Essays on nuptiality and fertility in South-Eastern Europe

Nikolai Vassilev Botev, University of Pennsylvania


This dissertation is a collection of three essays which share a common regional focus, and a common methodological approach. The first essay examines the determinants of timing and prevalence of marriage in the Balkans during the end of nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth centuries. Many countries in the region exhibited early and almost universal marriages and are considered classic examples of the 'traditional' marriage pattern. The few studies on the determinants of nuptiality in the South-Eastern Europe usually assume that institutional and cultural factors like the extended kinship structure, and religious doctrines of the Orthodox Christianity were major determinants of these patterns. This study shows that these factors alone can not explain all of the features, and contends that it is necessary to expand the now prevailing 'cultural-institutional' approach. Specifically, I argue that the relative importance of delayed marriage and celibacy, birth control, and out-migration as parts of a complex system of 'adjustments' to resource constraints resulting from sustained population growth, was determined by the speed with which these constraints emerge, by the prevailing geo-political and economic conditions, as well as by cultural factors. The second essay examines ethnic intermarriage in the former Yugoslavia during the last three decades. It tests whether it is true that the rates of exogamy there have been increasing since World War II, and that a high proportion of current marriages are mixed. The results of an analysis of vital registration data, using log-linear models, show that the widespread perception of frequent intermarriage is an exaggeration: over the period under study there has been no clear trend toward increasing the rates of intermarriage. Further, the analysis discovered the existence of social barriers hindering the intermarriage between three broad cultural traditions (due to lack of better terms they were called 'Western', 'Balkan', and 'Eastern'). The third essay examines the fertility decline in Bulgaria since the beginning of the twentieth century. That country has long been singled out as a case that contradicts the early formulations of the demographic transition theory: in addition to the fact that no changes in nuptiality preceded or accompanied the decline of marital fertility, the fertility transition began when the country was almost entirely rural, with an agriculture based on petty, familial, labor-intensive mode of production, and the speed of the decline was unusually high, at least in the European context. The conceptual framework proposed in the first essay is used in an attempt to explain these features.

Subject Area

Demography|Ethnic studies|European history

Recommended Citation

Botev, Nikolai Vassilev, "Essays on nuptiality and fertility in South-Eastern Europe" (1993). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9413805.