Четвъртък, 24 Март 2011 00:00

Nationalism as a Subculture?

Ivaylo Ditchev

It sounds blasphemous to describe as a subculture the most precarious civic engagement of the Modern Times, going to extremes, such as the ethics of self-sacrifice – neither of the knight, nor of the warrior, but of the common citizen – nationalism. I am taking the liberty of putting such a hypothesis to the test here, in view of the tendency, observed in the Bulgarian youth in particular, to shift from the rationally political to the media-based emotional register. We understand less and less what they want to happen in the state; whereas they inculcate on us who they hate and love in ever more figurative ways. Needless to say that the most serious mobilizations around this symbolical obscurity, extending all the way from the extreme-right racism to the left protectionism of the labor market, are taking place on the net today.1

I am using the term “subculture” here in a post-Birmingham-School sense, referred to by some authors as “postmodern”, in as much as the notion of collective identities and conflicts based on class, gender, race or generation, found in authors such as Williams and Hebdige, has been broken down to acts of individualization with no clear distinctions between center and periphery, between high and low culture (Muggleton 2002, Honea 2003). As it will become clear, in my view, it is not the postmodern, but the consumerist turn in the cultural sphere that lies at the core of the phenomenon: the transition from endeavor, growing-up, self-cultivation, to object, choice, possession. The use of the prefix “sub-” here is not unwarranted either: it comes to denote an alternative to the official, yet just as instrumental uses of nationalism, referred to by Offenstadt as “spangled history” (as I translate his L’histoire bling bling (2009)), i.e. the increasingly faster arousing and erasing of media emotions that do not deepen understanding, only legitimate the current power arrangement.

Nationalism is usually discussed in the terms of subcultures when the issue at stake is minorities – Basques, Indian migrants, Yugoslav nationalities. The common characteristic of such mobilizations is the self-defensive consolidation of identities in resistance to the aggressive majority. The Bulgarian case, however, similar to the case of the British or the German extremists, has to do with a self-defensive reaction of the majority to the (contaminating) presence of the minorities. It comes down to the optics: every majority happens to be a minority, threatened with extinction in the global ocean, and that feeling is particularly exacerbated in the transnational (by definition) network, where the major symbolic wars are fought. Those who call themselves nationalists usually come from poor families where the feeling of threat brought by the globalization has a social dimension as well; many have been through a dismal migrant experience abroad with their families, and now want to take it out on the even weaker ones – the gypsies, the Turks, the new immigrants.


One of the arguments against using the term “subculture” when speaking of the practices of virtual adoration of the nation, points to the fact that young people are not opposed to the culture of their parents, on the contrary – they radicalize the late communist nationalist canon. Just like the youth in Maghreb are better Muslims than their parents, our young people are far more devout patriots than their parents. What sets them apart is not the different content, but the depth of their emotional involvement, the transgression of the established rules of propriety. For example, after a couple of shots of rakia, the average Bulgarian would share his regrets that Hitler had lost the war and had thus obstructed the realization of “our national idea”; the young skinhead, however, would tattoo the German Stuka dive bombers and the swastika, right next to Levski and Rayna Knyaginya on his chest.

The similarities between youth nationalism and subcultures are found along the lines of staging oneself. The actual political views of these people are more or less narrowed down to the fact that Macedonia is Bulgarian, Turkey should not enter the EU, and the minorities have too many rights. Similar mindsets, however, are quite widespread (unfortunately) in Bulgaria today. It is much more important to look like a nationalist. To mark your body with ancient signs such as the allegedly Proto-Bulgarian runic signs, perhaps even wear some sort of a uniform, to represent a historical bodily ethos inspired by the late socialist movies, to vehemently stand (even fight for) “our” ground.


