Monday, November 12, 2007

Anti-Bulgarian bias of historian Alan Kramer and the New York Times

The Nov. 4 issue of the New York Times published the book review Extermination States by S. S. Montefiore. It is about the book Dynamic of Destruction: Culture and Mass Killing in the First World War by Alan Kramer (Oxford University Press).
Below is a quote from Montefiore's article:
"In some ways, the war against Serbia had been fought already in the two Balkan wars of 1912-13, caused by the nationalist goals of the region’s new states... The massacre of tens of thousands of civilians in Macedonia and Thrace by the Bulgarians was “not merely ... a short-term byproduct of war” but a “part of a longer-term project of nation-state construction.” Meanwhile, in crushing Serbia, Austria and Germany killed 250,000 soldiers and 300,000 civilians out of 3.1 million. No combatant faced higher per capita losses."
I'll let to historians to disprove these statements (though I bet that their contra-arguments will not be published by the New York Times or the Oxford University Press). Let me, as a lay person, add just a common-sense remark.
Nations, similarly to individuals, usually try to convince themselves and others that they do what is right while actually doing what they consider to be in their best interests. After World War I, the winners took from Bulgaria land populated by Bulgarians and gave it to Serbia. So portraying the Bulgarians as villains and the Serbs as cute innocent victims would serve well to justify this act.
But, guys, what year is now? Nearly a century has passed after these events. Isn't it already OK to write things nearer to the truth?
I am happy that I am working in the field of natural and not social sciences.
As for the New York Times, its anti-Bulgarian bias is no news. Let's remember the 2003 article Bush's Warsaw War Pact by Maureen Dowd, a gossiper unfortunately misled by somebody to think that she is a journalist:
"In diplomatic circles, our new allies from Eastern Europe are dryly referred to as ''Bush's Warsaw Pact.'' As one Soviet expert put it, ''Bulgaria used to be Russia's lapdog. Now it's America's lapdog.'' The Bulgarians were such sycophants to Russia that in the 60's they proposed becoming the 16th republic of the Soviet Union. Mr. Bush will not be the only one having trouble with the Bulgarian prime minister's name. We all will. In some press reports it's spelled Simeon Saxcoburggotski, and in others Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. The tall, balding, bearded prime minister was formerly King Simeon II, a deposed child czar. He is a distant relative of Prince Albert, Queen Victoria's consort, but not Count Dracula. That's our other new best friend, Romania. Is this a good trade, the French for the Bulgarians? Sketchy facts about Bulgaria rattle around: It has a town called Plovdiv; it wants to become big in the skiing industry; its secret service stabbed an exiled dissident writer in London with a poison-tipped umbrella -- a ricin-tipped umbrella, in fact; its weight-lifting team was expelled from the Olympics in a drug scandal in 2000; it sent agents to kill the pope... In ''Casablanca'' there was the Bulgarian girl who offered herself to Claude Rains to get plane tickets."
As you see, this so-called author blames Bulgarians not only for having been sacrificed to the Soviet Union after World War II but also for the way they are portrayed in old movies. This reminds me of primitive cultures where you can be held responsible for what you have done in somebody's dream.
UPDATE: People who had read Kramer's book told me that it described events in a more balanced way. Mentioning the "tens of thousands of civilians" allegedly massacred by Bulgarian troops, the author made it clear that this was alleged by Greeks and not confirmed by any independent source. It was Montefiore who, in his review, made Bulgaria the chief villain. It seems to me that, as long as we are a US ally and a Coalition member, we have a subscription for bashing by The New York Times!


Ivan Lupov said...

First off, how dare you call a well-known and respected journalist like Maureen Dowd a gossiper.

By the same token of your frivolity, you are nothing more but an ignoramus.

When you publish more than 1 book that’s respected internationally, then you can make an intelligent argument, not one I would expect from a 2 year old.

Let me paraphrase your lay terms:

1st: You said because Serbia took land from Bulgaria, that justifies Bulgarians killing Serbians.
Do I need to say anything more? If you fail to see the absurdity of your statement, than I will pray for you.

2nd: You said: Maureen Dowd "blames Bulgarians not only for having been sacrificed to the Soviet Union after World War II but also for the way they are portrayed in old movies."

The sacrifice comment makes no sense, contextually, let alone the reference to "old movies." Which ones?
I guess you watch movies instead of reading books. That explains your level of intelligence.

Correct me if I am right - you notion of "truth" is anything that justifies or exculpates Bulgarians!

At least the transformations of the 90s achieved one thing - deprave you of reason.

By the way, I am Bulgarian! I am the son of a hard working father shot to death on March 25th of this year, by yet unknown killer.

The work of the police and the local authorities has been laughable. Its a pathetic glimpse of the mentality of modern day Bulgarians - you can do anything as long as you justify it in your head - be it a crime like murder.

Your blog is despicable! Stick to your field of natural sciences, because surely, you don't understand social sciences, let alone another culture like the West.

Ivan Lupov, father of the murdered lawyer Petar Lupov

Maya M said...

Ivan, I am sorry that your father has been murdered and his case is being handled in the typical outrageous way. I hope that your comment has given you an occasion to vent some feelings. Because it does not seem to be really addressed to me, I hesitated whether to answer at all, but finally decided to address your main points.
The first definition of "gossip" I come across describes it as "rumor or talk of a personal, sensational, or intimate nature". Maureen Dowd won the Pulitzer prize for reporting Bill Clinton's oral sex affair with Lewinski, didn't she? Where am I wrong?
You say I have right to criticize Ms. Dowd only if I "publish more than 1 book that’s respected internationally". I find this absurd. Ms. Dowd has dubbed her political opponents "extra-chromosome conservatives", implying that they have the cognitive abilities of people with Down syndrome. If a mother of a child with Down syndrome is unhappy that her child's condition is used as a slur, would you tell her that after she isn't a respected writer, she must keep her mouth shut? Would you say that only authors of books selling better than "Mein Kampf" have the right to criticize Hitler?
You claim I wrote that "because Serbia took land from Bulgaria, that justifies Bulgarians killing Serbians". I don't see any text of this sort in my post and I don't think any unbiased reader could misunderstand it that way.
The old movie I am referring to is "Casablanca". The reference is quite clear, because I am literally citing Ms. Dowd. As for your guess that I "watch movies instead of reading", I'll just mention that very few people who watch movies instead of reading have writing skills comparable to mine.
You accuse me that my "notion of "truth" is anything that justifies or exculpates Bulgarians". I don't think that Bulgarians need to be justified or exculpated. We ordinary Bulgarians didn't all gather together to lynch your father, neither do we now conspire to spare his murderer from justice. Any of us can, if not hasn't already, become victim of the same rogue law-enforcing establishment you are complaining of. So your attitude to Bulgarians sounds to me like blaming the victims.

Anonymous said...

...I am the son of a hard working father shot to death
...father of the murdered lawyer Petar Lupov

It is not clear if you are the son or the father of Petar Lupov.