Haralampi G. Oroschakoff

BulgariaAvant-garde - Blind Spot or On the Real Presence of What is Missing

BulgariaAvant-garde - Blind Spot or On the Real Presence of What is Missing
title: BulgariaAvant-garde - Blind Spot or On the real presence of what is missing
year: 1998
publisher: Salon Verlag
ISBN/ISSN: 3-932189-62-0
language: english
author(s): Haralampi G. Oroschakoff
source: BU L G A R I A AVA N T G A R D E in der Künsthlerwerkstatt Lothringer Straße / Kulturreferat der Landeshauptstadt München vom 29. April - 1. Juni 1998.

“And what is to become of us now without barbarians? People of that ilk were some kind of a solution.”

Konstantinos Kavafis

Bulgaria is the least known of the former Eastern bloc countries. It is, as Henry Kissinger put it in a rare moment of humor “the best kept secret in the world”. Bulgaria was always particularly closely linked to the USSR, being more or less directed by Moscow. Indeed, in the early Sixties there were even thoughts for Bulgaria to join up with the “Big Brother” as the sixteenth Soviet republic. Seen in the light of this obsequious loyalty, it becomes clear what a great achievement one of the first free parliamentary and local elections on October 13th, 1991 represented, striking a blow for liberty and marking the start of a distinctly new era with the victory of the Union of Democratic Forces.

What explanation can be given to elucidate the way in which international attention is focused so rarely on one of the oldest Slavic cultures - the first Bulgarian-Slavic state was founded in 681, and this was the culture out of which grew the Cyrillic alphabet1 , the Slav Orthodox Patriarchate2, and the very title of Tzar3  (Tzar Simeon Ist, 893-927 AD). Western media failed to include regular reports on either 1991’s velvet revolution (the first victory of the Union of Democratic Forces) or the bankruptcy of the entire state (under the Socialist government of Zhan Videnov in 1996). On that front little has changed to date. There is something to be said for being the first, albeit merely as something which feeds into one’s sentimental awareness of one’s own capacity for suffering; at the same time it is no substitute for the actual facts constructed on the solid foundation of an ongoing process of assimilation. It was in Russia that Slavic culture first blossomed fully. The Balkans were the seed, fertilized by Byzantium, which finally centuries later brought a child into the world whose tenacity still seems to know no bounds.

The Balkans are and remain a world as distant as it is puzzling. Bismarck’s declaration of 1876 “The Balkans are not worth one bone of a single Pomeranian grenadier” found much resonance. Thus a geographical term became a political slogan on the eve of the Turko-Russian war, which in 1879 was to lead to the founding of the principality of Bulgaria. The Turkish word balkan (mountain) has since the 19th century described the unsettled multiethnic corner of Europe composed of the states of Yugoslavia, Albania, Rumania, Bulgaria, Macedonia and Greece. This is an imprecise term, like most coinings of the rational mind, for there are many more ethnic groups squeezed into this region than one would guess by just thinking merely of these six states; along with Serbs, Montenegrins, Albanians, Wallachians, Moldavians, Transylvanians, Bulgarians, Macedonians and Greeks there are also Turks, Tatars, Circassians, Pomaks, Jews, Armenians, Hungarians and Gypsies. European consciousness associates the region with wild mountains swarming with hajduks (bandits) and other dusky figures who, after a good day’s hunting and boozy rape, preen their imposing mustaches and sing of heroes and death, figures who reek of garlic - not to mention the vampires and werewolves. Other essential elements of the picture include dirt, disorder, sloppiness and corruptibility, unreliability and flashy obsequiousness - in a nutshell, just the stuff of which dreams are made, with a subversive romanticism promising happiness just within hand’s reach. Where there are heroes, there are also mothers. Merciless tools/machines of destruction with enormous warmth, like tonal qualities. The ordered world of Central Europe and its systematic, all-encompassing categorizations comes to an end where the rule of the Balkans begins. The Balkans are Europe’s hell, purgatory peopled with unusually strong, courageous and attractive individuals, who nonetheless are quashed. Bulgaria too is part of this polyphony of bright colors and stark contrasts.
In 1396 the hefty blows of the Turks put an end to the medieval Tzarist empire. For five centuries, as the province of Roumelia (i.e. the land of the Romans) it formed part of the Ottoman empire, the de facto successor to the East Roman Empire, extending over an eighth of the surface of the earth. Bulgaria as a state and as a nation vanished from the maps and indeed, from the minds. This immensely long period led to shifts not only in the social structure of Bulgarian society but, as evidence of a self-contained development, constitutes the sole element of continuity in the otherwise intermittent and short-lived, if repeated, attempts to unite Bulgaria in earlier periods. I have always been surprised to note that Bulgaria does not seem to be fully a master of its response to its Ottoman past, be it at the start of the century or now as that century draws to a close. Those who admire and ape everything Western (which nowadays means mainly American) yet remain part of the Orient, all the while by staking a claim to be “a full European” turn themselves into prototypes of the petite bourgeois of the Central Balkans. In other words, they become part of a faceless national megalomania and a victim of complexes and their repression. Along with the other countries of the former Soviet bloc, Bulgaria is proceeding down the pathway to Europe even if they are, like Rumania, tailing behind. Slotting into the West economically is a question of survival for the whole of the region. Above all the in enlargement eastward direction compels the EU to reform and renew itself. The “New Europe” is growing more diffuse. For the first time, enlargement of the Union does not coincide with Europe’s natural geographical borders. The demarcation line runs not merely between the so-called citizen nations of the Western paradigm and the idea of an “ethnic nation” predominant  in Central and Eastern Europe but also runs along the invisible cultural border which divides Catholic from Orthodox or indeed Islamic cultures. Furthermore, well-meaning yet vacuous  speeches by Western politicians about a “return to Europe”  should be taken with an appropriate pinch of salt. That kind of slogans relates to party political strategy and is in actual fact irresponsible. Not only is the GNP of the so-called “fast-track countries”, such as the Czech Republic, Poland or Hungary, still lower than that of Greece at the time of its accession, but the EU can neither handle nor subsidize any more economies based on agriculture .

When thinking of Bulgaria we must not lose sight of the fact that centuries of complete repression of a people (and here I would only partially exclude the hellenicised Ottoman feudal class, the Chorbadji) leave behind a dulled memory which impinges to this day on the way in which people act, feel and think, even if they have been sovietized.
Let us set off then on a journey through the centuries in search of this  vanished culture. After all in the intellectual sense, only something which  does not exist can be described.


