Bulgaria: an unlikely personality cult

7 Sep 2018

"The Zhivkov personality cult reaches its annual crescendo during the lavish celebrations of the late dictator’s successive anniversaries of birth on the 7th of September in his hometown of Pravets, near Sofia. EU and Bulgarian flags will again provide the background for a leader synonymous with Bulgarian communism, including its darker chapters.

". . . . On the other hand, Zhivkov’s growing popularity after the end of communism is directly connected to the persecution of the country’s non- or insufficiently ‘Bulgarian’ Turks and Roma who profess Islam. Zhivkov closed down the Turkish-medium minority education system in the late 1960s. In the early 1970s most Roma and Pomaks (Slavophone Muslims) were compelled to change their ‘Islamo-Arabic’ names and surnames to ‘Slavo-Bulgarian’ ones. The process was completed in the brutal militarized name-changing campaign directed at the country’s 1 million Turks in the winter of 1984-1985. "

" . . . In the first half of 2018 Bulgaria, for the Between 29 May and 22 August 1989, about 360,000 Turks and Muslims were expelled from Bulgaria to Turkey. It was postwar Europe’s largest act of ethnic cleansing before the outbreak of the wars of Yugoslav succession in 1991."

". . . On the one hand, Prime Minister Borisov regularly condemns the crimes of communism, including the 1989 ethnic cleansing. On the other hand, he knows that the silent majority of the country’s voters are ethnic Bulgarians, who remain besotted by the Zhivkovian vision of an ethnically ‘pure’ Bulgaria. Borisov seems to as much extend his unacknowledged approval of the celebrations in Pravets, as he is reluctant to speak about his time as a lieutenant in Communist Bulgaria’s Ministry of Interior from 1982-1990."

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