Sofia University Professor Georgi Bliznashki: Bulgaria's Society Undergoes Moral Revolution
Interview of Novinite.com and Novinite.bg with Georgi Bliznashki, Professor of Constitutional Law at Sofia University, the oldest and biggest higher education facility in Bulgaria.
In recent weeks, Bulgaria’s capital Sofia has witnessed a series of student protests and the occupation of university buildings that have injected new life into a persistent anti-government movement.
We talked with Prof. Bliznashki as protesting students still refuse to lift Sofia University full blockade.
You are one of Sofia University professors, who has openly spoken in support of the students protests. What is your motivation for this stance? What are your arguments?
I believe it is the most natural thing for a university professor to side with his students when they are protesting and lead a battle for the restoration of true values in our society. In fact Sofia University blockade started just as I challenged the ruling of the Constitutional Court on Delyan Peevski. With their actions, the students supported my protest. It is the mission and obligation of the Constitutional Court to protect and defend Bulgaria's Constitution. We must not stay indifferent when this court deliberately tramples the constitution and wants to get away unpunished.
When do you expect Sofia University blockade to be lifted? What should happen for this to happen?
I sincerely hope that the blockade will be lifted soon since it already achieved its goals – stirring the Bulgarian society out of its passivity and fueling new life into the anti-governmental protests, which have been going on for more than 150 days already. It is up to the students to decide how to proceed from now on, but I am afraid that the protests will take on new forms should the government refuse to resign.
What do you think about universities occupation as a type of protest? Is this the most appropriate way for young people to show their opposition to the current political and social order?
This is an extreme form of civil unrest and the students have the right to resort to it when the government and the parliament continue to turn a blind eye to what is happening in the streets. Occupation is a legitimate form of protest against illegal and corrupt authorities. The right to oppose to injustice is implied in the very foundations of modern constitutionalism. The rulers, whose legitimacy is challenged, have just one option if they want to avoid even more extreme forms of revolt – early parliamentary elections. Only voters, as supreme referees, have the right to have the final say in conflicts like the one we are witnessing.
Are there political elements in the students' protests?
Yes, there are, but this is only natural. It is important to point out that these are not political activities. The students' revolt is part of the civil society protest against the dictatorship of the oligarchs, who have been living in a parallel reality for quite a long time and do not give a damn about public sentiments. Students are also voters, they have political rights and should decide for themselves whether to enter the world of politics or not. What is really important is that at the next elections, all of them cast their vote, so that the local oligarchs are finally forced to learn some lessons.
How do you interpret the fact that foreign diplomats to Bulgaria have openly voiced support for the protests?
This support is a must, because Bulgaria is a full member of the European Union. In all democratic countries the only way out of this emergency situation is one and the same – early parliamentary elections. But the fight is tough since the oligarchs control much of the media resources in the country, especially the print media. But they are losing the trust of the people. Local media have been deliberately misleading their audience about the number of people taking part in the protests. It took a British TV channel to come to Sofia and tell the world that more than 70,000 people have taken to the streets.
What is your response to critics, who say politics should be kept out of universities?
That's true, but let's not forget that every aspect of any society has political elements. In this sense university students have the right to defend their stance as they are full members of the society. Bulgaria's society is currently undergoing a moral revolution, which targets the political parties from the current political order, which serve not the society, but different private and corporate interests. University students can not be indifferent to those topics and issues.
What would you say to those students and teachers, who are against the universities blockade?
The whole academic community supports the demands of the protesting students, the differences concern the form of protest. The stake is very high – in fact the future of the Bulgarian nation and state are at stake. I would like to ask those, who are not part of the student protest movement, to show understanding for the combat of young people who assert a national cause.
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Political parties "serve different tpiavte and corporate interests" everywhere in the existing democratic states. The U.S. is a prime example. Notable in the current prtotests is no articulation of the need for 'moving beyond capitalism' in its present forms, Go to any country in Western Europe: you will find protest against the system also reflects that desire. It is central in the Occupy movement in North America. But not here. Early parliamentary elections will solve nothing in the present morass. Most likely a center-right coalition will retake power, as Optimistic suggests and most clear-eyed analysts know. This is what GERB and the Reformist Bloc are counting on.
If students feel 21st-century socialism is a non-starter in Bulgaria in the present dead-end, themselves inoculated against Marxism, maybe they should be reading Roberto Unger's work. he develops a searing critique of the current economic and political order of market capitalism that looks beyond socialism for fundamentally radical change. Interview with Unger here: goo.gl/fxgNBu Are Unger's ideas known in Bulgaria?