RATIARIA - what exactly happens with the Bulgarian archaeology?

The destruction of the Roman colony Ratiaria at the South bank of the Danube river is very well known. Some of the international organisation such as ICOMOS even put "The case Ratiaria" into the World report 2011-2013 on monuments and sites in danger. The paradox in this situation is that exactly in 2013 the Ministry of Culture in Bulgaria start funding the site and the archaeological excavations here were officially reopened under the guidance of the National Archaeological Institute. And so - RATIARIA WAS FORGOTTEN!

What exactly happens with Bulgarian archaeology? Was Ratiaria preserved after the intervention of the National Archaeological Institute and was the site protected by the Ministry of Culture? The media publications after 2003 sounds as a horror chronicle:

Treasure hunters vandal smashed the antique Ratiaria!

Treasure-hunters pogrom in ancient Ratiaria!

Treasure hunters gutted the ancient city Ratiaria near Vidin!

WHERE IS THE PROBLEM? The site is funded and supposedly protected by Ministry of Culture and is studied by the main archaeological institution in Bulgaria - the National Archaeological Institute !?

Surprisingly the answer is very simple. It is enshrined in the Bulgarian legislation, which states that NO permission for archaeological excavations should be issued WITHOUT document proving the guarding of the archaeological site (Article 151 § 5, paragraph 3)! So, in our case the Permission is issued without an important document required by law and the consequences are publicly visible and fatal for the archaeological site!

Generally, this is not the only case of ignoring the law concerning Ratiaria. In 2012 the scientific leader of the site was replaced without explanation with an act of simple change of the names in the documents done by the leadership of the National Archaeological Institute in Sofia. In 2016 the Supreme Administrative Court of Bulgaria defines this action as illegal ( Download the decision of the Court here - BG)! The new person determined as a "Leader of the excavations in Ratiaria" submits his documents on May 8 in contrary to Art. 17 of Regulation № H-00-0001 where the dateline is clearly set to April 30!

Meanwhile the Ministry of Culture granted a project for Ratiaria submitted by Prof. Dr. Hab. Rumen Ivanov with the financial support of 15 000 BGN ( Download the Grant decision here - BG). Anyhow, the Professor was never allowed to use the grant which he earned on the basis of the huge project and 5 years detailed program for researches and development of Ratiaria. Instead of this the grant was used by the new leader of the excavations. And here comes again the question: Why the site was left unprotected? Maybe because the talk is about personal using of the money or because the authorised persons are not interested to protect Ratiaria?

If we try to understand properly "The case Ratiaria" we will be aware also What exactly happens with the Bulgarian archaeology? These are ordinarily and well known in the other countries problems as corruption, arbitrariness, misappropriation of funds and the most important - lack of professionalism. The only difference is that here these problems are accepted as "normal" and that for the Bulgarian society such kind of persons are "the modern heroes" as they demonstrate very well how to earn by doing "nothing".

This way and with this system RATIARIA DON'T HAVE CHANCE!

Krassimira Luka

February 2016

Bulgarian Archaeological association