Apr 24th, 2017
BELGRADE, Serbia — When he was Serbia’s information minister in the late 1990s, Aleksandar Vucic censored journalists, forced media critics out of business and served as chief propagandist for the regime of Slobodan Milosevic, the Serbian strongman reviled for the atrocities that followed the breakup of Yugoslavia. Today Mr. Vucic is the prime minister of Serbia, having been elected in 2014 as a reformer on promises to lead Serbia into a democratic future and membership in the European Union. He has renounced the extreme nationalist views of his past.
Apr 24th, 2017
BELGRADE, Serbia — Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic appeared headed toward a first-round victory in Serbia’s presidential election on Sunday, winning more than 50 percent of the vote among a field of 11 candidates, according to exit polls and early results. If the preliminary vote count holds and Mr. Vucic passes the 50 percent threshold, he would avoid a riskier two-way runoff on April 16. While Serbia is a parliamentary republic and the presidency is intended as a largely symbolic position, the actual effect of the election result is seen as removing the last check on Mr. Vucic’s power and as a further erosion of Serbia’s nascent democratic institutions.
Feb 26th, 2017
TIRANA, Albania — When the Rev. Shtjefen Kurti, a 73-year-old Catholic priest, was executed in 1971 for performing a baptism, the Communist authorities didn’t bother to inform his family. Only when his brother tried to take food to him in prison did he learn the priest’s fate. “Don’t come back,” a guard told the brother. “He won’t be needing it anymore.”
Oct 16th, 2016
By MATTHEW BRUNWASSER BELGRADE, Serbia — The tens of thousands of migrants who have flooded into the Balkans in recent weeks need food, water and shelter, just like the millions displaced by war the world over. But there is also one other thing they swear they cannot live without: a smartphone charging station. “Every time I go to a new country, I buy a SIM card and activate the Internet and download the map to locate myself,” Osama Aljasem, a 32-year-old music teacher from Deir al-Zour, Syria, explained as he sat on a broken park bench in Belgrade, staring at his smartphone and plotting his next move into northern Europe.
Feb 25th, 2015
One of Europe’s poorest countries wanted a road, so U.S. mega-contractor Bechtel sold it a $1.3 billion highway, with the backing of a powerful American ambassador. Funny thing is, the highway is barely being used—and the ambassador is now working for Bechtel. Story by Matthew Brunwasser Photographs by Matthew Lutton
Feb 25th, 2015
Chalga music, a blend of Turkish rhythms, Balkan folk, and Europop, has become a polarizing force in the Bulgarian town of Dimitrovgrad, where many residents long for their socialist past
Feb 23rd, 2015
Bulgaria commemorates a murdered dissident — and takes a symbolic step toward reckoning with its communist past.
Aug 1st, 2013
In the villages that nestle amid southern Bulgaria’s remote, scenically spectacular, economically underdeveloped Pirin and Rhodope Mountains, Pomaks—Bulgarian Muslims—are reclaiming their name. Marginalized under 45 years of communism, they saw Pomak become “a word you had to feel guilty about,” says Mehmed Boyukli, a leading Pomak analyst. Now, he says, “with the Internet, the term has become acceptable. It has become a symbol of all the cultural heritage we have preserved.”
Jul 23rd, 2013
By MATTHEW BRUNWASSER More than 100 legislators, government ministers, journalists and officials were blockaded inside the Bulgarian Parliament building late Tuesday night and into Wednesday, as the 40th day of largely peaceful street protests in Sofia, the capital, turned confrontational.
Jun 28th, 2013
By MATTHEW BRUNWASSER SOFIA, Bulgaria — Delyan Peevski’s mother used to head the national lottery and leads a growing media empire with strong political and economic connections in this small, impoverished and notoriously corrupt Balkan nation. So perhaps it was not surprising that the appointment of Mr. Peevski, 32, to head the powerful State Agency for National Security sparked protests that have been attended by thousands every day over the past two weeks and show no sign of losing steam.