed to be on a fast track to ultimate recognition. As a matter of fact, at that point in time he was undoubtedly one of the highest-ranking social scientists in Hungary who was not a member of the HSWP.

To be sure, Szelényi’s success was influenced by the fact that he kept his distance from sensitive political matters. For instance, unlike many of his prominent colleagues (including Hegedüs), he refused to denounce publicly or through official Party channels the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, and he also remained reserved with regards to the Lukácsian-Marxist social critical attitude widespread in the Sociology Group. As he later remarked, not only did his empirical mindset save him, for the time being, from getting into political trouble, but he also managed to benefit, in his career, from the overall intellectual and political situation.52 Nevertheless, one should note that the topics he chose and the approaches he followed in his research allowed him to move in directions that were far from any simple value-free empirical position. In fact, in a study published in 1969 on the role of sociology, Szelényi argued that the empirical orientation in sociology had the genuine potential to foster normative interpretations in social policy or open up alternatives for social services.53 

In a way, in their 1969 book Az új lakótelepek szociológiai problémái [Sociological Problems of the New Housing Developments], Konrád and Szelényi had already gone beyond a mere descriptive account of the case under study. Without doubt, some of the concrete findings of their investigations were truly shocking.54 Most notably, statistical evidence showed that, quite contrary to what was expected, apartments in newly built housing developments in Budapest and other major cities appeared to be systematically allocated to people belonging to social groups with higher incomes, mostly to the educated middle and upper middle class. On the base of these findings, Szelényi and Konrád revealed the de-privileged status of low-income earners and the working class as such and concluded that “as a whole, the construction of new housing developments cannot be characterized as social or communal house-building” in Hungary.55 Furthermore, they called attention to the “exceptionally grave consequences” which these developments were about to create in a metropolitan environment in terms of “social segregation.”56

Between 1970 and 1973, Szelényi and Konrád extended and deepened their analysis of the Hungarian housing system. In 1972, Szelényi submitted a manuscript entitled “Settlement System and Social Structure: Sociological Elements for an Analysis of the Hungarian Housing System and Urban Structure” to obtain a PhD degree.57 The text provided a more radical assessment of the problems related to the housing issue in Hungary, and it also embedded these problems in a larger socio-historical and structural analytical framework. Sociological problems concerning housing were thus found to be representative of other major forms of socio-economic inequalities under socialism, and this called for further investigations. Also, one of the novelties of the new analyses was their emphasis on the evaluative and critical importance of sociological analyses addressing the urban housing and planning system. As Szelényi stated in the methodological part of his dissertation, an immanent “ideological-critical” approach defined as “sociology of planning” was necessary in order to reveal and assess the “social relations of interest” underlying the processes of socialist social planning.58

In 1972, Társadalmi Szemle published an article, which was strongly critical in tone and in content of a paper published by Szelényi and György Konrád a few months earlier on various sociological and historical aspects of Hungarian urban development.59 The vehemence of the article was hardly surprising if one takes into account the purpose and arguments of the paper it was targeting. In a nutshell, by labeling urban development in Hungary “retarded” or “lagging,” Konrád Szelényi managed to blame the socialist economic policy of the previous two decades for its neglect of proper urban infrastructural developments, criticize its insensitively administered social-policies, and point out some current “social conflicts” which had been consequences of these wrong-headed policies.60

In one of his late interviews, Szelényi characterized this ill-received writing as the best he had ever written with Konrád.61 Whatever the case may be, it is certain that in the beginning of the 1970s, with the rise of anti-reform sentiments and the new anti-reform ideological offensive in the making, the critical approaches and orientations advocated by the Konrád and Szelényi tended to fall short of meeting the new prerequisites set forth for a “legitimate” Marxist way of doing social scientific research. Apart from the growing pressure to reinstate a noticeably more orthodox Marxist ideological approach to both theoretical and empirical issues, political approval (and disapproval) began to play an important role in shaping sociological research topics and activities. Even the ambition to exert more straightforward political control over the sociological research apparatus appeared on the agenda, as demonstrated for instance by an Agitprop party document from 1973 which proposed subjecting sociological surveys to “central authorization” in order to prevent them from being used to draw “false” or “ideologically hostile” conclusions.62

In principle, given his leading positions at various research institutions and the fact that he had been elected to serve on the editorial committee of the newly established revue Szociológia, Szelényi seemed to have little to worry about. Yet, in a way, it was precisely his personal inclination towards professional solidarity and his belief in the pursuit of sociology as an independent critical science that would soon bring him close to the end of his prosperous career in Hungary.

In 1973, Szelényi was among the few intellectuals who protested against the denunciation and removal from their academic positions of some of the closest disciples of Lukács and sociologists like Hegedüs and Maria Márkus. The next political event in which Szelényi took an important part was the trial of Miklós Haraszti. Haraszti, at this time an ultra-leftist poet and writer, was arrested in May 1973 on charges of having distributed mimeographed copies of his work entitled “Darabbér” (“Piecework”), which had not been given approval for publication. In the trial, Szelényi agreed to testify that as a journal editor, he intended to publish parts of Haraszti’s text in the revue Szociológia because he considered it a valuable and realistic analysis of factory life and workers’ lives in Hungary.63 To be sure, this statement was not entirely true. Nevertheless, due to the appropriate strategy chosen by the defense and the solidarity campaign that surrounded the case, Haraszti, although found guilty on the charges brought against him, was sentenced to serve only eight months in prison, a sentence which was suspended on condition that Haraszti spend three years on probation. But the trial had other consequences as well. Because of his involvement is the case, Szelényi was removed from the positions he held at the Institute of Social Sciences and at Szociológia. He was also temporarily prohibited from publishing, but more importantly, his reputation as a critical but reliable non-party member academic was severely damaged.

Interestingly enough, by the time they got involved in the Haraszti trial, Konrád and Szelényi had already embarked down a path to challenge the regime in power directly. At Konrád’s initiative, they had started to compile a scholarly manuscript which Szelényi envisaged as their critical-sociological masterpiece. To be sure, they were well aware from the very beginning that the task was politically impossible, meaning that the text would never be published in Hungary. As Szelényi later remarked, they were consciously preparing themselves to “commit scholarly suicide.”64 Their manuscript was thus meant from the outset to be a samizdat in its format, which makes it one of the very first examples of this genre in socialist Hungary.65 Not surprisingly, the police, which had been keeping Konrád and Szelényi under constant surveillance since the Haraszti trial, was well informed about their activities and waited for the moment to confiscate the manuscript and arrest its authors. The two men were detained on October 22, 1973 on charges of incitement, and they remained in custody for seven days.

The major argument of Konrád and Szelényi’s samizdat book The Intellectuals on the Road to Class Power was that under Eastern European state socialism, the intelligentsia was in the process, for the first time in history, of forming a dominant class. With this context in mind, the authors sought to adopt a reflexive critical position, which, like in Szelényi’s earlier sociological works, aimed to provide an immanent “critique of ideology.”66 According to Konrád and Szelényi, the class dominance of intellectuals in state socialism manifested itself in their increasingly crucial position (and allegedly experts) as “planners” and “redistributors” within this system. In other words, they argued that a constant intellectual materialization of certain “teleological” knowledge about long-term public interests in socialist society, embodied in the intellectuals’ bureaucratic class position, not only played a functional role in sustaining the regime, but was a fundamental element without which the socialist mode of production itself would have lost its distinctive features.

Without a doubt, Konrád and Szelényi’s book was a clear attempt to call into question some of the most crucial ideological cornerstones of existing socialist regimes: the tenet of the leading role of the working class and the ideological benevolence of the party. As a matter of fact, this point was clearly stressed in a report submitted to the Politburo of the HSWP about the case.67 The document also informed its readers of the outcome of this “unlawful activity”: after seven days of detention, the two suspects acknowledged authorship of the manuscript, and the case was closed with a “prosecutor’s warning.” At the same time, as a result of the case, Szelényi immediately lost his remaining jobs at the Institute of Sociology and the University of Economics, and his career in sociology and in the academic life in general was definitely over. The only reasonable option for him was to accept the at offer made by the interior affairs authorities, which at the time was rather exceptional, to leave the country.68

Conclusion: From Professional Commitment to Oppositional Attitude

The most striking aspect in the careers of István Hegedüs, István Kemény, and Iván Szelényi is not simply that, even with their different intellectual and political backgrounds, fields of interest, and academic contributions, they were all sidelined by the mid-1970s for political reasons. Even more remarkable than this is the fact that their involvements in politically contentious situations were triggered by the adoption of a similar intellectual attitude. Nevertheless, the formation of their noticeably analogous way of perceiving and reacting to certain scholarly situations seems to imply more than mere discontent with certain ideological expectations in Hungarian academia. It stemmed rather from their engagement in a complex setting of professional, institutional, and disciplinary practices and relations that gradually shaped their personal experiences and scholarly strategies in a similar way.

From this point of view, the decisive impact of two institutions (the Central Statistical Office and the Sociology Research Group) on the development of the intellectual profile of Hegedüs, Kemény and Szelényi should be highlighted. Although the forms and lengths of their engagement in the work of these institutions varied greatly, similarities are also apparent. Contact with the pioneering sociological work carried out at the Statistical Office constituted an important milestone in the career of all three of them. It certainly made them appreciate the role of a specific institutional environment and a diverse academic body in the development of an effective and relatively free research agenda. Hegedüs seemed to have been fully aware of this when he was given the green light in 1963 to establish his Research Group at the Academy of Sciences, where he also hired Szelényi. At the same time, as Kemény has remarked, the Sociology Research Group represented a trend similar to that of the more empirically minded sociological cluster of the Statistical Office led by Zsuzsa Ferge insofar as both institutions “wanted something that was hitherto forbidden” in Hungarian sociology.69

It should be noted that this took place during the subsequent period (1968–72), when the multiplication of institutions and research opportunities allowed for an increasing flexibility in sociological research and teaching. This was illustrated for instance by the case of Szelényi, who divided his time between the Sociological Research Group and the Institute of Social Science of the Central Committee, while he also held various teaching positions. The emergence of this new situation within the sociological profession in the early 1970s was certainly fostered by the central administration’s growing interest in and demand for accurate social knowledge relevant to various policy and economic issues. For example, Kemény’s research on the Roma population and the working class and Szelényi and Konrád’s work on the housing conditions in Budapest and other cities clearly reflected this tendency. This conjuncture in sociology has led to the proliferation of research institutions and even the introduction of a certain division of labor between them, and it has also created a need to implement forms of professional training to ensure further reinforcement. At the same time, this new situation has also changed the ways in which institutions in the academic sphere are used by sociologists to adopt and pursue their research agenda. Kemény’s pursuit of various research projects in different institutions between 1969 and 1973 demonstrated significant flexibility in this regard. To be sure, the growth in the available resources (including financial resources) and the reliance on project-oriented institutional backing have created significantly more options for research, much as they have also enabled people working in the discipline to pursue their efforts with a greater degree of professional commitment and have made it easier to overlook built-in ideological safety mechanisms in research.

Apart from the institutional factors, the variety of topical interests and approaches in sociological research and the ways in which the image of Hungarian society was altered over the course of the 1960s in sociological debates have clearly shown a strong vivacity and an openness within the discipline. In this context, both the more social critical approach taken by Hegedüs and the empirically driven orientation developed by Kemény and later Szelényi shared the conviction that society was made up of critically important factors which have their own particular functions and modes of development. The focus on social stratification on the one hand and the mesmerizing effects of discovering and analyzing social inequality on the other also constituted a common element in their works. Thus, Hegedüs’ strong insistence on the function of sociology as the most direct scientific instrument in the pursuit of critical knowledge of society has not essentially contradicted the more empirically grounded approaches adopted by Kemény and Szelényi. The differences between their approaches were, rather, strategic, insofar as Hegedüs insisted on the fact that the importance of sociological research should lie in ushering academic discourse towards an explicitly social critical, if not political role—something which Kemény and Szelényi were less ready to embrace if it was propagated in the name of a normative, let alone Marxist perception of society. For them, the realistic tone of sociology implied in and of itself a sufficient stance in order to approach social reality in critical terms.

This strategic difference was also reflected in the different ways in which Hegedüs, Kemény, and Szelényi appealed to and used Marxism in their works. Although they all seemed to agree fundamentally that orthodox Marxist-Leninist categories were totally inadequate for a sociological analysis of social structures and development, they nevertheless manifested different rationales in their precepts on which their rejections were based. In the case of Hegedüs, his adherence to the idea of socialism remained unbroken throughout his career. It was precisely this idea that fueled his criticism both of the Stalinist vision of society and the more technocratic agenda of building socialism. For him, redefining socialist reality in terms of domination, subordination, alienation etc., and thus challenging the received doctrines of Marxism-Leninism, was a necessary consequence of the perception of sociology as the ongoing critical examination of the course of socialist construction in which the drive towards “optimal” economic and social development should be counterweighted by a particularly strong focus on processes of “humanization.”70 Thus, for Hegedüs the constructive use of Marxism in the search for a “leftist” normative view of society remained a cornerstone of his sociological approach. Kemény’s manifest rebuff of Marxism followed a different path. In his case, it was more the result of a pragmatic rejection expressed in neutrality towards, neglect of, and cavalier disregard for Marxist categories. However, this sociologically orchestrated disinterestedness was grounded in the very methodology he employed in most of his research. The combination of social-statistical quantification with deep interviewing offered empirical findings and a foundation for social categorization which were substantial proof of the purely apologetic nature and scientific inadequacy of official Marxism-Leninism. In Szelényi’s case, the motivations for overlooking Marxism were different in nature. His stance was based on a predominantly theoretical rejection, manifested in a strategy of almost complete neglect of Marxist terminology in his earlier writings, which has accompanied an increasingly subtle search for empirical confirmation. In other words, for Szelényi, the inadequacy of the Marxist approach has relied primarily on its incapacity to address and frame phenomena of social structure, stratification, mobility, inequality, etc. in the study of which other Western sociological theories (for example the Weberian or Polányian approaches) have proven more conclusive. Nevertheless, it was precisely the fact that his rejection was theoretical in its design, and not purely political or empirical, that allowed him to return in a certain way to Marxist categorizations in his The Intellectuals on the Road Class Power.

Nevertheless, it would certainly be misleading to characterize the series of events that led to the exclusion of the three sociologists in question from Hungarian academic life by the mid-1970s as a cumulative process which could not have gone another direction and ended in a different scenario. Although there are always underlying reasons for ideological climate changes (and in this case, they usually accurately reflected the actual orientations and power struggles in which policy was rooted, especially in the academic sphere), ideology as such was far from a coherent and all-powerful system of norms providing direct support for the eventual implementation of administrative measures. Ideological intervention had to be channeled through institutions and forums of scholarly communication within which formal and informal relationships, political pedigree, and personal stamina often played roles as important as the role of the attitudes of the party’s cultural or agitprop bodies. But this also means that the escalation of an academic affair usually was fueled by a certain stubbornness or hard-minded attitude on the part of those who were targeted by the party authorities for political reasons. This kind of stubbornness certainly played a vital role in the case of Hegedüs, Kemény, and Szelényi. Yet their work was hardly intended initially as an immediate challenge to ideological or political barriers. Their dogged determination stemmed rather from their professional commitment to the value of sociological research, which, due to the more and more unsound and ambiguous standards of scholarly performance introduced for ideological reasons, gradually morphed into the adoption of a stance which could rightly be called oppositional, although in each case with a different connotation.

The fact that the revitalization of sociological research and the launch of empirical investigations were closely connected to economic reform drives from the mid-1960s had some serious consequences for the fate of sociology as a discipline in Hungary. First of all, as was made explicit by the case of Hegedüs, the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Warsaw Pact countries in 1968 and the subsequent halt of the reforms were perceived by many as a defeat and as a consequent shrinking of scholarly opportunities. Yet what really counted was not necessarily the political face-value of these events. It was, rather, the lack of a positive model under these circumstances for valuable and pioneering sociological research which affected negatively the academic performance and vision of progressive sociologists. Whereas the Guidelines on Scientific Policy issued by the Central Committee of the party in 1969 accorded unlimited liberty to research in social science, it also called for “prudence and responsibility” (i.e. self-censorship) in making scientific results available to the public.71 But the nature of empirical findings in sociological research and the flexible and institutionally different understanding of scientific responsibility rapidly revealed the ideological frailty of these claims. Especially in sociology, in which scientific truth is supposedly founded on the critical observation of social facts, any demand for self-control and self-limitation could produce utterly counterproductive if not false results. Combined with the conviction that politics can discover in sociology something which it cannot discover by any other means, sociological responsibility in principle overtly fostered the emergence of a critical attitude.

Thus, one can understand why Hegedüs, even after his many conflict-ridden entanglements with the political world in Hungary, kept stubbornly challenging the prevailing view on socialist development in Hungary, arguing that the return to market conditions was in fact a false turn, because it intensified social stratification and inequality. The adoption of a political stance in this case was clearly motivated by sociological insight into society and its amalgamation and a belief in the idea of a genuinely socialist democratization of human relations. Similarly, Kemény’s uncompromising excavation of delicate social facts was linked to his belief in the unconditional value of the empirical study of social reality, even if it had regularly culminated in sociological analyses touching critically on some basic ideological tenets. Finally, Szelényi’s increasingly radical approach to sociology as a critique of ideology originated in and was founded on his perception of the discrepancy between certain empirically detected social tendencies which fostered inequality and a particular set of socio-politically promoted interests in society which supported them. In each of these cases, the only legitimate option offered by the academic establishment for sociological work consisted of keeping a low profile from the perspective of critical attitude and promoting the very social status quo the shortcomings of which had been revealed by sociological means. No wonder that for each of the three scholars irritation and disappointment with this situation, which was also for them a sociologically reflected disposition, called for a radical response: the emergence of an oppositional attitude both in their scholarly work and in the ways in which they were more and more ready to take serious political risks.


Primary Sources


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1 On these questions, see the essays in the volume edited by Keen and Mucha, Eastern Europe in Transformation, as well as the autobiographical collection of essays written by sociologists living in Central and Eastern Europe in this period, Keen and Mucha, Autobiographies of Transformation.

2 On the role played by Hegedüs, Kemény, and Szelényi in the formation of the Hungarian democratic opposition, see Csizmadia, A magyar demokratikus ellenzék, 25–29, 72–77, 145–48.

3 Cf. ibid., 19–25, 29–33.

4 Cf. ibid., 169–70.

5 Cf. Hegedüs, Élet egy eszme árnyékában, 329; “Beszélgetés Hegedüs Andrással,” 13, 25.

6 Idem, A munkásbérezés rendszere iparunkban; idem, A modern polgári szociológia és a társadalmi valóság; idem, Műszaki fejlesztés a szocializmusban.

7 Cf. Kemény and László, eds. XXX. 1963-ban alakult meg a Szociológiai Kutatócsoport; Szántó, A magyar szociológia újjászervezése a hatvanas években, 174–82, 199–211.

8 Hegedüs, “A marxista szociológia tárgyáról és helyéről a társadalomtudományok rendszerében.”

9 MNL OL M-KS 288-5. 304. ö.e., 24.

10 Szántó, A magyar szociológia újjászervezése a hatvanas években, 166.

11 Cf. MNL OL M-KS 288-5. 345 ö.e., 42.

12 “A Magyar Szocialista Munkáspárt néhány időszerű ideológiai feladata. A Központi Bizottság irányelvei,” 151.

13 Ibid., 161.

14 Nyers, “Emlékeim Hegedüs András pályafutásának három korszakáról,” 262.

15 Hegedüs, A szocialista társadalom struktúrájáról.

16 Idem, A szociológiáról.

17 Hegedüs, “Realitás és szükségszerűség,” 1011–19.

18 MNL OL M-KS 288-5. 476. ö.e., 131.

19 Hegedüs, “A marxista szociológia egészséges fejlődéséért!,” 93–99.

20 The collection of these studies was published in a book that has never been published in Hungarian: Hegedüs, Socialism and Bureaucracy.

21 Hegedüs, “A társadalmi fejlődés alternatíváiról,” 843–54.

22 On this issue, see Tőkés, Hungary’s Negotiated Revolution, 102–04.

23 Aczél, “Az ideológiai és kulturális élet néhány időszerű kérdése,” 200–01.

24 “Az MSZMP Központi Bizottsága mellett működő Kultúrpolitikai Munkaközösség állásfoglalása néhány társadalomkutató anti-marxista nézeteiről,” 37.

25 It is worth mentioning that János Kádár reserved for himself the right to make the final adjustments to both documents, MNL OL M-KS 288-5. 610. ö.e., 81.

26 Hegedüs, Élet egy eszme árnyékában, 366–67.

27 Cf. Huszár et al, Hungarian Society and Marxist Sociology in the Nineteen-Seventies, 5–15.

28 “Interview with István Kemény on his Career,” 138.

29 Mód et al, Társadalmi rétegződés Magyarországon.

30 Cf. Kemény, “Restratification of the Working Class,” 26–37.

31 “Interview with István Kemény on his Career,” 147.

32 Kemény, “A szegénységről,” 80.

33 Cf. idem, “Poverty in Hungary,” 247–67.

34 Cf. Népszabadság, November 15, 1970; Herceg: “A szocialista elosztás néhány kérdése,” 69.

35 “Interview with István Kemény on his Career,” 148.

36 Kemény and Janky, “The Roma Population in Hungary 1971–2003,” 70.

37 Kemény, ed., Beszámoló a magyarországi cigányok helyzetével foglalkozó 1971-ben végzett kutatásról, 9.

38 Ibid., 14.

39 “Interview with István Kemény on his Career,” 148.

40 Cf. Kemény, “Az úton lévők hatalmas tábora,” Népszava, October 17, 1969.

41 Cf. idem, Velük nevelkedett a gép.

42 Idem, Ouvriers hongrois, 16.

43 “Interview with István Kemény on his Career,” 151.

44 Csizmadia, A magyar demokratikus ellenzék, 171.

45 Szelényi, “Nosztalgikus jegyzetek a hatvanas évekről,” 13.

46 György Lukács also went by the names Georg Lukács and George Lukács over the course of his career.

47 Ibid., 14.

48 Szelényi, Városi társadalmi egyenlőtlenségek, 29.

49 Nemes and Szelényi, Lakóhely és közösség.

50 Konrád and Szelényi, Az új lakótelepek szociológiai problémái.

51 Szelényi, “Nosztalgikus jegyzetek a hatvanas évekről,” 16.

52 Idem, “Utószó. Jegyzetek egy szellemi önéletrajzhoz.” 443.

53 Idem, “Empíria és szociológia,” 14–26.

54 Cf. idem, Urban Inequalities under State Socialism, 6.

55 Konrád and Szelényi, Az új lakótelepek szociológiai problémái, 138.

56 Ibid., 146–47.

57 Cf. Szelényi, Városi társadalmi egyenlőtlenségek, 16–141.

58 Ibid., 29–31.

59 Apró, “Mi késleltette a magyar városfejlődést?,” 28.

60 Konrád and Szelényi, “A késleltetett városfejlődés társadalmi konfliktusai,” 19–35.

61 “Beszélgetés Szelényi Ivánnal,” 179.

62 MNL OL M-KS 288-41. 161 ö.e. 2.

63 Szelényi, “Egy kézirat története,” 6.

64 Konrád and Szelényi, The Intellectuals on the Road to Class Power, xvii.

65 Csizmadia, A magyar demokratikus ellenzék, 73.

66 Konrád and Szelényi, The Intellectuals on the Road to Class Power, 251.

67 MNL OL M-KS 288-5. 650 ö.e. 163–64.

68 Konrád and Szelényi, The Intellectuals on the Road to Class Power, xviii.

69 “Interview with István Kemény on his career,” 147.

70 Cf. Hegedüs, “Optimalizálás és humanizálás,” 17–32.

71 Cf. Az MSZMP Központi Bizottságának Tudománypolitikai Irányelvei, 37–67.

Volume 6 Issue 4 CONTENTS



Zsombor Bódy and András Keszei

The present issue is the outcome of a conference held at the Péter Pázmány Catholic University on October 21, 2015. The title of the conference was “Boundaries of Contemporary History.” It was organized by the Research Group for Social History of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences of the Péter Pázmány Catholic University in Budapest with the aim of bringing together historians interested in questions of theory and method in the study of contemporary history. The complex problem of the present, considered as a specific perspective for historical writing, constitutes a considerable challenge for historians all over Europe. The dangers inherent in the public use of history require a resolute strategy on the part of academic history in defense of its roles. Has the maintenance of some control or at least influence over the excessive and uncritical use of different kinds of memory, which has been one of the consequences of the overwhelming rule of the present over contemporary societies, become one of academic history’s main functions, especially given the increasingly palpable need of contemporary societies for various and at times conflicting forms of nostalgia? Or has history itself, as has been claimed by several influential authors, become a form of memory? The inquiry into the boundaries of contemporary history concerns both the specific scientific conceptual framework of the writing of the history of the present and the limits of a period of time in human history formed by social and political factors which are constitutive elements of our present and which cannot be historicized yet as forces of a bygone era (in other words, a period of which we have living memories, not only historical accounts). The studies in this issue examine the peculiarities of this period and the institutional, conceptual framework of a professional history which is compelled to maintain a balance between social demands for memory (and identity) and its own methodological criteria. They also explore questions concerning the status of contemporary history among other branches of historiography and other present-centered social sciences. They seek to further a deeper understanding of the work and roles of historians as members of the community of professional scholars and as citizens who are attempting to orient themselves and their audiences in the maze of the present with the potential help of history.

The organization of the conference and the publication of the edited versions of the papers which were presented was made possible in part through the financial support of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences of the Pázmány Péter Catholic University (“KAP-15 119-1.9-BTK”-grant).

pdfVolume 7 Issue 1 CONTENTS

Ethnonyms and Early Medieval Ethnicity: Methodological Reflections

Walter Pohl

Director, Institute for Medieval Studies, The Austrian Academy of Sciences


The paper deals with the significance of ethnonyms for the study of early medieval ethnicity. The historiographic sources are full of names of peoples, and endow them with collective agency. That may not prove that all of these peoples had strong ethnic identities. But it attests to the general use of ethnicity as a cognitive device to differentiate between large social groupings who were relevant actors on the political scene. In this scheme, ethnonyms are fundamental. ‘Ethnicity’ as a system of distinctions between collective social actors and ‘ethnic identity’ as the result of a series of identifications are of course closely linked, but they represent different aspects of ‘the ethnic’. Therefore, ethnonyms do not necessarily reflect ethnic self-identification of the group concerned, although they often do. What they attest to is some shared belief that humans can be distinguished by ethnonyms, that is, on the basis of ‘natural’ affiliations that people are born with.       

Keywords: ethnonyms, early medieval ethnicity, Longobards, Goths, gentes

What did ethnonyms mean in the early medieval period?1 We can begin with an example of what people thought about this question themselves. In the middle of the seventh century, the origin story of the Longobards was written down in the Longobard kingdom in Italy in a text called Origo gentis Langobardorum. Toward the end of the eighth century, Paul the Deacon faithfully repeated the story in his Historia Langobardorum, although he (a Christian monk) distanced himself from it by calling it a ridicula fabula.2 According to these two texts, a long time ago a small people called the Winnili migrated from Scandinavia, led by the wise woman Gambara and her sons. They were challenged by the Vandals, who solicited the support of Wodan (a Germanic god of war). Gambara therefore asked Wodan’s wife Frea for support, and she gave the advice that the Longobard women should tie their hair in front of their faces so that it looked like a beard and go with the men to the battlefield. When Wodan awoke the next day, he looked out on the battlefield and asked “Who are these longbeards?” Frea replied, “As you have given them the name, give them victory!” From then on, the Winnili were called Longobards.3

In all likelihood, this is a pre-Christian story based on the supposed agency of pagan gods.4 If Wodan gives a name to the people, he adopts it in a sense, and is obliged to give it victory. Scholars have long assumed that Wodan had (unwittingly, as the legend implies) conferred one of his own epithets on the Winnili. Yet the fourteenth-century text in which langbardr is listed among Odin’s/Wodan’s names may also have relied on a knowledge of Paul the Deacon’s Historia.5 The name conferred on the Longobards is strikingly paradoxical. As Paul the Deacon states, “it is certain that the Longobards were afterwards so called on account of the length of their beards untouched by the knife.”6 This is a rather straightforward explanation, immediately comprehensible both in Germanic languages and in Latin (longibarbi, as Wodan says in Paul’s account). It was also taken up by Isidore of Seville in his seventh-century Etymologies: Langobardos vulgo fertur nominatos prolixa barba et numquam tonsa, “the Longobards, according to popular opinion, are named after their long beards that are never cut.”7 However, the origin story subverts this clear-cut etymology based on a secondary male sexual characteristic by attributing the long beards to women, and the narrative privileges female agency: Gambara, as leader of the Longobards, is more successful by relying on Frea, than the Vandals, who have directly appealed to Wodan.8 Whatever the implications of this and other stories about “women in the beginning,”9 this narrative must have allowed the women to regard themselves as Longobards in the full sense, too. This, then, is a story of self-identification with and through an ethnonym.

