FORUM

WHY BULGARIANS ARE LEAVING BULGARIA

You don't have to be in the construction business, or in any other sort of business for that matter, to see that Bulgaria over the past decade has increasingly experienced workforce shortages in anything from service personnel in the restaurants and the hotels to qualified doctors, nurses, teachers, journalists, web designers and software engineers. A trip through the Bulgarian countryside will reveal some unpleasant sites. Many villages that once thrived have been deserted, with their population in many cases numbering just a couple of elderly folk.

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FOOTBALL PITCH OUTRAGE HIGHLIGHTS DEEPER PROBLEMS

Those Bulgarians old enough to remember 1994 are now appalled because in 2019 Bulgaria marked its worst ever loss, 0-6. To add insult to injury, the loss happened in Sofia, at the Stalin-era national stadium called Vasil Levski.

What Europe and the world will remember of that warm October evening when Bulgaria lost 0-6 to England, however, is not the outrageous score. Europe and the world will remember what The Guardian billed a miserable occasion… in a miserable stadium against a miserable opposition played out to a miserable backdrop of recrimination and bad blood.

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ARRIVAL CITY

As an airplane is swooping over a field beside Sofia Airport, two horses and a donkey do not look up, but keep grazing among the rubbish. Shacks made of bricks, corrugated iron and wood encroach upon the field. Heavy lorries with international logos rush by the shacks on the road from the airport and its business park.

This is an everyday scene from Hristo Botev, a neighbourhood bearing the name of the great Bulgarian 19th century poet and revolutionary.

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WHO BROKE INTO NATIONAL REVENUE'S COMPUTERS?

The latest scandal to grip Bulgaria has affected about 6 million Bulgarians. Someone, a computer hacker or a group of hackers, had successfully penetrated the National Revenue databases and stolen bits of the personal details of practically everyone of working age in Bulgaria. Of the 6 million, about 4.66 million are alive and 1.38 million are deceased. The hacked data covered a period of about 10 years. The leak was announced with an email sent from a Russia-based server and written in broken English.

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WHO ARE THE MAIN PLAYERS IN BULGARIAN MEDIA?

Under Boyko Borisov, Bulgaria, ostensibly, has all the trappings of a democracy. Elections, generally pronounced by international observers to be free and fair, are being held once in a while. Freedom-of-speech is a constitutionally guaranteed right. Arbitrary arrests of dissenters are supposedly a thing of the Communist past. Everyone, in theory, has access to justice. There are televised debates, policy platforms, endorsements.

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HISTORY BY PETITION

History school textbooks in Bulgaria, to a lot greater extent than, say, geography or biology textbooks, are regularly the stuff that hacks build their conspiracy theories on. This usually happens at the beginning of the summer for three reasons. The Bulgarian publishers start rolling out new textbooks for the next school year. Politics are usually low key as Bulgarians head to the Greek seaside, leaving their TV sets unattended.

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BULGARIA'S ELECTIONS BOGEYMEN

What will probably go down in history as the dullest election campaign in Bulgaria post-1989 was marked with a single trait. Politicians vying to get into the European Parliament (with all the goodies this entails, including salaries of about 8,700 euros per month plus copious allowances plus good pension plans, and so on and so forth – unthinkable for ordinary Bulgarians or for Bulgarian national MPs) resorted to a tried-and-tested technique to woo voters: scaremongering.

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TO BREXIT OR NOT

I have to confess that I am addicted to Brexit, but in the remote Bulgarian village where I live I am not the only one. Even here, everybody is glued to the BBC news. The future for the hundred or so Brits is uncertain and my Bulgarian neighbours are worried too. Their grandchildren are working in London and Manchester and Birmingham, and nobody really knows how Brexit will affect them. We all gather around the TV to watch the crucial votes in the House of Commons, as if it were a football match. But each time nothing is decided and the soap opera continues.

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NZ KILLER 'INSPIRED' BY BULGARIAN HISTORY

Though his name has been circulated thousands of times on the Internet, this journal has decided – out of respect for the victims and their families in what will go down in history as the deadliest act of terror in New Zealand – to desist using it. As Jacinda Ardern, the New Zealand prime minister, has stated, the main purpose of the self-proclaimed white suprematist who shot at and killed people, including children, praying in a temple was to gain notoriety. This journal will not give him that privilege.

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