Sunday 21 June 2020

Faces Of The Balkans, 100 Years Ago

"Barbers Mean Nothing In Life: A horny-handed son of the Balkan soil. He has lived the allotted three score and 10 years and then some. And despite the vicissitudes that have swept Romania, he still believes in the future of his country and the goodness of his God. He was a patient in the [Red Cross] hospital but refused to remain if his hair was cut. It is a 50-year growth and he wouldn't part with it."

These very interesting pictures from the Radio Free Europe site were taken in different Balkan countries by American photographer Lewis Hine, who was here with the Red Cross, in 1919 and 1920. 

The captions are original and Radio Free Europe feels it necessary to apologise to its readers for the 'sometimes patronizing perspective of a Western observer of the time' that they display. 

I think almost everything written before the 1990s requires an apology or condemnation from Radio Free Europe, the Guardian and from English literature departments.

Reading the captions and looking at the pictures I think not for the first time that Wallachia and Moldavia are only half Balkan at most, because Balkan is a state of mind, not a place, and a state of mind strongly coloured by centuries of rule by Turkey. Wallachia and Moldavia were only a Turkish protectorate, ruled by Christian princes, though the people including the landowners and princes dressed like Turks until the 1850s.

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