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Kenneth Schmidt discusses Bulgarian nationalism, probing its historical origins and political evolutions, while examining how nationalist parties balance globalization and cultural preservation.

From the 12th century to the early 20th century, the Bulgarians were a Slavic, Orthodox people who had to maintain their culture and traditions under the Ottoman yoke. In 1908 they became an independent nation, only to fall under Soviet control in 1945. Bulgarian nationalists must have looked upon the disintegration of the Bolshevik empire in 1989–90 with hope and optimism, but now this land is in the firm control of the neo-liberal technocratic elite in Brussels. These globalists have little interest in the sovereignty, culture or folkways of the Bulgarian people, preferring the chasing of money and power to the exclusion of all else. Still, Bulgarian nationalists have, at least, made their voices heard and have had some influence on national politics.

Bulgaria was always one of the poorer countries in the Warsaw Pact. I remember in the early eighties reading news reports of the authorities shutting off the electricity in Sofia during the evening hours to save on crushing energy costs. After the first post-Soviet election in 1990, a center-right Western-oriented party, the Union of Democratic Forces, took office. The Union of Democratic Forces still exists as part of the GERB-SDS grouping still in control of the nation. There was, at the time of the 1990 elections, no influential nationalist party in the country. From 1997 to 2001, the Socialist Party was in power. This party was mostly made up of ex-members of the old Communist Party. From 2001 onward, the center-right globalist parties regained control and they have had an iron grip on the country since then, bringing Bulgaria into NATO in 2004 and the EU in 2007. It became the conviction of both the elites and the average Bulgarian man-on-the-street that the solution to Bulgarian poverty lay in EU and NATO membership. So, rather than instituting rational economic policies to bring prosperity, Bulgaria farmed out its national independence to Brussels. This strategy, though popular, hasn’t really worked.

Beginning in 1997, a two-party coalition, “IMRO — Bulgarian National Movement,” was formed. This party was a combination of hardcore nationalists and milder national-conservatives. IMRO-BNM very quickly took off like a rocket, taking 137 of the 240 seats in the 1997 elections, making it the party with the most seats. Unfortunately, IMRO-BNM, while part of the governing coalition, was somehow blunted by its center-right partners and it ended up having less influence than its actual numbers suggested. Sadly, in subsequent elections, the party began to falter. By 2017, IMRO-BNP was reduced to 27 members of parliament and after that the bottom fell out. At the moment the party has two seats in the EU parliament and a handful of municipal officials.

In 2005, another nationalist party, Attack!, began to have some influence. Attack! is led by Volen Siderov, a TV personality. True to its name, the party is indeed a very harcore nationalist group. Attack! secured 21 parliament seats in 2005. By the 2013 elections, the number went up to 23. However, after 2013, the party took a nosedive, steadily declining. Since the July 2021 elections, Attack! took no seats and has gained none in the subsequent 3 elections. It is still in existence.

Currently, the only nationalist parties with any real influence on the political scene are “Bulgarian Rise” and “Revival.” “Revival” is the more radical of the two and, interestingly, the more influential. “Revival” is led by a man named Kostadin Kostadinov. Kostadinov was an influential member of IMRO, but became dissatisfied with IMRO’s leadership, in particular that of party leader, Krasimir Karakachanov, and left to form “Revival” in 2014. From its formation in 2017, the party was moribund in the fever swamps until it started picking up steam in 2021, when it picked up 13 seats in parliament. A year later, the party got 27 seats.

Kostadin Kostadinov is a well-educated and interesting man. He holds master’s degrees in Balkan Studies and Law. In 2017, Kostadinov was awarded a PhD in “Ethnography and Folklore.” He has produced numerous documentary films about his research on ethnically Bulgarian enclaves in European countries like Albania, Macedonia and Romania. Angry that the Bulgarian schools had bad quality textbooks on the history of his country, he wrote a textbook aimed at Bulgarian children in grades 1 to 4. He is also the author of Guide to the Ancient Bulgarian Lands, a travelog of sorts about cities, towns and other places connected with important events in Bulgarian history.

In his role as party leader, Kostadinov is sharply critical of homosexuals and Roma.
The party has also led well-attended demonstrations against repressive Covid-19 restrictions.The establishment parties attempted to outlaw “Revival” in 2020, alleging, dubiously, that they had cheated in the area of electoral petitions. Fortunately, the court system found the charges baseless. “Revival” takes a very pro-Russian position, based upon the long-standing religious and cultural ties between the two nations.

