"Your thoughts, with my hearts bloody tatters, I'll mock again; Impudent and caustic, I'll jeer to superfluity.."

Deck/ ΚατάΣτρωμα (English)


Thoughts "In The Storm"

The voices of people that protest in Greece, have been circling the globe several times, but today's demands should draw peoples attention because they do not appertain to internal affairs only...

"the savages"

Plenty of politicians, journalists and analysts are raving when speaking to various channels on the blow to the validity of Greece, that is caused by the strikes during the last days. In the name of national unity and world peace, they are leaving to the margin of their analysis, one element: modern imperialist policies that transcend the narrow confines of Europe and convey the internal affairs of "small European countries" on the other side of the Atlantic. The conditions remain unclear, and the conviction is the beginning and end of each argument.

With these "ideological constructions", the "enlightened (pan-)scientists, are actually misleading the public. And their rush is reaping fruits, as long as public opinion, before any crisis or conviction, does not enter the process of understanding the causes and characteristics of the reaction, but also as long as the people who react do not clear up their positions.  

Root cause of the anger are the measures taken by the government, since the first day it came to power: wage cuts, cuts in pensions, benefit cuts, cuts in health care, changes in the (busted) insurance, tax increases, increases to the cost of living, poor education with continuing changes in the educational system without any reconfiguration of the relationship degree-employment absorption. Alongside the recruitments freeze and remove at will the previous relationship (degree-employment), so as to reduce, only in appearance, the unemployment rate that plagues the majority of people's-capacity of the country. At the same time, employees lose their jobs and a share of capacity (tools, equipment, factories, offices and shops etc.) is inactive and unused.
Second reason, is the fact that the government, begining with rhetorics on redistribution of wealth and development, finally came in search of loans (which would provide the "wealth" to redistribute), to finally inform citizens for an ever plus debt, which would stem, naturally, any possible development.

Whilst government is asked to activate the "social state" in order to help people who are hit by the "greatest financial crisis in the postwar period," appears to be unwilling to do so. On the contrary, government is spenting it's energy on finding new "constitution compliant" mechanisms -or to manipulate existing ones-, to ensure control of power, which will allow to proceed with "changes".

The number of incensed people is increasingly growing, since people are noticing that the only changes that are achieved is deepening of division between rich and poor and, moreover, that large capitalist institutions, are the only ones who benefit from the state financial aid. But what is leading a government, which it's pre-election promises were pivotal in the "citizen" and "popular participation" in the exercise of power, to eventually pursue an aggregate way of governing, legislating against the demands that was elected to satisfy?

The answer is "political" choices. Since the greek political transition in 1974 and beyond, the parties which came to power subdued unconditionally to non-institutional centers and/or foreign capital to bring about "development" projects. The facade of development and constant resort to foreign capital to find the money to proceed with these plans, led to the involvement of creditors in state affairs. Today, the dependence of all "emerging powers" from the hegemony of the West bloc, with U.S. as leader, has come to be outlined. At the same time, however, it is more predatory than never, because within the state perpetuates the status of a political system that promotes inequality and progressively excludes it's own electors from the right to participate in decision making.

Among all, because of the variety of dependencies, state allows capitalists to shift - with no barrier- the cost of each crisis to employees. In recent years, more and more are the ocasions that, the crisis in international markets, is used as an excuse to increase redundancy and change the already aggravated working status. Thus, "international crises" are converted into individual problems. People react, but because the changes were partial, the response has not always been collective. With this fact as justification, state entitled itself to suppress any reaction, that was obstacle for the "development" plans. Along with it came the growing and uncontrolled use of force by state officers. Officers, that are espousing the protection of citizens, at the same time are arming themselves more than ever, both materially and institutionally, making the pronouncements of social justice sound ridiculous.

