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VEDA SLOVENA AND OUR TIME

Author: Ivan Bogdanov

 

The "Veda Slovena" Mystery

Veda Slovena (Веда Словена in Modern Bulgarian, originally written as Веда Словенахъ) is a collection of folk songs and legends of the Muslim Bulgarian (Pomaks); the subtitle of the book indicated that they were collected from the regions of Moesia, Thrace and Macedonia. The first volume was printed in Belgrade (1874) and the second in Saint Petersburg (1881) under the authorship of Bosnian Serb Stefan Verkovich. The collection was assembled by Bulgarian teacher Ivan Gologanov for 12 years and is famous for containing numerous elements of ancient Slavic mythology notwithstanding the conversions first to Christianity and then to Islam. "Veda Slovena" created a furor among the scholarly world ranging from Russia to France, and went down in history as the biggest folklore mystery, the debates over which are still going on.

The sensation lies in the fact that these, as well as some other songs published by Verkovich, written down in an isolated part of Macedonia, provided evidence which turned the prevailing conceptions about Europe's pre-written history upside down.  The "Vedas", whose Indian name was picked up by no chance, not only contained legends of how the plough, the sickle, the boat, wheat, wine, writing, etc. came into being, but  created a legendary-mythological conceptual framework, in which all - the Indian god Vishnu, the Thracian singer Orpheus, the Macedonian kings Phillip II and Alexander the Great, the Trojan War, etc., were present. Moreover, the famous German epic, the "Song of the Nibelungens" consisted of only 9 776 lines, while the two volumes of "Veda Slovena" included as many as 23 809 lines, and Verkovich himself claimed that he had available at least  ten times as many.

In debates that followed in the field of European Slavonic studies, the denouncers exceeded in number the apologists. "Veda Slovena"  succeeded in winning support by not only a great number of recognized foreign scholars, but by quite a few of the Bulgarian scholars from Macedonia itself, who knew the local folklore and dialects in minute detail. The French government, in turn, twice sent its emissaries, who had to establish the authenticity of the epos on the spot of its discovery - in the South-Western parts of the Rhodope, among the so-called Pomaks  - a Bulgarian-speaking ethnic group professing Islam. Neither the French, nor later, the Bulgarian inquiries, however, provided unequivocal and weighty answers to all questions provoked by "Veda Slovena".

What is known for certain is that  the rise of this mystery is due to the Bulgarian Ivan Gologanov (1839-1895). He was born in the village of Tarlis, in the neighborhood of the mentioned Pomak region, nearby the town of Valovisha (now Siderokastron in Greece), and spent his whole life as a village teacher in his native place. He was the man who claimed to have found and written down (for a small charge paid by Verkovich) the "Veda Slovena" songs. He did this in the course of 12 years. The Serbian Verkovich published the songs thus collected under his own name.

Ivan Gologanov's critics, former and present, have rejected the authenticity of "Veda Slovena". Their argument is, most generally, that Gologanov was simple-minded and, therefore, he lied. Such argument, however, is not correct. Gologanov could hardly be considered one of an uneducated crowd. The plain village teacher actually did not come from just a simple family - one of his brothers later became an academician, as well as Metropolitan of Skopje, the capital of Vardar Macedonia and the Republic of Macedonia today; the other one was Abbot of the Bachkovo monastery, the second important Bulgarian cloister. Ivan Gologanov himself had command of ancient and modern Greek, he knew the Hellenic mythology in detail, and his idol was the immortal epic poet Homer. Gologanov knew Homer's works perfectly well.

Even today the argument about "Veda Slovena" goes on: what in the songs is authentic, and what invented by Gologanov himself. Is everything faked? Or is everything authentic? It is certain that neither the scale of "Veda Slovena" and the artistic qualities of the songs, nor their huge number could be the work of a talentless grapho-maniac. What is more, as we see further, the motivation underlying his striking capacity for work, if he was the inventor, did not boil down to just making both ends meet.

The Bosnian Serb Stefan Verkovich (1827-1893), too,  was not someone to ignore. A former Franciscan monk, he settled in Macedonia in 1850, with the purpose of extending, as a paid agent,  the propaganda of the Serbian government among the local people. The historical moment was such that Serbia and Greece, which had been liberated at the beginning of the century from a four-hundred-year Turkish domination, crossed their  Pan-Serbian and Pan-Hellenic appetites in Macedonia, i.e. in one of Bulgaria's regions and Bulgaria was still under the rule of the Sultan (its statehood would be revived only in 1878).

