Oct 13th, 2011
By MATTHEW BRUNWASSER SKOPJE, MACEDONIA — The ambitious retooling of this small nation’s identity — a Balkan brand of hyper-patriotism accompanied by the trumpeting of Macedonia’s ancient roots — is raising concerns internationally about growing authoritarianism, the silencing of dissent and accusations of abuse of power by the governing party here. The European Commission released its annual report this week on the country’s progress toward E.U. membership, and found that the country was backtracking on protecting media freedoms and that it was making insufficient progress on protecting the rule of law.
Sep 26th, 2011
By MATTHEW BRUNWASSER MITROVICA, Kosovo — After years of impasse between the national government of Kosovo and ethnic Serbs demanding autonomy within their northern enclave in the new country, international pressure has intensified on the Serbs. And while the immediate result has been minor clashes, there is new hope for some movement toward a resolution for the last geopolitically unsettled chunk of the former Yugoslavia.
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.”
Jul 6th, 2009
July 6, 2009 Socialist Coalition Loses in Bulgaria Election By MATTHEW BRUNWASSER SOFIA, Bulgaria — Mayor Boyko Borisov of Sofia, a burly former black-belt bodyguard with a penchant for tough talk, cigars and leather jackets, led his center-right opposition party to a larger-than-expected election victory on Sunday over Bulgaria’s governing Socialist-led coalition, which was weakened by a severely deteriorating economy and voter fatigue with chronic corruption.
Jun 25th, 2009
June 25, 2009 By DAN BILEFSKY and MATTHEW BRUNWASSER PRAGUE — The former prime minister of Kosovo, Agim Ceku, a former rebel commander wanted in Serbia on war crimes charges, has been arrested in Bulgaria, Bulgarian officials announced Wednesday.
Jan 5th, 2009
January 5, 2009 Memo From Pravda In Eastern Europe, Lives Languish in Mental Facilities By MATTHEW BRUNWASSER PRAVDA, Bulgaria — The name of this isolated spot in the lush Danube plains means justice or, in Russian, truth. But little of either seems to have penetrated the home for men with mental disabilities and illnesses here, a bleak establishment reached most easily by a bone-jarring, six-hour ride from Sofia, the capital. In the Communist era, this is where authorities hid the mentally ill from public view. Today, the Pravda Social Care Home for Men with Mental Disorders, a small complex of scrappy, two-story buildings, is still a favored destination for city folk to send away relatives with a mental illness or disability — and not worry about hearing from them again, employees and residents here say.
Sep 11th, 2008
September 11, 2009 Sofia Journal A Book Peels Back Some Layers of a Cold War Mystery By MATTHEW BRUNWASSER SOFIA, Bulgaria — It was one of the legends of the cold war: a Bulgarian dissident writer, Georgi Markov, dying in a London hospital of a mysterious fever after being injected with a poison pellet from a specially adapted umbrella as he walked to work across Waterloo Bridge. A prominent novelist in his native land when he defected to the West in 1969, Mr. Markov had become a journalist at the BBC’s Bulgarian service and an unflinching critic of Communist rule and Bulgaria’s longtime leader, Todor Zhivkov.
Aug 2nd, 2007
By MATTHEW BRUNWASSER SOFIA, Bulgaria, Aug. 1 — In the yard of the Bulgarian presidential residence, on the foothills of Vitosha Mountain, Ashraf al-Hazouz on Tuesday recounted his years of imprisonment and torture in Libya and aired his grievances: the beatings, the electrical charges all over his body, the injection that he was told carried the virus that causes AIDS.