Issue 169 https://vagabond.bg/ en YORAM ELRON https://vagabond.bg/yoram-elron-2854 <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">YORAM ELRON</span> <div class="field field--name-field-author-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">interview by Anthony Georgieff; photography supplied by the Embassy of Israel</div> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/251" lang="" about="/user/251" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">DimanaT</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Fri, 10/30/2020 - 13:10</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-subtitle field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><h3>Israeli ambassador on the occasion of 30 years of the resumption of diplomatic relations between Israel and Bulgaria</h3> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image field--label-hidden field__items"> <div class="images-container clearfix"> <div class="image-preview clearfix"> <div class="image-wrapper clearfix"> <div class="field__item"> <div class="overlay-container"> <span class="overlay overlay--colored"> <span class="overlay-inner"> <span class="overlay-icon overlay-icon--button overlay-icon--white overlay-animated overlay-fade-top"> <i class="fa fa-plus"></i> </span> </span> <a class="overlay-target-link image-popup" href="/sites/default/files/2020-10/Ambassador%20Yoram%20Elron-photo.jpg"></a> </span> <img loading="lazy" src="/sites/default/files/2020-10/Ambassador%20Yoram%20Elron-photo.jpg" width="1000" height="667" alt="Ambassador Yoram Elron-photo.jpg" typeof="foaf:Image" /> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field uk-text-bold uk-margin-small-top uk-margin-medium-bottom field--name-field-image-credits field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">Ambassador Yoram Elroп</div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p><strong>Jews and Bulgarians have lived side by side each other for centuries. Bulgaria was among the first countries to recognise the State of Israel, in 1948. However, Cold War politics played a decisive role in the next several decades and Bulgaria broke off diplomatic relations in 1967, a situation that continued all the way to 1990.</strong></p> <p><strong>In 2020 the two countries mark 30 years of the resumption of diplomatic links, a good opportunity to look back on history but also to consider the future. Here is how Ambassador Yoram Elron views what unites Israelis and Bulgarians.</strong></p> <p>For Israel, Bulgaria is the country that saved all of its 48,000 Jews during World War II. Brave Bulgarians rose up against the planned deportation to Nazi concentrations camps. These included not just politicians, clergymen and officials but the general public who believed that Bulgarian Jews were full members of the society. This was the unique "Bulgarian Spirit." During the darkest chapter of human history, this courage stood out as a beacon of light. Most of the Bulgarian Jews immigrated to Israel after its establishment. They contributed substantially to the building of the new state. Therefore this is of particular importance in the relations between Israel and Bulgaria. These relations are based on long-lasting friendship.</p> <p><img alt="Yoram Elron, Israeli Ambassador" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/169/Ambassador%20Yoram%20Elro%D0%BF/A20I8113.jpg" class="align-center" /></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>September 19, 2019. Ceremony of Presentation of the Letters of Credence</em></p> <p>Bulgarian Jews who immigrated to Israel, their children and descendants are very proud of their Bulgarian roots and heritage. They are a living bridge between the two countries. Gabi Ashkenazi, former chief of staff of the IDF, Israel’s army, and current minister of foreign affairs, is a descendant of a Jewish family from Plovdiv.</p> <p><em><strong>How does the cooperation between the two nations continue nowadays – at the diplomatic and other levels – business, education, culture?</strong></em></p> <p>Bulgaria is one of Israel’s staunchest allies in Europe and further afield. It renders its steadfast and unequivocal support to Israel, in reference to the challenges it is facing internationally, always holding the moral high ground. For this, we as Israelis are extremely grateful to the Bulgarian government and people.</p> <p>In the economy, cooperation is vast and extensive in areas of mutual interest such as innovation, cybersecurity, agricultural technologies and energy. Many Israeli companies have opened up offices in Bulgaria. The main factors that attract them are the quality workforce, the low tax rates and the strategic location of Bulgaria in Europe as well as its proximity to Israel.</p> <p>Furthermore we have a huge interest in the development of cooperation with Bulgaria in various EU programmes. Israel and the EU are working together to achieve a greener and more sustainable future for our planet. These joint projects promote the objectives of the European Green Deal and Europe’s conversion into a climate-neutral continent by 2050. Israel is also proud of the partnership with the EU in the fight against the spread of coronavirus within Horizon 2020.</p> <p>In the field of education and culture, our relations are also very active. Israeli students study at Bulgarian universities. Sofia University has a Hebrew Studies Department, set up in 2015.</p> <p><img alt="Yoram Elron, Israeli Ambassador" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/169/Ambassador%20Yoram%20Elro%D0%BF/89638823_4108527699161028_318406713294192640_o.jpg" class="align-center" /></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>March 10, 2020. Marking the Day of the Salvation of Bulgarian Jews by laying flowers to the Monument of Salvation in Sofia</em></p> <p>Over 50 books by famous Israeli authors have been translated into Bulgarian. The Bulgarian reader also has had the opportunity to meet in person prominent Israeli writers visiting here such as Amos Oz, A.B. Yehoshua, Etgar Keret, Meir Shalev, Zeruya Shalev, David Grossman, Dror Mishani, Michael Bar-Zohar.</p> <p><em><strong>Israel is a world leader in innovation and new technologies.</strong></em></p> <p>Israel is a country keen to share its experience, knowledge and knowhow in the realm of sustainable development. I guess many are familiar with the activities of MASHAV – the State Agency for International Development Cooperation at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. But much of Israel's assistance to developing countries comes also through the numerous Israeli non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working in this field. Their activities reflect the Jewish concept of tikkun olam, which is an effort to contribute to the betterment of the world in which we live.</p> <p>Israeli NGOs are involved in many areas: some are active in post-disaster emergency relief; other focus on community development and women empowerment, agriculture, public health, etc.</p> <p><em><strong>What do you think has the greatest potential for Bulgaria and Israel in the future?</strong></em></p> <p>The striking similarity between the two countries is the importance attached to the development of high-tech infrastructure. Israel is well-known as a start-up nation. It produces more start-ups per capita than Japan, China, India, Korea, Canada, the UK. </p> <p>As for Bulgaria, the capital Sofia is chosen as one of the eight locations in the EU where the first European supercomputers will be located – an acknowledgement for its preparedness to be a hub for innovation and knowledge on EU level. In this respect, the avenues for cooperation are endless.</p> <p>Take for example the innovative agriculture technology that determines how food and other agricultural products are grown, picked, packaged, stored, transported, processed and sold which makes the farm-to-table process more efficient, sustainable and safe. Israel is in a unique position to use advanced technological solutions to meet the challenges of the global farming community at all stages of the food supply chain including innovative methods and technologies for "growth with less" long before it became one of the major world challenges.</p> <p>Another area of innovation is water technology, which covers all technologies to increase water supply. Israel's water capabilities are leading the transition to sustainable water management through a wide range of technologies: energy-efficient desalination, which turns seawater into fresh water, environmentally friendly biological wastewater treatment for cost-effective water reclamation, smart irrigation for reduced water consumption and increased yield.</p> <p><img alt="Yoram Elron, Israeli Ambassador" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/169/Ambassador%20Yoram%20Elro%D0%BF/79662890_3827650673915400_8667769999382806528_o.jpg" class="align-center" /></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>December 18, 2019. Meeting with members of Bulgaria-Israel Parliamentary Friendship Group</em></p> <p>Tourism is also an important component of our bilateral relations as over 250,000 Israelis visit Bulgaria every year. They appreciate the Bulgarian hospitality, nature, rich history, culture and cuisine. Yet, there are still regions that are yet less well known to Israeli visitors. For example, in July I visited Vidin – a beautiful town with many historical sites, and a place with a very promising future, which could easily fit in on the tourist map for Israelis. The town administration has set as a priority the restoration of the Synagogue building, which was the second largest in Bulgaria and is unique in its architectural ornaments.</p> <p>Bulgaria is as well a popular destination for health tourism and wellness. The country has a rich traditional background. Many spa resorts across the country offer a variety of specialised professional service and have the potential to become a destination of choice for health tourists from Israel.</p> <p><em><strong>What were your impressions when you arrived in Bulgaria? And what has changed now, a year after you stepped in as an ambassador in Sofia?</strong></em></p> <p>I consider myself extremely fortunate and privileged to be posted as ambassador of Israel to Bulgaria. Every day this sentiment gets stronger. The friendship towards Israel is heartwarming and inspiring. It is also a source of motivation to strive continuously to enhance and strengthen the bilateral relations even further.