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The article follows the development of the memory culture in Bulgaria since the Russo-Ottoman War of 1877 – 1878 until present days concerning historiography, memory places, celebrations, school textbooks. The transformation of the traditional religious memory about the war into modern memory policies is analyzed in the present article. Thereby three main periods are critically examined: The period after the Liberation until 1944, dominated by the myth of San Stefano Bulgaria; the communist period (1944 – 1989), dominated by the myth of the double liberators; and the post-communist period (1989 until present days), marked by memory conflicts and wars. From traditional religious memory to modern memory policies Politics of memory concerns the battles for the meaning of the past articulated in different forms by different agents – Church, state, citizens, individuals; an unequal battle to install certain memories in the center of the cultural world at the expense of others doomed to marginalization and oblivion.
Vol. 1/2013
Anastasiya Pashova, Kristina Popova, Mariyana Piskova,
Milena Angelova, Nurie Muratova, Petar Vodenicharov,
South-West University, Blagoevgrad
Battles in the Past or Battles for the Past:
Bulgarian National Models of Memory and
Memory Policy
Abstract: The article follows the development of the memory culture in Bulgaria since
the Russo-Ottoman War of 1877 1878 until present days concerning historiography,
memory places, celebrations, school textbooks. The transformation of the traditional religious
memory about the war into modern memory policies is analyzed in the present article.
Thereby three main periods are critically examined: The period after the Liberation until 1944,
dominated by the myth of San Stefano Bulgaria; the communist period (1944 1989), domi-
nated by the myth of the double liberators; and the post-communist period (1989 until present
days), marked by memory conflicts and wars.
From traditional religious memory to modern memory policies
Politics of memory concerns the battles for the meaning of the past articulat-
ed in different forms by different agents Church, state, citizens, individuals; an
unequal battle to install certain memories in the center of the cultural world at the
expense of others doomed to marginalization and oblivion.
Modern culture of memory, which includes special institutions such as legisla-
tion, museums and archives; specialists such as archivists and historians; public
celebrations such as liturgy, jubilees and feasts; media and communications or
naming streets and other public spaces, arose in Bulgaria out of the commemora-
tion of the Russo-Ottoman War (Russo-Turkish War
) of 1877 1878. From the
very beginning until today, this war is the most visible and most celebrated historical
event. The National Day of Bulgaria is the 3rd of March the day the war ended with
the signing of the Peace Treaty of San Stefano. The streets, quarters and gardens
in the central part of the capital city Sofia, in the second biggest city of Plovdiv and
many other settlements were named after persons and events connected to the
war: ʻBoulevard Tsar Liberator Aleksandr IIʼ, ʻRussian quarterʼ, ʻŠipka streetʼ, ʻGurko
/ Skobelev streetʼ, ʻHill of the Liberatorsʼ, ʻDoctor’s Gardenʼ, and others. Many set-
Anastasiya Pashova et al.
Battles in the Past or Battles for the Past’…
tlements, areas and tourist places owe their historical identity to the events con-
nected to the Russo-Ottoman War. Rising monuments dedicated to the Russo-
Ottoman War continues even today. Several years ago a monument to the Bulgari-
an volunteers (opălčenci) was opened by President Georgi Părvanov in Sofia. Dur-
ing 2009, in the small town of General Toševo a monument to the Russian Emperor
Aleksandr II was built by the sponsorship of an Armenian businessman. Until now
more than 400 monuments to the Russo-Ottoman War were raised in Bulgaria. A
research on recent memory culture in Bulgaria, conducted by Evgenia Ivanova and
Evelina Kelbecheva, confirmed the domination of the topics ‘Šipka’ and The Libera-
tion among the places of memory not only for the Bulgarian ethnic majority but also
for the minority groups.
The first monuments in Bulgaria devoted to the heroes of the Liberating War
were built during the temporary Russian Government on the initiative of the Head-
quarters of the Russian Army on the Balkans. 407 monuments were raised, most of
them modest grave stones, which were designed and manufactured in Russia and
were sponsored by donations of the army units or financed by emperor Aleksandr
At that time a discussion about the need of more grandiose memorials, especial-
ly commemorating the fallen warriors at the feet of the Balkan Mountains was going
on in Russian society. According to Count Ignatˈev and Olˈga Skobeleva, the moth-
er of General Skobelev, the aim of these commemorations, imposed from the out-
side, was “to remind the Bulgarians of the heroic deeds performed in their name by
our victorious warriors”.
This was the reason Bulgarian volunteers (opălčenci)
complained that there was not even a wooden cross to commemorate the fallen
Bulgarian fighters. The first Bulgarian monument devoted to the fallen Bulgarians
appeared only 50 years later and this was the Šipka Memorial.
According to the German historian Claudia Weber, who made a detailed
study of memory culture in Bulgaria after 1878, the lack of monuments to the na-
tional heroes illustrated an incomplete process of national identity formation. Ac-
cording to her, the memory culture in Bulgaria was a product of both: of the state
politics of nation building and of the civil society’s activities.
Their efforts were
focused on the slogan of “San Stefano Bulgaria” using jubilees, memorials and
holydays. This memory culture consisted of state participation on the one side and
non-governmental actors like veterans, war widows, priests, teachers and students
on the other side. Struggles and confrontations accompanied this development
which reflected the different views about the past as well as the regional segmenta-
tion of the Bulgarian society.
For the first period from 1878 until 1900, Claudia Weber points out the tradi-
tional religious basis of the memory culture and that the first attempts of the new
modern state had focused on the memory connected to the Russo-Ottoman War of
1877 1878. The activities of the “Car Osvoboditel” Committee and the celebra-
tions of the 25th anniversary of the Battle of Šipka Pass in 1902 as well as the erec-
tion of the “Car Osvoboditel” Monument in Sofia were the main events in the next
period after 1900, which according to Claudia Weber shaped the main trends for the
20th century. In the time after the wars of 1912 1918, the state became the main
actor in memory culture but still didn’t have the monopole on it as it did after 1944.
In the 1920s and 1930s, Bulgarian Medieval History and the Bulgarian Revival were
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raised as important topics in historical celebrations. The memory culture in Bulgaria
in the authoritarian time 1934 1944 was characterized as “a cult of memory”.
Historiography, literature and schoolbooks until 1944 created the grand na-
tional narrative of Bulgarian history, which was modified politically at different times
but preserved its main tropes until today: For five centuries the Muslim Ottoman
Empire would have aimed at religious and political assimilation of enslaved unbe-
lievers by violent conversion, demanding unbearable taxes, exploitation and politi-
cal arbitrariness. The Bulgarian people would have fought from the very beginning
for religious and national freedom: at first the rebels hajduks, patriotic priests and
educators then conscious revolutionaries such as Georgi Rakovski (1821 1869),
Ljuben Karavelov (1834 1878), Vasil Levski (1837 1873), Hristo Botev (1848
1869). They had organized uprisings since the 18th century, relying on the help of
the Eastern Orthodox Russian Empire, which fought several wars against the Otto-
man Empire to finally free the Orthodox Bulgarians, Romanians and Serbs in the
last and victorious Russo-Ottoman War in 1877 1878. The poem “An Epopee of
the Forgotten Ones” and the novel “Under the Yoke”, written by the patriarch” of
Bulgarian modern literature Ivan Vazov (1850 1921), served as an influential artis-
tic interpretation of the national narrative. In the grand narrative the Russo-Ottoman
War is interpreted as a logical final step of the National Liberation, as an end point
to the Bulgarian Renaissance and as a beginning of the modern Bulgarian state.
According to Evelina Kelbecheva, the grand narrative about the liberation
took the shape of a fairytale about the good Bulgarians who were rescued from the
“bad Turkish enslavers” by the “Russian Slav brothers”.
Religious memory ceremonies and monuments
Unlike modern secular memory culture, the Church’s religious idea about
memory was directed not to the people but to God and to “eternal commemoration
at every moment” of the heroes. In her paper about memory culture in Byzantium,
the Greek researcher in arts Amy Papalexandrou emphasized the importance of the
unity of written texts and their liturgical oral performance for preserving the memory.
She quoted a Byzantium theologian from the 12th century, Niketas Choniates, who
insisted on the mutuality of both means of expression. That is why the liturgy on
important feasts includes pronouncing and glorifying the names of prelates and
In the Bulgarian Middle Ages, this practice was codified by the Synod of
Tărnovo in 1211, when a list of both glorifications for rulers and anathemas for here-
tics was sanctioned. Additions were appropriated at the end of the 15th century
when the Patriarchate of Tărnovo ceased to exist. It is important to mention that
with the radicalization of the struggle for an independent church in the 19th century,
at the Easter service in 1860 the Bulgarians stopped pronouncing the name of the
Patriarch of Constantinople substituting it with the name of the Turkish Sultan. This
oral liturgical omission caused the final confrontation with the Patriarchate which led
to the separation of the Bulgarian church in 1870. After the liberation and with the
establishment of the Russian government, the name of Tsar Aleksandr II was in-
cluded in the religious glorifications. After his death in 1881 and until today, the
eternal memory to Tsar-Liberator Aleksandr II is pronounced in the Festive Liturgy
Velikij Vchod [Glorious Entrance’]. Canonization, writing passions, inclusion in the
Anastasiya Pashova et al.
Battles in the Past or Battles for the Past’…
church calendar were important tools of religious culture of memory, as well as the
building and granting of temples and monasteries.
