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Koseva, Petya


Since 10/2016 PhD Candidate in South-East European History at the International Graduate Centre for the Study of Culture (GCSC), Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen
10/2013–09/2015 Master of Arts in History of the Bulgarian Revival and Memory at Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski” (Bulgaria)
10/2009-07/2013 Bachelor of Arts in History at Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski” (Bulgaria); Specialization in Bulgarian history from the 15th to the 19th centuries


Forschungsschwerpunkte/Research focus

  • History of the Bulgarian lands and the Ottoman Empire
  • Nationalism, national memory and identity
  • Crime and punishment in the nineteenth century

Dissertationsprojekt/PhD Project

Working title: “Prisoner for the Nation. Bulgarian Convicts in Ottoman Prisons”

The research project is focused on Bulgarian convicts in Ottoman prisons, mainly from the period between the second quarter of the nineteenth century and the establishment of the Bulgarian national state in 1878. The project has three problems at its centre: the conflict between empire and nation, the perception of national activists about what crime is, and the role of Ottoman prisons for the construction of Bulgarian national heroes and martyrs.

The nineteenth century in Europe was deeply marked by the ideas of nations and nationalism. These ideas spread across the continent and influenced people of various cultural and ethnic backgrounds. New perceptions led to new understandings about what a righteous political order should look like and this incited struggles for the establishment of new state formations. In a nation-centred world, multinational empires, such as the Ottoman state, turned into a common enemy whose destruction was seen as a prerequisite for success.

Prison became the main penalty measure of modernity and this trend found its way to the Ottoman Empire, too. Many of the Bulgarians who took part in the national movements were sent to prison at some point of their lives, due to activities which were in contradiction with the imperial laws. Prison, as being a key instrument of the Ottoman authorities for maintaining control over problematic subjects, was used for coping with national activists and it thus turned into a battlefield on which empire and nation collided. Revolutionaries and their companions were violators of law in the eyes of the Ottoman state but this did not stop them from following the principle of the goal justifies the means. When the nation is considered a value, and the national state – a most righteous demand, the definition for what crime is becomes blurred. In the practice, this resulted in questioning the competence of the Ottoman rulers to determine what is right and wrong, as well as to impose punishments. After defining the Ottoman prison as a point of conflict between empire and nation, the research will seek to explain how the discrepancy of views on crime and punishment turned the imperial prison from a source of suffering into a source of national symbolism for the Bulgarian national memory.