Bulgarian Themes

“Bulgaria holds third place in Europe for the number of citizens trafficked abroad and is mainly a donor/source and transit country.”
A book on film and media representations of human trafficking in the Balkans.
“Bulgarian-Turkish, and Pomak women are targeted for the increased demands of the Turkish diaspora in Western Europe.”
“There is a tendency in Bulgaria to play down the negative impact of trafficking and to look at it as an ‘economic opportunity’.”
“More unusual but also more problematic in its depiction of a trafficking case is the Bulgarian-French production S litse nadolu – Face Down. The whole presentation of Bulgarian reality becomes subordinated to kitsch culture, criminals, and families willing to sell their daughters.”
“Unlike the Bulgarian viewers’ negative response to the film Svetlana’s Journey and its critical analysis revealing flaws, US audiences viewed and accepted the stereotypical presentation of Bulgarian reality without question.”

“In 1929, the trip to Bulgaria was an important political step for Pavelić. At the station in Sofia, they were greeted by a cheering crowd of Bulgarians. The Bulgarian press placed a great deal of emphasis on the visit and on the agreement that was reached.”
From a monograph on Ante Pavelić and the Ustasha movement.
The leader of IMRO (Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization), Alexander Protogerov, an old general of the Bulgarian army, was not opposed to the plan of a federation or fusion between Yugoslavia and Bulgaria, because he believed that by this means the Macedonian problem would find a peaceful resolution.”
“Vance Mihajlov believed the revolt in Macedonia should be prepared on Bulgarian soil, so as to better prepare the comitagi and proceed with an invasion at the most opportune time.”
“Pribićević believed that Italy was putting an iron circle around Yugoslavia, which only the union with Bulgaria could break, allowing for them to become a great power able to fulfill the principle of the Balkans to the Balkan peoples.”

Titles from the backlist, contemporary topics on top, older themes below:

“In Bulgaria, journalists have no voice in the media... most of the journalists are forced to follow the policy of the newspaper or the television channel”—stated one of the experts interviewed for the comparative review of the control of political parties over the media in Eastern Europe. The Bulgarian analysis revealed ups and downs. Kostov, the charismatic prime minister (1997–2001) was personally reluctant to accept media criticism, while the more pragmatic Simeon II (2001–2005), with his Western European socialization, had no personal objection to being criticized by the media. As a result of the Simeon government’s less confrontational appointment policy and more relaxed ideological position, political polarization began to decrease. The presently dominating New Bulgarian Media Group was informally associated with the government but changed its stance virtually overnight in 2009 with the electoral victory of a party that they used to oppose fiercely.

“The amendments of the Bulgarian Criminal Code introduced between 1990 and 1993 were exclusively meant to eliminate politically motivated punishments rather than introduce new rules applicable to perpetrators of the communist repressions.” Even today, “there is an air of quasi-reconciliationism based on avoidance, without the confession, apology, and forgiveness needed for a real reconciliation.”
Developments in post-communist memory politics in Bulgaria are discussed in a comparative collection.
“The confronting of the Holocaust has been happening in Bulgaria at two gears: faster and more adequately in research, slowly and controversially in the politics of memory.”
“The leftist voices stressed the deportation of the Jews from Macedonia and Thrace, insisting on the fascist nature of the regime, the right wing focused on the rescue of the Jews from the ‘old territories’.” 

"'Unfortunately, then came democracy.' This was the verdict of a co-operative chairman on the co-operative liquidation process in his village. But, in the end, the willingness of the local authority to intervene allowed them to 'protect' some of the assets, such as orchards, buildings, some of the machines; and it was the only village in the area where co-operative livestock farming continued after liquidation".
The Bulgarian cases, out of 54 village studies included in the six-country comparative sociological research, differed to most of the other stories of rural transformation after the demise of communism in Eastern Europe.
"At a Co-operative General Meeting prior to liquidation, the members voted not to give the liquidation committee access to the co-operative. The government sent 100 police officers with dogs to enforce their access, but the members were true to their resolve and did not let the committee in. But the liquidation process could not be stopped and many combines were reputedly sold at knock-down prices to Greeks. 'The only good result of liquidation was that people learned what they actually had, which was very little.'"

