French Le Figaro: European Sofia Still under Russian Influence

Views on BG | January 4, 2010, Monday // 15:41| Views: | Comments: 25
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French Le Figaro: European Sofia Still under Russian Influence: French Le Figaro: European Sofia Still under Russian Influence Dozens of thankful Bulgarians are pictured commemorating in 2008 the end of World War II by participating at a ceremony before the Monument of Soviet Army in Sofia. Photo by Sofia Photo Agency

Bulgaria joined the European Union in 2007, but still cannot get rid of the hold of its former big communist brother.

Bulgaria’s daily life, lifestyle, and ways of doing retail remind of Russia, something that disheartens diplomats from old Europe, working in the country, according to an article published in the French Le Figaro, dedicated to the 3rd anniversary of Bulgaria’s EU accession.

The author, François Hauter, writes that European diplomats are up in arms against the mafia, the lack of justice, and Bulgaria being the Russian model in the EU, all leading to their continuous, firm opposition against the release of the EUR 10 B from the European Commission for Bulgaria.

Hauter, however, points out that Sofia is not Congo and it is a city much better developed than Bucharest with residents demonstrating a higher lifestyle than the one in Western Europe’s largest provincial cities and with residential areas not as neglected as the ones in the Romanian capital.

“But Bulgaria is considered a Far East, a comparison we do not even dare to use for Hungary or Romania. Everything Western Europeans do not allow themselves as reproach to those two countries is reserved for Bulgaria,” the author writes.

Hauter calls the 1989 revolution a “royal coup,” a change of power leading only to former communists and now socialists dividing the country’s resources, but points out the same thing happened in Romania. The author also talks how the anti-Turkish disposition, used by the communists as a cover-up, is now a memory and Muslims have equal rights in Bulgaria.

According to the article, what is bothering the European diplomats the most stems from the fact that half of Bulgarians live bellow the poverty line while the elite leads a lavish lifestyle reminding the one of the Russian oligarchs and this life “a la Russe” is unacceptable for Europe.

As example the author talks about lavish parties, and direct demonstrations of wealth and power.

“Those who can demonstrate wealth, do it. They are the godfathers driving in corteges of armored cars. They are the feudal lords of entire towns and even regions. They divide the public orders; they launder the money in their families… Bulgaria is like Cecily…but today our periphery is no longer Palermo…it is Russia,” the article explains, adding that Central Europe and the former Soviet Republics openly hate Russia while for the Bulgarian people the attraction and the repulsion go hand in hand, and sympathy is predominant among those ruling the country.

As an example, the author uses the words of President, Georgi Parvanov, who at the opening of the Year of Bulgaria in Russia said: “Time cannot erase the good memory of those Russian soldiers who fought for Bulgaria’s freedom,” words unthinkable anywhere else in Central Europe, according to Hauter.

The article further analyzes the Soviet imprint and describes it as a very deep one over the fact that Bulgaria was an ally of Germany in World War II, something that placed local communists in a weaker position while the Soviet terror left its traces in people’s minds and dissidents became extinct in the country’s own concentration camps.

Hauter ends the article with the description of his conversations with an elderly couple and their recollection of the horrors of the repressions on the part of the Communist State Security and with Bulgaria’s youth telling him Bulgarians are people who obey easily and seeing the problem in the symbiosis between the State, the Secret Services and Russia.

“The overly diplomatic compromises of European functionaries cost a fortune. They first penalize Bulgarians who wish to see their country a modern one. But they also impede other Europeans, who loose trust in the EU enlargement. We advance like crabs, like we are ashamed of imposing our democratic principles and our values of honesty in the public life and the economy,” Hauter concludes.

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» To the forumComments (25)
#25
FIGMENT - 7 Jan 2010 // 14:32:44

dzingis

We got it the first time. ;-)

Sofia looks like Baghdad. Peeling paint on buildings, overgrown, untended and dirty public spaces, litter everywhere, graffiti covering every surface, metal bars on the windows and doors, crumbling pavements, crumbling soviet-era apartment blocks...We get the picture.

#24
dzingis - 7 Jan 2010 // 09:53:20

I meant proving not proofing :D

#23
DrFaust - 7 Jan 2010 // 06:48:50

George,

as pointed out earlier, I think you are much too excited about that article than necessary.

"In this particular case for example the French barber criticizes and humiliates the Slavic people and culture in a superior manner from a French point of view."

There is absolutely nothing 'humiliating' in the article, in the contrary, it is very friendly and positive overall, when you read the original, not the ridiculous translation of Novinite (they should pay their staff better or hire professionals for the translations. They are lousy!)
Most journalists don't have such a positive attitude towards Bulgaria. So, calm down.

Furthermore, this is part of a serial that describes also the situation in other Eastern European countries from the point of view how a 'Westerner' will perceive these countries. And again, the perception in general is not negative.

