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Open AccessArticle

Traditions in the Discussions about the obrabotvane of Folklore in the Avtorski Pesni v Naroden Duh from Bulgaria

Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Studies with Ethnographic Museum, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, 1000 Sofia, Bulgaria
Received: 12 June 2020 / Revised: 26 July 2020 / Accepted: 27 July 2020 / Published: 12 August 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Balkan Music: Past, Present, Future)

Abstract

The avtorski pesni v naroden duh (authored songs in folk spirit) are a modern and multifaceted phenomenon, which has accumulated a rich history in Bulgarian musical culture. This research presents the essential characteristics of these songs and a two-part typology (1. authorized/avtorizirani folk songs; 2. newly composed songs ‘in folk spirit’), which is based on both models of authorship (according to Michel Foucault, authorial function is manifested in two basic forms of authorship—plagiarism and appropriation). This study provides an overview of some of the thematic debates that attempt to resolve the inevitable contradictions and tensions surrounding songwriting in folk spirit. The avtorski pesni v naroden duh have attracted the critical attention of Bulgarian musicians and society and have been the subject of lively discussions, criticisms, and controversy in numerous publications from the first decades of the 20th century to the present. This survey offers different perspectives, opinions and arguments focused on one of the main discussion topics related to the creation and functioning of the avtorski pesni v naroden duh: pro and contra the obrabotvane (transformation, polishing, processing, cultivation) of folklore. This problem has been at the heart of intellectual discussions since the 1930s and during the 1950s–1980s. The critical discussion of the question pro and contra the obrabotvane of folklore, with its whole inconsistency, complexity and impossibility to be reduced to unambiguous answers, leads to sharp confrontations between the holders of different opinions.
Keywords: avtorski pesni v naroden duh (authored songs in folk spirit); Bulgaria; pro and contra the obrabotvane of folklore avtorski pesni v naroden duh (authored songs in folk spirit); Bulgaria; pro and contra the obrabotvane of folklore

1. Introduction: The Nature of the Avtorski Pesni V Naroden Duh

The avtorski pesni v naroden duh (authored songs in folk spirit1) are related to the obrabotvane (transformation, processing, polishing, cultivation, treatment) of folklore and have a rich tradition in Bulgaria and are extremely stable in Bulgarian music history and culture, including to this day. Numerous lines mark their evolution and modification from the mid-19th century to the present day. In the course of their history, which is associated with the change of different musical styles and genres, these songs are named and described differently in practical language, but within a series of names. The terms avtorski pesni v naroden duh (authored songs in folk spirit) and avtorski pesni na folklorna osnova (folklore-based authored songs) are recognized as the most used ones.
Hardly anybody today can date the authorship and appearance of the phrases avtorski pesni v naroden duh (authored songs in folk spirit) and avtorski pesni na folklorna osnova (folklore-based authored songs) in the Bulgarian language. One of the first written testimonials of the use of the phrase “v naroden duh” (in the folk spirit) is the notated authored song “Shto me machish, dusho Yano” (“Why are you torturing me, Yana my love”) by Alexander Krastev (1879–1945), under the title of which is written in brackets v naroden duh (in the folk spirit). The song was published in a “Music Album” containing “solo folk and art songs with piano accompaniment”, probably published in the years between the two world wars. A recording of this song from 1956 can be heard on the site of the Bulgarian National Radio, performed by Nadia Afeyan, with piano accompaniment by Lyuben Kondov.2
Avtorski pesni v naroden duh today are a hybrid meta-genre alive in Bulgarian music, incorporating various genres and sub-genres at a synchronic level, and distinguished diachronically by different genre-style changes over time, related to many generations, changing historical conditions and socio-cultural situations.
Avtorski pesni v naroden duh are undoubtedly a modern, multi-faceted and many-sided phenomenon, originating from modern institutions such as the mass media and the music market, which has accumulated a rich history in Bulgarian music culture. The development of avtorski pesni v naroden duh is a story of the replacement of tradition by modernity. Traditional folk songs from the premodern past, made by anonymous creators, have been replaced by folk-like songs, whose authors are known in most cases. The authors of songs in folk spirit transform elements of local folk music and intertwine them with elements of Western, Oriental and Balkan music, creating new song samples in a wide range of hybrid styles, thus renewing the flow of song forms as time passes. As a space of creative experimentation, avtorski pesni v naroden duh are very vital, they are constantly striving for new and new manifestations, constant genre renewal and adaptation to changing socio-cultural situations.
Avtorski pesni v naroden duh are always an expression of the connection between individual and collective musical creative work. Situated between the individual and collective work, these songs are both, but also something different. In a broad sense, these are authored compositions based on the Bulgarian folk song (with rural or urban roots), which originate and are developed and distinguished in folk, art and popular musical genres. This is why we qualify them as a special meta-genre form. These songs exist in at least two time capsules—one from the past and the other from the present. They incorporate traditional musical elements and intonations of the past as building blocks. These blocks are creatively transformed in various ways with contemporary musical expressions, techniques and performance styles. Contemporary musical expressive means enable the avtorski pesni v naroden duh to emerge from the time capsule of the past and become a contemporary phenomenon. Implicitly, in a musical structural sense, avtorski pesni v naroden duh are a syntactically and stylistically heterogeneous phenomenon—they are a variety of compositional forms, a style mix, a new kind of hybrid alloy, in which they cross and meet different styles from different periods, developed over the years in the history of Bulgarian music. Keywords such as hybridization, fusion, remix, cover, remake, intertextuality, transtextuality, or acculturation can become central themes for a structuralist interpretation of the avtorski pesni v naroden duh.
The variety of styles in the avtorski pesni v naroden duh is great, their forms are amazingly diverse, but there is something that connects them and builds their continuity, and that is their common basis in traditional local folk music. The connection to folk music is the core and the essence of the avtorski pesni v naroden duh—in them the folk song is stylized and placed in the conditions of a completely different type of expressiveness. This connection is seen in the proximity to intonation (as a primary cell in the weave of any piece of music Asafiev 1984, p. 9), soundness, repetitive patterns, and musical and stylistic features of Bulgarian folk music tradition. There are plenty of song examples which show that in a compositional-structural aspect the connection to folk music manifests itself in various forms—harmonizations and arrangements (orchestration) of folk melodies; changes in the song form by the addition of introductions, refrains, interludes and cadences to the authentic vocal melody; transformation of melodic-rhythmic elements of the Bulgarian folk song; use of quotations from folk music; creation of new tunes in the spirit of Bulgarian folk music tradition, etc.
In the current article I have used a methodology for text analysis focused on the discussions about the obrabotvane of folklore in the avtorski pesni v naroden duh. The source texts, which reveal two opposed opinions, are published in specialized academic and public printed works, newspapers and magazines. As such, they provide a stable basis for analytical processing. The knowledge about the debates on the obrabotvane of folklore and the ever-growing corpus of avtorski pesni v naroden duh has increased during the years due to the huge amount of work done by composers, ethnomusicologists, performers, conductors, journalists, publicists. The selected excerpts from publications of different representatives of these groups show us valuable knowledge related to the traditions in discussions of the obrabotvane of folklore in the avtorski pesni v naroden duh from Bulgaria and are thus used as a starting point in the academic systematization.
The theoretical limits of the idea of a pre-modern tradition/music reality are not subject to interpretation in this text. The broader debate between tradition and modernity and a presentation of Bulgarian nationalism (meaning the concept of the Bulgarian nation) in relation to folk music have been analyzed and well discussed by various ethnomusicological works during the last few decades (Rice 1994; Buchanan 2006; Peycheva 2008). The current research supports the thesis that the pre-modern folk music from Bulgaria is a powerful tradition which is innovated and transformed into modern musical realities and forms.