</p> <p>I have been in Bulgaria for just over a year, but it does not take that long to come to appreciate and admire it. My family and myself, as we travel around the country, never cease to be amazed by its rich history, beautiful diverse landscapes and nature, as well as by the extremely hospitable warm people. Today, I can also fully appreciate why Bulgarian cuisine has made a name for itself around the world, although I have to admit that I am still trying to adjust to the taste of the many varieties of rakiya that are produced here. </p> <p><em>Yoram Elron, Israeli Ambassador to Bulgaria since August 2019, has been a member of the diplomatic service for 32 years. Prior to his arrival in Bulgaria, he was the Deputy Director General for Africa at the Israeli Foreign Ministry. His missions abroad include Ambassador of Israel to Cameroon, Consul General of Israel to Quebec and the Atlantic Provinces, Canada, Roving Ambassador to Madagascar, Congo and Gabon. He holds an MA in Political Science and BA in International Relations from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. </em></p> <p> </p> <p><img alt="logo" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/169/Ambassador%20Yoram%20Elro%D0%BF/logo%2030%20years%20transparent.jpg" class="align-center" /></p> </div> <a href="/archive/issue-169" hreflang="en">Issue 169</a> <div class="field field--name-field-mt-post-category field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-taxonomy-term clearfix field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/interviews" hreflang="en">BULGARIA INTERVIEWS</a></div> </div> <section class="field field--name-comment field--type-comment field--label-above comment-wrapper"> <h2 class="title comment-form__title">Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=2854&amp;2=comment&amp;3=comment" token="AyCBapmyVVtV2NPGIVtTu-dVQhj5jNJ9tCMdbQUrbcE"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Fri, 30 Oct 2020 11:10:19 +0000 DimanaT 2854 at https://vagabond.bg https://vagabond.bg/yoram-elron-2854#comments GERMAN GACHEVSKI: MISSION POSSIBLE https://vagabond.bg/german-gachevski-mission-possible-2856 <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">GERMAN GACHEVSKI: MISSION POSSIBLE</span> <div class="field field--name-field-author-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">interview by Dimana Trankova; photography by Anthony Georgieff</div> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/251" lang="" about="/user/251" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">DimanaT</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Fri, 10/30/2020 - 12:44</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-subtitle field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><h3>The founder of TSD Services, on how he built a successful software company in a small Bulgarian town</h3> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image field--label-hidden field__items"> <div class="images-container clearfix"> <div class="image-preview clearfix"> <div class="image-wrapper clearfix"> <div class="field__item"> <div class="overlay-container"> <span class="overlay overlay--colored"> <span class="overlay-inner"> <span class="overlay-icon overlay-icon--button overlay-icon--white overlay-animated overlay-fade-top"> <i class="fa fa-plus"></i> </span> </span> <a class="overlay-target-link image-popup" href="/sites/default/files/2020-10/German%20Gachevski.jpg"></a> </span> <img loading="lazy" src="/sites/default/files/2020-10/German%20Gachevski.jpg" width="1000" height="667" alt="German Gachevski" typeof="foaf:Image" /> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field uk-text-bold uk-margin-small-top uk-margin-medium-bottom field--name-field-image-credits field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">German Gachevski, founder and CEO of software company TSD Services</div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>When Vagabond interviews a CEO or an owner of a successful Bulgarian or international company, we usually meet in a flashy office building in Sofia. The meeting with German Gachevski, founder and CEO of software company TSD Services, was more unorthodox. We had to drive to Troyan, a town at the foot of the Central Stara Planina mountain range.</p> <p>Most people associate Troyan with its eponymous traditional pottery, delicious plum rakiya, and the stunning Troyan Monastery. Mr Gachevski is the man who showed that Troyan has more to offer. In 2006, the US-educated IT specialist returned from Paradise, a Texas town with about 300 residents. A year later, he opened an outsourcing company in his birthplace Troyan, which has about 30,000 inhabitants. He started small. Today, Troyan Software Development Services is the living proof that the garage success story is possible not only in the Silicon Valley or Sofia. The company for ITO and Relativity-based eDiscovery solutions now has offices in Sofia and Plovdiv and has clients on five continents.</p> <p>TSD Services' management remains based in Troyan. Its premises are just like the ones of any successful IT company: bright, friendly, with amenities for relaxation and fun. They are quieter than usual, as some employees still work from home, but Mr Gachevski and his team greet us warmly. After all, this is an organic company where growth is natural, and its CEO is a man who can still be seen coding or training new employees himself.</p> <p><em><strong>How did you dive into the world of IT?</strong></em></p> <p>At high school I went on an exchange program in the small US town of Paradise, Texas where I stayed with the coolest and most supportive host family. After that I won a scholarship at the private Catholic University of Dallas and in 2005 I graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science. Meanwhile, I had started working in the IT department of a major Dallas-based financial company focused on car loans.</p> <p><em><strong>What brought you back to Bulgaria and how did you start TSD Services?</strong></em></p> <p>This is a question I have been asked persistently for 13 years now. The short answer would be: because of patriotism and family. My wife, who was with me in the US at the time, and I decided that Troyan, our birthplace, would be a better place to create a family. The town is not big but has potential for growing a business and is a pleasant place to raise kids.</p> <p>After my return, I continued working as a full-time programmer for the IT department of the Dallas finance company remotely. There was a risk, of course, but I was hopeful that you could succeed in Bulgaria if you worked hard enough. Moreover, IT is a field that provides plenty of opportunities for development that do not depend on your physical geographical location. As I was a good programmer and the time difference between Bulgaria and Dallas was a plus for me, creating an ITO company was the next logical step. The Dallas company became the first client of TSD Services. It is still our biggest client.</p> <p>At the beginning, we were just two people – me and my first cousin who has no IT background but is very well-versed and communicative. As our Dallas partner was experiencing rapid growth, TSD Services expanded as well. In 2012, a good high-school friend of mine, who is now our EVP and COO, joined TSD as an investor which led to the opening of our Sofia office. In 2015, the TSD team reached 50 people. The following year we opened our third office, in Plovdiv.</p> <p><em><strong>How does TSD stand out from the rest of the crowd?</strong></em></p> <p>Unlike most Bulgarian IT companies, which are based in Sofia, TSD was founded in Troyan and continues to operate from here. We have also trained the IT and other specialists that we need from the very beginning. There is a shortage of trained IT people in the region, so we organically became a centre for training and modeling of people with zero or subzero previous experience in the field into IT specialists. Today we, at TSD, employ dozens of successful and proven professionals not only in our IT department, but in the other departments, too. TSD's pro-expert software engineers are concentrated in our Sofia and Plovdiv offices.</p> <p>Generally, TSD has excellent employee retention levels. We believe that employees are the basis of company growth and we invest a lot in them.</p> <p>Organic growth also makes us different. Through the years we grew naturally, in accordance with the needs created by our clients and our growing customer base that today spreads over five continents. At the moment, our team numbers about 60 professionals who work on projects in our two major business lines, outsourcing of IT services and development of Relativity-based eDiscovery products.</p> <p>When I founded TSD, I was blessed with the opportunity to be at the right time at the right place. At the time, few Bulgarian companies operated in this field, and during the 2008-2010 crisis we expanded twofold. Fingers crossed that we will continue to develop in the same way in the foreseeable future.</p> <p><img alt="German Gachevski" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/169/German%20Gachevski%202.jpg" class="align-center" /></p> <p><em><strong>What does the ITO sector look like at the moment and what is its future?</strong></em></p> <p>We are going through a period of dynamic development and changes. When the COVID-19 pandemic arrived, everyone, not only in our field, but also outside of it, was nervous about what would happen. No-one was prepared for a global lockdown. However, today I think that we have adapted in the best possible way to the new reality.</p> <p>I am optimistic about the future of the ITO field as it is one of the businesses that could actually benefit from the current crisis. The pandemic has forced many businesses to digitize their processes and activities, and this is a golden opportunity for IT companies to help other business sectors to adapt to the digital world with the software solutions and technical support they need.</p> <p><em><strong>How did TSD adapt to the changed situation and how can it help its clients?</strong></em></p> <p>In March, we were quick to close all our premises and in a couple of hours we successfully transferred everyone to home office regime. The transition did not affect our productivity and the quality of our work. Today, we remain sticklers for following all the requirements for social distancing, disinfection, and discipline in our company office spaces. We offer flexibility and options for home office work to employees and provide them fully with the technology and support they need to do their job from a distance.</p> <p>As for clients, at the moment we enjoy 100% client retention in our outsourcing business department. I hope the trend will continue in the future.</p> <p>We are also happy that we retained all of our employees during the lockdown. In the past few months, we even expanded our team. I am also glad that in 2020 we successfully organized our most attended TSD internship program so far.</p> <p>Our plan for securing uninterrupted business activities was a success. We are satisfied that we are able to provide high quality services to our clients and that we remain a trusted and reliable partner who outperforms even under radically changed circumstances.</p> <p><em><strong>What are the "hottest" offers by TSD?</strong></em></p> <p>Since 2013, besides outsourcing services, TSD has successfully developed its second business line. It includes custom development services and our own applications developed for users of the popular eDiscovery platform Relativity.</p> <p>Currently we have three products on the Relativity platform. One of them, a software application for billing process automatization, is increasingly picking up speed. Its popularity has justified the years of hard work and resources we have invested in it.</p> <p>We are also developing a full-scale software platform for business processes management, but I will share more details during our next meeting.</p> <p><em><strong>For what companies are your ITO and eDiscovery services?