There are degrees to it, of course. The older the nationalists get, the more involved they become in the real politics, and the more the subcultural aspect is laid aside. This tendency is observed in the supporters of “Ataka”. In the year the political party (initially a TV station) was founded, there was a rumor that some of the younger members dyed their hair grey to resemble their leader; today, with the organization’s coming to power and its members growing older, this seems hard to believe. At the other end of the spectrum, one finds straightforwardly subcultural formations with a nationalist profile, such as the local skinheads, the moto-brotherhood “Sons of Tangra”, the Proto-Bulgarian school for survival skills “Bagatur”,


or the sports organization “Edelweiss” (with the motto “To each his own”). The middle of the spectrum is certainly most interesting – it is where the battle between the dramatically heroic and the hedonistically consumerist definition of the nation is carried out. Such organization, for example, is the neo-fascist Bulgarian National Union (BNU), which by the way fell into crisis after its leader Boyan Stankov “Rasate”2 was discredited and resigned in February 2010. The battle for ideological purity is ruthless, but in a certain sense uneven.

For example, in August 2009, a concert intended to attract new members to the “movement” was under preparation, and the Bulgarian hard-core band “Pure blood BG” was invited to make an appearance. Here are some quotes from the comments exchanged on the subject:

!!!: What sort of nationalism is this – not respecting your own language? Look at your poster – Pure Blood (BG), what is this “BG”, what is “Pure Blood”?... Was ist das?

Ico: “!!!”, hey, you, the true devoted Aryan, explain it to me – how does this concert exactly bother you? Fine. It won’t start up a World Revolution… So what?!?

!!!: The concert bothers me in as much as the people in question don’t do anything but hang out together, drink, and go to concerts. This is a subcultural, asocial way of life. That’s what the punks, the hard core fans, and the metal fans all do.

Brain damage: I don’t see what’s so bad about a concert, people gather to have some fun, to have a beer or two, and so on, how come everything we do has got to do with political activism?

Sturmkaiser: Anyhow, what’s wrong with subcultures – they don’t set people apart, it’s just music, not a political ideology, it’s not the clothes that make a bad impression of someone, it’s the behavior. Besides, we are not communists, why should we all look the same.

National specialist: Hey, guys, why all the bickering? If they wanna make a concert – let them do it… Unless, of course, the national resistance against the enemies of Bulgaria is not limited to concerts only.

… As concerns the poster… how to put it, it’s not bad, but I’d rather see a more pronouncedly Bulgarian one next time. It doesn’t have to be “fur caps, the Balkan mountains, national costumes, yoghurt, and martenitsas”, and “band names written in Old Church Slavonic”. But I think it would be nice to have a word or two in Bulgarian. It wouldn’t hurt, would it? It would at least make clear that the concert is organized by nationalists, not by the usual jerks ...3

In fact, two notions of culture clash in this discussion: on the one side are those who think that the cultural form can be separated from the content, and used for all sorts of things – for having good time, for attracting new members, etc. In this sense, even pop-folk could go on the playlist, as long as it works for the “movement”. On the other side are those who believe that culture has a ritual meaning and anything non-Bulgarian profanes the cause and degrades the nationalists to a simple subculture of befuddled drunks and stoned admirers of anything that comes from abroad.

Further down in the discussion thread, the topic is taken up by an anonymous user, who some forum members believe to be the resigned leader Rasate.

If you happen to come to events (such as, for example, (!!!) concerts), organized by some self-proclaimed nationalists, you’ll typically see people trying to present themselves as supporters of our ideology by wearing a particular scenographic outfit. Almost everyone tries to look fearful; their hair-styles and military boots are expected to draw almost admiration. The asocial and/or aggressive behavior has long since been in fashion in our circles. Of course, there’s nothing wrong in being radical when you stand up for your views, but this radicalism should not be mistaken for the pseudo-aggressiveness, advocated by large fractions of the subcultural movements… A particular pseudo-political subculture is being cultivated, guided primarily by the thirst for entertainment. It is in no way different from the other consumerist subcultures in today’s Bulgaria and Europe – be it chalga, rap, or any other movement – a way of killing time. At such events you oftentimes see people dressed in T-shirts with prints of national heroes, who had fought for their Motherland and sacrificed their lives for the cause; nonetheless, the same people would tell you: “Let’s not deal with politics!”4

