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In accordance with Art. 13 (b) of the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage and in accordance with Decision No. 934 of the Council of Ministers of 12 December 2005, the Ministry of Culture (MOC) is defined as the competent authority for the safeguarding of the intangible cultural heritage existing on the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria. The Cultural Policy Directorate of the Ministry of Culture has developed the country’s intangible cultural heritage safeguarding policy, along with input from scientific institutions and the National Museum. The Directorate organizes and coordinates national and regional intangible cultural heritage events such as fairs, reviews and festivals of amateur art; coordinates the work of the Regional Centre for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage in South-Eastern Europe under the auspices of UNESCO; and coordinates and supports the work of the National Council for Community Cultural Centres and the National Council for Intangible Cultural Heritage. The National Council for Intangible Cultural Heritage was established in 2009 as a permanent body (under the MOC) with expert and advisory functions, under Art. 43 (1) of the Cultural Heritage Act. It comprises 16 members, including scientific experts in six domains of intangible cultural heritage, as defined by the Bulgarian National Register of Intangible Cultural Heritage, community representatives (bearers), a representative of the Community Cultural Centres, a representative of the regional network of museums of intangible cultural heritage and others. Community Cultural Centres are non-profit legal entities, traditional self-governing Bulgarian cultural and educational associations in the settlements, which perform public cultural and educational tasks.
Academic training in ethnology, folklore and cultural studies is provided by various universities and institutes, at both undergraduate and post-graduate levels. The MOC and the National Council for Intangible Cultural Heritage jointly organized a national intangible cultural heritage seminar for training cultural heritage professionals in 2009. Also, the MOC has cooperated with the Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Studies with Ethnographic Museum of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences in building expert capacities through the organization of a series of seminars directed at the implementation of the 2003 Convention. Some universities and other academic institutions that host specialized units on traditional culture also train staff in the safeguarding of cultural heritage, including intangible cultural heritage safeguarding. The category 2 centre in Sofia is responsible for supporting capacity building in the region of South-Eastern Europe. In June 2013, the centre held a two-day training workshop for experts from South-Western Bulgaria on the ‘Application of the Convention of the Safeguarding the Intangible Cultural Heritage at a National Level’.
The National Centre for Intangible Cultural Heritage (in the Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Studies with Ethnographic Museum) plays a leading role in collecting and holding documentation on intangible cultural heritage. It collects, stores, systematizes and analyzes intangible cultural heritage documentation, provides scientific and methodological support to the network of local intangible cultural heritage centres, keeps the documentation of the National Living Human Treasures System and promotes Bulgaria’s folk heritage. In addition, research archives hold materials relating to the intangible cultural heritage of various Bulgarian communities, gathered through research fieldwork such as that of the Folklore Archive of the Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Studies with Ethnographic Museum. The Institute of Art Studies of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences maintains a Musical and Verbal Archive (containing the originals of songs with lyrics and notation, and instrumental melodies with notation). Documentation related to intangible cultural heritage is also kept in most museums in Bulgaria and 27 regional historical and ethnographic museums and other local museums; the archives of the State TV and radio and the film archive also hold relevant documents. Libraries around the country also play an important role in the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage, as do the Community Cultural Centres that maintain archival collections where they keep documentation associated with intangible cultural heritage.
The process of inventorying intangible cultural heritage began in 2001 in partnership with the Institute of Ethnology and Folklore with Ethnographic Museum (then the Institute of Folklore). Inventorying is now regulated by the Cultural Heritage Act (2009) and the Ordinance on the Procedure for Keeping the Register of Intangible Cultural Heritage (n.d.). Under this Act, the MOC is responsible for this and designates officials to maintain the Register of Intangible Cultural Heritage of the Republic of Bulgaria. The Register consists of (1) a national list and (2) regional lists for each of the 28 administrative districts. The national list contains activities and skills that are considered representative but is not exhaustive, i.e. intangible cultural heritage domains which are typical of Bulgaria as a whole. Elements on the Register must meet the following basic criteria: ‘authenticity’ (the activities must be performed in their natural environment and conditions and should not be in the field of professional and specialized art); representativeness (character, artistry, uniqueness and value as cultural facts which are representative of the community); vitality (living practices handed down from generation to generation); and antiquity (origination in a sufficiently distant time not less than 50 years ago).