</strong></em></p> <p>TSD is a trusted partner to leading global financial and audit companies, banks, hosting providers, law firms, and large corporations in the eDiscovery industry. Currently, six of the top 100 US law firms are our clients, and we are in talks with another 20 names in this list. Three of the Big Four accountancy and audit companies in the world were or are currently using our products, outsourcing, or custom development services. </p> </div> <a href="/archive/issue-169" hreflang="en">Issue 169</a> <div class="field field--name-field-mt-post-category field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-taxonomy-term clearfix field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/interviews" hreflang="en">BULGARIA INTERVIEWS</a></div> </div> <section class="field field--name-comment field--type-comment field--label-above comment-wrapper"> <h2 class="title comment-form__title">Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=2856&amp;2=comment&amp;3=comment" token="v-_-tSsSYEWPV6PlF1dm74xrPxPmt1QdqOp30mmsJNg"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Fri, 30 Oct 2020 10:44:08 +0000 DimanaT 2856 at https://vagabond.bg https://vagabond.bg/german-gachevski-mission-possible-2856#comments ISSUE OF NORTH MACEDONIA https://vagabond.bg/issue-north-macedonia-2855 <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">ISSUE OF NORTH MACEDONIA</span> <div class="field field--name-field-author-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">text and photography by Anthony Georgieff</div> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/251" lang="" about="/user/251" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">DimanaT</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Fri, 10/30/2020 - 12:39</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-subtitle field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><h3>Bulgarian nationalists pose adamant demands on former Yugoslav republic</h3> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image field--label-hidden field__items"> <div class="images-container clearfix"> <div class="image-preview clearfix"> <div class="image-wrapper clearfix"> <div class="field__item"> <div class="overlay-container"> <span class="overlay overlay--colored"> <span class="overlay-inner"> <span class="overlay-icon overlay-icon--button overlay-icon--white overlay-animated overlay-fade-top"> <i class="fa fa-plus"></i> </span> </span> <a class="overlay-target-link image-popup" href="/sites/default/files/2020-10/01052014-5980.jpg"></a> </span> <img loading="lazy" src="/sites/default/files/2020-10/01052014-5980.jpg" width="1000" height="667" alt="01052014-5980.jpg " typeof="foaf:Image" /> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field uk-text-bold uk-margin-small-top uk-margin-medium-bottom field--name-field-image-credits field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">Britain&#039;s wartime leader Winston Churchill, sporting his telltale V-sign, sits atop North Macedonia&#039;s new foreign ministry</div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>In Bulgaria, Winston Churchill (who held southeastern Europe in contempt) is sometimes quoted as saying the Balkans have more history than they are able to stomach. The 20th century offers many examples of internecine conflicts and wars anyone, not just the Balkans, would have found too difficult to come to terms with. Beginning with the two Balkans wars, which preceded the First World War (in which the various Balkan states found themselves along opposed battlefronts), the exchange of populations in the 1910s and 1920s (between Turkey, Greece and Bulgaria), the Second World War (in which Balkan nation confronted another Balkan nation), the ensuing civil wars (in Greece) and the imposition of Communism (in Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and Romania), the mistreatment of various ethnic minorities leading to ethnic cleansing in various forms... all the way to the wars in former Yugoslavia in the 1990s have left large populations displaced and/or in severe political, economic, cultural or identity crises. With the accession of some Balkan states to the EU one might have thought centuries-old disagreements and animosities would have been laid to erst. The most recent example of the spat between Bulgaria, an EU member state, and North Macedonia, an EU member hopeful, suggests otherwise.</p> <p>What is at stake?</p> <p>Macedonia, since 2019 known officially as the Republic of North Macedonia, is a tiny, landlocked state bordering on Albania, Kosovo, Serbia, Bulgaria and Greece. Since at least the Middle Ages it has been contested by all of those – as well as, in the 19th and 20th centuries – the Great Powers who, with varying intensity and using various means, have vied for influence over it. Characteristically for the Balkans, the claims of Macedonia's neighbours not only diverge but sometimes have nothing to do with each other. Albania and Kosovo claim the ethnic Albanians in Macedonia (roughly a quarter of the population) should have more rights. Until a year ago Greece was vehemently opposed to the name of the former Yugoslav republic because it coincided with the name of a large identically named province in northern Greece. The Macedonians claim they are the proud descendants of Alexander the Great (whom the Greeks consider to be a major figure in Greek history). The Macedonians also say they speak Macedonian and have a Macedonian identity – proposals that the Bulgarians find impossible to accept because, as one Bulgarian president put it, the history of Macedonia is the "most romantic part of Bulgarian history." The official Bulgarian line is that the modern Macedonian language is but a bastardised version of a western Bulgarian dialect and the Macedonians are in fact Bulgarians who were forcibly "Serbianised" in Communist Yugoslavia after the Second World War. Bulgaria recognises no Macedonian minority in Bulgaria proper, and a shady organisation of "ethnic Macedonians" calling itself OMO-Ilinden remains banned. In Bulgaria, however, there is a political party, called Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organisation. It is considered by many to be of extreme nationalist inclinations as it is in one block with Valeri Simeonov's National Front for the Salvation of Bulgaria and Volen Siderov's Ataka. It is currently allied with the ruling GERB. Its leader, Krasimir Karakachanov, is Boyko Borisov's defence minister.</p> <p><img alt="Skopje" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/169/question%20of%20north%20macedonia/28012012-4259.jpg" class="align-center" /></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>A rally in central Skopje with the 24-metre-high equestrian statue of Alexander the Great in the background</em></p> <p>In 1991, when Macedonia became the only former Yugoslav republic to break away from Belgrade without a war, Bulgaria was the first country to recognise its independence. It said it did so in a bid to foster stability in the region. It has remained intransigent in its refusal to recognise the Macedonian language, leading to a somewhat comical situation where a Macedonian dignitary being interviewed on Bulgarian TV gets no voiceover translation – bemusing for many Bulgarians in western Bulgaria but quite incomprehensible to those in the eastern parts of the country where the local dialect differs significantly from modern Macedonian.</p> <p>To understand both Greece's opposition to the name and Bulgaria's reluctance to accept the language one might want to conjecture similar situations in the West. Imagine, say, the highly unlikely event of Normandie breaking away from France, declaring independence and starting calling itself the Republic of Kent. How would the people of Kent, still part of the UK, react? Possibly, the main concern of the overwhelming majority would be the continued opportunities to sail across the Channel to buy cheaper wine. But what if the citizens of the new republic lay claims to Canterbury as their historical capital? Or on William the Conquerer as their foremost historical stalwart?</p> <p>From a purely linguistic point, modern Macedonian is indeed based on western Bulgarian dialects. In the 1950s, however, Skopje employed a team of linguists to devise a codified Macedonian language sufficiently distinct from Bulgarian. They did – and over the next decades that language developed in entirely different directions from modern Bulgarian. To claim that modern Macedonian is but Bulgarian is like to insist modern Norwegian is in fact Danish with some unusual pronunciation.</p> <p>The situation is further compounded by the realities of everyday life. The perceived notion of many Bulgarians, some of whom third or fourth generation descendants of ethnic Bulgarians who settled in Bulgaria proper as a result of the early 20th century exchanges of populations, is that they are "Macedonians." After a few drinks many Bulgarians will happily start signing Macedonian songs and declare themselves "Macedonian."</p> <p>In recent years, a significant number of Macedonians from the former Yugoslav republic have taken a more practical approach to the issue of their identify. They have applied, and been granted, Bulgarian citizenship – an easy course of action as the Bulgarian authorities favour anyone who can prove Bulgarian lineage. With Bulgarian EU passports under their belts they now have legitimate access to Western Europe and beyond.</p> <p>Greece used to block Skopje's attempt to join the EU and other Western structures for many years over the name of Macedonia, but the dispute was settled in 2019 through diplomacy. The language, history and identity issues with Bulgaria remain nowhere near it.</p> <p>Bulgaria and North Macedonia set up a joint commission three years ago to settle the outstanding historical issues. The commission, consisting of historians, linguists and diplomats on both sides, have so far agreed on some historical issues including King Samuil (the 11th century Bulgarian king whom the Macedonians consider to be their own) and Alphabet Day (marked on 24 May and celebrating the creation of the Cyrillic alphabet in the 9th century). According to Bulgarian Professor Ivan Ilchev, however, there is still "a sea of disagreement," with no likely solution in sight.</p> <p>One of the major issues of discontent on the negotiating table is the nationality of Gotse Delchev, the 19th century revolutionary whom both Bulgaria and Macedonia hold as a staple in their national mythologies. In western Bulgaria Gotse Delchev is the namesake of a town, while the remains of the actual man are buried across the border in Skopje.</p> <p>In Bulgaria in the meantime, Krasimir Karakachanov's Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organisation is adamant it will never recognise either the existence of the Macedonian language or of a Macedonian identity. To better ram the message home with his voters, Karakachanov also adds he will never accept the Istanbul Convention on the Rights of Women and Children, will block gay marriages and will continue to view the term "gender" as a diabolical invention of decadent Western civilisation designed to deprive the Orthodox Bulgarians of what he refers to as "traditional Bulgarian values."</p> <p>For the time being the issue of North Macedonia is nowhere to a solution, not as far as Bulgaria is concerned. Interestingly, Karakachanov's language indicates he and his VMRO supporters are more concerned about airtime ahead of the 2021 general election that will have to deal with a lot more important present-day issues like the rule of law, corruption and the quality of democracy in Bulgaria rather than the national identity of 19th century revolutionaries. But, like so many times in Bulgarian history, the issue of Macedonia (and these days the issue of gay marriages) is so emotional that common sense barely stands a chance. </p> <h4>And Now for the Salad...