Bulgaria’s National Co-ordinator against Anti-Semitism Georg Georgiev has issued a strong statement condemning the “Lukov March” planned for February 17 2018 as a shameful event and as as march of hatred that he hoped would not go ahead.
On February 14, the same day as Georgiev’s declaration, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s GERB party declared in Parliament its rejection of the Lukov March, describing the event as an opportunity for participants in the march to express support for an anti-democratic national socialist ideology.
The 2018 Lukov March is the 15th annual such event, in which dark-clad, torch-bearing marchers honour General Hristo Lukov, leader of the Union of Bulgarian National Legions, an extremist organisation in the 1930s and 1940s that backed Nazi Germany and anti-Semitism.
Lukov was assassinated in February 1943 by communist partisans, the same year that Bulgarian society – led by the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and a number of political and civil society leaders – successfully opposed the deportation of Bulgarian Jews to the Holocaust where more than six million Jews were mass-murdered.
In his declaration, Georgiev said that the Lukov March was a very shameful event.
Georgiev said that the Bulgarian people had shown over the years that their tolerance and the opportunity for different races, peoples and ethnic groups were unwavering, while there would be no tolerance for any shift from the ethnic model built up in Bulgaria over so many centures.
He noted that in 1943, Bulgaria had resisted Nazi pressure and had not handed over its Jews to the concentration camps.
Georgiev added that for 50 years, the Bulgarian people also had successfully resisted the repression, pressure and terror of the communists.
“I do not believe that today the Bulgarian people will go to a provocation that seeks to bring us back to a dark time and wants us to honour people who, for one reason or another, have been sympathetic to one of the most dark regimes in human history.”
He said that he regarded as equivalent all totalitarian dictatorships that repressed the human spirit and people’s ability to live according to their potential and wishes.
Georgiev said that he would greatly appreciate if the February 17 event, which he described as a march of hatred and something out of kilter to Bulgaria, did not take place: “Especially at such a crucial moment in our history, which could endanger the country’s reputation and international image and divert us from the European direction in which we are moving”.
He called on all parties and politicians not to exploit the issue for questionable temporary benefit, a reference to partisan political squabbling about the Lukov March issue. In recent days, the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party, which has stated its own opposition to the march, has attacked Borissov’s government on the issue, while defending the “People’s Court” process which saw many thousands killed in the overture days of the communist regime.
In the National Assembly, the GERB parliamentary group strongly condemned the planned Lukov March and expressed hope that it would not take place.
Read by GERB parliamentary group leader Tsvetan Tsvetanov, the declaration said that Borissov and GERB had never been in solidarity with the Lukov March and distanced themselves from it.
“As a European and right-wing conservative party, GERB condemns and will fight against any antidemocratic ideology, such as the ideologies of national socialism, fascism and communism,” the declaration said.
It said that through education policy, GERB will continue to promote the condemnation of political violence in all its forms, despite the resistance of the supporters of national socialism, fascism and communism.
“For us, political violence is a wound that needs to be treated. This wound dissociates Bulgarian society throughout the 20th century and its consequences must be overcome by the efforts of all political forces, including the left.”
On February 6, World Jewish Congress (WJC) CEO and Executive Vice President Robert Singer met with Bulgarian Prime Minister Borissov and handed him a petition that by that stage had been signed by 175 000 people worldwide so far requesting that the Bulgarian government issue an administrative ban on the neo-Nazi march.
Singer said: “I told Prime Minister Borissov that in our opinion, the Lukov March is not only against the Jews, but above all is directed against the Bulgarian people and its heard earned democracy.” Borissov declared: “The Lukov March is the work of an entirely marginal group and will not affect the relationships between people that were built over the centuries.”
The WJC petition calls on the government to use administrative action to enforce a ban on the march, which continues to occur each year despite efforts to sanction it.
“Now, in the 21st century, when intolerance including anti-Semitism is again on the rise in Europe, this continent and its countries and capitals cannot afford displays that echo those disastrous times. […] Administrative action against the Lukov March must go further than the mere announcement of withdrawal of permission for the event, while in effect allowing it to proceed. There must be no room on the streets of a European capital for a parade that worships a man and an age that represented this most sinister part of our history. In the context of Bulgarian and of European history, permitting the Lukov March would be an abomination,” the WJC petition said.
The Organization of the Jews in Bulgaria “Shalom” firmly welcomed the declaration by the co-ordinator of the fight against anti-Semitism, Georg Georgiev.
In a February 14 letter to Georgiev, Shalom president Dr Alexander Oscar expressed thanks for the categorical condemnation by the Bulgarian government of the Lukov March.
“No less important is the declaration read by the MP of the GERB parliamentary deputies today, with which they declared their readiness to fight against any antidemocratic ideology and any attempt to rehabilitate the political violence,” the letter said.
Earlier, on February 9, Dr Oscar expressed gratitude to Sofia BSP leader Kaloyan Pargov for the party’s declaration against the Lukov March, read out a day earlier at a meeting of Sofia City Council.
At a news conference on February 14, the organisers of the Lukov March denied that Lukov was an anti-Semite, saying that some of his best friends were Jews.
Plamen Dimitrov of the Bulgarian National Union went on to, somewhat bizarrely, link Shalom – an organisation founded in 1990 – to the April 1925 terrorist attack by communists on St Nedelya church, and added that, according to him, half of the communist “People’s Court” judges were Jews.
Dimitrov said that Jewish organisations such as Shalom received external funding and as such were “agents of foreign influence” that should be investigated by the State Agency for National Security.
The organisers underlined that the march would go ahead, on the basis of a Supreme Administrative Court decision which had overruled attempts by Sofia mayor Yordanka Fandukova to ban or change its route.
On February 15, a conference entitled “Sofia says no to hate speech” is to be held, as a counterpoint to the Lukov March. The march’s organisers have announced a protest against this anti-hate speech, which they have entitled “Sofia says no to liberal lies and manipulations”.
(Photo of Georgiev: Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs)