Professor Vera Moutafchieva, Bulgaria
Zdravka Evtimova - ARTISTS WITHOUT FRONTIERS, London 2004

Professor Vera Moutafchieva was born in 1929 in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. She is the daughter of the world famous historian Professor Petar Moutafchievev, Academician, member of many European Academies of Sciences (Germany, France, UK etc) who died when she was 14 years old. The communist government in Bulgaria accused Professor Moutafchiev of being a nationalist, a traitor, and his family was thrown out of their house, so Vera Moutafchieva had to give private lessons in German and French in order to pay for her study at the University of Sofia. She studied history by correspondence while she worked in the Bulgarian National Library “Saint Kiril and Methodius” Sofia, department Orientalism. She could read Turkish documents written in Arabic letters. She spoke German, French, Russian and English.

In her youth, Vera Moutafchieva was in love with architecture, but could not attend the lectures at the Institute of Architecture for she had to work every day to earn her living. In 1958, Professor Moutafchieva became Doctor of Sciences in History, her thesis being “Feudal Rent in the Ottoman Empire XV-XVI Centuries”. She is a scientist who has gained world recognition for her research on the topic “Times of the Kurdjalii” The Kurjalii were Turkish brigands active at the end of 18 and the beginning of 19 centuries. She has dedicated much of her efforts to scientific research in the sphere of agrarian relations in the Ottoman Empire.

Professor Vera Moutafchieva’s novels are closely related to her scientific research. Her debut novel was “Chronicle of Troubled Times”, was a panoramic picture of Bulgarian life during the turbulent times in the Turkish Empire of the end of eighteenth and the beginning of nineteenth centuries. In that brilliant novel Vera Moutafchieva succeeded in introducing into the fabric of the novel materials and original documents from the Ottoman archives that had not been utilized by that time by the Bulgarian historiography. Vera Moutafchieva’s debut novel, published in 1965, in fact became an important model for the writers of historical fiction in Bulgarian literature.

Another very important novel that Professor Vera Moutafchieva wrote was “Jem’s Case” published in 1967. The non-Bulgarian, foreign, subject-matter ousts typically Bulgarian subjects related to the Bulgarian past, and that is to be interpreted as a successful act of overcoming the isolation and illistrativeness characteristic of the historical novels until the early 60s of twentieth century in Bulgaria. That novel was a successful attempt to introduce national Bulgarian issues into the general historical processes of Europe. The novel “Jem’s Case” had 3 editions in Germany, 2 editions in Poland, 7 editions in Turkey, one edition in Estonia, Poland, Romania, Russia, Hungary, France and the Czech republic.

Professor Vera Moutafchieva is the author of three more historical novels that are very famous in Bulgaria: “The Last of Shishman Dynatry”, “Alkiviad the Little” and “Alkiviad the Great”. In them, using materials from two different epochs: antiquity and contemporary times, Professor Moutafchieva analyzes individualism as a worldview and as a social-ethical position of the individual. “Alkiviad the Little was published in Germany and Russia, “Alkiviad the Great” was published in Germany, Poland, Russia, Hungary, and in the Czech republic.

Vera Moutafchieva’s novel “Playing Cards by Oneself” first published in 1971 is a study of human values, a literary novel dedicated to the topic: professionalism as a sphere of self- expression of contemporary Bulgarians. That novel has been published in Germany, Slovakia, and in the Czech Republic.

A pivotal novel in Professor Moutafchieva’s work is her impressive canvas “I, Anna Komnina”, which was first published in 1991. It describes the life of the Byzantine stateswoman and writer Anna Konniana, and the goal that the novel set before itself is to “expose” Anna’s own work of eulogy dedicated to Emperor Alexis Komnin’s reign. Alexis Komnin was Anna’s husband. The destiny of the heroine, seen through the eyes of the women who accompany her is typical of the so called androcratic civilization, in which man’s values and opinions always predominate.

Another historical novel, which Professor Moutafchieva wrote, “Predicted by Pagane”, is very famous in Bulgaria. It was published in Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic. A award-winning film of the same name was released 3 years after the publication of the book and became enormously popular with Bulgarians of all generations. In 1985, Professor Moutafchieva published her autobiographical novel “The Bombs”, in which she describes her memories of the war in 1944. This novel marks the transition from the social-historical issues to broader philosophical- anthropological view, in which the key concept is no longer History but Life, interpreted in the whole interminable variety of its physical, biological public-historical and psychic dimensions. The concept ‘the wide world’ is loaded with the same universal, all-pervading semantics. “I love the world!” says Professor Vera Moutafchieva in spite of the hardships she had been struggling with all her life. To have a father that the communist government had accused of betrayal was not easy in Bulgaria of the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s of the twentieth century.

During that time, Professor Vera Moutafchieva was denied access to teaching students at the universities in Bulgaria, for the authorities believed she’d teach the young men and women dangerous things that might inspire rebellion. Yet she worked hard dedicating all her energy to science and to her novels. Her scientific achievements as a historian are indisputable; her scientific publications were published in all major European countries, and were translated in English and in Greek.

Professor Moutafchiva had twin daughters Yana and Rada, and she said in one of her interviews: “My whole life was a bitter struggle to survive and feed my children. I didn’t have another alternative but have high achievements both in my scientific research and in my novels. My only way out was victory, a victory that one achieves by indisputable and tangible results. The thought that I was a talented person never crossed my mind. I was strongly convinced I could do very well what I was doing and did in on daily basis feeling absolutely ordinary.”

Professor Moutafchieva’s granddaughter studies physics at the University of Sofia. The professor is very happy about that, “She had inherited my admiration for sciences. I am still dreaming at night what might have happened if I had studied architecture. I dream and dream of houses I constantly build. Sometimes I think the novels I wrote are the buildings I have wanted so much to create.

Everything I have written so far crossed my mind when I was a young woman full of dreams and great love for the world. I simply rewrote it again and again. In fact, as soon as I complete a novel, I start editing it. I edit it no less than ten times until the characters in it become as fit as the architectural details of a house that stands firmly on its base. I think that characters in my books become my friends with time… Friends… I have many, many friends that I have made in the best possible and honest way. My scientific publications had to make their way to the readers after they overcame acute criticism, discussions, but once they were a fact, I had people call me to tell me the books meant a lot to them. These people became my friends, and are still my friends. I have worked hard in the course of 51 years, and I am still working and writing. Work and friends are my air, my life. I hate verbosity and even when I was broke, or depressed or felt bitter about something, I never stopped loving the world. Not only because my daughter and granddaughter live in it; I love the world for its peoples, for its fascinating history, for the rich and brilliant science they created and for the luck to be still alive and breathe in fresh air.”

 

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