In Varna

Wes Enzinna

Plamen, a popular name for Bulgarian boys, comes from the proto-Slavic noun polmen, meaning ‘flame’ or ‘blaze’. At 7.30 a.m. on 20 February a 36-year-old artist called Plamen Goranov left his home in the Black Sea port of Varna and walked to the City Hall. He climbed the steps that led to the entrance of the imposing Soviet-era building, which is set in the middle of a park. An armed guard asked him: ‘What are you doing?’ He told the guard he was going to set himself on fire. From his backpack he took out a sign demanding the resignation of ‘Kiro and all the city council by 5 p.m.’; ‘Kiro’ is the nickname of Varna’s mayor, Kiril Yordanov, a former judge who is widely believed to be involved with TIM, a holding company that the former US ambassador James Pardew, in a 2005 diplomatic cable obtained by WikiLeaks, accused of involvement in racketeering, drug smuggling and prostitution. After propping up his sign, Goranov took a large canvas sheet out of his backpack, as well as ten-litre and five-litre bottles of petrol. As he was doing this, the guards insulted him, and he responded in kind. After laying the canvas sheet on the ground, Goranov tipped the smaller bottle over his head, flicked open a lighter, and his body lit up in flames. The guards didn’t help him – they went inside to get fire extinguishers – and by the time they returned, about ten minutes later, Goranov had collapsed and rolled down the stairs. He died 11 days later.

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