</h4> <p><img alt="salad" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/169/question%20of%20north%20macedonia/salad.jpg" class="align-center" /></p> <p>Interestingly, no one can agree about the salad either. In France, Salade Macédoine is a vegetable salad. In Italy, a Macedonia is a fruit salad. In Greece, Makedoniki salata contains aubergines... It isn't difficult to see why in cuisine the term “macédoine” has come to mean exactly what it means in diplomatic history: a complicated (and inseparable) mixture. </p> </div> <a href="/archive/issue-169" hreflang="en">Issue 169</a> <a href="/taxonomy/term/291" hreflang="en">North Macedonia</a> <div class="field field--name-field-mt-post-category field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-taxonomy-term clearfix field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/forum/politics" hreflang="en">BULGARIA POLITICS</a></div> </div> <section class="field field--name-comment field--type-comment field--label-above comment-wrapper"> <h2 class="title comment-form__title">Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=2855&amp;2=comment&amp;3=comment" token="m-gfnraj_IHrBirfgurGFVojdqsDSE0_fFw0vV6DMjc"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Fri, 30 Oct 2020 10:39:17 +0000 DimanaT 2855 at https://vagabond.bg https://vagabond.bg/issue-north-macedonia-2855#comments WHERE IN BULGARIA ARE YOU? https://vagabond.bg/where-bulgaria-are-you-2853 <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">WHERE IN BULGARIA ARE YOU?</span> <div class="field field--name-field-author-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">by Stamen Manolov; photography by Anthony Georgieff</div> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/251" lang="" about="/user/251" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">DimanaT</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Fri, 10/30/2020 - 12:20</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-subtitle field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><h3>When he came to a map of the course of the lower reaches of this river, the 19th century cartographer Guillaume Lejean, who had successfully mapped the Nile, came across a problem.</h3> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image field--label-hidden field__items"> <div class="images-container clearfix"> <div class="image-preview clearfix"> <div class="image-wrapper clearfix"> <div class="field__item"> <div class="overlay-container"> <span class="overlay overlay--colored"> <span class="overlay-inner"> <span class="overlay-icon overlay-icon--button overlay-icon--white overlay-animated overlay-fade-top"> <i class="fa fa-plus"></i> </span> </span> <a class="overlay-target-link image-popup" href="/sites/default/files/2020-10/where%20in%20bulgaria%20are%20you.jpg"></a> </span> <img loading="lazy" src="/sites/default/files/2020-10/where%20in%20bulgaria%20are%20you.jpg" width="1000" height="667" alt="where in bulgaria are you.jpg" typeof="foaf:Image" /> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>He discovered he could find virtually no information relating to it. In fact, he could find a lot more about the Nile's journey through Africa than he could about this river's meanders through southeastern Europe. Yet, this is one of the greatest rivers in Europe, the only one that flows through the continent west to east before it gushes out to sea forming a huge delta. Spanning for about 2,000 miles and going through half-a-dozen countries the river is impregnated with history, culture and nature. </p> <p><strong>Where in Bulgaria are you? </strong></p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-disclaimers field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-block-content clearfix field__item"> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p><strong>Where in Bulgaria are you?</strong></p> <p><em>Email your answers to editorial@vagabond.bg and you can win a copy of <span style="text-decoration: underline;"><a href="https://vagabond.bg/fsi/hidden-treasures-of-bulgaria-2" rel="noopener" target="_blank">Hidden Treasures of Bulgaria 2</a></span></em></p> <p><a href="https://vagabond.bg/fsi/hidden-treasures-of-bulgaria-2" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"><img alt="HTB2" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/images/stories/V127/HTB2.jpg" title="Hidden Treasures of Bulgaria" width="100%" /></a></p> </div> </div> <a href="/archive/issue-169" hreflang="en">Issue 169</a> <div class="field field--name-field-mt-post-category field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-taxonomy-term clearfix field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/fun/where-in-bulgaria" hreflang="en">WHERE IN BULGARIA ARE YOU?</a></div> </div> <section class="field field--name-comment field--type-comment field--label-above comment-wrapper"> <h2 class="title comment-form__title">Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=2853&amp;2=comment&amp;3=comment" token="LPSyRU-tMhQT-0_T6_0NRLS3HIaK8PidgdWTC5t_1AY"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Fri, 30 Oct 2020 10:20:44 +0000 DimanaT 2853 at https://vagabond.bg https://vagabond.bg/where-bulgaria-are-you-2853#comments CITY OF SALT https://vagabond.bg/city-salt-2852 <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">CITY OF SALT</span> <div class="field field--name-field-author-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">by Dimana Trankova; photography by Anthony Georgieff, Provadiya-Solnitsata Prehistoric Salt-Production and Urban Centre</div> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/251" lang="" about="/user/251" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">DimanaT</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Fri, 10/30/2020 - 12:17</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-subtitle field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><h3>Ordinary kitchen product of today spawned first urban centre in Europe</h3> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image field--label-hidden field__items"> <div class="images-container clearfix"> <div class="image-preview clearfix"> <div class="image-wrapper clearfix"> <div class="field__item"> <div class="overlay-container"> <span class="overlay overlay--colored"> <span class="overlay-inner"> <span class="overlay-icon overlay-icon--button overlay-icon--white overlay-animated overlay-fade-top"> <i class="fa fa-plus"></i> </span> </span> <a class="overlay-target-link image-popup" href="/sites/default/files/2020-10/160920-0934.jpg"></a> </span> <img loading="lazy" src="/sites/default/files/2020-10/160920-0934.jpg" width="1000" height="666" alt="160920-0934.jpg" typeof="foaf:Image" /> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field uk-text-bold uk-margin-small-top uk-margin-medium-bottom field--name-field-image-credits field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">The tell that hides Provadiya-Solnitsata prehistoric urban centre was accumulated in about a millennium of continuous inhabitation at one place. The top is an ancient Thracian burial mound that is yet to be excavated</div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>Today's doctors urge less salt, but such an advice would have sounded at least odd to the people of yore who had to do with preindustrial food. Ever since the dawn of civilisation salt was a rare and valued product. Its extraction was difficult, trading it often entailed travel of hundreds of miles, the control of salt extraction sites generated wars. Long before gold and silver became measures of wealth salt was used as a universal currency.</p> <p>A prehistoric site in northeastern Bulgaria now reveals the role salt played in founding the first urban centre in Europe.</p> <p>In the 7th-6th millennium BC southeastern Europe was the main route taken by the first neolithic settlers from the Middle East into the continent. As time went by the continually inhabited neolithic settlements in the Upper Thracian Valley and Dobrudzha turned into mounds, or tells, that still dot the landscape. While these early farmers did breed pigs and sheep their food was mainly vegetarian, and as such contained no salt.</p> <p>Around the year 5600 BC some of these neolithic men and women discovered a way to ensure continuous salt supplies for themselves. Near the modern Bulgarian town of Provadiya they discovered salt water springs.</p> <p><img alt="walls" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/169/urban%20and%20salt%20production%20center/160920-26036.jpg" class="align-center" /></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>The low radiating walls are a unique feature for Europe's earliest urban centre</em></p> <p>Situated at a depth of 12 to 4,000 metres underground the rock salt deposit near Provadiya is now the largest in Europe. Its neolithic discoverers lacked the technology to dig at such depths but devised a clever way to access the salt through the salt water springs: they filled up pots with it and gradually evaporated the water in special dome furnaces. A furnace like that could produce as much as 30 kilograms of salt in a day. The amount of salt generated in this way was sufficient for the needs of the neolithic people, so they started trading it. Thus the salt commerce expanded throughout the region, reaching all the way to the Aegean Sea. It turned into a source of wealth and prestige for those who controlled the Provadiya salt site.</p> <p>Fast-forward a few centuries into the Chalcolithic. The peoples of the Balkans now mastered copper metalworking and the salt site near Provadiya had developed into an urban centre. It was the earliest such settlement discovered so far in all of Europe.</p> <p>As salt extraction at Provadiya evolved and expanded, so did the standard of living of the community that produced it. Each of the new, improved salt extraction facilities yielded as much as 5,000 kg of salt per cycle. The well-to-do people lived in spacious two-storey houses decorated with geometrical murals. The Chalcolithic necropolis near Varna, known for its sumptuous artefacts including the oldest gold treasure in the world, also belonged to the salt extractors at Provadiya.</p> <p>However, life at the salt water springs was far from being calm. The urban centre's wealth attracted the attention of some ambitious neighbours. Around the year 4700 BC its inhabitants felt threatened, and to ward off a possible incursion erected a fortification wall, which again turns out to be the earliest such facility to be discovered in Europe. Two earthquakes damaged it, so the locals erected another one a century later. It was roughly circular, spanned 234 metres and could protect an area of about an acre. The massive fortification stone wall was thick up to 4 metres and reached an impressive height of 5-6 metres.</p> <p><img alt="artefact" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/169/urban%20and%20salt%20production%20center/118579127_2740369802905187_4097574100504195363_o.jpg" class="align-center" /></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>In the summer of 2020, the archaeologists discovered this curious mask-like artefact. It has no known equivalent and was supposedly worn as an ornament or an amulet</em></p> <p>Around 4500-4400 BC the fortification wall was damaged once more, probably as a result of another earthquake or perhaps an incursion. The salt site inhabitants were quick to replace it with a facility unparalleled anywhere in the world. They erected a massive fortification wall and covered the side of the enlarged tell with a "coat" of boulders. The structure thwarted erosion and was difficult to walk on, especially for any would-be attackers. Thin walls radiated from the fort onto the hill downward. As they were positioned at 1-2 metres from each other attackers would have to split into small groups, making life a lot easier for the defenders of the urban centre.</p> <p>In spite of their efforts the time came for the inhabitants of the salt production site at Provadiya to depart for good. The reason? Climate change. As the conditions in the eastern Mediterranean changed, the salt water springs ran dry and the people exploiting them were left without a livelihood.</p> <p>The first urban centre in Europe was forgotten in the course of the next four millennia. What remained of the fortifications and the salt production facilities was covered in soil. In the 2nd century BC a Thracian nobleman built a stone residence for himself on top of the tell. After he died, his house was covered with a 13-metre-tall funerary mound. Then the site receded into oblivion once more.