2. Types of Avtorski Pesni V Naroden Duh: Authorized/Avtorizirani and Newly Composed Songs

The avtorski pesni v naroden duh from Bulgaria are a strongly stratified, stylistically heterogeneous phenomenon, which is “in constant development”. This creates certain difficulties in the attempts to define their genre, typological, musical stylistic and historical characteristics (Peycheva 2019).
There is a great deal of genre-style diversity within the bulk of avtorski pesni v naroden duh, but we can outline two main types: (1) authorized/avtorizirani folk songs and (2) newly composed songs ‘in folk spirit’. These are respectively two different models of authorship (in the light of intertextual theories, according to Michel Foucault, authorial function is manifested in two basic forms of authorship—plagiarism and appropriation (Foucault 1969), which require fundamentally different creative strategies. The two models of authorship are different from each other, but in both cases they are specific forms of transtextuality created by the same techniques of compilation, collage, remix and processing, through which the collective labor of generations of precursors is acquired individually, and the created songs are hybrid forms that mix different styles of music. This two-part typology (authorized/avtorizirani and newly composed songs) is based on both models of authorship, which leverage the opposition of proximity-remoteness to the source (the original folk song).
Authorized/avtorizirani versions of folk songs adhere to the original source. They retain the most distinctive features of the original folk song and alter the song by citation or assimilation. Authorized/avtorizirani folk songs are associated with the concept of “arrangement”, which in a broad sense can be interpreted as a metaphor of the cultivation of folk music in the process of its modernization. According to Ljerka Rasmussen, this arrangement is a re-creation of folk music through the use of European compositional techniques (Rasmussen 1999, p. 37). In Bulgarian, the following commonly used concepts are identified as separate categories when a folk song becomes authored: narodna pesen (folk song), harmonizaciya (harmonization), obrabotka (transformation, processing, polishing, cultivation), razrabotka (development), remake, prerabotka (reworking), remix, cover (Buchanan 1991, p. 342; Peycheva 2019, pp. 73–130). When appropriating folk songs into authored versions, the composers and arrangers adapt the songs by choosing a particular stylistic technique for their processing. This involves the creation of new rules for processing and control of certain structural elements of the authentic folk song.
The creators of the newly-composed songs ‘in folk spirit’ “began to write their own melodies and songs ‘in the folk spirit’ (muzika v naroden duh)” (Buchanan 1991, p. 343). Here composers are more free to use separate constructive elements of the source—the intonation fund and the codes of the Bulgarian musical folklore matrix. Newly composed “folk” songs are a model of individualized authorship through the use of intonations, motifs, phrases, metro-rhythmic pulsations, ornamental figures, timbres and other components of the language of folk music as building blocks that are modeled by the authors for the purpose of creating new musical works. In this complex process of integration of two types of musical linguistics (one from the past, the other from the present), individual creativity almost always consumes the folk musical tradition and “transcends it from within” (Alexieva 2012, p. 72). As Donna Buchanan writes, “The philosophy underlying these songs maintained that texts exhibiting contemporary themes incorporated within Western, stylized forms would appeal to modernizing villages and promote the new values associated with the aesthetic education program” (Buchanan 1991, pp. 343–44). In Bulgarian, the following commonly used concepts are identified as labels used to categories the newly-composed songs ‘in folk spirit’: solovi i horovi pesni v narodnosten duh (solo and choir songs in folk spirit), estradni pesni v naroden duh (stage songs in folk spirit), avtorski folk (authored folk), avtorski folklore (authored folklore), avtorski pesni na folk osnova (authored songs on a folk base), avtorski folklorni pesni (authored folklore songs), popfolk (pop-folk) etc. (Peycheva 2019, pp. 82, 117).
The creation of authorized/avtorizirani folk songs into their specific genre forms (harmonizatsiya, obrabotka, razrabotka, prerabotka, remake, arrangements, fusion, remixes, covers, etc.) is a transformation of the pre-modern musical folklore cultural code from the past into a new type of contemporary musical stylistics. This is a reproduction, in which the composer (the arranger, the singer) becomes a co-author of the folk artist. From a formal point of view, newly-composed songs ‘in folk spirit’ can also be reduced to a code (in the folk music traditional language, in the mythopoetic language of the folk songs), which is transcoded by the teams of authors (composer, arranger, songwriter, performer/s). Due to this connection with the music-folklore code of the Bulgarians, the authorized/avtorizirani folk songs and the newly-composed songs ‘in folk spirit’ are in some sense manifestations of a common beginning and in this case refer to the same phenomenon, labeled with the category avtorski pesni v naroden duh.

