The Urban Anthropology Journal Nr.16 (2020)

The Urban Anthropology Journal - Nr.16 (2020) - CONTENTS

EDITORIAL – Cătălin D. Constantin

  • E un pod pe Neretva
  • A bridge on the Neretva
  • Le Pont sur la Neretva
  • Die Brücke über die Neretva


  • How do the Greeks smell? – Claudiu Sfirschi-Praised
  • A city (Kastoria), its churches and an iconographic theme that made a career in the Balkan world: the astonishment of Saint Sisoe – Cristina Bogdan
  • The Embroidered Portrait of a Horseman – Military Saint at the Monastery of Saint Stephenin Meteora: A Popular Post-Byzantinism – Vasso Rokou
  • About the shoe and other lexemes related to the traditional costume from the end of the 19th century on the territory of Bulgaria – Yavor Ivanov
  • Balkan patterns in the work of Andrić and Kadare. The historical mythopoetics of the two writers – Cristian Robu Corcan
  • Cultural anthropology in fiction. Ivan Stankov – Carmen Dărăbuș
  • Ignored and uncounted ethnicities in Greece. The case of Western Thrace – Yüksel Bekir Hoş
  • Aromanians – Romanians from the South Danube. History, identity, dialect – Nicolae Saramandu, Manuela Nevaci


  • Oberliht – Radu Mircea Comşa
  • Life in interwar Bucharest in literary testimonies – Alina Partenie


  • Legends Keepers, Collections and Football Colectors – Rareş Muşătoiu


  • Contemporary struggles. Between Wotan and the Princess from the Sleeping Forest – Lavinia Ţânculescu-Popa


  • Andrei Răzvan Voinea, The ideal of living in Bucharest: the family with a house and a garden. The plots of the Communal Society for Cheap Housing – Bucharest (1908-1948) – Simona Drăgan
EDITORIAL - A bridge on the Neretva - Cătălin D. Constantin anthropologist, the University of Bucharest PhD in Philology PhD in Architecture

The photographs on the cover were chosen to illustrate the dossier theme for this issue of the Urban Anthropology Review – The Balkans – and portrays a historical place from Bosnia-Herzegovina. The two images are one century apart. The Mostar Bridge is shown in the photos, today a well-known monument. The city draws its name from this bridge, specifically from the two towers, mostari, that guard each end of the construction.

Stari most, the old bridge, as translated, is on the UNESCO world heritage list, while also being an exception through its inclusion, as the list usually features only original monuments. The bridge of today is not old, but a recently remade copy. It is true, the construction has stayed faithful to the original and initial construction techniques were utilized. Stari most was redone ten years after its original medieval version was destroyed. In 1993, during the conflicts within former Yugoslavia, Croatian paramilitary tanks fired on the bridge at least 60 times for 24 hours, until the bridge, proving very sturdy, finally collapsed. The old bridge was commissioned in 1557 by Suleiman the Magnificent and its construction was handed to Mimar Hayruddin, apprentice of the greatest Ottoman architect, Mimar Sinan. Stari most is considered one of the most remarkable examples of Ottoman architecture in the Balkans, with a perfect 12-meter arch rising spectacularly, as an architectural continuation of natural rock above the blue-green waters of the Neretva. Legend has it that architect Hayruddin was obsessed during its design and construction that the bridge might collapse. He was so consumed by this that, when the moment of inauguration came, nine years after work on it first began, he was preparing himself to be sentenced to death. 427 years later, up to the day it was destroyed, the bridge was perfectly functional and not even the passing of time had left many indents on its surface. The Croatian general who ordered its destruction claimed he gave the order because of matters of military security, as the bridge was considered a strategic objective. The Court that found him guilty of several war crimes firmly rejected this argument, considering his actions grave and deliberate attempts to destroy cultural heritage, since the bridge had gained a profound symbolic value in the context of the war, uniting city neighborhoods where different ethnicities resided, where churches, catholic and orthodox, mosques and synagogues could be found.

