You should not be surprised if you get to know a Bulgarian and very soon after they tell you: "I love the motherland but I hate the state" about their country. Most Bulgarians don't know that this phrase is not of Bulgarian origin. It was imported from Russia together with the perestoyka in the mid-1990s. It is a verse written by the Russian poet Evgeniy Evtushenko, which became popular in the country because of the bard Alexander Rosenbaum's rendition of it. Quite recently, it also appeared in Misha Friedman's work on Russian patriotism for the New York Times.
There is a current research which suggests that "the syllogism" is probably embraced by the majority of Bulgarian migrants living abroad "who blame the state for their own choice". However, this is a quite simplified explanation, as it is rather a part of the everyday discourse in Bulgaria and even more typical for the non-migrants and people who have never traveled outside of the country: they also hate the state but stay, because they really love the country ("I didn't run away" is the typical justification of the courage of non-emigration).
Of course, to "love the motherland" is a most typical educational cliché in Bulgaria. One just needs to type "The Love for the Motherland" [Любовта към родината] in Google and the first suggestions are: in the works of Vazov; in the poetry of... Botev, P.R. Slaveykov, Vaptsarov, Atanas Dalchev and Mladen Isaev. From kindergarten onwards children are learning the lyrics of the "Where is Bulgaria?" song, based on Vazov's poem and geographically "framing" the country - from the White Danube, to the Black Sea, from Stara Planina (i.e. the Balkan range), to the Vardar river and Ohrid Lake... well, the Vazov's poem is just a replica of the Czech "Kde domov můj? " and in general was in line with the 19th century Romantic nationalism of Central and South-Eastern Europe.
But how come people hate something which they are taught to love? Well, there are two lines of explanation: a patriotic and a liberal one. The patriotic version says: The Bulgarian spirit (i.e. language and identity) survived despite the Ottoman yoke (another metaphor established by Vazov). This model of explanation is similar to the current patriotism in Donbas, the Ukraine's breakaway region: we love the place where we were born but it is/was ruled by "others", so we now feel hating them is the right thing to. This line could be projected back onto the past in a paranoid manner, for example: Bulgarians hated the ruling Saxe-Coburg-Gotha dynasty for being foreigners i.e. "others"; they hated the ruling Communist elite afterwards for being imposed by the Soviet Union, i.e. "others". So to say, the patriotic explanation is a story of opposition towards the "ruling others".
The liberal explanation focuses rather on the transformational process from centralized, state-planned economy to an open, free market one. This transformation didn't happen the way it was expected (or actually the way it was imagined) in 1989 and, currently, there is an enormous popular frustration with the state of affairs in the country. For example, the European Value Survey, which was run just before the economic crisis (i.e. non-biased by the latter's negative trends) shows that by 2008 only 10% of the adult population in Bulgaria were satisfied by the developments democracy had brought. That is the lowest score in Europe, comparable only to those in Ukraine (at a moment of political crisis). A brief screening of the current public opinion surveys in Bulgaria shows a more than 20-year long trend of distrust in police, the armed forces, the judicial system, the central bank, mass media, political parties, the parliament, and non-governmental organizations. At the same time, a survey conducted by the Open Society Institute - Sofia in 2016 shows that about 2/3 of the adult population believe that organized crime exerts influence on the main political parties and half of the adult population considers corruption as the main factor for Bulgaria being the poorest member state of the EU. So to say, the liberal explanation points to the actual gap between the citizens and the state institutions.
However, it doesn't matter which explanation we like more, since the shared attitude is de facto a mainstreamed anarchy, in which people disrespect the state and state institutions. This distrust in the current authorities has been reflected in the constant emergence of political parties based on an "anti-system" rhetoric, who constantly enter the National Assembly: from NDSV (2001), Ataka (2005), Order, Law, Justice (2009), Bulgaria Without Censorship (2014), to Volya (2017). Funnily enough, all of these openly "state hating" entities later become part of the system, i.e. are absorbed by the state institutionalism. There seems to always be a space for someone new. At the moment, such an "anti-system player-to-be" is showman Slavi Trifonov, who runs a public casting for "talented, qualified and moral Bulgarians" to challenge the status quo, presenting the candidates to the general public, although there is no established political party (yet).
Last, but not least, we must consider that the educational cliché, for example "I am Bulgarian, I love our green mountains", is sometimes very useful, especially when the government (i.e. the state) tries to sidestep both the national law and European regulations. The fresh example is the "Save Pirin" civic movement. The political Greens are rather marginalized in Bulgaria but the topic of saving the nature actually bridges the gaps between "the liberals" and "the patriots", between the leftist and the conservatives, because they all love the high blue mountains, the silk-like sky of the motherland.
* Alexy Pamporov is Associated Proffesor at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences' Institute for the Study of Societies and Knowledge