Following the Orthodox models from the very beginning, the memory of the
War of 1877-1878 was shaped and sustained by church-monuments meant for
praying to God for peace for the souls of the fallen warriors. Examples are the Rus-
sian Monastery in Jambol, the Russian church-Monument at Šipka, the Sv. Ale-
ksandăr Nevski Cathedral in Sofia and the Russian Church (to the Russian Embas-
sy) “Sv. Nikolaj”.
A central role played the building of the Sv. Aleksandăr Nevski
Cathedral. The Constitutive National Assembly decided to build the church on the
10th of February 1879, opting for the proposition of Petko Karavelov (1843 1903),
who later became the leader of the Liberal Party, to build a church devoted to Sv.
Aleksandr Nevskij, a Russian Prince, who led the defense in 1240 against the
Swedes (Battle of the Neva) and was celebrated a protector of the Russian Tsars
and State. Initially planned to be built in Tărnovo, it was later decided to erect the
monument in the new capital Sofia. Prince Alexander von Battenberg, a relative of
Aleksandr II, who was elected Prince of Bulgaria in 1879, issued in 1881 a procla-
mation for gathering donations for building a church dedicated to Aleksandr Nevskij.
Furthermore, in 1881 a Central Commission was constituted, which decided that the
first stone of the church was to be laid in 1882 on 19th of February (3rd of March)
the day of the liberation. In the decades after 1886, when Alexander von Battenberg
had been dethroned, due to the political struggles between Russophiles and Na-
tionalist parties, the project at times advanced and at times stopped. The collected
donations from Bulgaria and Russia were not sufficient and the state agreed on
granting subsidies. After almost half a century of work, the church was finally con-
secrated in 1924. Another manifestation of the orthodox religious memory to the
War was the Russian Embassy Church in Sofia, which had initially been permitted
in 1882, but the following worsening of the relations between Bulgaria and Russia
postponed the project. In 1902 when the 25th anniversary of the liberation was cele-
brated, the building of monuments such as the Mausoleum in Pleven and the
church ʻAleksandăr Nevskiʼ advanced. In 1907 a delegation from Russia led by
Grand Duke Vladimir Aleksandrovič, son of Aleksandr II, visited Bulgaria to take
part in the inauguration of the monument to Aleksandr II in the center of Sofia and
to lay down the first stones of the base of the Russian Embassy Church which was
finally consecrated in 1914.
The memory culture until 1944
The traditional orthodox techniques of commemoration did not lose their in-
fluence in later times when a modern memory culture developed, as through it, the
memory of the War could adequately and easily find new secular expressions and
forms of an institutionalized commemoration in historiography, museums, monu-
ments, jubilees and other performances.
The first war monuments were started to be built immediately after the war,
being considered mostly as gravestones of commemoration to the part of the grate-
ful citizenship.
Remarkable is the fact that some of those first monuments were in
fact built in the Ottoman Empire like in Plovdiv, the capital of Eastern Rumelia,
which according to the Treaty of Berlin of 1878 remained part of the Empire until
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September 1885. In 1881 a monument to Aleksandr II was built in Plovdiv and so
was a smaller monument to the killed and robbed around the city, devoted to the
mother of General Michail Skobelev, Olˈga Skobeleva (1823 – 1880), famous for
her charity activities.
In Bulgarian historiography there is still a debate going on about the initiatives
of the first monuments of the Russo-Ottoman War, which in fact were the first Bul-
garian monuments, and whether they were built on initiatives of civic societies or by
state subsidies. This question concerned the agents of the war memory after the
liberation, asking whether it was an institutionalized memory or a memory of the
citizens. In general, the monuments were initiated and donated by citizens’ organi-
zations for several decades while the support of the state also depended on the
political relations between Bulgaria and Russia.
Institutionalized agents of memory such as state research institutions and
historiography turn communicative memory into a historical one. Another important
agent of war memory is the national education institution which has the power to
define what parts and aspects of historical knowledge would become the so-called
common “orientation knowledge” of the cultural memory backed by the history and
literary canon of the school curriculum. Monuments, museums, holidays and com-
memorations play the same cultural role.
Bulgarian historiography about the Russo-Ottoman War developed in close
relation to Russian institutes and publications. The studying of the Russo-Ottoman
War was included in the curriculum of the Military School in Sofia which opened
during the temporary Russian government after the War. Furthermore, the Minister
of Defense until 1885 was always a Russian officer. This connection concerns not
only the publications in the first years following the war but also the historiography
patterns of writing. The first memoirs of the Bulgarian war volunteers were pub-
lished in Russia.
The first researches by Bulgarian historians, mainly military histo-
rians, were not based on Russian documents but on secondary sources, namely
the Russian military-historians’ researches. Important is the fact that the first Bulgar-
ian military historians were Russian graduates. General Radko Dimitriev (1859
1918), war volunteer and Russian graduate, in his book about the war operations
around Šipka, written by the end of the 1890s and published in 1902, based his
research on 17 Russian historiography works, the memoirs of a Bulgarian partici-
pant and three French books.
Most of these sources were often quoted over the
next decades.
With the worsening and finally the termination of the political relations be-
tween Bulgaria and Russia after the Unification of Bulgaria and Eastern Rumelia in
autumn 1885, for the period of 1886 1896 the publications of memoirs of the par-
ticipants in the revolutionary movement and the April Uprising of 1876 became
dominant. That way the political change also led to a change in the memory policy
to the Russo-Ottoman War. The public interest caused a huge memoir wave in the
1890s, also connected to the change in legislation allowing pensions and other
privileges for revolutionaries and war volunteers.
By publishing memoirs of Bulgar-
ian revolutionaries and volunteers and by emphasizing their contributions to the
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Battles in the Past or Battles for the Past’…
victorious end of the Russo-Ottoman War, mainly in the Battle of Šipka Pass, the
emancipation of the Bulgarians from Russia and the ability of the Bulgarians to take
their destiny in their own hands were evident.
With the improvement of the rela-
tions to Russia after 1896 and especially during 1902 1903, when the 25th anni-
versary of the War was celebrated, the memory initiatives changed and increased.
The “Car Osvoboditel” Committee, supported by state institutions, managed to
spread the idea of the national importance of the war memory and mobilized many
teachers, priests and other members of the political and cultural elite in its local
units. The numerous places of memory dedicated to the Russo-Ottoman War
turned into important national objects for visiting and pilgrimages. In the museum
collections guest books, where the visitors could describe their impressions were
introduced. To make them accessible to a larger audience, parts of these books
were published in several volumes by the prominent revolutionary and memoirist
Stojan Zaimov.
The images and photographs of the places of memory like Šipka,
Pleven and others became part of the popular culture as well. They were published
not only in tourist guides and schools books but also in illustrated calendars and
other popular publications. That way they became part of the national topography
as if they were natural geographical landmarks. ʻŠipkaʼ and ʻCar Osvoboditelʼ were
branded as names of hotels, restaurants and cafés in Sofia, Pleven, Ruse and other
places and became part of the urban public sphere as well as in the cities’ adver-
After the Bolshevik takeover in 1917, the new power in Soviet Russia and the
USSR did not only break with continuity to the history of Tsarist Russia but even
contradicted it. Because of the close relations of the Soviets with the Turkish Kema-
list Republicans, which continued almost until the death of Kemal Atatürk, the
memory of the Russo-Ottoman War was pushed out further of the public space.
Monuments were destroyed and streets renamed. In the period of 1917 to 1921
40,000 Russian refugees arrived in Bulgaria. In 1921 archimandrite Serafim Sobo-
came to Bulgaria as a trustee of the Russian Embassy Church, which was put
under the government of the Russian Society of the Red Cross Abroad. The Church
kept close relations with the Russian monastery ʻSv. Aleksandăr Nevskiʼ in Jambol,
the ʻChristmas Churchʼ in Šipka and the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church.
The main Russian agent of the war memory, doomed to oblivion in the USSR, be-
came the Russian church ʻSv. Nikolajʼ, which had close relations to the ʻCouncil of
War Veterans of the Russo-Turkish Warʼ and maintained that role until 1934 when
diplomatic relations with the USSR were established.
An important agent of the memory of the Russo-Ottoman War was the Slavic
Society in Bulgaria, which was organized in 1899 and remained very active after
1917. In 1928, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Russo-Ottoman War’s
end, the Slavic Society in Bulgaria, with the participation of Russian intellectuals in
Bulgaria and Bulgarian Scholars, initiated a Bulgarian-Russian Volume titled “Glori-
fication of the Liberating War 1877/1878”.
The myth of San Stefano Bulgaria and the Macedonian question
A considerable part of the traditional historiography interpretations related to
the signing of the Berlin Treaty (13th of June 13th of July, 1878) emphasized its
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connection with the diplomatic beginning of the so-called ʻMacedonian questionʼ.
The organizational network ʻUnityʼ, the petitions in Macedonia against the Berlin
Treaty and the uprising in the region of Kresna-Razlog (Eastern Macedonia) in 1878
against the Ottoman rule were considered evidence of a resisting population
against the decisions of the Congress of Berlin and of its efforts and wish for unifi-
cation with the newly established Bulgarian state.
