The paper discusses the history-related national myths of contemporary Bulgaria and the public criticism levelled against them. A string of mass-scale reactions since the early 1990s up until the present day have revealed how entrenched the negative stereotypes towards national minorities or neighbours, the simplifying historical narratives, and the historical symbols with powerful ethno-mobilization potential, are among Bulgarians. These contrivances have been subject to critical scrutiny by academics working on behalf of several NGOs. Social scientists, cultural anthropologists and literary scholars have zeroed in on the narrowly ethnic twist of national identity and the forging of a nationalist mythology. A few historians have launched a sceptical revision of several key historical myths, e.g. the “Turkish yoke”, the “National Revival era”, etc. Yet the repercussions of this academic or NGO output among the broader public in Bulgaria is indeed rather limited.
This article examines the reasons behind the electoral support for the xenophobic party Ataka [Attack] in Bulgaria since its founding in 2005. While some authors have emphasized the salience of ethnic prejudices as an explanatory variable, others have insisted that Ataka mustered its strength by voicing some voters’ drive to radically denounce the Bulgarian post-socialist political, social, and moral order. This paper argues that understanding the Ataka vote requires a focus on the intertwining of changing socioeconomic inequalities and the territorialization of ethnocultural differences. Bulgaria is currently undergoing a hardening of social boundaries that goes hand-in-hand with a defensive reassertion of ethnic and cultural boundaries in a context where new intra-state and international geographic mobilities challenge former modes of ethnicity negotiation.
The article discusses the place which Bulgarian public sphere assigned to social civil protests in a broader concept of civil society. The specific question the article tries to answer is to what degree civil protests contribute to the self-understanding and reforming of contemporary Bulgarian society. The analysis is focused on the big teachers’ strike that took place the autumn of 2007, and is aimed at building up a typology of the key perspectives towards the strike – that of the financial experts, of intellectuals/ humanitarian academics, of citizens who voiced their support for the strike – that offer different ways to identify and address social issues in the country.