Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. Military Space News .

Bulgaria's ex-arms industry hub looks back on glory days
by Staff Writers
Sopot, Bulgaria (AFP) May 10, 2013

At the foot of the Balkan mountains, the Bulgarian town of Sopot remembers with nostalgia its glory days as a booming arms industry centre under communism.

Today, poverty and worries about the future reign, and people are anxious about Sunday's general elections.

The next government will have to decide the fate of VMZ, the severely indebted arms production plant that was once the shining example of the country's defence industry, after a recent failed privatisation attempt.

That decision could have far-reaching consequences for a region which still heavily relies on the plant.

Talk to VMZ workers and they'll say: "We are badly paid but we want to keep our jobs. There's hardly any other work in the region."

Fearing for their jobs, the workers are reluctant to give their names. Many even refused outright to speak to journalists.

"We deprive ourselves of everything and haven't paid our electricity bills," said one worker, a 35-year-old mother of two.

Her husband was unemployed so the family survived on her monthly pay of 350 leva (180 euros, $235), she said.

This compared with the average cost of living for a four-person Bulgarian family of 2,264 leva, according to a recent KNSB trade union estimate.

Twenty-three years after the fall of communism, Sopot -- once a populous town that blossomed around the defence giant -- has seen its population drop by a third to 12,000 people, says Mayor Veselin Lichev, himself a former employee at VMZ.

In the plant's heyday, some 20,000 people from the town and the surrounding area worked there, making missiles and artillery ammunition for the whole Eastern bloc.

The end of communism in 1989 however ruined the Bulgarian arms industry, which lost its markets in the ex-Soviet states and third world countries.

The sector now employs about 15,000 people compared with 115,000 under communism, government data shows.

-- Under communism, 'there was work for everyone' --

The last of Bulgaria's defence plants which is still state-owned, VMZ now employs less than 3,000 people and workers have mixed feelings about privatisation, fearing it will spell new lay-offs.

"Privatisation will make the company more flexible and able to find clients," Maria Lalova, a local KNSB trade union official, told AFP.

"But if we talk about job security, it is better if the plant stays state-owned."

Last December, VMZ workers and their families joined weeks of strikes to demand salaries that had gone unpaid for three months.

One worker, Daniela Genkova, sent a loaf of bread and an onion to then-prime minister Boyko Borisov to illustrate her family's daily meal -- an act that received much publicity at the time.

Genkova now refuses to give interviews. The plant's management also declined to speak with AFP.

Workers say they miss the job security and other perks under communism.

"There was work for everyone and the plant subsidised our holidays at the Black Sea," retired VMZ employee Tsanko Ivanov, 72, reminisced.

"Since then, there has been a succession of parties in power but their leaders only seek to enrich themselves without caring for the people," he told AFP.

Most of the younger generation has now left Sopot, seeking jobs in the big cities and abroad.

Other than emigration, their only option is to work at an infantry battalion base in nearby Karlovo that trains Bulgarian soldiers for missions abroad, said trade union official Lalova.

The Sopot mayor's office has been trying to develop tourism and adventure sports to give the few remaining young people in the region an alternative means of employment.

But as Lalova put it: "The problem with the young is very serious."

And the lives of other residents who remained were also less than secure, she added.

One retired woman in her 60s who declined to be named has resorted to growing her own food in her small garden in a village near Sopot.

"After 40 years working at VMZ, my pension is just 230 leva," she said. "But at least I get it regularly."


Related Links
The Military Industrial Complex at
Learn about the Superpowers of the 21st Century at

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

France told to cut back on military pomp and ceremony
Paris (AFP) May 07, 2013
In another sign of tough times in France, the government has been told to cut the size of the Republican Guard, the elite unit that provides the pomp and ceremony on state occasions. The Guard, which includes the last cavalry unit of the French army, has 2,859 civilian and military staff and costs 280 million euros ($367m) a year to run. Officially, 69 percent of this budget is dedicated ... read more

U.S. seeks $220 million for Israel missile defense

Pentagon requests more funding for Israel's 'Iron Dome'

Lockheed Martin PAC-3 Missile Intercepts and Destroys Tactical Ballistic Missile in New Test

Japan's missile defence plan: some facts

Taiwan renews call on China to remove missiles

Syria: Israel blasts Hezbollah's missile chain

Lockheed Martin's Nemesis Missile Scores 3-For-3 in Flight Tests

Guam heightens alert level after N. Korea threats

Iran unveils new attack drone

Northrop Grumman, U.S. Navy Conduct First Arrested Landing of X-47B Unmanned Demonstrator

Outside View: Drones: Say it with figures

ESA-EDA Flight Demonstration On Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems Insertion Into Civil Airspace

Department of Defense looking to allow Apple, Samsung devices

DARPA Seeks Clean-Slate Ideas For Mobile Ad Hoc Networks

Astrium's secure milsatcoms now cover the world

Gilat to Equip IDF with SatTrooper-1000 Military Manpack

Blueprints for 3D handgun take refuge in Pirate Bay

Raytheon completes first international delivery of Enhanced Paveway II GBU-50

Canada said to be aiming for precision weaponry

Germany says will sell 164 tanks to Indonesia

Bulgaria's ex-arms industry hub looks back on glory days

AgustaWestland remains a bidder for Indian deal

Australia holds the line on defense budget

France told to cut back on military pomp and ceremony

India FM seeks to build China ties after border row

China should 'reconsider' who owns Okinawa: academics

India FM in China visit after border row

Beijing says US defence report hypes China threat

Going negative pays for nanotubes

Researchers develop unique method for creating uniform nanoparticles

Dark field imaging of rattle-type silica nanorattles coated gold nanoparticles in vitro and in vivo

'Super-resolution' microscope possible for nanostructures

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement