chapter  1
34 Pages

A Prisoner of its Past? Bulgaria's Historical Legacy

History has played a dominant role in the self-perception of the Bulgarians. This is by no means a rarity in Eastern Europe but in the case of Bulgaria the contrasts between rise and fall have been particularly sharp, giving grounds for both enthusiastic self-congratulation and pathetic self-pity. The sense of living history is reinforced by the fact that certain problems such as state creation, nation-building, and economic development, arise time and time again, obliterating the distinction between past and present and encouraging each new generation to both identify with its predecessors who were seemingly fighting similar battles, but also to despise them for failing so miserably. Each new departure in Bulgaria's development has been accompanied and often preceded by a re-casting of history. The post-1989 political and economic transition is a case in the point. The periodic re-invention of history has undoubtedly been useful to a nation that has had to adapt to dramatic changes in its fortunes and has often been victim to forces beyond its control, but it has also served to sow confusion and lack of confidence, and provide opportunities for cynical manipulation. A more mature understanding of history, based on facts rather than emotions, is an essential prerequisite for the consolidation of democracy.