Bulgaria’s secret empire: an ultimatum to North Macedonia

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In the summer of 2019, 30 years after the end of communism in Europe, Bulgaria began to forward the way of Skopje numerous onerous demands as a salient precondition for opening European Union (EU) accession negotiation talks with North Macedonia. All of these demands are dictated by ethnolinguistic nationalism that underlies the Bulgarian national master narrative. On 9 October 2019, the Bulgarian government officially adopted these demands in the form of an ultimatum, bar the term. Sofia did not have to deploy this ultimatum to stop the talks, since earlier Paris temporarily blocked the pending accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia. It appears that in the face of economic and political problems at home, Bulgarian politicians tend to use nationalism (and populism) to divert citizens' attention. The Bulgarian government seems to emulate the Kremlin's policy of the "Russian World," which on the basis of ethnolinguistic nationalism claims for Russia all the territories inhabited by Russian-speakers. After the fall of communism, a similar policy of "Bulgarian World" (Bılgarski sviat) has been pursued by Sofia from Moldova to North Macedonia and Albania, clamouring for recognizing all the Slavic-speakers in this wide area as members of the Bulgarian nation. These neoimperial ambitions are not conducive to stability in the Balkans and in the European Union.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)155-212
Journal Journal of Balkan and Black Sea Studies
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2021


  • North Macedonia
  • Bulgaria
  • European Union
  • Russia
  • Moldova
  • Romania
  • Serbia
  • Minorities
  • Language politics
  • EU accession
  • Imperialism
  • Irredentism
  • Ultimatum
  • Ethnolinguistic nationalism


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