By Yordan Sokolov
During these days, in which we officially celebrate the 25th anniversary since the overthrow of the criminal communist regime, and since the beginning of building a democratic Bulgaria, we have to find an answer to that question: Why do some people see the transition as a failure? Why are the last 25 years being qualified as ‘the hardest’ in our recent history? Why is the narrative being imposed that precisely in this period we have become ‘the poorest’ and that ‘nothing has changed’?
Why are only mistakes being sought for while the indisputable successes stay unseen? Why is it stated that the transition hasn’t happened? Who needs this narrative? Who imposes this pessimistic reading of our transition?
The answer of common-sense people is more than clear. On one hand this pessimism is the overthrown nomenclature, sheltered in the ranks of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), and obligingly supported by an extreme nationalist Bulgarian-Russian party, which took a stand for our country to leave the EU and NATO and to return to the Eurasian sphere. On the other hand, this is the Russian fifth column in the circles of BSP that finds different approaches (mostly related to our energy dependence and thus our entire economy) to destabilize our country.
Furthermore, the perception of the ‘failed’ transition is instilled with all kinds of methods. Communist propaganda continues even today. The media permanently and deliberately points out negative examples from our lives, but it never remembers that school history books lack the facts connected to the communist regime; that they do not even mention the 25 thousand people killed without charge or trial, mostly among the circles of intelligentsia; or the hundreds of thousands who went through the death camps, and yet as many again who were forcibly deported or interned outside their places of birth. Young people do not even suspect that for students to have access to higher education, they had to receive special permission from the District Committees of the Bulgarian Communist Party (BKP), but at their expense the ‘children of the active fighters’ entered universities by right and without having to take any exams. Even Bulgarian National Television is broadcasting the program The Best Years of Our Lives which imposes the idea that these were exactly the years of the communist dictatorship.
The truth is that in our country the transition from communism towards democracy was far slower and more painful than in the rest of the ex-socialist countries. Even today we are falling behind in the areas of healthcare and public administration. Pension reform is also excruciating. There has been permanent talk about reform in the judicial system, but the EU reports become more and more negative. Bulgaria remains the poorest country in the EU. Not only has our energy dependence on Russia not been overcome, it is becoming stronger. From 82 US dollars per 1000 cubic meters of natural gas, negotiated at the time of the government of the United Democratic Forces under Ivan Kostov, its price during the government of Sergey Stanishev was re-negotiated to 435 US dollars under the demands of Gasprom – the highest price in the entire EU, which has made our economy uncompetitive.
And here we should answer objectively and without emotion why everything is like that. Why are we the poorest and the sickest, why do we miss the enthusiasm that was flooding the squares 25 years ago, when the prophecy that we would need 20-25 years for our dream for real democracy to come true seemed monstrous to us? Why are the processes that could lead to a victory of the democratic system going in the slowest and most painful way in our country? The reason and blame lies first and foremost with the former Bulgarian Communist Party, which has remained unreformed, only changing its name to ‘Socialist’, as well as in the structures created by the former State Security, who are active even today. In which other former socialist country did the ruling Communist Party make an attempt to turn its country into the 16th Soviet republic? Where else was there such forced collectivization of agriculture? Where else were there such concentration camps, in which so many ‘guilty’ without guilt met their deaths? The Bulgarian Communist Party was satisfied with only changing its name to ‘Socialist’, but its thinking and actions remain unchanged.
In contrast to the rest of the countries, in which the files of the former special services were immediately revealed after the changes, in our country the process took many years (and even today there are unrevealed and undelivered files from military intelligence). Thus, in the judiciary system and even in the Constitutional Court, there were former State Security agents who resisted revealing files. They also resisted attempts at lustration for governing positions in banks, thereby leading to their bankruptcy. BSP blamed the democratic forces for all of the failures of the transition, although between the change on 10 November 1989 and the biggest economic catastrophe in 1997, we had only one democratic government – the government of Philip Dimitrov, which lasted only 13 months. Whenever BSP – on its own or in coalition – was in government, the reforms stopped and the country fell behind. The governments of Philip Dimitrov and Ivan Kostov then started the reform processes all over again. Each time after BSP has governed, our country has gone through economic collapse. Our country was led into real catastrophe by the rules of Andrey Lukanov and Zhan Videnov and now, with the BSP and DPS government of Plamen Oresharski, a bank has been bankrupted again. This is why our transition has been hard and painful.
Despite all of this the transition has been successful. Bulgaria has achieved the hardest reform of all and changed its geopolitical orientation, in spite of persistent efforts by Russia to retain us in its orbit. Our country is an equal member of the EU and NATO and uses all positive aspects of that membership. A social market economy has been built, and the share of private initiative in our GDP has reached 90%. Our exports are mostly oriented towards the other countries of the EU, and they are growing every year. The empty shops of the communist years and the Lukanov and Videnov winters are now full of goods. We are witnessing an incredible boom in housing construction, the development of beautiful office buildings and improving infrastructure. At last we also have highways. People can travel and take vacations, and the young can study both here and abroad.
Yes, the transition was hard, but it has happened!
Yordan Sokolov is a lawyer, politician and statesman, Minister of the Interior, MP in the 37th, 38th and 39th National Assembly, chairman of the 38th National Assembly. He was born on January 18, 1933 in Sofia. From 1956 to 1958 he was Secretary to the arbitration. He was a member of the Lawyer Council for seven terms. He is a member of the Executive Committee of the Union of Lawyers in Bulgaria. He was legal adviser to President Zhelev. He was appointed Minister of the Interior in the government of Philip Dimitrov. In 2004 was one of the MPs who founded the Party DSB, which he left in 2011.