Bulgarian Icons – The End of History

08.09.2014 § 2 Comments


Photographer Lyubomir Sergeev asks a painful question: would the treasured heroes of Bulgaria’s past stab themselves in the heart or shoot themselves if they could see what their country is like today? In painstaking detail, he recreates the dress and time periods of six great Bulgarian men and creates a new kind of portrait: one that not only inspires, but also forces us to think harder, to be better.

From the photographer’s page:

“This is the story of the long journey of a beautiful small country which has successfully been destroying itself through corruption, vileness, and political machinations that led to the painful agonizing existence of today’s generation. We and our families grew up in Bulgaria and never gave up. We continue our fight and critical thinking and this is our protest against the Present, our resentment and disillusionment, through the eyes of our rich history. Bulgaria’s celebrated Past is the only thing keeping us going and that is why, in order for us to be heard, we dared strike in its very heart, obliterate it and strip our nation from its pride and dignity.

We undertook this long journey into the past to meet these khans, kings, monks, freedom fighters, poets, and princes, to show them Bulgaria today and hear their last resolve. This is how they answered us – with disappointment, disgust and pain.”

Represented in the six-photograph series are the following Bulgarians. (Click on any image to see the full, uncropped gallery on the photographer’s site)

kubratKhan Asparukh, the ruler who first brought the Bulgarians south of the Danube and established the First Bulgarian Kingdom in 681 CE.

Screen shot 2014-09-08 at 8.49.46 AMTsar Kaloyan, third ruler of the Second Bulgarian Empire who defeated the Latin Crusaders at Adrianople in 1205 CE and presided over Bulgaria’s second Golden Age.

paisiiPaisiy Hilendarski (St. Paisius of Hilendar), a Bulgarian monk who in 1762 CE compiled the first written history of Medieval Bulgaria, Istoriya Slavyanobolgarskaya, and kick-started the period of National Revival that led to liberation from the Ottoman Empire and the emergence of the Bulgarian national identity.


Stefan Karadja, one of the Bulgarian folk heroes who in the mid-19th century began organizing armed revolts against the Ottomans and protecting the common Bulgarian people.


Hristo Botev, the poet-revolutionary who sacrificed his life at the altar of Bulgarian freedom, bringing 200 volunteers across the Danube from Romania in the face of overwhelming odds and becoming one of the timeless, unsullied symbols of Bulgarian courage. The day of his death, June 2, 1876, is Bulgaria’s Remembrance Day.


Knyaz Alexander I Battenberg, first ruler of modern Bulgaria: a young, idealistic prince who led Bulgaria after its liberation on March 3, 1878 and through the Unification with Eastern Rumelia.




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§ 2 Responses to Bulgarian Icons – The End of History

  • marinbs says:

    Hi there. My opinion is, that it would have been much better, if you used your enthusiasm to create real article in English about the Bulgarian icons, instead of using their pictures for humor purposes. I’m really glad that you have forgotten to include Vassil Levski in this type of article.

    No one abroad cares about Bulgarian political and all-kind-of problems. In fact no one in Bulgaria cares, what about abroad. This article is really bad advertising for Bulgaria at all, and shouldn’t be and published from people, who care about our country.

    I support your blog and usually read and share some interesting articles from here and other english-written blogs about BG, so my critics is just for this really negative in advertising aspect article.

    Best regards,

    Marin Stoyanov

    • vpandeliev says:

      Hi Marin,

      Thank you for taking the time to comment on this post. You’ve described one of the primary struggles we face as unofficial ambassadors for our country. I do my very best to highlight hopeful news items, to remain positive and to foster interest in those curious about Bulgaria.

      However, I don’t think that loving something means only seeing its good sides, or only talking about those to others. However proud I am of Bulgaria’s history, there’s only so many times I can say that we’ve never lost a flag in battle, or that we’ve never changed our name, or that we’re over 1300 years old. Every time I do, I feel a pang of sadness that today’s Bulgaria is facing such difficult times. We turn to our hallowed past to escape the reality of our present, since our present is difficult while our past is glorious and optimistic. I think that pushing ourselves to be the great men and women of Bulgaria’s present is as important as honouring our icons from the past. That starts not with advertising, but with truth, and a call to action. Neither I nor, I think, the photographer meant to make fun of our heroes or elicit humour. I posted the article because we need to do better, and the great heroes of our past would tell us so. All of them saw the world as it was and believed they could create a better one. We need the former to achieve the latter.

      The thing is, we can do it. There are great Bulgarians alive right now who have achieved or will achieve amazing things, and I love writing about them. But we can’t sit still or lean on the past. We have to push, to struggle, to tell the uncomfortable truth sometimes, without forgetting what we’re fighting for.

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