North Korea

North Korea
The always bombastic and unpredictable North Koreans go hysterical again. This time the country is prepared to "go to war" with South Korea because that country is playing loudspeakers directed at North Korean territory. A headline from a UK paper reads, "More than 50 North Korea submarines 'leave their bases' as war talks with South continue "

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Bulgaria - not normally in the headlines

It seems that half the time a country or region or event makes the news, it is because of some violent or disturbing incident. Perhaps that is what "news" is, in contrast to quiet development or progress. (To be fair, the other half may be interesting events such as the Olympics, or celebrations, etc.)

Regardless, a glimpse of Bulgaria the country, is worthwhile even though the event that has boosted it into the world spotlight was an act of terror - the bombing of an Israeli tourist group traveling by bus near the Black Sea resort town of Burgas.

The bus was transporting Israeli vacationers from the air terminal when it was blown up...

Last Wednesday's bombing killed five vacationing Israelis, along with a Bulgarian bus driver and the attacker, and wounding 17 others. Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov told reporters the bomb was in the backpack and detonated in the luggage compartment of the bus. The bomber was believed to have been about 36 years old and had been in the country between four to seven days, he said. He later said in an interview with state TV that the blast was caused by 3 kilograms (6.6 pounds) of TNT powder.

The damaged bus being transported away from the scene for further analysis.

Chaos and grief among relatives waiting for bombing victims to be returned to Israel.

Somber return of caskets to Israel

Another round of burials begins

Unlike the higher death toll in the US city of Aurora, Colorado, where a lone individual opened fire on a crowd of movie goers, killing 12 and wounding 58, the Bulgaria attack is fraught with international implications.

Israeli and American officials have blamed the Iran-backed Lebanese militant group Hezbollah for Wednesday's bombing. "Hezbollah is behind the attack, it was part of a series of attacks," he told Israel's Channel 2 TV. "We know that Iran is behind it all. What we don't know is who the actual man is."

Hezbollah's flag

Israel has attributed a series of attacks on its citizens around the world in recent months to Iran and its proxies. Bulgarian officials in the meantime have sent DNA samples from the attacker to the US in order to determine his identity - specifically whether he was a Guantanamo detainee who had been released, or known as a terrorist from other groups.

Bulgarian Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov, in charge of his country's investigation of the attack, has sent DNA samples of the attacker to the US in order to assist in identifying the individual

So, once again, Iran and its proxies are in the spotlight, and repercussions are yet to be determined.


A small Eastern European country of 7.4 million people, situated south of Romania, and with access to the Black Sea to the East.

The resort-based city of Burgas, the scene of the bombing is on the Black Sea coast

Bulgaria's population is predominantly urban and mainly concentrated in the administrative centres of its 28 provinces. Most commercial and cultural activities are concentrated in Bulgaria's capital Sofia. The strongest sectors of the economy are heavy industry, power engineering and agriculture, all relying on local natural resources.

The past 70 years,

Wikipedia notes, "Bulgaria was forced to join the Axis powers in 1941, when German troops that were preparing to invade Greece from Romania reached the Bulgarian borders and demanded permission to pass through Bulgarian territory. Threatened by direct military confrontation, Tsar Boris III had no choice but to join the fascist bloc, which was made official on 1 March 1941. ... However the king refused to hand over the Bulgarian Jews to the Nazis, saving 50,000 lives."

After World War II, Bulgaria fell under the influence of the Soviet Union, until it emerged again as its own entity in 1990. The country had an economic spurt after being liberated from communism, but the effect was not sustained, and the recent 2008-2012 world recession has brought economic tension to the forefront. Nor does it help that Bulgaria has, apparently, a high rate of corruption which has not been effectively dealt with.

The current political structure dates to the adoption of a democratic constitution soon after the country moved out of the shadow and control of the Soviet Union. Since then (1990), Bulgaria has had an unstable party system, in the past two decades differently dominated by the post-communist Bulgarian Socialist Party or by the right Union of Democratic Forces and most recently by the new right-oriented party - Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria. The US Library of Congress Federal Research Division reported it in 2006 as having generally good freedom of speech and human rights records.

Today, reflecting its Western tilt, Bulgaria is a member of the European Union, NATO and the Council of Europe, a founding state of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), and has taken a seat at the UN Security Council three times.

Unfortunately, with less than a stellar economy, Bulgaria's population is down from a peak of nine million in 1989 and nearly 1 million younger people have emigrated since the collapse of communism (though reflecting a new freedom to move into other member states of the EU). The population continues to decrease and the current growth rate is one of the lowest in the world.

Karvarma is a basically a slow-cooked stew containing chopped meat and vegetables - a popular and good representation of Bulgarian cuisine. Greek and Turkish dishes have heavily influenced Bulgaria's national cuisine.

No comments: