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  Firm foundation of the “bronze soldier” in Bulgaria

Povilas Þielys
2008 06 05

Although not a single soldier of the Red Army troops was killed in Bulgaria during the World War II, the country is considered to be an unofficial leader of the Central and Eastern Europe by density of monuments to soviet soldiers. According to historians, a big number of „bronze soldiers“ in this country is related to the desire of communists, who dominated in Bulgaria after the war, to curry favor with Moscow.

In 2004 Bulgaria joined NATO, and in 2007 the European Union. It seemed that it finally disengaged from the embrace of Russia, but recent events show that Bulgaria’s cooperation with Moscow has recently become very intensive (first of all in the sphere of energy). The Bulgarian Government has „bound“ its country to the Russian gas (South Stream gas pipeline project), oil (Burgos–Alexandropoulos oil pipeline project) and nuclear fuel (a project for construction of new reactors in the Belen nuclear power plant). The Bulgarian media is full of statements that after the withdrawal of the anti-communist I.Todorov’s government in 2001, relations with Russia were gradually improving and currently reached the peak.

The Russian delegation with its leader V.Putin paid a visit to Bulgaria in January 2008. They signed a number of agreements on joint energy projects and „opened“ the Russian Year in Bulgaria. The visit took place at the very beginning of celebration of 130 years anniversary of Bulgaria‘s liberation from the Ottoman empire, and this liberation is directly related to Russia‘s victory against the Ottoman empire in the war of 1877–1878.

Although after World War II Bulgaria was a loyal USSR satellite and was not independent politically, economic and social modernization did take part in the country, including significant increase of the urban population.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, market reforms did not go smoothly in Bulgaria and the gap between the rich and the poor also increased. Therefore, it is no wonder that quite a big number of citizens of Bulgaria are more and more sighing for the communism. According to the sociological surveys, in 2004, 29% of respondents acknowledged their nostalgia to the soviet times, in 2005 – 34% and in 2007 – even 38%.

Gratitude for the liberation from the Turkish yoke, nostalgia for the soviet times and a feeling of the Slav brotherhood are the factors by which fellow-feelings of Bulgaria towards Russia could be explained. According to the survey of the U.S. Pew Research Centre of 2007, Bulgaria evaluated Russia more favorably than other new EU Member States.  Pursuant to the data of Pew Centre, the energetic dependence of Bulgaria on Russia does not worry 53% of the population.  The majority of Bulgarians do not think that they should be concerned about the Russian policy towards neighboring countries.

Despite the above fellow-feelings towards Russia, Bulgaria has also distinguished with its pro-American behavior on the international stage. Bulgaria is considered one of the most loyal U.S. allies in the Central and Eastern Europe. It joined the NATO nearly three years earlier then the EU.

The Bulgarian troops take part in the missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the American troops are dislocated in three Bulgarian military facilities. Leaders of the country support the U.S. plans to deploy the anti-missile defense elements in Europe, Bulgaria acknowledged Kosovo‘s independence and signed the letter of ten NATO states to NATO Secretary General where the Alliance was urged to provide Ukraine and Georgia the action plan for membership.

In conclusion it could be said that currently Bulgaria tries to keep balance between the East and the West. Sofia tries to use the Russian card in the negotiations with the Western partners, and to draw NATO and the EU cards in the negotiations with Moscow. By doing this the Bulgarian Government seeks to get optimal economic benefit from the race of the United States and Russia on the influence in the Central and Eastern European region.

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