Nikolay Aretov

One modern and one ‘contra-modern’ view-point towards trains and railways

(Zakhari Stoyanov and Stoyan Zaimov)



Trains and railroads are new phenomenon for Bulgarian population of Ottoman Empire from mid 19th century. Along with telegraph, they are probably the most important symbols of Modern times and became crucial part of the great debate about the modernization. The image of the train and railways appeared in different variations in the mentality of Bulgarians from the last decades before and after the establishing of the new Bulgarian state. This paper deals with this image in the two most important memoirs about the Bulgarian irredentist movement from that period and highlights the differences between them. Although the two authors pursue the same aim, Zakhari Stoyanov’s Notes on Bulgarian Uprisings (1884-1892) illustrated some ‘contra-modern’ trends in the society, while Stoyan Zaimov’, The Past (1884-1888) was excellent and intriguing example for the modern thinking. In the first case trains were something dangerous that serves the enemy and the patriot should use it not so as a means of transport bit as a hiding place. The latter saw the railways as something good that connected people and demonstrates the priority of the rebel vis à vis the backwardness of the Turks. Two texts also suggested two different mental maps, in one of them different points were connected (due to the railroads), in the other the world was composed by parceled out fragments with poor communication between them.


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