A project to turn a former partisans’ camp into a tourist attraction is being undertaken by the municipality of the town of Batak in southern Bulgaria.
Most of the partisans’ huts in the camp are intact, and young people have shown a great interest in visiting them, national media reported recently.
After Batak’s road infrastructure is improved, tourist routes to several sites on the town’s territory will be created.
The project, worth 200,000 euro, is being realized through a regional development program.
The town of Batak holds a special meaning for Bulgarians, with nationalists claiming that its importance to Bulgarian history was similar to that of Kosovo to Serbia’s history. During the Bulgarian uprising against Ottoman rule in April 1876, more than 6,000 people were killed in the town. The massacre remains a symbol of Bulgarians’ suffering under Turkish rule.
In 2007, Batak was pushed to the forefront of a controversy after a report on the town’s collective memory by two researchers – a Bulgarian and a German – asserted that historical accounts of the events were inspired by the biased and romantic interpretations of an American journalist and a Polish painter. The report, although it did not deny that atrocities took place in Batak, was met by a societal uproar, scandalized at the perceived attempts to distort Bulgarian history.
Following the upheaval, the church of Batak, where many people died in 1876, became one of the most-visited tourist spots in the country.
It is unclear whether the camp – named Teheran – will have the same success. As BalkanTravellers.com wrote, the site was counted as one of Bulgaria’s top 100 must-see tourist attractions during communism. As values changed, following the regime’s fall, so did perceptions of what important tourist attractions were. Bulgarian partisans, revered during communism for their pro-Soviet guerrilla struggle against Nazi Germany in the first half of the 1940s, fell out of grace. Their hiding spots were no longer sites visited en masse by school children and tourists.
As Bulgaria slowly starts taking steps towards remembering its communist past, instead of trying to erase it completely and pretend it never happened, sites such as the Teheran camp are bound to resurface. This time around, their role will remain as reminders of a grim but nevertheless historical and factual past, rather than as monuments of a glorified oppressive regime.