Bulgaria 25 Years On: Cynicism Reigns

By Milena Hristova         November 10, 2014   


Bulgarians mark on November 10, 2014 the twenty-fifth anniversary since the communists overthrow without festivities and with cynicism that people from the other former Warsaw Pact countries would find hard to understand.


Why the lack of enthusiasm and events on such a historic day?


Firstly, there is a stronger than ever notion of November 10 coup not as a democratic act, but as a deliberate plot, engineered by the communists so that they can retain their power. Even Bulgarian dissidents, regardless of how small their number and divided their ranks, were created by the State Security and implanted in society, the allegation goes.


Secondly, there is a stronger than ever notion that ever since 1989 Bulgaria has been going in circles – both in political and economic terms. The recent banking disaster, plotted and executed on the home front, just made stronger that sentiment as it revived the ghosts of the nightmare banking crash of 1996-97.


On top of that Bulgaria's new Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, who came into office last week, is the very same prime minister who was kicked out of office in February 2013 under the pressure of street protests by the country's increasingly poor citizens.


November 10 1989, brings to my mind pictures of hugging people and wine flowing in abundance. Euphoria that later turned into disenchantment with democracy. A sense of intoxication in the air that later turned into a never-ending transition period and fatigue. Former communist apparatchiks who turned into mafia bosses and millionaires. A Moscow satellite that turned into a Moscow stronghold.


It is this what-on-earth-were-we-thinking attitude, this strong asymmetry between expectations and reality that make Bulgarians not celebrate November 10.

But there is something else too.


Before the collapse of the communist regime Bulgarians dreamed of democracy, socialist-style - the affluence of the west, combined with the equality of the east.


That's the reason why many Bulgarians still idealize the past, picturing the 33-year rule of the communist dictator Todor Zhivkov as a golden era when thrown against the background of crime and corruption that followed afterwards.


Could it have been different?


No, it could not have been different, with the coup actually being a set-up by the top brass of the former Communist party, the opposition so young and the capacity of the people so limited.


Is there a light at the end of the tunnel for the land of conspiracy, populated by a bit too many betrayers?


I prefer to see the glass half full, but there are a few must-dos.


One of that is an open and brave discussion about what happened and who did what. This is what the western partners of many Bulgarian businessmen also want to know and this is what matters big time in today's world.


If those shiny shoes-shiny car local businessmen think they can do whatever they want - just like they did during the first twenty years of Bulgaria's transition to market economy - they are gravely misled.