News: Head of Bulgarian history museum to publish book of his file as a State Security agent

21 January 2015

The Sofia Globe

The State Security files on Bozhidar Dimitrov, the controversial head of Bulgaria’s National History Museum, are to be published as a 320-page book detailing his career as an agent for the communist-era secret service – with Dimitrov promising that nothing will be left out. Born in 1945, Dimitrov was recruited to State Security in 1973. The book, to be released at the end of January 2015 or in early February, covers the period from his recruitment to May 1990.

Official disclosure of Dimitrov’s State Security past by the Dossier Commission in 2009 led to his departure from Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s first cabinet, in which Dimitrov was minister without portfolio in charge of Bulgarians abroad. The inclusion of a former State Security agent in the Borissov cabinet was in sharp contrast to that cabinet’s policy of keeping former agents and collaborators of the former secret service out of senior state and government positions.

Bulgarian law allows the Dossier Commission to announce the names of former State Security agents in particular walks of life – the commission has identified large numbers in, among others, the foreign ministry, business associations and trade unions, opinion polling agencies, the media and the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and other religious groups – but lustration is not legally permissible in Bulgaria.

The book, currently being prepared for printing, is to be titled “Of the skin of a cop – Tervel Kardam”. Tervel and Kardam are two of the three code names that Dimitrov had while working for State Security, the third being Telerig. Dimitrov said that he chose the code name Kardam to honour an “undeservedly unsung” Bulgarian ruler who had stabilised the country and fought the Byzantines.

Dimitrov said that he believed that the book would be the first fully published dossier of someone from the secret services. The dossier material will be accompanied by explanatory notes. While saying that nothing would be left out, Dimitrov said that the names of some colleagues who had died were being omitted at the request of their families.

Dimitrov was recruited to the 14th department of the first chief directorate of State Security. (As recorded in Momchil Metodiev’s 2008 book The Legitimacy Machine, the first chief directorate was in charge of international intelligence work, including science and technology as well as culture and history intelligence.)

Speaking to local media on January 20, Dimitrov said that he had prepared the book and published his file to answer the question he was most often asked, why he had been prepared to co-operate with State Security. He said that as a historian (Dimitrov graduated in archaeology and history from Sofia University), he wanted access to documents, and at the time no Bulgarian historian could hope to get access to foreign archives unless agreeing to collaborate with State Security.

“I was convinced that my work would be useful not only to me but also to the nation and our state,” Dimitrov told in an interview. In the book, extracts of which have been published in Bulgarian-language media, Dimitrov portrays himself as a historiographer analysing documents seeking to come up with answers to disputed issues not only in the history of Bulgaria but in the region as a whole.

Dimitrov’s views on the history of the region have made him controversial beyond the borders of Bulgaria, in particular because of his attitudes to Macedonia. So virulent are these views that, some years ago, one local media chose as its April Fool’s joke the supposed appointment of Dimitrov as Bulgaria’s ambassador in Skopje, the capital of the former Yugoslav republic.

In 2010, Bulgaria’s then-deputy foreign minister, Marin Raykov, had to embark on rapid damage control when Dimitrov said that Bulgaria should block Turkey’s EU aspirations unless Ankara paid $20 million to Sofia in compensation for episodes in the wars in Asia Minor (Dimitrov, born Bozhidar Stoyanov – Dimitrov is his patronymic – is a descendant of refugees from Eastern Thrace, according to his Bulgarian Wikipedia entry).

In the extracts of the book posted online, Dimitrov tells of how, at the time of a Bulgarian expedition in Paris in 1974, he planted articles in the French press on Thracian history and culture. By his account, he authored the articles, then left them lying on tables at a news conference, accompanied by photographs. According to Dimitrov, they made their way into French newspapers, including some of the most reputable, thanks to lazy journalists who copied them with only the most minor alterations.

Dimitrov says that history also is about arguments over the rights of countries and peoples to certain disputed territories. “The oldest example that comes to mind is from 1205, when the Crusaders explain to Tsar Kaloyan that they conquered Byzantium, because they are descendants of the ancient Trojans of Aeneas and have come to reclaim lands seized by the Greeks. And the most recent is the annexation of Crimea. Russia proved by history that the peninsula has always been part of Russia and betrayed by Khrushchev in Ukraine only in 1954. As the population is predominantly Russian.”

Dimitrov, who has authored several books and was the presenter of a television programme on themes in Bulgarian history (at one point, a job he did simultaneously with being a member of the cabinet), said that Bulgarian historians were in the most difficult situation of all Balkan histories. This, he said, was because there had been extensive destruction of Bulgarian records, including those of its church and in monasteries.

Strained relations between Balkan countries made it impossible to work in search of documents on the history of a country in a “normal” way, especially during the Cold War. To this he adds a hint that where attempts by Bulgarian historians failed, foreign historians with access to the relevant records were recruited.

In the 1970s, Dimitrov was granted access to conduct research in the Vatican archives.

Dimitrov has been a continuing source of headlines for the Bulgarian media, including for the dispute – involving then-president Petar Stoyanov – that saw Dimitrov dismissed in 1998 from the post as head of the National History Museum to which he had been appointed four years earlier. In 2001, he got the job back.

