Bulgaria remains the only country in the former Soviet bloc to celebrate the day, 9 September 1944, when local Communists, assisted by the invading Red Army, ousted the last pre-war democratic government and set up a dictatorship that would last until 1989. Scores of Communist supporters, most of whom now call themselves "leftwing", organised rallies throughout the country to mark what the previous regime had hailed as the "birthday of Socialism". The Bulgarian Socialist Party, or BSP, a senior partner in the ruling government coalition, also took part.
Celebrations were held throughout Bulgaria.In Dobrich, which under Communism had been named after Tolbuhin, a top Soviet general, dignitaries laid wreaths in front of the local Unknown Soldier monument, an excellent example of early Socialist Realism.
In Sofia, the BSP city organisation chairman Rumen Ovcharov, who is also Economy and Energy Minister, attended the event to mark what diehard Communists had billed the "9 September Anti-Fascist Uprising."
In Sofia and some other large cities, the opposition Union of Democratic Forces, or SDS, and the Association of People Oppressed by Communist Terror organised rallies to mark 9 September from the opposing standpoint, as the beginning of the end of democracy in Bulgaria. One of their slogans read "Never Again 9 September".
The main rally in Sofia was held in front of the National Palace of Culture, where there is a wall inscribed with the names of victims of the Communist regime, similar to the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington DC.
The Communist regime in Bulgaria was responsible for the severe persecution of political opponents, strict censorship, no freedom of speech, and blatant abuse of basic human rights. Thousands died in Communist-run concentration camps. The crimes of Communism in Bulgaria have never been properly investigated, even though the country has become a member of NATO and is on the threshold of joining the EU as well.
Hit the Road, Cat
Drivers of retro cars gathered in Haskovo, southern Bulgaria, for a weekend motor show. Old Jag owners have their own association and show off their cats regularly.
Horo in Budapest
Scores of Bulgarians and others with a Bulgarian connection danced the horo in the streets of Budapest as part of a project by folk singer Iliya Lukov called “Bulgaria Salutes Europe’s Capitals With the Longest Horo in the World.”
Stilian Petrov (27) was unveiled as Martin O’Neill’s first signing for Aston Villa at Bodymoor Heath training ground. The Bulgarian captain has signed a four-year contract after a £6.5 million transfer from Scottish giant Celtic.
Music for the Brasses
The French Army Band was among those that took part in the Veliko Tarnovo International Military Tattoo Festival, held for the first time on 19-21 September. The bands marched down the town’s main thoroughfare, playing in full military attire. The northern Bulgarian town is known among other things as the home of the Vassil Levski National Army University. Belgium’s air forces’ military tattoo and Ukraine’s Odessa Army Band were also on the bill.
An Orthodox liturgy was held at the Sveta Nedelya Church in Sofia to commemorate the victims of 9/11. Deputy chief of the American Embassy Alexander Karagiannis attended the service, which was in Bulgarian.
Doing the Beaten Track
Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen visited Plovdiv, Bulgaria’s second city, known for its Ottoman Old Quarter and its rich cultural life. Rasmussen was in Bulgaria for an informal meeting of liberal leaders organised by former Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg at his lodge in Borovets.
Opening Up a Royal Church
Following nearly 40 years of unsuccessful attempts at restoration, which resulted in it being wrapping up in ugly plywood and nylon net, the 40 Martyrs Church in Veliko Turnovo was officially opened to members of the general public. Prime Minister Sergey Stanishev (BSP) attended, and so did his fellow party member and Minister of Culture Stefan Danailov. The church was originally dedicated by Tsar Ivan Asen II in 1230 to commemorate his victory over Byzantium. In the 18th-19th centuries the Turks used it as a mosque. The 40 Martyrs Church contains two pillars with inscriptions by 8th Century proto-Bulgarian rulers Krum and Omurtag. A grave discovered in 1972 is thought to belong to Tsar Kaloyan. And here on 22 September 1908 Tsar Ferdinand, the grandfather of former Bulgarian Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg, announced Bulgaria’s formal independence from the Ottoman Empire.
Israelis taking their holidays in Varna made the 100 mile, or 160 km, trip to Silistra, where the Bulgarian-Romanian land and river borders converge, to visit the tomb of Eliezer Papo, an early 19th Century rabbi. One headstone with the Star of David is all that remains of what used to be a large Jewish cemetery which was destroyed by the Communists in the 1950s to make room for a butter processing facility. Silistra has no Jewish population now, but some locals believe that God will hear any prayer said at the rabbi’s tomb. Eliezer Papo was born in Sarajevo in 1790 or 1791 and is considered an important Judaic scholar in the musar tradition. He wrote books on Halakah and was committed to the Kabbalah as well. What the people of Silistra remember him for now is his successful attempt to curb a plague epidemic by setting up field hospitals and quarantine belts. Papo, a doctor and a chemist, would eventually contract the disease and die in 1829.
October is the month of peppers in Bulgaria as Bulgarians prepare for the approaching winter by making home preserves. Along the Balchik-Kavarna road you can buy the produce directly at the kerb.
Americans Mich Nelson of Michigan and Gregory Post of Maryland became the first international crew of a donkey cart in a race held in Gurkovo, central Bulgaria. A total of 21 donkeys were raced in the town stadium in what locals hope will become a tourist attraction.