That doesn't mean that there is nothing to be concerned about from the viewpoint of a European about Bulgaria. And this is exactly the point: the Bulgarian elite (or at least a considerable part of it) wants to have all the advantages of the EU, but is in every other way demonstrating that his loyalties, even his life style is Russian.
Not surprising, when you think about a Russian becoming Prime Minister in BG, and the many many politicains and businessmen that studied in Russia (and worked/work for Russian intelligence).

You want an example: if it was not for their personal ties and business interests, the old government wouldn't have made Bulgaria a hostage to the Russian monopoly of gas. Bulgaria is the only country in Europe that relied only on one source of gas, and additionally even didn't bother to think about building additional pipelines to become a bit less vulnerable and dependent from the monopolist. But the people in charge have their interests in Russia only, not in Europe. The result could be felt by every Bulgarian during last winter...

One of the main problems in Bulgaria is the almost complete lack of a new 'elite', people with a different background. The people in the leading positions are still from the old 'Russian' system, and the younger generation is usually comprised of the sons and daughters of this elite.

Nobody wants to take away the life style of the Bulgarians. This article is not concerned about the traditional Bulgarian life style. It is concerned about the obvious pro-Russain and anti-European attitude of most of its elite, and I think this is a very important thing.

By the way, why are many Bulgarians so over-sensitive when a foreigner describes his perception of the country? Maybe because you look in a mirror and realize that what you see is sometimes not so beautiful as you imagined? After all, that's not the problem of the mirror...

#22
dzingis - 6 Jan 2010 // 23:27:13

Yeah you tell em R4MANIA! Too bad Sofia in fact looks like a bomb proofing site.

#21
R4MANIA - 6 Jan 2010 // 21:56:58

this particular case for example the French barber criticizes and humiliates the Slavic people and culture in a superior manner from a French point of view. In the mean while he creates the friction by some idiotic groundless judgement and compare some cities and countries standards, which by ALL MEANS he considers WAY LOWER than France.

So in other words another propaganda affair with possible friction intent! (about which you are already upset)
Which can also be translated into the meaning of; “Keep them down and in the dark so they can’t come and eat our lunch”.

What the Balkans need is cooperation and NOT friction!
Bulgaria and Romania should build some more bridges over that river for better business transactions and should try to help Greece and all of the area in order to prosper.

The less you care or listen to French, British or whatever propaganda the better you’ll do financially!

Focus on the money and the business and NOT on “what would some people say”!

Totally I agree with you George. We do need cooperation. Bulgaria should invest a LOT more in Romania and Romania should invest a lot more in Bulgaria. We have already signed agreements with you recently I think it was something like culture, education for 2013.

Good on you George I agree with what you are saying. F*k the French, F*k British. Thank GOD Romania was never a British colony e.g. raped and pillaged right to the Third World by the British look at India the British raped and pillaged that country to the core.

Bulgaria and Romania will prosper soon the EU it will happen I know it.

#20
NellieotAmerica - 6 Jan 2010 // 21:09:34

George

I thought you were blaming THE GREAT POWERS for trying to divide and conquer the Balkans? At least that's what I thought you were saying.

No one needs to divide the Balkans, they do a pretty good job of it all on their own. Nowhere else in the world is so much hatred of one's neighbors demonstrated as in the Balkans. Bulgarians pretty much dislike all their neighbors.

#19
Honterus - 6 Jan 2010 // 21:07:18

SNA's "special" translation
"Sofia is not Congo and it is a city much better developed than Bucharest with residents demonstrating a higher lifestyle than the one in Western Europe’s largest provincial cities and with residential areas not as neglected as the ones in the Romanian capital."

Original text from "Le Figaro"
"La capitale de cette Bulgarie d'un peu moins de huit millions d'?mes est autrement plus d?velopp?e que Bucarest par exemple." => [Sofia] is otherwise more developed than - for instance - Bucharest

"Les immeubles populaires ne sont pas n?glig?s, comme ? Budapest." => popular residential areas not as neglected as the ones in BUDAPEST [HUNGARY]

"Ses habitants [...]affichent un style de vie qui n'a pas grand-chose ? envier ? celui de nos grandes villes de province => its inhabitants demonstrate a lifestyle who has not much to envy to the one from our large provincial cities.

The devil hides in details !

R4MANIA
"I want some reasons!!!"

No reasons given I'm afraid.

"naibii de necrezut!!!"

Desi frantuzul e cam enervant mai enervanta si de necrezut este "interpretarea" neglijenta si tendentioasa a traducatorilor SNA.

#18
George Zheliazkov - 6 Jan 2010 // 20:57:51

Nellie,

Bulgaria did not fail nor is going to fail. Bulgaria is doing just fine and nobody is blaming anybody. Bulgaria has its own unique lifestyle and culture, which is different not superior or inferior to anybody, just plain different and they want to keep it that way.
The French roosters or whoever should realize that this is NOT France and stop their rude “cultural” or whatever intervention.

(BTW I should probably go to France and make a little pathetic lifestyle story for some major Bulgarian media. May even include your beloved Islamic population)

#17
NellieotAmerica - 6 Jan 2010 // 20:10:54

Georgie

" The “Great Powers” as they used to call themselves ALWAYS had the interest to mix the shit up in the Balkans and create all types of frictions and conflicts in order to keep that area down with low prosperity and inability to compete."