3. Historical Development of the Debates about the Avtorski Pesni V Naroden Duh

This part of the study outlines some of the thematic debates that attempt to resolve the inevitable contradictions and tensions surrounding songwriting in folk spirit. The researched texts represent many of the major discussion topics on the creation and function of avtorski pesni v naroden duh.
The avtorski pesni v naroden duh have attracted the critical attention of Bulgarian musicians and society and have been the subject of lively discussions, criticisms and controversy in numerous publications from the first decades of the 20th century to the present. Some of the most influential creators of avtorski pesni v naroden duh in Bulgaria are involved in various debates and present their views in a variety of informational material in different forms (articles, interviews, comments, discussions, etc.) Musicologists have posed and discussed the topic of the qualitative changes that accompany the historical development of avtorski pesni v naroden duh and the dynamic transformation process, which works with great intensity. This can be seen in various works in musicology—in theoretical, music-critical and journalistic literature. The people involved in the topic of the transformation processes in folk music place the focus on different questions about the types of development of the Bulgarian song with folklore origins.
A particularly active exchange of views took place in the following periods: 1920s–1930s in periodicals (newspapers and magazines); in the 1970–1980s, in a series of publications in magazines (Bǔlgarska muzika [Bulgarian Music], Hudozhestvena samodeinost [Amateur Art]) and newspapers (Anteni [Antennas], Puls [Pulse], Otechestven front [Patriotic Front], Vecherni novini [Evening News]); and in the 1990s (in the daily press and in specialized magazines). Discussions about the processes of renewal and change of the folk song flared up, and unfolded in several directions: the permanent argument pro and contra the “obrabotvane of folk songs”; the content of the Bulgarian national music style; how the Bulgarian national music style will be achieved; what are the adequate contemporary forms for the reproduction of the folk song, which correspond to the spirit of the present time; what musical taste these songs create in people; the Balkanization of newly composed local popular music, etc.
The views of the first generation of critics of the avtorski pesni v naroden duh are available from publications of contemporaries from the first decades of the 20th century, when the construction of Bulgarian national music style began to be discussed. In the 1930s, a number of Bulgarian composers, ethnomusicologists, journalists, critics and other musicians published their commentaries on the issue of national musical style in six of the ten books of the first and only year of publication of the A.S.O. magazine (1934), as well as in other magazines (Zlatorog [Goldhorner], Izkustvo I kritika [Art and Criticism], Rodna pesen [Native Song]) and newspapers (Zora [Dawn], Zarya [Fireworks], Mir [Peace/World], Dǔga [Rainbow], Slovo [Spoken word], Nova Vecher [New evening], etc.) National musical style was understood as a complex phenomenon characterized by a clear ideological and aesthetic orientation, by specific musical expressive means and by a more indirect connection to the manner of musical thinking of the specific people (Balareva 1968, pp. 10–13). Various positions are expressed in the lively controversy, but there is one essential accent that connects these publications and it is the opinion that “the folk song should be at the core of the national musical style”. The question of the Bulgarian character and the Bulgarian intonation of musical creativity is central to the articles. Among the key questions that are raised and discussed as important and significant about the connection between folk song and personal musical creativity are: what types of Bulgarian folk songs should be used to build the national musical style; how to use a folk song to create new works in a Bulgarian national musical style; what is the most truthful way to unravel the mysteries of the folk song and re-create it in the composers’ art works in the formation of the Bulgarian musical style; how to look for a balance between the national, the Bulgarian and the sensitivity of the modern man, perceived, experienced and then recreated with appropriate musical expressive means (Balareva 1968, pp. 19, 23–25), etc. The avtorski pesni v naroden duh of these decades are specific sound and symbolic markers of the Bulgarian national culture through their designation as elements of the Bulgarian national musical style.
During the decades in the era of socialism (1944–1989), and especially actively in the 1970s, the songs in folk spirit received much critical attention. Contemporaries (composers, conductors, musicologists, journalists, etc.) raised many questions, shared different opinions and offered many interpretations of folk songs in a wide-ranging discussion on the pages of Bǔlgarska muzika [Bulgarian Music] magazine. This magazine became the tribune, from which people published many informational and critical materials focused on the avtorski pesni v naroden duh. At that time, Bulgarian music had thousands of authored songs based on folklore, which represented a style and genre hybridization between individual and collective, inherited and newly created, urban and rural, art and pop. The majority of participants in the creative conversation (composers, arrangers, conductors, ethnomusicologists, journalists, etc.) presented positions and reflections derived from personal and accumulated experience in the field of folk song transformation. The main challenge for artists of that time was to invent and figure out such adequate forms for re-creation of a folk song that would correspond best to the then-current state of the meta-genre avtorski pesni v naroden duh.
In most publications, the question about avtorski pesni v naroden duh is discussed in connection with the art transformations (processings, reworkings, polishings) of the folk song which are called obrabotki—a canonized mainstream genre in Bulgarian music in the second half of the twentieth century. As Donna Buchanan writes, “obrabotki were usually arrangements of tunes or songs learned by musicians in villages from their forebears but reworked in the style of West European art music specifically for folk orchestras and choirs by classically trained graduates of the State Conservatory’s composition program. As such, obrabotki constituted a distinctive blend of art music and older musical practices, of traditional and modern as well as rural and urban culture” (Buchanan 2006, pp. 41–42). Among the topics under active discussion were: what is obrabotka; pro and contra the obrabotvane (reworking, processing, manipulating) of the folk song; what is the true path for transforming musical folklore; should authored songs be created in the national spirit; the essential role of the creator in the competent and complete enrichment of the folklore samples; in what directions should the efforts of the professional composer go during the obrabotvane of the folk song; to avoid leveling, stereotypes and patterns in creative work with folk songs, etc.
Since 1989, the understanding of avtorski pesni v naroden duh has undergone a number of rethinks and rollovers. On the one hand, the lack of institutional support and funding for the authors of obrabotki of folk songs hindered the development of this genre, which had flourished in the period of Bulgarian socialism. In this regard, Timothy Rice writes that “state support for the arts, and in particular the folk arts, may have been declined because the ideological underpinnings of such support had been swept away” (Rice 2004, p. 87). On the other hand, new popfolk song genres gained importance. Among the Bulgarian musicians and researchers (Dimov 2001, 2009; Statelova 2005) the roots of popfolk are explained by a well-known statement, as formulated clearly by Timothy Rice: “Popfolk is an outgrowth of Bulgarian Rom music and the music of Bulgaria’s Balkan neighbors” (Rice 2004, p. 91).
In the 1990s, during the transition to a market economy in Bulgaria, a new type of criticism began to be associated with avtorski pesni v naroden duh, and was specifically focused on the newly created genres of songs, called: folkpop, popfolk, chalga, which cultivated a new aesthetics and were completely in the field of popular music. Critical articles were published in academic journals (Bǔlgarski Folklor [Bulgarian Folklore], Bǔlgarsko Muzikoznanie [Bulgarian Musicology]); specialized magazines were created—Folk Panair [Folk Fair] (1994); Nov Folk [New Folk] (1998), which outlined strategies of new songwriters for songs of this type, offered reflections on songwriting based on folklore—discussing the style of some of these songs, which were popularly entertaining and heavily influenced by the music of the countries neighboring Bulgaria.
The main issues that focus the attention of the participants in this conversation are related to: increased attention to the processes of hybridization; explicit borrowings from the stylistics of contemporary Balkan popfolk music genres (newly composed folk songs and turbo folk from Serbia; laika from Greece; arabesque from Turkey; manele from Romania; talava from Albania, etc.); how the newly created authored songs that come out on the local popfolk and chalga scene create social spaces that connect their listeners in subcultural communities of fans; tsiganizaciyata (gypsyfication) in the genre; disgust at chalga; the economic dimensions of the creative practice, etc.
As is clear from the examples given above, academic and critical interest in avtorski pesni v naroden duh has varied over the years in the outlined historical periods. The researched materials show how the debates about avtorski pesni v naroden duh changed and developed in the process of historical development of these songs. Chronologically, until the late 1980s the debates were mostly focused on authorized/avtorizirani versions of folk songs (harmonizations, obrabotki, etc.) From the 1990s, we saw considerable changes in the avtorski pesni v naroden duh, which led to a change of the topics of traditional debates shifting their focus to newly-composed authored songs ‘in folk spirit’ (folkpop, popfolk, chalga, etc.) It is important to note here that in each historical period, creators, artists, researchers and critics prioritized different topics in the ongoing debate, which speaks about the processual-transitional nature of avtorski pesni v naroden duh and about the transitivity of genres and sub-genre forms, connected with this meta-genre category (Peycheva 2019).
To better understand some specifics of the debates around avtorski pesni v naroden duh we need to consider the research fields that developed in the frame of the antithesis “pro and contra” the act of obrabotvane (transformation, polishing, processing) of folklore.

