Bulgaria - May 9, Bateto and the Legacy of Communism

Editorial |Author: Maria Guineva | May 10, 2011, Tuesday // 10:51|  views

On May 9, Europe celebrates its day of unity and peace and Bulgaria has been marking it ever since it joined the European Union in January, 2007.

However, 20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, in the full-pledged EU and NATO member, another historic event still overshadows by far Europe Day.

In the minds of many Bulgarians from older generations, and of the members and followers of the Bulgarian Socialist Party, heir of the Communist one, May 9 is simply and only the Day of the Victory of the Soviet Army over Germany in World War II.

This year, again, the socialists held a meeting in front of the Monument of the Soviet Army in Sofia, with party leader and ex PM, Sergey Stanishev, saying "for the entire world" May 9 is the symbol of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany. A large crowd gathered "singing praises" for the brave Soviets, waiving red flags, hugging and laying flowers, oblivious to Europe Day.

In a similar bout of communist nostalgia, just days ago, people lined Sofia's streets to pay last respects to flamboyant, Ivan Slavkov "Bateto," notorious son-in-law of totalitarian leader Todor Zhivkov. Officials and common citizens, one after another, talked about the great man he was and the huge loss we incurred as a nation.

While by believable witness accounts, Slavkov had been a generous, easy-going guy with a good sense of humor, and keeping in mind the old saying "speak nothing but good of the dead," such accolades seem strange - Bateto was largely known for being a womanizer and a heavy drinker.

And if these are forgivable sins, what about using family ties with a dictator to live a life of privilege and luxury that was and remains unknown to the majority of Bulgarians; rearing a son prominent for beer drinking and never holding a job, or bringing Bulgaria's embarrassment to a new international level by being exposed by BBC for involvement in a scheme to sell votes in the campaign for the 2004 summer Olympics?

Slavkov did many great things for the Bulgarian National TV and for sports, when he headed them, people say, but couldn't someone else do some even better things if ever given the chance?

Possibly, all those people are simply lauder and better organized as it is the communist parties' tradition, but the truth of the matter is that the bitter disappointment from the 20 years of "democracy," makes many Bulgarians look back at Zhivkov's rule with growing nostalgia.

So, after the May 9 festivities settle, let's come down to earth and remember that the Soviet army not only reached Berlin 66 years ago, but slapped Communism in the face of half of the old continent, including Bulgaria. And that today we still owe the mutras, the remaining power of the ex State Security agents, people like Bateto, our incompetent and/or corrupt leaders, chasing abroad the best of the nation, precisely to the totalitarian years. They are all the legacy of Communism.

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Tags: May 9, Europe Day, Todor, Zhivkov, communist, communism, regime, totalitarian, Soviet Army, victory, BSP


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