The history of the Slavic tribes is not one monolithic history but is rather one of shifting reciprocity. Since Classical times there has been virtually no other region in Europe where the historical, cultural, ethnic and political diversity and the state/political distinctions and contrasts were as marked as in these regions of Southern and Eastern Europe. Slavic history per se does not exist, just as Roman or Germanic history does not either; the Slavs were shaped by the direct influence of Byzantium and France, yet did not lose a sense of their own independence. Over a hundred years ago Leopold von Ranke still considered the Slavic peoples to be insignificant to the history of the development of European culture. Ranke considered them to be situated in a historical vacuum.  Two hundred years ago Johann Gottfried Herder had viewed all peoples as components of humanity and in this context described Slavs, Wallachians and Hungarians. His humanistic conception of history was however felt to be uncritical and romantic and was not attended to in the 19th century discussions on the role of the Orient.
Slavs form a part of the Indo-European language group, which emerged 4-5 thousand years ago. They made their first clear entrance onto the world stage in the sixth century - “in the third year after the death of the emperor (the Basileus) Justin, the Slav people set off and traveled throughout  Hellas and the provinces of Thessalonica and Thrace, devastating, burning and pillaging the land”, as John of Ephesus reported in his history of the Church. The establishment of the Bulgarian state in 681 AD marked a significant step in the process whereby the Slav tribes developed a state. Like the Samo empire of the Wends two generations earlier in Moravia and Bohemia, this state emerged as a revolt against the established great power. Just as Samo succeeded in uniting the Wends against the Huns, the Bulgarians united the Slav tribes under their sway against the overlord, Byzantium, the Eastern Roman Empire. The Bulgars belong to the Turk peoples, wild, war-faring steppe nomads who until the mid- 7th century lived in the north and north west Caucasus . Their ranks were made up of several hordes (orda): Kupi, Duci, Cdarbulgarians, Onogurs, Onogondurs and Kutrigurs. In the middle of the 7th century the legendary leader of the proto-Bulgarians, Kubrat Khan, died. The Khazars, a related Turk tribe, assaulted the proto-Bulgarians and smashed their mastery of the steppes. As the “thirteenth tribe”,  the Khazars created a vast empire along the shores of the Black Sea in the Crimea. Some of the proto-Bulgarians led by the son of Kubrat, Bajan-Khan, submitted to the Khazars. Others fled with his brother, Kotrag, to the north, where subsequently the renowned and powerful empire of the Volga Bulgarians emerged in the tenth century. (Today Bolgar is an autonomous region within the Russian Federation). The third group fled West under the leadership of Kubrat’s third son, Asparukh and established an empire in Bessarabia (now the Ukraine and Moldova). In 680 AD the emperor Constantine the IVth set out to Bessarabia to wage war on Khan Asparukh and free the Byzantine lands on the lower Danube from the constant attacks of the Bulgarians. The Byzantine army suffered a terrible defeat and the Bulgarians, victorious, crossed the Danube. One year later, Byzantium had to recognize the new rulers, making tribute payments to them - Danube Bulgaria had become a reality. Thus began the Bulgarian-Slavic symbiosis, rooted in classical Byzantine ground; in the course of this symbiosis, the “Slav capacity for suffering” was to completely assimilate the Asian warriors, absorbing them entirely. The introduction of Greek Orthodox Christianity under Khan Boris the Ist in 865 AD concluded the first episode of this development.

Just as the struggle against the Persian and Arab invasion was crucial to the existence of the Byzantine empire as a state, so the iconoclastic crisis was a time of major decisions and great cultural upswing in terms of the Byzantine empire’s assertion of its own identity . The Christianization of the Southern and Eastern Slavs opened up a new world to the Eastern Roman Empire and within this process the “gathering in of the countries” gave rise to the formula “Moscow, the third Rome” to convey “Holy Russia’s” claim to legitimacy and power.

