Czech and Bulgarian Archaeology

Czech and Bulgarian Archaeology – Five generations of relationships

Exceptionally intensive involvement of a great generation of Czechs in the archaeology, and other fields about which we are talking now, at the turn of the 19th and 20th century, was in its way the nadir of the mutual relations, but not without its parallels in other periods of contacts between the two countries. This mutual influence of both national cultures, to which this conference is dedicated, had its predecessors and successors.[1]
National revival in both countries shared similar characteristics. In the 18th century, Central Europe was still divided by historical lands and ruling dynasties, and language was rather a matter of social stratification than ethnicity. Latin was replaced as an administrative language with German in the western part of the Donau monarchy by Joseph II (in Hungary it remained as official language a century longer until Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867), but even then it remained the language of all-powerful Catholic church, the language of nobility and diplomacy was then French. The upper strata of burghers in Bohemia and Moravia spoke usually German, people in countryside mostly Czech. Czech National revival grew as a reaction to similar Pan-Germanic movement in Germany after the French occupation during the Napoleonic Wars. Immediately from its beginnings it had understanding for similar movements of smaller Slavic nations, to which affiliations in language and mental character were felt. Writings of Kolár and Šafařík included Bulgarians under Turkish oppresion among the common Slavic stock. Dobrovský, Erben and their contemporaries intensively studied Slavic languages, including Bulgarian, also for their deep interest in the Old Church Slavonic and the beginnings of Christianity with the missionaries Constantine and Methodius, who connects traditions of both nations to this time. Both Pan-Slavic romantism and pragmatic Austro-Slavism (already during 1848 and especially after fall of Bach’s absolutism) paved a road for a deep interest in the fortunes of related Southern Slavic nations, including the Bulgarian nation, in the Czech lands. Unlike in Poland, there was no antipathy to the Orthodox Christianity (part of the inteligentsia was Protestant, part was “Enlighted” Catholic and militant Catholicism was own only to a small minority), and unlike the tsarist Russia, perceived ambiguously since Karel Havlíček’s Obrazy z Rusi, the Balkan Slavic nations enjoyed broad sympathy from the Czech public.

A new wave of interest in Antiquity and its monuments peaked during the 1860s and 1870s. It became a model for artistic aspirations of the so-called generation of the National Theater (esp. Zítek, Schulz etc.), in sculpture (Myslbek) and in painting (Josef Mánes).[2] Lectures of the first professor of Classical Archaeology in Prague (since 1872) – Otto Benndorf – were visited by e.g. Jaroslav Vrchlický, and Miroslav Tyrš made the ancient model and the study of ancient monuments central to his program of national education in Sokol and also during his tenure as an art historian and classical archaeologist, first at the Czech Technical School and since 1882 at the Czech branch of the Charles University. The interest in Antiquity then was enormous, including the ancient literature and epigraphy. Many Czechs studied classical philology, the older school of Kvíčala was more oriented on the studies of ancient monuments in general, but later school of Král [3] turned more “scientific” and philologically oriented. The students of the former school later worked in Russia and the Balkans. Similarly tumultuous development was to be seen also in the Czech archaeology and later in Moravia. [4] The development of archaeology in many local associations sparked general interest in the field across the Czech society

Economic emmigration of the fast-growing population, which the soil could no longer feed, was directed to America but also to the east and south-east. Czech agricultural colonies were settled in Banat, Voivodina and Volhynia. Inteligentsia found work in America, Germany (Prussia and elsewhere), across Austria-Hungary and wherever there were better opportunities than at home. There was not enough work on the gymnasia in Bohemia and Moravia for all graduates in classical philology, and many of them went teaching Latin and Greek abroad, especially to Russia, with a strong demand for qualified teachers. Language affinity, similarity in character supported by common Slavic sense of belonging was in the time of Tyrš’s activity strongly connected with the ancient tradition, and so it was no miracle that many of this emmigration were interested in the ancient monuments. Jireček, Dobruský and Škorpil brothers significantly contributed to the development of archaeology, likewise Č. Chvojka in Ukraine with his discovery of Tripolye culture, and later founders of archaeology in Bosnia (Fiala). Bulgaria which had only limited educated class provided the greatest opportunities, as along the language similarity there was also similarity in the mental character of both nations, facilitating good relations and swift acclimatization. Karel Škorpil appears more Bulgarian on surviving photographs than majority of Bulgarian inteligentsia of that time. A lot was said about the activities of Jireček, Dobruský and Škorpil brothers. Who attained a prominent position could have got into troubles. Konstantin Jireček, who were active in Bulgaria between 1879-1884 became a Minister of Education, but then he better returned to his professorship in Austria. Václav Dobruský (1858-1916) fell victim to schemes, was pensioned early and returned to Prague. His Bulgarian habilitation was transferred to the Charles University in 1912 and following two years he lectured on Ancient numismatics, but after that he fell seriously ill and died two years later. Radislav Hošek acquired number of interesting documents from his estate, part of which was recently published. [5]

Lubor Niederle, another memeber of this great generation, laid foundations for the modern inquiry into the beginnings of the Bulgarian nation with his Slavic Antiquities. Max Dvořák (1874-1921) was one of the most prominent members of the so-called Viennese art history school, that laid foundations for the study of the European Medieval art and his studies are read to these days. Vojtěch Birnbaum (1877-1934) made impact with his works on the Early Christian architecture in Asia Minor and Balkans.

