SHAME!

SHAME!

Wed, 11/30/2011 - 14:44

Bulgaria emerges as the only former East bloc country to celebrate a Communist leader

Todor Zhivkov monument, Pravets

Imagine erecting a statue of Erich Honecker somewhere near Potsdamer Platz in Berlin. Or setting up a pageant to celebrate Gustav Husak in the Czech Republic. Or holding a mass rally to mark the anniversary of Enver Hoxha in Albania. Or hanging a Communist-era banner from the balcony where Romania's Nicolae Ceausescu gave his last speech before he fled in a helicopter from the roof.

Impossible, don't you think? Digging up the bones of greater or lesser Communist dictators in the former Warsaw Pact is rightly seen as both incongruous and irrelevant in these times of NATO and the EU. The citizens of Hungary, Poland, the Czech and Slovak Republics, Albania, Romania and what used to be East Germany would be thoroughly disgusted if any current politician even remotely endorsed the policies or personalities of the Communist leaders, whose stern, unsmiling faces used to decorate every office and public building this side of the Iron Curtain. In fact, the names of few of them are remembered at all, as they have all been correctly confined to the dustbin of history.

Not so in Bulgaria. Pravets, the home town of Todor Zhivkov (1911-1998), Bulgaria's communist ruler for 33 years, witnessed a rally to celebrate the 100th anniversary of his birth. The rally was organised by Zhivkov's family, notably the grand-daughter whom he at one stage legally adopted as his daughter, Evgeniya Zhivkova, and his grandson Todor Zhivkov Jr. Zhivkova is a Sofia-based fashion designer and a former MP for the Bulgarian Socialist Party, while Zhivkov Jr made headlines in the early 1990s for his alleged role in a gang rape.

The citizens of Pravets cheered and joined in the inevitable horo, so much loved by Zhivkov himself when he was alive and was a frequent visitor to his old hometown.

Pravets, some might argue, is a special case in Bulgaria. The former village about 70 kilometres northeast of Sofia was one of the few places in Bulgaria to indisputably benefit from the fact that the head of Party and state had been born there. Zhivkov took particular care to urbanise the village, and even installed a few factories; most notably, Bulgaria's now non-existent manufacturer of computers. Even in 2011 Pravets, probably because the people in charge are closely related to Valentin Zlatev, the CEO of LUKoil and reportedly one of the richest people in the country, looks significantly better than many other places in the Bulgarian provinces. The streets are paved, most of the houses have a proper sewage system, the stray dogs are fewer than anywhere else, and the secondor third-hand Fords and Opels seem to outnumber the Ladas.

Of course, the central square of Pravets is now called after Todor Zhivkov. Once you step onto the pedestrianised main street you will notice its name: Todor Zhivkov Boulevard. It leads to ‒ you've guessed it! ‒ the statue of Todor Zhivkov, situated in a small but wellkept park.

Those in search of Communist-era memorabilia won't be surprised to find that Todor Zhivkov's house has been turned into a museum. A nearby building, erected by Zhivkov to hold his parties, now displays some of the presents he received from foreign dignitaries from an assortment of countries including the United States, the UK, West Germany, Iraq, North Korea and India.

There is, of course, no mention of Todor Zhivkov's darker side. The Communists, whom he successfully led for 33 years, were responsible for more Bulgarian deaths, without the benefit of proper trials, than the grand total of Bulgarians who fell in all the 20th Century wars. Zhivkov is believed to have personally ordered the 1978 assassination in London of Bulgarian dissident writer Georgi Markov. Zhivkov's economic policies led to the collapse of the state economy on two occasions: in the 1960s and the late 1980s. His campaign to Bulgarianise this country's ethnic Turks in the 1980s led to the greatest forced movement of people in post-war Europe.

The people gathered in Pravets paid little heed to these events. Some top state officials currently in office were invited, and agreed to attend, but cancelled at the very last minute, sensing the huge scandal that would ensue. So did the Bulgarian National Guard brass band. Instead, a local band played Communist-era tunes.

Interestingly, Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, who in his previous career as a bodyguard had personally protected Zhivkov, spoke favourably of the man. But the last word, probably, was had by Todor Zhivkov Jr. He said his grandfather's legacy would only be fully appreciated when a statue of him was erected in the centre of Sofia. The way the sentiment of the general public in Bulgaria seems to be going at the moment, we will probably not have to wait too long for that.

