National Coordinator for Anti-Semitism Wishes for Traditional Lukov March to Be Called Off

Sofia, February 14 (BTA) - The National Coordinator for Anti-Semitism and Bulgarian Deputy Foreign Minister Georg Georgiev Wednesday said he wished the traditional Lukov March would be called off. His remarks came amid a controversy which traditionally flares up as supporters of Gen. Hristo Lukov (1883-1943) begin preparations for their annual commemoration.

The 2018 Lukov March is scheduled to take place on February 17. It was initially banned by the local authorities in Sofia, but the court overturned the ban.

"Lukov March" is a torchlit procession which has been held annually since 2003 to pay tribute to Lukov, who was Bulgaria's Minister of War between 1935 and 1938 and a controversial figure because of his close links to the Third Reich and his activity as leader of the far-right Union of Bulgarian National Legions. The general was assassinated by two Communist militants on February 13, 1943, and the Lukov March marks this anniversary.

"I would be happy to see this march of hatred - and hatred is alien to Bulgarians - being called off, especially at a moment of historic importance for Bulgaria, when the march could seriously compromise Bulgaria's international image and divert it from the European path which it has been following successfully for so many years," said Georgiev. He was apparently referring to the heightened visibility Bulgaria enjoys as holder of the rotating EU Council Presidency in the first half of 2018.

"The Bulgarian people has demonstrated that its tolerance and the possibility of people of different racial, national and ethnic backgrounds to coexist in the same territory in the course of thousands of years is unshakable, and it will by no means allow the ethnic model that has evolved down the ages to be supplanted," the National Coordinator said.

He recalled that in 1943 Bulgaria resisted Nazi pressure and refused to surrender its Jewish citizens for deportation to the Nazi concentration camps, and that for 50 years the Bulgarian people successfully held out against communists' repressions, pressure and terror. "I don't think Bulgarian people would yield to this kind of provocation today," Georgiev said.

He urged the political parties not to use the issue for demagoguery or for "dubious short-term gains".

Also on Wednesday, the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) called on Prime Minister Boyko Borissov to distance his party from the Lukov March and take steps "to contain and eradicate this perverse political phenomenon".

The Socialists argued that Lukov March seeks to exculpate fascism.

They said further that "the creeping authoritarianism and manifestations of fascism and neo-Nazism in countries of Eastern Europe" which are seen these days "cause concern among democratically minded people and the entire democratic community".

A version of the address which was leaked to the press caused an outrage as it mentioned, among other things, the 1945 People's Court in Bulgaria, referring to it as "necessary and unavoidable wartime justice".

The People's Court was an extraordinary court which operated after World War II between December 1944 and April 1945 and which convicted 9,155 people, including 2,730 to death, among them most of the political and business elite.

The version of the address to the Prime Minister which appeared on the BSP website omitted the part on the People's Court.

The Socialists' address prompted a declaration by the Parliamentary Group of the ruling GERB Party, which was read out at Wednesday's plenary sitting of the National Assembly by MP Toma Bikov. The declaration says that the Prime Minister and GERB have never shown solidarity with Lukov March and have no reason to distance themselves from it. "What is more, we see this event as an opportunity for expression for the supporters of the anti-democratic National Socialist ideology, and we are firmly opposed to this kind of events," GERB declared.

"GERB condemns and will fight against any anti-democratic ideology, including National Socialism, fascism and communism. We will never tire to say that the so called 'People's Court' was a crime because the historical facts and truth are on our side. We will continue to commemorate and pay tribute to the thousands of innocent victims of communist terror from 1944 to 1962," the declaration reads.

Bikov said in conclusion that the GERB Parliamentary Group will oppose any attempt at justifying political violence.

In a related development, Plamen Dimitrov, Chairman of the Sofia Chapter of the Bulgarian National Union and Lukov March Commandant, told a BTA-hosted news conference on Wednesday that, according to the rules of the march, propagandizing ideologies which are prohibited by the law is completely inadmissible during the event and the participants may not carry any symbols banned by Bulgarian legislation.

The organizers argued that Lukov March and General Lukov himself are the target of "loads of outright, brazen and most shameless lies". In their opinion, there are no hard facts to support the allegation that Lukov March is a "neo-Nazi and anti-Semitic gathering".

Source: Sofia