Bulgaria's Turn

Sofia Gives Moscow Some Attitude

A protester, wearing a sweater in the colors of the Bulgarian national flag, sits on the tracks as anti-Corruption demonstrators block the main railway station in Sofia, March 10, 2013. Stoyan Nenov / Reuters

Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev has been saying for some time now what many leaders in Central Europe and the Balkans do not even dare to think. On May 7, in his speech at the Gdańsk ceremonies marking the end of the Second World War, he called Vladimir Putin a nineteenth-century imperialist who is creating his own spheres of influence in Europe. Only several months earlier,  Plevneliev told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, “We all want to see a country, which has produced Tchaikovsky, Tolstoy, and Dostoevsky, as a partner. However, facts show that we are dealing with a different Russia nowadays—a nationalist, aggressive state ruled by a president who sees Europe as an opponent, not a partner.” He has consequently continued with his critique, also accusing Moscow of trying to divide the European Union and destabilize the Balkans.

Plevneliev’s anti-Russian stance is a startling change in tone in a

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