Burgas, the quiet town on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast used mainly by holidaymakers as a gateway to the summer pleasures of Sunny Beach and Sozopol, is popular with Bulgarians and expats alike, but its name hardly rang a bell to anyone in the outside world who hadn't visited or had family contacts there. Suddenly, in the middle of July, the town became headline news across the globe as the site of the deadliest terrorist attack in Europe of the 2010s, in fact the deadliest since Madrid in 2004 and London in 2005.
But to think that what happened in Burgas on 18 July 2012 was in any way "unprecedented" or "without parallel in living memory" would be to overlook a number of similar incidents that, albeit not as deadly as the recent one, have marred what the residents of Burgas like to think of as a town of "poets, painters and jovial merrymakers."
For reasons that probably can only be partially explained, Burgas seems to have become a favoured spot for terrorists of many different shades and hues to conduct their activities during the past 50-60 years.
One of the earliest Burgas-related terror incidents did not technically take place in Burgas itself, but the aircraft which was targeted originated at Burgas Airport. In 1948, shortly after the Communist takeover of Bulgaria, a Junkers-52 passenger aircraft took off on a scheduled service to Sofia. One of the passengers was Strashimir Mihalakev, a former air cadet who had just been fired from his post as the Kingdom of Bulgaria's military attache to Romania. Somewhere over Yambol, 100 kilometres west of Burgas, Mihalakev shot dead the pilot and the radio operator. He then diverted the plane to Turkey, where he requested political asylum.
A few days later Turkey delivered the bodies of the two victims to the Bulgarian authorities, in the region of the border town of Svilengrad.
It emerged later that Mihalakev was just one of seven conspirators onboard the plane who wanted to escape from the Communist regime to Turkey.
The incident was censored in the government-controlled media, as were all other acts of terrorism in the ensuing 45 years.
On 24 May 1981, a major holiday in Bulgaria that celebrates the invention of the Bulgarian alphabet by two Greek monks, Cyril and Methodius, a Turkish DC-9 with 112 passengers and eight crew onboard made an emergency landing at Burgas Airport. It had been hijacked from its scheduled domestic service in Turkey by four armed men opposed to the military regime in Ankara at the time. The men obviously chose Bulgaria because the Communist regime in Sofia had become increasingly antipathetic to US ally and NATO member Turkey. Burgas seemed like a good location owing to its geographical proximity to the Turkish border.
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