</p> <p>The salt production site at Provadiya made its reappearance in the 20th century when industrial salt production gained momentum. The remains of the prehistoric urban centre were discovered in the 1980s, but the archaeological survey started as late as 2005. Since then a team led by Professor Vassil Nikolov of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences has unearthed the impressive past of the first urban centre in Europe, its fortifications and irrigation system, its production facilities, necropoli and a pit sanctuary.</p> <p>Every archaeological season at the Provadiya salt production site reveals new finds. You can follow the progress at <a href="https://www.provadia-solnitsata.com/en/"><u>www.provadia-solnitsata.com</u></a> and on Facebook: <u><a href="https://www.facebook.com/Provadia.Solnitsata/">Provadia.Solnitsata/</a></u>. Some of the most interesting finds at the site are on display at the Provadiya Museum of History. </p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-disclaimers field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-block-content clearfix field__item"> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><hr class="uk-divider-icon" /><p><a href="https://us4bg.org/?hl=en" title="AMERICA FOR BULGARIA FOUNDATION" target="_blank"><img alt="us4bg-logo-reversal.png" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/sites/default/files/banners/AFB_LOGO.jpg" width="30%" class="align-left" /></a><strong>Vibrant Communities: Spotlight on Bulgaria's Living Heritage is a series of articles, initiated by Vagabond Magazine, with the generous support of the <a href="http://www.us4bg.org/?hl=en">America for Bulgaria Foundation</a>, that aims to provide details and background of places, cultural entities, events, personalities and facts of life that are sometimes difficult to understand for the outsider in the Balkans. The ultimate aim is the preservation of Bulgaria's cultural heritage – including but not limited to archaeological, cultural and ethnic diversity. The statements and opinionsexpressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the America for Bulgaria Foundation and its partners</strong></p><hr class="uk-divider-icon" /></div> </div> <a href="/archive/issue-169" hreflang="en">Issue 169</a> <a href="/taxonomy/term/301" hreflang="en">Archaeology Bulgaria</a> <div class="field field--name-field-mt-post-category field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-taxonomy-term clearfix field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/travel/vibrant-communities" hreflang="en">VIBRANT COMMUNITIES</a></div> </div> <section class="field field--name-comment field--type-comment field--label-above comment-wrapper"> <h2 class="title comment-form__title">Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=2852&amp;2=comment&amp;3=comment" token="Wi2dKNIxZlEiYOHsheBcalcqblFvatlmBaMocqcUNxI"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Fri, 30 Oct 2020 10:17:38 +0000 DimanaT 2852 at https://vagabond.bg WHAT WE HAVE AS A TOPIC... https://vagabond.bg/what-we-have-topic-2851 <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">WHAT WE HAVE AS A TOPIC...</span> <div class="field field--name-field-author-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">by Stamen Manolov</div> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/251" lang="" about="/user/251" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">DimanaT</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Fri, 10/30/2020 - 12:15</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-subtitle field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><p>Tsvetan Tsvetanov, the leader of the Republicans for Bulgaria political party that has been registered to stand in the 2021 general election, may be a man of few academic achievements but he is obviously one of many words, actions and apartments in Sofia, which he has obtained at very cutdown prices.</p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image field--label-hidden field__items"> <div class="images-container clearfix"> <div class="image-preview clearfix"> <div class="image-wrapper clearfix"> <div class="field__item"> <div class="overlay-container"> <span class="overlay overlay--colored"> <span class="overlay-inner"> <span class="overlay-icon overlay-icon--button overlay-icon--white overlay-animated overlay-fade-top"> <i class="fa fa-plus"></i> </span> </span> <a class="overlay-target-link image-popup" href="/sites/default/files/2020-10/tsvetan%20tsvetanov.jpg"></a> </span> <img loading="lazy" src="/sites/default/files/2020-10/tsvetan%20tsvetanov.jpg" width="752" height="1000" alt="tsvetan tsvetanov.jpg " typeof="foaf:Image" /> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field uk-text-bold uk-margin-small-top uk-margin-medium-bottom field--name-field-image-credits field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">Tsvetan Tsvetanov </div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>Tsv. Tsv., as he is sometimes popularly referred to, is the head of the Euro-Atlantic Centre for Security, a thinktank set up by himself when he was forced to resign from GERB, in 2019. Tsvetanov and "thinktank" in the same sentence? – some cynics Bulgarians have wondered. In actual fact, Tsv. has described the purpose of his centre as one designed "to provide quality professional analyses, to generate ideas and to seek opportunities to publicise a variety of standpoints by encouraging debates on security sector issues." It is unclear what sort of "analyses" the EACS has produced during one year of its existence, but what few Bulgarians have any doubts about is that during his time in Bulgarian politics, since the late 2000s, Tsv.'s style has become as inimitable as that of his former boss, Prime Minister Boyko Borisov. </p> <p>This is how Tsvetan Tsvetanov has described his new political agendas: </p> <p>"What we have as a topic, which will be discussed, and a topic that you have asked me about, then I think that we will have more clarity on the topics, which I don't think we will have to turn into a free-for-all conversation in public space, because you see what's happening, but we still adhere to some normal topics that cannot invoke any discomfort or tensions about similar topics in these specific areas. You do understand that what it is not is not the same thing. In the whole thing that is happening these are the things that are important, and they are not what they are alleged to be."</p> <p>Please note the translation above has been made from the Bulgarian verbatim.</p> </div> <a href="/archive/issue-169" hreflang="en">Issue 169</a> <div class="field field--name-field-mt-post-category field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-taxonomy-term clearfix field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/fun/joke-of-the-month" hreflang="en">JOKE OF THE MONTH</a></div> </div> <section class="field field--name-comment field--type-comment field--label-above comment-wrapper"> <h2 class="title comment-form__title">Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=2851&amp;2=comment&amp;3=comment" token="jFyv6Hf_nPSZqUTZEfDdHwn15rhSJAI1nfMYq45KNdE"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Fri, 30 Oct 2020 10:15:05 +0000 DimanaT 2851 at https://vagabond.bg https://vagabond.bg/what-we-have-topic-2851#comments WHAT IS 'NPP BELENE'? https://vagabond.bg/what-npp-belene-2850 <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">WHAT IS &#039;NPP BELENE&#039;?</span> <div class="field field--name-field-author-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">text and photography by Anthony Georgieff</div> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/251" lang="" about="/user/251" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">DimanaT</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Fri, 10/30/2020 - 12:10</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-subtitle field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><h3>Failed Communist-era megaproject refuses to die</h3> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image field--label-hidden field__items"> <div class="images-container clearfix"> <div class="image-preview clearfix"> <div class="image-wrapper clearfix"> <div class="field__item"> <div class="overlay-container"> <span class="overlay overlay--colored"> <span class="overlay-inner"> <span class="overlay-icon overlay-icon--button overlay-icon--white overlay-animated overlay-fade-top"> <i class="fa fa-plus"></i> </span> </span> <a class="overlay-target-link image-popup" href="/sites/default/files/2020-10/040508-7373.jpg"></a> </span> <img loading="lazy" src="/sites/default/files/2020-10/040508-7373.jpg" width="1000" height="669" alt="040508-7373.jpg " typeof="foaf:Image" /> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field uk-text-bold uk-margin-small-top uk-margin-medium-bottom field--name-field-image-credits field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">The entrance to the never-constructed Belene Nuclear Power Plant The Bulgarian letters spell out NPP, or Nuclear Power Plant</div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>Whichever Bulgarian government translator devised the incomprehensible acronym "NPP" could have had little idea that those three letters would live on in many Bulgarians' consciousness for longer than the thing they were supposed to signify. To speakers of English, NPP stands for Nuclear Power Plant, a literal translation of the Bulgarian АЕЦ. Understanding why that acronym has been so important to Bulgarian politics both prior to and after the 1989 collapse of Communism will entail knowledge of both the background and the current state of the debate about the town of Belene, on the River Danube – and the perceived future of Bulgarian nuclear power engineering.</p> <p>The Belene NPP in fact started as early as 1981, when the Todor Zhivkov government issued a decree ordering Bulgarian workers to start the construction of a second nuclear power plant in Bulgaria.</p> <p>It would be impossible to make sense of the story of Belene without referring to its older brother, the first Bulgarian nuclear energy project at Kozloduy, a few miles upriver. The Kozloduy Nuclear Power Plant has been operating since 1974. Communist propaganda at the time portrayed it as a huge feat of Soviet-style nuclear power engineering and a commendable bid by Bulgaria to start generating on its own the electricity it needed. What the agitprop apparatchiks at the time did not divulge to the general public was that the power plant, constructed entirely with Soviet equipment and by nuclear engineers invited from the Soviet Union, would make this country almost completely dependent on Soviet supplies and expertise.</p> <img alt="Belene" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/169/nuclear%20power%20plant%20belene/DSC_7403.jpg" class="align-center" /> <p class="text-align-center"><em>The European, Bulgarian and... Russian flags in central Belene next to a billboard picturing what the Belene NPP would have looked like</em></p> <p>Kozloduy sported four Chernobyl-type 440 MW VVER reactors. The power it generated was efficient and presumably cheap. Bulgarians paid little attention to it as long as it sent electricity to their homes. Those were the days when the economic crisis of the 1980s was still in its early stages, and the massive political upheaval spawned by the 1984-1985 forcible Bulgarisation of Bulgaria's ethnic Turks was yet to come. So was the unusually harsh winter of 1985, when sections of the Black Sea froze over, and the ships carrying coal from Soviet Ukraine were stranded. As a result the whole of Bulgaria was plunged into electricity rationing. At the time the Kozloduy NPP looked like a viable alternative that would defy both Cold War politics and the cold climate.