In 862 AD an envoy from Prince Rastislav of Moravia arrived at the Byzantine imperial court to request that Christian missionaries be dispatched. Rastislav offered a political alliance in return, so clearly rejecting Frankish and Bavarian policy. The Bulgarian khan for his part wished to pay tribute to distant Rome rather than nearby Constantinople. A demonstration of Byzantium’s military might made it easier for him to make up his mind. At the head of this missionary activity was the young Constantine of Thessalonica, a Greek with a profligate talent for languages, a universal education and a penchant for bright ideas and philosophy. Constantine (Cyril) and his brother Methodius share the credit for winning the Slavs for Orthodox Christianity with the circumspect Patriarch Photius and the Caesar Bardas Phocas. Constantine created the Slavic alphabet based on the Greek alphabet (known as the Glagolitic alphabet, later known as the Cyrillic alphabet after his monastic name, which is still used by the Bulgarians, Serbs, Macedonians, Russians, Ukrainians and Montenegrins, whilst Rumania only exchanged the Cyrillic for the Latin alphabet at the end of the 19th century). Hereby the “Slav apostle” laid the foundations for an independent culture and literature, the inception and dissemination of which was centered on Bulgaria. Byzantium found that it was faced with an unprecedented type of opponent in the form of Tzar Simeon the 1st, son of the former Khan Boris, then Prince Mikhail the 1st. As an offshoot of Byzantium, Simeon was permeated with a sense of the loftiness of the emperor’s noble status. He knew that there could be only one empire on earth and that its center was magnificent Constantinople, the center of the world. The crowning of Charlemagne in 800 AD, seen as an embarrassing affront, was not recognized by either Byzantium or the rest of the Eastern world, at that time the vehicle of culture and civilization. (In 812 AD the king of the Franks was obliged to purchase recognition of his western title from Emperor Michael Ist Rhangabes, albeit merely as Caesar, i.e. third in succession after the Basileus (emperor). Simeon sought to establish a new universal empire in Byzantium’s place with Slavs at its head. In August 913 AD he stood before the massive walls of the capital. The Bulgarians already had the whole of the Balkans within their grasp. Wild hordes of Patzinacs and Cumans had joined the ranks of his army, making it a terrifying power. He was received with much pomp and circumstance; the Universal Patriarch, Nicholas Mysticos crowned him as Tzar of Bulgaria in the presence of the emperor Constantine the VIIth, who was still a minor, one of his daughters was to be wed to the Basileus, the Bulgarian would have been father-in-law to the renowned Macedonian dynasty. Simeon, just like the Arabs before him, also struggled in vain against Byzantium. Although he reached the gates of Constantinople twice again, extended the Bulgarian tzardom to the shores of the Adriatic, subdued Serbia and Macedonia, and made the capital, Preslav, a magnificent, widely-acclaimed center of culture, he never became emperor of the Romans. He died suddenly on May 29th, 927 AD whilst he was planning a new campaign against Byzantium. His son Peter, who was brought up at the imperial court, made peace, was recognized as a Bulgarian Tzar and was granted the hand of a granddaughter of Basileus Romanos, Princess Maria Lakapin. It was as if the roles had been turned around - rather than the Bulgarian Tzar becoming the father-in-law and patron of the Byzantine emperor, it was he who became an obedient son-in-law, although he was not wed to one of those “born to the purple” (i.e. not to a member of the ruling imperial family). Bulgaria, exhausted by 20 years of war, was subdued and vanished without a trace into the Byzantine sphere of influence. Its former vassals, Serbia and Macedonia, strove for recognition from Byzantium and chose to submit to the emperor. Within this crisis, social contradictions long bubbling beneath the surface emerged into the light of day. The Bogomil sect  appeared from the lower classes of the population, from the ranks of the poor and abused; a radically anti-ecclesiastical and anti-hierarchical sect. Widespread social
protest directed against the land-owning feudal class, the boyars, enjoyed unexpected success. The Bogomil teaching, which was based on ancient Manichean ideas and arrived in Bulgaria from Asia Minor, constituted a completely new element in medieval religious thinking and was to influence Western sects such as the Albigensians and Cathars. Thus Bulgaria and later Bosnia became the center of Eastern Gnostic and Christian heretical notions. Their effect was even felt by the “Old Believers” (Raskolniks) of the Russian Orthodox church, who in the end, as in Bulgaria, were wiped out in a devastating war of total destruction. Medieval Bulgaria left much more lingering traces on the spiritual and intellectual life of the peoples of the Balkans and of Russia in its unique role as a vehicle of culture, transmitting the literature translated into Old Church Slavonic to the Orthodox Slavs, as well as, through its interpretation and adoption of Byzantine culture and through providing fertile ground for sects, than it did through its strivings for statehood.  Taking a look at church architecture across the whole Bulgarian area from Pliska to Ochrid, gives us a fuller picture of the flavor of this period of flux. The churches here are mainly three-naved and it is interesting to note that in Byzantium during this period the basilica was slowly being abandoned and replaced by domed cross-transept churches. This anachronism confirms the independence of Bulgarian culture, building on both the imported tradition and on autochthonous tradition of the pre-865 period. In parallel, buildings constructed around a central space developed without drawing on Byzantine models. Church rites seek to breathe a degree of intimacy and immediacy into religious ceremony; as in Classical times the human figure was taken as the yardstick (boyar churches). The architecture of monasteries also played a major role. The idea underlying monastery construction springs from traditions linked to Byzantium and Eastern Christianity (Syria and Palestine). This is the source for the decorated painted ceramics for church interiors and public buildings of the Tzar’s residence in Preslav dating from the early 10th century.  These icons indicate a renewal in the sacral art of the Balkans. Politically the ensuing period was marked by defeats and destruction. In 967 AD Prince Sviatoslav of Kiev forced Tzar Peter († 969 AD) and his son Boris the IInd (969-972 AD) to hand over their lands. At times, Sviatoslav even transferred his residence from Dnieper to Kiev and only massed troops could force the Russians to withdraw. A revolt led by Komit Nicholas in Macedonia grew to become a dangerous threat to Byzantine power in Western Bulgaria. The youngest son, Samuil, re-instigated the Great Bulgarian Empire in Okhrida (Ochrid) and transferred the Bulgarian Orthodox Patriarchate there (it continued existing under the Ottomans until 1767. It was not until 1860 that - against the expressed wishes of the ecumenical Patriarch - a Bulgarian Orthodox Exarchate was set up by Byzantium. The ensuing schism was not resolved until 1952).  His rule was short-lived. Emperor Basil the Iind struck and destroyed the Bulgarian army near the village Kleidon (Kljuc). The emperor had the captured Bulgarians (14 000-15 000 men) blinded. Each legion was given a single one-eyed man as its leader. In that state Emperor Basil the IInd , known as Bulgaroctonus (Slayer of the Bulgars), sent the defeated army back to the Tzar. Samuil could not bear the dreadful sight. He died on October 6th, 1014. At the start of the 11th century then, after a period of grandiose conquest, the Eastern Roman Empire had regained one last glimmer of its former importance, and united the Balkan peninsula for more than one and a half centuries under the Byzantine scepter. This long rule weakened the Slavic element in both Bulgaria and Macedonia. The Greek presence was very strong, but Armenians, Wallachians and Cumans also lived in Macedonia and Thrace. (At that time the area was known as Greater Wallachia). In 1185, taking advantage of the Crusades which had weakened Byzantium, the two boyar brothers Assen and Peter provoked an uprising and proclaimed a free Bulgarian empire in the Northern part of the country. The two feudal lords of Turnovo, who were of Wallachian descent, established the Second Tzardom (1185-1396) with pronounced Wallachian and Cuman involvement. The empire was at its largest under Tzar Ivan Assen the Iind (1218-1241), reaching to the shores of the Black Sea, the Aegean and the Adriatic. Yet in historical terms this revival in its fortunes was nothing more than an episode, for the Balkan states succumbed more and more to feudal disintegration and central power increasingly waned. Ivan Alexander was the last Bulgarian Tzar (1331-1371) and under his rule medieval culture blossomed anew.  The continued advances of the Ottomans into Asia Minor and of the Serbs into Macedonia to the detriment of a now weaker Byzantium dominated foreign policy. The growing strength of the kingdom of Serbia led to the Battle of Velbuzhd (Kjustendil) on July 28th, 1330. The Bulgarian army was destroyed and Tzar Mikhail Shishman mortally wounded. This battle marked a turning point in the history of the Balkan countries. It settled the struggle for Macedonia and laid the foundation stone for Serbian hegemony, which was to set the tone for development in South-Eastern Europe over the next decades. As had previously been the case in Bulgaria, Serbia now saw the establishment of a Serbian Orthodox Patriarchate, alongside or rather in association with the Tzardom. In 1346 Stephen Dushan was crowned as emperor in the presence of the Bulgarian Orthodox Patriarch of Turnovo, the autocephalous Archbishop of Okhrida (Macedonia) and the Archimandrite of the monastery of Mount Athos (Holy Mountain).This was the situation on the eve of the Ottoman conquest of the Balkan peninsula. The Ottoman Empire became one of the most impressive multiethnic empires in world history; a laudable achievement in terms of both statesmanship and sheer logistics. We have neglected one important aspect in our journey so far, namely the conflict between the Latin, Catholic and the Greek Orthodox claims to primacy. The Pope persistently attempted to persuade Byzantium, which was under pressure from all sides, to enter into union with Rome or, in other words, to submit to Rome’s claim to supremacy, by various nebulous offers of assistance; this caused much damage and sowed much discord amongst the “Romans” and in some ways still has repercussions.


On April 13th, 1204 Enrico Dandolo, the Doge of Venice, who led the Fourth Crusade under Pope Innocent the IIIrd, managed to conquer Constantinople. He appointed Baldwin of Flanders the first Latin “Emperor” and crowned him in Saint Sophia, “the mother of all churches”. The Ecumenical Patriarch was publicly executed. The Orthodox clerics were compelled to enter into union with Rome, or were killed. “Even the Saracens are merciful in comparison to those who wear the cross of Christ on their shoulder” reported the chronicler Nicetas Choniates; “never since the creation of the world was such great plunder” Geoffrey de Villehardouin relates. The brief “European rule of the Latin-speakers” left behind no artistic traces. The marks it left were of another kind. The foundation and the cultural center were humiliated and emptied, and were not replaced by anything, nor had a universal approach of the same degree of spirituality. The Slavic peoples lost their admired/despicable head. What they were left with was a mishmash of untimely arrogance and too high an idea of themselves rooted in irrationality. Today, after the collapse of the divisive East-West wall, the former Eastern bloc countries are awash with glittering words of promise. The horn of plenty claims to be flowing over with formal diversity and indifferent to content. In this context the options remain limited. Either they will lead to dreadful assimilation to the world of the unconditional present, or to an almost stubborn fixation with cultural identity or, indeed, with a caricature of that identity. In this schizophrenic state, the most pronounced Slav idiosyncrasy still offers solutions: the negative force of schadenfreude (taking pleasure in the misfortune of the other). All the Balkan countries cling to the epoch when they covered the most territory, in some cases a rather brief period which in many cases was to remain a one-off.. They have never stopped trying to distinguish themselves from their neighbuors and seeking to prove that they do not share a common culture and history with them. Given that they are related ethnically, culturally and in terms of religion this attempt is at best to be viewed as an attempt to convince themselves within a formal simulation. Nowhere else is thinking about this made so much more difficult by an impenetrable nexus of interacting processes and connections, flowing seamlessly one into another. The multiplicity of forms and materials of these individual aspects highlights how heterogeneous and independent they are; then as now they provide a marvelous proof of unity in diversity.

