A Shop of Tran, Bulgaria, 1921
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Shopi, (South Slavic languages: Шопи, Šopi) is a regional term, used by a group of people in the Balkans, self-identifying as Bulgarians, Macedonians and Serbs. The areas traditionally inhabited by the Shopi is called Shopluk (Шоплук, Shopluk/srb. Šopluk), a mesoregion,[1] roughly where Bulgaria, Serbia and Macedonia meet.[2] In 2011 census in Serbia they are registered as separate ethnicity[3] and 142 persons declared themselves as belonging to this ethnicity.[4]


According to Institute for Balkan Studies, the Shopluk was the mountainous area on the borders of Serbia, Bulgaria and Macedonia, of which boundaries are quite vague, in Serbia the term Šop has always denoted highlanders.[5] Shopluk was used by Bulgarians to refer to the borderlands of Bulgaria, the inhabitants were called Shopi.[6] In Bulgaria, the Shopi designation is currently attributed to villagers around Sofia.[7]

Shopluk area

Shopluk as per Serbian geographer Jovan Cvijić.


Early ethnographic map of the Balkans from Austrian geologist Ami Boue (1847). The whole Shopi area is shown as Bulgarian populated.

Most of the area traditionally inhabited by the Shopi, as well as the population within this area is in Bulgaria. The majority of the Shopi (those in Bulgaria, as well the territories which were part of Bulgaria before 1919) identify as Bulgarian, while those in the pre-1919 territory of Serbia identify as Serbian and those in Macedonia identify as Macedonian.

The noting of Shopi as a "group" began in the 19th-century migrational waves of poor workers from the so-called Shopluk, poor areas (villages) beyond Sofia.[9]

The Bulgarian scholars put Shopi as a subgroup of the Bulgarian ethnos. As with every ethnographic group, the Bulgarian Academy notes, the Shopi in Bulgaria consider themselves the true and most pure of the Bulgarians, just as the mountaineers around Turnovo claim their land as true Bulgaria from time immemorial, etc.[10]

Many Yugoslav and Serbian scholars put the Šopi (also known as Šopovi[11]) as a subgroup of the Serb ethnos, claiming that the group is closer to Serbs than Bulgarians culturally and linguistically, calling it a Serb population in a foreign (Bulgarian) area, at the Serbo-Bulgarian border.[12] The Šopi left of the Pčinja river down to the Vardar called their own language Serbian.[13] The nationalist[14][15] In 1919, Serbian ethnographer Jovan Cvijić, at the Peace Conference in Paris, presented a study in which he had divided the Shopluk into three groups: Serbs, mixed population, and a group closer to Bulgarians. He also claimed that the Serb tradition of Slava was celebrated in the region, this according to him being an important cultural marker.[16]

According to A. Belitch and T. Georgevitch (1919), the Shopi were a mixed Serbo-Bulgar people in Western Bulgaria of Serb origin.[17] This Serbian ethnographical group, according to them, inhabited a region east of the border as far as the line Bregovo-Kula-Belogradchik-Iskrets, thence towards Radomir and to the east of Kyustendil; to the east of that limit the Serb population, blended with the Bulgar element, reached the Iskar banks and the line which linked it to Ihtiman.[17]

The French Jérôme-Adolphe Blanqui, when traveling across Bulgaria in 1841, describes the population of the Sanjak of Niš as Bulgarians.[18] Felix Philipp Kanitz recalled that in 1872 (during Ottoman rule), the inhabitants had a Bulgarian national conscience. By the end of the 19th century (when the area was in Serbia), the residents of Pirot were divided on the issue, many in the older generation having a fondness for Bulgarians.[19] Also, in the 19th century the Shopi area was one of the centres of Bulgarian National Revival. It was ceded to the Bulgarian Exarchate.

According to the Czech Jireček the Shopi differed very much from the other Bulgarians in language and habits, and were regarded as a simple folk. He connected their name to the Thracian tribe of Sapsei.[20]

The American Association for South Slavic Studies noted that the Shopi were recognized as a distinct sub-group in Bulgaria.[21]

The rural inhabitants near Sofia were popularly claimed to be descendants of the Pechenegs.[22][23] The Oxford historian C. A. Macartney studied these Shopi during the 1920s and reported that they were despised by the other inhabitants of Bulgaria for their stupidity and bestiality, and dreaded for their savagery. According to Macartney, they are "a singularly repellent race, short-legged, yellow-skinned, with slanting eyes and projecting cheekbones".[24]