Further down, the anonymous ideologist calls for purging the ranks from such elements who turn the cause into entertainment and an occasion for beer drinking. He quotes Nazi instructions from 1933 that prohibit singing the party’s march “Die Fahne hoch” in pubs, so that its elevated meaning is not profaned and banalized. The posting does certainly stir up agitation among the forum members:

Сказах!: Actually the Jews lumped the “skinheads” and neo-Nazism together, and in this way discredited the ideology …

NS88: one of the NSDAP manuals from 1927 starts with the following advice: NEVER GET DRUNK!

Kenef: I think that the teenagers are anyway all into subcultures, and the ones with a nationalist leaning are a better option than the ones with techno-music and drugs, or those with black music and baggy jeans… Everyone wants to be a hero but no one wants to sacrifice himself; after all, you can’t make the young people or anyone in the 21st century wear brown uniforms on the street.

Копче Мопче: You call yourself Bulgarian nationalists but you’d rather listen to, say, “Norwegian death metal”, and you are so keen on the heavy metal symbolism… Show some interest in the Bulgarian (and proto-Bulgarian) history and culture… Stop bowing before the foreign stuff… This may sound as advertising but actually the Bulgarian (and the proto-Bulgarian) culture and way of life could also become a subculture attractive to the young. A very good example – the “Bagatur” school (proto-Bulgarian martial arts and survival skills). If the moderator considers this advertising, let him erase my posting.

RS: Subcultures and nationalism are widely discussed, but it seems as if the majority finds them at odds with each other, and tries to convince the people that they need to renounce their subculture in order to be nationalists. In this way, in my view, more people are turned away from the movement, rather than drawn to it. Subcultures do not get in the way of anyone’s political views and activism, and I can’t get why it is discussed as an overall problem of the nationalists. If being a nationalist means that listening to folk music and putting on a national costume is a must, then none of us would qualify.

Discussions of the kind bring to mind the idea that perhaps for most young people the nationalist identification is subcultural, which makes certain hardcore ideologists (such as the anonymous author of the text quoted above) ring the moral alarm bell. It might be that the distinction is not between moral engagement and subcultural experience, but between different subcultures, between different consumer goods. The problem is in the foreignness of the subcultures – when a “brand” of our own, such as the Proto-Bulgarian Survival Skills School recommended by Копче Мопче, appears on the “market”, the commercial, the consumerist aspect ceases to be a problem. Could it be that the German Nazism, experienced through YouTube video clips, is, too, a kind of subculture, evoking sweet feelings of power, masculinity, perhaps homosexual bonding, and fanlike admiration for the star Hitler?


The polarization of the emotions along the love-hate axis, in other words – fanship-hatership, is the most conspicuous aspect of nationalism. These two extremes, however, are not fully symmetrical.

In 2009, for example, some 30 000 people joined a Facebook group, standing by the claim that Bulgarian women are the most beautiful in the world.5 At the same time, another 47 000 joined a group with the expressive name “Miss Bulgaria 2009 is a crocodile”. Such discrepancies are observed all the time among the digital patriots. On the one hand, they are swollen with pride in the Cyrillic alphabet, which we, the Bulgarians, “have given the world”. On the other, they are non-stop complaining about the problems this great invention is causing when using global software. On the one hand – almost religious sacralizing of khans, tsars, and revolutionaries, on the other – extreme repugnance to each and every contemporary politician alive. As if one of the principles of identity building, which I have previously referred to as substituting the near with the far (Ditchev 2002: 88), has been pushed to the extreme. In this case, it could be redefined as substituting the concrete with the abstract – to “come into being”, you need to break up with what you are linked to, and make a leap to something prestigious you have favored. In principle, the nation is the most wonderful thing, but any particular incarnation only takes us further away from the ideal.

This is probably one of the reasons why hater-type manifestations of nationalism dominate the virtual space. Other reasons usually pointed out are anonymity in Internet, alertness for anything laudatory that sounds like advertising on the web, as well as the specifics of the undeveloped Bulgarian culture.6 I would add yet another, semiotic reason for the pervasiveness of hatred. The online message is a parasite: it is usually based on another message of higher standing, generated by the official media. The web-speaker is either a self-made thinker questioning the official newspapers, a blogger debunking the analyses of the professional journalists, or just an embittered person who thinks that all public figures are criminals. Here is why the message is usually debased, distorted, ridiculed. Most often it is a syntagma of a normal public message and a disparaging personal commentary. Naturally, in the South-European countries, where trust in the institutions is lower, this personal, hater-like attitude is particularly strong.

Typical Internet mobilizations are the protests against the Bulgarian song in the Eurovision song contest, against the court’s decision to release a suspect, the battles to save mountains, research institutes or ailing children. On the one hand, the feeling of compassion is unconditional, as it pertains to despicable acts which cannot leave us indifferent; on the other, the feeling of hatred is openly directed to the concrete culprit and to the state which is covering him up (just as in the primitive cultures, there is always a concrete malevolent intent behind all evil, even behind death). These causes are subpolitical according to the definition quoted above, since on the one hand, they have a private character, on the other – they present themselves as suprapolitical, and yet on another hand, they are launched by independent groups of self-proclaimed activists, mobilized around the love-hate axis.

Such are the numerous mobilizations against chalga, the love-hatred towards which appears to be the major cultural dividing line for the Bulgarian youth. This emotionally defined7 music style bears a complex relationship to the ideology of the nationalists, who on the one hand love the unwitting pop-folk, with its regional sound and comprehensible lyrics in Bulgarian, on the other, feel obligated to hate it because of its oriental (“Gypsy”) motifs and the nouveau-riche money it sings about. A glance at the Facebook groups mobilized in the battle against chalga – “Anti-chalga”, “NO to the chalga in the public transport”, “I am not a racist but I hate chalga”, “Listening to chalga turns you into a fucking idiot” – shows that tens of thousands of users feel obligated to be against this phenomenon, contaminating the pure national soul.8 On the contrary, the “authentic Bulgarian folklore”, commended by the patriots, draws together groups of a few dozen members, most often promoting a CD, a singer or a concert (as if to attest to the above-mentioned thesis on the more uncunning nature of hatred!).


It is true that Facebook users have a presumably higher cultural background, which partially accounts for these findings; nevertheless, it seems obvious that when public speakers politicize culture, it is easier to legitimate yourself by being “anti” chalga, rather than “pro” authentic folklore. A recent case in this direction was the battle against “Paisius Kyutchek” performed by the Sliven-based Gypsy band of Dantcho Djamaykata – a battle that IMRO attempted to bring to court, claiming that putting the name of a national saint in the context of a chalga song is an insult to the nation.9 The author explained that the song was about a friend of his, Paisius Kalendarski, who wanted to have a song dedicated to him, and had nothing to do with the monk from Mount Athos. As it usually happens in such cases, the passions subsided, sinking into the void they had come from, just as quickly as they had aroused.

Another example on the border between taste and ideology are the Turkish soap operas that flooded the Bulgarian TV channels in the last couple of years. On the one hand, a great number of people like them, because of the Balkan patriarchal way of life, reminiscent of the late years of Zhivkov’s rule. On the other, there is an equally large resistance against this liking – on a deeply subconscious level it seems as an act of adultery with the much-hated oppressor. On July 19th, 2010, one of the numerous Facebook groups on this subject – “I’m sick of Turkish soap operas” – was supported by the impressive number of 83 465 users. A typical comment reads:

Well, go ahead, watch them and we’ll become a minority!

Thanks God, there are also some more humorous comments:

It is high time that the Russian soap operas come and liberate us from the Turkish invasion!

As it happens in all human cultures, the irreconcilable opposites – I like it although I must hate it – beget myths. In this case, it is the conspiracy theory that soap operas have a deeper geopolitical meaning. This idea often pops up in interviews; here it is, expressed on the wall of the above-mentioned Facebook group:

Yordan Aleksiev: The question that bothers me is who paid bTV and Nova TV to put the Turkish serials on air. As far as I remember, it happened last year at one and the same time – shortly before the elections… I think there are two possibilities; one of them you’ll all guess right – the MRF. But it is too obvious and in my opinion – less feasible. My second guess has to do with the EU, someone from the EU wants that the Bulgarians no longer hate the Turks, but I have no idea who… The two largest and most watched private TV stations all of a sudden start airing Turkish TV serials at one and the same time, presumably for profit – I am not buying it. Somebody must have paid them or bought them :)))

If we recall Lamartine’s famous quotation from Voyage en Orient (1835), proudly put on display in the house named after him in Plovdiv, we would understand why this problem is so painful:

(The Bulgarians) despise and hate the Turks; they have fully matured to independence…10

Hating the Turks appears to be a basic characteristic of the nation, as we imagine it in our lands. Those who try to soften you up with tear-jerking soap operas are committing an ideological diversion. Because those who don’t hate “the other” are disqualified as fans of the nation, just as the fans of “Levski” who don’t hate CSKA.


The oldest distinction in all human societies is, of course, the enemy. Provoking a confrontation with the other is the most indicative test of loyalty to the cause. In its classical version from the 19th and 20th centuries, the nation requires willingness to sacrifice your life for it, but as it becomes clear, such thing seems absolutely ridiculous for the young people in a time when they are fighting virtual monsters at their choice every day, with several spare lives at disposal. Sociological studies regularly find that very few young people feel in any way obliged to perform the verbal ritual of declaring their willingness to die for the motherland, regardless of the patriotic speeches they might have previously delivered. Here is a typical statement:

Thunder: Hmmm… It’s very unlikely today that anyone would tell you that he’s dying to die for his country, simply because the times have changed a lot, and this type of patriotism – sacrificing one’s life in the name of the fatherland – is simply no longer necessary. We are living in times of peace and the idea of fighting with guns and all, fighting for life and death, is a thing of the past. The important thing is not to forget those who had given their lives for Bulgaria, and for us respectively, so that we could live free and help our country keep developing.11

Curiously, Thunder’s avatar is a man heroically firing a machine gun. By and large, with the exception of some of the most extreme groups such as football fans, BNU members or skinheads, for whom thrashing and being thrashed is a matter of existence, nationalist wars are waged mostly on the symbolic field, where one of the basic characteristics of fanship – competence – plays a central role.


The young nationalists (such as, for example, IMRO sympathizers) are recognizable by their most detailed and diverse knowledge of the glorious Bulgarian history: in interviews they often share that at their parties, unlike those “dumb chalga types”, they are holding discussions on these topics, and it is very important to assert one’s thesis and convince the others with arguments. This means moving away from the books towards something that I call Internet-literacy: that mish-mash knowledge which results from searching and always finding proof for one’s rightness on the web, without any method or theoretical grounding. The problem is particularly serious in a country such as Bulgaria where institutions are undermined, the academic community is irreversibly fractured, and there is no public authority whatsoever. The competencies based on Internet-literacy don’t aim at gaining universal knowledge, but at winning a victory over the opponent in the global digital Armagedon.


The new media constellation enables the transfer of the symbolic battles from one platform to another, from text to image, from video to music. In a metaphor borrowed from football, winning games on home territory is easier but is less valuable; winning games on prominent stadiums is harder but more glorifying.

