Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Overview of the Costumes of Shopluk, Serbia, Macedonia and Bulgaria

Hello all,
Today I am going to talk about the costumes of the region known as Shopluk. The Shope are an ethnic group which inhabit Bulgaria, Serbia, and Macedonia. While they tend to identify as one of these three nationalities, depending on where they live, there is an undoubted commonality to their culture as expressed in dialect, music, dance, costume, etc. The dialects which they speak are somewhat intermediate between Serbian and Bulgarian. They inhabit highland areas in all three nations. Any dance performance from each of these countries inevitably includes a Shope number, as Shope dances tend to be fast, flashy, energetic and impressive. 
Here is a video which I found of a folk festival which was held in the south of Poland. Besides many Polish groups, and others from France, Spain, Sardinia, Hungary, Ukraine, Armenia, etc, there are three groups doing Shope dances; one from Serbia, starting at 9:00, one from Macedonia, starting at 14:39, and one from Bulgaria, starting at 24:15

Here is the best map which I have found which more or less shows the entire Shopluk region. This is from Dunav. The borders are not actually this precise, this map follows administrative regions. If you have trouble orienting yourself, this map shows Serbia, Macedonia, and Bulgaria.

Serbian Shopluk

 Here is a map which shows Serbian Shopluk, in the southeast corner. I am not convinced that it extends as far to the northwest as this, but this is from a Serbian source. 

For comparison, here is a map of the ethnic makeup of the former Yugoslavia.The brown areas in the southeast are where the population self identifies as Bulgarian Shope.

Pirot, Bela Palanka
This is the Serbian Shope costume worn around Pirot, Visoka and Bela Palanka

Dimitrovgrad, Crna Trava This is the Serbian Shope costume which is most commonly seen, worn south and east of Pirot around Dimitrovgrad and Crna Trava. A very similar costume is worn across the border in adjacent parts of Bulgaria.

Bosilegrad This is the costume worn in the southern part of Serbian Shopluk, in the Bosilegrad area and south. This bears great similarity to the costume of Kjustendil, which is just over the border. There is a strip of territoy along the border where the people self identify as Bulgarian

Bulgarian Shopluk

Here is a map of Bulgarian Shopluk, which consists of Kjustendil, Pernik, Sofia City, and Sofia Oblast, minus the easternmost projection, and also the northwest corner of Blagoevgrad oblast. The borders are not actually this precise. 

The best known version of Bulgarian Shope costume is that which is found right around the city of Sofia, and adjacent areas to the northwest. 

These costumes are from Ropot in the north of Bulgarian Shopluk by the  Serbian border.

This is from Berzia, which is further north, actually outside of Sofia oblast.

BotevgradIn the northeast of Sofia Oblast, around Botevgrad and Etropole, you find these costumes.

Elin Pelin
This lies directly east of the city of Sofia. 

Ikhtiman, Samokov, Dupnitsa Southeast and south of Sofia are the districts of Ikhtiman, Samokov and Dupnitsa. The first two are in Southern Sofia Oblast, the last in eastern Kyustendil oblast. The costume in all three was basically the same, being distinguished by the style of embroidery on the chermise. Note that the women's sukman has short sleeves in these areas.

Examples of embroidery from Ikhtiman, 


and Dupnitsa.

More recently, the costume of Ikhtiman has abandoned embroidery on the chemise in favor of lace. 

Pernik oblast, which lies to the south and west of Sofia, has basically two costume areas, Graovo in the southeast, and Trun in the northwest.

GraovoThe Graovo costume  is somewhat similar to that of the Sofia region, especially  in the embroidery on the women's chemise sleeve with turned up cuffs. The sukman is sleeveless. A light colored linen sukman is worn in the summer, and a dark wool one in the winter. Both are embroidered. 

The costume from Trun is quite similar

More recently, in some  parts of this region, as well as in western Sofia province, the embroidery on the dark chemise, which is now black instead of dark blue, was replaced by rows of gold braid, with some other colors added. This is essentially the same costume which is also worn on the other side of the border with Serbia, in the Dimitrovgrad and Crna Trava districts. 

