Sofia, June 8, 2015/ Independent Balkan News Agency
By Clive Leviev-Sawyer of The Sofia Globe
Bulgarian head of state President Rossen Plevneliev used the June 8 ceremony of the unveiling of a controversial statue of Tsar Samuil in Sofia to call for the 10th century Bulgarian ruler’s bones to be transferred to Bulgaria from their current place in a Greek museum.
“Our generation has the historical responsibility for the remains of Tsar Samuel to be returned to Bulgaria. The Bulgarian state should not rest until his bones are returned to Bulgaria,” Plevneliev said.
Plevneliev, noting that in October 2014 he had the opportunity to venerate the remains of Samuil, which for the occasion were taken out to be put on display at the Museum of Byzantine Culture in Thessaloniki, said that the return of the bones to Bulgaria “would be a symbolic act of historic reconciliation between the Bulgarian and Greek people”.
Plevneliev also touched on the public controversy about the new statute outside the St Sofia basilica, calling for society not be divided on the issue.
He added that monuments to a communist leader who had almost turned Bulgaria into a 16th Soviet republic – a reference to long-time communist dictator Todor Zhivkov – were still being built in Bulgaria, but there were disputes about putting up a statue of Tsar Samuil.
There was a monument to the Soviet Army in Sofia, but no monuments to Asparuh, Omurgat or Simeon I.
“As President, I will be happy if the monuments to great Bulgarian rulers become more numerous. We owe this to the generations,” Plevneliev said.
In October 2014, as Bulgaria marked the 1000th anniversary of the death of Samuil, Plevneliev made two significant speeches on the topic, one at a commemoration in Bulgaria and the other at the Museum of Byzantine Culture in Greece.
At the time, Plevneliev said, that, “if we look back to that era, if we erect monuments, make films and write books, it is not to exacerbate past political passions or to compete in mountainous majesty.
“We aim above all to depict the determination, wisdom and energy of this remarkable statesman. The true monument soars above marble and bronze. It finds its place in the hearts and souls,” Plevneliev said.
Plevneliev said that Bulgaria and Greece had set an example of a “European” attitude to history and the preservation of cultural heritage.
“Sharing the values of a united Europe, we are united in our understanding that history should be studied as it is, and historical artifacts are stored and the attitude towards them is worthy, regardless of on whose territory they are located,” he said.
In Thessaloniki on October 6, the date of the anniversary of Samuil’s death – of a heart attack, soon after his defeat by Byzantine forces – Plevneliev said that the event in which the bones were displayed was the result of efforts of many Bulgarian politicians to upgrade to the good relations between Bulgaria and Greece.
“That Greece is a member of the European Union helps even more to be able to have a reading of history based on a European approach. Today we are demonstrating the European approach to the past – we study history as it is, historical artifacts are kept and the attitude towards them is worthy, no matter where they are,” Plevneliev said.
A statement by the President’s press office quoted Greece’s culture minister of the time, Konstantinos Tasulas, as saying in response to a question about the possibility of an exchange of cultural and historical artifacts between Bulgaria and Greece that “all these cultural issues we will approach as part of the European family and of course within the excellent bilateral relations.
“The issue of exchange of national historical and cultural values between the two countries is of mutual interest. For each country, history and culture are a source of strength for the present and for the future. ”
(Archive photo, of Plevneliev and the bones of Tsar Samuil in Thessaloniki on October 6 2014: president.bg)