On December 27th, the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed its disappointment over the sharing of an opinion piece, containing derogatory statements for the Bulgarian population by the Russian Embassy in Sofia, Bulgaria.
The deputy director of the Directorate for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Ambassador Georgi Panayotov, held a conversation with an advisor to the Russian Embassy expressing the Bulgarian side’s position saying that such actions do not contribute to bilateral relations but create a favorable ground for anti-Russian sentiment among Bulgarian citizens.
#Мнение: цитираме https://bit.ly/2Ly09rOМиналата седмица Москва подари елха на София по случай Коледа, и тя беше…
The official publication, which cites an article originally posted on the classa.bg outlet, translated in English reads the following:
“Last week Moscow gave the Christmas tree on Christmas Day, and it was placed in the center of our capital. Nearly no one in Bulgaria would know about it because of the brutal American censorship of the alleged “Bulgarian” media that allowed talk about Russia only in negative light. Thanks to the unimaginable idiocy of a small group of Sofia “smart-handsome” protesters, however, the whole of Bulgaria found out about the tree.
They gathered to protest against it because it was part of Russia’s “hybrid war” against our country. When they come close to policemen and were politely asked for their papers, the malicious group escaped with shouting against this unprecedented repression, shouts that increased a thousand times on Facebook.
So, we Bulgarians understood 3 things:
1. Moscow gave the Christmas tree to Sofia.
2. For the first time in the history of the world there was a protest against a Christmas tree.
3. There are no greater imbeciles and morons than paid yellow-brick russophobes.”
The commentary is in relation to a protest against the Christmas tree decorated in red in the center of Sofia, which is a gift from Moscow. Below the tree there is a large sign, which reads: “Moscow greets Sofia with the new 2019”. It is written in both Russian and Bulgarian. The protest also called for the release of the detained Ukrainian sailors following the incident on November 25th.
As a result of the situation and others, Terminal 3, a website describing itself as dedicated to providing objective and quality information, rather than “fast” and “unverified” rumors, published an article from the outlet’s entire team calling for the Russian Ambassador to Bulgaria to be expelled.
Another large part of the call for expulsion was the visit of Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia on March 3rd, 2018 commemorating the 140th anniversary of the 1878 San Stefano Treaty that ended the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-78 and proclaimed Bulgaria’s independence.
On March 4th, Patriarch Kiril met with Bulgarian President Rumen Radev. During the event Patriarch slammed statements made by Radev, who was “downplaying” Russia’s role in the Bulgarian liberation.
“I want to frankly say that it was difficult for me to hear all these references to the participation of other countries in the liberation of Bulgaria. Neither the Polish Sejm nor the Lithuanian Sejm decided to start a war with Ottoman Turkey. I hope the media will hear us and will relate the disappointment of the patriarch in that he heard a wrong historical interpretation of events related to the liberation of Bulgaria”, Patriarch Kirill stressed.
“We are for historical truth, Mr. President, we have won this historical truth with our own blood, and there can be no political and pragmatic reasons … today to ignore or falsely interpret. All the talk about friendship – they are checked by reality. If, speaking of friendship, we forget about the sacrifices that were made in connection with the liberation of Bulgaria, these words cease to matter”, he added.
To which Radev responded:
“In no way do we underestimate the contribution of the Russian army to the liberation of Bulgaria, but the Russian army was multinational, and we honor the memory of every nation”, Radev said. “We respect our history, it says that it was a Russo-Turkish liberation war, not Polish-Turkish or any other,” he added.
“The Bulgarian and Russian people cannot be deceived: what I experienced on Shipka is a very deep spiritual experience, and there I realized that regardless of the policy that the state power in Bulgaria carries out, the Bulgarian people have a deep appreciation for the Russian people.I would advise you to take into account the mood of the people, building relationships with the outside world, I would ask you to remember history in your political activities, and, as it were, the political conjuncture, do not forget about Shipka”, Patriarch Kirill said.
It should be noted that President Radev’s predecessor, President Rosen Plevneliev, made several March 3rd addresses without even mentioning Russia.
The aforementioned article also mentioned November 2017 remarks by the spokesperson of the Russian Foreign Ministry Maria Zakharova. He said that the Soviet Red Army rescued thousands of Bulgarian Jews in World War II.
Zakharova’s statement was in relation to anti-Semitic graffiti painted on the Monument of the Soviet Army in Bulgaria’s capital Sofia which said: “100 years of Zionist Occupation.”
Then, the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry responded Russia that it was not the Soviet Red Army but the Bulgarian people who saved thousands of Bulgarian Jews from deportation to Nazi death camps in 1943.
“When Bulgarian citizens stood on the trains in front of the trains travelling to the Nazi death camps, when representatives of the Bulgarian political, economic and intellectual elite were writing protest letters in support of the Bulgarian Jews and when top hierarchs of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church were joining the Jews, gathered for deportation … the Red Army was thousands kilometers away,” the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry statement said.
Furthermore, the article calling for the expulsion of Anatoly Makarov shared a statement by the Atlantic Council Bulgaria. (The Atlantic Council Bulgaria, similarly to its parent organization the Atlantic Council is one of the main engines of the fight against “Russian propaganda”)
The Atlantic Council Bulgaria requested a reaction by the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry. The Ministry’s initial response was that the article expresses a personal opinion of the author, and not the position that the Russian Embassy maintains. It further reminded that if a Foreign official person would express such derogatory qualifications towards Bulgarian citizens there would be a suitable reaction. The response further said that if “any foreign diplomats attempt to stop Bulgarians from their right of expression and protest, we will promptly react.”
It appeared that the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry did not deem it necessary to take any conclusive actions against the Russian Embassy or Ambassador, however, due to pressure from the Atlantic Council it took the smallest possible step it could.