Tag Archives: “Eastern Europe”

#95 The Sworn Virgins of Albania–Guest blog by Historicity (Was Already Taken)

Note: This was cross-posted with permission from Historicity (Was Already Taken).

The Kanuni i Leke Dukagjinit (The Code of Lekë Dukagjini) is an oral law code which ruled the lives of those residing in the Northern Albanian area for at least five centuries. It was first codified in the 15th century by the Albanian Prince Lekë Dukagjini, but it was not written down until the 19th century. For this reason, scholars are unsure as to its origins.

The Kanun is divided into 12-14 sections (depending on which version you are looking at) dealing with church, family, marriage, house, livestock, property, work, spoken word, honor, damages, criminal law, judicial law, and exemptions and exceptions. In short, it governed every aspect of daily life.

Of women, the Kanun says: “A woman is a sack made to endure.” Under the Kanun, women are the property of their fathers, and later of their husbands and their husbands’ family. There were very few jobs women could hold, and many establishments they were not allowed to enter.

However, what is fascinating about the Kanun is that it provides a way for women to regain control over their lives; it is a loophole, of sorts. In fact, you could even call it empowering if you are speaking from a pre-feminist standpoint.

The loophole was that women had the ability to become a man in the eyes of both family and society. The women who became men were, and still are, known as sworn virgins. Upon taking a vow set forth in the Kanun, a woman would dress like a man, act like a man, work like a man, and command the respect accorded to a man; the only thing she was not allowed to do was to engage in sexual activity.

Sworn virgin Shkurtan Hasanpapaj worked for many years as a high ranking officer for the Communist Party. She supervised many men, and none questioned her authority as a man even as the government body they worked for strove to stamp out adherence to the Kanun.


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#83 Enichari Corps: Slaves in the Ottoman Military — Guest Blog by Harry Markov

Enichari military outfit

When I agreed to write the series about Bulgaria under the Ottoman rule as a suitable stage for the steampunk genre, I underestimated the challenge these articles present. I want to deliver a portrayal of a complicated and cruel span of five centuries in Bulgarian history. At the same time I’m dealing with controversial and sensitive material, given that the Ottoman occupation has hindered Bulgaria’s access to Europe during the time of the Industrial Revolution.1

Even more so, given that this article deals with the cruelest tactic from the Ottoman empire to ensure its armies never lacked man power, while at the same time assured the assimilation of all conquered lands: the ‘enichari’ corps. 2. The word ‘enichar’ means ‘new soldier’ and refers to an Ottoman military class, which consists from non-Muslims. During the 14th century, the Ottoman conquests resulted in a sizeable amount of conquered territories and the aching need to expand the empire’s armies.

Before the ‘enichari’ corps to exist as a concept, the Ottoman empire enlisted volunteers from the enslaved countries and the corps consisting from those were called ‘yaya.’

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#74 “War, Steampunk, Bulgaria”–Guest Blog by Harry Markov

Bulgarian soldiers from the 19th century

My post’s title says it all–or at the very least I hope it does. At one point I figured that I’d like to write about the probability of Bulgarian steampunk developing as a genre niche and war, more or less, found its way into my writing. I believe that war is crucial for steampunk as it’s crucial for Bulgaria, in its different manifestations.

Speculative fiction fuels itself with war. The most dynamic stories are born in troubled times, as epic fantasy has shown readers time and time again. Urban fantasy thrives on shadow wars led in the dimly lit streets and hidden underground worlds, while science fiction marches its fleet in the great cosmos. Steampunk is no different. Steampunk runs on war. It’s the “punk” part. It’s the mechanical force that propels the cogs of the genre onward.

Whether it be used as a dramatic background in order to showcase a human story as done in Boneshaker by Cherie Priest or as a force behind the plot as demonstrated by Westerfield in his World War reimagining, war and unrest and upheavals give readers that adrenaline spike, that sense of dire severity and intensity, which can hardly be achieved at times of peace. It’s also the factor that makes us hiccup in adoration at the corset-bound, revolver slinging femme fatales and automations, which can as easily destroy as they can create. It’s why I consider Bulgarian steampunk to be a fruitful pairing.

It’s impossible to mention Bulgaria, look it through the prism of the past and not discuss war.

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Beyond Victoriana Special Edition Odds & Ends #7

This weekend, I’m rockin’ it out at New York Comic Con.  I’m there mostly doing the Day Job thing, unfortunately (though, if I can, I might wear my steampunk for Sunday.)

For anyone who manages to recognize me in my civvies, though, you’ll probably end up being filmed or photographed, if you’re looking fabulous and want to flaunt it.

In the meantime, enjoy the linkspam below. This edition features lots of interesting essays, some awesome postcards, and a video of my interview with Cherie Priest.

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Beyond Victoriana Special Edition Odds & Ends #6

Work has been hectic as of late, and I’m also in the midst of preparing for Dragon*Con. I don’t have as much new stuff planned out for this week as I had hoped, but have you checked out my essay series about multiculturalism in steampunk yet? And see the links below for more good things to read/watch/run in the streets shouting about.

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Beyond Victoriana Special Edition Odds & Ends #5

This weekend I’ll be at ConnectiCon instigating havoc with my steampunk friends and helping out with several panels. On top of that, “Steam Around the World: Steampunk Beyond Victoriana” is making a comeback! I’m wicked excited to be presenting this panel again. For all attendees, feel free to stop in–

Saturday, July 10th
7:30 – 8:30 PM
Room Location: Check your schedules

And for those of you in the area, I will also be at the Steampunk Bizarre on Sunday for the steampunk meet-up. There should be some nifty artists presenting their work, so I hope to see some of you there too.

In the meantime, check out the collection of links for your viewing/reading pleasure.

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