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Ovidiu Ivancu 1 Decembrie 1918 University, Alba-Iulia, Romania From Balkan to Cultural Balkanism Abstract: There are few terms to have met, as Balkanism did, a greater political contamination, a greater voiding of the basic meaning and a greater acquiring of altered meanings. These altered meanings are accounted for by the fact that Balkanism is too often thought of from the outside, from a distance cardinally expressed in the terms of two forms of culture: East vs. West. However, beyond its pejorative valences (rather invented than real), Balkanism subsumes a world not easy to frame. The most common question is whether this notion is not artificial, whether it does not cover a distinct reality that requires a specific definition. Here are enough reasons to answer affirmatively, as well as there are reasons to make us believe that Balkanism has already overcome the geographical borders of the Balkans, being exported outside its native land. Keywords: Balkanism, crisis, territoriality, nostalgia, centre vs. periphery, picaresque, inconsistency, homo dupplex.

Throughout history, the term Balkanism has suffered significant semantic mutations, according to the cultural geography or the geo-political context to which it was related. Moreover, there is a scientific semantic of the term and a vulgar one as well, which rely on clichs, on different cultural paradigms which, inevitably, place Balkanism in an inferiority relationship as to other spaces of European culture . Sometimes, even in the discourse of different intellectuals, there are reminiscences of a pejorative tone which Balkanism attracts, explainable through the identification of the cultural discourse with the destiny of the Balkan peoples, marked by convulsions and invalidated by recent history. The etymology of the toponym Balkan is to be found in the Turkish language, meaning difficult mountain. Balkan is, in fact, used as alternative of the Greek toponym Haemus, a mountain very little known today. In 1808, the German geographer August Zeune named the territories situated at South from Haemus the Balkanic Peninsula. The syntagma survived, in spite of the fact that it was sporadically replaced with others (The Greek Peninsula or Slavic-Greece). As a detail, which is rather anecdotal, we should mention the fact that the initial name The Balkanic Peninsula comes from a wrong appreciation. It was believed that Haemus is a mountainous chain which "crosses the Northern part of the peninsula from its Eastern extremity to its Western one" ; but, in reality, it was about a mountain with a total width of 550 km from the Black Sea to the border between Yugoslavia and Bulgaria. We have made reference exclusively to the geographical determinations of the term, those which refer to spatiality. Now, we shall focus on the cultural connotations and even moral ones the term acquired in time. On December, 20th, 1918, in an article from New York Times the term Balkanisation was used; it meant the process of disintegration of some large states, as a consequence of the historical events in the Balkans. In 1949, at the end of the Civil War in Greece, a period of peace followed, or, better said, apparent peace, which coincided partially with the instauration of the Iron Curtain. The identity cultural crisis of the Balkans was nonetheless far from being over; it had just been suspended in an artificial manner, and, obviously, temporarily. Under the dictatorial influence of a political system, whose essential attributes were brutal rejection and superficiality in the approach of the identity problems, the Balkans remained silent although it did not mean, actually, that these problems were solved. Together with the beginning of the Cold War, the Balkans became the interest of different influence spheres. Greece and Turkey would remain outside the Iron Curtain, and, thus, they were to have a different evolution as compared to the other Balkanic countries. Geographers placed Greece and Turkey near Portugal, Spain and Italy, grouping them under the title of Southern Europe or Mediterranean Europe, while Yugoslavia, Albania, Bulgaria, Romania, Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia were in Eastern Europe. After the collapse of Communism, the Occident lived for quite a while with the illusion that, if here paradigms verified in the Occidental societies applied, the results would be promising. The material wealth was declared the universal panacea for the illnesses of the Balkans. But here it was proved that the Balkanic civilisation had created an invincible immunity to all stereotyped-solutions, that it no longer reacted to the same type of Occidental logic, that had individualised to such extent that whoever would have tried to help the Balkans, had to learn their cultural geography first. All these elements of pure history, all the failures of the Balkan peoples as well as the violence and the excessive nationalism (but which, it is worth reminding, is not the invention of the Balkans) led to the strict association of Balkanism to chaos, inconsistence and the picturesque. The lack of dignity, the lack of some coherent and consistent moral values, inconsequence - all these became almost perfect synonyms of Balkanism. However, Balkanism grew out of its borders and became a depreciative adjective used always to