At the same time, ethnonyms also allowed external identification of peoples. This is illustrated by a second example from a somewhat earlier period. The Historia Augusta, written around 400 AD, offers a detailed and fictive description of the Emperor Aurelian’s triumph, thought to have taken place in the 270s. According to this account, Aurelian rode up to the Capitol in a chariot which had belonged to a king of the Goths and was drawn by four stags, followed by exotic animals, gladiators, and captives from the barbarian tribes, among them Arabs, Indians, Persians, Goths, Franks, and Vandals. “Ten women were also led along, who, fighting in male attire, had been captured among the Goths after many others had been killed; a placard declared these women to be of the kin [genus] of the Amazons—for placards are borne before all, displaying the names of their people [gens].10 This set-up (representatives of a people marching past the spectators, one after the other, carrying signs with their names) reminds one of the grandiose opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games of our time. At Roman triumphs and in panegyrics devoted to Roman emperors, long lists of defeated peoples were a standard feature. Again, the functional logic of ethnonyms is somehow subverted by women: the Amazons, a fictive female people. The Gothic women found fighting on the battlefield certainly did not constitute a people of their own; but their spectacular presence in Aurelian’s triumph was endorsed by ancient mythology.11

In both examples, ethnonyms are a central feature of ethnic identification. Contemporaries tended to believe that they represented the nature of a people, an assumption that Isidore of Seville systematically employed in his Etymologies to explain the characteristics of the numerous peoples that he lists.12 Indeed, some names carried a clear meaning in the language of their own people, such as Longobards or Alamanni (“all” or “full” men). Others, mostly by coincidence, could easily be (mis)understood in Latin: Saxons (rocks), Angli (angels), Bulgars (vulgar), or Avars (greedy). The names already seemed to tell a story, as in the Longobard origin myth.

Ethnonyms, furthermore, were the usual way to structure the political world, and the history of its changes. Some texts (judging from the manuscripts) bore the names of peoples in their titles, if in rather different phrasings: De origine actibusque Getarum, Origo gentis Langobardorum, Liber Historiae Francorum, Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum. Still, the ethnonyms were not without ambiguities. In the construction of the Getica (which by the way is a modern title), the Goths were identified with the ancient Scythians and Dacians, and in particular, with the similarly-named Getae, who were referenced in the title. The intention was to enhance the ancient glory of the Goths, but this created rather confusing equations. Isidore, in his Gothic history, proposed the rather far-fetched argument that the names were so similar that “with one letter removed and one letter changed, ‘Getae’ becomes ‘Scythae’.”13 Isidore also added an identification with the apocalyptic peoples of Gog and Magog, featured in the prophecies of Ezekiel and in John’s Apocalypse: Gothi a Magog filio Iaphet nominati putantur, de similitudine ultimae syllabae “the Goths are supposed to be named after Magog, son of Japhet, because of the similitude of the last syllable.”14

What historians habitually refer as “Anglo-Saxons” or simply the “(early) English” was in fact a conglomerate of peoples, mainly Angles and Saxons; in different passages, Bede variously adds Jutes and/or Frisians, and sometimes other names.15 Bede did much to promote the name Angli/English for all of them, not least because of the association with angels, expressed in a famous saying attributed to Pope Gregory the Great: “Not Angles, but angels” (whereas “Saxons” could be understood as “stones” or “daggers”). And the Longobards only got their name at the beginning of their written history; in later manuscript catalogues, Paul the Deacon’s History of the Longobards was occasionally still entered as “History of the Winnili.” This does not mean that these peoples had no solid identities, and in a sense the onomastic multiplicity could also enhance their pride. It does however indicate that these stories were about identities in the making, not about clear-cut routines of identification.

The ethnic element of identity is prominent in the early medieval sources because, at the end of Antiquity, the countries mostly came to be named after the people by which they were inhabited , and not vice versa. Gaul became France, a large swathe of the ancient province of Liguria came to be Lombardy, the main part of Britain, England. Later, what had been Pannonia became Hungary; instead of Thrace, there was Bulgaria; and northwestern Illyricum became Croatia. Only the Goths did not reign long enough to leave their name on their former realms. In the long run, some of the ancient territorial designations in Europe were maintained: Italy, Spain, Britain, Greece/Hellas (Belgium was only re-appropriated by the new state in 1830), and some regional names such as Aquitaine, Tuscany, Dalmatia, and Macedonia. A few new territorial designations appeared over the course of history, for instance Castile, Provence, Lotharingia/Lorraine, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Austria. Northern and eastern Europe, beyond the former Roman borders, have an almost exclusively ethnic topography: Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Poland, the Czech Republic, Serbia, and Russia.

This ethnic configuration of the political geography of large parts of Europe was not a straightforward development. Ethnicity was not necessarily the prime mover of medieval and early modern European history. It mattered more or less as a form of identification and social cohesion, depending on the circumstances. If the names of states and peoples on today’s map of Europe are surprisingly similar to those on a map from one thousand years ago, this is not because these peoples and states had unbroken histories of linear development. Some disappeared from the map for centuries (for instance Poland, Bulgaria, and Serbia), or their geographical position shifted (for instance Burgundy, Bulgaria, and Lithuania), or they were conquered by foreigners (for instance England by the Normans and much of southeast Europe by the Ottomans) or lived through periods of fragmentation (for instance France and Germany). For a long time, Francia was only the core of the Frankish realm, more or less today’s Île de France. But even where political independence or continuity of a sense of ethnic community were interrupted, they remained available to later appropriations. Sometimes such appropriations were fictive, and rested on the similarity of the name or of the region. For instance, the “Wends” (a German name for the Slavs) were soon identified with the long-disappeared Vandals, a self-representation which reached its peak in the late medieval and early modern period.16

What remained in place throughout all these changes was the principle of a distinction by ethnonyms. In this simple sense, “ethnicity” is a system of distinguishing between named social groupings according to their ethnonyms and ascribing collective agency to them.17 For the early Middle Ages, we have only patchy information about ethnic self-identification. However, we have ample evidence for the systematic employment of ethnic distinctions, mostly by outside observers, as shown in the example from the Historia Augusta. In that sense, the early Middle Ages were a world of gentes. In the narrative sources, collective agency was unproblematically attributed to peoples: they migrated, converted to Christianity, waged war, or raised kings. A state or a kingdom could hardly act as a collective; it was only the king as the representative of the people or the people itself who could take political action. Ethnic agency also applied to smaller groups and non-state actors, as long as they could be identified (otherwise such groups would often be generally labeled “barbarians”). In that sense, ethnicity was generally used as a system of distinctions between gentes which made it possible to structure the social world and to circumscribe collective political actors and broad, inclusive social groups. This raises problems of definition: can we distinguish between ethnic and other social groups, or do they represent a continuum in early medieval usage? And what distinguishes an ethnonym from a territorial or political label?

It is hard (and controversial) to define “ethnic.”’ in an unambiguous way. Many scholars offer definitions with lists of distinctive features (common origin, memories, language, culture, customs, costume, territory, etc.).18 These kinds of definitions mostly apply to urban or territorial identities as much as they do to ethnic identities. There are also subjective definitions, according to which ethnic identity is determined by a subjective sense of belonging to a group.19 However, we have relatively little evidence of actual subjective self-definitions in the early Middle Ages. Therefore, I would propose four answers to the question of definition.

First, we all know in everyday usage what an “ethnic” name is, and so did ancient and medieval historians. Our understanding obviously differs little, for instance, from the one laid out by Isidore of Seville in his Etymologies in the seventh century, which remained popular throughout the Middle Ages. Most of the nomina gentium which he lists (with etymological explanations) are also ethnonyms by our standards.20 They include the Romans (at the time often considered one gens among others), but otherwise only a few groups that we might not consider as ethnic. Isidore also discusses the terminology (gens, natio) and the relationship between peoples and languages. The unquestioned assumption is that after the Flood, the world was divided up by gentes according to their descendance from the sons of Noah.21 Consequently, Isidore defines gens as a multitude descended from one origin, but he then adds an alternative: “or distinguished by its particular grouping.”22 The twenty books of his Etymologies contain only two other chapters which provide exhaustive lists of named social groups: imaginary peoples (the “monstrous races,” that is, fantastic ethnicity) and Christian heresies (often named after their founder, for instance “Arianism”).23 Isidore was surely able to draw the line between gentes and other social groups. The same applies to the general historiographical use of ethnonyms, most of which seem to correspond to modern notions of ethnicity.

Second, as noted above, according to ancient and medieval perceptions, countries and polities cannot act, only people and their representatives can. In our political language, Washington or France can take political action. Rome or the regnum of the Franks do not have agency, only the senatus populusque Romanus or the rex and the gens Francorum can act. The ancient populus essentially implied a political definition of the “people,” not an ethnic one. In the ancient period, the notion of civic identity was so strong that the populus, the people of a city, dominated the political landscape and the historical narratives. In the early Middle Ages, this changed, and the gentes came to the fore. Thus, the Romans came to be regarded as one gens among many.24 Still, there are some cases in which the texts also attribute the same kind of agency to groups that we might not regard as ethnic, for instance the “Romans” of the eastern Roman Empire (who by our standards were mostly Greeks) or the populations of cities (for instance the Venetians), (former) provinces (the Aquitanians), and smaller kingdoms (the Mercians). Our more neutral term “peoples” may thus be more appropriate to cover the entire range of collective agents.

This leads to the third element of definition: on a pragmatic level, an ethnonym is defined by its position in a horizontal system of distinctions within the social world. If the prevalent distinction is between gentes, then named collective actors whom we would not regard as ethnic groups (Romans, Normans, or Venetians, for instance) tend to be ethnicized as well, and can be presented in the texts as a gens Romanorum, Normannorum, and Veneticorum.

The fourth element of a terminological clarification tends to be narrower. The term gens, which is overwhelmingly used for early medieval peoples, comes from gignere, to procreate; genus and natio have a similar etymological background. This suggests that gentes were understood as “having a common origin,” regardless of whether or not the people in question actually did. In this context, “ethnic,” in my view, can most usefully be understood as a perceived intrinsic quality that is in the people themselves: common blood, common origin, or a similar quality. Thus, it needs no defining point of reference outside the person, such as a city, a land, a polity, or a religious cult.25 One can be a Goth or a Hun wherever one is, under Hunnic, Gothic, or Roman rule, as a pagan or a Christian. Of course, in most cases ethnic identities attach themselves to territorial, political, religious, or other identities and form amalgamates of identification. Yet it is methodologically more advantageous to be able to distinguish between these different elements of identification in order to analyze how their relative significance changes. For instance, is the affiliation with the people crucial, or is the affiliation with the land more important? It makes a difference whether a royal title is rex Hungarorum or rex Hungariae. However, it is not a fundamental difference (the land is named after the people), but a gradual one.

The approach defined by these four methodological principles is necessarily flexible. It cannot rely on one clear definition which can be used for all periods, but compels us to historicize our concepts. The goal is not to decide whether or not an early medieval people “was” an ethnic group. That would be a static and not very productive approach. Three questions may be more interesting. One is the question of the extent to which a people or peoples in general were regarded by contemporaries in ways that fit our criteria for ethnicity. The second is the question of our heuristic purposes to use the concepts of ethnicity and ethnic identity. Thirdly, this gradual approach allows us to assess how the salience and meaning of ethnicity changed over time or differed in different contexts at the same time.

This flexible approach also allows us to deal with a good number of problematic cases of ethnonyms. First, some ethnonyms found in biblical, ancient, or medieval sources are clearly fictive. But as argued above, educated observers could basically distinguish between actual people and “monstrous races.” As we have seen, Isidore draws clear distinctions between them.26 Second, frequently ancient and outdated names were used, which were sometimes conjured up to make the victories of a Roman emperor seem more impressive or, in other cases, to refer to ethnographic stereotypes or relatively stable identifications of earlier with later peoples. Thus, the Huns could be called Scythians, the Avars Scythians and Huns, and the Hungarians by all of these names.27

Third, names employed by outsiders could consistently differ from the name used for self-identification. This can be an enormously stable practice: the Hellenes have been called “Greeks” by many of their neighbors for more than 2000 years, and they still are. If such a case of cultural translation is well-established and generally known, it may create surprisingly few problems. The modern Deutschen are called Germans by the English, Allemands by the French, Tedeschi by the Italians, Němci (or something similar) by many Slavic peoples, and Saksa by the Finns, but everybody seems to be well aware who is who.

Names for collectives only mentioned in isolated texts may not help much to establish any “real” identities. More frequent mentions at least allow one to trace consistent naming practices within a wider system of distinction. It may still be difficult to grasp to what extent this mental map corresponded to social practice, or in this case, to an ethnic identity. A decisive criterion is whether there is evidence to suggest interaction and communication between the author of the source, his environment, and the people in question. In general, the representatives of the Roman, Byzantine, or Carolingian empires could hardly afford to deal with their many neighbors on the basis of totally fictitious mental maps. Some inconsistencies are always noticeable, especially in the barbarian lands and the steppe zone; in many cases, they may point to shifting identifications. At almost the same time, around 550, both Jordanes and Procopius provided a generally consonant, but to some extent contradictory map of peoples living around the Black Sea.28 East Roman diplomats and travelers provided the material for these kinds of ethnographic descriptions. The contact with Romans may even have convinced some smaller peoples in the area that they were in fact Scythians or Huns.

Byzantine name-giving, according to Florin Curta’s hypothesis, gave the impulse for the spread of the name “Slavs.”29 As I have argued, at least in the Latin West, the name “Slavs” came from Constantinople, not from communication with the Slavs themselves.30 We can trace the way in which the use of the name spread, for instance through a letter of the exarch of Ravenna, who informed Pope Gregory I, who had previously only spoken of “barbarians.” John of Biclaro, who had spent many years in Constantinople, introduced it in distant Spain. Frankish authors only employed it in the seventh century. The European Avars, ridiculed as “pseudo-Avars” by the Byzantines, were supposed to have soon adopted a prestigious name given them by other peoples; Turks and Byzantines initially called them “Varchonites.”31 The Byzantines very insistently called the Magyars/Hungarians “Turks,” and even sent a golden crown to the Hungarian king with the inscription “kralēs Tourkias,” King of Turkey; but this never turned into a self-designation.32

These and similar examples should not be used in support of the claim that ethnic identities were infinitely malleable and did not really matter. Ethnicity mattered, not least because it was controversial and not easy to handle on a conceptual level. It was always a matter of communication and cultural translation, and a way of placing oneself and one’s own community within a wider world of gentes. This ethnic landscape was constantly changing, but at the same time, it also provided a familiar long-term perspective for identifications. Most ethnonyms that one finds in early medieval sources were used for considerably longer than an individual lifetime. They made the world more predictable, in part because the names and some of the background information connected with the respective peoples hinted at what one could expect from them.

Given the evidence that we have, then, ethnicity can most easily be studied on the discursive level as a way of structuring the social world and of ascribing agency to broad social groups. In pre-modern societies, there were not many levels on which the naming of macro-groups was so systematically pursued. In many historical contexts, ethnonyms and a very culture-specific terminology of peoplehood shaped perceptions of large groupings and guided political decisions. For instance, it made a big difference in Late Antiquity whether groups immigrating from beyond the Roman border were perceived simply as unspecified “barbarians” or were identified using ethnic distinctions (which made it possible to play them off against one another and to rely on previous experiences with the same or similar groups). Apart from serving as a cognitive tool, ethnic discourse also provided a powerful framework with which to express “visions of community.” It could be extended far beyond the range of groupings that we would describe as “ethnic,” at least in metaphorical ways. For instance, as Denise Buell has shown, the early Christians could be described in ethnic terms.33 That makes the concept of ethnicity hard to delineate and define. We would hesitate to class Christians as an ethnic group. On the other hand, such uses indicate the potential of ethnic language to promote social cohesion or, indeed, disruption. It is the very success of ethnicity in many historical contexts that makes the concept fuzzy for scholarly uses. Yet this is the challenge that makes research on ethnicity so interesting.



Primary Sources

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Chastagnol, André, ed. Historia Augusta. Paris: Robert Laffont, 1994.

Iordanes. Getica. Edited by Theodor Mommsen. Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Auctores Antiquissimi 5.1. Berlin: Weidmann, 1882.

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Isidore of Seville. “History of the Goths.” Translated by Kenneth Baxter Wolf. In Conquerors and Chroniclers of Early Medieval Spain [TTH9], 79–109. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1999.

Origo gentis Langobardorum. Edited by Georg Waitz. Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Scriptores rerum Langobardicarum et Italicarum saec. Vols 6–9. Hannover: Hahn, 1878.

Paul the Deacon. Historia Langobardorum. Edited by Georg Waitz. Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Scriptores rerum Langobardicarum et Italicarum saec. Vols. 6–9. Hannover: Hahn, 1878. [English translation: History of the Lombards. Translated by William Dudley Foulke. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1907.]

Procopius. Bella. Edited by H. B. Dewing. Loeb Classical Series. 5 vols. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1914–1928.


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Nedoma, Robert. “Der altisländische Odinsname Langbardr: ‚Langbart‘ und die Langobarden. In Die Langobarden: Herrschaft und Identität. (Forschungen zur Geschichte des Mittelalters), edited by Walter Pohl, and Peter Erhart, 439–44. Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2010.

Pohl, Walter. “Narratives of Origin and Migration in Early Medieval Europe: Problems of Interpretation.” In Narratives of Ethnic and Tribal Origins, edited by Walter Pohl and Daniel Mahoney. Special issue, Medieval History Journal (forthcoming Autumn 2018).

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Pohl, Walter. “Aux origines d’une Europe ethnique: Identités en transformation entre antiquité et moyen âge.” Annales: Histoire, Sciences sociales 60, no. 1 (2005): 183–208.

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Pohl, Walter. “Introduction: Strategies of identification. A methodological profile.” In Strategies of Identification: Ethnicity and Religion in Early Medieval Europe, edited by Walter Pohl and Gerda Heydemann, 1–64. Turnhout: Brepols, 2013.

Pohl, Walter. “Huns, Avars, Hungarians – Comparative Perspectives Based on Written Evidence.” In The Complexity of Interaction along the Eurasian Steppe Zone in the First Millennium CE. Contributions to Asian Archaeology, vol. 7, edited by Jürgen Bemmann and Michael Schmauder, 693–702. Bonn: Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität, 2015.

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Smith, Anthony D. The Ethnic Origins of Nations. London: Wiley-Blackwell, 1986.

Transformations of Romanness in the Early Middle Ages: Regions and Identities. Edited by Clemens Gantner, Cinzia Grifoni, Walter Pohl, and Marianne Pollheimer. Berlin–New York: de Gruyter, forthcoming 2018.

Wenskus, Reinhard. Stammesbildung und Verfassung: Das Werden der frühmittelalterlichen gentes. Cologne–Vienna: Böhlau, 1977).

Wolfram, Herwig. “Origo et Religio: Ethnic Traditions and Literature in Early Medieval Texts.” Early Medieval Europe 3 (1994): 19–38.

1 In general: Pohl, “Aux origines d’une Europe ethnique.” The research leading to these results has received funding from the Austrian Science Fund (FWF), Project F 42-G 18 – SFB ‘Visions of Community’ (VISCOM).

2 Origo gentis Langobardorum 1; Paul the Deacon, Historia Langobardorum 1:7–8.

3 Waitz, Origo gentis Langobardorum, 1.

4 Pohl, “Narratives of Origin.”; Wolfram, “Origo et Religio..”

5 Nedoma, “Der altisländische Odinsname Langbardr .”

6 Paul the Deacon, History of the Lombards, 1:7–8; translation based on Foulke.

7 Isidore of Seville, Etymologiae, IX.2:95.

8 Pohl, “Gender and ethnicity in the early middle ages.”

9 Geary, Women at the Beginning. Origin Myths from the Amazons to the Virgin Mary, 22–24.

10 Chastagnol, Historia Augusta, 33 f., 1004.

11 Liccardo, “Different gentes, Same Amazons.”

12 Isidore of Seville, Etymologiae, IX.2.

13  Idem, History of the Goths, 108.

14  Ibid., IX.2.89. See also Pohl and Dörler, “Isidore and the gens Gothorum.”

15  Bede, “Historia Ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum.” See Pohl, “Ethnic names and identities in the British Isles.”

16 Steinacher, Roland, “Wenden, Slawen, Vandalen.“

17 Although some scholars claim that, I cannot see any heuristic advantage in denying that a distinction of social groups by ethnonyms, nomina gentium, can be regarded as ‘ethnic’.

18 See for instance: Smith, The Ethnic Origins of Nations.

19 Wenskus, Stammesbildung und Verfassung. This was an important step in overcoming objective, ‘essentialist’ definitions of ethnicity.

20 Isidore of Seville, Etymologies, IX.2.

21 Ibid. (with enumeration of the gentes descended from each of the sons of Noah). Unlike the wording of the Old Testament, “the peoples were divided on earth,” divisae sunt gentes in terra (Gn. 10.32), Isidore’s phrase assumes that the entire earth was divided up by the gentes: Gentes autem a quibus divisa est terra, the peoples by whom the world was divided.

22 Ibid., IX.2.1 (gens est multitudo ab uno principio orta sive ab alia natione secundum propriam collectionem distincta).

23 Ibid., XI.3 and VIII.5.

24 Transformations of Romanness.

25 Pohl, “Introduction: Strategies of identification.”

26 Isidore of Seville, Etymologiae, lists the gentes, i.e. actual peoples, in Book IX. (‘De gentium vocabulis’, IX.2), and the ‘monstra’ among the gentes in XI.3, ‘De portentibus’.

27 Pohl, Die Awaren.; reworked English translation forthcoming: The Avars.

28 Procopius, Bella, vol. 5, 8.5.31–33, 99; Iordanes, Getica 6.37, 5.1, 63.; Pohl, Avars.

29 Curta, The Making of the Slavs.

30 Pohl, Avars.

31 Ibid.

32 Pohl, “Huns, Avars, Hungarians.”

33 Buell, Why this New Race?

pdfVolume 7 Issue 1 CONTENTS

Comparative Approaches to Ethnonyms: The Case of the Persians

Odile Kommer, Salvatore Liccardo, Andrea Nowak

Odile Kommer: Institute for Social Anthropology at the Austrian Academy of Sciences
Salvatore Liccardo: Institute for Medieval Research at the Austrian Academy of Sciences
Andrea Nowak: Department of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Vienna

This article1 examines ethnonyms for Persians in Medieval Latin, Greek, and Arabic sources. These ethnonyms are part of ethnic terminologies which changed over time and varied in different regional contexts. The ethnonyms for Persians are approached in different textual genres from a combination of historiographical, philological, and social anthropological perspectives. In the first part, the investigation of Persians in Late Antique source material sets out from the Tabula Peutingeriana and examines the entries on the map which refer to the Persians, highlighting both their ethnic and political meanings. The second part deals with source material on medieval South Arabia. First, it focuses on the texts of the tenth-century Yemeni scholar al-Hamdānī and his use of a set of ethnonyms for the Persian minority population, of which each term evokes a different association. This is followed by an analysis of the early thirteenth-century account of Persian traveler Ibn al-Mujāwir, in which the roles and meanings of ethnonyms for Persians in different narrative units are discussed. This case study shows that there are interdependencies between ethnonyms and other means of identification, such as language, lifestyle, place of dwelling, kinship, descent, and the division of the world into different spatial and ideological realms. The case of the Persians illustrates how the authors under discussion used ethnonyms as part of narrative strategies which support processes of selfing and othering.

Keywords: ethnonyms, ethnicity, historical geography, Alexander narrative, Late Antiquity, (Early) Middle Ages, South Arabia, Tabula Peutingeriana, Persian

This article focuses on the study of ethnonyms in medieval sources from Mediterranean Europe and Southern Arabia, or historical Yemen, through a comparative and interdisciplinary approach. In our understanding, ethnonyms are group designations which express ethnic differentiation. Thus, the terminological distinctions of collective groups never refer to bounded ethnic categories, nor are they fixed in their application. In this article, the case of “the Persians” serves as an example of the construction of identities through the use of ethnonyms by authors with different regional, temporal, and stylistic backgrounds in their historiographical, geographical, or cartographical accounts, as well as in literary narratives from medieval Mediterranean Europe and Southern Arabia.2 Broader categories of comparison are necessary, which are representative of various academic disciplines, including history, philology, and social anthropology.3 By thoroughly examining the sources, we have identified the following often interrelated key concepts and used them as additional categories of comparison: myths, notions of space, use of terminology, and (pseudo-)etymology.

We argue that the medieval authors under scrutiny employed ethnonyms as conceptual tools, and that ethnonyms were thus made meaningful. The Arabic sources for this case study on ethnonyms for “Persians” include two historical works by the tenth-century Yemeni scholar al-Hamdānī and a travelogue by the early thirteenth-century Persian author Ibn al-Mujāwir. The Latin and Greek source material includes the Tabula Peutingeriana and literary sources from Late Antique and Early Medieval authors.

Myths, Notions of Space, and Environmental Determinism

Myths often feature elements of great narratives which meet a universal human need for the expression of particular conditions. In this sense, they can function as a code of understandings of the world. In mythical narratives, the self and the other interact, as do human and divine elements. Furthermore, mythical narratives contain a processual element, which Angelika Neuwirth calls “myth[s] in a broken form.”4 In these narrative processes, the authors employ popular literary topoi with which they provide meaningful contributions to broader discourses.5 In the context of the analysis of ethnonyms and collective processes of identification it becomes evident that the medieval authors’ narrative strategies not only include mythical features, but that these mythical features are often linked to notions of space. In their accounts, real and imagined places, the distinction between center and periphery, environmental determinism, and spaces and places of collective memory function as unifying or separating elements. For example, a people’s ethnogenesis is constructed through processes of selfing and othering, often in reference to a certain place. As we argue in this article, ethnonyms obtain their various meanings precisely in this interplay of factors.

The Biblical-Quranic founders and ancestors of the South Arabians, together with environmental and climatic conditions, are the central elements of a mythically narrated moment in which the formation process of not only a town, but a South Arabian existence is explained. Environmental determinism is the notion that the physical environment exerts a determining influence on human societies and cultures. In South Arabian mythical narratives, the influence of planetary and stellar constellations on people and climates is particularly emphasized. The notion of environmental determinism was borrowed from Hellenistic Greek discourses and has later been applied in many regions of the world. It has often been used to suggest that some peoples are more advanced than others. In the beginning of his ifat jazīrat al-ˁarab, al-Hamdānī introduces the division of the world into seven “climates” (ˀaqālīm, sg. iqlīm) in accordance with the Ptolemaic idea.6 He locates Sanaa and South Arabia in the first climate and marshals different arguments to prove that the first climate is the best and, therefore, its inhabitants are also more advanced. According to the myth, the descent from Sām (Shem) through Qaḥṭān (Joktan) and Sanaa as the initial place of settlement in South Arabia are substantiated. The narrative strengthens the authenticity of the South Arabians, as well as the qaḥṭānīyūn and their South Arabian identity, by which they differentiated themselves from the North Arabians, the ˁadnānīyūn.

