History as a Factor for Unification

Emiliya Bratanova

On 12 April we refreshed and complemented the knowledge on Bulgarian traditions and history of a group of 20 refugees and asylum seekers from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia, gained during the third event of the programme. Three months ago the participants had the opportunity to hear a short story about the origin of Bulgarians, and to see pictures of traditional celebrations such as a wedding, baptizing, Jesus Christ’s Birth and Resurrection. By visiting two museums, they could relate these abstract stories to concrete artifacts from Bulgarians’ lifestyles and past. The team extends our special thanks to the Ethnographic Museum with BAS, which opened its doors to the refugees and asylum seekers. Beside it, the group visited the National History Museum, where it was introduced to the institutionally accepted version of Bulgarian history as a carrier and basis of Bulgarian national identity. 


Our eloquent guide at the Ethnographic Museum, Rumen Shomov, introduced the group to the depths of Bulgarian lifestyle of more than a century ago. Of special interest, as it turned out, was a story about a traditional courtship and attraction ritual: if a boy gives a red apple to a girl, and the girl accepts it, it means that they like each other and are willing to get married. According to Rumen, in Muslim societies boys throw a sugar cube (instead of an apple) to girls. Our guests from Afghanistan shared that they were not aware of this tradition. However, they mentioned about a very similar social practice. Instead of a sugar cube, a boy throws its hat towards a girl, and if she gives it back to him, they want to be together. Rugs and carpet weaving and silk farming proved familiar even to the younger participants from Iraq, who shared that their mothers were owners of such looms at home.


The National History Museum offered another view to Bulgarian past from prehistory to the period, following the Liberation of Bulgaria. Our host and guide Rosen Selnichki presented Bulgarian history through the exhibited artifacts, starting from the oldest processed gold in the world, more than 6000 years old, found in Varna. It truly impressed the participants coming from countries of ancient history and rich cultures. Of interest to the group were the Panagyurishte Golden and the Rogozen Silver treasures, with their finely crafted goods and jewellery pieces. Going through the Middle Ages, the participants were enchanted by the history of the origin of Proto-Bulgarians, as well as of their establishment on the Balkan Peninsula, and of the invention of the Cyrillic alphabet. To put an end of the tour, Rosen presented a story about the Russo-Turkish Liberation Wars and the role of the Bulgarian national hero Vasil Levski for the Liberation of the country.

It was an interesting observation, confirmed by the received feedback, that Syrians were more impressed by Bulgarian history and the visit to the National History Museum, and the Afghans: from Bulgarian traditions and the visit to the Ethnographic Museum.

You can find more pictures from the event here. 

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eea grants / a25 culgoral foundation

eea grants / a25 culgoral foundation