Communist collaboration still controversial in Bulgaria

A few months ago, a committee investigating communist-era files concluded that Julia Kristeva, a world famous literary theorist and psychoanalyst, was a collaborator. For the first time, a journalist seriously investigated these claims. 

Claudia Ciobanu
Claudia Ciobanu NewsMavens, Central & Eastern Europe
Communist collaboration still controversial in Bulgaria - NewsMavens
Julia Kristeva, 2007, WikimediaCommons

Why this story matters:

Dimiter Kenarov, the author of the piece recommended below, concluded -- after looking at Kristeva's security services file and speaking to former agents -- that Kristeva collaborated to a limited extent, to get personal gains, but that she generally outwitted the agents, therefore not really damaging anyone. Kristeva has denied that she collaborated at all. But it's not the fact that Kenarov contradicts her claims that makes his analysis worth reading. 

When I heard the claims about Kristeva and her denial a few months back, I was imagining this would be a complex case to untangle. Then I forgot about it.

Kenarov does justice to the complexity of the topic in a text whose refinement startled me -- we rarely get to read pieces like this any more in the news.

His verdict on Kristeva's past is nuanced, but what's most striking about his work is his questioning of her position as a public intellectual and her work in the light of her collaboration and response to the allegations. 

In a world obsessed with either "fake news" or "fact-checking", nuance and interrrogations like this are startling -- but welcome.  

Details from the story:

  • A Bulgarian body investigating old files of the communist secret services found out some months ago that well-known intellectual Julia Kristeva had collaborated with the secret services. 
  • Kristeva strongly denied the allegations and her lawyer threatened to sue those who repeated them. 
  • Bulgarian journalist Dimiter Kenarov read Kristeva's file (or whatever is left of it), spoke to former agents of the secret services, and concluded she collaborated to some extent -- to extract personal gain -- in a way that was common to many and that does not seem to have caused harm. 
  • Kenarov then goes back to Kristeva's own texts to question her choice to collaborate, the manner in which she did it, the way in which she responded to the allegations. He confronts her theoretical texts -- and the concept of "singularity" that she was so keen on -- and contrasts it with her behaviour as a collaborator -- a common consequence of living under a totalitarian regime. He discusses her responsibility as a public intellectual and the contradiction between her denial and her role and her writings. 
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