In a separated country, ache memories that the ottoman era room something the Bulgarians have the right to agree on. 


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Ben Jones

Bulgaria has actually the solitary largest Muslim minority populace of any kind of country in the europe Union. Roughly 15 per cent the its about seven million citizens identify as Muslim (compared with much less than five per cent in the UK). The team is ethnically diverse – Bulgarians, Roma, also a little Gagauz ar – but it is largely overcame by so-called ‘Turkish Bulgarians’. Their visibility in the nation today evokes the long and also uncomfortable background of Ottoman dominance in the Balkans and also poses questions around how that duration is remembered. 

The Ottomans come in the Balkans in 1354. Through the 15th century they overcame much that the region, native the Peloponnese come the Danube. In the 19th century, after nearly 500 years of footrest rule, nationalist heat spread throughout the Balkans. A number of ‘national revival’ motions in the region sought come mobilise ethnic, religious and etymological identities right into political motions in the opposite to footrest power. Although none prospered in bringing it to an end, the involvement of Russia and internal instability within the empire eventually caused the collapse of ottoman rule. Most Balkan states got independence by the revolve of the 20th century – Bulgaria in 1878 – and the Ottoman empire was replaced by a new Turkish state in 1923.

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Literary heroes

Literature play a huge role in Bulgaria’s ‘National Awakening’, the first phase of the nationwide Revival. In the works developed during this era, identities the ‘Ottoman’, ‘Turk’ and ‘Muslim’ to be grouped together as one. This has actually proved to be one of the movement’s lasting legacies, as Bulgaria’s far-right parties proceed to use the country’s Muslim population of Turkish speaker as a stand-in for, and ongoing reminder of, the old footrest enemy. At the heart of this generic identification is a deep ingrained feeling of trauma. 

Expressions that this trauma are apparent in the nationalist revival poetry of the 19th century, i beg your pardon deems the period of Ottoman preeminence as robstvo, literally ‘slavery’. Contemporary Bulgarian education contains stories of the country’s conference organisers gift captured and also killed by the footrest authorities, nevertheless of even if it is they were orators or mountain bandits. The quintessential novel of the period, Ivan Vazov’s Under the Yoke (1894), tells the story that the return of an exiled rebel come his home village in the days leading as much as the failure April Uprising that 1876. Inspired by a comparable Serbian uprising in Herzegovina in 1875, the April uprising to be swiftly and also brutally put down through the Ottomans. Regardless of being a difficult read in places, Vazov’s novel is a collection text because that Bulgarian school pupils as young together 13. Among the most renowned poems native the period, Hristo Botev’s 1873 ‘Hadzhi Dimitar’, speak the story the the famous voyvoda (rebel leader) bleeding to death after one encounter through an footrest garrison. ‘Sing this mournful songs, servant women! / Shine, sunshine, in this enslaved land!’, Botev writes. ‘He who drops in a fight for freedom, does no die.’ These final lines have the right to be found across Bulgaria, including on the next of the Municipal Electricity building in Sliven, Hadzhi Dimitar’s hometown. Bulgarians are reminded of sacrifice while payment their electricity bills. 

 

The story we tell

The 19th-century romanticisation the the nationwide liberation struggle made feeling in its prompt aftermath; authors favor Hristo Botev knew many of the males who had passed away organising it. Over the food of the 20th and 21st centuries, however, this memory of trauma has spread and solidified, now occupying a central place in Bulgaria’s national identity. 

In 1964 Anton Donchev created Time the Parting, a self-proclaimed historic novel collection in 1668, well before the national awakening. The book narrates the come of a enichar, a high-ranking footrest official, in a small village in south-west Bulgaria. The enichar, Karaibrahim, is eager to force conversion to Islam and also burns much of the town in the process. A war rages, with villagers hiding in the mountains. Numerous are killed publicly, after refusing come convert. In 2009 Bulgarian national Television began a project to recognize Bulgaria’s favourite book. Time the Parting, a mid-20th century reimagining the the 17th century, come second. Under the Yoke, Vazov’s 1890s account the the 1870s come first. Nationalist rhetoric based about the trauma of the footrest era has presented its enduring popularity. 

In 1988 Time that Parting was adjusted for the screen. Sponsor by the socialist government of the People’s Republic the Bulgaria in its dice days (the very first free elections in Bulgaria due to the fact that 1931 were held in 1990), the film was, in ~ the time, the biggest production in Bulgarian cinematic history. I when met a bus driver in south-western Bulgaria that proudly said me he was an extra in the film. That did no bother him the he had been actors as an footrest soldier. 

