Bozhidar Dimitrov, the former long-time director of Bulgaria’s National History Museum and who briefly served as minister without portfolio, died on July 1 2018 at the age of 72.
Dimitrov was born on December 3 1945 in the town of Sozopol on the Black Sea coast. He had a PhD in history from Sofia state university, where he studied history and archaeology.
He was appointed head of the National History Museum for the first time in 1994 and sacked in 1998, after getting into a dispute with then-president Petar Stoyanov about the return to Zografski Monastery of the manuscript of Paisii Hilendarski’s history of Bulgaria.
He hosted history-themed programmes on two different broadcasters prior to his re-appointment as the museum’s director in 2001, a position he held until his retirement in late 2017.
Dimitrov was a minister without portfolio in the first government of Boiko Borissov, in charge of Bulgarians abroad. In June 2009, the Dossier Commission – the body charged by law with identifying former communist-era State Security agents in various areas of public life – said that Dimitrov had been an agent. His code names, variously, were Bogdan, Kardam, Tervel, and Telerig.
He resigned from the Borissov cabinet in February 2011 amid controversy about his affiliation to State Security.
Dimitrov had a long record of making bombastic statements, particularly on the value of new archaeological finds. In 2010, he proudly proclaimed the contents of a relic urn found on a small island off the coast of his native Sozopol to contain the bones of St John the Baptist, even before the remains could be dated.
Dimitrov, who was instrumental in the bone fragments being displayed in a church in the town, said that Sozopol would become a “second Jerusalem” because of the relics.
He clashed repeatedly with other Bulgarian historians, who accused him of having a “mercenary attitude” to Bulgaria’s national heritage, an allegation that he rejected.
Not afraid of stepping on anyone’s toes, Dimitrov was also known for his outspoken views on Macedonia, which he considered to be a “fabricated” state and nation, and accusing the country of trying to misappropriate Bulgaria’s mediaeval history.
The cause of Dimitrov’s death was not immediately clear. Media reports said he collapsed on the street and was pronounced dead several minutes later, when an ambulance arrived on the scene.