Translated by Soviet Bear for Fort Russ
1st June, 2016
An article of a blogger about the extinction of Bulgaria after integration into the European community has gained popularity on social networks. The author wrote it back in 2013, but because of the relevant material, it has again started to spread widely in 2016.
36-year-old photographer, mountaineer, and revolutionary with the romantic name of Plamen. When things got hard in his small, meek rabbit Bulgaria, Plamen doused himself with fuel and committed a public act of self-immolation in the square in front of city hall in the city of Varna. In protest against poverty, corruption, injustice, and negligence of the authorities.
If his country is dying, why should he live? He passed away slowly and painfully, and the whole country groaned, cried, and prayed for him in the Orthodox churches. “Plamen extinguished,” wrote the newspaper after the death of Plamen Goranov.
His death was not the only one. Another five “living torches” flared at the end of a hardening winter. Among them was the father of five children, 53-year-old Ventsislav Vasilev who lost his job (the bailiffs had to confiscate the property of his family in debt for the “utilities” — 219 euros for water), and unemployed Trayan Petrov (he was only 26 years old).
“This has never happened in Bulgarian history! I repeat: never!” Bitterly exclaims the legend of Bulgarian journalism Valery Naidenov. “We are a Christian country, not familiar with radicalism and fundamentalism. The self-immolation of people is something unheard and shocking. For Christians in general, political suicide is unacceptable. And we have no doubt that these suicides are political. If you want to kill yourself, there are plenty of other painless ways. During the self-immolation a man does not die immediately. This is two weeks of pain and the most terrible agony in the world.
What happened with Bulgaria – a once fertile, prosperous land? What happened with the Bulgarians — the most patient and docile people of Europe?
THE OLD MAN, DOBRI DOBREV
Did God forsake Bulgaria? No, he did not if 99-year-old marvelous old man Dobri Dobrev in leather sandals and peasant clothing still stands at the entrance to the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia. I put money in his mug for alms, he blesses me, but as soon as I get the camera out, he angrily waves his hands. This Grandpa is tired of fans, and journalists. Dobri Dobrev is a real Bulgarian Saint. In 2009, the whole country was shocked by the news that a very old man with a gray beard as long, as the Patriarch’s for decades collecting alms at the entrance to the famous temple of Sophia, was the Cathedral’s most generous donor.
Dobri, who lives in the village of Baylovo on a pension of 80 euros and eating vegetables and bread, has donated 18,000 (!) Euro to the temple. (He collected the alms for many years, which are neatly set aside in the Bank account of his relative.) The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral was erected in memory of Russian soldiers who died for the liberation of Bulgaria from the Ottoman yoke. And, imagine, since 1912 there was not a single rich man, the entrepreneur, who would have sacrificed more to the Cathedral than a poor old man, who until 90 years, was every day walking from the village to Sofia. (Now, however, in 99 years Dobri got so famous that he gets free ride on the bus.) In total the old man Dobri has donated to the Church of Bulgaria 36,000 (!) Euros of the collected donations.
My Bulgarian friend Svetla also puts money in the old man’s mug, and her eyes get moistened with emotion. “As long as we have these people, Bulgaria is alive,” she says. We go to a café to drink a cup of strong-to-the-heartbeat Turkish coffee. A sealed prediction is attached to each cup, and the people at the tables with laughter and excitement read “magic” notes. Bulgarians in general are characterized by a belief in miraculous salvation. Even famous economists in Sofia when asked the question “What will save Bulgaria?” uplift hands to heavens and shout: “Only God!”
AS THE FRIDGE WON THE TV
“In January we had a very hard time,” sighs, my girlfriend Svetla. “People have received bills for electricity, twice exceeding the pension. Therefore, even if the retiree will no longer eat, he still will not be able to pay the bill. When it came to a real threat of hunger and cold (many apartments are heated by electricity), tens of thousands of people across the country took to the streets. Started the “electric revolution”. As the witty words of one local politician: an empty fridge finally won the TV. It is impossible to feed the people with speeches about “European democratic values”. But spring came, and the TV, it seems, wins again.
“We have the expression “to grab the herbs,” says economist Dimitar Sybel. “With the arrival of the heat we “get a hold of the herbs” and will survive the summer. Everyone has a vegetable garden, housework or at least relatives in the village. But in the fall, with the end of the “green stuff” and the beginning of the heating season, the protests will start again.
“Our society lives in captivity of myths and spells, and unaccustomed to look critically at the events. Because we are all incredibly surprised that people suddenly spontaneously took to the streets, ” says journalist Ivo Hristov. “The government was surprised the most and immediately resigned, and in February left protesters without opponents. It was a clever move. It is possible to be angry and shout, but against whom? Urgent elections were declared so that civil power is not managed to result in the creation of new structures and parties. The entire political class has organized a kind of artificial ambush, leaving people only a couple of months to think about it. Immediately according to tested political strategies, the protesters were broken into small groups; a lot of fake parties and fake leaders-screamers appeared out of nowhere and led to nowhere. Citizens have lost courage and are tired.
The old man Dobri Dobrev is famous throughout the country. Over the last 100 years there have not been such a rich man, who donated to the temple more than this poor old man. But Bulgaria now can only rely on God’s help.
THERE IS ONE WAY OUT — TO FLEE THE COUNTRY
“You’re getting tired so quickly, ” I say.
“Just anger is ahead of awareness. People came to the protest not as citizens who have clear values, but as angry consumers. They waved their hands, shouted and they got tired. We, Bulgarians, are in general inveterate conformists and imitators. We are not leaders, we are the leaded. We adore copying the strongest and moving with them to the next track. Until 1989, when the USSR was strong in Bulgaria a million (!) people were members of the Communist party — with a total population of 9 million people. Now the EU offers the image of Paradise, although this image has gotten worse. Bulgaria is glad to be a member of the European Union for one reason only — we can cross the border.
Bulgarians prefer to save themselves alone. A popular joke: “In Bulgaria there are two ways out of the crisis — terminal 1 and terminal 2 at the airport”. The young, talented and stubborn pack their bags and flee, leaving the elderly to die in the villages. The North of the country, where unemployment is at (according to official figures) 60 (!) percent has been depopulated. Rare tourists compare it with the Chernobyl dead zone.
Over the past twenty years two million people have left the country, and the population of Bulgaria was reduced to seven million. The country has lost more people than during the two world wars. But this is not the limit. The economic crisis coincided with the terrifying scale of the demographic catastrophe. By 2060 the population of Bulgaria will be only 5 million people (including half a million Gypsies). Bulgarians as a nation with their ancient Orthodox Christian culture are doomed.
“Last year only 62 thousand children were born in the whole country” says journalist Ivo Hristov. “This is the lowest birth rate since 1945. Bulgaria is melting faster than all European countries. Worse result only in Estonia. For all its 1300-year history, our country has never been so close to collapse.
“WE USED TO WAIT FOR WHEN WE GET RESCUED”
” Is it worse now than under the Turks?” I’m surprised.
Worse. Demographic and economic crises coincided with the moral decay. The society is now much deeper depraved than during the Turkish yoke, when all the people were united by the idea of the struggle for liberation.
“What do you want from us? Bulgarians are quiet people,” sparks of irony flashed in the eyes of the well-known journalist Svetoslav Terziev. “We have had five hundred years of Turkish yoke. We are accustomed to. Then Russia came and freed us. Later we joined with the Germans, but they were bad allies. The Red Army liberated us from them. Along with it came the Soviet Union, which in 90’s liberated us from itself. Now we have 300 thousand Russian owning homes here. We are very happy. The Russians will be fine here among people who understand them and love them. Do we have a future? Why should we think about it? If you survived the day until the evening, it is not bad. We, Bulgarians, used to sit and wait until we are rescued.