</p> <p>But then came Chernobyl, in 1986. Notoriously, the Bulgarian government followed the example of the comrades in Moscow and lied to its people about the nuclear fallout and all the dangers it entailed. In all major cities Bulgarians were made to march in 1 May Labour Day rallies without any protection – and under some radioactive rain. The apparatchiks themselves were being treated to specially prepared meals and iodine tablets, and so were the senior army officers.</p> <img alt="Belene" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/169/nuclear%20power%20plant%20belene/140920-0536.jpg" class="align-center" /> <p class="text-align-center"><em>Putting the cart before the horse: A housing estate called Dimum was erected for the would-be Belene employees before the nuclear power plant had any employees. It has been decaying under the elements since the late 1980s</em></p> <p>When Communism collapsed three years later the very mention of Kozloduy provoked disquiet, even outrage. The overwhelming majority of newly democratised Bulgarians considered the NPP to be a leftover of a ramshackle Soviet-era factory. The European Community, which Bulgaria was aiming to accede to in those years, thought the same. Various inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency revealed the Kozloduy reactors lacked basic safety standards and procedures. In fact, decommissioning of Kozloduy's reactors was posed as a condition to beginning membership negotiations.</p> <p>At approximately the same time Bulgaria's nuclear lobby realised that if that happened it would sound the death knell for the Bulgarian nuclear power engineering effort it was making money out of. A huge propaganda campaign in defence of the Kozloduy NPP was set in motion. With hindsight, it was probably one of the most successful publicity stunts in Bulgaria ever. Over the course of just a few years public opinion in this country swayed from condemning Kozloduy as a dangerous powder keg full of plutonium to considering it a symbol of Bulgarian national pride. Whoever opposed Kozloduy, the new masters of agitprop maintained, opposed "Bulgarian national interests" and were attempting to derail "Bulgaria's bid to become a power engineering hub in the Balkans." In those years the term "fake news" was yet to be devised, but what the NPP publicists made much of was how much money Bulgaria would be losing if it did decommission the Kozloduy reactors. No one knew how much money it would actually "lose," as no one knew how much the Kozloduy Nuclear Power Plant had cost to construct in the first place. The Communist-era economy, with its odd system of convertible versus non-convertible currencies and the influx of "friendly" labour from as far away as Cuba and Vietnam, was totally inconsistent with the market concepts of the 1990s.</p> <img alt="Belene" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/169/nuclear%20power%20plant%20belene/04052008-7376-2.jpg" class="align-center" /> <p class="text-align-center"><em>Not very high-tech equipment at Bulgaria's second NPP</em></p> <p>Bulgaria did decommission the Kozloduy reactors in the 2000s and successfully joined both NATO and the EU, but the 1981 project for the Belene NPP quietly lived on in the background.</p> <p>Back in 1981, the Communist-era planners envisaged Belene as having four WWЕR-1000/V 320 reactors. Atomenergoproyekt-Kiev started the Belene NPP construction in 1987. A huge hole was dug in the ground at Belene, an area of seismic activity. It was supposed to be the foundation of the would-be nuclear power plant.</p> <p>Todor Zhivkov was ousted from power in late 1989. Several months later all activity at Belene was halted.</p> <p>But the Belene NPP project did not die. Throughout the years governments of various shades and hues have taken up the issue of the would-be nuclear power plant. They had various ideas, various intentions and proffered various solutions how to fulfil the 1981 project. In 1991, the caretaker government of Dimitar Popov, which was dominated by former Communists, decided to officially suspend the project. In the late 1990s, the rightwing government of Ivan Kostov decided to resuscitate it, citing the millions of dollars already spent on it. The revival effort was picked up by the subsequent government of Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, the last Bulgarian king, who was elected this country's prime minister in 2001. Saxe-Coburg-Gotha officially announced the restart of Belene in 2005, and promptly issued a public tender to select contractors. The bid was won by a Russian company, Atomstroyexport. The would-be investors included the German RWE and the French BNB Paribas.</p> <img alt="Belene" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/169/nuclear%20power%20plant%20belene/04052008-7411.jpg" class="align-center" /> <p class="text-align-center"><em>A road sign along the access to the Belene construction site</em></p> <p>The Germans left the project in 2009. Boyko Borisov became prime minister that same year. In 2010 he visited the site, and infamously commented that the "frog pond" that the original hole in the ground had turned into had cost as much as 800 million leva. In fact, the money Bulgaria had spent on Belene up to that point amounted to as much as 3 billion leva. Borisov vowed to continue with the project, provided a "European investor" was identified.</p> <p>In 2012, Borisov suspended the Belene project citing lack of investors. It appeared the Belene NPP was doomed for good.</p> <p>However, the following year the Bulgarian Socialist Party initiated a referendum to inquire whether Bulgarians would support "the continued development of Bulgarian atomic energy by constructing a second nuclear power plant at Belene." The answer was a resounding yes, but as the turnout was too low the referendum failed to gain legally binding status and reverse the Borisov decision. Atomstroyexport sued for breach of contract, and in 2016 Bulgaria coughed up damages of 602 million euros for work never done.</p> <img alt="Belene" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/169/nuclear%20power%20plant%20belene/04052008-7435.jpg" class="align-center" /> <p class="text-align-center"><em>A self-explanatory sign in central Belene</em></p> <p>Wrangling over the fate of Belene continued. In 2018 a Chinese company, CNNC, expressed interest in taking over the site. Boyko Borisov then came up with a novel idea: to complete the project but turn it into a pan-Balkan one, with the involvement of Serbia, the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia and Greece. The National Assembly got involved and approved yet another restart of the project: a reincarnation of the pan-Balkan "energy hub."</p> <p>Nothing significant has happened since then. The "frog pond" Boyko Borisov described in his inimitable style back in 2010 is still there, on the outskirts of nondescript Belene. Bulgaria continues to be almost entirely dependent on Russian supplies for its energy needs. And the general public becomes increasingly cynical as it considers any continued debate about Belene just empty talk designed to prolong its agony providing Bulgaria's kleptocracy with ample opportunities to continue to steal. </p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-disclaimers field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-block-content clearfix field__item"> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><hr class="uk-divider-icon" /><p><a href="https://us4bg.org/?hl=en" title="AMERICA FOR BULGARIA FOUNDATION" target="_blank"><img alt="us4bg-logo-reversal.png" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/sites/default/files/banners/AFB_LOGO.jpg" width="30%" class="align-left" /></a><strong>Vibrant Communities: Spotlight on Bulgaria's Living Heritage is a series of articles, initiated by Vagabond Magazine, with the generous support of the <a href="http://www.us4bg.org/?hl=en">America for Bulgaria Foundation</a>, that aims to provide details and background of places, cultural entities, events, personalities and facts of life that are sometimes difficult to understand for the outsider in the Balkans. The ultimate aim is the preservation of Bulgaria's cultural heritage – including but not limited to archaeological, cultural and ethnic diversity. The statements and opinionsexpressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the America for Bulgaria Foundation and its partners</strong></p><hr class="uk-divider-icon" /></div> </div> <a href="/archive/issue-169" hreflang="en">Issue 169</a> <a href="/taxonomy/term/108" hreflang="en">Communism</a> <a href="/taxonomy/term/250" hreflang="en">The Danube</a> <div class="field field--name-field-mt-post-category field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-taxonomy-term clearfix field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/travel/vibrant-communities" hreflang="en">VIBRANT COMMUNITIES</a></div> </div> <section class="field field--name-comment field--type-comment field--label-above comment-wrapper"> <h2 class="title comment-form__title">Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=2850&amp;2=comment&amp;3=comment" token="pdVWGQz5u7xyPqYTIvL0AamiSAFolE24He7Ak6dAtHc"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Fri, 30 Oct 2020 10:10:35 +0000 DimanaT 2850 at https://vagabond.bg https://vagabond.bg/what-npp-belene-2850#comments THE LAST CRUSADER https://vagabond.bg/last-crusader-2849 <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">THE LAST CRUSADER</span> <div class="field field--name-field-author-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">by Dimana Trankova; photography by Anthony Georgieff</div> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/251" lang="" about="/user/251" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">DimanaT</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Fri, 10/30/2020 - 12:04</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-subtitle field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><h3>A site in Varna commemorates the most important medieval battle you never heard of</h3> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image field--label-hidden field__items"> <div class="images-container clearfix"> <div class="image-preview clearfix"> <div class="image-wrapper clearfix"> <div class="field__item"> <div class="overlay-container"> <span class="overlay overlay--colored"> <span class="overlay-inner"> <span class="overlay-icon overlay-icon--button overlay-icon--white overlay-animated overlay-fade-top"> <i class="fa fa-plus"></i> </span> </span> <a class="overlay-target-link image-popup" href="/sites/default/files/2020-10/knight.jpg"></a> </span> <img loading="lazy" src="/sites/default/files/2020-10/knight.jpg" width="1000" height="667" alt="knight.jpg " typeof="foaf:Image" /> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>Hidden among the firs of a park by the busy Władysław Warneńczyk Boulevard in Varna is one of Bulgaria's strangest and most moving museums. There, inside one of two ancient Thracian burial mounds is the stone effigy of a sleeping medieval knight.</p> <p>This is the symbolic grave of the Polish-Hungarian King Władysław III, who died in 1444 in a battle during what is considered to be the last Crusade in Europe.</p> <p>The enemy was the then young Ottoman Empire. At that time, Constantinople was still Byzantine, but a great part of the Balkans was under Ottoman control, and the threat to Middle Europe was imminent.