Nevertheless, for every decision made, un-negotiated precondition remains "popular consensus". The inability of the government mechanism to succeed in recieving it, media are undertaking to carry out. Their owners are businessmen, who are collaborating with political parties, so they manipulate public opinion, serving faithfully what they are interrelated, by using only means of propaganda. They are distorting the truth, highlight as legitimate react the so-called "silent protest." Today we have reached a point that the constitutional right to strike or protest is their target: strikes are described as terrorist acts, because of facts "of questionable origin" are associated with them, in the most propagandistic way... The manipulation is so overwhelming today, that any subjective human instinct for freedom and emancipation is dismantled.

Therefore, we can safelly conclude, that in Greece an increasingly oligarchic transformation of state is taking place. Representative democracy is not removed, but is also not expanding. Greek system demonstrates in the most dramatic ways its massive social and political failures, but, still, some people seem reluctant to strengthen ahead the critical mass of reaction. Why ?

Because, in fact, greek society is currently facing the collapse of myths, which accompany its modern life or, more accurately, society is required to confront the myths that essentially shaped and preserved its existence for nearly 40 years. But these myths were cultivated and became dominant as the key tool for manipulating voters, through the populist rhetoric used by "emerging political powers". So, being reluctant at the beginning is understandable, but, being maintained by using the means which i have mentioned, only in brief, above, should be enough to reinforce the protest.

The reluctant is extending not due to peoples' fear to confront with the oppressive system. It is due to the maintenance of the largest Greek "Iron(-ic)" myth: the one that relates to the "traditional" demarcation line between "right" and "social democratic left" within the social and political action. If they ever existed, these lines do not exist anymore. Perpetuating that myth, greek political system prevents any attempt to reverse the collective social and economic inequality. And this is happening because that myth is concealing the truth. And the truth is that the process of the transformation into a mare centralized state, as a political choice, is above parties.

Today, conditions for breaking this myth are more mature than ever, because it has become evident where the despicable "neoliberal consensus" led us to. The fact also remains, that global elites will not leave it's central rationale: finding more effective ways of profiting by the ever deteriorating human labor. Since the dependence of state on extra-institutional factors (inside and outside national borders) is given as a fact, how can we be persuated any no longer by it's orators? Particularly, given also the fact that, the social "war" in Greek society -based on the effect of social exclusion-, is acting as a catalyst for the progressive transformation of modern state into a state that resembles fasist ones, and is forging an increasing malicious hierarchy of global systems of power. The latter is a practical "success" of the present "socialist" government and during the latest events it is even stated explicitly.

The struggle of "marooned" classes has reached the point that everyone should understand that they cannot unshackle without releasing, at the same time, the whole society. At this juncture, however, this should be done, after the alleged theories of "weakening the State" or "confronting it with its ideological roots" are being dissolved. It should be understood that the current political and social structure can not be upgraded, with efforts to become more democratic or with some kind of domestication.

The current crisis leaves open only two possibilities and these should be said clearly. Either a complete evolution in economic and political totalitarianism -which will lead us to incalculable and devastating consequences, as we can already foresee- or the advent of real socialism with equal distribution of wealth and self-employment.

The concern, therefore, of what will follow the reaction, should probably be replaced by the fear of what will follow if the reaction will not become more massive. The answer lies in all TV sets . Is broadcasted every day, serving an unprecedented mudsling against any social demand "which pollutes", as claimed, the "maintenance of national sovereignty" whilst few years ago, such an argument would be classified under "picturesquenesses", if not marginalized, by the Greek political scene.

To turn todays fights into a real crisis of capitalism a mass movement is required, with demands that will not only relate to legislation and reforms (more jobs better wages, more public services, etc.) but also with the demant for a change into an alternative system. A crisis of capitalism can only happen when a social movement can express demands for a SYSTEMIC change. These demands will form the central reference point to the political struggles of society. Such a movement must win massive support by the society and must be able to defend the main objectives of democracy and social justice.

