Prof. Dr. Raymond Detrez
Raymond Detrez (Antwerp, Belgium 1948) studied Eastern European Languages and History at Ghent University (1967–1971) and specialized in Bulgarian philology at the University of Sofia (1971). Since 1990, he has taught Balkan History at the Katholieke Universiteit van Leuven. From 1997 to 2013, he was a professor of East European and Modern Greek history and culture and the director of the Center for Southeast European Studies at Ghent University. Raymond Detrez has published extensively on Eastern European and in particular Balkan history, national identity in the Balkans, and Balkan nationalism. He is also the author of the three editions of the Historical Dictionary of Bulgaria (Rowman & Littlefield, 1996, 2007, 2015). He now lives alternately in Belgium and Bulgaria.
Shortly before her untimely death in Dordrecht in 2003, the Bulgarian artist Bistra Toteva showed me the war diary of her grandfather, Capt. D. Bakărdžiev and, eager to learn more about him, invited me to do some research on the events the diary refers to. This conference offers an good occasion to present to a broader audience the results of my endeavours.
Capt. D. Bakărdžiev served in the sixth company of the 11th Macedonian division. He kept his diary from late September 1915 to late November 1915. The military operations brought him via Kumanovo to Štip in Macedonia. In November 1915, he participated in the heavy fighting near Krivolak and in the pursuit of the retiring allied troops to the south. Although D. Bakărdžiev was a captain, he shared the fate of the common soldiers. He blames their hardships on the blatant lack of a sound organization. Although he appears to be a sincere patriot supporting the cause of the war, he is also increasingly disapproving of the commanders-in-chief who in search for military fame exposed the soldiers to unnecessary risks.
Bakărdžiev’s diary shows us the war from the point of view of a loyal, but critical participant. It is a modest, but revealing and touching document humain and a welcome antidote to the usual self-glorification or self-pity.