Initially Belgrade, whose aim was to form a Southern-Slavic federation under Serbian control, was still far from the idea of declaring the Macedonian Bulgarians to be  Southern Serbs, and yet farther from referring to them as a separate nation. On the contrary, in those years Belgrade supported the struggle of the Bulgarians to emancipate themselves from the guardianship of the Greek Patriarchate and to restore their own Church hierarchy. In this sense, what Stefan Verkovich did is an isolated, but telling example of noble efforts made in the name of the Bulgarian Revival.

What is more, when the Serbs changed their policy and started large-scale activities, which were detrimental to the Macedonian Bulgarians, the Franciscan Verkovich remained loyal to the morality of his Order. He did not reject the historical and real life truth, opposed all political falsifications, and persisted in his service in support of the causes he believed to be true and just. During the long years he lived in Macedonia, he proved to be a remarkable scientist in the field of Macedonian folklore, ethnography and geography. In addition, owing to his collector's  zeal, Verkovich saved a great number of ancient manuscripts, coins, objects of art, etc.

The efforts Verkovich made in the study, conservation and popularization of the Macedonian ancient culture, as well as the work of his assistant Ivan Gologanov, had also a practical effect for the Bulgarian people. At that time Bulgaria (Moesia, Thrace, and Macedonia) was agitated by a  feverish struggle on two fronts - against her national oppressors, the Turks and the Ottoman Empire, and against her ecclesiastical oppressors - the Greek Church and clergy. In this sense, the activity of  Verkovich and Gologanov was an integral part of Bulgaria's powerful desire for educational, cultural, religious and economic emancipation, which reached its apex in the Bulgarian revolutionary movement and the restoration of the national state.

No matter how specific, all these processes were linked with the tendencies and changes occurring in the whole of Europe from the late 18th up to the mid-19th century. This was the epoch of the powerful European revolutionary romanticism, seeking reforms and social freedom, and, in the case of the oppressed peoples - national liberation. Disappointed by the existing reality, romanticists looked for a base of its rejection and reformation in the fertile roots of tradition, in the idealized past of their countries. In all the fields of thought and art they abandoned the ancient models and the rationalism of the  Enlightenment, seeking inspiration in the history, folk art, folklore, music, and architecture of their peoples. Messianic ideas flooded the sphere of ideology, naturally, glorifying the respective nation. At the same time, no other cultural age produced such huge collections, studies, and works based on folklore material like romanticism. Although with a delay of several decades, this wave overflowed the Balkans too. While Germany had its Grimm brothers, the Miladinov brothers  were their Bulgarian analogue. Everywhere in Europe romanticists collected, adapted, recast, authorized folk works. This was the foundation on which the geniuses of Byron and Pushkin, Chopin and Liszt evolved.

Whenever the facts, or their abilities, were deficient, romanticists did not hesitate to resort to sometimes harmless, but other times not that innocent falsifications. The founder of this technique was the Scotsman James Macpherson, the predecessor of the romantics, who published in 1765 his revised version of the "Works of Ossian", Celtic sagas and legends purported as an authentic collection of works from a legendary warrior and bard. The circle around the linguist Vaclav Hanka produced, in 1817-1818, the much talked about "Kraledvorski" and "Zelenogorski" ancient manuscripts, which were presented as original 9th and 13th century works. The aim of this mystification was to prove the ancient character of the Czech culture and to activate the national self-identification of the Czechs, under Austrian power at that time.

By its scope and scale "Veda Slovena"  surpassed the phenomena mentioned above. Let us assume that this work is a fake. If Verkovich himself had unconsciously been involved in its creation, the Bulgarian Gologanov was far from doing it by chance. As evidenced by one of his sons, the main motive of his father was patriotic. In fact, because of his activity in this field, Gologanov was persecuted and imprisoned by the Turkish authorities, very much like other Bulgarian romanticists. Therefore, not all of his contemporaries felt  inclined to blame him. The most remarkable statesman of modern Bulgaria, Prime Minister Stefan Stambolov (1887-1894), offered Gologanov to move to Sofia and promising him a pension of considerable amount. Stambolov's response to some criticisms that he wanted to reward an impostor, was the following: "All European academies have shown interest in the songs of the Rhodope region, so that no matter whether he has heard them from somebody else's tongue, or has invented them himself, for us Bulgarians, it is one and the same".

