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Rise of Bulgaria's Tomato Revolution

On November 24, people gathered in front of the Bulgarian Parliament in the capital city of Sofia, thus officializing what has become known as the ‘Tomato Revolution.’

Tomato threat over the Parliament

The logo of the Tomato Revolution Facebook event. Screenshot adapted by the author

The logo of the Tomato Revolution Facebook event. Screenshot adapted by the author.

On November 9, the independent media outlet OFFNews published photos [bg] of the Courthouse building smudged with tomato sauce. It is unclear who did it and why.

On November 14, Nikolay Kolev, aka Bossiya (The Barefoot), published an open letter [bg] on his blog, openly threatening to throw tomatoes at the government buildings, because he held the Bulgarian officials responsible for the rampant corruption in the country. The letter was sent to the Parliament, the President, the Prime Minister, the Supreme Judicial Council, the Bulgarian National Television and the Bulgarian National Radio. Bossiya wrote:

Всички вие ръководите институции, които са пряко свързани със състоянието на страната ни за последните години. Затова и смятам, че вие сте основни виновници за ужасното състояние на страната и обществото.В страната цари корупция, престъпност, безотговорност, информационна мъгла, слугинаж, деморализация. Празните приказки и театрални пози и монолози ежедневно замъгляват съзнанието и надеждите на обществото като цяло, както и на всеки един български гражданин отделно.

All of you manage institutions that are directly responsible for the condition our country has been in in the recent years. That's why I think you are the main culprits of the terrible state of the country and the society. Corruption, crime, irresponsibility, information fog, servant behaviour and demoralization reign the country. Fudge as well as theatrical poses and monologues daily cloud the minds and hopes of the society as a whole and of each Bulgarian citizen individually.

In his open letter, Bossiya also exposed the details of his peaceful symbolic protest:

На 20 ноември /вторник/ ще закупя от пазара 6 /шест/ развалени домата и ще ги разпределя по един за шестте институции, към които съм се обърнал. В 10 ч ще бъда пред Народното събрание, където ще хвърля един домат по фасадата, с което ще изразя протеста си срещу липсата на ориентация, професионализъм и патриотизъм при изготвяне на законите. Ще запратя домата протестирайки срещу лошите текстове на законите, носещи само нещастия на обществото и отделния български гражданин. Законът трябва да бъде обществено полезен, а не изработен срещу човека.

След това ще отида пред президентството и ще запратя по фасадата му следващия домат. Той ще бъде срещу нищоправенето от страна на президентската институция, наведената поза при среща с представители на великите сили и назначението на отрепки за дипломати. Срещу безкритичното отношение при подписването на укази за влизането на законите в сила.

Третият домат ще бъде хвърлен срещу сградата на МС заради цялостната му политика и действията му срещу обществото и националните интереси.

Четвъртият домат ще бъде хвърлен от мен срещу съдебната палата. За моите съотечественици не е необходимо да обяснявам защо.

Петият и шестият домат ще хвърля по БНТ и БНР поради това, че с нашите пари те обслужват една малка шайка от политически престъпници и мафиоти.

On November 20 (Tuesday), I will buy from the supermarket 6 (six) rotten tomatoes and distribute them to one of the six institutions which I addressed. At 10 am, I will be in front of the Parliament, and I will throw a tomato at its facade in protest against the lack of orientation, professionalism and patriotism in lawmaking. I will do so to protest low-quality law texts bringing only misfortunes to the society and the Bulgarian citizen. The law should be socially useful, not crafted against the people.

Then I will go to the Presidential palace and hurl the next tomato at its facade. It will be against the consistent inaction by the presidential institution, its stooped posture while meeting with international representatives and the appointment of lowlives as diplomats. [I will throw it] against the uncritical attitude in signing the decrees of laws coming into force.

The third tomato will be thrown in front of the Prime Minister's HQs for overall policies and actions against the society and national interests.

The fourth tomato will be thrown against the Courthouse. I don't need to explain why to my compatriots.

The fifth and the sixth tomatoes will be thrown against the Bulgarian National Television and the Bulgarian National Radio because they serve a small bunch of political criminals and gangsters on our money.

On Tuesday, November 20, Bossiya was arrested [bg] in front of the Parliament, where reportedly 40 policemen were deployed waiting for him to show up. Reactions were contrasted, as some news outlets were dismissing his action as “a salad” [bg], while others were sidelining [bg] with his action. Political stances were equally distinct, and netizens reflected these positions on Twitter as well:

@VeselaAngelova: Добре де, ако са нужни 40 полицаи, за да арестуват човек с домат, за човек с патлангач сигурно ще викаме НАТО или нещо такова.

Oh well, if 40 policemen are needed to arrest a single man with a tomato, for a man with an aubergine, we'll need to call NATO or other suchlike.


@SlaviVIP: Некъв мизерник хвърлил домат по парламента днес и вече е “светец”, ето заради такива боклуци държавата е на този хал. А този е за Белене!

Some bonker threw a tomato at the Parliament today and is now a ‘saint,’ it's because of such morons that our country is in this situation.

Reacting to the disproportianate participation of 40 special forces policemen to arrest a single man, netizens joke:

@benkovski: @tourbg @cipisec Али Домат и 40 разбойници

Ali Tomato and the 40 thieves [An allusion to “Ali Baba and the 40 thieves,” a popular classic story]

@gtsmilev: @CapitalBg Стола на парламента ще се казва “Дон Домат”

The Parliament's canteen will be named “Don Tomato”

Later on, the media announced that Bossiya was charged with “hooliganism” and risked up to two years in jail. A Facebook group [bg] “Tomatina — The Tomato Revolution” was created, in support of Bossiya and calling for a demonstration and symbolic tomato throwing at the Parliament on November 24.

“Each tomato — a bomb against the rulers”

The initiative gained momentum and broad support [bg], with more than 1,000 people subscribing to attend. The media reported [bg] that vegetable sellers from Sofia's most popular supermarket refused to make people pay for tomatoes if those were to be used at the protest.

"Wake up, the mafia rules us!" A banner from the demo. Image by Ruslan Trad (CC-by-SA 3.0)

“Wake up, the mafia rules us!” A banner from the demo. Image by Ruslan Trad (CC-by-SA 3.0)

The November 24 protest was live-streamed by Assen Guenov, a contributor to the independent Open Government initiative. Some of the participants tweeted:

@reguligence: Полицейското присъствие около НС е стабилно. #TomatoRevolution

Police presence around the Parliament is robust #TomatoRevolution

@GerganaBoteva: По канал 3 казаха, че има около 300-400 човека #TomatoRevolution

Channel 3 announced that 300-400 people are attending. #TomatoRevolution [Channel 3 is an independent TV channel which was also live-streaming the protest]

Twitter user @ju joked echoing the infamous outcry in some media that called to limit the influence of the social media in the country:

@ju: Банват думата “домат” от Facebook за България

The word “tomato” is banned on Facebook in Bulgaria

Global Voices Author Ruslan Trad has published a few photos from the protest, and I have curated a Storify [bg, en] with more background information.

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