</p> <p>On 10 November 1444, the armies of the 20-year-old King Władysław and General Jan Hunyadi, supported by smaller regiments of Walachians, Bosnians, Moldavians, Lithuanians, Croatians, Teutonic Knights, rebel Bulgarians and soldiers of the Pope were waiting for the enemy in the fields to the northwest of Varna, on the Black Sea.</p> <p>The Christians were outnumbered, yet they considered their chances to be quite good. Jan Hunyadi was a seasoned and talented warrior and had often won battles against the Ottomans. The fear of a Christian victory was so strong that the 14-year-old sultan, Mehmet II, aware of his own inexperience, forced his father, the retired Murat II, to lead the army.</p> <img alt="mound" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/169/the%20last%20crusader/mound.jpg" class="align-center" /> <p class="text-align-center"><em>The mound from which Sultan Murad II supposedly watched the battle</em></p> <p>At Varna, Hunyadi's offensive tactics proved effective. After initial losses, the Christian armies gained advantage. Sultan Murat, who was commanding the battle from the top of one of two Thracian mounds, was already considering retreat.</p> <p>Suddenly, in breach of Hunyadi's orders, Władysław III gathered his knights and attacked the sultan directly.</p> <p>Historians have pondered over Władysław's decision. Was he too young and too attracted by tales of knightly valour? Was he too eager to show the opposition at home that he was a capable ruler and not a boy? Had he overestimated the power of heavy cavalry against the infantry Janissaries, who were protecting the sultan, or was he jealous of Hunyadi's military successes?</p> <p>Whatever the reasons, here is how it ended.</p> <p>Władysław fell into a pit and was killed. Most of his knights died in the melée. The Christian army retreated with heavy losses. The king's body was not found among the heaps of dead warriors.</p> <p>The repercussions of the Battle of Varna, which was later dubbed "A Memorable Battle of the Nations," is still a matter of debate. Some see it as the tipping point in history when heavy cavalry was defeated by better organised infantry. Others speculate that even if the Christians had won at Varna, the Ottoman westward advance might have been postponed but would hardly have been halted.</p> <p>However, the battle reshaped the politics of the day. The Ottomans strengthened their grip on the Balkans and nine years later captured Constantinople. Their push to the west continued all the way to Vienna.</p> <p>The Christians never attempted to organise such a broad coalition against the common enemy. Chivalry was dead, too.</p> <img alt="The symbolical mausoleum of King Władysław III" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/169/the%20last%20crusader/mausoleum.jpg" class="align-center" /> <p class="text-align-center"><em>The symbolical mausoleum of King Władysław III</em></p> <p>The battlefield near Varna received its first real monument in 1855 when, during the Crimean War, a group of Polish soldiers placed a memorial on the top of one of the Thracian mounds. In 1924, this part of the battlefield was turned into a park and a new memorial of Władysław replaced the older one. In 1935, the mound was transformed into a symbolic mausoleum. Two Bulgarian sculptors carved the stone effigy after the one the king had in Wawel Cathedral.</p> <p>According to lore, the other mound was the place from which Sultan Murat II watched the battle, holding a spear on which the peace treaty broken by the Christians was impaled. In the 1930s, it also received a monument, albeit a peculiar one – the upper part of a stone water fountain erected by Sultan Mahmud II in Varna a century earlier.</p> <p>The museum was completed in 1964, for the 520th anniversary of the battle. The exhibition hall houses a humble collection of medieval cuirasses and weapons. Most of them were not actually discovered on the battlefield.</p> <p>Today, the place where the Memorable Battle of the Nations unfolded is the only quiet green spot in this part of Varna. Locals now come here to stroll and walk their dogs between the mounds that witnessed the end of the Crusades. If you look carefully enough, you can make out among the firs the moat dug by the Janissaries to protect Murat II. </p> <img alt="effigy" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/169/the%20last%20crusader/effigy.jpg" class="align-center" /> <p class="text-align-center"><em>Some say that after the battle Władysław's head was severed and taken by the Ottomans. Several years later, other rumours appeared – that the king had survived and was living a quiet life as a monk in Salamanca, or as an aristocrat in Madeira. Officially, however, Władysław was dead and in the nave of the Wawel Cathedral, in Krakow, an ornate, but empty sarcophagus was installed. The effigy at Varna's museum has been modelled after it</em></p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-disclaimers field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-block-content clearfix field__item"> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><hr class="uk-divider-icon" /><p><a href="https://us4bg.org/?hl=en" title="AMERICA FOR BULGARIA FOUNDATION" target="_blank"><img alt="us4bg-logo-reversal.png" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/sites/default/files/banners/AFB_LOGO.jpg" width="30%" class="align-left" /></a><strong>Vibrant Communities: Spotlight on Bulgaria's Living Heritage is a series of articles, initiated by Vagabond Magazine, with the generous support of the <a href="http://www.us4bg.org/?hl=en">America for Bulgaria Foundation</a>, that aims to provide details and background of places, cultural entities, events, personalities and facts of life that are sometimes difficult to understand for the outsider in the Balkans. The ultimate aim is the preservation of Bulgaria's cultural heritage – including but not limited to archaeological, cultural and ethnic diversity. The statements and opinionsexpressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the America for Bulgaria Foundation and its partners</strong></p><hr class="uk-divider-icon" /></div> </div> <a href="/archive/issue-169" hreflang="en">Issue 169</a> <a href="/taxonomy/term/280" hreflang="en">Bulgarian history</a> <a href="/taxonomy/term/237" hreflang="en">Museums Bulgaria</a> <div class="field field--name-field-mt-post-category field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-taxonomy-term clearfix field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/travel/vibrant-communities" hreflang="en">VIBRANT COMMUNITIES</a></div> </div> <section class="field field--name-comment field--type-comment field--label-above comment-wrapper"> <h2 class="title comment-form__title">Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=2849&amp;2=comment&amp;3=comment" token="0B-SiX-gM11rMAkdSgeNrv439mZ_2dFdBNBOi2R2t_o"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Fri, 30 Oct 2020 10:04:48 +0000 DimanaT 2849 at https://vagabond.bg https://vagabond.bg/last-crusader-2849#comments QUOTE-UNQUOTE https://vagabond.bg/quote-unquote-2848 <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">QUOTE-UNQUOTE</span> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/251" lang="" about="/user/251" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">DimanaT</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Fri, 10/30/2020 - 12:02</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-subtitle field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><blockquote> <p>"The protesters repress the government."</p> </blockquote> <p><strong>Denitsa Sacheva</strong>, Labour and Social Policy Minister on the street rallies in Sofia</p> </div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><blockquote> <p>"If they dislike Boyko Borisov's highways and underground, let them walk."</p> </blockquote> <p>GERB Speaker of Parliament <strong>Tsveta Karayancheva</strong></p> <blockquote> <p>"Many journalists believe that they should be untouchable."</p> </blockquote> <p><strong>Betina Zhoteva</strong>, chairwoman of the Electronic Media Council</p> <blockquote> <p>"GERB consists of women only. Even the few men in the party are women."</p> </blockquote> <p>Prime Minister <strong>Boyko Borisov</strong> on equality</p> </div> <a href="/archive/issue-169" hreflang="en">Issue 169</a> <a href="/taxonomy/term/261" hreflang="en">Boyko Borisov</a> <div class="field field--name-field-mt-post-category field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-taxonomy-term clearfix field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/fun/quote-unquote" hreflang="en">QUOTE-UNQUOTE</a></div> </div> <section class="field field--name-comment field--type-comment field--label-above comment-wrapper"> <h2 class="title comment-form__title">Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=2848&amp;2=comment&amp;3=comment" token="GCjg2ht2O2VuFxBbASHv--xyfgQt2QxAGHuHwyleXhA"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Fri, 30 Oct 2020 10:02:50 +0000 DimanaT 2848 at https://vagabond.bg https://vagabond.bg/quote-unquote-2848#comments SOFIA'S PARTY HOUSE https://vagabond.bg/sofias-party-house-2847 <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">SOFIA&#039;S PARTY HOUSE</span> <div class="field field--name-field-author-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">by Dimana Trankova; photography by Anthony Georgieff, BTA</div> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/251" lang="" about="/user/251" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">DimanaT</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Fri, 10/30/2020 - 11:48</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-subtitle field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><h3>Communist headquarters turn into parliament</h3> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image field--label-hidden field__items"> <div class="images-container clearfix"> <div class="image-preview clearfix"> <div class="image-wrapper clearfix"> <div class="field__item"> <div class="overlay-container"> <span class="overlay overlay--colored"> <span class="overlay-inner"> <span class="overlay-icon overlay-icon--button overlay-icon--white overlay-animated overlay-fade-top"> <i class="fa fa-plus"></i> </span> </span> <a class="overlay-target-link image-popup" href="/sites/default/files/2020-10/151020-28446.jpg"></a> </span> <img loading="lazy" src="/sites/default/files/2020-10/151020-28446.jpg" width="1000" height="667" alt="151020-28446.jpg" typeof="foaf:Image" /> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>"Where is the parliament?" A couple of months ago anyone asking this question in Sofia would have been pointed to a butter-yellow neoclassical building at one end of the Yellow Brick Road. Imaginatively, it resembles the Paris Opera House and has the Belgian national motto, "Unity Makes Strength," above its main façade, looking onto the statue of a 19th century Russian tsar on horseback. This was the place where Bulgarian MPs used to gather to do whatever they were supposed to do.</p> <p>A person asking the same question today might get a more confusing answer, such as "Which parliament – the old or the new one?" and even "Do you mean the former Party House?". The reason for this confusion stands at the other end of the Yellow Brick Road. There, in a massive tower of grey stone, sits the new home of the Bulgarian National Assembly.</p> <p>The two parliament buildings could not be more different. The old one was built in 1886, at the height of the national enthusiasm that followed the previous year's unification of the Principality of Bulgaria and the former Ottoman province of Eastern Rumelia. In the following decades this elegant confection witnessed Bulgaria and its people enduring regional and world wars and transitioning from democracy to authoritarianism to totalitarianism and back.