The movie dramatises few of the novel’s most disturbing scenes, i beg your pardon are well known to everyone who flourished up in the country. Probably the many memorable is the public execution that the men who refuse to transform to Islam. Castle are lugged forward into the town square and also asked whether they renounce Christ. Upon your refusal, one man is beheaded, one more torn to pieces after being tied come two horses made to operation in the opposite directions. In 2015, to celebrate 100 years of Bulgarian cinema, Bulgarian national Television ran another survey to find the public’s 100 favourite Bulgarian films. Time of Parting won: it is the Bulgarian movie of the century.

 

After the fact, fiction

There is a trouble with the book and the film, however. It is this: the 1668 pogrom against Christians in the mountain an ar of the Rhodope probably never happened. Anton Donchev claimed that his publication was based on authentic historic documents. Recent work-related by Bulgarian student has presented this to it is in untrue. Among the sources supplied by Donchev is the chronicle the a priest, released in Vienna through the Bulgarian nationalist Stefan Zahariev in 1870. Maria Todorva, author of Imagining the Balkans (1997), is correct when she writes that such a source ‘cannot be provided as an example of a paper from the ten century, nor together an yes, really eyewitness account of mass required conversion’. 

Rather, together the chronicler Stefan Dechev has actually persuasively argued, this document and one more three messages which type the little corpus the questionable account of violent forced conversion in the early modern-day period, need to be situated firmly in the 19th century in which they were written. Together Dechev writes, each resource has a pressing contemporary concern – namely, to describe why numerous Slavonic-speakers in the Balkans to be practising Islam. 

The nationalist literary works of the 19th century was born out of a political battle with the Ottoman imperial regime, one characterized by a feeling of repression and hardship. The trauma it created was inherited through 20th-century literature and film, functions that room today revered together the summary of Bulgarian culture.

Life under an exploitative royal regime was without doubt complicated for the population of the Balkans, especially for non-Muslims, that had extr taxes imposed upon them. However the 20th-century Bulgarians who made decision these books and also films as their favourites never experienced that details trauma. In reality, the 20th century proved much an ext traumatic because that Bulgaria’s Turkish and Muslim minority. In enhancement to the violent populace exchanges seen in the Balkans in the at an early stage 20th century, the 1980s – the decade in which Time of Parting to be released – saw some of the many aggressive anti-Turkish regulation in Bulgarian history. In 1984-85, the People’s Republic the Bulgaria implemented name-changes ~ above Turkish-speaking Muslims throughout the country. Over 800,000 world had to melted their Muslim names for ‘traditional’ Slavonic ones. By the summer of 1989, a year ~ Time that Parting to be released, over 350,000 citizens were compelled to leaving for Turkey, a country in i beg your pardon they had actually never lived. 

 

Shared enemies

A feeling of nationwide trauma deserve to be a an effective political weapon. In this, Bulgaria is not an exception. In 2019, Christian Davis created in the London evaluation of Books about the advance of a conspiracy theory in Poland, which organized that 200,000 Poles were murdered in a German fatality camp in Warsaw. If the camp did exist, and also approximately 20,000 polish Jews, non-Jewish Poles and also non-Polish Jews are approximated to have passed away there, this recently mythologised massive murder allowed talk the a ‘Polocaust’. This allowed conspiracists to weaken Jewish claims of victimhood, but likewise to reprimand Germany for spanning up the atrocity. 

Of course, populist trauma builds community on common enemies, not common values. Given how rapidly identifying those responsible because that perceived past crimes have the right to lead come inflicting violence versus them, the populist mobilisation the trauma politics need to be continually interrogated. Yet in Bulgaria over there is one more unique historic hurdle to this interrogation: namely the memory of the duration of Soviet-aligned yet independent socialist rule between 1946 and 1990. 

Modern Bulgarian consciousness of this period vary between fond nostalgia and also deep suspicion. As inequality widens in Bulgarian society this nostalgia is no longer dispersed strictly throughout generational divides. Yet, as the old Bulgarian saying goes, the worst point you can contact a male is a liar or a communist.

Ambiguity in the direction of the socialist past stands in stark contrast to the prevailing narratives around the ottoman era. V its historic remoteness and its clean heroes and also villains, the story that Ottoman rule offers unity to an otherwise separated people. This simplicity is attractive, however its healing potential is considerably curtailed by the danger it poses to minorities in the nation today.

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It’s complicated

Recently, Bulgarian academics have dubbed for brand-new ways of thinking about history, both Ottoman and communist. They have demanded that us complicate, rather than simplify, our expertise of the past. The beginning point is to relocate away native essentialist ideas around nationalism and also the continually of Bulgarian identification from the Middle periods to the existing day. From this foundation we can establish a an are to reconsider the perception of footrest rule and also to think constructively around the an ext recent socialist past. But, if the reading and viewing actions of the Bulgarian population are something to go by, the country has a long method to travel prior to overcoming the trauma of i delivered times, permit alone dealing with the trauma the yesterday.