An international team of ornithologists and bird watchers, many of whom are members of the British trust Volunteers for Conservation, built an artificial island in Lake Pomorie on the Black Sea coast for water birds to nest on. Pomorie, 12 miles north of Burgas, is on the Via Pontica bird migration route.
Bulgaria’s First Lady, Zorka Parvanova, presented textbooks to the Bulgarian school in New York in association with the Bulgarian Consulate General. Established in 2005, the school teaches children from the Bulgarian community their native language and literature. Parvanova, visiting the United States at the invitation of Laura Bush, also attended a White House Conference on Global Literacy.
Members of the “Love for the Fatherland” Association re-enacted Unification Day in Plovdiv. On 6 September 1885 the Kingdom of Bulgaria and the Principality of Eastern Rumelia were formally united, paving the way for the modern Bulgarian state as it is today. The day is a public holiday in Bulgaria.
Priest With a Camera
Who says priests only pray? Father Kliment Ludzhov (64) of Oshtava Village in south-western Bulgaria not only climbs Pirin Mountain, Bulgaria’s second highest, but also takes pictures of everything and everyone around him. Before he became a priest he was a professional photographer and did not consider that he had to necessarily part with all earthly pleasures when he took his vows. His first exhibition of photography was held in the village square at an all-village kurban or ritual downing of a bucket of lamb soup.
More than 500 shutter bugs and professional photographers gathered in Primorsko, on the southern Black Sea coast, for the annual Photo Vacation photography festival. Kodak and Canon were among the sponsors. Natural Canvas This picture is one of the results of a photo workshop held in late May in the village of Dazhdovnitsa in the Kardzhali region in the eastern Rhodope mountains. Young photographers spent a week staying in a former village school, now an art centre, drawing inspiration from their surroundings.
Celebrations were held across the country to mark Bulgaria’s Independence Day on 22 September. In Ruse, local authorities and citizens laid wreaths at the Freedom Monument, despite the heavy rain. This celebration commemorates 22 September 1908 when Tsar Ferdinand, then head of state, read out a declaration proclaiming Bulgaria to be a sovereign kingdom. Up until then it had existed as an autonomous principality under the Ottoman Emperor’s suzerainty. This date is to be distinguished from Liberation Day, celebrated on 3 March, which marks the end of the Russo-Turkish War in 1878 and Bulgaria’s liberation from Ottoman Empire rule.
Matters of the Heart
Actors, local councillors and doctors gathered in front of the Ivan Vazov National Theatre in Sofia to mark World Heart Day on 21 September. Experts say that a healthy lifestyle is the key to maintaining a normal blood pressure of 120/80 mmHg.
Bitte ein Apfel
Germans love apples, don’t they? German Ambassador Michael Geier demonstrates this in a photo taken in Novo Selo Village near Plovdiv, where a horticulture farm was set up in a joint German-Bulgarian venture.
The Perfect Pint
Bulgarian beer producer Kamenitza, part of Belgian brewer InBev, held a competition to find the best beer pourer in Bulgaria. Ognyan Georgiev, a bartender from Pleven in northern Bulgaria, won the title. The contestants were judged on their draught and bottlepouring skills as well as their table-serving protocol. Georgiev will represent Bulgaria at the Stella Artois World Draught Master Competition in October in Leuven, Belgium.
The Germans Are Coming!
Facilities are set to improve dramatically now that a German- Bulgarian consortium has agreed to invest 403 million euros in the airports at Burgas and Varna. The Ministry of Transport signed a concession agreement with a tie-in between Germany’s FRAPORT AG and Bulgaria’s BM Star EOOD on 10 September. With an investment of 215 million euros in Burgas and 188 million euros in Varna, the coastal airports will benefit from new passenger terminals fitted with environmentally-friendly equipment, and staff will receive professional training. FRAPORT Twin Stars Management Ltd was granted the concession tender on 15 June.
An old four-storey building collapsed in downtown Sofia at 39 Alabin Street, near the corner of Lege Street, during the evening rush hour on 19 September, killing two women aged 26 and 24. It is thought that illegal repair works were the cause of the tragedy, and an investigation is underway. In the aftermath of the tragedy, relevant authorities blamed one another, shunning responsibility, and MPs considered extra sanctions, including jail sentences, for owners who carry out illegal renovations on buildings.
Students attending the Magnaura Language Centre in Veliko Tarnovo, in northern Bulgaria, received Cambridge Certificates for Proficiency in English. It is the first time these have been issued to young learners. Veliko Tarnovo Deputy Mayor Yordan Grozdanov and head teacher Svetlana Georgieva awarded the certificates.
Run for Peace
Participants in the International Black Sea Super Marathon arrived in Varna. The runners started the race in Turkey and will visit Golden Sands, Balchik and Shabla en route to Romania, Moldova, Ukraine, Russia and Georgia to highlight “collaboration, consent and peace among nations”.
Simply Simply Red
Mick Hucknall and his band performed in Sofia’s Winter Palace on 1 September. The British band mixed the old with the new, presenting new tracks as well as taking fans on a journey back in time with old favourites such as “Stars”, “If You Don’t Know Me By Now”, “Holding Back The Years” and “Something Got Me Started”. The concert was part of Simply Red’s European tour.
Safe From Harm
A priest gave his blessing to a 40-strong fleet of fire safety vehicles in an official ceremony outside Sofia’s Alexander Nevski cathedral on 18 September. Donated by PHARE, the trucks and equipment will go to regional fire squads in Haskovo, Smolyan, Kardzhali and Blagoevgrad.