The Ottoman conquest was not something which simply rolled over the Balkan peninsula like a natural disaster. The historic Patriarchates of the Orthodox East (Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem) had been for centuries, with the exception of a few brief interludes, a subject to the political power of Muslim authorities. The 14th century Balkan world of city states had united only sufficiently to present a united defense front (the Battle of Kossovo Polje in 1389 under Serb leadership). In the course of just a few decades the peoples of the Balkans were once again constrained within an imperial political framework imposed on them from the outside. It was not until the time of the Turkish Ottoman dynasty that the Balkan peninsula attained political unity. The 500 year long rule of the Turks was a period of repression and cultural mingling, the like of which no other people had ever experienced (except for the related people, the Russians, who lived under the Mongol yoke for 250 years).  Yet at the same time it was a period of endless possibilities. The Ottoman empire was a multiethnic state which displayed incredible religious and cultural tolerance compared with the colonization policies of Christian empires. Right up until the second siege of Vienna, lead by Karamustapha Pasha (1683), the Ottoman empire took an exemplary and modern approach to military and administrative matters and to ethnic integration. There was immense scope for upward mobility and trade volumes were immense as well. Its strategic position meant that, being also the link between Europe and Asia, it was also “the gateway to India and China”. Sultan Mehmed the IInd, known as the Conqueror, considered himself to be the heir and legitimate successor of the Roman emperors. He spoke fluent Greek and could count the princesses of Serbia (Mara Brankovic), of Bulgaria (Desislava Shishman) and of Byzantium amongst his ancestors. The most splendiferous great vizirs, agas, pashas or beys were Christian renegades.  Furthermore, autonomous principalities were set up; some of these were directly subject to the Sultan whereas others, known as “vakufs” of the Sultan’s mother were designated as a spiritual gift and as crown land by fermans (decrees) issued by the ruler. Bulgaria was one of the first states to fall under the Muslim yoke. Nonetheless in 1394 the noble republic of Koprivshtica was established on Bulgarian soil by the Byzantine’s Charalambo Gawras and his clan (Zupa) as a city state. Until the end of the 18th century, the beg-lik-baschi (imperial tax collectors), the court furriers and equerries were drawn from the ranks of his descendants.  Such isolated examples of independence could be found throughout the empire. The ceremonial investiture of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople (1454), along with an imperial decree asserting personal inviolability, tax exemption, freedom of movement and that Orthodox teaching would be safeguarded, meant that the “great Church” remained inviolate. As had earlier also been the case, the holy Synod had sole competence for issues relating to dogma. The Patriarchate’s court held full legal powers to deal with all Orthodox secular matters which impinged upon the “raja” (i.e. the unarmed masses = Christians). Byzantine ecclesiastical, civil and common law continued to apply. The Orthodox Patriarchate, as the supreme head of the whole Orthodox “Millet”, became in a sense the other heir and legitimate successor to the Roman emperors. The Slav Orthodox Patriarchates did keep their own liturgies but had to acknowledge the supremacy of Constantinople once again, as indeed did the Eastern Christians. Thus Constantinople ensured that the various strands in Orthodoxy were united and not torn apart by dissent, whilst anchoring Orthodoxy firmly within the state through the new legal powers which the Church had never enjoyed in Byzantine times. The Church was now united for practical purposes and could be considered to be ecumenical, at least in terms of the theory of the Byzantine state.