The assumption that "Veda Slovena" is a fabrication, means to recognize Ivan Gologanov as a poetic genius, who deserves a place of his own in the history of world literature. To assume that these texts are authentic folklore, implies the necessity of reconsidering the cultural development of Europe as a whole. This dilemma has waited its turn for more than a century.

***

From Historical Falsification to Crime - a Universal or a National Problem?

Historical falsifications could be found everywhere and at anytime. They were to be proliferated from Classical Antiquity to the present day - artifacts, folklore, all kind of manuscripts, documents, chronicles, epics, letters, etc. Fabricating a truthful and masterful document was a fashion among students in diverse European Universities since late Middle Ages. Selling artificial Antiquity sculptures became a profitable business since the Renaissance. The general public of the last centuries admired creating mystifications in literature - take only epics like "Ossian". Use of forged historical records and documental proofs was a method used widely by politicians and state security agents in the Old and the New World. Any authorities did not avoid forged documents in Modern times. Among all falsifications (even of money and precious stones!) probably these of literature and history prove to be most dangerous. Literature mystifications started to be used - rather abused - as historical sources, despite ongoing debates on their genuineness.  A clear-cut rupture occurred between the facts of scientifically proven authenticity of disputed documents on one hand, and, on another hand - the never-ending thirst of common public to still take them as evidences for an uncertain political,  ideological, or religious purposes.

Can we tolerate fabrications of false documents because this was a common practice since centuries in leading European traditions? Can we take them only as masterpieces of intellectual exercises? Can we admire the skills of famous authors of forgery more than the silent work of unknown experts? Can we consider mystifications in literature and history as serious and valuable achievements of the national genius? Can we pardon small or local falsifications, inspired by noble motivation, such as national liberation for example, and not being aware of their induce over other nations or cultures? Can we absolve the proliferation of falsifications as far as creation of detrimental concepts for whole nations, ethnic or religious groups, for whole stages of historical development? More questions of dubious certainty could avail.

Most probably, this tendency we will continue to do so. Maybe because there is no parity between academia and common public, and because educational and ideological institutions are far away of being closer to scientism, they would rather abide by ideological agenda and popular demand. The main cause for the success of forgery is, in anyway, the disturbed (sometimes hardly existing) balance between honest statements on expert level (let us call them  "institutions of reason") and the institutions of propaganda - sui generis, prone to mistreatment and  manipulation of both historical records and public opinion. Last, but not least, the power of adulterated historical proofs is still persistent and seductive for general public world-wide.

The topic of falsifications of history is one of mass popularity. It is still a universal issue, as some of the most notorious cases - as the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" - were assumed of being authentic all around the world. Furthermore, they have been exploited as proofs in implementation of most frightful anti-humanistic ideologies and in such cases as Anti-Semitism, Islamic Salvation, etc.

Let us get back to the Bulgarian case. Far from the immortality and metastasis of other nations, Bulgarian mystifications or at least those cases believed to be such, show persistent presence not only in historiography but in the whole public space in general. Interestingly, they refer to a very wide chronological timeframe - from Thracian pre-Antiquity to until the time of Communist movement between World War I and World War II. The time of creation of the greatest Bulgarian mystifications encompasses the period of the second half of the XIX century to the 30s of the XX century. The era of Bulgarian Revival gives birth to the first falsifications. It is not a mere coincidence that major part of the mystifications (or adulterations) relate to the same period, perceived as one of immense significance and upright heroism in the new Bulgarian history. It is also important to know that not professional historians but mainly linguists and literary historians were involved in disputes of and relating of new proofs  in favor, or against the authenticity of the documents in question. These same people appear to be the initiators of fierce arguments and debates that were to be found on the pages of Bulgarian printed media.

The question why Bulgarian historiography has not announced a clear position on any of the controversial issues is to be left open. Here it is suggested a hypothesis on the broken relation between the high (solely academic) history and its social use  - or rather a misuse, when speaking of the specific cases of a century-long mystifications that are still perceived as truth.. Furthermore, these mystifications present corner-stones of resources by which the evaluation of the period is done. They are also key factors when determining and interpreting basic events and ideas of the era.

