The postdoctoral fellow of COES, ANa Velitchkova, presented her research on Bulgaria’s transition to democracy and how the Esperanto movement helped achieve that.
In her own words:
Bulgaria represents a puzzling case for theories of democratic transition and consolidation that consider the existence of a Western-style civil society as a major factor facilitating the establishment of democracy. The country lacked a Western-style civil society. Yet, Bulgaria experienced a peaceful democratic transition and its democracy has persisted. How was it possible for a country to achieve such a positive outcome without a history of contention and, ostensibly, without a civil society? I argue that Bulgaria developed a civil society of a different kind: Bulgarian political culture was centered on a cultural politics of fellowship building and comprehensive socio-cultural development that has sustained the democratic project in the country. The Esperanto movement, which became the most prominent movement not only in Bulgaria but in Eastern Europe more broadly during the state-socialist period, exemplifies this cooperative form of civil society.