Sofia municipality has declined to give permission for the annual “Lukov March” that had been planned by the far-right Bulgarian National Union for February 15 2014 in honour of a 1930s anti-Semitic general who led the “Bulgarian Legionnaires” movement.
This is the first time that the municipality has formally refused to allow the march, which has been held every year since 2003.
Earlier, there were public appeals for Sofia municipality to ban the march, including from the Shalom Organisation of the Jews in Bulgaria, the Movement for Rights and Freedoms and the Reformist Bloc political formation. Recent years have seen rising calls for prohibition of the march, from human rights and anti-racist organisations elsewhere in Europe and in Bulgaria.
A statement by Sofia municipality said that the capital city’s mayor, Yordanka Fandukova, had request and received opinions from the Prosecutor-General, national and city police.
The opinion of these institutions was that the march would endanger public order in the city.
Fandukova has asked the police chief to “take all steps to ensure the security of citizens and the protection of public order in the capital”.
On the evening of February 13, it was unclear whether the Bulgarian National Union would intend to proceed with the torchlight procession in spite of the municipality refusing permission.
Local media quoted the Bulgarian National Union as denying that the event was racist and xenophobic. It said that in all the years that the march had been held, there had been “exceptional order and discipline” and the “only danger of tensions arising is if an attempt is made to prohibit the honouring of a Bulgarian hero”.
Hristo Lukov, minister of war from 1935 to 1938, was the leader of the Union of Bulgarian National Legions from 1932 and was an enthusiastic supporter of Bulgaria’s wartime alliance with Nazi Germany. He was assassinated at his home in Sofia on February 13 1943 on the orders of the Bulgarian Communist Party. Historians have disputed the precise nature of his political sympathies and the Bulgarian National Union, whose members call themselves “patriots”, denies that he was a fascist.