Plamen Goranov

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Plamen Goranov
Born(1976-10-20)20 October 1976
Died3 March 2013(2013-03-03) (aged 36)

Plamen Goranov (Bulgarian: Пламен Горанов) (20 October 1976 – 3 March 2013) was a Bulgarian photographer[1] and mountain climber,[2] and a Varna-based local protest leader of the 2013 Bulgarian nationwide protests. He became a symbol of the Bulgarian social protest movement and a catalyst for nationwide protests and government resignations when on 20 February 2013 he set himself on fire in front of the Varna municipal building. He died from his injuries in a local hospital on 3 March, Bulgarian Liberation Day, a Bulgarian national holiday celebrating liberation from five centuries of Ottoman rule.[3][4] Goranov protested against the organized crime group TIM and the TIM-controlled Varna mayor Kiril Yordanov.[5][6]

After setting himself on fire, Goranov became the subject of discussions and received active support on social networks.[7] Approximately 300 people donated blood for transfusion while he was in hospital.[8] On the day of his death, people in Sofia and Varna gathered to pay their respects to Goranov.[9]

Goranov was the first of six Bulgarians who set themselves on fire during the Bulgarian nationwide protest.[1][10][11] (in conflict with self-immolations article here)


According to the official report by the prosecution,[12] on the morning of 20 February 2013, Goranov arrived in front of the Varna municipal building a little before 7:30 carrying a backpack, a poster, and two bottles of gasoline. Recordings of nearby security cameras show him putting the two bottles down, taking out a white sheet, and laying the sheet on the ground. He then proceeded to pour the contents of one of the bottles over himself, which attracted the attention of a municipal officer who came out to investigate. Goranov informed the officer that he would set himself on fire, after which the officer went back in the building and came back shortly with a second officer. At that point Goranov lit himself on fire. The two officers went back into the building again and eventually returned with fire extinguishers,[6] but at that point Goranov had already endured burn injuries to 80 percent of his body.

According to witnesses, while Goranov was on fire, he was saying "Kiro, Kiro, today I was supposed to be in Antalya" (note Kiro being short for Kiril, reference to Kiril Yordanov, the then mayor of Varna Municipality).

At some point, an official from the municipality took away the poster brought by Goranov. After testimonials of witnesses and the fact that the poster was missing becoming public, the official handed in the poster to the local police. No charges were pressed against him. On the way to the hospital, Goranov said that he didn't want to kill himself.[13] Goranov died on 3 March 2013. Two days later Varna Mayor Yordanov resigned.


Goranov became known as the Bulgarian Jan Palach,[14] a Czech student who set himself on fire in 1969 after the Soviets crushed the Prague Spring and whose memory became a catalyst for overthrow of the communist regime. Goranov was also compared to Tunisian Mohamed Bouazizi[7] who in death became a symbol for the Arab Spring.[15]

An article by Sofia News Agency noting the massive protests that had occurred already prior to Goranov's death, described the effect of Goranov's death: "Bulgaria was jolted like never before." A foundation was set up in Goranov's honor.[16] Another author describes it this way: "Goranov carried th[e] spark… of growing social tensions."[17] An article in the Guardian noted, "Goranov's sacrifice may not resonate in the west (sic) as loudly as Jan Palach's did during the Prague spring 40-odd years earlier, but to Bulgarians it is just as cathartic."[18]

March 6, 2013, was designated a day of national mourning for Goranov;[19] and on that day the mayor of Varna Kiril Yordanov, widely implicated in TIM mafia activities, resigned[20] following huge protests. Also on that day, the cabinet of Bulgarian prime minister Boyko Borisov resigned, and held a minute's silence in tribute to Goranov as they did so.[21]

Despite limited police efforts to prevent it, a pile of rocks covered with flowers and topped by the Bulgarian flag was erected on the square in front of Varna city hall to mark the spot where Goranov set himself on fire.[22] This was possibly a tribute to Goranov's passion for climbing but is more generally regarded as an allusion to famous Bulgarian poet Ivan Vazov's poem "Gramada".[23]

