Historical reconstruction or historical reenactment is a type of event representing historical moments and conducting them live. On these happenings are demonstrated everyday life, customs, technologies from the past which means that reenactment does not only reconstruct battle scenes. The exact iteration is on one hand aimed at the auditory and on the other – at the subjective experience of the reenactors. A basic characteristic of the reconstructions that diversifies them from theatrical or touristic performances is their credibility. In accordance with the aims and knowledge of the organisers for the level of historical reenactment, the standard of authenticity can be very strict or a little bit loose. In general though, as reenactment are considered the events in which a high level of authenticity is present.
One of the definitions for ‘historical reconstructions’ is “simulations of events based on scientifically determined facts and documents, usually played by enthusiasts in public spaces of museums or around archaeological decors, that aim for simultaneously showing the past to the auditory and experiencing the past from the point of view of the participants themselves.”
Distinguishing from the majority of theatrical and touristic events, historical reconstructions require also a level of personal engagement and motivation that surpass the plain sparing of a few hours for performing the role.
The reenactments are most often organised by non-governmental groups and organisations whose members are also the engine behind the event. In most cases they belong to historically based subcultural groups. In Bulgaria organising historical reenactments follows the criteria for historical adequacy and requires the existence of a historic analogy of the happenings and events shown. Reconstructions simultaneously have cultural, educational, ritual and entertaining functions. Even though they are not subordinate to a strategy of a kind sometimes they may serve as a tourist attraction and matter for the construct of the brand of a given historical destination.
Another reason for which the organisation of this kind of events deserves a special kind of attention is the attractiveness and huge potential for drawing a crowd, strong emotional load combined with educational and upbringing effect.
In its core the organisers of this kind of events in Bulgaria are non-political,non-commercial civil structures that enroll into activities connected to preserving and restoring cultural and/or historical heritage. Members of this kind of organisations are people from different professional and social groups with different kinds of connections with history – education, profession or hobby, who spend their own time, materials, money, etc. for reconstruction or an overall making of household items, equipment, weapons.
The common differentiating habit of reenactors is not only the affinity towards knowledge and popularisation of facts, events, technologies from the past but also the strive for a flawless reconstruction. That leads to the perfectionist seek after historical accuracy, absolute concurrence of the details with the original work. This criteria for exact compliance with colour, model, element of a cloth, object, weapon is applied also when equipping for different reenactments. Another important trait is the presence of a good historical preparation which does not necessarily mean education in the sphere of history.
There exists a significant variety of the types and forms of historical reconstructions which to some extent broaden the understanding of the formulation of these events. The organisers and the participants in them divide them in three basic groups as per the type of historical reality they recreate:
Living history: recreation of customs, habits, traditions, crafts, elements of the everyday life of the common people from the era given. This group contains also the activities that a soldier does but again oriented towards the specific historical period ( there are many differences in the uniforms, weapons, personal belongings even at the same period of time which of course requires a very clear attitude towards details). The specific things of these kinds of reconstructions are military camps from the distinct time stamps with different duration and range, demonstrations, fests, expositions and so on. The mixture between the types is also possible – a “living history” event may end with a battle or another important occasion.
Recreation – represents an attempt for repeating important events from the past in an authentic setting or at the very place they’ve happened. This group includes reconstructions of battles, signing of important contracts, statesman decisions etc.
Reconstruction of items from different fields – everyday life, weaponry, economical and social life or technologies used in different time stamps from the past. This type of reconstructions don’t have such a strong event character because they are not always intended for demonstration. They are mostly a permanent part included in both of the latter groups. The repaired items are used in galleries, as part of an authentic technology at fests dedicated to different historical periods.
In the last few years the number of the organisations engaged with the conduction of this type of events drastically rose. The inclusion of reenactments as a part of city festivals, official celebrations of memorable historical dates in Bulgaria is becoming a tradition.
In Bulgaria, the historical reenactments are a lot more of a honorary event designated as an educational weapon rather than a show or a spectacle meant for generating profit. The commercialisation as a means for organising historical reconstructions is secondary. This type of happenings are not so often made for the satisfaction of the viewer of an extreme historical experience but more so of commemorating an important event, the broadening of the notion and knowledge of the past, for conserving a given tradition.
The presence of financial aid from local authorities, NGO’s, etc. is also a fact, but this funding mostly ensures the flow of the event itself and rarely covers the time and effort spent by the reenactors.