|Fiction over fact|
|How it didn't happen|
Thracomania (Bulgarian: Тракомания; Romanian: Tracomanie) is a nationalist pseudoscience claiming the Thracians were some kind of European master race. As Bulgarians and Romanians both consider themselves to be the (sole) descendants of the Thracians and Dacians (a Thracian subgroup), respectively, Thracomania exists in both countries. Generally, proponents of Thracomania assume that the Thracians and their ethnic group are the same people, and that therefore all peoples descended from the Thracians must therefore be in fact Bulgarians (or Romanians). Of course, as neither Bulgarians nor Romanians actually speak Thracian, it cannot be said that either of them are Thracians. Like pseudoscience in general, Thracomania is quite popular, as noted by one Bulgarian who lamented that the Bulgarian part of the internet is full of theories about "pre-Biblical times, energy vampires, and ancient Bulgarian Jedi".
As Romanian Thracomania is covered in RationalWiki's article on Protochronism, this article will focus specifically on the Bulgarian variety, and on Bulgarian nationalism more generally.
The word "vulgar" derives from Bulgar
One book makes the claim that the Latin word vulgar (meaning, "popular, relating to the people", and related to the word vulgus, "people") was originally pronounced bulgar. The line Ziezi ex quo vulgares (said to mean "Ziezi, from which the Bulgars") from the Chronography of 354 is quoted. The author claims that there is no process by which v can become b. Phonetic changes can only go one way: from b to v.
Now, linguists are reasonably sure that the original pronunciation of consonantal v in Latin was in fact /w/, not /v/. Why? Well, for one thing, the Ancient Greeks transliterated both consonantal and vocalic v as the Greek ου (pronounced /u/), indicating that the consonantal pronunciation was very similar to the vocalic pronunciation /u/; this supports the hypothesis of a /w/ pronunciation. One work from the 1st century B.C. described the sound of v by saying that "in the words tu and vos the lips are protruded in the direction of the person addressed, whereas this is not the case in ego and nos" — a description fitting the pronunciation /w/, but not /v/. One grammarian also said that some of his contemporaries pronounced the word veni as a trisyllabic word (meaning as [ueni]). It is understandable that one might pronounce a word like [weni] as [ueni], but it is quite difficult to believe that someone could say [ueni] instead of [veni]. One other piece of evidence is the fact that in Latin there was no letter u (spellings like Brutus are modern conventions). Caesar's famous statement was spelled "VENI VIDI VICI", and the Roman name Augustus was spelled "AVGVSTVS". The fact that this letter represented both a consonant and a vowel indicates that the two pronunciations were very similar — something which fits with the pair [u] and [w], but not [u] and [v]. Thus the argument's premise that v in Latin was pronounced /v/ falls apart.
More importantly, from the 1st century C.E. onward, the consonants [w] and [b] gradually merged into a single bilabial fricative [β] in several (though not all) positions, and because of this, there was a confusion between the two letters, with their being used interchangeably.[note 1] Inscriptions contain such spellings as vene, bixit, Baleria, Balerius, and Bictor. The Appendix Probi, a list of spelling mistakes, contains such corrections as "baculus non vaclus", "tolerabilis non toleravilis", "bravium non brabium", and "alveus non albeus". Priscian, a 5th-century grammarian, had "to give rules about when to write v and when b." This means that if the cited Latin verse indeed refers to the Bulgars, the spelling vulgares is probably the result of such a typographical confusion, not of bulgar and vulgar being etymologically related.
Persia was founded by the Bulgars
According to the Persians, the Bulgars played a very important role in the founding of Persia.
As evidence, we are told that an "Iranian woman" wrote a dictionary (title and author not given) which contains hundreds of Persian words that are found in Bulgarian. Two examples are given: чардак (Chardak) and чешма (Cheshma). The implication is that these are Bulgar words which found their way into Persian (or perhaps were borrowed from Persian by the Bulgars). However, what is not mentioned is that these words exist not only in Bulgarian, but many other languages. Cheshma, for instance, occurs also in Turkish, Romanian, Greek, and Serbian, and Chardak is present in not only these languages, but also Russian and several Turkic languages. These two words (of Persian origin) entered the Balkan languages via Turkish. Other words of Persian origin that were borrowed by Balkan languages from Turkish include çoban (shepherd), düșman (enemy), and papuç (slipper, shoe). It is completely unnecessary to bring the Bulgars into this.
