Between NATO and nostalgia: Bulgaria is turning into a country of impoverished marginals

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Between NATO and nostalgia: Bulgaria is turning into a country of impoverished marginals
Between NATO and nostalgia: Bulgaria is turning into a country of impoverished marginals
2 September, 14:05Photo: Соцсети
The political crisis in this poorest EU country threatens to turn into even more marginalization for it.

A few days ago, the influential American magazine The Nation published an article by a Canadian analyst, an expert on national relations, writer Jit Heer, dedicated to the current situation in Bulgaria, a country traditionally close to Russia, but at the same time a member of NATO, and therefore found itself after the start of a special operation in Ukraine in very difficult political situation. However, the socio-economic situation in this country is not simpler. Novye Izvestia gives the main provisions of this article:

At the beginning of the 2000s, Bulgaria presented a typical picture of a post-Soviet state: a devastated province, an obvious impoverishment of public spaces, the predominance of mafia elements over civilians, and young people evacuating to work in the West. In order to quickly integrate with Europe, Bulgaria became a member of NATO in 2004 and the European Union in 2007. At first, by external signs, such as rapid construction, it seemed that the goal of integration had been achieved. But all forecasts were shattered by the national Bulgarian trait - self-denigration and a critical attitude towards oneself. Bulgaria is the poorest country in the EU. In 1985, the population of Bulgaria was 9 million compared to 6.5 million in 2022. The forecast for 2050 is the fastest population decline of any country in the world, to 6 million. As we can see, EU membership has only intensified the drain of hands and brains.

A vote of no confidence in the coalition government of former Prime Minister Kirill Petkov crushed national identity. At the end of 2021, Petkov came to power as the leader of the anti-corruption coalition. Petkov has lived in Canada since the age of 14, where he received his education, an MBA from Harvard, and worked in North American corporations for most of his adult life. Petkov took a tough Western position in the Ukrainian-Russian conflict: he expelled 70 Russian diplomats, refused to pay for gas in rubles, with a strong dependence on Russian gas. Bulgaria and Serbia are the most pro-Russian in the EU bloc.

The help of the Russian Empire in liberating them from the Ottoman Empire in 1878 is still glorified there. For the older generation, Russian was a second language, Russian radio and television were familiar, Russian tourists were an integral part of resort life. The country has a large number of monuments to the heroes of the Red Army who fought against fascism during World War II. True, in 1989, individual monuments to Lenin were dismantled.

According to The Guardian, Petkov "believes that 20% of Bulgarians supported Russia in actions against Ukraine, and another 60% 'do not want to take a firm stand' on this issue." However, in reality, the position of the majority of the population is diametrically opposed to the position of Petkov. Many important representatives of the Bulgarian society, being dissidents under communism, remain in opposition to the new NATO world order. In their opinion, the leader of the country has lived abroad for too long to understand the Bulgarian realities. They believe that the Bulgarians should not sacrifice their own interests and good relations with Russia to the interests of NATO. The political crisis in Bulgaria is a battle of opposing points of view on the country's national pride. According to Petkov, Bulgaria will gain strength by supporting NATO's position. The majority of the population believes that this will only weaken the country.

The anti-corruption reform that brought the Petkov coalition to power is now buried under the rubble of a Russian special operation. The population continues to experience frustration about the long-term prospects of their country with rampant corruption. At the same time, Bulgaria is ideally placed to serve as a conduit and cultural bridge between Russia and the West. The termination of the special operation is not yet foreseen, but it is a necessary condition for an optimistic scenario for the future. With the newest version of the Cold War in Europe, Bulgaria will face even greater marginalization.

Translation by Alina Oranskaya

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