500 years missing history

I arrived in Istanbul at dawn. My friend Sule met me soon after. We went for breakfast and talked long and excited about the latest gossip, religion as it should be, politics as it appears, education as it shouldn’t be and men as they are… But before all that she explained to me what Bayram meant. To my remark that fasting all day is not healthy she smiled and said: Vera, you are not doing this for yourself, you are doing it for God. He is asking you only one thing, to be selfless for a while.

We went to the university where she teaches and had coffee on the rooftop terrace when her PhD in IR/history friends joined us, the one who reads fast and the one who reads late. The one who reads fast had been to Bulgaria and visited the Bulgarian National History Museum http://www.historymuseum.org/

What impressed him there was that there was no historical account of the time between the 14th and the 19th century. He was amazed how come nothing simply happened in those 500 years in Bulgaria.

First, you can only get such a question from a non-Bulgarian. All Bulgarians know that nothing happened while we were part of the Ottoman Empire. This is what they teach us in school. Nothing happened because the Ottoman Empire was so backward they did not add anything to our development and quite the opposite they blocked our progress. But more importantly I though about a second thing.

History in Bulgaria has always been and still is written from the point of view of the state and by the state. And when there is no state there is no history. Only movements and events which advance the establishment and the greatness of the state are worth mentioning in the mainstream history annals. I guess it is still better than inventing a history of a state which was not there. But i am sure there are better ways of coming to terms with the past than silence.

So the young turk who reads fast opened my mind to a whole new application of something I already  knew from theory. He also challenged something I never questioned from history. He changed my perspective without wanting to. with an honest question. and now i can’t stop thinking about it.

The history of today was brought to me by the turk who reads late. He told me that Bono gave Erdogan a gift – a red iPod with classical music. We speculated what that meant for a bit and then I asked what did Erdogan give Bono in return. He said: One minute.

If you give me a minute with Bono i would take him to those 500 missing years in the National History Museum just to show him that talking to some people is anyway a waste of time.

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