This basic position implies that people involved must be contrasted and make constant criticism to the methods and the approaches of the dominant parties. Otherwise there will be no end to the economic and social effect of the "non-institutionals". Any kind of engulfment of the propaganda coming from the other side, either in an attempt to defend "our" methods over "others' " or in an attempt to bring others to the "right track" will not give any hit or end to the economic and social power of the capitalists. The Greek "Third road to socialism" seems to be the longest ... In it's end, no hope seems to exist anymore for anyone apart for "non-institutionals".
l1gk for Balkandecks


"May day"- "May Day"

Some call it simply May Day and it usually refers to a public holiday in countries all over the world, but it is mostly synonymous with International Workers’ Day. What is happening during 1st May in Balkans this year?

According to some, especially in Balkans, 1st May is not supposed to happen the same way as before. May Day became a traditional holiday in many balkan countries. In this new sense, May 1st or May Day became a "celebration of Spring". It is said to be the time of year when "warmer weather begins, beautiful flowers start to blossom and nature is embraced in greenery". May is marked as "the time of love, faith, re-birth and romance" and May 1st became a neopagan festival.
We will try to monitor in which condition 1st May finds Balkans this year, without considering it easy to be convinced by these arguments, still believing that May 1st is not a holiday, is a strike:

-SOFIA, Bulgaria.
Bulgarian socialists claim that their audio-video clip, announcing the protest meeting on 1st May, has not been released by any of the national broadcasters because BSP has firmly opposed the anti-crisis policy of the center-right GERB government.
In response, the Bulgarian National Radio (BNR) has sent a letter to BSP, saying that the clip was not played because it does not correspond to the requirements for a commercial media message.
Bulgarian National Television (BNT), on the other hand, has refused to run the video because it includes shots of police operations that are subject to copyright.
(source: http://www.novinite.com/view_news.php?id=115752)

At the same time many workers are encouraged to travel during National Holidays and take advantage of celebrating 1st of May and having some rest...
A cornucopia of holiday treats!
As holidays may get rather pricy as the holiday approaches, advance bookings are recommendable. Celebrate May and International Workers’ Day with us, experience lots of joy and open your heart for the things which really matter in this life! May Day is a bank holiday, so it’s the perfect time to escape from your everyday life, so you shouldn’t miss to seize this opportunity! 1st of May is an official bank holiday in many countries, a day off school and work, so you may grab a great holiday offer and experience fab vacation in Bulgaria either at the beach, in a modern SPA centre or simply hiking in the mountain!
(a compilation of brochure advertisements)

-TIRANA, Albania.
Opposition parties led by the Socialist Party (SP) staged a protest in Friday (April 30th) against the government, which according to them is pushing the country into a crisis. SP lawmakers are asking the cabinet to honour their request to investigate the transparency of the June 2009 elections. "The protest will be the biggest the country has ever seen, but there will be no violence," SP official Namik Dokle said on Thursday, leading his colleagues out of parliament. (Shekulli, Top Channel, Ora News, BBC - 30/04/10).

A demonstrator, Sanie Behari, said she was protesting poverty. "Do they understand we can't live with such high prices?" she said of the government. "Sure, they can with their salaries. We just want a better life." Rama also said: "Albanians' economic crisis is a painful consequence of destructive politics aimed only at keeping Sali Berisha in power." The rally was peaceful, with many of the demonstrators holding Albanian or opposition party flags, and shouting: "Down with Berisha."
Hundreds of unarmed policemen formed a line around the main government building. A small number of policemen in riot gear stood behind a nearby wall.
The governing Democrats plan to hold a public concert Saturday for the May 1 Labor Day holiday to celebrate what they describe as successful reforms aimed at Albania's EU membership.
(source: http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2010/apr/30/tens-of-thousands-of-albanians-protest-in-tirana/)

-SARAJEVO, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
April 30 (FENA) - BiH Presidency Zeljko Komsic extended congratulations to all citizens of BiH on the occasion of May 1 - International Labor Day.
(source: http://www.fena.ba/Public2_En/Default.aspx)

