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Commenting article: EU Commission Demands Explanation from Bulgaria over Batak Slaughter Controversy

The European Commission is requiring an explanation from Bulgarian authorities about the measures taken regarding the death threats in certain media issued against the art critic Martina Baleva and the German professor Ulf Brunnbauer.

The two researchers spurred public outrage in Bulgaria by claiming one of the most horrendous acts in its history, the Batak Slaughter, was a myth and the number of victims overrated.
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#1
CJB - 17 Apr 2008 // 14:52:24

This is very interesting. It would be a good idea to hear more about the academics' research, even if it challenges long held beliefs. In fact, especially because it challenges them. What evidence did they find? Bulgarians should find out more about their history, not just believe what the Commies or the Nationalists before them told was true.

#2
JKS - 17 Apr 2008 // 15:16:02

"Bulgarians should find out more about their history, not just believe what the Commies or the Nationalists before them told was true.

Sure, but this is not Commie propaganda.

"The German scientists from the Eastern Europe Institute of the Berlin Free University sparked a wide controversy in Bulgaria in 2007 with their suggestions that the five-century long Ottoman reign over the country was a sham."

Bulgarians do not need to "learn" this part of their history, they experienced it. Besides the historical record all one has to do is study the language to see that the Ottoman "yoke" was not a sham. I think all foreigners living here should study this part of their history. Start with the "The Balkans" by Misha Glenny.

I find it Ironic that a German would like the freedom to deny Bulgarian massacres. I think this is illegal in his country (the holocaust)...

#3
LarzBGR - 17 Apr 2008 // 15:47:00

very well said, JKS!

#4
Richie - 17 Apr 2008 // 15:56:37

This story has been blown completely out of proportion by people (including major politicians) who have formed their opinion without bothering to study the facts. It all boils down to a wrong interpretation of the meaning of the word "Mythos" in the title of the publication.

See also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Batak_massacre_media_controversy_in_2007 and http://www.sofiaecho.com/article/reading-room-the-batak-massacre-a-sacred-subject/id_22279/catid_29

#5
CJB - 17 Apr 2008 // 17:43:44

"Bulgarians do not need to "learn" this part of their history, they experienced it. Besides the historical record all one has to do is study the language to see that the Ottoman "yoke" was not a sham. I think all foreigners living here should study this part of their history. "

Perhaps if the Bulgarian media had bothered to check their facts, this hysteria would not have occurred. Also, contemporary Bulgarians did NOT experience the massacre, so a paper exploring its role as a form of cultural memory IS valid and could potentially be helpful to the study of Bulgaria's history.

But then, most journalists in BG cannot really grasp such concepts as portrayal of historical events in paintings...

#6
JKS - 17 Apr 2008 // 18:20:12

There is a right way and a wrong way to go about this though. I have read several of this dudes articles and he makes some good points about the Commie form of nationalism that has influenced Bulgarian history. But...

You don't go to Batak (the holy grail of massacre's in BG) to deliver a deconstruction speech about this situation. Of course people are going to overreact. People do not exist in an emotional vacuum. Yes you can make the argument that it wasn't 5000 people, but I don't find it constructive. Innocent Bulgarians were murdered it doesn't matter how many. It is the equivalent of some dude going to Auschwitz to give a speech on how it was only 1 million Jews who died. Sure this can be debated, but there?

And honestly it doesn't change anything. The facts are that Bulgarians did suffer under the Turks so why split hairs about numbers. Every nation has there memorable moments that define them. If a Bulgarians want to deconstruct their history more power to them, but not some German dude.

#7
JKS - 17 Apr 2008 // 18:28:20

"Bulgarians did NOT experience the massacre,"

Let me clarify myself. They have not experienced it first hand. But there is a form of collective experience on a national level that affects people for generations. When a Bulgarian hears the word Batak they experience something much different than what I do.

This is what I meant. It sounds obnoxious for a foreigner to tell a Bulgarian that they should "learn" something that is so much more a part of them than a foreigner could understand, even if they are right.

