National Geographic : 1980 Jul
The Bulgarians By BOYD GIBBONS Photographs by JAMES L. STANFIELD BOTH NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC STAFF N A COLD AFTERNOON Ni kola Tunov squatted in the dust of the square of Gorna Sushitsa and with a stick stirred a pot of hot tar and pine oil. Ie was surrounded by a group of young men, mostly his relatives (a corn cob thrown in this village will likely hit a Tunoy). They passed around a jug of red wine. From time to time Nikola would inter cept the jug and throw back his head of black hair. His hands were large, and cracked and raw. Throughout the winter (this was Novem ber), Nikola and his work brigade climb the steep slopes of the Pirin mountains to cut oak for their stoves and fence posts for the big agro-industrial complex of which this vil lage is a part. The men wear no gloves. Ni kola uses the tar solution to treat cuts on his sheep, but it has not escaped his attention that it also repairs his sore hands. A truck rattled into the square-a two and-a -half-ton Soviet GAZ 51. Stoyan La vurov jumped down from the cab. The GAZ made one more gasp. It appeared to have been driven mostly down dry riverbeds. Stoyan is the truck jockey for the village, hauling wood to the sawmill in the valley. Bulgarians seem reserved, but Stoyan had the sort of wild abandon that pressed the GAZ to achieve flight. Nikola referred to the condition of his hands. 'So why don't you cover them?" asked Stoyan. "With what?" "They call them gloves." Nikola rubbed some tar into his palms and spat in the dirt. He and Stoyan laughed. Most towns in Bulgaria lave a square around which stand the municipal building, a hotel, a restaurant, and a statue com memorating either the Russian liberators or the local partisans who fought the pro German government during World War II. Gorna Sushitsa has only the square, and a mayor with the only telephone. It rarely rings, the national government having cho sen not to include Gorna Sushitsa in its plans for present or future development. Thirty years ago there were 900 people living in the village. Today, in this relic of old Bulgaria, there are maybe 180, largely lonely grand parents. Most of the children, as happens over much of this rapidly industrializing She wears her years with vigor and her self-made ceremonial dress with pride. VangaliaTunov "never sits down," the villagers of Goma Sushitsa like to say. With similargrit, Bulgariahas weathered turbulentcenturies athwartthe strategicBalkan Peninsula.With an eye toward its roots-glimpsedthrough recent archaeologicalfinds (page 112)-the socialist nationplows from an agrarianpast into an industrialfuture.