THE POLITICIAN WHO KNOWS HIS OWN MIND AND THE WAYS TO MATERIALIZE IT
When, not long ago, Ahmed Dogan's ex-wife kicked him in one very tender spot, at least in the Balkan context, alluding to his performance in bed, some observers hastened to declare this to be nothing less than the last nail hammered in his political coffin.
But in spite of the successive failures that both Mr. Dogan and his Turkish minority party - named Movement for Rights and Freedom (MRF) - had to face, the ill omens of their forthcoming wane seem rather hasty and unrealistic. Dogan might, quite rightfully, send a telegraphic message to all the media that had given currency to similar theses, using Mark Twain's well-remembered jesting remark describing the news of his death as somewhat exaggerated.
Treating the MRF leader as a 'goner' is premature even for some reasons rooted in the national mentality. Mr. Dogan is a university professor, one with a scholarly degree, and the Turks - unlike Bulgarians - are good at paying esteem to their "celebi" (learned people). Furthermore, notwithstanding the centrifugal tendencies in the MRF, the European style of striving for leadership is not that characteristic of the Turks - Ottomans have a sense for hierarchy and usually follow their leader voluntarily after he had already proven his qualities. It is beyond any doubt that the case of Dogan keeps this tradition. And the MRF, with all its problems, is the only party in Bulgaria which has not seen any mass quitting of members, and which has preserved almost entirely "its own" electorate.
...In the early spring of 1990 the still totalitarian Bulgarian Parliament drafted a resolution concerning the restoration of the names of people forcibly renamed in the previous years, making provisions for accomplishing this by administrative channels in the case of ethnic Turks and through the court in the case of ethnic Bulgarians professing Islam, the latter known as Bulgarian Mohammedans. Ahmed Dogan, then a novice in politics, suggested something noble and just: the restoration of names should take place in the same way for all people concerned. Parliament adopted his idea and chose the more difficult and slower, legal procedure. Delaying in this way the cure of a sore point, the leaders of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP, the former Communists) created a forced tension which consolidated and encapsulated those people in the MFR, who had been affected by the change of names. In this way, the ruling circles killed two birds with one stone: the newly formed quasi-nationalist organizations that sprang up in response, as well as the MFR itself, took away hundreds of thousands of votes from the oppositionary Union of Democratic Forces (UDF), which lost the June 1990 elections. This allowed the BSP to stay in power. The national interests were the second "bird" killed, something that is yet to be paid.
Exactly this sort of circumstances made Ahmed Dogan's amazingly rapid career. Moreover, the fanning up of the glowing religious embers, going on for more than five years and resumed now and again by one political force or another, the MFR included, is the sine qua non for the existence of both the organization and its leader. And even only the episode of the "noble and just resolution on the names issue", suggested once by Mr. Dogan, has come to indicate that we are faced with a man of extraordinary and, what is more,
NATIVE QUALITIES OF A POLITICIAN AND STRATEGIST,
who knows his own mind and the ways to materialize it. In February 1993 this was confirmed by Todor Zhivkov, an undoubted expert in this controversial domain.
Meanwhile - ever since the leader of the MFR stepped on the public scene - endless debates have been going on in the press, on the air and in tavern talks - as to whether he is a man following his own course, or a creature of the totalitarian State Security Department. It is comical, though, that Mr. Dogan has been declared by one and the same sources (mainly media associated with the ex- Communists) to be, on one occasion, an agent of their former secret services, and on another - a puppet of neighbouring Turkey. The TRUTH is that the Bulgarian public will never learn the TRUTH: neither could the documents of the Bulgarian State Security Department, with their typical falsifications, tell us anything for certain, neither would Ankara (just like Moscow), allow itself any sincerity in the name of the "century-long friendship" between the Turkish and the Bulgarian peoples. Later burst out the scandal of Dogan's involvement in the alleged delivering to the Turkish Embassy in Sofia of a list of descriptions characterizing Bulgarian diplomats in foreign countries, a case in which everything seems too clear to be free of suspicion. The allegations, however, as it happens with almost anything in Bulgaria, remained unproved. In such an obscure situation only obscure theses, hypotheses and speculations can come to life and the only lasting criterion of truth is provided by, as we used to say once, deeds, and deeds, and yet again deeds.