Gradually families who felt themselves to be “Byzantine”, regardless of their origins, gathered around the Patriarchate in the Istanbul neighbuorhood “Phanar” and thus they became known as Phanariots.  Through exercising the functions of imperial Great Dragoman (i.e. interpreter, foreign minister), court doctor, furrier, equerry and tax collector they gained the status of feudal lords (Chorbadji) and thus gained control over the ecumenical Patriarchate. Subsequently they became princes (hospodars) of the autonomous regions of the Ottoman empire and patrons of the Holy Mountain (Mount Athos) and of the Balkan and Caucasian monasteries. This constituted a closed loop of pure despotism exercised by Christian princes who were themselves subordinate slaves. Quite apart from the splendor of the image they sought to convey, we see here an extraordinary phenomenon of the exercise of power; the psychological aspects of this exist in an unbroken continuum with Communism, where indeed they find their supreme, i.e. ritualized expression (similarly the Russian grand dukes had to head off on a pilgrimage to Saray to be designated or acknowledged by the Mongol Khan). The Phanariots considered themselves to be the vehicle of Hellenic culture. Thus the notion of “Byzance après Byzance” arose. Many of these families were later Russified and thus continued to pursue their ambitious goals. Had the Phanariots not been present within the Muslim sphere of influence, the pathological idea of expansionist Russian policy, whereby the Eastern Roman empire was to be re-established under Russian leadership to the detriment of the Ottoman empire, could not have become such an all-engulfing notion in the 19th century in the guise of the  “Oriental question”. The phenomenon known as the “Renaissance of the Southern Slavs” at the end of the 18th century is the second factor which came into play. Under Peter the Great (Tzar from 1682 on, Emperor from 1721 on), Russia had undergone dramatic developments. After winning the battle at Oreshek (1702, northern war), the struggle against the Ottoman empire began in the second phase of the war. The later rivalries and conflicts pertaining to territorial expansion and political and economic influence in the Balkans, the Caucasus and in the Near East were already beginning to make themselves felt. Scarcely 50 years later, imperial Russia won both access to the Black Sea and the protectorate over those Orthodox Christians under the rule of the Ottoman empire. This brought the Western Great Powers onto the scene. The floodgates had been opened. Great Britain and the Austro-Hungarian alliance felt that their interests were threatened. The Habsburg Empire, which nursed expansionist desires vis-à-vis the Balkans, became a bitter enemy of the later pan-Slavic movement.  The Serbians became precursors of the “national renaissance” of the peoples of the Balkans. In 1817 they liberated themselves after the long years of war which had begun in 1802. The ensuing Greek struggle for liberty persisted without a break from 1821 to 1829 and shook the foundations of the multiethnic empire, calling the whole of its inner organization into question. The Danube principalities Wallachia and Moldova were peremptorily occupied by Russia and remained under Russian administration (1834) The European Great Powers strove to regain lost ground, which led then to the first European “world” war (the Crimean war) and to a defeat for the Tzarist empire, which was isolated within the political power constellation. Russia felt humiliated. During the “Orient crisis”, an immense Russian propaganda effort unsettled the Balkans. Major uprisings occurred in Bosnia-Herzegovina (1875) and Bulgaria (1876). Serbia declared war on the Sublime Porte (the High Gate). The uprisings were violently quashed, the “horror of Bulgaria” even petrified the rest of Europe for the first time. Russia was forced to recognize the Austro-Hungarian empire’s claim to Bosnia-Herzegovina and to renounce the pan-Slavic idea of a southern Slav state. From that point on, Bulgaria became the focal point of Russian attention. The “Greater Bulgaria” project became the dominant idea shaping Russian foreign policy. Nowhere else were the beginnings of pan-Slavism so hopeful and nowhere else did this idea fail so miserably and so disappointed all sides. A whole range of conflicts arising over the next few decades, right up to the cataclysmic World Wars, can trace their origins to the hubris of that time. The whole of Russia rejoiced when Tzar Alexander the IInd, the Liberator Tzar, declared war on the Sublime Porte in 1877. The “Flag of Samara” was unrolled by the pan-Slavic charitable committee with much pathos and borne as a banner to these ambitious aim. This Russian-Turkish war led to great loss of life on both sides and ended with Russia victorious. In the Truce of San Stefano, on the outskirts of Constantinople (Tzarigrad), the Ottoman empire was compelled to recognize a Greater Bulgaria administered by Russia. The dream nurtured for centuries seemed to be within reach, Catherine the Great’s “Greek Project” looked set to become a reality; the “third Rome” was to fulfill its holy mission after all. The administrative division of Bulgaria was re-organized, Russian military officials and civil servants flooded into the country, bursting with liberal ideas and set to work on a constitution for the new principality. This was to be the most liberal constitution in the whole of Europe, to demonstrate to the world that “Asian despotism” could be reformed, even radically (the Turnovo Constitution of 1879). As the independent Bulgarian state had been established, new public buildings were required. Initially the existing buildings were simply adapted to meet new needs. The old Turkish Konak was converted into a palace under the influence of Russian architecture. Stylistically the buildings in the subsequent period display some Renaissance traits, many Baroque, Secession and Modernist features, with the central axis generally emphasized. The response from Austria-Hungary and Great Britain was prompt and effective. At the 1878 Berlin Congress, they pushed through an amendment in favor of the “sick man of the Bosphorus”. Whilst it was true that they could not prevent Serbia, Montenegro, Rumania and Greece from attaining independence, Greater Bulgaria was divided and became considerably smaller. Two absurd creatures were called into being: a principality subject to tribute payments under Russian administration and East Roumelia, a province which remained within the Ottoman Empire. Russia viewed the outcome of the Berlin Congress as a new, humiliating defeat. The Habsburgs ensured that their representatives gained the upper hand in Rumania and later in Bulgaria. It is pointless to ponder why the next few years were characterized by clumsy insults and endless shortcomings; the notorious hatred expressed in Austrian politics towards the small Serbian state is simply incomprehensible. The fact remains that during the “Bulgarian Crisis” of 1885-87, Russia lost its most significant area of influence in the Balkans. The country was brought to the verge of civil war and subsequently reduced to a pariah role by the violent dethroning of Prince Alexander the Ist (Prince Battenberg), the assassination attempts, abuse and occasional shootings of pro-Russian ministers which followed, not to mention various popular uprisings.  For Bulgaria the ensuing period was a tragic-comic opera in the style of Lehar’s gypsy romances. Dependence on Austria-Hungary, European mockery of the self-appointed “Tzar” Ferdinand von Saxe-Coburg-Gotha and the Russian-trained military and public officials all gave rise to new divisions within the population, without really bringing Bulgaria closer to the Europe it so longed for. Any resemblance to the situation today is purely coincidental and all characters are fictional! Bulgaria thrice bet on the wrong horse (in the second Balkan War, and in the First and Second World Wars). Thrice it allowed itself to be misused as a kind of dynamite, and was left as a humiliated loser, artificially alienated from its neighbors. A sense of inferiority has always served as a willing victim to constructed arrogance, the result being an inconceivable lack of planning and organization on the part of people whose most characteristic trait is that their own sense of reality is more real to them than the actual reality around them. On that basis, their claims on the world are embarrassingly arrogant and they assume a permanent stance of judging everyone and everything without in any way seeking to relatives, i.e. without any chance whatsoever of actually putting anything into practice. Far-reaching change can only be brought about by public reflection. That applies to Bulgaria in particular and to the Eastern bloc in general. It is a fundamental “Slavic” problem. Is that true? Is Balkanization really a fundamental domestic problem? Was historical co-existence nothing more than a threatening mishmash of insatiable small states? All right, enough questions! This permanent smoldering crisis, fanned by the hurricane of boundless hatred, had long awoken all the prejudices of Central Europe. Yugoslavia, Rumania and Albania provided the bloody prelude, then it was Bulgaria with its poverty. It was the civilized Austrians who invented the term “the Balkanization of Europe”. It was an instrument which they exploited for an open attack on Bosnia and Albania. This willing instrument provided them with “legal legitimization before God” to “put a tidy end to these wogs and sheep-thieves” before they propelled us into a World War which would tear everyone apart.  What remains is ethnic cleansing in Yugoslavia, Macedonia and Rumania. But however disgusting it is, was it not Winston Churchill who in 1944 justified “ethnic cleansing” as a method for bringing about a new order?. He described “driving people out as the most durable method to end that intermingling of populations which leads to endless difficulties!” The Allied conference in Potsdam then decided that millions of Germans, Poles, Ukrainians and Belorussians would be resettled. The Greeks, who had lived in Asia Minor and along the Pontos since Homer’s day, were next, along with Armenians, Bulgarians, Turks etc. Today we see the same thing happening with Abkhasians, Georgians, Azers, Kurds, Tadjiks, Tatars and Uigurs, to name but a few. How can one explain that most people in the former Eastern Bloc, vilified as blood-thirsty nationalists, nonetheless leave their homes in hordes? It amounts to a disregard for the nation. At any price. Everyone on an equal footing. Truly globalized. A monumental film shot in the Italian style of the Sixties. As if Christopher Reevs (Superman) had left his sandals lying behind him when changing sets in too much of a hurry.