Community involvement is seen at all stages of the Register process, and the Community Cultural Centres play a vital role in ensuring this by making it possible for communities to fill in inventory forms. Any proposal to include an element on the Register should contain information on both the vitality and the distribution of the elements and on the threat of its extinction. Where a lack of vitality and continuity is identified in the practice of a listed element, institutions concerned (libraries, museums, local intangible cultural heritage centres and the National Centre for Intangible Cultural Heritage) may propose that the element be deleted from the Register. The Government has taken steps to develop criteria for the establishment of a national list of elements in need of urgent safeguarding.
In addition, the MOC maintains the National Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of the Republic of Bulgaria. This list is associated with the Living Human Treasures System and focuses not on elements but on intangible cultural heritage bearers and practitioners. The list is based on competition between applications submitted by local communities, with up to five of them being selected for inscription each cycle. Those listed may be either: (a) an individual, i.e. a person with a high level of knowledge of traditions and skills in some fields of intangible cultural heritage; or (b) a collective, i.e. a group of individuals with collective traditional knowledge and skills (e.g. in rituals, performing arts or traditional crafts). The proposed individuals or groups must : possess a high level of mastery of traditional knowledge, skills and activities; be involved in intangible cultural heritage; have the ability to improve upon the knowledge and skills possessed; and be willing and able to transmit this knowledge and skills to young people. As with the Register, Community Cultural Centres play an important part in proposing laureates.
As far as the promotion of intangible cultural heritage is concerned, Community Cultural Centres in the country’s 28 administrative regions are involved in raising awareness, public information, educational and promotional measures and administering the Living Human Treasures programme, especially through their libraries. They also create a national network for such activities. Through the Community Cultural Centres, MOC funds are granted for purchasing musical instruments, the crafting of traditional costumes, the maintenance of museum collections, the publication of books, the digitization of intangible cultural heritage, holding festivals and fairs, and organizing informal educational and other activities needed to attract children and young people to community activities related to intangible cultural heritage.
Children learn about their local and national heritage on a formal basis through elective subjects and courses at specialized schools. Youth culture and educational programmes are also developed by the MOC, although these are not included in the formal education system. They involve training programmes, elective subjects and extracurricular out-of-school activities, which are usually provided within Community Cultural Centres. For non-formal training, museums are increasingly developing specific programmes directed at young people and aim to present heritage in an comprehensible and accessible manner.
With regard to bilateral, sub-regional, regional and international cooperation, since 2012 Bulgaria has been host to the category 2 centre, the Regional Centre for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage in South-Eastern Europe. In addition to hosting the Second Extraordinary Session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2008, Bulgaria hosted the 8th South-Eastern Europe ministerial conference on intangible cultural heritage and sustainable development and the 7th Regional Meeting of Experts on Intangible Cultural Heritage in South East Europe (2013). Bulgaria has also been active in joint research within the BAS Framework and the 7th EU Framework Programme ‘Culture - 2007-2013’. MoC experts have also taken part in regional seminars and intangible cultural heritage workshops and a 2010 seminar on the role of non-governmental organizations in the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage.
Bulgaria reports here on two elements on the Representative List: the Bistritsa Babi, archaic polyphony, dances and rituals from the Shoplouk region (incorporated in 2008, after being proclaimed a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2005); and Nestinarstvo, messages from the past: the Panagyr of Saints Constantine and Helena in the village of Bulgari (2009). The inscription of the Bistritsa Babi has contributed both to the visibility of the element and to the popularization of the 2003 Convention and the attainment of its objectives. The inscription of Nestinarstvo on the Representative List was interpreted as an exceptionally significant event that occurred with the active participation of the local community and has resulted in enhanced interest in and attention to the traditional culture of the region. The Bistritsa Babi has been promoted through numerous concerts, festivals and meetings (local, national and international) and through participation in a number of prestigious forums organized by the Bulgarian state. Regional and local authorities see Nestinarstvo as a resource for local development, e.g. through tourism development.
The report on Bistritsa Babi was prepared by the MOC in cooperation with the Community Cultural Centre ‘Saint Tsar Boris I - 1909’ through direct contact, and the practitioners participated in the report through stories about the element, fragments from the history of the group, and personal experience with regard to the contact with ‘outsiders’ etc. The report on Nestinarstvo was prepared by the MOC in cooperation with the Deputy Mayor’s office of the village of Bulgari, the Municipality of Tsarevo, the Municipal Museum of History in Tsarevo and the Regional Museum of History in Burgas, along with two representatives of the local community.