The Reincarnation

The clacking and end-of-line rings of the old-fashioned typewriters were mixing with the aroma of freshly brewed tea. Head of Division savored this moment of the day. All was in perfect harmony. He had not been called to any emergency in the small hours. Rather than purposefully shuttling all the night between places of trouble in the ministry’s tale-telling black cars with dark-tinted windows, today he took a leisurely subway ride to work. In nondescript clothes, he enjoyed the din and bustle. The waiting in a long line at the station in the cramped space clearly delineated by the meandering and unyielding stainless steel barriers. The crush of human bodies pressed into place by uniformed orderlies wearing once white gloves. And in a rare moment, a sudden olfactory miracle of a high-quality women’s perfume cut through the stolid landscape of everyday sweat. An energizing stab straight into his nostrils. He inhaled deeply.[1]

[1] I thank Catherine Gibson for her helpful comments and advice.


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A Terminological Conundrum: Nation, State, Nationality, Citizenship

Any analysis of the concept of nation – of so much import for the late modern period – is often complicated in English or French by the fact that in these two languages this term commonly functions as a synonym for the word ‘state.’ Hence, the academic and juridical neologism ‘nation-state’ tends to sound to the uninitiated English-speaker’s ear quite superfluous as some confusing ‘state-state.’ This difficulty does not arise, for instance, in German or Polish. In the former language ‘state’ is Staat and ‘nation’ is Volk (or in some specialized meanings Nation), while in the latter – państwo and naród, respectively. Neither in German nor in Polish these languages’ terms for ‘nation’ understood as a group of people (that is, Volk and naród, respectively) could be normally used to mean ‘state.’ In Polish the term nation-state is rendered as państwo narodowe and in German as Nationalstaat, so speakers of these languages are not flabbergasted by the term, and find it rather meaningful.

The Central European distinction between state and nation at work in today’s Spain

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A Note on Methodology

Often the term ‘methodology’ sounds intimidating and hard to understand. It is basically a collection of methods, or ways and principles. In accordance with these methods and principles a scholar or scientist conducts research within the framework of their discipline (subject), such as physics, chemistry, history, sociology or literary studies.

The term ‘methodology’ is a western European neologism (newly formed word) coined (formed) at the turn of the 19th century. It is composed of two elements ‘method’ and ‘-logy.’ The former is another western European neologism, that is, Latin methodus, which was coined at the turn of the 15th century for denoting a ‘systematic way’ of doing something, such as a medical procedure or a theological exegesis (explanation) of a biblical issue. In turn, this medieval Latin word methodus is composed from two Greek words, namely, met(a) for ‘beyond’ and hodós for ‘way, road.’ So method is not a ‘simple way of doing something,’ but a way that was developed through a prolonged practice that was thoroughly reflected upon (discussed), described, and finally standardized as the ‘best’ or ‘normal’ way of proceeding in a given case.

An element of the social reality superimposed on the material reality

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Communist Bulgaria and the Azeri Connection

In interwar Bulgaria, Turkish intellectuals began using the Latin alphabet for writing and publishing in Turkish about two years earlier than in Turkey itself, where the Latin alphabet replaced the Arabic script in 1928. Afterward only few religious and pro-Ottoman Turkish-language periodicals were brought out in Bulgaria with the use of the Arabic script. The country was a short hop from Konstantiniyya (officially renamed Istanbul in 1935). Besides, until 1908, Bulgaria officially was an autonomous principality of the Ottoman Empire. What is more, Konstantiniyya remained the seat of the Bulgarian Exarchate (or semi-autonomous Orthodox Church) until 1913. Hence, Bulgaria did not appear to be a foreign land to pro-Ottoman refugees from Mustafa Kemal’s radically republican and anti-religious Turkey.

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Czech Spelling and Slavic Languages

Slavic and Germanic languages have considerably more sounds (phonemes) than Latin. It caused technical problems when at the beginning of the second millennium the Latin alphabet was employed for writing these vernaculars. The initial makeshift strategy was to use two or three letters (diagraphs and trigraphs) for the extra sounds. Czech was the first written language among Catholic and Protestant Slavs. Not surprisingly in the 14th century the diagraph [cz] was employed for writing the phoneme /tʃ/, the diagraph [rz] for /r̝/, or the diagraph [ſſ] for /ʃ/. With his 1406 work De orthographia Bohemica, Jan Hus changed this system by introducing diacritical letters for the extra Slavic phonemes. As a result, in today’s Czech orthography each phoneme is reflected by a single letter, for instance, /tʃ/ is written as [č], /r̝/ as [ř], or /ʃ/ as [š]. The sole exception to this rule is the grapheme [ch] retained to denote the sound /x/.

A page from the Czech-language Kronika trojánská [Chronicle of Troja] published in c 1478
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Nationalism and Human Rights

The particularist nature of nationalism is inherently opposed to the universalist character of human rights. In other words, any loyalty to a group (be it a town, village, nation, state, religion, or economic bloc) is directly opposed to loyalty for all Humankind. It is difficult to love all thy neighbors. One tends to love more those who belong to one’s own group.

May 2017

The Fallacy of National Studies

The studies of national specificity, usually focused on this or that national language originated in the 19th-century central Europe. They grew out from two kinds of pursuits. On the one hand, philologists discovered languages, that is, national languages, or speech communities that were quickly equated with nations. While on the other hand, folklorists (ethnographers) discovered peasantry, seen as the forgotten soul and the true body of the nation. Philologists put themselves to the task of endowing their (usually native) languages with ‘scientific’ dictionaries and grammars, while folklorists were collecting a given peasantry’s songs and customs which they saw as equal in quality or even transcending the ancient Homeric tradition. Both groups of scholars soon propounded that the language of an elite (nobility) was ‘impure,’ due to ‘foreign’ influences, usually from Latin, French or German. But an ethnically correlated peasantry’s speech extolled as an epitome of the ‘pure’ national language posed a problem of easily observed spatial variability. The ‘peasant language’ differed from village to village, from region to region, and not at all was free of ‘foreign impurities,’ either. These problems was ‘explained away’ by nobles’ long-century oppression of peasants through the system of serfdom. As a result, the supposedly pristine culture and language of peasantry were corrupted, and the putative early medieval or even ancient nation was fragmented, as serfs were not allowed to leave their villages or parishes. Simultaneously nobility ‘unjustifiably’ separated themselves from their ethnically kin ‘peasant brethren’ (‘betrayed the people’), by allowing a succession of (nationally) foreign monarchs to assume the throne of the (national) kingdom, and by marrying foreign nobles.

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