characterise an incendiary political situation or an improper behaviour. The semantic confusions lead often to the juxtaposition of meanings which, if analysed from a cultural perspective, are forced and insufficiently argued. For instance, very often, terms such as Balkanism - Orientalism - Byzantinism are set in a synonymic relation. Consequently, a very strict delimitation of each and every of them is needed here, with a very reasonable analysis of the relationship between and among them. Without such an approach, any discussion about literary/cultural Balkanism risks to perpetuate a series of clichs. What is still considered a definite feature of Balkanism is the power of cohabitation of contrasting situations, sometimes impossible to imagine together. The Balkanic character is unpredictable not only regarding his outer manifestations (his or her relationship with the Other, actions, motivations etc.) but also the relationship he or she has got with the inner self. Linearity, normality, even the logic of existence are denied by the Balkanic character, apparently without any strong reason, but it is good to know that all this lability is a constructed, assumed one. The Balkanic character is aware of his lack of consistence, compensating it with an elegance which saves him from vulgarity most of the times. We must say from the very beginning that the Balkanic character can be easily taken for the realist character, for example Dostoyevskyian. We find in the world literature a wide range of inconsistent actants, without well-defined moral values and susceptible of certain easiness, which makes them act

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chaotically, instinctively. However, there is an essential difference between these and the Balkanic character: with the Dostoyevskyan heroes, there is no visible smile in the corner of the mouth, which a Balkanic character almost never loses. The tragic characters' expression does not fit the Balkanic one; he is always between two feelings; he is, to take over an interesting motif from the Romanian fairytales, laughing with one eye and crying with the other, and is doing this at the same time, rendering confusion among his readers. The watcher (in our case the reader) no longer knows to which eye to pay attention, either to the laughing one or to the crying one. The Balkanic humour is never one free from irony, laughter is not a break of joy but rather a prolongation of a general attitude towards existence; the Balkanic man is susceptible, cannot invest himself totally in the very simple action of laughing, as even in laughter he preserves a defensive attitude of laughing at the other not with the other. Traditionalism and conservatism - these seem to be the most frequent attributes associated with the Balkan societies. The concept of progress to which the Balkans adhered every time when historical context permitted could not get rid of this conservatory and traditional character, which, in spite of his efforts, Balkan peoples feel they have to assume. In time, these two notions became out-worn and linked to involution, anachronism, and lack of emancipation. However, in reality, there are many advantages which a traditional society can preserve and value; first, the elements which define this type of society are already verified values to which the Balkans can always go back to, when the political experiments fail. Thus, the stubborn resistance the Balkanic cultures opposed to the great colonising Empires can be accounted for. Secondly, these Balkanic attributes give literature, and culture in general, a profoundly original matrix in which the new is not the cornerstone but always relies on the cornerstone of some traditional values. The Balkanic world is one which lacks a centre, if we understand by centre authority and credibility. The Balkanic character denies, in a defensive manner, any kind of authority, submitting, however, to dictatorial wills because his revolt is lacking violence, comfortable and reduced to rhetoric and eloquence ; the Balkanic man does not protest against dictators but against some systems which, as they are abstract, turn him into a peaceful, inoffensive protestant. Accumulating tensions, he will break out violently only when he is among his people, who, thinking like he does, legitimise his virulent outbreaks and cancel his feeling of fear. The Balkanic man has his own range of values, without being uprooted whatsoever; he does not feel to belong to a certain space, his spiritual nomadism makes him feel comfortable in any territory he might be. Here it is not about adaptability to a certain place but rather about the fact that the Balkanic character is faithful to sophisticated moral principles, marked by contradictions. He is almost simultaneously brave and cowardly, never judges according to the same principles and adopts towards the others a certain attitude which rarely lacks forms of tolerance and intransigence. Literary/cultural Balkanism also imposes an unusual relation between the character and the space he lives in. The Balkanic character has certainly a space he gets attached to, but this is not exclusively related to a territory. What defines the Balkanic man is so powerfully interiorised that it is not dependent on the geography of the places in which he lives. His memory is not that of a place, his nostalgia is far from being