In the weeks following President Rumen Radev’s call to preserve the Third of March as a national holiday, an Initiative Committee of scientists, public figures, and intellectuals created the “Third of March” Movement for this purpose. President Rumen Radev announced the idea of the celebrations on Mount Shipka, declaring the Third of March “the red line of our patience, which the people’s movement will not allow to be erased”. The president’s words were then commented by observers as the start of Radev’s political project.
Member of the European Parliament Petar Vitanov, who led the press conference announcing the initiative, denied that it was a fulfillment of the president’s call. In response to a question, Vitanov said that President Rumen Radev is not part of the initiative. Their idea was not to form a political party, but to ask the question whether the Bulgarian people want to change their national holiday. Among the initiators, however, he listed the names of people who supported Rumen Radev for a second term as president – Vesela Lecheva, Prof. Iskra Baeva, Prof. Alexander Marinov, Velislava Dureva.
“We are ready to put this issue to a public consultation through a referendum”, Vitanov said.
Among the initiators are Prof. Iskra Baeva, ex-Minister of Sports Vesela Lecheva, Georgi Kadiev, Prof. Valeri Stefanov, Associate Professor Valeri Zhablyanov, the boxer Tervel Pulev, the journalist Yavor Dachkov, the mayor of Kalofer Rumen Stoyanov, who supported the idea on behalf of the National Association of the mayors of town halls, of which he was the chairman.
Lawyer Yavor Notev, former deputy speaker of the National Assembly, explained that the goal of the movement is to collect 400,000 legitimate signatures so that a referendum can be held.
The Bulgarian society has always been divided on the topic of the national holiday, but the division escalated after at the end of July after GERB-SDS, “We Continue the Change-Democratic Bulgaria” and DPS wrote in the draft of amendments to the constitution to replace March 3 with May 24 as the national holiday of the country.
March 3rd was never a national holiday until 1990, only an official one. This was confirmed by Prof. Iskra Baeva in response to a question of “Dnevnik”, which had to be asked due to the chaotic use by the speakers of the terms “national” and “official holiday”. Academician Yukhnovsky even pointed out a curious motive for the significance of the Third of March, such as the fact that it was most solemnly celebrated during the Second World War by the pro-fascist organization “Brannik”, which accepted the congratulations of Prime Minister Bogdan Filov on that day; and how “the fascist newspaper ‘Zora’ covered the celebrations, which were attended even by the military attaché of Nazi Germany, despite the war between the two countries”. Academician Yuhnovski omits the fact that archival photos show the presence of the top state and military leadership on all public holidays – from Children’s Day and Bravery Day and May 24, one of which was the Third of March.
“The celebration of the Third of March was a cause, an inviolable thing, because even in the circumstances of the Second World War, when Bulgaria belonged to a losing alliance, nevertheless, this alliance directed directly against Russia, the public, starting from the tsar, ending with the students, found forces to solemnly celebrate the day of Bulgaria”, said Academician Yuhnovski.
“We are united by the cause to protect March Third as a national holiday, because it is the culmination of a five-century struggle for liberation, the line between shackles and freedom, and because history should not be changed”, this was the leitmotif in the statements of the initiators of the March Third Movement. Without any of the speakers pointing out how exactly is history being replaced with a proposal to keep March 3rd as a public holiday as it always has been.
“It would never occur to me to talk about a referendum on the Third of March, because it was the most normal holiday. The Third of March is not a holiday of the Russian Empire, of Alexander the Second, but the fruit of the efforts of the Bulgarians,” declared Prof. Iskra Baeva.
There were even claims that the memory of Botev and Levski was insulted with the idea of changing the national holiday; that the date of the Third of March is sacred, and will remain so, not in 140, but in 1400 years; that the proposal to change “the assembly is a form of domestic violence“; that changes should not be made on the spur of the moment… It was not heard at all that the Third of March was declared a national holiday only in 1990 by a decree of the then president Petar Mladenov for purely opportunistic reasons.