“The Past and the Un-past,” a Lecture on Recent Bulgarian History

On Monday, April 29, The Field Museum hosted a lecture and reception, entitled “The Past and the Un-past,” for the benefit of the Bulgarian community in Chicago. The event, which focused on recent Bulgarian history, was organized by the American Research Center in Sofia (ARCS) and the Archaeological and Anthropological Grant Opportunities in Bulgaria program (AAGOB) at The Field Museum. The AAGOB program is sponsored by the America for Bulgaria Foundation (ABF) and developed jointly with ARCS. During the lecture, the famous Bulgarian journalist, Nassya Kralevska-Owens, discussed her recent book“Communism Versus Democracy: Bulgaria 1944 to 1997.”

Dr. William Parkinson, Associate Curator at The Field Museum, opened the event and introduced the new president of ARCS, Dr. Shari Stocker. Dr. Stocker greeted the guests and gave Mr. Frank Bauer, the former ABF president, a certificate of appreciation to acknowledge his generous support of the American Research Center in Sofia.

The vice president of ARCS, Dr. Nora Dimitrova Clinton, was also among the speakers at the evening lecture. She discussed the mission goals of ARCS, which include supporting Bulgarian museums, research institutes, and universities; encouraging them to improve their facilities and working conditions; and strengthening Bulgarian-American ties in research endeavors. Dr. Dimitrova Clinton also asserted that publishing the outstanding work of Mrs. Kralevska-Owens fulfilled part of ARCS’ mission to popularize the history of communism in Bulgaria and thereby helped to prevent the rebirth of the regime. During her talk, Kralevska-Owens discussed the crimes committed under the communist regime and the advent of the democratic order in Bulgaria. She explained to the audience why, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the road toward democracy in Bulgaria was thorny and uneven. Dr. Aaron Owens read selections from the book following her presentation.

The last two speakers were Dr. Dilyana Ivanova, Administrative Assistant of the AAGOB program, and Dr. Alexander Sivilov, an Assistant Professor and historian at Sofia University. Dr. Ivanova provided an anthropological perspective on the topic, focusing on why research on the memory of recent history in the country is so important for contemporary Bulgarian society. Dr. Sivilov’s talk offered a historical perspective on the different socialist regimes and democratic societies throughout the world.

The lecture was followed by a reception, during which the guests were able to continue a discussion of the communist and post-communist past in Bulgaria with the speakers. Among the guests of the event were the president of The Field Museum, Dr. Richard Lariviere, and the General Consul of the Republic of Bulgaria, Mr. Simeon Stoilov. Members of the Bulgarian community, Field Museum staff members, and other American guests were also in attendance.