The photo of the Mostar Bridge on the upper portion of the cover is a historical photograph. It is one of the first color photos taken in the Balkans, part of an astounding collection of photographic images, the first great archive of color photos in the history of mankind. Around 1908, Albert Kahn – a banker, among the wealthiest people on Earth, whose life remains mostly unknown – finds out about a freshly-patented photographic technique. It was called autochrome photography and represented, in a chronological sense, the first means to truly take photos in color, a system devised by the Lumière brothers. Albert Kahn travels to Japan, takes a few photos using this technique, initially very costly, and is impressed with the results. In the following years, he uses his vast personal wealth to finance a team of photographers who he sends across the world in order to create a color photo archive of the planet. For two decades, traveling across more than 20 European countries and 50 countries outside Europe, Kahn’s photographers take 72.000 cliché verres. From India, to Palestine, from northern Europe to the Balkans. There are images of the early 20th century world, one still little changed by the passing of the centuries, but which would forever change because of everything that was to follow, especially the two World Wars. This archive is not well-known and not researched enough, taking into account its visual and anthropological worth.

In the Balkan territories, Kahn’s teams arrive shortly after the archive project had begun, around and during the first Balkan war, whose consequences were captured in photographs, in Macedonia and Thessaloniki.

The photo of Mostar Bridge is from 1912, the year of the first Balkan war. The Balkan wars changed the peninsula’s map, tracing borders in an area where, for centuries, there had been no borders and where, also for centuries, people of different ethnical background would constantly mix without significant issues. Moreover, the Balkan wars suddenly caught the attention of Europe, rapidly establishing a set of perceptions mostly negative, that the region still carries today.  It is around that period that     a superregional identity as well as the name of ‘Balkans’ begins to be constantly associated with the peninsula, initially without any negative connotations. Rapidly included in the European repertoire of insults at the time of the Balkan wars, the words ‘balkanism’ and ‘balkanisation’, despite a certain ‘stillness’, conceal behind them an ambiguous and rather complicated history, as Maria Todorova reveals in her very interesting book Imagining the Balkans (1997).

The fact that the first color photo of the Mostar Bridge was taken in the year of the first Balkan war is just a symbolic coincidence, when this superregional identity of the Balkans gains form in the eyes of Europe and of the world. At the time, the bridge was not a well-known landmark, and in no way a symbol of the Balkans, but it was old and beautiful. The second photograph featured on the cover was taken by me, using a drone, in 2016 – one century later. In appearance, the bridge is unchanged. The reconstruction is most convincing. If one wasn’t aware of the original’s destruction, the bridge from the first photo looks identical to the one in the second photo. But it is more than that. The bridge of the second image carries a symbolic baggage that the first, original bridge did not. The Mostar Bridge became, after its reconstruction, a metonymic image of the Balkans, often used as a visual symbol for the region, referring indirectly to all the Balkans mean in modern European imagination, including the ethnical mixture and the bloody wars. Despite these negative nuances, implicitly contained by its image, the Mostar Bridge is a beautiful emblem of the Balkans. Because it is an architectural jewel and because a bridge always unites. Its reconstruction has symbolically reconnected the diversity of the Balkan world.

The Balkans fascinate me, this is why I have proposed this theme for the dossier of the current issue of the Urban Anthropology Review. Intentionally, without any thematic narrowing-down, usually natural and welcome. I thus respected the definition of mosaic and mixture that the Balkans have in our imagination. In the pages of this issue, you will come across works from Romania, Greece, Bulgaria and Turkey.  And the articles will take  you from Kastoria, with    its splendid post-byzantine churches, whose frescos are commented by Lecturer Cristina Bogdan, PhD, from the University of Bucharest, to Western Thrace, with an analysis dedicated to the minorities ‘hidden’ there, conducted by Professor Yüksel Bekir Hoş from the Institute of Balkan Studies and the Trakya University of Edirne. You will discover how the Greek smell from Claudiu Sfirschi-Lăudat’s article, an elite translator and President of the Greek Cultural Foundation of Romania. You will read about the medieval embroideries of Epirus in a work penned by Vasso Rokou, PhD, from the University of Ioannina, and about the footwear of the Bulgarian and Romanian traditional folk costumes in Bulgaria, in an article written (directly) in Romanian by Yavor Ivanov, from the St. Kliment Ohridski University of Sofia. Nicolae Saramandu, PhD, and Manuela Nevaci, PhD, researchers at the “Iorgu Iordan – Alexandru Rosetti” Institute of Linguistics of the Romanian Academy present the dialect utilized by Aromanians. Carmen Dărăbuş, PhD, signs an article of literary anthropology on Bulgarian writer Ivan Stankov, bringing us to the Danube shores from the writer’s memories. Following in the footsteps of Andrić and Kadare, another article of literary anthropology, signed by Cristian Robu Corcan, PhD, also mentions a legendary bridge of the Balkans – the Bridge of Višegrad, across Drina River. All these articles connect, bridge the diverse worlds of the Balkans, which we inhabit without wanting to be Balkan.