Shopi speak a group of related dialects that belong to the "et" (western) group of Bulgarian dialects. The dialects spoken by the Shopi are sometimes collectively referred to as Shopski (Шопски), although this is not the accepted term in Bulgarian dialectology.[25] Instead, the Western Bulgarian dialects are divided into South-Western, spoken mostly in Southwestern Bulgaria, except the region around Sofia and parts of the region along the Serbian border; North-Western, spoken mostly in Northwestern Bulgaria and around Sofia and the Transitional dialects (sometimes called Extreme North-western dialects), spoken along the border with Serbia around Tran, Breznik and Belogradchik as well as among Bulgarians around Bosilegrad and Dimitrovgrad in Serbia. The Torlak dialects spoken by Serbs are also classified by Bulgarian linguists as part of the Transitional Bulgarian dialect, although Serbian linguists deny this. The speech that tends to be closely associated with that term and to match the stereotypical idea of "Shopski" speech are the South-Western Bulgarian dialects which are spoken from Rila mountain and the villages around Sofia to Danube towns such as Vidin.

People from Eastern Bulgaria also refer to those who live in Sofia as Shopi, but as a result of migration from the whole of Bulgaria, Shopski is no longer a majority dialect in Sofia. Instead, most Sofia residents speak the standard literary Bulgarian language with some elements of Shopski, which remains a majority dialect in Sofia's villages and throughout western Bulgaria, for example the big towns and cities of: (Sofia and Pleven- transitional speech with literary Bulgarian language), Pernik, Kyustendil, Vratsa, Vidin, Montana, Dupnitsa, Samokov, Lom, Botevgrad.

The exposition below is based on Stoyko Stoykov's Bulgarian dialectology (2002, first ed. 1962),[25] although other examples are used. It describes linguistic features which differ from standard Bulgarian. The Standard Bulgarian words and sentences are given in romanization, with no attempt at scientific transcription apart from stress marking.

Features of Shopski shared by all or most western Bulgarian dialects



Features characteristic the South-West Bulgarian dialect group



Features characteristic of the Sofia and Elin Pelin dialects


Other features

The /x/-sound is often omitted. Despite being particularly associated with Shopski, this is actually characteristic of most rural Bulgarian dialects. Example: Shopski леб (leb), одиа (odia) vs standard Bulgarian хляб (hljab), ходиха (hodiha) (bread, they went)


There are plenty of typical words for the Shop dialect in particular, as well as for other western dialects in general. Some examples are:

Shop dialect standard Bulgarian standard Serbian standard Macedonian English translation
сакам (sakam) искам (iskam), желая (želaja) хоћу (hoću), желим (želim); иштем (ištem), (archaic) сакам (sakam) (I) want
чиним, правим, работим (činim, pravim, rabotim) чиня, правя, работя (činja, pravja, rabotja) радим (radim), чиним (činim) - to do; правим (pravim) - to make работам (rabotam) - to do, чинaм (činam) - to do, правам (pravam) - to make (I) do/make
прашам, питуем (prašam, pituem) питам (pitam) питам (pitam); питуjем (pitujem), archaic прашувам (prašuvam) (I) ask
чувам, пазим (čuvam, pazim) пазя (pazja) чувам, пазим (čuvam, pazim) чувам (čuvam), пазам (pazam) (I) keep, bring up, raise (a child)
спийем, спим (spijem, spim) спя (spja) спавам (spavam) спиjaм (spijam) (I) sleep
ядем, ручам (jadem, ručam) ям (jam) jедем, ручам (jedem, ručam) jадам, ручам (jadam, ručam) (I) eat
тражим, дирим (tražim, dirim) търся, диря (tǎrsja, dirja) тражим (tražim) барам (baram) (I) search
оти?, за какво?, за кво?, що? (oti?, za kakvo?, za kvo?, što?) защо?, за какво? (zašto?, za kakvo?) що? (što?) (colloq.) зашто?, што? (zašto?, što?) зошто? (zošto?), оти? (oti?) why?
окам, викам (okam, vikam) викам (vikam), крещя (kreštja) вичем, викам (vičem, vikam) викам (vikam) (I) shout
кошуля (košulja), rare — риза (riza) риза (riza) кошуља (košulja) кошула, риза (košula, riza) shirt
рипам (ripam) скачам, рипам (skačam, ripam) скачем, рипам (skačеm, ripam) скокам, рипам (skokam, ripam) (I) jump
зборуем (zboruem), зборувам (zboruvam), приказвам (prikazvam), оратим (oratim), говора (govora), вревим (vrevim), думам (dumam) говоря (govorja), приказвам (prikazvam), думам (dumam) (obsolete) говорим (govorim), причам (pričam); зборим (zborim), (archaic) зборувам (zboruvam), говорам (govoram), прикажувам (prikazhuvam), думам (dumam), вревам (vrevam) (I) speak
мачка (mačka) котка (kotka) мачка (mačka) мачка (mačka) cat
пце (pсe), куче (kuče) куче, пес (kuče, pes) пас, псе, куче (pas, pse, kuče) пес, куче (pes, kuče) dog


A Shop horo (round dance)

The Shopi have a very original and characteristic folklore. The traditional male costume of the Shopi is white, while the female costumes are diverse. White male costumes are spread at the western Shopluk. The hats they wear are also white and tall (called gugla). Traditionally Shopi costume from the Kyustendil region are in black and they are called Chernodreshkovci — Blackcoats. Some Shope women wear a special kind of sukman called a litak, which is black, generally is worn without an apron, and is heavily decorated around the neck and bottom of the skirt in gold, often with great quantities of gold-colored sequins. Embroidery is well developed as an art and is very conservative. Agriculture is the traditional main occupation, with cattle breeding coming second.

