Tag Archive | "Bulgaria"

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Zhelyu Zhelev

Posted on 13 October 2009 by admin

Bulgarian dissident, philosopher, and president, 1935-

“Sofia, Prague, Berlin. Sofia, Prague, Berlin.”

So went the revolutionary refrain of Bulgarian students as they formed a human ring around the country’s parliament building on 14 December 1989, rallying to quicken the pace of reform. The man who launched the chant was Zhelyu Zhelev, the dissident philosopher who would become the country’s first democratically elected president.

Zhelevweb2Twenty years on, the “lord of the ring” (as Zhelev was dubbed in a U.S. diplomatic communique about the December 1989 demonstrations) is spearheading another effort to change Bulgarian politics, aiming to restore the powers stripped from the presidency when he held it.

Zhelev was the central figure around whom Bulgaria’s nascent democratic opposition revolved. In 1982, despite having been expelled from both the Communist Party and the University of Sofia, he had managed to publish Fascism, a scholarly work written 20 years earlier that compared the socialist regime to the Nazi state. It was confiscated from Bulgarian bookstores and libraries, but samizdat copies traversed the Soviet Union and reached China.

In the foreword to a Gorbachev-era edition of his book, Zhelev speculated that multi-party democracy would come to the communist world only after a period of military dictatorship, but time and his own actions belied the prediction. After a period of environmental activism in the Danube town of Ruse, he joined the dissident Club in Support of Glasnost and Perestroika, which led to his revolutionary role chairing the coordination council of the Union of Democratic Forces, the chief opposition movement.

In August 1990, Zhelev, by then a member of parliament, was elected president by his fellow legislators. Bulgaria’s first direct presidential election in 1992 confirmed his mandate. He served until 1997, although his authority was considerably weakened by the ex-communists of the Socialist government in the early 1990s, and his influence further lessened when the Socialists returned to power in 1994.

After leaving office Zhelev resumed the role of public and political intellectual, most notably as founder and president of the Balkan Political Club, a VIP-heavy body of academics, diplomats, and current and former leaders pursuing “Europeanization of the Balkans” as the road to peace and development. At home he is an elder statesman, in which role he has recently taken on the cause of constitutional reform to strengthen the Bulgarian executive.

“A presidential republic is much more appropriate for countries in transition from communism to democracy and the market economy,” Zhelev told the Sofia News Agency in a September 2009 interview. “It is a lot more suitable for solving the tasks they face.”

Daniela Ivanova

Comments Off

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

An End to ‘Doubleness’

Posted on 09 October 2009 by admin

By Boyko Vassilev, Lucie Kavanova, Anita Komuves, Wojciech Kosc, Sinziana Demian, and Pavol Szalai

As we look at how life has changed – or stayed the same – over the past 20 years, TOL correspondents in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia asked people in various professions to describe their working life today compared with conditions before 1989. This collection of interviews with artists is the first in the series that resulted.

Part 1: What does an artist, accustomed to using metaphor and subterfuge under communism, do when the lid comes off? Continue reading …

Comments Off

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Democracies Without Democrats

Posted on 07 October 2009 by admin

Why the reality of post-Communist Europe has not measured up to the expectations of 1989.

By Jiri Pehe

“Now we have a democracy,” Tomas G. Masaryk, the first president of Czechoslovakia, said of his new country upon its founding 90 years ago. “What we also need are democrats.”

These words could be applied as aptly to the post-communist countries of contemporary East-Central Europe. The problem of “democracies without democrats” is as real today as it was when Masaryk’s new state rose from the ashes of World War I. Continue reading …

Comments Off

Tags: , , , ,

Bulgaria’s revolutionary rock heroes

Posted on 05 October 2009 by admin

Shturcite (The Crickets) has been Bulgaria’s most popular rock band since the late 1960s. Their 1990 song “Az sym prosto Chovek” (“I’m Only Human”) became an anthem of the country’s democratic movement, and songwriter/frontman Kiril Marichkov served in the Bulgarian parliament.

Comments Off

Tags: , , ,

Muslim demonstration, Sofia, 1989

Posted on 04 October 2009 by admin

Muslims  demonstrate in Sofia for recognition of their Turkish names, which were forcibly Bulgarianized by the Communist regime. The new government acceded to the demand on 29 December 1989

Comments Off

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Rocka Rolla Women and Rocka Rolla Men

Posted on 10 September 2009 by admin

A Madonna concert in Sofia sparks reflections on rock and pop’s role in the revolution.

By Boyko Vassilev

National Stadium had rarely seen such a crowd. When Madonna appeared, the shouts of 60,000 people erupted. The concert of concerts, which made this 29 August unforgettable for many Bulgarians, began with ticking video clocks and with her, the Queen of Pop, on a throne, receiving the ovation of the obsessed. Continue reading …

Comments Off