(*This history feature article was written by Ivan Dikov for Pax Glocalica's sister publication ArchaeologyinBulgaria.com)
Bulgaria and Greece are (the) two European countries that are about as ancient as it gets. But possibly the first thing that comes to mind regarding their relations in historical terms are the horrific, back-stabbing Modern Era wars the two contemporary nation-states fought in the 20th century.
That is for sure a sad thought but one that’s also indicative of the persisting patterns of “perceiving” or “imagining” “the other” in the Balkans (or just “Imagining the Balkans” in the words of historian Maria Todorova’s world-famous book title).
It is all the more so given that it refers to the already (supposedly) more “westernized” eastern part of the Balkan Peninsula (vis-à-vis the Western Balkans, i.e. the former Yugoslavia) where European Union member states Bulgaria, Greece, and Romania could be considered as somewhat of a “stability belt”.
Yet, while Bulgaria and Greece were on the opposing sides in three major interstate wars in the 20th century (the Second Balkan War, the First World War, and, technically, the Second World War), and happened to be adversaries in the Cold War thanks to Bulgaria’s occupation by Stalin’s Red Army, the common Bulgarian-Greek history in the Modern Era actually boasts some rather astonishing and inspiring examples of heroism for the other’s sake which are undeservedly overlooked.
That’s not even counting the Middle Ages: when Bulgaria (the First and Second Bulgarian Empires) and Byzantium (technically Greece’s medieval predecessor), according to some estimates, fought nearly 200 wars against one another wars for a period of 700 years (!!!).
At the same time, however, they also cooperated massively: Bulgaria borrowed lavishly from the higher culture of the Byzantine Empire, with Eastern Orthodox Christianity and the Bulgarian Script (also known as Slavic or Cyrillic) being just the top examples; Constantinople made use of the medieval Bulgarian Empire’s military might, most notably in the often forgotten Battle of Constantinople in 718 AD in which the Ancient Bulgar cavalry routed the mighty Arab forces stopping the Arabs’ advance into Europe even more categorically than Charles Martel did at Poitier 14 years later (or what became known as the Battle of Tours).
Of course, in the 14th century Bulgarians and Greeks failed miserably at coming together to stop the invading Ottomans, with the well-known result of Ottoman Turkey gaining control over much of Europe for several long, sad centuries…
Read the rest of this article on ArchaeologyinBulgaria website here
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