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Igor Karkaroff sounds like a Russian or Slavic name, and I always assumed he was an eastern European. But unlike e.g. Viktor Krum, Madame Maxime, and Hagrid, the character isn't portrayed in the books as having an accent, so he could be British of Russian descent.

In his youth, he was a Death Eater, a member of an organisation based primarily in Britain. Later he became headmaster of Durmstrang, a school in Scandinavia but which accepted students from as far afield as Bulgaria and possibly Britain.

Where was he from originally? Is there any canon evidence on this?

  • The actor who played him (Predrag Bjelac) is apparently Serbian. Durmstrang is in Norway or Sweden! Just thought that might be interesting to know – Often Right Sep 21 '15 at 4:54
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  1. As @TheDoc's comment points out (and confirmed on IMDB), the actor who played him was Predrag Bjelac, from Belgrade, Serbia, Yugoslavia. That's pretty much the only piece of hard information we have.

  2. Obviously, Igor is a Slavic first name (with Scandinavian etymology). While it's very popular in Russia, it's also popular in other Eastern European/Slavic countries (definitely, Poland, Hungary, Serbia and Bulgaria).

    Ironically, many people are convinced (I don't know of canon support) that JKR's use of the name was inspired by Dr. Frankenstein's assistant, Igor (classically played by Bela Lugosi). The fact that Boris Karloff who played the monster has a loosely similar sounding surname doesn't seem too convincing to me but people list that as "proof" of this theory.

  3. Last name sounds Slavic as well, but not necessarily Russian. It could just as (or even more) easily be Bulgarian or Serbian or even Polish. Typical Russian spelling would end in "ov" and not "off", but the anglicized version frequently converts this.

  4. There are actually some plausible theories that he's British national by birth (but of Slavic lineage), based on the fact that he:

    a. may have attended Hogwarts ("Good Old Hogwarts" quote); although that is contradicted by the fact that in most likely case, Drumstrang wouldn't have appointed him as Headmaster,

    b. was a Death Eater, which was largely if not exclusively shown to be British organization.

    c. Wasn't portrayed as speaking with an accent, like other foreigners (e.g. Fleur or Seamus).

    d. Was under British Wizengamot jurisdiction. Presumably, if he was a foreigner, he'd have tried to claim he was a foreign national and get deported, not stand trial and be put in Azkaban.

  • 1
    Super answer, but I think 4d might reasonably be said to be a little shaky. IANAL, but I think for the kind of crimes he was accused of he'd've been able to be put on trial and imprisoned. Indeed, in the Muggle world, if he'd fled to a home country, he may well have been extradited (as long as he didn't have a claim for asylum, as long as politics didn't stand in the way, etc. etc.) - and I think similar might well apply in the wizarding world. Wonder if the Wizengamot has a kind of interpol :P 'off' is, as you hint the old-style transliteration, with more accurate 'ov' now coming into fashion – Au101 Nov 3 '15 at 5:22
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    @Au101 Well there's the International Confederation of Wizards, though that exactly they do I'm not sure – Jason Baker Nov 3 '15 at 5:24
  • Having checked wikipedia (also not a lawyer :P) it does seem extradition depends on the country, though :P – Au101 Nov 3 '15 at 5:24
  • @JasonBaker International Confederation of Wizards - that's what I meant, not the Wizengamot. Hangs head in shame :P :P – Au101 Nov 3 '15 at 5:28
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    Actually Igor is quite rare in Hungary. It is popular in Slavic countries. – kapa Nov 3 '15 at 9:45
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Well I am Russian and the name Karkaroff (or Karkarov) doesn't sound Russian to me at all. It SOUNDS LIKE Bulgarian, although I'm not sure if it actually exists. But it is at least stylized for Bulgarian. For instance, there's a famous Russian pop singer Kirkorov (Kirkoroff if you like) and he's of Bulgarian origin. So 'Karkaroff' gives IMPRESSION of Bulgarian name. Like, when I hear 'Radzinsky' I instantly feel like it's Polish, while 'Rozhdestvensky' is definitely Russian. There are small distinctions slavic people can tell. I guess JKR intended to leave us whith our guesses and associations. Like, when people watch TGOF film and say that Durmstrang uniform is definitely Russian it's a shame for me. Yep, it obviously got some inspiration from our military uniforms (crazy mix of Soviet era and 1900-s, I suppose?) plus this evil red 'communist' color plus 'kosovorotka'... But these little cloaks remind me of Hungarian 'mente' or smth (I'm no specialist). Etc, etc. So we should speak of panslavic flavour and nothing more, I think. Sorry for my English ^^

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The character's place of birth is unknown, minus being in Northern Europe, though I believe that he is actually Bulgarian. It is more of an opinion, but there is no definitive answer. Sorry

  • 4
    Thanks for your answer, and welcome to SFF.SE! Do you have any evidence that he is Bulgarian (e.g. did he speak Bulgarian to Viktor Krum)? What about coming from Northern Europe? These two actually contradict each other, since Bulgaria is one of the southernmost countries in Europe :-) – Rand al'Thor Oct 1 '15 at 18:39

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