site.btaVanga, aka "Nostradamus of the Balkans": A Mysterious Personality Respected or Ridiculed
Vangeliya Pandeva Gushterova (née Surcheva) was born on October 3, 1911. This name is practically unknown to Bulgarians. But the nickname Baba Vanga (Grandmother Vanga) is known to millions – both in Bulgaria and abroad. Respected or ridiculed, Vanga remains one of the mysterious personalities cited by experts as an illustration of the paranormal and of societal superstitions. The Daily Mail of Britain, among many others, referred to her as “Nostradamus of the Balkans” – a description that could be easily challenged, since her prophecies on global issues are orally distributed.
Blind since early childhood, semi-literate (she could read some Braille), Vanga spent most of her life in the Rupite area near Petrich (Southwestern Bulgaria). Such details could hardly explain her fame as a clairvoyant and fortune-teller, almost a saint. She belonged to an era when mass communications were very different from what they are today, and it is hard to explain to younger generations the role she played. Still, her influence is among the most impressive cases of mass respect for the paranormal and the occult. There is an expression in Bulgarian "I am not Vanga“ (meaning “Search me!”), which is also used by Russians and Ukrainians. Her name is known far beyond the region: "blind psychic” and “Nostradamus of the Balkans” are expressions used by UK media, where half-mocking interpretations of her predictions can be found. World media uphold her fame through the public's interest in the sensational and the paranormal (e.g. The Sun's article “Baba Vanga 2023 predictions – Five ‘prophecies’ by mystic who ‘foresaw Ukraine war’ from nukes to lab-grown humans”).
Vanga (1911-1996) was born in Strumica in the Salonica vilayet of the Ottoman Empire (now Republic of Northern Macedonia). Her father was an Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization activist, conscripted into the Bulgarian Army during World War I. Orphaned as a child, Vanga depended on the care and charity of neighbours and family friends. Surviving a storm in which her eyes were covered with sand and dust, she gradually lost her sight.
After that Vanga became known for her ability to heal and prophesy. A growing number of commoners started visiting her, asking if their relatives were alive or about lost people, animals and objects. Her fame grew rapidly. King Boris III of Bulgaria reportedly visited her too.
In the post-World War II years, Vanga epitomized the inner ideological instability of the communist society. On the one hand, communist ideology strongly rejected the paranormal, magic and all religious (Christian, Muslim, etc.) “superstitions”, beliefs, rituals and ethics. Conflicts and problems within the society were explained by class struggle and young people had to be educated in the spirit of materialist philosophy. Historical precognition was an official doctrine of the State, with the bright future just around the corner. Clairvoyants had no place in that context.
On the other hand, Vanga obviously enjoyed the tacit support of the superior party leadership. Communist dignitaries and prominent intellectuals consulted her, including Svetlin Rusev, Georgi Chapkanov, Neshka Robeva, Bogomil Raynov, Alexander Lilov, Stefan Danailov, Lyubomir Levchev, Blagovest Sendov, Kevork Kevorkian, to name just a few. Communist leader Todor Zhivkov's daughter, Lyudmila Zhivkova, the rising star of the regime, showed a marked respect for Vanga, which helped to carve out a special place for her within the cultural-societal space of communist Bulgaria. Towards the end of the communist regime no Bulgarian could come close to the level of recognition reached by the mystic.
No doubt all this had to do with her prophecies and advice. Vanga did not write down her predictions, leaving others to do so. Naturally, this led to controversies, misrepresentation of her words and various interpretations. There is a plethora of Vanga-related stories and rumours. One of the most frequently used words in any narrative about her life, dialogues, disclosures, and prophecies is “reportedly”.
The predictions allegedly made by Vanga included the break-up of the Soviet Union, the Chernobyl disaster, the date of Stalin's and King Boris III's deaths, the 9/11 attacks and the election of an African-American as the 44th President of the United States. Whatever the truth behind the claims about predictions of global issues, there is no doubt that this illiterate blind woman deeply impressed people of various trades and nationalities that met her personally. The information, advice and comment she shared with her friends, neighbour and clients were of some help to them. The issues she was asked to resolve ranged from family relations to health problems to lifestyle to diets. This, at least, is confirmed by practically all witnesses.
An article on Vanga, written by the highly sceptical Canadian columnist Jeff Yates, ends up with “Ahem. That’s it, yup.” (“Ahem. C’est ça, ouais.”)
While there are huge numbers of people who believed – and still believe – that Vanga possessed paranormal abilities, there are nowadays violent opponents to even mentioning her name. One of them, cultural anthropology professor Ivaylo Dichev, said nowadays Vanga is "not just a local cult but a global sensation”. Her name is on a par with half-legendary personalities like Rasputin, the Russian healer and writer Juna and the Russian psychotherapist of Ukrainian origin Anatoly Kashpirovsky.
Vanga's life story has inspired the Russian-language TV series, Vangeliya (2013).
Vanga's relatives claim she considered the Rupite area an energy source. The St Petka of Bulgaria church was built there in 1994 on funds provided mostly by Vanga. Wall paintings by the famous Bulgarian artist Svetlin Rusev attract many tourists, although the artistic approach is very different from the Orthodox canon. Even though the temple was not built according to the rules of the Orthodox Church, it attracts thousands of worshippers and visitors.