Bulgaria 2015: The Year in Review

Yes, it’s entirely arbitrary, but all such “year in review” lists are. Mine pretends nothing authoritative and I offer it only as a sort of verbal prophylactic against the tendency to reduce news from and about Bulgaria to its economic status (“poorest country in the EU”) or regional position (“the Balkans”). With luck, this year in review is also entertaining.


Zhelyu Zhelev, the dissident who became president, died January 30.

Zhelyu Zhelev“Being a rabid anti-Communist does not yet mean that one is a democrat; nor is frenzied ant-fascism a hallmark of democracy. To a democrat, both communism and fascism are abhorrent. Indeed, there has been no greater anti-communist than Hitler, and no greater anti-fascist than Stalin, but neither of them is known to have been a democrat. Moreover, the 20th century has seen no greater butchers of democracy than these two mustached comrades.” Zhelyu Zhelev (Sofia 1997)

Sonya Yoncheva released her first solo album, Paris, mon amour, and sang Violetta in La Traviata at the Metropolitan Opera. NPR called her “the pride of Bulgaria” and praised her “creamy lyric voice.” Listen to her sing the rarely heard “Le jour sous le soleil beni (Messager).”


uberBarely a month after beginning operation, the Bulgarian National Income agency, Ministries of the Interior and Transport organized a joint inspection on the activities of Uber Bulgaria. By October, Uber Bulgaria announced a “temporary” halt to its services.


Leah with tomatoAs I wrote in my August 27 post “The Glass Is Half Empty,” Bulgarians repeatedly rank first in the annals of European Union unhappiness, dissatisfaction, misery, and distrust. Eurostat, the EU’s statistical office, chose the International Day of Happiness to confirm this fact anew. But Bulgarians still know that they have the best tomatoes in the world!




cryptology 2015Eurocrypt 2015 was held April 26-30 in Sofia. This was the first time the International Conference on the Theory and Applications of Cryptographic Techniques was held in Bulgaria. Fortunately, the word for “cryptography” in Bulgaria needs no Alan Turing to break the code; it’s криптография.



Nikolai GrozevNikolai Grozev, mayor of Nova Zagora, determined that sugar may very well be good for one’s health, especially if sprinkled on roads rather than on one’s food.



Greek euroBulgaria showed little sympathy for the financial troubles of its neighbor to the south. Having survived its own financial meltdown in the mid-1990s, Bulgaria’s people and politicians thought Greece should suck it up and do what needs to be done.



Trimona yogurtNPR recognizes Atanas Valev for his Trimona yogurt, naturally made with lactobacillus bulgaricus.




хълмът ТрапесицаThe government of Azerbaijan donates 1.2 million Euros to fund work on the restoration of the archaeological structures on Trapesitsa Hill in Veliko Turnovo. On the one hand, it’s money from a country notable for human rights violations. On the other hand, it’s money sorely needed to restore one of Bulgaria’s archeological treasures. A moral quandary.


The Last SupperIn celebration of Bulgaria’s independence day on September 22, a diving club in Bulgaria attached waterproof replicas of da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” and “Mona Lisa” to a reef 26 feet under water.



World Puzzle FederationThe 24th World Puzzle Championship took place on October 11 – 18, 2015 in Sofia. Go figure.




Kristalina GeorgievaEurActiv.com declares that Kristalina Georgieva, European Commission vice president and chair of the UN High Level Panel on Humanitarian Financing, intends to run for the job of UN Secretary-General. Current UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s term expires at the end of 2016.


Junior Eurovision held its competition in Sofia on November 21. Bulgaria didn’t win this year, but you can see its entry. Bulgaria’s young musicians did receive second place in 2014.


Miss Bulgaria inspires a meme simply by excitedly gesturing to encourage Miss Phillipines, the winner of the Miss Universe 2015 contest, to receive her crown. Being a good sport is apparently newsworthy.

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