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Disgusting neo-Nazi recidivism in Sofia – 16 years of the Lukov March

February 2019 marks the 16th year of the annual neo-Nazi Lukov March in Sofia in remembrance of Bulgarian general and Nazi sympathizer Hristo Lukov. Somewhere around 1,200 people took part. Many of the demonstrators came from outside Bulgaria.

The Lukov March is an abhorrent event. It is a torch-lit, neo-Nazi demonstration organized annually in February to honor the memory of Hristo Lukov (1887-1943) – a general, politician and minister of war from 1935 to 1938. Lukov was a staunch supporter of Nazi Germany during the Second World War, fostering close ties with senior Nazi officials in the Third Reich. He also pushed through a law modeled on the 1935 Nuremberg Laws in Germany that stripped Jews of their civil rights and he advocated for the government to send Bulgarian Jews to the death camps, which was Adolf Hitler’s personal demand to Boris III – the king of Bulgaria at the time. On a side note, it is worth mentioning that this request was turned down and most Bulgarian Jews did not perish in gas chambers on the territory of Nazi-occupied Poland but were evacuated instead. Lukov was also the head of an extremist right-wing organization, the Union of the National Bulgarian Legions. Hristo Lukov was assassinated in 1943 by Violeta Yakova, a female member of the underground communist resistance in Sofia.

The Lukov March was organized for the first time in 2003. It was then that the persona of Hristo Lukov was dragged out of the dustbin of history and put on a pedestal by the Bulgarian far right. The march in his honor has been happening ever since even despite official bans issued by the municipality of Sofia in 2014 and 2015. In 2016 and 2017 the demonstrations were carried out again and formal misunderstandings occurred that were blamed on ‘lack of coordination’ between the organizers of the march and the local authorities in Sofia. The dispute ended up in a court of law and was appealed and finally won by the people behind the Lukov March.

The Bulgarian left blames it on the ignorance of the courts as well as on alleged ties of some of the most important figures in the extremist gangs to high-ranking bureaucrats in the municipality of Sofia. However, there is no material proof of that. The fact is that for an unknown reason, the authorities in Sofia risk their reputation every year and never go beyond a formal ban, often lousily composed, with a lot of legal mistakes which then fails in court. The central government is silent as well.

So, who are the organizers of this annual Nazi gathering? Most of them are either members or sympathizers of right-wing extremist organizations like the Bulgarian National Union, the VMRO party and the Bulgarian branch of the internationally banned neo-Nazi gang Blood and Honor. Among the participants one can observe, there is a large collection of stadium hooligans and other right-wing lumpens, as well as members of far right sects from abroad.

Lately, Lukov’s commemorators have made some effort to mask their Nazi identity and did not walk around with swastikas but still – the easily recognizable emblems held dear by the International Neo-Nazi movement (Celtic crosses, flags of the German empire, black suns, etc) were displayed at the front of the procession.

The World Jewish Congress and other Jewish organizations as well as Bulgaria’s political parties have called for the march to be suspended. “It is absolutely abhorrent that in 2019 in Europe, the very place in which the Nazis attempted to wipe out the entire population of Jewish men, women, and children, far-rightists continue to parade unfettered through the streets with swastikas, SS symbols, and messages of hatred for Jews and other minorities,” said WJC Executive Vice President Robert Singer told Reuters.

Ahead of the march, hundreds of people took part in a counter-protest under the slogan “No Nazis on the streets.” The important fact to stress is that the anti-fascist demonstration was at least just as large as the Lukov March, which means that the opposition to openly fascist ideas in Bulgarian society is growing.

The anti-fascist demo gathered representatives of left-wing parties and organizations of social, civil and human rights movements; intellectuals, university lecturers, students, as well as activists from other Balkan and European countries. The participants made statements not only against the neo-Nazi demonstration, but also against all forms of discrimination and injustice, as well as the normalization of racist speech by politicians like Krassimir Karakachanov. “The goal of the counter-demonstration No Nazis on the Streets is to unite all those who oppose hatred, exploitation and division; who want to live in peace and understanding with others who support solidarity and basic human values,” the organizers stated.

On the banners and posters that the participants held, the following inscriptions appeared: “No to Lukov March, No to neo-Nazi marches,”; “Food, not Bombs,”; “We do not want fascism, we want social justice!”; “Fascism is not a point of view, it’s a crime!” and “Solidarity between people is our weapon against hatred!” The protest passed by a number of state institutions and ended in front of the Sofia Municipality building .

Will the Lukov March be held again next year?

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