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«February 2020»

Fellow Seminar

07 November 2019

Dr. Ivaylo Nachev will present his research proposal on the topic: "The Politics of Street Names: Naming and Renaming Public Spaces in the Bulgarian Capital City of Sofia, 1878 - 2018" on 7 November 2019 (Thursday) at 16:30h at CAS conference hall.


Street names could be seen as one of the elements of the complex system which is the modern city. It could be argued that as a complex and dynamic phenomenon they deserve special scholarly attention, one which has not been given by Bulgarian historiography so far. Street names at the same time are part of the symbolic culture and as such play a certain role in symbolic politics. They impact memory and identity as people are in everyday contact with them. Since street signs are an official way of communication, street naming in the capital city could be regarded as a complex process of not only mapping space but also mapping the national past. Therefore, one of the key objectives of the project is to examine the place of street naming as a part of symbolic politics and to evaluate the specific roles in the process of different urban and national elites.

My proposed research of this long period (1878-2018) aims at reconstructing various layers of changing national values. An advantage of this approach is that it would allow for changing paradigms in Bulgarian society throughout its modern history to be explored and presented in a meaningful way. My research project will be mainly based on archival research of city-council proceedings that discussed name changes.

The research will seek to answer several main questions. What figures/places are chosen? How the decision-making process unfolds? How (if at all) the local authorities motivated the selection of certain names. Does the decision-making process make a proper evaluation (if any at all) of real contributions to the city or the nation? And when decision-making just reflected the current political considerations how sustainable was it? It will try to answer whether street names have always been just a choice of the elites and whether popular attitude and sentiment have played any role in this process. It will try to examine the reasons behind placing leading persons of the day on an equal footing with major historical figures in the street signs. Erasing unwanted versions of the national past, as reflected in the street naming processes, will also be one of the aspects on which the research will elaborate.

Ivaylo Nachev is assistant professor at the Institute of Balkan Studies and Center of Thracology at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. He obtained his PhD degree from Sofia University with a dissertation representing a comparative study of urban modernization in Southeast Europe. Among his latest publications as a co-author is the monograph "Sofia and the Balkan Modernity" (original title: „София и балканската модерност"). His main research interests are in the field of economic and social history of 19th-20th century, urban history, history of science and technology.


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