The borders of Bulgaria defined by the preliminary Treaty of San Stefano be-
tween Russia and the Ottoman Empire (3rd of March 1878) included Macedonia but
were revised by the Berlin Treaty to include only Northern Bulgaria and the Sanjak
of Sofia. Over the next years ʻSan Stefano Bulgariaʼ turned into one of the most
important aims of Bulgarian foreign policy, which wouldn’t change for many dec-
ades. The comparison between the two treaties the Treaty of San Stefano and its
revision in Berlin evoked a social consciousness about a justice of the first and an
injustice of the latter treaty, which supported the hope for possible future revisions
of the Berlin Treaty and to achieve the borders defined by the Treaty of San Stefa-
no. The idea of the ethnic union was embodied in the image of San Stefano. In this
way the heroic memory about the Russo-Ottoman War received a traumatic conno-
tation in respect to Macedonia. The borders of the Treaty of San Stefano, which
were not considered realistic even in Russia at the times of the Russo-Ottoman
War, turned into a national ideal. This ideal, supported by historiography, school
books, literature, art and folklore, was used and misused politically not only until
1944 but until today. Furthermore, having in mind both Russia’s engagements on
the European scene at that time and its isolation in international relations, the Trea-
ty of San Stefano, elaborated mostly by Count Nikolaj Ignatˈev (1832 1908), the
Russian ambassador in Carigrad (Constantinople, İstanbul), was later evaluated as
an arbitrary and hasty act. The myth of ʻSan Stefano Bulgariaʼ shaped the leading
visions about the future of the country for a long time and justified both the diplo-
matic efforts of the foreign policy and the involvement of Bulgaria in the wars 1912
1918, which claimed hundreds of thousands of victims.
The theme of the resistance to the decisions of the Congress of Berlin found
its place in some general and some specific researches on the history of diploma-
In the “History of Bulgaria in many volumes” (issued in 1991 but already pre-
pared in the 1970s) it was underlined that the Congress of Berlin was met with
“despair and indignation” by the Bulgarian people as it “had torn the Bulgarian na-
tion into pieces” and had provoked “the deepest despair among the Macedonian
and Thracian Bulgarians who according to the clauses of the treaty had been left
under the unbearable yoke of the Ottoman empire”.
It was Patriarch Kiril’s contribution in the 1960s to research the great number
of documents about the organized actions in many places against the decisions of
the Congress of Berlin. The activity of the organization ʻUnionʼ and the uprising in
Northern Macedonia (Kresna-Razlog) was later researched in detail by Dojno
Dojnov. In Macedonia, the turn towards a resistance against the Congress of Berlin
coincided with the change in politics of the Bulgarian Communist Party towards
Yugoslavia and towards the ʻMacedonian Questionʼ in the 1960s – 1970s.
At the same time, in historiography it was attempted to deconstruct the role of
Russia and the European Great Powers in respect to both the content of the con-
Anastasiya Pashova et al.
Battles in the Past or Battles for the Past’…
tract and its significance for further Bulgarian history.
According to Konstantin
Kosev the reason for Russia to impose this treaty is rooted in its double policy. The
Empire aimed at acknowledgement of her strong position on the Balkans and was
able to achieve that with all the publicity surrounding the signing of the treaty. On
the other hand it accepted the revision of the treaty during the Congress of Berlin
because of the pre-war engagements, undertaken with the other European Great
1944: The Communist myth of the ʻdouble liberator
The Marxist historiography tried to promote an alternative to the official narra-
tive of the War after 1891 and the foundation of the Bulgarian Workers Social Dem-
ocratic Party. The leaders of the Party emphasized “the conquering ambitions of the
tsarist Russian policy”. In this respect the views of the leaders of the Party, Dimităr
Blagoev and Georgi Bakalov became those of Russophobe politicians.
After the takeover of the left powers of the Fatherland Front, dominated by
the Communist Party, on 9th of September 1944, this sectional narrative was further
elaborated to become a dominant one, thereby marginalizing the previous religious-
national discourse. In the new social-class approach to history, as enemies of the
people were not only blamed the Ottoman enslavers but also the high Bulgarian
and Greek priesthood, wealthy men (çorbacı) and aggressive Russian tsarism. As
liberators of the people were considered the outlaws, revolutionary republicans
such as Hristo Botev, Vasil Levski and others who initiated several democratic
uprisings against the despotic powers and the volunteers at Šipka (opălčenci). The
roles of the Russian Orthodox Church, the Tsar, the nobility of officers and the
nurses were silenced to highlight the role of the common Russian soldiers Slav
brothers, who helped the Bulgarians to liberate from the Turkish and Fascist yoke
twice. The main tropes of the new narrative became the Monument of Šipka sym-
bolizing the heroism of the common Bulgarians and the church in Batak where re-
mains of the peasants, slaughtered by the irregular army during the April Uprising in
1876, were exposed as a symbol of the ʻTurkish tyrannyʼ.
The motive of the ʻdouble liberatorsʼ appeared in public discourse immediate-
ly after the left-winged “Fatherland Front” took over power. It was centered around
the idea of the Slav unity, eternal friendship between Russians and Bulgarians as
a foundation of the Bulgarian-Soviet friendship which was pointed out as essential
for Bulgarians as “sun and air” for every living creature. Following this trend, the
book of the Russian and Soviet historian Nikolaj Deržavin “The tribal and cultural
connections between Bulgarian and Russian peoples” was published in 1945.
1945 the journal “Historical Review” started and for decades it would dictate the
official historiographical conceptions. The main task of the periodical was “to strug-
gle for the Slav union”.
Practice established the speeches of the leaders of the Bulgarian Worker’s
Party (Communists) such as Georgi Dimitrov (1882 1949), Vasil Kolarov (1877
1950), and later on Vălko Červenkov (1900 1989) who meanwhile came back
from their political emigration in the USSR) as to be taken by the historians as
official historiography guidelines. Vasil Kolarov became chairman of the newly
elected Parliament (in the end of 1945). In the same year he published in the jour-
Vol. 1/2013
nal “Historical Review” the article “The Bulgarian people in the fight for a new Bul-
garia” in which he gave some guidelines for the interpretation of Bulgarian history.
He pointed at the “eternal tradition of the Bulgarian-Russian friendship”, “the belief
in the liberating mission of Russia” “Grandfather Ivan” and “the heroism of Russians
and Bulgarians at Šipka”.
He quoted Deržavin about the eternal connections be-
tween Russians and Bulgarians. Furthermore, in the article he made a connection
between the victory of the Bulgarian Communist Party on the 9th of September 1944
and the “double liberating mission of the Russians”, emphasizing not only the state
continuity in the liberating mission of Russia but the blood relation between the
liberators of 1878 and 1944 as well as that the victorious Bulgarian people had en-
thusiastically met “the grandsons of its liberators from the Turkish yoke, his com-
rades and liberators from Hitler‘s yoke”.
Two years later, on the 70th anniversary of
the Russo-Ottoman War, again in “Historical review”, professor Jacques Nathan
(1902 1974), a political emigrant in the USSR, Soviet graduate, participant in the
communist movement in Bulgaria and later member of the Bulgarian Academy of
Science, in his article about the economic and social development of Bulgaria after
the liberation repeated the same motive. As an editor in chief of “Historical review”
since 1949 and Deputy Minister of Culture he proclaimed: “The great Russian peo-
ple became our double liberator. The first time, the Russian army liberated us from
the Turkish barbarism of the Sultans, the second time from the wild fascist regime
and Hitler’s yoke. As during the first liberation in the second liberation the Russian
army was met as brothers-liberators.”
In 1948, for the first time after the 9th of September 1944, the Russo-Ottoman
War was celebrated. It happened in a moment, remarkable for the future of Bulgar-
ia. The time of the limited political pluralism from 1944 1947 ended in the autumn
of 1947. The political opposition was destroyed, the oppositional press was forbid-
den. The Iron Curtain between the Eastern Bloc and the West had become reality.
On the occasion of the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Bulgar-
ia in 1948, Vasil Kolarov gave a speech “The liberation of Bulgaria from the Turkish
yoke” published in 10,000 copies.
Speaking about “the limitless gratitude to the
brother Russian people” he added “To this we add our double gratitude to the cou-
rageous Red Army, which by a thunder like invasion on the Balkans drove away the
German hordes from the Bulgarian land and gave the Bulgarian people the full pos-
sibility, to rise up against the fascist executioners, to take its destiny in strong
In his speech Vasil Kolarov defined the liberation as a “typical people’s
and the war itself as liberating and progressive. Quoting Lenin, he
pointed out that “a new era of a bourgeois-capitalist society came on the remains of
the old “military feudalism” of the Ottoman Empire”.
Vasil Kolarov related the war
to the present political situation: “If I comment this historical fact it is not because I
want to insult the Turkish people who I respect because they found their way to
liberate themselves from the forces of darkness, oppression and barbarity who had
captured them for centuries, but because at present we witness a rabid hate to the
Bulgarian people in the Turkish press”.
And later on: “We, the representatives of
the Bulgarian working class, of the Bulgarian laborious people, treated by the Turk-
ish press as bands of bandits after the First World War, we took the Turkish revolu-
tionaries who looked for a refuge under our protection and we warmly greeted the
Anastasiya Pashova et al.
