DRAZHEN TSOLICH Ambassador of the Republic of Croatia
WE SHARE A RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE FUTURE
What do you think brings the spiritual worlds of Croats and Bulgarians closer today?
The Croats and the Bulgarians share a similar spiritual past and dream of the same future, the only thing left is for us to do everything in the present to revive what has connected us in many ways, and at the same time to also fulfill our future European dreams… In relation to this it’s important to mention some very important facts: the Glagolic alphabet played a crucial role in creating Croatian writing and giving birth to religious and secular literature. That is why to this day it is still regarded as an important integral part of the Croatian cultural heritage. Both Bulgaria, which is standing at Europe’s threshold and is already in NATO, and Croatia, which has just essentially started the Euro-Atlantic negotiations, believe in one and the same European and global future – where they desire to develop an ever more active and diverse regional cooperation to again turn that part of the world into one of the most significant European intellectual and spiritual centers. Many events have transpired here and many more will do, so Bulgaria and Croatia, without exaggerating, can be pillars of stability, drivers of progress and milestones of democracy. The role of Bulgaria in the Black Sea region is of great importance to Croatia, and Bulgaria in turn can use a big part of the Croatian Mid-European and Mediterranean experience. And to all these geopolitical projects we should add what I usually call a commitment among all people, among all strata of society and professions – from journalists to students, from artists to poets, from teachers to doctors, from nongovernmental organizations to farmers. Croatia is proud that in the past (Rachki, Strossmeier, Radich and others) it was able to significantly support the preservation of the Bulgarian culture and the state’s sovereignty. In the beginning of the twentieth century the Bulgarian students in Zagreb were one third of the foreign student body. Many of these ties have been severed at the time of the two Yugoslavias, when the relations Sofia–Belgrade came to the fore whereas the relations Zagreb–Sofia were underestimated. So now we have to again reestablish what we once had in order to be able to, according to the common European goals in the new European home, distinguish both what we should renew and what we are about to build together.
As a diplomat and journalist what are your first discoveries about Bulgaria?
Bulgarians and Croats have a very similar experience and feelings. They are faced with the same challenges, give similar answers but, as I have already said, they are still not sharing enough their common experience. Geopolitically and diplomatically Bulgaria has made incredibly big steps, whereas Croatia – even only on account of our bitter war experience, – takes some generous promises a little more carefully. In Bulgaria almost anything is possible, in Croatia things are critically thought through a hundred times. Bulgaria is far quicker at burying its prejudices, Croatia is far more cautious about forgetting its bitter experience. Bulgarians want to immediately be able to do everything, Croats struggle for everyone to follow the same rules. Bulgarians have their whole heart and mind looking towards the future, Croats look to a much greater extent around them. Yet both peoples share the same basic goals, dreams and hopes, shed similar tears and rejoice at the same things, among which the most important are beauty of life, family, hospitality, preservation of dignity, personal experience and traditions. They try to preserve what they’d most like to bring into their new European home, where we’ll all sit at a common table, where we’ll all take decisions together instead of just shaking in the hallway in their desire to hear what the others, the more powerful, the more merciless, and the more short-sighted, decide for them.
Both countries are taking the same major exam before history and they have to give almost the same answers to the same questions. So there is no longer a difference between us which is stronger than our similarities, nor is there a similarity which can obliterate any difference.
Which Bulgarian writers are you familiar with, in terms of works, and particularly appreciate?
I know very little about the contemporary Bulgarian literature to dare to name any favorite author. But what I do know speaks of similarities which deserve a very meticulous study, so I hope in a year or two I’ll be able to answer your question much more easily. Certain similarities are generally apparent and certain differences, regardless of different historical and cultural influences, represent no difference in values. Our region, southeastern Europe, was doomed to have passionate preachers, irreconcilable spiritual and national leaders, fearless fighters and adamant revolutionaries who did what others only dreamed and wrote about. They wrote about what they had to dream and had to do – immediately and then – in tormenting and bloody struggle for national and state consciousness, self-consciousness, dignity and freedom, a struggle, whose goal was often more important than aesthetic heights, and the word was not only an elevated journey through the beauty of language but also a clear message and a guiding star. For that reason our two literatures have so often been marked by renaissance spirits who have united and jumped over epochs and who at the same time were men of literature, teachers and politicians, who with their great energy and in their usually very short lives have passed through all the spiritual and worldly challenges. The Bulgarian literature can be proud to have been the first Slavic literature with its own writing to reach the creative heights of its time even before the Middle Ages and the loss of statehood, as it also happened with the Croatian literature. The two have many identical traits in their development – from the common Glagolic heritage to the classical European times. And when the different chains of the oppression of foreign languages, cultures and traditions fell both our countries very quickly, much more quickly than a number of other states which had freedom, space and time, discovered the present-day worldview, sensitivity and development tendencies. I, personally, would not be ashamed of either the historical or the social issues, and more recently of “the striptease of all popular clichés” and of “the deconstruction of ideologies and of the individual” because these days the post-communist and postmodernist dream of “the happy end” has to a great extent been already exhausted. I don’t know many but I’m particularly fond of Yordan Eftimov’s poems which I think close the circle in this ironic quest for the impossible:
I’m playing with the cat,
Or it’s playing with me,
Or the game is playing with us,
Or language is playing with the game,
Or (again I) I’m playing with language,
Or language is playing with the cat.
What do you think about the activity of the private publishing house “Balkani” and its “Balkan Library” series?
This idea and this library have already received all deserved commendations, from the most renowned names in the Southeastern Europe to some authoritative foreign specialists, such as the London Times critics. In one of your own brilliant explanations, Mr. Grozdev, you wrote it was about an oasis, which is now probably an island, which could turn into a whole spiritual continent. To all this I could add a few thoughts: this publishing house and its publications are not only a bridge and an extended hand but also a wide and long road, a common heart and soul. Our responsibility for the future is indeed bigger than our responsibility for the past, as you have written, and I thank you for the comprehensive attention of your publishing house, of your publications and towards the Croatian literature. I truly hope this Library will in the very near future come out in all the languages of the region, so that at the same time everyone will be able to read the selected authors. And maybe this is one of our responsibilities for the future no matter how distant and unreal it may seem to be now. It was you who proved there are no impossible dreams.
Interviewer: Georgi GROZDEV
Drazhen TSOLICH was born in Zagreb in 1944. Graduated at the Zagreb University – Yugoslav lituratures and languages. Permanent correspondent from Bonn for all Vjesnik publications (1984–1988); editor-in-chief of the Danas weekly (1988–1991) and the business magazine Croman (1993–1994); columnist for the dailies Novi list and Glas Istre (1994–2000). Croatian Ambassador to Austria (2000–2004). Ambassador of the Republic of Croatia to the Republic of Bulgaria – 12 November 2004. Journalist of the Year; by the vote of the Croatian Journalist Association –1997.