“On February 1, 1945, death sentences were issued for the three regents, twenty-two ministers, sixty-seven members of parliament, forty-seven army generals and colonels. They were executed on the same day. Most of their relatives were resettled in different parts of the country and were persecuted as enemies of the people.”
This is the record of one day only of the crimes of the communist rule between 1944 and 1989. The terror of the so called People’s Courts, the brutal treatment of the democratic opposition, the purges and the terror of Stalinization, and so on—all these stepped out of the realms of silence and triggered public demands for a proper historical evaluation after the fall of the regime in 1989. Some of the labor camps continued to exist into the late 1980s, among others, as destinations for Bulgarian Turks who protested against the violent change of their names.
Remembrance of the victims of the communist rule nowadays oscillates between revisionist claims and politics of neglect. 

"The Bulgarians don't object if they disagree, especially if they disagree with the authority. All team meetings have one and the same dynamic-one is speaking and silence is the only feedback you get. When the meeting is over, the real discussion begins in the corridors" - from the book on how East-European mindset adapts to capitalism. "While for the European partners the rules regulating the work were sacrosanct and their observation was taken for granted, for the Bulgarians they were always open for renegotiation". 

"Some countries were able to maintain political momentum and avoid not only any major reversal of comprehensive liberalization but also to move forward with the next step: macroeconomic stabilization. Other countries hesitated for too long and either postponed major components of liberalization-especially freeing up prices-or reversed it when the first negative signs of hyperinflation and mass unemployment materialized. Romania was a good example for the first, Bulgaria for the second case."
The quote is from the erudite and sweeping essay on the political economy of transition from command to market economy.
"One alternative was to do nothing and wait for the slowly evolving incipient market economy to settle itself through spontaneous and uncoordinated initiatives of the various economic actors. But that was politically unfeasible. Nevertheless, it happened in several countries with extremely weak post-communist governments. The best example is Bulgaria. As a consequence of crippling political and administrative inertia of the Socialist governments and the impossibility of raising Western credit, the Bulgarian economy soon entered a freefall and then collapsed completely in 1995-96." 

Gorbachev: Mr. President, you say that the English and French missiles are not defending West Germany. Well, who will defend the GDR? And Czechoslovakia, Romania, and Bulgaria? Who will defend them? That argument does not work. October 1986
Face to face conversations of superpower leaders on 1000 pages.
Memorandum from Scowcroft for President Bush: The message that you bring to the Poles will be watched throughout Eastern Europe, particularly in Hungary. But even Czechoslovakia, the GDR and Bulgaria, which have resisted reform, are aware that you have succeeded in forging a common strategy for the West that links economic assistance to fundamental economic and political reform. June 1989
Baker:
The SS-23 missiles in Eastern Europe is a major political issue in the U.S. We know that you presented démarches to Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, and other countries. However, information on these issues is scattered.
Gorbachev: I promise you that tomorrow there will be talk of Poland’s western territories, about Transylvania, Macedonia. About a million Turks live in Bulgaria. In a word, if we do not keep the issue of territorial integrity and inviolability of borders under control, chaos will break out from which we will never extricate ourselves. July 1991

Bulgarian art did not imitate Western art, but confidently followed its own path—that of socialist realism” – concluded the Bulgarian commissioner at the 1964 Venice Biennial 1964.
As an authority of the field points out, not without grounds, “there has never been any real thaw in Bulgaria. There were no alternative art groups and alternative art. There were no Bulgarian participants in art networks of artistic exchange that provided alternatives to the official channels.”
Decorativism was manifested under the auspices of the declared tradition. Every time doubts were cast, from the positions of the official ideology, over the realistic character of the graphic images, the critical discourse referred to the “democratic” and “national” traditions.
A bit late, the founding of the International Graphic Arts Biennial in Varna in 1981 became the first and only forum in Bulgaria from the time of the rule of the Communist Party that presented a wide range of artistic tendencies and artists without proclaimed thematic and form and style restrictions. 

“I’m in the brigade and in town you are busy all day long
We are building a new life where work is a song”
This chant is recalled from communist youth brigades alongside with a rich panoply of other remembrances of the communist era. They range from banned theatre plays to child adoption practices, from measures against the Turkish minority to the treatment of September 9 th 1944, from commercially geared “sotz-nostalgia” to screening for dirzhavna sigurnost collaboration, and many more. Also, among others, details are presented from records that survived from Soviet-style ethnographic surveys taken in Pernik in the early 1960s.
Products of a lengthy project, the Bulgarian essays are matched with memories elsewhere in Eastern Europe, in Romania in the greatest number. An all-embracing, richly annotated global review of dictatorships provides for the context and the basis for references. 