Although largely following Ptolemy’s view, al-Hamdānī disagrees with him concerning a climatic region named by Ptolemy after the Ethiopians (al-abasha), to which Yemen (South Arabia) is also assigned.7 It is particularly the terminological designation of this area as that of the Ethiopians which al-Hamdānī rejects. South Arabia and northeast Africa competed for power for centuries. Al-Hamdānī’s use of the term al-abasha refers to the territory and the dynasty of Aksum, which was a threat to the South Arabian kingdom of the Ḥimyar, and, in the third century, gained control over Yemen. In the sixth century, the abasha were finally expelled from South Arabia with the help of the Sasanian army. Al-Hamdānī takes a stance not only against the subsuming of Yemenis and Ethiopians in a geographical and terminological sense, but also against the idea of shared physical and personal characteristics. Ptolemy describes the area, ranging from the equator up to the middle of the Hijaz (the western part of the Arabian Peninsula), as being extremely exposed to the sun, which causes black skin-color, dark, frizzy, and thick hair, and the (allegedly) hot or even “uncivilized” temperament of its inhabitants. Al-Hamdānī argues against this, saying that the abasha are only a minority in this area and that the skin color of the inhabitants of the region varies greatly. From the perspective of skin color, some of the inhabitants of the region are in strong contrast to the abasha. He identifies the inhabitants of the Arabian Peninsula and of China (al-īn) as such people, located at the edge of this zone. Obviously, al-Hamdānī dislikes the idea of subsuming the South Arabians and the Ethiopians under the same climatic zone, which would imply that they were similarly affected by environmental conditions and therefore share some characteristics. African ancestry was generally associated with inferior status by Arab authors, often related to racial stereotypes.8 Both the regional history of South Arabia and the desire to see the two ethnic categories as separate motivate al-Hamdānī to make these contentions.

The necessity of drawing a distinction between the abasha and the ˁarab (“Arabs”) is also expressed in a mythical tale recounted by Ibn al-Mujāwir in his Taˀrīkh al-Mustabir.9 According to the story, the territory of the abasha was originally connected to the territory of the ˁarab through a stretch of dry land, an empty valley which reached from Suez to Bab al-Mandab. Dhū l-Qarnayn,10 the mythical hero figure Alexander the Great, then opened up Bab al-Mandab so the seawater would pour forth, flood the valley, and form the Red Sea. By creating the Red Sea, Alexander the Great intended to separate the two regions and grant each people their own territory under their own rule, so that the violent conflict between the abasha and the ˁarab would finally come to an end. Alexander’s intentions notwithstanding, the abasha did not cease invading South Arabia and besieging its inhabitants until much later in history.



Anthropogeography, Terminology, and the Affective Dimension of (Pseudo-)Etymology

In Late Antique and Early Medieval Latin and Greek literature, ethnonyms played a central role in authors’ sense of place. While cartographic representations of the world seem to have been uncommon,11 geographical knowledge was spread through numerous geographical treatises. Being purely textual, these works reflect an image of the world as the product of the totality of names of places and peoples. Thus, ethnonyms constitute a fundamental part of the conceptualization of space. Their importance for the Roman and post-Roman sense of place, as well as their longevity, made ethnonyms a central instrument in authors’ attempts to understand and organize a shifting ethnic landscape. Ethnonyms served both to contextualize the gentes dwelling on the periphery of the Roman world and to support coeval political agendas.

Medieval Arabic geography, more precisely the classical school of the tenth century, was primarily concerned with cartographical material which depicted the (Islamic) world. These maps were accompanied by rather short explanatory commentaries.12 Ibn Ḥawqal revised, rewrote, and expanded the literary commentary of the work of his predecessor al-Iṣṭakhrī and thereby crafted a geographical treatise of considerable breadth, the Kitāb ūrat al-ar (The Book of the Image of the World).13 Ibn al-Mujāwir copied a section from this work for his South Arabian travelogue, in which Ibn Ḥawqal defines “the homeland of the Arabs,” diyār al-ˁarab.14 This section offers an example of how an ethnonym was used in an internal differentiation within the Islamic world. To define “the homeland of the Arabs,” the author takes into account elements of physical geography, i.e. mountains, landscapes, seas, deserts, and steppes, but also administrative districts and tribal territories. The ethnonym for “Arabs” is combined with the word diyār – diyār al-ˁarab. In the text and on the map, the word diyār is used again, but together with several tribal names to signify tribal territories. The meaning of the word diyār indicates that the sense of place is shaped by social and political interaction. Dār, the singular of diyār, means “dwelling, abode, house” and is often part of compound words that take on abstract meanings, e.g. dār al-aman “house of safety” and dār al-arb “house of war.” These expressions refer to places/territories which are defined by military conflicts and peace treaties.15 In the expression diyār al-ˁarab, the ethnonym is used to represent the home of a large ethnic group that in itself is not homogenous; this home is further structured through a geographical and tribal terminology.

Moreover, ethnonyms can be loaded with stereotypical qualities and values. In such cases, ethnonyms take on an affective dimension which has an impact on the way they are used or influences social encounters with the respective group. If ethnonyms are applied in this manner, categorical projections of positive or negative ascriptions are made to the respective group. The affective substance of an ethnonym is particularly interesting from the perspective of the distinction between self-ascription and the ascription by others. Even though ascriptions by others can have neutral or positive connotations, they frequently entail negative characteristics and fuel processes of othering.16 While some ethnonyms do not have an obvious disparaging tone, many of the names used by Roman rhetoricians and historians have a strong affective value. When they refer to people’s looks, for instance in the case of the Lombards (who were given this name because of their long beards17) or way of life, for instance the Arabes Scenitae (who were given this name because they dwelled in tents18), ethnonyms can highlight the “barbaritas” of distant peoples and reinforce Roman attitudes towards non-Romans.

Fantastic pseudo-etymologies, a specialty of the author and traveler Ibn al-Mujāwir, can add affective value to ethnonyms and give new connotations to a group’s name. The author explains that the Arabs call the inhabitants of the highland of Ẓafār and those of the islands Soqotra and al-Masīra al-saara, “the sorcerers,” since, as he claims, al-sir, “sorcery,” is their innate characteristic. This attribution conveys a strong sense of otherness which stands in close relation to the theme of insularity. Perceived as self-contained worlds due to their remoteness, islands inspired all kinds of ideas about the other.19 These stories could be used to evoke a sense of normalcy and self-affirmation among the readership.20 It is also possible that in this case the author misinterpreted the Arabic designation for the South Arabian Seri-speakers,21 since in Arabic the root consonants s--r bear the meaning “magic” or “sorcery.”

Resorting to synonyms, i.e. literary or archaic versions of the same name, Latin and Greek authors could adapt their ethnic terminology according to the political and cultural climate. The use of antiquated ethnonyms to describe Late Antique gentes, as in the case of the Goths (which were often designated as Scythians or Getae), was not only a matter of style. By repeating ancient ethnic denominations, writers could flaunt their literary knowledge, but they also drew the attention of their readership to older narratives concerning the peoples in question. This literary strategy could be considered a sort of “defense mechanism.”22 In other words, it reinforced the belief that the new ethnonyms (such as “Goths”) did not prove the existence of new peoples. This rhetorical device clearly shines through Synesius of Cyrene’s speech addressed to the emperor Arcadius. In an attempt to urge the emperor to pursue a more aggressive policy against the Goths, Synesius considers the new ethnonym a forgery made by the barbarians to frighten the Romans, to make them believe that another foreign nation had sprung from the soil.23

In what follows, we show how ethnonyms, considered as conceptual tools, were used together with the above exemplified key concepts to form distinctive discourses in the particular case of the Persians. In Part I of the case study, Salvatore Liccardo analyzes the way in which Persians are portrayed on the Tabula Peutingeriana. Since the Tabula Peutingeriana represents a compendium of Greco-Roman geographical and cartographical knowledge, a study of the visual and written representations of the Persians on the map will serve to highlight both the adaptability and diffusion of ethnonyms, which shaped and supported a specific ethnic discourse or political agenda. In Part II, Odile Kommer studies how the Yemeni author al-Hamdānī applies different ethnonyms for Persians and how this relates to strategies of selfing and othering in the context of interethnic relations between the tribal majority population of the Yemen and local Persian minorities. Her contribution is based on an analysis of al-Ḥasan al-Hamdānī’s Kitāb ifat jazīrat al-ˁarab and Kitāb al-Jawharatayn al-ˁaīqatayn al-māˀiˁatayn min al-afrāˀ wa-l-bayāˀ, Arabic sources written in Yemen in the tenth century. Andrea Nowak examines how Ibn al-Mujāwir, in his thirteenth-century travelogue Taˀrīkh al-Mustabir, traces the presence of the Persians in Yemen throughout its history and along the travel route. Since the travel genre presents a rich blend of styles and topics, it provides different narrative units in which ethnonyms are charged with meaning. Furthermore, Part II offers an example of how an Arabic exonym which predominantly conveyed negative ideas about a (Persian) other later became a neutral and, eventually, positive connoted Persian self-ascription.

The Case of the Persians Part I – Late Roman Empire

According to C. R. Whittaker, the Tabula Peutingeriana is “the only certain map, in any sense that we would recognize it, to survive from antiquity (…) although preserved in a medieval copy.”24 The map was intended to represent the entire inhabited world (in Greek oἰκουμένη), from the Atlantic Ocean in the West to India in the East. Despite its impressive size (6.75 m long and 32-34 cm high), the copy in our possession is, however, incomplete, since it is missing the western extremity, grosso modo, corresponding to the west coast of North Africa, the Iberian peninsula and most of the British Isles. While the history of this copy is rather clear,25 the dating of its archetype remains a topic of heated debate. For the purpose of this article, suffice it to say that there is a certain degree of academic consensus on the dating of the last redaction of the Tabula to the Late Antique period, more specifically to the first half of the fifth century.26 Among the several thousand writings on the Tabula Peutingeriana, a handful concern the Persians. These elements of the map represent the focus of the present analysis, which aims to highlight the essential connection between sense of place, ethnographic reasoning, and imperial political discourse.

References to Persians consist of regional names, city names, and ethnonyms. Although these entries are not particularly abundant, the Persian world appears to occupy a significant place in the imagination of the mapmakers. The most visible entry, PERSIDA (10B5–11C3),27 designates a vast territory stretching from the Tigris to the Indus River. Though it is located in a somewhat peripheral area which the mapmakers knew only partially, Persia differs in no way from any other region. As in the case of the Roman provinces, the map’s coverage focuses primarily on the street network and the urban centers. The only significant difference is represented by the use of the Persian unit of itinerant distance, the parasang, instead of the Roman mile.28

Regarding the presence of other territorial names, the Tabula includes also the rubric PARRIA (11C1–11C2), indicating the region of Parthia. The size and position of this caption seem to reflect its relation to the term PERSIDA. One name, Parthia, clearly represents a subcategory of a bigger entity, Persia, which encompasses a much larger number of cities and streets. Turning one’s attention to city names, one can find the illustrious urban centers of Ctesiphon (capital of the Sasanian Empire), Ecbatana (capital of Media and subsequently one of the seats of the Parthian kings), and Persepolis (royal residence of the Achaemenes).29 Both the entry for Ecbatana and the entry for Persepolis contain a specific reference to the ethnic component of these cities. Ecbatana is called “Ecbatana of the Parthians,” and Persepolis is defined as the “Persian commercial hub.” The coexistence of Persians and Parthians on the map mirrors the ethnic reasoning of Late Antique writers, who often used Parthi and Persae as synonyms.30 Although several sources mention the shift of power from the Arsacid to the Sasanian Empire,31 in Roman accounts Persians and Parthians appear as part of the same ethnic entity, sharing customs and ethnographical stereotypes.

The ethnonym “Persian” recurs on the Tabula on two other occasions.32 Halfway between the regions of Mesopotamia and Persia, squeezed in a complex and confused fluvial system, there are the entries TROGODITI PERSI (10B5) and FLVMEIPERSI (10B5). They are examples of ethnic “double names.” Within this category fall ethnonyms composed of a known ethnic denomination and a second textual element which serves to specify the group in question. In most cases, these double names represent a particular ethnic subgroup belonging to a larger gens. For example, the entries ESSEDONES SCYTHAE (11A3) and ROXULANI SARMATE (7A5) refer to specific groupings ascribed to the broader ethnicities of Scythians and Sarmatians. In other cases, a textual element matched with an ethnic umbrella term can hint at something more than a simple subgroup. It can evoke the geography of a people’s dwelling, their way of life, their physical appearance, and their political structure, or it may even recall a literary figure.33 In the case of the entries TROGODITI PERSI and FLVMEIPERSI, the double names, placed a few centimeters away from each other, represent two groups which share the same ethnic origin: they are both considered Persians. Although one can only speculate about their exact meaning, an analysis of these entries will serve to highlight both the ethnographic knowledge and the political agenda of the authors of the map.

The inscription FLVMEIPERSI represents the most enigmatic case. As the inscription exists today, on the only surviving copy of the map, the legend is obscure. It could be that the term reflects the mapmakers’ decision to coin a neologism in order to emphasize the exotic nature of this people. Another possibility is that the ethnonym is unintelligible, because one or more different hands involved in the transmission did not understand and, therefore, did not reproduce a previously existing abbreviation. For a better understanding, it is necessary to propose a significant emendation of the inscription FLVMEIPERSI.34

Although any interpretation of this legend is simply a more or less informed conjecture, one could suppose that the term Flumei refers to an unspecified Flumen. Emended as Fluminei Persae, the inscription would mean “the Persians of the River.” This explanation has some advantages. It is close to the text and seems to reflect the location of the inscription, which is stretched out in close proximity to a watercourse. Additional perspectives can be gained by looking at other double names on the Tabula Peutingeriana that seem to allude to the specific geographical area inhabited by a given ethnic subgroup. For instance, the legend PARALOCAESCYTHAE (10A4) has been interpreted as referring to Scythians living on the coast of the Caspian Sea,35 while the inscription RVMI SCYTHAE (11A1) arguably refers to another group of Scythians dwelling near the River Rhymmus.36 Finally, the map also has the legends VAPII (1A2) and VARII (1A3), which plausibly relate to two ancient Germanic ethnonyms with their typical ending (“varii”).37 If Amsivarii and Chasuarii were the correct reading of the terms on the Tabula, these two terms would be another two ethnonyms on the map that may have been derived from the name of a river, since there is a connection between Amsivarii and the river Ems, as well as between the Chasuarii and the river Hase.38

However, the Fluminei Persae would differ slightly from the aforementioned cases, because the name is an allusion not to a specific river but to an unnamed one.39 A look at the Cosmographia of Julius Honorius,40 a geographical treatise which is roughly coeval to the Tabula Peutingeriana, might help find a more equivalent example. In one of the different catalogues which constitute this work, one finds the ethnonym Fluminenses gens.41 Based on its position in the text (after the Feratenses and the Barzufulitani, but before the Quinquegentiani) and its content, Philippe Leveau has proposed interpreting this name as referring to a specific group of Mazices, a people of Mauretania Caesariensis, which lived next to the River Chelif.42 Since the Tabula Peutingeriana and the Cosmographia are similar, both in terms of chronology and the ethnonyms employed,43 the Fluminenses could represent an analogous case to the FLVMEIPERSI and therefore support the interpretation of the map’s legend as referring to the “Persians of the river.”

On the basis of this reasoning, one could hypothesize that TROGODITI PERSI and FLVMEIPERSI were used by the mapmakers to designate two ethnic groups living in two different environments. The “Persians of the River” could represent the inhabitants of the Tigris and Euphrates river valley, while the “Persian Troglodytes” could be the dwellers of the Zagros Mountains. However, the ethnic “double name” TROGODITI PERSI carries a meaning broader than a simple geographical characterization.

The last consideration introduces a subject central to this section of this article: the analysis and contextualization of the legend TROGODITI PERSI. Albeit less obscure, this inscription is also unclear. First, the text needs a small emendation: the inclusion of an ‘l’ in the term Trogoditi, which should read Trog<l>oditi. The unusual location of the legend is also problematic. In the segments representing the eastern and far eastern lands, the depiction of both physical and urban landscapes is often inaccurate. Nevertheless, the discrepancy between the content of the inscription TROGODITI PERSI and its position is particularly striking, because of the ethnographic tradition and evocative power connected to the term “troglodytes.” While Greek and Roman geographers used this term in connection with various ethnic groups living on the fringe of the inhabited world, most frequently in Ethiopia, the authors of the map put the cave dwellers next to a meander of the Tigris, making the homeland of this people anything but peripheral. In contrast with the comparative absence of cities and roads typical of the northern periphery of the ecumene, here city names and streets proliferate.

Nonetheless, this abundance of details is not the result of precise geographical knowledge of the region. The depiction appears chaotic and in some cases utterly wrong. The Mesopotamic fluvial system is far from being exact. The river Tigris, for example, has many incongruous characteristics. First, it gushes from a small mountain chain and then crosses another much longer one. Later, it flows into a neighboring river, the morphology of which is even more bewildering,44 and finally, after twisting with the latter, it flows into a circular inland body of water, named Palvdes (10C3). The number and location of cities and roads reflect a picture just as baffling. A few place names are written twice in two different positions of the map. This is the case with Sinjar, present on the map as Singara (10B5) and Sirgora (10C4, without a symbol), and Ain Sinu, on the map as Zagvrae (10B5) and Zogorra (10C4).45 As they doubled names, the mapmakers also doubled the relative routes (Singara-Hatris and Lacvs Beberaci-Singara). In addition to this confusion, one should mention the atypical position of the caption in question, which, due to the lack of space and the large amount of neighboring physical and urban elements, is vertical rather than horizontal.46

What is more perplexing about the entry TROGODITI PERSI is its content. The juxtaposition of the name “troglodytes” with the ethnonym Persians is unique. Late Antique Latin and Greek texts reflect a nuanced image of the Persians, who represented a sort of counterpart to the Roman world despite often being considered morally inferior.47 Accurate historical information, longstanding ethnic stereotypes, and literary metaphors and commonplaces interweave in the works of Late Antique writers, even in the writings of authors like Ammianus Marcellinus, Procopius, and Agathias, who either travelled to the eastern frontier or had (or claimed to have had) personal contact with Persians and access to Persian documents.48 Even if the depiction of Persians could vary according to author and political climate, Roman persons of letters shared a profound interest in this gens. The fourth-century historian Ammianus Mercellinus represents one of the most glaring examples of this fascination. In his historical work, known as the Res Gestae, he inserted a large number of excursuses which contain information primarily of a geographical and ethnographical nature. The section dedicated to the Persians, included in book 23 right before the account of Julian’s Persian expedition, is by far the longest.49 Since the chronology of this work (380s) is not very distant from the last redaction of the Tabula Peutingeriana, a brief analysis of Ammianus’ Persians highlights the extent to which the entry in question deviates from or converges with the opinions of his contemporaries.

Ammianus never explicitly defines the Persians as barbarians,50 yet his judgment of them cannot be considered positive. Century-old ethnographic stereotypes influenced the description of their physical features, temperament, and habits. In its desire to emulate more ancient and authoritative authors, such as Herodotus and Ptolemy, Ammianus’ digression resembles a display of erudition rather than a report of new information about Persian society. Although he seems well aware of the complexity and vastness of the Persian Empire, which is considered a patchwork of diverse peoples and disparate environments, Ammianus does not make any clear distinction among the subjects of the King of Kings when he lists the alleged virtues and vices of the Persians.51 Among their many moral flaws, he mentions their unrestrained lust (which explains why they have numerous concubines and as many wives as they can support), their effeminate posture, their vanity, and their cruelty. Ammianus’ remarks on king Sapor II (309–79) are everything but flattering: he is greedy, quick-tempered, rough, pompous, treacherous, and dishonest. Yet, Persians do not know pederasty, and they do not engage in obscene behavior, such as urinating in public. They are also extremely frugal when it comes to food and particularly disciplined on the battlefield.52

In other words, Ammianus stresses the Persians’ otherness, emphasizing their effeminacy, their licentiousness, and their cruelty, all typical traits of eastern barbarians according to Greco-Roman ethnography,53 but he also recognizes some praiseworthy aspects of their way of life, distancing himself in a few instances from the older historical tradition.54 To conclude, although the Persians share some characteristics with other barbarians and are often depicted in negative terms, they are a unique interlocutor for the Romans, an alius orbis55 representing another, although not equal, civilization. The judgment that shines through the pages of the Res Gestae seems to contradict the entry on the Tabula Peutingeriana, which puts the Persians unambiguously in the realm of the barbaricum.

However, the unusual connection of the Persians with the “troglodytes” appears less strange if one broadens the scope of the primary sources taken into consideration. While Ammianus attributes barbaric habits to Persians but never explicitly calls them barbarians, other Late Antique sources do define them as such. For example, a register of provincial, urban, and ethnic names dating to 314, the so-called Laterculus Veronensis,56 does not imply any difference between Persians and other barbaric groups. The ethnonym Persae is included in a list of gentes barbarae who spread under the authority of Roman emperors.57 For the author of this catalogue, there is no substantial difference between Persians and other barbaric groups, like Saxons, Vandals, and Goths.

One can recognize the same reasoning in a certain number of inscriptions dedicated to the emperor Julian and found in the eastern part of the empire.58 These inscriptions praise the emperor for his military, civic, and religious policies. Julian is celebrated as liberator orbis Romani, as restaurator templorum, and as recreator curiarum et rei publicae. Regarding Julian’s success over external enemies, the inscriptions contain the cognomina devictarum gentium Alamannicus, Francicus, Germanicus, and Sarmaticus.59 In a few cases, the emperor is hailed with more comprehensive victory titles, such as debellator omnium barbararum gentium, extinctor barbarorum or νικητὴς παντὸς ἔθνους βαρβαρικοῦ.60 In texts from the eastern provinces, the term barbari would likely indicate primarily the Persians, who represented the major threat in the area.61 This seems to be the most logical conclusion concerning at least two inscriptions from the Roman province of Phoenicia,62 where the text presents both cognomina, referring to individual groups of western barbarians, and the generic title extinctor barbarorum. The cognomina devictarum gentium allude to successes accomplished by Julian at the Rhine frontier in 355–58, while the pompous title extinctor barbarorum reflects the propaganda implemented by Julian and his supporters in the months preceding the Persian campaign.63

Although it does not contain the term barbari, an episode in Ammianus’ account of the Persian campaign represents one of the closest examples to the disparaging entry on the Tabula Peutingeriana. In front of an army that was increasingly demotivated and in need of supplies due to the effective scorched-earth policy of the Persians, Julian ordered some prisoners to be brought before the army and harangued his troops as follows: “Behold what those warlike spirits consider men, little ugly dirty goats; and creatures who, as many events have shown, throw away their arms and take to flight before they can come to blows.”64

The description refers to undernourished and unkempt prisoners, yet it repeats and amplifies negative stereotypes of Persians in general. The animal metaphor serves to highlight their physical repugnance and their cowardice on the battlefield. This tirade reflects the intolerant attitude towards everything that was not Roman, an attitude which formed an integral part of the political discourse supported and spread by Julian and his court.65

Libanius, a teacher of Greek rhetoric in Antioch who was a friend of and advisor to the emperor, was among the most prominent spokespersons of this anti-Persian rhetoric.66 In his orations, Persians are repeatedly and explicitly called barbarians.67 In Embassy to Julian, Libanius ascribes two quintessential barbarian vices to the Persians: the disdain for blood ties and the lack of mercy. Prone to violent outbursts, Persians act like wild beasts, while Julian is a Greek who rules over Greeks, and therefore follows a superior moral code of conduct.68 The Greek-Persian dichotomy follows the opposition human-inhuman. The political ideology supported and spread by Julian and his pagan collaborators tended to stress the Hellenic nature of Roman power.69 As stated more than once by Julian himself, Romans and Greeks belong to the same γένος: the Greeks civilized the Romans and the latter acquired, preserved, and spread the Greek religion and political institutions.70 In the political message of Julian and Libanius, the more the Romans resembled the Greeks, the more the Persians took the role of barbarians par excellence.

Although particularly evident in the works of Julian and his court, this attitude towards the Persians was not exclusive to their political and cultural discourse. Judgments of the Persians went hand in hand with the contemporary political situation. Since the rise of the Sasanian Empire in 224, Romans and Persians were in almost constant conflict.71 Mesopotamia, Syria, and Armenia were the main war zones. In a Roman world which looked on the Persians with renewed apprehension, the narrative of Alexander the Great enjoyed a period of revival. The Latin rendition of the Alexander Romance represents one pivotal example of this new interest in the figure of Alexander.72 This text, whose author is traditionally identified as Julius Valerius Alexander Polemius, consul in 338, contributed greatly to the diffusion and longevity of the myth of Alexander in medieval Europe. The Macedon and his deeds in the East represented a model for any Roman emperor who had to confront the Persian threat. If Julian was the most enthusiastic emulator of Alexander,73 other emperors aspired to follow in his footsteps.74 These are the premises on which a text known as the Itinerarium Alexandri (the latest possible date of which is 345) rests.75 Dedicated to Constantius II, this work exploits the myth of Alexander for contemporary political exigencies. Alexander’s expedition is presented both as an archetype and as an omen for the emperor, who had just started his campaign against the Persians. Significantly, the revival of the Alexander narrative also finds expression on the Tabula Peutingeriana. References to Alexander’s deeds play a central role in the map’s portrayal of the eastern lands. The campaigns of the Macedonian king are evoked through the numerous cities that bear his name (founded during or after Alexander’s reign),76 the mention of the Indian elephants,77 and especially two isolated symbols (the “altars of Alexander”), which, marking the limits of Alexander’s expeditions, define the edges of the inhabited world.78 Thus, it appears that the Alexander narrative enjoyed a period of renewed interest in Late Antiquity, a phenomenon that could be interpreted as closely linked to the contemporary political climate. The account of Alexander’s Persian campaign provided a story in which the Persians played the role of the main antagonist, who eventually succumbs, and thus the narrative served to reassure a Roman public worried about the aggressive Sasanian policy.

In light of the above, it is now possible to contextualize the entry TROGODITI PERSI on the Tabula Peutingeriana, which at first glance appears so bizarre. Contrary to the more nuanced judgment of influential historians, such as Ammianus and Procopius, the imperial discourse, influenced by the renewed popularity of the Alexander narrative, described the Persians in clear-cut negative terms. The Tabula Peutingeriana, or at least its last version, appears as the product of Roman imperial ideology. With Italy covering one-third of the map and Rome located in its center,79 the map represents the ecumene seen through the lens of Roman geography and political discourse. Moreover, the myth of Alexander, which offers a particularly disparaging image of the Persians, evidently informs the depiction of the East on the Tabula. To conclude, although the Tabula Peutingeriana represents the only instance in which the Persians are described as “troglodytes,” this legend can be interpreted as an extreme example of Late Antique anti-Persian rhetoric, which, fuelled by the political tensions at the time, repeated and adjusted themes of Alexander’s narrative and perpetuated the most derogatory stereotypes of the Persians.

The Case of the Persians Part II – South Arabia

The basis of the analysis in this article on South Arabia in the tenth century is the writings of al-Ḥasan b. Aḥmad b. Yaˁqūb al-Hamdānī (280–334 AH/894–945), a distinguished scholar, poet, and public figure. As one of Yemen’s minority groups, the Persians offer an example of al-Hamdānī’s adaptation of ethnic terminology, analyzed in consideration of its historical and ethnographic context. Applying ethnonyms in order to differentiate social categories is a universal strategy of othering. In the case of the Yemeni author, it becomes obvious that these strategies can only be understood in relation to simultaneous selfing processes, that they are primarily local, and that they are always contextual. An understanding of othering as the construction of an imagined other through the differentiation of this other from the self (often in a pejorative way) reveals a close link between this strategy and the concept of ethnicity itself, since processes of ethnic differentiation are generally based on constructions of precisely these kinds of dichotomies. The following terminological examination will clarify this.

