Issue 198

LONG LIVE RED ARMY MONUMENT!

Whenever developed democracies hold a general election, at stake – usually – are pressing issues of the day. Oil, terrorism, immigration. Nuclear weapons. Abortion rights. Inflation. Climate change. The cost of living...

Not in Bulgaria, however. The election campaign – tepid even in Bulgarian standards – ahead of the 2 April ballot, focused on... a pile of stones in central Sofia. In an almost verbatim repetition of the old adage, some political parties bill it a monument to terrorists whereas others see it as a monument to... freedom fighters.

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WHY DOES 'SORRY' SEEM TO BE THE HARDEST WORD?

About 30 Bulgarians of various occupations, political opinion and public standing went to the city of Kavala in northern Greece, in March, to take part in a simple yet moving ceremony to mark the demolition of the Jewish community of northern Greece, which was effected by the Kingdom of Bulgaria when it annexed Aegean Thrace, in 1943. They included Alec Oscar, the chairman of the Shalom Organisation of Bulgarian Jews; Martin Zaimov, a political activist and former deputy chairman of the Bulgarian National Bank; Krasen Stanchev, an economist; and Manol Peykov, an activist and publisher.

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RILA MONASTERY MAGIC

Bulgarians are proud of the period of their national revival, in the late 18th and 19th centuries. It established the country as a young and energetic nation eager to restore its statehood after five centuries of Ottoman domination. Personalities such as the revolutionaries, Vasil Levski and Hristo Botev, are the poster boys of the era, but the whole revival period, which spans a century, was more complex. Violent revolution against the Sultan was only a part of it and would have been impossible if Bulgarians had not already emancipated themselves culturally, economically and politically.

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WHERE ARE THE SEVEN LAKES?

1. Which ancient people lived in what is now Bulgaria?

A. The Sumerians

B. The Thracians

C. The Hittites

2. How many countries does Bulgaria border with?

A. Four

B. Five

C. Six

3. Bulgaria's first ruler after 1878 was...

A. King Ferdinand

B. King Boris III

C. Prince Alexander of Battemberg

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VELIKO TARNOVO DELIGHTS

Perched on a twisty meander of the Yantra River, where the hills of the Danube Plain meet the northern slopes of the Stara Planina, Veliko Tarnovo has unparalleled topography in Bulgaria, and possibly the Balkans. Traditional 19th century houses cling above the steep river bends, connected by alleys and steps that defy both gravity and everyday convenience – but living in Tarnovo has never been about convenience.

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THE TREE AND OTHER STORIES

Unlike the other visual languages, photography retains the "effect of reality." The photographic image verifies that what has been photographed is "really like that." At the same time, it arises "technically," through the effect of light on light-sensitive material. What, then, is the role of the photographer, where is the creativity in the creation of the photographic image, and to what extent is photography’s claim of being an art justified?

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QUOTE-UNQUOTE

Bulgarian women may have lower pensions, but they live longer.

Biser Petkov, former Public Welfare Minister, on the pay gap between men and women

It is not hypocritical that we receive money in euros and US dollars.

Kostadin Kostadinov, leader of the Vazrazhdane extreme nationalist party that is pushing for a referendum against adopting the euro as national currency

Our country is threatened with default.

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BULGARIA'S BROADWAY?

When the Covid-19 lockdowns put the world into a standstill, in the spring of 2020, photographs and videos of famed and usually busy sites, such as the Eiffel Tower, Times Square and Taj Mahal, without their usual crowds became a powerful symbol of the crisis. The equivalent in Sofia was... Rakovski Street.

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SPACES OF HARMONY

Architecture, construction and urbanisation are one of humanity's greatest discoveries. Without them the history of the world and the way our planet looks would be different. In the 21st century, however, they are changing more dynamically than ever. On the one hand is the rapid development of technologies such as innovative construction materials, options for creating smart buildings and spaces, and the strive for energy efficiency.

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WHAT IS A GOOD EDUCATION?

What should our children study today in order to be successful adults tomorrow? The question is extremely important – and nobody can give a precise answer. Our lives, technologies and society are changing too fast. Established professions are going extinct and are being replaced with new ones, which have been completely unknown before. AI is permeating all spheres of life, bringing the general feel of uncertainty to a whole new level. How, in this case, can one be prepared for the future?

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THE BIG RETURN

Do you remember how you felt the first time after the Covid-19 pandemic when you were invited or decided to organise a big event? Regardless of if it was a conference, a presentation, a wedding or a teambuilding, you probably felt like thousands of other people around the world – after the long months of social isolation you suddenly found yourself in the whirlwind of something extraordinary, strange, exciting and slightly scary.

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