Nikolai Grozni: The Ghost of Revolutions Past

Roundup: Media's Take

[Nikolai Grozni is the author of the forthcoming novel “Wunderkind.”]

EVER since the uprising in Egypt began on Jan. 25, I have hardly moved an inch away from the TV screen. I may be in France, but my spirit is in Tahrir Square. I’m throwing stones. I’m breathing in tear gas. I’m lighting up Molotov cocktails. I’m dodging bullets. I’m fighting thick-headed policemen. I’m cursing every symbol of the regime until my voice cracks.

Why? Because I’ve already done all that before, during the winter of 1989 and 1990, when an epidemic of indignation spread through Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, and then again in 1991 and 1997, when the Bulgarian Communist Party and its Gorgonian successor finally lost their suffocating grip on power.

The similarities between Egypt today and Bulgaria at the end of the cold war are numerous: Hosni Mubarak, who stepped down on Friday, held power for 30 years; Todor Zhivkov, the leader of the Communist Party, had reigned for 35 years. The people of both countries have been crushed by an oppressive regime and a puppet Parliament, by a dictator’s private judiciary and a deaf state TV, by policemen, secret agents, apparatchiks and paid taletellers.

In Bulgaria, as in Egypt, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly were viewed as criminal activities instigated by foreign elements. In Bulgaria, as in Egypt, the revolution was carried out predominantly by the young. Many Egyptians scornfully call Mr. Mubarak “the Pharaoh.” In Bulgaria, the central figure of the regime, the former Prime Minister Georgi Dimitrov, really was a mummy, his embalmed body displayed in a megalomaniac mausoleum across from the Communist Party headquarters. Many Bulgarians used to joke that they lived in an Egyptian dynasty set up in a parallel universe....

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