Bones of Contention

Bones of Contention: The living archive of Vasil Levski and the making of Bulgaria's national hero

Maria Todorova
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Pages: 639
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7829/j.ctt128245
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  • Book Info
    Bones of Contention
    Book Description:

    This book is about documenting and analyzing the living archive around the figure of Vasil Levski (1837–1873), arguably the major and only uncontested hero of the Bulgarian national pantheon. The processes described, although with a chronological depth of almost two centuries, are still very much in the making, and the living archive expands not only in size but constantly adding surprising new forms. The monograph is a historical study, taking as its narrative focus the life, death and posthumous fate of Levski. By exploring the vicissitudes of his heroicization, glorification, appropriations, reinterpretation, commemoration and, finally, canonization, it seeks to engage in several broad theoretical debates, and provide the basis for subsequent regional comparative research. The analysis of Levski's consecutive and simultaneous appropriations by different social platforms, political parties, secular and religious institutions, ideologies, professional groups, and individuals, demonstrates how boundaries within the framework of the nation are negotiated around accepted national symbols.

    eISBN: 978-615-5211-63-8
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. ix-xxii)

    This book is about documenting and analyzing the living archive around the figure of Vasil Levski, arguably the major and only uncontested hero of the Bulgarian national pantheon. In the course of working on the problem, it became clear that this cannot be a finite task. The processes described, although with a chronological depth of almost two centuries, are still very much in the making, and the living archive expands not only in size but constantly adds surprising new forms. While archives continue to occupy an almost sacral place both in the public imagination (as the repositories of truth) as...

  4. PART I BONES OF CONTENTION, OR PROFESSIONALS, DILETTANTES, AND WHO OWNS HISTORY
    (pp. 1-8)

    It was in late December 1985 when my old friend Diana Gergova called me over the phone, and asked to meet her urgently. We had been inseparable since the 1960s in high school, and later as history students at the University of Sofia. At the time of the call, I was associate professor of Balkan history at the University of Sofia, and Diana was a research fellow at the Archeological Institute at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. She acted also as party secretary of the institute.¹ She immediately came to the point: my father, at that moment acting as vice...

  5. PART II THE APOSTLE OF FREEDOM, OR WHAT MAKES A HERO?
    (pp. 175-184)

    In the summer of 1998, I visited the artist Todor Tsonev, who had become famous after 1989 with his exhibition of cartoons of Todor Zhivkov that he had painted during communism, one of the very few cases where the expectation of a “closet full of masterpieces” that were cached away from the forbidding eyes of censorship actually was vindicated. Maria Ovcharova, his close friend and collaborator and a scholar in her own right, had organized this exhibit after 1989, and it triggered enormous interest. For a brief period of time Tsonev became the hero of democracy, the notion which in...

  6. PART III THE NATIONAL HERO AS SECULAR SAINT: THE CANONIZATION OF LEVSKI
    (pp. 347-358)

    On July 14, 2000 in the tiny and, as yet, empty interior of the newly-built chapel of “All Bulgarian Saints,” a part of the Vasil Levski Museum ensemble in Karlovo, a couple of men were leveling a marble and glass container. This was the only other object supposed to be installed in the chapel aside from the iconostasis with the icons. It is a pretty objet d’art made out of a green marble base, carrying a glass case flanked at the corners with four gilded lion heads, and crowned with a gilded cross. The glass case was supposed to house...

  7. Conclusion
    (pp. 503-514)

    This book has been an argument for the relevance of microhistory, an attempt to demonstrate the significance of local knowledge in approaching the big issues of the profession and of life in general. It is taken for granted that a narrative, written in a few big languages and using examples of a few big countries, has universal connotations. Other examples in other languages (even large languages as Mandarin, Arabic or Hindi) are, at most, allowed to be footnotes in this universal sweep. It is this book’s attempt to demonstrate the general meaning and worth of examples from very small places,...

  8. APPENDIX
    • Appendix I The Scholarly Consensus on the 1956 Excavations until the 1980s, Exemplified by the Writings of Stamen Mikhailov: A Critical Analysis
      (pp. 517-527)
    • Appendix II The Discussion at the Academy of Sciences on 10, 12, and 27 February 1986
      (pp. 528-561)
    • Appendix III Letter of 20 Bulgarian Historians to Todor Zhivkov
      (pp. 562-566)
    • Appendix IV Poems Written by Citizens on the Topic of Levski’s Grave
      (pp. 567-570)
    • Appendix V Letter of Radka Poptomova, April 1987
      (pp. 571-575)
    • Appendix VI Letter of the Mediavel Archeology Section at Al, June 2001
      (pp. 576-576)
    • Appendix VII The Double-headed Hierarchy of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church (1996–2004)
      (pp. 577-578)
    • Appendix VIII School Questionnaires on Levski
      (pp. 579-586)
  9. Index
    (pp. 587-600)
  10. [Illustrations]
    (pp. 601-616)