How do the Greeks smell? Claudiu Sfirschi-Lăudat - Greek Cultural Foundation of Romania, translator


The image of “wandering words” advanced by Al. Graur in his 1978 dictionary urged us to set on a journey following scents, analysing the olfactory terminology in modern Greek language, in her direct rapport with the Romanian language. The linguistic analysis is followed by a literary illustration of the themes put into play by the olfactory in the novel Martor mi-e Dumnezeu [God is my Witness] by Makis Tsitas (Art Publishers, 2019).

Keywords: scent, vocabulary, Greece, literature, novel, mentalities.

Claudiu Sfirschi-Lăudat – Greek Cultural Foundation of Romania, translator

A city (Kastoria), its churches and an iconographic theme that made a career in the Balkan world: the astonishment of Saint Sisoe - Cristina Bogdan, University of Bucharest


The present study proposes the discovery of the city of Kastoria, in northern Greece, through the post-Byzantine religious buildings it preserves, looking at an iconographic theme – The Astonishment of St. Sisoes – which can become a common element of pictorial discourse in various parts of the Balkan world.

Keywords: Kastoria, religious iconography, post-byzantine churches, the Astonishment of St. Sisoes, Balkan Peninsula.

Cristina Bogdan – University of Bucharest

The Embroidered Portrait of a Horseman – Military Saint at the Monastery of Saint Stephen in Meteora: A Folk Style Post-Byzantinism - Vasso Rokou University of Ioannina


Part of a research on “Epirotic embroidery”, associated with the Epirotic Diaspora on 17th and 18th centuries around the western trade with central -oriental Europe, and with the Russian fur trade of Constantinople, the embroidery of a military saint as emperor cavalier on Taurus, instead of the horse, has two iconographic references: the imperial image of the equestrian military saint of the Moldavian art and the iconography of Alexander the Great of the Seljuk tradition.

Keywords: Alexander the Great, military saint, Stephan Kantakouzen, Moldavian art, Armenian art, Seljuk tradition.

Vasso Rokou – University of Ioannina

About the shoe and other lexemes related to the traditional costume from the end of the 19th century on the territory of Bulgaria - Yavor Ivanov St. Kliment Ohridski from Sofia


The article aims to present terms accompanying the clothing, a part of an archive, including an unexplored inventory of the traditional clothing of the population on the territory of Bulgaria from the end of the ΧΙΧ century.

Keywords: archive, balcanic, Bulgaria, Bulgarian, clothing, Romanian, Vestiarium.

Yavor Ivanov – Universitatea St. Kliment Ohridski din Sofia

Balkan patterns in the work of Andrić and Kadare, Mitopoetical history of the two writers - Cristian Robu Corcan - PhD in philology, writer, book editor


Andrić and Kadare portray the intimate image of the Balkans in their works. Their mytho-poetry metamorphoses all historical meanings into popular symbols. By re-creating myths, it brings history directly in relation to the peoples from which it comes. For Andrić, history is nothing but popular memory, for Kadare, a pathology specific to evil. For Andrić, ideology mixes reality and popular storytelling, shaping the Balkans into a scholarly mix of East and West. For Kadare, the only acceptable ideology is Albanianism. The first accurately describes the flow of time through the popular consciousness, the second deals with the wounds of death caused by a disease called “history”.

Keywords: Balkans, mytho-poetry, folklore, Orient, Occident, Maoism.

Cristian Robu Corcan – PhD in philology, writer, book editor

Cultural anthropology in the fiction of Ivan Stankov - Carmen Dărăbuș - University „St. Kliment Ohridski ”from Sofia Technical University of Cluj-Napoca

The work Cultural Anthropology in Fiction. Ivan Stankov analyses, in a postmodern key, the Danubian waters at the border between Romania and Bulgaria. The work Amintiri despre apă: re minor [Memories about water: D minor] is the first part of a trilogy that also includes Străzi şi vapoare: sol minor [Streets and ships: G minor] and Nume de zăpadă: la major [Name of snow: A major]. Only the first volume is translated into Romanian. The author, Ivan Stankov, spent his childhood in a village on the Danube, on Bulgarian territory; the river becomes a true character that conditions life and death. Through the technique of detail, of which he is master, he gives a hypertrophied dimension to reality. Literature proves to be a bearer of affective memory and, in this case, a repository of postmodern cultural anthropology.