In a strictly confidential memo, Minden (key personality in the book distribution program of the CIA) noted important national differences: "Romania has fallen into a fatalistic attitude of blended despair and apathy, while the Bulgarians are taking reasonably good care of their country and trying to weather out their present difficulties." In 1959 Bulgarian requests were four times as numerous as the Romanian ones, and covered a larger number of categories.
From 1956 onwards the program made available valuable telephone directories, especially hard to get in the case of the capital cities of Romania and Bulgaria, and other regions. Thus, Romanian and Bulgarian phone books remained the most requested ones throughout the 1960s. 

“No one was deported to the Nazi death camps from Bulgaria or Romania.”
The book presents the newest trends in the study of the Shoah in Hungary, and prevailing aspects of Holocaust remembrance.
“The Bulgarian national defense law, issued in January 1941, excluded Jews from state employment and the army. Jews could only serve in labor camps. A high exemption tax was imposed on them. The introduction of the system was closely intertwined with large-scale Aryanization. However, Jewish youth continued to serve in the civilian labor service along with their Bulgarian counterparts. Their exclusion in July 1941 was due to direct German involvement: the commander- in-chief of the RAD, who worked on joint projects in Bulgaria, protested against this practice. The Bulgarian government, appreciative for another territorial gain at the expense of Yugoslavia, listened to the demand.”
“The Bulgarian general staff considered attaching labor service units to its forces facing the offensive of the Red Army in the summer of 1944. However, due to Bulgaria’s switch over to the Allies’ side, such operation never took place.” 

“Projects of modernity served alternately to divide Bulgarian from Muslim and to integrate.… In spite of ethnic tensions, Bulgaria has a functioning democracy with active Muslim political participation.” By exploring the development of ethnic diversity and national tensions, the contributors to this edited volume challenge the readers to engage in a new way of thinking about the region and Balkan studies in general.
“While in 1885 the city of Varna appeared ‘not to be Bulgarian at all’ (savsem ne balgarski), ten years later ‘the Bulgarian language had made good progress…’ Bulgarians had to work against their Greek, Serbian, and Turkish neighbors who were more advanced in their national ideology or had the support of more experienced state machineries.”
“The underbelly of Liudmila Zhivkova’s ‘Golden Age’ of unprecedented opportunities to travel abroad to popularize national culture, cherishing access to the knowledge, information, and the goods of the West was ‘the great bore of the seventies,’ to use the words of Atanas Slavov, who emigrated in the late 1970s. Gone was the creative fever of the 1960s.”
“Turks were forced to accept Bulgarian names and punished for their refusal to do so, a process that led to the forced migration of 350,000 people to Turkey in 1989. Unexpected is that the intellectuals showed apathy, even resistance, to the Communist Party’s mobilization of ethnic Bulgarian nationalism.” 

Parahistorical theories challenge the validity of academia, and label all works produced by academics as an attempt ‘to conceal the truth about the history’ of the Bulgarian people.”
The place of myths is discussed in the memory politics in a number of East-European countries.
Since 1989, prevailing theories “challenge the thesis of the Proto-Bulgars’ Turkic origin. Alongside the ‘Iranian’ or ‘Aryan’ theory, there appeared arguments favoring an autochthonous origin.” As a hitback to the Soviet alliance, there is also anti-Slavism.
“It has been forgotten that memory is not religion." (‘The bones of Batak are our last stronghold against the threat of globalization.’)
“Historians increasingly lack the political channels and positions that could enable them to effectively oppose the new canonical narrative of communism”. 

 “Here, in the Balkans, things are being built on a huge, almost continental scale. World-makers and demiurges are born and perform their miracles here. Or, as I would put it: there are titans, and their deed is a Balkano-Bulgarian titanism. The legacy of these titans is in fact our national legacy.” – Nayden Sheytanov (1942). Petar Mutafchiev (1931), Janko Janev (1933), and Ivan Hadzhiyski (1938) also represent Bulgarians in the last volume of the grand CEU Press undertaking that presents forty-six texts under the heading of anti-modernism. The five volumes are a challenging collection of essential primary sources,accompanied by introductory essays and contextual analyses in the best senses of the term: their high level of scholarship demands the intelligent engagement of the reader throughout.
In the preceding volumes one finds the “Memorandum of the Secret Central Bulgarian Committee” (1867), Neofit Rilski (1835), Beron (1855), Zografski (1858), Botev (1871 and 1876), Verkovich (1874), Marinov (1891), Gologanov (1891), Vazov (1894), Konstantinov (1895), Kyorchev (1907), Strashimirov (1918), and Penev (1930). 

