Russia Lashes Out at Bulgaria FM over Article

Diplomacy | March 12, 2016, Saturday // 09:01|  views

Maria Zakharova, Russian Foreign Ministry?s spokesperson. File photo, EPA/BGNES

An article published by Bulgarian Foreign Minister Daniel Mitov in a mass-circulation daily sparked outrage from Russian Foreign Ministry's Spokesperson Maria Zakharova on Friday.

At a press briefing [RU] on Friday, Zakharova called "inappropriate" references to Russia, used in the article, as "a traffic cop" for Bulgarian memory and history.

Noting the presence of Bulgarian journalists in the hall, she said she was to broach a "not very pleasant" issue.

Referring to the article, which appeared in the eve of Bulgaria's Liberation day on March 3, she said "anti-Russian accusations coming from individual politicians" who are not taking into account the opinions of their own people, evoke, in her words, a steady feeling of "dej? vu".

With all due respect to the office assigned to Mitov, there are "moments of provocation" in his article titled "Bulgarian Memory and History Do Not Need a Traffic Cop", Zaharova noted.

She said such descriptions were inappropriate to Russia in themselves and within the context of "our common holiday", the Liberation, adding Russia and its citizens would never show disrespect for or patronize Bulgarian people and their history.

Zakharova disputed Mitov's claims that volunteers from Finland, Belarus, and Ukraine also fought for Bulgaria in the Russo-Turkish war that restored the country's independence, saying the respective groups were subjects of the Russian Empire at the moment.

"In Russia, it is not accepted to differentiate those perished on criteria of nationality," she explained.

She recalled Bulgaria's successes in the years of 1944-1989, the Soviet era, in areas such as "science, economy, sports" and reminded journalists that in the first years, up until the end of 1940s, there had also been Western political presence in Bulgaria, and decisions had been taken jointly.

In the article [BG], Mitov opined recent remarks by Russian politicians did not add to fruitful dialogue and cooperation.

He also argued Russia was using the tone of a "mentor" when approaching Bulgaria, citing an example of "these days" in an apparent reference to criticism from Russia for a move by Bulgarian lawmakers to set up a special pariliamentary committee.

While acknowledging Bulgaria's gratitude to Russian soldiers who fought for and liberated Bulgaria from the Ottoman Empire, he said one's love for their own people should always be stronger than grattitude to other peoples.

Putting emphasis on bilateral relations over the centuries, he also recalled that Bulgarian scholars, in the late Middle Ages, had made Russia familiar with the Bulgarian literary and religious traditions, helping shape Russian spiritual and linguistic culture.

He also quoted Ukrainian Slacist Yuriy Venelin, who dedicated much of his studies to Bulgaria, as saying: "it was from the hands of Bulgaria that we received baptism, it was them who taught us to read and write, it is their language in which masses are held."

Citing other instances of Bulgarian contribution to Russia's culture, Mitov went on to say that, "since the act of donation brings satisfaction in itself, the Bulgairan people has never afforded to demand gratitude."

Mitov's article comes as the role and place of the Liberation Day in Bulgaria is being called into question by some historians and intellectuals who note equal respect should be paid to other anniversaries such as the Unification (September 06, 1885) and Independence (September 22, 1908). They argue that Bulgaria, while remaining grateful to Russia, should also pay more attention to political moves taken without the great 19th century powers' consent such as the latter two. 

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Tags: Maria Zakharova, Daniel Mitov, Russia, turkey, Bulgaria, Liberation Day


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