The First World War left the former order lying in ruins. Various multiethnic empires collapsed. It was the moment when the nation state and republics were born. Lenin appeared on the scene and his ideas experienced an unprecedented march of victory, changing the world as only Christianity had done previously: Communism or the Republic of the Soviets (Soviet Union). Looking back it is puzzling that anyone could believe that the world was made up only of “the proletariat” and “capitalists”. Gorbatchov’s attempt to renew the same system without the whole house of cards coming tumbling down is something which I find equally incomprehensible. A tragic hero! The endless indiscriminate persecutions, the spying mechanisms and the chill horror of the millions of victims are going to be the only legacy of Communism, along with the collective memory of forced submission. After the October Revolution, Sofia became one of the first centers of Russian emigration. Movements such as the “Eurasians” published their ideas here first, seeking salvation in “the road to the East”. The period between 1920 and 1940 in Bulgaria was characterized by the first Socialist movements (Stambolijsky), terrible assassination attempts, and lead finally into Boris the IIIrd’s royal dictatorship and rapprochement with Nazi Germany. Since 1942 the Communists had found support in the forthcoming power struggle within the state in the “Fatherland Front”. The alliance had come into being on July 17th, 1942, with the initiative coming from Georgi Dimitrov, head of the Komintern in Moscow. Deep-rooted pro-Russian sympathies amongst the population meant that the Red Army could enter Bulgaria (“liberation”) on September 9th, 1944. A blood bath ensued in Bulgaria, a process of Communist cleansing after the war described by Western experts as “giving rise to more victims proportionate to the size of the population than in any other Eastern European country.” According to official figures there were 11 667 court cases after the Red Army marched into Bulgaria; non-official estimates set the figure up to 100 000 (in 1947 my grandfather Haralampi G. Oroschakoff, Royal Mayor of Sofia was condemned as an “enemy of the people”. My uncle, General of Staff Balarev, was executed by a firing squad.). In a country with a population of 8 million there were nearly 100 concentration camps. The direction which art was to go in was prescribed by the Soviet Union. The construction of the present, the age of the “Great Utopia” after the Russian revolution, did not recognize any analogies with earlier art history. Art and life were not empty phrases within a cheerful simulation theory. Through active re-formation, the world was pressed into an idealized form. Reality looked somewhat different. By 1930, when Stalin declared art subject to the philosophy of the state, proclaiming that “the present in Socialist Realism is the only creative method”, it became clear that the Revolution did not dream of taking avant-garde artists into its service. The Stalin era mercilessly persecuted all those who did not “strive to present life in its revolutionary development.” The struggle against formalism dictated the form as the prescribed content. To put it bluntly, it was mass propaganda exploiting archetypes which was set up against any spontaneous manifestation of authentic, individual artistic ideas. As the Party asserted that it had already realized “the future in the present” artistic expression was unnecessary and even reactionary.  Bulgaria’s artistic development under the hard-line Stalinist, Zhivkov, has to be considered in the light of this prescribed stylistic framework. Perestroika provoked a peaceful collapse of the Communist system. The collapse of totalitarian political structures, which had nevertheless been central to the constitution of identity, destabilized Europe. The adoption of Western liberal life styles derives from a controversial development. Modernity, the Enlightenment and revolutions inspired by individualism, liberty and civil rights were not in evidence. At the same time there was increasing secularization and a loss of religious values. However, I do not intend to discuss whether the destruction of values as a value has been genuinely liberating for Western culture or whether it has simply lead to everyone pursuing their own goals as in the caricature of America. For us there is a more important question, namely whether Germany, as the most powerful country in the EU could perceive confrontation with a different Self and its representation as being something enriching. Given the rigidity and stagnation of everyday life in Germany, this objectified difference is equally ideally suited to serve either as an extension of self-hatred or as a perfumed balsam. Germany as a business location looking to the future is now rather more something which Anatholian farmers long for, far off in Kurdistan. Berlin as the new capital plays a particular role, for economic conflicts will somehow or other be resolved there.

I arrived in Sofia on September 9th, 1991, not realizing what a historic date this was. After 28 years of growing up in exile in Vienna and Cannes, I returned to the town where I was born for the first time. In Sofia I felt as if I were in a provincial Russian town of the end of the 19th century like the ones you often see in photos. The town’s centerpiece and one of its sights, in the direct vicinity of the Alexander Nevski Memorial Church (architect Pomerantsev from Moscow) is the “Monument to the Liberators”, atop which is the bronzed equestrian figure of the Russian Tzar Alexander the IInd (sculptor Arnoldo Zocci, architect Bogomilov). Away from the center the town was dilapidated, ugly and dirty. It wasn’t just the state of the road surfaces with their crater-like potholes, for at that time I had to navigate an almost identical stretch of road in Moscow, nor was it indeed the picturesque sight of gypsies with dancing bears in the center of town. The town had no water. It was devastating to see three or four lines of people standing outside the old bathhouses armed with canisters, bottles and other containers. Gangs of starving dogs roamed everywhere and were from time to time chased away noisily  by drunks, who were somewhat unsteady on their feet in all this display of aggression. My exhibition in the Palace of Culture, a horrible concrete block in standardized Socialist style, was to open in a week’s time in parallel with the first democratic elections in 46 years. Not only did no-one appear to pick me up from the airport, but my luggage was viciously torn to shreds there. The material for my lectures, my videos and my portfolio of artistic work completely vanished , only to reappear in Munich three weeks later handed into my studio with many apologies, having been rendered completely unusable. Jenny Georgieva, who had worked tirelessly to arrange a lecture in the Academy of Science, found that the door to her hotel room would no longer open and was told that the right key had been mislaid. I wasn’t registered at all in the hotel, my passport disappeared and for days my wife couldn’t reach me on the phone. In a nutshell then, these kind of stupid irritations were rather inclined to nip any constructive feelings in the bud. At long last however it was possible to open the exhibition. It would have all been completely impossible without all the support and practical help of Philip Zidarov, Rangel Valtschanov, Luchezar Boyadjiev, Nedko Solakov and Iaroslava Boubnova. That is really where my friendship with and interest in the newly emerging art scene in Bulgaria began.  A year later together with Viktor Misiano and Konstantin Zvesdochetov in Moscow a dream was born, namely a “Kräftemessen” (a trial of strength) as an artistic decision concerning an East-East dialogue in the West. In 1995 in Munich with Margarita Tupitsyn, Boris Groys and Viktor Misiano I finally succeeded in presenting the work of nearly three generations of contemporary Russian artists. The international success of this exhibition was most encouraging, with the New York Times writing of an event.  Iaroslava Boubnova, the Muscovite in Sofia, had achieved a great deal in the meantime. Through her energy, her innovative approach and with the backing of the artists mentioned above, she managed to build up an art scene focused on the radically modern within the international exhibition system. When I arrived in Sofia again in 1996 for a lecture in the newly founded Institute of Contemporary Art, we decided to organize “BulgariaAvant-garde” as a “Kräftemessen II” in Munich. In 1997 at the Soros Symposium in Plovdiv, which I was invited to attend, Iaroslava presented the project in its definitive form.