Al-Hamdānī applies different ethnonyms to Persians in his writings: al-abnāˀ, al-furs, and al-ˁajam. Their etymological meaning and the context in which they are used in the sources are the basis of interpretation regarding the social implications of the terms and the author’s discursive strategies. Processes of selfing and othering concerning South Arabians and Persians are significantly shaped by tribal ideologies in al-Hamdānī’s account. However, his use of the different terms is fluid and cannot be clearly categorized. In spite of sectarian conflicts and continuous power struggles, particularly in the ninth and tenth centuries80 (when al-Hamdānī was writing), there is a remarkable element of continuity, most clearly expressed in the consistent use over long periods of time of tribal names and toponyms, which resist political ruptures and changes.81 This element of continuity must not be ignored in the study of tribal identities and social environments in the Yemeni highlands. The case of the Yemeni Persians further supports the argument. For many centuries, their main area of settlement remained the city of Sanaa and the surrounding region, and their most characteristic ethnonym al-abnāˀ appears consistently in the sources for about 600 years between the sixth and twelfth centuries.82

This main term for Persians (and also the term used most by al-Hamdānī), al-abnāˀ (“the sons”) in the abridged or abnāˀ al-furs (“the sons of the Persians”) in the complete form, clearly refers to the descendants of Persians, who came to Yemen at the end of the sixth century, when it fell under Sasanian rule.83 They were not regarded as “real Persians,” since they were born in Yemen and often had Yemeni mothers.84 Hence, the significance of the term is deeply rooted in the Yemeni local context and history. Al-Hamdānī mentions al-abnāˀ several times, particularly in his Kitāb ifat jazīrat al-ˁarab (Geography of the Arabian Peninsula).85 Among them were prominent personalities, individual inhabitants of towns or villages, and larger groups of the population. The designation al-abnāˀ creates a terminological relation to the tribal population of Yemen. It has the same meaning as banū (“sons”), which is a term for members of a tribal group and can be part of the tribal name. Hence, the two terms abnāˀ and banū are equivalent designations with regard to meaning, yet they are distinct markers of social groups, which is highly interesting from the perspective of an analysis of the constructions of identity and interethnic relations. Both terms are part of group designations which imply kinship references. Through banū a connection to genealogy is expressed, which marks an important factor of tribal identities. However, not every tribal group shares such an identity-establishing genealogical record or is composed of a mixture of different genealogical backgrounds. Yet the addition of banū to the tribal name conveys the impression of having one shared genealogy.86

Al-furs appears either as additional part in the construction with abnāˀ, e.g. abnāˀ al-furs, or can otherwise be applied as an ethnonym by itself. Al-Hamdānī used al-furs partly synonymously with al-abnāˀ for people of Persian descent. The following example is a passage on Persians from the mining city of al-Raḍrāḍ, who came under attack and had to flee the town. It shows that al-furs is the term applied to descendants of Sasanian Persians but also of Persians who came to Yemen in later periods (under the Umayyads and the Abbasids). It seems they worked in the mine and therefore were called furs al-maˁdin (“Persians of the mine”). Some of them had a background in Sanaa, including houses [manāzil] and estates [iyāˁ], to which they could return. Furthermore, those who returned to Sanaa are identified by names, which all contain banū, followed by a Persian word as the first syllable,87 and the same ending syllable [ōye], which was very common to Persian names even if probably pronounced differently88:


When Muḥammad b. Yuˁfir was killed and these qabāˀil89 fell into distress because of that, some of them acted unjustly against its inhabitants, killed among them and ransacked them. Who remained flew, and they were dispersed in the bilād [country]. A qawm [body of men/women] of them went to Ṣanˁāˀ who had a footing there from times of old and dwelling houses and property. Its inhabitants were all from al-Furs [the Persians], from those who came there during the jāhiliyya [pre-Islamic times], in the days of the Banū Umayya [Umayyads] and the Banū al-ˁAbbās [Abbasids]. They were called Furs al-maˁdin [Persians of the mine]. Who is in Ṣanˁāˀ of them are Banū Sardōye, Banū Mihrōye, Banū Zanjōye, Banū Bardōye, and Banū Jandōye.90

Al-furs is also a general designation for Persians beyond the Yemeni context, which refers to a territory, namely the bilād fāris (“Persia”). Fāris, “Persia,” was used in Achaemenid (559-330 BCE) and Sasanian (224-651 CE) times and designated both the Persians as an ethnic group and their homeland. In early Arabic sources, the term fārs/fāris was applied both in the narrow sense to the Persian province of Fars and in a wider sense to the whole Persian territory. As an ethnonym for Persians, al-furs was much more common than fāris.91 Al-furs can be opposed to other ethnonyms, such as al-ˁarab (“the Arabs”) or al-rūm (“the Byzantines”). Having the qualities of a typical ethnonym, al-furs cannot be combined with these alternative categories, since, when used in the same context, they are mutually exclusive.92 It is used in this sense by al-Hamdānī, for example in listings of people or lands, but since the focus of his writing is South Arabia, such lists are only marginal and little explanation of them is provided. One corresponding example is a passage from the Kitāb al-Jawharatayn al-ˁaīqatayn al-māˀiˁatayn min al-afrāˀ wa-l-bayāˀ (The Book on the Two Noble Metals Gold and Silver) on the mining business in Yemen:The merchants from among the Iraqis [al-ˁirāqīyīn], Persians [al-furs], Syrians [ash-shaˀmīyīn], and Egyptians [al-miṣrīyīn] carried away the silver of Yemen at that time, and they gained through it significant profit.”93 Here, Persians are listed with other agents active in the mining business. In this context, al-furs is in line with the other foreign categories, and there is no indication of any closer relation to Yemen. On the contrary, there is some sign of a tie to the foreign lands to which the silver was “carried away” by the merchants.

Another designation that can be applied to Persians is al-ˁajam (pl. aˁājim). Al-Hamdānī mentions it more rarely than al-abnāˀ and al-furs. Where it appears in the text, it is sometimes not clear whether it actually refers to Persians or to non-Arabs. This ambivalence is caused by the historical use of the term. ˁAjam has its etymological root in ˁujma, “impure speech,” and is opposed to faāa, “highly eloquent, clear speech.” Even pre-Islamic poetry drew a distinction between al-ˁarab and al-ˁajam. In the context of the Islamic conquests, it was used in order to distinguish between “Arabized” populations and “pure” or “real” Arabs.94 The etymology and semantic evolution of this collective term are comparable to those of the Greek term βάρβαροι, and it was primarily associated with the neighboring Persians. The affective value attributed to the word was at times inspired by claims of Arab superiority due to their more civilized and refined culture.95 In Yemen of the tenth century, al-ˁajam could have functioned as general designation for non-Arabs, could have meant non-Arabic speakers, or could have been an ethnic designation for Persians. Al-Hamdānī, for example, writes about abnāˀ aˁjam,96 which can be translated as “offspring of non-Arab descent” or “offspring of Persian descent.” In later sources, such as Ibn al-Mujāwir’s Taˀrīkh al-Mustabir, al-ˁajam was explicitly used for Persians. The Shuˁūbīya movement in the time of the ‘Abbasids97 questioned Arab superiority and strove to revalue the role of the aˁājim, which mostly but not exclusively meant the Persians. Fostered by these developments, ˁajam as the initially pejorative identification of others by Arabs became a neutral term of ethnic differentiation. With its novel quality of an ethnic group designation for Persians, it was eventually used as self-ascription.98 Moreover, the term could also be used to denote a territory, i.e. bilād al-aˁājim (“non-Arab lands”).99 Thus, ˁajam in its various forms is the most unspecific of the terms in question. It stresses distinctiveness without qualifying or defining it. It can be assumed that the Yemeni readers were able to discern, at least in some matters, whether al-ˁajam meant Persians or non-Arabs, but al-Hamdānī’s intention in using this term might have been less to identify the other and more to evoke a sense of it.

In order to explore ethnonyms for Persians in South Arabia in a later medieval period, this case study draws on Ibn al-Mujāwirs Taˀrīkh al-Mustabir (The Historiography of the Sharp-Sighted), a travelogue from the early thirteenth century. The author, to all appearances a native of Khorasan, Persia and native Persian-speaker, visited South Arabia at least three times between 1220 and 1230. He shows great interest in the history and topography of the Arabian Peninsula, but mainly focuses on the topic of trade and commerce, which leads to the assumption that he was most likely a businessman himself.100 In a copious style, he combines his own observations and those of informants and transmitters with an abundance of storytelling, including local myths and legends as well as Quranic themes and his own dreams, creating a rich mix of genres. Thus, the analysis of ethnonyms in this source focuses on their roles and meanings in these different narrative units and also their etymology and historical context.

In Taˀrīkh al-Mustabir, the abovementioned terms al-furs and al-ˁajam are used synonymously and are equally eligible to designate people of Persian origin or descent, meaning either Persians who came to Yemen from Persia or their Yemeni offspring. It is clear that the term ˁajam refers to no other ethnicity than Persian. ˁAjam as used by Ibn al-Mujāwir has no negative connotation whatsoever and bears no reference to its Greek/Arabian etymology of “impure speech.” The author even uses the term al-ˁAjamīya to refer to the Persian language when quoting a Persian saying given by his contemporary Yemeni Persian-speakers. Although furs and ˁajam are used interchangeably, the term ˁajam is used slightly more often in the text. When in opposition to other typical ethnonyms, especially ˁarab, the term ˁajam is preferred, maybe because of its phonetic similarities or because al-ˁarab wa-l-ˁajam had been coined as a pair of opposites since pre-Islamic times. The following quotation shows how ˁajam qualifies as a term that clearly designates Persians as an ethnic group in distinction to others:


They are a people descended from Ham, son of Noah – peace be upon him. Moreover they are not Arabs [ˁarab], Persians [ˁajam], Indians [hind], Abyssinians [ḥabash], Turks [turk] nor Nabateans [nabaṭ], but they have a language all of their own which is used [only] among themselves.101

In this passage, the author recounts one of his dreams about a mystic valley and its inhabitants near the city of Medina. In this case, it is obvious that “Persian” serves as an ethnic category that is dissociated from any distinct historical timeframe.

Whenever the frequently used phrase “it was built by the Persians” or its variation, “a construction of the Persians,” is used, the question arises how an approximate historical period can be determined. Ibn al-Mujāwir provides his readership with a hodological rather than a chronologically organized narrative, meaning that he structures his writing according to the stops on his itinerary (towns, cities, historical sites). He shows a pronounced tendency to attribute the erection of impressive building structures such as fortifications and mosques and even the founding of whole towns to the Persians, whether these edifices or settlements still existed, were in ruins, or were gone altogether. Flipping this causality around, he interprets the remains of constructions as indications of Persian presence in major cities and various other towns in earlier history. If at all, he gives only vague time specifications, e.g. “when the Pharaonic rule came to an end,” “in the days of the Persians,” and “under Persian rule.” One can either try to reconstruct at least a tentative timeframe from the context and compare it with other historical records to determine whether the building in question was or could have been of Persian making, or one can use additional information given on the building materials, location (e.g. the center or the periphery of the town), and other architectural features to determine Persian workmanship.102 Particularly in the case of Aden, it seems most likely that expressions like “the days of the Persians” refer to the period of Sasanian rule in the sixth century. Roxani Margariti notes that “Al-Marzūqī103 conveys the tradition that Aden always came under the jurisdiction of Yemen’s rulers.”104 On some occasions, Ibn al-Mujāwir supports his statements by saying that the information was revealed to him in a dream, hence it was a divinely inspired vision (manām or ruˀ), which can be understood as strong proof.105 A legend like that of Alexander the Great, a mythical figure who also appears in the Quran, might also serve as evidence. In spite of the fact or, perhaps, precisely because of the fact that such narratives defy clear historical substantiation, they attain a strong effect. The following may serve as a prime example:


When Dhū l-Qarnayn [Alexander the Great] released the sea from Jabal Bāb al-Mandab and it flowed out, all the area around Aden dried up. […] When the Persian rulers [mulūk al-ˁajam] took over Aden they saw this exposed area and were afraid for the town, that someone coming to conquer might lay siege to it. Then they made an opening on the side near to Jabal ˁImrān and released the sea over it. The sea poured forth, descending until it drowned the whole exposed area around Aden. Aden became an island. […] The new-made sea was called Buḥayrat al-Aˁājim and was known by their name for all times.106

Here, the plural form aˁājim is part of the hydronym buayrat al-aˁājim. Ibn al-Mujāwir never uses the word aˁājim as a term to designate the Persians. It occurs only twice in the text, the second time in a piece of Arabic poetry which he quotes. Mulūk al-ˁajam might refer to the Sasanian rulers, but the fact that this story connects to the legend of Dhū l-Qarnayn creates a certain level of ambiguity. Such ambiguities are characteristic of Ibn al-Mujāwir’s writing and do not necessarily undermine the author’s discourse. If anything, they create narrative tension and draw more attention to what seems to be the author’s intention, namely to point out the momentousness of Persian influence in medieval Yemen.

One group of Persians which is datable and clearly distinguishable from other Persians throughout the text are al-furs min ahl Sīrāf, “the Persians of the people of Siraf.” The ancient city of Siraf, situated on the Iranian coast of the Persian Gulf, was a seaport and early Islamic trade center. In 997, it was left in ruins by an earthquake which lasted for seven days. The people of Siraf, whose merchants had already been traveling back and forth to the Red Sea, then immigrated to the coastal regions in the area.107 Ibn al-Mujāwir introduces the ahl Sīrāf early in his account when dealing with the history of the seaport Jeddah.108 A group of contemporary Yemeni Persians tells him the story of their Sirafi ancestors who fortified the city by enclosing it with a massive wall. They then dug a huge moat around it so that the seawater would pour into it and run around the town until it flowed back into the sea. Thus the city of Jeddah resembled an island amidst the sea. The incredible number of a thousand reservoirs, built to guarantee a secure supply of drinking water, adds a fantastic element to the story. After approximately 80 years of prosperous community life, the Persians were forced out of Jeddah by the Arabs, and they immigrated to other islands and coastal cities in the region yet again.

Another tale which features the ahl Sīrāf speaks to their pride and wealth as merchants.109 The same story appears in Ibn al-Baṭṭūṭa’s Rila, who visited Aden about a hundred years later, probably around 1330.110 In Ibn al-Mujāwir’s account the protagonists are the Sirafi Persians. Two slave-boys of two Sirafi merchants are sent to the market to bid for fish. The slaves start bidding for the only fish available until the price exceeds 1,000 Dinars and one of them buys it. When he brings home the fish, his master is so pleased with him that he sets him free and provides him with 1,000 Dinars sustenance. The other slave who returns to his master empty-handed is severely punished. In Ibn Baṭṭūṭa’s version the fish is a ram, but the masters who send their slave-boys are not associated with any particular ethnic group, but rather with the social group of Adeni traders in general.111

As to the etymology of the name Aden, Ibn al-Mujāwir states that it was derived from the word maˁdin, more specifically from maˁdin al-adīd, “the iron mine,” and that it was called ākhuri sangīn “an empty, or rather, stony cratch” by the Persians.112 This is clearly a reference to the Persian mining activities in Yemen and a further example of how the author uses different tools to point out the strong impact of Persian presence in medieval Yemen.

Despite the different etymologies of al-furs, al-ˁajam and al-abnāˀ, and although there are some tendencies in al-Hamdānī’s texts, which at first glance suggest preferences for one or the other term depending on the context, these South Arabian sources from the tenth century show that no clear-cut distinctions between the three terms can be made. The range between al-abnāˀ, al-furs, and al-ˁajam varies in terms of their othering potential. The relatedness of the terms abnāˀ and banū can be interpreted as minor differentiation and could even be read as a strategy of selfing, e.g. al-abnāˀ refers to the Yemeni Persians, understood as part of the author’s own society, in contrast to al-furs, which refers to the Persian Persians, not understood as part of Yemeni society. Of course, the differentiation between abnāˀ and banū, or Persians and Yemeni tribesmen respectively, continues. Otherwise the ethnonym would not make sense. Consequently, the three ethnonyms for Persians in Yemen, which al-Hamdānī uses, combine different levels of selfing and othering. Yet the flexibility of how they are used underlines the fluid character of ethnic categorizations in medieval South Arabia. Genealogy and descent were major factors of tribal belonging and ethnic naming, as the case of the abnāˀ shows. What becomes evident is that in the case of the abnāˀ, the construction of identity for the (Arab) self and the (Persian) other follows patterns of tribal belonging and genealogical descent. The abnāˀ are addressed as sons/offspring of an ancestral group or referential figure, like Yemeni tribesmen, but this ancestral reference is an ethnic other: the furs (abnāˀ al-furs). In al-Hamdānī’s writings, ˁajam and its variant forms bear, according to its etymology, the highest othering potential. Yet the affective dimension of the term gradually lost its meaning of “impurity” in its practical applications over time. Also, the term became increasingly limited to designating something or someone as “Persian,” rather than referring to a non-Arab or non-Arabic other. Ibn al-Mujāwir, in all probability a native Persian and an author of the early thirteenth century, also uses the terms furs and ˁajam to designate Persians in the Yemeni context, and a third term which refers to a certain group of immigrants, al-furs min ahl Sīrāf. Furs and ˁajam are used synonymously and are predominantly to be understood as ethnic terms which identify people of Persian descent. Both furs and ˁajam convey no additional information as to social status or the historicity of a group, unless they are combined with other compounds which indicate either rulership or geographical origin, e.g. mulūk al-ˁajam or al-furs min ahl Sīrāf. Ibn al-Mujāwir’s writing is characterized by fluid transitions between the historical report, mythical narratives, fantastic stories, and genuine observations, a style that creates ambiguity, which can be interpreted as part of the author’s narrative strategy. The text consistently highlights the Persians’ presence in South Arabia, and building structures serve as the main indicator in the emerging discourse of Persian self-authentication. The ethnonyms al- furs, al-ˁajam and (al-furs min) ahl Sīrāf are all suitable to praise the outstanding accomplishments of Persians and thereby portray them as an ethnic group who is more advanced in comparison to others. Thus, all three terms have the same selfing potential. This is also where it becomes most evident that over time the term ˁajam not only lost its original pejorative meaning, but eventually acquired a positive affective value, being used as a Persian self-ascription.


This comparative study shows that ethnonyms function as conceptual tools, which authors can strategically use in their narratives. Drawing on Latin, Greek, and Arabic source material, we presented the particular case of the Persians as an illustration that ethnonyms are dynamic and adaptable, that they shape processes of selfing and othering, and that they support ideologies and political agendas. Ethnonyms and, more generally, ethnic terminology can serve to accentuate or reduce the hiatus between the self and the other. The case study shows that constructions of Persians as the other in interethnic relations varied greatly over the course of time.

The legends that refer to the Persians on the Tabula Peutingeriana are a mixture of erudite citations, ill-informed guesses, and ethnographic commonplaces. While Late Antique Greek and Latin authors have conveyed a nuanced view of the Persians and their empire, the inscription TROGODITI PERSI on the Tabula represents a vivid example of ethnic polemic in the service of Roman imperial propaganda.

TROGODITI PERSI on the Tabula Peutingeriana portrays the Persians as an extreme opposite to the Roman (self-)understanding of (Roman) “civilization.” Around the time of the advent of Islam, Arabs developed a comparable notion of “non-Arabs” (al-ˁajam or al-aˁājim), from which they marked themselves off. In the case of the Roman map, the point of reference for distinction was the dwelling place and way of life, whereas the Arabs referred to language. For them, Arabic was the divine language, and it was closely linked to the holy script of the Quran, which distinguished the Arabs from all non-Muslims and non-Arabs. Persians were among the first non-Arabic speakers whom the Arabic-speaking Muslims conquered in the seventh century. Until the tenth and thirteenth centuries, ˁajam was more and more closely associated with (and even adapted by) the Persians, and less closely associated with non-Arabs in general, or the inability to speak Arabic properly. In Latin sources, the terminological designations for Persians did not change significantly between Antiquity and the Middle Ages. However, perceptions of the Persae varied between notions of them being “barbarous” in the fullest sense to them being “civilized,” or even similar and comparable to the Romans.

In the South Arabian context of the tenth century, the local term al-abnāˀ created a zone of transition between the Yemeni self and notions of the Persian other. Al-Abnāˀ could be combined or exchanged with the transregional terms al-furs and al-ˁajam to appropriate new meanings. In this interplay of local and transregional ethnonyms, it was possible either to enhance the role of the Persian minority as an integral part of the Yemeni society or to express a stronger sense of its otherness and separation. In the early thirteenth century, the Persian author Ibn al-Mujāwir used the terms al-furs and al-ˁajam to elevate the Persians as a civilization in the context of South Arabian history. A strong element of storytelling, together with references to elements of construction as evidence of civilizational accomplishments, built the framework through which he engaged in a discourse of Persian self-authentication.


The research for this article was funded by a DOC-team-fellowship provided by the Austrian Academy of Sciences. We would like to thank Johann Heiss, Walter Pohl, Stephan Prochazka, Danuta Shanzer, and Ekkehard Weber for their support and advice during the preparation of this article and the preceding research phase.


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Whittaker, C. R. “Mental Maps and Frontiers: Seeing like a Roman.” In Thinking Like a Lawyer: Essays on Legal History and General History for John Crook on His Eightieth Birthday, edited by P. McKechnie, 81–112. Leiden: Brill, 2002.

Wiebke, V. Das Imperium Romanum und seine Gegenwelten: die geographisch-ethnographischen Exkurse in den „Res Gestae“ des Ammianus Marcellinus. Berlin–Boston: Walter de Gruyter, 2013.

Wiemer, H.-U. Libanios und Julian. Munich: Beck, 1995.

Winter, E., and Beate Dignas. Rom und das Perserreich: Zwei Weltmächte zwischen Konfrontation und Koexistenz. Berlin: Akademie Verlag 2001.

1 Odile Kommer is a PhD-candidate and researcher at the Institute for Social Anthropology at the Austrian Academy of Sciences. Salvatore Liccardo is a PhD-candidate and researcher at the Institute for Medieval Research at the Austrian Academy of Sciences. Andrea Nowak is a PhD-candidate and researcher in the Department of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Vienna

2 For reasons of readability, “medieval” and “Middle Ages” are used in this article for European and non-European contexts. For South Arabia, this refers to the Islamic period before the Ottoman conquest (ca. seventh–sixteenth century CE. Also for reasons of readability, all references to centuries are understood as centuries in the so-called Common Era).

3 We apply the methodical approaches of distant and regional comparison according to Gingrich, “Comparative Methods.

4 Neuwirth, Introduction, x–xi.

5 Ibid.

6 Müller, ifat jazirat al-ˁarab, 1.

7 Ibid, 29.

8 Szombathy, “Genealogy,” 19f.

9 Smith, Traveller, 119. Löfgren, Tāˀrīkh 1, 95.

10 “the two-horned.“

11 For an introduction to the subject, see Bianchetti, Cataudella, and Gehrke, Brill’s Companion to Ancient Geography. For an overview of diffusion and the accuracy of maps illustrating the Geography of Ptolemy, considered as a compendium of classical scientific geography, see Mittenhuber, Text- und Kartentradition in der Geographie.

12 Dunlop, “al-Balkhī.”

13 Miquel, “Ibn Ḥawqal.”

14 Kramers, Opus geographicum, 19–21.

15 “Dar al-Harb,” The Oxford Dictionary of Islam.

16 Cardona, Nomi propri e nomi di popoli, 12.

17 See Origo Gentis Langobardorum 1; Paul the Deacon, Historia Langobardorum 1.8.

18 See Ammianus Marcellinus, Res Gestae 22.15.2; 23.6.13.

19 Margariti, “Ocean of Islands,” especially 203f.

20 Al-Azmeh, “Barbarians,” 3.

21 Smith, Traveller, 269, n2. Seri is an older name for Jibbāli, a South Arabian language. Johnstone, Jibbāli Lexicon, xiff.

22 The expression is borrowed from psychology and applied to Synesius of Cyrene in Maenchen-Helfen, The World of the Huns, 7.

23 See Synesius, On Imperial Rule, 11, 6.

24 Whittaker, “Mental Maps and Frontiers: Seeing like a Roman,” 82.

25 The map was produced in the late twelfth or early thirteenth century, probably in Swabia/Alemannia, and its first mention dates back to January 24, 1508, when the German humanist Conrad Celtis decided to bequeath it to the antiquarian and imperial counsellor Conrad Peutinger, hence the name. For a brief recap of the transmission process, see Dalché, “La trasmissione Medievale e Rinascimentale della Tabula Peutingeriana,” 43–53.

26 See Weber, “Zur Datierung der Tabula Peutingeriana,” 113–17. For a dissenting opinion, see Albu, The Medieval Peutinger Map. For the latest overviews of this subject, see Rathmann, “The Tabula Peutingeriana and Antique Cartography,” 335–62; Rathmann, Tabula Peutingeriana, 6–25; Weber, “Die Datierung des antiken,” 229–59.

27 For this and all the other entries, see the website containing the digital material added to Talbert, Rome’s World. In brackets the corresponding location on the map.

28 See Magini, “In viaggio lungo le strade della Tabula Peutingeriana,” 7–15. The Persian road network as represented on the Tabula Peutingeriana was studied at the end of the nineteenth century by Tomaschek, “Zur historiographischen Topographie,” 145–231. Recently on this theme, see Braun, “Untersuchungen zum XI. Segment der Tabula,” 11–32.

29 Cesiphvn (11C1); Ecbatanis Partiorvm (11C1); Persepoliscon Mercivm persarvm (11C2).

30 Chauvot, “Parthes et Perses dans les sources du IVe siècle,” 115–25; Drijvers, “Ammianus Marcellinus’ Image,” 193–206.

31 See Herodian, History 6.2; Cassius Dio, Roman History 80.3.4; Paschoud, Zosime 1.18.1. Ardashir I defeated the last Parthian emperor, Artabanus V, in 224.

32 Another entry, which seems to refer to the Persians, is Are(a)e fines romanorvm (10C2), which arguably marks the Roman–Persian frontier. On this subject, see Weber, “Areae fines Romanorum,” 219–27.

33 E.g. SARMATEVAGI (4A5–5A4); Nigizegetvli (7C3); MEMNOCONES ETHIOPES (7C2–7C3).

34 More than one hundred years ago, Konrad Miller connected this inscription with the ethnonym Elamitae, a name that has an ancient and rich tradition, which is included in the bible, in patristic texts, and in a few medieval maps. Miller, Itineraria Romana: Römische Reisewege an der Hand der Tabula Peutingeriana, 838.

35 From the provincia paraliton (from Greek παράλιος, ία, ον, Eng. “by the sea”), mentioned by the Cosmographer of Ravenna, see Miller, Itineraria Romana, 624; Podossinov, Vostochnaya Evropa, 367.

36 See Miller, Itineraria Romana, 623; Podossinov, Vostochnaya Evropa, 372.

37 See Miller, Itineraria Romana, 612–13.

38 See Rübekeil, Diachrone Studien zur Kontaktzone, 316, 323, 401–11.

39 Like the “Persians of the river,” precise or ill-defined geographical locations could be used in relation to the word natio to specify the origin of an individual. Thus, we find persons defined as natione montanus – CIL XIII, 7684 – or natione transfluminianum – P.Lond. II 229 (S. XXI) = ChLA III 200 = FIRA III 132 = CPL 120 = Jur. Pap. 37. On the latter case, Palme, “Die classis praetoria Misenensis in den Papyri,” 294–96; Ferreira, “El papiro 229 de la British Library,” 93–111. More in general on the interplay between civic, ethnic, and geographical identity, see Mathisen, “Natio, Gens, Provincialis and Civis,” 277–86.

40 The communis opinio places this work between the second half of the fourth and the beginning of the fifth century. The standard edition is in Riese, Geographi latini minores, 24–55. Recently, Monda, La Cosmographia di Giulio Onorio. On its meaning as a textbook of Geography, Dalché, “L’enseignement de la géographie dans l’antiquité tardive,” 157–59.

41 On this ethnonym, see J. Desanges, « Fluminenses », Encyclopédie berbère, 19, 2862. More generally on the African section of the Cosmographia see Modéran, Les Maures et l’Afrique romaine, IVe–VIIe s., 37–62.

42 See Leveau, “L’aile II des Thraces,” 172–73. In a second-century funerary inscription found in Lambaesis (next to the modern village of Tazoult in Algeria) – CIL VIII, 2786 = ILS, 2659 – the Mazices are characterized as coming from a mountainous region. See Malone, Legio XX Valeria Victrix, 102–03; Bernard, “Les prétendues invasions maures,” 365–66; Migliorati, Iscrizioni per la ricostruzione, 571. Although this second source is chronologically distant, it seems to attest to the coexistence of two subgroups of the same broader ethnic gens that are distinguished on the basis of their habitat: the Fluminenses, i.e. Mazices living next to a River, and the Mazices of the regio Montensis.

43 Podossinov has drafted a chart which compares some of the ethnonyms present on the Tabula Peutingeriana, the Cosmographia and the Laterculus Veronensis; Podossinov, Vostochnaya Evropa, 103–04.

44 After a very bizarre course, the river is specified as the Ganges. On the depiction of the fluvial system in the eastern lands of the inhabited world, see Schuol, “Indien und die großen Flüsse,” 92–155.

45 On this Roman site, see Oates and Oates, “Ain Sinu: A Roman Frontier Post,” 207–42. More generally on the urban landscape and road network of this region, see Palermo, “Settlement Patterns and Road Network in Upper Mesopotamia,” 123–37.