4. Antithesis “Pro and Contra” the Obrabotvane (Polishing, Processing) of Folklore

Much research has been done in Bulgaria on the topic of obrabotvane of folklore and authored folk songs (obrabotki). In the context of debates on how folklore is transformed, the word obrabotka and its derivatives (obrabotvane, obrabotvachi) may carry different contents and meanings. Donna Buchanan writes that the concept of obrabotvane (polishing, cultivation, processing, treatment) implies the “transformation of something for the better” and makes the important clarification that “Bulgarians do not clearly differentiate in general discourse between the act of composing music in naroden duh (folk spirit) and arranging a pre-existent melody in the Westernized fashion, whether the arrangement constitutes a harmonization or an obrabotka. All are essentially regarded as obrabotki” (Buchanan 1991, p. 344).
In the current text the term obrabotvane of folklore is examined in relation to the better understanding of this process within the frame of the argument “pro and contra”, which in Bulgaria takes an important part in the discussions on modernization of musical traditions.
One of the most debated questions regarding avtorski pesni v naroden duh that is a subject of live interest among certain public circles and around which various discourses develop is: “pro and contra the obrabotvane of folklore”. This problem has been at the heart of intellectual discussions since the 1930s and during the 1950s–1980s. The critical discussion of the important question “pro and contra the obrabotvane of folklore”, with its whole inconsistency, complexity and impossibility to be reduced to unambiguous answers, leads to sharp confrontations between the holders of different opinions, constant doubts, and the nascency of new questions and many interpretations.
Folklore is the central point around which controversy and heated debate develop. Below I have summarized some major points supported by participants in this debate, which they have presented in some form in public resources. In general, groups of public commentators are divided into followers and opponents of the obrabotvane of folklore and the creation of avtorski pesni v naroden duh. Representatives of each of these groups support different concepts and are trying in many different ways to express their positions that situate the cultivating and processing of folklore between destruction and salvation.
According to the followers of the obrabotvane of folklore, folk music is a raw material that after cultivation and polishing can become a new art. Opponents of the obrabotvane criticize this practice as a violation of the already existing order in the folklore song with arguments that it leads to the “disfigurement” of the original folk song, which is characterized by “wealth and exceptional beauty” (Kokareshkov 1973, p. 31). The followers of the obrabotvane of folklore value it as a priceless treasure and heritage and keep it alive through various transformational practices. The opponents of processing are distrustful of the obrabotki and follow the romantic notion that folklore is naturally and spontaneously reproduced within certain communities by the mechanisms of norms and rules stored in the empirical experience of the oral tradition, and any external interference damages and destroys it. The followers of the obrabotvane of folklore are focused on the present and the future, like modernizers who draw resources from tradition and renew it. The opponents of the obrabotvane are focused on the past and the future, like traditionalists who try to preserve tradition as an ideal and an example for future generations.
There were two major movements in Bulgaria during the 1970s—followers and opponents of the obrabotvane of folklore, called respectively “kutevisti” and “dzhudzhevisti”. “Kutevisti” were the followers of Philip Kutev (composer, founder, and leader of the State Folklore Ensemble in Sofia) and they supported the re-creation of folklore with new means of expression. “Dzhudzhevisti” were the followers of Stoyan Dzhudzhev (ethnomusicologist, professor in the State Musical Academy in Sofia) and they supported the preservation of the grammar (morphological and syntactical buildup) of Bulgarian folk music language. This opposition clearly shows that Kutev is a representative of music in practice and his followers have the bigger authority in creation of cultural politics, while Dzhudzhev is a representative of music in theory and his followers are rather a closed group in academia.

