FORUM

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.

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LITTLE HEROES OF PIROGOV

Being laid up in hospital is never a particularly pleasant experience. Especially for children. Especially for children in Bulgaria. The doctors and nurses in paediatric units are excellent, but the underfunding of state-run hospitals has resulted in dark, damp spaces with a depressing atmosphere.

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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.

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CASE OF NDK

Here are the facts. Former Construction Minister Lilyana Pavlova, who is now Minister for Bulgaria's Presidency of the EU, fired the general manager of the National Palace of Culture, or NDK, Miroslav Borshosh. Pavlova, who used to belong to Prime Minister Boyko Borisov's inner circle but is now seen as being demoted to what in effect will be just a temporary ministry, cited massive wrongdoing for her decision. She said the planned reconstruction works to modernise the huge building in central Sofia lagged behind.

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'GREAT WALL OF BULGARIA'

The barbed-wire fence supposed to prevent refugees from entering the EU's poorest member state, Bulgaria, is almost ready. After about four years of construction work, the roughly 240-kilometre fence now proudly stands in the middle of the Strandzha forest, in what is supposed to be a nature park. Its usefulness is disputable and there are ongoing allegations of misappropriation and wrongdoing.

The Fence, as it has become known in Bulgarian daily language, has a long and controversial history spanning almost six decades.

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SENSE OF DEADENDS

For obvious reasons, Bulgarian domestic politics is not readily understandable to outsiders especially those who don't speak Bulgarian. How could you explain the setup in the new Bulgarian parliament to an outsider who knows about Europe and the United States, but who is unable to understand who and what stands behind names such as GERB, Ataka, United Patriots and Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organisation?

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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.

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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.

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5 CONCLUSIONS ABOUT PRE- AND POST-ELECTION BULGARIA

The result is known: Boyko Borisov won the 26 March snap election which he himself had called in late in 2016, causing a political crisis, prolonged and acrimonious public debate, and increased expenditure for taxpayers. His party, GERB, garnered over 33 percent of the vote, thus becoming the largest party in parliament. Second is Borisov’s "arch enemy," the BSP, or Bulgarian Socialist Party.

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