The issue of land ownership is in the focus of the analysis of three-quarters of a century in Bulgaria, especially in its southern region that existed as a quasi-sovereign state of Eastern-Rumelia between 1878 and 1908. Dramatic changes had begun by the promulgation of the Land Code of the Ottoman Empire in 1858 and received new dimensions after the Russo-Ottoman War.
Mirkova explores how and why Muslim lands were transferred to Bulgarian Christians, including what happened to agricultural lands that belonged to vakıfs ( pious-charitable endowments.
The book opens a different lens to this process of identity formation in the transition from empire to nation. “The period spanning the late nineteenth century until the outbreak of the Second World War was decisive both for the articulation of ‘minority’ as a political category and for inscribing Muslims onto the matrix of national citizenship in Christian majority states.” 

As early as 1879, an integrative master plan of Sofia was drawn, whose rationale was to correct the Ottoman city layout of twisting cul-de-sacs into a replica of European town-planning, with straight and wide Haussmannian boulevards. The comparison or a dozen east-European metropolises revealed the importance of western models everywhere. In 1907, Sofia municipality financed a forty-day trip around Europe for an examination of market halls and slaughterhouses: the two commissioned architects visited Vienna, Budapest, Szeged, and Timişoara. By 1912, every sixth certified Bulgarian architect and engineer was trained in Ghent, Belgium. Graduates of European technical schools soon recognized that in order to attain a leading role in local architecture, they would have to invent an original Bulgarian style. The “national style” was invented based on ancient church architecture of Byzantine origin (alternating belts of white stone and red brick masonry, glazed ceramic ornaments etc.). 

“The image of Dobrogea evolved from the idea of a dangerous ‘Trojan horse’ that could subvert Romanian-Bulgarian relations in the future into a bulwark against Slavic ‘expansionism’.”
A book on competing Russian and Romanian visions of Bessarabia.
“I believe that what we have to do in this situation is to submit to Europe’s decision: to take Dobrogea, to rule it well, to make it truly ours, to make it one with Romania’s body, to make it the heritage of our children. From the first day, let us prove to Europe that we take it for all the Romanians and that we do not intend to sell it to the Bulgarians.” (Kogălniceanu)
“The Bulgarian population was given considerable leverage in the educational and cultural spheres, resulting in the opening of a Bulgarian central school in Bolgrad and the burgeoning activity of the press and various cultural associations. Southern Bessarabia also became an important center for Bulgarian émigré political organizations and arguably an important recruitment pool for the future elite of the Bulgarian state after 1878.” 

“New Bulgarian archaeological research has uncovered important new findings allowing for innovative hypotheses about the development of new religious practices. Apart from Bulgarian-language scholarship the confrontation between, and coexistence of, pagans and Christians along the Black Sea is hardly known.”
A collection of essays on pagan-Christian relations in the Roman Empire from the fourth to the eighth century.
“The first Christian communities appeared along the southwestern coast of the Black Sea in the first century as a result of the missionary preaching of the Apostles Saint Paul and Saint Andrew.”
“The investigation of twenty-one family tombs in Late Roman and Early Byzantine urban necropoles along the Pontic Coast revealed the gradual disappearance of pagan rites and burial practices parallel with the spread of Christianity. The fourth-century Christianization meant essentially the ‘secularization’ or appropriation of pagan sacred sites, without apparent instances of religious violence.” 

The Central European University Press had brought out an additional number of monographs fully or partly on Bulgarians and Bulgaria: 

  • A book of comparative intellectual history discusses how socialist ideology emerged as an option of political modernity in the Balkans;
  • The CEU Press Studies series in the history of medicine starts with a Bulgarian monograph on social legislation and population policy in the interwar period. 
  • The author of the now classic Balkan Family Structure, dedicated a large volume to the analysis of the posthumous fate of Vasil Levski, of which an abridged paperback version was also published;
  • How the Bulgarian Revival was instrumentalized for political purposes in the 20th century;
  • An analysis of Bulgarian history writing focusing on the time span between Stambolov and Zhivkov;
  • A book on anti-corruption policies by a renown Bulgarian social scientist;
  • Together with twenty-eight more post-communist transition countries, the political and economic performance of Bulgaria is also examined as part of a search of varieties of transition models.

