Police in Bulgaria’s capital city Sofia intervened to prevent the 2023 Lukov March, the annual procession in honour of a Bulgarian fascist leader from the time of the Second World War.
Police prevented the participants – notably significantly fewer than in past years – from leaving their stated departure point, and barred the grouping from passing a taped-off point next to Lukov’s house in central Sofia, where in past years participants had laid floral tributes and listened to tributes in praise of the fascist leader.
The Lukov March has been notorious since it was first held in 2003. Organisers, from a far-right ultra-nationalist organisation, seek to portray Hristo Lukov, leader of the fascist Union of Bulgarian National Legions in the 1940s, as a “patriotic hero”.
The records show that the Legionnaires was an antisemitic organisation and on the Facebook page of the Lukov March, supporters regularly post antisemitic comments and cartoons. Over the years, the Lukov March regularly has drawn participation of neo-Nazis from elsewhere in Europe and the world.
Organisers have never offered a sustainable explanation of why they choose to venerate Lukov, a fascist leader, rather than any other Bulgarian general of the 20th century.
The question of whether a ban was in place regarding the 2023 event is disputed.
In November 2022, the Sofia City Administrative Court overturned a ban of the 2023 Lukov March by Sofia mayor Yordanka Fandukova, while allowing an appeal to the Supreme Administrative Court.
The Supreme Administrative Court had been expected to rule on February 20, but a court ruling was postponed for procedural reasons, citing an error in documentation lodged in court by Sofia municipality. The Supreme Administrative Court gave the municipality seven days to correct the documentation, that is, two days after the February 25 scheduled date for the Lukov March.
This led the organisers to claim that a court ruling overturning the ban was in place, while the municipality said that until the process in court was decided, the ban stood.
In counterpoint to the Lukov March, there was a protest on February 25 organised by Antifa Bulgaria, entitled “No to Nazis on our Streets”.
In the centre of Sofia, police at one point halted participants in the anti-Lukov March event, to prevent a clash between the group and those who were trying to go ahead with the neo-Nazi event.
Such a counter-protest against the Lukov March has been held regularly in recent years, but in 2023, the route culminated in the central Sofia monument to the 1943 prevention of the deportation of the Bulgarian Jews to the Nazi death camps of the Holocaust, in honour of the 80th anniversary of that prevention but also in tribute to the 11 343 Jews from lands administered by monarchist Bulgaria who were sent to be murdered in Treblinka.
This year’s “No to Nazis on our Streets” event drew larger participation than in recent years. At the monument, there were those who shouted abuse at the participants in the anti-Lukov March procession, but who were drowned out as participants – who had been shouting anti-fascists slogans en route – shouted back.
In advance of the Lukov March planned for February 25, several voices had been raised in condemnation of the pro-fascist event, including those of the World Jewish Congress, the Bulgarian Socialist Party, GERB, We Continue the Change-Democratic Bulgaria, the embassies of the United States, the United Kingdom and the State of Israel, Bulgaria’s Foreign Ministry, and representatives of 18 non-governmental organisations, including Jewish, Roma and human rights NGOs.
(Archive photo of a protest against the Lukov March, via BNT)
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