HOW THEY CAME TO SUCH A LIFE
In the early 90’s, when the Empire, the USSR disintegrated into pieces, so did the Eastern European bloc, the western CAPITAL oversaw this process closely and with triumphantly cold, greedy eyes. New exciting prospects were opened before monopolies. The financial crisis was delayed by as much as twenty years. Secondly, the collapse of the iron curtain opened the way to worldwide domination of the oligarchy under the sauce of “globalization” and “free market” (so-called “Washington consensus” of 1989).
The owners of transnational corporations were rubbing their hands in glee and anticipation —a huge, defenseless territory with a naive, brainwashed with slogans of freedom population laid before them. The plan of the oligarchy was as simple as plan of some conqueror like Attila, — the territory had to be captured, conquered, to humiliated, destroyed, sucked dry, and the population fall into perpetual slavery. Yes, the plan was simple, but the methods are much more sophisticated.
At that time we were so busy with our own tragedy — the collapse of the Soviet Union – that we cared little about the fate of Eastern European countries. Yes, Poland took the collapse of the Soviet Union with enthusiasm as a liberation from the hated Russian rule. But there were countries such as the fraternal Bulgaria, which existed due to the deal of the century: the oil-for the tomatoes. And suddenly lost its guide and provider.
“Bulgaria was a parasite of the Soviet Union,” says the sociologist Andrey Raichev. “We also lived at your expense. Had just time to clap at the congresses and kiss Brezhnev. Any stupid product that we produced, you would definitely buy it. 86% of industry worked for Russia, and for all of that, we got free oil. There was even a joke saying that Bulgaria has the largest colony in the world – the Soviet Union, as it enjoys free resources and exports its goods in the vast Russian market.”
THE MOST HONEST ALLY OF THE SOVIET UNION
“The Soviet Union had a reason to help Bulgaria, ” says sociologist Kncho Stoychev. “For historical reasons (in the 19th century Russia sacrificed two hundred thousand soldiers for the liberation of the country from the Turkish yoke) Bulgaria was the only honest ally of the Soviet Union. We had so much confidence that there was not even a Soviet military base. During socialism, Bulgaria has become a powerful industrial country with developed military and even high-tech industries. We were the only member of the CMEA (Council for Mutual Economic Assistance), producing computers! The capacity of such industrial muscle of such a small state can even be called hyper industrialization. Now imagine: Gorbachev took a different route, and Bulgaria was left alone. The Soviet market imploded and was completely closed for us. In Bulgaria the collapse happened: all the factories stood still!
“I remember the last historical session of the CMEA in 1990 in Sofia,” says journalist Valery Naidenov. “The Soviet delegation was headed by Nikolai Ryzhkov. He calmly stated that trade in transferable rubles between the CMEA countries is terminated. Currency should be the dollar, and the price for any goods must not be below the international prices. People in the audience were confused. Stunned, the Czech delegation stated: “But in this case, we have to get out of CMEA?!” But Ryzhkov said: “Well, get out. If you want!” In short, good riddance! A few years after the collapse of the Eastern bloc, Bulgaria was in ruins.
IT’S A BRAVE, NEW WORLD!
In the early 90’s many American economic advisers and consultants arrived in the countries of the CIS, Eastern Europe and Russia. They were beautifully mannered and immaculately dressed energetic people of mature years, all as one— staunch right-wing libertarians. (Libertarianism in the economy is one of the most inhuman theories, which completely negates the welfare state and any state intervention in the economy. In essence, this is economic Darwinism. Let the strong survive in free competition and the weak perish. The state should abandon funding of health and education (and therefore taxing), and pension funds should only be private. If you yourself have not saved for old age, blame yourself. But if you poor and sick – go cry at the doors of charities. Your children are your problem, do not bother the state.)
In a decent Western European countries with strong social policies, libertarians are not allowed to get even close to public administration (they would be trampled by the more militant trade unions), and in ex-socialist land of unsuspecting idiots they were honored. They are not just applauded and watched in mouth — they even were paid for the consultation. Local politicians stood before them on there hind legs, charmed by phrases about “market reforms”.
