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The network of festivals of historical reconstruction in Bulgaria is expanding

Out of the 1,000 festivals or so in Bulgaria, historical reconstructions occupy a special place – opulent, colourful and bringing in crowds of viewers.

“For some years there has been a drive to popularize Bulgarian history and many associations of reconstructors have been set up to present the country’s cultural and historical heritage more actively,” says Zhasmin Parvanov, chairman of the Avitohol association for the reenactment and preservation of Bulgarian traditions in Varna. “The target groups are children and adolescents so they are better able to comprehend what they are taught at school and get a better idea of what the people living in a given historical age were like.”

The associations bring together people of different professions but with one interest – history and a desire to demonstrate to the public the life, handicrafts, clothes, culture of the people who once lived in the Bulgarian lands in as authentic a way as possible.

“Reconstructors use as their sources research and publications about excavations of necropolises and settlements in territories that were once inhabited by the ancient Thracians, Romans, Goths, Bulgarians, Kipchaks,” Zhasmin Parvanov says.  “They use pictures on pottery, tombs, icons, from publications which can add to the data already available.”   

The latest edition of the “Gate of Trajan – glory and memory” festival is to take place in Kostenets municipality on 17 and 18 August. It is dedicated to the victory of Tsar Samuel against Basil II on 17 August, 986, the biggest defeat suffered by the Byzantine emperor in his campaign to conquer Bulgaria.

“It is a festival that brings together reconstructors and associations from all over the country and shows what life was like for the people living in the fortress form late antiquity until the late middle Ages,” Zhasmin Parvanov says. “This year the festival costs are covered by the participants in full. The interesting thing here is that each one of the epochs will be presented – as a tale telling the story of what happened. We do our best to make the clothing, the weapons, the rituals as authentic as we can.”

The Goths in Bulgaria will be presented by the historical reconstructions association Dux Anticae from Svishtov.

“Ours is one of the most interesting periods, a time when antiquity was giving way to the Middle Ages, the old Roman Empire was starting to crumble and new peoples and cultures were making their way. Svishtov is on the Danube which has always been a border line where different cultures and armies have clashed. Here the Goths were at one time the predominant population, and Nove was the capital of one of the biggest Gothic states,” says the association’s chairman Dimitar Spassov. “Even though there is little information in textbooks about the Goths – they are considered a transit people – they are an important part of the ethnogenesis of the Bulgarian people. The Gothic population here was huge, they were incorporated into the Bulgarian state, had many alliances and fought many wars with the Bulgarians.”

Achieving historical accuracy in the reconstruction of times long gone by takes a lot of time. Anyone taking up this hobby can buy all the things they will need from specialized stores, or, as Mr. Spassov prefers, have them handcrafted, as they were once made by blacksmiths, curriers, tailors, or even make them with their own hands.

Photos: private library

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