5. Pro the Obrabotvane (Polishing, Processing) of Folklore

Followers of obrabotvane (cultivating, polishing, processing) of folk songs are not interested in its magic and sociocultural functions and meanings in the context of the pre-industrial era. When rediscovering a folk song inherited from the past, contemporary actors only relate to the musical folklore language and its idioms, perceived as the most characteristic expression and semantic carrier of a past social and cultural reality. According to Todor Dzhidzhev, Bulgarian musicians, who support the processing of folk songs as necessary and promising, emphasize that “in this way new life is breathed into folklore, that today’s listener has higher requirements for folk songs and they no longer satisfy him in its single-voice, traditional sound, that this is the way of the contemporary development of folk music creativity” (Dzhidzhev 1973, p. 31). This implies a continuous evolution and change in styles, genres and repertoire.
In Bulgaria there is a wealth of experience in updating and revising of the folk song. It is the subject of creative interest on the part of a number of Bulgarian musicians (composers, conductors, performers, musicologists and other specialists). Creators of different generations turn their attention to folk songs of the past, which they appropriate through various strategies for structural transformation and bring them back to a new life in modern day life. In discussions “pro and contra the cultivation of folklore”, they argue that the reproduction and restoration of a folklore song and its maintenance in modern contemporary practices serve to arouse the interest of new generations in the musical heritage and contribute to a return to the roots. Without providing a full explanation of the process of songwriting in folk spirit, the authors of such songs manage to shed some light on the specific function of these songs in society by developing discourses about the importance of re-creation of folklore songs from the past for the preservation and generational inheritance of the Bulgarian traditional music. Philip Kutev, who has much personal experience with the obrabotvane of folklore, expresses his deep conviction that: “The spirituality of the people was reflected in the songs, dances, costumes and it would have been lost irrevocably if we had not done something for the preservation of musical folklore” (Kutev 1979, pp. 6–7). This can be interpreted as confirmation of the importance of obrabotvane of folklore and the creation of authorized/avtorizirani folk songs (obrabotki). The rediscovery of a folklore song by contemporary creators is an expression of new continuities. Nikolai Kaufman points out that the highest achievement in Bulgarian music is “the simple folk song, fertilized by a Bulgarian composer, which gives the basis of personal creativity from the small folk choir song to the monumental Bulgarian symphony” (Kaufman 1972, pp. 24–25).
Naturally, there are different views about the ways in which the transformation processes in the obrabotvane of musical folklore can be performed. In the examined publications the artists discuss various topics about the melody, harmony, rhythm and form in Bulgarian folk song in terms of established standards of obrabotvane, patterns and practices in art, popular and contemporary folk music.
Dobri Hristov is a representative of the first generation of classical composers who, starting from the 1890s, employed narodna muzika (folk music) in their works, which were treated as authored, classical music (Buchanan 1991, pp. 347–48). Dobri Hristov stood against the “rhythmical stylization” of folk songs through change of their rhythmical forms (simplification) because that would come to destroy their originality (Kamburov 1942, pp. 130–31). However, he believed “that Bulgarian composers would one day develop their own style of music by reworking folk music using European technical means while preserving the general sound of the melody. He viewed the harmonic provisions of classical music as tools for setting Bulgarian melodies polyphonically” (Kamburov 1942, p. 136; Buchanan 1991, p. 351).
Todor Dzhidzhev links the obrabotvane of folk songs in the works of Bulgarian composers from the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries with the multifaceted process of building a national style in contemporary Bulgarian music (Dzhidzhev 1973, p. 30). The renewal of the folk song and the creation of new avtorska muzika (authored music) in folk spirit started to gain more significance in the 1930s and raised the issues of the Bulgarian music style with its problems of a formal and aesthetic character. Musically and textually, composers moved toward the creation of compositions in the style of folk music—avtorska muzika—rather than the quotation of traditional songs. Donna Buchanan writes, that “As the 1930s and 1940s unfolded, composers became concerned with developing a national style of composition that would require the reworking of narodna muzika according to Western compositional principles” (Buchanan 1991, pp. 355–56). According to the composer Petko Staynov, the first immediate task was to clarify and determine the prerequisites of this style, “by establishing its components of melodic, rhythmic and harmonious nature”. Staynov explains that these ingredients had to be extracted from typical Bulgarian songs with a purely diatonic melodic structure, with a wide variety of rhythmic and metrical structure, “which leave an impression of hardness and harshness (…), not without some coarseness even when they are heartfelt confessions of a purely lyrical peculiarity” (as quoted by Balareva 1968, p. 71). The path to “achieving personal creativity in the national spirit” goes through the perception of the existing Western musical modernity, whereby the contemporary musical and expressive means need to conform to the Bulgarian melody. The artists of the time had realized the need for the new Bulgarian music “to be constructed with contemporary musical expressive means, taste and understanding of the average audience” (Balareva 1968, p. 31). For Georgi Tutev, “a music that is not rooted in musical folklore is not national music” (as quoted by Balareva 1968, p. 163). Ivan Kamburov wrote that in order to create authored music in folk spirit, with a true national value, the composers who use folklore as building blocks for their artistic goals must have some feeling of “that moment, in which the natural native folklore song-maker created these melodies; must be able to live and breathe these melodies, and only then use them, by bringing in their artistic individuality and technical skill” (Kamburov 1942, p. 137).
Philip Kutev—the creator of the first state folklore ensemble in Bulgaria (1951), which was a phenomenal success—was a pioneer in stage-oriented transformation in the authored appropriation of traditional folk songs and dances. Kutev gradually became exceptionally influential in the creation of avtorski pesni v naroden duh (Peycheva 2008; 2019). According to Nikolay Kaufman, Philip Kutev managed to find the right way for the transformation of a folk song: “change in it does not mean alienation, detachment from the musical style of our people, but, on the contrary, to find and highlight the stylistic features inherent in the Bulgarian musical folklore”. Kutev’s main ambition was to keep the song close to the mind of the village performer and listener (Kaufman 1972, pp. 25–26). Even if Kutev’s works had a deeply transformative effect on the primary source song material, the industry of folklore transformation and creation of avtorski pesni v naroden duh holds the opinion that “the aesthetic emphasis during the 1950s was on purity, chist (clear, pure) style and the use of “authentic primary source material” (Buchanan 1991, p. 377).
Philip Kutev paid special attention to the aesthetic and expressive system of the folk song, which proved to be a viable and effective strategy for its transformation. Kutev, who is creatively, intellectually and personally committed to the obrabotvane of folklore, describes his work with the transformation of the folk song as follows: “The folk song should be treated very carefully. There are songs that have been created perfectly by the people both in text and in melody. They should be placed in the appropriate harmonic and melodic frame, and they can be varied with different chamber moments. But that still does not mean a finished obrabotka. There are wonderful songs that carry rich development opportunities. They should be approached very carefully by the authors, proceeding from the main melodic line and developing the song both melodically and stylistically, in such a way that it does not show what was created by the people and what by the author. It should sound entirely like a folk song and should not be overloaded with overly sought after harmonic and polyphonic means, and development should take place in light of the text and the content of the song. The basic requirement is that the song should be enriched with expressive means so that it sounds simple and casual” (Kutev 1974, p. 18). The quoted passage reveals Philip Kutev’s understanding that the compositional approach to the two types of songs created by the people (“songs perfect in text and melody” and “wonderful songs that bring rich opportunities for development”) require that “the authors should approach a folk song very carefully”. The composer explains that in the first case, the folk song is harmonized (placed in the “corresponding harmonic frame”) and in the second—processed (developed “both melodically and stylistically”). In both cases, the transformation of the folk song presupposes a transformation of the inherited musical experience and requires the construction of a specific language of expression, in which the almost unchanged melodic line of the folk song and its authored interpretation are combined with contemporary harmonic or polyphonic artistic means. In cases where the new, enriched with artistic means of expression, authorized/avtoriziranata “folk” song “sounds simple and casual”, it exerts enormous influence, carries aesthetic delight and charm, and is perceived and evaluated as a work of art.
Although Philip Kutev was engaged in the transformation of folk songs on a national scale, he carefully followed and adhered to the local and regional characteristics (the musical folklore dialects) of his authorized/avtorizirani folk songs: “Another important problem that the composer must take into account is the folklore region of the song and the genre traits that it carries. (…) In general, when transforming a song for performance by folk choirs, the characteristic features of the folklore region, the sound and nuances of the dialect, the genre of the song must all be taken into account, and they should lead to the proper harmonization and obrabotvane of the song” (Kutev 1974, p. 18). It is obvious that Kutev closely adhered to the stylistic details that were typical of folklore songs in the different geographical places, and while rethinking and reformatting the songs he remained close to the specifics of the respective local tradition.
Many composers talk about enriching the form when processing a folk song. Philip Kutev made changes in the form of the folk song by supplementing, expanding and developing the melody. He mentions his creative strategy that he implemented in connection with shaping: “The requirement of the song’s form also poses an interesting problem. There are songs that you must only touch quite subtly because they themselves tell the form. The composer’s intuition and knowledge should prompt him to do the right changes in the form. The purpose is not to show our ability to ‘build form’, but to supplement its richness” (Kutev 1974, p. 19). This approach to the song form reveals what are the main directions in the search for transformation and remaking of song form in the creation of new songs in the folk spirit. New artists try to develop (work out, process) the relatively lasting form seen in folk songs, to show their ability to unfold, change and reveal in every individual creative act.
The quotations above make it very clear what are the practical problems that composers solve when re-creating folk songs: the approach to the original folk song; the choice of means of expression; building the form; taking regional dialect features into account, etc. The researched publications leave the impression that a central place is given to the topic of musical language. The composers do not provide exact and detailed instructions about the rules, approaches and techniques used when authoring a folk song, but the quoted excerpts show that the adaptation of traditional musical folklore language (an aggregation of sound and style habits Dzhudzhev 1977, p. 168) to the ever-changing contemporary musical languages is at the basis of the transformation of folk songs into authored songs. The topic about the delicate work of bringing together and mixing of different musical languages, as well as the search for creation of a specialized language for authoring and modernization of the folk songs inherited from tradition, is one of the most important topics in the creative work of composers. They give much attention and significance to that topic, which turns it into a central point in the debates around avtorski pesni v naroden duh.