#8
DP - 17 Apr 2008 // 18:36:57

“Also, contemporary Bulgarians did NOT experience the massacre, so a paper exploring its role as a form of cultural memory IS valid and could potentially be helpful to the study of Bulgaria's history.”

When speaking about history one has to consider the very important thing called "collective memory", which transcends time. In this case, the Batak massacre has been a constant in shaping the national consciousness of generations of Bulgarians. One does not have to experience the event to be profoundly affected by it. The Batak experience's importance can’t be overstated.

The study in case is nothing more than a work of ambitious, irresponsible people looking for their three days of glory. The outcry of Bulgarians was justified and the EU should stay out of this controversy. As far as the study of Bulgarian history goes, this “cultural memory” (I assume the reference is about the painting) has no bearing on the subject. It is nothing more than one painter’s recreation of an even he probably had heard about only.

#9
Kolegialen - 17 Apr 2008 // 18:38:14

"This is what I meant. It sounds obnoxious for a foreigner to tell a Bulgarian that they should "learn" something that is so much more a part of them than a foreigner could understand, even if they are right"

Yeah, but then where are they gonna dump their own personal inadequacy and failure issues? Huh?

#10
DP - 17 Apr 2008 // 18:51:21

"It sounds obnoxious for a foreigner "
JKS, your good intentions are obvious, but somehow they come short of "understanding" for it is a statement that should be clarified.
It is hard for me to understand why would it sound "obnoxious" to foreigner some thing that they are subjected to the same feelings when their own history and national pride are concerned?

Is this sentiment born out of hypocrisy or superiority complex, or what?

#11
CJB - 17 Apr 2008 // 19:08:48

DP, I hear what you are saying and I understand the sensitivity about this issue for Bulgarians, but death threats are surely not justified. This is what the EU is concerned about: you know, that little thing called free speech?

#12
Kolegialen - 17 Apr 2008 // 19:11:41

DP:
"It is hard for me to understand why would it sound "obnoxious" to foreigner"

DP I think JKS said:
"It sounds obnoxious for a foreigner"

He is right, and so are you.
Try to mess with Perl Harbor or the Atomic bombs in Japan and most Americans will opt out of the conversation.
The Germans are of course much more ambivalent and schizophrenic about their own history so it's natural.

#13
JKS - 17 Apr 2008 // 19:12:22

DP,

I will try and answer. I am a little unclear about the following statement:

"It is hard for me to understand why would it sound "obnoxious" to foreigner some thing that they are subjected to the same feelings when their own history and national pride are concerned?"

I am not sure of the sentiment that bore out my response. I just know that as I traveled to different cultures when dealing with history it is usually not appreciated by the locals when I give my "American" interpretations. So out of an attitude of wanting good relationships it seems better on certain topics depending on how much I know the individual to not "tell" them what is up.

I think at first that my attitude was "superior". It is much less so now, obviously not totally :)

#14
JKS - 17 Apr 2008 // 19:16:38

Case in point:

When I hear a French person criticizing the US my first thoughts aren't about their point but "Stupid French, and then something unintelligent about saving there unappreciative butts"

Whereas if an American says the same thing I will listen to their point and then think, "Stupid Liberal, .... " :)

#15
CJB - 17 Apr 2008 // 19:18:31

JKS, you make some eloquent points and I concur with most of them. It was rather arrogant for a German to try to organise the conference there, even with a Bulgarian working alongside. I can understand this raised hackles.

I never said "learn" I said "find out". If the paper reveals some overlooked information, even if much of it is traduced by Bulgarian academicians, then it has started a debate and this is healthy for academics and democracy.

What is worrying is how quickly politicians jumped on a media bandwagon, started shooting off sound bites, even proposing motions in the assembly without even reading the article to check if it said what was reported. This kind of populist overreaction does not help debate, it stifles it. Note it was the BSP (Commies) and Nationalists that leaped for the throats of these academics.

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