Communism in a Song

16.10.2013 § Leave a comment

I have written a bit about the Socialist period in Bulgaria, and there is no doubt that it is the defining political stage in the history of modern Bulgaria. Twenty-five years after its 45-year span ended, we are still divided into “reds” and others, and we are still struggling to “transition” to a free-market economy. While my opinions on the subject will be nothing new to either side, I would like to take a look at the immediate implications of the onset of Communism in Bulgaria through an unlikely source of data.

Emil Dimitrov, whom I have mentioned in the Music section of this blog, wrote a beautiful song called “A Letter to Mom” (“Писмо до мама”) in 1974. In listening to it a few days ago, I realized that it encapsulated so much of the sweeping changes brought forth by Bulgaria’s Communist decades. This song, while being entirely non-political and written as a sentimental ballad honouring one’s mother, offers glimpses at the themes that were current in Bulgarian society in the 1970’s. Here are the lyrics, each stanza followed by my commentary.

A Letter to Mom

O what a bride you must have been, dear mommy
So clean, so sparkling was your father’s yard
When they led you out onto the threshing floor
To link hands with your groom in bridal dance

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Words for Relatives in Bulgarian

05.06.2012 § 10 Comments

Bulgaria is a place where you cannot be farther than 500 km away from your family, no matter how hard you try. Families often live in the same area or, if they don’t, one can always take a quick holiday to visit the folks на село (na selo, meaning “back in the village”). In fact, children often spend the summer months with one or the other set of grandparents somewhere in the country: in a village, a town or a small city.

The centuries-old familial traditions and bonds are reflected in the Bulgarian language. Much like the proverbial Inuit and their many words for snow, there are five different words for “uncle” in Bulgarian, four for “aunt”, three for “brother-in-law” and four for “sister-in-law”.

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