Mugs and fridge magnets with the images of totalitarian dictators like Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler are being widely sold alongside those of Bulgarian historical figures and political leaders from the present day on stalls and by a range of vendors around the country.
Traditionally, such memorabilia has been sold at touristic locations, such as the Bulgarian seaside resorts of Sozopol and Nesebar, but some folklore festivals have also seen stalls selling Nazi and Communist trinkets.
The Bulgarian branch of B’nai B’rith, an international Jewish organisation, warned against the distribution of Nazi propaganda in the form of memorabilia.
“We insist that [state] institutions do what it takes to put a halt to this tendency so that it does not turn out that Bulgaria is the only EU country that promotes [this ideology] through the lack of institutional action,” said Solomon Bali, the vice-president of the European branch of B’nai B’rith.
Vendors at the annual winter Surva festival in Pernik, which brings together masquerade groups from across Bulgaria and beyond, also sold similar mugs with the faces of controversial figures from the past next to others bearing the images of the last king of the country, Boris III, and the national hero of Bulgarian independence, Vasil Levski.
Similar memorabilia has also been on sale at some political events.
Most recently, mugs featuring the faces of Stalin, Russian president Vladimir Putin, the ex-communist leader of Bulgaria, Todor Zhivkov, and the leader of the Bulgarian Socialist Party, Kornelia Ninova, were sold at the annual socialist convention near Buzludzha peak in the Central Balkan mountains.
This sparked outrage among political opponents of the Socialists, with the European People’s Party MEP Andrey Kovachev writing on Facebook that “the communist plague is trying to break Bulgaria once again!”
Under the Bulgarian criminal code, people who preach fascist or any other anti-democratic ideology can be punished with a prison sentence of up to three years or fined up to 5,000 leva (2,500 euros).
But the Bulgarian authorities have consistently failed to instigated criminal proceedings.
Since 2016, Bulgaria has also had a law that bans the public display of communist symbols - a law that is also rarely observed.