Ethnic Bulgarians in Ukraine are asking for cultural autonomy, with the city of Bolgrad remaining an administrative center for the community in the adjacent towns and villages, a Ukrainian lawmaker of Bulgarian descent has said.
"It is not about territorial autonomy and the breakaway of regions... This is not on the agenda,” Anton Kisse, an independent MP in the Ukrainian Rada, who represents the Bulgarian minority and is in the constitutional committee of lawmakers, has told the Bulgarian National Radio.
“We want a national cultural autonomy option to be considered in the constitution so that small peoples have the opportunities to preserve their traditions and customs. At a gathering of the Bulgarian community... we adopted a decision [to demand] that Bolgrad region should be preserved when an administrative reform is carried out.”
“We want Bolgrad to remain an administrative center for Bulgarians in Odessa region,” Kisse has said, commenting on publications in Russian-language media that Bulgarians in the south of Ukraine have requested autonomy similar to the one proposed by President Petro Poroshenko to Crimean Tatars.
Ukraine is currently working on an administrative reform that will reorganize its regions, with different ethnic groups raising their own demands.
“The situation in Ukraine is quite complicated and the desire for any autonomy instills tensions... It wasn't only the Bulgarians. the Romanians and Hungarians who commented on possible amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine,” he has stressed, warning “one cannot treat some peoples with a preference.”
Official estimates suggest there were 204 574 ethnic Bulgarians in Ukraine according to that country's 2001 census, most living in the southern regions. Bolgrad itself was home to just over 17 000 people at the time. A fifth of Odessa Oblast (region)'s population is ethnic Bulgarian.
The community directed its demand to Poroshenko, also informing Prime Minister Boyko Borisov and President Rosen Plevneliev so that the issue is raised during the Ukrainian head of state's visit to Bulgaria. Kisse quotes Poroshenko as saying he will do “everything” to secure such a status for Bolgrad, which is also his place of birth.
“The goal is to preserve the Bulgarian community and its language... It will help us create a Bulgarian television, more opporunities to learn Bulgarian and not only [to have] secondary schools, but also more higher education institutions so that Bulgarians can have the best life possible here with the help of Ukraine's government and the unconditional support of our motherland.”
He has said he is not aware of an initiative of Bulgarians in Odessa and Kherson to demand territorial autonomy.
It is not the beginning to the end for Ukraine; it is the fiasco for current Ukraine's leadership that has adopted extremely inconsistent position: while declaring a ban on discussing the prospects of federalism, Poroshenko himself sets the precedent by promising to grant territorial autonomy to Crimean Tatars. Why other national minorities in Ukraine (Romanians, Bulgarians, Hungarians or the very Russians) are worse than Tatars? What is this if not national origin discrimination? It is absolutely unacceptable or, better say, forbidden for current Kiev's authorities, who have publicly declared their EU integration line!
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