WHY DO SO MANY BULGARIANS SUPPORT PUTIN?

WHY DO SO MANY BULGARIANS SUPPORT PUTIN?

Thu, 04/28/2022 - 15:42

Truth, lies, conspiracy theories propagated by 'social media' confound ordinary citizens

anti ukraine protest bulgaria.jpg
Vazrazhdane-organised pro-Putin rally in central Sofia. Kostadin Kostadinov's supporters equate Nazism with... Zionism

Perhaps surprisingly for a country that was once an enthusiastic applicant to join NATO and the EU Bulgaria is now home to a significant number of people who support... Russia's tyrant Vladimir Putin and his war in Ukraine. The pro-Putin Bulgarians even have a political party that represents them in parliament. It is called Vazrazhdane, or Revival, and was quick to abandon, as soon as Russia invaded Ukraine, its anti-vaxxer stance to espouse Putin's propaganda. If opinion polls are to be trusted, at the time of writing the Vazrazhdane party has a bigger backing than some of the older and established parties, including the Democratic Bulgaria alliance which has been perhaps the most vocal in rejecting Putin and his outrages in Ukraine.

How can this be explained? Is the Communist-era brainwashing that the Russians are "brothers" getting a second wind? Is distrust and hatred of the West in general and the United States in particular that some Bulgarians espouse to be held responsible? Perhaps the notorious Bulgarian lack of common sense? Or just sheer stupidity, an obstinate refusal to face reality while clinging to preconceived notions?

As it so often happens in the Balkans there is no single "right" answer to the above questions. To understand why, one needs to consider the type of rhetoric Vazrazhdane and its followers use to justify their support for Putin.

Kostadin Kostadinov, Vazrazhdane's leader, has put it plainly: "When two brothers fight we should not supply one with weapons but try to reconcile them. This is why Bulgaria should not get involved in the conflict." This is a characteristically hypocritical verbal sleigh-of-hand, but it does work wonders on Facebook because it sounds good. Yet, the reality is different. The war Russia started in Ukraine is not between brothers. It is an aggression against a sovereign state whose integrity Russia had vowed, through international treaties, to respect. Sending assistance to Ukraine, both humanitarian and military, is an obligation, not an option. Russia has already declared Bulgaria, alongside all other EU and NATO member states, an "enemy." Perhaps this explains Putin's way of thinking: make some enemies and then attack them to "protect" yourself.

Regarding the massacre of Bucha, Kostadinov maintains that "research" is needed to verify which party is telling the truth. Some hacks in Bulgaria intone as they cite the need to present a "second standpoint." But there can be no second standpoint to a massacre. There can be no second standpoint to either fascism or communism. There is satellite imagery and testimonials that prove beyond any reasonable doubt that the Russian Army butchered hundreds of civilians in Bucha and elsewhere. Bringing on a second "standpoint" to atrocities of that scale is but an attempt to justify it.

"Bulgaria is not a poker to be used by NATO and the EU," continues Kostadinov – and some Bulgarians applaud him. This is actually true. Bulgaria cannot be a poker of NATO and the EU because it is a member of both – with both its rights and obligations. For the first time in recent history Bulgaria has ended up on the right side of the East – West divide, and now individuals like Kostadinov and his followers are angry because they only want to have rights, not obligations.

On a more general note, the current discourse led by people who are not necessarily big fans of Kostadinov and his Vazrazhdane but who are still pro-Russia and pro-Putin epitomises the years of propaganda this nation has been exposed to. Russia cannot be committing heinous crimes, they argue, because it produced Chekhov and Dostoyevsky. You've read that right: intelligent Bulgarians who presumably have read Chekhov and Dostoyevsky use 19th century writers to justify the policies of a former KGB operative and early 21st century warmonger. Using the same logic we should of course absolve Hitler because the Germans could not have committed the Holocaust because Beethoven and Bach were German.

There is more to the issue than the above. In actual fact Putin's rhetoric about Ukraine – it is an "artificial" nation, Ukrainian is not a "real" language and so on – uncannily resembles Bulgaria's own position on the Republic of North Macedonia. The overwhelming majority of Bulgarians support the Bulgarian hardline policy of refusing to acknowledge the existence of a Macedonian nation, Macedonian language and Macedonian history because from the Middle Ages to about 100 years ago they were in fact Bulgarian. Putin is right, they surmise, because if he weren't, we wouldn't be either.

The above views, coupled with the usual assortment of conspiracy theories ranging from how the Americans have a surplus of weapons they have to sell to the "fate" of ethnic Bulgarians in Ukraine who are banned by the Zelensky government from speaking Bulgarian, are being freely disseminated on social media, mainly Facebook. There, users can see, "like" and comment on them. It will not require a particularly intense imagination to see the political and moral morass they have created in a country which lacks basic media literacy and critical thinking.

