Bulgarians’ nostalgia for communism fuels anti-EU rhetoric

In the run-up to the Bulgarian parliamentary and European elections on June 9, eurosceptic and pro-Kremlin parties attempt to win the minds of young Bulgarians, Euractiv reported.

Bulgarian history professors attempt to educate students about the dark side of the communist era, which is portrayed as a wonderful period in online disinformation operations.

According to a study conducted by the Institute for Global Analytics in Sofia, Bulgarian textbooks have continued to portray Russia in an idealized light and “gloss over the negative aspects” of its role since the late nineteenth century.

Bulgarian courses have only recently been amended to include more lessons about the Soviet era, and few teachers are implementing them.

However, some teachers are teaching kids about the forced labor camp on the Danube island of Belene, where thousands endured jail time and hundreds died.

Similar to the Soviet gulags, Bulgarian work camps were established to re-educate “enemies of the people” during totalitarian communist rule. Many regular individuals were jailed or vilified because they were raised in a “bourgeois” environment or expressed themselves incorrectly.

According to Euractiv, some teachers complain that the labor camps are still mostly unknown and hardly referenced in educational programs.

This is one of the reasons why the idea of the “Russian brothers” who aided Bulgaria “stubbornly persists,” according to Sofia-based Bulgarian history teacher Tsvetomira Antonova.

Bulgaria, an EU and NATO member with strong historical ties to Russia, nonetheless retains monuments honoring the Soviet era. Following protests against its destruction, the pedestal of a monument commemorating a Soviet soldier stays in Sofia.

According to a recent Ipsos survey done for Euronews in 18 European nations, Bulgaria is an “exceptional case” in terms of support for Russian dictator Putin: 37 percent of those surveyed said they had a “positive” impression of the Russian ruler.

During the electoral campaign, disinformation efforts against the European Union were common on social media, saying that the Union was harming Bulgaria’s identity.

Many Bulgarians still remember what they term the “good” Soviet existence before 1989. Many people believe that the country was one of the world’s top agricultural producers at the time, with a high level of innovation.

Tens of thousands of people post their ideas and praise songs on social media, and former dictator Todor Zhivkov’s statements are even available on TikTok.

For young people who did not see or learn anything about crimes on the totalitarian regime and Bulgaria’s transition to democracy, nostalgia for communism is a “funny way” of imagining the past, according to experts.

However, for older people, the absence of doctors in the EU’s poorest member state can be “really painful” because access to the healthcare system covered them better under the communist era.

“Many Bulgarians feel like inferior Europeans, and Russian propaganda is attempting to exploit these feelings by painting a distorted picture of the once prosperous Bulgaria,” Bulgarian sociologist Milena Yakimova, a member of the NGO Human and Social Studies Found, told AFP.

Source: EurActiv.

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