-BELGRADE, Serbia.
While tycoons almost managed united to defend their interests before the Government and in cooperation with the Workers' Union, workers will mark May Day sparingly, failing even to organise a large protest in Belgrade. Sufficient motive to call to protest is not a record low employment, or nearly 250,000 jobs during the crisis as lost, as in the gray, as in the regular economy.
(source: http://www.emg.rs/en/emplus/120505.html)

-ZAGREB, Croatia.
Croatian trade unions organise Labour Day protests. The country's four biggest trade unions announced on Thursday (April 29th) that instead of celebrations to mark May 1st, International Labour Day, they are organising protests in some of the biggest cities. Saturday's protests against economic instability will be held in Zagreb, Split, Rijeka, Osijek and Pula. Demonstrators will urge the government to halt its policy of job cuts. Organisers have invited students, the unemployed, pensioners and other members of the public to join the action. (HRT, Dnevnik.hr, MondoPress - 29/04/10)

-ISTANBUL, Turkey.
Taksim Square in Istanbul is ready for the May 1st Labor Day celebrations which will fulfill longings of workers after 33 years. President Abdullah Gül issued a message that brands May 1st celebrations as a litmus test for labor unions and workers this year. Mr. Gül expressed his hope that observance and celebration of the day, particularly in Istanbul, will help to forget and wipe out bitter memories of the past and best symbolize the dignity of labor.

This year, labor unions have been allowed to celebrate May Day in İstanbul’s Taksim Square for the first time in 33 years, prompting officials to heighten security measures in the city. Taksim is today the venue for May Day celebrations for the first time since the 1977 Taksim Square massacre, in which more than 30 people were killed. The assailants were never captured, and questions linger over the possibility that there were organized groups behind the bloody attack. İstanbul police have been preparing for May Day for two months. İstanbul Chief of Police Hüseyin Çapkın on Thursday night inspected preparations for May Day in Taksim.
see also: Stop Human and Trade Union Rights Violations Now

-ATHENS, Greece.
Greek officials will fly to Brussels where Eurozone finance ministers are set to discuss Athens' debt crisis later in the day, contrary to their usual partisipation, during the previous years, in the celebrations of 1st May. The future remains stormy as there is increasing public resistance from the public to more cuts. According to a recent poll, more than half of Greeks say they will take to the streets if the government agrees to new austerity measures.
Early Saturday more than 12,000 people marched through Athens towards the American Embassy while workers cut off sea transportation between islands and the country's main railway system. Shops remained closed for the day while hospitals operated with emergency staff as doctors joined the walkout.
The "socialist" government, after its election and contrary to their pre-electional proclamations, had already taken measures to scrap salary bonuses that are worth two months' wages, impose a three-year pay freeze, raise the value added tax from 21 to 23 per cent, increase the retirement age from 62 to 67, as well as a public sector hiring freeze. More and harder measure are about to be taken after the International Monetary Fund arrived in the capital. Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou said Friday that these painful cuts were "necessary for our country's protection, for our future, for us to be able to stand on our feet."

Regarless of love, beauty and social solidarity "from above" rhetorics, this day remains an International celebration of the social and economic achievements of the labour movements. And this is not it's only meaning. At that day, people from all working classes are gathered in order to rethink on their present working conditions and their social position and also reset their goals along with their future fights, against a neoliberal- capitalist system that harasses (their present along with their memory) and makes them work over themselves (...if and when they have a job), trespassing all social and labor vested rights.

1st of May is International Workers’ Day and it commemorates the historic struggle of working people throughout the world with new and constant struggles.
Balkan Decks


Roses in gun Barrels. A well orchestrated consert..

This article is relative to our previous post. We read it in Reuters news, already published since 2008. We post it here again.