“Any book written by so-called economists of the libertarian ideals, begins with the word “freedom”, and also ends with it,” says journalist Valery Naidenov. “It is their mantra. Most importantly it is freedom from the government and from any control. They require only minimal state involvement, and ideally – its absence. However, do not even have to read their thick books. The whole point boils down to one sentence: the same tax for the rich and the poor and full privatization of state property. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in a world-famous radical right economist, Richard Ran from the American Cato Institute (a right wing libertarian) came to Bulgaria. We decided to try neo-liberal method, which was never applicable in the United States or Western Europe. We, Bulgarians, were laboratory white mice for the libertarian utopia.”
CUT IT CUT IT, YOUR MAJESTY!
Foreign consultants-the neoliberals —were the pilot fish of the International Monetary Fund. At times of need, hunger and confusion of the early nineties, the IMF was used for the General offensive on the people (a sort of blitzkrieg!) and to carry out its sacred mission: “the liberation of the state from its ownership, or, in other words, capital cut.
Bulgarians really wanted to be exemplary students at the school of “free market”, which, as you know, “will adjust everything by itself, if you do not disturb it”, and blindly yielded to the new leaders like American consultant Richard Run. (For such obedience, they were promised to be allowed into the EU.) Moreover, they had the sense of stupid sentimental reasons to put at the head of the state former king Simeon II (not the hot Bulgarian guy, but a dull German surname, Saxe-Coburg-Gotha), who ruled as Prime Minister from 2001 to 2005. (Of course, he immediately had a law on restitution, regaining the Palace of Vrana in Sofia and the vast land.) When Simeon II, which all the Newspapers praised as “effective Manager” and “skilled financier” (does that ring any bells?), unfolded large-scale “privatization” of Bulgaria.
“In 1997, the IMF came to us and said: we’ll save you if you will implement our program, ” says economist Dimitar Sybel. “The main condition of the sale: huge state-owned assets worth billions of dollars, went bankrupt and were sold for little money, sometimes for one dollar! However, who am I kidding? Well you are from Russia! You have seen it all. Just Russia is big, could not sell it all! And Bulgaria is small. It was over very quickly and we woke up in the world of the absurd. For example, we have Bulgarian water, is Bulgarian pipes and Bulgarian consumers. A contract for the sale of our water to our people through our pipe goes to, for example, the British! And maybe not even British.
We cannot even figure out who actually owns what! Who are these people? It is an international company, sometimes offshore, registered in God-knows-what country. For example, a company that bought the largest gold mine in Bulgaria “Chelopech” for just $2 million registered in Canada. Bulgaria only has a laughable 2% of mined gold. And the point is that we have no right to find out HOW much gold is mined at the mine and how to count these same 2 percent. During the 23 years since our “Perestroika” Bulgaria, which had an excellent production and the best agricultural land in the region has become the poorest country in Europe.
ORE TO THE BELGIANS, WATER TO THE FRENCH
“Under the king Simeon II electricity distribution network was sold to the Czechs, Austrians and Germans, the French got water supply and sewage, and copper ore, according to rumors, went to the Belgians”, — said one of the leaders of the nationalists, Angel Dzhambazki. “It was the secret condition of accession of Bulgaria to the EU — all the old powers bargained to sell their consent for more. Thanks to the treachery at the top of the government, Bulgaria was totally auctioned.”
“Since the beginning of 2000’s, Bulgaria lived as the happy widow after the death of a rich husband, ” says journalist Valery Naidenov. “She was selling homes, land, and all the property and for five years lives much better than before. And then the stupid bitch stays on the beans and begging on the porch. In the middle of the 2000’s, Bulgaria showed excellent growth of GDP (which takes into account any transaction of purchase and sale). That is, we sold off the national assets and in GDP it was reflected as our income. Everyone was happy: “Oh, what a wonderful foreign investment!”