6. Contra the Obrabotvane (Polishing, Processing) of Folklore

Those criticizing the obrabotki of folk songs usually say that they are just imitations of folklore. These people view the authored songs as pollution of the “pure folk songs from the source” and distortion of the grammar of the Bulgarian musical language (Dzhudzhev 1977, p. 173).
Among the opponents of obrabotki, many theorists, critics, or amateurs think it is profane and wrong to encroach upon the “pure folk song” that has sounded for centuries “in its original form”. As Todor Dzhidzhev writes: “Experts or fans have often expressed opinions for or against the obrabotvane of folk songs, and it is remarkable that the issue has been treated from the standpoint of folklore.” Opinions that criticize the obrabotvane of musical-folklore works are based on the understanding that all actions of bringing them to the temperate musical system, the use of harmonic and polyphonic means borrowed from Western European music, the use of Western European musical instruments in the polishing process “violate the cleanliness and originality of their folklore style” (Dzhidzhev 1973, p. 31).
The rest of this section examines the development of reactions against obrabotvane at several historical moments through the publications of certain ethnomusicologists, critics, composers, conductors, musicians and other specialists.
The position of defenders of the folk song from the encroachment of the composers was taken in the 1940s by the literary critic and publicist Yordan Badev (with his article “Mercy on the folk song” published on 21 May 1943 in Zora [Dawn] newspaper, see Balareva 1968, p. 29) and his ideological followers and supporters. They stigmatize considerable musical works from that period, arguing that the composers did not have a developed sense of Bulgarian folk songs; that the transformations showed a manic, speculative and coterie attitude to the folk songs; that they made musical montages with motifs of one or another folk song, distorting and caricaturing them. Music composed in naroden duh (folk spirit) is called “modernity maniac music”. The attempts to “create at the same time in the spirit of our folk song and of the Western music are [called] unfortunate”. The composers are accused of “distorting and disfiguring the folk songs” and of “tormenting our folk songs” (Balareva 1968, pp. 30, 150, 162, 170). From the given examples, it is clear that during the period between the two world wars, subversive notions such as the “disfiguring”, “mutilation”, “torture”, “caricaturizing” of the original folk song were introduced into the critical language of commentators. The criteria for such assessments were inevitably subjective.
Towards the end of the 1970s, there was a renewed debate about the use of folklore in authored musical works. Philip Pavlov notes that when contemporary artists turn to the obrabotvane of folklore, they should consider the extent to which they have the right to carry out their own authored idea in order not to end up with the “destruction” of the achievements of folk art: “Folk music is close to us and it is quite natural because it is a reflection of our national spirituality, because we have worked deeply with it and it has become a daily necessity. It educates and forms the correct aesthetic criterion, which is the ultimate goal of any art, be it folk or authored. We must always keep this in mind, and when we strive to approach our national wealth creatively, we must not detach it from the form in which it has become part of our cultural history” (Pavlov 1974, pp. 19–20). At the time of these active debates, avtorski pesni v naroden duh are a thriving meta-genre in Bulgaria. The modernized folk music, which prevails on the Bulgarian scene, includes the authorized/avtorizirani art obrabotki of folk songs and arrangements of folk songs incorporated into folklorized (narodna) and popular (estradna) music.
In the 1980s, a sharp controversy arose over the “purity and authenticity” of Bulgarian musical and dance folklore and the language of folk music and dance. This controversy spread in the Bulgarian press, creative unions and the general public (Dzhudzhev 1985a). In the mid-1980s, Stoyan Dzhudzhev, a famous Bulgarian ethnomusicologist was one of the huge critics of grafting of foreign musical languages, styles and habits onto the inner structure of the musical language of the Bulgarian people (Dzhudzhev 1977, p. 174). He drew his readers’ attention to the specific structural transformations of the folk songs and noted that the canonical requirements of “purity and authenticity” are not abided by when composers create avtorski pesni v naroden duh. He writes about the shared public nature of the folk music language and raises a number of critical questions about its use by contemporary creators, citing several specific “distortions of the folk music language” that are associated with the obrabotvane of folk songs.
His first remark is that harmonizers rarely consider or do not consider at all the mode of organization and functionality of folk tunes. The harmonization of folk tunes implies a change in expressiveness. The nature of this change that deviates from tradition is revealed in cases where, for example, a tune with typical Dorian or Phrygian functionality is harmonized under the influence of Western European classical musical aesthetics in a major or a minor mode in a search for artificial sensitive tones; and the pentatonic is transformed in diatonic, with the addition of alien, non-typical tones or trivial accordion harmonies, thus depriving the primary folk melody of its most characteristic marks. Two-voice singing in parallel thirds or sixths is described by the Bulgarian researcher as “vulgar harmonization” in parallel (called in the musical jargon “barber’s”) thirds and sixths (Dzhudzhev 1985b).
Further, Dzhudzhev says that “other perversions of the songs” are the various instrumental introductions, refrains, interludes and cadences, which are quite arbitrarily attached as foreign bodies to the vocal melody and which have nothing to do with its structure and its style. According to Dzhudzhev, the instrumental additions to the songs are “arbitrary” because they are modeled according to the subjective imagination of the authors. These false mechanical additives are an expression of the destructive tendencies in folk song processing practices because they simply destroy the artistic effect of “a pure and fresh, unadulterated folk song” (Dzhudzhev 1985b). Thus, because of the development of these expressive forms in authorized/avtorizirani folk songs, the thread of tradition is gradually broken.
Dzhudzhev also points out that there are “many perversions” in the orchestration of folk tunes: “These ugly folk instruments, which were introduced by amateur performances in our ‘folk’ orchestras—rebeck violas, cellos and double basses—are a misunderstanding that has nothing to do with Bulgarian folk music” (Dzhudzhev 1985b). Invented folk orchestras, referred to as “folk philharmonic” by Donna Buchanan (Buchanan 2006, pp. 132–76), and orchestrations of folk songs, incorporate these new instruments into the sophisticated style of musical art. The new tradition created in the orchestration of folk tunes leads to the complete dissolution of local folk music idioms within the artistic opuses of various contemporary composers.