Finding a few individual words ("loan words") common between languages is definitely not a reliable way of determining genetic relationships between languages. A more reliable method is by comparing languages with the comparative method.
Bulgaria has the world's oldest swastikas
A swastika was found in the Bulgarian village of Altimir, dating to the 5th millennium BCE. Supposedly, this is the oldest known swastika, and demonstrates that civilization originated in Bulgaria. However, the actual oldest known swastika dates to 10,000 BCE, and was found in Mezin in Northern Ukraine.
Romanian is a Bulgarian dialect
Romanian is alleged to be a heavily Latinized form of Bulgarian. Supposedly, Romanian's vocabulary is 50% Bulgarian and only 25% Latin. The Latin words are the result of artificial Latinization of the language. A 15th-century document by the Romanian ruler Mircea the Elder is quoted, which contains the Slavonic (Old Bulgarian) phrase, "Азъ иже въ Христа Бога благоверный и благочестивый и христолюбивый и самодръжавный Мирча великий войвода и господин, милостион Божион и Божиемъ дарованиемъ". For hundreds of years, the written language of Wallachia was Slavonic. The comment is made, "Isn't it strange that the documents of the Wallachian rulers from the 14th and 15th centuries don't contain even a single Latin word?" Neacșu's letter, written in 1521 and the first attested document in Romanian, is cited; the beginning contains the Slavonic sentence, "Мудрому, племенитому и чистому и Богом дарованиму жупан Ханаш Брегнер от Брашов, много здраве от Някшу от Длагополе!.. Бог те веселит!" The Romanians must therefore be "our brothers", who were torn away from "us" by... some unclear, mysterious process.
While it is true that Romanian has been significantly influenced by Bulgarian, this does not mean that it is descended from it.
Slavonic was a sort of lingua franca in Eastern Europe, much as Latin was widely spoken in the West as a second language by people with very different linguistic backgrounds. The Magna Carta and many other English documents were written in Latin. The Visigothic Code was written in Latin. Many authors who were of non-Roman origin and had non-Latin native languages (of which several remain unattested) — such as Theodulf, Alcuin, Einhard, and Saint Jerome — wrote their works entirely in Latin. But none of this means that English and Gothic didn't exist, or that English and Gothic are Germanized forms of Latin. Similarly, the fact that Slavonic was widely used in Wallachia does not at all preclude the possibility of there being an unwritten vernacular language of Romance origin.
It is also not unusual for languages to borrow large numbers of words. Though Modern English's vocabulary is, in a large proportion, Romance and Latin, these influences are almost entirely absent in Old English texts pre-dating the Norman Conquest. There is also a body of texts in Middle English which shows the gradual penetration of Latin and Old French elements. Even if somehow all the Old English and Middle English texts were lost (future scholars thus being unaware of these transitional forms, having access to only the later Latin-influenced stages of the language), future linguists could still not say that it is a Romance language, since the basic vocabulary (pronouns, demonstratives, etc.) is almost entirely Germanic and it shares sound correspondences with other Germanic languages. Similarly, though Romanian is lately attested, long after the beginning of non-Romance influences, its basic vocabulary is of Latin origin; for example, the pronouns eu, tu, el, noi, voi all exist in other Romance languages, but not Bulgarian. In addition, there are many sound correspondences between Romanian, Latin, and other Romance languages that could not exist if Romanian were simply Bulgarian with Latin loanwords. For instance, pt in Romanian regularly corresponds to ct in Latin and tt in Italian. Thus, the Romanian opt corresponds to the Latin octo and Italian otto, and noapte corresponds to the Latin noctem and Italian notte. Sound correspondences such as these exist neither in the many Latin loanwords in Bulgarian (such as диктатор, октомври, конфликт, and редактиране), nor in the Latin words borrowed into Romanian during the Latinization of the 19th century (such as doctorat (doctorate) and respectiv (respectively)). If the Latin component of Romanian were really due to borrowing, then words like opt and noapte would not have undergone this sound shift, and would have pronunciations resembling oct and nocte, much as the Latin loanwords in Bulgarian. The fact that this is not the case demonstrates that they are inherited.
