Bulgaria's Jan Palach
On February 20th Bulgarian artist Plamen Goranov, 36, set himself on fire in front of the municipality building in his hometown of Varna.
After sustaining 80% burns and severe lung damage, he remains in induced coma; his life is in grave danger.
In the days preceding the event, Plamen had taken part in the mass protests which were sparked by excessive utility bills and later expanded their demands, addressing the general state of corruption of Bulgarian political and economic life. The demonstrations, which subsequently lead to the resignation of Bulgarian government, were especially strong in Varna, where the local government is believed to be fully controlled by organized crime.
During a 30 000-strong demonstration in Varna, Plamen Goranov briefly addressed the protesters, pointing out who he perceived were the real culprits for their plight: local organized-crime-group-turned-business-corporation, known as TIM. Early in the following morning, he stood in front of the municipality carrying a poster which demanded the resignation of TIM-installed mayor of Varna and all members of the local council. He then poured a container of gasoline over his head and body and burst into flames.
The media coverage of the event has ranged from deafening silence to attempts at character assassination. We want to join in with the few independent media outlets in Bulgaria and tell the truth about Plamen Goranov.
Plamen is an intelligent, articulated and talented person. He has never vied for recognition that would make him part of any artistic establishment. Nonetheless, his creative insight has oozed through everything he has done: his artistic photography, the videos and performances he has produced, his poems, his insuppressible intellectual curiosity. Those who have known him even remotely are only dismayed at insinuations that mental illness or drugs had any bearing on his act.
We are still struggling to make sense of what happened that morning; perhaps we will never be able to fathom Plamen's motivation. Yet there is no doubt that it was an act of resolute rejection of corruption and injustice that have permeated every aspect of social life in his town and his country.
Please help his friends in spreading the word.
Signed by Pavel Stella