The journey has begun now, although the aim of proposing a solution in the form of a generally tenable metaphor in tune with the Zeitgeist has only been partially attained. Flaubert wrote that the birth of technology occurred at the same time as the birth of stupidity. Godard put it in more sober terms: art is very close to material, in other words the artist as a mock-up of himself, commits suicide for he cannot overcome the discrepancy between art and life in a media-based society. Who after all wishes to be merely a piece of information? After a flood of solutions to false problems, information is becoming as strange and particular as the way in which international airports like to present themselves. Quite apart from all that, on the level of perception there is still a hunger for somewhat dubious solutions. Vasif Kortun, imbued with bitter irony about his situation, described the metropolis of Istanbul as a “Non-Space”, equating it with a representation of the “No Man’s Land” between Europe and Asia. If America is the “New World” then Soviet society has created the “New Human Being” within this “No Man’s Land”. That is a “trademark” of incomparable magnitude. The war for territories could thus once again return to being seen in terms of one’s personal perspective, the evaluation of which depends on an awareness of one’s own simulation: it is the familiar matrioschka phenomenon. Within the first Russian doll another smaller one is concealed, within the smaller one yet another tiny doll and so on and so on, with the dolls growing ever smaller. What should be understood within the potential battle of comments? The old trauma of art as to how and/or whether it actually participates in life, improving or accentuating it, is a dream no longer dreamt in Western materialism. Or, to put it another way, art as the notorious revolutionary program of progress has failed just as miserably as Communism failed when it comes to providing a model to explain the world. For the first time the individual may celebrate his cloned failure. Without communication and without mutual intermingling neither art nor culture in its entirety can develop. In contrast to the Russian art scene; in Bulgaria the art scene is engaged in field studies of individuality and its protagonists. We see here a multiplicity of levels of perception along with their potential and objective correspondences: an adventure in processes. In the light of the camouflage maneuvers of the international art market strategists and their inexhaustible reserves dedicated to clinging to power, “Kräftemessen” will certainly confront the already well-established international lobbies with their own reality. The storm breaking over this rotten, brittle edifice will be triumphant, for “in our hearts fly black flags”.  The stupid thing is that those who choose triumph must exclude success. The good thing is the will to inseminate. I hope for all of us that this journey never comes to an end.

While I was talking to the Persian artist Nader about what the differences might be between the Eastern and the Western ways of looking at the world, he said “the Eastern view is a bee; which flits from blossom to blossom in the garden of the world, savouring them to the full, whereas the Western view is a bird soaring high and spying out all the corners of the garden to comprehend the system of the flowers”. January 28th, 1998. Berlin


1. Cyril and Methodius’ missionary activities began with a trip as envoys to the Khazar court (Crimea), after which they traveled to Moravia, only to be brought to a premature end by Cyril’s (Constantine’s) death on February 14th, 869 AD in Rome. Methodius was defeated in the struggle against the Frankish, Latinate clerics. His pupils Kliment, Naum, Sawa and Gorazd were forced to flee and were given a warm reception by Khan Boris. From Bulgaria they went as missionaries to West Macedonia, Serbia and Thrace. See: K. Irecek. Istoria na Bolgarite, Sofia, 1978

2. G. Ostrogorsky. Byzanz die Welt der Slawen, Darmstadt, 1974

3. Pub.

4.     Saint Vladimir’s baptism by the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople, Photios in 988 AD was the first step in the Eastern Slav’s conversion to Christianity. This act made Greek Orthodoxy the state religion of Kiev Russia. The Bulgarian Orthodox Patriarchate of Ochrid provided the Russian exarchs and metropolitans with texts translated into Old Church Slavonic. Until 1448 the Russian exarchs came from Greece, Bulgaria or Serbia. The Russian Orthodox church became autocephalous in 1459 after Constantinople was conquered. See: H. J. Torke (pub.). Lexikon der Geschichte Russlands, München, 1985

5.    The hajduks are a group composed of soldiers who had deserted, farmers and the homeless who since the early 17th century have led a nomadic existence throughout the whole Balkan area. They are the precursors of the Chetniks in Bulgaria and Serbia in the early 19th century. Under the influence of social revolutionary movements in Russia they upheld the idea of national liberation. Stefan Karadzha, Botev and Levsky were famous voivodas, whose praises are sung in many popular songs. See: I. Vazov. Under the Yoke, Sofia, 1974

