Setting up this website was initially a rather vague concept, with no clear idea of what, or how, the Bulgarian State archives could contribute to its realisation. Following the signposts of history, we decided first to ‘tackle’ Macedonia. As can be expected, numerous questions arose immediately regarding content and chronological range to be covered, not to mention geographical delineations. Admittedly, the answers did not come easily and the work process was slow and hard, as we did not have any experience of our own in such projects, nor were we acquainted with any other institution’s experience. We were certain, however, that our efforts were worthwhile, and we hope we were right in our belief that we should let the documents speak for themselves. Our confidence was further boosted by the simple fact that in the last ten years the State Archives Agency has succeeded in publishing sixty volumes of document collections in the Archives Are Talking series.
Thus, it was a natural decision to direct our attention first to documents already published on the topic, which proved to be not only considerable in number, but scattered throughout various publications. Of course, we regard previously unpublished documents, with which we aim to constantly enrich the site, as being of equal importance. It stands to reason that, on the subject of Macedonia, there is huge documentation amassed at the Bulgarian Archives. These are not only original ‘home’ sources, which relate mainly to the period since the National Revival; the State Archives Agency also keeps, in facsimile form, a considerable amount of documentation from foreign archives repositories which covers the deficiencies of our local ones.
We trust that readers will have patience if they find the documents initially uploaded rather ‘meagre fare’. Our goal is to establish the site and then gradually increase the number of documents presented, expanding their thematic scope. We hope users will assist us in this process via the Questions and Answers facility.
The site will feature documents in Bulgarian and in one (perhaps more in the future) foreign language. The objective is simply that they reach a wider range of people with an interest in the historical past – in other words, the site is intended for the general public and not just for academicians. Naturally, we will be only too pleased if the latter find it useful, too. For obvious reasons, we will also be greatly pleased if we manage to engage the interest of readers living outside the Balkans.
Clearly, none of us imagines that all documents on the topic can be uploaded on the site (a feat which would be practically impossible), and in that sense the compilers carry their responsibility in selecting what material to present. After all, anyone can try and set up another site on the subject if they so wish. We do not undertake, via documents, to relate the whole history of the region or illustrate all its events – i.e. we are not attempting to write a history of Macedonia, the Macedonian issue, IMRO etc. – but rather to document the ideas of the territory’s population about themselves through the centuries, as well as the major events which have impacted their life and their historic fate.
The biased reader may hold certain ‘suspicions’, but we do not intend to dissuade him or her. We cannot change the existing documents, just as we cannot change the population’s ideas as they developed through the various periods of history. It is not our goal to change the present citizens of Macedonia, either, but we cannot change what their ancestors thought or how others saw events in this part of the Balkans.
In other words, we are aware that we are going into deep water, but we do not consider that a problem.
We are extremely grateful for the support lent by the Bulgarian Memory Foundation and its chairman Dr Milen Vrabevsky. Special gratitude is also due to Senior Research Associate Alexander Grebenarov of the Institute of History, without whose knowledge and involvement our work would hardly have seen the light of day soon. In that respect, we must also acknowledge the assistance of the ELIDO Company in translating our concept into a user-friendly format for readers.
We should also note that, without the efforts of generations of specialists and institutions to reveal and publicise our rich documentary heritage, this undertaking would certainly not have been possible.