Who are Bulgaria's allies and enemies

Department of History and Cultural Studies

The Romanian Campaign 1916/17 - Cultural Transfer and Cultural Dominance in Military Coalitions

Project sketch

The project, designed as a German-Bulgarian cooperation project, aims to examine the reality, interpretation and significance of the campaign by German, Austro-Hungarian, Bulgarian and Turkish troops against Romania in 1916/17. The aim is to work out those cultural peculiarities that have become effective in the course of the 20th century. Using the example of the only outwardly harmonious military coalition, whose partners were committed to very different military cultures and who also interpreted, remembered and instrumentalized the events in different ways, forms of external perception, cultural dominance and subordination as well as cultural transfers are to be analyzed. The focus of interest is not the event, but its collective appropriation and cultural significance. In addition to the scientific benefits, the project aims to integrate colleagues from future EU accession countries into international networks and familiarize them with modern research standards and methodological approaches.


1.) Deniza Petrova: Tutrakan - Reality and Controversy, Interpretation and Meaning

In one of the first major combat operations in the Romanian campaign, Bulgarian and German troops took the Romanian fortress Tutrakan on September 6, 1916. This battle is still present in the collective memory of Bulgaria to this day. Based on this event, the research project examines the forms and development of national memory in Bulgaria between 1916 and 2006. The work approaches the object of investigation on two different levels: First, it wants to classify the event historically and raise the question of the structure of a place of remembrance. Specific forms of memory of war participants are worked out as well as the historiographical interpretation. A second part is about a symbolic manifestation of memory at the site of the battle over the course of the 20th century. The long study period of nine decades allows continuities and breaks as well as the dependence of the culture of remembrance on political cycles to be made visible.

2.) Dr. Gundula Gahlen: Horizons of experience of German combatants in Romania in the First World War

The research project aims to investigate the war experiences of the German military in the Balkans during the Romanian mission and to work out how the soldiers in Romania influenced their image of Eastern Europe, in their morale, in their self-perception and in their view of enemies and allies were. In the sense of the knowledge-sociological experience approach, experience is not understood as a specific expression of direct individualistic experience, but as a process that takes place on different and at the same time closely aligned levels, so that in addition to the individual actors, institutions, mediation bodies and media are also taken into account. In addition to the immediate time in Romania, it is also important to analyze the formations of the soldiers and the change in interpretation of the experiences after the soldiers left. The different perspectives of the war participants are taken into account by taking into account their different areas of operation, their military positions and their different socializations. Autobiographical testimonies and “ego documents” in the broader sense are to be evaluated, but also the public discourses and images that were connected with the sphere of the processing of meaning by the soldiers.

3.) Dr. Oliver Stein: The German Bulgarian Image 1878-1918

The research examines the German image of Bulgarians between 1878 and 1918 and also includes the interpretation of Bulgaria as an ally made after the end of the war. Based on the striking finding that the German image of the Bulgarians undergoes considerable modifications within a relatively short period of time - in adaptation to the changing political framework conditions - the aim of this work is to describe the underlying complex processes of meaning formation in their characteristics and functions and analyze. The focus is therefore on the processes of perception and interpretation, which are examined with regard to their social and individual dimensions and with regard to the interaction between the image of others and the image of oneself.

The study is divided into three parts, the first of which is devoted to stereotypes about the Bulgarians. It works out how these stereotypes were used in different ways depending on the political situation. This resulted in a broad spectrum of numerous - sometimes even contradicting - interpretations of Bulgaria - as modern or backward, primitive or barbaric, European or oriental. In many cases, debates held in Germany, such as the popular power discourse, pre-structured corresponding constructions. A second part turns to the development of the published image of Bulgarians in the press and journalism. In view of the extensive homogenization of reporting during the First World War, it is shown to what extent measures by social and state institutions could effectively influence the creation of a propaganda-tinged image of Bulgarians. At the same time, questions are asked about the relevance that the respective Bulgarian images had for the actions of the main actors in politics and the military, which can be examined particularly clearly using German cultural policy and propaganda in Bulgaria. A third part of the work is devoted to the individual perceptions, the Germans on site, and their contacts to Bulgarians. Here, with the help of personal testimonies, the interaction of social and individual dimensions of experience can be examined more closely. The analysis category of military culture is of particular importance because it was not uncommon for German soldiers in the Balkans to assume an exemplary position and thus formed a popular starting point and framework for evaluating the overall Bulgarian culture. At the end of this work, the attempts at interpretation and reinterpretation are considered as they were made in memories and representations at an increasing time lag from the war period.

The overall aim of the study is to use an exemplary case to work out culturally determined and socially anchored fixed patterns of perception and interpretation and to demonstrate the dependence of external images on (changeable) political framework conditions and self-image.





