Rusin Asenov is an assistant professor of Bulgarian Language at St. Cyril and St. Methodius University in Veliko Tarnovo, the city of the Tzars, in north central Bulgaria.
Rusin started school in a segregated Roma school within the Roma neighbourhood of Vidin. Despite this initial isolation from mainstream culture, Rusin believes he received a good education. In part he credits a project organized by local teachers of Roma background, Know Your Origins, which educated students in the complexity of Roma culture and language, for motivating him to pursue post secondary studies. In high school, Rusin became intrigued with the roots of the Bulgarian language. He recited poetry in Bulgarian at several school-sponsored events and presented traditional Bulgarian folk tales and legends on Vidin’s Roma TV station. ‘These experiences developed my confidence in speaking before an audience.’
While pursuing his undergraduate degree, Rusin worked as an assistant coordinator in the Roma education branch of Amalipe, the Center for Interethnic Dialogue and Tolerance, funded through the America for Bulgaria Foundation. Amalipe invited Rusin to interview Professor Hristo Kyuchukov, a specialist in intercultural education, in conjunction with the NGO’s mission to integrate and modernize the Bulgarian Public Schools. Rusin credits Professor Kyuchukov’s encouragement and guidance for his decision to continue post-graduate studies in linguistics and to consider academia as his future career path.
Rusin obtained a masters degree in Bulgarian linguistics and philology. His master’s thesis topic: Comparison between Bulgarian and Romanes, with special attention to the Kalajdži Romanes dialect, demonstrated that Kalajdži Romanes is a dialect related to the larger family of Balkan languages including Bulgarian, Albanian, Macedonian and Serbian, which cross Indo-European language families but share grammatical structures such as case declinations and verb conjugation.
Rusin’s interest in the many dialects of Romanes springs from his own background. His father speaks the Kalajdži dialect while his mother speaks Tsutsumani, one of the Old Vlax group of dialects spoken by traditionally nomadic Roma in several nations of Eastern Europe and the Americas.
In May 2016, Rusin was awarded a Ph.D. His dissertation The Bulgarian language as a System of Metaspeech in Internet Communication, received high praise for its innovative examination of the place of Bulgarian in the global growth of ‘metaspeech’ an amalgam of written and oral language with its own modalities, which spans languages and cultures in Internet communication. Rusin is only the second scholar of Roma ethnicity to obtain a Ph.D. in Bulgaria. ‘To be Roma and a professional means constantly working harder and smarter to earn respect.’