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2 Jan, 2007 02:07

Bulgaria remembers links with Russia

Bulgaria remembers links with Russia

Bulgaria has cemented its growing ties with the West by becoming one of the European Union's newest members when it joined on Monday. Still, some Bulgarians look back with nostalgia at their shared history with Russia.

The relationship between Russians and Bulgarians is not just politics – relations between both countries were close for hundreds of years.

Twice in history when the Bulgarians were in trouble, Russian soldiers were the first to help: in the 19th century against the Turks, and again in World War II. Although the Bulgarian government chose to make a deal with Hitler, many Bulgarians feel it was the Russian soldiers who arrived in their country in 1944 who were the true liberators.

“In the fatherland war we were fighting shoulder to shoulder with Soviet soldiers from the Red Army. We put our hearts into the relationship between us and the Russian soldiers. We were like brothers. It was difficult to say who loved who more – us them, or them, us. They helped us in everything,” Bulgarian Colonel and Doctor Mitka Zakharieva recalls. 

During the 1970s when Bulgaria was part of the Warsaw pact that relationship reached new heights. 

Brigadier-General Aleksandr Aleksandrov, who was one of two Bulgarians lucky to travel to space, says without the Russians it would have been impossible. 

“We live together, we work together, we help each other. We have very close relations and our families are close too. When my son was small the Russian cosmonauts cared about him as if he was their son. From space you cannot see borders. What you see is that there is a lot of space for people and nations. The man who flies to space changes his view and philosophy about how the human nation should live,” Aleksandr Aleksandrov thinks. 

By joining the European Union, Bulgaria is putting new borders in place. But even though Bulgaria has joined the European Union and moved politically closer to the West, there’s still a lot shared by the people of both countries – tradition, culture and history. 

“Every Bulgarian house has some basic Russian books, probably in Bulgarian but Russian too if it is the older generation,” historian Aleksey Kalionsky says.