Mar 21 2013
SIX people have set themselves on fire in Bulgaria in less than a month. Three have died. The death by self-immolation of Plamen Goranov, a 36-year-old amateur photographer and rock climber, especially shocked the public. Mr Goranov has become Bulgaria’s Jan Palach (the student who set himself on fire in 1969 to protest against the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia), a symbol of the protests that have rocked the country in recent weeks. “You fired up our courage and love for freedom”, said one banner at the national day of mourning following his death.
Self-immolation is not a new phenomenon in Bulgaria. According to Médecins Sans Frontières, a medical charity, Bulgaria, a country of 7.3m people, had an average of 7.4 self-immolations a year between 1983 and 2002, most of them politically motivated. Yet this wave of protests—and individuals’ willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice for political goals—is worse than any previous one since the collapse of communism. Bulgarians have been worn down by rampant corruption, mismanagement in both the public and the private sector, useless bureaucracy, high unemployment and poverty. “The deep-seated cause for the political crisis is poverty,” says Kristofor Pavlov, chief economist at UniCredit Bulbank in Sofia.