Škorpil brothers learned archaeology in the field, but soon they grew into true experts. Karel definitely made the most lasting impact. The activities of the Czech classical archaeologists in Bulgaria do not end with Škorpil brothers. During the 1920s and 1930s, a Prague epigraphist Antonín Salač (1885-1961) intensively cooperated with Karel Škorpil. He participated in his excavations, which he partly financed, and published together a book on the archaeological investigations in the eastern Bulgaria.[6] Salač industriuously wrote about all of Škorpil’s excavations and about Bulgarian archaeology in general in a supplement Hlídka archeologická to the Listy filologické journal until the beginning of the World War II. [7] This cooperation was restored after the war, in the framework of the committee for the research of the Antiquity in the countries of the former Soviet block Eirene, which was founded on his initiative. Professor of Classical Archaeology and the director of the Museum of Applied Arts in Pilsen Jindřich Čadík organized in the 1920s and 1930s in Pilsen and Prague exhibitions of Bulgarian artists and followed archaeological news from Bulgaria, even though he was more focused on Dalmatia, where he excavated on the Vis island. After the war, he wrote a nice study about the Škorpil brothers. [8]

After the World War II, Bulgaria was the most accessible country for the Czech scholars focusing on Antiquity and cooperation of scholars from both countries was well underway. Bedřich Svoboda (1910-1975) jointly with D. Cončev published book Neue Denkmäler antiker Toreutik (Prague 1956), where the Panagurishte treasure was for the first time briefly published, together with a rhyton from Prague, that probably originates from Bulgaria. Number of Bulgarian scholars lectured in Prague (I myself recall lecture of D. Dimitrov on Seuthopolis, whose discovery was a sensation at that time) and participated, together with Czech colleagues, on the Eirene conferences. These conferences, together with journal Eirene became a platform for cooperation for the scholars in the Soviet block and especially for Czechs and Bulgarians. [9] Both sides also organized student excursions, I made acquaintance with Michail Lazarov on a Bulgarian field trip in Czechoslovakia.

My teacher and predecessor Jiří Frel participated in the excavations of Nesebar, together with L. Ognenova-Marinova, and published number of articles on Greek sculpture and jewellery from the Greek cities on the Black Sea coast of Bulgaria. [10] Epigraphist Radislav Hošek closely cooperated with Bulgarian friends in the field of Thracian religion and history, [11] and studied history of the early Czech scholars in Bulgaria, based mainly on the estate of Václav Dobruský. Many Czech colleagues participated in the Thracological congresses and in the conference Trakiyskiy sedmici in Plovdiv, and many of my students were their stipendists. Several of my students participated in the archaeological excavations in Bulgaria during the 1970s and 1980s. My prematurely deceased colleague from Brno Jan Beneš wrote his dissertation on the Roman army in Moesia based on study of epigraphcal and archaeological record, unfortunately only small part of it was ever published. [12] Dimitar Krandžalov, studying for many years the Madar relief of Thracian rider lectured on archaeology and ancient history at the university in Olomouc. [13] My Slovakian friend Juraj Pavúk, whose son recently finished his studies under me, excavated a Neolithic tell in Bulgaria.

Agreements between the university in Sofia and Prague allowed me to stay several times in Bulgaria during the 1970s, including to travel across the country and to renew and to extend friendship with many Bulgarian colleagues, some of them already left us, among them are those who introduced me to the Thracian and Pontic archaeology – Ivan Venedikov and Theofil Ivanov and my good friend Velizar Velkov. Large parts of both my Swedish books and the Czech one on the Thracians [14] could not have been made without studies in Bulgarian museums and libraries and without help of my Bulgarian friends, many of them from Varna (A. Minčev, M. Lazarov) and from Sozopol, where I was a regular participant in the Thracia Pontica conferences. In the 1970s, together with colleagues M. Dufková and I. Ondřejová, we studied distribution of Greek imports and products of local schools in toreutics, jewellery, terracottas and pottery in the Black Sea region. [15] Those exceptionally close contacts to Bulgarian archaeology led me to decision to accept invitation of my late friend M. Domaradzki six years ago to join excavations of Greek emporium Pistiros in Vetren by Septemvri in southern Thrace. We jointly published the first volume of our investigations in Prague [16] and last year we organized an international conference on Pistiros. [17] Several of my younger colleagues participate every year in the dig and young Bulgarian scholars are coming to Prague thank to the project’s stipends. After tragic death of M. Domaradzki we continue with the Bulgarian friends in the archaeological investigations and preparations to publish the second volume of our joint work. I, myself, am hugely indebted to my Bulgarian friends – including to the kind Bulgarian diggers at the excavations – part of my heart is in Bulgaria, and as far as I am alive I want to continue in this cooperation, as long as my strength does not leave me.

