ADDING INSULT TO INJURY

ADDING INSULT TO INJURY

Tue, 11/10/2009 - 11:53

Can the offspring of a Communist regime head up UNESCO or a treasure stolen from the state become private property? Well, yes

irina bokova.jpg
© BTA

Deciding between right and wrong has been an issue from the time somebody first wondered whether the idea of starting a fire by rubbing two sticks together was right. However, a couple of recent events seem to prove that the Bulgarians (and, interestingly, the world) might have lost their sense of judgement.

What was one of the first things done by the Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria, or GERB, MPs after the opening of the new parliament? Did they use their majority to deal with the economic crisis? Or with the continuing problems regarding EU funding?

No. They amended the Monuments of Culture Act. Now the owners of antiquities do not now have to prove their ownership rights with an official document of purchase. Although for decades such "moveable monuments of culture" have been considered to be exclusively state property, this country has dozens of rich enthusiasts who own Thracian gold burial wreaths, Roman statues and thousands of coins. The GERB MPs contested the requirement to prove the origin of an artefact. Ombudsman Ginyo Ganev and the Constitutional Court supported them. The proof of origin requirement, they said, did not conform to the inviolability of private property guaranteed by the Bulgarian Constitution.

Now, everyone who knew perfectly well that they were broke the law when they bought an antiquity from a treasure hunter can declare themselves rightful owners. All they have to do is prove that they have been in possession for five years.

Changing the Monuments of Culture Act may deprive the country of many historical treasures but it only affects Bulgaria. When UNESCO makes the wrong choice it concerns the victims of Communism all over the world. Twenty years after the fall of the Communist regimes in Eastern Europe, Irina Bokova, eminent offspring of the regime in Bulgaria, was elected head of that organisation.

Georgi Bokov, Irina Bokova's father, was a long-standing member of the Central Committee of the Bulgarian Communist Party and editor of Rabotnichesko Delo, or "Workers' Deed," the mouthpiece of the regime. There are allegations that he might have had a hand in the assassination of artist Rayko Aleksiev, in 1944, when he was gotten rid of by the Communists over some cartoons of Stalin. Filip, Irina Bokova's brother, is a former member of the Supreme Council of the Bulgarian Socialist Party, or BSP, and a diplomat known for his rather undiplomatic expressions. When asked in parliament, shortly after the fall of Communism, when the BSP would take the blame for the Revival Process (the forcible changing of Bulgarian Turks' names in 1984-1985), he replied: "We take the blame only with snacks." (In Bulgarian, "blame" and "wines" are homonyms.)

Some may say that Irina Bokova is not morally or otherwise responsible for her father's deeds. However, her whole career was made possible solely owing to the fact that Georgi Bokov was part of the dictatorial establishment. Under Communism, very few "ordinary Bulgarians" could attend the prestigious First English Language Secondary School in Sofia, and then study international relations in Moscow, as Irina and Filip Bokov did. Bokova was foreign minister in the disastrous government of ex-BSP Zhan Videnov (1995-1997), and then was appointed Bulgaria's ambassador to France and Monaco in 2005.

Poet Edvin Sugarev has summed up the situation in one of his articles: "If Irina Bokova was Göbbels' daughter, would she have been elected director of UNESCO so easily and without problems?" For the victims of Communism in Bulgaria, and not only for them, the choice of Irina Bokova for the post was an insult. After all, the person who will take care of the cultural heritage of the world is somebody for whom "law" is a relative term. Before even taking office, Bokova commented on Roman Polanski's arrest with the following: "Polanski is a world renowned intellectual... even though I am not aware of the details, this is shocking."

Issue 38

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