The communist regimes on the Balkans may have fallen over two decades ago, but their legacy continues to echo in historical research in the region. One of the most glaring examples of this is the ‘Dacian Myth’ which was part and parcel of Communist-era nationalism.
In the 1960’s Romania and Bulgaria experienced important political and cultural changes, which were the direct result of the political decision to move away from the Soviet protectorate to an aggressive form of nationalism. This new nationalist trend was in fact a collage of much older elements based on a traditionally nationalist concept that had never died out. Stalinism, which had become so estranged from national issues, contributed greatly to the indigenization of Marxism and the blurring of any distinctions between Communism and nationalism (Mircea Anghelinu (1997) Failed Revolution: Marxism and the Romanian Prehistoric Archaeology between 1945 and 1989. In: Archaeologia Bulgarica XI 2007 1 1-36 Sofia).
The anti-intellectual orientation of the ruling elite was especially prominent after 1980 and resulted in a tight control of academic promotions, with damaging effects for the access that younger generations had to university and research positions. Such an academic atmosphere reinforced the position and authority of the cultural mandarins, while research personnel gradually grew older, with little chance of being replaced. A new wave of ideological “disciplining” began in historiography, which emphasized the idea of national unity and continuity, and the Thracian-Dacian roots of the Romanian state (Boia L. 1997, Istorie şi mit în conştiinţa romaneascâ Bucureşti. P. 74-82).
In the case of archaeology the cultural heritage law of 1974 forced a drastic ‘reevaluation’ of the old archaeological material. Much more significant for the new ideological doctrine was the creation in 1979 of the Institute of Thracology (apparently modelled on the Bulgarian Institute of Thracology which had been established in 1974), and then the sudden interest in things Dacian/Thracian displayed especially by sycophants employed by the these institutes, and the Institute for the History of the Romanian Communist Party (Boia op cit; Mircea Anghelinu op cit.).
Thus, in Romania, starting with the 1970s, the Ceauşescu regime used ancient history, seen from a nationalistic and questionable interpretation (Protochronism) as a way to legitimize its own rule. For example, Burebista, a leader of the Thracian Getae tribe who carried out a genocidal attack on his neighbors during the 1st c. BC (see ‘The Scordisci Wars’ article), was portrayed as the “unifier” of the Dacian tribes and, in 1980, the Romanian government declared the celebration of the 2050th anniversary of the founding of the “unified and centralized” Dacian state of Burebista, drawing comparisons with Ceauşescu’s Romania, and claiming an uninterrupted existence of the Romanian state from Burebista to Ceauşescu (Boia L. History and Myth in Romanian Consciousness, Budapest: Central European University Press, 2001).
THE SHADOW OF ‘SOCIALISM’
In Romania the fact that this manipulation took place has been accepted to a certain extent, unlike the case in neighboring Bulgaria where the Institute of Thracology (now the ‘Alexander Fol Institute of Thracology’) continues to function and dictate the official version of ancient history in line with the old nationalist/communist doctrine (See also ‘The Absence of Truth’ article). However, to varying degrees, the shadow of this manipulation still hangs over academic research in both countries.
Just one example of the legacy of this phenonenon is the continued attribution by numismatic experts, slavishly following the publications of communist era ‘scientists’ (in this case especially Chiţescu, M. 1971. ‘Copii şi imitaţii de denari romani republicani în Dacia. In: Memoria Antiquitatis 3: 209–258; also Chiţescu, M. 1981. Numismatic Aspects of the Dacian State. British Archaeological Reports, Oxford. International Series 112.; Preda, C. 1973. Monedele Geto-Dacilor. Editura Academiei Republicii Socialiste România, Bucureşti. In Bulgaria the work of the communist Thracologist Youroukova Y. – especially ‘Coins of the Ancient Thracians’ (1976), of all imitations of the denarii of the Roman Republic in southeastern Europe to ‘Dacians’, a phenomenon which, as illustrated below, is, from a historical and geographical perspective, quite absurd.
DACIAN BULGARIA ?
Recent research on imitations of the denarii of the Roman Republic found in Moesia and Thrace, within the borders of modern Bulgaria, throws serious doubt on the ‘Dacian’ origin of this type of coinage (Paunov E., Davis P. Imitations of Republican Denarii from Moesia and Thrace. In: HPAKΛEOVΣ ΣΩTHPOΣ ΘAΣIΩN. Studia in honorem Iliae Prokopov sexagenario ab amicis et discipulis dedicata. Veliko Tarnovo 2012, 389-413).