The exchange between local music content and Western music models (Peycheva and Rodel 2015) gives an impetus for the creation of large instrumental or mixed (vocal-instrumental) ensembles, which have never existed in the traditional musical practice of the Bulgarian people. Dzhudzhev interprets these attempts as “significant failures” because “with such ensembles it is very difficult to achieve intonational purity, especially when non-Bulgarian (specifically wind) instruments are included. But even kavalite (end-blown flutes) and gaidite (bagpipes) are difficult to synchronize with gadulkite (rebecks) and tamburite (long-necked plucked lutes). In general, the sound system of our folk music is reflected in the structure of our folk musical instruments. And this system is quite different from the tempered system of Western music” (Dzhudzhev 1985b).
Stoyan Dzhudzhev’s critical comments about the obrabotvane of folklore, clearly outline the difference between “original” folk songs and their authored/avtorizirani versions. He emphasizes the beauty of nepodpravenata narodna pesen (genuine folk song) and argues that only the izvornite (original, source) elements of rural folk song are valuable and that their contemporary transformation is neither an easy nor a simple task. In interpreting the style mix in the genre of obrabotki, the researcher based his view on a romantic understanding of the primary aesthetic purity and freshness of the style and structure of folk songs. Attempts to cultivate, process, polish, manipulate, transform folk songs lead to a stirring of styles, and Dzhudzhev describes such a mix of styles as “barbarism”: “Culture is in the unity of style, and mixing is a barbarism of styles” (as quoted by Lazovski 1999, p. 21). The quoted critical comments explain well the problematic and inappropriate transformations in the re-making of the distinctive models and deep structures of the Bulgarian musical folklore. They reveal that Stoyan Dzhudzhev has a deep knowledge, has made detailed observations and very accurately describes the structural distortions of the authentic, intonational constructs of the “folk musical language”, which are modified in the process of harmonization and obrabotvane of folk songs. In Dzhudzhev’s view, the grafting of “foreign musical languages, styles and habits” onto the inner structure and style of Bulgarian musical folklore introduces serious distortions in the musical consciousness of Bulgarians and even an “anarchy” in their spiritual life, which also creates the danger of decay and disintegration of the communal organism of the musical-folklore community (Dzhudzhev 1977, p. 174).
Another critic, the writer and publicist Atanas Lazovski, vehemently rejects “revamped folk songs”, “bad obrabotki” and the activities of their creators, whom he calls obrabotvachi (transformers). For Lazovski, obrabotvane is a negative phenomenon that undermines the foundations of the “Bulgarian musical consciousness” and opens the doors to kafanska muzika (cafe music)3, while the obrabotvachi with their imperfect mediocrity are “dangerous enemies” of folklore heritage. Lazovski calls them “monopolists”: “Our extremely rich folklore heritage was almost canned, frozen. It was actively disfigured by various obrabotvachi who had established a monopoly over the means of its popularization (radio broadcasts, television programs, concerts, record production, sheet music). The folk music culture has never had such dangerous enemies. The defeat became visible to all: Bulgarians began to look for foreign folklore” (Lazovski 1999, p. 34). In these critical messages we clearly see the idea that the distortion of authenticity is an inevitable part of obrabotvane of folk songs. The author also expresses an obvious concern that the rich Bulgarian musical-folklore heritage is threatened by encroachment from mediocre authors of songs in folk spirit.
Lazovski argues that “clumsy obrabotvachi” are “pests”, “appropriators”, “the main culprits who have led the people to a confusion of musical consciousness” because in their activities they replace the principle of democracy with the principle of elitism: “The culture of a people, although it has emerged long ago from its traditional folklore stage of development, is impossible to exist as a people’s music without the zealous preservation of one of its primary principles: democracy! The obrabotvachi replace it with the elitist principle. They decided and declared that they were the most cultured, the most competent, the most specialized, the most capable (…) Until their appearance, the owner and proprietor of artistic values that are born from the collective genius, was always the people (…). The obrabotvachi took the fate of these riches in their hands” (Lazovski 1999, pp. 20, 23).
The end of the state socialist development of Bulgaria has opened new avenues for the development of avtorski pesni v naroden duh since the early 1990s. Their evolution continues in new forms and genres that are in line with the new socio-historical situation. The artistic transformations of folk songs, which had developed as an influential movement during the years of socialism, has suffered a chronic decline due to its gradual marginalization in the national context. In the conditions of a developing market economy in Bulgaria, the newly emerging private entrepreneurs, music and media companies and the local stars created by them apply an aggressive strategy to master the music market, by transforming the quality of the songs they produce and becoming key players in the music life. Avtorski pesni na folklorna osnova were “on the top of the wave” in the 1990s, and over time gradually transformed from a specific “national” into a popular “Balkan phenomenon”. Their regional influence on the Balkans is conditioned and mediated by the new media (Planet Folk TV, Balkanika TV, the Internet, etc.)
New debates are opening up, and the focus on the “Balkanization” of these songs, called avtorski folk (authored folk), avtorska folklorna pesen (authored folk song), popfolk, folkpop, chalga, etc., is becoming more emphasized. In the discussions about newly composed songs ‘in folk spirit’, called avtorski pesni na folklorna osnova, a huge emphasis falls on the genres of popfolk and chalga. A line of Bulgarian artists and musicians oppose the rising “chalga wave” in the local popular music without being able to control the pressure of the new dominant popfolk actors who took over the Bulgarian scene in the 1990s. Among the most discussed topics, soaked in strong criticism, are tsiganizaciyata (the “gypsyfication”) (Peycheva 1999) and chalgizaciyata (the chalgization) (Dimov 2001) of avtorski pesni na folklorna osnova, which became the dominant genre of the first post-socialist decades. Critics of these processes have argued with some justification that the newly composed songs in this genre are commercially and entertainingly oriented, imprinting hybridity and leading to the emergence of a new genre consciousness among the younger generations (“our children will get used to and even love this strange music cocktail”): “The song (like) every creation is preceded by a special emotional occasion. Just like that—for purely commercial reasons is not worth it (to create songs—LP)! Unfortunately, nowadays, a lot of musicians who have proven their qualities already have some inclinations for this purely profitable wave. This does them no honor! A huge amount of blame goes to the creators and distributors of the mix of Gypsy-Turkish-Serbian-Greek-Bulgarian tunes, and “works” with commonplace lyrics—or so-called avtorska muzika na folklorna osnova. Surprisingly, this “music” has its consumers and acts on their primary instincts, but it tarnishes the soul… I am afraid for our children who will get used to and even love this strange music cocktail…” (Peeva 1994, p. 13).
We can summarize that the critics of avtorski pesni v naroden duh disapprove of any artistic meddling in the structure of folk music from the past and express their concern that Bulgarian listeners are threatened by a loss of connection to their musical roots.

