Cause and Effect in European Politics and Law

About Spaska Mitrova or the pub-style patriotism of the 21st century

Ralitsa Kovacheva*, August 18, 2009

Bulgaria on three seas or Samuil - the first Macedonian tsar (king). I remembered this patriotic dispute, more suitable for gatherings around the table after I read the story about Spaska Mitrova. A young woman, jailed by a Macedonian court for 3 months just because she did not allow her ex husband to see their child (and according to some sources to provide him with bed so as to sleep near the kid!?). Only up to this moment the drama is obvious - what kind of madness this is to deprive a child of its mother and send her to jail for such an absurd reason? If the woman has violated her ex-husband's rights, there is another way she could be punished and his access to the child secured. But jail? And the child taken away by the social services? This sounds too much!

And to make the drama typically Balkan and not leave it just humane, the patriotic-political element has been included. The woman who has both Bulgarian and Macedonian passports claims that she is being pursued because of her Bulgarian self-consciousness which is something her ex-husband was against because he wanted to raise their child as a true Macedonian. We have know way to know whether the Macedonian court has in fact taken these circumstances into consideration, but the simple fact that in the 21st century the dispute about the Bulgarian and Macedonian national identity is still alive, is embarrassing.

Once upon a time I had many Macedonian colleagues at university with whom we had great parties and always used to start the dispute a Macedonian or a Bulgarian poet is Vaptsarov. No on could actually answer my question what relation this dispute has to his poetry but for both sides it was important to prove his national identity. I will not fall into the details of the genesis of the idea of the Macedonian nation, language or state. Whatever the reasons are this is history now. Such a state exists, there are people that live in it, born and raised as Macedonians.

When I was in Ohrid, I saw a church where the Renaissance had started couple of centuries earlier than in Europe. But the question whether the icon-painter was Macedonian or Bulgarian never crossed my mind. But the guide proudly showed us the fortress of Samuil, the first Macedonian tsar (as Macedonians claim). And some of my colleagues - Bulgarians, who while drinking red wine beside the lake of Ohrid, commented with heavy sighs: "Eh, this could have been Bulgarian now!" So what, I asked them? It would have again be at the same place, with the same distance, and, yes, there wouldn't have been a border, but it takes only seconds to cross it. And yes, it probably would have been a little more built-up.

These little details do not have any relation to the story with which I started. But they show why it is actually possible the purely personal court case to be influenced by nationalistic passions which have appeared to be more important than laws and justice. And so as to make stupidity reciprocal, in Bulgaria the cause of the apparently unfairly sentenced woman is not being defended by a female non-governmental organisation, for example, but by the Bulgarian nationalist party VMRO-BND. And in this case it is not important who is Bulgarian and who Macedonian - this is the case of a woman, a family and a child. And this is what matters. Everything else are pathetic attempts to conceal the holes in our political and economical retrogression with shabby flags of a once historical greatness. Which might be a very nice topic on the table with red wine and Macedonian songs but is ridiculous as a social and state position. For both sides. After all it is the 21st century.

Ralitsa Kovacheva is a journalist and a presenter at the Re:TV (