(Reuters' Article) - "Just as the sun breaks through the mist shrouding Bulgaria's Stara Planina mountains, hundreds of villagers hustle through fields of rose bushes to pick fresh blooms still damp with morning dew.
Their tranquil valley in central Bulgaria has blossomed in recent years as European Union cash and a global boom in organic beauty products containing rose oil helped revive their centuries' old industry.

Providing a livelihood for a poor area known for decades for making AK-47 rifles, the region famous as Rose Valley is a source of the edible fragrance capsules popular in Japan and the gentle aromas in therapeutic creams sold in Europe.

It also gives Bulgaria a chance to show its beautiful side as the country struggles with rampant corruption and organized crime, and has potential to attract nature-loving tourists.

With roughly 2 tonnes of annual production, Bulgaria is the world's second largest producer of rose oil after Turkey.

But the villagers' race against the sun to pick the moist, pink flowers that produce the oil is becoming more urgent as they say climate change is making the valley hotter and drier.

"Roses like cold nights, dew in the morning and hot days in spring," said Nedko Nedkov, who runs a research institute on roses and rose oil in Kazanlak. "It puts them under stress and they react by producing oil. The more stress, the better.

"But now, there is not enough dew, sometimes there is none. The roses are becoming too thin."

Bulgaria's rose oil, with its strong aroma that sweetens perfume from brands such as Chanel and Dior, is considered by many in the cosmetics industry to be the best in the world and costs as much as 6,000 euros ($9,413) a kg.

Each spring, hundreds of villagers haul thick plastic bags filled with scrunched-up rose blooms out of the fields and onto trucks that quickly ferry the flowers to distilleries.

The roses are then dumped into vats of water and boiled for hours, with 4 tonnes of petals yielding 1 kg of precious oil. In the 1980s and 90s, when the climate was cooler and the roses more moist, the same yield needed closer to 2.8 tonnes, said Nedkov.

"These bushes are our children. We put a lot of hope into them," said Aiten Topalova, 38, who owns a small field near Kazanlak, the capital of the area known as Rose Valley.

A warm breeze wafted the aroma of roses and chamomile from nearby fields as she pulled blooms out of the prickly bushes shortly after dawn.


While roses are still wilting in water vats, exuding an odor that becomes pungent before turning sweet again in the distilling process, oil buyers are already striking deals.

"We've been importing Bulgarian rose oil for 60 years," said Yoshikuni Yamamoto, head of Japan-based Yamamoto Perfumery Co., which imports rose oil for making edible capsules.

"Japanese people are very concerned about their body smell. They swallow one capsule and a week later they smell of roses," he said. "Even their pillows do."

In addition to enriching perfume, rose oil is popular with the cosmetics industry, particularly if grown organically. Brands like Germany's environmentally-friendly Dr. Hauschka rely on its therapeutic qualities.

"The environmental impact is harsher now and people's skin is getting thinner. Rose oil gets rid of irritations," said Antal Adam, head of public relations at Wala Heilmittel GmbH, the firm that makes Dr. Hauschka products.

Industry associations contacted by Reuters could not offer scientific evidence to support this claim, but other makers also say rose oil's antiseptic properties help soften the skin.

Dr. Hauschka's Rose Day Cream, on the market since 1967, has fans among stars such Madonna and Julia Roberts, Adam said: his company encourages farmers in Afghanistan to plant roses instead of poppies, buying up the harvest to curb heroin trade.

"We blend oil from different countries. Like whisky," said Adam. "The stuff from Afghanistan is very promising."


Under communism, the Rose Valley was home to Bulgaria's arms industry and a crucial source of the iconic AK-47, or Kalashnikov, assault rifle to the Soviet bloc.

Since 1989, its now-privatized Arsenal weapons maker, which employs 5,000 people, has won a tender to supply the Iraqi army with light machine guns and makes arms suitable for use by NATO, which Bulgaria joined in 2004.

But orders cannot match communist-era production levels, industry officials say. Roses may be the valley's future.

With its fragrant fields and an idyllic landscape -- scattered with herds of goats and tombs dating back to the ancient Thracian civilization -- the Rose Valley could become a popular tourist destination.

Much like parts of the French region of Provence with their vast lavender fields, it could attract travelers hungry for mellow surroundings and some solitude.

But residents are concerned that a tourist construction boom could overrun the valley, in the way it has recently damaged seaside and skiing areas.

Environmental damage from construction has become a curse of the country's economic development as corruption, murky land deals and lack of oversight plague industry.

"I don't want Bulgaria to freeze up but you see what happened in Bansko and Sunny Beach," said Filip Lissicharov, who runs a farm near Kazanlak, referring to popular Bulgarian resorts crammed with concrete hotels.

Beyond the specter of unchecked construction and climate change, which Lissicharov said has made weather in the valley more unpredictable than ever in recent years, farmers are also struggling with soaring energy costs and labor migration.

Paradoxically, he said, traditional family-based agriculture may be the solution for farmers who need labor at short notice.

Hot weather and decreased rainfall mean fresh blooms have to be picked quicker than before. In season, more than 50,000 pickers are needed.

"There are not enough pickers, workers prefer to work in Germany and France. And small farmers can get their family to pick roses," said Lissicharov.

Foreign cash may also be on its way. Officials from the French town of Grasse, which hosts much of the world's perfume industry, visited Kazanlak in June to discuss joint projects and potential plans by French investors to buy farmland.

The mayor of Kazanlak is also hoping to build a rose oil attraction park to bring in tourists.

For now, the Rose Valley shows a softer side to the country whose corruption and organized crime will be evaluated in a European Commission monitoring report later this month.

"There are at least two different societies in Bulgaria. The one that will be the subject of this report and the one here," said Toon Streppel, a European Parliament official in Bulgaria."



A rose's track: The rose of Kazanlak.

Our first destination, in these small balkan tours, is the city Kazanlak (Bulgarian: Казанлък), in central Bulgaria, where we will attend a local feast dedicated to spring...

City Kazanlak is also known as "the city of Roses and Thracian Kings". The first of these two names is related to the cultivation of the famous Bulgarian roses in the region which, despite the fact that is mountainous, is named "The Valley of Roses" (Rozova dolina) and "is marked", as locals like to say, "by the perfume of roses" that are ready to harvest. Locals also stress that "since the begining of last century, at the beginning of each June, city celebrates the Festival of Roses, the feast of Bulgaria's national symbol".

The festival of Roses is a traditional feast dedicated to the opening of roses' collecting period. Their cultivation constitutes one of the most important wealth-producing sources for Bulgaria, since rose oil, or "fluid gold", is produced by them… Perhaps this is one of the reasons why -deservingly enough- roses were elevated to become one of the national symbols of Bulgaria.

Initially celebrations were limited in the regions where roses were cultivated. Later orthodox church combined it with the feast of holy spirit, but the feast remained local up to June 1967, when, for the first time, they became popular with artisan teams, farmers and workers, from every part of the republic, attending it. This form actually shapped the festivities which are held the same way every year until today: the first week of June in various cities of Bulgaria, events are organised connected with "roses, beauty and nature".

Along with Rosy Bulgaria's affiliation to its' "European family", the interest of  "new relatives" for the region was also increased. Immediately, as expected, the tourist value of the city Kazanlak increased. For a more productive tourism management, the Festival of Roses, a clearly rural feast, was enriched with various folklor-events that less and less reminds, ever since, the feast in the beginning of 20th century: Following only the rituals that those celebrations delivered, the city of Kazanlak nowadays celebrates "beauty" the first week of June, with a monumental parade led by the Queen of Roses, transported in a chariot. She is a local student, who is selected each year during a beauty contest (!) and is crowned queen in a ceremony dedicated to her, which marks the closure of the beauty contest. After marching, beginning from the Institute of Roses in the city, she completes her short-termed service rewarding the most talented in collecting roses, in a reconstruction of rose-collecting process, which takes place in the centre of the city.

And "events" don't end there. Organizers promise "folk" spectacles and modern spectacles: folk/traditional dances and music, photo-competitions and photo-exhibitions, motorcyclists named "the black roses" who follow the parade, majorettes, picnics in countryside and food in traditional taverns, visits to the meadows of roses and visits to rose oil distillers or visits to newly-built ethnographic complexes. The last ones are nothing more than miniatures of typical balkan villages. However they provide the guides with the oportunity to praise freedom, self-sufficiency and the unique sentiment caused by the contact with nature…and agrarian occupation. These ethnographic complexes are presented as "archetypes of subsistence", even though the places where they are built actually constituted properties of private individuals, farmstead of wealthy landholders or haciendas owned by tradesmen (f.i. Kulata), which makes us insisting on retaining our right to argue on the extend of freedom or keen and zestful pleasure that is felt by daily and day-long agrarian works, particulary the ones that farmers were supposed to "enjoy" by working hard in the service of landholders (if they were not slaves).

In this post-modern "ethnographic" verbosity, organizers promise to add a new thematic to the visits offered as a part of the festivities, but this time in the historical monuments of the region. The "Valley of Thracian Kings", which gives to the city of Kazanlak its' second name, could not be absent from the list of destinations in the programme. In the past few year, continuous excavations in the hills of the region brought in light a pleiad of tombs and devotional places, that included intact treasures of gold and are dated back to 5th and 4th century B.C. Would it be easy for anyone to omit such a set of archaeological loci, that tickle visitors with their treasures, their architecture and the decoration of buildings but also ensure the imprinting of a "rich" image of historical past, as much in time depth as in gold?
Next destination, the monuments of Shipka. Antiquity is followed by "glorified struggles" in Bulgaria's modern history, setting thus clearly the frames and the structure of region's history, but also of the history of Bulgaria. First stop "the Shipka monument of freedom". It was built in 1926-1934 with the donations of citizens, and is dedicated to the Bulgarian and Russian soldiers who were killed during the Russian-Turkish War of 1876-77, in the battle of Shipka pass. 894 steps lead to the top, where a hulking monument-cenotaph stands, 31,5 metres high, in which a small multileveled "museum" is accomodated, where maquettes of the battle are exposed, along with Bulgarian and Russian military equipment and personal objects that belonged to the dead soldiers, copies of flags, a sarcophagus etc. Second stop, an oblation to the memory of dead soldiers of the battle of Shipka: Shipka Monastery. Built mainly with donations of Russians nobles, follows the model of Russian cathedrals of 17th century. It was completed after 17 years, in 1902. Initially it constituted Russian property. However, in 1934, it was donated by the Soviet government to Bulgaria. In the interior of the church, which functions only as a museum, organised groups of visitors can attend, after some arrangements, a "concert of Eastern-European Orthodox music" as mentioned in brochures (always as a part of the festival of Roses). The expenses of that visit are paid, without mediators, directly to the church. So, national glory and orthodoxy is the "stem" of the second category of destinations included in the programme of a feast celebrating beauty and nature.

Attending the programme of the feast, we detected the effort of a region, subsumed in the borders of its' country and its' history, to create a new profile, split between its' local colour and extrincical influences. Western capitalism and its' "cultural" derivatives, well hidden communism, orthodoxy and national state, are some of the factors that appear to influence the configuration of "cultural identity" -a definition that people do not hesitate to use in order to characterise their new choices-. Even though these are nothing more than an intermixture of traditional and non-bulgarian "modern" models, we can discern a constant precipitation to enrich the feast with more elements in order to highlight the unique features of the region. Why, however, in such a haste?