telluric. The ethnic and cultural diversity, which has always defined the Balkans, culturally resulted into the rich experience if the Balkanic character, whom human characters no longer amaze. He no longer has prejudices against the others, takes them as they are, and does not judge according to a given identity matrix, which turns him into a subtle observer, who appreciates nuances and details. Cultural and literary Balkanism is to be noticed strictly linguistically as well. It is characterised by a wisdom of popular origin, imprecation as form of revolt or disapproval, offence as proof of love, closeness, intimacy. Balkanism imposes language violence in order to suggest the affective links between/among characters; The Balkanic man finds the urban civilised and correct language proper only when his interlocutor is a stranger to him, only when his conversation partner imposes a glacial attitude. Politeness becomes, thus, a mark of impersonal relations, from which emotional involvement is absent. However, a rudimentary discourse defines the discussion among friends, where the ornaments of rhetoric become useless. The Balkanic time flows according to other rules or, better said, has a different significance than the one given by the Occidental. The past never becomes history for the Balkanic, it can be reactivated any time, sometimes violently, according to the present context. We can state that the past has an existential character, it is continually in a process of becoming in Constantin Noica's terms. There is no break with the past; on the contrary, along with the passing of time, the past gathers new dimensions. Here it is about a chaos of the traditional axis of time: past, present and future cannot be defined independently, in logical successions, but in an inextricable relation to one another. Compensatorily, as the Balkanic character does not have the memory of territoriality, he does not have the sense of physical property; he develops an extraordinary temporal memory, which does not permit him to assimilate the past into history. Nevertheless, we can talk about the fear of time the Balkanic man has, but we should not understand by this a fear generated by the passing of time, but rather a sort of freight towards anything that means the passing of time as evolution, a freight however motivated exactly by the lack of temporal certainties. Not knowing when to end his relation with the past, how to organise the present or how to create expectations towards future, the Balkanic man does not have references similar to the Westerners'. The existence of a distinct cultural paradigm associated with Balkanism is presently denied by many researchers, one of the arguments being that Balkanism, as cultural reality, does not have a specific particular sphere, as it identifies itself partially with other already existing tendencies and trends. The approach to acknowledge a Balkanic cultural matrix is prevented also by the powerful pejorative valences which the term acquired as a natural consequence of the political and historical evolutions in the Balkans last century. Another impediment is represented by the fact that cultural and literary Balkanism is not identifiable exclusively in the region of the Balkan peoples; however, this can be an argument of the profoundness and legitimacy of the Balkanic cultural frame as well. It is also stated that all cultural symptoms associated with Balkanism are actually simple Oriental inheritances or of other origin, so the idea of cultural (literary) Balkanism is artificially created. It is, nonetheless, obvious that no culture can simply inherit the cultural frame of the societies preceding it just in the original preserved way; this frame is permanently enriched, and together with the parting from the primordial cultural frame, similarities become ever less. Balkanism can certainly keep something from the cultural matrix of Byzantium, can have features which make us think of the Orient, but all of them are shaped by the cultural realities of the 20th century. It is not very likely if not really impossible that historical realities such as the Balkanic Wars or the Iron Curtain should not have contributed decisively to a distinct Balkanic culture.

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Bibliographical references Ciopraga, Constantin, Personalitatea literaturii romne, Bucureti, Editura Institutul European, 1997. Doina, tefan Augustin, Locul ca urn funerar, in "Secolul XX. Loc - Locuire - Poluare", Bucureti, literary magazine edited by Uniunea Scriitorilor din Romnia and Fundaia Cultural "Secolul XXI", 1999. Kaplan, Robert D., La rsrit, spre Tartaria. Cltorii n Balcani, Orientul Mijlociu i Caucaz, Iai, Polirom, 2002. Liiceanu, Gabriel, Repere pentru o hermeneutic a locuirii, in "Secolul XX. Loc - Locuire - Poluare", Bucureti, literary magazine edited by Uniunea Scriitorilor din Romnia and Fundaia Cultural "Secolul XXI", 1999. Muthu, Mircea, Balcanism literar romnesc, vol. I - III, Cluj-Napoca, Editura Dacia, 2002. Nicoar, Toader, Introducere n istoria mentalitilor colective, Cluj - Napoca Presa Universitar Clujean, 1997. Prevelakis,Georgios, Balcanii - Cultur i geopolitic, Bucureti, Editura Corint, 2001. Todorova, Maria, Imagining the Balkans, New York, Oxford University Press, 1997. Tanaoca, Nicolae erban, Bizanul i romnii, Bucureti, Editura Fundaiei PRO, 2003.