Dimitrov was twice a candidate MP for the Bulgarian Socialist Party, the lineal successor to the Bulgarian Communist Party, but on both occasions was on a place on the list so low as to be unelectable. Subsequently a Sofia city councillor for the BSP, he quit the party after falling out with its leadership in 2005 over the BSP’s choice for Sofia mayoral candidate in the municipal elections that year, going on in 2009 to join GERB and get a cabinet appointment from Borissov.

Dimitrov again made headlines in July 2010 when claims emerged that relics of John the Baptist had been found on an island off his native town, Sozopol. This led Dimitrov to claim that Sozopol would become a “second Jerusalem”.

He is also known for his quoted public invective, such as the time when it emerged that Dimitrov had worked for State Security and the co-leader of the right-wing Blue Coalition, Martin Dimitrov (in Bulgaria, familial relations should not be assumed without confirmation – Dimitrov is the third most-common surname, and Stoyanov, the name with which Dimitrov was born, is the seventh) called for Bozhidar Dimitrov’s resignation from the cabinet. Martin Dimitrov, Bozhidar Dimitrov responded, was a “political Lilliputian”.


19 Things I Learned about Bulgaria

By Justin Carmack – True Nomads blog

The first time I traveled through Bulgaria, I knew it wasn’t enough. So I came back for round two. I love these kind of countries- ones ultimately over-looked by most of the world as a country of interest. In countries like Bulgaria, i feel like it’s more of the “wild west”, more free, fewer rules and regulations, and fewer tourists.

From a traveler’s standpoint though, it seems like a great shame that more people flock to the neighboring Turkey and Greece, where it is much more developed and expensive, when they can potentially find something just as amazing in Bulgaria, Macedonia, Albania…. Heck, all over the Balkans! When you are here, it’s a whole different feel.

You sort of have a slight apprehension going there in the first place: it having a name synonymous with all kinds of wars. And you definitely feel like you’re on the “other side” of Europe, as everything is in Cyrillic and not revolving around you, the tourist. That said, I think this made it all the more better for me! It’s an awesome place, and I’m glad it is how it is. It probably wont be this way forever, so I think you should see it now. Until then, here are things I learned about Bulgaria! 

1. Bulgaria brought the world the Cyrillic alphabet – which today is used in Russia and throughout the Balkans and other Slavic nations. It was invented by two monks during the First Bulgarian Empire

2. ancient Roman influence on Bulgaria is still evident in many of the cities,. You’ll find Roman baths in Varna, ruins in Sofia, and a mostly-in-tact Roman theater in Plovdiv

3. Bulgaria is apparently the birthplace of yoghurt, and the stuff is everywhere. Not only are there about 300 varieties in supermarkets, but there’s also yoghurt in many of Bulgaria’s signature dishes.

3. The roses grown in Bulgaria’s “Rose Valley” produce most (70-85%) of the world’s rose oil – a component in most perfumes.

facts about bulgaria

4. On the first day of March each year, Bulgarians exchange red-and-white woven bracelets with each other. They wear these Martenitsi bracelets throughout the month, until they see a stork or a blooming tree. Then, the bracelets are tied to trees as a way of welcoming springtime. This is a holiday of sorts, called Baba Marta (“Grandmother March”), and celebrates the passing of winter.

5. Bulgaria has two major ranges – the Balkan Mountains and the Rhodope Mountains – and a few smaller ranges, including the Rila and Pirin mountains. Because of all these mountains, Bulgarian towns like Bansko have become very popular for winter sports. (and cheap!)

6. It has the world’s largest IMAX 3D cinema.

7. After the collapse of a Roman bridge in the 4th Century there was no crossing of the Danube between Romania and Bulgaria for 1,600 years.

8. Though small in area, Bulgaria ranks third in Europe in biodiversity, with a number of rare and endemic species. More than 700 brown bears, 1,000 wolves, golden jackal, wild cats, common otters, souslik and 37 species of reptiles can be found here

9. A must see when travelling to the country is The Rila Cross, which is one of the many unique things in Bulgaria. It’s a wooden cross with 140 microscopic scenes from the Bible featuring more than 1,500 figures; the largest of them is no bigger than a grain of rice.

facts about bulgaria

10. A third of Bulgaria is forested. (hence the biodiversity)

11. For More Than 700 Years, Bulgaria Was Nearly Twice Its Current Size

12. Michael Palin upset Bulgarians by saying it is most famous for it’s gypsies

13. Mastika, a 47% proof spirit made with tree resin, is a popular drink. Average price of a lager is less than $1.

14. The country is one of the world’s biggest winemakers – 200,000 tonnes a year.

15. Bulgarians invented the first electronic computer, digital watch and car air bag.

16. Bulgaria’s most famous footballers are Hristo Stoichkov, now 45 – highest scorer at the 1994 World Cup – and Manchester United’s Dimitar Berbatov, 30.

17. Bulgaria Has The 2nd Most Mineral Springs In Europe, just behind Iceland.

18. Plovdi is Europe’s Oldest Inhabited City, even older than Athens

19. Bulgarians shake their heads to mean yes and nod for no. Not kidding.

A little about me and the blog…

I'm studying archival science (include records management). My studies bring me to Bulgaria for six months.

I have been to Bulgaria on vacation but I don't know the language, Cyrillic alphabet or anybody. So I´ll be encountering many new situations and hopefully gain some insights from them. Some of it may end up on my blog. But even blogging is new to me sooo we´ll see...

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