In matter-of-fact terms, Ahmed Dogan was born in 1954 in a poor peasant family, in a poor village in Varna district. At home, where besides him his three sisters grew up, the family spoke Bulgarian. His grandfather had been an imam - and this is the reason why, in the MRF leader's own opinion, he became fascinated by philosophy (and not by religion). Although it was not among the best stepping-stones under communism, Dogan graduated in philosophy from Sofia University and defended his Ph.D. thesis; then he read lectures in two higher schools in the capital city, and later worked in the rebellious Institute of Philosophy which, at that time, caused much trouble to the decaying totalitarian regime.
Ahmed Dogan, of the zodiac sign of Aries, six times had been forced to change his name, becoming Medi Doganov only after the seventh. In 1985 he became involved in the organization of the so-called resistance movement of the Turks from the Loudogorie region (North-eastern Bulgaria). Following a betrayal - from 1986 on - the philosopher lied in different prisons, receiving in 1989 a ten-year sentence as "the organizer and leader of an anti-state organization". His liberation came on 22 December of the same year, as a result of the opposition's pressure on the authorities.
A week or two later Dogan appeared "in the limelight" - a small, slender, modest man in a home-knitten pullover, who would later play, not very convincingly though, some kind of a
BALKAN COUNT MONTE-CRISTO.
Imprisonment, as a rule, does not have a favourable effect on male's sexual capacity; small size, in turn, often gives rise to inferiority complexes, which tend to seek compensation in a hunger for success in the "potency" spheres - to possess a greater number of females, to be successful in one's career, to rise above the rest of the males and command them. Is this so in the case of Dogan? Heaven only knows. In any case, the mutual denunciations exchanged between him and his ex-wife, the MP's concern for the problems of prostitution, or the ambition, will and authoritarianism characteristic of the leader's actions, make psychologists allow for such possibility.
Probably it is typical of minority members everywhere around the world, after some time spent in "alien" environment, to form stereotypes of behaviour involving delicacy, moderateness, discretion, diplomacy and concentration in their contacts. Being one of a minority group, Dogan certainly possesses these features, and what is more, given his intelligence, they are particularly pronounced, and this fact is largely responsible for his dexterity, tact and resourcefulness in politics. Moreover, Dogan is a Turk, i.e. an offspring of the people of an empire - and being such, he has a number of typical characteristics: strategic thinking, high ethnic self-esteem, broad-mindedness, generosity, nobleness, loyalty - if not on the political plane, at least in his everyday interpersonal relations.
At the same time, his actions - at least seemingly - are quite contradictory and unpredictable. After the 1991 elections, won by the democratic forces, he would demand the ban of the BSP; only several months later he would promise them "protection" in case their rights were violated; when several more months passed, he would take part in the removal, by parliamentary means, of the UDF from power, and form a governmental coalition with the ex-communists under the guise of an "experts" cabinet. He would plead for the punishment of those who had changed the names of the Turks, nevertheless saving the parliamentary immunity of one of them; he would threat the ex-Prime Minister Loukanov, and, subsequently, help him be released from custody. Later followed the vain but loudly proclaimed promises to bring huge Turkish investments to the regions of mixed population; to make Libya pay back its milliard dollars loans to Bulgaria; to insure piles of "Islamic" investments for the Loudogorie region; to write a book about Levski - ideologist and hero of the struggle for national liberation against Turkey; and what not next.
THE ARABIAN NIGHTS ENTERTAINMENTS
In his personal life he would carry on quite extravagantly, very much in the manner of Alexandre Dumas' personage, the prisoner from the Ives Castle. Mr. Dogan wastes money with generously open hands, wears luxurious suits, smokes expensive cigarettes, pays solid bills, squanders on lavish tips, gives a vizierial wedding party, buys realties. Some people think that this kind of behaviour disappoints his voters, but this assumption is not very reliable - the Turks admire bey-like gestures and take them for granted. This does not alter the fact that one of the major contradictions in the MFR today is the enormous financial inequality of the nouveau-riche top leaders and the impoverished "rank-and-file basis".
