Batak massacre media controversy in 2007

Batak massacre media controversy in 2007

In May 2007, a public conference was scheduled in Bulgaria, aiming to present research, held by Martina Baleva and Ulf Brunnbauer, on the formation of national memory for the Batak massacre. Bulgarian media reported that the authors are denying the massacre, which was the rising of a substantial media controversy. Finally, the conference was cancelled, and several eminent Bulgarian historians (including Georgi Markov, head of the Institute of History of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences and Bozhidar Dimitrov, director of the National Museum of History in Sofia) qualified Baleva and Brunnbauer's research as "grandiose falsification" [ [ "The Batak Massacre is fact, not myth" Letter from 26 bulgarian historians on Baleva and Brunnbauer's work] (Bulgarian)] . Other historians claimed that the principle of academic freedom is violated.

Before the media controversy beginning

The conference was scheduled to be held in Batak on May 18 2007 as part of a project entitled „Feindbild Islam – Geschichte und Gegenwart antiislamischer Stereotype in Bulgarien am Beispiel des Mythos vom Massaker in Batak“ ("The Image of the Islamic Enemy - the Past and Present of Anti-Islamic stereotypes in Bulgaria as exeplified by the Myth of the Batak Massacre"). The project was led by Ulf Brunnbauer and Martina Baleva from the Institute of Eastern European Studies at the University of Berlin, who were also expected to read papers at the conference. [ [ Batak als bulgarischer Erinnerungsort] de icon] .

Reaction in media

Bulgarian media reported that the scientists were denying that a massacre had occurred. [ [ "German Scientists Deny 5 Centuries of Bulgaria's History"] Sofia News Agency, April 24, 2007] There was a public outcry, widespread protests and immediate reactions on the part of the Mayor of Batak, Prime minister Sergey Stanishev, and President Georgi Parvanov. [ [ "Batak massacre: Provocation Against Bulgarian National History"] by Olga Yoncheva, website, April 25, 2007] The Bulgarian Academy of Sciences rejected the possibility of providing a place for the conference, stating that there is a huge amount of material proof and documents for the massacres at Batak and Perushtitsa. [ [ "Bulgarian Academy of Science: "The Myth of Batak” is a pseudo-scientific show"] by Olga Yoncheva, website, April 26, 2007] . Ulf Brunnbauer and Martina Baleva apologized and asserted that the outcry was based on a misunderstanding and incorrect information [ [ "The Batak massacre: a sacred subject" The Sofia Echo by Petar Kostadinov, May 7, 2007] ] . They stated that their intention had been not to deny the massacre, but to critically look at some paintings and photographs related to it [ [ "Monitor: The funding comes from Turkey"] by Dessislava Todorova, website, April 25, 2007 bg icon] - an issue that Baleva had published an article on a year earlier. [ [ Балева, Мартина. 2006. Кой (по)каза истината за Батак. В.Култура, Брой 17 (2412), 03 май 2006 г.] bg icon] They also explained that the term "myth" in a culturological context does not qualify the veracity of an event, but rather refers to the way it is represented and used as a social construct. [ [,2144,2459306,00.html Bulgarien: Umstrittene Mythen] by Marina Liptcheva-Weiss, Deutsche Welle website, April 26, 2007 de icon] Some Bulgarian intellectuals criticized what they said was censorship and an encroachment upon the independence of scholarship [ [ Der bulgarische Bilderstreit] by Ivaylo Ditchev, "die tageszeitung", April 30, 2007 de icon] and a petition was started in protest against the campaign. [ [ Петиция от група историци по повод кампанията срещу проекта “Батак като място на българската памет”] bg icon]

Kaychev-Baleva debate

An important point in Baleva's paper that had been supposed to be read at the conference was that Polish artist Antoni Piotrowski's painting titled "The Batak Massacre" was an important factor for the formation of a national memory of the massacre. Naum Kaychev, assistant professor at Sofia University's Faculty of History, criticized this view in an article seeking to point out certain contradictions and factual errors in Baleva's paper that had been supposed to be read at the cancelled conference. [ [ Как Батак влезе в българския национален разказ ] Наум Кайчев, в. “Култура”, 21 юни 2006 г] One point of Kaychev's article was to show that national memory of the massacre existed long before Piotrowski's painting - for example, the massacre is described in a school history book in 1881, while Piotrowski's painting only appeared in 1892. In response, Baleva conceded that she had been wrong in claiming that Batak had been "entirely" forgotten before the painting was created. She nevertheless argued, among other things, that Piotrowski's work did have a significant influence on subsequent national memory of the massacre and on the form of the Batak memorial in particular. [ Хиатусът Батак. Мартина Балева, в. “Култура”, 7 септември 2006 г.]


13. [ Batak massacre: Provocation Against Bulgarian National History]

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