EU Commission Demands Explanation from Bulgaria over Batak Slaughter Controversy

Politics » BULGARIA IN EU | April 17, 2008, Thursday // 00:00| Views: | Comments: 20
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EU Commission Demands Explanation from Bulgaria over Batak Slaughter Controversy: EU Commission Demands Explanation from Bulgaria over Batak Slaughter Controversy Many of the skulls that are still kept in the Batak church and museum clearly show that people had been killed by blows to the head. Photo by pravoslavieto.com

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.

The news was reported by europe.bg, which cites a comment by Deutsche Welle, stating that "The EC position on the Batak case is that Bulgaria must adhere to its commitments and must not encourage nationalistically or religiously based hatred".

The spokesperson of the EU Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini, Friso Roscam Abbing, has told the Deutsche Welle that, as Frattini had promised the German MEP Werner Langen, on March 12 he had sent a letter to the Bulgarian Justice Minister Miglena Tacheva.

The letter requests detailed information about the measures taken by the Bulgarian authorities on the alleged "xenophobic" acts in the Bulgarian media over the public reaction spurred by the theses put forth by the two researchers.

According to Friso Roscam Abbing, the EC is expecting Bulgaria's reply. He declared that the death threats, hatred, xenophobia were not part of the legal right to criticize, and were in complete contradiction to the basic human rights and freedoms.

Abbing also pointed out that Bulgaria had signed the "Television without Borders" Directive, which meant it had to crack down on the use of television for nationalistic messages.

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.

The two were planning a scientific conference in the town of Batak to present their theory but it failed over the widespread public opposition.

Nearly 5,000 people of the town of Batak including women and children were slaughtered, beheaded or burned alive by Ottoman irregulars who left piles of dead bodies around the town square and church in 1876, giving start of the April Uprising.

The Turkish atrocities in Bulgaria were described in detail by the American journalist Januarius McGahan, who wrote report for the leading UK newspapers at the time.
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» To the forumComments (20)
#20
Buddy - 17 Apr 2008 // 20:50:45

What a cynicism! If the European Union starts dealing with such issues aimed at changing historical facts in the history of european nations, the first tragic step being Kossovo, it will never sustain the proofs of time and become an elitary club instead of a real represntation of the people of Europe. After German Nazis succeded in almost " cleansing" europe from its native jewish population and even brought close to extermination the colorfull jiddish language, now german scientific institutions are getting in other fields, always looking some where else instead to look in its on backyard and finally clean it and its own local parliaments from the reemrging Nazi menace.

#19
The Sun - 17 Apr 2008 // 20:00:20

So now this German so called researcher is trying to say that the 5-century long Ottoman reign did not even happen? Common, how far can you go into the country's history and just deny a big and dreadful event like that.

#18
DP - 17 Apr 2008 // 19:56:18

JKS,

It seems you are pretty clear about what I was implying.
I appreciate and understand your reply.

Thanks!

#17
DP - 17 Apr 2008 // 19:48:34

"This is what the EU is concerned about: you know, that little thing called free speech?"

I can say with great deal of certainty that I know and appreciate more than you do that little thing called free speech, for I have experienced life without it. Besides, this attitude that EU knows best doesn’t sit so well when displayed indiscriminately to all aspects of life in a sovereign country.

#16
CreepyS - 17 Apr 2008 // 19:47:21

I guess the next PhD project of this German professor will be to find out that historically, Kosovo has always been rightfully Albanian and he will go to present this discovery in the serbian part of Mitrovica.

imo the Germans got angry that a German professor was treated as a garbage by Bulgarians. So the German MEP went to push EC to press BG for something that doesnt really deserve an international scandal.

ok, its not good to issue death threats about such a thing but its also the fault of these 2 researchers - Mileva is Bulgarian and should have known that calling Batak a mith in any context in Bulgaria wont go well at all.

#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.

#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, .... " :)

#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 :)

#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.

#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?

#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?

#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?

#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.

#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.

#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.

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