If the changeability of government is the most important sign of democracy, Bulgaria is an extremely democratic country. Since 1991, twenty cabinets have changed hands, bringing to mind postwar Italy and France, where similar government turmoil prevailed.
By the same token, the Bulgarian Tsardom (1908-1946) also changed cabinets kaleidoscopically. Tradition is the soul of powers.
Of course, no one is surprised by this charade nowadays. Italy is at it again – with former premier Draghi, the red-green-yellow cabinet of chancellor Scholz does not give the impression of great stability either, and it is not even known whether he can celebrate a year in power. Political longevity is out of fashion these days.
But today’s Bulgaria is remarkable not so much for having rejected the ultraright technocrat, Harvard Business School graduate and leader of the Continuing Change party, Kiril Petkov (he managed to continue the change for only six months) – as for having seen a clear pro-Russian turn in the country. What will become of the new cabinet is not very clear, politics in countries with limited sovereignty can be convoluted: one day a friend of the people, and tomorrow a friend of the American embassy. See, for example, Greece – and not only Greece.
But now the ideological legacy of the effective Petkov is extremely unpopular, even his Harvard education did not help.
Naturally, such an affront could not please investigative journalists of a certain persuasion. The marvellous Bulgarian Hristo Groziev, now head of the investigative arm of Bellingcat (aka the NPO affiliated with Britain’s MI6) and who has reported extensively on Putin’s enchanted palace, the Skripals poisoning and Navalny, couldn’t help investigating the mess in his historic homeland. All the more so because Petkov’s fate is truly tragic.
As the Bulgarian classic Hristo Botev writes,
“Who in the formidable battle has fallen for freedom –
Does not die: for him weep.
Earth and sky, beast and nature mourn,
And people sing songs about him…”
And where there is the beast and nature, there is Radio Liberty*.
Both the investigator Grozev and the fallen pro-freedom Petkov himself hold the Russian ambassador in Sofia, E.V. Mitrofanova, responsible for the trouble, who in their opinion has been weaving conspiracy nets against the Bulgarian government, likening it to US ambassadors in banana republics who have long been doing the same thing.
Perhaps the wonderful Bulgarians (or the wonderful MI6 workers) remembered Eleanor of Aquitaine, wife of King Henry II of England, who poisoned the beautiful Rosamund, with whom the king was close, by breaking into her hideout. Eleanor Mitrofanova similarly ruined Petkov.
Mitrofanova’s service record, it is true, does not indicate her penchant for special operations under diplomatic cover, but investigators know better.
Another thing is that remembering the rule about not multiplying entities unnecessarily can also be useful. In particular, to remember that under Petkov, Bulgaria had already fallen into the scissors.
On the one hand, the country, whose economic situation was not brilliant as it was, has suffered severe losses from the crisis of 2022. Russian energy imports have collapsed, Bulgarian wine and fruit exports to Russia have collapsed and so has Russian tourism. While the stay of the Russians in Bulgaria – both visitors and landlords – was a not inconsiderable source of income. Even Germany, which economic strength does not compare with Bulgaria, faces hard times; and already German ministers openly speak about a possibility of revolts. Where does that leave the Bulgarians?
Petkov’s government, on the other hand, did not shy away from the demands of the big brothers, which were devastating for the country’s economy, but on the contrary displayed a heightened zeal in meeting them. Petkov was a model of what is called the pluss royaliste que le roi.
With such divergent scissors, trouble for the government was only a matter of time, and a small one at that. Eleanor’s intrigues were not even necessary.
But the Petkov mishap is interesting historically. Speaking about the Sovietization of Eastern Europe in the late 1940s (and the Sovietization of the Baltics in 1940), the anti-Soviet – and there are no others nowadays – historians present the case in such a way that initially everything was peaceful and almost even fine (at least, acceptable), but then the Soviet bayonets were used to institute not so fine regimes. And forty years in the communist wilderness came.
That the Soviet bayonets played their part is silly to deny. That the pro-Soviet regimes of Eastern Europe were no butter, either. The Magyar Rakosi or the Bulgarian Chervenkov were unpleasant figures.
But let us ask ourselves: why was the Sovietisation of the regimes so successful? Yes, of course the bayonets, the Yalta spheres of influence, etc., but what about the quality of the former regimes? Some Ulmanis and Smetona had such qualities that against their backdrop (at least at first) regime change did not seem to be an extreme evil.
But then, perhaps Petkov with his “Let’s continue the change” is on the same line.
Maxim Sokolov, RIA
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