I tried many times to explain to people, we do not make money, we just selling our property. We now like to brag that Bulgaria has a small public debt. This is true. But private debt to foreign banks increased to 40 billion euros. However, no one is even (!) counting our debt. The authorities destroyed the national Economic school and dispersed the serious institutions. And all the studies commissioned by the government on taxpayers ‘ money are conducted by Pro-Western NGOs (non-governmental organizations). ( Your Russian laws were also written by Washington advisors before Putin. I worked in Moscow and I remember very well that time. It is only now you have declared NGOs foreign agents and, of course, Putin did the right thing.)
By 2013, Bulgaria has lost 60% of jobs, was depopulated and turned into a colony under the political control of the EU. The world’s best “tomato republic” even stopped producing tomatoes!
THE FUNERAL OF BULGARIAN PEPPER
The present recipe of the famous Shopski salad consists of Turkish (or Jordanian) “plastic” tomatoes, “peppers” from the Netherlands and Macedonia, onions from China and French cheese. In the local market, there is no more Bulgarian tomatoes, but a lot of Dutch. 80 percent of all fruit and vegetables — imported.
“Our politicians love it when they are invited to cut the ribbon at the opening of the foreign network stores like “BILLA”, “Metro” or “Carrefour”, quips the leader of the nationalist movement Krasimir Karakachanov. “They’re there to talk in their speeches about investment and jobs. However, other people’s monopolies do not work with local products. After all, the Danish white cheese is cheaper than Bulgarian. I have nothing against imported French cheese or wine, but then in the French stores, for example, must be Bulgarian wine and Bulgarian white cheese on the shelves. Shopping malls and large chain stores robbing the country twice. On the one hand, they take money from the poor Bulgarians, and the money flow away to the West, where it works for someone else’s economy. On the other hand, it kills local agriculture, and with it the canning and chemical (fertilizer) industry.
“How much does the French cow farmer get? 1000 euros of subsidies a year,” says journalist Valery Naidenov. “And our Bulgarian cow farmers? So, despite the low price of labor, because of the absence of a subsidy we are not competitive.
“But you have high quality products. Tomatos born in sunny Bulgaria are a hundred times better than anaemic Dutch, “I try to console him, and naively ask: “can you oblige chain stores, once you open the market, to fill their shelves with 40-50% Bulgarian products?”
“What are you talking about?! It’s legally impossible! We will immediately get under sanctions of the EU and the WTO. I always want to cry when I arrive in the Bulgarian town of Samokov, is the heart of potato country. The best potatoes you have not tried! Now they have constructed a “Billa”, where on the counter is… French potatoes! And there is no local.
Burying the Bulgarian pepper along with the tomato, the European Union had encroached on the sacred — rakia (Bulgarian brandy) (illegal alcohol production in the private sector), but then fell silent. It was clear that even timid Bulgarians would not tolerate this abuse of feelings. Rakia (salvation for the soul!) is being distilled in “kazanky” throughout Bulgaria. “A village without kazanka is like a village without a Church,” says the proverb.
THE “KOZLODUY” SCAM
Bulgaria had not just got its arms twisted. The Soviet “ex-girlfriend” was humiliated, deprived of energy independence. Prior to joining the EU Bulgaria has been an exporter of electricity to Turkey, Greece, Macedonia, Albania and even Italy — thanks to Soviet-built nuclear power plant “Kozloduy”. From the point of view of safety, the station worked flawlessly (which proved numerous, tests), but, unfortunately, it was a Soviet plnat (!). And the EU has put forward strict condition: Bulgaria must close four blocks of six, and later to stop the “Kozloduy”.
Another EU directive provided for the replacement of 16% of traditional energy to green — wind turbines and solar panels.
“Bulgaria is not Sakhara to work on solar generators, and not an island in the North sea, where winds blow constantly, “says former energy Minister Rumen Ovcharov. “Therefore, we need the basic energy. In addition, the price of a megawatt of “green” energy is ten times higher than the price at Kozloduy megawatts, but we have to buy it!
But “green” energy — it’s not so bad. The whole economy Bulgaria, mined with long-term onerous contracts.
