Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Bulgaria and Russia: a special relationship

While spending time with Bulgarian and Russian delegates at this year's International Forum I cannot help but think about the special relation between the two countries.

Obviously, both countries are predominantly Slavic, and both share the recent socialist past, but their connections run deeper than that. 

Many Bulgarians will proudly tell you that they gave the Cyrillic alphabet as well as the first Slavic Christian texts to the big cousin, via the Saint brothers Cyril and Methodius.
Monks Cyril and Methodius displaying their masterpiece. Source: Wikipedia.

A thousand years later, Russia - by then one of the world's largest empires - liberated Bulgaria from a nearly 500-years' Ottoman yoke*. This happened during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78.

Surely, the newly-liberated knew how to appreciate this. In many Bulgarian towns multiple monuments in order to honour the Russian army, its generals, and the emperor Alexander II were built.  

Alexander II. Source: Alexanderpalace.org.

In Sofia alone, there is the Russian Church, the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, the Russian Monument (Ruski Pametnik), and the Monument to the Tzar Liberator high on a horse   - all initiated at the turn of the 20th century.

Even if nowadays some Bulgarians say they have been deeply disappointed by the recent experiences as part of the Communist Block, the monuments in their cities and some historic sentiments still remain.

* the dramatic word 'yoke' is a favoured phrase by many Bulgarians to describe the times when Bulgaria was part of the Ottoman Empire. The phrase potentially originates from Ivan Vazov's novel Under the Yoke - one of the great classics of Bulgarian literature. Bulgarian children spend long months at school reading and analysing the novel.        

It's a yoke.

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