Fact Check: Nikola Tesla Was NOT Of Bulgarian Descent And His Baptismal Certificate Is NOT Written In Bulgarian

проверка на факти

  • от: Lead Stories автор
Fact Check: Nikola Tesla Was NOT Of Bulgarian Descent And His Baptismal Certificate Is NOT Written In Bulgarian Ethnic Serb

Was Nikola Tesla, the celebrated inventor renowned for his contributions to the modern alternating current (AC) electricity supply system, of Bulgarian descent, and was his baptismal certificate written in Bulgarian? No, that's not true: Historical evidence and scholarly research indicate otherwise. Tesla's roots trace back to Serbia, and he eventually became a naturalized citizen of the United States. His baptismal certificate is inscribed by hand, with the initial section in Old Church Slavonic and the latter in German.

The claim appeared in a TikTok video (archived here), published on February 19, 2024, by @karanpzbfz2 (archived here), with the headline, translated from Bulgarian into English by Lead Stories staff: "Why is the baptismal certificate of the genius Tesla in Bulgarian?"

The posted photograph of a newspaper article opens, as translated:

Nikola Tesla's baptismal certificate shows that he was recorded as 'Nikolai.' Researchers claim that his family and ancestors have Bulgarian roots.

This is what the post looked like on TikTok at the time of writing:

Screenshot 2024-02-21 211621.png

(Source: TikTok screenshot taken on Wed Feb 21 19:16:23 2024 UTC)

The false claim has been circulating on websites and social media (archived here and here), including this example from a post (archived here) on Facebook on February 10, 2024, with the following caption, as translated:

The baptismal certificate of Nikola Tesla, actually Nikolai, as can be read in the document, was written in Bulgarian! It can be seen with the naked eye that the brilliant scientist is recorded as 'Nikolai'! It is strange that the great American is... Bulgarian, but in America everyone is carrying their roots in union with their new identity. We cannot help but be proud of his belonging to our family, as a consequence of this document, and also as confirmation, we have the names of his sisters - Angelina, Milka and Maritsa...

Screenshot 2024-02-21 225306.png

(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Wed Feb 21 20:53:08 2024 UTC)

Nikola Tesla (archived here) was born in the village of Smiljan (archived here), which was part of the Austrian Empire at the time of his birth and is now in modern-day Croatia. Tesla's ethnic background was Serbian (archived here), and he later became a naturalized citizen of the United States. His baptismal certificate (archived here) is preserved in the Nikola Tesla Museum, and it is an excerpt from the christening protocol of the Eastern Orthodox Church of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul in Smiljan, in the Serbian Orthodox parish of Gospić. The certificate was hand-written, with the first part in Old Church Slavonic and the second in German.

The document states that Tesla was born on June 28 (N.S. July 10), 1856, and his written name is Nikolai. The name "Nikolai" is not unique to Bulgaria, but is prevalent in many Slavic nations, including Russia and Serbia. "Nikolai" (archived here) originates from the Greek name "Nikolaos," a combination of "nikē" (victory) and "laos" (people). Therefore, the fact that "Nikolai" appears on Tesla's baptismal certificate does not automatically indicate Bulgarian descent.

Tesla's family (archived here) originated from Smiljan, Croatia, with a Serbian cultural background. His father served as an Orthodox priest, while his mother lacked formal education but possessed remarkable intelligence. He indeed had three sisters named Milka, Angelina, and Marica, yet their names do not signify Bulgarian ancestry. Names can be shared across various cultures and do not inherently suggest a particular ethnic background. Thus, the names of Tesla's sisters do not offer proof of Bulgarian roots either.

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