Controversial head of Bulgaria’s National History Museum rejects petition to resign

The director of Bulgaria’s National History Museum, Bozhidar Dimitrov, has rejected a public petition demanding his retirement by lashing out at the people who initiated it and saying that he would step down only when finishing “the last major task” of his career, the restoration of the Great Basilica at Pliska.

Dimitrov’s conduct regarding the Great Basilica was among the catalysts for the petition, now signed by more than 2000 people.

His media pronouncements and photo opportunities regarding a supposed holy well at the basilica in Bulgaria’s ancient capital plunged into ignominy when tests showed that the water in the well had nitrate levels too high to be safe for human consumption.

This came on top of years of controversial statements on public and political topics and what other professionals regarded as Dimitrov’s undignified showmanship.

Dimitrov hit back, saying that two NGOs, the Tangra Tanakra and Primorsko foundations, had now organised counter-petitions in his defence.

He said that he would “probably” go only after the completion of the restoration of the Great Basilica, and in support of the “policy of the recovery of national memory, ruthlessly deleted by the Ottomans”.

According to Bulgarian news site Mediapool, the legal basis for Dimitrov’s tenure as head of the National History Museum was unclear. He has held the post since 1994 with two intervening episodes, once when he was a Sofia city councillor for GERB, the other when he was a cabinet minister in the first Borissov government before being ousted over controversial statements and the disclosure of his affiliation to the former communist secret service State Security.

Mediapool noted that from answers to questions in Parliament to Culture Minister Vezhdi Rashidov, there was no clarity on when was the most recent competition on the basis of which Dimitrov held his current five-year term in office.

Dimitrov hit back at allegations of the scientific community being offended by his claims, saying that the scientific community was not made up of the initiators of the petition, professors Kalin Yanakiev and Ivailo Dichev.

According to Dimitrov, the petition in support of him “although in its infancy” included the names of historians and several professors. He said that he also had the support of clergy.

He said that his book about his involvement with State Security had been published and “if someone finds something objectionable in it, let the public cast a stone at me”.

He implied that the motivation for Yanakiev and Dichev to campaign against him was political, describing them as allied to the centre-right Reformist Bloc.

He rejected allegations that he had a “mercenary attitude” to Bulgaria’s national heritage.



The Sofia Globe staff

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