(Editor’s note: Dispatches is dedicated to freedom of movement and the global mobility of talent. To ensure that freedom, we have to understand the rising nationalist sentiments in Bulgaria and other East European countries.)
From Hungary to Bulgaria, young 20-something guys see Russia as their savior from the decay of Western societies
These guys, born after the fall of the Berlin Wall, have their own subculture. They spend hours in the gym when they’re not driving motorcycles and fast cars. They define themselves as nationalists and share an irrational love for Russia.
How does Russia find where to hit The West? The problem is inside Western European societies. The political correctness and multiculturalism hit deeply in heart and soul the traditional societies in Europe’s Southeast.
In Eastern Europe, the societies are traditional, based on Christian values and conservative patriarchal traditions. That’s why gays and transgender people are seen as a menace to these societies.
This is the main pillar of the so-called “nationalist” parties: We are normal, genders are a menace to our children.
The second pillar is: “No migrants! Migrants are a threat to our state.”
The third pillar is love of Russia: Russia will save us from gays and gender equality, from migrants and from George Soros!
This is in brief what the nationalist in Bulgaria stand for, as well as the Bulgarian Socialist Party, And it’s the same mantra in Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia. “No migrants, no genders, no Soros. Russia will save us!”
A NATIONALIST ETHOS WITH ITS OWN HEROES
The problem is complex. And the accelerator is what is weakening the Western societies – political correctness, multiculturalism, transgenderism and perceived censorship.
The acute reaction in the East: “We are normal! We stand for traditional values! We are Christian! We will protect our children! We will fight for our state!”
Out of that has evolved a new Eastern European nationalist ethos. Young people in Bulgaria born in 1990s have their own look, their own way of acting and their own culture. They tend to be well educated. They love fast motorcycles and fast cars. There are gyms on almost every street and motorcycle clans in every city. So, everything is like in the movie “Fast and Furious.”
Muscles, bikes, fast cars. Pure Sparta. These guys are living force that so-called nationalist parties use for voters in elections. (Read more here about how Russia uses motorcycle clubs and fight clubs to recruit young men across Easter Europe.)
They also have their own heroes, who’ve captured the imaginations of the nationalists.
These guys are refugee hunters.
Valev has gotten international publicly for capturing a group of Syrian refugee he says attacked him. Then he began to form his own vigilante groups to patrol Bulgaria’s border with Turkey but has received pushback from Bulgarian police, who say only they have the authority to apprehend migrants.
“Perata” as he’s better known, is another Bulgarian border vigilante who’s risen to fame rounding up Afghan refugees. But Perata has been in trouble with the law after attacking reporters covering a rally.
Some of them are well educated and work in media.
Tsanov is a journalist for Alfa TV, the television of the nationalist party Ataka. In his reports, Tsanov talks about the damage done by political correctness and decadence in western societies.
These guys see themselves as armies – successors to the united armies of crusaders who fought in the last Crusade against Ottomans. Though we speak a Slavic language, genetically, Bulgarians see themselves closer to Hungarians and Italians. Deep in ancient history, we are the successors of the Romans, Thracians and Spartans. Russians are successors of Vikings.
Where does the love for Russia come from? In history, Russia liberated Bulgaria from Ottoman slavery. So in 2019, Russia will save us from the decay of Western society. Saint Putin will save us from evil Soros and genders. Emperor Putin who is best friends with Sultan Erdogan. (This is the other face of Putin that young anti-Muslim guys from Eastern Europe don’t mention because Erdogan increasingly is a Muslim fundamentalist.)
By the way, Putin is just a former KGB agent, Stasi collaborator and president of Russia, not a personage from legendary chronicles. And despite his claims, he doesn’t have supernatural powers.
HOW SAINT PUTIN CAN INFLUENCE ELECTIONS
Putin not only uses fake news and disinformation to subvert elections in other countries. He’s fighting for the minds of these young guys with the muscles and the bikes … a fight that has serious implications.
This year there will be elections for European Parliament and European Commission. Euro-skeptic parties are on the rise all around the whole European Union, a reaction to liberal trends.
Putin has real power to interfere in EU elections, and not only using fake news and hackers. Nationalist parties in Eastern Europe are friendly to Russia and Putin is using nationalists to advance his interests.
Here are the parties:
• In Bulgaria, the coalition United Patriots (UP) rules in coalition with the right party GERB, or the “Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria.” United Patriots is a coalition of three nationalist parties – VMRO with leader Krasimir Karakachanov (Minister of defense), NFSB with leader Valeri Simeonov (former vice prime minister), Ataka with leader Volen Siderov (chairman of the parliament group of UP). These three parties are deeply connected to Russia.
The ideology of United Patriots includes nationalism, national conservatism, Euroscepticism, antiglobalism, anti-immigration and anti-Islam.
VMRO uses the live power of the tough guys with muscles and bikes.
• United Patriots were preceded by Patriotic Front. The Patriotic Front is a nationalist electoral alliance in Bulgaria around of the political parties IMRO – Bulgarian National Movement (IMRO) and National Front for the Salvation of Bulgaria (NFSB).
The former ran as part of an electoral alliance led by the political party Bulgaria Without Censorship (BBT) during the 2014 European parliamentary election, where both allied parties won a seat in the European parliament.
In European Parliament the United Patriots are in the European Conservatives and Reformists Group.
VMRO has one MEP – Angel Dzhambazki
Bulgaria Without Censorship has one MEP – Nykolai Barekov, who says he’s leaving politics to become a teacher.
Will the elections for European Parliament in 2019 be a surprise? The mainstream parties have unpredictable competitors is the face of the nationalist parties that are in the West called populist, but in the East seen as nationalist and patriotic.
Now, here’s where it gets complicated. As Bulgaria is a newly formed democracy, so the political scene is still maturing.
After the fall of the USSR, opposition to the communists was created first. Bulgarian democrats are on the Bulgarian political right, the Christian Democrats. But Bulgarian democrats more aligned with American Democratic Party, which means with the American left.
The gap between the left and right means that in Bulgaria there, is no real conservative center-right. This is the new niche to accommodate – the pretend conservatives.
These are people born in the 1990s who claim to be conservative, people who are highly educated, hold masters and doctoral degrees.
But also in that free conservative niche are fringe comedians we can only laugh at.
Finally, there is the Bulgarian Socialist party. They use rhetoric against the Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence on the pretext the language gives rights to transgender people. The word “gender” has been satanized.
Along with the elections for European Parliament, there will be elections for municipal governments. In Bulgaria, municipal elections look like wrestling in mud. The wild card always is, “Who will buy the gypsy vote?” On top of all this, Bulgaria is preparing for cyber attacks by Russian cyber-espionage group Fancy Bear similar to those in 2015.
As you can see the voting game in Bulgaria is dirty and quite not European.
About the author:
Kalina Varbanova freelance journalist based in Varna, Bulgaria.
Kalina’s interests include culture, tourism, archeology and politics.
Kalina Varbanova freelance journalist based in Varna, Bulgaria. Kalina’s interests include culture, tourism, archeology and politics. She's been a Dispatches contributor since 2017, and has written some of our best-read posts.