Finally, I got round to sorting through my pictures of Sofia. I've had a great time there, mostly thanks to the hospitality of my "guides" Rosy, Plamen & Kalin - thanks very much!
I've got the impression that Sofia is a unique place with great potential. No other European capital can boast that intricate a mix of a major orthodox community with important turkish & roma minorities, combined with half a millennium's history of ottoman rule which almost seems a short episode compared to the place's long history. Economically, Bulgaria has a lot of catching up to do of course, but that's the potential, and they seem to be doing just fine. There is one major risk, though, and that is the huge orthodox majority dominating the tiny minorities of Turks & Roma - looking at the nationalistic Ataka movement, that could even become dangerous. Occasionally, I even got the impression of ethnic relations being tinged by more than just a touch of racism. But I guess these are issues Bulgaria just has to work through and find a productive way of integrating all groups in its potentially rich identity!
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I see you liked Sofia. It is always quite interesting to see pictures that give a new perspective to a place you know well (or at least you think you know).
The Ataka movement you saw is not considered dangerous. It just filled a void in the political sphere by using the weakness of the right parties and the ethnic tensions that occasionally appear. Fortunately, Bulgarians know that extreme nationalism is wrong and I believe Mr Siderov (Ataka's leader) got his 15 minutes of fame. He lost the Presidential elections this year to the current President Parvanov.
Last week the Man of the year in Bulgaria (for the 2nd time) - the mayor of Sofia Gen. B. Borisov - founded a party that is projected to take the place of the shattered right and I expect it to attract the disappointed citizens who chose Ataka in 2004 and 2006 elections.
People here are prone to falling for promises and any sign of hope that anyone can offer. It happened when the ex-tzar returned (as a citizen, of course), it happened when Siderov spoke from the tribune, it will happen when Borisov's party runs for the Parliament. Unfortunately, such quick promises are easily broken and disappointment is eminent. I guess it's just the way politics operates in Bulgaria.
I really did like it! Going through the pics again just reminded me of how much.
As for Ataka, I am glad to hear that they're not considered dangerous. What I was thinking of was the domination of the orthodox majority, and that may be more difficult to ascertain, especially from the point of view of the majority.
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