John D. Bell Book Prize

This non-monetary award is established for the most outstanding recent scholarly book within any area of Bulgarian studies. The author of the winning book receives a BSA award certificate, and a notification letter is sent by the BSA to the book's publisher. The award announcement is made at the BSA Annual meeting and is then posted on the BSA webpage. The BSA also sends an announcement of the winning book to the AAASS NewsNet, the AATSEEL Newsletter where appropriate, and any other relevant newsletters.

The Bulgarian Studies Association awarded its 2018 John D. Bell Memorial Book Prize to

Anna Mirkova’s book:
Muslim land, Christian labor : Transforming Ottoman imperial Subjects Into Bulgarian National Citizens, 1878-1939. Budapest: Central European University Press, 2017.

In argument of their decision, the Book Prize committee states:

What makes this book important is its conceptual approach to look at Bulgaria and in particular at Eastern Rumelia as an area of nation building. Mirkova does this by providing a combined analysis of Ottoman-Muslim structures, war caused migration, land ownership and economic modernization policies. What adds to this approach is the fact that she puts her story into a broader Balkan respectively Ottoman imperial context.

Using this concept, Mirkova offers a fresh look at the fluid and negotiable character of national identities in post-Ottoman Bulgaria up until World War II. She shows the high degree to which „Bulgarianness“, i.e. the common contemporary understanding of what Bulgaria and being Bulgarian means, is the result of - in historical terms - recent policy making based on ethnocentric as well as territory-bound concepts of nationhood. Mirkova pays special attention to the „creation“ of national minorities as another result of these developments. She emphasizes, how these minority groups were forced to redefine their position and identity within the context of Bulgarian nation building in the direct neighborhood of the emerging Turkish nation state.

The value of this book lies in the fact that it raises questions that reach far beyond its scope. Such questions could address issues within the context of the „constructedness“ of Bulgarian/Balkan national identities, the degree to which these identities were still fluid and moldable when the communist regime took power, the constructed character of „traditions“ (folklore, cuisine etc.) in this context and, therefore, the communist contribution to nation and identity building.

The winner of the 2017 John D Bell Book Prize is Adelina Anguševa, Margaret Dimitrova, Maria Jovčeva, Maja Petrova-Taneva, and Diljana Radoslavova, eds. Vis et sapient: Studia in honorem Anisavae Miltenova. Novi izvori, interpretacii i podxodi v medievistikata. Sofia: BAN 2016.

The Book Prize Committee has not awarded the prize in 2015 and 2016.

The Bulgarian Studies Association awarded its 2014 John D. Bell Memorial Book Prize to Elena Kostova’s book, Medieval Melnik from the Late Twelfth to the Late Fourteenth Centuries: Historical Vicissitudes of a Small Balkan Town, Sofia: ARCS, 2013. In argument of their decision, the Book Prize committee states: “This meticulously-researched book is one of a very few comprehensive studies of medieval Balkan urban settlements. Its subject is the historical evolution of Melnik, a small but strategically located town, as it passed continually from hand to hand among the Bulgarian, Byzantine and Nicean Empires, Serbia, and a series of local overlords. Based on primary sources, and focusing in particular on the political and ecclesiastical development of the region that Melnik was a part of, Medieval Melnik is a valuable contribution not only to Bulgarian history, but also to the understanding of medieval urbanism in general.”
This year’s winner of John Bell Book Prize is Panos Sophoulis’s book Byzantium and Bulgaria, 775-831 (Vol. 16 of East Central and Eastern Europe in the Middle Ages, 450-1450, general editor Florin Curta. Leiden: Brill, 2011). The statement of the Book Prize committee says: “Panos Sophoulis's book on the relations between these two powers is an important scholarly contribution to the field of Bulgarian history. Although it has an apparently narrow chronological focus on the relations of the Byzantine empire with the emerging Bulgarian state, its broader themes encompass their concepts of nationhood and empire, and firmly site his topic within the development of medieval Europe. Through impressive documentation from Byzantine and Western sources, and integration of recent archaeological discoveries, Sophoulis provides a thorough explanation and convincing analysis of this critical period: the iconoclasm controversy, numerous changes of ruler in the Byzantine Empire, the disastrous defeat of the Emperor Nikephoros in 811, and the resulting expansion of the Bulgarian state under khans Krum and Omurtag. In particular, his detailed discussions of the conventional historiography, why it must be re-evaluated in the light of material evidence, and what new information this approach elicits, provide a thorough explanation and convincing analysis of this important period.”
The Bulgarian Studies Association has awarded the 2012 John D. Bell Memorial Book Prize to Gerald W. Greed for his book Masquerade and Postsocialism: Ritual and Cultural Dispossession in Bulgaria (Indiana University Press, 2011). In its arguments, the Book Prize Committee states: "[This] is a highly interesting and illuminating socio-anthropological study of the well-known Bulgarian kukeri mumming tradition as it is practiced in various regions of postsocialist rural Bulgaria, where it is alive and well, albeit somewhat changed to accommodate current conditions and outlooks. The book examines mumming in its current adaptations across a wide range of villages for what it shows about current gender and sexuality issues for Bulgarian men in these locations, the understanding of civil society and democracy, nationalism, and the complex relationship between rural Bulgarians and their Roma neighbors. As such, it is a very important contribution to several fields: ethnography, sociology, ethnic studies, and politics [as well as] a fascinating read."
Victor A. Friedman (editor and translator), Christina E. Kramer, Grace E. Fielder and Catherine Rudin (translators), Bai Ganyo: Incredible Tales of a Modern Bulgarian. University of Wisconsin Press, 2010.
In announcing its decision, the BSA book prize committee wrote: 'As evidence of the high praise this book is already garnering, the following is an excerpt from a review written by Christo Stamenov of Sofia University that will appear in the 2011 volume of Balkanistica: "Aleko Konstantinov, Bai Ganyo. Incredible Tales of a Modern Bulgarian is a major contribution to the presentation of Bulgarian literature to the English-speaking world at large. It is a successful attempt to make an important Balkan/Bulgarian text available in English despite the considerable difficulties which face the translator. It is also an example of fine editorial work."'

Victor A. Friedman and Christina E. Kramer
Cynthia M. Vareliyska, The Curzon Gospel. Vol. I: An Annotated Edition. Vol. II: A Linguistic and Textual Introduction, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.
Ronelle Alexander, Intensive Bulgarian: A Textbook and Reference Grammar, Volumes 1 and 2 . Univ. of Wisconsin 2000, by Ronelle Alexander, with the assistance of Olga M. Mladenova.
Kjetil Rå Hauge, A Short Grammar of Contemporary Bulgarian . (Slavica Publishers 1999).
Ali Eminov, Turkish and Other Muslim Minorities of Bulgaria . (Routledge-New York, 1997).
Gerald Creed, Domesticating Revolution: From Socialist Reform to Ambivalent Transition in a Bulgarian Village. (Penn State University Press, 1998).
Thomas Butler, Monumenta Bulgarica: A Bilingual Anthology of Bulgarian Texts from the Ninth to the Nineteenth Centuries. (special award for Outstanding Contribution to the General Field of Bulgarian Studies).