Collector preserves heritage in Bulgaria

Collector preserves heritage in Bulgaria

KONYA - Anatolia News Agency
Collector preserves heritage in Bulgaria

Arif Atakan has a collection of nearly 50,000 Ottoman manuscripts in his house in Bulgaria. AA photo

A retired man who had served as a literature teacher in Bulgaria, Akif Atakan has collected Ottoman works, mostly manuscripts, from various parts of the country for 25 years. Now Atakan, who is from Konya, has a collection of some 50,000 books in his Bulgarian home.

As well as books and cultural artifacts like inscriptions and gravestones from nearly 500 villages and districts of Bulgaria, Atakan also collects even torn pieces that he has found in tatters. He keeps such pieces in jars.

Professor Caner Arabacı of Konya’s Selçuk University Faculty of Communications said he had visited Atakan at his home in Bulgaria with a committee from the Culture and Tourism Ministry.

House turned into library

He said he had admired the works. “Atakan is a ‘culture afficionado’ person. He worked as a literature teacher in Bulgaria for 31 years. After he retired, he traveled to some 500 villages and districts and collected Ottoman manuscripts as well as Bulgarian and Turkish works. In this way he established a library in his house.”

Arabacı said Atakan’s 25-year collection shed light on history. “He turned his house, which holds nearly 50,000 works, into a book depot. Some of these books were found in ancient sites among ruins. He bought some of them from the children and grandchildren of people who died in Bulgaria. He also collected the remains of gravestones relating to Turkish culture. He has kept Turkish culture like a ethnography collector.”

He said Atakan had started a foundation to protect those works but had failed to carry out work at the foundation.

Arabacı said Atakan was old and sick and this cultural heritage should be protected. “It is Turkey where Atakan wants to keep his heritage. His work has been protected by the Turkish attaché in Bulgaria. Konya’s Regional Manuscript Library’s director, personnel and Koyunoğlu City and Museum Library’s director also protect these works. They have taken digital copies from Atakan’s library in Bulgaria and worked on them for a week. But this is not enough because these works should be kept in a better environment and be seen by with readers,” he said.

Arabacı said Bulgaria had exerted pressure in places where the Turkish population was high, forced ethnic Turks to migrate and had their books burned.

“It took place between 1984 and 1989. It caused great damage to our cultural heritage. Atakan should be appreciated because he has kept them in his house. This work should be supported,” he said.

Speaking about his collection, Atakan said he had many works like poems, epics and folktales in his home. He said he had tried to collect various documents like newspapers and magazines. “I have the legends of ‘Layla and Majnun’ and ‘Ferhat and Şirin’ that were written 100 years ago. I am the craziest person in the world. I am a fan of poems, epics and folksongs.”

He said he had faced many difficulties when collecting the works and he had to return to Bulgaria when he heard about manuscript works in a Bulgarian house.

“When I heard about it, I returned to Bulgaria and found this person. He told me that police would raid his house to find the books and he had hidden them in the basement of the house many years ago. We found these books among the ruins and I brought them to Turkey,” he said.