Battles in the Past or Battles for the Past’…
victory of the Turkish national revolution which liberated the Turkish people from the
power of the foreign financial magnates and imperialists and their Turkish weap-
ons.” Vasil Kolarov who by that time was the foreign minister of Bulgaria, addressed
direct accusations to the Turkish ruling circles in Ankara: “To the dreamers from the
Bosporus and Ankara reminding in their fantasies the stupidity of the former
ʻDanube Vilayetʼ, I will quote a remarkable citation from Marx and Engels about the
Eastern Question written in 1853 ʻthe South Slavs were the only bearers of civiliza-
He was no less critical of the Bulgarian historians, who were stigmatized by
him as “pseudo-historians” because they emphasized the imperial goals of Russia
during the War. He underlined that “Russia, regardless of the goals of the Tsarist
government, acted revolutionary in respect to the decaying Ottoman Empire and
became an alley to the Balkan nations revolting against the Turkish yoke, while the
Western states made obstacles to the liberating war even in respect to the Greek
Vasil Kolarov drew several other parallels between the events of the Russo-
Ottoman War and the 9th of September: Both were revolutions against the Bulgarian
supporters of the foreign invaders wealthy people and “money-lenders” and both
were revolutions which made the turning back of the “wheel of history” impossible.
Finally Vasil Kolarov concluded: “Let’s became stronger the eternal Bulgarian-
Soviet friendship the legacy of our national revolution and support a free, inde-
pendent, strong and happy Bulgaria.”
In the next years the thesis about the double liberators motivated the title of
the monograph “Our double liberators”
published in 1950 by the famous author of
history manuals Ivanka Kepova (the daughter of the famous Bulgarian historian
Ivan Kepov
). The Liberation of 1878 was presented as a mission of “the great
Russian people”
, which continued until the 9th of September 1944 when “the Sovi-
et army brought liberation to the Bulgarian people from the German fascist yoke
and cleared the way for building socialism in Bulgaria.
When by the end of the
1950s the 80th anniversary of the end of the War was celebrated, the motive of the
double liberation continued to be well expressed in the publications.
“The liberation of the Bulgarian people from the heavy five century yoke was
a result of the victory of the Russian army in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877
1878. That way, this war turned into one of the brightest page in the history not only
of the Russian-Bulgarian friendship but of the new history of our people. 80 years
passed since the victorious ending of this war and the Bulgarian people did not stop
to celebrate and pay deserved respect and gratitude to the great Russian people for
the fact that crossing the Danube and Balkans on the peaks of their bayonets
brought our freedom paying the price of thousands victims. This gratitude became
even more honest when the Soviet army for a second time brought our liberation in
1944, this time from the fascist yoke”.
On the basis of the idea about ʻthe double liberationʼ, the film “Heroes of Šip-
ka” was elaborated to represent the common fight of Bulgarians and Russians in
the Russo-Ottoman War foreboding already in 1877 the future common historical
destiny and the second Russian help. To confirm that, at the end of the film a line of
Soviet tanks appeared and units of the Third Ukrainian Front presented flowers to
the Monument of Šipka.
Vol. 1/2013
After the political and ideological stabilization of the communist regime in the
1950s, efforts were made to strengthen its legitimacy. The most ambitious project in
that period was the elaboration of a history of the Bulgarians from the Neolithic to
communism in a “History of Bulgaria in many volumes”. The preparation for writing
it at the Institute of History of the Bulgarian Academy of Science started by the end
of the 1960s, after a political decision of the politburo of the Central Committee of
the Communist Party of Bulgaria.
The first volume was published at the climax of
the celebrations of the 1,300th anniversary of the Bulgarian state in 1981. In the 6th
volume (1987) a special part was devoted to the “Russo-Turkish War and the Liber-
ation of Bulgaria (1877 1878)” and elaborated by academic Hristo Hristov.
narrative about the war was basically structured on the model of the Soviet histori-
cal science
and basic researches of Bulgarian authors, published until the end of
the 1970s were those of representatives of a Marxist historiography.
That way it
confirmed the dominant interpretations as a part of the mainstream national narra-
tive. The myth about the ʻdouble liberatorsʼ found expression in monumental art,
museum policy, legislation and celebrations. This policy bound the historical places
of the liberating movement and the Russo-Ottoman War to the places of the com-
munist movement. The geographic proximity of Šipka to Buzludža, the place of the
first social democratic meeting in 1891 where the decision about founding of Social
Democratic Party in Bulgaria (whose left wing turned into the Communist Party in
1919), made the union of the two memory places into the museum complex “Šipka-
Buzludža” easy. In 1956 the historical places at Šipka Pass by a decision of the
Council of Ministers were proclaimed the ”national park-museum Šipka” which in
1964 was combined with the Buzludža National Park, which had been founded in
1959, to turn into the Šipka-Buzludža National Park-Museum.
A similar combination of the memory about events and figures of two distant
epochs happened in Batak. In the beginning of the 1960s the “memorial ensemble”
in memory of the victims of the April Uprising in 1876 and the slaughter of Batak
was united with the Ethnographic House and the new opened museum into a mu-
seum complex which had “scientific-educational aims of national importance” and
wanted to “educate in patriotism”. In the underground of the museum, a crypt with
the bones of the killed partisan guerilla fighters from Batak was built, resembling the
crypt with the remains of the killed victims of the April Uprising.
The most grandiose memorial to the Russo-Ottoman War was built in the
communist era the Pleven Panorama, also called “symbol-monument of the Bul-
garian-Soviet friendship”, whose proclaimed aim it was “to work for the education of
the Bulgarian people and the coming generations into the spirit of the eternal and
non-corruptible Bulgarian-Soviet friendship.
The Panorama Pleven epopee
1877” was erected on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the capture of Pleven
by the Russian army. It was built with considerable participation of Soviet specialists
following the Russian pattern of the Panorama in Moscow representing the battle
with Napoleon in Borodino in 1812. The Panorama silenced the participation of
many thousands of Romanian soldiers in the Pleven battle and the Finnish partici-
pation as well.
Anastasiya Pashova et al.
Battles in the Past or Battles for the Past’…
In 1977 1978, around the 100th anniversary of the Russo-Ottoman War, an
enormous quantity of publications was issued. One of the bibliography reviews
pointed out more than 1,000 titles (934 publications in Bulgaria and 186 foreign
Among them were history researches
, popular readings
and agitation
and propaganda materials
On this occasion in Sofia a grandiose scientific conference was organized by
the Bulgarian Academy of Science, the University of Sofia, the Bulgarian History
Union, the Ministry of Defense, the Peoples Committee for Bulgarian-Soviet
Friendship, the Union of the Scientific Workers in Bulgaria, and the Academy for
Social Sciences and Social Management.
These political activities happened parallel to the celebrations of the anniver-
sary. For the official jubilee meeting in Sofia during the spring of 1978, the whole
state apparatus was mobilized members of the Politburo of the Central Committee
of the Bulgarian Communist Party ahead with the first secretary Todor Živkov (1911
, members of the State Council, the Government, leaders of the National
Assembly, social-political organizations, Patriarchy, “prominent activists in science
and art”, leaders of the foreign delegations and others.
The speech of Todor Živ-
kov for the 100th anniversary Eternal glory and eternal gratitudewas published not
only in Bulgarian but in a lot of foreign languages also: Turkish, Russian, German
Romanian, Serbo-Croatian and others. The widest scale project for building memo-
rials to celebrate the 100th anniversary was the building and opening of the Pano-
rama Pleven Epopee 1877
The development of new communication technologies provided new possibili-
ties for memory policy. The wide memory campaign “People’s memory is telling,
initiated by the socialist state at the end of the 1970s, also had the potential to turn
the previously ideologically archived and edited memory into a staged communica-
tive event of spontaneous oral sharing of life experience of war veterans and their
heirs to the youngsters. The campaign also received wide media coverage by TV,
cinema newsreels, radio and press.
But the campaign didn’t give the alternative or
sectional memories of minorities a voice. The sectional narratives of minority groups
about the War were and still are fully marginalized and did not participate in the
national debate about the War. The women’s memory takes a peripheral place in
this debate: Out of 400 war monuments only two were devoted to women, both in
peripheral places.
From the 1960s onwards, with the advanced communicative technologies,
TV and cinema, the institutionalized historical memory of archives, museums and
libraries was powerfully articulated by the artistic forms of movies, documentaries
and newsreels. By the micro-politics of the aesthetic forms the distant and dusty
history could be revived into a self-experienced communicative event. For this con-
nection between memory and mass culture Alison Landsberg introduced the term
“Prosthetic Memory”.
She argues that this is a new kind of memory which creates
new memory communities and social cohesion.
After the democratic changes in 1989
The process of freeing science from ideology after the political changes in
1989, interpreted as rejecting Marxism-Leninism, often took the form of
Vol. 1/2013
ʻnationalizingʼ the historical knowledge in the new nationalist discourse. The conti-
nuity in the historical researches was expressed as a preservation of the nation as a
central object of research. It is expressed in the national point of view in historiog-
raphy interpretations but in the continuation of the descriptive tradition in the spirit of
positivism, the domination of the political history, distancing the historians from the-
ory. It can be seen in respect to the researches of the Russo-Ottoman War.
At the
same time the ʻpopularʼ historiography revived with well-expressed traditional na-
tionalistic orientation.
But with the appearance of a variety of historical visions
about society the academic science lost its monopoly on interpreting history. In the
condition of pluralism, nationalism was criticized from the position of liberalism and
postmodern theory. This criticism in certain extent turned into a new ʻsocial orderʼ
stimulated by the process of European integration and globalization.
After 1989, specialists of Ottoman Studies such as Vera Mutafčieva, Cvetana
Georgieva and other historians critically re-examined the founding postulates of the
Bulgarian cultural memory about “five centuries of Turkish yoke” and “violent islam i-
zation” providing scientific evidence for more correct historical terms of “Ottoman
domination” which, although opposed by the wide public, influenced the critical re-
searches of many scholars. Ivan Ilchev started the discussion about “San Stefano
Bulgaria” being one of the main tropes of the Bulgarian national narrative.
