Sat, 10/29/2022 - 13:24

Kostadin Kostadinov, the leader of the extremist Vazrazhdane – now the fourth largest party in the Bulgarian National Assembly – announced his associates set up a foundation named after Kostya Kopeykin, the notorious character in Nikolay Gogol's 19th century masterpiece, Dead Souls.

gabrovo carnival
Kostadinov's pro-Russian policies were mocked by participants in the Gabrovo Carnival

Though Dead Souls used to be on the national school curriculum, few latterday Bulgarians, and possibly even fewer English speakers, have actually read it, so here is a short synopsis.

The original Captain Kopeykin character – pictured above in a period drawing by Pyotr Boklevski – was a veteran from the French invasion of Imperial Russia, in 1812. Kopeykin was a war invalid who had one arm and one leg. He was not properly compensated for his losses in the war and his requests were persistently turned down by vacuous officials. So, Kopeykin gathered a band of brigands and indulged in highway robberies, claiming he was stealing from the rich to give to the poor.

Kostya Kopeykin, on the other hand, is a rather pejorative nickname given to Kostadin Kostadinov for two reasons. First, because "Kostya" is a Russified diminutive for Kostadin (indicating his pro-Putin politics), and second – because Kopeykin (from the Russian small coin kopek) suggests where a portion of his income allegedly comes from.

After setting up the Kostya Kopeykin Foundation Kostadin Kostadinov announced it would make annual grants to talented children. It would also bestow an annual prize for what Kostadinov called venal journalism. His main "media foes," which he bills "US-sponsored," are Capital, Dnevnik, Mediapool and so on.

Kostadinov started his political career on a vocal antivaxxer agenda. However, it emerged that the man who professed Bulgarians should go unvaccinated against Covid-19 had himself got a jab with the Russian Sputnik V. The manipulation was so flagrant that Kostadinov became the butt of numerous jokes, one of which was even depicted as part of the 2022 carnival in Gabrovo.

Manipulating public opinion may well become a trademark feature of Kostadinov who now delves into 19th century literature. Captain Kopeykin, according to him, was a "positive character," a Russian Robin Hood worthy of respect and admiration. The literary fact, however, is different. While Kopeykin claimed he redistributed the cash the Russian establishment had stolen from ordinary people it emerged he used it solely for himself. 

captain kopeikinCaptain Kopeykin, an illustration by 19th century artist Pyotr Mikhaylovich Boklevskiy

Issue 193

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