Cyrillic Literature in Turkish in the 19th century – Social and Cultural Aspects

Hristo Saldžiev

Abstract


The present article tries to shed a light on a completely unknown and unstudied branch of Bulgarian Cyrillic tradition from the final epoch of the Ottoman rule (19th century) – books printed by Bulgarian authors partly or entirely in Turkish language with Cyrillic letters. As a first attempt in this sphere the article has no claim to exhaust the problem and takes into consideration only three basic aspects – the number, origin and motives of authors who have written in Turkish, typology and social functions of the works in question and the peculiarities of orthography.
Turkish Cyrillic literature is one of the forgotten phenomena in the cultural history of the Balkans from the Ottoman epoch. It includes works with religious (Christian) contents – poetry and prose, liturgical texts, song collections, bilingual, three-lingual and poly-lingual dictionaries and phrase-books.
The orthography of Turkish Cyrillic literature follows the development of Bulgarian Cyrillic orthography. However at the same time it bears certain etymological features. The most important of them are the preservation of the postvocalic ğ and the fact that some words are given with their older forms without vowel harmony. In contrast to the etymological elements in orthography the language has obvious connections with the Balkan Turkish vernaculars. On principle, most of the authors have taken as a base the city speeches from the eastern part of the peninsula, which have been exposed to the strong influence of Bulgarian and Greek.
As a social fact this literature appears to be a result of the Bulgarian-Turkish bilingualism, the town culture from the 19th century and the political cooperation between the Orthodox churches and the Ottomans established in the 15th century. However, many aspects of its history remain unstudied. The situation in the “dark ages” (16–18th centuries), its connections with Karamanli literature and the Turkish speaking Christian groups from the Balkans are the most important problems that have to be solved by the future investigations in this sphere. The separate works also deserve to be subject of detailed studies. Their content, language and orthography contain important information about the language and cultural interaction on the Balkans in the pre-national period.

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