1. Northeastern Bulgaria
The territorial distribution/diffusion of imitations of denarii found south of the Danube in Thrace (in modern Bulgaria) exhibits 3 distinct concentrations (map 1).
(After Paunov/Davis 2012)
The first concentration comes from the the north-eastern part of Moesia, in the zone of the modern Bulgarian districts of Russe–Razgrad–Shumen–Silistra–Dobrich. In this area three hoards containing such imitations have been discovered: the Maluk Porovetz, Garvan and ‘South Dobrudja’ hoards. Unfortunately, as is the case with so much numismatic material in Bulgaria (see Who’s Afraid of the Past’ article), the material from only one of these hoards is extant – the Maluk Porovatz hoard (Dimitrov K.( 2007) The Getic Territory of Sboryanovo, Northeast Bulgaria, in the Late Hellenistic Age (2nd century BC–1st century AD). – Thracia 17, Sofia, 2007, p. 369–390). All the coins from the other two – the Garvan and South Dobrudja hoards, have been stolen/sold, and are no longer available for scientific research (Paunov/Davis op cit).
We are therefore left with the Malak Porovetz hoard found in the Razgrad region of northeastern Bulgaria in 1995. The hoard consisted of 44 denarii of the Roman Republic, 11 imitations of the same, and a single late drachm of Apollonia in Illyria dated to ca. 50–25 BC. What is interesting about this hoard of ‘Dacian’ coins is that has distinct parallels with another hoard now in the Belgrade National Museum. Like Maluk Porovets, this hoard was discovered far from Dacia, coming from the ‘Vojvodina Region’ (= formerly Southern Hungary) in modern Serbia. The hoard arrived in Belgrade sometime between the two World Wars, and consists solely of ‘barbarian’ imitations, 15 in all. This find is, according to the latest research (loc cit) precisely parallel to the Roman Republican imitations issued by the Celtic Eravisci tribe in Pannonia in the late 1st century BC. The style of the Vojvodina coins also closely resembles that of the Celtic Eraviscan issues (loc cit).
The Maluk Porovets / 1995 hoard (after Paunov/Davis 2012)
2. Northwestern Bulgaria
The bulk of Roman Republican imitations have been found in the west of Bulgaria, in the modern districts of Vratsa and Pleven along the Danube and a strip extending 20–40 km south of the Danube. They originate from denarii hoards deposited between 77 and 43/2 BC, and come from an area which numismatic, archaeological and linguistic evidence clearly shows was inhabited by a Thraco-Celtic population during the period in question (see Archaeology, Numismatics and Linguistics sections on this site), and where there is absolutely no scientific record of ‘Dacian’ settlement.
3. South-Central Bulgaria
The third zone appears in central Bulgaria, south of the Balkan chain/Haemus. It is concentrated in the modern district of Plovdiv, Yambol and Sliven, roughly between Philippopolis and Kabyle. Recent numismatic finds from this area has clearly confirmed that this part of modern Bulgaria was also inhabited by a Thraco-Celtic population in the immediate pre-Roman period (see Numismatics section 1) and, once again, there is absolutely no historical or archaeological evidence of a ‘Dacian’ presence in this region.
Celtic (Philip III type) drachms, and a Roman Republican issue, recently found together in a hoard at Bratya Daskalovi (Stara Zagora region, south-central Bulgaria). The hoard has been dated to the late 1st c. BC.
(After Prokopov, Paunov, Filipova 2011; see Numismatics section 1)
The case of the ‘Dacian’ coins outlined above is, of course, only one example of the phenomenon which continues to haunt historical science on the Balkans. Since the collapse of the communist regimes in Bulgaria and Romania no review has been undertaken of the extent and legacy of the systematic manipulation of historical science which occured during this period. Indeed, academic works produced during the ‘socialist’ era continue to be the standard works on ancient history in this region, which has led to the absurd situation whereby in 2012 a new generation of archaeologists and numismatic experts, unwilling or unable to challenge the past, continue to base their research on the manipulated works of communist era ‘scientists’.
It is said that the victors write history; in the case of the Balkans it would appear that the opposite is true. Until they face the recent past, academics in Romania and Bulgaria have little chance of discovering the truth about ancient history.