Jun 23rd, 2011
By MATTHEW BRUNWASSER SKOPJE, Macedonia — In the view of many here, the neighbors have been bullying this little Balkan country for a long time. Bulgarians see its people as Bulgarians with accents. Serbia used to consider the land Southern Serbia and refuses to recognize its church. Greece accuses the country of nothing less than stealing its name, history and national symbols. This week, Macedonia pushed back. In a precisely calibrated display of political and civil engineering, workers lifted a 14.5-meter, or 47-foot, bronze statue of Alexander the Great, weighing 30 tons, and placed it on a 15-meter-high pedestal in the central square of Skopje, the capital.
Jun 2nd, 2011
By MATTHEW BRUNWASSER BELGRADE — In a country that nurtures a grudge about an event that occurred more than 600 years ago, once-fiery Serbian nationalism now seems strangely muted. With the 68-year-old General Ratko Mladic settling into his prison cell in The Hague, the relative silence with which Serbs greeted his arrest and extradition speaks volumes about the turnaround taken by the country’s leadership and the fading of nationalism as an issue from the political stage. A Belgrade street protest on May 29 against the arrest of Mr. Mladic drew an estimated 10,000 people, smaller than the crowds that typically gather after important soccer matches. The major political parties accepted the extradition, after 15 years of mounting international pressure, as the price of getting closer to Europe.
May 29th, 2011
By MATTHEW BRUNWASSER LAZAREVO, Serbia — This village near the Romanian border is Everytown, an indistinguishable collection of tidy lawns and trimmed trees, where the local people have been rocked by the news that Ratko Mladic, one of the world’s most wanted war crimes suspects, had been found hiding out among them. They say it couldn’t be true. “There is no chance that he was living here,” said the village mayor, Radmilo Stanisic, reflecting the general sentiment in this tightknit community. “Everyone knows everyone here. We’re like a big family.”
Mar 21st, 2011
By MATTHEW BRUNWASSER TIRANA — In Albania’s rough and murky politics, the personalities are strong and the public institutions still count for less, 20 years after communism crumbled. The latest illustration of violent tussle between two opposing camps occurred Friday, when a crowd tried to storm the office of Prime Minister Sali Berisha. The five-hour clash left three protesters dead, about 60 hurt and 113 arrested. Opposition supporters threw sticks and stones at the building, while the police responded with tear gas, water cannons and firearms.
Oct 6th, 2010
SOFIA — An unusual investigation that brought together prosecutors and human rights lawyers has revealed a grisly picture of neglect at Bulgarian state homes for mentally disabled children: 238 deaths since 2000. More than three-fourths of the deaths were found to have been avoidable: 84 from physical deterioration caused by neglect; 36 from exposure to cold or long-term immobility; 31 from malnutrition; 13 from infections caused by poor hygiene; 6 from accidents; 15 were unexplained.
Nov 11th, 2009
By MATTHEW BRUNWASSER Published: November 10, 2009 SOFIA — The silence on the streets of the Bulgarian capital this week speaks volumes about this nation’s deep ambivalence about democracy. Although Tuesday was the 20th anniversary of the removal of Bulgaria’s Communist leader, Todor Zhivkov, and the start of democratic changes here, the day went uncelebrated, even as Germany cleaned up from celebrations for the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. To explain the amnesia of Bulgarians about their Communist past, and apathy about their democratic present, Bulgarian commentators are using a biblical metaphor: Like the Israelites, the Bulgarians will have to wander the desert for 40 years to be cleansed of the sins of Communism.
Nov 29th, 2008
VARNA, Bulgaria — State institutions in Eastern Europe devoted to the care of children and the disadvantaged are most often the subject of negative news stories in Western media. So after the British Broadcasting Corp. aired an upsetting documentary last year about conditions at a home for mentally impaired orphans, advocates for the disabled were relieved they could focus attention on good practices and all point to Karin Dom, a nonprofit day care center for children with mental and physical disabilities.
Oct 1st, 2008
SKOPJE, Macedonia — It is one of Europe’s most bizarre – and stubborn – international disputes, and certainly the only one that invokes an argument about Asian tribes stretching back to Alexander the Great.
Oct 30th, 2007
SOFIA — As governments around the world struggle to secure energy supplies, cut carbon emissions and adapt to rising oil prices, Bulgaria has adopted an ambitious solution: Construct a new nuclear power plant, the country’s second, near the northern town of Belene, across the Danube from Romania.
May 22nd, 2007
SOFIA — Naiden Blagnev, a dealer in agricultural products in the central Bulgarian village of Lisichevo, 25 kilometers from Pazardjik, described in an interview how he came upon a set of 12th-century dishes that Bulgaria contends were smuggled out of the country. In late 2000, he said, he and a friend bought an American-made Minelab metal detector for 1,400 levs, or about $800, from Boyko Tsvetanov “to use in our spare time, since we didn’t have much work.”