August 23: Russia Fears Cancel The Perfect Bulgarian Holiday

Editorial |Author: Henry Rowlands | October 9, 2009, Friday // 19:33|  views

Luchezar Toshev, an MP from the rightist Blue Coalition, put forward what seemed to be an entirely logical and commendable proposal to the Bulgarian Parliament this week – for some reason however it was overwhelmingly rejected.

The proposal was for August 23 to be made into a public national holiday. In March 2009 the EC decided that the date should be a Europe wide commemoration day for the victims of Stalinism and Nazism and Bulgaria has a double reason to mark the day as it is the anniversary of the Ilinden-Preobrazhenie Uprising against the Ottoman Turkish Empire.

The Bulgaria Parliament however cast the idea aside - 13 MPs voted for the proposal with 57 against and 59 MPs abstaining. The apparent reason being that another public holiday would damage the Bulgarian economy especially in these times of financial crisis.

August 23 marks the anniversary of the Non-Aggression Treaty signed between the Soviet Union and the Third Reich. Stalin and Hitler agreed to divide Poland and to carve Europe into spheres of influence. The Second World War began only days later.

The EU’s decision was meant to celebrate the "reunification" of Europe and to encourage member states to promote human rights and civil liberties and to fight all forms of extremism. Special mention is made of the uniqueness of the Holocaust and the need to combat anti-Semitism.

Meanwhile in Bulgaria August 23 is also celebrated countrywide as the day Bulgarians in Macedonia and Thrace rebelled, trying to unify the country as large swaths of territories populated by Bulgarians were left in the Ottoman Empire at the Berlin Congress of 1878. The rebellion eventually failed but some of the rebels managed to maintain a semi-successful guerrilla campaign against the Ottoman Turkish authorities until the Balkan War of 1912 and total Bulgarian freedom.

Deputy Chair of the ethnic Turkish DPS party, Lyutvi Mestan, also recently backed the idea of a public holiday on the day and the truth is that it is a terrible decision by the rest of Bulgaria’s politicians to fail to recognize the day in the way that it should be recognized.

They obviously made the wrong choice but is there a secret reason behind it?

• The number of victims of the communist regime in Bulgaria has been estimated at anywhere between 2 700 and 30 000.

• Bulgarians are generally all on the Black Sea coast or in Greece on official vacations or unofficial holidays at this time of year, so the argument that an official public holiday could damage the econonomy has no basis.

• Public holidays relax the country’s work force and have been shown to actually produce a good economic result in days following them.

All these points don’t seem to have been taken into account and maybe Russian pressure is to blame! The Russian government was vehemently against the EU decision to mark the day and in the current situation where Bulgaria is negotiating a number of Energy projects with the Russians it may have been seen by the Bulgarian MPs as a bad time to upset them.

Bulgaria may rely on Russia to fund the Belene Nuclear Power Plant, the Burgas –Alexandroupolis gas pipeline and have already agreed to take part in the Russian backed South Stream gas pipeline. The question is has the Bulgarian state given in to outside interests when deciding against a much needed day off work for the overworked Bulgarian population?

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Tags: Ilinden-Preobrazhenie Uprising, August 23, victims of Stalinism and Nazism


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