A controversial bid by the local council of the Bulgarian town of Koprivshtitsa to abolish its status as an architectural and historical reserve appears doomed to failure.
The picturesque town, just more than 100km from capital city Sofia, is a popular tourist drawcard among foreigners and Bulgarians for its 19th Century Bulgarian Revival architectural style.
For Bulgarians, the name resonates because of various notables who were born there, including writer Lyuben Karavelov, Georgi Benkovski – prominent in the struggle against Ottoman rule in the 19th century – and poet Dimcho Debelyanov.
When news broke on March 29 that the council had voted in favouring abolishing the town’s status as an architectural and historical reserve, decreed in 1971, it instantly drew attention away from the country’s main talking point, the aftermath of the parliamentary elections.
According to a report by Bulgarian National Television, the borough council had taken the decision on March 17, without the knowledge of mayor Gencho Gerdanov. Nor did Gerdanov know what interests lay behind the decision, the report said.
Should the reserve status be removed, the major obstacle to putting up new buildings and facilities would be gone.
Gerdanov quickly spoke out against the council’s decision and said that he would do everything in his power to stop it. Investors who wanted to come to his town were always welcome, he said, but anything done had been in tune with the architecture in Koprivshtitsa, which had become a symbol of the Bulgarian Revival.
He said that he was sure that the third Borissov government would help him in every way. (At the moment, there is no third Borissov government. Who will run the country in the wake of the March 26 elections is still being negotiated). Meanwhile, as reports pointed out, the removal of the reserve status would require the consent of the cabinet.
By the morning of March 30, Koprivshtitsa – which by now had become quite the national talking point, in the media and on social networks – drew a Facebook comment from head of state President Roumen Radev.
“Koprivshtitsa does not belong to a few councillors. Koprivshtitsa belongs to Bulgaria,” Radev said.
“I therefore urge everyone on which it depends to immediate revise or suspend the decision by the municipal council about a change of the museum-town status. Any compromise in this case would be an assault on the national memory and heritage of Bulgaria,” he said.
Kableshkov square, in Koprivshtitsa. Photo: TwoWings.From Malta, where he was attending a European People’s Party meeting, GERB leader Boiko Borissov – who will be first in the queue to be offered a mandate to try to form a government – said on March 30 that he had spoken to Mayor Gerdanov.
Borissov said that the mayor had assured him that he would do everything possible to stop the change of status. If need be, the mayor would go to court to oppose the council’s decision, Borissov said.
At a mid-afternoon news conference on March 30, GERB said that if its councillors did not rescind their proposal, they would be expelled from the political party.
Late the same afternoon, the Bulgarian Socialist Party also called for the decision to be rescinded.
Bulgaria’s Culture Ministry issued a statement on March 30 saying that it was not up to the municipal council to decide on changing or otherwise revising the status of the town.
Such a change could be made only after a formal evaluation of all the objects of cultural value and overall town environment. The procedure to change status could be initiated only after a mayor submitted a formal application, accompanied by reasons. The Culture Ministry had received no such request, it said.
(Main photo: Rilieva)