Why his name (Tsar Boris is problematic today? The motives are from the geopolitical genre. The Levica ( The left) Party only formally used communist iconography to oppose an association bearing the name of an anti-communist.

Author: Xhelal Neziri 

The pro-Russian opposition party Levica ( The Left), which counts two deputies in the North Macedonian Parliament, on Friday organized a protest in Ohrid against the opening of a non-governmental organization of the country’s ethnic Bulgarians. It was officially said that the cause of this protest is the name of the organization that is called after Tsar Boris the Third, the last Bulgarian king before the start of the Second World War. The protest was also supported by the largest opposition party VMRO-DPMNE, while the figure of Tsar Boris in the media was widely placed in the darkest contexts of human history – that of the collaborator of Nazism and Adolf Hitler.

In the absence of debate argued by historians, everything was said and written that would demonize the then Tsar Boris, and an implicit language of hate speech towards ethnic Bulgarians was used.

Public opinion was left without the necessary information based on science, which should build the right attitude for this historical figure. The propagandists seem to have managed to build the narrative that Tsar Boris was an accomplice of Hitler, that he deported thousands of Jews to the death trenches and that he was the main villain in the borders of today’s North Macedonia.

We live in a time of globalization and digitization when critical thinking, media literacy, and political knowledge are essential if we want to avoid being manipulated by the media. If before the news was verified by the editors, today they must be verified by the readers.

So, the first question is who was Tsar Boris the Third? The Encyclopedia Britannica, a relevant and credible online source, states that he was king of Bulgaria from 1918 to 1943. Despite his Roman Catholic background, he was raised in the Orthodox faith for political and dynastic reasons. He succeeded his father Ferdinand as king of Bulgaria in October 1918. He was a leading political figure and overthrew several governments, and in recent years he has taken over all power, ruling as a dictator. He was anti-communist and in constant war with the Bulgarian communists, who had carried out several unsuccessful assassinations.

Was he( Tsar Boris) an accomplice of Hitler? t is a fact that in 1941 Boris joined the Axis Pact (Germany-Italy-Japan), but preserved a part of his independence. He helped the Axis forces invade Yugoslavia, but refused to send troops to the eastern front with the Soviet Union and refused to deport 50,000 Bulgarian Jews to the death trenches at Hitler’s strong insistence. In 1943 Boris canceled all deportation agreements, but by then 11,000 Jews had suffered. Boris died shortly after a tense meeting with Hitler in the same year. It is not known whether his death was caused by a heart attack or by the poisoning that Hitler might have given him as revenge for disobeying him.

Why is his name problematic today? The motives are from the geopolitical genre. The Levica ( The left) Party only formally used communist iconography to oppose an association bearing the name of an anti-communist. The goal is to prevent at all costs the implementation of the Good Neighbor Agreement, signed in 2017 between the then prime ministers of North Macedonia and Bulgaria, which was about clearing dilemmas and disputes also related to history. Obstructing the validity of this Agreement will bring back tensions in the Skopje-Sofia relationship, revive the Bulgarian veto for EU integration and increase mutual tensions within North Macedonia. A scenario set by Russia, which is in its influence in the region is equivalent to the depth of the divisions it has.

Next year, North Macedonia must change the Constitution to include ethnic Bulgarians there. This is one of the pillars of the French Proposal, which enabled the removal of the Bulgarian veto, which for two years prevented North Macedonia from starting negotiations for EU membership. This proposal was a guarantee that the Good Neighbor Agreement will be implemented since no progress had previously been made in clearing dilemmas related to historical figures. Achieving a two-thirds majority (80 out of 120 MPs) is not going well, and the screening process is expected to end in June. This turning point, however, will be used by pro-Russian forces to delay the European integration process as much as possible, the same as happened in 2018 with the attempts to obstruct the constitutional changes for the implementation of the Prespa Agreement with Greece, which opened the doors of NATO -s for North Macedonia. The war in Ukraine, meanwhile, makes these influences even more dangerous for the security and stability of not only the country.