Cornell University Press

Theodora Dragostinova on Bulgaria in the 1970s

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We asked author Theodora Dragostinova three questions about her new book, The Cold War from the Margins: A Small Socialist State on the Global Cultural Scene, and her research on the global 1970s from the perspective of Bulgaria.

1. What’s your favorite anecdote from your research for this book?

Between 1977 and 1979, my parents, citizens of socialist Bulgaria, worked as exchange specialists in Nigeria. This experience had such a lasting effect on me that in the late 1980s, as a teenager, I decided to write my own “memoir” on Nigeria. This personal experience determined why I chose Nigeria as a case study for my book. During my research, I discovered a trivial note from the Bulgarian embassy in Lagos, to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Sofia, announcing my parent’s impending departure from the country.

2. What do you wish you had known when you started writing your book, that you know now?

I always wanted to write this book because it is about my childhood growing up in socialist Bulgaria, while also experiencing the wider world. I wish I had known that the global reach of small Bulgaria was much more ambitious than I remembered. What I know now is that the uneasy globalism of today has many origins, including the experiences of those “behind the Iron Curtain,” who were active global citizens decisively shaping the world that we know today. 

3. How do you wish you could change the field of History?

I wish more historians cared about small states and attempted to write their big histories. The vast majority of states are “smaller states” and thus they capture a representative historical experience, yet history as a whole is still focused on the large powers. I hope my book gives a glimpse of how the world looks from the perspective of the margins. And I hope more historians will find it helpful to consider what I call “the advantages of smallness” in how the global order works. 

*Featured photo from Unsplash.

Cover image of the book. Read more.

Theodora K. Dragostinova is Associate Professor of History at The Ohio State University. She is coeditor of Beyond Mosque, Church, and State and author of Between Two Motherlands. Follow her on Twitter @theodora_dragos.

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