Bulgaria's Political Identity Described by a Local

While Bulgaria is a member of the European Union and NATO, the political, moral, and cultural spectrums of the average citizens in the country aren’t totally aligned with those of the West. Bulgaria’s historical background creates some interesting and unique perspectives on the world, most of which will be covered in this article.

Socialism and Bulgaria

Perhaps the biggest societal shaper of Bulgaria’s political spectrum is the rule of the Bulgarian Communist Party from 1944 to 1990. A large part of Bulgaria’s population is old enough to remember the communist regime. In fact, when asked to choose a period of the country’s modern history in which they’d choose to live in, 41% of Bulgarians would prefer the Communist era, an equal number to those who choose the current period.

And yet, according to the same study, the majority acknowledges the crimes of the Bulgarian Communist Party. After the collapse of the Communist regime, the Bulgarian Communist Party reinvented itself as the Bulgarian Socialist Party, which is still a major, if decreasingly so, political force in the country. Recently, they criticized the decision to include the study of the communist period into the school programs.

Bulgaria and GERB

The current dominating political force in Bulgaria is GERB, often defined as a “liberally conservative” party. While some speculate the GERB name stands for “Citizens for European Development in Bulgaria,” the party’s name is simply the Bulgarian word for “coat of arms” written in all-caps.

GERB’s founder and leader to this day is Boyko Borisov, who formerly worked as a firefighter, a police instructor, a bodyguard, the Chief-Secretary of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and mayor of Bulgaria’s capital of Sofia. He was also a member of the Bulgarian Communist Party, but that was fairly commonplace for many Bulgarian professionals during the period.

The former President of Bulgaria Rosen Asenov Plevneliev was also a candidate of GERB. He was replaced by Rumen Radev, an independent.

Bulgaria and the Left-Right political spectrum

Worldwide, conservatives are considered Right-wing while progressives are put on the Left side of the spectrum. However, due to Bulgaria’s long history of socialism, the older generation is more likely to be supportive of government policies that would be deemed Left-wing in other countries, Those values are more "traditional" for our system. And yet, the same older generation is very unlikely to be in favor socially liberal movements relating to gay rights, transsexuality, or overall tolerance towards minorities.

In fact, the ratification of the Istanbul Convention, which has a definition of gender as a social construct, has caused a widespread controversy and debate within the country. The scandal introduced the word “gender” as a pejorative in the lexicon of many everyday non-English speaking Bulgarians. The Bulgarian language lacks an equivalent word, as for Bulgarians the biological sex and gender were one and the same up until very recently.

Many government officials like Maria Gabriel insist that the Istanbul Convention is just about protecting women against violence. The main religious organizations – the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and the Grand Mufti were against the ratification of the convention. One priest said that if God wanted a third gender, he’d create it. This brings us to the religious aspects of Bulgaria.

Bulgaria and religion

While the country’s majority of about 60% belongs to the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, religion has a smaller place in politics and daily life than even in some Western countries. The constitution of the country guarantees religious freedom and a secular government, yet Bulgarian Orthodoxy is still legally considered the “traditional” religion.

Bulgaria has a rather big Muslim population, with 7.9% of the country naming Islam as their religion. Unlike some countries in the West, the Bulgarian Muslims are local and have lived here for centuries. Many of them are the descendants of Islam converts during the Ottoman Occupation of Bulgaria that lasted from the 14th to the 19th century. There are also ethnically Turkish people.

Bulgaria hasn’t had a notable religious conflict in its modern history. A small exception is that of a Gpysy imam who was accused of spreading radical Islam and was subsequently released after paying his bail money.

Defining Bulgaria’s Politics

This is a hard task to do. As you can see, this country is a mishmash of different ideas, many of which would be considered contradictory. While in the West many are socially liberal and fiscally conservative, most Bulgarians would fall into the socially conservative and fiscally liberal side of things. In fact, GERB’s definition of “Liberal conservatism” would probably fit best.

More on Bulgarian culture: Learn how to speak Bulgarian

 

 

Alex Dimchev

Alex Dimchev is a writer, editor, and weapons master for EUscoop.com

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