In Memoriam

Plamen Tzvetkov (1951-2015)

Albena Bakratcheva | Oct 17, 2016

Historian of Eastern Europe, AHA Member

A renowned scholar of history, a respected colleague, and an erudite authority among specialists, Plamen Tzvetkov died in Sofia, Bulgaria, of cancer on November 3, 2015.

Born in Berlin, Germany, on August 8, 1951, Tzvetkov graduated from the St. Kliment Ohridski University of Sofia, Bulgaria, in 1976. He earned his doctorate at Moscow State University in 1980 and in 1981 received a position at the Institute for History Studies of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. Following the 1989 political upheavals across eastern Europe, new possibilities opened for Tzvetkov, and from 1991 to 1993 he was a Fulbright scholar in residence at Georgetown University in Washington, DC. In 1999, he was awarded the honorary degree Doctor of History for his scholarly achievements from the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. Tzvetkov was a member of the American Historical Association (since 1991) and of the Academy of Political Science (since 2007). From 2002 until his death, Tzvetkov was full professor of history at the New Bulgarian University, Sofia.

Tsvetkov had an extraordinary personality, was a zealous polemicist, and developed a special taste for political piquancy and journalistic expression. His expertise in several languages—Bulgarian, Russian, English, French, German, and Hungarian among them—only added to the brilliance of his style in both writing and speaking, as well as to the scope of his vision and interests. Tzvetkov had a preference for the comparative scholarly approach, as demonstrated by the enormous number of his articles and monographs written in the realms of international politics, world history, the history of diplomacy, and the formation of various political mythologies.

Tzvetkov’s work focused predominantly on topics ranging from the situation of the small European countries in the interwar period to the manipulative role of political and historical myths, from the totalitarian dictatorships of the 20th century to the ambivalences of the Bulgarian Coburg dynasty.

Understanding Bulgaria’s history within a broad Balkan and European context, Tzvetkov was especially interested in uncovering Bulgaria’s ethnical and historical roots. His inclination toward wide-scope comparative studies culminated in the monumental work of his last years—the five-volume work Under the Shadow of Hitler and Stalin (World War II and the Fate of the European Nations, 1939–1941)—four volumes of which have been published by the New Bulgarian University Publishing House, and the fifth of which is forthcoming.

A close friend and colleague of Tzvetkov’s noted that he was one of the people who have three lives: the one on this earth, the one immediately following in the hearts and minds of the living who suffer the pain of irrecoverable loss, and a third life—of the thinker whose ideas prevail over time. Hardly anything better could be said about this dear friend and colleague, about a distinguished scholar whose books will continue to provoke productive scholarly disputes and whose challenges and messages will thereby live.

Sit tibi terra levis!

Albena Bakratcheva
New Bulgarian University

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