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Leatherwork has been one of the most popular and characteristic crafts of the Bulgarians since ancient times. According to one of the etymologies of the ethnonym BULGARIANS, the Bulgarians got this name from the well-processed sable skin, called bulga, which served as their main exchange unit. Both the Slavs and the Thracians were engaged in tanning. As a craft, leatherwork continued to develop during the First and Second Bulgarian states. Raw hides and skins were the main export item after cereals in the Middle Ages. After the arrival of the Ottoman Turks in our lands, tanning grew even more.

Turks also worked in this craft, transferring new technologies in leather processing (employed by the Arabs) and imposing new names in certain processes and operations.

During the Revival, larger leather centers emerged in Bulgaria: Shumen, Veliko Tarnovo, Gabrovo, Etropole, Ohrid, Pazardzhik, Stara Zagora, Karlovo, Kazanlak, Haskovo, Chirpan and others. In Gabrovo alone, about 300,000 sheep and goat skins were processed annually. The leather craft in Veliko Tarnovo reached its peak in the 19th century, when Bulgarian leather was valued on the European market for its high-quality workmanship. 200,000 skins were processed here annually.

The following crafts are engaged in the processing of leather and the production of leather products: leatherwork, furriery, shoemaking, kundurdzhiystvo, emindzhiystvo, hat-making, sarachestvo. The leather is used for various purposes and depending on it is its processing. The simplest is the processing of skins used to make bags, cheese bags, bagpipes and tsarvuli, which is from small animals (sheep and goats). Only some large furs (such as those of Samokov and Vidin) are made of horse or ox skins. Pigskin and, less frequently, cattle are used to make worms.

The hides used to make coats are subjected to a more complex treatment, the so-called "tanning" (a biochemical process for the treatment of sheepskin or lambskin for leather purposes, in which the skin tissue becomes softer after drying). , fluffiness and stretchability) The processing of "bare" skins, ie those without fur, used to make shoes, is a specialty of artisan leatherworkers.

Tanning is a major chemical process in the production of treated leather. Tannins (inorganic and organic - plant, animal and synthetic) radically change the properties of the skin. It becomes resistant to moisture, heat, chemicals, microorganisms and more. Plants that contain the tannin tannin are used for tanning. In oak it is found in all its parts, in spruce, willow - in the bark, and in sumac - in the leaves. The treatment of thick hides and skins of cattle is similar, but longer. Gyon skins are tanned for at least 30 days, and the best gyon is obtained in six months.

Leather tanning in the last decades of the 19th century was referred to as tobacco. This process of leather processing takes place in rooms and yards, called tabakhans, most often located near the river. The most important equipment and tools needed for tobacco are: water heating pot, stand, yambashta (large wooden trough), vise (wooden press for squeezing water from the skins), inclined, fixed wood on which the skins are scraped. , called cuspia, sarats (rods for carrying skins), chunks (irons for scraping the skins), donkeys (wooden stands), hammer, hammer, dinka (bowl for grinding oak fruit or tree bark).

Industrial furs deal more with Turkish terminology: corpse, salivation (scraping), ointment (the back of the skin), darkening (stretching of the skin), arch (singular, staying in a tanning infusion), kusele (a type of ox or veal gion) leather), argas, etc. (Vakarelski, 1974, 448). The terminology related to the simpler skin treatment is mostly Bulgarian. In the Teteven region, luxuriously processed skins are called oral skins, a name registered by the Bulgarians as early as the 9th century in the prologue of Shestodneva by John the Exarch. Tobacco farming was very well developed in Veliko Tarnovo (Draganova, 1968, 75). Tarnovo tobacco exported its goods to Germany, France, Italy and Austria. Tobacco skins also found a good market at fairs.

Fur farming is a craft for making fur coats, hats, etc. In some cities, hat-making was a separate craft, very well developed until the Liberation (1878), and after that, as leather products had a stable place in the traditional clothing of the Bulgarians over the centuries (Primovski, 1981, 119). With the processing of leather and their use to make different types of shoes were

related the following crafts: shoemaking, kundurdzhiystvo, emindzhiystvo. They produced sewn leather shoes: slippers, eminences, calevers or forged shoes - kunduri.

Papukchiystvo was highly developed in Gabrovo, Shumen, Haskovo and others. The Gabrovo eminences were sold at the Uzundzhovo, Eskidzumai, Karnobat, Shumen and other fairs. Eminji was very well developed in the Rhodope region. The population of Tihomir (Terzoren), Kardzhali region, supplied the population of Thrace and the Rhodopes with strong and beautiful eminences (shallow, light shoes without electricity) until the end of the Second World War. The saddlers produced equipment for horse ammunition (saddles, belts, reins, bridles, harnesses). Among the cities with the largest number of Bulgarian saddlers and saddlers before the Liberation stand out Sliven, Balchik, Varna, Sevlievo, Lovech, Gorna Oryahovitsa.

Sarachestvo requires the use of many and varied tools related to leather processing (scythe, knife, iblyak), with cutting and cutting of skins (compass, digger, yardstick), with cutting of straps, sackcloth, rye stalks and others. (straight knife, curved sarash knives, sarash machine), with sewing (sarash awls, sarash needles, curve and straight needle), with hammering of seams and nailing of nails (sarash hammer, saddle hammer), with drilling holes (different types zambi, punch), etc.

Author: Stefan Bonev

Sources: Hr. Vakarelski, "Ethnography of Bulgaria"

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