A great many other CEU Press books abound in references to Bulgarian history and culture:

  • Witches and priests in the Bulgarian village are analyzed in the series on demons and spirits; 
  • 19th c. textbooks and journals are scrutinized for the presentation of Bulgarian identity; the same issue is approached from 19th c. studies on “race” in another essay; and Bulgarians will read with interest the description of the paths of Macedonian supra-nationalism a hundred years ago; 
  • Still with regard to national identity, a study discusses common heroes and divided claims between Macedonia and Bulgaria, while in the same book an essay treats sounds and noise in socialist Bulgaria; 
  • The handbook of biographies contains entries on the following Bulgarians: Blagoeva, Ivanova, Karamichailova, Karavelov, Karavelova, Karima, Konova, Malinova, Zlatareva, and Zlatoustova; 
  • The book on eugenics in east and central Europe presents the subject in the interwar Bulgaria; 
  • In the volume on the expansion of Stalinism Bulgaria received a separate chapter next to other variants in east Europe;
  • The analysis of the impact of Radio Free Europe also covers Bulgaria at detail; 
  • Images of the west are being explored in Bulgarian travel writing during socialism; 
  • The treatment of religion under communism through the case of Vanga, a mystic prophetess; 
  • The Bulgarian legacy of 1968 is essentially exemplified by Zhivkov's urging Brezhnev "the sooner troops are sent (to Czechoslovakia) the better;"
  • A fresh interpretation of the contexts, meanings, and consequences of the revolutions of 1989 contains numerous references to Bulgaria;
  • The seminal CEU Press title on the collapse of Soviet domination - see Bulgaria-related extracts below. 
  • The analysis of today's history writing between academic standards and political agendas; 
  • An essay discusses the “museumizing” of the socialist past in post-1989 Bulgaria;
  • The idea of the desegregation of Romani education originated in Vidin. An account on how far the process has progressed across Eastern Europe. 
  • Measures to protect Bulgarian children from the adverse effects of television is the last item to mention.

Excerpts from Masterpieces of History:

Document No. 14: Report on Eduard Shevardnadze's Visits to Bulgaria, Hungary, and Yugoslavia, July 1987:

"Zhivkov spoke about the 'Bulgarian phenomenon.' He had a mentor's tone, he was teaching us. He began almost every phrase with the words 'take into consideration.' Bulgarian nationalism is clearly evident, not only in relation to Turks, but also in relation to Russians."

Document No. 41: Memorandum from CC CPSU International Department, "On a Strategy for Relations with the European Socialist Countries," February 1989:

In Bulgaria, there is, in essence, a simulation of perestroika, which is to a large extent a consequence of T. Zhivkov's personal ambitions. The loud declarations about a comprehensive reconsideration of Marxist-Leninist theory and about the creation of a new model of socialism in principle lead in practice to endless reorganizations and shuffling of personnel, and to a further tightening of the screws. All this discredits the party and socialism, and casts a shadow on our perestroika. Nonetheless, T. Zhivkov still controls the situation rather well by employing methods of political manipulation and by relying on a well-developed administrative apparatus, even though discontent is growing in the party and in the country.

Document No. 67: Record of Third Conversation between Mikhail Gorbachev and Helmut Kohl, June 14, 1989:

Kohl: I really like Todor Zhivkov. He is a very flexible politician. I met with him several times, and every time we met he criticized those leaders of various branches of the Bulgarian economy who could not manage their responsibilities. It is curious that he speaks about that as if those individuals were not members of his own circle and as if he gave them no directives, just observed them from a distance.

Recollected by Canadian scholar Jacques Levesque in 1998:

"I was told by Petr Mladenov that he, during the meeting of the Warsaw Pact summit on 7 July 1989, succeeded in taking Gorbachev away from Zhivkov for a couple of minutes. And he told me that he told Gorbachev, 'We are preparing something in Bulgaria to change the leadership.' And the only answer he got from Gorbachev was, 'It is your business.' So, Mladenov told me that he was dismayed. He expected more concrete words of support".

Document No. 72: Record of Conversation between Mikhail Gorbachev and François Mitterrand, July 5, 1989:

Mitterrand: Todor Zhivkov is acting in a smarter, I would even say more cunning, way. For how many years has he been in power?

Gorbachev: He has led the Bulgarian Communist Party for 35 years now. I recall being at his meeting with students of the University of Sofia. They criticized him quite harshly, and he kept responding, "They are right about everything."
He is not in complete control of his legs and facial muscles. When I see him, I remember Brezhnev.

Document No. 112: Record of Conversation between Mikhail Gorbachev and Petar Mladenov, December 5, 1989:

Gorbachev: Welcome. I am, of course, interested in your opinion on the prospects for developments in Bulgaria.

Mladenov: Overall, we are in control of events in the country. The people received the November 10 changes in the country's leadership with enthusiastic support.

Gorbachev: I heard that your Politburo met irregularly, and the rare sessions that you did hold all turned into a monologue.

Mladenov: Usually at the Politburo new theses and concepts would be presented, but there was almost no discussion of practical matters.