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

Archaeologists as political intelligentsia

The study of the particularities of one's own ethnic group is a common target of political intellectuals. The attentions of members of the intelligentsia (priests, teachers and writers) have often focused on producing textbooks and histories of their people (e.g. the Bishop of Sofia, Petur Bogdan Bakshev's A Description of the Bulgarian Empire (1640) and History of Bulgaria (1668) and the monk, Paissi Hilendarski's, Histoly of the Bulgarian Slavs (1762) (see Shnirelman 1996: 226). Ethnic intellectuals frequently consider that they are obliged to build an admirable historical-mythological image of their ethnic ancestors (Shnirelman 1996: 238).

Both the early intellectuals' efforts to study and write their past and the early links between the Bulgarian government and academy are not surprising in the pre-1945 period of state formation. The active roles which many academicians played in national and party politics, however, are more unexpected. More than half of the 1938/9 membership of BAN held or had held positions (many at high levels) in state offices and ministries (e.g. Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Justice, Education, Public Health) and some members had sat in the national parliament (Walsh 1967: 141). Ivan Geshov, who served as the first president of BAN was a Prime Mimister. Bogdan Filov, a founding father of modern Bulgarian archaeology served as the last pre-World War II president of BAN, held the office of Minister of Education as well as that of Prime Minister and was one of the advisors to Prince Simion, the Prince Regent, following the death in 1943 of King Boris III.

In more recent times, academics and intellectuals have occupied high political offices. A dissident philosopher, Zheliu Zhelev, led the first post-1989 opposition party: he became President of the new Grand National Assembly in 1990. A month later, an economist, Andrei Lukanov, was elected Prime Minister. The 1996 presidential elections pitted a divorce lawyer (the Union of Forces candidate and eventual winner, Petar Stoyanov) against an archaeologist-art historian (Professor-Dr Ivan Marazov, the candidate of the Socialist Party - the former Communists). A less well publicised, but perhaps more sensational, indicator of the natural acceptance of a link between politicians and archaeologists occurred in 1995 when a Western polling organisation carried out a survey of potential mayoral candidates in a major city in north-eastern Bulgaria. The winner was the director of the local historical museum. The victory was spectacular in that she had not been a listed candidate: she had won as a write-in. [13] To understand why these long-standing links between archaeologists and national politics have survived, it is necessary to consider the archaeologist as a custodian of the national past, as an arbiter and, most importantly, as a manager and interpreter of powerful, and perhaps dangerous, data.

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13. The link between political office and archaeological occupation is noticeable in many regions of eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. See Chernykh (1995: 143) for examples from the Caucuses, Belarus, Armenia, Abkazia, and see the recent news from the political struggles in Albania.