For the past more than five years all sorts of blunders have been ascribed to Dogan. But facts are facts: until now he has remained the unquestionable leader of the MFR, and his organization entered Parliament in all elections, no matter what breakdowns had been predicted for or attached to it. Dogan is also a good intriguer: he would rapidly remove any potential rival within the party, constantly setting one functionary onto another and permanently shuffling the "cadres" pack of cards (there is something of the unique Zhivkov's "handwriting" in his ways!) On a larger scale, the survival of the MFR and its leader depend on Dogan's abilities to skilfully fit in the social situation, to use the contradictions between the political forces and produce tension, by
INSTILLING IN THE MINORITIES THE SYNDROME OF THE BESIEGED CASTLE,
in which he is the one who holds the key to breaking out, because he is the recognized commander-in-chief of the defended garrison. In addition, Dogan acts the way a karate fighter does - he uses his opponent's motion in order to make his own strike stronger. The existing situation is such that each campaign directed against Dogan and the MFR usually produces the reverse effect - consolidation around the leader and the organization. As a master of the political game, however, the philosopher would not be pleased with this outcome alone - when his opponents did not attack him, he himself sought to create a forced tension (his meeting the tzar in exile and his appeal for a referendum on the question of "Monarchy or republic?", his provocative, but legally unassailable threats for organized resistance if the Turkish language usage is not officially recognized in the Bulgarian army, carried out just before President Zhelev's visit to Turkey, etc.). This led to the ostensible paradox, when the Turkish Prime Minister and his foreign minister claimed the removal of the question of the rights of Bulgarian Muslims from the agenda of the current Islamic Conference, while Dogan criticized them and demanded quite the opposite. Both the attacks against him and his own counterattacks become still more frequent and tense in the pre-election periods - and the meaning of it is more than transparent. The "secret" of Dogan's success lies but in this constant ethnic-religious opposition, which he achieves in a quite "constructive co-operation" with his alleged enemies. "BSP is the large snake, UDF is the small snake", he was going to say already before the 1990 elections at a meeting with Bulgarian Mohammedans in the Chepintzi neighbourhood (South-western Bulgaria). The affected parties more than once would pay him like for like, which he would always turn to his advantage. The "enemy image" from the totalitarian times, as we can see, does excellent work in the context of the pseudo democracy existing today. The results of the exploitation of this tension, however, are very different as far as Dogan's and his rivals' aims are concerned. What the national Bulgarian parties have achieved are only short-term electoral percentages. The achievements of the MFR leader, in contrast, are long-term, aimed at the future, strategic. The confrontation, the digging of newer and newer trenches and
THE DISINTEGRATION OF THE BULGARIAN NATION HAVE ALREADY ACQUIRED A CHRONIC,
if not irreversible character. On the other hand, through the MFR and its branches - for the first time in the course of over a century - this disintegration has found its institutional forms, and the path that has been taken is to incessantly extend them. A proof in this respect is given even "only" by the counter-offensive of the MFR - founded and proclaimed initially as an organization for protecting human and minority rights, it very soon changed into an instrument of ethnic assimilation of the Bulgarian Mohammedans and Gypsies. The MFR has already become so bare-faced as to demand privileges for the ethnic Turks, which would violate most flagrantly the human and civil rights of the Bulgarian majority (for example the ultimata demanding that a number of appointments in the administration, the legislative system, the police, the educational system, etc., be made by ethnic or religious rather than professional criteria). Dogan's slogans "Bulgaria - a bunch of ethnic communities", or "Bulgaria - Switzerland on the Balkans" have gradually evolved to read "Bulgaria with Bulgarian Mohammedans, Gypsies, Tartars, Gagaouzes, etc. turning Turk" and "Bulgaria - a country of enclaves and cantons". Ahmed Dogan, the former opponent of the totalitarian regime wearing a home-knitted pullover, became something more than just a questionable Count Monte-Cristo. And as appetite comes with eating, we can already guess what will be the next stops (caravanserais) along the strategic road of "his" Bulgaria to Europe through ...Bosporus and Asia.
It is still early to strike off Ahmed Dogan from political life, dear gentlemen observers. But even if this happens tomorrow, it is already too late - as the classic goes: the Moor has finished his work. And this work would have been impossible but for the powerful support rendered by the Bulgarian short-sightedness, partisanship and national irresponsibility.
NOTE BY WLBG: This text has been written by experts from our staff and published in the 23 June, 1995 issue of the "Kontinent" daily. The time distance makes it possible for the reader to form his own opinion of whether the evaluations and prognoses made in it are true.