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Author: Georgy Ganev

Based on an analytical narrative, and utilizing macroeconomic and new institutional economic theory, this exposition studies the Bulgarian economy during the decades after 1989. The three decades are placed in the context of the century-and-a-half-long Bulgarian development and convergence dynamic. They are then presented in terms of clearly defined sub-periods, and each sub-period is analyzed in detail. The analysis for each period focuses on three sets of issues: macroeconomic developments, microeconomic developments, and institutional changes. The exposition ends by applying the insights from the analysis to the question of whether the state of the economy in Bulgaria as of 2019 gives grounds for pessimism (Bulgaria will continue the cycles of unsuccessful convergence) or for optimism (Bulgaria will achieve an unprecedented degree of convergence in the coming decades). The answer is that at present both expectations can be supported by sets of serious arguments.

In: Southeastern Europe
Author: Kiril Vassilev

This article deals with the changes in Bulgarian culture after the fall of the Communist regime in Bulgaria in 1989. The first sections sketch the state of the Bulgarian culture and society during the later years of the communism. They describe the change in official ideology, i.e. the return to nationalism. The controversial role of the Communist regime in the modernization process of society is analyzed, with its simultaneous modernization and counter-modernization heritage. Then we shift to the changes in society and culture that have taken place since the fall of the regime. Attention is focused on the new mass culture, the embodiment of the value crisis in which the post-Communist Bulgarian society is located. The radical transformations in the field of the so-called ‘high’ culture are examined, especially the financial difficulties and the overall change in the social status of arts and culture. The basic trauma of the Bulgarian culture embodied in the constantly returning feeling of being a cultural by-product of the West is brought out. The article concludes that Bulgarian post-Communist culture has failed to create a more complex and flexible image of the “Bulgarian” that can use the energies of globalization without feeling threatened by disintegration.

In: Southeastern Europe
Author: Georgi Dimitrov

The goal of this introduction is to outline the general thematic and interpretative scene wherein the next eight authors will elaborate in greater depth on more concrete issues. That is why this text mostly aims to review and rethink the achievements and problems of the local understanding of Bulgarian society in the last decades.

In: Southeastern Europe

This article argues that the EU’s enlargement negotiations with Eastern European applicants have become possible to a large extent by the introduction of objective assessment by the Commission, which allowed integration to proceed despite the threat of deadlock. The process of negotiations and preparation, however, should be better seen as a constant switching between the technical parts of the acquis and their (potential) political consequences. These arguments are developed in an analysis of Bulgaria’s path to accession. The analysis shows that in the domestic arena, the same tensions between the seemingly technical character of the negotiations and their political implications and consequences can be observed. The article will argue that while the emphasis on objective criteria and technical issues obscured the potential political consequences and effects on various sectors of the economy and society, stalled reforms in public administration or the judiciary belonged to the realm of its unintended consequences. Rule of law did not reform significantly despite the introduction of a special tool of political conditionality, the EU’s Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (cvm). The politicization of issues changed over time, with some measures affecting political cleavages more than a decade after Bulgaria’s accession.

In: Southeastern Europe

The analysis starts from a key question: how many transformations did post-communism, which came as a promise and project for one transformation, actually carry out? This article is a conceptual, not an event narrative about the transformations of democratization. Its theoretical ambition is threefold. The first aim is to develop a new analytical model for the study of transformations based on the concept of ‘symbolic-ideological hegemony’ and a matrix of two pairs of indicators. The first pair reflects the intentionality of the change and examines the (non-)existence of an explicitly formulated political project as well as its (self-)designation by elites and citizens. The second pair of indicators concerns agency and covers the supply side and the demand side, the perspective and role of elites, on the one hand, and on the other hand, the perspective and role of citizens. The other ambitions of the study are to identify the key transformations in Bulgaria’s three-decade-long post-communist development – a democratic, a (national) populist, and a post-democratic one, and to analyze them in a comparative perspective.

In: Southeastern Europe

This article analyses the emergence and development of different forms of civil society in Bulgaria from the late 1980s to the present day, focusing on ngos and the large anti-government protests in 1989–1991, 1997, and 2013–2014. It shows that civil society has been developing in ebbs and flows, its main actors having alt-civic and fake doubles: nationalist movements and fake counter-protests. Recent developments indicate a clear trend of transition from representative to direct democracy, which coincides with the populist orientation of most parties. This coincidence is dangerous because populist parties, following the romantic tradition, reinvented the figure of “the people” as traditionalistic, nationalistic, and conservative. “Civil society,” seen as “alien,” was constructed as an enemy of “the people.” The author argues that defending the pluralistic values of civil society against the thus-invented “people,” is the main challenge to democracy in Bulgaria today.

In: Southeastern Europe
In: Southeastern Europe


This article deals with the fate of Soviet Jewry during the period between Stalin’s death and the outbreak of the Sinai War (1956). It focuses on the attitudes of Israeli government circles, and their actions oriented towards opening Soviet immigration to Israel (Aliyah) gates. The goal of Aliyah stood high on the agenda of Israeli decision makers. Nevertheless, until the end of 1955, its treatment was quite limited. We describe the chain of events that transformed this situation. The article is based largely on documents from Israeli and Soviet archives, including many that have not yet been published. We also use Nativ organization documents, which are shown here for the first time.

In: The Soviet and Post-Soviet Review