Under the influence of Western constructivism and theories of modern na-
tionalism (Benedict Anderson, Ernest Gellner, Anthony Smith and others), critical
attempts were made to deconstruct the founding “national myths” and the dominant
nationalist policy of memory culture. Maria Todorova published the book “The living
archive of Vasil Levski”, Evgenia Ivanova “Inventing memory and forgetfulness”,
Albena Hranova “Historiography and Literature. About the social construction of
historical concepts and Grand Narratives in the Bulgarian Culture XIXth XXth Cen-
, and Nikolaj Aretov The first Joy for me. The emotional content of the Bul-
garian National Identity: Historical Roots and Modern Dimensions”
Ivan Ilchev defined San Stefano Bulgaria as a “political myth and sacred cow
of Bulgarian patriotism”.
He questioned the correctness of the Bulgarian territorial
claims based on the borders mapped out in San Stefano.
His arguments were that
up to 1878 there was no Bulgarian national program to specify the aims of the terri-
torial unification aside the general formulation about the liberation of Thrace, Mace-
donia and Mizia; that the decisions of the Constantinople Conference (1876), where
the ambassadors of the Great powers suggested two autonomous regions including
the ethnic teritories of the Bulgarians, were the result of a short term policy reflect-
ing the interests of the European powers; that the eparchies in Macedonia, included
in the borders of the Bulgarian Exarchate at the eve of the Russo-Ottoman War
(1877 1878) were questioned by neighboring country states and other Orthodox
churches; that in the most of those territories of San Stefano Bulgaria, which were
taken from the Bulgarian state at the Congress of Berlin, lived a mixed population in
ethnic and religious respect; that until 1878 a considerable part of the Bulgarian
speaking population lacked national consciousness and respectively religious and
local identities prevailed; and that the Bulgarians lacked in essence a common na-
tional market taking into account that the commerce in Macedonia was directed
mainly to the South and North (following the valleys of the rivers Vardar and Mora-
Anastasiya Pashova et al.
Battles in the Past or Battles for the Past’…
va) and the commerce in Mizia and Thrace was directed mainly to the imperial capi-
tal and on the river Danube.
The author openly pointed out the negatives of mythologizing San Stefano
Bulgaria: After the revision of the borders in Berlin, the Bulgarian society was in
doubt about whether it should be grateful or hostile to Europe (Great Powers) and it
was trapped between the notion of the Bulgarians as victims and the expectation of
a miracle to fulfill the ʻidealʼ San Stefano Bulgaria; Bulgarian diplomacy was not
flexible enough and lacked a policy of compromise in the efforts to solve the nation-
al question since any retreat from the San Stefano borders was evaluated as a
national betrayal; the possibilities for a mutual understanding between Bulgaria and
the Balkan countries worsened and preconditions for a united front against Bulgaria
developed because of the fact that the Bulgarian borders of San Stefano contra-
dicted the national programs of the neighbors.
According to Plamen Cvetkov the treaty of San Stefano was not a juridical
end to the War of 1877 1878 since it was temporary and preliminary. The battle
actions of war are usually seized by an armistice in our case this is the armistice
signed in Odrin/Edirne on the 19th of January 1878. The treaty which from a juridical
point of view fixed the results of the War of 1877 1878 was the Treaty of Berlin.
Not San Stefano but the Treaty of Berlin changed the right of internal autonomy
which the Bulgarians had until then by an international guaranteed, nevertheless
limited sovereignty which saved Bulgaria from Russian power. The Congress of
Berlin did not partition Bulgaria into five parts but only confirmed this partition which
was agreed upon preliminarily by Russia and Great Britain. That way Russia was
guilty for the national disunity of the Bulgarians. But there are historians who, never-
theless they are not sharing the communist dogmas, are convinced that myths like
San Stefano are consolidating the nation. Plamen Cvetkov, emphasizing “the impe-
rial ambitions of Russia on the Balkans”, considered the Treaty as “one of the most
durable manipulations of the historical memory of the Bulgarians since it was a
treaty for termless occupation of Bulgaria by Russia”. According to him, the date of
the reunion of Eastern Rumelia to the Kingdom of Bulgaria on the 6th of September
1885 is the most appropriate date for a National Day.
In the Bulgarian school literature a common cultural discourse about the War
was agreed upon, elaborated and imposed as a dominant discourse to form and
sustain the official collective identity of the citizens. After the democratic changes,
under the influence of the generation of foreign historians liberal critical researchers
of the content of the school text books in history and literature initiated to analyze
what types of cultural memory and identity they form.
In their analysis of the text books in history from the national revival of the
19th century to the Communist takeover in 1944, Nadja Danova
and Borjana Pa-
pointed out that up to the 9th of September 1944 the history is a main
source of the national self-esteem. The main task of the school is to teach the
young Bulgarians a spirit of patriotism and loyalty to the national ideal. On the other
side the search of an enemy is always directed outside of the own country and at
the neighboring countries. Since the cultural knowledge is usually structured of
clear cut dichotomies, by that time the main dichotomy was ʻWeʼ, the heroic Bulgar-
Vol. 1/2013
ians, and ʻTheyʼ, our neighboring war enemies such as Turks, Greeks and Serbi-
ans. The analysis of the history text book for the period of the state socialism done
by Nadja Danova and Borjana Panajotova revealed a substantial change in the
orientation of knowledge. After the 9th of September the main task of the school
literature to teach loyalty to the Communist Party, the historical past was not con-
sidered as a source of national pride anymore but as a prove for the struggle of the
classes. The enemy is searched among ʻUsʼ – medieval boyars, wealthy people
(çorbacı) of Ottoman time, capitalists. The main dichotomy of the new cultural
knowledge became ʻWeʼ, the common exploited people of all countries, and ʻTheyʼ,
the ruling class exploiters. The school history is related from the point of view of the
common Bulgarian people, who were in endless conflict with their masters repre-
senting the Bulgarian state. The disruption people-state is unavoidable. If the main
trope of the school history discourse before 1944 was San Stefano Bulgaria, after
1944 the ʻdouble liberatorʼ, common people of Russia and later the Soviets, played
such a role.
Historical memory turned into cultural memory. Memory conflicts
and wars
As Aleida Assmann
pointed out, race, class and gender have different ac-
cess to the power of articulating a grand narrative as a coherent, homogeneous
memory, it always being concentrated on the idealized figure of a male soldier,
thereby forcing women at the periphery of memory. In the case of the Russo-
Ottoman War such idealized figures were that of the Russian soldier and the Bul-
garian volunteer.
Theoretical models of explaining the construction of modern national memory
culture and policy were elaborated by scholars outside of the professional guild of
historians anthropologists, sociologists, specialists in cultural studies. All of them
based their research on the theories on Maurice Halbwachs, Jan Assmann, Aleida
Assmann, Pierre Nora and Paul Ricœur about collective memory, interaction of
historical and cultural memory to relativize and revise the dominant historical narra-
tive which developed after the Russo-Ottoman War and was edited ideologically
during the communist regime.
Evgenia Ivanova developed a theoretical framework for researching the poli-
cies of the national memory comparing two grand national narratives the Bulgari-
an and Serbian narratives. She outlined two kinds of memory heroic and traumat-
ic, considering traumatic memory as more dangerous since it breeds revision and
In the framework of traumatic memory she differentiated two types a
martyr type of the self-sacrifice in the name of a superior value and a victimization
type of the passive objects of violence. Problematic for us is the equalization of the
martyr self-sacrifice only with trauma since it has aspects of personal heroism. Ac-
cording to the author, the Bulgarian national narrative did not contain an in detail
elaborated discourse about the conquering of the Bulgarian Kingdom by the Otto-
mans like the Kosovo myth for Serbians does, which might be the case because
“the struggle for independence from the Patriarchate of Constantinople, which end-
ed with the proclamation of the Bulgarian Exarchate (1870) and the following
Anastasiya Pashova et al.
Battles in the Past or Battles for the Past’…
schism (1872), became the center of imagining the Bulgarian nation”. The essential
difference between the Bulgarian and the Serbian narratives is that the Serbian
narrative is oriented towards the trauma of the defeat at Kosovo while the Bulgarian
one is oriented towards the heroic myth of Šipka and the Liberating War. E. Ivanova
gives an account of the ambiguity and overlapping of the traumatic and heroic as-
pects but in the Serbian case the traumatic prevails over the heroic, while in the
Bulgarian case the heroic prevails. According to her, Batak, where half of the popu-
lation was massacred during the April Uprising of 1876, has the potential of turning
into a traumatic myth but since in the case of Batak the passive victimization pre-
vails over the self-sacrifice it is forced to the periphery of the dominating heroic
Ivanova and Kelbecheva in their inquiry into the most important places,
events and figures of memory for the Bulgarians tested both the prevailing of a
heroic memory and the degree of the fragmentation of the grand national narra-
The inquiry had to answer to three main questions: Does a coherent and
dominant narrative that founded and institutionalized as it is the case with the for-
mation of the Bulgarian nation still exist? Did any sectional narratives develop to
articulate marginalized memories of minorities and other groups? Does the past rest
in memory institutions museums, archives, libraries, conferences as a historical
memory or does it have a communicative power in the present? As it was men-
tioned above, their inquiry pointed out that “Šipka”, “Vasil Levski” and the “Libera-
tion” are still the main tropes of the national narrative. The main agent of memory is
still the institution of school promoting literary and history canons. The knowledge of
the past differs from the cultural memory of the past. They explained the results with
the fact that “the modern Bulgarian history memory is not founded on the modern
historiography and the achievements of science but on the consciousness of the
Bulgarians folklore beliefs about the heroic struggle between the power of good and
the power of evil (Bulgarians and Turks) and the happy deliverance from the slavery
with the help of Russia, which are deeply engraved in society”.
