Bulgarian archaeology. Ideology, sociopolitics and the exotic, Douglass W. Bailey

Archaeologists as custodians, arbiters and interpreters

The control of archaeological activities in Bulgaria is centred in the AIM, a member institution of BAN. Additional responsibilities for the preservation of cultural monuments rest with the Ministry of Culture. Since 1969, the sole power to grant permission for excavation, and the responsibility for organising excav-ations, has rested with the AIM (Velkov 1993: 126). The centralised, and closely controlled legal power to grant permission to carry out fieldwork reflects the AIM's (and in turn BAN's) role as chief custodian of the national past. The need for a centralised custodian of the past and its investigation is rooted, I suggest, in the power inherent in archaeological data and its interpretation.

Diaz-Andreu and Champion have argued that the power of archaeological information rests in its physicality. It is powerful because it offers both the opportunity and the materials for people to produce an alternative knowledge and version of the past: it generates and values knowledge (Diaz-Andreu and Cham-pion 1996: 20).

In a tightly controlled socio-political reality, sources of alternative knowledges (of any kind) were unacceptable and thus required control. After 1944, in a reorganisation of BAN, the AIM was created by uniting the Archaeological Institute (originally founded in 1923) with the National Archaeological Museum. The latter lost its previous financial independence and its funding reserves were confiscated. Previously, the AIM had relied successfully upon donations in order to build up substantial reserves, the interest from which covered funding for research and overheads. Indeed, the Institute was originally formed on the directions of King Boris III and enjoyed enormous funding from the government. Money for wages and excavation now came from BAN, although this pattern changed slightly when the Ministry of Culture gained responsibility for allocating funds through local administrative authorities.

As a consequence of the position of history and archaeology as ideologies, the selection of personnel deemed 'qualified' to be practitioners of either discipline required investigation into sensitive aspects of individuals' family history and political affiliation (M. Todorova 1992a: 1115). This was one of the reasons that few students were drawn to study history in the 1960s and 1970s. The best students went into the hard sciences while the top students graduating from language schools went into the diplomatic services, foreign trade and the governmental elite (ibid.: 1116). M. Todorova suggests that there was not the ‘critical mass' of high calibre intellectuals which would have been necessary to influence the discipline. Todorova sees a continuity of personnel between the pre- and post-1989 periods with scholars from newly eliminated programmes (e.g. the study of the history of the Bulgarian Communist Party) being absorbed by other institutions (ibid.: 1114). The same trends may be seen in the staffing histories of the archaeological institutions and museums.

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