In Neacșu's letter, moreover, 175 of its 190 words are of Latin origin. There was a process of purist Latinization of Romanian, but it occurred in the 19th century, around 300 years after Neacșu's almost entirely Romance letter. The Slavonic sentence at the beginning of Neacșu's letter is analogous to the many Latin phrases and expressions found in documents written in other languages. For example, there are numerous books written in English entitled De omnibus rebus, and in Chekhov's On the Harmful Effects of Tobacco, the protagonist ends his speech (which is otherwise entirely in Russian) with the phrase Dixi et animam levavi! But these are Latin expressions inserted into works written in other languages, not parts of English and Russian themselves.
It is also not explained why or how such a Latinization could take place. The Romanian principalities were entirely surrounded by non-Romance countries, so if Romanian was originally completely Slavic, it is difficult to see where this alleged impulse to transform it from a Slavic language into a Romance one would come from.
The idea that if Romanian is descended from Bulgarian, then the Romanians must be the Bulgarians' "long-lost" brothers is also quite strange. Even if Romanian were originally Bulgarian, would it make any difference at all? Absolutely not. Romanian would still be unintelligible to Bulgarians, and the Romanians would still be exactly the same as when they were considered "foreign" (and presumably, by Bulgarian nationalists, enemies). The difference would be entirely in Bulgarians' minds.
The conception of which groups are "brothers", and which ones are not, is essentially imaginary and arbitrary, and can be molded to serve ideological interests. During the 18th and 19th centuries, a nationalist ideology called Pan-Turanism was in vogue, according to which the Hungarians, Finns, Japanese, Turks, and other peoples formed part of a single "Turanic" race and spoke languages descended from a supposed Proto-Turanian language. Articles were published in Japan claiming that the Finns were "similar in character to Japanese", "essentially Asians", and "Europeanized yellow people." Now, Pan-Turanism has fallen out of favor, and the Finns and Japanese once again see each other as being separate unrelated entities. The Hungarians, Japanese, etc. themselves have not changed — it is only their mentalities and imagined relationships that are different. This would appear to justify Renan's view that:
“”I am very fond of ethnography, for it is a science of rare interest; but, in so far as I would wish it to be free, I wish it to be without political application. In ethnography, as in all forms of study, systems change; this is the condition of progress. States' frontiers would then follow the fluctuations of science. Patriotism would depend upon a more or less paradoxical dissertation. One would come up to a patriot and say: 'You were mistaken; you shed your blood for such-and-such a cause; you believed yourself to be a Celt; not at all, you are a German.' Then, ten years later, you will be told that you are a Slav.
To base ideas of "national kinship" on distant events that happened (or not) hundreds or even thousands of years ago and have no relation to people today is ludicrous. Instead of extending a hand of "friendship" in the name of the dubious idea that "we're the same race" or "you are the same people as us (and not vice-versa)", why not extend a real one because it's simply the right thing to do? To quote Renan:
“”Human history is essentially different from zoology, and race is not everything, as it is among the rodents or the felines, and one does not have the right to go through the world fingering people's skulls, and taking them by the throat saying: 'You are of our blood; you belong to us!' Aside from anthropological characteristics, there are such things as reason, justice, the true, and the beautiful, which are the same for all.
Orpheus, Dionysus and Spartacus were Bulgarians
The mythic figure of Orpheus has been appropriated by Thracomaniacs. The myth's ancient Greek origin was ignored, as well as all ancient texts referring to it. This culminated in the 2000s, when Bulgarian archeologists led by Nikolay Ovcharov declared that they had discovered the Tomb of Orpheus in Bulgaria despite the fact that the Tomb of Orpheus was known since antiquity to be close to Olympus in Libethra. The village of Gela in Bulgaria had even proclaimed itself the birthplace of Orpheus and claimed the idea of Orpheus' descent into the underworld came from the Dyavolsko Gŭrlo (Devil's Throat) cave. The ancient rebel called Spartacus has suffered the same fate as Orpheus. The Greek god Dionysus has not escaped from this as it has been claimed that somehow Orphism and Dionysian elements became amalgamated in Bulgarian history and religion.
