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.
Jun 14th, 2013
By MATTHEW BRUNWASSER VIDIN, Bulgaria — The European Union hardly basks in popular favor these days. But in this isolated corner of the bloc’s poorest periphery, leaders and locals on Friday celebrated a tangible benefit of membership — a $340 million bridge spanning the Danube that should help strengthen trade and ties between two impoverished members, Romania and Bulgaria.
May 10th, 2013
By MATTHEW BRUNWASSER VARNA, Bulgaria — Early one morning this past winter, Plamen Goranov, a 36-year-old photographer, stood on the steps of City Hall in this once grand and now crumbling port city on the Black Sea and held up a sign demanding that the mayor and City Council resign. He then took a bottle of gasoline from his backpack, poured it over himself and set himself on fire. He died 11 days later in a hospital.
Mar 7th, 2013
By MATTHEW BRUNWASSER SOFIA — His enthronement as patriarch of Bulgaria, spiritual leader of millions of Orthodox believers here, was supposed to stir pride and moral togetherness in an impoverished country confronting a vacuum in political leadership and widespread economic pain. Instead, the installation of His Holiness Neofit last month, in a ceremony replete with byzantine splendor, served as one more reminder that Bulgaria had never really thrown off the inheritance of 40 years of rigid Communist rule and all the duplicitous dealings that went with it.