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Once and Future Communists

In September 2009, anticommunists all across the ex-Soviet bloc, but especially in Bulgaria, were shocked to learn of the election of a former high-ranking communist bureaucrat, Bulgarian diplomat Irina Bokova (a former colleague of mine), as the new director-general of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).  Bokova had no knowledge about or experience in education, science, or culture, but obviously such expertise is unnecessary for holding the top job in a specialized U.N. agency responsible for promoting international cooperation in education, science, and culture.  Iliya Troyanov, a Vienna-based Bulgarian writer, slammed the “scandalous” selection of Bokova as another example of the fact that, 20 years after the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe, the apparatchiks are still highly influential in their own countries and carry significant clout even at the United Nations.  In an article for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Troyanov bitterly complained about the staying power of Bulgaria’s ex-communist elite, writing that “The new Director General of UNESCO belongs to a small, powerful layer, which has ruined Bulgaria, and is only playing a game of democracy as long as its privileges are not taken away.”

For those of us who have been closely watching the postcommunist scene, especially in Bulgaria, Bokova’s elevation was hardly a surprise.  A lot of Bulgaria’s...

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