This is the typical Bulgarian disease--when you fail, blame someone else. Blame the Turkish, the Macedonians, the Serbians, the Romanians, the Greeks, the Russians, the communists.....THE GREAT POWERS.......Who are you going to blame next? Queen Victoria?!?

#16
George Zheliazkov - 6 Jan 2010 // 19:58:52

R4mania

You don’t get the game yet? You see that’s the problem!
The name of the game since time exists has been called “DIVIDE AND CONQUER”.

The “Great Powers” as they used to call themselves ALWAYS had the interest to mix the shit up in the Balkans and create all types of frictions and conflicts in order to keep that area down with low prosperity and inability to compete.

In this particular case for example the French barber criticizes and humiliates the Slavic people and culture in a superior manner from a French point of view. In the mean while he creates the friction by some idiotic groundless judgement and compare some cities and countries standards, which by ALL MEANS he considers WAY LOWER than France.

So in other words another propaganda affair with possible friction intent! (about which you are already upset)
Which can also be translated into the meaning of; “Keep them down and in the dark so they can’t come and eat our lunch”.

What the Balkans need is cooperation and NOT friction!
Bulgaria and Romania should build some more bridges over that river for better business transactions and should try to help Greece and all of the area in order to prosper.

The less you care or listen to French, British or whatever propaganda the better you’ll do financially!

Focus on the money and the business and NOT on “what would some people say”!

#15
R4MANIA - 6 Jan 2010 // 18:58:27

"Hauter, however, points out that Sofia is not Congo and it is a city much better developed than Bucharest with residents demonstrating a higher lifestyle than the one in Western Europe’s largest provincial cities and with residential areas not as neglected as the ones in the Romanian capital."

God dammit that makes me so angry that comment. Im not saying that one city is better then the other but how the f*k can he say that?? Bucharest has more investments, industry etc naturally because its a much bigger city then Sofia.

I have one question how is Sofia much better developed then Bucharest? How the f*k can that be?? My face is red :(

Im not saying one city is better then the other I just want f*kng reasons why Hauter said such a thing?

Sorry I have mild ADHD as well I get really angry quickly

I want some reasons!!!

naibii de necrezut!!!

#14
NellieotAmerica - 5 Jan 2010 // 13:53:34

Honterus

Just to make the connection about the blind man and the newly rich: A man who has been poor all his life gets some money and the first thing he does with it is show off his bad taste, arrogance, and ignorance. lol

#13
NellieotAmerica - 5 Jan 2010 // 13:50:56

Honterus

In Bulgarian they have a saying: "Pasi Boze sliyapo da progledne". Roughly translated, God forbid that a blind man should see. It means that the newly rich mutri have no taste, style, education, class, or breeding. They have no taste for high culture, they weren't born to it. This is what makes them tasteless, vulgar, insolent, arrogant, dishonest, rude, crude, and disgusting.

The problem is that Eastern Europe has embraced the vanity, materialism, and cultural horrors of capitalism without adopting its called upon strong work ethic or sound business sense.

#12
DrFaust - 5 Jan 2010 // 10:27:48

George,

"Le Figaro, Le Francois Hauter, Le bunch of le losers le barbers!

What a pile of crap! One socialist is trying to make fun of another. Le French wake up my friends and start making money you bunch of socialists. Have a good look at yourself first La La Landers and realize that you are not very high in the food chain yourself.
Russia this Bulgaria that, blah, blah… and you bunch of socialist French losers where do you think you are?

What a pile of crap! But then again what do you expect from bunch of hungry barbers (figaro)."

I don't know what excites you so much in this article. Just read the original on the Figaro website, and all I can say is that it is a really well written piece. And that a considerable part of the Bulgarian 'elite' (the one who have power and money) prefers a lifestyle that is closer to the Russian 'Nouveau riche' than to Europeans, is without any doubt true.

#11
Honterus - 5 Jan 2010 // 07:56:44

Anelia:

"What a fcuked up country France has become! "

Like any country France has many issues. Maybe the most important issue is the failure in passing a French identity and feeling of social acceptance onto the second/third generation issued from arabic/islamic immigration .

However IMO the topic is not about France but about Bulgaria and if the opinions exposed by a journalist ( who happens to be French ) are right or not.

One more thing - it is clear as daylight that the journalist does not refer to language and cultural affinities with Russia ( which he tries to explain) but to the lifestyle of the Bulgarian "elite" reminding the one of the Russian oligarchs - a life “a la Russe”

Bulgaria news Novinite.com (Sofia News Agency - www.sofianewsagency.com) is unique with being a real time news provider in English that informs its readers about the latest Bulgarian news. The editorial staff also publishes a daily online newspaper "Sofia Morning News." Novinite.com (Sofia News Agency - www.sofianewsagency.com) and Sofia Morning News publish the latest economic, political and cultural news that take place in Bulgaria. Foreign media analysis on Bulgaria and World News in Brief are also part of the web site and the online newspaper. News Bulgaria