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Bulgaria: What's In A Name?

Sofia, 23 April 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Hundreds of people yesterday blocked Bulgaria's main highway to the northern border town of Vidin to protest the change of a local town's name.

Demonstrators protested a decree by President Petar Stoyanov that the town of Pelovo be given a new name: Iskar.

Stoyanov refused to reconsider his decision, noting that Pelovo, a small town near the regional center of Pleven in northern Bulgaria, was named after local Communist Pelo Pelov. Stoyanov said Pelov was known to have been responsible for killings associated with the political purges that followed the Communist takeover in 1944.

Stoyanov said towns and villages in Bulgaria must no longer be named for people "responsible for the division of the nation."

Bulgaria's Socialist Party - the former Communists - organized yesterday's protest. And protest leaders insisted a local referendum be held on changing the town's name.

Bulgaria's governing center-right Union of Democratic Forces has also proposed a name change for Dimitrovgrad. The town in southern Bulgaria was named after former Communist Party leader Georgy Dimitrov.

Surprisingly, Dimitrovgrad's local Communist Party supports the name change - but, only on the condition that the town's name be changed to honor Communist poet Peniu Penev.

Dimitrovgrad is the only town in Bulgaria still controlled by a Communist Party government.