BULGARIA SOCIETY

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ANGRY SOFIANITES

From job opportunities to entertainment options: living in Sofia, Bulgaria's largest city, has its perks. It also has its downsides. This is why Sofianites are an angry lot, eagerly expressing their frustration at queues, while driving and especially on social media. What specifically drives these people crazy? Like in every big city traffic, infrastructure, pollution and overpopulation play their roles. But like unhappy families, each angry city is angry in its own way. Here is a long, but by no means exhaustive list of the things that force locals off their rockers.

Tue, 06/02/2020 - 18:31
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IN THE EYE OF THE STORM

"Dimitrina?" I have not heard from her for more than a month, which is unusual.

"Почина."

"Po-chi-na?" I type the word phonetically in an online translation tool. "What?"

"Почина. Me, Dimitrina sister. Bye."

I met Dimitrina on 19 October 2018. She had fallen asleep standing up against the wall of Second Hospital in Sofia, on the corner of Slivnitsa and Hristo Botev Boulevards. A woman with bright fuchsia sneakers the sort teenage girls wear and two blood-red scars on her nose.

Thu, 04/30/2020 - 08:37
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ARRIVAL CITY

As an airplane is swooping over a field beside Sofia Airport, two horses and a donkey do not look up, but keep grazing among the rubbish. Shacks made of bricks, corrugated iron and wood encroach upon the field. Heavy lorries with international logos rush by the shacks on the road from the airport and its business park.

This is an everyday scene from Hristo Botev, a neighbourhood bearing the name of the great Bulgarian 19th century poet and revolutionary.

Wed, 10/30/2019 - 13:58
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AMERICA FOR BULGARIA FOUNDATION CELEBRATES BULGARIAN SUPERHEROES

Everyday Superheroes was the main theme of the event, celebrating the efforts and the energy of ordinary Bulgarians who work in spite of the difficulties and the hardships to make Bulgaria a better place. The event was opened by the ABF's CEO, Nancy Schiller, and the American Ambassador to Bulgaria, Eric Rubin.

Mon, 02/25/2019 - 17:19
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TRADITIONAL MUSIC AND DANCE

As you hold this book in your hands, a Bulgarian song travels in outer space. The song in question is "Izlel e Delyu Haidutin," a traditional Rhodope tune sung by Valya Balkanska. It was put on the Golden Record of Voyager 1 and 2 spacecrafts by Carl Sagan, in 1977, in his attempt to acquaint extraterrestrial civilisations with the Earth's culture. Bulgaria's folk music is incredibly varied and, with its compound metres and irregular times, may sound unusual to Western ears. Some of it, like Valya Balkanska's master opus, is slow and heavy.

Thu, 07/05/2018 - 11:36
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VERY SUPERSTITIOUS

Once you start paying attention to Bulgarians, you will observe some inexplicable actions. Dozens of men and women wear red thread around their wrists. An old woman cuddles a baby, and then spits at it. Another woman panics at the thought of putting her bag on the floor. On TV, Prime Minister Boyko Borisov wears a red thread around his wrist, and says that he never clips his nails, shaves or lends money… on a Monday. A book of self-proclaimed Bulgarian traditional magic for health, good luck, love and so on is a bestseller.

Fri, 05/04/2018 - 13:20
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FOR A COUPLE OF LIONS' HIDES

Under GERB, Bulgaria's public has become accustomed to scandals of various magnitude that come and go about every second day, sometimes several times a day. Outrageous statements often generated by fake news make headlines for a few hours and electrify the public's attention only to be overshadowed by the next scandal that may be even more outrageous than the previous one.

Tue, 03/06/2018 - 15:12
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REMEMBERING 11/11/18

The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month: 99 years ago, the moment when the Great War ended was perhaps chosen to be easy to remember. Back then, both the victors and the defeated wanted to ensure that the horrors of the conflict which had brought war on an industrial scale would never be forgotten or repeated.

History has proved these hopes to be misplaced. Thirty-one years after 1918 began a war so devastating that it stripped the previous conflict of its macabre exclusivity. What had been called the Great War became just the First World War.

Tue, 10/31/2017 - 14:39
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GOING, GOING, (ALMOST) GONE!

This would have been the perfect story for Andy Borowitz. A group of people identifying themselves as intellectuals start a war of words (involving so far just one non-verbal Molotov cocktail) over another group of people whom the intellectuals dub uncouth simpletons with fascist or Taliban tendencies over a monument no one has ever liked and everyone, including the engineers, agrees is actually dangerous not only to your sight and mind but also to your head in case you happen to be walking too close by.

Mon, 07/31/2017 - 15:19
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EUROPE DAY VS. DAY OF VICTORY

Combining the celebrations of St Trifon, the local patron saint of wine and winemaking, and St Valentine, the imported patron of love – both being celebrated on 14 February, pales in comparison to what happens on 9 May. Long before and long after that date, Bulgarians argue both in restaurants and on Facebook about what should be celebrated: Europe Day or the Day of Victory over Nazi Germany.

Fri, 04/28/2017 - 14:37
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BERSERK BELLES OF GRADUATION BALLS

Despite appearances, they are not members of some mysterious sect – they are simply celebrating their graduation from high school. Rites of passage are, of course, important, although the ways they are marked around the world vary widely: from the Quinceañera, the celebration of a girl's turning 15 years of age in Spanish-speaking America, to the Bar and Bat Mitzvah ceremonies that commemorate Jewish children's entry into adolescence, to the sacrificial rites Australian Aborigines and New Guinean tribes perform to mark puberty.

Fri, 04/28/2017 - 14:15
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WHAT DOES A BULGARIAN (PSEUDO)PATRIOT BELIEVE IN?

I believe in Bulgaria's history and Bulgaria's tourism.

I believe in Vanga and in Petar Danov. I believe that Mother Russia has always rescued us and goes on loving us.

I believe whatever Bozhidar Dimitrov says. I believe in Sozopol vampires, in the bones of St John the Baptist, in the pithole in Tsarichina, in the treasure of Valchan Voyvoda, in the tomb of Bastet in the Strandzha, in the new ruins, in the foam concrete fortresses, in the plastic dummies replacing destroyed monuments of culture because they stood in the way of organised tourism.

Thu, 09/08/2016 - 12:33
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BULGARIA'S HURTING PRIDE

"In Bulgaria, there is no homophobia," reads the bold text of a poster near the Red Army monument in Central Sofia featuring two young men in an embrace against the backdrop of a Communist-era apartment block. A man in his 70s sits peacefully in the midst of the brightly-coloured youth, and holds a rainbow flag, while two teens perched on the monument kiss.

Wed, 06/29/2016 - 12:35
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TOP 10 TENETS OF THE BULGARIAN WAY OF THINKING

Remember: this country never had the Enlightenment. To fathom the overwhelming mixture of the sometimes ostensible controversies of life in Bulgaria, you need to understand how Bulgarians think – and what the main tenets of the mental process that forms psychological associations and models of the world are. Here is a tentative top 10. Peruse sparingly and apply plenty of common sense as well as a little humour.

Conspiracy theories

Mon, 05/09/2016 - 15:27
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LARGO OF SERDICA, ANNO 2016

In 313, a PR trick helped Constantine to become the sole ruler of the Roman Empire, whence he would go down in history as "The Great." Before a crucial battle he claimed that he had a dream in which he was advised to paint the initials of Jesus Christ, a theretofore forbidden god, on the shields of his soldiers with the promise that this would bring him victory. He did just that. He won, decriminalised Christianity, became a saint, and so on and so forth.

Mon, 05/09/2016 - 15:23
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