Bulgarian mystifications  for the present case-study include:

1) "Veda Slovena", a folklore epic poems dated from the Thracian Antiquity, published by Stefan Verkovich in Belgrade in 1874 and 1881;

2) Historical narration ("Istoricheskoto Opisanie") of priest Metodi Draginov, for the conversion of the population in Chepinska River valley into Islam in XVII century and the so-called anonymous Historical Notebook related to the same issue;

***

According to the most diligent scholars of  "Veda Slovena", its  case is a story of the compilation, publication and dramatic social existence of Two Volumes - comprising epic, lyric, ritual and mythical songs that were collected and recorded mainly in Bulgarian Muslim communities in the Western Rhodope Mountains. The songs were initially welcomed as the discovery of the century because of the ancient roots of the historical memory imprinted in their imagery and concerning Thracians, Orpheus, Alexander of Macedonia, etc. They were recorded by Ivan Gologanov, a teacher in the village Krushevo, (located in Vardar River valley, nowadays in Republic of Macedonia) who was later pronounced to be their actual author - or rather their major falsifier. (Several foreigners were also involved in the process of collecting and delivery of the songs - the French Consul in Sofia Louis Leguet and his colleague in Plovdiv - D. Dauson).  The crucial figure was the Bosnian Stefan Verkovich. He was the author of the famous folklore collection "Folklore Songs of Macedonian Bulgarians" published in 1860, while "Veda Slovena", Bulgarian Folklore songs from pre-historic and pre-Christian times firstly appeared as Volume I in Beograd (1874). Seven years later, in 1881, was published Volume II. In order to promote and defend his discovery, Verkovich moved to and lived in Russia from 1877 to 1891, then returned to Bulgaria with the intention to organize expeditions and find proofs of the authenticity of the songs. Vercovich died in disappointment in 1893.

The first critiques and rejections of the authenticity of the remnants from Thracian epics emerged almost simultaneously with the publication of the songs. Among the most respected rejecters of their authenticity were the famous Slavonic expert from the Charles University in Prague, Prof. Konstantin  Irechek and the Professor in Folklore Studies Ivan Shishmanov, who was then Minister of Education. On the defense side stood famous Bulgarian amateurs (in the sense they were not academically educated) and experts in the field of folklore research. These were people who believed strongly in the necessity of exploration and revival of Bulgarian folklore and historical heritage: Tzani Gintchev, Hristo Popkonstantinov, Kuzman Shapkarev, Dimitar Marinov and others. All of them not only supported the idea of the Vedas, but also provided evidence of analogous rituals to those described in "Veda Slovena", also found in other areas of Bulgaria.

Thus, since its appearance, "Veda Slovena" brings a distinct polarization in opinions concerning its authenticity.  The polarization division-line separates high level (professional) humanities or the academic discourse from the one of regional folklore studies. The latter were the subject for people with excellent qualities of local researchers, but lacking academic background. They were people whose major zeal and task was the patriotic restoration of Bulgarian historical legacy. Due to the respect for the  academicianís authority (the academics being these who threw the shadow of suspicion on the authenticity of the Orpheus Songs) the wide public accepted "Veda Slovena" for a mystification and thus, it was destined to oblivion till the 80s of the XX century.

It is argued that it was not by pure chance that the debate over "Veda Slovena" was re-instigated again at this particular moment. It was on the occasion of the 1300th years from the foundation of the Bulgarian State and the old debate on the authenticity of the songs in "Veda Slovena" occupied for several months historians, experts in Thracian culture, as well as folklore researchers and literary experts (including regional history specialists and local amateurs). The debate brought neither academic, nor public consensus, but the intransigence of the protagonists resulted in a black irony, while the two volumes of "Veda Slovena" went in oblivion again. This happened indeed despite the obvious agenda of the official cultural policy, inspired and controlled by the daughter of communist leader Todor Zhivkov, aiming among other, at searching for the so-called most ancient autochthon roots of  Bulgarian nation.