The Batak Scandal in 2007
posed urgent questions to the Bulgarian re-
searchers of memory policies. The scandal was provoked by a joint project of the
Bulgarian scholar Martina Baleva and Austrian and German scholar Ulf Brunnbau-
, who were researching on the discrepancies between the facts of the historical
past and the cultural memory. The authors were blamed to reject the slaughter of
Batak and desecrating this “holy place of memory”. In fact the authors aimed at
proving that the slaughter was a result of a local social conflict and not a political
punishment for the participation in the April Uprising. They critically examined also
the aesthetic forms of interpretation of the event which became essential for the
ways of commemorating it. The scandal attained an international significance since
it was financed by a German foundation. Since the time of the scandal was just
before the affiliation of Bulgaria to the EU, according to Ivanova it was an expres-
sion of the popular fear of losing its national identity. Representatives of the Acad-
emy of Science, the University of Sofia, Presidency and nationalist parties accused
the scholars of incompetence and national betrayal. Blagovest Njagulov
ered the case with the “myth of Batak” in 2007 as a demonstration of how a tragic
historical fact which had acquired the mythic dimension of a national trauma could
Vol. 1/2013
provoke conflicting meanings and social tension to be appropriated as an instru-
ment of political propaganda.
The author tried to deconstruct the other “central
myth” of Bulgarian nationalism – San Stefano Bulgaria (1878), popularly considered
as an unrealized perspective for the unification of the Bulgarians in their “ethnic
boundaries”. After the revision of the Treaty of San Stefano at the Congress of Ber-
lin, many of the temporarily acknowledged territories stayed parts of the neighboring
countries. According to the author San Stefano Bulgaria breads mythologized no-
tions of lost but as national aspirations preserved territories Bulgarian Macedonia.
In June 2004 the Committee for restoration of the soldier monuments in Bul-
garia made a proposal for installing a plaque commemorating the killed Ottoman
soldiers from the army of Süleyman Paşa (1838 – 1892) in the Battle of Šipka Pass
in 1877. The idea was opposed massively in the press and in internet forums and
the proposal was withdrawn. The Bulgarian society was not prepared to allow offi-
cial articulation of an alternative memory to the war.
Most of the modern Bulgarian historians did not question the date of the 3rd of
March as a symbol of the “rebirth of the Third Bulgarian state”. According to Stoyan
Raychevski the treaty is not a myth but “a real fact and synonym of the Bulgarian
national ideal which was unfinished, sold, betrayed and defeated”
The cultural memory, according to Assmann, spans to the past as far as this
past can be recognized as ʻOurʼ. This historical consciousness he calls ʻmemoryʼ
which is deferent for the knowledge of the past since this consciousness of ʻUsʼ is
the core of our identity. To belong you have to remember! Most of the people con-
sider this type of memory as an orientation knowledge which serves as connection
and solidarity. If the memory narrative disintegrates the relations between people in
the society risk uncertainty and isolation since this narrative provides orientation
points and an order of emotional, spiritual and cultural connections to sustain the
society. The orientation knowledge
does not need scientific approbation since
people believe it is true, and often it is represented with religious and quasi-religious
terms. This is the reason any scientific criticism of the cultural knowledge is op-
posed by society, which fears disintegration and a loss of identity. In order to de-
construct ʻthe myths of the pastʼ, we have to be cautious to provide new perspec-
tives of commemoration and identity.
Timothy Ashplant, Graham Dawson, Michael Roper (eds.), Commemorating War, London,
The term “Russo-Turkish War” is used in historiography as well as in public discourse in
Evgenia Ivanova and Evelina Kelbecheva, Consensuses of the Bulgarian Historical
Memory, Balkanistic Forum, 2011/3, 203-221.
Иван Христов, Руските паметници в България, издигнати в памет на загиналите по
време на Освободителната война /1877 1878 г./ [The Russian monuments erected in
memory to the fallen soldiers during the Liberation War 1877 1878], Известия на държав-
ните архиви, София, 1981, 42, 59.
Храм-паметник у подножия Балкан [A church-monument at the foot of the Balkans],
Санкт-Петербург, Военний сборник, 1902, 6, 15.
Anastasiya Pashova et al.
Battles in the Past or Battles for the Past’…
Claudia Weber, Auf der Suche nach der Nation. Erinnerungskultur in Bulgarien von 1878
1944 [In search of the nation. Memory culture in Bulgaria from 1878 1944], Berlin, 2006.
Евелина Келбечева: Минало несвършващо [The Past continues], София, 2011.
Amy Papalexandrou, The memory culture of Byzantium. In: Liz James (еd.), A companion
to Byzantium, 2010, 108-122.
Румяна Радкова, Храм-паметник “Св. Александър Невски” [The church-monument “Sv.
Aleksandăr Nevski”], София, 1999; Олга Решетникова, Руската църква в София [The
Russian Church in Sofia], София, 2010.
Радкова, Храм-паметник, 10.
Сборник военных рассказов, составленных офицерами-участниками войны 1877
1878 гг. [Collection of military stories of officer-participants in the War of 1877 1878], 6,
Санкт-Петербург, 1879.
Радко Димитриев, Боевете и операциите около Шипка във войната 1877 1878 годи-
ни [The struggles and the military operations around Šipka in the War of 1877 1878], III-IV,
София, 1902.
Кирил Янчулев, Руско-турската война 1877 1878 г. [The Russo-Turkish War 1877
1878], В. Търново, 1931, второ издание 1941.
Cf. Галина Гончарова, „Поколения, поколенчески дискурси и колективни времена.
Употреби на генерационните деления в България през втората половина на XIX и на-
чалото на XX век” [„Generations, generational discourses and collective times. The uses of
the generational divisions in Bulgaria in the second half of the 19th and the beginning of the
20th century”], Дисертация за присъждане на образователната и научна степен „доктор”,
СУ „Св. Климент Охридски“, 2011.
Янчулев, Война, 14, 3.
Стоян Заимов, Светите места на признателна България [The holy places of grateful
Bulgaria], София, 1912.
In a touristic guide from the 1930s several hotel named “Car Osvoboditel” were advertised.
See for example the advertisements about the Hotel and Restaurants named “Car Osvobodi-
tel” in the touristic guide “Vodač za Bulgaria”, second edition, Sofia, 1938: in Pleven: “Hotel
“Car Osvoboditel…running hot and cold water in every room, local and European kitchen” (p.
182), hotel “Car Osvoboditel” Stara Zagora “excellent restaurant” (p. 150), Restaurant
“Car Osvoboditel” – health resort Văršec (p. 37).
Андрей Кострюков, Жизнеописание на архиепископ Серафим (Соболев) [The biog-
raphy of the Bishop Serafim (Sobolev)], София, 2011.
Сборник „Прослава на освободителната война 1877/1878. Руско-български сборник”
[“Glorification of the Liberation war 1877/1878. Russo-Bulgarian collection”], София, 1929.
Cf. Тодор Икономов, Протоколите на Берлинския конгрес [The protocols of the
Congress of Berlin], София, 1885; Симеон Радев, Строителите на съвременна България
[The builders of contemporary Bulgaria], 1, София, 1911, 1990.
Кирил, патриарх български. Съпротивата срещу Берлинския договор. Кресненското
въстание. [The resistance against the Berlin treaty. The Kresna uprising.], София, 1955;
Дойно Дойнов, Кресненско-Разложкото въстание 1878 – 1879 [The Kresna-Razlog upris-
ing 1878 1879], София, 1979; Кресненско-Разложкото въстание и помощта на населе-
нието от освободените територии Кресненско-Разложкото въстание 1878 [The Kresna-
Razlog uprising and the help from the population of the liberated territories], София, 1970,
51-70; Христо Христов, Българската национална революция и Кресненско-Разложкото
въстание [The Bulgarian national revolution and the Kresna-Razlog uprising], В: Кресненс-
ко-Разложкото въстание 1878, София, 1970, 17-28.
Vol. 1/2013
Иван Гешов, Спомени из години на борби и победи [Memories about the years of
struggles and victories], София, 1916; Павел А. Матвеев, Болгария после Берлинского
конгресса [Bulgaria after the Congress of Berlin], Санкт-Петербург, 1887; Вогдан Кесяков,
Принос към дипломатическата история на България. 1870 1925 [A contribution to the
diplomatic history of Bulgaria], София, 1925; Георги П. Генов, Източният въпрос [The
Eastern Question], II, София, 1926; Кръстьо Крачунов, Разлом на Сан-Стефанска Бъл-
гария [The parceling out of the San Stefano Bulgaria], София, 1930, 10, 64-86.
История на България [History of Bulgaria], 7, София, 1991, 44.
Константин Косев, Зад кулисите на Берлинския конгрес и родилните мъки на Третата
българска държава [Behind the curtains of the Congress of Berlin and the birth pains of the
third Bulgarian state], София, 2008.
