SPEECH BY H.E. MRS MARIA PAVLOVA TZOTZORKOVA, AMBASSADOR OF THE REPUBLIC OF BULGARIA TO THE REPUBLIC OF SOUTH AFRICA  ON THE OCCASION OF THE DAY OF THE BULGARIAN CULTURE, EDUCATION AND THE SLAVONIC ALPHABET

Photo: Her Excellency Ambassador Maria P. Tzotzorkova

26 May 2022

It gives me enormous pleasure to greet all of you on 24-th of May, the Day of the Bulgarian culture, education, alphabet and Slavonic literature.

There are not so many occasions when we celebrate the victories of human spirit, learning achievements and literacy. Just because of that we, Bulgarians, take a special pride in this Bulgarian holiday – the Day of the Saints Cyril and Methodius, the creators of our script.

This holiday resonates profoundly with the Bulgarian society, as it embodies the thirst for knowledge and enlightenment and our strong belief that education opens up new horizons. Over the centuries a lot of things have changed for new Bulgarian generations, the geopolitical perspective has evolved but our strong affinity towards this holiday and its symbolism remains the same. On this Day Bulgaria pays tribute to the people who are the knowledge and education bearers – teachers, scientists and academia.

Allow me also to express my joy that we celebrate the Day of Bulgarian culture and alphabet just after the marking of the Day of Africa, dedicated to African unity and solidarity, African identity and common cultural heritage of African people. It’s always encouraging to honor culture and cultural diversity in all their forms and varieties.

As Bulgarian embassy in South Africa, today we have a double occasion to celebrate. This year we are marking the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the diplomatic relations between Bulgaria and South Africa in 1992. The anniversary represents an important milestone for us providing opportunity to take stock and to identify potential areas for further deepening of our cooperation.

Our bilateral relations with South Africa are strong and based on a solid foundation. Our connections are much larger than our diplomatic ties and in fact, our friendship and people to people contacts started long before 1992.  Bulgaria was among the countries, which strongly supported South Africans in their struggle against apartheid and racial discrimination. We were active both on international arena and by providing educational opportunities to SA youth in our universities to help dismantle the brutal system of racial inequality and segregation.

Today I am particularly honored to welcome some of the former SA students, who are now accomplished and highly respected for their integrity and professional knowledge individuals. I am delighted to welcome also alumni from the South African region, who still feel connected with the Bulgarian culture they got familiar from their studies.

Dr. Joseph Mulenga, big thanks for traveling all the way from Zambia to join us today.

South Africa remains a key strategic partner of Bulgaria in Sub-Saharan Africa, a pillar of democracy, rule of law and human rights on the African continent. Last year we held productive political consultations, which culminated in the visit of Deputy Foreign Minister Alvin Botes to Bulgaria.

Both sides shared positive assessments of the outcome of the visit and prospects for further enhancement of the political Dialogue and economic cooperation between our two countries. 

In the first three months of 2022 the bilateral turnover has showed a rapid increase reaching levels commensurate with the total numbers of export-import for the year 2019, which was one of the most successful years for our trade cooperation.

Allow me to say a few words about the holiday we celebrate today.

Because we, Bulgarians, take pride in the role Bulgaria played in preserving and promoting the historic achievements of the two brothers – Cyril and Methodius and their legacy.

It was the Bulgarian king Boris I in the 9-th century who appreciated the significance of their work and welcomed their disciples to Bulgaria. The fruitful environment helped the disciples conduct a widespread educational and teaching activities promoting knowledge of Cyrilic letters among the ordinary people.

From Bulgaria the Cyrilic script was disseminated into neighboring countries and beyond. Thus Bulgaria served as an educational powerhouse for the letters and books to reach out other nations and to enrich their cultural heritage.

Over the centuries the two brothers were often referred to as “the nation’s First Teachers” – an honorary title given to them by the ordinary people.

The spread of Slavonic letters generated a strong drive  towards literacy and knowledge, laying the foundation of our nation and our statehood. This appetite for learning and strong sense of cultural identity helped our nation sustain and progress in turbulent times.

Today is also a holiday of our European values, shared cultural heritage and our common European future. Many years ago St. St. Cyril and Methodius traveled across Europe building bridges in the minds and hearts of people. They believed they could contribute to the unification of the Old continent. Both of them were canonized by the Orthodox and the Catholic Churches. Nowadays, Cyril and Methodius Day is celebrated by many countries in Europe, which attests to the unifying role and all-European perspective of their legacy.

Cyril and Methodius defended the right of the nations to have their own letters and books and this idea is very close to the hearts of contemporary people. All human beings are entitled to knowledge and quality education as a key human right.  The modern multilingual ism promoted by the UN is also founded on the linguistic diversity.

Our celebrative mood on this day is overshadowed by news coming from the bloody conflict in Ukraine. We are shocked by the constantly increasing number of civilians who lost their lives in tragic circumstances.

Entire cities are being erased by the Russian air strikes and artillery fire in Eastern Ukraine. We stand in solidarity with the Ukrainian people in this difficult time. We admire the courage and perseverance of the Ukrainian people to defend their land, to fight for their independence!

In closing I would like to draw your attention to the posters on the margin of the garden – for those who might be interested to learn more about the script and its creation and dissemination on the basis of historical and documentary sources.

Let me finish by thanking warmly all our sponsors who made this event possible (I want to mention them by name not to miss anybody – Георги Георгиев, Симо Симов, Михаил Мутафчиев, Кръстьо Бочуков, Симеон Пенев, Димитър Петков  and Здравко Ковачев.

Our appreciation goes to the Bulgarian-born and trained musicians who are part of this amazing quartet. Denitsa will present them shortly with the pieces they will perform.  And we are most obliged to Plamen Petrov, a sound engineer for his valuable contribution.

The Diplomatic Informer
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