Keywords: Bulgarian literature, border, reality/fiction.

Carmen Dărăbuș – University „St. Kliment Ohridski ”from Sofia Technical University of Cluj-Napoca

Ignored and uncounted ethnicities in Greece. The case of Western Thrace - Yüksel Bekir Hoș Trakya - University, Balkan Research Institute


The word “ethnicity” is etimologically derived from the Greek word “ethnos”, which means nation. The word “democracy” is Greek as well. However, when it comes to the democratic rights of an ethnic society, an equivalent of such a concept in today’s Greece doesn’t seem to exist. Because in Greece there are only the Greek ethnicity is officially recognized as living in the country. Jews and Armenians are also recognized minorities in Greece, but neither of these two communities would be enough to fill a town. Although Greece is a democratic country, however, when the issue is an ethnicity in Greece, it becomes difficult to deal with the dilemma “nationalism vs rights”. This is the reflex of many countries that were established as nation states after a long period of disappearance in history. This reflex can be explained as “never to disappear once again in history” which necessitates a disregard for ethnicities in the political and legal discourse in Greece. Among these ethnicities, the leading semi-recognized minority is the Turks of Western Thrace which is often accepted as a “Muslim Minority” by Greece. In addition, many societies such as Macedonian Slavs, Aromanians (Vlachs), Arvanites and Albanians, Gagauz and Urums and many other ethnic groups, continue to live in Greece and lose their culture and language day by day. It is still possible to distinguish these societies from one another in the field with the environment they live, along with their cultural differences. The scope  of this study is to underline ethnic diversity in the Western Thrace and its ethnicities. In addition to Turks and Greeks, many different ethnicities continue to exist in this place.  The first thing to be put forward in the field studies is not that Greece is a demon state, rather the reason that has led to such reflexes. In the light of principles of human and political geography, the main ethnicities in this small region will be examined along with the sub-regions they live in due to their characteristics. In addition to field studies on the area, literature studies were examined. Manipulative approaches as well as pro-national identifications and exaggerations are either shown as they are or ignored. Beside this, in this study will be mentioned the names of some minorities living in Greece that have not been mentioned earlier.

Keywords: Ethnic, Greece, Geography, Turks, Greeks, Urums, Gagauz

Yüksel Bekir Hoș Trakya – University, Balkan Research Institute

Aromanians - Romanians from the South Danube History, identity, dialect - Nicolae Saramandu, Manuela Nevaci

The Aromanians form several groups, differing from each other by linguistic peculiarities, to which are added specific elements concerning clothing, music, certain customs, as well as lifestyle and occupations. The most important groups are: the Pindeni, the Grămosteni, the Fărşeroţi, the Graboveni, to which are added a few smaller groups: the Aromanians of Beala de Suset deBeala de Jos (villages near Struga, Macedonia), the Aromanians of the localities of Mulovişte and Gopeş (next to Bitola, R. North Macedonia).

Among the Romanians of the South of the Danube, the Aromanians are the only ones to have kept until today the ethnic name, by being called Aromâni (Armâni, Rămăni, sg. Armân, Rămăn), designation which, like the dacoroum. Rumân (<lat. Romanus), highlights their Latin origin. The peoples among which live in the Balkan Peninsula call them, in general, Vlahi (Wallachians), a term which designates the entire Romanized population of the north and south of the Danube.