In spite of the temporary oblivion of the arguments, the dominant implication of the Vedas has remained. That has included also an equivocal appeal : "Let it take the place it is worth in Bulgarian literature and history, even it might prove to be a mystification!". The thesis in the appeal was first launched by the famous literature history expert Mihail Arnaudov. He claimed that Bulgarian intellectuals were not prepared (or mature enough) to accept the so-called Thracian Epic as a mystification, incurring spiritual tension. The opinion was that a final and clear statement on the authenticity of these folklore pieces is needed. It is a "conditio sine qua non" of every contemporary academic discourse. This was of special significance when it refers to historical evidence that might change the conceptualization of a whole historical period. To add a final comment, there was a necessity of making unbiased analysis of political and ideological tasks, of patriotic and etatist ethos that has inspired the creators and protagonists of the authentic origin of the Orpheus songs.

The bad news about it was that no one but those who have made the records have ever heard the songs for real. A conclusion easily made was that the research and the public existence of "Veda Slovena" in Bulgarian humanities is a story of strong patriotism, of the never-ending desire to find new evidences to confirm the ancient history of Bulgarians. There was also the desire to confirm the thesis of historical awareness of the nation, preserved in its folklore. In the end, when the controversy was re-ignited  in the end of the XX century, it was subjected to serve ideological tasks of Bulgarian state, (which for the first time institutionalized Thracian civilization studies), and the official academic policy was dedicated to proving the autochthon origin of the most ancient people who have populated Bulgarian lands.

In this context, lack of sufficient social and professional critique that could have asserted the mystification of the Orpheus songs shows a degree of immaturity in both the public debate and the century-long existence of a nationalistic discourse in Bulgarian historiography and literature science. This discourse is still associated with XIX century and old imperatives for assertion of national identity.

***

The other great field of dispute in Bulgarian historiography is the Ottoman period, which is a stumbling block for both Turkish and all other Balkan scholars. Despite the notorious achievements of Bulgarian Ottoman period experts (Osmanistics), the persistent popular view of the horrible yoke was fueled again and again by dilettantes. Late Nikolay Haitov, academik in BAN, who managed to  monopolize some public space on this debate was often too pessimistic on the thoroughly anti-scientific publications and mass media show aggression.

The exceptionally resistant mythology of the heavy Turkish yoke (in this case, we face the non-historic usage of categories like "Yoke" and the persistent substitution of Ottomans with Turks) is in some critics opinion, one of the most tangible and difficult to solve problems in modern Bulgarian and all Balkan historiography. The issue is related mainly to socialization of history, or the use and abuse of history. We can list a number of "Topoi" that re-produce again and again this mythology, most significant of them being the forceful Islamization of Bulgarian (respectively - other Balkan) population. Due to the fact that Bulgaria belongs to the countries where comparatively large number of population was converted into Islam and that this population lives in a compact geographical area - the Rhodope Mountains, the topic of the violent character of the conversion process was strongly politicized and exploited many times to serve to political and state interests.

Let us look into the sources that initialized the story of forceful Islamization of Bulgarians in the Rhodopes Mountain area. They are relatively few, comprising marginal notes in Old-Bulgarian manuscripts, all of them published after 1870 or later, almost two centuries after the occurrence of the events they described in details. The most significant among them is the "Narrative of priest Methody Draginov" from Korova village, situated in the Chepino River valley (where the town of Velingrad is nowadays). The Narrative was discovered and published in the famous "Geographical, historic and statistical description of Tartar-Pazardjik Kaaza" printed in Vienna in 1870 by Stefan Zahariev, a Bulgarian intellectual and patriot who was born in Pazardjik. Priest Methodyís text describes in details the horrible Ottoman violence during the Islamization of population in the villages in Chepino River valley. Two different versions of the Narrative were found later. In 1879 Lamanskiís story entitled "Second Destruction of Bulgaria" was published in Russia and according to it the event of Islamization took place during the rule of Sultan Selim I (1512-1520). A story of similar content was found in one of the copies - the copy from Dryanovo - of the "Slavonic-Bulgarian History" of Paisii, the monk form  Hilendar Monastery at Mont Athos, recognized as the "father of the Bulgarian history".