46 Talbert mentions this detail when he analyses the design of the map, see Talbert, Rome’s World, 100–01.

47 For an overview of the image of the Persians in Late Antique sources, see Fowden, Empire to Commonwealth, 12–36; Schneider, “Orientalism in Late Antiquity,” 241–78; Drijvers, “Rome and the Sasanid Empire,” 441–54; McDonough, “Were the Sasanians Barbarians?” 55–65; Drijvers, “A Roman Image of the “Barbarian” Sasanians,” 67–76.

48 On Ammianus see Matthews, The Roman Empire of Ammianus Marcellinus, 130–79; Teitler, “Visa vel lecta?,” 216–23; Drijvers, “Ammianus Marcellinus’ Image of Sasanian Society,” 45–69; Wiebke, Das Imperium Romanum und seine Gegenwelten, 86–126; Morley, “Beyond the Digression,” 10–25. On Procopius, see Kaldellis, Procopius of Caesarea, 62–93; Börm, Prokop und die Perser. On Agathias, see Cameron, “Agathias on the Sassanians,” 67–183.

49 For a detailed comment on this digression, see Ferraco, Ammiano geografo (23.6).

50 See A. Chauvot, Opinions romaines face aux Barbares, 386 ff. More generally on Ammianus’ depiction of non-Romans, see Guzmán Armario, “Ammianus adversus externae gentes,” 217–22.

51 After a historical and a geographical account of the Persian Empire, Ammianus describes the good and bad habits of the Persians, see Ammianus Marcellinus, Res Gestae 23.6.75–84.

52 Concerning military skills, however, Romans continue to have the edge over Persians, who Ammianus describes as crafty but rather weak in a one-on-one fight, see Res Gestae 23.6.80; 25.1.18. To stress the superiority of the Roman armies over the eastern gentes, an anonymous panegyrist presents the victory of Constantine over fellow Romans as more praiseworthy than Alexander’s Persian campaign, because the Macedon won against “leves Medos et imbelles Syros et Parthorum arma volatica,” see Panegyrici Latini 12 (9), 5–6.

53 For a useful analysis of the different typologies of barbarian, see Dauge, Le Barbare, 466–510.

54 Particularly interesting is its relationship with Herodotus. On one hand, Ammianus repeats the reference to their good manners in executing their physical needs; on the other, he diverges from Herodotus concerning alcohol consumption and pederasty. According to the historian of Halicarnassus, the Persians made important decisions while drunk and learned to practice pederasty from the Greeks. See Herodotus, Historiae 1. 133–35.

55 “Der alius orbis Persien” is the title of the section dedicated to this subject in Wiebke, Das Imperium Romanum und seine Gegenwelten, 2013.

56 For an overview of its content, see Klein, “Laterculus Veronensis,” 1745–46.

57 The heading reads: Gentes barbarae quae pullulaverunt sub imperatoribus.

58 Greek and Latin inscriptions erected during the empire of Julian have been collected and studied by Stefano Conti. See Conti, Die Inschriften Kaiser Julians. These inscriptions constituted part of the imperial discourse, see Conti, “Un aspetto della propaganda imperiale tardo-antica: la titolatura di Giuliano nelle fonti letterarie ed epigrafiche,” 29–44; Benoist, “Identité du Prince et discours impérial: Le cas de Julien,” 109–17. More generally on the topic of inscriptions and imperial ideology in Late Antiquity, see Davenport, “Imperial ideology and commemorative culture,” 45–70.

59 For a commentary on the single inscriptions containing these titles, see Conti, Die Inschriften Kaiser Julians .

60 According to Conti’s register, nr. 17, 18 (extinctor barbarorum); 26, 27 (debellator omnium barbararum gentium); 54 (νικητὴς παντὸς ἔθνους βαρβαρικοῦ).

61 That the eastern frontier was opposing barbaric groups shines through Ulpian’s description of Palmyra as a city “prope barbaras gentes et nationes collocata,” Digest

62 Inscriptions nr. 17 and 18. See Negev, “The Inscription of the Emperor Julian at Ma‘ayan Barukh,” 170–73; Bowersock, Julian the Apostate, 123–24; Dietz, “Kaiser Julian in Phönizien,” 821–22; Eck, “Zur Neulesung der Iulian-Inschrift von Ma’ayan Barukh,” 857–59.

63 Conti suggests dating the inscriptions to the first months of 363. Julian left Antioch for the east on March 5, 363.

64 “En” inquit “quos Martia ista pectora viros existimant, deformes inluvie capellas et taetras, utque crebri docuerunt eventus, antequam manus conferant abiectis armis vertentes semet in fugam,” Res Gestae 24.8.1. On this passage, see Den Boeft, Philological and Historical Commentary, 223–25.

65 On Roman prejudices, especially towards Persians, as highly influenced by Greek ethnography, see L. Cracco Ruggini, “Pregiudizi razziali, ostilità politica e culturale,” 139–42; Rosivach, “The Romans’ View of the Persians,” 1–8; Isaac, The Invention of Racism in Classical Antiquity, 371–80.

66 Specifically on the relationship between Julian and Libanius, see Wiemer, Libanios und Julian.

67 E.g. Libanius, Oratio 15.3; 17, 25–27; 16.9.

68 See ibid.

69 See Rivolta, “Miti letterari e programmi politici,” 525–46; Stenger, “Libanius and the ‘game’ of Hellenism,” 268–92; Caltabiano, “La comunità degli Elleni,” 137–49.

70 See Julian, The Caesars 324a; Hymn to King Helios 153a.

71 The literature on this topic is vast. For detailed overviews of Romano–Persian relations, see Blockley, East Roman Foreign Policy; Winter and Dignas, Rom und das Perserreich. For a collection of ancient sources for this period, see Dodgeon, Greatex, and Lieu, The Roman Eastern Frontier.

72 Since the Itinerarium Alexandri is to a certain degree based on the Romance, the Latin version of the Romance must have been known by 345.

73 See Smith, “The Casting of Julian the Apostate ‘in the Likeness’ of Alexander the Great,” 44–106.

74 The myth of Alexander played a significant role in Constantine’s imperial propaganda. For numismatic evidence, see Kolb, Herrscherideologie in der Spätantike, 201–04. Moreover, Constantine announced a campaign against the Persians but fell ill before accomplishing it, see Fowden, “The Last Days of Constantine,” 146–70; Fowden, “Constantine and the Peoples of the Eastern Frontier,” 377–98. In his biography of Constantine, similarly to Libanius, Eusebius of Caesarea calls the Persians barbarians; see Life of Constantine 4.56.1.

75 The original title should have been Itinerarium Alexandri Magni Traianique, but the Codex Ambrosianus P 49, the only manuscript that preserves the work, neither contains the last accomplishments of Alexander nor the campaign of Trajan. See Tabacco, Itinerarium Alexandri. For the question of its authorship and the use of this text in political discourse, see Lane Fox, “The Itinerary of Alexander,” 239–52.

76 E.g. Alexandria (11A4); Alexandria Bvcefalos (11B3); Alexandria catisson (9B4); Alexandria troas (8B2).

77 In his locis elephanti nascvntvr (11C4).

78 Ara alexandri (11A3); Hic Alexander Responsvm accepit Vsq(ve) qvo Alexander (11B4–11B5).

79 Since the first few leaves, which correspond to the map’s western edge, are missing, it is impossible to positively identify the centre of the archetype. However, everything points to this conclusion, see Weber, Tabula Peutingeriana, 13; Talbert, “Peutinger’s Roman Map,” 221–30.

80 Smith, “The political history of the Islamic Yemen,” 130ff.

81 Gingrich, “Multiple Histories,” 9; Dresch, Tribes, Government and History, 320ff.

82 Last mentioned, to our knowledge, in ath-Thaqafī, Sīrat al-ˀImām ˀAmad b. Sulaymān.

83 Lewis, “al-Abnāˀ.“

84 Crone, “ˁAbbāsid Abnāˀ,” 2.

85 Müller, ifat jazīrat al-ˁarab.

86 Heiss, Tribale Selbstorganisation und Konfliktregelung, 139.

87 sard = “cold”; mihr = “sun”; zanj = “plaint”/“Blacks”; bard = “(brave) man”; Jand = city in Turkistan (Steingass, Persian-English dictionary).

88 wayh in Persian.

89 Engl. “tribes”

90 Heiss, Johann. Unpublished Translation of Kitāb al-Ǧawharatain al-ˁaīqatain al-māˀiˁatain a-afrāˀ wa ’l-baiāˀ [al-Ḥasan Ibn-Aḥmad al-Hamdānī], by Christopher Toll, 1968 [2014], 144–45.

91 Savant, New Muslims, 8–9.

92 James, “Arab Ethnonyms,” 684–85.

93 Toll, Kitāb al-Ǧawharatain, 148.

94 Gabrieli, “ˁAdjam.”

95 Ibid.

96 Müller, ifat jazīrat al-ˁarab, 88.

97 Enderwitz, “al-Shuˁūbiyya.”

98 Gabrieli, “ˁAdjam.”

99 Toll, Kitāb al-Ǧawharatain, 68.

100 Smith, Traveller, 3.

101 Ibid., 44. Löfgren, Taˀrīkh 1, 16.

102 Roxani Margariti did so in her book Aden and the Indian Ocean Trade: 150 Years in the Life of a Medieval Arabian Port. For two illuminating examples concerning Ibn al-Mujāwir’s claim for Persian workmanship see 51ff. and 99ff.

103 A philologist who died in 421 AH/1030. Pellat, Ch., “al-Marzūqī.”

104 Margariti, Aden, 224–225, n83.

105 Fahd, T., and Daiber, H., “Ruˀyā.”

106 Smith, Traveller, 137; Löfgren, Taˀrīkh 1, 115–16.

107 Whitehouse, Siraf, 2–3.

108 Smith, Traveller, 70ff; Löfgren, Taˀrīkh 1, 42ff.

109 Smith, Traveller, 122; Löfgren, Taˀrīkh 1, 98.

110 Miquel, A., “Ibn Baṭṭūṭa.”

111 Ibn Baṭṭūṭa, Rilat, 252.

112 “i.e. an unprofitable situation,” Steingass, Dictionary, 25; Löfgren, Texte, part 1, 29, n1; Smith, Traveller, 133, n3.


Figure 1. Miller, Die Peutingerische Tafel, Segmentum XI, 3–5.

pdfVolume 7 Issue 2 CONTENTS

The Battle over Information and Transportation: Extra-European Conflicts between the Hungarian State and the Austro-Hungarian Foreign Ministry

James Callaway
New York University
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 Historians have written much about the conflict within Austria-Hungary between the Hungarian state on one side and the Cisleithanian state and/or Austria-Hungary’s joint institutions on the other. Historians have paid far less attention to how these conflicts unfolded beyond Europe, particularly in Africa. This essay examines the conflict between the Hungarian state and the Foreign Ministry over the empire’s trade relations with Morocco and Mexico. It shows that the Hungarian state and the Foreign Ministry perceived trade in different terms. These conflicting understandings of the purpose of trade fueled a battle between the Hungarian state and the Foreign Ministry over the information and transportation on which Austria-Hungary’s trade development was based. The Hungarian state’s success in this battle forced Austria-Hungary to pursue a much less imperialistic approach to global integration than the other great powers.

Keywords: Africa, Austria-Hungary, global, information, Mexico, trade


As Emperor Francis Joseph’s envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary to the Sultan of Morocco, Leopold Graf Bolesta-Koziebrodzki endeavored to preserve what he believed to be Austria-Hungary’s interests in northern Africa.1 On May 31, 1908, the dutiful consul informed Foreign Minister Count Alois Lexa von Aehrenthal that the cargo ships of Adria, the Hungarian national shipping company, had unloaded goods from the ports of Trieste and Fiume at Gibraltar, but refused to continue to Tangier. The imposition, Koziebrodzki argued, forced Austro-Hungarian merchants to contract with foreign companies to transport Austro-Hungarian goods to Moroccan markets, which allegedly were expanding. His missive to the minister included a 43-page report (the seventh he had written) entitled “The New Organization of Shipping Service between the Habsburg Monarchy and Morocco.”2 Koziebrodzki claimed to have discussed the issue with Cisleithanian trade and industry councils, concluding that the absence of service by an Austro-Hungarian company to Morocco’s western coast threatened the empire’s trade. On the report’s final page, he urged the Foreign Ministry to compel Adria to extend its lines to Tangier at least and to create a new shipping company with service between Oran and the Spanish colony of Rio de Oro only. Notwithstanding the supposed interest of Cisleithanian businessmen, Koziebrodzki admitted that the proposed cabotage line would require a significant subsidy and would likely be unprofitable. The empire required Adria’s extended lines and the cabotage line, Koziebrodzki stressed, “in order for the Austro-Hungarian flag, which in Tangier is so exceedingly rare and on the western coast never at all seen, to fly constantly in the waters of Morocco.”3

Sándor Paczka saw no such connection between the empire’s trade and its flag. Paczka, a correspondent of the Royal Hungarian Trade Museum stationed in Veracruz, Mexico, had reported in January of the same year on trade possibilities between the Kingdom of Hungary and the Mexican Republic after he had returned from Budapest, where he had consulted with over thirty Hungarian companies (including Adria) to determine import and export possibilities. To accommodate new trade, such as the export of Hungarian beer and mailboxes and the import of coffee and vanilla, he proposed that the Hungarian state commission the Spanish company Transatlantic Espanola to operate the longest section of the proposed shipping route between Fiume and Veracruz. Adria would ship goods from Fiume to Genoa, then Transatlantic Espanola would transport Hungary’s goods from Genoa across the Atlantic to Veracruz, stopping at Barcelona, Cadiz, New York, and Havana. Hungary required this arrangement, Paczka argued, to ensure that Hungarian merchants “prefer Fiume and neglect Hamburg,” which was the nexus between Hungarian factories and Mexican markets at the time.4 Unlike the consular officer in Morocco, Paczka was willing to name the companies. Without the names and details of the companies, the report would have had little value for him and the Hungarian Ministry of Commerce, which requested data to justify suggestions to increase exports and imports. It had to be clear that an established market existed in Mexico for current Hungarian exports. Paczka mentioned neither the Austro-Hungarian nor the Hungarian flag.

This essay examines how tensions between the Foreign Ministry and the Hungarian state played out on the global stage, particularly over Austria-Hungary’s trade relationships with Morocco and Mexico. It shows how many imperial bureaucrats and supporters of imperialist global policies based their expectations of trade with Morocco and Mexico on the presumption that Austria-Hungary had the right to an undefined and dormant trade which would materialize with a combination of sufficient “can-do spirit,” the development of “virgin land,” and connections to exclusive markets. The politics of dualism regulated much of Austria-Hungary’s national shipping in the western Mediterranean and South and Central America to Hungary’s national shipping company, Adria, which proved unwilling to make the financial sacrifices that this “can-do spirit” required, provoking over a decade of conflict with the Foreign Ministry. Hungary’s trade relationship with Mexico in the early twentieth century highlights the Hungarian state’s use of Hungarian trade museums to work around the empire’s consular offices. The paper concludes by highlighting how our understanding of Austria-Hungary’s global history changes if we look at it through the lens of the Hungarian state rather than the Foreign Ministry.

The Foreign Ministry and the Networks of Trade Museums

The conflict between Koziebrodzki’s and Paczka’s understandings of the role of national shipping companies in connecting Austria-Hungary to overseas markets represents a larger struggle between the Hungarian state and the Foreign Ministry over the strategy and the purpose of the empire’s global integration. Scholarship over the past two decades on Austria-Hungary’s relationships with the world beyond Europe and North America has revolved predominantly around Cisleithania and the Austrian State Archives.5 In the late imperial age, “Austrians,” Alison Frank explains, “thought of their empire as a Great Power and aspired to belong to the club of imperial powers that exported their goods, their culture, and their civilization to the rest of the world.”6 This aspiration helped foster within the empire, particularly within the Foreign Ministry, an ideology of imperialism which in many ways defined the five decades before World War I. The definition of imperialism used here is the late nineteenth-century battle royal on the global stage among the great powers for economic, political, military, and cultural advantages.7 The claim to extra-European territories to which the European powers could export goods, culture, and civilization featured prominently in late-nineteenth century imperialist ideologies. The governments of Europe began to view territory (its possession, as well as its accessibility) as “a source of resources, livelihood, output, and energy.”8 Koziebrodzki viewed Adria as a vital weapon in the great power competition for protected relationships with these vital sources because it offered Austria-Hungary the opportunity to stake a claim to Moroccan territory.9

Since before the end of the empire, many contemporaries considered Hungarians apathetic about the extra-European world. A notable few felt that Hungary required a global or at least a regional empire.10 Among these imperial enthusiasts, there was a general feeling that Hungarians possessed a dangerous lack of curiosity about the world beyond the kingdom’s borders.11 During the interwar period, conservative politician Count Kunó Klebelsberg decried the fact that before World War I, the state “carried on with politics as if we had been living on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Very few people could see beyond Vienna. There was a great deal of incredible naïveté in our judgment of foreign affairs.”12 The notion of Hungarian disinterest in the world beyond Europe appears to have captured the historical imagination.13

It is true that great-power status, civilizing missions, and claims to exclusive markets meant far less to Budapest than to Vienna and the Foreign Ministry.14 The argument that the empire required direct, national shipping lines to Morocco and Mexico to establish secure markets for the empire failed to persuade the Hungarian state to pressure Adria to establish these shipping lines. But Budapest had a global strategy. The Hungarian state’s approach to greater economic integration beyond the borders of the empire focused on connecting the Hungarian economy via Fiume, Hungary’s sole port, to established global markets. This strategy consisted of three areas: the direction of domestic and Balkan goods to Fiume, the assurance of a hospitable social and political environment within Fiume, and the export of goods from Fiume. The final area focused on shipping to complete the supply chain. An important part of the state’s plan to encourage shipping through Fiume was simply to allow foreign companies to operate shipping routes throughout the Mediterranean. The largest foreign company to service Fiume was the Austrian Lloyd. Adria served to entice Hungarian exporters when market forces and foreign companies alone could not redirect Hungarian trade to Fiume.

The Hungarian state established a subsidy in 1880 for Adria to ensure regular service to the United Kingdom, Belgium, Holland, France, and Brazil to make it more financially beneficial for Hungarian companies to ship goods through Fiume rather than by rail and through northern European ports.15 An 1892 agreement between Adria and the Austrian Lloyd (Austria-Hungary’s two largest shipping companies) which was backed by the governments in Budapest and Vienna, divided the empire’s global shipping route.16 Adria monopolized the empire’s routes to Western Europe, and the western Mediterranean. The Austrian Lloyd dominated routes to the eastern Mediterranean, India, and East Asia. Both companies could go to the Black Sea, but only Lloyd had the right to the Constantinople-Batumi and Constantinople-Odessa lines. Lloyd had the Levant, Egypt, and Indo-China. Adria maintained lines to Brazil, but the companies shared routes to other South American ports.17 The critical part of the deal for this story is Adria’s right (but not obligation) to maintain trade routes between Austria-Hungary and Morocco, as well as the possibility for the company to establish routes to Mexico.

Since Adria was a Hungarian national company subsidized by the Hungarian state, the Foreign Ministry proved incapable of pressuring it to establish unprofitable routes to Morocco and Mexico. But the ministry, through its control of the consular offices, had significant influence over the information that Adria required to determine the most efficient routes. The late nineteenth-century expansion of global shipping networks all over the globe required networks of merchants, agents, and officials to facilitate the flow of trade to, from, through, and between ports.18 These networks also provided data and impressions about the economic potential of new markets. Austro-Hungarian consuls were central pillars in the networks which underpinned most of the empire’s business networks. But as Koziebrodzki’s proposed trade strategy shows, the consuls could not separate foreign policy and commercial policy. Consular commercial reports reflected the Foreign Ministry’s preoccupation with secure and dormant markets, civilizational status, and prestige, complicating the Hungarian state’s and Adria’s explorations of profitable trade ventures. To focus on trade development, the Hungarian state had to find a way around the consuls’ monopoly on information.

The Hungarian state found the answer in trade museums. After the 1885 National Exhibition in Budapest, the Hungarian national industry councils wanted an institute that would assist producers in shifting from domestic to international markets. In response, in 1889 the Ministry of Agriculture, Industry, and Commerce founded the first trade museum in Budapest to exhibit Hungarian products and establish libraries of sources on international markets. In 1890, the museum established on office to report on the credit worthiness of companies in international markets, as well as the various fees associated with international exports. In 1899, the museum handed over the operation of foreign centers to the Hungarian Stock Exchange.19 The museum’s library contained all major business listings, trade statistics, and a list of services available to merchants abroad, including over 160 up-to-date domestic and foreign journals and the current Foreign Trade Booklets. These materials were open to the public. The museums endeavored to notify the Hungarian public of all pertinent developments in global and Hungarian commerce.20 The museum staff analyzed sources from all over the globe, including all Austro-Hungarian consulate reports, and it produced a report about the political and economic situations of target countries. In addition, the museum maintained a list of domestic and foreign rail and shipping rates, provided free information by phone to merchants, and translated business letters up to two pages long for free and longer materials at moderate rates.

To help explore potential markets and stimulate exports, the state established museums all over the world. The first museums outside Budapest, listed here in chronological order, were established in Belgrade, Sarajevo, Sofia, Fiume, Philippopolis (Plovdiv), Thessaloniki, Istanbul, Malta, Bucharest, Mostar, Banja Luka, Ruse, Venice, Bombay, Surabaya, Alexandria, New York, and Monastir (Bitola).21 By 1902, museum correspondents were stationed throughout the Ottoman Empire, including in the cities of Aleppo, Tripoli, Beirut, Jaffa, and Baghdad.22 In 1903, the museums stationed a correspondent in Khartoum for the first time.23 Four years later, the museums had expanded to Johannesburg, Harar, Shanghai, Montreal, Rio de Janeiro, Chicago, Buenos Aries, and Lima.24 The museums offered the first museum correspondent position in Mexico to Sándor Paczka. The global network of trade museums provided Budapest with information about economic possibilities and promoted Hungarian goods abroad. The main museum in Budapest published Les Fabricants Exportateurs du Royaume de Hongrie, which listed 1,223 companies that exported Hungarian goods, in eight languages. Through its global system of museums, the Hungarian state circulated over ten thousand copies of the publication a year around the globe.25 With the information provided by Paczka and his trade museum colleagues across the globe, the Hungarian state outflanked the Foreign Ministry on the global stage.

Scholarly neglect of the Hungarian state’s role in Austria-Hungary’s global trading network has fostered a narrative of a backwards empire struggling to maintain great power status through competition in global commerce and feeble imperialist ventures.26 It is true that the Foreign Ministry envisioned a global competition over diminishing opportunities for economic expansion that required aggressive political and military maneuvering. The Hungarian state, however, forwent the battle over overseas territorial possessions and focused instead on maintaining an amicable global environment in which it could more easily direct freight and human traffic through Fiume. Much has been written about how this struggle played out within Austria-Hungary. The Hungarian state infiltrated the Foreign Ministry, fought in decennial budget debates, and vetoed colonial ventures.27 Few have questioned how the two halves of the monarchy interacted beyond the borders of the empire to form foreign policy. As Koziebrodzki’s enthusiasm shows, the Austro-Hungarian Foreign Ministry channeled imperialist aspirations through the empire’s global consular network. Koziebrodzki’s belief in the importance of the cabotage line along the Moroccan coast to his empire’s trade reveals the place of prestige and status in the Foreign Ministry’s global commercial strategy. The contrast between Paczka’s detailed statistical report and Koziebrodzki’s generalized account of import and export possibilities epitomizes the dialectic of Austro-Hungarian foreign policy formation taking place outside the Ballhausplatz, indeed outside the empire.

“Virgin Land”: Africa

On December 25, 1901, Graf von Crenneville, the empire’s main consular official in Tangier reported to Gołuchowski that the court of Moroccan Sultan Mulai Abd al-Aziz IV had divided the representatives of the great powers into two groups. The first group included Spain, Portugal, Italy, France, and Germany, each of which was striving to assert some political influence. Great Britain, Russia, Belgium, and Austria-Hungary constituted the second group, which commanded greater respect because its members desired only economic cooperation and mutual progress. The sultan, Crenneville suggested, sought to extend economic relations with Austria-Hungary because he looked favorably on the empire’s supposedly apolitical motives.28 Crenneville likely failed to mention to members of the court that two years earlier Gołuchowski had condoned the Austro-Hungarian Colonial Society’s attempted negatiations for the acquisition of Río de Oro, the Spanish colony directly to the south of Morocco, and that the Hungarian state had stepped in to veto any attempted purchase.29 Similarly, it was the Hungarian state and Adria that had fought the Foreign Ministry over the course of four decades to prevent Austro-Hungarian imperialist ventures in Morocco.

On October 20, 1902, the imperial consular in Tangier reported that the recently “[lost markets] could be easily recovered with a prompt intervention. If, on the other hand, they are lost, it will later require twice the effort to regain the lost territory.”30 The connection between markets and territory was clear. Austria-Hungary’s trade with Morocco remained dismal between 1867 and 1914. In terms of exports and imports, Morocco was usually dead last in official reports published by the Cisleithanian and Hungarian states. Even when Adria maintained routes between Fiume and Moroccan ports, trade barely budged. But rather than view the absence of market exchange as a sign that the two economies had little to offer each other, many imperial officials attributed the weak trade flows to the absence of overseas territory and the laziness of the empire’s own subjects. Without a territorial presence and sufficient effort from the empire’s merchant marine, one official account lamented, the empire’s trade with northern Africa “will never take the place that belongs to us as a Mediterranean power.”31 As one of the few parcels of Africa that Europe had not yet colonized by the early years of the twentieth century, Morocco offered Austria-Hungary its sole chance for what Koziebrodzki referred to as “virgin land” that offered the “fertility” of nascent markets.32 To prevent other great powers from closing the territory off to the empire, imperial officers engaged in a cold war to ensure Austria-Hungary’s territorial claim.

Austro-Hungarian efforts to prevent the expansion of the other great powers into the region met with little success. In 1908, Koziebrodzki warned the Foreign Ministry that “the competition unfolding all over the world among Europe’s seafaring powers to secure ‘their place in the sun’ becomes [...] more and more apparent in northwestern Africa.” In 1902, Crenneville feared that “the German East Africa and Wörmann lines will soon be allowed to win ground in northern Africa as they have done in the south and the east.”33 Germany was not the only threat. Crenneville warned about growing competition from France, America, Spain, and the Netherlands. In one 1909 report, he argued that the empire had to establish a commercial presence quickly because beginning July 31, the ships of the Dutch society “Neederland” would stop at Tangier, Algiers, and Genoa during their trips to Batavia. Attached to the same report was a newspaper article about increasing maritime traffic and communication between Spain and northern Africa.34 It was clear to the empire’s consular officials that the looming threat of foreign shipping companies required that Austria-Hungary act to secure its claim to the territory.

But a claim to land was not sufficient to secure trade. El Dorado was not “Virgin Land.” Profit required labor. There was a sense that trade (enough trade to sustain a self-sufficient empire) lay dormant in the Mediterranean and in Africa. But, in the words of Koziebrodzki, the fruits of the region would only “open themselves to the can-do spirit.” Until the cold war which the imperial bureaucrats imagined they were fighting turned hot, the merchant marine rather than the navy was the empire’s frontline combatant. One writer argued that the great importance of the merchant marine in the lives of the people requires that the development of the merchant fleet be maintained at the same pace as the corresponding development of the naval fleet, “what the merchant marine accomplishes and conquers in the competition of peaceful work, the navy constantly receives through the respect that it instills.”35 As another writer put it, “the trident of Neptune is the scepter of the world.”36 This understanding of maritime commerce placed considerable pressure on national merchant fleets. Not all leaders of the empire’s shipping companies, however, could easily square the concept of “can-do spirit” with the traditional performance metric, profit.

In consular reports to the Foreign Ministry there was an underlying belief that dormant trade between northern Africa and the empire would awaken if Adria were only to put in the effort. It was not clear what that trade was precisely. Koziebrodzki argued that the extra cost incurred because of delays and extra damages when Adria unloaded in Gibraltar prevented Austro-Hungarian petroleum from competing with American petroleum.37 It is hard to believe that Adria was the reason Austro-Hungarian petroleum could not compete with American petroleum. Vienna never managed to increase the global competitiveness of Galician oil by reducing the cost of rail transportation from Galicia to Trieste.38 There is also no record that the Hungarian state attempted to capture a market beyond the empire for petroleum products refined in Fiume. Koziebrodzki mentions neither Vienna’s nor Budapest’s failure to promote the export of petroleum. In his eyes, the sole obstacle to Austria-Hungary’s global petroleum trade was Adria’s inadequate service. This was a recurring theme throughout the decades preceding World War I. The clash between imperial officials, who blamed Adria for dismal trade performance, and Adria’s leadership, which claimed that there was no market for Austro-Hungarian goods in Morocco or the Spanish Sahara, dominated debates about the empire’s economic interests in northern Africa.

