National Museums in Bulgaria: A Story of Identity Politics and Uses of the Past

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Publicerad: 2011-09-30


ISSN: 1650-3686 (tryckt), 1650-3740 (online)


The history of Bulgarian national museums exposes several major realms of the past that received abundant representations and that have been used as sources of identity politics since the end of the nineteenth century. The interest in the archaeological heritage found in Bulgarian territory; the reassertion of medieval state glory through remnants of the Middle Ages; the glorification surrounding the national liberation struggle of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; and the pride with the rich ethnographic and folklore heritage – were those cornerstones through which the nation portrayed itself as having got deep roots in the past and as bearing a ’unique’ cultural specificity. The purpose of the current report is to trace – through the functionalization of these main historical realms – the construction and representation of national identity in Bulgarian museums from the late nineteenth century through the post-communist period. Based on analysis of the development of three national museums in the Capital (those of history; ethnography; and archaeology) and two museums dedicated to national heroes (in Karlovo and Kozloduy); the report will outline the major points in national identity politics in Bulgaria; its carrying out through museum institutions and its reflection in various museum units across the country. By paying attention to the establishment of museum institutions; the institutional changes; and the main overtones in historical representations during and after the communist period; the report will shed light on the uses of the past in Bulgarian museums and on the general tendencies guiding its representation in the course of a century and a half.


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