Today, Bulgaria is marking the twentieth anniversary since the so-called Videnov's Winter of 1997, named after the then Prime Minister Zhan Videnov of the Bulgarian Socialist Party, BSP, who tabled his resignation on December 21st, 1996. He decided to step down, because the socialists lost the November 1996 presidential election by an almost 20% margin in the runoff between their candidate Ivan Marazov and the UDF's candidate Petar Stoyanov.
And although it is true that the date January 10th, 1997 does not ring a bell for the young generation of Bulgarians, there still are some who remember the violent clashes between police and demonstrators in the center of Sofia, the crowds of angry and hungry young men and women that raided the building of parliament and set fire to one of its wings.
On January 10, 1997 Bulgaria was not a nice place to visit – groceries disappeared from the shelves, groups of hungry people would march through the entire city to buy food staples at outrageously high prices – a kilo of white, brined cheese used to cost two thousand levs back then and a loaf of bread, for those lucky enough to find it, sold at five hundred levs a loaf.
One US dollar cost three thousand levs and the average monthly salary was about five dollars.
After a miserable Christmas and New Year's holiday, myriads of hungry mothers and children swarmed the streets. The students soon joined in the rallies and occupied the buildings of Parliament and the Council of Ministers.
The date January the 10th, 1997 marked the end of one era – the era of fake reforms and pseudo democracy.
From this day on, all reforms undertaken by the Bulgarian government, although awkward, and painful, and slow, were real.