As we know, the so-called Proto-Bulgarians – ferocious warriors, holding the rights to the territory and to “statehood” – are a particularly important topic for the extreme right. In 2008, a BNU supporter complained in his YouTube channel, called “wikipedia sa mangali” [Wikipedia are Mangals (a derogatory word for Gypsies)], that Macedonians, Gypsies, “amudzhi” (a derogatory word for Turks), and Communists had taken over Wikipedia and had reworked his article on the origin of the ancestors in question, adding that according to some hypotheses, they are a Turkic tribe. The highlights from his deleted article are running on the screen to the sound of Iron Maiden, which is expected to mobilize patriotic feelings. Further on, an image of a mongoloid flashes on the screen – that is how, according to the enemies, the alleged forefather of the Bulgarians had looked like. The final victory, however, seems far away:

tankistabg: bro, that Wikipedia thing is like that! These are some dirty freaks there. What really sucks is that even if we go there, with some 200 people, and start editing, they are still going to delete us.

Someone, probably a Macedonian, is making fun of our warrior:

brodski25: Best of wishes, my dear Brother Bulgarian Tatar!

In another video clip (this time the titles are running against the background of the Madara Rider and to the sound of folk melodies) the thesis on the links between the Bulgarian and the very ancient Avestian language from Northern Iran, “also called Aryan”, is presented. From the comparisons it follows that Slavic languages are East Iranian dialects, the Bulgarians are descended from the Sarmates and the Zoroastrians, the folklore tradition “surva” comes from the name of an Avestian deity, etc.12 By the way, the thesis on the Iranian descent of the Bulgarians is brought up repeatedly, every time surrounded by media excitement – the last case was a journey to Iran undertaken by a mime from the National Academy for Theater and Film Arts, who had discovered numerous similarities between our cultures. What is at stake is the ancient past, letting go of the suspicion that we are Turkic, proving our Aryan descent. In another YouTube lecture, a section of a book by one Dimiter Sassalov is presented and illustrated, this time to the sound of Rammstein. According to his “timeless anthropological theory”, supported by photos of typical Bulgarian faces, body measures, and blood samples of who knows who, the Bulgarians are somewhat different from the rest of the Slavs, but closer to the Danish and the Germans from Schleswig-Holstein. Unbelievable but true: the same goes about the Macedonians…


The major battles have nevertheless been fought in Facebook in the recent years: even the official media started regularly informing us on any accumulation of fans behind a cause, as if it were serious news. The easiness with which groups are set up, and links, video, music, and photos forwarded, makes possible the astoundingly fast gathering of virtual crowds, which keep hanging out there afterwards, forgotten by the users who have meanwhile refocused their attention elsewhere. Actually, one of the largest mobilizations was provoked by a total nonsense: the defense of the motherland from the group “Fuck Bulgaria” set up by Turkish internauts, and announced as “a group established against the unsubstantiated slanders about Atatürk13 and our country (Turkey) by the Bulgarians”.

More than 200 000 users joined various Facebook groups raging against, cursing, and insulting the Turks, and demanding that the web site of the group in question be blocked.14 It was eventually taken down from Facebook, however, the same “label” is now being used by a group of Greeks to claim that:

All Macedonia is Greek. !!!!!!!!!

The group stirred up a new outburst of foul language, geopolitical ad hoc alliances, offensive pictures of people pissing on foreign flags, and postings such as: Normal 0 21 false false false BG X-NONE X-NONE “down on your knees in front of Simeon the Great, you, monkeys!”, “Only the sun is older than Macedonia!!!”, etc.15 Hater groups of this kind are oftentimes the reason for confrontations on the Balkans – between Greeks and Turks, Macedonians and Bulgarians, Albanians and Serbians. It is curious that there is always hesitation as to what language to use: on the one hand, the true patriot should express himself in his mother tongue in order to be respected by his kin; on the other – he should write in English to be understood by the foreigners he is cursing. The best thing, of course, would be to have a picture at hand, such as, for example, a glorious map, that speaks for itself and needs no translation.


