From here to God knows where.
Protest in Sofia about Bulgaria's Demographic Crisis

Soft communism hard democracy

I just found out.  The world never achieved true communism.  As far as I can see it never passed stage 2 out of 5. All the workers had to do was have faith.  Utopia was near.  I am not sure why religion and communism never got on.  Sounds a bit similar to me.

I won’t bore you will the 5 stages of socialism that end up at stage 5 in communism utopia.  Stage 3 looks like it came unstuck to me.  It states Socialism will never last long if imposed by force.   That kind of ruled out the whole of Eastern Europe.

Like most of Eastern Europe Bulgaria did not have much of a choice in joining the Soviet Union.  They had backed the wrong side for the second world war in a row although they wanted to sit the 2nd world war out.  Germany needed to pass Bulgaria territory on the way to Greece.  They said we can do it the easy way in 2 weeks with your agreement or the hard way a bit longer without your agreement.  Bulgaria went for package 1.

War is never good for any country but for Bulgaria, it was more confusing than most counties.  In a nutshell here is how it played out.

1941

Bulgaria declares war on Yugoslavia the United States and Great Britain.

New Zeland and South Africa declare war on Bulgaria.

Nicaragua declares war on Bulgaria.  Why?

1942

Australia declares war on Bulgaria.

1943

Bolivia declares war on Bulgaria.  I suppose if Nicaragua can why not.

1944

The Soviet Union declares war on Bulgaria.

Bulgaria declares war on Germany.

A Bulgarian told me that for a brief time Bulgaria was at war with everyone.  I know how that feels.

Did communism in Bulgaria happen or was it a dream. 

In 1944 Russian troops arrived in Bulgaria.  Over the next few years, communism was imposed with the help of local Bulgaria communists.  I am very new to this country so I am no expert but I do find the 45 years of communism fascinating.   There is a big effort being made to rub it out of Bulgaria’s history.  There is very little mention of it officially.  In some museums, history stops at 1944 and reappears in 1989.  Many statues have been bulldozed.  Soviet symbols removed on most buildings.  Yet today in Sofia you can still feel it.  Government buildings.  Soviet-style apartments.  The grandiose National Palace of Culture.  Those 45 years have made their mark on Sofia.  As a history buff even though they cannot be described as beautiful they are history and history can have a beauty even if it is a terrible beauty.

People tell me communism in Bulgaria was a bit softer them most other eastern block countries. Next door in Romania Ceausescu’s grand projects led to food shortages.   This did not happen in Bulgaria.  Literacy rates soared.  Everyone had access to healthcare.

Of course, this came at a high price.  Freedom of speech was not tolerated.  Not being a good citizen had consequences.  Party spies were everywhere.  It was said that if you had dinner with 3 other people you could be sure one would be a party spy. If not the spy was you.  Bulgarians learnt to speak in a certain way.  Talking but not really giving away what they really think.  I suppose we had similar in Ireland with Kerry people.

Decomarcy has not been an easy road for Bulgaria.  I don’t think we in the west realise how difficult the decades after the fall of the Berlin wall was for people in Eastern Europe.  Almost overnight guaranteed jobs housing and pensions become uncertain.  I can understand why 41% of Bulgarians mostly older people say they miss these times.  Walking around Sofia I can see the potential of the city.  I think it can be a great place to live.  I am sure if I came back in another 10/15 years many things would be different.  Hopefully, there are better days ahead for Bulgaria.

I did have my communist moment when I was younger.  In my early 20s, I was a member of the militant section of the Irish Labour party.  We were Trotskyites.  Don’t ask me to explain it.  I was not a great one.  There was two of us in Cork.  We were more interested in the craic and having a beer than the plight of the workers of the world.  One day a guy was sent from Dublin to sort us out.  He asked for his mission orders from Joe Higgins who later went on to be a member of the Irish parliament.   Do your best comrade he was told.  The two down there would drink beer from a shoe.

Who needs hands when you can vote with your feet. 

Yesterday I bumped into my first protest in Sofia.  The protest was about Bulgaria’s demographic cartographic.  In 2001 the country had over 4 million women.  In 2025 it will be 3.5 million.  Unless things change it will be 2.5 million in 2070.   Less woman less children.  A massive economic emigration to has been ongoing since the Berlin wall fell in 1989.  It has gathered pace since Bulgaria became part of the European Union in 2007.  On this date, Bulgarians could live and work in other E.U countries.  Many people mostly young have taken the opportunity.

It feels strange to witness this in a county that is really in the heart of Europe.  There are many towns in Bulgaria that are virtually dying.  As the young people leave the population decreases as each elderly person dies.  Towns lose the basics as population declines.  The cinema closes.  The doctor cannot operate a business financially.  The local shop closes.

I recently passed through Bulgaria by train and the land looked very fertile.  Sofia I am sure has a lot of problems but it feels like it could be a great city to live in.  It is a big county for just 7 million.

In the 1980s and previous decades, Ireland experienced mass economic emigration also.  Many rural towns experienced a similar loss of their youth population.  Moving onto 2018 although I am sure young people will always want to move to cities for better opportunities the situation is a lot better now.  Hopefully, Bulgaria will turn the tide also.

One of the hardest parts of moving to any new town or country is trying to find a network of people to talk to.  Have a beer or a coffee.  I am not talking about fellow travellers who are passing by.  That is ok too but the conversation tends to be all travel related or how they wrestled with a crocodile last week.  I am talking about people you can discuss the weather.  Sport and how Ireland could beat the U.S.A in a war.  The important stuff.

I have looked online and the best invite so far is to a pub crawl on Friday night.  Unless I get a better offer I will go.  I am a bit apprehensive about going on the beer with a bunch of kids.  I am worried they won’t be able to keep up with me.

That brings me to my favourite part of the blog.

BEER

I have added a new bar to my BEER list.   Long John Bar in Sofia.  It is based in a side street on 6 – ti Septemvri 20A 1000 Sofia Centre.

Really nice bar.  Some good rock and blues tunes played on the music system.  Friendly staff.  Seating outside but am sure gets taken quickly on weekends when the weather is good.  Bottle of local beer 2.40 Lev or 1.20 Euro.  Special mention as the cheapest beer I have seen so far.

Can I find a beer cheaper than 1.20 Euro?   I will do my best or die happy trying.

I did actually find a beer for 2.20 Lev or 1.10 euro but the same beer in the same bar cost me 3 Lev 1.50 the previous night.  Further visits are required.  The 3 Lev beer was served by a lovely older lady.  The 2.20 Lev beer by a skinhead.  Never judge a book by its cover.

 

If you have any questions please contact and I will be more than happy to help if I can.

Join me on my journey. 

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