Demir Aliev, born in Sofia in 1930, started his political and literary activities as a school pupil. After secondary school, he studied languages at university and became first a teacher and then in 1959 a school inspector and in 1964 the head of a primary school. From 1969 until the early 1990s, he ran a vocational school. Following the forced elimination of Turkish personal names by the communist regime in Bulgaria in the 1980s, he was officially called ‘Dimităr Iliev’.

From 1989 onwards, he worked at the Ministry of Education, where he pursued projects promoting the notation of the Romani language and the creation of teaching materials for Romani children. In 1999, he translated Aleksandr Pushkin’s tale about the Golden Fish into the Romani dialect of his own group, the Erlides from Sofia. Demir Aliev died on 2 December 2015.

According to his son Aljosha, Aliev had a lifelong strong interest in fairy tales, legends and the orally transmitted historical heritage of Bulgarian and other Romani groups; among other works he wrote tales in Bulgarian and translated them into the Erli variant of the Romani settlement ‘Fakultet’ in Sofia (published posthumously in 2017). After Aliev’s death, his son Aljosha handed over his father’s literary legacy to the linguist Birgit Igla.

(Petra Cech [incl. translation])


Roughly one month before he passed away, Demir Aliev wrote a short autobiography (in Bulgarian), which forms part of his literary legacy.


Aliev, Demir. 2017. E bengengero kidiba. Sofia: Faber. ISBN 978-619-00-0579-7