If one enters a History class in my home country Bulgaria, he would never hear about colonialism. ‘That is wonderful’, you will think but in fact Bulgaria was under another country’s control not once or twice. And the history is being rewritten with every change in the political situation during the past decades so different terminology can be heard and every Bulgarian has his own interpretations. Instead of colonialism, in Bulgarian history books one can read about ‘obedience’, ‘slavery’, ‘under the yoke’, ‘presence’, ‘satellite state’, ‘member of…’ and many other metaphors and periphrasis.
Quick look back in the past:
- 681 is the establishment of First Bulgarian Empire
- 1018-1185 Bulgaria is part of the Byzantine Empire
- 1396-1878 Bulgaria is part of the Ottoman Empire
- 1946-1990 Bulgaria is one of the Soviet satellite states in Europe
- 2004-present Bulgaria is member of NATO
- 2007-present Bulgaria is member of European Union
As I already mention, every Bulgarian citizen has his own point of view and the history school books are rewritten almost every year. Something which could be considered as strange behaviour is a typical representation of almost every single family: during celebration, while the whole family is together one can see a heated debate about the positive and negative sides of ‘being a member of’ ≠ ‘part of’ ≠ ‘being under the control of’ the above empires and unions.
In order to present it more comprehensively, let’s look at the intimate relationship between Bulgaria and ‘Great Mother Russia’. As satellite state of Soviet Union the political system was defined as socialist republic and the Bulgarian Communist Party ruled. Basically, if you ask my grandparents’ generation during these years our country was blooming, has developing construction sphere, the levels of unemployment were quite low, there were almost no crimes and everyone feels safe and secure. And they keep believing and telling these fairy tales today. In fact, there are a lot of documented proofs telling about repressions, intellectuals and journalists murdered, ban on publishing books, ban on leaving the country and even when the Chernobyl accident happened it was a week later when the government told the people about it.
And even more horrible and terrifying stories can be read about the periods of the first Byzantine and Ottoman invasions. It can be said, our history is one of the reasons for what is called Bulgarian mentalities today. Mass people feel on the one hand doomed to suffering, desperate, hopeless and on the other like no one can conquer them, change them and vanish them.
Some historians believe that because of these invasions we adopt the mind syndrome of ‘Big brother’ – our politicians always waiting for someone more powerful to come and solve our problems, to show us how to live better lives, to ‘save’ us. Some people say that there is no such thing as Bulgarian anymore because we were assimilated by others and some say that there is Bulgarian’s genes in every part of the world. For some people it is very painful issue and for other it feels like the last cell remain after the Earth’s dead will be a Bulgarian one.
When it comes to being under someone control, Bulgarians are proud that they survived so much but also believe that they are like a curse – there is no Byzantine Empire, no Ottoman Empire, no Soviet Union anymore. Actually, a lot of the people believe that every kind of union will fall apart in some time after Bulgaria join it as a member.