28 September, 2023
The volume represents the soft cover version of Spaska Shumanova’s Ph.D. work, which she defended in October 2019 in the University of Veliko Tarnovo (photo: The Bridge of Friendship)

Its author – the historian Spaska Shumanova contributes significantly to the understanding of the bilateral relations in the second half of the 20th century

Vladimir Mitev

It is rare that in-depth studies on the bilateral relations are published in Bulgarian-Romanian space. There is an evident deficit of experts, who combine curiosity towards neighbour and towards the relations with it and professionalism and systemic approach in their studies. This void is being filled now by the historian Spaska Shumanova with her freshly-published book “Bulgarian-Romanian political relations (1944-1989)”.

The volume is a soft cover version of her Ph.D. research in the University of Veliko Tarnovo, which she defends successfully on 4 October 2019. Among the reviewers are two contemporary Bulgarian researchers of the Bulgarian-Romanian historical relations – prof. dr. Iliyana Marcheva and associate professor dr. Blagovest Nyagulov. A view at the used sources shows that the author has had access to the archives of the two states, to memoirs of people, who lived in those times, to many historical researchers in different languages, etc. That is how Spaska Shumanova’s research has become a well-informed and interesting study on the relations between Bulgaria and Romania in the socialist period.

The work is divided into three chapters and a conclusion. The first chapter refers to the period of the people’s democracies (1944-1948), the second one deals with the transition from stalinism to “specific way of development” (1949-1970), the third one studies the mature period of the socialist development of the two countries, when Todor Zhivkov and Nicolae Ceausescu rule (1971-1989).

In each of these chapters the development of the bilateral political relations is put in the international context of the respective period. There is information on a lot of discussions of cooperation projects (most of which are never accomplished or it takes decades to be started), as well as on political contradictions. The readers understand the motives and the logic of the line of each country on issues that remain on the agenda even today. There are some very curious footnotes, which deal e.g. with the history of the idea for a first bridge over the Danube between Bulgaria and Romania, which starts from 1878, but is realised only in 1954; the interest around the construction of the hydro power plant at Nikopol – Turnu Magurele or in other place; the discussion on the border’s modification in Dobrudja in the end of the 40s, the relations between the two great leaders and their leading political lieutenants, after the differences between Romania and Bulgaria on their foreign policy positioning become clear. The author also studies the disputes about the protection of the cultural-historical monuments, the history of the buildings, which are used today for embassies of the two countries, the air pollution of Rousse in the 80s as a problem of the bilateral relations and other important issues.

In her conclusion Shumanova sums up that after World War Two a practice is introduced that the solutions to the bilateral issues are looked for through the more serious implication not only of the leaders, but also of the bilateral commissions. Where the legal and economic arguments don’t manage to lead to agreement, the politicians play their role. But in various cases the political agreement remains a chimera.

Spaska Shumanova is an expert in the Central State Archives in Sofia. She has a degree in history from the University of Sofia. Following her specific way of development and after she has become a Ph.D. in history, she becomes an expert who can contribute a lot to the understanding of the Bulgarian-Romanian relations from World War Two until today.

The blog “The Bridge of Friendship” invites its readers to buy the book from the site of its distributor “Bulgarian booklets”! The blog is ready to provide space for reactions to the book from the community of historians or ordinary readers, which can express their opinion in the contact form!

Read in Romanian language!

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