Every single evening, for the past 17 days, thousands of Bulgarians have been going out on the streets in protest. Their indignation was originally sparked by the newly-elected government’s appointment of a well-known oligarch and media mogul with shady but seemingly well-established links to the mafia as chief of the State Agency for National Security*. After his appointment was quickly retracted, the public outrage did not just end but continued and grew into widespread demands – with nightly and more recently, morning and day-time protests, for the government to resign, which it seems to be ignoring.
Being away from Sofia while all this is taking place has been hard and not a little frustrating, but I’ve been trying to follow these momentous developments from afar, via official reports in the Bulgarian media, as well as friends’ updates on facebook and twitter. (A big thanks goes out to my friend Kati for sending me this post’s picture!) It’s also been quite frustrating to notice the international media’s almost non-existent interest in reporting on the Bulgarian protests (which Petya Kirilova-Grady explains eloquently in this piece), although they seem to be slowly catching on (as this article in the New York Times testifies).
I don’t feel really qualified to analyze the reasons people are protesting, or to predict the possible outcomes of this wave of publicly and unwaveringly demonstrated dissatisfaction, but – as I read and think about all this, I keep being reminded of something my friend Yana wrote about (and I summarized in English here) more than a year ago – about the difficult choice that many Bulgarian have made to stay and live in Bulgaria, while it continues to be a place where “many things have not changed: the mafia guys, the insolent politicians, the absurd outrages (as much as you might fight against them), the sell-out media, the apathy, the baseness, the envy, the hate, the ocean of fools and losers that splashes right under your window.” It now occurs to me that the incidents that sparked the street marches are just symptoms of a situation that not only remains unchanged but seems to be getting worse and that for many of the people on the street, these protests must be the latest and possibly the last attempt to transform Bulgaria into a place where one could live normally and with dignity.
*The Bulgarian abbreviation of the agency’s name is ДАНС – pronounced ‘DANCE’, which gave birth to the clever hash tag #ДАНСwith me, used as a tag for movement not just in social media but also in its overall identity.