In the meantime, the government continues to refuse military aid to Ukraine. Economy Minister Kornelia Ninova, the leader of the BSP or Bulgarian Socialist Party, has said she would rather resign or break the fragile coalition currently in power than sign a piece of paper authorising the dispatch of a "single bullet" to Ukraine.

The humanitarian crisis continues. At present, there are about 200,000 Ukrainian refugees in Bulgaria. Many of them have been billeted into seaside hotels. The government pays the hotel owners and disburses a small per diem for the refugees. This is about to end on 31 May, when the tourist season kicks in. Hotel owners are worried about their pre-paid overnights and the government lacks a clear idea of what to do then. And not all Bulgarians have been welcoming to Ukrainian refugees. There have been reports of tyres of cars with Ukrainian number plates being slashed and of protests against plans to put Ukrainian kids in Bulgarian kindergartens that experience chronic shortage of vacancies. 

Issue 187 Ukraine

Commenting on www.vagabond.bg

Vagabond Media Ltd requires you to submit a valid email to comment on www.vagabond.bg to secure that you are not a bot or a spammer. Learn more on how the company manages your personal information on our Privacy Policy. By filling the comment form you declare that you will not use www.vagabond.bg for the purpose of violating the laws of the Republic of Bulgaria. When commenting on www.vagabond.bg please observe some simple rules. You must avoid sexually explicit language and racist, vulgar, religiously intolerant or obscene comments aiming to insult Vagabond Media Ltd, other companies, countries, nationalities, confessions or authors of postings and/or other comments. Do not post spam. Write in English. Unsolicited commercial messages, obscene postings and personal attacks will be removed without notice. The comments will be moderated and may take some time to appear on www.vagabond.bg.

0 comments

Add new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.

Restricted HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a href hreflang> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote cite> <code> <ul type> <ol start type> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <h2 id> <h3 id> <h4 id> <h5 id> <h6 id>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.

Discover More

king samuil
IS IT REALLY ABOUT MAKEDONIYA-A-A?
Slavi Trifonov, the showman and crooner credited with propagating chalga culture in Bulgaria, could not have put it more plainly.

communist bulgaria youth
WHAT FEEDS BULGARIAN NOSTALGIA FOR COMMUNISM?
Some years ago the Pew Research Center in Washington DC produced a survey indicating the levels of nostalgia in Bulgaria surpassed by far longing for the past everywhere else in the former East bloc countries. How come?

pro-russia rally bulgaria
IS PUTIN 'WORLD LEADER' OR SADISTIC VILLAIN?
Russia's invasion of Ukraine has polarised public opinion in Bulgaria. In fact, Bulgaria has emerged, since the start of the war in Ukraine, as the only EU state where public support for Putin remains high.

Satan strategic nuclear-head missile, capable of reaching the island of Manhattan in 20-30 minutes after launch
WHAT BULGARIANS GET WRONG ABOUT WAR IN UKRAINE
Though it has been a member of NATO since 2004 and of the EU since 2007 present-day Bulgaria appears not to be very enthusiastic about any involvement in the war in Ukraine.

king samuil statue bulgaria
BIG MACEDONIAN QUESTION
The "Macedonian Question" is one of those Balkan conundrums that even outsiders with more than just passing knowledge of the history and geography of the region can have trouble understanding.

KEY TAKEAWAYS FROM BULGARIAN 2-IN-1 ELECTIONS
As the dust settles down after Bulgaria's third attempt in a year to elect a government and as the post-election horse-trading begins, there are several key conclusions to be drawn from Boyko Borisov's dramatic downfall and the emergence of the Changes Cont
REFORMS TO BE CONTINUED?
During 2021 Bulgarians have so far gone to the polls twice, in April and in July. On both occasions the sort of parliament they elected was so split that it failed to form a government.
police brutality bulgaria 2020
BULGARIAN POLITICS
What many Bulgarians have known all along ever since the collapse of Communism – that the police force, formerly known as People's Militia has hardly reformed itself during the past 30 years – became painfully obvious with the broadcast, in the house of par

boyko borisov wanted
BORISOV'S DOWNFALL?
Some analysts were surprised, others were not: the 11 July snap election, called in the wake of the failure of Bulgaria's 45th National Assembly to set up a government, returned more or less the same results.

WHERE TO FROM NOW ON?
The month of June, officially the election campaign month ahead of the early ballot scheduled for 11 July, has been extraordinary even in the standard of Bulgarian politics.
WILL BOYKO BE GONE FOR GOOD?
Following the failure of Bulgaria's "short" parliament, which sat for less than a month, to fulfil its basic constitutional duty, form a functioning government, President Rumen Radev stepped in and appointed a caretaker administration.
boyko borisov hospital
BULGARIA'S BALLOT SHOWDOWN
Most public opinion agencies got it wrong. Following a month of an exceptionally tepid (even in Bulgarian standards) election campaign, in which the coronavirus pandemic was hardly mentioned, Bulgarians went to the polls to elect their new parliament.