Issue 61-62 Communism PostCommunism

Commenting on www.vagabond.bg

Vagabond Media Ltd requires you to submit a valid email to comment on www.vagabond.bg to secure that you are not a bot or a spammer. Learn more on how the company manages your personal information on our Privacy Policy. By filling the comment form you declare that you will not use www.vagabond.bg for the purpose of violating the laws of the Republic of Bulgaria. When commenting on www.vagabond.bg please observe some simple rules. You must avoid sexually explicit language and racist, vulgar, religiously intolerant or obscene comments aiming to insult Vagabond Media Ltd, other companies, countries, nationalities, confessions or authors of postings and/or other comments. Do not post spam. Write in English. Unsolicited commercial messages, obscene postings and personal attacks will be removed without notice. The comments will be moderated and may take some time to appear on www.vagabond.bg.

0 comments

Add new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.

Restricted HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a href hreflang> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote cite> <code> <ul type> <ol start type> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <h2 id> <h3 id> <h4 id> <h5 id> <h6 id>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.

Discover More

WHO ARE VAZRAZHDANE'S VOTERS?
Since the fall of Communism in 1989 and the introduction of multiparty elections the following year Bulgarians have been given a Constitutional right to go to the polls regardless of whether they actually live in Bulgaria or not.
IS CHANGES CONTINUED TO BE CONTINUED?
The most readily available explanation why the Changes Continued government collapsed, propagated by former Prime Minister Kiril Petkov and former Finance Minister Asen Vasilev themselves, is that because it stepped on so many corrupt toes within a short pe
king samuil
IS IT REALLY ABOUT MAKEDONIYA-A-A?
Slavi Trifonov, the showman and crooner credited with propagating chalga culture in Bulgaria, could not have put it more plainly.

communist bulgaria youth
WHAT FEEDS BULGARIAN NOSTALGIA FOR COMMUNISM?
Some years ago the Pew Research Center in Washington DC produced a survey indicating the levels of nostalgia in Bulgaria surpassed by far longing for the past everywhere else in the former East bloc countries. How come?

pro-russia rally bulgaria
IS PUTIN 'WORLD LEADER' OR SADISTIC VILLAIN?
Russia's invasion of Ukraine has polarised public opinion in Bulgaria. In fact, Bulgaria has emerged, since the start of the war in Ukraine, as the only EU state where public support for Putin remains high.

anti ukraine protest bulgaria.jpg
WHY DO SO MANY BULGARIANS SUPPORT PUTIN?
Perhaps surprisingly for a country that was once an enthusiastic applicant to join NATO and the EU Bulgaria is now home to a significant number of people who support... Russia's tyrant Vladimir Putin and his war in Ukraine.

Satan strategic nuclear-head missile, capable of reaching the island of Manhattan in 20-30 minutes after launch
WHAT BULGARIANS GET WRONG ABOUT WAR IN UKRAINE
Though it has been a member of NATO since 2004 and of the EU since 2007 present-day Bulgaria appears not to be very enthusiastic about any involvement in the war in Ukraine.

king samuil statue bulgaria
BIG MACEDONIAN QUESTION
The "Macedonian Question" is one of those Balkan conundrums that even outsiders with more than just passing knowledge of the history and geography of the region can have trouble understanding.

KEY TAKEAWAYS FROM BULGARIAN 2-IN-1 ELECTIONS
As the dust settles down after Bulgaria's third attempt in a year to elect a government and as the post-election horse-trading begins, there are several key conclusions to be drawn from Boyko Borisov's dramatic downfall and the emergence of the Changes Cont
REFORMS TO BE CONTINUED?
During 2021 Bulgarians have so far gone to the polls twice, in April and in July. On both occasions the sort of parliament they elected was so split that it failed to form a government.
police brutality bulgaria 2020
BULGARIAN POLITICS
What many Bulgarians have known all along ever since the collapse of Communism – that the police force, formerly known as People's Militia has hardly reformed itself during the past 30 years – became painfully obvious with the broadcast, in the house of par

boyko borisov wanted
BORISOV'S DOWNFALL?
Some analysts were surprised, others were not: the 11 July snap election, called in the wake of the failure of Bulgaria's 45th National Assembly to set up a government, returned more or less the same results.