We will be able to comprehend the reasons better if we set as a starting point the "nationalisation" of the rose. In order to perceive completely this process, we will have to combine it with the monopolistic production and distribution of rose oil from Bulgaria to Europe - especially after the integration of Bulgaria in E.U.-, with its' qualitatively as much as quantitatively increased production of rose oil in Kazanlak and the lack of industrial substitute of corresponding quality, that leads -despite the following vertical increase in the value (4.000-5.000 dollars per litre) - in the increased demand of rose oil from world markets.

Another element that we will have to include in the analysis is that this year, for the first time in the history of the feast and against the assiduous care for securing "continuance", celebrations are transposed in the beginning of May. This act is not of course an attempth to restore the "natural" relation of the feast with spring. It rather happened because, as we read in statements made by the director of the Institute of Roses, Mr Nentko Nentkov, in the Bulgarian agency of news BTA, "this years' production of rose oil in the special destilleries of the region is expected to reach the amount of 2.000 kilos, which means half of the world production of rose oil". But how is this connected to the feasts of local society? As it is reasonable, for the increase of rose-collecting, more working-agrarian hands are needed, so, the most probable reason that caused the transposing of the feast in the beginnings of May, is to secure their existance, before, we will supplement, local workers, who are hit by unemployment, seek seasonal employment in neighbouring european co-operatives. This opinion of ours is intensified by statements in the same report that "in rose-collection from roughly 3.500 sowed rosefields in the region of Kazanlak, roughly 70.000 workers will be occupied, out of whom only 50.000 are found and still 20.000 are needed"...

It seems that the feast of roses became a government affair and surelly the reason is not the reduction of unemployment. Keeping in mind the elements we had mentioned previously, let's see some more that will explain us, better than we would, the final answer in the question regarding the haste of Kazanlak in highlighting its' unique features:

By increasing the production of roses, Bulgaria is probably trying to anticipate the results of E.U.'s subsidies given to new co-operatives (always within the framework of free market's mechanism) in order to encourage their growth. These new cooperatives are, of course, still small but they tend to become competitive and they threaten Bulgaria's monopolium. As an example, let's see the greek cases of Grevena and Kozani. As announced by the Greek Federation of Farmers' Co-operatives, what followed the interruption of subsidy for tobacco -which was cultivated widely in the region-, were continuous efforts, made in order to find alternative lucrative cultivations. After exploratory actions for cultivating industrial rose in the region of Kozani and agronomic visits in Turkey - the first country in production of industrial rose in the world- and Bulgaria - that has achieved the higher quality-, during 2005 pilotic cultivations of 10 acres began in the region Voioy in Kozani, with plants from Bulgaria. Today roughly 250 acres are cultivated in Grevena and Kozani, while the target set for 2013 is to increase cultivated areas in 8.000 acres, so that Greece can claim a share in the world markets.

But, of course, they don't rest there, since no region could ever deprive it's public of the "opportunity to be introduced to the industrial rose"... Ergo, in May, in the region Voioy in Kozani the 2nd feast of Roses will take place. In the program of the feast the assessment of the year is included, along with the prospects of growth of region with the cultivation of aromatic-pharmaceutical plants AND cultural events, that are centred on the industrial rose. Within the framework of promoting the feast from printed and electronic press, we read in the site vita.gr the following extract that salutes the initiative. We translate it:

"An oportunity for rose-therapy
Colours, perfumes and touch is the best way for the ones that cultivate roses to achieve euphoria. The beneficial attributes by contacting earth are well-known, but they become more beneficial in spring, when roses bloom and are hand-collected during the most serene hours of the day, just before dawn. However, an opportunity for rose-theraphy is not offered only by the collection of the roses, but also by all the other processes that intervene until roses reach distillery, as, for example, the separation of petals from cartridge by using only your hands."

Once more we run into the repetition of a familiar model of arguments: beauty and exceptionality of contacting nature (once more indissolubly connected with agrarian work).

To which extend all these eventually contribute only to the emerge of beauty and the benefits from contacting nature, aim only to the well-being or simply constitute an occasion for amusement, we leave you to decide.

Balkan Decks

Balkandecks' Manifesto