Regained selfconfidence Eastern Europe

Mr. Timmermans gives a last warning (source picture – Wikipedia)

The EU-summit early December showed once again that the asylum question splits Europe into two parts. The former Iron Curtain seems to be back. Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic are a pain in the ass for Brussels since a couple of


The EU has a hard tome dealing with this topic. Europe is not, like the United States, a federal republic in which Brusssels has the final say. Frans Timmermans, the European Commission’s vice-president, threatened Poland and Hungary with either a lawsuit or to take away their votes in the European Assembly. Quite tough measures, but it us  the question whether Warsaw or Budapest will change their policy. Eastern Europe regained its selfconfidence.

Mr. Orbán, however, is not impressed (source picture – Wikipedia)


The world was different in 1989, when communism collapsed in Eastern Europe.  The world was beyond joy and happiness. Capitalism, market economy and democracy had, so it seemed at first sight, their finest hour. Brussels immediately offered the former East bloc countries the EU-membership, after they would meet a number of serious demands. Poland decided for a shock therapy, which gave amazing results. Bulgaria, on the other hand, had a very hard time overcoming its communist past and, after that, in meeting Brussels’ demands,


In 2004 eight former communist countries joined the EU – Poland, Hungary, the Czech republic, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. In 2007 Bulgaria and Romania followed, in 2013 Croatia. For many decades they had been part of the Soviet empire, but les then one generation the joined the EU. Some people judged that as far too quickly.

Eastern Euirope chooses its own way (source picture – Wikipedia)


The “old” EU made a failure in judgment. Germany and France, since the early days the leading European countries, have a modern, liberal economy. Society and politics reflect that. Poland and Hungary mat have a modern economy as well, but the society and politics are rather conservative. Parliament reflect that. The Polish PIS and the Hungarian Fidesz both have a comfortable majority in the national parliaments.


The EU-membership has given the former communist countries, despite huge differences between for example Poland and Bulgaria, the feeling that they completely and fully participate in Europe. Brussels would have expected that Warsaw and Budapest play by western rules. Eastern Europe, however, has regained its selfconfidence, and starts to set its own rules.

Vassil Levski (source picture – author)

Finally – what would Levki’s opinion have been?

He would have agreed fully with Poland and Hungary. The Apostle of the Bulgarian freedom was disappointed in foreign interest in the Bulgarian liberation struggle. He therefore decided that the Bulgarians would need to free themselves, regardless of any foreign opinion.

Balkans in Britain

Tito’s iron fist held Yugoslavia together (source picture – Wikipedia)

Will the UK fall apart? Just like Yugoslavia in the 1990’s? It seems highly unlikely, but that was also the case with Tito’s empire. If so, Britain might follow the Czechoslovak example.


The Brexit, scheduled for 2019, is a watershed in modern European history. From 1957, when six countries founded the ECCC, until 2013, when Croatia joined, the EU history was one of steady and ongoing growth. The biggest success was in 2004, when 10 new countries, among which eight former communist states, joined the EU. The Brexit, as unexpected as it initially was, will be the first time that a country will leave the EU.


Britain is divided about the question. England and Wales are anti-EU, London and Scotland are pro-EU, Northern Ireland seems to be somewhere in between. Scotland voted in its 2015 referendum to stay within the UK, and thus keep the more the 300-year old ties with England  Following the Brexit, Edinburg might decide to hold a new referendum. If Scotland will leave the UK, it will become a new EU member. London might join, and thus become the first city republic in the EU.

Will London be the first city to join the EU? (source picture – Wikpedia)


Above scenario may seem quite unlikely. In 1990, however, apart from a few specialists, no one could foresee that Yugoslavia was about to fall apart. Even less could anyone predict that the Bosnian civil war was to become to cruelest war in post-1945 Europe.

The Sovak capital Bratislava is a most charming town (source picture – Wikipedia)


A war about Europe may seem most unlikely in peaceful UK. The ties between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have held much longer than Yugoslavia, that lasted about five decades. Tito’s empire could only exist because of his brutal dictatorship, that held Serb and Croatian nationalism in control. When he passed away in 1980, it was a matter of time before problems started. The UK is very divided about the EU-question. Tough the matter has never been suppressed by any dictatorship, war is never far away.


If the UK will indeed fall apart, it is much more likely to follow the Czechoslovak example, In 1993 the former communist country fell into two pieces – the Czech republic and Slovakia. Both joined the EU in 2004.

What would Levki’s opinion be?

The Apostle of the Bulgarian freedom would have said the UK should independently decide about its future, regardless of what happened in any other country. War or revolution should never be the first goal. But if needed, don’t hesitate. Levski did not decide for revolution because he llked it that much, but because he regarded it as a duty for his country.

Book trader Frederik Muller’s passions

Frederik Muller was a book trader with heart and soul (source picture – author)

Book traders have a hard time surviving these years. Was that in past centuries any better? The biography of Frederik Muller (1817-1881) that was published in 2016 gives some answers.


