I just got back from spending a week in Bulgaria. In the photo below I’m having a lovely Bulgarian dinner with the cartoonist/publishers of Prass-Press (Pig Press), Bulgaria’s national, political cartoon newspaper.
Prass-Press is like Bulgaria’s Charlie Hebdo – it is funny, dirty, and pulls no punches. That’s the most recent issue of Prass-Press at the right, with a cover by longtime CagleCartoonist, Christo Komarnitski, showing Bulgaria’s President Rumen Radev having a phone sex call with Vladimir Putin.
Bulgaria is split between about 60% of the population who like Russia and look back fondly on the communist days under the Soviet Union’s thumb; and only 30% of the population who like America more than Russia. It would seem that just having a raunchy political newspaper like Prass-Press on the newsstands is a sign of a nation with well respected press freedoms, but Bulgaria clocks in at number 109 on the Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index, below Bolivia, Gabon and Kuwait. The entire press run of the first issue of Prass-Press was “stolen” from the newspaper delivery trucks, and my Bulgarian cartoonist friends continue to have a terrible time trying to get their newspaper into news kiosks. Although Bulgaria joined the EU in 2007, it still has much of the look and feel of a Soviet east block country. As with Russia, Bulgaria’s economy is divided between rich oligarchs, and the oligarch who controls the distribution of news media doesn’t seem to like cartoons that ridicule the government. My Prass-Press friends have enlisted volunteers to drive copies of Prass-Press to kiosks, mostly in the capitol of Sofia, but it is a struggle.
Alla and Chavdar draw as one cartoonist; they won’t tell who draws and who writes; that is a secret. We’re in the process of adding them to Cagle.com and PoliticalCartoons.com and you can see some of their work here (the page still needs a little work). We’ll add Tchavdar soon. See Christo’s work here. And follow Prass-Press on Facebook here.
We have an exhibition of Trump cartoons at the House of Humor and Satire in Gabrovo, and I went there to open the show. That’s the museum in the photo below, with a giant, metal bee sculpture that has buried its head into the front of the building. The museum, a converted Soviet era leather factory, is mostly about cartoons, although they are having an exhibition by Christo (the artist who wraps things, not our cartoonist Christo) as their next big show and they have a great exhibit of nasty Bulgarian church frescos that look like cartoons. Our Trump cartoon exhibit runs through February.
I took a panorama shot of half of our Trump exhibition in the photo below. The museum did a lovely job with the show.
The US Embassy in Sofia sponsored my trip and arranged for a bunch of press interviews where I explained that editorial cartoons are the barometer of press freedom in every country – and by that measure, given the hurdles placed in front of Prass-Press, Bulgaria looks pretty lousy. It takes some time to dig out from all of those communist years – and it takes some motivation, which the 60% of Bulgarians who look back with nostalgia on the Soviet days may not have.
Want to see me giving too many interviews, all translated into Bulgarian? Visit the links below!
Press Coverage of Daryl Cagle’s interviews in Sofia, Bulgaria
October 9-10, 2017
BNT – The Day Begins with Culture Show
Daryl Cagle and the Political Cartoon
Bulgaria on Air TV
Daryl Cagle – The Cartoons are the Most powerful Weapon
Daryl Cagle – Political cartoons are the barometer for freedom of speech in any society
The Strength of the Political Cartoon
Daryl Cagle – Prass-Press is a treasure. Take care of it.
Daryl Cagle – The editorial political cartoons are a barometer for freedom of speech
Daryl Cagle: I’m a cartoonist and I don’t like anybody
BNR Hristo Botev
Daryl Cagle: Cartoons are stronger than words