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

Foreign marginalisation

In the romanticism and evolutionism of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. the people of the Balkans appeared as objects for study, as scientific specimens and as targets for ridicule in the popular arts. Maria Todorova reminds us that George Bernard Shaw's Arms and the Man (1894) was set in Bulgaria and portrayed Bulgarians as romantic, ignorant and only just emerging from a state of barbarism (M. Todorova 1994: 471-2). [2] In 1887, the German Julius Stettenheim published a multi-textual (opera-mock correspondence-narrative) work, Bulgarische Krone gefaellig? Allen denen, welche Ja sagen wollen, als Warnung gewidmet (Would you care for a Bulgarian crown? To all those who would like to say yes, dedicated as a warning) as a political statement ridiculing Bulgaria and southeastern Europe as disorderly and backward. The events leading up to World War I and the efforts of German racists in the 1920s added to the identification of the Balkan people as trouble making inferiors (M. Todorova 1994: 474).

The divisions of Europe after the Cold War and the stereotypes which the West attached to the Soviet-bloc extended the negative image of the Balkans into the late 1980s. The pervasiveness of this negative perception is found even in the post- 1989 press coverage of some countries' re-election of former communists. The American scholar, Gerald Creed, has noted how Western press reports of the 1994 parliamentary elections portrayed Bulgaria either as an early exception or as a laggard and 'trend surfer' riding the regional tide which swept former communists back to power. Creed demonstrates that a more accurate picture should portray Bulgaria as a member of the political avant-garde (Creed 1995: 853-4).

Thus, the West has long considered, and continues to consider, the Balkans in general, and Bulgaria in particular, as an exotic other, a primitive poor relation, an object worthy of study, much like an anthropological tribe. This Western stance has developed over the past century to include the discipline of archaeology in its gaze. Indeed Tim Kaiser concludes his recent essay on archaeology and ideology in southeastern Europe with the observation that Balkan archaeology 'provides an interesting case study' (Kaiser 1995: 119).

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2. The Austrian Oskar Strauss (1870-1954) based the libretto of his comic opera Der Tapfere Soldat [The Chocolate Soldier] (1908) on Shaw's play.