The Dutch scholar M. Kiel is an author of a series of studies on Ottoman period in the Balkans, and in Bulgarian lands in particular. Recently he published a review of latest accomplishments of Bulgarian historiography, concerning the authenticity of the resources quoted above, especially those regarding the conversion into Islam of the population in the Rhodope area. He compares them with Ottoman sources from Sofia, Istanbul and Ankara. His researches proves in indisputable way that most of the domestic sources were compiled later, that is they are adulterations invented with the purpose of alleviating the patriotic self-consciousness of Bulgarian people in the period of National liberation movement against the rule of Ottoman Empire, thus providing motivation and inspiration for formation of rebellious attitude against the burden of the cruel oppression. Bulgarian scholars have done a detailed and crucially convincing linguistic analysis of the texts in questions, which leaves no doubt about their significantly later origin. In addition to that, Kielís thesis is also proven by the discrepancy (non-correspondence) of the quoted and the factual period of rule of the Ottoman rulers mentioned in the documents (such discrepancies are found only in the so-called "sources of violent Islamization"). The strongest argument in favor of Kielís thesis is the fact that no one but those who have published them has ever seen the originals of the texts, providing evidence of the mass and forceful Islamization of population in the Rhodope Mountains. The statement is valid of all sources in question dated from the beginning of the XIX century. One more time, we are facing sources that were written centuries after factual occurrence of events they describe, sources that possess all characteristics of the pathos and tragedy typical of the folklore storyteller who envisions Ottomans as "the most fierce enemy and cruel oppressor".

This black-and-white antinomy is still reproduced in Bulgarian History textbooks, in popular readings, in supplementary manuals for primary school education, in super-productions of national cinematography which gained unprecedented popularity among mass audience in the 70s and 80s. This antinomy was notorious for the so-called "Regeneration Process", or the vengeance of Bulgarians and the imposed de-nationalization of Turkish minority in Bulgaria in the mid 80s of the XX century. The case of the novel "Time of Division" and its movie version is worth special consideration, but it is just another argument in support of the thesis of adulteration of the genuine history and of blunt manipulation of public attitudes to the purpose of enflaming a hysterical nationalism.

Let us remind that the scenes of terror described by witnesses in the History Notebook and visualized by the movie "Time of Division" (Vreme Razdelno) are so stunningly cruel and fantastic that it is impossible to think they could be correspondent to the historic truth about the events they present. Despite the adamant rejection of the events described in the so-called History Notebook, the monument of the novel's main character (the hero who headed the resistance to Islamization in the Rhodope archiepiscopal center Smolyan, the martyr Archbishop Vissarion) still raises above the mosque  in the village of Smolyan, where the Muslim population is prevalent. Church history which is well postulated and preserved, especially in Greek sources, clearly shows that there have never existed an episcopacy of the name Krestogorie and that Vissarion is a mythology personality, ipso facto.

The History Notebook quotes events that have happened in the rule of Sultan Mahmud I, in 1705. Actually Sultan Mahmud I ruled in the period 1730-1754 when a large group of Anatolian Turks settled down, with Mahmud I protection, in the Aegean Plain, in the valleys around Xanthi and the Southern Rhodope Mountain slopes in particular. The Notebook lists specific villages which prior to the events of 1705 were Christian and had Old-Bulgarian names. What is the truth of the demographic picture in the region according to Kiel who refers to data in Registrar 0.89 from Muslim Djevdet collection in Ataturk City Library in Istanbul. Three-quarters of the population in the region comprise Muslims with Turkish names living in villages with names of Turkish origin. Some of them are still nomads, "Yuruks". In Turkish registrars of XVI centuries there is no mentioning (no evidence) of villages of the names Perunovo and Nizhnets. Just the opposite - the registrars keep data of villages populated with Muslims and of Turkish names like Shahin and Elmalu. In brief, the demographic picture of these lands, reconstructed according to reliable data from Ottoman registrars, famous for their details and accuracy, shows a totally different situation than the one resulting from nationalistic adulteration and made-up in the beginning of the XIX centuries, designed to serve Bulgarian political and ideological causes, and still reproduced as evidence of the horrific process of violent Islamization.

Bulgarian linguist Ilia Todorov was the first to prove the adulteration of the Narrative in 1984. His findings, however, didn't prevent Bulgarian scholars from including the Narrative into the contents of textbooks and anthologies of Old-Bulgarian literature. Nor it stopped foreign scholars in Bulgarian Studies from quoting it as a most illustrative evidence. Besides the fact that no one has ever seen the original of the Narration, that the language and style of the priest has nothing in common with the utterance and style of XVII century (as the narrative claims is the time of its composition), the author seems to have no idea that the villages he depicts as subject to mass and violent Islamization, were already constituents of a large Vakuf.

