Demonstrations in Sofia – finally a change of mind *

When we decided to move to Sofia everyone told us about the crusty structures of Bulgarian politics. They told us about corruption, resignation, disenchantment with politics, distrust and hopelessness. And in the first few months we could feel and see all of it. There was almost no week in which we haven‘t met a young person who told us about a plan leaving the country. „I want to live, not just survive“ was one of the saddest sentences I heard in the last years.

But now, something has changed. It all began couple of months ago, when the first demonstrations started in summer 2013. The flash point was a precipitous and inscrutable nomination of a politician, the controversial media mogul Delyan Peevski for head of Bulgaria's State Agency for National Security.

Since then, protests take place every single day in Sofia. It is so good and relieving to see all those people who want to participate and who will not longer accept the situation here in Bulgaria. To accept that politicians decide for their own benefit. Unfortunately, there are fewer and fewer protesters out there, maybe it's due to the bad weather but I fear that a big part of them has already resigned again. The government in any case, decided to sit this out rather than talking to the people.

There is one group of the protesters called „Early Risers“. They are students who really do some creative and well-thought-out protests and happenings and who keep on track of it the whole time. I really hope that they won't give up and that they will win more and more sympathizers over. Maybe I’ll try to have a little interview with one of the founders of the „Early Risers“.

Here are some impressions of the last months regarding this whole topic:

The student group „Early Risers“ has occupied parts of the university and shows their flag, a black fist on a yellow background.

This was one of the roughest nights during the last months. The protesters tried to get access to the parliament by ripping off the protective grating. The police responded very hard and determined, there were several arrests. In addition, the police pushed the demonstrators back farther with a superiority of manpower and destroyed several posters and stalls of the protesters. They also brought some water cannons into position, which was totally exaggerated. Fortunately, the situation has relaxed and they did not use them. As we live in the very center of Sofia, we always sit front-row. The car on the last photo belongs to us, luckily it was still working the next morning. Well, that would have been different in Berlin or Hamburg…

This was quite a strange one… The governing party (Bulgarian Socialist Party, BSP) itself announced a big demonstration to declare their own legitimacy. A kind of counter-demonstration. And indeed, it’s true that this party was elected by the majority of the people themselves, although it is the successor to the Bulgarian Communist Party, which has brought so many bad things to the country. But anyway, on this day the BSP decided to bring thousands of people from the suburbs and small cities to Sofia so that they can demonstrate for them. This was pretty bizarre, because I saw round about 40 buses full of rural population driving straight through the city. It was an adventurous mix of modern coaches, old school buses and broken old bangers. The people from the buses all looked very little motivated, as if they were little interested in the demonstration. Many journalists were of the opinion that the government had bought these people, that they were payed to attend the protests. I must say that I had exactly the same impression.

Currently, the demonstrations are getting smaller and the government respond though greatly exaggerated on these people. Even small gatherings will be blocked by the police immediately. 

* Please note that this is just my very own experience and impression of all that. I am not an expert in politics or the Bulgarian population. Being a foreigner, who lives for only a few months here in Sofia, I am well aware that I’m able to understand only a fraction of the circumstances. This is just my very own point of view.

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