This is a historical study, taking as its narrative focus the life, death and posthumous fate of Vasil Levski (1837-1873), arguably the major and only uncontested hero of the Bulgarian national pantheon. The main title refers to the 'thick description' of the reburial controversy during the final phase of communist Bulgaria, which centered on the search for Levski's bones. The book gives a specific understanding also of the relationship between nationalism and religion in the post-communist period, by analyzing the recent canonization of Levski. The processes described, although with a chronological depth of almost two centuries, are still very much in the making, and the living archive expands not only in size but with the constant addition of surprising new forms they take.At another level, the book engages in a variety of general theoretical questions.
It offers insights into the problems of history and memory: the question of public, social or collective memory; the nature of national memory in comparison to other types of memory; the variability of memory over time and social space; alternative memories; and, memory's techniques like commemorations, the mechanism of creating and transmitting memory.
Maria N. Todorova is Professor at the Department of History, University of Illinois. She specializes in the history of the Balkans in the modern period. Recent book-length publications include Balkan Identities: Nation and Memory (2004), Imagining the Balkans (1997), edited volumes and articles on social and cultural history, historical demography, and historiography of the Balkans in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Introduction Part I. Bones of Contention or Professionals, Dilettantes, and Who Owns History 1.1 A A"social dramaA" at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences 1.2 From breach to crisis 1.3 No redress, or where are Levski's bones? 1.4 A socialist public sphere? 1.5 A"ProfessionalsA" and A"dilettantesA" 1.6 Recognizing the schism or what is worse: bad professionals or good nationalists? Part II. The Apostle of Freedom or What Makes a Hero? 2.1 What is a hero and are heroes born? 2.2 The A"makingA" of Vasil Levski 2.3 A banner for all causes: appropriating the hero 2.4 Contesting the hero 2.5 The literary and visual hypostases of the hero 2.6 From hero for all to dissident and back Part III. The National Hero as Secular Saint: The Canonization of Levski 3.1 The split or how a bicephalous organism functions 3.2 The canonization and its implications 3.3 Levski and the Bulgarian church: memory and narration 3.4 The orchestration of a grass-roots cultus 3.5 Commemoration, ritual and the sacred 3.6 Heroes and saints: the dialectics of reincarnation Conclusion; Appendices; Index