There were Hungarians who supported the Foreign Ministry’s position on the empire’s global interests. In 1888, the Budapest Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Adria funded a research expedition in northern Africa led by János Jankó. Working with local Austria-Hungarian consuls in Port Said, Cairo, Alexandria, Benghazi, Tripoli, and Tunis, as well as their trade reports, Jankó’s task was to determine whether Hungary had economic interests in Africa.39 His conclusions, unsurprisingly, resembled those of the consular offices with which Adria would do battle over the coming decades. He argued that the establishment of national shipping lines to ports along the northern African were indispensable if Hungary sought to stimulate its inadequate trade in the region.40 A strong maritime presence coupled with naval authority would allow Hungary to claim the economic market that it was geographically predisposed to command.41 Jankó based his vision of Hungary’s needs on an understanding of Hungary’s position in the world as one of competition with the other great powers and world civilizations. Hungarian businesses could only operate, he argued, where “civilization” existed and where no other European power maintained a presence.42 Adria declined Jankó’s proposal. But the empire’s consuls continued to influence perceptions within Hungary of economic opportunities in Africa. In 1908, the Economic Bulletin, citing consul reports, argued that if Adria could not or would not sail along the Moroccan coast, the Hungarian state would have to find a Hungarian company to establish a cabatoge line from Oran to Mogador (Essaouira).43 The Foreign Ministry could not convince the Hungarian state that the empire required Adria’s presence in Morocco. But the ministry, through the consuls, could influence the information that the Hungarian public received.

Even the Hungarian state was not always opposed to the Foreign Ministry’s approach to African trade. In January 1900, the Hungarian Trade Ministry began to debate the creation of routes between Fiume and northern Africa.44 The Foreign Ministry announced proudly in November of the following year that Adria’s new contract required that, beginning January 1902, it maintain routes with “the most important Northern African ports” and establish routes to Casablanca, Mazagan, and Mogador.45 Count Gołuchowski, the head of the Foreign Ministry, was a dedicated supporter of Austria-Hungary’s naval branch, not least because it could carry the Austro-Hungarian flag across the world, and he believed that Austro-Hungarian control over Morocco could be a stepping stone to a greater naval presence in the South Atlantic.

Not everyone shared Gołuchowski’s vision. On September 12, 1902, Adria’s directors reported that trade experiments with ports on the western coast of Morocco did not have the intended results and that Adria’s captains had feared the western coast’s unpredictable weather.46 The following day, Adria, claiming that trade with the western ports would not materialize, announced that the route’s terminus would be Tangier.47 The Hungarian state probably supported Adria’s decision not to establish new routes because the arrangement at the time served Hungary’s global interests. Many within Hungary believed that the empire’s exports with Morocco originated in Cisleithania, ruling out the possibility of directing trade through Fiume.48 There were almost no Moroccan imports to Hungary. And almost all Hungarian exports to Morocco traveled through Fiume.49 The Foreign Ministry and consular officials in Morocco may have bemoaned what they believed to be the empire’s failure in northern Africa, but the Hungarian state’s global strategy was successful without regular lines to Morocco.

The Foreign Ministry appears to have misunderstood the specifics of the contractual language. The official arrangement between Adria and the Hungarian state provided Adria’s leadership considerable room to decide where, when, and how frequently their ships would stop in northern Africa. The establishment of routes to Casablanca, Mazagan, and Mogador, furthermore, was a right the state contract guaranteed to the company, not an obligation. Adria’s arrangement with Budapest stated concrete objectives. The agreement established the minimum number of yearly routes and their destinations. There was room to maneuver. Many requirements provided options, such as “at least six times a year,” without providing exact dates, and the contract listed various ports from which Adria’s leadership could choose. This proved a powerful tool for Adria’s leadership and the Hungarian state against pressure from Austro-Hungarian bureaucrats and business leaders who sought to extend Adria’s routes. When someone in 1905 complained to the Hungarian trade minister that Adria had reduced its routes to northern Africa, the minister’s office offered the following response: “Due to the fact that these scheduled services are maintained by the company on a contractual basis, I cannot comment on the notified change.”50 Adria’s contract and the support of Budapest helped the company defend itself against the empire’s diplomatic officials in Africa, who supported the creation of new routes to Morocco.

The debate did not end in 1902. Imperial bureaucrats refused to sacrifice what they considered the empire’s economic security because of a shipping company’s risk aversion. The Foreign Ministry coerced the Hungarian Trade Ministry to renegotiate Adria’s contract. In November 1902, the trade ministry notified Adria that it was debating requiring the company to reextend lines to Morocco based on consular reports. The underlying assumptions of the Foreign Ministry saturated the reports: despite the lack of any evidence, conditions were characterized as positive for an extension; a significant new market allegedly would generate exports; and a delay in expansion would transfer the empire’s rightful trade to foreign rivals.51 Adria’s official response to the trade ministry’s notice cited statistical data according to which, since 1892, trade had not been adequate to support the establishment of a direct line. Adria’s response stated unequivocally that the company’s leadership believed the establishment of direct (and profitable) lines between Fiume and Morocco was impossible.52

Imperial officials blamed Adria for the precarious sailing conditions and poor trade between the two monarchies. Crenneville argued in December 1902 that Adria’s rates were too high and that the company’s frequent accidents were consequences of its use of cheap and poor-quality ships. According to him, Adria’s “hired ships on rotating routes are junk, and the petty number of crew are poorly paid and overburdened.”53 He said that the empire’s sugar exports to the region had recently increased and that he hoped to increase other exports, such as candles. Success required only skillful merchants and able travelers, i.e. the “can-do spirit.”54 To provide these merchants and travelers with opportunities to trade, Adria would have to purchase new ships, reduce its freight rates, and, of course, establish regular lines to Morocco’s ports.

Crenneville failed to mention how the company would finance capital investments and increased production while cutting revenue from fares, which was often more than double the subsidy the company received from the state.55 The company’s leadership refused to lower fares and increase voyages without assurance that the increased cost would be made up in increased volume. Crenneville insisted that there would be a future payoff, but he failed to provide a time frame or offer specific details about that payoff. For the time being, he expected Adria to take a profit cut for the sake of the empire’s supposed interests. Adria’s refusal to decrease its rates, replace its supposedly old ships, and increase its services assured that there would be further conflict between the company and the Foreign Ministry.56

In the early twentieth century, Morocco was the only country which offered the Foreign Ministry the opportunity to realize its imperial ambitions. Adria focused on developing Hungary’s trade through Fiume to and from European countries and colonies. These unaligned priorities fueled debates over what the empire could export and what import markets existed in Morocco. In 1904, Crenneville complained that the empire’s lumber exports had decreased because Adria had refused to stop at Algiers and Oran more than once a month. The consular officer complained that most wood imported from Fiume and Trieste to these ports arrived via Italian ships, and he demanded that Adria be bound to deliver to ports in Algeria on account of the state subsidy the company received. He cited competition from America and Norway and argued that Adria’s freight rates should be reduced to a level below the rates for the German and Italian lines to generate trade. He then listed the ships that had transported lumber to Algiers since the beginning of the year (the past ten days) according to the flag under which the ship had sailed, making sure to note that only two of the more than thirty ships had sailed under the Austro-Hungarian flag.57 He never questioned whether Cisleithanian or Hungarian lumber arrived via foreign ships or whether there existed a market for the empire’s lumber at all. The empire’s lumber exports to Morocco continued to decline, but the decreasing price of Norwegian timber was most likely the reason for this, not the dearth of Cisleithanian and Hungarian ships.58

For some, Morocco’s supposedly dormant market offered greater fruits than the markets of Western Europe. In 1909, the new Chief of Mission Ludwig von Callenberg complained that local sugar importers on the western coast of Africa refused to continue to import Austro-Hungarian sugar because of the lack of a reliable shipping service.59 He offered a list of products that were being shipped to Western European countries which, in his mind, would find new markets in Morocco. He emphasized sugar. He went so far as to claim that Austria-Hungary required Morocco as a market because of the amount of sugar Moroccans could import. This was in the future, of course. When he wrote the report, the empire’s sugar exports to Morocco were almost non-existent.60 He also failed to explain why it was more economically beneficial to export sugar to Morocco instead of Western Europe. The United Kingdom was a significant market for Hungarian sugar. France was also a strong market. To many, the potential economic losses caused by a trade war over Moroccan markets far outweighed any possibility for gains. But when a new line opened between Morocco and Spain, the consul in Tangier stated: “It is well known that sugar makes up most of our exports to Morocco and our importers are very troubled over this competition.”61

In contrast, Adria’s report insisted it was a well-known fact that sugar exporters did not consider Morocco’s market adequate and stressed that it should be these exporters, not bureaucrats, who determine the empire’s sugar trade.62 The company also found the rates that the Cisleithanian state enforced for sugar transportation from Trieste to ports on the Western Moroccan coast too low to be made up by volume.63 Adria’s freight rates for the main trade goods which went through Fiume to Western Europe were lower than Trieste’s, but Adria made up the difference in volume.64 Because trade between Trieste and Morocco was so dismal and Vienna refused to raise the rate limit, Adria refused to divert its ships from profitable Western European trade routes.

Koziebrodzki claimed in 1908 that Adria’s ventures to Morocco in 1902 had been “untimely and too short.”65 Between 1902 and 1908, Foreign Ministry officials and consular representatives in Morocco agreed that Adria only had to expand its shipping network, decrease freight rates, and increase the number of trips made to make new profits. Adria’s leadership continually retorted that this reasoning was fallacious. In 1904, the company’s leadership reminded the Hungarian Royal Maritime Authority that Hungary’s trade with Morocco might have increased between 1902 and 1903, but in 1901 there had been no exports to Morocco.66 And between 1903 and 1904, Hungary’s trade with Morocco decreased, reportedly due to France’s and Belgium’s low prices.67 In response to complaints in 1907 about its service to Algeria, Adria’s leadership emphasized that trade with northwestern Africa was dismal, complaining that their twelve ships combined carried only 929 tons of exports to Tangier, and imports were almost nonexistent. Adria stated firmly that “the maintenance of the monthly route demands considerable material sacrifices,” which it refused to make.68 When Count Gołuchowski contacted Adria’s leadership directly about the possibility of extending lines to Morocco, Adria’s director Leó Lánczy responded: “Your desires could not in good faith be met; … in the future a remedy would only be possible if the esteemed government could elect to provide a special subsidy for the line.”69 Due to the politics of dualism, however, the Foreign Ministry could not subsidize a Hungarian national company.


Similar tensions between the Hungarian state, the Foreign Ministry, Adria, and imperial enthusiasts influenced Austria-Hungary’s relationship with Mexico. In 1900, Habsburg-Mexican relations had had a troubled history. Between 1861 and 1867, Archduke and Prince Ferdinand Maximilian of Austria had ruled the Second Mexican Empire by invitation from Napoleon III. When the French withdrew their forces, Maximilian refused to abandon his imperialist supporters and remained in Mexico, only to be executed by the forces of republican leader Benito Juarez on 19 June 1867.70 In January 1868, Franz Josef dispatched Admiral Tegetthoff to recover Maximilian’s corpse on the frigate Novara, the same ship that had carried Maximilian to Mexico to become emperor.71 Beneto Juarez had hoped to use the release of Maximilian’s remains as a bargaining tool to achieve diplomatic recognition from Austria-Hungary. His gambit failed. Austria-Hungary and the Mexican Republic’s severance of relations curtailed the nascent connections between the two economies that Maximilian’s reign had fostered.72

Despite the diplomatic setback, many envisioned a positive future for Austro-Hungarian economic activity in Mexico. Jenő Bánó, who had lived in Mexico for eleven years, wrote to Budapesti Hírlap in 1898 to garner support for trade development between Hungary and Mexico. He said that he discussed the possibility of establishing economic relations between Hungary and Mexico with the Governor of Fiume, Count Lajos Batthyány and the Secretary of Foreign Affairs for Mexico, Ignacio Mariscal. He said that both men gave favorable responses, but that he had not discussed the matter with them in four years. He also said that he had talked to the director of Adria, who had been supportive of the idea. He argued that Mexico should replace the American market because McKinley’s tariffs closed the American market off to the world, and he recommended that Adria begin to serve Mexico instead of Argentina and Brazil, whose economies, he claimed, were in decline.73 He argued that Mexico would provide a “new and excellent market” for Hungarian flour, wine, plums, furniture, glassware, and porcelainware, as well as a source of tobacco, though he did not explain why the import of Mexican tobacco would be more cost-effective than the import of Turkish tobacco.

After Austria-Hungary and Mexico restored relations in 1901, Bánó began to write more frequently about Hungary’s supposed Mexican interests, calling on the Habsburg aristocracy to invest in Central America. This time, he argued that Adria should redirect its route from Argentina and Brazil, because Mexico was closer.74 In 1904, Bánó reasoned that the redirection of Hungarian emigrants from the United States to Mexico would produce a significant market for Hungarian industry because Mexico’s industrial sector was undeveloped and Hungarian immigrants in Mexico would choose to purchase Hungarian industrial and agricultural products. The desire to buy Hungarian, however, was unlikely to overcome competition from American and Western European companies in Mexico. It was well known that German industrial companies were trying to penetrate the Mexican market and that Hungarian companies could do little to make themselves competitive.75 Bánó was quite optimistic about the number of immigrants from Hungary in Mexico, and he was also optimistic about who would come to Mexico if Adria established a direct route to Mexico and the capacity of these immigrants to purchase Hungarian-produced products. But he acknowledged that the supposed demand among Hungarian immigrants would not be enough to entice Hungarian exports. To stimulate Hungarian-Mexican trade, Adria would again be expected to reduce its rates and sacrifice profit to establish a direct line from Fiume to Mexico.76

Bánó knew that the Hungarian state’s concerns lay in the development of Fiume. He emphasized that ships for a new line between Hungary and Mexico could be built in Fiume.77 He then turned to the argument that a subsidized shipping line would induce Hungarian exporters to ship through Fiume rather than northern European ports. He claimed that the statistics about Hungarian trade to Mexico only included Hungarian goods shipped from Fiume or Trieste and not goods transported to other European ports and then shipped to Mexico. He argued that these goods were recorded as exports from the country to which the ports belonged, not from Hungary. This form of record keeping, he claimed, underreported Hungarian exports to Mexico, which were five to six times higher than recorded, but were shipped from Hamburg, Antwerp, Southampton, Saint-Nazaire, and Barcelona. But the fact that he made such an argument underscores the Hungarian state’s prioritization of Fiume’s development.78

Bánó was not alone. In October 1901, another opinion piece in Budapesti Hírlap stated that “Hungarian interests seriously require direct trade” with Mexico. Here too, the author failed to identify what those interests were.79 In 1908, Lázár Pál, who believed that Hungary could “count only on a permanent and secure market where the stronger competitors still have not set foot,” argued that Adria had failed in its duty to secure a market like the market in Morocco, proclaiming, “as if the creation of secure new markets were something that occurs overnight!” The Minister of Commerce, Pál argued, should use the state’s approaching contract renewal with Adria to force the company to establish lines with Mexico, stating “we are not able to find a more suitable market for Hungary than Mexico, where they will receive us with open arms.” Pál based his argument on the fact that the privately funded Hungarian East Shipping Company already had a route that stopped at Mexico. Adria, of course, would need to maintain routes to Mexico for at least three years, despite financial losses, before signs of market development would emerge.80

Though Bánó never provided a source to support his claims that Hungarian exports traveled through non-Hungarian ports, he was correct. He erred, however, when he believed that the Hungarian state misunderstood the situation. The Hungarian state recorded export statistics, including exit points, every year, and it realized that the few Hungarian goods that made it to Mexico traveled via rail to non-Hungarian ports before crossing the Atlantic.81 But the Hungarian state also understood the precarious state of the Mexican economy and political system.82 Hungarians were advised to be extremely cautious in the Mexican credit market.83 In 1911, the Austro-Hungarian consul in London, in a report entitled “What do they want in Mexico?” said that the most sought-after goods were hand guns, rifles, and ammunition.84 Discussions of creating a secure market in Mexico during the Porfiriato era were delusional by many accounts. To establish subsidized lines between Fiume and Mexico in the years before World War I would have created a liability for the Hungarian state and would have risked drawing Austria-Hungary into Mexico’s troubled affairs.

The disinterest of both the company and the Hungarian state helped Hungary avoid possible misadventures in Mexico. After the settlement of trade negotiations between Austria-Hungary and Mexico, the Spanish shipping company La Compañía Transatlántica de Barcelona inquired whether it could provide service once a month between Trieste and Fiume and Mexico. The Foreign Ministry, of course, argued that Adria should launch a line between Fiume and Mexico.85 But the Hungarian Royal Maritime Authority in Fiume was skeptical that such an extension of shipping was even necessary. The Authority reported to Lajos Láng, an advisor to the Hungarian Minister of Commerce, that Adria had the first opportunity to establish such a line if it desired to do so. The Hungarian ministry was confident that Adria’ leadership possessed the judgment required to make the decision. No consular officers were involved in the discussion. If Adria chose to forego the opportunity to establish a new route, the Maritime Authority indicated that the Hungarian Ministry of Commerce would have no problem with La Compañía Transatlántica establishing a route.86 The Trade Ministry took the advice of the Maritime Authority and reported to the office of Prime Minister Kálmán Széll in August of 1902 that La Compañía Transatlántica should be allowed to establish a shipping route between Fiume and Mexico.87

In 1907, the Hungarian state again inquired as to whether Adria would be able and willing to establish a line between Fiume and Mexico. Adria responded that the Austro Americana society had already established a line between Trieste and Veracruz in 1905 and the combined subsidies between the Cisleithanian and Mexican governments were not enough to cover the company’s losses. Adria also pointed out the dangers to the ships and noted that it would need at least a one-million-crown yearly subsidy to operate twelve voyages yearly.88 Rather than establish its own route, Adria agreed to a state proposed transshipment arrangement with La Compañía Transatlántica to connect Fiume and Mexico.89 The introduction of the connection between Fiume and Mexico and the agreement with La Compañía Transatlántica were requested by the Hungarian state. Adria requested more information, but it questioned only the chain of exchange and the cost involved, not the use of another country’s shipping line.90 Neither the company nor the Hungarian state required that only Hungarian ships transport Hungarian goods or that Hungary maintain a presence in Central America.

Adria and the Global Economy

That the assumed reason for the empire’s supposedly inadequate trade with Africa and the Americas was Adria’s lackluster resolve is evident from the company’s complaint file held in the Austrian State Archives. Of course, all shipping companies received complaints; ships and weather were unreliable, as were the workers who loaded and unloaded cargo ships at each stop. One complaint from the main consular in Algiers noted that it would have the same grievances with all the Cisleithanian and Italian shipping companies.91 Most grievances directed towards Adria concerned the company’s service to northern Africa, especially to Morocco, and they revolved around disagreements concerning the importance of shipping destinations and means. It should be clear that the empire’s diplomatic corps and many of its subjects considered Adria unreliable. This was especially the case in northern Africa. Numerous reports detailing shipwrecks after storms support the claims of Adria’s captains that African’s coast was dangerous.92 But the company’s organizational structure amplified the effects of these storms on shipments between the empire and Morocco. Despite repeated demands from Cisleithanian companies and the Foreign Ministry, the Hungarian state never required Adria to maintain lines to Moroccan ports.93 When a ship could not complete a route agreed to in the contract, it was replaced with a ship from a non-contract line. Numerous reports detail storms that delayed ships along the northern African routes that Adria was contractually obligated to maintain.94 Because Larache, Casablanca, and Mazagan were contractually optional destinations, these ports received greater cancellations than those to the east of Tangiers.95

One case shows that Cisleithanian businessmen who wanted their products shipped at reduced rates knew how to speak to the consular officers. Koziebrodzki was referring to the complaint of a Cisleithanian oil company when he reported that the empire required a direct line to Morocco. The company cited the threat of American competition and highlighted the “ground” that Austro-Hungarian trade was losing due to Adria’s obstinacy. 96 The oil company was not alone. In a separate instance, a Cisleithanian automobile manufacturer claimed that it was unable to compete with French automobiles in northern Africa because Adria’s freight rates were too high.97 The company insisted that all else was equal and Cisleithanian automobiles were of equal or better quality than French automobiles. The problem, the company claimed, lay with Adria. The company used the threat of French trade overtaking Austro-Hungarian trade in northern Africa as a threat to urge the state to force Adria to reduce its shipping rates. Complaints against Adria were less a sign that the Hungarian company failed to achieve its goals and more an indication that deep conflicts existed within Austria-Hungary over what those goals should have been.

These complaints, however, should not form the basis of an analysis of how Austria-Hungary integrated into the global economy. By many measures, Adria fulfilled the Hungarian state’s goals. Thanks largely to Budapest’s redirection of the railway to Fiume and subsidization of shipping companies, Fiume became the tenth most trafficked port in Europe. Principle overseas imports consisted mostly of raw commodities such as rice, cotton, and tobacco. Overseas exports included refined sugar, flour, wood products, and paraffin. In 1867, imports totaled 423,721 quintals, and they rose to 9,299,592 quintals by 1913. Exports in 1867 reached 604,734 quintals and increased to 11,738,827 quintals by 1913. In 1913, the total value of imports was 213,410,000 crowns, while exports were valued at 264,594,000.98 In total, between 1867 and 1913, 40.4 percent of Fiume’s overseas trade traffic consisted of imports and 59.6 percent consisted of exports.99 Every year between 1893 and 1913, Adria accounted for the highest percentage of export shipments (over thirty percent yearly except for 1913).100

This success allowed the Hungarian state and Adria to remain steadfast in the face of pressure from the Foreign Ministry. Neither the complaints of Cisleithanian businesses nor imperial bureaucrats could force Adria to alter its routes. When Adria was asked to stop at a new port in Brazil to break into the rubber market, it refused out of fear that it would endanger coffee trade.101 Over the course of its history, the framework of Adria’s shipping network changed little.102 Adria would add and remove stops along its main routes. But unlike the Austrian Lloyd, the final destinations remained the same for the most part until the outbreak of World War I. But while Hungarian businesses forged trade and finance relations with India, South America, China, Japan, and Australia over the course of five decades, Africa, with no significant market for Hungarian commodities, never attracted much attention. Hungarian and Austrian colonial enthusiasts, which included a significant portion of the public, imperial bureaucrats, and Emperor Franz Josef, never outweighed the Hungarian state’s perception that Africa offered little economic opportunity and numerous risks.


* * *


Adria’s story serves as a warning against forming a narrative of Austria-Hungary’s global history based predominantly on the Foreign Ministry’s interpretation of an empire in decline.103 Historians often condemn the Hungarian state’s obstructionist approach to negotiations with the Cisleithanian state and the empire’s joint institutions.104 But this essay has shown that Budapest’s obstructionism played a significant role in Austria-Hungary’s relatively benign extra-European engagements. The inclusion of the Hungarian state complicates the notion of an Austro-Hungarian foreign policy because Budapest not only influenced the decisions of the joint Foreign Ministry but also engaged the world beyond Europe on its own terms. Rather than fear of or indifference to overseas activity, a strategy of internal development guided the Hungarian state’s approach to global trade. This strategy exacerbated internal tensions within the empire. Though officially united behind a common foreign policy, the Cisleithanian and Hungarian states and the empire’s joint institutions often had divergent, competing international interests. But the Hungarian state’s strategy was largely successful, and this success should be as prominent an element of understandings of Austria-Hungary’s global history, if not an even more prominent element, than the Foreign Ministry’s lament over its failure to maintain the empire’s great-power status.



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1 U.S. Department of State, Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, 1496.

2 Leopold Graf Bolesta-Koziebrodzki, Chief of Mission to Sultan of Morocco in 1907–1909, to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Vienna [Ministerium des Äußern], May 21, 1908, Haus-, Hof- und Staatsarchiv [hereafter HHStA], Ministerium des Äußern [hereafter MdA], Administrative Registratur [hereafter AR], Fach 34, Schifffahrt Adria, Generalia (1901 – 1915), Beschwerden, 1908/4138 [hereafter F344138].

3 HHStA MdA AR Report in F344138, 43.

4 Sándor Paczka to Ferencz Kossuth, Hungarian Royal Trade Minister, January 15, 1908, Državni arhiv u Rijeci [hereafter DAR] – 46, JU 9 1908 XVIII/II – 456 [hereafter DAR 456].

5 For example, see Bilgeri, “Österreich-Ungarn im Konzert der Kolonialmächte;” Frank, “Continental and Maritime Empires;” the special issue of Austrian Studies edited by Hughes and Krobb: “Colonial Austria: Austria and the Overseas;” Loidl, “Safari und Menschenversuche;” Naranch, “Made in China;” Ritter-Basch, Die Weltumsegelung der Novara; Ruthner, “Central Europe Goes Post-Colonial;” Sauer, k. u. k. kolonial; Schilddorfer and Weiss, Novara: Österreichs Traum von der Weltmacht.

6 Frank, “The Children of the Desert,” 411, ft. 4.

7 Tooze, The Deluge.

8 Maier, “Consigning the Twentieth Century to History,” 818.

9 The American economy was a primary danger that imperialists attempted to fortify their empires against. See Beckert, “American Danger.”

10 For example, see Bornemisza, Kelet-Afrika kereskedelmi viszonyai; Weiss, Kereskedelmi hódítások; Havass, Magyar imperiálizmus.

11 Tápay-Szabó, Magyar Adria.

12 Lukacs, Budapest 1900, 186.

13 Ablonczy, Keletre, Magyar!; Köves, “The Semiotics of Empire-Building,” 95–104; Kövér, “Modes of Orientalism in Hungarian letters;” Rác, “East and West in Modern Hungarian Politics,” 208; idem, “Orientals among the People of the East,” 136. For a classic example, see Staud, Orientalizmus a magyar romantikában. For an exception, see Romsics, Múltról a mának, 121–58.

14 Eddie, “Economic Policy and Economic Development in Austria-Hungary,” 871.

15 Die Probleme der österreichischen Flottenpolitik, 58.

16 Sondhaus, The Naval Policy, 62. For a debate about the renegotiation of the agreement in 1898, see

“A képviselőház közgazdasági bizottságának jelentése,” 364–66.

17 Duckerts, Le port hongrois de Fiume, 6–7.

18 Miller, Europe and the Maritime World.

19 “Hivatalos Rész;” “Magyar Kereskedelmi Muzeum,” 1055.

20 “Magyar Királyi Kereskedelmi Muzeum,” Közgazdasági Értesítő 9, no. 9 (1914): advertisement, after page 528.

21 “A magyar királyi kereskedelmi muzeum üzletkezelősége,” Magyarország tiszti cím- és névtára (1900): 342.

22 “Magyar királyi kereskedelmi museum,” Magyarország tiszti cím- és névtára 21 (1902): 358.

23 “A magyar királyi kereskedelmi muzeum üzletkezelősége,” Magyarország tiszti cím- és névtára 22 (1903): 359; “Magyar királyi kereskedelmi museum,” Magyarország tiszti cím- és névtára 23 (1904): 189; “A magyar királyi kereskedelmi muzeum üzletkezelősége,” Magyarország tiszti cím- és névtára 24 (1905): 227; “Magyar királyi kereskedelmi museum,” Magyarország tiszti cím- és névtára 25 (1906): 240.

24 “Magyar királyi kereskedelmi muzeum,” Magyarország tiszti cím- és névtára 26 (1907): 244.

25 “Magyar kereskedelmi museum,” 54.

26 Canis, Die Bedrängte Großmacht; Kolm, Die Ambitionen Österreich-Ungarns; Lehner and Lehner, Österreich-Ungarn und der “Boxeraufstand;” Skrivan, “The Economic Interests of Austria-Hungary;” Rauscher, Die Fragile Großmacht; Winter, Österreichische Spuren in der Südsee.

27 Diószegi, Hungarians in the Ballhausplatz; Godsey, Aristocratic Redoubt; Sked, The Decline and Fall of the Habsburg Empire, 191–202; Sondhaus, The Naval Policy, 147–48.