The separation of the Aromanian dialect from common Romanian is an important moment in the history of the Romanian language. Sextil Puşcariu underlines the unity formed by the dialects of the south of the Danube and by Daco-Romanian, defining common Romanian as “the language spoken by the ancestors of the Daco-Romanians, Aromanians, Megleno-Romanians and Istroromanians of” today, before all contact between them is interrupted ”(Sextil Puşcariu, Etudes de linguistiqueroumaine, Cluj-Bucureşti, 1937.). All these groups of Romanians formed a relative unit and spoke the same language, relatively unitary. In the same sense Al. Rosetti defines the Romanian language by fixing the training space to the north and south of the Danube: “Romanian is Latin spoken without interruption in the eastern part of the Roman Empire, which included the provinces Danubian (Dacia, South Pannonia, Dardania, Upper and Lower Moesia), from the time of Latin penetration in these provinces to the present day ”(Rosetti 1986, 75). By its conservative elements, recognizable especially in the field of phonetics, Aromanian is very similar to common Romanian. The innovations that we see can be explained as well by the internal evolution of the dialect as by the influence exerted by the Balkan languages ​​on Aromanian.

Keywords: Aromanians, common Romanian, Romanians south of the Danube, dialects of southern Danube

Nicolae Saramandu, Manuela Nevaci

Oberliht - Radu Mircea Comșa


The “Oberlicht” [skylight] presents a unique argument – in four sequences – which justifies the ubiquity of an architectural detail in the modernist heritage of Romania, seemingly inexplicable compared to the international architecture of the time. Starting from an interest catalysed by a personal experience, the facade porthole becomes a sign of belonging not only for the Romanian interwar style, but also for the local aspirations of the period.

Keywords: interwar, Modernism, Marcel Iancu, Oberlicht.

Radu Mircea Comșa

Life in interbelic Bucharest in literary testimonies - Alina Partenie


This article starts by exploring the peculiarities of the daily life of various social classes in interwar Bucharest. By examining the literary works of that period, we identified elements that describe the capital of Romania from an architectural point of view, of human typologies, as well as of economic development. A significant detail is the antithesis between the bourgeoisie in the small centre of the city and the slums, an imitation of it in a much larger space.

Keywords: interwar, modernisation, architecture, slum, literature.

Alina Partenie

Legends’ Keepers, Collections and Football Collectors - Rareș Mușătoiu


The history of football representation is far from being one of the most prominent research interests in the anthropology of sports. This paper examines how collectors of football objects become informal historians and create representational imagery of the club, in deep connection with structural changes that come along with economic transition from socialism to post-socialism. The context of the research is the East-European block, an area that is, to a certain extent, expelled from the global market of football. Using in-depth interviews and participant observation, this study aims to understand the context in which collectors put the objects in a complex network of social interaction that is constructed upon exchange, symbolic value and specific approaches towards commodification. The research induces firm reasoning to analyze how is value created through networks of collectors  and advocates for an interdisciplinary method in which anthropology of sports, symbolic economy, cultural studies, and the history of representation are vital in the understanding of the phenomenon. Taking into account the vast structure of football museums that is developing in Europe, bringing a global market in which the sphere of branding creates the essence of the club to the foreground, the way in which informal means of representation, in the shape of private collections, alters the club identity is extremely relevant to studies that have football in the vanguard.

Keywords: history of football, post-socialism, collectors of football objects, participant observation, social interaction.

Rareș Mușătoiu

Contemporary struggles between Wotan and the Princess from the Sleeping Forest - Lavinia Țânculescu-Popa


The work is constructed starting from how contemporary man from the great urban environment experiences rest nowadays, not only as an obligatory way of repose, but, especially, as an inner experience. The question which drives this paper is related to the extent to which the current man, busy and tired, sleeps (naturally) and / or rests (culturally) in the same determined and programmed way in which he works. The way in which the resting spaces, day or night, manage to offer him rest, the people around him tire or help him rest, the associations that the pillow, the mattress, the bed, in general, remain at the stage of concrete objects or acquire elements of inner space of the being in which man feels required to immerse himself in order to be reborn for next day’s work – all these are found in this work, carrying a single ambition: to capture how the Bucharest man relates nowadays to this part of his existence, theoretically spontaneous, practical, in some cases, bearing the painful repercussions of the will of “I”. The paper starts from the description  of rest and its pretexts (spatial and temporal) as they were transmitted in a series of works of the 20th century, mainly, but also eternal (such as the biblical word) and concretizes the current situation through a collection of interviews conducted in the field, in Bucharest, with women and men, at the beginning, towards the end or in their full professional life.

Keywords: rest and work, bed, natural nocturne rhythm, anthropology of health

Lavinia Țânculescu-Popa

Cuvinte cheie: odihnă şi muncă, pat, ritm natural nocturn, antropologia sănătății.


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