On media obfuscation, eating sterlet and the importance of visiting Belene
Issue 67, April 2012
interview and photography by Anthony Georgieff Arguably Bulgaria's most prominent intellectual, Georgi Lozanov – a philosopher, professor of mass communications in several universities and the current chief of the Electronic Media Council – has always been an outspoken critic of the system, any system. Some compare him to Noam Chomsky – but with a strong dash of the Wildean penchant for bons mots – no matter whether he is talking about the legacy of Communism, organised crime, the games played in the Bulgarian media or the best restaurants in Sofia. But Georgi Lozanov is a lot more than the Chomsky-Wilde cliché. A gentleman of almost Victorian proportions, he is equally at ease when he discusses Freud and Nietzsche or the subtle mechanisms governing Bulgarian society; when he plays cards, or explores the outer reaches of his country. Speaking with Georgi Lozanov on the lawn of his hacienda-style ranch on the outskirts of Sofia is a memorable experience in itself; one you wouldn't have thought could happen in the philistine Bulgaria of the 2010s.
If you have to describe this country in 60 seconds, how would you go about it?
There are two scenarios. One is to start complaining. The other is related to the sense of belonging. erhaps in contrast to other people, I haven't lost my sense of belonging. I think of Bulgaria mostly in terms of my lawn, my home and my family, rather than the concept of a state or its history. So my relationship with Bulgaria is private, not public.
The first thing I am going to tell a foreigner coming to Bulgaria will be that this country is a land of many temptations. Probably because we are in the Balkans, the climate here seems to be specifically designed to be enjoyed. The carnival is going on – I am referring to the pageant which started on 10 November 1989, when a set of values was rejected but a new one was not installed. The good thing about carnivals is that you are allowed to do anything. The bad thing is that anything can happen to you.
So, the second thing I am going to tell a foreigner is to take care.
Take care about what?
The greatest danger – and not only for foreigners but for the Bulgarians as well – is the weakness of the rules. In this sense life here resembles life itself: you play a game whose rules you don't know and you have to learn them as you go along. I suppose this will be a severe shock for someone from the West where societies are a lot better organised. We live in an earthquake zone and we are used to earthquakes. That means that a weaker earthquake will probably go unnoticed. However, if someone comes from firm land, they will have the feeling that the roof can cave in any minute.
There are many reasons for the constantly changing rules in Bulgaria, the most important of which is that the Bulgarian society failed to modernise itself. Personal relations here are more important than any procedure, and democracy is a procedure – which explains why democracy in Bulgaria is constantly on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
70 years ago, on 10 March 1943, Bulgaria's pro-Nazi government decided to defy Berlin and halt the deportation of Bulgaria's 50.000 Jews. This was down to the actions of one man - Dimitar Peshev. Just two years later he faced Communist justice and found himself on trial for his life. His niece Kaluda Kiradjieva remembers