The traditional Shop house that has a fireplace in the centre has only survived in some more remote villages, being displaced by the Middle Bulgarian type. The villages in the plains are larger, while those in the higher areas are somewhat straggling and have traditionally been inhabited by single families (zadruga). The unusually large share of placenames ending in -ovci, -enci and -jane evidence for the preservation of the zadruga until even after the 19th century.

Artistic culture

In terms of music, the Shopi have a complex folklore with the heroic epic and humor playing an important part. The Shopi are also known for playing particularly fast and intense versions of Bulgarian dances. The gadulka; the kaval and the gaida are popular instruments; and two-part singing is common. Minor second intervals are common in Shop music and are not considered dissonant.

Two very popular and well-known fоlklore groups are Poduenski Babi and Bistrishki Babi — the Grandmothers of Poduene and Bistritsa villages.


A famous dish in Bulgaria, Serbia and Macedonia is Shopska salad, named after this ethnographic group.


"Self-conscious, but happy. A newly engaged couple, Bulgaria", National Geographic, 1915

In the 19th century, around Vidin, it was not unusual for a woman in her mid 20s and 30s to have a man of 15–16 years.[6]

The Shopi in literature and anecdotes

The Shopi — especially those from near Sofia — have the widespread (and arguably unjustified) reputation of stubborn and selfish people. They were considered conservative and resistant to change. There are lots of proverbs and anecdotes about them, more than about all other regional groups in Bulgaria.

A distinguished writer from the region is Elin Pelin who actually wrote some comic short stories and poems in the dialect, and also portrayed life in the Shopluk in much of his literary work.

Anecdotes and proverbs

This saying pokes fun at a perceived facet of the Shop's character, namely that he's never traveled far from his home.
So even seeing the truth with his own eyes, he refuses to acknowledge it.
When money is spent, even unpleasant things should be endured.
View of a cloud-covered Sofia Valley from Vitosha
This is to show three points: the Shopi are not very smart after all; Vitosha is very high; and, as a serious point, it is common to see Vitosha standing over low clouds shrouding the high plains and valleys of Western Bulgaria; this is a temperature inversion.