The other, more moderate, nationalist-type party in Bulgaria is “Bulgaria Rise” led by former Brigadier General Stafan Yanov. “Bulgaria Rise” is considered national-conservative in orientation. The party was founded in 2022. Before 2022, Yanov was quite active in politics. He was actually acting prime minister for a few months in a caretaker role in 2021. He was also defense minister for a short time. He lost the job when he referred to the conflict in Ukraine last year as “The Special Military Operation.” This was too much for the NATO puppet prime minister and he was fired. Yanov responded by forming “Bulgarian Rise.” In the 2022 snap election, the party picked up 12 seats in coalition with four other very small parties. The party has been criticized for being somewhat reluctant to take positions on a number of issues. Yanov wants Bulgaria to stay in NATO.

As long as the consensus remains that the European Union will somehow revive the Bulgarian economy from its doldrums, nationalist parties will never achieve serious levels of power. As the decades go by, some Bulgarians may prove impatient to get the country moving again without having to depend on others. One thing that nationalists have in their favor is that governments fall in that country all the time and its seems the country is headed for a future where there is no stable leadership because of almost yearly parliamentary elections. Bulgarians disgusted with weak leadership from the center-right may choose the nationalist alternative.

As we “go to press,” Bulgarian elections were again held on April 2nd, after the fall of a coalition government a few weeks previously. There were two globalist center-right coalitions running against each other, one a group of center-right “reformist” parties and another center-right group centered on GERB and its allied parties, The “reformists” were angry that GERB was getting increasingly corrupt. However, both of these parties essentially held the same positions on major issues. Both are anti-Russian, pro-EU and pro-NATO. The Reformists got 25.6% of the vote and the GERB grouping got 24.8%. The best news is that Kostadinov’s party “Revival” got 14.2%, a best showing for that party after their 10% in 2022. The number of seats for “Revival” in parliament will increase. Some people in Sofia were saying that with two center-right coalitions with razor-thin margins between each other, this would make Kostadinov a kind of a king-maker. However the “Revival” leader told the media that he would join no coalitions and continue to build his party, a good thing in my opinion.

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Kenneth Schmidt

Kenneth Schmidt was born and raised in New Jersey. He did his undergraduate work in Political Science at Arkansas State University and subsequently received master’s degrees in Social Sciences and Criminal Justice. He was an adjunct university instructor for ten years in History and Criminal Justice. He worked for over thirty years in government. He is a regular contributor of political commentary to the Freedom Times newspaper and Heritage and Destiny magazine. He is semi-retired and living in the American South.

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Wagnerian
Member
10 months ago

Great information! Are either “Bulgarian Rise” or “Revival” for a better relationship with Russia or opposed to arming the Kiev regime, I wonder? As a nation with Orthodox Christian roots, I hope so.

Kenneth Schmidt
Kenneth Schmidt
10 months ago
Reply to  Wagnerian

Both parties are for better relations with Russia but my impression is that Revival is more pro-Russian than Bulgarian Rise

BulgAryan
BulgAryan
10 months ago

The article is full of factual inaccuracies and misinformation; it seems like it was written by ChatGPT.

VMRO-BND (“IMRO-BNM”) was not formed by a coalition of two parties. It was always one party. Between 1990 and 1999 the party name was VMRO – Съюз на македонските дружества (VMRO – Alliance of Macedonian Societies), and in 1999 it was changed to VMRO – Българско национално движение (VMRO – Bulgarian National Movement). VMRO-BND didn’t receive 137 seats in the Bulgarian National Assembly in 1997, that is total number of seats won by the coalition United Democratic Forces in which VMRO was minor partner. The same applies for 19 seats won in 2014 and 27 seats in 2017 – those were the number of seats won by coalitions they participated in, Patriotic Front and United Patriots, respectively.

Also, “Bulgarian Rise” is not nationalist party at all. It is a centre-left pro-Russian party. Party leader Stefan Yanev is a part of the Bulgarian ‘deep state’ with background in the pre-1989 communist system.

Lastly, the article basically doesn’t say anything relevant about Bulgarian nationalism: nothing is said about major topics of Bulgarian nationalism, about its internal discussions and conflicts, about history of Bulgarian nationalism, etc. The geopolitical position of Bulgarian political parties is explained through the prism of Western European and American Alt Right’s Russophilia, political conflicts inside Bulgaria are interpreted stupidly as a struggle between “two globalist center-right coalitions running against each other”, etc.

Therefore, this is very, very bad article. It would be better if Arktos’ authors would write about topics they know something about…

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