World
Georgy Kolarov
April 6, 2013
© Photo: Public domain

Knowing the subtlety of global politics, it was obvious that Bulgaria had to win the football match against Malta with a devastating score. Football and sport as a whole have always been used as a real global arbiter with the aim of diverting society’s attention. Consequently, one could have guessed that they would try and lift the spirits of the unhappy Bulgarian people with a spectacle that would be able to distract them from the unhappiness of reality for ninety minutes. 

After all, there are people in the country who, on the one hand, have had enough, but on the other have a civil conscience and enough energy pushing them out onto the country’s streets and squares. There is little more than a month left for the protest movement currently gathering momentum in Bulgaria to climax before the parliamentary elections set for 12 May take place. An outburst of public activity can also be expected the very next day, when it is more than likely that all the political parties and movements, along with their members and supporters, will loudly express their dissatisfaction out in the streets and public squares. The problem is that according to opinion surveys, there is every likelihood that the country’s leading political forces – Citizens for the European Development of Bulgaria (GERB, right centrists) and the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP, left centrists) – will maintain parity. This means that neither of them will be able to form a government themselves. In situations like these, blatant national-patriotic forces like the ATAKA party, or the pro-Turkey Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS), will be clamouring for power. The latter’s impudence and acts of provocation have already led to a notable rise in nationalistic attitudes. ATAKA’s popularity is also growing. 

It is also possible that a few of the new political forces that have emerged on the wave of protest will have some success. The most notable of these is the Free People party, headed by social democrat, political analyst and chairman of the Union for Economic Initiative, Teodor Dechev. Dechev is currently trying to put together a list of candidates from the most well-known demonstrators of the last few months. For obvious reasons, the list will not include so-called self-immolators. 

The phenomenon of self-immolation is completely new for Bulgaria. However, an epidemic of self-immolations and the glorification of its victims on the Internet played its role in the fervour of the Arab Spring in Tunisia and Egypt. As is well-known, the motive for self-destruction was included as point 158 by Gene Sharp back in 1973 – «Self-exposure to the elements (self-immolation, drowning etc.)»… – as a way to move «from a dictatorship to a democracy»… 

Mary Joyce, publisher of the website Meta-Activism.org, quite clearly explained the role of networks in the events of the Arab Spring. Acts of self-immolation are «visual and shocking… What made the stories of Bouazizi, Said, and Al-Khateeb resonant? They were unusually brutal, but also the brutality was visible through photos and video of the bodies after the fact». As a result, the crowds were worked up and the situation was incandescent. In such circumstances, it is much simpler to solve political problems – coming to power on a wave of self-immolators’ flames is facilitated as much as possible. 

It is not surprising that acts of self-immolation are being actively used in Bulgaria as part of the political struggle. The leader of the BSP, Sergei Stanishev, is consequently using these facts against his opponents, alleging that «burning people have become a symbol of the GERB party». In truth, seven Bulgarian citizens in various parts of the country have taken their own lives in this horrific way in less than two months. 

Before the May elections, the current government is trying to do everything possible to ensure that the GERB party once again comes to power. At present, sociological agencies are giving them 23 percent, and the BSP party 19 percent. This is not enough to form a government, but it is difficult to say which of the minor political forces will end up in parliament. 

It is unlikely that the socialists will return to power amid the internal turmoil going on in the party’s leadership. They missed their chance last year, when at a BSP congress they refused to change their current party leader, Sergei Stanishev, for their former, Georgi Parvanov, Bulgarian president from 2002-2012. 

Georgi Parvanov is believed to be the most successful politician of the transition period: as chairman of the BSP, he was elected the country’s president and the only one in Bulgaria’s new history to win a second mandate. It has been argued that in the event of a stalemate after the elections, he would be able to lead a technocratic government that would enjoy sufficient public support. 

However, it is impossible to rule out that GERB will knock together a coalition with the nationalists from ATAKA (their leader, Volen Siderov, has already announced that they are «not shutting the doors on GERB»). Boyko Borisov is hardly likely to be able to withstand Russian energy projects so obstinately. Borisov, Parvanov or whoever else sits in the chair of the Prime Minister of the Republic of Bulgaria is going to have to find a balance between Moscow, Brussels and Washington. Money is coming in from Washington and particularly Brussels, of course, about which one can say that it is «already spent». However, neither the governing party nor the prime minister will be able to forget how extremely important an energy partnership with Moscow is for Sofia. 

Besides which, while the British and other Europeans realise what a vital error they have made buying up Bulgarian property in villages with Gypsy and Turkish majorities and try to get rid of them, Russians are beginning to settle on the Black Sea coast in huge numbers, becoming a kind of guarantee against the Islamisation of that part of Bulgaria. Numerous demographic prognoses say that in a few decades, Bulgarians will be a minority in their own country, concentrated in several large cities. A Russian-speaking enclave is already emerging and developing on the coast (made up largely of Russians, Ukrainians and Armenians). In the provinces, areas of compact settlements of Turks and Gypsies will expand. The number of immigrants from Arab countries, Afghanistan and Kurdish regions of the Near and Middle East is growing rapidly in Bulgaria. 

All of these trends should force the Bulgarian political class to think about the content wof external unions and, most importantly, its relationships with major powers. Perhaps at least some of the Bulgarian politicians will finally realise that the only great power in the world which is not interested in the disappearance of the Bulgarian state and its people is Russia. Neighbouring Turkey, on the other hand, having taken on board the foreign policy concept of «Neo-Ottomanism», is already dreaming of restoring the Ottoman Empire. And the main focus of Turkish pressure will primarily be neighbouring countries, including members of the European Union. 

In Brussels, this is being met with indifference. 