In a recent interview, Benedict Anderson, apparently relating to his celebrated thesis that it is the communication medium which produces the national community, said:

The new forms are e-mail-nationalism and Internet-nationalism.16

Some of the consequences of the new organization of communication: the lack of a fixed power center (every user is a media), the fragmentation of causes (making an impression is more important than being loyal), the “fluidization” of identities (it’s getting easier to switch from a scene where, for instance, the Gypsies are considered “subhuman” to another scene where their chalga is proudly put side by side to the Western one).

Let me also mention the intensification of the consumerist aspect of culture, in this case – the national imaginary. Similarly to the football fan who feels the passions of his team, loves its emblems, and hates its opponents, today’s young nationalist regards the nation not as something to belong to, but as something to possess. The ethics of belonging is replaced by the aesthetics of possession (Ditchev 2002: 139-140). In this sense, being a fan or a hater cannot be shaken by new historical facts, by political disappointments, or by travels abroad. With Internet you can always find the fact you need in order to amplify the emotion you are feeling.

Fanship is the exact opposite of culture, defined by Matthew Arnold as “a pursuit of our total perfection”, or of the German Bildung (maturation, self-edification). It is a privatized culture which does not change the individual, on the contrary – it enables him to resist the need for change. It is therefore clear why fanship is so important for the teenagers who are trying to protect themselves from the pressure of the society of the grown-ups. The similarity between fanship and Internet-nationalism is found precisely in this desire to protect yourself from the changes that globalization brings along, to hide yourself behind your eternal possessions such as the Proto-Bulgarians, the scenery, or female beauty, from the equally eternal threats by Gypsies, Orientalism, or corrupted politicians. Instead of maturing as a citizen and engaging yourself in the political battle, to indulge in strong loves and images.

Let me finally come back to the issue of the subpolitical. It would be too easy to disqualify the nationalist web-passions as a youth subculture, there is a subpolitical potential there which goes beyond experiencing one’s personal identity.

Although oftentimes situated below the horizon of the big causes which preceded them, the new mobilizations often articulate more than what is seen on the surface. Take for instance the already mentioned battle against chalga. On the one hand, there is a mix of intolerance to foreign taste and racism (intolerance to the foreign body encroaching upon my territory) in it, i.e. chalga is seen as kitsch plus vulgarity. But when you go into a serious conversation, you understand that there is something else behind: disappointment with the absolute lack of order, value hierarchies and morality, brought along by the new rich. So, chalga becomes synonymous with lawlessness and illegitimacy, and even the racist insults acquire a new meaning: in a primitive and emotional way they juxtapose us, the citizens, to them, the bandits, the appropriators, the exploiters.17 In a sense, subpolitics is subconscious politics, as paradoxical as this may sound: similarly to the patient on the psychoanalytical couch, it articulates things it doesn’t want to become fully conscious of. Why not? Because politics today is a dirty word, because politics has to be “done” in non-political ways.

Or, take another typological example – the “Entropa” art installation by David Cerny in early 2009, which offended the Bulgarians by presenting the country as a “Turkish toilet”. Of the same type are the mobilizations against the songs selected to represent Bulgaria in the Eurovision song contest, the feelings of Proto-Bulgarian greatness or ancient Iranian origin. On the one hand, we see sick self-conceit, a grandeur complex. On the other, in such outbursts, taking place mostly on the net, the self-proclaimed citizens are challenging the experts – those holders of uncontrolled power who tell them what art is, who sings well, who our ancestors are and who are not. The perimeter of the political power is shrinking, thus making the old causes less and less relevant, as the opponent is growing weaker by himself. On the contrary, the power of the experts is growing, so is resistance against it, offered by the subpolitical mobilizations, relying increasingly on counter-expertise – rather ridiculous in the field of nationalism, much more serious in the environmentalist matters, but still comparable as acts of resistance.

