In Bulgaria we love our history. Bulgarians are bewitched by the mighty tsars (something like kings but greater) of the past, by the great successful battles against the Byzantine Empire (and whoever was in our way), by the huge territories of the former Bulgarian kingdom. We are so proud of the things which happened hundred of years ago that we forget what is important now.
We forget that we have great but also sorrowful history. We forget that it might be far greater to establish a country after five centuries of no country at all (after the Ottoman rule) – and here I am not talking about the battles, but the efforts to create a country with its institutions and forces from scratch. We forget that nationalism doesn’t mean to hate everything that is outside your country or to be only proud of the great blood-stained achievements.
Still, I do think that not only Bulgarians have the problem. People from almost every east European country, experiencing life after years of Soviet influence, have the yearning to remind themselves that their country was once a great state. For example, Lithuania – did you know that Lithuania expanded to Black sea in the 14th century. Yes, this lasted only for some decades before the union with Poland, but it happened, as one Lithuanian guy told me once.
History is really important in shaping our cultural and social mindset. However, the historical event depends on the education, experience and interests of the historian as well as on the social and political setting of the present, as prof. Dr. Rainer Leng from University of Würzburg in the online Iversity course Orientierung Geschichte said. I do believe, that nationalism is really important to the people of a still vulnerable country which needs an united against outside interference or influence. However, it should be modern.
Now Bulgaria is part of the European Union and its citizens have the possibility not only to travel outside the country’s borders but also to do business, make science and engage in cultural and social activities with people from the other EU countries. But it’s hard to embrace this still new political and social environment together with the thought that Bulgaria was once a powerful country. Bulgarians are sick and tired to be the weakest and poorest member state and to be constantly reminded of that. Maybe this is the reason why we are so focused on the blood-stained achievements and the big territories we once had.
The history we learn in schools is important but it does not consider the subjectivity of the „historical truth“. We are taught to be proud but students rarely are prompted to think about the events while considering the geopolitical and social period in which they happened. We are limited by our „one and only history“ in a time when we ought to have a complex view on our history and the history of Europe.
The world is a complicated place, so looking back we should consider that.