Issue 153

HISTORY BY PETITION

History school textbooks in Bulgaria, to a lot greater extent than, say, geography or biology textbooks, are regularly the stuff that hacks build their conspiracy theories on. This usually happens at the beginning of the summer for three reasons. The Bulgarian publishers start rolling out new textbooks for the next school year. Politics are usually low key as Bulgarians head to the Greek seaside, leaving their TV sets unattended.

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ÉRIC LEBÉDEL

French Ambassador Éric Lebédel has lived in Sofia for almost three years, during which time he has managed not only to upkeep his duties as France's envoy to Bulgaria but also to travel extensively throughout the country, including to locations that are off the radar of even the most intrepid travellers. What are the most fascinating ones?

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HOLY MOTHER OF GOD FROM... HASKOVO

The statues that adorn Bulgarian squares, streets and historical sites represent this nation's modern history in miniature, but not always in the way their creators intended. Monuments built in 1878-1944 are elegant and relatively small in scale, in the best traditions of realism. Communism was the time of gigantic monstrosities of exposed concrete and steel that tended to symbolise the Communist Party's grip over society rather than evoke patriotic feelings. In the 1990s, few monuments were erected in Bulgaria: times were hard, and there was no money to spend on basics, let alone statues.

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BELINTASH SHRINE

In a dismal present with little hope of a bright future, Bulgarians are increasingly searching for solace in their nation's glorious past.

Both mediaeval military might and the 19th century National Revival Period have been the darlings of the nation in the past few years. Reenactments of historical battles take place by the over-restored ruins of ancient forts, traditional peasant costumes are now de rigueur at weddings and proms, and the Horo is danced at every imaginable and unimaginable location and time.

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WHAT MAKES THE ROUNDS THIS MONTH

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In the Council of Ministers:

"Once upon a time in Japan they carried old people and left them to die in the forest."

"Mr Prime Minister, do you have any other suggestions about the pension reforms?"

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The job of the prime minister is very difficult. Wherever he looks, he sees people stealing. Yet, he cannot punish anybody because they all belong to his party.

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"Why are there no Bulgarian politicians working abroad?"

"Because abroad they need people with skills and intelligence."

*

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WHO WAS PENYO PENEV?

In 1949, when hundreds of young Bulgarians enthusiastically built Dimitrovgrad, an entire town that would supposedly epitomise the triumph of Communism in their country, a 19-year-old man joined them. He was Penyo Penev. Born in the village of Dobromirka, near Sevlievo, he was one of the thousands of Brigadiri, or young "volunteers" working on Communist infrastructure projects, and was attracted by the idea of building Dimitrovgrad, the "City of Dreams."

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ONE TEMPLE, THREE RELIGIONS

Religion has been with humans since the dawn of Homo Sapiens, an evolutionary trait that appeared with the emergence of developed brains and language, tool use, morality and group living. Gods and deities changed, of course, through the millennia, constantly appearing and disappearing, transforming, adapting and beating the competition.

The constant change of gods and deities does not mean that sacred places changed with the same pace. A single place can be sacred to different faiths.

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QUOTE-UNQUOTE

It is clear what has to be done and it is also clear that will not be done.

Decho Dechev, Manager of the National Health Fund, on the healthcare reform

The state believes that power can be won and kept through the media.

Media Professor Neli Ognyanova

With authoritarianism taking over, having a strong opposition is vital.

President Rumen Radev

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ROUND BLACK SEA IN 3 VAGABONDS PART 2: THE NATURE

What do you need to make a sea? In the case of the Black Sea, you take three tectonic plates between Europe and Asia that clash, divide and subside under the pressure of volcanic activity for several million years, and let rivers and rains fill the gaps. You then add a narrow strait to connect the water basin to the Mediterranean. The end result is a sea with low salinity whose shores and currents still reflect its geological past: on maps and in aerial photographs the two ancient basins that made the current Black Sea are still clearly discernible, divided by a pointy end: the Crimea.

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IT STILL BENDS ON THE ELBOW*

It may seem like nothing to you but you have to understand there was this life I was heading for like for a heavy-ass truck on the highway – fast, loose – and it was like all of a sudden I was getting a preview of it.

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MORE MOVEMENT, LESS PAIN

Thousands of years ago, people crossed Africa's savannahs and deserts, hunted in the frozen tundras and mountains of Ice Age Europe and Asia, discovered a route to North and South America and remote corners of the world such as Australia and New Zealand. Our musculoskeletal apparatus is adapted for such an active lifestyle, a perfect machine for survival.

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LOVE IS CARE

If there is a world trend that often goes under the radar of attention, this is the attitude towards pets. Modern people take an increasing number of dogs, cats, birds and exotic animals at home, and spend more time and attention in taking care of them. According to US data, in the past 30 years pet ownership increased from 56% to 68%. The majority of new owners are the millennials and the Generation Zs. The share of people who prefer to adopt their pet is also on the rise.

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THE ART OF COMMUNICATION

Language and our ability to communicate with complex linguistic structures is one of humans' defining features that separate them from other animals. But the skill to communicate, particularly when the two sides are speaking different languages, is full with underwater rocks and risks for mistakes and misunderstanding.

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GOOD DEBTS

Modern economy is impossible without debts. They provide funding to start-ups and established companies to develop new ideas, manufacture, staff; they give individuals stability when puchashing property, goods or pursuing better education, and also provide oportunity to states to develop their economy, infrastructure, social policies. However, as with everything else, debt should be approached with care – both by the ones who offer it and the ones who seek it.

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