28 Komár, “Az Osztrák–Magyar Monarchia és Marokkó,” 55.

29 Sondhaus, The Naval Policy, 147–48.

30 Report from Tangier to Foreign Ministry, October 20, 1902, 778910, HHStA MdA AR Fach 68/2.

31 Report from Tunis to Foreign Ministry, July 7, 1905, 252534, HHStA MdA AR Fach 68/4.

32 HHStA MdA AR, Fach 34 F344138.

33 Viktor Graf Folliot de Crenneville-Poutet, Chief of Mission to Sultan of Morocco from 1901–1904, to Kereskedelemügyi Ministerium [hereafter KM], 20 October 1902, DAR – 46, JU 9 1908 XVIII/II – 282 [hereafter DAR 282].

34 “Le développement des communications maritimes entre l’Espagne et le Nord de l’Afrique” in F344138 Report (HHStA MdA AR, Fach 34).

35 Ricek, Moderne Schiffahrt, Second page of Foreword.

36 Geyling, Fünfundsiebzig Jahre Österreichischer Lloyd, 1.

37 HHStA MdA AR, Fach34, Report in F344138.

38 Frank, Oil Empire, 176–77.

39 Jankó, “Érdekeink Észak-Afrikában,” 107.

40 Idem, “Kereskedelmünk Észak-Afrikában,” 540.

41 Ibid., 540; Idem, “Érdekeink Észak-Afrikában,” 111.

42 Idem, “Kereskedelmünk Észak-Afrikában,” 541.

43 “Afrika, Marokkó,” Közgazdasági Értesítő, March 1908, 772.

44 KM to the Magyar Királyi Tengerészeti Hatóság [hereafter MKTH], January 18, 1900, DAR 282.

45 Foreign Ministry Report, November 30, 190, DAR 282, 4966/90.

46 Adria Magyar Királyi Tengerhajózási Részvénytársaság [hereafter Adria] to MKTH, September 12, 1902, DAR 282.

47 Adria to MKTH, September 13, 1902, DAR 282.

48 Hölek, “Magyarország és Északafrika,” 836.

49 This data was taken from A Magyar Korona országainak évi külkereskedelmi forgalma.

50 KM to Foreign Ministry, 28 October 1905, DAR 282, 578990.

51 KM to Adria, November 14, 1902, DAR 282.

52 Adria to MKTH, May (date not provided), DAR 282.

53 KM to MKTH, December 16, 1902, DAR 282.

54 HHStA MdA AR, Fach 34, F344138.

55 Adria, Üzleti jelentés.

56 KM to MKTH, 9 March 1903, DAR 282.

57 Algiers, January 10, 1899, Letter from V. Graf Crenneville, “Specialbericht aus Algier,” DAR 282.

58 Sándor Billitz, freight forwarder, to MKTH, October 4, 1904, DAR 282.

59 Ludwig von Callenberg, Chief of Mission to Sultan of Morocco between 1909 and 1913, “Klagen über den ,,Adria” – dienst. – Neuregelung des österreichisch – ungarischen Schiffahrtsdienstes nach Marokko, June 20, 1909, DAR 282.

60 Oesterreichiesches statistisches Handbuch, 232.

61 Tangier consul to Count Agenor Maria Adam Gołuchowski, Chairman of the Ministers’ Council for Common Affairs of Austria-Hungary, July 24, 1904, DAR 282.

62 Adria to MKTH, February 25, 1908, DAR 282.

63 Adria to MKTH, May 2, 1904, DAR 282.

64 MKTH to Károly Hieronymi, Interior Minister of Hungary, May 18, 1904, DAR 282.

65 HHStA MdA AR, Fach 34 F344138.

66 KM to MKTH, August 19, 1904 DAR 282.

67 Adria to MKTH, September 8, 1904, DAR 282.

68 Adria to MKTH, May 16, 1907, DAR 456.

69 Adria to Gołuchowski, February 24, 1906, 13521, HHStA MdA AR Fach 68/1.

70 Harding, Phantom Crown; O’Connor, The Cactus Throne.

71 Sondhaus, The Naval Policy, 16.

72 Pruonto, “Did the Second Mexican Empire,” 110.

73 “Összeköttetés Mexikóval,” Budapesti Hírlap, November 19, 1898.

74 “A mexikói magyar kereskedelmi,” Budapesti Hírlap, April 11, 1901.

75 “A Közép-tenger körül,” Budapesti Hírlap, January 7, 1903; “Német vas Mexikóban,” Budapesti Hírlap, February 16, 1902.

76 “Az OMGE ipari és kereskedelmi szakosztályának ülése,” Köztelek, March 16, 1904.

77 “Bánó Jenő fölolvasása,” Budapesti Hírlap, March 8, 1904.

78 Jenő Bánó, “Mexikó kereskedelmi fejlődése és a magyar gőzhajó járatok,” Magyarország, May 31, 1908.

79 “Magyar hajójárat Newyorkba és Mexikóba,” Budapesti Hírlap, October 27, 1901.

80 “Hajójárat Mexikóba,” Magyarország, May 8, 1908.

81 A Magyar Korona országainak évi külkereskedelmi forgalma 1903–1915.

82 “Mexicói cs. és kir. Konzulátus,” Közgazdasági Értesítő 3 (1908): 1070.

83 Ibid., 1075.

84 “Mit keresnek Mexikóban?,” Közgazdasági Értesítő 6, no. 1 (1911): 578.

85 Foreign Ministry Memo to Prime Minister Koloman von Széll, Vienna, November 5, 1902. 72588, HHStA MdA AR Fach 68/1.

86 Magyar Nemzeti Levéltár Országos Levéltára [hereafter MNL OL] K 26 1908 – XXXVIII – 1289 – 394, July 10, 1902, 43982, MKTH to Lajos Láng.

87 MNL OL, K 26 1908 – XXXVIII – 1289 – 394, August 31, 1902, Note from the Trade Ministry to the Prime Minister, 4618.

88 Adria to MKTH, September 29, 1907, DAR– 46 – 439.

89 Adria to KM, August 29, 1908, DAR 456.

90 Adria to MKTH, June 23, 1908, DAR 456.

91 KM to MKTH, February 13, 1900, DAR 282.

92 Adria to MKTH, December 28, 1904, DAR 282.

93 KM to MKTH, March 8, 1904, DAR 282.

94 Adria to MKTH, December 28, 1904, DAR 282.

95 Adria to MKTH, January 20, 1904, DAR 282.

96 “An die hochverehrliche k.u.k. österreich-ung. Gesandtschaft in Tanger,” Complaint by Benchimol & Kell, Beilage zum Bericht No. 8. H. P. vom 20. Juni 1909.

97 “Einführung von Automobilen in Tunesien,” March 4, 1912, HHStA MdA AR Fach 95/1.

98 Pelles, “Az Adria Magyar Királyi Tengerhajózási Rt,” 197.

99 Ibid., 205.

100 Ibid., 206.

101 Adria to the Prime Minister, Budapest, April 26, 1906, 32710, HHStA MdA AR Fach 68/4: Schifffahrt-Lloyd, Generalia (1909 -).

102 For example, compare Adria’s shipping schedules for 1891 and 1913.

103 Deak and Gumz, “How to Break a State,” 1106; See also Wank, “Varieties of Cultural Despair;” Bridge, The Habsburg Monarchy; Hantsch, Leopold Graf Berchtold. A similar corrective has been made about the perspective of the military. See Deak, “The Great War and the Forgotten Realm,” 367.

104 Most recently in Wawro, A Mad Catastrophe, 13.




Hungarian Historical Review Volume 9 Issue 3 (2020): 385-389 DOI: 10.38145/2020.3.385

Andrea Pető, Alexandra M. Szabó, and András Szécsényi

There was a significant debate in the Hungarian journal of social sciences and culture Kommentár in 2008 initiated by Gábor Gyáni as to whether Hungarian Holocaust research had or had not been successfully integrated into international discourse after 1989.1 One element missing from the debate was that after 1989, main concepts and the language of the discipline derived from the Western side of the (fallen) Iron Curtain. The histories of the Holocaust survivors had been only descriptive in nature, while the experiences of Jewish communities, the members of which had lived under communism was of predominant focus. There was no theoretical inquiry in Holocaust scholarship as long as the objective fact-finding was taking place, expanding on questions as to when, where, and what had happened to which actors. Historical inquiry, however, needs to extend further to explain the uncovered events and experiences.

For instance, a significant element missing from the scholarship in its entirety is gender analysis, and this observation brings to the fore the lack of discussion on methodology and the consequent absence of acknowledging developments. Hungarian scholarship of Holocaust historical inquiry with a central aim evolving around gender analytical perspectives is still nonexistent, yet there are some contributions about women and the Holocaust in the English language, for instance by Andrea Pető.2 This special edition of the Hungarian Historical Review lines up studies which draw on new modes of analyses and frameworks with the aim of achieving knowledge production on a whole new level about the Holocaust in Hungary.

The lack of innovative theoretical frameworks and other new approaches in understandings of the history of the Shoah in the Hungarian context explains the current poor state of institutionalized Hungarian Holocaust research. The consequences are not only prevalent in academia, but also in the public sphere (which influences science policy) and in shifts in public memory of the Holocaust in Hungary.

However, the current struggles for memory are far from a memory policy based on democratic consensus and development. Since illiberal states do not have an ideology but only a memory policy, the weak domestic institutionalization of Hungarian Holocaust research with low international recognition has contributed to the successful reinterpretation of the Holocaust remembrance paradigm by illiberal actors. Scholarly attempts against this were and are still being made, such as the relevant scholarly volume published on the occasion of what is referred to as the 70th anniversary of the Holocaust in Hungary, which was published in Hungarian and English by CEU Press3 (a year of anniversary that is misleading as it suggests that the Holocaust in Hungary began with the German occupation in 1944 instead of with the labor service system and with the earlier deportations of Hungarian Jews, such as the deportation of Jews to Kamianets-Podilskyi in 1941, where an estimated 23,000 Jewish deportees were massacred in two days). At the same time, historical research workshops operating in Hungary mostly outside the system that ensures scientific standards and outside the international scientific frameworks are growing, and they are pursuing ad hoc research in parallel with the existing research infrastructure in support of the present government’s politics of memory.

Demonstrating the lack of new research directions in Hungary that are prevalent in international Holocaust scholarship, Andrea Pető called for the organization of a conference entitled The Hungarian Holocaust: Victimhood and Memory, together with Gábor Gyáni, Edit Jeges, and András Szécsényi and in cooperation with Central European University and the Humanities Research Center of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in Budapest on December 18, 2017. A selected number of presentations were considered for publication in Századok, the most prestigious Hungarian historical journal, for its special section dealing with the Hungarian Holocaust. The selection of conference speakers and publications mirrored the work of mostly young researchers who, despite the dwindling research infrastructure, had carried out methodologically innovative work based on archival research. The introduction to this section in Századok was censored for discussing “illiberal memory politics,” although the authors took a clear stand against this suppressive act.4 The presentation of this special issue, which took place on September 25, 2019, was met with unprecedented interest at Central European University, indicating that the Holocaust continues to be a subject of major scholarly and public interest.

Despite the controversial nature of memory politics and the lack of proper infrastructure, a new generation of researchers worked on this special issue to present new approaches and findings, thus taking an important step towards international exchange by elevating Hungarian Holocaust research onto the international stage and bringing innovative research methods from the international pool into Hungarian scholarship.

The articles in the present volume contribute to historical understandings which primarily work from the perspectives of the victims of the Holocaust. Based on the division of historical inquiry by Raul Hilberg, the Hungarian historiography of the Holocaust focuses on one of categories suggested by Hilberg: perpetrators, victims, or bystanders. This mainstream allocation, however, has been widely criticized in recent decades by many researchers worldwide, and they have offered new approaches which shift the focus to the behaviors, interactions, and dynamics among societies and communities involved in the Shoah, together with closer study of the psychological and sociological perceptions of these groups. This paradigm shift has emerged only recently in Hungarian scholarship, another significant reason as to why Hungarian historiography has only rarely constituted a serious part of the international discourse.

In recent decades, there have mostly been descriptive, fact-finding monographs published that are based on archival sources and avoid the use of private or narrative sources.5 A group of Hungarian Holocaust researchers who mainly belong to the new generation would like to break from this approach and widen the perspective of inquiry. The papers in this issue seek answers to questions concerning how Jews, who were deprived of their basic rights, forced to serve in labor service, and then, in 1944, compelled to live in ghettos and yellow star houses or deported to concentration camps, lived and survived under these extreme conditions. The histories presented here also consider how the survivors remembered their pasts in the immediate postwar setting with a specific focus on the modes in which these experiences were later recounted.

The approaches and viewpoints presented by our authors are of a wider scale. Some papers belong to the field of microhistory, while others closely examine and reflect on specific oral historical sources and narratives. The interpretations largely rest on contemporary and postwar narrative sources (memoirs, diaries, and other notes), in addition to the archival documents, which touch primarily on questions pertinent to individual life stories.

István Pál Ádám examines the case of the butchers of Budapest and considers how the governmental and municipal administration of the late Horthy-era impacted the leftists and the Jewish butchers from the issuance of the 1939 anti-Jewish law. Ádám examines the ways in which the butchers of the capital were forced to change their strategy in the postwar democratic society of Hungary. Tamás Csapody examines diaries, some of them incomplete, written by six inmates of the camps in and around Bor. They were Hungarian citizens of Jewish and other free church denominations who had been deported from Hungary in 1943 and 1944 and taken to the lager-system of Bor (Serbia), later to be brought back to Hungary in the second half of 1944 and then (some of them) taken to German concentration camps. He provides insightful content analysis and examines diaries written by six inmates, one of which is being presented for the first time in this volume. Heléna Huhák analyzes the spatial experiences of some of the inmates who were deported from Hungary to Bergen-Belsen in 1944–1945. She draws on diaries, memoirs, and correspondence in order to explore perceptions of space formed in the memories of camp inmates. Edit Jeges examines survivor accounts by Polish and Hungarian Jewish women and reflects on the nature of her primary sources. She also considers the further potentials of digital storytelling as a source and the importance of survivor memory at a time when fewer and fewer survivors remain among us. Borbála Klacsmann summarizes the roles and the activities of the Government Commission for Abandoned Property regarding the restitution of Hungarian Jews in the first three years of the postwar period, providing specific examples from Pest County through personal accounts and correspondence. Alexandra M. Szabó examines Jewish women’s experiences of miscarriages before, during, and after the Shoah through a specific case study in order to draw attention to the significance of such corporeal events from a social historical point of view. Her study considers the implications of the silence concerning women’s experiences in Holocaust research to show that gender analysis substantially adds to further knowledge production. In his case study, which partly overlaps with Huhák’s paper, András Szécsényi also concentrates on one space, a German DP camp. Szécsényi tries to reconstruct the spatial experiences of György Bognár, a former inmate of Bergen-Belsen who was taken to the Hillersleben DP camp after liberation. The paper explores space perceptions based on Bognár’s diary and the maps he drew, which Szécsényi compares with his own in-person experiences of the sites (or what remains of them). Ferenc Laczó’s paper presents German historiography from recent decades on the Hungarian Holocaust by exploring the relevant findings and conclusions of the most important German histories. Through his findings, he seeks answers to questions concerning why there has been so little institutionalized cooperation between the German and Hungarian research communities.

We would like to dedicate our work to the memory of Randolph L. Braham (1922–2018), who, as the pioneer in Hungarian Holocaust research, was a true inspiration and supportive friend of the scholars whose works are part of the present volume.

1 The articles of this debate can be found in Kommentár, no. 3, 5, 6 of 2008.

2 Women and the Holocaust: New Perspectives and Challenges, edited by Andrea Pető, Louise Hecht, and Karolina Krasuska (Warsaw: IBL PAN, 2015).

3 The Holocaust in Hungary Seventy Years Later, edited by András Kovács and Randolph L. Braham (Budapest: CEU Press, 2016).

4 Andrea Pető, “Áldozatok, emlékezet, jóvátétel a magyarországi holokausztkutatás új irányai,” Századok, no. 4 (2019): 639–40.

5 Gábor Gyáni, “Hungarian Memory of the Holocaust in Hungary,” The Holocaust in Hungary: Seventy Years Later, edited by András Kovács and Randolph L. Braham (Budapest: Central European University Press, 2016), 215–30.

Volume 6 Issue 3 CONTENTS



Mobile Elites: Bulgarian Emigrants in the Middle of the Nineteenth Century and the Accommodation of Difference in the Balkans

Ana-Teodora Kurkina

Graduiertenschule für Ost- und Südosteuropastudien, Universität Regensburg

This article addresses the issue of accommodating difference through an analysis of a specific group of mobile public actors who can be defined as “mobile elites.” Using the Bulgarian emigrants in the middle of the nineteenth century as a typical case of an exiled elite, I link this case to other European Romantic intellectuals and sketch a grand-scale scheme of regional traffic in ideas. I suggest that emigration as such instigates the consolidation of nationalist elites. Thus, elites can be viewed as large, separate, and often mobile groups, which negotiate their respective interests and search for compromises.
I contend that mobile public actors influence the societies in which they dwell by creating sets of networks which stretch over the whole region. The notion of “mobile elites” can therefore be a helpful tool in defining emigrant intellectuals. Furthermore, the activities of these intellectuals shed light on the ways in which migrant groups seek accommodation, pursue their political aims, and attempt to find compromises which can eventually yield beneficial outcomes.

Keywords: migration, elite theory, social networking, Bulgarian nation and state-building, Georgi Rakovski, Hristo Botev, othering.

In 1877, Ivan Ivanov, the head of the “Society for the spread of education among the Bulgarians,” wrote a letter to Ivan Aksakov, a prominent Russian Slavophile, discussing the destinies of the many Bulgarian volunteers employed by the Russian Army in the Russian-Turkish war. These men were mostly young and active individuals living scattered in Romania and Serbia. Ivanov mentioned that these migrant-volunteers (around 200 people) were paid 15 rubles a day, which assured their wellbeing and covered most of their needs. Yet, these men became a highly problematic group to accommodate when they lost this income, leaving them in foreign lands without legitimate means of supporting themselves. Ivanov contended that “[m]any of them are incapable of work.”1 They were primarily “hajduks,” i.e. outlaws, and their lifestyle preferences hardly coincided with the grand-scale nation and state-building ideas cherished and preached by the mobile ideologists, who sought their cooperation.

Bulgarian vagabonds who found temporary or permanent shelter in Romania, Serbia or Russia represent a typical case of migrants who were led and coordinated by a cohort of intellectuals. The ideologists were a different type of migrants altogether: they were organizers involved in mediating relations between their compatriots, the Great Powers, and the host states in which they lived. They were emigrants, but their position was different from that of their less prominent peers in a number of subtle ways which made their voices convincing and their ideology significant to the local governments, their followers and even their opponents. Nevertheless, the reality of migration united them with a much larger mass of their misplaced compatriots.

Migration is a notion that refers to a wide array of mobile people, often ignoring the fundamental differences between various groups of individuals who are considered migrants. However, different clusters of migrants have different patterns of movement which cannot all be brought together under one umbrella term. Therefore, in this article, I explore a case of the accommodation of a foreign group by several host states. In other words, I am examining the case of an emigrant elite involved in what Joep Leerssen describes as “the cultivation of culture”2 and intellectual and artistic creativity. The issue emerges in the wake of population movements and remains vital in the process of negotiating difference in the Balkans, a region contested by the authors of multiple state-and nation-building projects during the long nineteenth century and beyond. Furthermore, the discourses initiated and perpetuated by the mobile elites persisted well beyond the nineteenth century, leaving their imprints on the ideologies, paths, and propagandistic strategies of their later adherents.

When examining the case of mobile elites, one can present them as arguably the most influential group of migrants, a group that has potential power to influence their less-engaged compatriots.3 Because of their ideological activities, the mobile elites can be regarded as a link between migrants and host states. I suggest that these elites can either facilitate or hamper the accommodation of their peers into a foreign society, while relying mostly on their vast social networking and knowledge exchange.4 I analyze the ways in which these networks function by examining the example of the Bulgarian mid-nineteenth-century emigrants in Serbia, Romania, and Russia.

Building on Bernhard Giesen’s theory regarding intellectual elites which generate national communities,5 I use a comparative approach to differentiate groups of mobile ideologists from their less involved compatriots and to investigate the potential sway of their arguments among their respective national groups. Moreover, an analysis of the writings of the mobile elites offers an opportunity to trace their interconnections and follow their state-building plans, some of which later influenced regional politics. While many projects turned out to be wildly unsuccessful, most of them had lasting consequences. Lyuben Karavelov became an apostle of Balkan federalism for the future generations of socialists from the region.6 Hristo Botev claimed the place of a national Romantic poet, whose influence on Bulgarian literature crossed over into politics. Georgi Rakovski became an ideological symbol for the future generations of the Balkan politicians, and one could list many other similar examples.7

The emigrants who left Bulgaria in the middle of the nineteenth century represent a typical case of an exiled elite that can be linked to other European nationalist intellectuals (such as the post-1849 Hungarian emigrants). They can be viewed as a large, separate, transnational group, which negotiated its national interests and searched for compromises. Although they did not necessarily contribute to the economic development of their host states, they initiated and influenced the regional traffic in ideas, promoting and cultivating their national culture and state-building aspirations.

I begin by analyzing the concept of mobile elites and examining how the multiple identities of migrants can facilitate the accommodation of their national group in a host state or influence the politics within the borders of their own country. The second section of my essay deals with the networking systems developed and sustained by the emigrants and their methods of transmitting information that influenced their societies and those of others. It also addresses the idea of a common space shared by the European Romantic elites, which enabled them to promote their state-building and nation-building ideas and defend the rights of their respective groups internationally. The final section explores the impact of the mobile elites on their peers and host-societies and examines how the extent of this impact was determined by their active networking, lack of resources, or proposed goals.

Mobile Elites and Their Troublesome Identities: Refugees, Emigrants, Exiles, and Romantic Heroes

The term “migrant” encompasses people with dramatically diverse lives, political views, and destinies. The story of the protagonists of the current article is not different. The nineteenth-century Bulgarian revolutionaries whose destinies have been thoroughly studied by researchers and iconised by their descendants comprised only a tiny share of all the Bulgarian migrants living in the Romanian cities of Brăila or Bucharest or settled in Odessa or Belgrade.8 One thinks of penniless hajduks and rich merchants when dealing with people who moved for economic or political reasons.

While most inquiries “encompass theories about the motivations for migrations, about how migration is shaped by local, regional, and international economies,”9 as well as other important interdependencies, the classification of migrants as such remains a topic only rarely addressed. And yet, in addition to the economic outcomes associated with migration, one should also address the ways in which certain groups can influence and determine how their peers and they themselves integrate into a foreign society.10 Those who form a mobile elite constitute an entirely different group within the existing community of migrants.

Although “well-integrated migrants can become ‘nearly one of us’ (but never completely so), whilst the ‘underserving’ are seen as ‘too different’, as an impediment and, indeed, at times, as a threat to a sustainable society,”11 the cases of mobile elites demonstrate another picture. Moreover, that picture is paradoxical. The protagonists of the current inquiry belonged to a group of Romanticist intellectuals, and as members of this group they shared more with one another than they did with their regular compatriots. In fact, it was the reality of political emigration that forced the nineteenth-century elites to acknowledge and later exploit regional political situations, searching for allies for themselves as individuals and for their groups.

The Bulgarian mobile elites often repeated the strategies adopted by their Polish, Hungarian, and even Romanian predecessors. The defeat of the Hungarian revolution and the fall of a short-lived Hungarian state in 1849 created a cohort of brilliantly educated individuals who chose the path of emigration.12 Pushed out of the Habsburg Empire, these individuals had to reconsider not only their relations with the former host state, but also their relations with fellow minorities and their strategies of accommodation.13 They had to become diplomats and mediators who negotiated with the elites of the states which hosted them. A complicated web of interconnections stretched from one cohort of emigrants to another. Hungarian emigrants became acquainted with the Romanian “fourty-eighters” and Polish emigrants in Paris. The Romanian exiled ideologists (including the future prime minister of the Danubian Principalities, Ion Brătianu), were later the ones to accept the Bulgarian emigrants into their state.

What unites all these outstanding individuals and their less prominent compatriots was the reality of their exile. The Polish community of outstanding “cultivators of culture” in Paris and its much less notable peers shared the same experiences, but they shared them differently. Mobile elites were a thin layer of the privileged (due to their education, social status etc.), holding power in accordance with elite theory.14 They were intellectual elites who happened to be in exile. Their social capital had greater significance than that of their regular compatriots. Most of them profited from their imperial background to some extent, preserving the connections they had gained in their respective empires (as was true in the case of Prince Adam Czartoryski, for instance). Yet they were shrewd enough to formulate their subsequent political stances in accordance with the general Romanticist trends. Their political Romanticism came from cultural Romanticism,15 which in its turn made them primarily European romanticist nationalists, whose approaches, if not possible state-building plans, did not differ significantly.

Emigrant elites, like regular migrants, use their connections as important sources of social capital consisting essentially of “social networks and the associated norms of reciprocity and trustworthiness.”16 Yet networks often transcend the bounds of local communities,17 becoming links that bind together different ideologists, who exchange ideas and aspire to win one another’s support or debate with one another. Through networks, the elites rely on social resources that are accessible through one’s direct or indirect ties.18 While social resources exert a significant effect on the attained statuses, they can also be transferable. It is through those resources that the emigrant elites managed to become a part of a nationalist Romanticist intellectual group and simultaneously remain within their smaller community, originating among the aspiring minorities. The public sphere they addressed, however, transcended that modest group.

“Public sphere initially emerged as a powerful counterweight to traditional forms of political authority, inserting itself between the private life of the family and the arcana imperii of the early modern state apparatus,”19 so the identities of the Bulgarian mobile elites can be analyzed through that connection. They were, on the one hand, private and confined to their own circle. On the other hand, they were or aspired to be part of a larger community of European intellectuals. Since “individuals become integrated in groups through processes of recurrent social interaction and communication,”20 emigrants’ publications facilitated cooperation. However, it was effective information exchange that made the works of the public actors and their organizational and unifying abilities operational. They exchanged information and created links between their community and that of their host states.

Before the Russian-Turkish War of 1877/78, cohorts of Bulgarian revolutionaries found shelters in neighboring Serbian and Romanian lands or opted for further destinations like Russia.21 The colonies they formed became outposts, where nation-building and state-building ideas were exchanged, conceived, and promoted. In a biographical note dedicated to Georgi Sava Rakovski, an ever-roaming emigrant, a revolutionary and a notable ideologist of Bulgarian liberation, Veselin Trajkov stresses Rakovski’s unique position as a truly international revolutionary ideologist.22 Like Rakovski, who became one of the minds behind a number of Bulgarian revolutionary societies, branching out in the Balkans, notable poet Hristo Botev was also one of the emigrant ideologists involved in promoting his national cause.23 What unites these individuals, except for their causes, debated, but often shared, is their experience of migration and their elite statuses.

Ivan Vazov, acclaimed writer and an emigrant in his youth, a representative of a younger generation of the Bulgarian intellectuals, published a novel and a theatre play featuring a romanticized version of the events of his turbulent youth. As outcasts living on the banks of the Danube after the failed attempts to liberate their nation from the Ottoman Empire, the protagonists led miserable lives. In the beginning of his novel, Vazov notes, “Romania offered them hospitality, but a type of hospitality that an empty shore gives to sailors, tossed out by the storms, shattered and broken. They were in a society, yet they were in a desert.”24 Vazov’s accounts should be understood as a romanticized version of the events, much like many of the subsequent memoirs and descriptions of the lives of the propagandists of the Bulgarian revival. In his Memoirs of the Bulgarian Uprisings: Eyewitness’ Reports. 1870–1876, Zahari Stoyanov tells similar polished stories of noble fighters for freedom and the hardships they had to endure.25

Even the revolutionaries who could hardly be considered ideologists left memoirs, in which they presented themselves as heroes fighting for the liberation of their respective nations. Panayot Hitov, for instance, started out as an outlaw in the Balkan Mountains only later to become one of the most prominent figures in the Bulgarian revolutionary movement.26 While Hitov was initially a hajduk and hardly an ideologist, the emigrant destinies of Hristo Botev, Lyuben Karavelov, or even the instigator of revolutions Georgi Rakovski did not differ significantly. During his exile in Romania, Botev shared space with the acclaimed national hero Vasil Levski, and lived in a windmill in the outskirts of Bucharest.27 Judging by the accounts of several of these public actors, one may wonder whether they can be considered “elites” and, if yes, how their identities can be fully defined.

