#012 – National political elites in the late 19th and early 20th century Balkans

with Dobrinka Parusheva



The Bulgarian Council of Ministers in 1897, with Nayden Benev (first on the left side) and prime-minister Constantin Stoilov (in the middle). They married two cousins, were partners in the law office, and provide an illustrative case of patron-clients relationship with Stoilov being the patron

Most of Southeast European states such as Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, and Greece, were formed as independent monarchies in the “long nineteenth century”. One of the most urgent questions for the newly created institutions was how to lean on a cadre of politicians that had no significant experience as state functionaries. Through different strategies of power accumulation, these men would become the new national elite serving as deputies and ministers. From a prosopographical perspective, in this episode we look at the different patterns of elite formation and discuss the process of socialization through higher education, family bonds, and economic capital. The focus on Bulgaria and Romania reveals parallels and singularities in regards to other Balkan states.


Dobrinka Parusheva is Associate Professor in Theory and History of Culture at the University of Plovdiv, and Senior Research Fellow in Southeast European History at the Institute of Balkan Studies in Sofia. Her research interests lie in the field of social history (including social history of politics), visual studies (images of the Other, of violence, and war), and heritage studies (cultural landscapes). She loves visiting new places and taking pictures, and equally enjoys black coffee, white wine and jazz.  Dobrinka is the author of Governmental Elite of Romania and Bulgaria, Second Half of the Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century. Social History (in Bulgarian).

To cite this episode: Parusheva, Dobrinka; Guidi, Andreas (2016): National political elites in Bulgaria and the Balkans in the late 19th century, The Southeast Passage #012, 15.12.2016, http://thesoutheastpassage.com/podcast/parusheva-elites-bulgaria-balkans-19th-century



Further reading:

Barkey, Karen (1997): Thinking About Consequences of Empire. In Barkey, Karen, Mark von Hagen (Eds.): After Empire. Multiethnic Societies and Nation-Building. The Soviet Union and the Russian, Ottoman, and Habsburg Empires, Boulder (Colorado) and Oxford: Westview Press, 99-114.

Berindei, Dan (1987): Sozialer Wandel der rumänischen Führungsschichten im XIX. Jh.. In Österreichische Osthefte, 29-1, 56-69.

Best, Heinrich (1990): Die Männer von Bildung und Besitz. Struktur und Handeln parlamentarischer Führungsgruppen in Deutschland und Frankreich 1848/49. Düsseldorf: Droste.

Burke, Peter (1974): Venice and Amsterdam. A Study of Seventeenth Century Élites, London: Temple Smith.

Dogo, Marco, Guido Franzinetti (Eds.) (2002): Disrupting and Reshaping. Early Stages of nation-Building in the Balkans, Ravenna: Longo, 47-64.

Eisenstadt, Shmuel N., Louis Roniger (1980): Patron-Client Relations as a Model of Structuring Social Exchange. In Comparatrive Studies in Society and History, 22-1 (January 1980), 42-77.

Hering, Gunnar (1992): Die politischen Parteien in Griechenland, 1821-1936. München: Oldenbourg.

Höpken, Wolfgang, Holm Sundhaussen (Eds.) (1998): Eliten in Südosteuropa. Rolle, Kontinuitäten, Brüche in Geschichte und Gegenwart, München: Südosteuropa-Gesellschaft.

Lazăr, Marius (2002): Paradoxuri ale modernizării. Elemente pentru o sociologie a elitelor culturale româneşti, Cluj-Napoca: Limes.

Madievschi, Samson (1993): Elita politică a României (1866-1918), Chişinau: Logos.

Petropulos, John A. (2015) [1968]: Politics and Statecraft in the Kingdom of Greece, 1833-1843, Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Rădulescu, Mihai Sorin (1998): Elita liberală românească 1866-1900, Bucureşti: Editura All.

Siupiur, Elena (2004): Intelectuali, elite, clase politice moderne în Sud-Estul european. Secolul XIX, Bucureşti: Domino R..

Sturdza, Mihail-Dimitri (1983): Dictionnaire historique et généalogique des grandes familles de Grèce, d’Albanie et de Constantinople, Paris: M.-D. Sturdza .


Zarzavat regal (“The Royal Vegetable Garden”), Furnica, 221/1908 .

Carol I, King of Romania, says to his consultant Ioan Kalinderu in an exagerated German accent: Tomn Kalinderu, înveleşte bine la ei şi bagi di seamă ca opoziţia să nu rascoleşti gunoi că îngheaţă zarzavat şi pe urmă trebue să schimbi la el. Iarna foarte scump asta zarzavat politic! (“Mr. Kalideru, tuck zem tight up und make tschure zat ze opposition not go trough ze garbage zo zat ze fegetables vreeze over and zen you must be vinding niew ones. In vinter zese fegetables tschure are expenseef!”). At their feet, several of the leading National Liberal Party politicians of 1908. Dimitrie Sturdza, the Prime Minister, is Digitalis magneticus, Ion I. C. Brătianu, the Internal Affairs Minister, is Dovlecel de Florica (“Florica Courgette” – after his estate in Argeş County). Vasile Morţun of Public Works is Ardeiŭ roşu – Sotir (“Red Pepper – Sotir”, in reference to Morţun’s former leadership of the socialist club Sotir). Finance Minister Emil Costinescu is Cuişoare (“Cloves”, but more literally “Little Nails”). Toma Stelian of the Justice Ministry is Toma(ta) Juridica, i.e. “Judicial Toma(to)”. Alexandru Averescu, the Minister of War, is Patlagica belicosa (“Bellicose Yellow Pear Tomato”). Anton Carp of Agriculture is Carpanosus somniferus. Alexandru Djuvara of Industry and Commerce is a radish, Radix Gardorita. (Source: Wikimedia Commons,Witold Rolla-Piekarski)


Map of Bulgaria around 1900

The dotted line in the middle, interestingly almost invisible, corresponds roughly to the border separating the Principality of Bulgaria established in 1878 by the Treaty of Berlin and Eastern Rumelia, which remained under Ottoman sovereignty until the annexation of 1908.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *