REBIRTH OF BULGARIAN FASCISM

by Anthony Georgieff

As Bulgaria goes on holding the rotating presidency of the EU and the Bulgarian leaders are extra cautious not to do anything that might tarnish their avowedly pro-European image, local as well as international Nazis marched through Sofia to commemorate the day of the assassination of a Bulgarian general, Hristo Lukov, the leader of the ultranationalist Bulgarian National Legions Union, the local war-time equivalent of Nazi Germany's Hitlerjugend.

Who was Gen Lukov? A First World War hero, he was war minister in the 1930s but fell out with the king and retired just prior to the beginning of the Second World War. In 1942 he became the leader of the Bulgarian National Legions Union. He was assassinated by a hit squad of Communists the following year. Under Communism, Hristo Lukov was a non-person. His name was rarely mentioned in the history books because the Communists feared he might be glorified as a symbol of anti-Communism.

However, with the collapse of the regime in 1989, Lukov quickly emerged from the dustbin of history. Like other former East bloc nations, Bulgaria started searching for a new identity in Europe post the Cold War, and like other former East bloc nations many Bulgarians looked into their interwar history for inspiration. Without a doubt Gen Lukov had been a formidable figure, a monster to Communists of all shades and hues, and someone who apparently stood a good chance of rousing the historical pride of the impoverished Bulgaria of the 1990s. His Nazi inclinations and his anti-Semitism did not seem to matter.

Those were the beginnings of the Lukov March. Twenty years later, a number of extremist groupings bearing ominous names such as the Bulgarian National Union, National Resistance, Blood and Honour (banned in a number of European countries), joined by various skinhead and football fan groupings, now hold an annual "Lukov March" through the streets of Sofia. They usually get a sanction for their gathering by the Sofia City Council. In 2018, obviously owing to the EU presidency that is being used for domestic propaganda purposes, the City Council refused to give their blessing, probably under pressure as a variety of local and international organisations, including the World Jewish Congress, protested. But a court overruled and pronounced the rally legal.
It is important to note that Lukov and his ilk are not venerated by unabashed neo-Nazis alone. A motley but vocal group of people, some of them considering themselves to belong to the intellectual elite and many identifying themselves as anti-Communist democrats, genuinely consider Lukov to be a "patriot" rather than a fascist. They are joined by a number of historians of varied competence and political affiliations who produce "evidence" that Lukov and his troops were not anti-Semitic but were mainly concerned with the welfare of Bulgarians, including those in Macedonia.

Even mainstream political parties such as GERB sometimes manifest their anti-Communism by parading nonagenarian former members of the Bulgarian National Legions Union, billing them as true anti-Communist democrats. One of them, who describes Hitler as a "fiery orator" in a video clip circulating the Internet, was even taken to the European Parliament by a GERB MP known for his being an outspoken anti-Communist.

Probably the worst side effect of this kind of rebirth of Bulgarian fascism can be seen in the media. For a variety of reasons many anchors and reporters have served as the mouthpiece of Lukov's champions. In this way they have made Nazism debatable as political opponents argue in TV studios whether Lukov was a fascist or patriot.

The Lukov March is but one indication of the rebirth of Bulgarian fascism. While Boyko Borisov's GERB, which has ruled Bulgaria almost uninterruptedly since 2009, distances itself from the more extremist standpoints of Lukov's supporters, it has nurtured extremism and ultranationalism in their more publicly acceptable forms. In fact, Boyko Borisov's third term in office as prime minister was made possible by his alliance with three extreme nationalist parties: the VMRO, or Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organisation, the NFSB, or National Front for the Salvation of Bulgaria, and the notorious Ataka. In fact, this country's deputy prime minister, Valeri Simeonov, is the leader of the NFSB. His language alone dwarfs the whole of the Le Pen family collectively.

Bulgaria in 2018 ticks most of the early warning boxes. Its nationalism has been powerful and continuing. Its disdain for human rights has gained notoriety especially when it comes to people at risk, such as asylum seekers and Gypsies. Sexism is rampant, and so is intolerance to anyone who is different – as displayed by the acrimonious debate preceding the failed ratification of the Istanbul Convention for the Prevention of Violence Against Women. Like never before, the Orthodox Church takes political stands that are predictably pro-Russian and ultraconservative. Cronyism and corruption are rampant. The media are subservient and controlled. Any talk of checks and balances on the unlimited powers of those in power, including the current prime minister, is but a joke. As Antoniy Todorov, a professor of political science, warns, in this climate virulent anti-Communism can easily turn into fascism.

Europe, in the meantime, is looking the other way. Had this been Austria, where the extremist Freedom Party is now part of the governing coalition, there would have been an outrage. But this is Bulgaria. For what it is, the Bulgarians'd better be left to their own devices as long as they host the EU presidency meetings.

  • COMMENTING RULES

    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.

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

BETWEEN THE FRYING PAN AND THE FIRE
Тhe overwhelming majority of Bulgarians who will go to the polls in June to elect their next National Assembly will do so with one all-pervasive sentiment. Disgust.
WHY DO SO MANY BULGARIANS LOVE RUSSIA?
In the 1990s and early 2000s Bulgaria, a former East bloc country, was an enthusiastic applicant to join both NATO and the EU. Twenty years later the initial enthusiasm has waned.

LIARS OR BEING LIED TO?
Тo understand the current predicament of the Changes Continued political party, one of whose leaders, Kiril Petkov, was prime minister in 2021-2022, one needs to consider the characteristically complicated background.

WITH BOTH EUROS IN THE PAST
In spite of the protestations of the ruling "fixture" between PP-DB (Changes Continued of Kiril Petkov and Asen Vasilev and Democratic Bulgaria of Gen Atanas Atanasov and Hristo Ivanov) and Boyko Borisov's GERB about the "top national pri

WHO IS AFRAID OF VASIL 'SKULL' BOZHKOV?
While Bulgarians left, right and centre are quibbling over the fate of a pile of stones crowned by some sculpted Red Army soldiers in central Sofia, the state prosecution service quietly terminated a case started by Vasil Bozhkov, one of this country's weal

RUMOURS OF GERB'S DEMISE TURN OUT TO BE PREMATURE
Polling agencies got it wrong again

CHURCH OF DISCONTENT
Colourful and gilt-domed, looking like a toy, the St Nicholas the Miracle-Worker church in central Sofia is known to Bulgarians simply as the Russian Church.

PP-DB'S FALSE STARTS
Notwithstanding the amendments to the Constitution proposed by Nikolay Denkov's "fixture" (the word he uses to describe the government), several bits of legislation put forward by the rulers and quickly voted into law have raised eyebrows and prompted a sig

UPS & DOWNS OF BULGARIAN ANTISEMITISM
А crudely-cut cartoon circulating on social media shows Former Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi, who is Jewish, being held by two Nazi-clad soldiers. The text (in Bulgarian) reads: "If you don't want Russian gas, we will give you some of ours."

IT'S THE HISTORY, STUPID!
In 2013, when the Inland Revenue agency started a probe into alleged wrongdoing by then President Rosen Plevneliev, he famously excused himself: I am not a Martian. Plevneliev had been a minister for Boyko Borisov.

BYE-BYE, IVAN GESHEV
Three years after the event, the massive street protests that blocked the traffic in Central Sofia in the course of months, in 2020, seem to have achieved their original aims.
END OF 'MAFIA STATE'?
If anyone believed that the CC-DB, or Changes Continued-Democratic Bulgaria alliance, who lost the April election and are now the second largest party in the Bulgarian National Assembly, were serious in their declared and oft-repeated pledges they wanted to