The border between an ideologist and an outlaw is truly delicate, and arguably more delicate in the Bulgarian case than in any other. Romanticist elites as such represented a group of individuals who contributed to their national causes while forging or attempting to forge political cooperation, publishing their ideas, and spreading these ideas within and beyond their circles. In order to transmit a political statement, they needed to make it attractive and worthy of association both for their compatriots and for the agents in the host states. A “mobile elite” thus could not be a closed group. Mostly emigrant intellectuals tried to widen their club in a desperate search for support.28

While the earlier cases of the Polish emigrants are remarkably similar to their Bulgarian followers, they bear one significant difference.29 The Bulgarian intellectuals were almost all poor, of humble descent, and relatively unknown (initially) in the foreign circles, while the Polish elite included a number of rather famous, rich, or noble individuals. Hungarian post-1849 emigrants represented a similar pattern, although often featuring notable modest protagonists. Similarly, the Romanian exiles in Paris were overwhelming brilliantly educated and often rich noblemen.30 While in the long run, these social differences could easily be obscured by the strategy chosen by a given individual (the quantity and quality of publications and one’s active attempts to engage the public actors in the host state and the home state mattered), they initially posed obstacles for the career of a public actor. Lajos Kossuth was a “mere low-nobleman from Upper Hungary,” lacking the bright social standing of many of his peers,31 and he had to create a freedom-fighter reputation for himself rather than rely on the already existing financial and political power of his name or family. Many other Hungarian, Romanian, and Polish exiles, on the other hand, had the leverage that he lacked. Alexandru Golescu, for example, a rich Romanian noble and an emigrant in Paris, enjoyed a number of privileges derived from his status, which allowed him immediate entry into the higher circles of French social life.32 That was certainly not the case of Georgi Rakovski, who constantly had to struggle to win the recognition of the Russian, Serbian, or Romanian authorities.

Prominent nineteenth-century Bulgarian intellectuals had merchant or low-middle class backgrounds. Most of them had been educated in the Greek circles of the Ottoman Empire or in Russia.33Many opted for schools based in the Danubian Principalities or chose the institutions offered by the Ottoman Empire to their newly-groomed elites. Some of them would later continue their pursuit of knowledge in the West. Through the mixture of their Ottoman background, partially European education, local experiences, and connections to Western political ideals (including Kantian perceptions of a possible European world order) they reached fellow-intellectuals in Romania, Serbia, Russia, and Greece. Their destinies were not too different from the destinies of the intellectuals in the Habsburg or Russian Empires.34 Their orienteers lay in the West or in Russia. They wanted to belong to the circle of European intellectuals that encompassed foreign elites, yet they were not necessarily seen as such in their host societies. Nevertheless, the attempts of the Bulgarians to establish connections with the elites of their host states resembled the attempts of their Polish and Hungarian predecessors. They tried to engage the local agents who were either interested in their cause or shared some of their goals.35

The Bulgarian emigrants longed for international connections. In a typography in Bucharest, Botev enjoyed the company of a Polish emigrant named Henryk Dembicki (who was the illustrator of a journal published by Botev), a Russian emigrant named Nechaev, and a number of Romanian socialists.36 Nevertheless, his Bulgarian identity was never in question. He, like many of his compatriots, believed himself to be a representative of the Bulgarian nation, of which he had a rather romanticized and dramatized idea. Yet his connections to a diverse circle of intellectuals he had met in Romania shaped his vision of the Balkans. In 1875, Botev, addressing the publications of the Serbian newspapers regarding a possibility of a Serbian-Bulgarian union, wrote that any such idea had to be based on “the freedom of nations, personal freedoms, and free labor.”37 He therefore linked progressive European ideals of the time to the destiny of his nation. He published abroad and phrased his statements with the intention of giving them universal appeal, understandable not only to his revolutionary compatriots, but to the Serbian and Romanian elites. Botev, therefore, reconciled his identity as a Bulgarian and a revolutionary with that of an emigrant and a Romantic poet.

Romanian exile became a leitmotiv in the memoirs, letters and publications of the Bulgarian emigrants that was destined to create links between the intellectuals of the two countries in the middle of the nineteenth century. In July 1868, Kazakovich, a Bulgarian from Alexandria, wrote to one of the most prominent Bulgarians in Bucharest, Ivan Kasabov, that Romania offered the Bulgarian youth every opportunity for education and that teacher Hristo Zlatovich had been granted rights by the authorities to educate the local Bulgarian children to “feel Bulgarian even if they were born in Romania.”38 In 1869, in an article published in the newspaper Svoboda, Lyuben Karavelov called Romania “the Second Switzerland,”39 a sort of a bastion of liberty and culture. Overly idealistic federalist Karavelov certainly was not striving to give an adequate description of his host state. Rather, he sought to promote the links that could facilitate the accommodation of his fellow emigrants. His accounts were meant to explain to the local Bulgarian public that one could easily be Bulgarian in Romania. Moreover, he wished to convince them that both Romania and Bulgaria could benefit from the activities of the émigré communities in the long run.

The presence of the Bulgarian intellectuals in Romania brought not only the like-minded Romanian elites to them, as was true in the case of the connections between Rosetti and Botev. It also resulted in a number of coordinated publications that were intended to influence the mutual perceptions of the local public and the exiles. Such was the Buduchnost-Viitorul journal, published by Georgi Sava Rakovski. In an article published in 1864, he called Romania a “free and inviolable asylum,”40 where he could continue his political activities (although Rakovski’s whole destiny was marked by troubles caused by the authorities of the states in which he resided), remain Bulgarian, and become an internationally acknowledged intellectual, a multi-lingual regional agent, a prominent publicist, and a revolutionary.

It was a mixture of romanticism and mobility that made exiled elites exhibit a number of coexisting identities. “Exile” added flavor to a national cause, romanticizing it, while “emigration” was often associated with hardships and lack of acceptance. Mobile elites, paradoxically, embodied both. They were the people who often turned their “hardship” into romanticized banners to brandish in front of the public. They did not exhibit a singular identity, but encompassed several, often turning their rhetoric to the universal values of “progress and freedoms.” For example, Levski referred not simply to the “Bulgarian nation,” its interests, and displaced or mistreated Bulgarians, but rather to a “sacred and pure republic.”41 Universal romanticist values surpassed the standard agenda of being Bulgarian and appealed to wider audiences.42 The journals published by the emigrants often addressed the public in their host states (as was true in the case of Viitorul), tackling the issues that the Balkan nations might have in common. Highlighting shared burdens and goals rather than differences, the mobile elites created ideological links that could facilitate the acceptance of their compatriots by the foreign states. Furthermore, they mostly relied on their revolutionary networks to increase their influence on the foreign public.

Mobile Elites and Their Networking Systems: People with a Thousand Voices

As Deborah Rice points out, “[t]he original source of all social cohesion lies in interpersonal networks that emerge once two or more individuals perceive or experience a common ground between them.”43 The creation of that common ground and the avoidance of possible dangers was one of the key factors that determined the strategies adopted by the mobile elites. Too crude and active involvement, like in the case of Rakovski or Hitov, could create problems with the local authorities. Rakovski was convinced that foreign help was needed in order to create a viable Bulgarian nation-state in one form or another.44 His attempts to forge an alliance with the Greeks in 1840s and later in 1860s proved fruitless, as did his attempts to instigate a revolt in Brăila in 1841.45 The revolt was quickly put down by Prince Ghica, who valued peace with the Ottoman Empire more than he did friendly relations with the Bulgarian revolutionaries.

In the 1860s, Rakovski settled in Belgrade, where he once again attempted to find common goals with several prominent Serbian politicians. For a time, he managed to attract Michael Obrenovich to his cause.46 In Serbia, Rakovski started publishing his Danubian Swan, a journal aimed primarily at promoting the independence of the Bulgarian Exarchate from Constantinople and the emancipation of the Bulgarian nation.47 A vast array of interconnections is reflected in numerous organizations established by Rakovski and his compatriots outside of Bulgaria. Rakovski’s attempts to coordinate revolutionary activities in Serbia failed, and the legion that was supposed to liberate Bulgaria from the Ottomans was disbanded. Yet many of the volunteers assembled by Rakovski remained under the influence of his authority.

Most of these revolutionary networks relied on the tolerance of the local governments and the possibility of establishing a dialogue. In 1869, Dimitar Obshti invited Panayot Hitov to Brăila, assuring him that he did not have to worry about the local authorities, since they had connections with the local merchants. He wrote: “After having seen me, the merchants in Brăila asked about you, wondering why you would not come and what they can do to assist you.”48 In this case, personal connections turned into international connections that facilitated the intricacies of travel. The local merchants sustained personal or trade relations with the exiles. The emigrants promoted their political agendas and engaged their fellow revolutionaries with the help of the local intermediaries, whose ethnic backgrounds rarely mattered. Their ideological orientation played a more significant role.

Nevertheless, the attitudes of the emigrants could change quickly. Rakovski is only one of many examples of radically shifting opinions. He had initially regarded the Russian Empire as a savior of his nation, but within a decade he had changed his opinion dramatically.49 The emigrants living in Russia, on the other hand, had to adapt to the circumstances there, attempting to forge relations with prominent politicians and intellectuals whom they could attract to their side.

During his life in Russia, Lyuben Karavelov published a book consisting entirely of the dramatic tales about the lives of simple Bulgarians under the “Turkish yoke.”50 Written in Russian, the book first appeared in print in Moscow. While it is difficult to reflect on the volume’s overall popularity, the mere fact that it was published (with an optimistic dedication to the Russians who believed in common Slavic ideals and to whom Bulgarian lives mattered) offers testimony to the activities of a mobile intellectual, who attempted to forge connections with his peers in a host state.

The mobile elites persisted through communication, and this communication assured not only their success, but also opportunities for their peers to integrate. Karavelov hoped his book would be read by the Russian public, which would eventually feel compassion for his compatriots and the fate of his motherland. Similarly, the Bulgarian students in Petersburg wrote to Nikolay Ignatiev, a prominent Russian statesman and one of the architects of the favorable San-Stefano Treaty of 1878, asking for further assistance: “Your Excellency has justly drawn the borders of the San-Stefano Bulgaria, creating an ideal for the current and future generations of our nation.”51 The letter conveyed a message similar to that of Karavelov’s stories published in Russian. It was a hopeful acknowledgement of a connection, even if it might have been overstated, an attempt to gather support for a national cause. The Bulgarian students hoped to offer an example of Bulgarians in Russia, something that could attract public attention to their cause and influence the portrayal (preferably positively) of their compatriots in the Russian public sphere.

The important trait of emigrants in the eyes of their host societies is their deceiving “homogeneity.” The Polish romanticist emigrants (most prominently Chopin and Mickiewicz) made their nation a hit in France, much as Kossuth and Pulszky introduced the idea of a Hungarian nation to the West.52 Decades before, the protagonists of the Greek revival accomplished a similar goal for their nation, starting a wave of Philhellenism that enveloped all sides of European cultural life, including art and literature.53 What united these different people was their double status, i.e. that of an emigrant and that of a mobile intellectual. The Bulgarian elites had their share of successes as well, although on a smaller scale. The presence of the Bulgarian emigrants in Russia and the activities of the various Slavic societies inspired Ivan Turgenev to create a poem dedicated to the massacres in Bulgaria.54 Turgenev’s “Croquet at Windsor” was based on the aftermath of the April Uprising, while his famous novel On the Eve became a testimony to the stories of the Bulgarians living in Russia. On the Eve features a Bulgarian protagonist who was loosely modeled on a real emigrant, a student of Moscow State University.55 Migrants, intellectuals, and regular refugees provoked compassionate responses, which was precisely their intention.

Russian Slavophiles sought contact with the Balkan Slavs, and often their attempts were met eagerly by the Balkan public actors, including those residing in Russia.56 Furthermore, these mobile elites created symbolic capital for their compatriots, since a significant number of them were turned into national heroes, praised by both their peers and future generations. Vasil Levski became the epitome of a freedom fighter, used and abused in Bulgarian politics up to the present day,57 much like Lajos Kossuth and a long list of other European national heroes.58

Scrutinizing their lives, one may wonder what made precisely these individuals reference points for their fellow-intellectuals and followers. While there was certainly a vast array of different factors that contributed to an individual’s fame, including personal qualities and skills, mobility and a cohort of skillful chroniclers remained an important catalyst for the emergence subsequently of a reputation as a revolutionary. Zahari Stoyanov thoroughly documented the paths to Bulgarian liberation in his monumental work. Kossuth, for example, not only left volumes of writings in different languages himself, but also became a prominent figure in the memoirs of his peers.59 Vast informational networks united these intellectuals, turning some of them into chroniclers, others into heroes, and some into both. Thus, the methods they used to transmit information that could leave a lasting impact were rather straightforward. They presented themselves as truly transnational figures, although always highlighting their background, and they sought like-minded individuals in their host states with whom they attempted to engage (not always successfully). They tailored their ideas to the general Romanticist views and political trends of the epoch, and they actively published and spread the works of their compatriots and fellow revolutionaries. Thanks to their louder voices, they assumed the roles of “national representatives,” claiming to protect the interests of their fellow emigrants and their compatriots.

Mobile Elites and Their Political Impact: Failed Connections?

Empires often served as links that bound various public actors together: they offered career opportunities, regulated many aspects of their citizens’ lives, and, subsequently, assured a communication space that facilitated the exchange of ideas between various public figures.60 The emigrant revolutionaries in the Ottoman, Habsburg, and Russian Empires relied heavily on these imperial interconnections to curry support for their causes. Rakovski, Botev, and Karavelov all actively engaged in publishing journals and brochures. They hoped to address a wider audience, though their circle was relatively narrow.

Lyuben Karavelov published his apologetic remarks regarding federative ideas, mostly with the intention of attracting his co-nationals and involving foreign public actors. Criticizing the Greeks’ “favorable” relations with the Ottoman Empire, he wrote in the journal Svoboda, “[i]t becomes clear that the South Slavs and Romanians are more despised by the Greeks than the Mohammedans. Therefore, the Greeks resemble Hungarians, who like them, wish to create vast and powerful states without people.”61 Given the emigrants’ precarious relations even with their mobile fellows and local governments, their disappointed criticism of potential partners was justified. They sought connections, but their attempts to establish meaningful links failed more often than they succeeded.

The Bulgarian Secret Central Committee is one of the examples of a Bulgarian-Romanian collaborative effort that did not endure. The organization emerged in 1866 with several prominent Romanian liberals backing it.62 Subsequently, the prominent public actors of the organization forced Alexandru Ioan Cuza to abdicate, severely damaging Romanian relations with the Ottoman Empire. Following the events, Bulgarian elites living in Bucharest seemed resourceful allies to the Romanian liberals. Although Rakovski himself was not prone to cooperate with the liberals, another prominent emigrant, Ivan Kasabov, was eager to oblige. Kasabov hoped to further the outbreak of a Bulgarian revolt on Ottoman territory through the cooperative endeavor.63

The “Holly Coalition,” which was the result of this temporary alliance, had to ensure a full-fledged Balkan uprising with the subsequent establishment of a Balkan federative state. The Romanian side seemed eager to forge contacts with the emigrant revolutionaries, offering them funds in return for their military support. While the Bulgarian emigrant leaders had to ensure the participation of their compatriots in the affair, they established connections with the leaders of the host state. However, the alliance was short-lived. Following the restoration of Ottoman-Romanian relations and the election of Charles Hohenzollern as a new Romanian sovereign, cooperation with the Bulgarian emigrants in support of their cause ceased to be profitable for the Romanian side.64

Thus, most of the enterprises initiated by the Bulgarian mobile elites yielded little success.65 Nevertheless, after the emergence of the Bulgarian Principality, many of the emigrant’s ideas found new meaning in the policies of a newly-formed Bulgaria. In 1886, Prince Alexander Battenberg suggested a Romanian-Bulgarian alliance similar to the Austro-Hungarian Compromise, a union that represented a way of improving the political statuses of both nations, heavily based on the ideas expressed by the Bulgarian emigrants, who had once lived in Romania.66 Furthermore, in a letter to Alexandru Sturdza, Battenberg reflected on the “brotherly hospitality” granted the Bulgarian exiles in Romania, something the prince considered an important foundation for strengthening the connections between the two nations.67

The emigrant elites offered solutions to the irredentist problems arising in Bulgaria and in their former host states. Nevertheless, most of their projects were either overly idealistic or were simply never really accomplished. With the appearance of the Bulgarian Principality, the former emigrants changed their goals and returned to Bulgaria. Some had accomplished careers in the new state (like Bulgaria’s distinguished prime minister, Stefan Stambolov), yet others perished before the signing of the treaty of Berlin (for instance Georgi Rakovski, Levski, and others). However, the patterns established by the mid-nineteenth-century emigrants persisted.

In 1902, a Bulgarian emigrant association from Macedonia in Ruse sent a letter to count Ignatiev. This time, a different cohort of emigrant elites was attempting to forge alliances and act as their group’s voices. These public actors not only adopted the strategies of their predecessors, the emigrants of the Bulgarian revival, but also relied on their experiences in addressing Ignatiev.

In their letter, the emigrants implored the count to come to their aid and use his influence to improve the position of all the Bulgarians:

Raise once again your powerful voice and proclaim that the Bulgarians from Macedonia and Odrin deserve support and political freedom, that the time has come for the sufferings of these slaves to end. The voices of these doomed ones make us mourn them, and we must meet with you, Your Grace, our dear and precious guest, with grief and sorrow.”68

Among the multiple addresses sent to Ignatiev by the emigrants, there was a series of remarkable attempts to connect the causes and views of the emigrants with those of the statesman.69 The Bulgarian public actors would allude to a common Slavic sentiment and the shared legacy of Orthodoxy, and they also mentioned the Greek threat and the “chimerical idea of a Byzantine Empire” that allegedly haunted the Greek rivals of the Bulgarian nationalists.

One of the reasons emigrant elites tended to be vocal in promoting the national causes lies in their precarious position. They depended on the good will of the officials of the host states, and they were either welcomed or considered a dangerous element. Under these circumstances, the existence of the Bulgarian legions in Serbia, the flourishing cultural life of the Bulgarian emigrants in Odessa,70 their revolutionary networking in the Danubian Principalities, and even their pursuit of studies in Russia were always at risk. Careful navigation within the complicated web of social networking was necessary for the mobile elites. They searched for ways to promote their respective national causes, and they served as voices for their fellow emigrants, who, even unwillingly, were often associated with their loud and proud representatives. Often the consequences of their careless actions could be projected upon the whole group of migrants. The mobile ideologists were perceived not only as prominent public actors promoting the Romanticist cause of national emancipation, but also as “others.”

The balance between those two aspects depended on both the actions of the elites and the political circumstances in which they lived. Many of the former emigrants and their associates became genuinely important links between their respective group and the foreign powers. Stoyan Zaimov, a public figure and writer, is one such example. Decades after the Russian-Turkish War of 1877/78, Zaimov received a message from Petr Agatev, a Russian friend, who thanked him for his hospitality and guidance during his visit to Bulgaria, expressing his wish to popularize the cause of the “Tsar-liberator” committee in Russia. Agatev wrote, “I send you my sincere gratitude for the commemoration of the deeds and the preservation of the memory of our soldiers perished in Bulgaria.”71 The connections established years before the Balkan Wars had their impact on the lasting relations between various factions, including the links between the local intellectuals.

Conclusion: Emigrants, Intellectuals, Visionaries?

Mobile elites represent a specific stratum of migrants that has the important function of mediating relations between their peers and the host states, influencing both simultaneously. Mobile elites target prominent public figures in their host states, engaging them in the creation of projects and plans that have the potential to reshape the political balance in a region. Mobile intellectuals get involved in local politics, while attempting to promote the agendas of their group. Furthermore, they attempt to bind their group’s wellbeing with that of the host state, assuring their group’s integration. When their activities are aimed at national liberation and similar causes, they promote peaceful existence and political unions with their host states.72

While most of the mobile mid-nineteenth century agents can be regarded as typical political emigrants, they belonged to a much larger club of European intellectuals, sharing and discussing the ideas of Mazzini or Kossuth and receptive to the latest political trends not only in their respective region, but abroad. Their connections to the Western space of political ideas made them international figures, often with equal fame. However, they were not simply international intellectuals, but agents who were instrumental in accommodating their migrant peers, who were less vocal in foreign societies. While mobile intellectuals never ceased being emigrants, willingly or not, they represented the entire group of migrants. While this particularity often determined the actions of the elites, it also granted them a rare opportunity to speak as voices of their nation. Thus, they subsequently influenced their own societies by creating future reference points, such as memoirs and chronicles of their own actions and those of their fellow emigrants.

In 1868, Hristo Botev wrote,

...[i]f the whole of the Bulgarian nation rises, Serbia and Montenegro surpass their borders and the Bosnians and Herzegovinians put down their weapons before Andrassy’s second proclamation the (Eastern) question will be solved and the freedom of the Balkan peninsula will be assured. Isn’t this the era we are entering now?73

His multiple publications addressed a diverse public. Botev targeted his fellow emigrants and people who might have shared his goals and beliefs in the foreign countries. He reflected on the destinies of the peoples of the Balkan peninsula, looking at the streets of Bucharest and attempting to define his own place in the state that hosted him and could become a worthy ally in the future. He was Bulgarian, yet he was a Romantic poet like his Romantic European counterparts, having more in common with Petőfi or Mickiewicz than with an uneducated peasant in the Balkan Mountains. He managed to walk on the edges of identities and to fit into two groups and influence not only Bulgarian literature and political thought, but also the societies in which he dwelled. While many emigrants failed (sometimes miserably) to achieve their immediate goals (uprisings, revolutions, etc.), they offer a keen researcher a pattern of accommodation that is seldom acknowledged. Their activities had impacts that transcended their own time and sent messages to future generations.


Archival sources

Bulgarian Historical Archives (БИА). Fond 87, arh. ed. IIА 8431.

Bulgarian Historical Archives (БИА). Fond 154, arh. ed. 6.

Central State Historical Archives (ЦДИА). Fond 1325 К, opis 1, arh. ed. 25.

Central State Historical Archives (ЦДИА). Fond 820, opis 1, arh. ed. 7.

The state archive of the Russian Federation (ГАРФ). Fond 730, opis 1, ed. hr. 74.

The State Archive of the Russian Federation (ГАРФ). Fond 1750, оpis 2, ed. hr. 36.

The State Archive of the Russian Federation (ГАРФ). Fond 730, opis 1, ed. hr. 79.

The Archive of the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Arhiva M.A.E). Vol. 198, dosar 21.


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1 ГАРФ [GARF], Fond 1750 op. 2 ed. hr. 36.

2 Leerssen, National Thought in Europe, 186–204.

3 Zahra, “Imagined Noncommunities,” 93–119.

4 Ryan, Sales et. al, “Social Networks, ” 672–90.

5 Giesen, Die Intellektuellen und die Nation, 23–24.

6 Mineva, Istoriko-filosofska mozaika ot 19 vek, 112.

7 Rakovski’s fame subsequently resulted in the appearance of numerous biographies and memoirs written by his revolutionary peers, who drew inspiration from his works.

8 Dojnov, Bulgarskoto natsionalno-osvoboditelno dvizhenie, 159–76.

9 Brettell, “Theorizing migration in anthropology,” 164.

10 Elsner, “Does Emigration Benefit the Stayers?” 531–53.

11 Anthias and Pajnik, “Contesting integration-migration management and gender hierarchies,” 2.

12 Tóth, “The Historian’s Scales,” 294–314. 

13 Lengyel, A Magyar emigráció, 138.

14 Bottomore, Elites and Society, 25.

15 Isabella, Risorgimento in exile, 92–99.

16 Putnam, “‘E Pluribus unum’: Diversity and Community in the Twenty-first Century,” 137.

17 Wellman, “The Community Question: The Intimate Networks of East Yorkers,” 1201–33.

18 “Social resources are resources accessible through one’s direct and indirect ties.” See Lin, “Social Networks and Status Attainment,” 468.

19 Emden and Midgley, Beyond Habermas, 5.

20 Morgan, “Social Geography, Spatial Structure and Social Structure,” 302.

21 Lyulyushev, Prosvetnoto delo na bulgarskata emigratsiya, 3–9.

22 Traykov, Georgi Stoykov Rakovski, 379–80.

23 Undzhiev and Undzhieva, Hristo Botev – zhivot i delo, 5–10.

24 Vazov, Nemili, nedragi, 23.

25 Stoyanov, Zapiski po bulgarskite vustaniya.

26 Hitov, Kak stanah haydutin, 327.

27 Constantinescu-Iaşi, Din activitatea lui Hristo Botev, 14.

28 Isabella, Risorgimento in exile, 203–04.

29 The so-called Polish “Wielka Emigracja,” the Great Emigration of 1831–70, can be viewed as another example of an elite in exile. See Bade, Migration in European History, 134.

30 Jianu, A circle of friends, 115–27.

31 Deák, The lawful revolution, 7–10.

32 Jianu, A circle of friends, 94, 207.

33 Adzhenov, Svedeniia i zapisi za zhivota na Georgi Sava Rakovski, 19.

34 Buchen and Rolf, “Eliten und ihre imperialen Biographien,” 17–19.

35 For example, several Russian Slavophiles, including Ivan Aksakov, showed lively interest in Balkan affairs, although their vision was almost exclusively Russia-centered.

36 Constantinescu-Iaşi, Din activitatea lui Hristo Botev, 16.

37 Botev, “Samorazumniyat i bratskiyat soyuz.”

38 BIA [БИА] Fond № 154, arh. ed. 6, list 8.

39 The first issue of Karavelov’s journal Svoboda appeared in print in November 1869.

40 Iordan, “Primul ziar bulgaro-român,” 4.

41 A famous quote, taken from Levski’s letters to Svoboda, where it was published in 1871.

42 Morse Peckham, Romanticism and ideology, 3–23.

43 Rice, “Governing through networks,” 108.

44 Traikov, Rakovski i Balkanskite Narodi, vol. 2, 315–83.

45 Constantinescu-Iasi, Hristo Botev, 10.

46 Batakovic, Protic et al., Histoire du Peuple Serbe, 167–69.

47 Trajkov, Biografija, 171–74.

48 BIA [БИА] Fond 87, Arh. ed. IIА 8431.

49 Rakovski, Pereselenie v Rusiya, 1–2.

50 Karavelov, Stranici iz knigi stradaniy bolgarskogo plemeni, 1–3.

51 GARF [ГАРФ] Fond 730, opis 1, ed. hr. 79.

52 Pulszky, Életem és korom, vol. 3, 188.

53 Roessel, Byron’s Shadow, 136–39.

54 Turgenev, Polnoe sobranie sochineniy i pisem, vol. 10, 292.

55 Ibid., vol. 12, 191.

56 Buchenau, “Religionen auf dem Balkan,” 191–214.

57 Todorova, Bones of contention, 3–20.

58 Dénes, “Reinterpreting a ‘Founding Father’,” 90–117.

59 Notably, Kossuth is prominently featured in Ferenc Pulszky’s hit-novel “My life and times.”

60 Brunnbauer, “Der Balkan als translokaler Raum,” 85.

61 Karavelov, “Koyto iska chuzhdoto, toy izgubva i svoeto.”

62 Burmov, Taen Tsentralen Balgarski Komitet, vol. 2, 58–81.

63 Kasabov, Moite Spomeni ot Vazrazhdaneto, 50–54.

64 Strashimirov, Istoriya na Aprilskoto Vastanie, 16–17.

65 Case, “The Strange Politics of Federative Ideas in East-Central Europe,” 833–66.

66 Stoenescu, Istoria Loviturilor de Stat în România, 83.

67 Arhiva M.A.E. Vol. 198, Dosar 21, Foaie 4.

68 GARF [ГАРФ]. Fond 730, opis 1. Ed. hr. 74.

69 Ibid.

70 Drumev, Suchinenia, vol. 2, 467.

71 CDIA [ЦДИА] Fond 1325 К, opis 1, arh. ed. 25.

72 Case, “The Strange Politics of Federative Ideas in East-Central Europe,” 838.

73 Botev, Statii po politicheski i obshtestveni vuprosi, 498.