Evgenia Ivanova: Liberation is not a political event, but a state of mind

What November 10th means to you? What is the most important date of the last 25 years?

In the beginning it was, of course, euphoria. But for me it began before November 10th. Perhaps it began on November 3rd, when that Ecoglasnost rallytook place, when the people asked loud and clear for ‘Democracy’ for the first time. It was intoxicating. Then we sobered up, but you did not ask me about what happened later, did you…

What is the most valuable feeling for you from those dissident times?

Feeling that I no longer lived in a lie. And the feeling of a happy community, that evaporated too soon.

You are of the founder of the Club for Glasnost and Perestroika, but your participation in politics ended with the dissent and opposition. Why? Haven’t you ever been tempted to be in power? You can use it for quite meaningful things.

I am not good in politics. And I do not perceive my participation in the Club as political, but as the recognition that it was impossible to live ‘that’ way – in silenced dissatisfaction and self-imposed censorship. As for the temptation of power – I saw too quickly how it changed the people from the ‘happy community’, how it made them dependent. I still think that the smartest decision in my life was not to participate in power. I'm not sure what I would have become…

You studied the Bulgarian Turks and the Pomak people[1]. You probably have impressions of the first Turkish organizations and DPS. What is DPS? A guarantor of ethnic peace orientated towards the Euro-Atlantic sphere, or a party with networks of companies, police and deals in the dark?

DPS is probably all of that. At first it seemed (or was presented?) as a guarantor for ethnic peace. Then it started feeling as if it were the ruler of ethnic peace, the one whose bidding would decide if that peace would be saved or collapse. This way the ethnic peace became meaningless as a value. Therefore DPS is no longer ethnic, but just an ordinary oligarchic party.

Who, in your eyes is Ahmed Dogan[2]? The curse of Bulgaria, the smartest and most insightful politician, the man with the most power, or the ambitious boy from the village looking for revenge on all those who have tried to pull his strings?

It seems as if Bulgarian society shows a strong tendency to satanize:  a Satan is pointed out and he is to blame for everything. So it was with Alexey Petrov, so it is now with Tsvetan Vasilev. Unfortunately, the demonization of Dogan (and that of DPS) affected Turks and Muslims in general. Maybe it's time to realize that Dogan is just a politician – a little more cynical (and thus more honest) and smarter than the others. It is true that behind his philosophical games lies ‘the boy from the village’, but how many Bulgarian politicians can say that does not happen to them?

Is there a politician of the past 25 years that deserves a monument?

If any, he should be ashamed of the thought to be portrayed by a monument. I have to say that the most original monument I have seen is in Radomir – a monument of the unknown “bozadzhia”[3].

Did we manage to become free?

Liberation is not a political event, but a state of mind.

What are you fighting against today?

I should already feel tired of fighting. But I still cannot stand the prejudices, the clichés and the simplicity of some people. And the attitude of ‘nothing depends on me’. It seems I am not tired, unfortunately...

Evgenia Ivanova founded the Club for Support of Glasnost and Perestroika before the crash of the totalitarian regime in 1989. She was repeatedly detained by the State Security Services. Today she is a Doctor of Sciences and Professor at the New Bulgarian University. Some of her research projects, such as the attitudes of the Muslim population in Bulgaria, have provoked outrage and caused her to be labelled a ‘threat to national security’. She is the author of numerous monographs, including, The Balkans: coexistence of centuries; Study on the (non)-existence of Balkan modernity; The ‘Rejected unrejected’ or the process called ‘Revival’; and Bulgarian Dissidents. Her latest book came out a few days ago: Islamized Balkans: The dynamics of the stories. Not only an ethnologist and a Balkanist, Ms Ivanova also writes fiction. She is the author of the novels Photo Stojanovic, Deafening White and The Plan: Constantinople.

 

[1]Pomak people are a conservative Muslim population in the southeast of Bulgaria, mainly in the Rodopi region.

[2]Former leader of DPS

[3] A craftsman that produces ‘boza’, a typical sweet beverage made from fermented wheat that is very popular in the Balkan countries, especially in Bulgaria and Turkey.