According to a report in The New York Times, Goranov's death has become for Bulgarians a symbol of despair that things will never change, but it also marks a loss of fear among the populace to take on mafia group TIM, described in a 2005 U.S. Embassy document uncovered by WikiLeaks as "the up-and-coming star of Bulgarian organized crime" fingered for involvement in various illicit activities including "extortion and racketeering, intimidation, prostitution, gambling, narcotics trafficking and car theft."[1][24] As a leader of a 30,000-strong protest prior to his death, Goranov had led chants of, "Down with TIM."[25]

Other activities[edit]

In 2012 Goranov scaled three 35-foot-tall female statues on the monument of Soviet-Bulgarian friendship overlooking Varna and placed colored hoods over their heads in solidarity with jailed members of Russian punk protest band Pussy Riot.[1]


"Whatever it is that people do, they need to do it with passion and to do it well." [1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Matthew Brunwasser (10 May 2013). "With Many Despairing, Bulgaria Heads to Polls". The New York Times.
  2. ^ Jan Puhl (8 May 2013). "Bulgarian Spring: Self-Immolations Highlight a Desperate Electorate". Der Spiegel online.
  3. ^ "Bulgarian Protesters Blockade Varna City Hall". 22 March 2013.
  4. ^ "2013/03/04, Bulgarian anti-corruption protester dies after setting himself on fire". Retrieved 26 April 2018.
  5. ^ "Video Shows 'Bulgarian Jan Palach' Speaking Out against TIM Group - - Sofia News Agency". Retrieved 26 April 2018.
  6. ^ a b Wes Enzinna (2013). "In Varna". London Review of Books. 35 (15): 35.
  7. ^ a b "2013/03/03, Now everybody has an inner fire, a tribute to the memory of Plamen Goranov in social media ("Сега всеки си има своята вътрешна клада" (поклон пред паметта на Пламен Горанов в социалните мрежи)". Retrieved 26 April 2018.
  8. ^, 04.03.2013, Почина самозапалилият се Пламен Горанов
  9. ^ "2013/03/03, Photo Gallery – A flame for Plamen (Bulgarian: Огънче за Пламен". Retrieved 26 April 2018.
  10. ^ Tina Schivatcheva (3 May 2013). "Self-Immolations in Bulgaria – an Intertwined Personal and Social Trauma". Bulgarian Perspective.
  11. ^ "Мъж се самозапали пред президентството". Retrieved 26 April 2018.
  12. ^ the Varna city Prosecution – Plamen Goranov set himself on fire and was not a victim of homicide(in Bulgarian – Варненската прокуратура: Категорично Пламен Горанов се е самозапалил, Dnevnik, 2013/03/04,
  13. ^ Counting the vultures (Bulgarian – Преброяване на лешоядите), dariknews, 2013/03/06
  14. ^ "Bulgarian Anti-Corruption Protester, Self-Immolator Died 1 Year Ago". 3 March 2014.
  15. ^, 2013/02/24, Един нов Ян Палах. Дер Щандарт за самозапалването на Пламен Горанов
  16. ^ "Amid New Protests, Bulgaria's Jan Palach Foundation is Born". Sofia News. 21 June 2013.
  17. ^ Tina Schivatcheva (8 April 2013). "The Political Pantheon of the Bulgarian Spring". Sofia News Agency.
  18. ^ Yavor Siderov (6 March 2013). "The Political Pantheon of the Bulgarian Spring". Guardian.
  19. ^ Tina Schivatcheva (8 April 2013). "The Political Pantheon of the Bulgarian Spring". Bulgarian Perspective.
  20. ^ Globe staff (8 July 2013). "GERB candidate Portnih elected mayor of Varna". The Sofia Globe.
  21. ^ "Bulgaria's Resigned Cabinet Pays Last Tribute to Plamen Goranov". WN. 7 March 2013.
  22. ^ Tina Schivatcheva (3 May 2013). "Intertwined Personal and Social Trauma in the Events of the Bulgarian Spring". EU Speak.
  23. ^ Jan Puhl (8 May 2013). "Bulgarian Spring: Self-Immolations Highlight a Desperate Electorate". Der Spiegel.
  24. ^ Margaret Childs and Kostadin Terziev (8 April 2013). "Plamen Goranov – Martyr Of the 'Bulgarian Spring'". The Vienna Review.
  25. ^ "Amid New Protests, Bulgaria's Jan Palach Foundation is Born". Sofia News. 21 June 2013.