"Thracian Star" Irredentism
In a NATO airforce exercise in 2013, the Bulgarian army presented a map showing that Greek Thrace belonged to Bulgaria and that the Greek region of Macedonia was independent. In the NATO military briefing, they claimed they were the descendants of the Thracians and another map was presented with their "ancient lands" that included the entirety of Greek Macedonia and Thrace. Aside from being inexplicable and irrelevant, it was only removed after the Hellenic Air Force filed a complaint and threatened to withdraw from the exercise. The map had a Bulgarian lion and flag as texture in the claimed Greek territories, which included the Greek provinces of Thrace and Macedonia.
North Macedonia and the European Union
Bulgaria had vetoed North Macedonia's application for gaining full membership into the EU from 2004-2022. This was based on Bulgaria's insistence that North Macedonia recognize the Macedonian language as a dialect of Bulgarian rather than as a separate language.
- Тракоман, at bgjargon.com
- The same phenomenon can be observed in Spanish. Because Spanish orthography uses the letters b and v to represent the same phoneme, bad spellers will often mix them up, such as by writing, for instance, bez instead of vez.
- "енергийни вампири, древни българи джедай и разни теории за отпреди библейски времена - неща които за съжаление (или може би по план) изпълват бг нет пространството." 
- For instance, Plutarch is Πλούταρχος in Greek.
- Vox Latina, W. Sidney Allen, page 41.
- Elements of Latin pronunciation, Samuel Stehman Haldeman.
- An Introduction to Vulgar Latin, Charles H. Grandgent, pages 133-135.
- черда́к, Vasmer
- "čardak [...] Balkanski turcizam perzijsko-arapskog podrijetla fslo-ženica od perz. brojnika čähar > čar »četiri«,upor. campare, i zi. tak. »arhitektonski luk«> tur. çardak): bug. čardak pored čerdak, čardak i čardak »terasse, pavillon ouvert, soutenu par quatre poteaux, balcon, portixue«, rum. ceardac pored cerdac, arb. çardak, cine.cirdache f »balkon«, ngr. το τσαρδάκι »šator«", Etimologijski rjecnik hrvatskoga ili srpskoga jezika, Petar Skok, page 296.
- "čoban [...] Balkanski turcizam perzijskog podrijetla (perz.šubān pored šobān > tur. çoban) iz oblasti pastirstva: rum. cioban (također prezime), bug. čobán(in), arb. çoban, ngr. τσομπάνης, također madž. csobany, polj. i ruš. čaban (preko sjeverno-turskoga)". Etimologijski rjecnik hrvatskoga ili srpskoga jezika, Petar Skok, page 332.
- "papuč [...] Balkanski (i evropski) turcizam perzijskog podrijetla stirstva [...] bug. papūk". Etimologijski rjecnik hrvatskoga ili srpskoga jezika, Petar Skok, page 603.
- "dušmanin [...] Balkanski turcizam perzijskog podrijetla (perz. složenicadušmän od duš »zao, rdav« i mantis') »misli«, avesta duš-manah » kojega je mišljenje rdavo,neprijateljsko« = gr. δυσμενής) iz oblasti rata: rum. duşman m prema duşmancă f, pridjev duşmănesc, bug. dušmanin, dušmanlak, arb.dushmën »unversöhnlicher Feind«, cine. duşman". Etimologijski rjecnik hrvatskoga ili srpskoga jezika, Petar Skok, page 462.
- "česma [...] balkanskim turcizmom perzijskog podrijetla (perz.čäšma > tur. çeşme »quelle, Springbrunnen«,istoga podrijetla je čäšm »oko«, upor. i hrv.-srp.metaforu oko »izvor«) : bug. češma, rum. cişmea. Etimologijski rjecnik hrvatskoga ili srpskoga jezika, Petar Skok, page 313.
- "душманин [...] Чрез тур. düșman също, ор перс. dušmen, авест. dušmana(h)". Български етимологичен речник, Том 1, (1971), page 452.
- THRACIANS AND BULGARIANS - ONE AND THE SAME PEOPLE
- Sound correspondences among Romance languages
- What is a Nation?
- Entangled Histories of the Balkans - Volume Three
- Entangled Histories of the Balkans - Volume Three, page 13
- Entangled Histories of the Balkans - Volume Three, page 62 "For instance, Dionysus is no longer considered as a Thracian deity imported in Greece but as a Greek god as his name was meanwhile discovered on Mycenaean tablets with Linear B."
- Entangled Histories of the Balkans - Volume Three
- Bulgaria approves lifting veto on North Macedonia joining EU (June 24, 2022) Le Monde.