European and pro-Russian sentiments clash in Bulgaria
Philosopher and political writer Angel Grancharov told The Ukrainian Week about fundamental issues behind current politics in Bulgaria
U.W.: Ukraine has complicated relations with Russia. But Bulgaria is located farther away from the Russian Federation and has already become part of the European Union. Do you feel the Kremlin's influence in your country?
Yes, and more than we want to. That we are quite far away from Moscow does not help. Our history in the past 134 years, after liberation from Turkish rule, convincingly shows that imperial and Soviet Russia is the most perfidious enemy of Bulgaria’s independence. It has always viewed our country as its Transdanubian gubernia. There was even a saying: “A chicken is not a bird, and Bulgaria is not abroad.”
When the non-communist government, led by Ivan Kostov, finally came to power in Bulgaria in 1997-2001, it took the first steps in order to free the country from centuries of Russian domination and resolutely chose a different geostrategic orientation – a pro-Western one. This was the exact time when Russian special services and agents posted to our country received an order from Moscow: Do everything possible to bring Bulgaria back into the sphere of Russia's Imperial hegemony and rule.
Essentially in order to thwart another mandate being given to this government, the KGB and its agents in Bulgarian communist-dominated security agencies decided to go for broke and brought former Tsar Simeon of Bulgaria to power. As we understand now, he had the most intimate relationship with the KGB for a long time. But even he failed to turn back the clock. As hard as he tried, he failed to fulfil the Kremlin's orders, and Bulgaria became first a NATO member and then a member of the EU.
Then the Kremlin came up with a crafty plan to turn Bulgaria into its own Trojan horse in NATO and the EU in order to counteract European integration from the inside and fight against the “enemy.” Unfortunately, I have to admit that this policy has been successful. Agents and promoters of the Russian imperial policy are called rubladziys, i.e., ruble receivers, in Bulgaria.
The key mass media outlets and Bulgaria are controlled by the Kremlin's people. Former communists, who are at the same time Russophiles and linked to the Russian mafia, are now represented in the economy as “capitalists.” The state is completely dependent on Russia for energy. Our political parties include many national traitors who call themselves “true nationalists” but who are in fact committed to Moscow and receive payment from Russian secret services.
Russian agents have enjoyed a complete monopoly in Bulgarian political life for the past 10 years. Following the example of United Russia, a police-KGB political force was set up (and is now ruling) under the misleading name “Citizens for the European Development of Bulgaria” (GERB). Another major political force, the former Communist Party, consists of people which have betrayal of the national idea in their DNA.
There are other, smaller, parties whose leaders are also paid in Russian rubles. We even have our own Zhirinovsky. In other words, Bulgarian politicians have copied from Russia not only a model of society run by the KGB and oligarchs but also its political form, its shell. The leader of GERB, Boyko Borisov, was found, sponsored and promoted by the KGB. He is a former guard of communist dictator Todor Zhivkov and is said to have links to the criminal world. He has strong connections with Russia’s government and KGB mafia. So our situation is really quite tragic.
Here is one very important and relevant example that shows the harmful role played by Putin’s Russia in European Bulgaria. The American company Chevron began explorations searching for shale gas in Bulgaria. In fact, it did not even start exploration. It was only going to do so based on agreements with the Bulgarian government. And then suddenly “green activists” and “environmentalists” took the stage. Well-organised and financed from some underground centre, they held suspiciously synchronised rallies in all cities against these explorations. Every thinking person in Bulgaria understood that this was a campaign against Bulgaria's energy independence paid for by Gazprom, or, in other words, the Kremlin.
The Borisov government immediately banned both the exploration and extraction of shale gas in the future. So, you can see that Russian agents view Bulgaria merely as an addendum to the Russian Federation. Furthermore, Putin recently made a brazen statement by suggesting that Bulgaria pull out of the EU and join his own Eurasian miracle-working union. The autocratic Russian president is looking at Bulgaria as his own private domain rather than a sovereign state!
U.W.: In one of your articles you wrote that there are two Bulgarias: “One Bulgaria is a European, dignified and independent country whose citizens love freedom above all else. The other Bulgaria kowtows to the USSR and Putin’s Russia. Its citizens want to have their own Putin, while their most cherished dream is for Bulgaria to become the Transdanubian gubernia of Russia.” In other words, your country can now be divided into European and non-European parts?
This is true. There is a struggle both in history and in present times between two orientations: Western (pro-European) and “Slavophile” (pro-Russian). It is a struggle between the Western culture of free individuality, personal sovereignty and dignity and, on the other hand, the Hunnic, Asian, horde-like and commune culture.
These are two incompatible value systems and mentalities. Unfortunately, there is something that greatly hinders the true integration of Bulgaria in the Western, European world: large sections of the population are victims of many years of Russophile and Communist propaganda and believe that the Russian Federation is our “closest friend” and “big brother.” Meanwhile, the truth is the exact opposite: Russian imperialism is the sworn enemy of Bulgarian freedom and dignity.
It seems to me that there is an ominous balance of power in Bulgaria today – a balance between pro-European and, on the other hand, pro-imperial, pro-Putin and pro-Russian citizens. This is very dangerous, because all paths for the development of the country are blocked in this situation. That is why we are in a permanent crisis and are the poorest country in the European Union.
U.W.: Bulgaria’s national school network in which Russian is studied as a foreign language is a tribute to the past or a hindrance for European integration?
It is both. It is good to study foreign languages, but when this becomes a tool for subjugating another country, of course it is a very bad thing. Incidentally, a decreasing number of young people are studying Russian. I'm not against the Russian people, its spiritual culture or language. The only thing that I and people like me are against is Russian imperialism, which is Putinism today.
U.W.: Your country has been in the European Union and NATO for five years, but it seems like it is too early to say that it has completed the path to European democracy. Would you agree?
In view of what has been said, yes. A young democracy was taken by Russian and Bulgarian KGB officers in their own interests to the other extreme. Bulgaria is now an oligarchic and already autocratic, rather than democratic, country. A vulgar and boring “democratic” show is simply being played in Bulgaria today in order to make the public even more averse to democracy.
The result is that most of the naïve citizens now hate democracy, dream about a leader with a “strong hand” and believe that he has been found. Borisov is our Bulgarian Putin. The situation is critical. It seems that we can soon be expelled from both the European Union and NATO. Countries like Bulgaria have no place there.
U.W.: Your book Bulgarian Soul and Life is an innovative analysis of national historical consciousness and psychological complexes. So how do you think Bulgarian society can overcome its “Russia complex”?
It only takes thinking and morals. The “Russia complex” is essentially a myth about the “big brother” and “eternal brotherly love.” In other words, it's lies. So, above all, we need to start thinking. We need enlightenment. We need to talk a lot with young people, because the older generation is infected with Soviet mentality and cannot be changed.
Philosopher and political writer Angel Grancharov was born in Dolna Banya, Sophia Province, Bulgaria. He obtained a diploma in philosophy from Leningrad University in 1983. He worked as a philosophy teacher in Paisi Hilendarski Plovdiv University. In 1992, he set up the HUMANUS Centre for Personality Development which worked out the concept for and implemented a number of initiatives towards a full reform of Bulgaria’s education system. He has led the centre since its inception. Grancharov has authored numerous books on philosophy and psychology, as well as works on the philosophy of history and politics in Bulgarian and European context: The Life of Soul: Psychology, The Universe of Freedom, The Art of Thinking, The Mystery of Life, The Art of Living: The Ethics of Dignity, Eroticism and Freedom, The Art of Freedom, A Lecture Course in Philosophy, Bulgarian Soul and Life and others.
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