Who Owns the Past? The Politics of Time in a "Model" Bulgarian Village

By Deema Kaneff | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 4
CONTESTING HISTORY

There has always been and will always be bickering and fighting
attached to such an event at which awards are given out

(Lelia Maria)

In striving to establish relations to history, different versions were put forward by individuals concerned to highlight their own activities as most important. In so doing, the significance of history was at issue: to some the period surrounding the advent of state socialism was momentous, to others this time held no more value than any other in the past, and yet to others again history was relevant only in terms of present-oriented activities. This provided not only the basis of a multifaceted rather than unified notion of history, but also created ‘factions’ within the political sphere of public life. History was therefore a fundamental and contentious domain of village life, by which Talpians negotiated their meaningful relations to the state, but not necessarily in the monolithic form often assumed in a system dominated by one party.

These issues are explored by focusing on an occasion that occurred three months after the 9 September celebration – the commemoration of the Centennial of the village Chitalishte. The anniversary of the foundation of the Chitalishte was held annually; the 1987 celebration, however, had special significance. The Centennial occasion was marked by the attendance of numerous official guests. In fact Zhivkov had intended to be present, but cancelled at the last moment. Instead he sent a personal letter of congratulation with the attending First Secretary of the Region and member of Central Committee of the BCP, conveying his apologies and warmest regards to the Talpians. This letter was read to the audience during the proceedings. Even without Zhivkov, the audience consisted of a distinguished list of officials from Sofia, the regional capital of Veliko Turnovo as well as from the district capital, Nekilva, and the surrounding villages.

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