Muller was a leading book trader in Amsterdam.  Among the many biographies about nowaday’s celebraties, his life description does not get much attention. That is a pity,  given his legacy. Dutch publisher Walburg Pers was right to bring his book on the market.


The love as well as knowledge for books came at early age from his direct family, his father Samuel and his uncle Johannees. Biographer Chris Schrisk is quite right to state that Muller dominated his business with Swiss preciseness, German thoroughness and Dutch trading spirit.

The Frederik Muller Academie was leading, just like Muller himself (source picture – Wikipedia)


Muller’s strong character may as well has been his weakness. He tolerated just a few people in his business, as it was to stay an oligarchy. His special talent, through, was to hire talented staff, such as Martinus Nijhoff and P.A. Tiele


In modern days, sometimes specialization is recommended. Muller, however, was more like the Renaissance homo universalis. He was, amongst others, collector, bibliographer, antiquair, publisher and auctionair. Those businesses are nowadays made easier by digital technics. One comes to admire Muller’s variety of business even more, considering that in his time hardcopy letters were standard. The type writer had only just appeared on the market.

Frederik Muler knew many American librarians and book traders (source picture – author)


It was normal that the Amsterdam school for book traders and publishers, that started in 1964, was named after Frederik Muller. In 1994 that changed, now the institute is called MIM (Media, Information and Communication). Though the new title reflects modern day spirit, it regretably neglects Muller’s broad vision on the book business.


Since 1998, there is once again a Frederik Muller to trade in (rare) books – It is encouraging that in these online era there are people with love for as well as knowledge about old books.

Vassil Levski (source picture – author)

Finally – what would Levski’s opinion have been?

Levski would have admired Muller’s trade, especially his never-ending energy for his business. The Apostle of Bulgarain Freedom always was careful about his archive. The book Free, democratic republic (1869) was his political filosophy for Bulgarian after Turkish liberation.

Muller would have loved to trade in books about Levski. In 1880 Zahari Stojanov wrote a biography about Levski. Books about the revolutionary have continued to appear ever since. The overwhelming majority is in Bulgarian, a few are in English and German. The most famous is the English biography from 1967 by Mercia McDermott, that was translated in Bulgarian.

Committed journalists

For Koos Koster, journalism was far more then just a job, it was his way of life (source picture – Wikipedia)

Committed – it seems like a forgotten word from the 1960’s and 1970’s. There are still journalists with passion for their job, for example Dutchman Matthijs van Nieuwkerk, German Maybritt Illner and American Oprah Winfrey. They follow the example of the 20th century founders.


Fenno Schoustra (1924-2012) was a famous journalist in the Dutch province of Friesland. He was founder, owner and editor in chief of ’t Kleine Krantsje (The Little Newspaper). It was not the latest news he was focused on, but rather the opposite. He loved to write how his favourite town, the Frisian capital Leeuwarden, had been in the past. He worked many years for the left-wing newspaper Het Vrije Volk. He could have made a nice career by moving to Rotterdam in 1963, but instead he decided to found his own paper. His heart was full of his city and with his knowledge he easily compiled his weekly news.

Fenno Schoustra at his archive (source picture – Wikipedia)

Liberation theology

Koos Koster (1936-1982) was at first sight Schoustra’s opposite. The vicar’s son from the Dutch village of St. Annaparochie wanted to become also vicar. He spent some time in Eastern Germany, but switched to journalism. He went to Latin America, wrote about liberation theology and got involved in the resistance against the El Salvador dictatorship. In 1982 he and three collegeas were assassinated. The quadruple assault, which made headlines worldwide, is still unique. The killers, however, were never arrested, nor stood trail. Most likely the El Salvador army murdered the journalists. The did not want Koster to write about dirty business in their country.

Radio talks

Georgi Markov (1929-1978) is almost forgotten as well. The Bulgarian journalist and playwright was in the 1960’s a famous writer in communist Bulgaria. In 1969, however, he fell in disgrace, had to leave overnight and went to the UK.  As BBC journalist he told in radio talks about the communists secrets. Bulgarian dictator Zhivkov was not happy at all. The Bulgarian and Soviet secret services assissinated the writer on 7 September 1978 in London. The murder weapon was unique – a piosoned umbrella.

Georgi Markov and his family were happy in the UK (source picture – Wikipedia)


Both Koster and Markov were killed, because they were dangerous to those in power. Their protest were understandable and completely right, even more at their place in a time of committed journalism. The people of power, however, did not take the criticism lightly. Schoustra had a very long life, he seldom wrote about politics. The journalist about Leeuwarden had as much passion for his work as his assassinated colleagues.


Van Nieuwkerk, Illner and Winfrey work for television, their predecessors were writing journalists. That is characterstic for the 21st century. However, whatever may be the medium, committment is necessary. If journalists are indifferent to their topics, their work would be boring.

Vassil Levski (source picture – author)

Finally – what would Levski’s view have been?

He would admired the energy and passion that the journalists put into their work. Just like Markov and Koster, Levski also paid the highest possible price. The revolutionary was hanged. However, no one of them would have chosen to work in another way. The politically correct present trend would never have been their style. You just go for it – for 1000 percent.