Re-packaging Identities: History Textbooks, European Travel and the Untarnished Bulgarian Europeanness

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East European Quarterly

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Bulgaria -- Historiography, Bulgarian national characteristics, History -- Textbooks -- Bulgaria -- Evaluation, Bulgaria -- History -- Sources


This paper will focus on history textbooks, written in the post-1989 period, as one of the modes for re-shaping the Bulgarian national identity as return to the natural home--Europe. The period of Ottoman domination is the foil against which the "Europeanness" of Bulgaria is being constructed. (5) The fifth centuries of foreign rule are conceptualized to attest the "kidnapping" of the Bulgarians from their natural development and belonging but at the same time the relationships with Europe (Western Europe) were kept alive and inherent Bulgarian "Europeanness" remained untarnished. More specifically, the paper will analyze the usage of European travel accounts as primary sources and will examine the selectivity of quotes from the travelogues that provide vivid narrative of coherent relationship with Europe. The paper will ask how and why foreigners' points of views are incorporated into the official narrative of national identity. I will argue that there is continuity in the search for European validation in constructing the national identity, which began in the 19th century by nationalist elites and some old rhetorical strategies are revived in the post-1989 textbooks. The paper will first provide a brief survey of the 19th century strategies; next it will analyze selected themes in the post-1989 textbooks that highlighted external (Western European) perspective and used extensively travel excerpts to prove uninterrupted European interest, and finally, it will examine some of the expected and unintended outcomes of these ideological operations for the fashioning of national self-image.


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