</p> <p><img alt="Party House" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/169/party%20house%20sofia/53-583-25.jpg" class="align-center" /></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>Construction of the Party House and the Largo in the 1950s</em></p> <p><img alt="Construction of the Party House and the Largo in the 1950s" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/169/party%20house%20sofia/451872.jpg" class="align-center" /></p> <p>The new parliament building appears overbearing and forbidding. It bears all the hallmarks of its time as the headquarters of the Bulgarian Communist Party, or the BKP.</p> <p>Built in 1954, the Party House was a grandiose propaganda piece designed to epitomise the strong grip the Communist Party had over the political, social, economic and even personal life of the citizens of the People's Republic of Bulgaria. Just 10 years had passed since the BKP took power, on 9 September 1944, in a Soviet-backed coup, and from there the party managed to deal with both internal and external opposition, to turn the Bulgarian economy upside down, and to transform the country into the USSR's most loyal satellite.</p> <p>The location of the BKP headquarters was selected for a reason. Beneath it lay the ruins of ancient Serdica and medieval Sredets, indicating continuity. Before construction started, the site had been covered with the remains of pre-war businesses, houses and hotels destroyed in the 1943-1944 Allied bombing raids. Erecting the BKP's headquarters in such a place conveyed a clear message: Communism in Bulgaria was historically inevitable, the final stage of human evolution, the end of history itself. Resistance to it would be futile.</p> <p><img alt="Rally" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/169/party%20house%20sofia/392939.jpg" class="align-center" /></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>Under Communism, officially organised rallies would start at the Party House and would pass by the Georgi Dimitrov mausoleum. Top Communist officials would wave at the masses from its balcony</em></p> <p>The Party House was also physically distant from the National Assembly, to underline the largely ceremonial role that institution had in Communist Bulgaria.</p> <p>The architecture of the Party House and the administrative and public buildings of the so-called Largo compound around it was also heavy with symbolism. The so-called Stalinist Baroque style was all about vast empty spaces brooded over by towering buildings with massive colonnades adorned with reliefs of five-pointed stars, sturdy labourers and statuesque farmers and workers. Uniformly grey, with narrow windows that hinted at hidden power, it was meant to induce in passers-by a feeling of helplessness and insignificance in the face of the omnipotent state and the party that controlled it.</p> <p>As the headquarters of the Central Committee of the BKP, the Party House was the pièce de résistance of the Largo. Designed by the architect, Petso Zlatev, it covered more than an acre and had three kilometres of corridors. A red five-pointed star, Kremlin-style, shone from the top of its 70-metre spire. The building was designed to withstand a powerful earthquake and had a bunker, connected by underground corridors to the nearby mausoleum of the Communist dictator Georgi Dimitrov, providing a secure getaway for the top BKP officials.</p> <p><img alt="star removal" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/169/party%20house%20sofia/Acr73417600864012310170.jpg" class="align-center" /></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>The whereabouts of the Party House five-pointed star remain unknown</em></p> <p>The coat-of-arms of Communist Bulgaria, along with a hammer and sickle, adorned the façade. There were also more curious details. The corn cobs on the façade, for example, reflected the initiative of Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev to introduce American hybrid maize to Communist agriculture. The interior decoration was on a par with the exterior: all polished marble, expensive carpets and intricate plaster mouldings.</p> <p>For the next 35 years the Party House was where Bulgaria's destiny was decided – a status made official by Article 1 of the 1971 Constitution that stipulated the "leading role" of the BKP. Few people had access to the inner sanctum of the Communist Party. The only way for ordinary Bulgarians to guess how the in-fighting in the Party House was going was to read between the lines of the official press, and to take note of which comrade was absent from the Mausoleum balcony during the mass rallies on 9 September.</p> <p>In those years, the Party House experienced just one major change. In 1984, a new five-pointed star was installed on its spire. Made of red glass, it was 3 metres in diameter and was lit from the inside. It looked just like the one in the Kremlin, but smaller.</p> <p>When Communism collapsed following an internal coup on 10 November 1989, the Party House suddenly turned from a mysterious and terrifying centre of power into a lightning rod for public attention and pro-democracy rallies.</p> <p><img alt="fire" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/169/party%20house%20sofia/280295.jpg" class="align-center" /></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>The 26 August 1990 fire made the Party House unusable for years</em></p> <p>In June 1990, the Bulgarian Socialist Party, or BSP, the heir of the BKP, won the first free election in Bulgaria since 1940. The pro-democracy opposition was disappointed by the results (some still claim the elections were rigged) and became ever more vocal in its call for de-Communisation. The BSP apparently got the message and on 17 July, the government decided to remove the embalmed body of Georgi Dimitrov from the Mausoleum. This was duly done the same night, and the dictator's remains were moved secretly to the Party House through the infamous underground corridors. The corpse was then buried at Sofia Central Cemetery. This was the first and last time that the secret connection between the two most emblematic Communist buildings in Sofia was ever used.</p> <p>Pro-democracy activists, for their part, claimed the area by the Party House as their protest ground. While the BSP enjoyed plush offices in the former BKP headquarters, the protesters set up a tent camp outside, known as the City of Truth.</p> <p>In August 1990, pro-democracy MPs called for the removal of Communist insignia from public spaces. Their main target was, of course, the red star that still adorned the spire of the former Party House. On 26 August crowds gathered around the building and when night fell, a fire broke out inside the Party House. It ravaged through it, destroying almost 100 rooms and blackening the façade.</p> <p><img alt="relief" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/169/party%20house%20sofia/13072007-5683.jpg" class="align-center" /></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>Traces of a hammer and sickle are still visible on the façade of the new Parliament building</em></p> <p>Who started it remains a matter of contention. The authorities blamed the protestors and swiftly dismantled the City of Truth on the same night. The opposition insisted that the arson was an inside job designed not only to discredit the protest, but also to provide a smokescreen for agents destroying sensitive documents from the BKP archives, which were still kept in the Party House.</p> <p>The 1990 Party House drama ended on 4 October, when the five-pointed star was taken down by helicopter in a spectacular airborne operation. The present whereabouts of the star are unknown, but its predecessor was presented to the Museum of Sofia and is now in the Museum of Socialist Art.</p> <p>Ever since, the national flag has flown from the spire of the former Party House.</p> <p>The idea to move the Bulgarian parliament into the former BKP headquarters was first voiced in 1995. The old neoclassical building was now considered too small and uncomfortable for the National Assembly administration. After an initial overhaul and cleaning of the blackened façade, some of the parliamentary administration moved there, in the 2000s. The most blatant Communist symbols were also removed from the façade, including the hammer and sickle and the five-pointed star above the main entrance.</p> <p>It was Boyko Borisov's second government (2014-2017) that decided to finally make the big move. A renovation on a grand-scale dragged on for much longer than planned and the costs ballooned from the projected 18 million leva excluding VAT to 44 million leva. The most impressive transformation was in the grand assembly hall, whose old plaster-heavy ceiling was replaced by a modern tessellated roof.</p> <p><img alt="worker and farmer" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/169/party%20house%20sofia/13072007-5678.jpg" class="align-center" /></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>Stalinist-style worker and farmer still sit on the pediment of the Council of Ministers, the former Communist Ministry of Heavy Industry</em></p> <p>Meanwhile, the main entrance of the former Party House became a favourite spot for protests. It not only had symbolic value but was also centrally located at the intersection of three major roads, close to the Council of Ministers and the Office of the President (which are in the former homes of the Communist-era Ministry of Heavy Industry and Ministry of Electrification, respectively). The steps have been claimed by all sorts of protesters: from mothers of disabled children asking for better care and underpaid nurses to environmental activists to the 2013 protests against Plamen Oresharski's government to those who believe that the new child protection law is designed to make possible the forcible adoption of Bulgarian children by "gay Norwegian couples."</p> <p>On 2 September 2020 the Bulgarian MPs sat for their first meeting in the brand new assembly hall in the former Party House. They were greeted by yet another protest, this time against Boyko Borisov's government.</p> <p>The transition has many critics. Some are disappointed with the quality and cost of the overhaul, while others bemoan the fact that, 30 years after the collapse of Communism in Bulgaria, traces of five-pointed stars and hammers and sickles are still visible on the former Party House façade. The more radical even call for the demolition of the building's spire and tower.</p> <p>Tellingly, unlike Khrushchev's corn cobs, the motto "Unity Makes Strength" is missing from the façade of the former Communist Party House, now the new Bulgarian National Assembly. </p> </div> <a href="/archive/issue-169" hreflang="en">Issue 169</a> <a href="/taxonomy/term/223" hreflang="en">Communist Bulgaria</a> <a href="/taxonomy/term/108" hreflang="en">Communism</a> <a href="/taxonomy/term/281" hreflang="en">Bulgarian architecture</a> <a href="/taxonomy/term/273" hreflang="en">Sofia</a> <div class="field field--name-field-mt-post-category field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-taxonomy-term clearfix field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/features" hreflang="en">VAGABOND FEATURES</a></div> </div> <section class="field field--name-comment field--type-comment field--label-above comment-wrapper"> <h2 class="title comment-form__title">Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=2847&amp;2=comment&amp;3=comment" token="KXb6R2Mug5wsgfn7PwQgM0ql9UpwpE7IJaeOK2OovAM"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Fri, 30 Oct 2020 09:48:07 +0000 DimanaT 2847 at https://vagabond.bg https://vagabond.bg/sofias-party-house-2847#comments