  • Angelow, Jürgen, The Central Powers in the Romanian Campaign of 1916/17. Cultural transfers and culture of remembrance, in: Militärgeschichtliche Zeitschrift 66 (2007), pp. 132–144.
  • Angelow, Jürgen, The First World War in the Balkans - New Questions and Explanations, in: Arnd Bauerk Merger / Elise Julian (Ed.), Persevere! War and Society in Comparison 1914–1918, Göttingen 2010, pp. 178–194.
  • Gahlen, Gundula, Deniza Petrova and Oliver Stein, The Romanian theater of war 1916 to 1918 as a place of disparate experiences, in: Dies. (Ed.), The Unknown Front. The First World War in Romania. Frankfurt a.M. 2018 (War and Conflict 4), pp. 11-48.
  • Gahlen, Gundula, A School of Violence? The view of the German soldiers on the civilian population in the Romanian campaign 1916/17, in: Dies., Deniza Petrova and Oliver Stein (eds.), The unknown front. The First World War in Romania. Frankfurt a.M. 2018 (War and Conflict 4), pp. 289-316.
  • Gahlen, Gundula, German War Participants ’Spatial Experiences in Romania 1916–1918, in: Claudiu-Lucian Topor / Alexander Rubel (eds.)," The Unknown War "from Eastern Europe. Romania between Allies and Enemies (1916–1918), Konstanz 2017, pp. 173–190.
  • Gahlen, Gundula, "It is proceeding merrily down there and the Alps corps in particular has done some nice work." - The letters and diaries of Lieutenant-Colonel August Dänzer from his time in Transylvania and Romania 1916/17 (2015) , URL: http://www.mwme.eu/essays/german-balkans/index.html.
  • Gahlen, Gundula, The Dobrudschadeutschen in the view of German war participants 1916–1918, in: Yearbook for German and Eastern European Folklore 55 (2014), pp. 137–156.
  • Gahlen, Gundula, interpretation and reinterpretation of the Romanian campaign in Germany between 1916 and 1945, in: Jürgen Angelow with the collaboration of Gundula Gahlen and Oliver Stein (eds.), The First World War in the Balkans. Perspectives of Research, Berlin 2010, 289–310.
  • Gahlen, Gundula, Horizons of experience of German soldiers in the Romanian campaign 1916/17, in: Bernhard Chiari / Gerhard P. Groß (eds.), At the edge of Europe? The Balkans - Area and Population as Fields of Action of Military Force, Munich 2009, pp. 137–158.
  • Petrova, Deniza, Asymmetry - Diversity - Dysfunction? - The German and Bulgarian military between cooperation and conflict in the Romanian campaign 1916/17, in: Gundula Gahlen, Deniza Petrova and Oliver Stein (eds.), The unknown front. The First World War in Romania. Frankfurt a.M. 2018 (War and Conflict 4), pp. 133-156.
  • Petrova, Deniza, The Romanian Campaign 1916/17 in the Bulgarian War Memory Culture, in: Jürgen Angelow et al. (Ed.), The First World War in the Balkans. Perspektiven der Forschung, Berlin 2011, pp. 257–269.
  • Petrova, Deniza, "Not a Central European Theater of War": The Balkans as a Cultural and Travel Experience in the Notes and Letters of August von Mackensen and Hans von Seeckt 1915–1918 (2015), URL: http: // www. mwme.eu/essays/german-balkans/index.html.
  • Petrova, Deniza, Perception and Representation of Space and Boundaries. The Dobrudscha in Bulgarian literary texts about the First World War, in: Olivia Spiridon (Ed.): Textfronten. Perspectives on the First World War in southeastern Europe, Stuttgart 2015, pp. 93-107.
  • Stein, Oliver, Between the Orient, Russia and Europe. On the picture of the Bulgarians and their military in the German press 1912–1918, in: Bernhard Chiari / Gerhard P. Groß (eds.), Am Rande Europa? The Balkans - Space and Population as Fields of Action of Military Force, Munich 2009, pp. 159–175.
  • Stein, Oliver, "If you haven't been through it, you won't believe it." Experiences of German officers with the Bulgarian allies 1915–1918, in: Jürgen Angelow with the collaboration of Gundula Gahlen and Oliver Stein (eds.), The First World War in the Balkans . Perspectives of Research, Berlin 2011, pp. 271–287.
  • Stein, Oliver, The German-Bulgarian Relations since 1878, in: Zeitschrift für Balkanologie 47 (2011), no. 2, pp. 218-240.
  • Stein, Oliver, Kul'turnye različija i koalicionnaja vojna. Nemeckij vwojad na bolgar vo vremja pervoj mirovoj vojny 1915-1918 gg. [Cultural foreignness in the alliance war. The view of the Germans on the Bulgarians in the First World War 1915-1918], in: Klio. Žurnal dlja učenych 54 (2011), no.3 [St. Petersburg, Russia], pp. 50-52.

book presentation

Place: Bavarian Army Museum, Paradeplatz 4, 85049 Ingolstadt

Time:Tuesday, December 11, 2018, 7 p.m. to 8.30 p.m.