“In 2001, the government of Prime Minister Ivan Kostov was very keen to show its Pro-Western orientation, and mister Kostov dreamed that the American President shook his hand,” says former energy Minister Rumen Ovcharov with irony. “And it all happened like in a fairy tale. Kostov went to the United States, where he was received by Vice-President Dick Cheney. But suddenly the door opened and George Bush came in. The result of this extraordinary meeting was the signing of unprecedented contracts: two old Soviet — TPP “Maritza East 1 and Maritza East 3″ — were bought by unknown American companies.”
“WE ARE THE VICTIM OF YOUR SHOWDOWN WITH THE UNITED STATES”
“The contract was challenging, but with a twinkle. The government has pledged to buy all (!) electricity from the Americans for 15 years at exorbitant prices and in all circumstances. Even more effectively they dealt with the energy competitors — nuclear project at “Belene”, which is being built from Soviet times and it’s still not completed. In essence, the reactor is almost ready, and the Russian “Atomstroyexport” repeatedly offered Bulgaria comfortable and super-flexible payment terms — just to finish the project. But despite the fact that a huge number of Russian and Bulgarian money was invested in the NPP, Bulgarian Parliament closed the “Belene”, that doomed the entire high-tech industry to a slow death. After all, together with the closure of the Kozlodui” and “Belene” the old generation of atomic scientists will die. The Parliament did not even phased by the fact that angered “Atomstroyexport” has threatened a billion euro lawsuit.”
“We have abandoned a great investment in “Belene” only under pressure from the Americans,” says the sociologist Andrey Raichev. “It was a purely geopolitical decision related to the relations between Russia and the United States. All American politics comes down to the joke: go see what the kids in the next room doing, and tell him to stop. The same logic the Americans: look, what the Russians are doing and tell them that they wouldn’t do that. The US absolutely does not care about Bulgaria, they care about stopping ANY Russian projects. Bulgaria is just a victim for your showdown with the United States. The fate of “Belene” was shared by another Russian project — pipeline Burgas – Alexandroupolis. And the fate of the “South stream” is still unknown.
Why Russia is losing in the Balkans?
“According to opinion polls, 70% of the Bulgarian population are Russophiles, but Russia has lost the political and media battle in Bulgaria. Paradox!”exclaims the journalist Ivo Hristov. “Why Russia conceded victory to the West? The dominant idea in the media is thrown into the masses by the so-called local think tanks (“factories of thought”), which are funded by the US (or seldom EU) money. All these institutions constantly cite each other, and certainly have something “democratic” in their name — the research Foundation of democracy or the Institute for liberal strategies.
They never advertise their Pro-American orientation. On the one hand, it is a declarative naivety (all clear where the money is coming from), and on the other hand it’s an effective, well-developed technology. Russia is asserting its interests through organizations that profess to be Russophile. You feel the difference? Even when Russian and Bulgarian interests coincide, the fact that these interests are defined as Russian discredits them. And the US has usurped the field of democracy and are thriving (they’re supposedly not fighting for themselves, but for the common good).
For example, in the history of the Russian gas pipeline “South stream” Bulgaria had nothing to lose, except bonuses. But the whole project was hystericized in the press as “the Russian project in the Balkans”, although it includes many European countries. And things are moving painfully and slowly. Or the “Belene” NPP. People have become a victim of political manipulation in the media, claiming that energy from “Belene” will be very expensive.”
“And this despite the fact that the country is paying the high price for energy from American TPPs?!” I exclaim.
“Yes, understand, people are in captivity of Russophobic hysteria. All arithmetic erased from the blackboard and wrote in big letters “the Energy dependence on Russia.” It’s such a European horror story for children. And a new Bulgarian Pro-Western elite is a parasite on irrational fears.
What is today’s Bulgaria? A sacrificial pawn on the chessboard. But her temporary role is to be a pawn for the blocking of all Russian projects. We serve the interests of others, to spoil relations with Russia and lose money for the transit of oil and gas. But our American friends clap us on the shoulder and say: “well Done, guys! You have democracy!” One Bulgarian satirist very accurately determined what democracy is: “It is not the power of the people. It is the power of democrats.”