Maria Todorova, Imagining the Balkans, New York, Oxford University Press, 1997, p.3 : "A specter is haunting Western culture -- the specter of the Balkans. All the powers have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this specter: politicians and journalists, conservative academics and radical intellectuals, moralists of all kind, gender, and fashion. Where is the adversarial group that has not been decried as "Balkan" and "balkanizing" by its opponents? Where the accused have not hurled back the branding reproach of "balkanism"?" Ibidem, p. 21 : "In fact, this is a simultaneous process: at the same time that "Balkan" was being accepted and widely used as geographic signifier, it was already becoming saturated with a social and cultural meaning that expanded its signified far beyond its immediate and concrete meaning. At the same time that it encompassed and came to signify a complex historical phenomenon, some of the political aspects of this new signified were extrapolated and became, in turn, independently signified." Max Derruau, L'Europe, apud Georgios Prevelakis, Balcanii - Cultur i geopolitic, Bucureti, Editura Corint, 2001, p. 22. Ibidem. Georgios Prevelakis, p. 9: "The dominant ideologies strengthened the illusion of stability. Both Soviet Communism and the American Liberalism sustained, in a perfect consensus, that modernisation and especially the economic and social development were to drift away, once and for all, the old demons of the Balkans, that cultural homogeneity was to undoubtedly turn the old conflicts of identity substratum in simple folkloric curiosities. " [our translation]. Ibidem, p. 46: "In our opinion, there are at least two defining elements that a stylistic analysis could re-argue to sustain what we name literary Balkanism. On the one hand, it is Balkanism as association of contrasting feelings, and secondly, Balkanism as aesthetic recuperation of a collective drama. [.]". [our translation] Ibidem, p. 65: "This, [the Balkanic], being under the burden of his times, still has the force to grin and bear at every trouble and to change the drama into a trifle, out of a triple and compensatory necessity: resistance, survival and liberation, at least innerly." [our translation]. Ibidem, p. 69 : "As attitude, the character of this space is laughing with one eye and crying with the other. A generally fortifying conception about existence, crystallised in the paremiologic moralism, is unified with the conscience of the same existence perpetuated under times, hence the sublimation in the aesthetic construct of homo duplex. "[our translation] Georgios Prevelakis, p. 105: "The Balkanic identities took the shape elaborated by Western ideologies (liberalism, nationalism and even communism). Their meaning, however, remained traditional." [our translation] Ibidem, p 57: "Albeit they let themselves taken by the great migration trends to the cities or plains accessible to the influences of modern world, the people of the Balkans are nevertheless powered by the nostalgia of traditional life." [our translation] Ibidem, p. 19 "The spirit of resistance against superior forces is one of the constants of the Balkanic peoples." [our translation] Mea Selimovi quoted in Mircea Muthu , p.78: " [the Balkanic people ] inherit the laziness of the Orient and the taste for an easy life from the Occident; they are never in a hurry, as life is in the hurry; they are not interested in what tomorrow might bring them, as what will be will be, and too little depends on them; they are together only when in need, this is why they don't like being together; they hardly trust anyone, but it's easiest to take them in with a good word; they don't look like heroes, but they are least afraid of threats; They don't care about anything for long, they don't care about what is going on around them, and suddenly, they start being interested in everything, to ramble and turn everything upside down, then they become numb again, disliking to remember anything of what has happened; they are afraid of changes, as often changes brought them misfortunes; and they easily lose interest in a person, even if he or she has done them good. Strange world, it gossips you, but cares for you, kisses your cheek but hates you, mocks at noble deeds but does not forget you for generations." [our translation]. Giorgios Prevelakis, op. cit., p. 99 : "Solidarity among people does not imply a common attachment to a territory, and home is where your family is [.]. The Balkanic is thus characterised by a little developed feeling of territoriality." [our underlining], [our translation]; [our translation]. Mircea Muthu, p. 22 "So, a form of relationship in South-East is the cohabitation, till the beginning of last century, of the cultures of expansion and that of concentration." [our translation].

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Ibidem, p. 77: "[.] the Balkanic person, and by extension, the South-East European, participates, with his ethnic, mental and spiritual structure to more nationalities." [our translation]. Georgios Prevelakis, op. cit., p. 93 "Ethnic pluralism and the opening to vertical horizons are part of the urban Balkanic tradition." [our translation]. Constantin Ciopraga, Personalitatea literaturii romne, Bucureti, Editura Institutul European, 1997, p. 116: Balkanism acquired a wide range of insults, curses and filth[.]." [our translation]. Paul Zarifopol quoted in Mircea Muthu, p. 91: "For Westerners, the old time is succumbed in strata, which slipped slowly into past, their old time is historical." [our underlining], [our translation]; Mircea Muthu, p. 97: "This is why we reiterate the statement that in South-East we could rather speak of a fear of time and less of space, which would account for the frequent over-solicitation of hearing as compared to seeing, of the ear as compared to the eye." [our translation].

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