Other authors associated the delivery of the Narrative's discovery with the launching of a series of historical adulterations in those times in Europe, but on a larger scale too. Those adulterations were primary associated with the ideological cause and tasks of the author. They reflect the strong anti-Phanariot pathos of the era, as well as the strong public attitude against the Bishop of Plovdiv - Gavrail, alleged to be the initiator of the quoted Ottoman Islamization campaign. We should also take into consideration the fact that it was the period of Bulgarian Church struggle for independence from the Universal Orthodox Patriarchy in Constantinople. The Greek sources are again those that provide data on a bishop of the name Gavrail who was appointed in Plovdiv indeed, but not in the time of the events in question.

The academic community, mainly the Bulgarian one, still argues about the authenticity of these documents, referring to the long-lasting historic memory and the inevitable interpretations made by authors of chronicles of later periods. In a broader socio-cultural context, this phenomenon shows characteristics of a scheme; it is clearly an issue that has been subjected to ideological or political objectives accomplishment. For unknown reasons - and absolutely irrational much the same - authors of history textbooks (who are first class professionals and historians of modern type education) not only refuse to comment the evidences of adulteration of Bulgarian history, but continue to  consolidate the inertia in interpretation of the Ottoman period and of the explicitly emotional depiction of the violent Islamization, adorned with terrors and heroic resistance. Which in its core is a repetition of cemented cliches, associated with the heroic-romantic period of Bulgarian historiography development. This illustrates lack of efforts and courage for a new consideration and revision of history, this time based on pure academic and systematic verification. So it is no surprise the sad fact that Bulgarian society's reaction to the Regenerative Process (the attempt to de-nationalize the Turkish minority in Bulgaria in 1984) was a reaction of fear, apathy and lack of interest. It was a direct consequence from the immaturity of Bulgarian historiography and it also reaffirmed its significant role in public launching of delusions built upon unacknowledged falsifications of historical records. Once again, we are faced with the problem of how an innocent falsification can lead to a crime. The longue duration consequence of the publication of a forged document in 1870 was seen in its full-scale result when it was used to justify the forceful de-nationalization of the Bulgarian Turks in 1984. Thus the fragile fault-line between national and universal had been transgressed again.

***

These case-studies may be analyzed and taken as a conclusion of the present topic. It is a known fact that the strong commitment to - and even obsession - with history is specific for the Balkans. The roots of this commitment are to be found not only in the tragic and full of turns history of the region itself. We believe this phenomenon can be also explained with the contaminations of modern historiography of Balkan nations. The widely popular, adopted and persistently revived heroic memories, romantic interpretations and ideological use of history - mainly for assertion and upraising of national pride - these are common features of Greeks, Serbs, Bulgarians, Macedonians. History is the main building material in the formation of national cultural identity. However, history knowledge has not yet reached the level of objective, unbiased and fair analysis of ups and downs in national history. State institutions, regardless of political affiliations and chronological periods, channelize history and subject it to their own purposes. Social inertia, cultural stereotypes and passive (or indifferent) attitude of intellectuals, (who "fathered" all this), are  convenient for both authors and users. Evasion (and denial) of the responsibility for defining and solving controversial, or hard to face events and personal characteristics outline several trends:

1) of evasion of uncomfortable questions and of slaving to national megalomania;

2) of professional capsulation, rejecting both external analysis and daring modern interpretation of the familiar and commonly accepted cliches.

Demythologization, revealing of historic falsifications inclusive, is the first step to the new determination and its discovery through history is the only way to gaining knowledge of ourselves and of the world around us.

 

Pictures 1, 2 & 3: Stefan Verkovich (1827-1893), who lived for almost 30 years in the city of Seres, Southern Thrace, made a significant contribution to the establishment of the Bulgarian nationality. He is truly the father of bulgarian folkloristic, although more often rejected than praised from his contemporaries. 

(i). Stefan Verkovich (1827-1893)

 

(ii). Volume I of "Veda Slovena", printed in Belgrade (1874).

 

(iii). Volume II of "Veda Slovena", printed in Saint Petersburg (1881).

 

 

Copyright © 2007 by the author.