Anthony Georgieff
    Dimana Trankova
    Free Speech International
  • ISBN
    NGO Programme in Bulgaria under the Financial Mechanism of the European Economic Area

    During the past several years Bulgaria has become an entry point for asylum-seekers. According to the State Agency for Refugees under the Council of Ministers, about 11,000 have requested asylum in Bulgaria, in 2014. More than half have been granted either refugee or humanitarian status. These are people who have left their homes, sometimes alone and sometimes with their families, and cannot return there because of political reasons or because of war. The influx of asylum-seekers have boosted hate speech in Bulgaria, directed at anyone identified as "different" and "alien." Some foreigners have found themselves in the eye of the storm of populism, xenophobia and stereotypes blown out of proportion by extremist politicians and ostensibly pluralist media.

    The UnBulgarians project aims to address these issues through the images and life stories of ordinary non-Bulgarians who live here. Who are the real people to whom clichés are so eagerly attached? How does an American entrepreneur or a Russian artist living Sofia feel about their second home? Is a Muslim refugee from the Middle East secure enough in the Bulgarian streets? Is it easy to have your small business here if your face is a few shades lighter – or a few shades darker?

    The UnBulgarians project identifies a wide range of people from New Zealand to Washington State and from Pakistan to the UK, people living in luxury gated communities on the outskirts of Sofia and in refugee camps, and asks questions about identity, both their identity at birth and their current identity as people living in Bulgaria. The answers they provide paint a multicolored picture of what their lives, jobs, joys and woes in Bulgaria are.

    This also touches on the issue of the Bulgarians’ own identity. What does it mean to be Bulgarian? What does it take to become one if your mother and father were born elsewhere – and if the colour of your skin and the shape of your eyes are different? Are understanding and appreciation of Bulgarian music, art, mountains and the Black Sea coast enough to qualify? Is not the ability to speak Bulgarian with only a light accent a well-passed benchmark?