7. Conclusions

The debates about the phenomenon of avtorski pesni v naroden duh presented in this text are among the most heated discussions in the past, because they explain the existing differentiations and pressures, which accompany the process of Europeanization and modernization of the old folklore music from Bulgaria. From today’s perspective, these two incompatible doctrines, which stand their grounds—“creative renewal” vs. “pollution” of the original, authentic folk music—can be re-thought and re-examined, because each of them has its internal contradictions. On the one hand, for authors of songs in folk spirit, the re-creation of folklore is a means of achieving an attractive, interesting, and modern popularization of the folk music from the past. Yet, in the process, these artificially created folk-like imitations are actually new compositions in folk spirit, which deeply change the musical language of the people, making folk music just an attraction, leading to the destruction of its deeper magical sacral meanings. On the other hand, the negative attitude towards obrabotvane of folklore and the passionate rejection of any interferences and attempts for change of the source musical samples are an expression of a romantic admiration for the ancient world and the inherited Bulgarian traditional music. Yet this demonstrates the inability to break with the past and move forward. The common thing between the two doctrines is that they both focus on Bulgarian folk music and raise the value of its preservation, support, and trans-generational inheritance.
In fact, the negation and acceptance, the clash between pro and contra the obrabotvane of folk songs are inseparable, because folk music has inseparable qualities—it carries a cultural code, which can be re-created and manifested in different musical styles and genres. The re-coding and re-creation of folk music in avtorski pesni v naroden duh may sometimes lead to unusual changes in the inherited cultural code of folk music, but it always allows people of different ages and social groups to draw meaning from these songs.

Funding

This research received no external funding.

Acknowledgments

I am grateful to several people who supported me with the work on this text—Ivana Medic for the invitation to participate in this issue of Arts; Macie Ma, Lois Yu, Colin Chen, Charlie Stamenova and the whole Editorial Board of Arts; the anonymous reviewers who helped improve this text with invaluable suggestions; Alexander Velev for the help with the English translation; Asen Alexandrov for the English proofreading and technical assistance.

Conflicts of Interest

The author declares no conflict of interest.

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1
By authored songs in folk spirit I denote hybrid works, which combine individual and collective musical creativity. The authors of these songs are usually well-known. This comes in contrast to the traditional folk songs, whose authors are anonymous (Peycheva 2019).
2
Available at “Bulgarian National Radio. Arhiven Fond.”: https://archives.bnr.bg/15416/aleksandar-krastev-edno-golyamo-sartse-otdadeno-na-muzikata/ (accessed on 10 January 2020)
3
In the Bulgarian language kafanska muzika is not just coffee music or tavern music. Kafanska muzika is used with a negative connotation in Bulgarian sources and denotes Balkan ethno-pop music associated with oriental influences, typical of the western neighbors (former Yugoslavia).
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