Константин Косев, Санстефанският мир: зад кулисите на дипломацията [The San
Stefano myth: Behind the curtains of diplomacy], Историческо бъдеще, 2, 1997, 21-28.
Николай Севстьянович Державин, Племенни и културни връзки между българския и
руския народ [Tribal and cultural connections between the Bulgarian and the Russian peo-
ple], София, 1945.
Васил Коларов, Българският народ в борбата му за нова България [The Bulgarian
people in the struggle for a new Bulgaria], Исторически преглед, 4, 1945, 253-284.
Жак Натан, Икономическото и социално развитие на България като резултат от Ос-
вобождението /1877 1878 г./ [The Bulgarian economic and social development as a result
of the Liberation 1877 1878], Исторически преглед, 4, 1947 1948, 4 и 5, 439-456.
Освобождението на България от турското робство. Реч на подпредседателя на Ми-
нистерския съвет и министър на външните работи Васил Коларов на тържественото
събрание, устроено на 3 март 1948 г. в столичния театър “Република” по случай 70
години от сключването на Сан-Стефанския договор [The Bulgarian Liberation from the
Turkish slavery. A speech of the Deputy President of the Bulgarian Parliament and Foreign
Affairs Minister Vasil Kolarov at the celebration meeting on 3th of March 1948 in the capital
theater “Republika” on the occasion of the 70 years of the San-Stefano treaty], София, 1948.
Ibid., 4.
Ibid., 5.
Ibid., 6.
Ibid., 7-8.
Ibid., 11-12.
Ibid., 22.
Ивана Кепова, Нашите двойни освободители [Our double liberators], София, 1950. It
was not her first book on this topic. She published a popular book “The Bulgarian liberation”
at the beginning of the 1930s. See Ивана Кепова, Освобождението на България. С 21
картини и образи [The Bulgarian Liberation with 21 pictures and images], София, 1932.
Cf. Кепова, Освобождението, 39, 31-32.
Кепова, Освободители, 39, 7.
Ibid., 25.
Анчо Анчев, Освободителната война през погледа на съвременници [The Liberation
War from the point of view of the contemporaries], София, 1958, 3.
ЦДА, ф. 1 б, оп. 35, а.е. 199, л. 1, 16-27 [Central State Archive (CSA)].
История на България [History of Bulgaria], 6, София, 1987, 431-446.
Николай Беляев, Руско-турецкая война [Russо-Turkish War], Москва, 1956; Виктор И.
Виноградов, Руско-турецкая война 1877 1878 гг. и освобождение Болгарии [Russо-
Turkish War 1877 1878 and the liberation of Bulgaria], Москва, 1978; Восточный вопрос
Anastasiya Pashova et al.
Battles in the Past or Battles for the Past’…
во внешней политике России, конец 17 начало 20 в. [Eastern question in the foreign
policy of Russia by the end of 17th and the beginning of the 20th century], Москва, 1978;
Василий Д. Конобеев, Бойната дружба между руси и българи през Освобождителната
война [The battling friendship between Russians and Bulgarians during the Liberating war],
София, 1957; Освобождение Болгарии от турецкого ига [The liberation of Bulgaria from
the Turkish yoke], Москва, 1961; Акоп А. Улунян, Болгарский народ и Руско-турецкая
война 1877 1878 гг. [The Bulgarian people and the Russo-Turkish War 1877 1878],
Москва, 1971; Павел К. Фортунатов, Война 1877 1878 и освобождение Болгарии
[The War 1877 1878 and the liberation of Bulgaria], Москва, 1950.
Лилияна Венкова-Илиева; Стефан Шанов (съст.), Руско-турската война 1877 1878 и
Освобождението на България. Библиография [The Russо-Turkish War 1877 1878 and
the liberation of Bulgaria. Bibliography], София, 1978; Георги Георгиев; Владимир Топа-
лов, Кратка история на Освободителната война 1877 1878 [A short story of the liberat-
ing war 1877 1878] София, 1958; Цонко Генов, Освободителната война 1877 1878
[The liberating war 1877 1878], София, 1978; Цонко Генов, По бойния път на освободи-
телите [On the battling path of the liberators], София, 1976; Цонко Генов, Така изгря сво-
бодата [This way the liberation arose], София, 1953; Стефан Дойнов, Българската об-
щественост и Руско-турската освободителна война (1877 1878) [The Bulgarian society
and the Russo-Turkish liberating war 1877 1878], София, 1978; Константин Косев, Бис-
марк, Източният въпрос и Българското освобождение 1856 1878 г. [Bismarck, the
Eastern question and the Bulgarian liberation 1856 1878], София, 1978; Христо Христов,
Освобождението на България и политиката на западните държави 1876 1878 [The
Liberation of Bulgaria and the policy of the Western countries 1876 1878], София, 1968 и
Мария Захариева, Статут на храма през годините. В: Сборник “Храм-паметник Рож-
дество Христово” край София” [The statute of the church during the years. In: Collection
“The church monument Christmas” around Sofia], София, 2002, 103-116.
ЦДА, Ф. 1Б, Оп. 6, а.е. 6431, л. 4. [CSA].
Михаил Лазаров; Мария Матакиева, Руско-турска освободителна война 1877 1878.
Историко-библиoграфски обзор. Литература 1977 1978 [The Russian-Turkish liberating
war 1877 1878. Historical-bibliographical overview. Literature 1977 1978], София, 1981.
Лилияна Венкова-Илиева; Стефан Шанов (съст.), 47; Сборник на БАН - Руско-
турската война от 1877 1878 година и Освобождението на България. Сборник статии
[Russо-Turkish War 1877 1878 and the liberation of Bulgaria. Collection of papers], 1.
София, 1977; Николай Генчев, Българското общество в навечерието на Освобождени-
ето [The Bulgarian society on the eve of Liberation], 1978, 1, 66-72; Стефан Дойнов, Бъл-
гарското национално-освободително движение в навечерието и по време на войната
1877 1878 [The Bulgarian national-liberation movement on the eve and during the war
1877 1878], 2, 118-131; Виргиния Паскалева, Българската възрожденска буржоазия и
Освобождението [Bulgarian Revival bourgeoisie and the Liberation], 1977, 5-6, 68-88;
Веселин Хаджиниколов (ред.), Освобождението на България и руската общественост
[The Liberation of Bulgaria and the Russian society], София, 1977 и др.
Тихомир Тихов (съст.), Избавлението 1878. Руско-турската освободителна война в
спомени и очерци на българи-очевидци [Deliverance 1878. The Russo-Turkish War in
memoirs and essays of Bulgarian witnesses], София, 1978; Гарабед Гарабедов (ред.), От
Самара до Шипка. По стъпките на освободителите бълг. опълченци. Репортажи и
очерци на журналисти от в. Земеделско знаме [From Samara to Šipka. On the steps of
the liberators. Reports and essays of journalists of Zemedelsko zname], София, 1978. и
Vol. 1/2013
Аврам Аврамов; Никола Попов; Николай Тодоров, Сто години от Руско-турската ос-
вободителна война 1877 1878. Сб. Статии [Hundred years of the Russian-Turkish war
1877 1878. Collection of papers], София, 1977.
Cf. Тодор Живков, Безсмъртен символ на великата дружба между българския и рус-
кия народ. Реч на всенародните тържества на връх Столетов по случай 80-
годишнината на Шипченските боеве. 25 август 1957 [The eternal symbol of the great
friendship between the Bulgarian and Russian peoples. A speech delivered on the occasion
of the 80th anniversary of the Šipka fights. August 25 1957] В: Живков, Тодор, Избрани
съчинения, 3, София, 1975, 181-195; Тодор Живков, Славата на Шипка ще живее във
вековете. Реч на всенародния митинг на връх Столетов по случай 90-годишнината на
Шипченската епопея и 50-годишнината от ВОСР [The glory of Šipka will last for eternity. A
speech delivered on all-people meeting at the peak Stoletov on the occasion of the 90th anni-
versary of the Šipka epopee and the 50th anniversary of the Great October Revolution] В:
Живков, Тодор, Избрани съчинения, 14, София, 1976, 223-239.
Матакиева; Лазаров, Война, 50, 3-4.
Cf. Todor Živkov, Ewiger Ruhm und Ewiger Dank, София, 1978.
Милена Ангелова, (Не)споделената памет на късния социализъм: движението “На-
родната памет разказва (1983 1989) [(Non)shared memory of the late socialism: the
movement Peoples memory is telling” (1983 – 1989)], София, 2010.
Alison Landsberg, Prosthetic Memory: The transformation of American Remembrance in
the Age of Mass Culture, New York, 2004.
Cf. Константин Косев; Стефан Дойнов, Освобождението 1877 1878 [The Liberation
1877 1878], София, 2003; Стефан Дойнов, Възкресението. Монография за Освободи-
телната война 1877 1878 г. [The resurrection. A monograph on the Liberating war], Со-
фия, 1997; Пламен Митев, Историографски проблеми на Руско-
турската освободителна война 1877 1878 г. [Historiography problems of the Russo-
Turkish War 1877 1878], Известия на Исторически музей, Перник. І, 2005, 24-32;
Константин Косев; Стефан Дойнов, От Шипка и Плевен до Сан Стефано и Берлин
[From Šipka and Pleven to San Stefano and Berlin] София, 2007.
Cf. Божидар Димитров, Истинската история на Освобождението 1860 1878 [The true
history of the Liberation 1860 1878], София, 2006.