The views of individual contributors do not necessarily represent those of the Strategic Culture Foundation.
Bulgaria: The Phenomenon of Self-Immolation

Knowing the subtlety of global politics, it was obvious that Bulgaria had to win the football match against Malta with a devastating score. Football and sport as a whole have always been used as a real global arbiter with the aim of diverting society’s attention. Consequently, one could have guessed that they would try and lift the spirits of the unhappy Bulgarian people with a spectacle that would be able to distract them from the unhappiness of reality for ninety minutes. 

After all, there are people in the country who, on the one hand, have had enough, but on the other have a civil conscience and enough energy pushing them out onto the country’s streets and squares. There is little more than a month left for the protest movement currently gathering momentum in Bulgaria to climax before the parliamentary elections set for 12 May take place. An outburst of public activity can also be expected the very next day, when it is more than likely that all the political parties and movements, along with their members and supporters, will loudly express their dissatisfaction out in the streets and public squares. The problem is that according to opinion surveys, there is every likelihood that the country’s leading political forces – Citizens for the European Development of Bulgaria (GERB, right centrists) and the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP, left centrists) – will maintain parity. This means that neither of them will be able to form a government themselves. In situations like these, blatant national-patriotic forces like the ATAKA party, or the pro-Turkey Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS), will be clamouring for power. The latter’s impudence and acts of provocation have already led to a notable rise in nationalistic attitudes. ATAKA’s popularity is also growing. 

It is also possible that a few of the new political forces that have emerged on the wave of protest will have some success. The most notable of these is the Free People party, headed by social democrat, political analyst and chairman of the Union for Economic Initiative, Teodor Dechev. Dechev is currently trying to put together a list of candidates from the most well-known demonstrators of the last few months. For obvious reasons, the list will not include so-called self-immolators. 

The phenomenon of self-immolation is completely new for Bulgaria. However, an epidemic of self-immolations and the glorification of its victims on the Internet played its role in the fervour of the Arab Spring in Tunisia and Egypt. As is well-known, the motive for self-destruction was included as point 158 by Gene Sharp back in 1973 – «Self-exposure to the elements (self-immolation, drowning etc.)»… – as a way to move «from a dictatorship to a democracy»… 

Mary Joyce, publisher of the website Meta-Activism.org, quite clearly explained the role of networks in the events of the Arab Spring. Acts of self-immolation are «visual and shocking… What made the stories of Bouazizi, Said, and Al-Khateeb resonant? They were unusually brutal, but also the brutality was visible through photos and video of the bodies after the fact». As a result, the crowds were worked up and the situation was incandescent. In such circumstances, it is much simpler to solve political problems – coming to power on a wave of self-immolators’ flames is facilitated as much as possible. 

It is not surprising that acts of self-immolation are being actively used in Bulgaria as part of the political struggle. The leader of the BSP, Sergei Stanishev, is consequently using these facts against his opponents, alleging that «burning people have become a symbol of the GERB party». In truth, seven Bulgarian citizens in various parts of the country have taken their own lives in this horrific way in less than two months. 

Before the May elections, the current government is trying to do everything possible to ensure that the GERB party once again comes to power. At present, sociological agencies are giving them 23 percent, and the BSP party 19 percent. This is not enough to form a government, but it is difficult to say which of the minor political forces will end up in parliament. 

It is unlikely that the socialists will return to power amid the internal turmoil going on in the party’s leadership. They missed their chance last year, when at a BSP congress they refused to change their current party leader, Sergei Stanishev, for their former, Georgi Parvanov, Bulgarian president from 2002-2012. 

Georgi Parvanov is believed to be the most successful politician of the transition period: as chairman of the BSP, he was elected the country’s president and the only one in Bulgaria’s new history to win a second mandate. It has been argued that in the event of a stalemate after the elections, he would be able to lead a technocratic government that would enjoy sufficient public support. 

However, it is impossible to rule out that GERB will knock together a coalition with the nationalists from ATAKA (their leader, Volen Siderov, has already announced that they are «not shutting the doors on GERB»). Boyko Borisov is hardly likely to be able to withstand Russian energy projects so obstinately. Borisov, Parvanov or whoever else sits in the chair of the Prime Minister of the Republic of Bulgaria is going to have to find a balance between Moscow, Brussels and Washington. Money is coming in from Washington and particularly Brussels, of course, about which one can say that it is «already spent». However, neither the governing party nor the prime minister will be able to forget how extremely important an energy partnership with Moscow is for Sofia. 

Besides which, while the British and other Europeans realise what a vital error they have made buying up Bulgarian property in villages with Gypsy and Turkish majorities and try to get rid of them, Russians are beginning to settle on the Black Sea coast in huge numbers, becoming a kind of guarantee against the Islamisation of that part of Bulgaria. Numerous demographic prognoses say that in a few decades, Bulgarians will be a minority in their own country, concentrated in several large cities. A Russian-speaking enclave is already emerging and developing on the coast (made up largely of Russians, Ukrainians and Armenians). In the provinces, areas of compact settlements of Turks and Gypsies will expand. The number of immigrants from Arab countries, Afghanistan and Kurdish regions of the Near and Middle East is growing rapidly in Bulgaria. 

All of these trends should force the Bulgarian political class to think about the content wof external unions and, most importantly, its relationships with major powers. Perhaps at least some of the Bulgarian politicians will finally realise that the only great power in the world which is not interested in the disappearance of the Bulgarian state and its people is Russia. Neighbouring Turkey, on the other hand, having taken on board the foreign policy concept of «Neo-Ottomanism», is already dreaming of restoring the Ottoman Empire. And the main focus of Turkish pressure will primarily be neighbouring countries, including members of the European Union. 

In Brussels, this is being met with indifference.