In Kiustendil district, which consists  of the western part of Kyustendil oblast, a different costume is worn. The women wear a short sleeved garment called a saya instead of the sukman. The saya is distinct in that it is open down the front. It may also have slits on the side, where the sukman never does. The chemise had spot embroidery on the sleeves as in Dupnitsa and Samokov, again, with a local style. Again, this was later replaced by lace in some places. The saya also comes in both light and dark colors. 

The sleeves and front bodice are richly decorated with rows of braid.

This group is from the village of Kalishte in Pernik Oblast.

So as we can see, the same costume is worn in some adjacent parts of Pernik Oblast, but also northwest across the border in Serbia, and southwest across the border in Macedonia.

Macedonian Shopluk

Macedonian Shopluk lies in the highlands in the northeast of the country, near the Bulgarian border.


This consists of the eastern part of Kriva Palanka municipality. The costume is basically the same as that of Kjustendil.


This girl seems to be wearing a saya which is too big for her. The opening should be in the center front, as you can see above.

Durachka Reka

This lies in south central Kriva Palanka municipality


This area lies south of Kriva Palanka along the Bulgarian border. It consists of the municipalities of Makedonska Kamenica and Delchevo.

This area lies south of Pijanec and consists roughly of the municipalities of Berovo and Pekhchevo

Later on, the costume incorporated some elements of city fashion, as you can see here.

Radovish Shopluk
This consists only of the highlands in the northeast of Radovish municipality. 

This is a very distinctive costume. These are the best images which I could find for it. If anyone has better, I would appreciate if you could donate them.

There is one more region, which the Macedonians call Gornodjumaysko Pole. This consists of the highlands to the west of Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria, next to the Macedonian border. The Bulgarians consider all of Blagoevgrad oblast to be the Pirin region [Bulgarian Macedonia], but the Macedonians consider this area to be part of Macedonian Shopluk. 
Here is the costume from the village of Padesh.

Thank you for reading, I hope that you have found this to be interesting and informative. 
The Shopi have a fascinating culture, well worth being informed about. 

A Shope dance song with a slide show of various Shope costumes.

Old footage from a movie showing Shope village dancing.

Shope singing. A group of women in stage Kjustendil costume.

A video from the movie 'This is Bulgaria'. This part features the Shope region during the  Lazarka festival. Among other things, this festival allows young women to present themselves as being of an age to be courted. Most of the dancers are wearing the west Sofia/Trun/Crna Trava costume. The leading man is wearing a Sofia type vest. [These are all mass-produced stage costumes.]
It also features examples of the unique singing style of the Shopi, who love to harmonize with minor 2nds.

Roman K.


  1. Dear Mr. Kozakand,
    I much appreciate your research about the folks and costumes all over the world and the Balkans.
    For this particular article I have to say that I would not call shope ethnic group. This a local name of a group of people living today in three countries, but the sence of its locality is like others who have names Thracians, Dobrudjantzi, Makedontzi (Macedonians), Rodopchani (Rodope people), Trunchani, Torlaci (Torlacs live in the mountains areas of Stara planina - mainly in North-West and Central Balkan mountain), Kapantzi (Razgrad area), Ruptzi, Tronki (Strandja area) etc.
    The language of Shope people is Bulgarian dialect of Western-Bulgarian speaks and it is very, very similar to North-West Bulgarian speaks in Montana (Mihajlovgrad), Vidin and Vratza districts, and Central Bulgarian Pleven district. The everyday life, rituals, customs, cuisine were similar too.

    Wishing you fruitful work I remain
    with my best regrads,

    Svetlana Kostova
    Sofia, Bulgaria

    1. Miss Kostova is correct. Until 1878, my ancestors in Pirot self-identified as ethnic Bulgarians from the Shopp-Torlak region. Today, the Bulgarian population in the Serbian section of the Shopp-Torlak region is largely Serbianized.

  2. Greetings from an American descendant of ethnic Bulgarians from Pirot in the Shopp--Torlak region (today in Serbia) and from Aegean Macedonia (today in Greece)!