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Cultural Diversities East and West: Postcommunism, Postcolonialism and Ethnicity

Central European University, 22 July-2 August 2002

Fellow profile

Name

Maria SPASSOVA-TOPALOVA

Country Bulgaria
Residence Sofia
Nationality Bulgarian
Sex Female
Age 38
Educational background
  • B.Sc. in Engineering, Technical University, Sofia (1986)
  • B.A. in Journalism, Sofia University (1994).
Present position TV producer
was International News Editor (1997-2000)
Employer TV Balkan News Corporation, the News Department
Research interests Politics. Communist repression. Minority rights. HIV. Women emancipation.
Current research Bulgaria in its way to the civilized world is the main subject of my own research as a journalist... (see more in the Statement of interest)
Conferences, seminars...
  • 2000  Salzburg, Austria  Salzburg Seminar: "Media in the Age of Globalization"
  • 1996  Maastricht, Netherlands  Maastricht Journalism Center "Media Management"
  • 1995  Halki, Greece  Halki International Seminars  paper: "Bulgarian Expectations from the EU Membership".
Professional affiliation 'Journalists for the European Union' Association
Honors, awards The Robert Schuman Journalism award for the best TV coverage of the European Union issues (1997-2001)
Experience abroad
  • 1994  USA  a 6-month WPI fellowship
  • 1996  UK  a 2-month fellowship at War Report
  • 1999  Ireland  2-week trip as a member of the Bulgarian Irish Association
Publications Documentaries (selected):
  • 2001  Greece: The Crown non Grata. The documentary makes a historic parallel between the monarch traditions in Bulgaria and Greece and examines why the general public in the two countries looks differently at its royals.
  • 2001  The Doubt Makes the Power. This documentary marks the 10th anniversary of the new Bulgarian Constitution and the start of the transition from a totalitarian to a democratic society.
  • 2001  Epopee of the Robbed. The documentary traces the fate of the descendants of the heroes of the Bulgarian Renaissance during the communist regime (1944-1989).
  • 1998  Moscow in the New Troubled Time. The documentary tells the story of the glamour and miserable side of this great city and what are the new realities of the Russian capital.
  • The Albanian Pyramids. A documentary about the economic and political crisis in Albania.
Book
  • 1999  Pierce O'Mahony  An Irishman in Bulgaria. A historic research.
Other publications
  • 2001  A series of articles in the Democracy daily newspaper concerning different issues ranging from the visit of Pope John Paul II in Greece and the relations between the Catholic and the Orthodox church to the negotiations between Switzerland and the EU.
  • 1997-2001  A series of TV reports on the Bulgarian ascension to the European Union awardsd with the Robert Schuman Journalism Award for the best TV coverage of the EU issues.
  • 1997  Two articles on the Bulgarian economic and political crisis published by the War report Magazine, London UK.
Excerpts from publications The Epopee of the Robbed (film summary)

This documentary looks at the four of the most prominent Bulgarian families from the time of the national Renaissance and traces out their fate during the communist regime 1994-1989. It was hardly a coincidence that their descendants were either physically murdered without being brought to trial, or were morally repressed and left without any opportunity for professional career or even for a worker job in a factory.

By telling four personal stories, the film tries to explain why the national aristocracy seemed so dangerous to the communist mind. As the country fell under the rule of the Ottoman Empire in the 14th century, most of the noblemen were killed and there was no aristocracy left. The national elite is formed in the 19th century during its late Renaissance and the rebellion against the Turks. Most of these people were well educated, with good knowledge of the outside world, bright enough to rise against the opproessor. During the communist era, some of the members of these families were killed without justice, the names of others were dropped out from the attorneys' bar associations and could not practice their profession, others were declared "dangerous bourgeois" and could not find a job even as manual workers...

Reportage on the monority rights in Bulgaria awarded witht he Robert Schuman Prize for television  (film summary)

In Bulgaria there are two types of minority segregation  the traditional one, observed in the other East European countries and the local one, that exists only here. We are aware of the first one but the second is hidden and therefore is more perilous.

The main minority groups in Bulgaria are the Muslims and the Gypsies. As in the other partso of the world, they live in very closed societies in spearate subsurbs in the cities or villages. The unemployment rate among them is higher; their children attend different schools with different curricula and have fewer opportunities to go to the univeristy.

During the last 12 years, both groups have formed their own political elite, represented in the parliament and even in the government. They failed to produce their economic, scientific or cultural elites, so their issues can reach the public only through their politicians. The minority group depends too much on iots elite, that has ceased to be an elite proper, and has become a filter between the group and the society, which is the source of the second type of segregation.

Case study for the summer course  
Statement of interest As a producer of TV news and current affair program for the biggest national private channel, I deal on a daily basis with the issues of ethnic, religious and cultural diversities in a former communist country such as Bulgaria. Although I do not belong to the academic circles and work "down in the field" dealing with real people and real situations, I believe to benefit a lot from the course "Cultural Diversities East and West: Postcommunism, Postcolonialism and Ethnicity".

Considering that the lines of the multiethnic communication go beyond the simple broadcasting of the news in the minority languages, my colleagues and I pay a lot of attention to the role of the media in establishing tolerance in society. We try to give an objective view of the problems of different groups, such as segregated schools, the high unemployment and crime, or the treatment of the HIV positive victims, or the overdone women emancipation. [...] At the same time, we try to promote the process of building bridges through stories that show the life of the mixed marriages, or how to celebrate together the eligious holidays of the others, or what we could do for the underpriviledged children...

Bulgaria in its way to the civilized world is the main subject of my own research as a journalist and an author. For the last 12 years, the country has been fighting for its new identity and the fact that it was the most sovietized country in the eastern block makes this transition very hard.

Some of my work aims to show that before the communist regime, Bulgaria was a part of the Western world and that its values were respected here. This is the case of the documentary "The Epopee of the Robbed" or the book "Pierce O'Mahoney  an Irishman in Bulgaria". Other part explains how similar historic background could lead to quite different social development  the documentaries "Greece in front of the Third Millenium" and "Greece the Crown Non grata". A third thread looks at the common problems the democracies in transition face these days  the documentaries "The Albanian Pyramids", "Moscow in the New Troubled Time" and "The Doubt Makes the Power". Another focus of my interests is the relations between the Orthodox and the Catholic Church and the modern vatican approach to the conservative East Orthodox.

Since 1993 I have been examining closely the route of the European politics and the expansion of the Eureopean Union, as well as Bulgaria's path towards NATO and EU membership. This process has political, legal and military dimensions, but it is also a process of building bridges between two different cultures and changing the basic values in our society.

Personal message  
Latest achievement I can add one personal detail - recently I gave birth to my second son.
Congratulations, Maria!
Plans for the future  
Foodfest suggestion Shopska Salad
Hobbies  
Contact E-mail to: topalova@techno-link.com

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