Bulgaria, A Beacon of Hope in Eastern Europe

The Cathedral of Alexander-Nevsky in Sofia, Bulgaria

When people hear of Eastern Europe, many are overcome by fear or ignorance. It could be the Cold War, it could be because of the propaganda that feeds a lot of nations via media outlets, or a combination of the two. However, don’t let any preconceived thoughts drive your decision to visit this magnificent country in Eastern Europe, Bulgaria, or as I like to call it, the Beacon of Hope in Eastern Europe. Let me tell you why.

The Culture Problem in Europe

Currently, Europe is not the way it was, a diverse rainbow of cultures, ideas, peoples, architectures and more. Now it is more like a melting pot, but not in this feel-good, no frass, idealist way. Visiting Copenhagen now is no different than visiting London and likewise from Paris to Berlin; once you remove the main languages, some architecture, and monuments, you will see the same people, blend of cultures, and blend of religions. All of these factors diminish and crush the mother language and languages, culture, and religion of the country, destroying the identity of a nation.

Muslim women in full attire in Denmark. (Reuters)

How would you feel to finally go on the trip of a lifetime to a country that you have always wanted to visit only to see it overcome, halfway ruined by misplaced ideas, cultures, architectures, and religions? For example, I’ve always wanted to visit France. Taking five years of studying the language, its history, and culture, I was ready to visit the nation in my last year of high school. I’m glad I never made that trip. It was canceled by a school program that was supposed to take my class there, as not enough students signed to join.

Why was I glad? If anyone were to go to France today, one wouldn’t see France, one would see the aftermath of the institution of multiculturalism and diversity; toxic ideas that muddle the fathering tongue, religion, and culture of nations. Arriving in France, one would see the imminent takeover of a once-great nation, and the replacement towards a disenfranchised and unidentifiable people in a so-called country. One would see minimal French people, French language, and French culture since the types of people that are currently immigrating to France are some of the most tedious to integrate and identify with the French way of life. Most will never come close to ever having the slightest inkling of being French.

The Importance of Identity

This is where I divert my attention to the Beacon of Hope in Eastern Europe, Bulgaria, a country I had the most sincere privilege of visiting in 2019. Even though Bulgaria is part of the European Union, an organization between European countries essentially destroying Europe, you will find minimal detrimental qualities here unlike the other European nations that are self-imploding.

Firstly, it’s the people. The people of Bulgaria just want to stay intrinsically Bulgarian. Nobody should ever deny them this right. In May 2019, I visited the small town of Tarnava in Vratsa Oblast, which is a couple of hours north of the capital Sofia, with my fiancee to visit her family. I was greeted by one of the neighbors. He took a long look at me, turned around and said, “Good, he’s Bulgarian.” Now, I’m sure if I took a DNA test, there wouldn’t be a lot of Eastern European in me, except for a generous amount of Polish as I am mostly German and French. It’s clear that this man identified with me and accepted me for who I am. Since Bulgarians are Slavs and I am a Slav as well, I identified with him too. It was a feeling I never had before, I was extremely elated and looking forward to interacting with more people that are like me.

Finding Identity in Religion

The view of the Russian Church of St. Nicholas the Miracle-Maker from Puskin Park, Sofia.

Bulgaria’s population is Eastern Orthodox by majority with a percent population of 59.4%. The other religions are Islam at 7.8%, Catholic/Christian Others and Jewish at 1.7%, no religion at 3.7% and unspecified at 27.4%. Even though Bulgaria is in fact a secular society, Christianity, to be specific, Orthodox, dominates the nation; it is plainly obvious just by looking around the capital, Sofia. The architecture reflects a certain grandeur, a window to God, so to speak. East of the city center, you will see one of the greatest works honoring God that I, at least, have ever seen. It’s the Cathedral of Alexander-Nevsky. It’s not the largest cathedral, but it is the third-largest Orthodox church in the world. It is intimidating in person but welcomes you with a smiling face at the same time. To its massive facades, to its bold and accentuated main dome, to its gold plates and beautiful decorative mosaics of saints, the Alexander-Nevsky Cathedral is truly a sight to put on your bucket list, and a reminder of the power of unity by identity.

It’s not just about the beautiful cathedral that gives you an idea of Bulgaria’s national identity of Orthdoxical, but it’s also the churches the are strewn about Sofia. Even though much smaller, the Russian church of St. Nicholas the Miracle-Maker achieves the same level of wonder but in a compact size; with the typical Orthdoxical domes and spires. They are typical, but they never become tiring to look at. Especially if you’re at Pushkin Park underneath it, sitting on a bench and enjoying its beauty. One could only imagine the love and care these great people put into their work in order to create something so special.

The reason I mention the churches in Bulgaria so much is simply that Bulgaria wants to stay Bulgarian, and the reality that some of their greatest architectures are Eastern Orthodox cathedrals and churches is an indicator that they cling together in faith.

Source: Pew Research Center

According to the Pew Research Center, only 32% of non-Muslim Bulgarians would accept a Muslim into their family. This just tells you that there is not a divide, rather a unity, a cohesion of common people with similar interests placing their culture and their country above everything else. In this PEW research, however, they indicate that they surveyed 56,000 adults from 34 Western, Central, and Eastern European countries. They do not indicate if they surveyed only citizens, nor do they indicate whether these answers were coming from only ethnic Slav Bulgarians (since Turks, Gypsies, and other demographics also live in Bulgaria either as citizens, permanent residents or illegals) or which parts of Bulgaria these answers came from. The latter is very important since the more liberal ethnic Bulgarians, Turks, and Gypsies live in cities like Sofia, Bourgas, and Plovdiv whereas the more conservative and nationalistic Bulgarians live in the countryside and small towns. Still, from this research, we can conclude a general attitude about the state of Bulgaria and how they think. For example, 60% of Bulgarians believe that religion is a key component of national identity.

Source: Pew Research Center

With the cathedrals, the magnificent churches, the rejection of Islam, and the national identity of religion being important notions of the Bulgarian people. It’s safe to say that Bulgarians treat their religion with the utmost importance.

Bulgaria’s 500 Years of Torture

To really understand Bulgaria’s rejection of Islam, you must get to know about Bulgarian history and how it impacts the nation still to this day. However, it’s not just the rejection of Islam, it’s the rejection of all peoples that are not like them. Remember: Bulgaria wants to stay intrinsically Bulgarian.

Bulgaria, in part then in whole, was previously owned and operated by the Ottoman Turks for over 500 years. In fact, the entirety of Bulgaria was ruled by Turks from 1396-1878 after the 1393 occupation of Tarnovo, the former capital. After that, the Bulgarian people were imprisoned in their own country, treated as second-class citizens in which many atrocities were imposed on them.

One of the worst practices in Ottoman Bulgaria was the devshirme or the capturing of Bulgarian boys given to the Ottomans as a “tax” to raise them as soldiers called Janissaries. The boys would be enslaved, and forcibly converted to Islam, then they would participate in the Ottoman war machine. This means that there were brainwashed Bulgarian soldiers killing their own countrymen. This is the reality of the abysmal nature of the Ottoman Empire.

The devshirme in action. Remember, these boys were ripped from their mothers and forced to go to war against, sometimes, their own kind.

Not only were Bulgarians enslaved and bastardized, but their greatest revolutionaries were executed wherever they were found, including a Vasil Levsky while he was fleeing to Romania. He was caught by the Ottomans at an inn and hanged in Sofia. Levsky is Bulgaria’s hero, one can see his name and portrait everywhere in Bulgaria’s cities. He died for his countrymen’s independence, and the shock-waves of his death are still being felt today. Vasil Levsky preached equal rights to all peoples or egalitarianism and democratic republicanism. Though it seems Levsky never preached the idea of nationalism by blood, many Bulgarians believe that his hanging in Sofia was one of the worst atrocities of the Ottoman Empire since he finally gave Bulgaria a voice and instilled nationalism in their hearts. Only 35 years later, the same amount of time Levsky lived, Bulgaria declared independence from the Turks.

Vasil Levsky, “the apostle of freedom.”

Shortly after Bulgaria gained independence from the Ottoman Empire and after 500 years’ worth of slavery, Turks were finally leaving back to their homeland. According to the Encyclopedia of the Stateless Nations, in 1923-1949, about 200,000 Turks migrated back to Turkey, a move that was encouraged by the Turkish government. Another major wave of Turks measuring 155,000 was forcibly expelled or simply allowed to leave in 1949-1951.

This is something that Wikipedia and other liberal sources shortsightedly call “anti-Turkism” almost as if it’s to allude to some kind of racist or white supremacist behavior. When one thinks of the atrocities that were committed upon the Bulgarian people by the Ottomans, one may think: “What other choice does the nation have other than to expatriate or allow those people that caused 500 years of enslavement to leave?”

To this day, there is a resentment of Turkey, its people, and their culture. In 1984, the Bulgarian government initialized the “Bulgarisation” policies to forcibly change 500,000 Turk names to Bulgarian fashioned names. They were also not allowed to speak Turkish in public nor attend any Muslim ceremonies. After all of these events and the border opening in 1989, the Bulgarisation tactic worked as 200,000 more Turks left Bulgaria back to their homeland permanently.

Boyko Borisov, Bulgaria’s former prime minister, also called the Turks and the Gypsies (Roma) “bad human material.” It’s clear that Bulgaria just wants to be left alone and secure their own destiny.

Borisov stated another problem that is quite unique to Europe, the opinions on this topic are quite divided. Not only did he have a distaste for the Turks, but he also disliked the Gypsies or Roma. Who are they? What is their relation to Bulgaria?

Cultural Invasion of Roma

Gypsies came from the Punjab region of India, they were originally thought to be Egyptians, hence the name Gypsy. They migrated all the way from India into Europe in a classic display of cultural invasion similar to the invasion of African migrants in Western European countries. They flood the European theater by the hundreds of thousands. Often, Roma become significant populations in countries of which they do not belong. For example, nearly 10% of Bulgaria’s population is Roma.

Bulgaria just can’t get away from the invasion of their culture, but the people are banded together in the interest of their own nation. The Roma population just doesn’t integrate and doesn’t share the same values and customs of the Bulgarian people no matter how often they change their names to Bulgarian and speak Bulgarian. Sure, there may be some exceptions to the Roma people, some may integrate well and share the same common interests as a Bulgarian, however, if they truly shared this common interest they would realize that people should be banded with their own kinsmen.

“Bulgarian. They died for you.” – Inscribed on this memorial is of all the Bulgarians from Byala Slatina that died in the 1877-1878 Russo-Turkish War.

I visited the small town of Byala Slatina in Vratsa Oblast, a well-known town where Roma and Bulgarians live together. When walking around in the disheveled parks, I noticed that nobody was taking care of the pathways. Only a memorial to the fallen soldiers during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878 was kept well-maintained.

Then, I noticed something else that was peculiarly out of place. In a town that supposedly housed Bulgarians, I could only see Roma walking about, shopping, and socializing, however, it was difficult to find even one Bulgarian, or a group of Bulgarians visiting a cafe or restaurant. It became clear to me that Bulgarians are at home, only leaving when needed since their town has been overrun culturally and demographically by people that are unlike themselves.

Byala Slatina has become a ghost town for Bulgaria, and a bustling city for the Roma. This is what opened my eyes and triggered me to write this article.

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