See also


  1. Klaus Roth, Ulf Brunnbauer, Region, Regional Identity and Regionalism in Southeastern Europe, Volume 1 (2010), p. 19, LIT Verlag Münster
  2. Places to exchange cultural patterns, p. 4
  3. "2011 Census of Population, Households and Dwellings in the Republic of Serbia, ETHNICITY Data by municipalities and cities" (PDF). Statistical Office of the Republic of Serbia. 2012. p. 12.
  4. Ethnic communities with less than 2000 members and dually declared
  5. Balcanica, 2006 (37):111-124, The establishment of Serbian local government in the counties of Niš, Vranje, Toplica and Pirot subsequent to the Serbo-Turkish wars of 1876-1878,
  6. 1 2 Franjo Rački, Josip Torbar, Književnik (1866), p. 13. Brzotiskom Dragutina Albrechta (in Croatian)
  7. Karen Ann Peters, Macedonian folk song in a Bulgarian urban context: songs and singing in Blagoevgrad, Southwest Bulgaria (2002), "shopluk" Google books link, Madison
  8. 1 2 Bulletin of the Ethnographical Institute, Volume 41, 1992 p. 140
  9. Places to exchange cultural patterns, p. 1
  10. Institut za balkanistika (Bŭlgarska akademii͡a͡ na naukite) (1993). Balkan studies, Volume 29. Édition de lA̕cadémie bulgare des sciences. p. 106. Ethnography has long established that every ethnographic group, even every single village, considers its dialect, manners and customs "true" and "pure", while those of the neighbours, of the rest — even when they are "our people" — still are neither as "true", nor as "pure". In the Shopi villages you will hear that the Shopi are the true and most pure Bulgarians, while the inhabitants of the mountains around Turnovo will claim that theirs is the land of true Bulgarians from time immemorial, etc.
  11. Hrvatsko filološko društvo, Filologija, Volumes 1-3 (1957) p. 244, Jugoslavenska akademija znanosti i umjetnosti (in Serbo-Croatian)
  12. Srpski etnos i velikosrpstvo, pp. 261-262
  13. Enes Čengić, Miroslav Krleža, S Krležom iz dana u dan: Ples na vulkanima (1985), p. 159; "Srbi na istoku od rijeke Pcinje koja se ulijeva u Vardar [...] kazu za sebe da govore pravim Srpskim jezikom". Globus, Google Books link (in Croatian)
  14. GREATER SERBIA - from Ideology to Aggression; Jovan Cvijic:Selected statements
  15. Cartography in Central and Eastern Europe: Selected Papers of the 1st ICA Symposium on Cartography for Central and Eastern Europe; Georg Gartner, Felix Ortag; 2010; p.338
  16. Prof. Marin Drinov, Ethnologia Balkanica (2002), p. 75, Sofia, LIT Verlag Münster.
  17. 1 2 Crawfurd Price (1919). Eastern Europe ...: a monthly survey of the affairs of central, eastern and south-eastern Europe, Volume 2. Rolls House Pub. Co. By A. Belitch and T. Georgevitch To the east of the Serbo-Bulgarian frontier, in Western Bulgaria, extends a zone still peopled to-day by a population of Serb origin, presenting a mixed Serbo-Bulgar type, and known under the name of " Chopi " (Shopi). The Serbian ethnographical element left in Bulgaria by the political frontier established at the Congress of Berlin in 1878, maintains itself in its fundamental characteristics, as far as the line joining up Bregovo, Koula, Belogratchik, and Iskretz, and proceeding thence towards Radomir and to the east of Kustendil; to the east of that limit the Serb population, blended with the Bulgar element, reaches the banks of the Isker and the line which links it to Ihtiman.
  18. Jérôme-Adolphe Blanqui, „Voyage en Bulgarie pendant l'année 1841“ (Жером-Адолф Бланки. Пътуване из България през 1841 година. Прев. от френски Ел. Райчева, предг. Ив. Илчев. София: Колибри, 2005, 219 с. ISBN 978-954-529-367-2.) The author describes the population of Sanjak of Niš as ethnic Bulgarians.
  19. Felix Philipp Kanitz, (Das Konigreich Serbien und das Serbenvolk von der Romerzeit bis dur Gegenwart, 1904, in two volumes) # "In this time (1872) they (the inhabitants of Pirot) did not presume that six years later the often damn Turkish rule in their town will be finished, and at least they did not presume that they will be include in Serbia, because they always feel that they are Bulgarians. ("Србија, земља и становништво од римског доба до краја XIX века", Друга књига, Београд 1986, p. 215)...And today (in the end of 19th century) among the older generation there are many fondness to Bulgarians, that it led him to collision with Serbian government. Some hesitation can be noticed among the youngs..." ("Србија, земља и становништво од римског доба до краја XIX века", Друга књига, Београд 1986, c. 218; Serbia - its land and inhabitants, Belgrade 1986, p. 218)
  20. The Encyclopædia Britannica: A-ZYM (20 ed.). Werner. 1903. p. 149. The Upper Mccsian dialect is also called the Shopsko narechie or dialect of the Shopi. Jirecck says that these Shopi differ very much in language, dress, and habits from the other Bulgarians, who regard them as simple folk. Their name he connects with the old Thracian tribe of the Sapsei.
  21. American Association for South Slavic Studies, American Association for Southeast European Studies, South East European Studies Association (1993). Balkanistica, Volume 8. Slavica Publishers. p. 201. The loci of this commentary are two well-studied Bulgarian villages, Dragalevtsy and Bistritsa, on the western flank of Mount Vitosha.3 Geographically they are a mere eight kilometers apart. Ethnically their base populations are similar, identified by other Bulgarians as Shopi. Shopi are a recognized and distinct sub-group within the relative homogeneity of Bulgaria at large. Being Shop continues to imply conservatism, despite proximity to Sofia. Our concern is with the ethnography of communication in these two village communities. Both experience considerable influences of urbanization, from students and ...
  22. Robert Lee Wolff (1974). The Balkans in our time. Harvard University Press. p. 40. The inhabitants of one group of villages near Sofia, the so-called Shopi, were popularly supposed to be descendants of the Pechenegs.
  23. Edmund O. Stillman (1967). The Balkans. Time Inc. p. 13. internally by distinctions of dialect and religion, so that the Orthodox Shopi, peasants dwelling in the hills surrounding Bulgaria's capital of Sofia, are alleged to be descendants of the Pecheneg Turks who invaded the Balkans in the 10th ...
  24. David Marshall Lang, The Bulgarians: from pagan times to the Ottoman conquest, Westview Press (1976), p. 41. ISBN 0891585303
  25. 1 2 Стойков, С. (2002) Българска диалектология, 4-то издание. стр. 143, 186. Also available online


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