Албена Хранова, Историография и литература. За социалното конструиране на ис-
торически понятия и Големи разкази в българската култура XIX XX век, 1, Литерату-
ра. Историография. Социология: теории, кризи, казуси; 2, Животът на три понятия в
българската култура: възраждане. Средновековие. Робство [Historiography and litera-
ture. About the social construction of the history concepts and Master narratives in the Bul-
garian culture of the 19th 20th century: Literature. Historiography. Sociology theories,
crisis, cases (vol.1); The existence of three concepts in the Bulgarian culture: Revival, Medi-
eval age, Slavery (vol. 2)], София, 2011.
Николай Аретов (съст.), Първа радост е за мене. Емоционалното съдържание на
българската национална идентичност: исотрически корени и съвременни измерения [It
is a first joy for me. The emotional content of the Bulgarian national identity: historical roots
and contemporary dimensions], София, 2012.
Иван Илчев, Митът за Санстефанска България като “свещена крава” за българския
патриотизъм [The myth of the San Stefano Bulgaria as a holy cowof the Bulgarian patriot-
ism], История, София, 1995, 5, 55-60.
Anastasiya Pashova et al.
Battles in the Past or Battles for the Past’…
Пламен Цветков, Санстефанският мит [San Stefano myth], Про и анти, София, 9
(892), 6. 12.03.2009.
Надя Данова, Образът на „другия” в българските учебници през Възраждането. В:
Връзки на съвместимост и несъвместиност между християни и мюсюлмани в България
[The image of the otherin the Bulgarian textbooks during the Revival. In: Connections of
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години на 20 в. В: Връзки на съвместимост и несъвместиност меджу християни и мю-
сюлмани в България [The images of the othersin the history textbooks during the 1920s
1950s. In: Connections of compatibility and incompatibility of Christians and Muslims in Bul-
garia], София, 1994, 239.
Алеида Асман, Места на памет. Между триумфа и травмата [The places of memory.
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памет и конструиране на настоящето, София, 2004.
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ледния владетел” в националната памет на сърби и българи [Inventing memory and
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Мартина Балева; Улф Брунбауер (съст.), Батак като място на паметта / Batak. Ein
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Даниела Колева; Костадин Грозев (съст.), История, митология, политика [History,
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Cf. Балева; Брунбауер (съст.). Батак,74; The same, Историята – наука или политичес-
ка пропаганда [History science or political propaganda], Култура, 18 (2457), 8.05.2007;
Илия Тодев, Баташкото клане – мит или история [Batak slaughter myth or history].
Стоян Райчевски, Сан Стефано не е мит [San Stefano is not a myth], Про и анти,
София, 10 (893), 13. 19.03 2009.
Peter Meusburger; Michael Heffernan; Edgar Wunder (eds.), Cultural Memories. The
Geographical Point of View, Dordrecht et al., 2011.
... This representation is cultivated in the literature, in historical movies as well as in history school books (Todorova, 2004), thereby maintaining the sense of victimhood and legitimizing negative stances towards Bulgarian Turks (Bar-Tal et al., 2009; see also Reicher & Hopkins, 2001 for the building of national identity). Attempts to deflate national myths or to include alternative minority representations of victimhood have been met with fierce criticism, advocates of such views being often portrayed as national traitors (see Pashova et al., 2013). ...
... However, some interviewees commented on this change of narrative contesting the supposed rewriting of history. For them, the new terminology does not accurately portray the events-it does not fit the narrative of nationbuilding victimhood-thereby suggesting that the shared representation of history is not without controversy (Pashova et al., 2013;Liu & Hilton, 2005). ...
This paper examines how temporally differentiated representations of ingroup victimhood and acknowledgment of outgroup suffering relate to present intergroup attitudes. A mixed-methods research was conducted in Bulgaria where both the ethnic majority and the Bulgarian Turkish minority can be viewed as victims and perpetrators in the past. Multigroup path models (Study 1) revealed that for the majority (N=192) collective victimhood was positively related to social distance through reduced forgiveness and through reduced collective guilt for a different historical era. Acknowledgment of outgroup suffering, in turn, was associated with reduced social distance through heightened guilt and through forgiveness for another era. Among the Bulgarian Turks (N=160), the result pattern differed. Collective victimhood was unrelated to forgiveness. Moreover, the relationship between guilt and social distance was positive. Semi-directive interviews (Study 2) revealed different meanings attributed to the events by the two groups. The impact of intertwined historical representations on current-day prejudice is discussed in light of power asymmetry between groups.
Full-text available
Artykuł przedstawia studium przypadku radzieckich pomników w Bułgarii jako źródła niedających się pogodzić podziałów społecznych. Krótki przegląd historii pomników oraz dyskusji po 1989 roku na temat ich ewentualnego demontażu prowadzą do wniosku, że (1) w trzeciej dekadzie XXI wieku nadal dzielą one społeczeństwo, co powoduje, że ich rola jako lieux de mémoire nadal nie jest możliwa; (2) argumenty „za” i „przeciw” pomnikom, wyrażone w latach 90., pozostają niezmienne; (3) koncentracja uwagi publicznej na pomniku w Sofii prowadzi do zapomnienia o innych podobnych pomnikach w kraju; (4) Ustawa uznająca reżim komunistyczny za zbrodniczy i inne akty państwowe nie mają wpływu na istnienie pomników, a jedynie nasilają ambiwalentne sygnały, jakie państwo wysyła swoim międzynarodowym partnerom. Autor artykułu dochodzi ostatecznie do wniosku, że dziś pomniki Armii Radzieckiej są nie tyle bodźcem do zrozumienia zbiorowych traum, ile impulsem do analizy bułgarskiej rusofilii. The Monuments of the Soviet Army in Bulgaria as an Instrument in the National Debate on Historical Memory and Oblivion The article presents the case study of the Soviet Army monuments in Bulgaria as a source of irreconcilable social division. A brief overview of the history of these monu ments and the discussions on the possibility of their dismantling allow to conclude that (1) in the third decade of the 21st century the monuments’ function as lieux de mémoire remains impossible due to their divisive nature; (2) the arguments for and against the monuments expressed in the 1990s remain unchanged; (3) the concentration of public attention on the Sofia memorial leads to the neglection of other similar monuments in the country; (4) The Law on Declaring the Criminal Nature of the Communist Regime in Bulgaria (2000) and other state acts do not affect the existence of these monuments, but only reinforce the ambivalent signals that the southern European state sends to its international partners. The author’s final conclusion is that the monuments of the Soviet Army today are not so much an incentive to comprehend collective traumas, but an impetus for analysing Bulgarian Russophilia.
Categories of MemoryEnvisioning MemoryCommunicating MemoryBodily RemindersPractical Tools of Memory and the Fight against TimeFurther Reading
Consensuses of the Bulgarian Historical Memory, Balkanistic Forum
  • Evgenia Ivanova
  • Evelina Kelbecheva
Evgenia Ivanova and Evelina Kelbecheva, Consensuses of the Bulgarian Historical Memory, Balkanistic Forum, 2011/3, 203-221.
Руските паметници в България, издигнати в памет на загиналите по време на Освободителната война /1877 -1878 г./ [The Russian monuments erected in memory to the fallen soldiers during the Liberation War 1877 -1878
  • Иван Христов
Иван Христов, Руските паметници в България, издигнати в памет на загиналите по време на Освободителната война /1877 -1878 г./ [The Russian monuments erected in memory to the fallen soldiers during the Liberation War 1877 -1878], Известия на държавните архиви, София, 1981, 42, 59.
A church-monument at the foot of the Balkans
  • Храм-Паметник У Подножия Балкан
Храм-паметник у подножия Балкан [A church-monument at the foot of the Balkans], Санкт-Петербург, Военний сборник, 1902, 6, 15.
Auf der Suche nach der Nation Erinnerungskultur in Bulgarien von 1878 – 1944 [In search of the nation. Memory culture in Bulgaria from 1878
  • Claudia Weber
Claudia Weber, Auf der Suche nach der Nation. Erinnerungskultur in Bulgarien von 1878 – 1944 [In search of the nation. Memory culture in Bulgaria from 1878 – 1944], Berlin, 2006. 7 Ibid.
Храм-паметник "Св. Александър Невски" [The church-monument "Sv
  • Румяна Радкова
Румяна Радкова, Храм-паметник "Св. Александър Невски" [The church-monument "Sv.
Поколения, поколенчески дискурси и колективни времена
  • Галина Гончарова
Галина Гончарова, " Поколения, поколенчески дискурси и колективни времена.
25 Константин Косев, Зад кулисите на Берлинския конгрес и родилните мъки на Третата българска държава [Behind the curtains of the Congress of Berlin and the birth pains of the third Bulgarian state], София, 2008. 26 Константин Косев, Санстефанският мир: зад кулисите на дипломацията
  • История
  • България
24 История на България [History of Bulgaria], 7, София, 1991, 44. 25 Константин Косев, Зад кулисите на Берлинския конгрес и родилните мъки на Третата българска държава [Behind the curtains of the Congress of Berlin and the birth pains of the third Bulgarian state], София, 2008. 26 Константин Косев, Санстефанският мир: зад кулисите на дипломацията [The San Stefano myth: Behind the curtains of diplomacy], Историческо бъдеще, 2, 1997, 21-28.
Племенни и културни връзки между българския и руския народ
  • Державин Николай Севстьянович
Николай Севстьянович Державин, Племенни и културни връзки между българския и руския народ [Tribal and cultural connections between the Bulgarian and the Russian people], София, 1945.