Finally, I would like to mention that I have many Bulgarian friends also in Prague, who live there. They are artists and musicians and also my kind family doctor. Language and mental affinity of both our nations still creates a healthy environment for continuing close contacts and for their successful development in the future.

Varna 2002, Jan Bouzek

[1] See J. Bouzek, Ph. Kostmitsopoulos and K. Sklenář, Dějiny archeologie, Prague 1984, and J. Bouzek, Geschichte der klassischen Archäologie in den böhmischen Ländern, Eirene 32 1996, 64-80.

[2] See conference proceedings Antike Tradition in der mitteleuropäischen Architektur der zweiten Hälfte des 19. Jh. (eds. J. Bouzek – P. Líbal), Studia Hercynia III, Prague 1999, with bibliography.

[3]  See K. Svoboda, Antická vzdělanost a česká kultura od obrození do první války světové, Prague 1957, 155-217; J. Bažant, Classical archaeology and Czech culture, Eirene 32 1996, 58-63.

[4] K. Sklenář (in Bouzek, Kostomitsopoulos and Sklenář, note 1, Vol. II, p. 25-53)

[5] R. Hošek, Václav Dobruský, Listy fil. 82 (1959), 298-301.

[6] A. Salač – K. Škorpil, Několik archeologických památek z východního Bulharska, Praha 1928; in Salač’s estate in the archive of Czech Academy of Sciences there are additional files documenting their cooperation.

[7] See bibliography by K. Svobody for years 1900-1950,  published by Jednota klasických filologů in 1961, a L. Varcl, Akademik A. Salač, Listy fil. 84 1961, 1-4.

[8] See J. Bouzek, Eirene  32 1996, 74-6 and J. Čadík, Bratří Škorpilové ve vzpomínkách, Pardubice 1967.

[9]  Eirene (published since 1960) was preceded for three years (1957-9) by special addendum to Listy Filologické, called Eunomia with similar content.

[10] Especially Novi dokument na Apolon ot Kalamis, Izv. AI 21 1957, 283-89; Monuments d’Apollonie Pontique au Musée du Louvre, IAI 23 1960, 239-251; Un portrait grec d’Apollonie, Eunomia 4 1960, 44-46; Les sculpteurs d’Apollonia Pontica, Graecolatina Pragensia 3 1966, 73-78; Une statue d’Alexandre Sevère Anchialos, Listy fil. 86 1963, 65-71; Observations sur les bijoux hellénistiques de Messambria, Acta Antiqua Philippolitana,  Sofia 1963, 61-69.

[11] See R. Hošek – V. Velkov, New antique find from Ratiaria, Eunomia 2 1950, 32-39; R. Hošek, M. Valerius Maximianus im unteren Donauraum in den Jahren 176-178 u.Z., Sborník FF UP Brno, řada E 8 1959, 83-92 a později Zu den thrakischen Gottheizten, Eirene 29 1993, 31-42; Das Christentum in Thrakien und Moesien vor der Entstehung der Reichsreligion, Balcanica Posnaniensia 5 1991, 309-323; La femme défunte et sa famille, in: Poselišten život v drevna Trakija, Jambol 1994, 136-39.

[12] See J. Beneš, Nové výzkumy v Moesii a Thrákii, Listy fil. 95 1972, 29-48 and Auxilia Romana in Moesia atque in Dacia, Prague 1978.

[13]  See especially Les reliefs de Cavalier thrace et la tradition problématique de l’histoire protobulgare, Byzantion 39 1969, 137-51, also Latomus 30 1971, 1057-72; Sur les problèmes des influence orientales dans l’art ancien bulgare, Starinar 19 1968, 141-64.

[14] J. Bouzek, The Aegean, Anatolia and Europe: Cultural interrelations in the 2nd millennium B.C., Lund-Prague 1985; Greece, Anatolia and Europe: Cultural interrelations in the Early Iron Age, Jonsered 1997; Thrákové, Praha 1990.

[15] See J. Bouzek, Studies of Greek Pottery in the Black Sea  Area, Praha 1990 and several joint publications of J. Bouzka and  I. Ondřejová on toreutics and jewellery, especially Eirene 24 1987, 67-93; Mediterranean Archaeology 1 1988, 84-94; Eirene 27 1990, 81-91; Thracia Pontica 4 1991, 51-58.

[16] J. Bouzek, M. Domaradzki, Z. Archibald (eds.), Pistiros I: Excavations and Studies, Praha 1997

[17] The first part is currently being published in Bull. Corresp. Hellénique in Paris, the other is supposed to be published by University of Opole in Poland, where M. Domaradzki lectured during the last year of his life.

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