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A book in Romanian and English explores the diversity of Banat costumes

Inspiring exhibition in Sofia and the premiere of the bilingual book once again drew our attention to the community of the Banat Bulgarians


A special exhibition "Bulgarians in Romania. Cultural heritage from the collection of the National Ethnographic Museum", which continues until 26 February, presents folk costumes, traditional items from Romania, as well as fascinating old photographs.

A bilingual book "Portul Popular Bulgar din Cioplea si Popesti-Leordeni" ("Bulgarian Folk Costume from Cioplea and Popesti-Leordeni") was also shown as part of the exhibition. The book reveals the similarities and differences in the traditional garments of the two Bulgarian communities in Romania - the Banat Bulgarians and the Pavlikians from Bucharest*.

Author of the interesting research is Gabriela Mitu - a Romanian whose father is Bulgarian, but she herself does not speak Bulgarian. The colourful protagonists of her storyline are the fabrics, textiles and ornaments that make up the region's costumes.

Gabriela Mitu

"Traditional clothing is generally well preserved, given the migrations of the last 200 years," explains researcher Gabriela Mitu. - The evolution of the costume includes the addition of elements influenced by urban life, as well as the use of new materials, such as the use of coloured stitching threads or the replacement of the back skirt with a simple apron."

According to Gabriela, when comparing the types of costumes, one must take into account their evolution over time and the changes that occur depending on the region from which they originate:

"There are two basic types of Banat traditional garments. One is used in Dudeştii Vechi (in Banat English: Stár Bišnov- ed.), but also in other villages, and the other is from Vinga. Both garments originate from the two-apron costumes of Northern Bulgaria. When we compare the costume from Stár Bišnov with that of the Bucharest Pavlikans, we can find similarities in the shirt, back and front apron, as well as in the name of individual pieces of clothing. However, the embroideries are preserved in both settlements. The back apron also has many similarities - it is pleated, and the colours are similar. The front apron is the most interesting part of Stár Bišnov's costume with its impressive ornamentation with metal threads, ribbons and sequins."

Gabriela says that working on the book is part of her ambition to collect and keep alive as much information as possible about the life and traditions of the Bulgarian Catholic migrants. For her it is important that, although scattered in different neighbourhoods of Bucharest and the region, the community remains strong, close-knit and united. Here's more from Gabriela, whose roots are in the town of Popești-Leordeni:

"I come from a small community of Banat Bulgarians who live near Bucharest. They migrated there from the Bulgarian town of Belene and the village of Oresh around 1810-1812, during one of the Russo-Turkish wars. Cioplea was the first village they founded. A second wave of Banat Bulgarians from Belene and the village of Tranchovitsa moved in 1829, also near Bucharest, where they founded the town of Popesti-Leordeni. For 50 years now, Cioplea has been a district of Bucharest, and probably the same will happen soon with Popesti-Leordeni. We maintain a strong connection with the villages in Northern Bulgaria. People continue to visit their relatives on both sides of the border."

*The Banat Bulgarians and the Pavlikians of Bucharest: after the Chiprovo Uprising of 1688 was suppressed, the Bulgarian Catholics who were at its root were forced to leave the country. Some of them settled in Banat, Stár Bišnov and Vinga, as well as on the outskirts of today's Romanian capital Bucharest. Depending on the place of settlement, they are called Banat Bulgarians or Bucharest Pavlikians. The Pavlikians were also Catholics, who inhabited the area around the Bulgarian towns of Nikopol and Svishtov. Pavlikianism is a religious movement that emerged in the 7th century, in the lands between Byzantium and the Arab Khaliphate. Over time, its followers adopted different religions - Orthodoxy, Catholicism or Islam. Although they converted to Catholicism, some of the Banat Bulgarians continue to call themselves Pavlikians out of respect for their ancestors.

Photos: Facebook / National Ethnographic Museum - BAS, Facebook / Martina Gancheva, Ioan Kolev

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