The oscillation of the young nationalists between subculture and subpolitics is to a large extent intensified by the virtual turn. On the one hand, the new media make self-admiration and the possession of cultural emblems easier than ever before; on the other, the self-proclamation of the citizen-expert becomes more and more visible, and generates more and more serious media effects.

The photo gallery on the BNU’s web site invites the nationalists to upload their personal photos, the result being sexy smiles, mixed here and there with a symbol or two of the movement.


One of the comments:

icokulva4a: I want the phone number of the girls on the photos!

1. Our research project “The New Youth and the New Media” (Ditchev & Spassov 2008-2009) indicated that the young are committed to nationalist ideas on the one hand, and to environmentalist ones on the other, the two usually intersecting in the notion of the “beautiful Bulgarian nature”.

2. As it usually happens in such radical communities, he was accused of committing what is considered the worst moral crime by these people – participating in an orgy with certain homosexual elements. As regards the subcultural problematic, it would be interesting to recall that Boyan Stankov hosted a TV show (just like Siderov), participated in TV games, and insisted on his nickname “Rasate”, which in the contemporary context is an important element of popular culture.

3. Hatecore night, Altermedia Bulgaria - national information gateway (April 24th, 2010).

4. Birata ili bitkata za Bulgaria? [The Beer or the Battle for Bulgaria?] Altermedia Bulgaria - national information gateway (June 16th, 2010)

5. As it is known, the female body is a main battlefield for the national community (See, e.g., Bane-Weiser 1999).

6. “We are a nation of haters, indeed.” – comments mindbolt in the online forum of Tisho’s Writer’s Blog (October 24th, 2007) (March 10th, 2010).

7. “Chalga” is a derogatory term for anything vulgar and commercial (chalga historians, chalga politicians, etc.), not normally used by musicologists, however.

8. A particular case is the insult inflicted by the fact that the international media often see chalga as the most interesting and the most characteristic cultural phenomenon in Bulgaria. See Petrova, A. Chalgata kato nacionalna harakteristika [The Chalga as a National Characteristic]. In: 21st Century Bulgaria, March 3rd, 2010 (July 18th, 2010).

10. Alphonse de Lamartine, Souvenirs, impressions, pensées et paysages pendant un voyage en Orient, 1832-1833, ou Note d'un voyageur [Document électronique], p. 452.

11. Online forum of the German Language School, Sofia (February 2nd, 2010).

13. It is absolutely ridiculous to accuse the Bulgarians of having bad feelings for Atatürk who had been quite close to becoming a Bulgarian son-in-law. Apparently, the hatred towards the Greeks, who had ridiculed Mustafa Kemal in YouTube several years ago, has been projected here. The new media make the transfer of hatred from one object to another amazingly easy – the feeling of hatred, liberated from its physical carrier, is floating freely around the global world!

14. The largest one, with 124 000 members, was set up by Viktor Mitchev. It reports now that the battle has been successful and thanks for the support.

15. Founded by pantou, Athens, with 922 members (last accessed on April 30th, 2010). On July 21st the group was already blocked, but I found a newly-established Turkish group under the same name…).

16. DNA, July 2nd, 2010 (April 24th, 2010).

17. This figure was frequently played upon throughout the 1990s with the rumors that Zhelyu Zhelev is a Turk, and Ivan Kostov – a Gypsy. Meaning: a “foreign body”, not one of us.


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Ditchev, Ivaylo. 2002. Ot prinadlezhnost kam identichnost. Politiki na obraza [From belonging to identity. Politics of the Image]. Sofia: LIK.

Ditchev, Ivaylo & Spassov, Orlin. 2009. Novite mladi i novite medii [The New Youth and the New Media]. Sofia: Open Society Institute.

Hirschman, Albert. 1970. Exit, Voice and Loyalty. In Firms, Organizations and States. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

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