In the Shadow of Russia: Eastern Europe in the Postwar World

By Nicholas Halasz | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER THREE
Bulgaria

Crossing the Danube on a ferryboat from Rumania one enters a poor country and meets a crude but diligent, healthy, and thrifty people. Whether they work on their tiny pieces of land or in offices in the towns they are cut from the same cloth-peasants and peasants' sons. Luxury has no place in their lives. Indeed, it would offend common decency in this homogeneous simple setting which has little to offer those who strive to get rich and show that they enjoy it.

There is no demarcation between classes, and social mannerisms are absent. But a keen sense of power divides the people who have it from those who passionately covet it. It is as though all the ambition and emotion of this seemingly phlegmatic and taciturn people had been loosed in the quest for the exercise of power. All otherwise restrained violence explodes in the field of politics, and murder is a short cut often resorted to for its efficacy. Perhaps it is the equalitarian character of the land which generates furious hatreds and jealousies, for the "outs" appear no better than the "ins."

The great powers saddled this peasant democracy with a German prince, shrewd and cynical, who considered political power his private asset and enjoyed risking it in the big game with the great. As a consequence, Bulgaria became a chronic loser.

Power rested with the king and his circle of favorite officers, lawyer politicians, and some industrialists and mer

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