Archive for: My Work

A killing complicates Bulgaria’s EU hopes

Dec 1st, 2005

A killing complicates Bulgaria’s EU hopes

SOFIA — Emil Kyulev, one of the richest men in Bulgaria, was being driven to work in Sofia in his BMW sports utility vehicle on Oct. 26 when, shortly after 9:00 a.m., according to the police, he was shot and killed by a man hiding in the bushes. A few kilometers away, at the moment Kyulev was slain, Bulgaria’s justice and interior ministers were meeting the press to play down a European Union report expressing “serious concerns” about organized crime in the country. The problem, the report noted, “so far has not been a priority on the political agenda.” Interior Minister Rumen Petkov said the criticism, issued the previous day, was “not a surprise.” Then, as officials learned of the killing, the press conference was abruptly cut short.

Thracian Gold Fever

Mar 3rd, 2005

Thracian Gold Fever

published in Archaeology Magazine Vol 58 Issue 2 Archaeologist and showman Georgi Kitov’s spectacular discoveries raise questions about managing Bulgaria’s past. On a soft, gray fall afternoon, a crowd of several hundred waited patiently outside the Iskra History Museum in Kazanluk, the unprepossessing main town in central Bulgaria’s rose-growing region. The blank concrete facade of the museum, like that of most Communist-era cultural institutions, created a notably joyless impression. But inside, the 15 visitors allowed at a time into the small exhibition hall were awed by fantastic Thracian gold, silver, bronze, and ceramic objects, 28 in all, recently discovered only eight miles away and on public display for the first time. An ancient amphora housed on a wobbly metal stand rocked ominously as a woman brushed by. The excitement of the visitors washed over the tiny provincial museum as they carefully studied the objects that have been heralded across the world.

Pagans fight for divine rights of old Greek gods in Greece

Sep 21st, 2003

Pagans fight for divine rights of old Greek gods in Greece

Scotland on Sunday Sun 21 Sep 2003 Pagans fight for divine rights of old Greek gods MATTHEW BRUNWASSER IN LITOCHORO, GREECE IN THE shadow of Mount Olympus the toga-clad worshippers sway to the beating of a drum as the bearded man leading the ceremony throws a pinch of grain into a torch, then circles his hand above the flames. While the group, dressed in yellow, red and blue robes, may appear to be taking part in some bewildering historical re-enactment, they are members a growing pagan movement dedicated to resurrecting the religion and way of life of ancient Greece.

Sep 7th, 2003

Exiles bring Greek guilt home

“‘Laws still prevent Pomaks living outside their traditional villages’” Published Date: 07 September 2003 By MATTHEW BRUNWASSER IN THESSALONIKI THEY were sent into exile and scattered to every corner of the world. For more than half a century the Macedonian Diaspora cast out of Greece during the country’s bloody civil war have been barred from returning to their homeland. Now the army of elderly refugees has been granted a temporary homecoming, if not the return of the money and property seized during the savage conflict that pitted them against their fellow countrymen. Greece is finally facing up to its history of ‘ethnic cleansing’ and beginning the process of extending full rights to its minorities, who faced decades of persecution and discrimination under successive oppressive regimes and right-wing dictatorships.

Gunrunners

May 23rd, 2002

Gunrunners

broadcast on PBS: Frontline/World Winner of the Columbia Online Journalism Award for General Excellence, and the Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for Online Journalism CLICK HERE TO WATCH Gallery of International Arms Dealers LEONID EFIMOVICH MININ From Ukraine, a New Kind of Arms Trafficker The scene in Leonid Minin’s hotel room on the night of August 4, 2000 could have been taken from a Quentin Tarrantino film: Minin, a pale Ukrainian, abundantly fleshy and naked, freebasing cocaine, flanked by a quartet of Russian, Albanian, Italian and Kenyan prostitutes. A pornographic film flickers in the background. Minin, the majority owner of the Europa Hotel in Cinisello Balsamo, a small town outside Milan, Italy, has transformed his two-room suite into a bedroom/office and den of debauchery. CONTINUE READING… MONZER AL KASSAR The Prince of Marbella: Arms To All Sides This case study details the expert machinations of Monzer Al Kassar in breaking the U.N. arms embargo on Yugoslavia. Distancing himself from his activities through intermediaries, he appears fully confident of avoiding any legal liability. The case illustrates how Al Kassar and his associates tried to obscure the money trail of an illegal arms sale through various bank transfers, and it clearly establishes Al Kassar’s role as the broker arranging the sale of Polish arms to Croatia and Bosnia during the wartime arms embargo on Yugoslavia. The information presented here is drawn from the report of a Swiss judicial investigation into Al Kassar’s financial activities. CONTINUE READING… VICTOR ANATOLIYEVICH BOUT The Embargo Buster: Fueling Bloody Civil Wars Victor Bout is the poster boy for a new generation of [...]

No More Hiding From the State

Jun 26th, 2000

No More Hiding From the State

A Bulgarian village makes amends with its ethnic complexities by Matthew Brunwasser BREZNITSA –  From his quiet spot under the willow tree in the village square, between the church and the mosque, 66-year-old Mustafa Cholac has seen plenty of changes. Bulgarian Muslims In 1972, Communist Party officials told Muslim men they would have to report to the community center on the square, and look through a book to choose Christian names for family members. Cholac was one of about 200 who gathered here to protest. They were brutally crushed in a crackdown that left eight dead. After communism fell in 1989, a bus left the square with men headed for the capital Sofia to demand their names back. Today, things are a bit different. In the shadow of the media spotlight swirling around the violent ethnic hatred in the former Yugoslavia 100 miles away, Breznitsans are not trying to avenge the wrongs of the past- instead, they are concentrating on reconciliation. “We have gotten along well with Christians before and after the killings,” says Cholac. “We understood that the decision came from the communists, not from the Christian people. There is no hatred here.” Names had been changed before. The first communist program to “Bulgarianize” the country’s Muslims came in 1963, as Communist leader Todor Zhivkov defended name changes as merely reversing the process the Turks started when they forcibly converted Christians to Islam. The names [...]

Jun 23rd, 2000

A Better Tomorrow: The Georgi Dimitrov Mausoleum

My graduate school documentary thesis film, from the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism (2000): Increasing hope and inevitable disappointment shape the course of three 20th century Bulgarian political upheavals. The story is told by representatives of two generations, inhabiting the visual space around the Georgi Dimitrov Mausoleum, a monument to Bulgaria’s first communist dictator. Despite three failed attempts by Bulgaria’s anti-Communist rulers to blast the mausoleum into history, the Mausoleum remains standing. The oblique and macabre symbol provokes the viewer to question his or her assumptions about themes commonly taken for granted: freedom and responsibility, democracy, hope and disappointment.