6.    The historical model for Count Dracula is Vlad Tepesh, hospodar (master) of Wallachia, known as The Impaler. He particularly relished impaling thousands of people often together with their horses and celebrating elaborate feasts in the midst of those perishing. He was called “Drakula”, a Turkish term meaning devil. In 1462 Drakula attacked Bulgaria, devastated the land and took 25 000 prisoners. In Koprivshtica there was a feudal family of the same name. Sultan Mehmed the IInd replaced the ruler with his personal favourite Radul, Vlad’s brother. See: J. v. Hammer-Purgstall. Geschichte des Osman. Reiches, vol. 2, Graz, 1963
7.    The Ottoman province, Roumelia, was made up of Bulgaria, Macedonia, Greece, Serbia and Albania. Wallachia, Moldova, Transylvania and Hungary were added later, albeit with an autonomous status. Op. cit.
8.    B. v. Ow-Freytag. Auf dem Weg zu einem vereinten Europa, FAZ, 15 Dec., 1997
9.    Op. cit.
10.    Leopold von Ranke is considered to be one of the founders of the scientific historical method. See: J. Herrmann (ed.). Welt der Slawen, München, 1986
11.    In 354 AD the name “Bolgari” (Central Asia) is mentioned for the first time by an anonymous chronicler c.f. L. Gumilev. Drevnie turki, Moscow, 1967
12.    V. Beschleviev. Antichnoe obshtestwo, Moscow, 1967
13.    S. Aidarov/N. Aksenova. Welikije Bulgari, Kazan, Tatarstan, 1983
14.    G. Ostrogorsky. Geschichte des byzantinischen Staates, München, 1963
15.    Op. cit.
16.    G. Stökl. Russische Geschichte, Stuttgart, 1983
17.    G. Prinzing. Die Bedeutung Bulgariens und Serbiens nach der Einnahme Konstantinopels infolge des 4. Kreuzzuges, München, 1972
18.    I. v. Döllinger. Beiträge zur Sektengeschichte des Mittelalters, Vol. 2, Dokumente, München, 1890
19.    V. Zlatarsky. Istoria na Bulgarskata Durzhawa, Vol. I-III, Sofia, 1972
20.    N. Mavrodinov. Ednokorabnata i krastowidna curkva...., Sofia, 1931
21.    Ch. Mijatev. Die Keramik von Preslav, Sofia, 1936
22.    S. F. Platonoff. Geschichte Russlands vom Beginn...., Leipzig, 1927
23.    S. Runciman. The Eastern Schism, Oxford, 1955
24.    G. Ostrogorsky
25.    E. d.
26.    K. Irecek. Geschichte der Bulgaren, Sofia, 1974
27.    K. Irecek. Geschichte der Serben, Belgrad, 1922
28.    S. Runciman. Geschichte der Kreuzzüge, München, 1983
29.    H. G. Oroschakoff. Eine Textsammlung, Stuttgart, 1995
30.    Batu Khan, the son of the Dzhötzhi and grandson of Ghenghis Khan began the great Western campaign in 1235. In 1237 Bulgar (Volga) fell, followed by Rigan, Moscow, etc. Kiev, the “Mother of Russian cities” was completely destroyed in 1240. The Russian princes had to make an appearance in Karakorum to fetch an accreditation certificate, known as the “yarlyk”, attesting to their princely rank. Even Peter the Great had to pay tribute to the Great Khan of the Crimea, a vassal of the Ottoman padischah (-1722).  M. Weiers (pub.). Die Mongolen, Darmstadt, 1986
31.    F. Babinger. Mehmed d. Eroberer, München, 1953
32.    The Komes (Kmet) Charos Lambo (Haralambos) Gawras, son of Nikolaos Gawras, General M. Kantakuzenos i. Thrace (1356) was the first hospodar (master) of Koprivshtica (1394/1406). His offspring Thoromanso, Dukas et al fought as vassals alongside the Ottomans. In 1741 Hadji Dragoja Lambow enacted the third ferman which confirmed all privileges. From 1783 to 1804 Koprivshtica was completely burned down by Cherkessian Bashi-Bazouk troops. Many of the feudal lords emigrated to Russia (Bessarabia and Odessa) Koprivshtica was also the patron of the Rila Monastery along with Mount Athos, Koutloumousio and Zograph. In the 19th century during the time of “national renaissance”,  Koprivshtica was no longer subject to the feudal rule of a hospodar. Herein lies the origin of the 1876 uprising. C. f  Archimandrit Ephtimij. Sbornik Koprovishtica, Volumes I-III, Sofia, 1926. On Gawra, Dukes of Trabezond: c. f. A. Bryer. The Empire of Trabezond and the Pontos, London, 1988. On Gawra (Chowri), princes of Theodoro-Mangup/Crimea: c. f. Wassilieff. The Goths in the Crimea, London, 1927. On his offspring Gawreneff, Gawriloff-Oreshak, Harlamoff, Golowin and Tretjakoff: c. f. Istoria Ruskogo Dworianstwa 17th-19th century, St. Petersburg, 1984
33.    S. Runciman. Das Patriarchat von Konstantinopel, Munchen, 1970
34.    The title of prince was awarded to: Mavrocordatos, Mavroussis, Mavrojennis, Ypsilanti, Kallimachos, Soutzo, Karadsch, Chantscherlia, Ghika; Rakovitsa, Rosseti, Kantemir and Kantakuzenos (Danube principalities Wallachia and Moldavia, 1630-1860). Vogorides, Konemenos, Aristarchis, Photiadis, Georgiadis, Karatheodoros, Begleris; Vagahianis, Mavroyros, Verowitos and Adosiadis (Samos, 1834-1912). Mavrotzini-Palaieologos, Koumonduros, Zervobei, Zanetakis and Mavromichalis (Mani, 1669-1824). Charalmbo, Thoromanos, Avratin, Dukas, Balanbehj, Hadjidragoija and Hadjistanjo (Koprovistica - Koprivshtica, 1394-1810). Barsai, Rakoczy, Kemeny, Apafi (Transylvania, 1642-1718).
Although they were vassals of the sultan, the phanariots were the only secular Christian rulers who remained within the sphere of the former Byzantine world. The phanariot’s rule was exceptionally good with a degree of corruption which was entirely negligible in the terms of the 18th century. The “Megali Idea” of the Greeks, i.e. the idea of the imperial destiny for which the Greek people were pre-destined was brought together by them with the Byzantine conception of the empire, in other words with the culture and tradition of Ancient Greece. They were patrons of monasteries and schools. In the 19th century, after the new order instigated by the 1878 Berlin Congress, they were stripped of  privileges and titles and their large estates were confiscated. The new ambitious class of the (petite) bourgeoisie defamed them as collaborators who had exploited others and replaced imperial ritual with capital. “La belle Phanariote” was synonymous with corruption, despotism and intrigue. E. R. Rhangabe (pub.). Le Livre d’Or de la Noblesse Phanariote; also A. Hadschimichalis. Aspects de l’Organisation économique des Grecques dans l’Empire Otoman, Paris, 1953
35.    N. Jorga. Byzance après Byzance, Bucarest, 1935
36.    D. Beyrau. Russische Orientpolitik...., Wiesbaden, 1974

37.    .....on August 9th, 1886 on Russian imperial orders Prince Alexander the Ist of Bulgaria (Prince Battenberg) was violently de-throned and deported to Russia. Although Battenberg was very popular in his country he was forced to hand the Bulgarian princely crown back to the Russian emperor. Karavelov’s pro-Russian cabinet was then toppled by Stambolov and parts of the army. In 1887 the situation was bordering on civil war but Stambolov quashed the unrest. Despite protests from Russia, the former ministers P. Karavelov, D. Molov, G. Oroschakoff, M. Nikiphorov et. al were violently abused, former minister Major Panov along with a number of high-ranking officers (all subjects of the Russian Tzar) were shot. A European committee had to be called in and only with great difficulty could Tzar Alexander the IInd be deterred from having Bulgaria occupied. The Asian section (Count Miljutin) along with the imperial Russia’s Minister of Internal Affairs (Count Ignatiev) pursued a policy of destabilisation until 1894 which led to the deaths of Regent Stamboloff and various ministers at the hands of assassins. Ferdinand von Coburg-Gotha only survived because the assassination attempts were so poorly organised that each time the would-be assassins either shot themselves in the leg or the bombs concealed in cigar-holders went off earlier than planned.

38.    R. Lorenz. Kaiser Karl und der Untergang der Donaumonarchie, Graz, 1959
39.    K. Schlögel. Der Grosse Exodus, München, 1994
40.    D. Pryce-Jones. Der Untergang des sowjetischen Reiches, Hamburg, 1995
41.    B. Groys. Stalin als Gesamtkunstwerk, München, 1988
42.    L. Boyadjiev. Ikonen für das 21 Jahrhundert, in H. G. Oroschakoff. Polis, Munchen/Köln, 1993
43.    H. G. Oroschakoff (pub). Kräftemessen, Stuttgart, 1996
44.    Ch. Phillips. The View from Europe’s Lower East Side, Art in America, October 1997
45.    H. Siegel (pub.). In unseren Herzen flattern schwarze Fahnen - Serbische Avantgarde 1918-1939, Leipzig, 1992


I would like to thank all friends and all those involved for making “Bulgaria-Avant-garde” possible; without their energetic support we would never have managed to get off the ground: Iaroslava Boubnova (ICA, Sofia), Kiril Prashkov, Luchezar Boyadjiev, Nedko Solakov (all in Sofia), as well as,  Dr Michael Meier (Director of Fine Arts/Culture Division of the state capital, Munich), Dr. Peter Pinnau, Munich, Tina Bauermeister, Berlin, Folker Skulima, Berlin, Michel Würthle, Berlin, Diana Gräfin von Hohenthal und Bergen, Berlin, Wolf-Günther Thiel, Berlin, Yvonne Trapp, Berlin, and the sponsors.

Special thanks to Dr. Johanna zu Eltz-Oroschakoff.

Published in Articles
Read 321 times
Last modified on Feb 16, 2024
Vector. ICA-Sofia: Motives, Analyses, Critique is a project by the Institute of Contemporary Art - Sofia.
The project is realised with the financial support of the National Fund Culture, Critique Programme